Sunday, February 26, 2012

Location, location, location.

People always talk about the importance of location. Location, location, location! But having just come back from a weekend in Asheville with the fam, I have to say, I think location might be a bit overrated.

Not that Asheville isn't every bit as beautiful and friendly and free-spirited as everyone says it is. It definitely is. We just didn't care all that much. Because when you're with the ones you love (and especially when the ones you love are little people), minute details like location tend to go by the wayside.

Because I don't care how many vegetarian cafes or breweries or paper star lantern shops your adorably walkable downtown boasts, it still can't compete with important stuff like a little brother getting dressed in his big brothers clothes and trying to learn how to blow bubbles.

Well, that's one way to do it...

Or a big kid learning that the fastest way to win a game is to take your opponents by surprise.

He actually went with FUCKET. For more points.

Lazy mornings and messy meals and naps and a good night's sleep (or a bad night's sleep...) and tickle fights and yet another round of Blue's Clues or bad guys or Mario or whatever the make-believe du jour happens to be...that stuff can happen anywhere in the world and still feel pretty much the same.

Although, without the location of our cozy cabin in the sticks we never would have had the privilege of witnessing the fastest dog alive discover her speed.

In. Sane.

And no cabin would have meant no hot tub. How would Liam have convinced Bill to join the Polar Bear Club without a (not so) hot tub?

(I guess 86 degrees isn't exactly arctic but it was WAY too cold for me. Plenty warm the next morning though...)

Whether or not you see the sites or rub elbows with the locals or eat something you've never tasted before, taking a trip with the ones you love is always worth it. Because even if you're doing the same old things (hello, bubbles?!), you're tuned in in a way that makes everything so much more enjoyable. It's as if your mind says, You're on a trip, dammit, make some memories! So you do. You pay attention to the moment, fully experiencing it for all its worth. You have to. Because when people ask, "How was your trip?", you really want to be able to say, "Fantastic." (Even if you're totally stumped when they follow up with, "What did you do?")

And guess what? Even though Finn didn't learn to blow bubbles on our trip, he did learn to blow bubbles! Right in his very own backyard.

Backyardsville, Anytown USA.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wrap it up.

I can tell by looking around at the wreck of a house that used to be my home that it's been a bit of a whirlwind around here lately. Rather than sift through it all to try to make neat little stories, I think I'll just dump it here in one big heap. (And I'll try to do it quickly while Finn is strapped into his high chair throwing Cheerios at me and the dog...)

Last Sunday was Liam's 6th birthday/Superbowl Sunday and Grandma arrived in Nashville. Needless to say, it was quite a day. We didn't exactly have a party (more like a small play date with cake) but by the time we tucked our birthday boy into bed there had been 30 people in and out of our house over the course of the day. (30! I counted!) Friends, neighbors, kids, parents, sleeping babies, Patriots fans, Madonna fans...you name it.

Liam loved that so many people showed up to celebrate his birthday and was bursting with appreciation come bedtime. "Thank you so much for my cake and my parties and my lava lamp. This was the best birthday I've ever had in my whole life. It's great because of you and Dada and Finny but also, like, all of our family. Even the ones who live far away. And our friends, too. And our neighbors! And Penny! And Miss! It's just so great. Life is really, really great..."

Such a smart young man...

Our week with Grandma flew by making me realize that I'm much busier than I give myself credit for. I'm always volunteering for things like, "Of course I have time, I'm at home with my kids!" I guess that would help explain the busyness, right? Plus, you know, there's this little guy.

He does more than his fair share keeping me on my toes.

So it was really weird when one night last week (Tuesday? Wednesday? It's seriously like a blur...) he went to bed at a normal time (7ish) but didn't wake up until two the next afternoon. I know! I was totally freaked out too. Especially when I got home (I had been out and about while Grandma was at home) and tried to get him up and he just laid there staring off into space and there was throw up on his jammies and he still wasn't moving just staring, staring, staring and I got really scared and called the pediatrician and rushed right over trying not to think about what could be wrong and held him so close as the doctor examined him and crossed my fingers and said my prayers and when she told me he was fine - clear lungs, no ear infections, nothing major hurt or broken - and that the throwing up was probably just from coughing and the sleeping so long was probably just because he didn't feel well, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief and we gladly got on with the rest of our day.

