31 May 2011

Of Pressure

I've always known I work best under pressure - when I have a deadline.  For example, I can say I want to make albums to store all the photos taken over the past couple of years, but with no impending need, I find myself continuing the avoidance of the task.  In the past, a great coupon code for a photo book would be enough to light my fire, but, lately, these book deals have been abundant and, thus, have lost their ability to motivate.  Something my husband probably appreciates, given that most of these deadlines cause panic, staying up late, anger when computer programs fail and, inevitably, a complete lack of attention to all other areas of our life until that deadline is met, the book is ordered and I have released the breath held as I hit the "submit" button.

Yet, for some reason, I continue to do this to myself.  This week, with Emmett's first birthday looming at just over two weeks away (I don't want to talk about it), I have realized I have not devoted myself to "the video" - a montage of first year pictures and videos set to music to commemorate the past 365 days.  So here I go again.

Micaiah's "video" found me yelling at the computer at the eleventh hour, delaying our seventh-hour road trip by a solid three hours - putting us in at Nebraska at a good 4am the day before her party.

Here's hoping this project does not cost my sanity.  We all know I have little left of that trait in the first place.

30 May 2011

Of Going for a Walk

You may or may not recall, many moons ago, my incredulity over the fact that we, in a moment void of clarity of thought, had taken on the role of dog owners.  In the time since, we have ranged from thinking them absolutely adorable and looking forward to playing with them when we got home, to pure annoyance at just how much puppies poo, to utter frustration at the things they find to destroy, to hatred of the fact that our backyard seemed rendered useless when occupied by two bounding, energetic and (apparently) hopeless puppies, to astonishment at just how much of our monthly budget goes to feeding two large breed dogs, to attempting to pawn them off on any willing victims via facebook, to despair over the lack of response, to, finally, acceptance.  I believe somewhere in there you will find the stages of grief.  Perhaps we were mourning the loss of our sanity.

After four recent escapes from our backyard, and our consideration of removing their collars so they couldn't be returned to us, I finally got down on Bennet's level, looked him in his big, brown puppy dog eyes, and fell in love just a little.  As I hugged his head and patted his side, I realized, maybe these guys aren't so bad after all.  And, by the look on Philip's face, I could tell he kind of agreed.

Thus, I believe the cycle is reverting to the beginning.  We, once again, have grand plans of spending our Monday evenings (at the very least) playing with our big, furry boys and allowing them to become members of the family, rather than the well-fed and well-housed pariahs they have remained to this point.

As part of an action plan toward opening our hearts once more, we took a family trip to Wal-Mart (sans animals) to obtain adequate collars for training, and even let Micaiah pick out some toys, which she was ecstatic to provide for them.  And this evening, after the kids were tucked in their beds, Bingley and Bennet went for their first walk.  It was a little rough going at first, but they eventually learned the concept of the leash and, by the end of our turn around the street, they were staying fairly well by our sides and didn't even hesitate to return to their backyard haven.

What good boys.

Oh, and the fifth member of our walking party?  Our cat, Annie, who stayed close behind (or ahead, depending on her opinion of our pace at the moment) the whole way.  She often enjoys family walks - invited or not.

29 May 2011

Of Our Nurse

"No, baby, not right now.  I have a headache," pointing to the offending cranium, I broke it down to terms she would better understand, "My head hurts.  It hurts."

"Oh. . . . You need pillow?"

"That would be great, baby."  Running out of the room, she returned quickly with a tiny, seafoam-colored cushion from her own bed.  Touched, I laid my head gingerly on her proffered pillow.  Reaching for the remote, she offered to start a show for me.

"Actually, sweetheart, I don't think Rock-a-Doodle would help."

"Oh. . . . Dora?"

"Sure, honey, that sounds wonderful."

Later, as I rose from the couch, she inquired, "Mommy, you sick?"

What a compassionate little girl we are raising. 

Later, I giggled in delight as she sat with me for her bedtime story and continued to shove her nose to mine, begging quietly to turn the page.  My heart swelled with affection for this precious being.  How can one love to such a degree?  It seems impossible.

And yet I do so daily - and not just for one little child, but for both.  What a miracle.

28 May 2011

Of Anniversaries

We watched our wedding footage for the first time this evening.  Five years later and I finally saw what it looked like when I walked down the steps of Raley Chapel to meet my groom.  Hearing the vows, and the charge given to us by Philip's father, who performed the ceremony, for the first time in five years, they suddenly had meaning.  I could hear the words and nod my head, knowing, indeed, we had not simply formed a husband and wife duo on that bright spring evening, but a home, in which both opinions are valued - need to be valued.  As a reminder, these words are significant.  As a young bride getting in way over her head, I could not have imagined the weight of what I heard that day.  As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure any part of what was spoken actually registered in my brain past the resounding, "What am I doing?!" 

Yes, part of me wanted to run away that day.

But all of me is glad I did not.

If I had, I would not have two beautiful children who crack me up every day with new antics.  I would not fall asleep next to my best friend every night or feel his kiss on my cheek every morning.  And I would not have had an evening in his arms, wading through the pages of our wedding album (filling in pages left blank years ago) and another depicting our courtship and our first year of marriage.

Only five years in and I can already say that not all of those days have been easy but the storms of the first few years have faded into a light rain here and again. 

Here's praying for the next five, fifteen and fifty years to continue to pull us closer together in this bond of marriage and of love.

27 May 2011

Of Essays

I entered an essay contest today in an effort to finally get our family to Southern California, as we've been aiming to do for some time now but continually fail for lack of funds.  Philip teased that my entry would beat the pants off those little third graders writing their essays (no worries, though, in actuality, one of the requirements was being of the age of 18 or older - I won't really make children cry when I win).  So, for the sake of my overwhelmingly weary eyes, I choose to post my essay as tonight's blog.  Enjoy.

