Friday, July 31, 2009

Where We Are

Summer is almost over. The little guys start school in just a few short weeks. Connor just after Labor Day. Private school, you know, the one you pay for, is much shorter, apparently. But it, too, will be here before you know it.

And summer has been fun. There have been trips to the lake and the pool. Visits with friends and family. Play dates and birthday parties and book clubs and other adventures. All kinds of good things. Connor even has a few more coming up, what with his longer summer break and all. He's got a camping trip and a trip the beach (shh, we haven't told him about that one yet - we don't want to hear about it for another month)!

There's also been simple, lazy days at home. We play in the house with our alternating toys. We splash in the kiddie pool. We play in the yard on swings and slides and inside the forts. We take stroller walks and Big Wheel rides around the neighborhood.

We also keep moving forward. The twins are doing pretty well with potty training, aside from their digestive issues with number two. We've taken down baby gates and child restraints and are learning to simply listen to directions (like get off the stairs or quit bouncing on the couch). We're venturing out of the house more and more without our usual crutches (think strollers, pull-ups, and extra sets of hands).

And Xander is making leaps and bounds. I mentioned earlier about how he's started picking up a word or twenty here and there. That continues. The newest one is "pineapple," which is quite distorted but still there. It sounds something like "hi-happle" at this point, but I'll take it. It's consistent and appropriate. He also likes to help me when I congratulate him for going potty successfully. He says both "Good job!" and "Good boy!" and proceeds to lead me to the cabinet holding the M&M reward. He also says "Bye-bye, see you later!" appropriately and with a little wave. He even says "Bye-bye soon?" when he's ready to get out of the house. (And how cute is that?) The kid can also recite his full ABCs without mistake and quite clearly (aside from M & N sounding pretty much the same). He can count to twelve, sometime higher, on a consistent basis.

But beyond those things, there is his interaction with his brother. He and Connor have become play buddies. They run around, alternately chasing each other and laughing. They play made-up games that usually involve running, jumping and hoarding toys away from one another. They sit and play with cars (appropriately) on a little toy track. They even put Little People inside those cars. Connor provides most of the conversation, of course, but Xander is there. He's watching and listening and playing along. His engagement is improving. His social skills, albeit with someone he knows very, very well, are improving. He is moving forward.

And there is progress with Sawyer, too. But not the same kind. His comes in much smaller steps. It's in the fact that he almost always looks at you when you say his name. It's the way he will look directly at you and hold that eye contact, however briefly, before turning away and then back. Or when he walks up actually wanting a hug or a squeeze, initiating contact and interaction that he used to run away from. It comes in the forms of fewer meltdowns and less anxiety in new or unfamiliar situations. He, too, is moving forward.

And Connor is, well, Connor. He's the same chatty, inquisitive and boundary-pushing child he's always been. His speech is clear, his reason and understanding are improving and age-appropriate. He's showing a lot of interest in "his friends" and even asking about how soon school will start again. He's quick to volunteer for outings and overnight trips with just about anyone who is brave enough to offer. He tries to engage his brothers in play, and seems to enjoy having Xander follow him around lately. He's always ready to go somewhere or do something, and he's especially ready to have someone do it with him (he's a bit needy that way). Other than being a little bossy to his brothers (mimicking his mother, heaven help us) and a little sassy lately, he's a typical four and a half year old boy.

And that's where we are. Three boys, three different places. All coming along, each in their own time and their own way.

Photo Flashback

Who wants to play? Xander ready for some indoor soccer. (July 31, 2007)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Walls Come Down

Heaven help us, the baby gates have come down.

The back set of steps, without the gate for the first time in three years.

And the front set of steps, also without a gate for the first time in three years. You can see how this would be hours of endless fun for three little boys. Walk up one side and back down the other. And round and round they go.

But, since they were climbing on the gates (and sometimes falling over them), it seemed safer to just take them down. Maybe now the novelty will wear off. Here's hoping anyway. Otherwise there's going to be a lot of time out going on. You know, the kind where they're strapped into old car seats and can't move.

So we're down to two lone baby gates, and those are just as ineffectual as the ones on the steps. It just makes us feel better to keep them blocked out of the office. But, after a little cleaning up of sharp and important objects tomorrow, even those two are going to come down, too.

Welcome to our world. It's slowly being overtaken by three preschoolers, one defense at a time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Problem Solved

The problem is that three little boys don't fit into the little car grocery carts at Kroger, and they all really, really want to. Check out Xander beeping the horn in the photo, which he did the entire time if you're wondering. And yes, it actually squeaks (think dog chew toy annoying).

The answer was, of course, so simple. The new Super Kroger (Kroger Marketplace, is the correct name, I believe, but you get the idea) has not only car carts but also kid-sized carts, which are simply miniature versions of the real thing. How clever are their people? Connor loved it. Of course, he wanted absolutely everything in his cart, which didn't quite work out since we needed four gallons of milk and three 12-packs of coke (healthy, we know, but it was on sale) in addition to some other items. But, with almost everything in his cart, he had fun anyway. He only tried to take down a few people with his out of control cart. But, it was his first time, after all.

Now, who wants to take the kids grocery shopping? They actually enjoy it here.

Book Club for Boys!

Last night was our second book club meeting. After our busy day, we were running a few minutes late, but we eventually made it. Connor couldn't wait, he talked about it all afternoon and all the way there in the truck.

And, per usual, Connor was shy at first. He always hides behind my back and wants to sit on my lap to start the meeting. It must be something about the small group setting, because that definitely was not an issue yesterday morning at the birthday party. Or maybe being inside in a quieter, more controlled environment is more intimidating. Regardless, he eventually found himself and started moving around with ease.

