Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quiet Day at Home

If I needed any further proof that Connor is the chief antagonizer in our family, I have to look no further than today. Connor left yesterday with Grandma and Grandpa for a long weekend at the lake. Yes, he's in that special heaven of being the center of the world and having every whim gratified in an instant (he was ready to leave the moment they arrived, if you're wondering).

So, the little guys and I have had a quiet, peaceful day here at home. There have been no tears, no screaming and no fighting. Of course, the little guys are more prone to shoving. You know, like if they're playing with something and they don't want their brothers to get near them, they just hold out the old stiff arm and give a good shove, without bothering to look up. Yeah, that's them. You don't have to say anything for that.

To each his own, right?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photo Flashback



Buster, as he begins to realize that his whole life has changed forever (and not in a good way). Here, he wants to know if it's too late to send Connor back (and perhaps keep the other two from coming along next year at this time). (January 15, 2005)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Improvising

Here, in our part of the world, snow doesn't happen often. And as someone who is infinitely practical, that means our kids are not particularly well-outfitted for winter play. We have the essentials for cold weather - heavy winter jackets, hats and gloves - but not the essentials for prolonged exposure and play. We don't even have a sled, if that tells you anything.

Our boys don't have boots. In fact, they only have one pair of shoes each. They have really, really wide feet. You know, as in "extra-wide" shoe sizes, not merely "wide" shoe sizes. That one pair of shoes averages about $60 each, because you can only find extra-wide sizes in brand-names like Striderite and New Balance. But, I digress . . .

They also don't have snow pants or suits. We average maybe five inches of snow ALL year. I refuse to buy something they're going to outgrow in a single season that they may not EVER wear. So, we just have to add extra layers on that one day of year we play in the snow.

Yesterday, Josh decided he would take Connor and Buster out to play after he ran a quick work errand if I would get him dressed and ready. After thinking about it a few minutes, I decided all of the boys would probably enjoy the novelty of (a) getting out of the house and (b) playing in the rare snow on the ground. It was going to mean a lot more work for a relatively little amount of time, I knew, but I figured we could all use the break.

That meant I had to come up with something quickly to get them dressed and ready. No snow suits, no boots, no long underwear or anything similar to help add a layer of warmth like Josh does when he's working outside this time of year. Just regular tennis shoes, coats, hats and gloves.

So, I improvised.

We started by taking off all of the clothes they already had on. In order to layer, I needed something warm and tight underneath the main layer and finally found what I needed - their mid-season pajamas. The two-piece ones with long sleeves and long pants but no feet (see them here from an old post about a pajama party). Then I added a clean pair of socks on their feet, quickly wrapped with the socks they had been wearing (which, of course, were already stretched out of shape anyway). Next came the sweat pants they had been wearing, fitting easily over the skin-tight pajama bottoms. Then the standard white tee-shirt over the also skin-tight long sleeve pajama top. Next was the hooded sweatshirt they had been wearing. Then came their one pair of tennis shoes, a little big (thank goodness) since we just moved up a size (little kids 12 XW for the twins, big kids 2 XW for Connor). Finally, we added the outwear of coats, hats and gloves.

And they were as ready as they were going to be. And they stayed toasty and warm for the whole 20 minutes playing outside in the snow held their attention span. Well, all except for Connor, who from yesterday's post, you saw was not willing to leave his gloves on or very happy about the results of that stubbornness.

And the added bonus, we took off the wet outer layers, threw them in the wash, and the kids got to run around in their warm pajamas (only adding dry socks for Xander, who managed to get both pair from earlier wet) the rest of the night.

Perhaps the kids will need winter stuff later on, when they stop growing so much every single year and when they have to be outside more during the winter for school and things. But for right now, I'm perfectly happy to improvise (and to save the extra money for other fun stuff for the boys)!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Play

So, lest you think we are bad parents who don't let our children enjoy the random moments of childhood (especially since their mother doesn't like winter), here you go.



Xander, enjoying the really super-fast slide (ice will do that for you, apparently). It was the first thing he went for when we made it into the side yard, even with the ice covered ladder he had to climb - the one that didn't even challenge him in the least.



Sawyer enjoying his favorite part of the play set, the swings. He's only recently started enjoying the belly swing on his own, and the ice-covered swing didn't deter him either. He did try to get Mommy to sit down and swing with him, too, but she passed.



Ooh, it's cold. Our silly little man who wouldn't leave his gloves on and then kept complaining about being cold (so much so, that he eventually broke down in tears and tried to go back inside before everyone else was ready). That pretty much ended the afternoon.

So, maybe 20 minutes of fun in the snow (we'll ignore the last five that Connor spent whining and crying). And it took us probably 45 minutes to get everyone dressed in extra layers and outerwear. And another 45 minutes to get them changed back out and into dry clothes. And we won't even talk about the snow, which melted into big puddles, all over the floor.

Just look at those smiles . . . aren't they worth it?

Winter Mess

The first day, it was kind of pretty. The second day, it's just a big mess.



Just look at that nasty sheen of ice on EVERYTHING.



A bit more freezing rain, as you can see by the much longer icicles.



And now wet snow on top of all the other ice, snow and ice that was already there.



My favorite tree, bent over but not broken . . . yet. It's the same one from the first photo in yesterday's post, when it was still standing up. I will be seriously disappointed if it breaks. And more importantly, so will Sawyer, because this is the tree right outside of his favorite window and he loves to watch the leaves blow.



I'm sure the added layer of wet snow is helping matters.

I'm so ready for summer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Did I mention a winter storm moving our way?



