Friday, November 30, 2012

seven little things.

1. Things are wild around here. Everyone has a cold of some sort, Chris is crazy busy until Christmas break, and I'm trying to get some sort of handle on Christmas. Today shopping for aunts and uncles turned into an emotional breakdown over a Barbie Dreamhouse (What?! You don't even like Barbies!), so hopefully everyone ends up with a present. Or we'll shop when we get to Idaho, and my only store options are Walmart and JC Penney (I heart you, Pocatello. Never change.) The good news is John can once again breath through his nose and Q's bright red chapped nose seems to have been magically healed by Vaseline. And Chris completed a major presentation today without going into a coughing fit, a major win considering all the coughing the poor guy has been doing.

2. We are working toward full potty independence with Carly. The girl is so dang smart, she picked up on how much faster and easier it is when I wipe her, so she has been making me help her every single time. Trying to break that habit because she is fully capable of doing it herself. She has a chart she has to fill with stickers, and then she gets the Dora watch that she salivates over every time we go to Target. Well, yesterday she was going potty "all by myself!" and all the sudden she is screaming. Like, intense screaming. I run in there and she had, I kid you not, fallen in the toilet. She was expecting her Cars seat to be there, but it wasn't, so she didn't brace herself and fell right in. Oh, dear, it took everything I had not to laugh in her face because she was totally traumatized. Luckily, there were no lasting effects.

3. This morning I was singing "Deck the Halls" and every time after the "fa lalalala" part, Quinn would sing "la la la la." Like, for reals. She had never really made that sound before, but I would sing it, and she would right after me. I die.

4. You should probably know I'm hard-core addicted to Vampire Diaries. Chris says I'm channeling my inner 16-year-old. Unfortunately, that 16-year-old is not nearly as inner as I thought. Is it ok to want a cardboard cutout of Stefan Salvatore for Christmas? I'd only use it to scare off bad guys, of course. But really, whenever I see someone outside in the dark I kind of expect them to attack me or vanish into thin air. So far neither has happened. I will keep you posted. But for the record, Chris told me to watch a show he wouldn't like so he wouldn't get distracted, so I chose Vampire Diaries and he approved. But every once in a while he will sit and watch an episode with me, and I dare say he seems a bit interested, even if it is purely looking for an excuse to escape schoolwork for a bit.

5. Today at the thrift store Carly found a magnifying glass that was still in its package. She called it "a spyglass!" and I knew she had to have it. All day she carried it around, looking at things through it. She got a million comments at Target because she seriously looked amazingly unique in her crazy self-picked outfit, studying marks in the tile with a magnifying glass. She is the coolest.

6. PS. I'm becoming a thrift addict. I've been getting Gap, Carters, Children's Place, OshKosh and Old Navy clothes in perfect condition. And I found some awesome Calvin Klein jeans for me for $5. Some people think its gross, I know, but that is what washing machines are for, right? Everything we had for Carly was brand new, and I'm realizing kids just go through too many clothes and get them too dirty to buy everything new. At least in the phase of life we are in, having three kids and a single student income. Of course, I also found John a few $3 sweaters at Target, and found $6 sweaters and red skinnies for me. So bargain hunting works, too.

7. Yesterday I woke up and I really was just over being a mom. Just right then; just that day. I wanted to do whatever I darn well pleased, not wipe bums, force feed tiny mouths, and get screamed at all day. Well, we spent the day at home, playing Simon Says, coloring purple Christmas trees, rolling around on the floor, and watching entirely too much tv. And you know what? Holy crap, I love these kids. I would not trade this job of mine for anything. It is so stinking hard, but how can you not just want to watch every move they make and be a part of every single second? I just have to, because I live for them and they are my life's work. They rock my socks.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

love and water.

Love and water.
For good and for bad, we've had a whole lot of both flowing around here.

Thanksgiving can't help but bring out the love. 
But it also brought out the water.


Last weekend we started off our holiday season by going to Silver Bells in the City, a light parade and tree-lighting celebration by the State Capital. We got there just in time to catch the light parade. Carly loved the parade, but was way more interested in the marching bands then the lights themselves. Girl loves herself a good marching band. We didn't get to stay for the tree lighting, but hopefully next year we'll have more stamina. Its a goal of mine to go up and see the tree lit up by the Capital before we leave for our Christmas vacation.

The following day I hosted a little brunch for my wonderful friend Camilla, who is having a baby any day (minute?) now, and who will be moving away in a few weeks. I'm far from a Pinterest Queen, but it turned out cute enough. I'm in love with my doily banner. It is still up. It works as Christmas decor, right?