This week was about the five senses (how appropriate, since a recent post mentioned how Sawyer very much processes the world this way). Connor participated in the story time, answering questions the host asked of the boys about things that they can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. He even talked so much I had to ask him to let the others have a turn, which is what we see at home but not often what others see away from home. He went through the activity with minimal redirection (the new and unfamiliar toys were calling to him). He liked sticking his hands into a covered box and trying to identify the objects by touch, especially the Hot Wheels car. He also liked tasting foods with a blindfold (a cleverly covered pair of children's sunglasses). It was a fun and interesting concept, which means one of the other mothers and I have big shoes to fill as our turn to host comes around!

And after the scheduled part of the meeting was over (the story and the following activity), the boys just spent an hour or so playing together. Connor and the other kids were especially fond of the GeoTrax train set. Luckily, there were four remote controlled trains to go around. And the moms, and the host dad, sat around the dining room table just talking. We threw out a few suggestions for future meetings, some options for meet-ups in between the actual book club meetings, and also just talked about some parenting issues in general. It was a fun way for the kids (and the parents) to spend the evening.

For me, it was especially nice to have some of that Connor and Mommy time again. We haven't had much of that since school ended in early June, so it was nice to just have one child out on an adventure for a change. We even took advantage of the moment and stopped at the local library on our way home (very appropriate, I thought, on our way home from the book club meeting). Poor Connor has been rereading his collection this summer, because that's another place we haven't visited much. I have yet to be brave enough to take all three boys there. Mostly because the little guys are still rough even on the board books we own, so I can't imagine how they would do with library books as far as the eye could see. Nope, not yet.

And that was the end of our very fun, but also very long, day.

"My Friends"

Yesterday was a first for us. Connor was invited to his first ever birthday party by one of his friends from school. It was one of the little boys who's also in our "Book Club for Boys," so it's someone he knows and feels pretty comfortable around. And, most important, his little brothers were invited, too.

So I took all three of the boys to a their first birthday party. By myself. It was an adventure.

Connor's friend lives out in the county, in a pretty rural area with fields and forests all around. They even have bunnies and goats and chickens, which was definitely something new for my boys. The party was centered outside around a picnic table, with a barn and the animals on one side and a beautiful hillside on the other.

It was a perfect children's party. There was pizza and breadsticks and juice boxes for lunch, with cupcakes and ice cream for dessert. There was a fun game of treasure hunt, which was the "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme version of pin-the-tail on the donkey. And there was a candy-filled pinata hanging from a nearby tree. There were even two child-sized wheel barrows filled with water balloons and a friendly water fight.

Connor spent the day in awe, running from one activity to the next and following around "my friends" every chance he got. He was hot and sweaty and exhausted when it was all over, but he also had one of the biggest smiles you have ever seen spread across his face. I tell myself that was because he enjoyed the party and his friends so much, not just the giant bag of candy he had scored from the pinata break.

And then there were the twins. They were there, but not really there. From the moment we stepped out of the truck they spied a little spot over the hill where the family had some playground equipment - a small swing set, a climbing dome, and finally, a trampoline. It was old-school, the kind with no safety net or padding over the springs. And it was a magnet for every single child there.

The twins made a beeline for it the second they saw it. They both climbed right up the ladder of the little slide (positioned next to it as a way to get on) and took off. They bounced for about 99 percent of the time we were there. They took a few breaks here and there to check out an activity or two that was going on, but mostly to come up for another juice box. I'm pretty sure they had at least four. Each.

For Sawyer, you could see it on his face. It was one of those sensory things that makes his face light up. He loved every second of it. He bounced, by himself and with others. He sometimes just sat or even lay down in the middle while everyone else's movements bounced him. He was in heaven. And he cried, pretty hard, when it was time to leave.

Xander also enjoyed it. He bounced and bounced and bounced. I was actually a little concerned he might bounce himself over the hill, but he didn't. I forget how agile he is for his age, that he has really good coordination and knows his limits pretty well. He didn't have a single problem. Unless you count being stung by a bee and screaming like a banshee. But it was short-lived and the sting was very minor. He just didn't think much of it at the time.

Connor, like his brothers, also liked the trampoline. He followed them down in the beginning and hopped right on. He also hopped right over to the edge and got his leg caught between the spring and frame, and was suspended in mid-air for a few uncomfortable seconds screaming. He wasn't hurt, of course, just scared. There wasn't even a scratch or red mark on him. So he was more careful after that, and usually only came back if his friends were down there, too. Mostly, he was immersed in the actual party.

Our first birthday party was a successful trip. I was so impressed with the family who put it on. All outside, all fun and exciting for the kids. And such a beautiful place to have the party (and live, really). And I survived taking all three of them somewhere without any major incidents. We even managed to get the two little guys to potty outside for the first time, and do so successfully!

So, even though it would have been nice if the little guys had been more interested in the party and the other kids, it was still a good day. Connor had fun with his friends. The twins found something to occupy them so that I could spend as much time watching Connor and enjoying the party as I did taking care of them.

It was just another step out into the world, learning to take all three of them places by myself and managing three unique sets of needs at the exact same time. Scary at times, but a lot more fun than always staying home!

The Day That Was

It started early, of course. Josh got the boys up when he left around 7 a.m. I came down an hour or so later, after having chased Sawyer off the steps three different times, finally putting him back in his room.

You see, the twins have broken down our last child safety defense in the last few weeks. The baby gates are merely stepping stones into the places that were once off limits. So now they love to play inside the office and especially on the steps. So after catching Sawyer there the third time in less than 20 minutes while I was trying to catch that last hour of sleep, I simply put him back in his room, which he cannot get out of on his own. Clearly he wanted to be upstairs, right? That's what I thought.

At some point we got the phone call with details about Connor's first ever birthday party to attend. Ours had gotten lost in the mail and we weren't sure what time or where, we just knew it was sometime Tuesday afternoon. It was at 11:30, yesterday morning! We had two hours to get everyone dressed, fed and there (about 20 minutes away).