A little snow, a lot of ice. No preschool for Connor and no work for Daddy.



It started last night with ice, turned to a bit of snow, and today is back to ice.



Inside looking out . . . it's warmer that way.



The hanging lights on our deck, covered in a thick layer of ice.



Someone is ready to play. He also thinks he wants a walk, since he was jumping up and down and wagging his tail when I put on my shoes and coat to attempt to take some mail out and snap a few winter pictures.



Distorted view, inside looking out. Apparently the wind was blowing this way, since this is the only window covered in ice.



Afraid to leave the safety of the garage, so a picture peeking around the corner. And that window you see, that's the distorted one covered in ice.



Do you see that glassy sheen (particularly obvious in the far right)? That means I would slide all the way to the road (if not further) before stopping. That would be our driveway, which slopes downhill and takes up most of the front yard in a semi-circle. Solid sheet of ice.



That would be the mail I decided could wait. There's about 30 feet of solid ice between me and the mailbox, though surprisingly enough, I saw the mailman as I was taking these photos. Those thank-you cards for the twins' birthday, you'll get those later. And Buster, well he'll have to wait on that walk, too.

Hope everyone is staying warm in their part of the world!

Monday, January 26, 2009

And Now We Wait . . .

Another one of the hard things about transitions is that they don't always happen the way you expect.

Last week's meeting with the local school system went as well as could be expected. The little guys were both accepted into the early start program and their individualized educational plans (IEPs) were written. Their developmental therapy from the state program will essentially be provided for in the basic preschool curriculum, and they will continue to receive additional speech therapy through the school system. Sawyer also will be adding occupational therapy, which was recommended at his clinical evaluation and subsequent diagnosis to help with some sensory issues.

The bad news was the school that we had anticipated they would attend is already full. We found that out at the end of the three hour meeting. So, the one that's conveniently located about two miles from our house in a brand new facility and has kids in our actual school district that they might conceivably go to school with for several years is not an option this year.

So now we wait . . . to find out what other options are available and where the kids might be sent. The two unofficial options that we were given are anywhere from six to nearly 10 miles away. Of course that's not terrible, but it does present other issues. I do have one child already in private preschool less than a mile from our home. And that school was on the way to and from the school we thought the little guys would be going to. The other two unofficial options are in the complete opposite direction. And, at three and four, I will be driving them all to and from school for the near future. So there is a logistical issue to consider.

It's frustrating in some ways, simply because they are technically allowed to start the day after their third birthday. That's hard to do when we don't even know where they might be allowed to go or what time slots are available (because, of course, they differ for different schools). And then we also still need to do site visits (which I'm glad I didn't try to coordinate before, since it would have been a waste of everyone's time), talk with their potential teachers about transitions, and all that other fun stuff.

So, we wait . . . not only on the school system to let us know what options are available, but apparently for the winter storm that is headed our way. School was cancelled today, which means no news will be coming, and if weather forecasts hold, will possibly be cancelled tomorrow and the next day.

So it goes . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Snapshot Sunday, Part II



The first baby of the family, wondering when he's going to get his next walk. He says he doesn't mind the cold and we should just suck it up.

Snapshot Sunday



A rare group shot. Connor and Xander swinging while Mommy pushes. Sawyer slightly pissed that Mommy is too busy to pushing brothers to swing with him. Never mind that there's not even an open swing at the moment. He says just push one of the other ones off, he's ready NOW.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Other Birthday Boy

Though we always knew we wanted our kids close in age, we didn't quite anticipate having them ALL so close. Getting pregnant with twins six months after the first one came along was not quite what we had in mind. But, so it goes.

And we know it must be exceptionally hard on Connor. He's not really one to keep quiet on such things.

It was never more obvious than last night, on the twins' birthday. He's always been allowed to help with cards and presents, because they really haven't shown any interest. And, let's be honest, they didn't show all that much last night either. But, part of it could be that they never really got the chance. Connor was so excited and so into helping that he just took over (he is Mr. Personality, he does that a lot).

The cards were out of their hands before they even had the chance to try (or toss them aside, which is, in all likelihood, what they would do). But he was too quick. Same thing for unwrapping presents. He had the paper all the way off before they even got a hand on the box. So, we finally had to step in and make him sit the last ones out. He was not happy, as in crying and whining and stomping not happy.

Did I mention four suckers before lunch? I'm sure that had nothing at all to do with it.)

But, we finally got him to back away and let the little guys enjoy playing with their new toys. The played with puzzle pieces. The said letters and lined up the wooden letter stamps. They moved the beads on the wooden abacus (can you tell we LOVE Melissa & Doug stuff). The checked out the boxes of their new art easel and their new play set. They looked at their big coloring murals. They were having a good time, all while Connor watched miserably from the sidelines.

That is until we decided to open one of the boxes and actually assemble the play set. It was a McDonald's drive-thru station. He'd been practically drooling on it since he unwrapped it.

Connor has been fascinated by toy kitchens and cooking for months. If it's out at preschool, he's the first one over there. If he goes to his cousin Kyndal's house, he's into it before he's even bothered to take his coat or shoes off. He LOVES it.

And, polite little fellow that he is, he couldn't help thanking Grammy and Pappy so much for the amazing birthday gift. That was apparently for him.

"Thank you, Grammy, Pappy," he would say, quite reverently. "Thank you for my McDonald's kitchen. It's so cute."

Did you notice the "my" in there? That was always part of the thank-you. Even when we explained that it was a birthday present for his brothers, but we would share it like we do all of our toys, he still continued to say "my" McDonald's kitchen.