Camilla and I became friends two years ago. We had both just arrived in Lansing. Her husband was a law student, mine a PhD student. Carly had just turned one, and her little Kennedy was due that winter. We went on an "awkward ice cream date", as we now lovingly refer to it, for my birthday. Since then, she has been my best friend. She was one of the first people to know of my pregnancy, and one of the first phone calls I made after finding out about the twins. She took care of Carly on truly one of my sickest days during my pregnancy, watching her for most of the day before Chris could come home and we could get ahold of a doctor. She came and slept on my couch so Carly could stay in bed as we headed to the hospital to bring John and Quinn into the world. We have hung out in our pjs in each others' living rooms doing nothing, gone on chaotic shopping trips with our kids, and frequented the movie theater she worked at. And, most of all, she taught me to correctly pronounce "Flo Rida." Its good to have friends who are significantly cooler than you are.

I can't believe our two years here together are already coming to an end. We love her and her husband, Cameron, and their soon-to-be two little girls. We will miss them a whole lot. I'm not sure exactly how I will get along without her. But I'm grateful this place brought us together. And hopefully someday we'll live near enough to each other to actually see each other again. Like, how about in the same cul-de-sac?

That brings us to Thanksgiving.
We had a lot to be grateful for this year.
During Family Home Evening, we each got to make lists on our "turkey feathers" and Carly's kept going and going. She even included the Solar System, that nerdy little beauty. She also made John and Quinn's lists. She was a gratitude pro by the time we were finished.

Thanksgiving Day was warm and sunny. Chris played in the ward "Turkey Bowl", something he had been wanting to do for years but has missed since we typically are out of town on Thanksgiving. He came home sore and covered in dirt. Then it was my turn, and I headed out for a run. My outdoor runs are numbered. That very well may have been my last one. For a person who once loved a treadmill, I am finding my gym runs rather boring these days. Our warm and sunny Thanksgiving was a beautiful little gift.

Then we got our cook on. This year was the first Thanksgiving we've ever had in our own home. We busted out our wedding China, which we have literally never used before. We made a ham instead of a turkey, because we like ham more and turkey is just too dang hard. But I have to say, I missed the turkey when push came to shove. We made potatoes and stuffing and fruit salad and pie, all the basics. But it all came out totally mediocre, to say the least. I will have to hone my Thanksgiving skills. Or we can just go to family every Thanksgiving for forever. That works too. The experience was fun, and it definitely gave me a greater appreciation for what my parents and in-laws have done all these years.

Our above-mentioned friends came over to share the holiday with us. Baby girl decided not to come yet, which didn't thrill them, but worked out for us because we got to have them over. Luckily they were old friends and not new ones, or my cooking would have surely scared them away. Carly and Kennedy showed up wearing nearly the same thing. Totally embarrassing. But it was fun to share a last little hurrah with them. Two years ago we had a New Years' get-together, and K was born 4 days later. So maybe we're the good luck charm and baby girl will be born 4 days after our shared Thanksgiving?

The rest of the weekend has been pleasant, doing a sad excuse for Black Friday shopping at 8 am with Camilla, painting masterpieces, listening to Christmas music, and getting ready to break out the Christmas decor. Yesterday I took my two girls out for a morning of shopping and lunch (at Sam's Club; still counts, right?). We just might have to make that a mother-daughters Thanksgiving Saturday tradition. They sure are fun to hang out with, not to mention the little taste I got of what having two kids is like.

See all that love flowing?
We are incredibly blessed.

As for the water?

Tuesday night, Chris went down to our basement to find a pool of water near our washer. Maintenance came Wednesday and "fixed" it. Thanksgiving Day we did a load of laundry, and the water is spouting out all over the place. It had soaked our carpet and clean laundry and was making its way toward our boxes of storage. They came back Friday morning and really fixed it, leaving a huge disgusting mess for us to clean up. We actually lucked out, with our only major casualties being Carly's Ikea circus tent, our bassinet, and our big piece of carpet (sure was fun getting that sopping wet thing out to the dumpster; it looked like we were dragging bodies). Chris was good enough to clean the floor with bleach, because it smelled so bad. He's amazing like that. It made me grateful that a) it wasn't more significant, and b) we are renting. It was so minor, and yet still a huge pain. 

Fingers crossed for no more flowing water.
But a whole lot more flowing love.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

bucket full of gratitude.

I have just been basking in gratitude this morning.

I'm grateful for an artistic and creative three-year-old, who is so artistic that she drew all over our walls with a black marker for the second time in three days. The first time was small, and she got a time out and a small talking to. This time she managed to include 4 different walls. It was a masterpiece.

I'm grateful for the Lord's help in granting me patience, so instead of completely exploding, I carried her to her room in silence, explained the situation, and left her there, "grounded." For a half an hour. And when I felt like it was enough, I walked in and hugged her and told her I loved her. And she hugged me back and said she was "so so sorry I colored on the wall."