We also still needed the birthday boy's present. You see, I had planned on getting that Monday night. I was going to take Connor out after Josh got home from work, because he loves those kinds of trips and I had to work both nights this weekend. But one of the girls I work with called Sunday night and wanted to trade nights, so I ended up working Monday night, too. That left Tuesday morning, the day of the party. Which was, of course, before I knew the party actually was that morning!

So we had breakfast, got everyone dressed and presentable, made our final potty and were on our way. I took all of them into the store. Without the stroller. That was an adventure, let me tell you. They loved the toy section and kept trying to persuade me we needed even more balls to play with. I declined. We picked what I hope was a fun toy for the birthday boy and were on our way again. We caught up with and followed two other moms out to the party, just in time.

We spent a few hours at the party. Then we came back to the house and got the little guys some lunch, since they were not interested in a normal kid fare from the party. Then we went out on the deck for a few hours in the pool, hoping the water would wash off some of the dirt and grime from the two-hour outdoor party.

Then we came inside to clean up. Connor and I needed showers before our second event of the day, the second meeting of the "Book Club for Boys." Then we fixed everyone dinner. And we changed Connor's clothes again, because he dropped his dinner raviolis all down the front of his clean shirt. And then we called Daddy, who had forgotten that he was keeping the twins while we went to the book club meeting. He made it home, and we quickly took off. We got there about five minutes late, but we made it.

We spent a few hours at the book club, enjoying the meeting and the company. And then we made our way home well past Connor's usual bed time. Especially when Mommy realized the library was still open and we could swing in there. We hadn't been since school was out back in May, because I am still not quite brave enough to take all three boys there by myself (and the stroller will not fit).

After picking out our books and looking at the flip-up books he loves for a while, we eventually made it home and got Connor cleaned up once again and ready for bed. And we, of course, picked the longest library book he got (yet another Curious George) and had to read that before bed time. I left his room around 10 p.m.

And then I fell into bed shortly thereafter.

Busy. Fun. Exhausting. And that is the day that was.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Tease

It's been an incredibly fun, but also incredibly busy and exhausting day. Because I'm too tired for details tonight, I'll leave you with this fun picture of the little guys on one of our many adventures today.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Is It Hot in Here?

It couldn't have happened a few weeks ago, say when we were enjoying below average temperatures and extremely low humidity. No, of course not. The air conditioning waited until Saturday afternoon to decide to stop working. We have dual units, and, of course, the one that cools where we sleep was the one to stop working.

And it couldn't have happened Saturday morning, mind you, when my good husband (the builder) could have contacted his service guys and gotten someone to come over and take a look. Nope. Saturday afternoon. After business hours. So we had to wait until today to call.

Two whole nights. With no air conditioning. The upstairs thermometer read 82 degrees the first night and 85 degrees the second night. And that's where I drew the line. I slept downstairs, where there was still air conditioning, on the couch.

The poor kids were miserable. Xander the most, because he's the unlucky child with no ceiling fan in his bedroom. His room was the guest room, in the back corner of the house, and the sloped ceiling made it impossible to put one in when we were building. We kind of thought the giant room that is Sawyer's bedroom would be the one they shared as long as we lived in this house. That was before the sleep issues.

But, I digress. Hot kids and restless nights is where I began. It was hot and sticky, even with the windows open. The two youngest ones sweat with even the slightest level of heat or activity. Connor is not much better. And the windows open added a whole other issue, of sounds that might wake them up either during the night or earlier than usual (heaven help us). It also added the worry of them playing with the windows and pushing on the screens from their second story rooms, so we couldn't open them until after they'd fallen asleep and we did have to get up with them on their terms. It was not a fun couple of nights.

The good news is the air conditioning has been restored (bad bearings in the fan motor, if you were wondering). And it's now cool enough that you can sleep without having wet sheets, thank goodness.

It also means I won't be awakened tomorrow morning by three little boys charging down the stairs at 6:45 a.m. ready to start the day and jumping all over me while I try to hide from the day for another hour, at least. Because that's how I started my day today. Being bounced on before 7 a.m.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Snapshot Sunday

Peek-a-boo. Little man Xander playing under the towel during one of our kiddie pool afternoons. He's sneaky, just look at that face.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rise & Shine

This is what ungodly hour one of my children likes to wake up, every single day. It does not matter what time he went to bed, whether he has or has not had a nap recently. It's simply his internal clock. Sunrise. You know, anywhere from 6 to 7 a.m. It's pretty, mind you, but I really don't need to see it every day. Swear.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photo Flashback

Happy little Xander, playing with a Hot Wheels car. (July 27, 2007)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Connor's World

Last night on our shopping trip, this was the bike that Connor kept coming back to over and over. It was the one that "looked like a motorcycle" and the one he enjoyed riding the most down the aisles of the toy section. It was reasonably priced, compared to other bikes the same size. Depending on how his interests go in the next couple of months, it (or one very similar) may arrive at our house for his birthday. He also spied a race car (covered) bike helmet that he "needed" to have, too. We'll see.

Fast forward to this morning on our stroller walk around the block. Connor is still big on taking his Big Wheels bike for these little trips, especially coming down the hill that is our driveway. It's a fun way to start, apparently. He's not so great on going up the slight inclines, but he does pretty well, all in all. He knows not to get too far ahead, and he knows to wait for Mommy or Daddy and to look both ways before we cross the streets.

So, we're just starting out on our first loop (with Buster along for his daily walk) when all of the sudden Connor stops on the sidewalk and turns around to look at me.

"Mom," he says. "This bike is getting pretty old, huh?"

I'm not exactly sure where this is going, so I agree. It is a bit old, considering he got it probably three Christmas holidays ago, when he was only two.

"Yeah," he agrees. "It's pretty old."

We keep going for a few minutes, and then he abruptly stops again.

"Mom," he starts again. "This bike is really old. I think I need a new bike, a bigger one, so the wheels can go faster and I can go better."

Ah, so that's where this is going. It seems our trip to the store and his test-drive have left a lasting impression. A whole day's worth anyway, which is a long time in little boy world.