People do sometimes bring small gifts for siblings on birthdays, especially when all of the kids are young. But I'm pretty sure that was not the case with the kitchen. That was Sawyer's big gift, just as Xander's big gift was the art easel.



Connor says he can't hear us, he's too busy playing with "his" kitchen. He does add "thank you," if that helps.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Freedom!

And you must imagine it as Mel Gibson says it in Braveheart - because that's truly how we felt today. After weeks of freezing cold temperatures in our part of the world, it was near 60 degrees (the twins put in their birthday order, apparently).

For one day, the walls were not closing in and we did the unimagineable. We went on a stroller walk and took Buster for some much-needed exercise. And we weren't bundled up in heavy winter jackets, hats or gloves (not that they ever leave the last two on anyway). Before we made it around one block, Connor whined out and ended up in the stroller with Sawyer, but Xander did great. He walked and held Mommy's hand the whole time (about 20 minutes), clearly just happy to be out and moving for a change.

And, of course, there was the requisite outside play in the yard. We did have to take a break between outdoor activities, while Mommy did some house work, prepared birthday dinner for our guests, wrapped presents, and well, you get the idea. Once all the work was done, though, we played. And it was SO much FUN!

Here are my favorites for the day (natural light is SO much better than indoors)!



Xander at the top of the slide. I love that little pursed lip.



Sawyer begging for yet another turn on the swings with Mommy. Still deathly afraid of doing it on his own, though he will condescend to lay on his stomach and swing just a little (laughing that deep belly laugh the whole time).



And the big boy, all smiles and extremely happy to be outside! Today was a very nice surprise for all of us on this late January day.

Pediatrician = Suckers!

What do you do with your kids on their birthdays? Well, you take them to the pediatrician for their annual well-visit, of course. Luckily for us, this was not a day for shots.

Despite the no shots, it did start off rather badly with the finger prick (iron test). The little guys cried and screamed the whole time. I actually felt sorry for the other people in the office at that point. It was a lot of crying, and it was loud. Finger prick. Yes. Band-Aid. Big yes (along with swinging their hands around wildly trying to remove the offending piece of plastic). Physical exam, beginning with the cold stethoscope, followed by the ear, nose and mouth check. Another big yes on the screaming. It was not a happy visit.

But really, the fun part of this post isn't about them. It's about Connor, the sneaky little four-year old who's learned to work the system. We don't go to the pediatrician often (we'll pretend the M&M visit did not happen), so I usually have a small list of questions or concerns that I like to go over at the end. Today, after I had gotten the twins strapped back into the stroller with their rings pops (hey, the crying stopped), I sat down with my list and started chatting.

Behind my back, sneaky little man was into the diaper bag. And he KNEW to wait until we started talking. He didn't bother it all before that, even though we'd already broken into our stash of fruit snacks to stem the earlier crying. The "treat" bag was out of the diaper bag and in plain sight, but he didn't touch it until my attention was elsewhere. My little man pulled out and actually ate not one, not two, but FOUR Dum-Dum suckers in a span of maybe two minutes. Maybe. The wrappers were all lined up on the exam table behind me.

He was actually hiding in the corner, not in a direct sight line of either me or the pediatrician. And you should have seen the guilty look on his face when I actually managed to notice. Not that it stopped him from stuffing the last one quickly into his mouth and biting on it. Oh, no.

Clearly those Dum-Dums were not the only suckers in the room.

And lest you think it ruined his appetite, he did inhale half of his McDonald's cheeseburger, his third of the large french fries, and probably about half of my large Coke before it was all said and done. We stopped for an early lunch after the pediatrician visit to help celebrate the little guys' birthday. It's rough, being four (or three, for that matter).

Photo Flashback



Look who turns three this week! (January 2006)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sleepless Nights, Sleepy Days

One of the quirky and cool traits that Sawyer has picked up over the last year is sleeplessness. It's by no means constant, but it does happen on a pretty regular basis. Usually about one night each week (sometimes more, sometimes less), he has an off night. He wakes up in the dead of night for no apparent reason, and can be heard laughing, jabbering, dancing around and playing (quite contently, thank goodness) for hours (as in three or four) at a time. He simply does not sleep.

The after-affect is that he usually crashes the next day. He will not nap, even when he is so clearly tired and in need of some rest. He will fight it, dancing around in his room for hours if you attempt to put him there. It will eventually catch up to him, usually while watching a movie in the late afternoon (while Mommy is trying to prepare dinner) or sometimes even sitting up at the dinner table or standing over a toy table. He just crashes.

Last night was a good night. The two before that, not so much. And both yesterday and the day before, it was lights out about 6 p.m. And once he falls asleep, you can forget waking him back up. Changing diapers, sitting at the table with his favorite foods or drinks, putting on pajamas, nothing works. He is simply down for the count.

Here's Exhibit A and B.



Sleepless Monday night (3 hours awake). Sleepy Tuesday (6 p.m.).



Sleepless Tuesday night (2 hours awake), Sleepy Wednesday (6:30 p.m.).

The good news is that he usually sleeps through the night even falling asleep this early (clearly not on these two consecutive days, but usually). Perhaps he's catching up on the mere 8 to 10 hours he gets on a typical night. With no naps. At age (very nearly) three.

And he is not the only one. Though his brothers sleep a bit more (12 to 14 hours at night), neither of them nap anymore either. Three children. Under age four. With no naps.