"He was so tiny - brand new from the womb, wrapped in the hospital-issued blanket, head warmed by his small knit cap.  Being our second child, we thought we knew how a baby could change a family, but we underestimated him.  In this one little person was our first son and our daughter's first experience as a sister.  Lacking in him was the temperamental fire of his big sister.  Somehow he had inherited from us all things mellow.  He would need that attitude to endure the loving attacks from a two-year-old sibling who does not yet understand the difference between a hug and a tackle. 

Before he was born, I did not know of the compassion possible in my daughter's heart - the way she could kindly, voluntarily share the applesauce for which she had begged for twenty minutes or the way one cry from her little brother could send her scurrying for the one object, any object, that would once again secure his happiness.

Before his entrance into the world, I did not know a heart could be so equally divided, and yet joined - wholly and unequivocally in love with two little beings at once.

There is no one moment which so clearly brought our family together more than the moment in which our family first came together - that first embrace when brother met sister and four lives were made whole."

26 May 2011

Of Weeds

My daughter wants her flowers.  Again.  Every day, as we head to the car, it's the same cry, "I get my flowers!"  Little legs run to the same flowering plant.  Every morning.  And every daawn, there it is waiting for her - a dandelion, maybe two.  From one small plant, growing larger every day, emitting from a seam in the concrete.  Every day she picks.  And every night they bloom once more, ready for her eager hands.

A weed.

That's what we would call it. 

And it kills us every time we look out upon our lawn.  Weeds.  Plants we don't want over-taking those we do.  Trying in vain to cultivate the "beautiful" and destroy the undesirable.

Yet, she sees beauty.  We may not have planted it, but the brilliant sun-yellow is beautiful to her untainted eyes.   

And here we are again, declaring ugly that which God has created - aiming always for our own inglorious view of perfection, planted in the dirty soil of our hearts by the culture surrounding.  Tear up what He has given and plant your own.  When will we learn.

His glory is in the unplanned, the wild roots sown by His hands.  Revel in the beauty.

25 May 2011

Of Our Little Cleanies

One of the cutest/most frustrating things we encountered when we were first disciplining Micaiah (past the hand-swat, "No!" stage) was when she would grab something she shouldn't and then, upon being scolded, insist it return precisely to the location in which it was found - down to the actual position on the table.  The frustration stemmed from those moments when she had found something potentially harmful or breakable and we literally wanted her hand off it the instant we spoke, but for the most part we giggled (privately, of course, always holding the strong front in the face of the punishee) over our daughter's anal retentive ways.

It would seem her brother is now entering this same stage.  A few weeks ago, as Emmett played in the kitchen he opened a cupboard door, a harmless one, but in an effort to discourage the opening of any cupboards, I chastised him.  He looked up at me with his giant brown eyes, looked back at the cabinet, and then carefully shut the door - pushing harder when the bulging contents within kept him from closing it completely.

And, of course, this habit does not only kick in when facing discipline.  Our children, in the early stages, anyway, appear to be natural Cleanies (don't ask me where they get it - we couldn't tell you) as Emmett has begun the process of putting things away as a form of play.  When we're enjoying the train set, he is eager to put the pieces back in their storage bin - to the frustration of his sister, who tends to still be playing.  Or when Micaiah set out a plastic picnic for the three of us to enjoy, after chowing on his fluorescent orange drumstick, Little Man methodically placed it back in the basket and, while his Sissie was in the other room, took her food and did the same.

Crossing my fingers this means their bedrooms will avoid appearing as natural disaster victims in the distant future.

24 May 2011

Of Weathering the Day

This is the kind of day I don't look forward to as an Oklahoman (or, really, living anywhere, it just seems to happen more as an Oklahoman than I remember in any other state) - sitting on the couch anxiously, eyes glued to Channel 4, watching large tornadoes taking out parts of towns around me, blobs of color inching toward the large "Shawnee" printed on the weather map. 

It could have been worse, though.  We could have found ourselves in the stifling storm shelter, listening intently to the crackling of the radio, praying the storms passed us over (well, the praying happened anyway). 

I am grateful the extremities of the weather missed our town, but so humbled viewing the destruction of those nearby and in other parts of the country, even, in the recent past.

Meanwhile, as the rain slowed, after a fun game of Monkey in the Middle on our living room floor, wherein the role of the monkey was played by our energetic little boy, we finally pulled out the gifts for my sister-in-law, who will always remember this eventful birthday.  And at least the surprise party was somewhat salvaged - there were still friends, still cake and still a pinata - and the house was still here. 

Overall, it could have been worse.

23 May 2011

Of a Reset Button

I'm not gonna lie - this morning was rough, for both me and my little girl.  Coming off a weekend of spoiling and trying (many times in vain) to do anything just to keep her quiet while Emmett slept in the same room or we walked down a hotel hallway, I had decided this was finally the time to buckle down.

We're tired of the screaming when she doesn't get what she wants (not that we give in to the screaming, but somehow she still thinks there's good reason to do it).

We're tired of the asking multiple times and the yelling of, "No!"

We're tired of the whining.

I know we are not the only parents tired of these same things.  I also know that, given her age, there will always be a certain amount of her strong-willed temperament (unless we resorted to fear-based parenting, a tactic of which we are not fond - and, quite honestly, may still do little to deter our little firecracker).  However, as with many commitments in life, there comes a time when we realize we are slipping away and a renewed dedication is necessary.  Today was that time - the hour to re-commit to consistent and even-keeled discipline.

As you might imagine, this did not fly so well with Micaiah.  Though my keeping calm and matter-of-fact in the face of spankings, time-outs and just plain ignoring the tantrums did much to maintain my stress levels at wonderful low, they did not have the same effect on little Miss.