Like I said, we'll see where his interests are in a few months, as his birthday gets a little closer. But I have a feeling a big boy bike and a race car (covered) helmet are in his near future.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't Go Hungry . . .

So, tonight was grocery night. With the rain, Josh was home from work rather early and even picked up one of my favorite dinners, pad thai, on his way home. It also happened to be one of my nights off from work, too, so despite the rain I made our list and clipped our coupons and headed out.

Guess which enterprising young man came along, even though he'd already been to work with Daddy today. One trip out was not enough, apparently. He was dancing at the back door saying, "I'na come too! I'na come too!"

Though not necessarily a fun addition to my shopping trip (he does talk the whole time, you know, usually begging for things we either already have or don't really need), I agreed he could tag along. Cue bright smile and happy laughter, from him of course. Mommy just kind of shrugged her shoulders and said whatever.

So, we spent a few hours picking up groceries to last us for a week or so. We also made the requisite stop in the toy department just to look (he knows we only look, we don't buy unless it's a special occasion like a birthday or holiday). We also test drove big boy bikes (with training wheels, of course) and made vague promises about his upcoming birthday in the fall. And then we shopped some more. He alternated pushing the cart, riding on the rails of the cart while I pushed it, and dancing along the aisles pointing at sweets and treats. Sounds pretty typical, right?

So then we get to the end of our trip. Our last stop is through the fresh produce area. I was bagging up some red delicious apples, a request from Connor after our last trip to Chick-fil-a where he discovered the fruit cup is better than the waffle fries (can't say that I disagree with him there). So I'm bagging up red apples, which is what he said he wanted, when I hear a big crunch and turn around.

Apparently we were also buying golden delicious apples. Or if we weren't planning on it, we were going to now. The four-year old was going in for what looked to be his third giant bite out of the side of a shiny golden delicious apple, one obviously yet to be paid for.

Thus began the conversation about how we don't eat food off the shelves or open up packages, that we have to wait at least until we're in the car before we start eating our groceries because that will mean we have already paid for everything. We've had the conversation many times before. And he's never actually been guilty of it before, just of trying to open a package (think cookies or Hot Wheels cars) or grab a drink out of the refrigerated case at the end of the aisles.

I guess I should look on the bright side. At least, if he was going to make me buy him something because he opened it, it was something that was actually healthy and good for him. That makes it a little bit better. Right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Morning After

After two and a half fun-filled days at the lake retreat also known as Grandma and Grandpa's house, the family is back home. Even though we (meaning the boys and I) make this trip quite frequently, especially during the summer months, there's always a period of adjustment after coming home.

Today's start has been especially slow. For starters, it was pushing midnight when we arrived with three sleeping little boys and more luggage than you would think such a two-night excursion would require. It was well after midnight by the time we unloaded the boys and the stuff and got ourselves into bed.

The boys were up and ready to go at pretty much normal time, around 7 a.m. Josh, good husband that he is, usually gets up and lets them out of their rooms and starts them off with some PBS, dry cereal and milk. We crawled out of bed a few hours later. Josh went to work, and I started our day. Late breakfast for everyone, a bit of laundry and unpacking, some miscellaneous tasks on the computer, lunch, more laundry and quite a bit more animated television (yeah, it's been that kind of day).

It's been a long one. There have been potty training accidents (for two boys who have largely been going accident-free during the day). There has been one crying meltdown. That would be Sawyer, who I forget now cries during certain scenes of his once favorite, Cars movie, you know, until said scenes appear and he melts down. Apparently seeing the fire truck spray Lightning in the face with water is not appealing. There has been one little boy stalking me and shouting letters ALL DAY LONG. And then there has been my four-and-a-half year old. One attention-seeking move after another, none of them falling in the good behavior category, and several threats of going upstairs to take a much-needed nap (though empty threats, because Josh will not appreciate little boys being up late tonight). And that would be because it's now time for me to get ready to go to work and he's in charge of the boys, after having worked all day.

Sigh. Is it wrong to look forward to the peace and quiet of work every once in a while? Because some days, like today, I do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Snapshot Monday

Connor told us this was a good place to sleep. Sawyer agreed. Xander wasn't so sure.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Snapshot Sunday

It's a hard life. Connor falling asleep on our Sunday afternoon boat ride.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Peer Pressure

Why is it that we all feel compelled, on some level anyway, to compete with everyone else, especially when it comes to our children? Just about everyone I know who has kids, whether they are babies just beginning to crawl or toddlers or even preschoolers like mine, has this particular learning toy in their house. And I had seen it several times before, had been told about by therapists and teachers who thought it would appeal to our "spell boy" Xander, and I had even looked at it at the store.

But, for the most part, unless it's a birthday or holiday or really special occasion, we don't buy the kids toys. Trust me, we have enough grandparents and family and friends who love to do just that. Our house is overrun with toys right now, so much so that I actually turned our walk-in pantry in the kitchen into a toy closet with a few cleaning supplies tucked over on the side. We rotate toys every week or so, and can do so for months without seeing the same toys again. We have plenty of toys, learning or otherwise.

And yet, clearly, there it is. We are now proud owners of the fridge phonics learning toy. And it all came to be simply because I could not figure out what else to buy at Kohl's one afternoon. You see, we had received a free $10 Kohl's cash card in the mail for the fourth of July holiday sale. You could use it toward absolutely anything, on sale or not, with no strings attached. It was a $10 bill burning a hole in my pocket.

First, I looked for Connor some new tennis shoes for school this fall. He's a little hard on those, and his are almost a year old. The white is pretty much a dull grey no matter how much you try to clean them back up. No luck. Nothing in extra wide, which all of the boys need. Next I looked for a new pair of flip flops for either me or Josh (we have two pair of Adidas slip-ons that we wear all the time, and one pair is starting to tear on the side). No luck. Nothing in my size or his. Last, I went to look for some new pajamas for Connor because I wanted to pass his down to the twins (this was before I knew Grandma had already bought him some new ones). I found one pair I liked, but then there was the dilemma of how they would eventually pass down. You see, I like the twins to have similar (but not the same) clothes. It just makes my life easier (what with my mild case of OCD and all). So I put those back, too.