Welcome to my world . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Bend in the Road

It was about this time last year when we first started suspecting our then two-year old twins might be taking a different path. It was when the word autism became both an alarming word and a possible answer to some of the questions that were going through our minds. It took several more months for us to wrap our heads and our hearts around what to do and where to turn. We eventually settled on the state program that focuses on early childhood development and intervention.

Getting to that point was difficult. No one ever wants to think that they are not enough for their children, that their kids might need something more than home and family can provide. But with no words at two-and-a-half (in fact, a loss of what few words once existed), it was time. And the transition was hard, mostly because you're not sure what to expect and what role to play. The idea of having therapists in the home working with your kids on basic things like language, communication and social skills makes you question yourself. Am I not doing something right? Are we not providing the right environment, the appropriate opportunities to learn? How can I do it better?

But you get over that. You get comfortable with the therapists you see on a weekly basis, watching them interact and realizing they're not doing things much differently than you've been doing. They're just focusing a lot more on specific things, going for repetition and new experiences, reinforcing every step of the way. It's just a more intense form of everyday life. Six months later, those therapists are like friends. They know the boys, their personalities and limitations, and tailor activities to both suit them and to help them grow. They talk to you about milestones and frustrations, about new experiences and opportunities that might be just around the corner. They talk to you about diagnoses and about hopes for the future. They are just part of the journey.

But the boys are reaching another milestone this week - their third birthday - and that means the journey takes a different path. They are aging out of the state program of in-home therapy and going through the process of entering the local school system. It's another difficult transition, mostly because you're once again leaving the familiar and going into something you don't yet understand.

Today was the last day of in-home therapy. Miss Lisa and Miss Kellie came yesterday, and Miss April came today. All wonderful people. Each one has done so much to help both of the boys along this journey. Each one will be missed.

Tomorrow we meet with a new group of people. We've actually met with them several times already, doing preliminary paperwork and evaluations. But tomorrow is the big day. It's the admissions meeting, where the boys will officially enter the school system (we are assuming, based on all the evaluations so far, that they will be qualified and accepted). And they will be entering a new world of acronyms - ARC, IEP and many more.

The questions and the worries come back. Will the services be enough? How will the kids handle it? How will we? Are we doing enough to help them? And perhaps that's the hardest part of every transition. The questions that have no absolute answers. Like any parent, you want what is best for your child. But unlike most parents, you have to rely on so many others to help you get there.

But get there we will. They're our babies, and we're going to do everything that we need to do to make sure they have what they need to grow and to learn, to live a happy life. It's just another bend in the road . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Portraits!

We had to put that new camera to good use, right? Actually, I've just been wanting some new photos to hang up on our kitchen wall, so I cropped and edited some of my recent favorite snapshots of the boys in PhotoShop. And yes, I'm clearly still in my black and white phase.



Big brother Connor. Good photos are elusive these days, simply because he moves a lot and he thinks it's a fun game to have Mommy try to "get him" with the camera while he runs away.



Middle (and oldest twin) brother Sawyer. He's suddenly started looking at the camera again, and the Mommy-razzi is thrilled!



Youngest (all around) brother Xander. He's also the hardest to capture on film these days. Too much motion and an incessant need to have one of his hands in his mouth at all times (we're hoping this phase passes soon).



A rare group shot - one of the MANY, many outtakes from the attempted Christmas card photo shoot last November.

I'm tempted to take them to a real photographer sometime this spring or summer, when the weather is nice and we can get outside. I only wonder if a professional would be able to wrangle them any more than I do, because that's my biggest challenge!

"Chewing Guns"

All of my children are funny, at times, but my four-year old is always funny. In our house, he is Mr. Personality. He has an opinion about everything, and at four, he is in a constant state of discovery. His pretend play is getting rather elaborate, and his ability to mimic and mock your words and expressions is truly amazing. And on top of all that, there is something new and unusual coming out of his mouth every single day.

Here lately, we've been enduring his fascination and love of chewing gum, or "chewing guns" as he usually calls it. We have Daddy to thank for this introduction and subsequent fascination. It may have happened before, but I know his current obsession really started on our long trip to Florida over the Christmas holiday. Daddy is notorious for picking up a candy stash on our first gas station stop, to help pass the time while driving (healthy, we know). One of the items was chewing gum. And in an attempt to keep the little man quiet for just a few minutes (he'd been talking non-stop for hours, Daddy caved and gave him a piece of bright blue Bubble Yum. And now, it's all the poor kid can think about.

Every afternoon, he waits with eager anticipation for Daddy to come home. Not because he's excited to see him, mind you, but because Daddy is the keeper of the chewing gum. Mommy is so not going there in her house all day long with three little boys.

So, every afternoon starting about 3 p.m. or so, Connor starts hovering in the kitchen (poor kid, Daddy doesn't come home until six or later most nights). But, the kitchen is where we keep the extra chewing gum.

"Daddy be home soon," he says, excited and watching the door from the garage to the house. "Daddy be home and give me chewing guns!" We go through this dialogue about 10 times every afternoon, and any time that we're going for a ride in the truck. He also now associates that with chewing gum. Slightly obsessed, to say the least.

When he gets a piece, he runs over to you to show it to you.

"Daddy gave me chewing guns! Look, see!" The poor kid is so excited he can't stand it.

Today he took it to a whole new level. He was pretending to have chewing gum. He would walk around chomping his mouth on the pretend gum, first telling me to look and see, and then walking up to me and pointing to the pretend trash can.

"I spit it in the trash can," he would say, quite seriously. "No spit gum on floor or couch. No play with it. That's bad!"