I never regret that trip across town to the doctor's office. Ever. I would happily hand over a co-pay for a clean bill of health any day.

It was especially important this go around since we were planning to go out of town over the weekend and I couldn't leave my baby all alone with Grandma and the sitter not knowing if he was healthy or not. (I know they're both nurses. But he's my BABY.)

A flight with no kids...grand (canyon).

So, yeah. My husband and I totally went to Vegas for his 35th birthday! (And some work stuff he had to do but whatever.) Oh my gosh, you guys, I had no idea it would be so much fun! I think because I grew up in Reno I thought if you've seen one gaming town, you've seen them all. But I could not have been more wrong (and we don't even gamble so that was kind of a weird assumption).

Us + the mirrored ceiling in our room at The Wynn.

Anyway, I enjoyed the hell out of that town. It was like complete sensory overload but in a really good way. Our hotels alone were enough to keep me buzzing with excitement the entire two days. The bathtubs in our hotels were enough to keep me buzzing with excitement the entire two days...

From our terrace @ The Cosmopolitan.

While we were seeing beautiful things and eating amazing food and drinking interesting drinks and having our minds blown by Cirque de Soleil, the boys were having a grand old time with Grandma and the babysitter. Well, except for all day and night Saturday when Grandma was in bed as sick as a dog and Liam was throwing up on the living room carpet. But the rest of the weekend, I've been told, was really quite fun.

Liam had to stay home on Monday though because he was "way too exhausted" to go to school. At some point I remembered that the next day was Valentine's day and he needed to bring cards for this kids in his class. Since last year was such a struggle, I figured I'd cut to the chase and asked him if he wanted to go pick some cards out at the store. But he was "allergic" to going to the store and "way too exhausted" to leave the house. So we dug through the craft supplies and threw these bad boys together...

They're rolled up Mad Libs. The tag line was his idea.

As we were wrapping up the last of the valentines, I remembered that I had volunteered to do a little photo booth for his class party (I did one at Christmastime and it was a huge hit). So I gathered up some props and dress up things and put together a backdrop and quickly made a little bow and arrow (like Cupid...) and some big red lips and a doodly bopper heart headband and suddenly it hit me - holy crap, I am totally that mom. Awesome.

And speaking of being that mom... check out the cut paper portrait of Liam's school I made for his art auction fundraiser tonight!

I donated the original so it had to be super perfect (no Photoshopping to hide my mess). I love how it turned out and hope it will get lots and lots of bids (although I was kind of sad to see it go...).

Valentine's day night we did our traditional scavenger hunt but it ended with a bit of a snafu. The last clue was meant to lead us to a pizza place in our neighborhood for dinner but when we got there, we realized it was closed. My heart sank as Liam said, "But, wait, what's going to happen to the prize that you hid in there?" I looked down at the final note and tiny mailbox full of Hershey's Kisses and Hearts in my lap and realized I had no choice but to let him behind the curtain.

"Well, the good news is I have your prize right here," I said as I held up the postcard with a piece of tape hanging off so he could see it from the backseat. "I was going to tape the note to the door as we walked up. Really quickly so you wouldn't see me do it."

"Wait. What?! You mean...you had the note with you the whole time and you were just going to trick me?"

"Yeah. I mean, I guess so."

"Wha...but...I can't believe it."

"Yeah..."

We decided to go for Mexican food instead and as we were pulling into the parking lot Liam said, "I am so glad the pizza place was closed tonight. Because now we get to eat dinner here and I get to know about your tricks."

And because Finny loves booty dancing to Ranchero music and they had $2.14 margaritas and our sweet waiter brought us free dessert (I'm guessing because of the insane toddler booty dancing in our booth...).