I'm grateful for a healthy mobile almost 9-month-old baby girl, who is typically the sweetest thing around, but this morning crawled (on all fours!) around after me as I dealt with Carly, whining and moaning, complaining about her newly arriving teeth and the fact that she had not yet gotten her breakfast. I'm also grateful for the little angels that watched over her as she scaled EVERY SINGLE STAIR to come up after me when I took Carly to her room and explained why she was in lock down. I am incredibly grateful I did not hear the sounds of a baby tumbling down the stairs on her first ever trek up them. 

I am grateful for our maintenance man, who showed up to fix our overflowing pipes by our washer, which we discovered last night while letting Quinn "cry it out" for 45 heartbreaking minutes, which then led to John waking up and requiring another entire bottle. That great maintenance man, who doesn't cost us an extra penny,  came just as Carly and Quinn were screaming at their loudest, and just as I had dirty laundry scattered ALL OVER the living room floor. But he fixed my washer, so now I can clean it all.

I'm grateful for my boy, John Thomas. He is rarely (never!) the face of calm in the chaos, but today he sat and jabbered happily and played with a package of wipes, watching the crazy all around him, probably wondering why the Lord sent him to a house of insane women. His daddy wonders that all the time.

I am grateful I survived this entire morning without a single tear or yelling a single word. Because 4 months ago that would have been completely impossible. 

I am grateful that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, not just because its Thanksgiving and I get pie, but because Chris will be home for FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS. Meaning I will not be alone with these beautiful little hellions until Monday. I love that man, and life is just so totally way better when he is around. We cherish our time together as a family, and a relaxing low-key Thanksgiving at home is exactly what the doctor ordered.

I'm grateful for this crazy life, because in all the bad there is just so dang much good.

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

an awesome autumn.

Earlier this week we awoke to white rooftops, frosted windshields, and snowflakes fluttering in the air. While I am glad we have yet to get real snow, it was the first signs of what I'm sure will be a winter that drags on too long. But while its still new, those fluttering snowflakes sure are beautiful.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we are bidding farewell to this Fall season. What an awesome and blessed autumn it has been for us. As Chris's semester approached, I felt a lot of anxiety and apprehension, knowing he would have long days and late nights, and wondering how I would manage after I had struggled so much during the summer. But it has been wonderful. I'm not sure if it was the babies getting older and a bit more enjoyable (and dare I say a tad easier?), or a better routine with actual structure, or my increased emotional stability (ha!), but the Lord truly blessed us. We managed to not just survive, but actually enjoy. Most of the time, anyway.

We had some visitors. Chris's parents made the drive north, and we took them to our favorite little pumpkin patch/cider mill. They also watched our three little pigs so Chris and I could go to a MSU football game with Chris's adviser and his wife. They have some incredible seats, and it is kind of them to invite us. It is typically our only game per year, and this year we got a very cold and rainy day. I would have turned into a popsicle if it weren't for the old giant puffy green winter coat we found in Chris's office, which is right across the river from the Stadium. I was quite the fashionista in that thing, but I pulled my arms in and it was like I was sitting in a little tent. Of course, the freezing cold game went into double overtime. And MSU lost. C'est la vie.

One wonderful thing about this Fall has been a fairly regular schedule. Preschool, library story time, and playgroup add a little variety, socialization, and consistency to our weeks. Carly has really loved school. Chris takes her every Tuesday and she loves that, almost as much as he does. She is learning her letters really well, and though was initially stand-offish with the other kids, now seems to be playing and interacting with them much more normally. I have to admit, I feel like my trash has been kicked after my turns teaching. My first week, I ended up with way too much time left. My second go-around was a lot better, but I packed so much into two hours I was wasted afterwards! Its safe to say I was not built to be a teacher, and those of you who are are truly gifted. I was trying to figure out what to do with the things she makes every week, and thought I would put them all in a book and make her an alphabet book. It is looking pretty cute so far. I'm grateful we're in a place with friends that make it possible to do this little preschool. It has been great for her.

[living up a warm Fall day at the park.]

[six little pumpkins on my porch.]

Chris has been busy, but I suppose that is no surprise. He was amazing to sacrifice a lot of time for me to train for my 10k, but after my race he had to spend a lot of time at school making up for lost time. Its amazing to think his years of coursework are winding down, and soon he'll be passing comps (woohoo!) and  start working on his dissertation. I used to want a PhD, but watching Chris has convinced me otherwise. I'm proud of him for how hard he works, grateful for the wonderful daddy he is, and downright smitten by his dashing good looks.