These are, of course, things we tell him all the time when he's managed to get the coveted chewing gum. We don't play with it, put our fingers in our mouth, or spit it out anywhere but in the trash can. He's clearly gotten that part down, so much so that he feels the need to return the lecture to us during pretend chewing gum.

Pretend chewing gum. Really? Apparently so.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Unnecessary Expenses



At the beginning of every year, Josh and I always talk about cutting out unnecessary expenses. You know, the standard "budget" talk about saving more and spending less.

Do you notice anything new in Connor's room? Perhaps that very attractive and customized bookshelf in the far right that his OCD mother has very carefully arranged to hold all of his rather large book collection. I won't tell you (or Josh) that I very seriously wanted to order one for each of the boys - yes, even for the twins who are not talking and can't stand to have someone read to them - those boys. I didn't, of course, but I wanted to.

Yes, clearly we're not doing so well on the unnecessary expenses this year. The UPS man has been here almost every day this week. But it looks great and makes picking out bedtime stories much easier . . . that counts for something, right?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Don't Leave the Room . . .

Or your children might be up to no good, as mine usually are. No bathroom breaks and certainly no attempt to try to do anything that doesn't involve them. Here are my boys, just yesterday as I attempted to leave the room . . .



Sawyer decided he needed a drink of juice and he was tired of waiting for Mommy to get it. So, naturally, he just pulled a dining room table chair over and took matters into his own hands. Problem solved, right?



Or, they might prefer Xander's method of madness - pulling all the cushions off the couch and jumping like there's no tomorrow. He jumps on EVERYTHING, and he does it ALL the time. Who wants to just sit on the couch and watch Open Season. That would just be silly.



Look, here's an action shot.



He's even corrupted his twin brother into joining him (you know, now that he's finished getting himself some juice and all).

Mommy was trying to steal a few moments to work on her freelance project since Connor was away yesterday. He tends to antagonize, if you can imagine that, and I have to referee a bit more when he's around. I thought putting on a movie for an hour or so might work. Yeah, not so much. I waited and finished after they went to bed.

Good times.

Snapshot Sunday



Surprised in the bathtub by the Mommy-razzi. Yes, he barely fits in the tub with all of their toys these days - letters, Lightning and Thomas the Tank trains. The sad thing is there are an equal number of additional toys in the cabinet under the sink!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Change of Season

It never fails. Every summer I get tired of the heat, when it's too hot to push my big boys in their stroller without giving us all heat stroke and too hot to stay outside and play without the boys being miserable. I always wish for fall, my favorite time of year.

Unfortunately, that means winter isn't far behind. Fall sometimes doesn't even really happen here in our part of the world. It's like it goes from 90 degrees to 40 degrees in a few short days. Probably an exaggeration, but it certainly feels that way.

So here we are in the beginning of winter, and I'm already waiting for spring. It has been extremely cold here the last few weeks. They even canceled the local schools on Friday because of temperature alone, instead of the typical bad roads. That almost never happens.

The walls are starting to close in on us all. The boys are restless. The big puppy is restless. I'm restless. And it's only just begun.

With all that time in the house and no naps, the boys are finding new ways to test my patience these days. Their new favorite is to play in the pantry in our kitchen. It's the one set of cabinets we didn't put cabinet locks on because the doors are so big that it would be pretty useless. They could pull the bottom open and break the lock in a matter of seconds (and they would, trust me). Xander loves to pull out random foot items and drag them around the house. His favorite of late has been marshmallows. That's better than the dried beans, which he spilled all over the living room one day.

Sawyer still loves the freezer. It's the first place he turns when you leave the room (little stinker clearly knows better). He's branched out some. Instead of lining up ice cubes on the edge of the counter, now he likes to pull out Daddy's frozen mug and put as many ice cubes as he can inside of it. Then he dumps them back in and starts all over again. He would play for hours here, if you'd let him.

And Connor is just himself. He talks every single minute of every single day. He asks the same question over and over again, regardless of whether you answer him or not and regardless of whether the answer was real or sarcastic (imagine that, from his mother). He says the same statement over and over again, just to hear himself talk I think. He needs constant answers or affirmation of every thing that comes out of his mouth. His need can be exhausting at times. We love that he's so curious about the world and so full of life, but sometimes we wish he could appreciate the virtue of silence, just for a few moments each day.

It has been relatively quiet since yesterday afternoon. He's out on another one of his fun adventures with Grammy. They were going to visit and spend the night with Grandma Kitty, and even had plans to see the night show at the university planetarium. The walls don't really get a chance to close in on him very often . . . he's too busy. Ah, the life of a four-year old.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Flashback



A little swinging, a little sleeping and a little playing! Connor is quite the multi-tasker. (January 15, 2005)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pajama Party



Look who's wearing non-footed pajamas to school on pajama day (and cheese-ing for his picture - the grin reminds me of some of his Daddy's early pictures)!

So I caved to the pressure. I couldn't stand the idea that he might be the only one in footed-pajamas, so while out meeting with my client yesterday morning, I made a side trip on the way home. Kohl's - one of my favorites for the boys' clothes - always has sales going on. And with the new spring lines coming out, I suspected the winter items would be on clearance. I paid all of $8 plus tax for these Carter's non-footed pajamas. So worth it. I won't mention that Josh simply rolled his eyes and said something about already having five good pair of pajamas (four actually, but who's counting). He knew it was inevitable.

Connor was excited, as usual, when I came home with something new. He doesn't care what it is, he always likes it (and always expects it to be for him).