But there was the toy section, with lots of signs screaming SALE in big, bold letters. As much as half off most of the toys. And there it was, the last remaining box of fridge phonics. Half price. Minus the free $10 Kohl's cash. I only hesitated for a few seconds, then picked it up and started toward the cash registers. I was tired of shopping. Here was something that all three boys could enjoy with no size or pass-down issues. And it was going to cost me a whopping $4 and some change.

It was a big hit the next morning, when the boys came down and saw it stuck on the refrigerator. After the initial skirmish of each one trying to keep it all to himself, it has simply become a fixture in our kitchen. We are now just like every other house I know.

And all three of the boys do enjoy it, in their own way, of course. Connor loves any new toy, for a while at least. He likes to pull the talking part down and just press the buttons over and over again (to annoy us, we think). Sawyer likes to, of course, line up the letters in intricate patterns and rows on the refrigerator or even on the couch (he just pulls them all off - all 26 at the same time - and carries them over with him to his favorite spot to hoard them). And Xander, who I thought of most when I picked it up, loves it. He plays with it by putting letters into the talking part, to hear their sounds. He also organizes the letters into patterns and rows. And he also merely points at the letters, quite gleefully, and tells us what they are.

And that's the story of how Mommy caved to the peer pressure and ended up buying an annoying, talking toy that all three of her children love to torment her with. You know, because I didn't already have a walking spell boy wandering around the house saying letters to me every time I turn around.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sticky Fingers

Both of our twins have what some might call sensory issues.

For Xander, it largely means he's a very particular eater. Certain textures cause problems that usually result in him sticking out his tongue and using both of his hands to try to wipe off the offending texture as quickly as possible (with zero regard for where it lands). It's actually kind of cute. Except when you're trying to get him to eat something that's good for him (and that most normal people think tastes good).

For Sawyer, it's not just one thing. It's pretty much everything.

There's his love of shadows and light (and how motion changes these). It's what makes him walk in front of the same house ten times on our walk around the block, watching the sun reflect on certain glasses a certain way. There's certain toys he enjoys playing with and others he cannot stand to have in his hands or any where near his body. There's the feeling of weightlessness, like being bounced or swinging or flipping himself over backwards in your arms (to hang upside down). There is his constant need for pressure. For him, it means giving extremely tight hugs and squeezes as signs of affection and also grinding his teeth in frustration and anger. It's also there when he lines up every single toy we own in a big pile and then lays himself on top to see how it feels, or the way he always sleeps on top of the two pillows at the head of his bed, carefully wedged on the top and in between the headboard. It's his smile at being hugged so tightly you think you're going to hurt him, or having him pull you down on top of him because that's what he needs.

One thing you will hear over and over again about autism is that those who have it see the world differently. And they do. They see it. Touch it. Smell it. Taste it. They feel it. Sawyer experiences the world with all of his senses, and does so much more than either of his brothers. Perhaps it's a compensation for his lack of language. Or perhaps it's just who he is.

In the last few weeks he's picked up a new habit, one that drives my mother a bit over the edge (she likes things neat and clean at her house). Rather than using his spoon (which he is perfectly capable and willing to do most of the time), he's started eating two of his favorite foods - applesauce and yogurt - with his fingers again. And I don't mean he just pinches it between his fingers and puts it in his mouth. No, that would be too easy and just plain silly.

Here is my baby, enjoying his yogurt his way.

First, you dip each finger into the yogurt so that there is a bite on each one.

Then you hold the hands out to make sure you've not accidentally overlooked a single finger (if you have, then you must dip that finger in and make it a complete set).

And last, you lick each one of bite by delicious bite. All with one of the biggest smiles you will ever see on that adorable little face.

Grandma doesn't like the mess that sometimes comes, but Mommy cannot resist that smile. It's too elusive at times. And honestly, with three preschoolers at the table, it's not like I won't already be on hands and knees wiping up the crumbs anyway. What's a few more drips?

Photo Flashback

Three boys, checking each other out. Connor and Daddy and Buster Brown. (July 10, 2005)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Day, Another Swim

Our summer of water continues. Grammy was nice enough to invite us out to the pool again this week, for the boys and I to enjoy and for Connor to finish up some swim lessons that she arranged for him with one of the lifeguards (a daughter of a friend of hers). It was a good day.

Xander, who doesn't always enjoy the pool, has liked it more this summer than not. One of his favorite things is to toss Grammy's dive sticks over this random part of the kiddie pool (a concrete divider with this "v" at the top and a small hole in the center) into the narrow water way that separates the shallow and deep ends. That's the look he gives people who pick up his dive sticks before he gets there (or his mother who has the camera out yet again).

The true water baby, Sawyer, who can never get enough of tasting, touching, smelling and just moving and being in the water. It's a full sensory delight, apparently. His favorite thing is to have you pull him around by the hands so that he's just skimming the water. In circles. For as long as you're willing. And he fully expects that to be ALL DAY LONG.

And the big boy. His pictures were limited today, as he spent a big part of the time in swimming lessons. Today was the third and last one-on-one session. He's pretty accomplished for a four-year old. He has absolutely no fear of the water (though he could stand to learn a little respect, if not fear). He can swim and breathe under water, he can tread water, and he's in the beginning stages of doing freestyle strokes (and simultaneous) kicks on top of the water. His big accomplishment today was swimming a small section of the big pool, where his lessons have been taking place. He was quite proud of himself and really enjoyed being with his teacher, Miss Lauren!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Club for Boys (& Brothers & Sisters)!