Thus, by 10am, in the midst of time-out, she declared, "I wann go bed."  Figuring she could think and calm herself down just as easily in her bed as in the corner of our foyer, I relented.  I guessed there would be about ten to fifteen minutes of quiet before she finally either attempted creeping out of bed for a toy or called to Mom for her release.

And, yet, when that time frame let up, I checked in on the video monitor (a modern-day marvel) to notice she was still simply laying peacefully.  And five minutes later she was asleep.

And by 2:30pm, she was still asleep.

When she awoke, as always when waking from a nap (being unable to differentiate nap-time from morning), she requested cereal and a banana. For once, I agreed.  Apparently she just needed a good reset to the day.

Good morning, beautiful, so nice to see you.

22 May 2011

Of Swimming and Winning

The first time Micaiah went for a swim, she was all decked out in her bright blue swimsuit with lime green trim, a white sun-hat strapped to her chin covered in tiny white embroidered eyelets, and her purple, glittery Tinkerbell sunglasses.  Quite the sylish Miss.  She sat in her blue floatie with rubber ducky print, cool as a cucumber, giggling as her legs were grabbed from underneath and enjoying the feel of the squishy water ball in her hands.

Since that time she has had quite the love/hate relationship with the pool, from cruising in her duck-covered floatie to screaming in fear at being placed near the cool water.  Thus, it was anyone's guess how she would respond to her time in the hotel pool this weekend. 

Frankly, the fact that she let me carry her (this time donning her multi-colored striped suit with bright purplish-pink bow in the back and the same color frills along the straps) into the water in the first place without letting the world know of her dislike for the experience was a win.  So when, after a minute or two, she decided she would rather sit on the edge and kick her little feet in the water, I was more than willing to oblige - and so went the half hour she and I spent in the indoor pool while her brother napped that first day.

And so it seemed she would prefer to spend her time there this morning while we had a bit of family time - until her Daddy finally decided to take matters into his own hands and, rather than ask if she wanted to come in, opted to simply pick her up and carry her into the water.  Again, her lack of strong vocal opposition was a miracle in itself, so we tried to hold on to the delicate moment of wariness, slowly stirring it into delight by making waves and small splashes while she emitted giggles and her own watery bursts.

By the end of our time, she was ready to leave but not in such a way that we feel we may have traumatized her.  Again, we call this a win.

Meanwhile, Emmett man, experiencing his own first time in the pool, had his little fiery-print-swim-short-covered bottom stuffed in the very same ducky floatie first loved by his sister.  Much more stoic, however, even the sporadic leg pinches and belly tickles did little to evoke a smile, nor did the twirling of his floating saucer.  He, rather, seemed entirely apathetic to the entire ordeal. 

That's ok.  We trust he will have his own share of emotional roller coasters in the future.  And, as always, the lack of tears is always (altogether now) a win.

21 May 2011

Of Getting Out (or Not)

While long recognizing the fact that I am, indeed, an introvert, I feel as though I have most certainly discovered another defining characteristic - I am quite the home-body. 

I knew there was something different about me when, in the face of a week and a half of being iced in at the beginning of the year, amidst the cries of going stir crazy, I found myself quite content in my frozen confines.  Of course, I had the luxury of good company and endless entertainment in the forms of both children and Netflix.  The only need I had for escape was to replenish the stock of baking supplies because, let's be honest, it's much more fun being stuck in the house when there are brownies to keep one company. 

Overall, though, I attributed this love for being stuck indoors to the idea of feeling like this was a day (or week) out of the norm, an un-planned time to simply enjoy the presence of loved ones (and baked goods).

Then, along came MonCon - a full three-days of being relegated to a hotel with my two munchkins while Daddy played strategy games to his heart's content.  When others asked what I would do while he consorted with fellow gamers, I'll admit, the outlook was bleak - alone in a small room with two under the age of three for hours on end?  Maybe not the wisest plan.

I had back-up ideas.  Perhaps we'd visit the RiverWalk, or even just Target.  I had plans.

Yet, as the end of MonCon approaches, I'll admit, we have yet to leave the compound of businesses in which our hotel resides.  In fact, were it not for meals, I would not have stepped out the front doors. 

And I'm okay with that.

Two full days thus far of lounging on a bed, flipping channels, indulging in rarely-read fiction and keeping up with my two favorite little people?  Definitely not bad. 

Who needs sunlight or hectic crowds? 

Apparently not me. 

20 May 2011

Of New Developments

Just as Emmett finished eating his lunch yesterday, he turned toward the T.V. and, very deliberately, folded three fingers and a thumb under while directing his bitty index finger at the screen.  He was pointing!  For the first time (I had noticed, anyway)!  In the next couple of hours he showed off his new skill while pointing at his reflection in the full-length mirror and, later, his Daddy. 

Today, he put his new ability to use after Mommy, in a moment of insanity, I'm sure, relented on her staunch "no baby under the age of one touches the iPad" rule.  With the "Toy Phone" app opened, he went to work, pointing and pulling, with the occasional (okay, frequent) hand slap thrown in for good measure.  I was actually rather impressed with his iPad savvy - I would assume he's soaked in technique by observation.

A final note on his new action list: an adorable sound unable to re-create via typing (and yet I'm trying).  He has moved past the mono-syllabic chatter to discover the complexities of his tongue in a new, "Ga-bla-ga-bla-ga-bla" - somewhat resembling a spastic turkey.

But let's be honest, this kid could do just about anything and we'd call him adorable.  He should enjoy this stage while he can.