"For me?" he asks, taking the bag from my hand and pulling things out before he even hears my response. "They're so pretty!" he adds, not even having time to see what's in the bag.

"Yes, baby," I say, "They're for you - new pajamas for your party at school on Thursday."

"Oh," he says, the word drug out with excitement, as though he understands. "I take my pillow and blanket and bed and new 'jamas to school! I like that! They're so pretty!" He was especially excited about the fire truck theme, which is his personal favorite at the moment.

But really, the pajamas were more about Mommy than him. I imagine he could have cared less one way or the other. He's not really one to be bothered by what he likes or how others perceive it. He often wears the same outfit to school both days in the week - because he wants to and Mommy tends to do laundry every single day (it's easier, trust me). I used to laugh at one of the little girls I babysat growing up, who always insisted on wearing the same dress every single day. I swore I would never be that parent. I usually try to encourage a different outfit, but if he's determined, I let it go. Choose your battles wisely, right? If it's clean, does it really matter that he's already worn it that week to school?

But, I digress. So, off to school he went. Happy in his new pajamas and ready to face the day. Josh dropped him off, so I'm not sure what the other kids were wearing. When I picked him up, they were, of course, all bundled up in winter coats and boots (which may or may not have hidden some footed pajamas). I did see one little boy in the short-sleeve Thomas pajamas that Connor has and that I considered sending him in with a long sleeve t-shirt underneath. You know, because clearly this was such a big deal. Silly Mommy.

At any rate, who wouldn't want to spend today in their pajamas, footed or not, because it's all of 9 degrees outside. It's supposed to fall below 0 tonight, so I guess it's a good thing we do have those footed pajamas after all!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Art Therapy

Today was another fun day with Miss April around the dining room table - coloring, painting and lining things up!



Some of today's artwork by Xander.



The one who loves to paint (and who appears to be leaning lefty in his early years).



The one who likes to line up the jars of paint (it's much neater that way).



And the one who just likes to dump big globs of paint everywhere and then whine about needing more (all while making silly faces).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Will They Think?



Who knew peer pressure would come so early? Not for Connor, of course, but for his mother. And I'm not talking about worrying about the other moms, most of you who know me know that I could care less about stuff like that.

My mother still cannot believe we sometimes take Connor to school before we've managed to comb through the twins' hair (it tends to stick straight up in every direction in the mornings). Clearly a moot point after last night's torture, but still. She would comb their hair. Me, not so much.

Thursday is pajama day at school. They get to come to school dressed in pajamas, bring pillows and blankets and their favorite books, and spend the whole day reading and snuggling (and yes, I know, how nice does that sound on a cold morning). So my dilemma is this - what does he wear?

Connor still wears footed pajamas. They're actually quite hard to find in his size - little boy 5 - but we look very hard for them because with electric heat our house is not the warmest and it's only been in the last year that he's actually learned to sleep under the covers. Will the other kids still be in footed pajamas, or will he be the only one? Will it bother him? Will they tease him that their younger siblings wear those kind?

So, there's my peer pressure. I worry what his friends will think (when really they probably couldn't care less at this age as long as he's wearing the cool fire truck ones). I wanted to buy him some non-footed ones earlier this year, but Josh said he probably wouldn't keep them on as well. He's probably right, but part of me still wants to go out and buy a pair of non-footed ones. They would be "cooler" to wear to school.

And, if that's not enough, this week Connor is snack helper. So I also have to worry about whether I'm sending in a snack that the kids will like or that they won't. Connor actually gets to help the teacher during snack time in setting it out and getting it ready, so I worry about sending in the "cool" snack. At preschool. For three and four year olds who are both picky and unpredictable. Who may like one thing today and hate it tomorrow.

And yes, I know, I clearly have issues. Josh tells me about it all the time.

Oh, and if you're worried about the double standard, don't be. The twins hair is not important in this instance - we're just there to drop Connor off and they have no one to impress. I will actually comb their hair when they go to school so their friends don't laugh. Seriously, I'm not that bad. Although, I imagine the crazy hair might be in style these days . . .

Monday, January 12, 2009

"That's Not Very Nice!"

Tonight we tortured our children. Not really, of course, but that's what they would tell you. You know, if all of them actually talked.

All we really did tonight we cut the kids' hair, and that, to them, is the worst form of torture we know how to inflict at the moment. Connor's hair is unfortunately like his mother's used to be - stick straight without an ounce of curl or body (oddly enough, after Mommy started coloring her hair, it started getting softer and having more bounce - go figure on that one and try not to hate me for it). But Connor, the poor kid, has the stick straight hair, at least for right now. His actually looks much better all cut off.

The little guys' hair was getting really long - hanging in their face and over their ears - and it's so thick that they're constantly dripping with sweat even in the dead of winter. And, if I actually knew how to cut hair, we might leave it a bit longer than we did since they actually have hair that looks good long. But, I don't, so I handed the clippers to Josh and he went to work. I, of course, sat in front of each one of them holding their hands in a death grip so they couldn't try to swat them away (or rub their hairy hands and arms on their mouth or nose and make it that much worse - yes, it's a natural instinct and they've done it before and will certainly do it again). Always fun, holding your child down while they scream, angry at first and just plain pitiful at the end.

So that was torture part one. Torture part two was afterward, when they had to be showered off so that their bath water was completely filled with hair. They HATE the shower. They were already upset, so that didn't go well at all.