Earlier this summer, just before school let out, I mentioned that Connor joined a "Book Club for Boys" playgroup started by the mother of one of his classmates. The "book club" meetings are only about once a month because they involve some planning and preparation, but many of the members have been meeting just about every week for a simple get together at a park or other location to "play" together.

For a variety of reasons - mostly weather, a few logistical (that fun three-to-one ratio) and also Connor's extensive travel schedule - we've not made it to any since the first meeting. Sometimes I wonder how much of that is my own fear, that whole logistical thing, in taking three boys out by myself. I know other people do it, and I know other mothers are generally glad to help wrangle extra children on these events, but it's still hard. I'm not one who likes to ask for, much less expect, help. And my children require a different kind of help, at least one of them. So that makes it twice as hard.

But, my issues aside, I was determined we would go. It's the first time everyone has been home and healthy for one of the events in weeks, and I know Connor has been missing his friends. So, we got up a little early (for us anyway), packed the cooler and the truck, and headed out. We were headed to a local park on the other side of town, albeit 30 minutes after the others had surely already arrived. Morning people, we are not.

This particular park is nice, and we've been out there before, but mostly to watch cousins Austin and Kyndal play baseball and t-ball. This was our first trip with just the boys to the playground, and they had a great time. Connor especially liked seeing his friends for the first time in a while, even if he was a bit bashful at the beginning and the end of the day. And at four and a half, he's pretty trustworthy and self-sufficient, so I could concentrate on keeping tabs on the little guys and talking with the other moms in between reconnaissance missions. Sawyer and Xander were a bit all over the place, but that's to be expected. And I did have to wrangle Sawyer away from a few picnic tables with food and drinks (and people trying to enjoy them in peace), but all in all, they did well.

We ended the day at the food court at the nearby mall. And just so you can get the full picture, there were three adults and seven children ages 18 months to six years. We were like rows of soldiers walking in, as one of the kids put it.

That was a first for me, taking three little kids into a crowded place with no restraints during a busy lunch time. It went as well as could be expected. The two little ones were not much on the food (it wasn't McDonald's, so that pretty much says it all), but did snack and drink a little. Connor did wonderful, but he's used to eating out and loves almost all places (today's choice was Chick-fil-a). Sawyer did a lot of hopping and dancing and entertaining nearby diners, but wasn't too loud or too distracting (I hope). Xander was tired and a bit fussy toward the end, but also not bad. It was a good first time out, and now maybe Mommy will be brave enough to try it again.

And, I've saved the best for last. Our two potty training twins did all of this in big boy underwear without a single incident! We had two potty sessions at the public restroom at the park (always fun), and we washed hands inside the mall. We made it home clean and dry!

We're starting to do a few trips like this, here and there, and always where we know bathrooms will be nearby. But, Mommy also keeps hand towels in the bottom of the twins' car seats, just in case. Those car seat covers are not fun to pull off, even though they are washable. We also keep an extra set of clothes in the back for each twin, along with the still-there emergency diaper bag. And we even pack along the extra, full-size little potty, just in case the bathrooms aren't nearby!

Yeah, Mommy has a few issues. We know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Enter at Your Own Risk

Four out of five of us have been sick over the last three days. Sawyer narrowly avoided it somehow, escaping with a mere few hours of fatigue and appetite loss instead of hours of retching like everyone else. Josh and I decided to join the fun last night, with both of us fighting over bathroom privileges as we tried to get some sleep. Pretty sure neither of us got any sleep before about 4 a.m., and even that was interrupted.

The good news is that whatever we've all had seems to be a 24-hour bug, so all of the kids seem fully recovered and we hope to be that way soon. The bad news is that we're two sick adults in a house full of recovered, energetic children who don't understand why we're trapped in the house and taking turns napping upstairs.

As my four-year old so graciously pointed out, "I tired of being in the house watching TV all the time!" (the last three words said in the whiniest and most annoying of voices you can imagine).

Mommy had to remind him of how he felt on Friday night when Mommy was up with him for all hours of the night. She also reminded him that he was actually the first one to bring sickness upon our house and he might be a little more understanding. He was a bit less whiny after that.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Making the Rounds

Naturally, whatever Connor had on Friday night is now catching up with his brothers. After a slower day yesterday, including a four-hour nap on the couch, Connor seems to be all better. His brothers, not so much.

Sawyer was acting a bit off this morning, sitting perfectly still in a chair watching television for hours. For those of you who don't know him, he never, EVER, sits still. Constant motion, usually in the form of hopping or dancing, is standard protocol for him. But as the day wore on, he made his way out of the chair and slowly started playing and acting more like his usual self.

But Xander, poor little Xander, is now the one not feeling well. Our leather chair now has one more reason (on top of the many others to date) that it will someday need to be burned. Xander got sick all over it and all over the floor. And all over Josh as he tried to take him up for a nap a little bit later in the day. And in the bathroom a few hours after that, while we were trying to clean up the sheets that he had somehow gotten sick on during his nap.

I guess the good news is that if it's the same thing big brother had Friday night, it doesn't appear to last very long. The bad news is we're a little tired of cleaning up the mess of three little boys not feeling well. What a weekend.

Snapshot Sunday

The Brothers Elam.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Too Much?

Something in the last few days didn't agree with Connor. Too much sun? Too much chlorinated water from the pool? Too much food? Who knows, but something didn't sit well. Poor kid woke up about 10:30 last night, walked himself to the bathroom and proceeded to get sick all over it (and I do mean ALL over it).

The good news is there was only a little bit on the hallway carpet at the bathroom door. The rest of it was on wipeable surfaces and came clean with a roll of paper towels and some Clorox wipes. The bad news is that he was sick on and off until about 3:30 this morning, sometimes making it to the bathroom and sometimes just making it to the mop bucket that we set beside his bed. And I didn't get hardly any sleep.