19 May 2011

Of Eventfulness and Thankfulness

When a day begins with awakening in satin sheets adorning the sofa bed with a wiggly two-year-old at your side, after a 4 AM move to the living room with aforementioned sickly toddler, who just finished creating quite the mess in her bed and her hair and is continuing to cry it out, so as to calm her down and avoid her waking either the cousins in her room or her brother in your own, and ends (or begins to wind down, as it were) at 11 PM with your playing a strategy game involving miniature monsters against your husband's high school friend (and losing, but putting up a valiant effort) in a hotel conference room an hour and a half from home - with a doctor's visit, a diagnosis of a "bilateral" ear infection, an antibiotic shot, a shiny band-aid and a really delicious California Chicken Sandwich from Braum's all thrown in the mix somewhere - that's when said day is labeled "eventful".  Or at least that's what I'd call it.

And while I would hate to infer that I revel in her suffering, the extreme amounts of cuddling invoked by the nature of her illness have inflicted a certain amount of warmth on this Momma's heart.  It's days like this we remember why we're here - because, as the elderly man in the clinic waiting room affirmed as Micaiah sobbed into my shoulder (for nearly an hour), "Momma makes everything feel better."  And the weariness brought upon by the infection has served to impose a well-needed rest on us all (well, except Daddy, who has been quite busy with the convention for aforementioned game, but not too busy to comfort his little girl, of course).

Many thanks to my sister and her family for taking good care of Emmett while Micaiah spent two and a half hours earning her diagnosis, to the doctor who correctly assessed the situation, to the nurse who kindly and quickly administered the antibiotic (not so much to the overly-panicky nurse who attempted to strike the fear of death in this mother by using such terms as "respiratory distress" and "serious") and to the hotel staff who allowed us to switch our rooms to a lower level so our baby monitor would not be rendered useless for the duration of our stay.

Oh, and to Braum's, for making that amazing chicken sandwich.  Seriously.

18 May 2011

Of the Hyper Stage

There is a certain threshold of tiredness which, once crossed, enters me into a decided stage of hyper-activity.  Or, rather than "activity" - more like hyper-sensitivity to silliness.  This is the stage in which I found myself for round two of Baby McKenzie photography this afternoon - wherein she acted as the sole subject.

It was her naptime and while she slept, I longed to.  Instead, I found myself acting as prop-master for her session.  I tell you, the models always have it easy.  But at least, when my weary arms felt like falling off rather than hold up the black sheet used as a backdrop, I was able to laugh it off.

And when my sister's hands slid under the other black sheet, to be used as a prop for the tiny feet and itty bitty toes needed in the photo, I declared, with certainty, while being careful not to drop the backdrop or get my fingers or goofy faces showing through the thin, jersey-knit sheet, "I'm pretty sure this is how Sears does it."

17 May 2011

Of Photographing Chaos

In the unlikely event you may want to test your patience someday, here's something to try - take three squirrelly toddlers, one squirmy crawler and a sleepy newborn, throw them all in a room, mix and then attempt to photograph, aiming, of course, for a beautiful photo of five(ish) smiling children depicting a loving cousinly relationship.

At this moment, parents reading this are smiling knowingly and nodding their heads - they've been there.  We've all been there.  And, yet, somehow, we feel like this time will be different.

This time, Micaiah will actually smile on command and keep her shirt on.  This time, Kaleb will sit still and focus on the camera.  This time, Kylie will sit up straight and be patient when it takes longer than she'd wanted.  This time, Emmett will sit happily without wanting to move quickly to his knees in order to get his hands on the closest object.  This time, McKenzie will lay still and cooperate with her posing.

Well, one out of five ain't bad.

The newest little miss, sleeping beautifully in the Boppy, hardly moved a muscle as sheer chaos erupted around her.  Meanwhile, Cars playing on the portable DVD player behind the photographer (Dayla, of course), Aunt Angela attacking Kaleb's belly with a quaking frog-block to evoke a giggle, Aunts, Uncle, Moms and Dad all clapping wildly to induce grins and eyes on the camera, it would seem the children had made a pact, "Alright, guys, we'll smile, but not all at once - so, Kylie, you go first, then Micaiah, but not for too long, be sure to pull out the death stare about halfway through - they'll love it, and then Kaleb, you can break out the grin every 10 seconds - see if that savvy photog can catch that.  And, well, Emmett, you just do whatever you want - that generally tends to be enough to throw everyone off-kilter.  Everyone good?  OK, all in.  And, go!"

And so it went.

And that's when Dayla decided her future lay solely in child photography - or not.

16 May 2011

Of a Day of Firsts

What a day!  Our daughter's first experience at picking out her own clothes.  Our son's first haircut.  Our first meeting of our niece/cousin McKenzie.  Micaiah's first slumber party with her cousins.  A joy-filled day of firsts.  And because they tell the story better, some photos:

The outfit Micaiah chose for grocery shopping:

 And keeping up with the news on the way home:

"Before" - Our wonderful friend, Dianna, stopped by to have the honor of giving Emmett his first haircut.  He was armed and ready with Cheerios and his hammer.  

Snip, Snip.

Doing so well!

And not so well . . .

"After" - our handsome little man:

Bedtime - three little ones, ages three and under, ready for bed.  At press time, they had yet to quiet down, but the squeals, giggles and jokes emitting from the baby monitor make us all smile anyway.  Who needs sleep when you have cousins to play with?

*I deeply apologize for the lack of photos depicting baby McKenzie - we haven't quite gotten to photographing that yet, but it will happen!

15 May 2011

Of Writer's Block

I'm experiencing writer's block.  You could probably tell when, for the past couple of days you've been wiping your tears from the boredom I've induced.  I apologize.  I wish I could offer you better tonight but I've got nothing.

I've racked my brain for an anecdote, but while I know these kids do the darnedest things just about all the time, I'm coming up blank.  So, a cure for writer's block?  Writing a post about writer's block, apparently.

Ok, so maybe it's not a cure, but a symptom.

Either way, it's not good.

Here's what's floating around:
- We tried to teach Micaiah the word "compartir" tonight when she shared her tortilla with Emmett.  A sign that she watches a little too much Dora?  When I told her we were going to Abuelita's she said, "Yay!  Abuelita's house!"