The good news is everyone calmed down, eventually had a nice bath and found their way into bed. All but Xander are now sleeping, and I think he just worked himself up too much to wind back down yet. He took it the worst tonight, by far. And that's saying something. Sawyer actually took it the best. And that's just beyond words. The quirky and cool child whimpered the least, including his big brother.

In the back of my mind, I can't help hearing what Connor is so fond of telling us lately . . . "That's not very nice!" (and you must hear it in the very quiet, child-like voice in which it is spoken, usually while shaking his little head back and forth as though reprimanding you).

Nope, it's not. But sometimes life isn't nice. It's not always what you want or expect. And I won't mention that were cutting nails tomorrow. I'd think of it for what it is - keeping the boys looking halfway respectable. But that's not what they're going to think. That's another form of torture, as far as their concerned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If You're Wondering . . .

As a few of you suggested, while the kids were away, Mommy mostly played.

First, I took a rather long lunch. And by that I mean eating briefly and sitting at the dining room table reading the rest of the second Twilight book. I'm pretty sure it was light outside when I sat down (about 2 p.m.) and mostly dark by the time I got up, when I heard the garage door opening and knew Josh and the boys had returned (only about 5 p.m., but it was raining, so it was pretty dark already).

The boys were a bit wiped out from their overnight visit, so they didn't make it up too long last night. That meant I had the whole evening to devote to my other temptation - my girl movie from Netflix. Josh took his new movie (recently purchased) - the second Narnia movie - upstairs to our room. I somehow managed to get the big screen and the entire downstairs to myself for my pick - The Duchess - and I settled in with some popcorn and a vanilla coke. For a period piece, I really enjoyed it. Of course, I enjoy most anything with Kiera Knightley, so perhaps that doesn't count. I was entertained for a few hours and never once looked up to see how late it was getting (my best judge of whether a movie is interesting).

As for work, I did actually print off a hard copy of my project (70 pages) yesterday afternoon and edit by hand. I saved the actual edits and reprinting for today and have sent it off to the client for review. And as for the accounting for Josh's businesses, well I spent about five hours in the office today finishing that up. Josh tried to watch a little football and read the Twilight book I just finished while also keeping the kids occupied and out of trouble.

Working long hours last week at night and on Friday afternoon paid off. I got a big part of the weekend - minus the kids - to myself! And that's the story, if you were wondering.

Snapshot Sunday



"I-M-A-C-I-M-A-R-I-U-M" says our little spell boy. So, he does mix up a few of his letters (it should spell "imaginarium"), but still . . . he's speaking! And he's actually pretty accurate for a two (nearly three) year old!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Home Alone

It's Saturday afternoon, and I'm home alone. That, my friends, never happens.

Of course, I am home alone because I am supposed to be working on my freelance work project. In another life, I was a corporate public relations writer and graphic designer, you know, before the kids came along and my salary was going to practically disappear having three kids in day care.

Clearly, I didn't have enough going on in my life without adding something else to it. This week, I had three regular therapy sessions, two days of preschool, two work meetings, and one meeting with the local elementary school (in our part of the world, the little guys are potentially eligible for Early Start next month at the local school system because of their speech and other issues, and there is, of course, a process for acceptance that involves lots of paperwork and visits). Next week, there will be five different people in our house - two for regular therapy sessions, three others for observations and interviews to determine eligibility. And Connor has preschool, where he is snack helper and must bring snacks for the entire class. Oh, and that little work deadline I was talking about, it falls right in the middle.

But in fairness, I wasn't actually looking to work right now. This freelance opportunity just presented itself, and I took my usual "sink or swim" attitude. I wanted to freelance and to have a part of my life that wasn't completely wrapped up in the kids - eventually, that is - and how would I ever know if it was possible if I never tried? And, with Josh's help and the client's flexibility, we've managed. I've been working on it since early December and will be finished by the end of this month.

Though I have to admit, I probably won't do much more of it until after the kids are spending more time in school. It's been fun, and I've enjoyed the work and that sense of accomplishment again. But, I'm not made for working after the kids go to bed (usually into the very early hours of the morning) and then being bright and happy and ready for another full day with the kids the next morning. Though most people who've never done it wouldn't understand, taking care of all three boys under the age of four all day, every day, and managing their very busy schedule of school and therapy - well, that's a full-time job in and of itself.

Which brings me back to today. My husband and his wonderful family were nice enough to orchestrate having the kids gone from the middle of yesterday afternoon until sometime later tonight, and I've put in a good 10 hours of work in that time. I've actually gotten myself caught up for the next deadline earlier than I anticipated. I still have some work I could do, but now I'm sitting here with all these temptations in my empty house.

Grammy and Pappy got us Netflix for Christmas (and we're already loving it)! I have one of my picks, a girl movie Josh would never want to watch (The Duchess), that just came in the mail. I also have the rest of the Twilight series sitting on our dresser in our room (okay, book two is actually open on the dining room table where I was reading some of it during breakfast - at 11 a.m. - the other two are upstairs on the dresser). And then there's the other business that needs some attention - doing the accounting for Josh's businesses. That's been neglected over the holidays and my other more pressing obligations.

Sigh . . . decisions, decisions. Do I work, or do I play? What would you do?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Photo Flashback



Happy crawlers - Xander left, Sawyer right. Their first trip to the beach at 11 months. (Christmas 2006)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Post Script

Clearly, we bring out the best in our son (see post below).

Today at preschool, I happened to be at the end of the line picking Connor up from class. It was purposeful, as the twins have not been to school since early December. Daddy's schedule, combined with the cold weather, means he has dropped off and picked up Connor so far this week.