I can't believe it's Friday already. Since last Friday I've been meaning to tell you that Mamapedia ran a couple of my stories. One last week and one this week. Yay! You've probably already read them both but if you would go read them again on the Mamapedia site (and leave comments!), that would be super amazing awesome. They are here and here.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I, for one, am looking forward to some major downtime (and that school function tonight and the two birthday parties and a house concert and...le sigh). Enjoy!

(Boo. I'm not sure if I can post this today after all. Bill has my iPhone which has a lot of the pictures I wanted to use because it fell off the fridge last night and the screen cracked into a million little pieces (which happens to be the book I'm reading right now - as you may have guessed by all this rambling...). It happened toward the end of a very long day following a VERY long night in which Finn screamed and screamed and screamed and refused to sleep. What is UP with that? Anyway. I almost cried I was so upset and tired and just DONE. But Bill said they can replace the screen and he's getting it done for me today even though I should have known better than sticking my phone on the fridge but that's where the speakers are and I wanted to listen to music while I was making dinner heating up the special dinner he made for me the night before and geez, seriously, he's a really good husband and I love him a lot and I wish I had made him a birthday video but, you know, there are only so many hours in the day. Anyway, I will post this when I can. And don't worry - Finn will probably still be throwing food at me and the dog...)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Finn's turn.

Today is Finn's half birthday (18 months, woohoo!) but I made him a happy birthday slide show anyway. Because I haven't made one since he was six months old and I make one for Liam every year and want to keep things fair.

Dojo: February 2011

I know, I know, life isn't fair. But there's no reason I can't do my best to be fair and equal when it comes to parenting, right? Although, that doesn't actually make any sense at all. Different kids have different needs so if I parent them the same way it will only really be good for one of them. What I mean is, I will probably parent them completely differently but I'll try to keep the tangible stuff - like birthday slide shows! - as equal as possible.

Plus, there's just nothing sweeter than watching a year of your child's life go by before your eyes. Especially when it's set to music that makes you want to scoop them up and squeeze them tight. As soon as I heard this song I thought, "This would be perfect for Finny's slide show!"

video

(Baby I'm Yours, covered by the Arctic Monkeys)

As you can see he's...amazing. So sweet and funny and smart and determined. I find myself quietly watching him with a smile on my face all the time. He's a highly amusing person. And he loves the spotlight (and hats!).

Chillin: January 2012

He'll eat anything you put in front of him and do it with such gusto that I swear he has a hollow leg.

Chips & Salsa: November 2011

He can drink from a big kid cup all by himself (after saying "cheers" and clinking glasses with me, of course), and when he's finished he says (more or less), "I do it."

To us: February 2012

He really likes to do things himself and is fiercely independent. Sometimes we have to trick him into thinking something is his idea, otherwise he'll flat out refuse to do it. Like if I try to hand him a drink that's his second choice, he'll knock it out of my hand and swat at me and cry. But if I set it down and walk away, he'll happily grab it and drink it down. Not because I put it there but because he found it and decided he was thirsty.

I do it: January 2012

Anytime I lose sight of him for a few minutes I know he's doing exactly what I've told him not to do (like playing in the dog's water bowl or hanging out in the bathroom or finding the pair of scissors I've so carefully hidden out of reach...)

Clearing obstacles: February 2012.

He gets a lot of time outs. Although, they don't seem to bother him at all. They actually kind of crack him up. A lot of stuff does. The kid's got a great sense of humor.

Cantaloupe hat: August 2011

But he cries a lot, too. Like when he wants to walk instead of riding in the stroller. Or because he's not allowed to climb up on the table and eat his brother's birthday cake. Or because the car carts are wet and we have to use a regular grocery cart. Or because he wants to read Brown Bear a few more times instead of going to sleep...

Stuck: June 2011.

He loves Brown Bear (it was Liam's first favorite, too). All of the Brown Bear books actually (Panda Bear, Polar Bear, Baby Bear...). He also really likes The Carrot Seed and gets so happy every time the carrot comes up. I think he's genuinely proud of the little boy for sticking with it even though nobody believed in him. And when he sees how BIG the carrot is on the very last page? Pure joy. Every. Single. Time.