Today has not been a whole lot better. There's been a little bit more getting sick, always in the bathroom, thank goodness. He's been drinking a little bit of Sprite and a little bit of ice water, but he won't touch any type of food, not even club crackers or dry cereal or toast. He's mostly been camped out on the couch, sipping one of his two drinks and watching animated movies.

Fun times, especially since Daddy and I are both working today. Pappy and Grammy are probably going to have a little more than they bargained for with today's adventures. Because our kids can be needy on a good day. But catch them on a sick day, and they're ridiculously helpless. So it goes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Exhibit 101

Further proof that taking your children to the pool for five hours will wear them out. Xander went to bed about 8:30 p.m. last night. It's now 10:30 a.m. and he's still sound asleep, even with his brother wide awake and kicking the door at 7:30 this morning!

Sawyer, of course, does not wear out easily or require nearly as much sleep as the rest of us. He took a 30 minute nap on the way home from the pool yesterday, and that was pretty much the extent of his being worn out. Even that short nap meant that he didn't fall asleep until close to 10 p.m., and then he was up bright and early like always.

Okay, so it wears most children out.

Photo Flashback

The first baby, at four months and growing. (July 10, 2003)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Water

We spent the first two days of the week on the lake, so it's only natural that we spend the last two days at the pool. Right? Most of us are fans of the water, so it's all working out.

Connor's long ago swimming lessons, the ones that started in March and had several delays from weather and maintenance issues, were eventually cancelled after only three of the six sessions had taken place. The good news is we got a refund, but the bad news was we still had a little boy with absolutely no fear of the water who still hadn't had his swimming lessons.

Grammy to the rescue. One of the lifeguards at the club pool is the daughter of her friend, and she worked out some private lessons at the outdoor pool this summer. Today was the first session, and he'll go back tomorrow for the next one. And then we'll see where he's at and what our schedules look like for future lessons.

For his first day, the little guys and I decided to join him. We left early, picked up a McDonald's lunch and then headed out to the club to enjoy it under the shade trees at the play ground. We spent about 45 minutes after lunch playing before Grammy arrived and Connor's lesson was scheduled to begin.

And we made a day of it. We spent pretty much all afternoon there (he returned after his half hour lesson and played, too). We also spent a lot of time in the bathrooms, for potty sessions. But, all in all, they did well. We, of course, still use swimmers on the little guys at this stage. Only one accident even in those, and that was just Mommy taking too long to get Sawyer to the bathroom.

A long day, but a good one. Connor went home with Grammy so he can go back to his lesson tomorrow. We'll see what tomorrow brings for the little guys before we decide whether or not to join them again. Xander is not usually that fond of the pool, and two days in a row may be pushing it, even if he did enjoy it today!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quoted & Noted

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but this one was worth the wait.

We have three little boys in the house, and only one is actually talking in words and sentences. Connor, at four, never stops talking. Xander, of course, does love to say his letters and count to 12 (don't ask me why it's to 12 and not 10 or 20, I have no idea). He also tries to say a word or 20 here and there, but it's very random and sporadic and very rarely more than one word at a time. And Sawyer, well, he speaks a language we don't understand yet. Mostly he pushes, pulls and points.

All three effective, in their own way. But it's the four year-old who speaks that I'm thinking of tonight. We're noticing a new pattern with him, one that's equal parts cute and annoying.

So, let's say he's done something good and you compliment him on a job well done. Maybe you say, "You did a great job sharing with your brothers!" or something to that effect. He will respond with the appropriate, polite and very cute, "Thank you!" But, before you've had time to think of, much less say an actual response, he immediately follows with, "Say you're welcome, Connor!" in a rather smug and superior little voice.

See, cute. And also extremely annoying.

Let's take another example. Perhaps he's thinking about a fun day in the pool tomorrow. He might start with "We go swimming in our pool tomorrow!" He expects an immediate response, just as he always does when he speaks. If you're not quick enough, he will promptly tell you what you should have said. "Say, yes, Connor, we'll swim in our pool tomorrow."

Or, he sneezes. And you're not quite fast enough with the "Bless you!" for his taste (meaning you didn't start saying it as he was actually sneezing). He'll turn to you with a look of supreme agitation and say, "Say, bless you, Connor!"

And, well, you get the idea. It doesn't matter what he asks or what he says. He expects a response. An immediate response. And if you're the slightest bit too slow, he's just going to tell you what you should say. In a completely matter-of-fact and without a single doubt in his mind kind of way.

Of course, I have to see the irony of my life. We wish and hope and pray for speech with our two youngest boys who have so far struggled with language. And then we have our four year-old, who speaks as though his breathing depends upon it and who has now gone so far as to begin anticipating responses and saying those, too.

Maybe he can teach his brothers. Clearly he knows it all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Smooth Waters

So smooth, in fact, that Mommy attempted something she hasn't done in years (maybe not since before the kids were born, you know, about five years ago). Water skiing.

Getting ready to go. (Third time was the charm, if you're wondering how many attempts it took to actually get up on the water). Grandma was either not quick enough with my camera or I was falling so fast she couldn't capture it!

But, as Grandpa says, it's just like riding a bike. You don't really ever forget.

And finally, enjoying the smooth water and playing.

Before my arms, legs and hands gave out and I let it go. I held on longer than I should have, all things considered, and will probably be a little sorry about that tomorrow. It was still a good ride, even if it was a short one.

Let's just say I was using muscles that hadn't been used in quite a while, and even though I consider myself in decent shape chasing after and toting around three nearly fifty pound little boys, that skiing requires a bit more practice to build up endurance.

Good thing summer's just getting started!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Delayed Holiday

It may not be exactly the fourth, but it's close enough as far as we're concerned. Sunny skies, warm (but not humid), cool breezes and blue waters to jump into from the back of the boat. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Snapshot Sunday

Attitude, from one of the happiest little boys in the world. He was just too cute to resist, face covered in spaghetti sauce and chocolate (from the chocolate chip cookies), arms crossed over his belly and giving Mommy "the look" (can't image where he learned that, either, by the way).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

For the first time in a really long time, as far back as I can remember even, I spent the fourth of July somewhere other than the lake. I was working. And, given the weather we ended up having (it's still raining), it really didn't bother me as much as I thought it might.