But this afternoon, it was our turn. And that narrow hallway with all those people and all of that noise does not bring out the best in either of our twins. Sawyer typically covers his ears with his hands and kicks at the wall, attempting to push the stroller back toward the door (and freedom). Xander just gets agitated because he wants to get down from the double stroller and run around - so not a good idea. His reaction to not being allowed down is usually to hit his twin brother on top of the head repeatedly (no idea why, but so it goes every single time we go to school).

But, I digress.

So, we were at the end of the line when Miss Julie called Connor to the door for dismissal. He was proudly carrying a sheet of Thomas the Tank stickers, grinning up at me. Miss Julie also smiles and tells me that his good behavior in class today warranted the stickers, that he was polite and well-behaved and even talked quite a bit during circle share time (when they talk about their daily show-and-tell items). My son. He was well-behaved. All morning.

So, clearly it's us and not him.

Smart Mouth

It was late and not one of the boys had taken an afternoon nap (or been put in their rooms for a little quiet time). They were all tired, but it was a bit too early for bed unless we wanted to be up with the sun. The boys had been fed, Super Why had been turned on, and Josh and I were trying to sit down for our late dinner. The little guys were happily dancing in front of the big screen. Connor, not so much.

He joined us at the table, taking the only other open chair without a booster seat, the one right next to Mommy. He started running his toy cars on the table, half laying on the table himself. He knew this wasn't allowed. He knew this drove Mommy crazy, especially when she's trying to eat in peace. He did it anyway.

"Connor, please don't lay on the table."

"I not," he said, completely lying and completely unconcerned.

"Connor, please get off the table."

No response, and no movement, other than continuing to run his cars across the table.

"Connor," Daddy warned.

Again, no compliance. Daddy set his fork down, got up, picked Connor up from his position of still half-laying on the table and put him in the time-out chair (one of two old, outgrown car seats in a little alcove under the steps). Immediate tears and pitifulness ensue. Once that winds down, he begins hopping and moving around - not enough to technically be out of the time-out area, but enough to be testing his limits.

"Connor, sit still." I warned, so very tired of the smart mouth and boundary testing of late.

"No!" he screamed, always more confident when he's out of direct sight lines.

"Connor, you don't tell Mommy no." I said, more calmly than usual because I was simply too tired to battle last night.

"No!" he screamed again.

"If you say it again, you'll go straight to bed. No bath, no books. Straight to bed." I warned.

"No," he said, simply and quietly, almost as soon as I finished my last word.

My fork hit my plate and the chair moved back. The tears began immediately. He knew that Mommy was not joking. He knew it all along. Mommy picked him up from the chair, holding him around his waist and tucking him over my hip (there would be no hugging or cuddling on this trip up stairs). He was set down in front of the bathroom and ordered to potty before bed. For once, he didn't dare talk back. He went potty, crying the whole time. He was marched into his room, stripped and redressed into pajamas, and tucked into bed. The door closed quickly and quietly behind me. Tears and screaming follow me down the hall . . . for just a few minutes . . . and then the dead silence of sleep.

We're really hoping this is only a phase, preferably a short-lived one. Little stinker.

At least it's only in moments at this point, and not all day every day. This morning he was back to his sweet self, saying "I love you!" and wanting hugs and kisses. There was no hint of last night, no lingering anger or unhappiness. Perhaps he just wanted to go to bed, and picking a fight was much easier than admitting it. Yes, that's what I'll go with. It certainly beats having a four-year old with a serious attitude problem on my hands. I can't imagine where he would get that from anyway.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Toy Closet

What does one do after vacation and another holiday season that brought even more toys into an already overcrowded house? Simple. If you're OCD, as I am, then you start organizing.

This week alone, I have tackled two closets, the walk-in pantry and even the refrigerator. Don't ask. Let's just say it involves six sippy cups constantly falling out of the refrigerator, you know, squeezed in with the six gallons of milk, abundance of yogurt and applesauce, and other groceries we manage to fit inside.

The kids and the puppy watch in fascination (if I am brave or determined enough to do it while they're awake), and Josh just laughs. He's certainly used to it by now. I can completely understand Sawyer's need for order - I have a pretty serious need for it myself!

And just because it will make many of you smile, I will show you the recently reorganized pantry in our kitchen. When we designed and built the house two years ago, it was supposed to be for food and miscellaneous household supplies (with three boys, we buy in bulk). It has turned into a walk-in toy closet with just a few household items squeezed in.



I get the bottom three shelves - for fruit snacks, candy, diapers, central vacuum supplies, and soft drinks. I also get to keep the small freezer, next to the broken toy box that doesn't fit in the living room any more, you know, with the other toy box and the new very large train table. The top four shelves are all toys.



I get half of this wall for cleaning stuff (okay, and the other flat wall behind the door where the hooks hold mops and brooms and ladders and all that fun stuff). The canvas totes have more small toys.



The broken toy box (just the lid) that now holds all the "outdoor" toys.

So much for the pantry. Good thing we added that extra wall of cabinets in the kitchen when we designed the house. Oh well, at least all of these toys are neatly put away and not spread out across the entire downstairs. Just getting half of it out is enough to test my OCD limits! And the bad news, we have two birthday boys coming up later this months, which can only mean one thing . . . even more toys!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Day



Where were you eight years ago today? I was standing in a little chapel in the Smoky Mountains, surrounded by a few friends and family, getting married to the most wonderful man in the world. All these years and kids later, I'd do it again. I'm one of lucky ones - he only gets better with time. Good husband. Good father. Good man. Greatest gift in my life.