- Emmett will have his very first haircut tomorrow.  Trying to be ok with that.

- One of my best friends in the world will most likely bring her first child into the world within the next 24 hours.  Stoked beyond belief!

- I get to meet my newest niece, Miss McKenzie Olivia, for the first time tomorrow!  And I get to spend three whole days loving on her while her siblings and my children chase each other like mad around the house - so looking forward to it!  Maybe trying to keep up with three big kids will inspire Emmett to spontaneously put those two legs to good use.  Thinking a miraculous jump to running isn't really in the works, though.

That's all I've got for you right now.  I'm off to cut my husband's hair - but don't worry, I'm not asking him to cut mine this time.  Learned that lesson.  Good night all.

Of Family Dates, Volume Two

I know I have mentioned previously, I'm a sucker for a good family date.  Thus, today, as you can imagine, was quite the day.  With many thanks to the plethora of daily deal sites on the vast world wide web (and a belated Easter check from some grandparents), our day o' family fun was light on the wallet, as well. 

We headed out mid-morning . . . 

. . .to get our kicks on Route 66 (while listening to the soundtrack of Cars, of course).

We passed the Round Barn in Arcadia - which I have heard about when reading of Oklahoma landmarks along Route 66, but as we did not stop, I still cannot explain to anyone the fascination with this structure.  Because it's round?  Isn't that called a silo?  A short, fat silo?

Our first destination: Pops.  Thanks to Seize the Deal, we had a $20 voucher to eat here - which worked out nicely as I'd been wanting to visit for almost two years now and an expiration date was a nice fire under our tails to get us there.  For those non-Oklahomites, Pops is a glorified gas station with a restaurant inside.  What makes it unique is the walls of soda lining the windowed building and the refrigerated cases of soda bottles boasting any flavor one could desire from various locations across the globe.

Philip wasn't feeling adventurous enough for anything more than the standard Coca-Cola, but Micaiah and I picked out a nice green apple flavor.  Not being the pop connosseur, once I'd decided on a flavor, the brand was chosen merely by the fun factor of the label.  Highly sophisticated, I know.  But the two of us girls sure did enjoy trying something new (as evidenced by the fact that every time Micaiah took a sip, we heard a satisfied lip smack and, "Aaah!" - thanks, Grandpa, for teaching her that).

Between toddler-sized gulps of the green stuff, Micaiah tore her corn dog apart, but managed to avoid the pile of french fries the size of her head - literally.

For your next visit to Pops, keep this in mind: the Arcadia burger (with homemade barbecue sauce, apple-wood smoked bacon and bleu cheese) - amazing, really.

From Pops, we started out on a tree-covered road to our next destination.

Just for kicks and giggles, this is what Emmett's hair looks like as it blows in the wind - better enjoy it now, he's getting it trimmed very shortly (as in a short period of time, not necessarily the length of the hairs themselves).

Final stop before heading home for naps: using our Groupons we painted our own pottery at Brooklyn-Victoria in Nicoma Park (did anyone even know this town, just outside of Choctaw, even existed?).  Micaiah chose (with a little help) a piggy bank which was painted a nice shade of pink (thrust upon her by the store's assistant), while I worked on Emmett's birthday plate - the one from which he will, in theory, eat all of his birthday (and other celebratory) meals during the time in which he resides in our home.  It's a tradition we started with Micaiah which I hope to continue down the line.

Micaiah was so happy to have "pink"ed her pig (which is actually what she calls painting, the fact that she actually used this color is sheer coincidence, or perhaps a reflection of the assistant's mis-interpretations of one little girl's shouts of, "I'm gonna pink!"), she was wiped. And so it was we headed home for naps for the little ones (though, as it turns out, naptime happened more in the car than in their beds, but they didn't seem to mind).  A family date well spent.

Not pictured: Mommy and Daddy's evening movie date, complements of Living Social.  Thor in 3D may not have been my favorite movie experience (not bad, just not great), but not having paid a large amount for the tickets was re-assuring.  And, let's be honest, it doesn't much matter what we see as long as the kids are sleeping quietly in their beds, their Aunt "Dia" is keeping them company and Philip and I are out together.

Side Note: Per daily deals websites, most of these activities were not, in fact, free - just discounted, but being that we pre-purchased the vouchers for half the cost of the value, not only were they good deals, but by the time we used the coupons (as the money had been deducted from our account months ago), it feels free - which is close enough for me.

13 May 2011

Of Showing Off

First, I must beg pardon for my absence yesterday, I was unable to post due to some sort of Blogger malfunction, but, to be honest, I don't even remember what I was going to write about, so you can't have missed much.

This evening my children have had a field day.  Our church hosted the California Baptist University women's choir for a concert this evening and, as such, they requested volunteers for those willing to house some of the choir members for the night.  Yearning to be the hospitable church members of the New Testament, we jotted our names on the list.  And, so it was, that I brought home two extra girls this evening, much to Micaiah's delight.

Thus, even though we arrived home nearly an hour and a half past bedtime, our children were more than happy to show off the best sides of their personalities for our guests.  Well, one of them was eager, the other was a little cranky from missin' his Momma, but once he had a bottle-full of milk in this tiny tummy he was ready to go.  There were bouncy balls flying, keyboards pounded and maracas shaken.  Micaiah pulled out nearly every cute trick in the book to entertain her public.

I love seeing them like this - excited to see people and being characteristically child-like in their eagerness to please and open up their home.  May I be a reflection of their own hospitality and outgoing natures.