He's pretty much fearless but it's okay because he's also very capable. And when he does fall or get hurt or scare himself a little, he gets right back on the horse (after a little self-soothing, of course).

Crawling 2.0: August 2011


Oh, and in case you were wondering, he can get on the trampoline all by himself. Quickly! And with props!

Trampoline soccer practice: February 2012

He's crazy friendly with people (beware if you get seated next to us at a restaurant - he will be your friend), but still cries until they come get me every time I leave him at the YMCA childcare.

Popular: February 2012

He says "Mama" about 18,453 times a day. It starts first thing in the morning. He goes from zero to Mama in .05 seconds. Then it's, "Mama, Maamaa, Mama? Mama! Mommy, Mommy, Maaamaaa, Mama? Mama!?!" until I come to his room. When he sees me he gives me a shy smile from his James Dean stance and then dive bombs face first onto his mattress and waits for me to tickle him.

Mama isn't all he says. He also says night-night and ball and yes and cheers and juice and a bunch of other things that all sound really cute. Just don't ask him to say Dada. Even though he's said it before and is perfectly capable of saying it again, he just won't do it.

"Finny, say Dada!"

"Mama."

"No, Dada."

"Mama."

"DA-DA."

"MA-MA."

"Finny, come on. Say Dada."

(Big smile like he's really thinking about it then very definitively...) "Mama."

Dada: June 2011.

He never says no. Only yes. Not ya or yeah. Yes. Pronounced "yeth" with his tongue sticking out at the end between his perfect little teeth.

"Finny, are you hungry?"

"Yeth."

"Do you want a bath?"

"Yeth."

"Should we read Harry the Dirty Dog?"

(Silence.)

"How about Olivia?"

(Nothing.)

"Runaway Bunny?"

"Yeth."

When he's tired, he brings me his blanket and lays his head on my lap.

When he's hungry, he grabs himself a cereal bar from the cabinet.

Munchies: July 2011

He can throw a ball as well as most T-ballers (with either hand!), but also enjoys throwing toys, food, utensils, plates...

He's kind of a stinker like that.

But he's so helpful that he easily makes up for it. He throws away trash, cleans up spills, sticks the pacifier back in the baby's mouth when I'm babysitting, finds his coat when he wants to go outside, and happily assists me with whatever task I'm trying to do (whether or not I want help...).

Making muffins: February 2012

I'm going to abruptly stop writing right this second because if I don't I will happily go on and on forever.

Happy one-and-a-half, little Finn! We love you so so much...

The sweetest dream: June 2011

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Six.

The other night after dinner, we had an epic dance party in the kitchen. As we laughed and spun each other around and pumped our fists in the air, I thought, "Six years ago I never could have imagined our lives would be this much fun..."

There's just no way I could have looked at the 8 pound 13.5 ounce squishy faced little guy who took nine months to grow to perfection and two-and-a-half days to come out and know that he would set our lives on a trajectory more beautiful and fulfilling than we ever dreamed possible.

That he'd be the kind of guy who would gladly hold the big red door at his elementary school each morning while students and parents hurried past, trying not to be late for school. "Don't worry. I've got it. Good morning. You're welcome..."

Or that at five-and-three-quarters he'd stay up way past lights out every night reading Mario Bros video game manuals to himself in bed.

He insisted on an allergen free cake - so all his friends could enjoy it.

There was no way to know that he'd be a big brother one day. And not just any big brother but a kind, generous, loving, thoughtful big brother who would go out of his way to teach and encourage and care for his brother, like it was the most important job in the entire world.

And perhaps it is...

That he would continue to take our breath away, day after day, just as he did the moment he was born.

What an honor it is to parent this child. To bear witness to the person he's growing into and the person he's always been. And to realize with gratitude, more and more each day, that the student is becoming the teacher. How lucky are we to be in his class?

Here's a look back at the last year with our incredible little guy...

video

Happy 6th birthday, Liam. WE LOVE YOU!!!

(The song is Symphonies by Dan Black. Liam's choice.)