What was bad, was thinking that I was scheduled to work my usual 1 to 9 afternoon shift and then being called at 10:15 by the manager, who by now realizes I'm quite punctual and usually 10 minutes early, and being asked, "Did I not tell you that we're only open 10 to 6 today and that was your shift?"

Um, no. No you didn't.

So there I was, maybe an hour out of bed, having just helped Josh get the kids off on their Saturday adventure to the "TEA" party in a nearby city with Pappy and cousins Jason and Kaden. I was wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top, hair pulled back in a rough pony tail, and getting ready to take the puppy on a walk (he was not at all happy about the unexpected turn of events either). I wasn't exactly dressed for work or even remotely ready to be. So I hung up the phone, rushed around and managed to make myself presentable and get there by 10:45, which was not bad considering what I started with.

Two valuable lessons learned. One, ask about holiday hours rather than just wonder to yourself who in the world they think is going to come in and buy furniture at 9 o'clock on the fourth of July, even if there is a big sale going on. And more importantly, actually check your phone every night before you go to bed for messages. There was one on there from my manager from yesterday afternoon, which I'd never heard. With school out and potty training in full force, I don't really have much use for my phone right now. So it sat on the counter, rang and answered, while we were out in the yard yesterday afternoon. And I never even thought to look at it. That's lesson number two.

So, I'll spend the holiday working this year and then pack the kids up for a few days next week and visit Grandma and Grandpa at the lake on my days off. It's not bad really. It just means less traffic on the trip and fewer boats to wait behind on the ramp, which are actually good things. But I must say, it doesn't quite feel like the fourth without steaks on the grill (we had ours last night, since I thought I'd be working late tonight) and a boat on the water!

Hope that everyone is enjoying their fourth, however they choose to celebrate it!

Friday, July 3, 2009


Language has been elusive for our twins. They babbled and started saying first words around their first birthday, but sometime in that second year the words just faded until they were all but gone by the time they turned three. For Sawyer, there are still no words. But for Xander, the words seem to be coming back.

It's been there for a while, a new word or two here and there. Not always consistent, and probably not always clear to those who don't know him well, but they are there. And they're heard more and more frequently. At one time, I could have counted the words he used consistently and appropriately on my two hands. But after the last few months, I probably couldn't even list all of the words he's starting to say.

Part of me was kind of waiting and watching, almost afraid to talk about how well he was doing for fear that it wouldn't last or that it would disappear just as those first words did. But every single day I hear new words. Not always articulate, mind you, but new words. He's saying the beginning sounds, trying to sound out things that he hears other people say. And he's putting a lot of new words together that I've never heard him say before. Of course, like so much with our twins, his words are only things that interest him, things like "bubbles" and "juice" and "want" and "throw" or something along those lines.

Beyond the words themselves, he's also learning context. He's been mimicking me, saying "hush" to Buster and "share" to Connor when he's not cooperating. So he's not only speaking, but he's using the words in appropriate situations.

And, perhaps most important, he is saying them consistently. He's trying, he's actually making the effort to communicate, out loud. That's huge.

One of his therapists always thought he was just being a bit stubborn and a bit of a perfectionist, that he was too afraid of saying the wrong thing so he simply didn't say anything at all. It wouldn't surprise me. It would actually explain things like him randomly saying, quite articulately and appropriately, things like "apple juice" and "garage" and "helicopter" one time after hearing it, and then not repeating it ever again. That was frustrating, to know that the words were there and he could very clearly say them, but it seemed like he just didn't want to.

Ever since the words went away, we've always hoped that they would eventually come back. We've always joked that one day the boys were going to surprise us by just randomly speaking in perfectly formed sentences. And while that would be nice, to hear what they're thinking and what they want and what they need said out loud, at least they're getting better with communication in general. They're both using gestures much more consistently and coherently.

And Xander, sneaky little Xander, is even beginning to use new words and familiar sign language to help get his point across. The words have not come easily for him, but I'm so incredibly proud and amazed each time a new one appears. It gives me hope, for him and for his brother, that one day those sentences will come, that we will be given the gift of seeing the world through their eyes and hearing it through their voices.

Photo Flashback

Armed and dangerous. Sawyer playing in the kiddie pool on a hot summer day. (July 02, 2007)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cheap Dates

It doesn't take much to entertain my kids, really. An inexpensive bottle of bubbles will work all day long. And, if you get tired, Connor will even take over for a while (though he sometimes spills as much as he makes).

Sawyer is torn. He wants to swing, but he also wants to watch the pretty bubbles.

Xander likes to run through them and pop them.

And so does Connor, preferably before either of his brothers has a chance to either enjoy watching them or pop them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leaving the Scene

The good news is that the boys are doing well enough with their potty training to actually wear shorts over their big boy underwear. The bad news is that the kids are still jumping into the kiddie pool fully clothed. Xander is seen here leaving the scene of the crime (on the coldest day in months, of course, hovering near 70 with overcast skies and a cool breeze).

But, back to the topic of our lives lately, the potty training. For the most part, the little guys are doing extremely well during the day time. There are still occasional accidents, of course, usually when we're too busy outside to do mundane things like go back inside to potty. And getting them to tell you they need to go is still about a fifty-fifty shot and is generally non-verbal when it does happen. But all in all, it's going well enough that we're thinking about taking on outside trips, albeit short ones with extra changes of clothes.

And maybe, just maybe, night time potty training will follow. Mommy is NOT looking forward to getting up with them at anywhere from 6:30 (hello, Sawyer) to 7:30 in the morning and actually having to STAY up with them. But . . . I guess even that will be worth it if we can finish potty training this summer. Maybe.