11 May 2011

Of Being Alone

Both of my children had the brief experience of feeling like an only child today.  Micaiah's began this morning when she woke up with hives on the lower half of her body.  Learning I would need to be at the doctor's office within fifteen minutes in order to make it under the wire for her walk-in clinic (yes, this would be the same pediatrician I openly defied on this very blog yesterday - I'm wondering if this is somehow payback), a quick call to my husband brought him racing home to care for our son so Micaiah and I could dash out the door.  Okay - I dashed while she whined about not wearing the right shoes.  Priorities.

Between playing with toys in the lobby (followed by lots of hand sanitizer), reading books in the exam room (and lots of hand sanitizer), getting to experience a stethoscope and receiving a sticker at the end (plus the added bonus of coming home to Daddy at a time when he would normally not be there), the doctor was a great time for her.  I think the undivided Mommy time helped, too.  And, I think she might have actually been disappointed she didn't get a shot - but only because she doesn't really remember what they feel like.

Eight hours later, though, the excitement (and the hives) had worn off and she was back to her cranky non-dinner-eating self come evening.  Thus, she went to bed early after refusing her food.

And then there was one. 

Our little guy, after finishing his own supper of peas and Cheerios, enjoyed a peaceful half hour of scurrying about.  In fact, with his big sister in bed and him so happy, Philip and I were rather unconcerned about the fact that he should probably be laid down.  It took me back to the days when Micaiah was his age and bedtime was "whenever she gets fussy".  Back when there was just one.

It is rather nice to occasionally have those moments when the children feel as if they're all alone.

Though, I was pondering at lunch, while the two of them clapped back and forth at each other, how bored they would be if they didn't have each other.  Yes - it's nice to be alone at times, but far greater to have company the rest of the time.

10 May 2011

Of Standing Tall

At his Nine(/Ten)-Month appointment, Emmett's pediatrician was concerned about his dis-interest in standing on his own - to the point when, even as we held his hands, he would lift his feet from the ground, entirely apathetic about supporting himself on his own two feet (let's pray this is not indicative of his future as an adult).  She sent him for a hip x-ray and told us if he wasn't standing in the next month, we should give her a call.

On Saturday, Philip was browsing through his phone.  In an effort to feel cool while his sister tinkered on her iPhone and I played around on the iPad, he whipped out his tiny feature-less cell and meandered through the photos/video - the only option he had - and happened to stumble upon a video of our little girl as a very little girl, trying in vain to pull herself to her feet while playing in his office.  The date on the video was July 20, 2009 - only a week and a half past her ten-month birthday.  I knew there was a reason I was not concerned about my son's laziness - apparently it runs in the family - not surprising when you take a look at the parents.

On Sunday, as I sifted through Micaiah's "box" - the one in which I toss her significant papers and memorabilia - I found the calendar I kept of her first year, on which I marked her meaningful milestones.  August 30, 2009 - "You're pulling yourself up!"  A week and a half before her first birthday - and she was finally pulling herself to standing.  I yelled out in defiance to our pediatrician - there is nothing wrong with my son!  Either that or he and his sister can commiserate in their developmental delays - but I'm betting on the former.

And Little Man seemed to feel my belief in his ability because on Monday he decided it was time to grow up. 

As he finished eating and I followed through in my routine of setting him on the floor so he could saunter off to play, I was surprised to notice that instead of pulling his legs up so his tooshy could connect with the floor, per his usual technique, I was setting my son on his feet.  Knees strong, body supported, he wasn't bending himself to sit!  So, I experimented and leaned him forward slightly so as to rest his hands on the ottoman before him.  And he complied.  I pulled my hands away - and there was my son.  Standing.  Without outside help (from human hands, anyway).

And he actually stood for a solid minute or two before plopping to his behind, at which point, empowered by this experience, he began clawing at the stool, anxious to be on his little feet once again. 

So, no, he's not pulling himself up yet, but he is definitely interested.  Take that, overly-concerned doctor!

His Aunt Dia captured the priceless moment.

09 May 2011

Of Shopping Excursions

These days many of my shopping trips are carefully executed around a schedule which will allow me to slip away from the house without children in tow.  Life just tends to be a lot easier when not dealing with the politics of who is sitting in the cart where and trying to explain to a two-year-old why Mommy isn't strong enough to push a cart one-handed while holding her tight with the other.  Not to mention the countless repetitions of, "Sweetie, don't touch."

These child-less outings are particularly crucial to me when I do my "deals-shopping" - the label I have given to my in-and-out stops at the local pharmacies.  Enduring the un-buckle and buckle processes, which sandwich the attempts to avoid any and all emotional melt-downs on the parts of two kids and a mom, all in the name of saving a couple dollars on one or two items at CVS is typically not worth it to me.

Thus, after the kids are all tucked in and my husband is happily plugging away on the computer, I sneak out for a little alone time.  Just me, my lists and my coupons.  Not always bliss-ful, but at least not tear-my-hair-out crazy.

This evening, however, while my husband was gallivanting in his quest to win us unnecessary forms of technology, I buckled in the kids and we headed out on a three-stop tour of the local hot-spots of couponing activities.  Straight off the relaxation-high from Mother's Day, I was feeling a little empowered - perhaps too optimistically so.

And while the evening had its trials and tears, the moments of my daughter break-dancing in Walgreens (Where does she learn this stuff?!) while her brother giggled and clapped along or the two of them squashed in together in the unique Cozy-Coupe-esque shopping carts of CVS (while little girl attempts to shove out her brother, underlining my wisdom in assigning him the only seatbelt in their plastic automobile) or Micaiah excitedly "helping" by handing the cashier every item in our cart at Homeland seemed to make the rest of the insanity worth it.

Because (most-over-worked-cliche-of-the-decade alert!) at the end of the day, they make everything worth it.

My shopping buddies enjoying the ride at CVS.

08 May 2011

Of Mother's Day Treasures

A bright pink orchid in the middle of the dining room table.

A morning bath (for mommy!) followed by breakfast in bed with all my favorite people.

Four hand-made Mother's Day cards - including one with my son's first attempts with a marker and another with my daughter's first drawing of a strawberry (which is remarkably accurate).

Making a formal declaration of devoting ourselves, as parents, to raising our son in the ways of the Lord.

Our daughter sitting on the steps of the sanctuary stage behind us, playing quietly with her dear friend as they await their siblings being introduced to the church family.

Lunch I didn't have to plan or prepare.

A nap.

Snuggle time on the bed for everyone (for the second day in a row).

Afternoon Frappuccinos on the patio of Starbucks, coloring with my little girl and playing (or losing at) Tic-Tac-Toe with my husband while our son sits on his lap, enjoying the weather.

Dinner I didn't have to plan or prepare (or deal with the fact that we were missing ingredients).

Teaching my daughter how to recognize rhyming words (and seeing her try - most of the time) as we snuggle on the couch.

Enjoying previously-recorded Royal Wedding footage with my man.

These moments and more, brought to me by my wonderful family.  I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Of Lazy Saturdays

Saturdays are for . . .

- sleeping in - just a little.
- fast food lunches - and Micaiah standing in front of the couch, using the ottoman as a table for her cheeseburger, milk and apple slices, while Emmett wanders on his hands and knees begging for food, even though he just finished his peas.
- everyone gathering on Mom and Dad's bed for giggles after an afternoon nap.
- Dominos pizza.
- bath-time with color tablets and a Dora "magic towel".
- video chats with Grandma, Grandpa and some cousins (including the newest addition).
- homemade popcorn and the OETA movie club with B.J. Wexler.
- blue and green striped toes painted by my husband.
- home-spun frappuccinos, even if they're a little grainy from the last-minute sugar addition - again.
- staying up late.

07 May 2011

Of Culinary Failure

Midnight is not generally the time I would finally be running water in the kitchen sink and returning the stray ingredients back to their cupboards. It was tonight, however, as I breathed a sigh - I'm not so sure of relief, but more of, "Please don't ever speak to me of raspberry muffins again" - and wiped down the sugar-coated counter-tops.

Failure in the kitchen, while not a regular occurrence for me (I can generally follow a new recipe with fairly acceptable results), has been known to happen. Typically, however, I am not baking what I know to be an insufficient amount of food for some 120 guests who will be attending what has been marketed as a rather formal Ladies' Tea at our church the following morning.

So as I pulled my horribly bluish-purple monstrosities from the oven, I shook my head in resignation. One bite told me they looked better than they tasted - even with the formerly forgotten sugar hastily whisked in at the last minute, these muffins were unacceptable. I pictured the bowl of the most unattractive baked goods I had seen in my life amidst the fancy silver platters and glass serving dishes. Who would deem to disgrace their china plates with these train wrecks?

My mind raced. I can't not bring food to feed the elegant masses but I could not serve this mess, either. If only they were cupcakes - a little frosting, maybe even some sprinkles, and no one would be the wiser. But no such luck.

Then I remembered - we may not frost muffins, but I have heard of glazing them. A quick All Recipes search later, I was whisking together lemon juice and powdered sugar at an attempt to salvage this fiasco. It did improve the flavor, but, sadly, not the look - and besides, I ran out halfway through and had no further juice. So let's just continue down the fail funnel, shall we? Why not just throw together another glaze? My kitchen has now become a free-for-all of lame attempts.

Thus, I now have three trays of muffins, drizzled in white glaze (some boasting a certain lemony kick underneath, others not) that are pretending to be fancy and delicious. Unfortunately, I know their secret and I hang my head in shame.

To those who may try the raspberry muffins, I deeply apologize. And please help yourself to a couple cinnamon-rhubarb mini-muffins, their wonderfully savory cousins, just to remind yourself that I'm not a complete failure and sometimes, just sometimes, I can come up with something worth eating.

05 May 2011

Of Forgetting

I think about it every once in awhile, the fact that my daughter will never know the me I am right now.  In a couple of years she will begin to form opinions of her mother - something more than the mental snapshots she is currently gathering, moments that she won't know why she remembers, but are there for some reason, like the memory I have of sitting at our kitchen counter in a two-story apartment in California while my mom made dinner and I held a tiny ladle in my hands - I couldn't have been much older than Micaiah and I don't know anything significant about that day or that dinner, and, yet, I remember. 

Relationships, though, those don't get stored in the mental hard-drive until later down the road.  And by the time she is forming real memories of who her mom is, I will already be a completely different person than I am now.  The grass will have grown taller.  I hope, of course, that it's all for the better and that it's the rough parts that get forgotten, smoothed out for remembrance-sake.  But, for the most part, she won't remember these days of rolling glitter balls on the floor, arguing about using the potty or drawing her first "smiley" face.  If we were to move soon, she may not recall the bright turquoise walls of her room handcrafted from tissue paper and ModPodge by her parents and grandparents.  Or the little tree out front, budding more with every spring, surrounded by Irises that she likes to draw on with her sidewalk chalk.

And Emmett - he won't remember how his sister lovingly sought a paci anytime he was upset or warded off any stranger who wanted to tickle his chin or even just look at him.  He won't have memories of her climbing onto the rungs of his crib to peek over at him when he'd just woken up from a nap.

All of these days, these moments, these events I cherish so much, will not exist in their personal accounts of their own history.  Our lives, by the time they're old enough to store away memories, may be completely different than how they started out.  And they won't even know it (until they read this blog, of course).

It kind of blows my mind.

04 May 2011

Of Learning Something New

Things I learned today . . .

- Micaiah not only has a vague idea of what the word "boyfriend" means - she also apparently has one.  If we didn't highly approve of the boy's parents, Philip might be looking into shotguns.

-Two un-interrupted hours while taking advantage of childcare does wonders for the amount of work that can be accomplished in a church library (versus the many interrupted hours I'm typically operating through).

- Emmett really wants to play with a Wii Remote.

- Emmett is not afraid to ride on Daddy's shoulders - hands-free, even - while Micaiah clings for dear life and begs to be put back on solid ground.  It would appear boys really are more adventurous - or maybe the multiple battles with gravity she has lost recently have colored her attitude toward heights.

- I am socially awkward (ok, that's not new, but reminders are always great).

- Coupons are only fun if you remember to spend them before they expire. 

- Husbands should be allowed in the kitchen in the morning, when they're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, willing to empty the dishwasher without being asked, but maybe not so much in the evening when the day has taken its toll and the blender isn't cooperating.

- A box that goes "choo choo" will always be more fun than going to bed.

03 May 2011

Of Guidance

Tonight, while I sat cross-legged on the ottoman, Micaiah in my lap, iPad in her hands, she begged assistance in one of her favorite apps of late - one filled with puzzles requiring logic and brain-power.  Not your typical toddler fare, but my girl loves it (granted, you won't see her name on the high score list anytime soon, but it brings her pleasure nonetheless).  Brimming with excitement, she wanted to show me how to use my finger to highlight areas of squares.  So, indulging her, I grouped a few "stickies" (as they're known in the game) and, then, to really blow her mind, I grouped them the way you're supposed to in the game, igniting them all with check marks and causing the red and blue squares to spin.

She went nuts.

And, of course, when you do something that makes a toddler go nuts, you can't do it just once.  So, I highlighted a few more, made the marks and caused the spins.  Then, holding her tiny finger, I helped her perform the task as well.

And then I got tired of it.  So I stopped.

Being a persistent two-year-old, she continually tried to grab my tired hand and insisted I do it again.  I told her, "No."  Mommy didn't want to; she needed to do it.

And then my heart broke when I heard her genuine plea, "I don't know how do it!"  How can a mom turn away from such a sincere cry for help?  Even in something so insignificant as making the stickies spin.

As I once again wrapped my long, slightly chubby fingers around the tiny spindles of hers, guiding her fragile pointer to the right places, I wondered if this was how God feels about his children. 

Clearly, as my wonderful pastor's wife and Bible-Study extraordinaire puts it, every illustration breaks down somewhere and mine is in the fact that I truly believe God does not tire of guiding our hands.  But I know there are plenty of times when we bat Him away, insisting we can go it alone.  And, yet, in those genuine moments of broken humility, when we cry out, "I don't know how to do it!", I wonder if His heart melts as He gently, lovingly, wraps His hand around ours and directs our steps.

I'm sure it does.

02 May 2011

Of Trouble Capitalized

Today was a day of firsts for our little guy.  Unfortunately, not the kind of firsts we look forward to as parents.

While sitting at the computer desk this morning, I heard my son making noise in the kitchen.  A part of me wanted to not even look because sometimes it's true, ignorance is bliss.  But, look I did and noticed he had opened his first cabinet and was now banging together two plastic cups.  This was my thought process:

"He's in the Tupperware cabinet [which, in reality, holds all of one piece of Tupperware hijacked from my mom when she stored our leftover wedding cake in it nearly five years ago now, but when your parents sold this particular line of plastic-ware for a number of your wonder years, any cupboard housing food storage containers of any sort somehow comes to be known as the Tupperware cabinet - and, no, this aside was not a part of my original thought process].  Should I do something about it?  On the one hand, he can't really hurt my Glad-ware [the poor man's Tupperware].  And if I pretend I didn't see it, does that count as inconsistent parenting? . . . On the other hand, if he's opening cabinets, it's only a matter of time before he finds the dishwasher detergent - this is probably one of those things referred to as a teachable moment - I should probably get off my rear and teach.  Darn that responsible parenting concept."

And so little man got a hand swat and a, "No!"  And he went about his business elsewhere.

Somehow, his business, within a matter of three minutes (or less), involved investigating a plug-in air freshener and the open hallway closet (on the other side of our home from our kitchen, that boy was bookin' it).  Things he, until that precise moment, had never even acknowledged existed and, for some reason, now was drawn to like a fat man to candy.

I can tell he's spent the last ten months lulling me into a sense of security and now his raging trouble-maker hormones are beginning to unleash a world of havoc.  Better put on my seatbelt.

That boy is trouble.  Strike that.  Make it Trouble.

01 May 2011

Of Free Time

For the past several days my computer has been in a state of heart failure.  Diagnosis: the only hope is for a hard-drive transplant.  About a year ago, if something like this had happened I would have immediately gone into freak-out mode, code red.  And, as the saying goes, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

As a result of the work God has been doing in my life, code red moments have been at an all-time low lately.  Thus, when I received the blue-screen-of-death, while I wanted my husband, the computer doctor, to do all he could to revive the machine, I also had a peace, knowing he would do the best he could but sometimes these things happen.  And stressing out wouldn't miraculously recover my lost documents.  So I shrugged - and went about my day.  Staring at a dead computer screen won't put cereal in my daughter's breakfast bowl or clean dishes in my cabinets.  I had other things to do.

The only interesting thing now, while we wait - wait for the next paycheck which may allow us to fix the problem at hand and return us once again to a home of his and hers computer stations - is just how much I have relied on that one small machine to fill my time.  Suddenly, in the evenings, while my husband plugs away at his website development, I find myself on the couch with little more than Netflix and an iPad (and, occasionally, a box of books which are begging to be assigned call numbers - oh the thrilling life of a church librarian).  I don't think I ever truly realized how many of my personal projects rely on a computer (with Word processing or other necessary software) for their fulfillment. 

Thus, with no other choice but to abandon those projects for the time-being, I find myself with a brand new, heretofore-foreign commodity at my disposal after the children are tucked into bed: free time.  What did people do in the days before laptops?  Also known as, how did my parents survive the eighties?