Every year Chris's PhD advisor and his wife host a chili leaf rake, where he invites his students over to rake up his leaves, and his wife, Linda, makes the most life-altering chili you've ever had. Like seriously, I'm obsessed with this chili, people. I think I ate 3 huge bowls this year. And a bonus? My three kids provide me with a pass so I didn't rake a single leaf. Linda was also sweet enough to get some fun Halloween crafts and little goody bags for Carly and the other kids who were there. She had so much fun, we had to drag her out of there kicking and screaming. We are blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

Other Fall highlights:

-A visit from aunt Sarah, who entertained my kids, made three flu shots in one doctor's visit significantly easier, and held down the fort while I ran my race.

-I survived my first primary program. I was that awkward person who hunches over by the pulpit and whispers the lines to the kids who didn't memorize or can't read yet. We had our first practice the day after my 10k, and I was way more exhausted after the practice than after the race! But I'm grateful for the chance to work with the kids on the program; I feel like it allowed me to get to know them all better. The kids did really wonderful, and it was a great thing to be a part of. But we all let out a little sigh of relief when it was successfully completed. I really can't believe next year Carly will be a little Sunbeam in her first program.

-At the beginning of the semester I was wondering how I was going to survive my Thursdays, since Chris left early and got home late. I decided to start up a dinner group, and other wives in similar situations joined in. It has been great. Everyone brings something to share, and the kids play and the moms talk and everyone wins. It has been a life-saver on more than one long crazy Thursday.

We took these leaf pictures in October. It was a beautiful morning, and the kids all loved playing in the leaves. When we walk by the same location today, the trees are barren and wintry  and all the leaves have been raked up and shipped off. I always joke that I want to live somewhere that is 75 degrees and sunny year-around. Chris says no way; you just can't beat the 4 seasons. And he's right. We enjoyed this beautiful Fall in the Mitten, and now I'm feeling the urge to wear cozy jammies, sip hot chocolate, watch Elf, and listen to N'SYNC Christmas in the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree.

We hope y'all had a happy Fall, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day.

This morning I woke up as giddy as Chris on Opening Day (that is really giddy).
It's Election Day!

The problem here is that I'm a nerd. My favorite show as a teenager was the West Wing. I mean, from like age 12 to 19, I watched every episode. It was on Wednesday nights, and I would have my mom record it on VHS so I could watch it after my church youth group. I read presidential biographies in jr high. At 18 I was a senior in high school and I voted in my first presidential election. There were probably dances and sports games to be excited about, but my excitement over voting leaves a distinct memory, as does my sparkly brown and pink "Vote" t-shirt (oh, dear). I was a political science minor in college up until my last semester. I had to make a choice: drop my minor and graduate before giving birth, or keep it and try to finish after having my baby. I 100% made the right choice; it would have been an impossible challenge to finish after having Carly. But it was painful. My political science classes were some of my very favorite classes I took. And on our 5th anniversary, Chris knew me well enough to take me to the Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, and it was TOTALLY AWESOME.

That, my friends, is how big of a nerd I am.

So I woke up thinking about red states and blue states and the beauty of it all. Four years ago during the election I followed it closely and kept up on all the details. This time around I feel like I have so many mouths to feed and bums to wipe and brains to stimulate that I just haven't made it a priority. Not to mention the excess negativity and hatred that exists in the Facebook world . . . it makes you not want to even get involved. But it is now that I should care more than ever. In the coming years there will be houses to buy, kids entering the public school system, then heading off to college, and before I know it retirement is right around the corner. There is a lot of life yet to be lived, and the leaders we elect make an impact on how that life is going to play out.

This election season has brought something else out in me: the desire to share with my kids things I feel passionate about. Its amazing to me the things said on Facebook, snide remarks, negative comments, hostility, and name-calling. These things are coming from adults. That is not educated political discussion; that is ignorant jabbering. I would never want my child calling anyone stupid or worthless or the "cause of all our problems", so why would I say those things about someone? I want to teach kids to speak kindly about everyone, even people they disagree with. They will feel one way or the other about political subjects, and they should state what they believe, and defend it, but also hear the other side, and respect it. I want to teach them to appreciate our government and the President of the United States, regardless of his/her party. It is a beautiful thing, how the Founders took aspects from existing governments and combined them and invented some new things, and created this democracy. It is obviously not perfect, but it is an amazing system with checks and balances so it is not just one person to blame, and so we are all, more or less, represented as a whole. And I want to teach my kids that they are lucky to live where they do. Because people living in so many other countries don't ever get the chance to wear an "I Voted" sticker.

All that being said, I decided to treat Election Day like a bit of a holiday.

We all wore red, white, and blue. Probably to a fault. People at library story time probably thought we were over-the-top. Which, I suppose, we were.

I made a few little ballots for Carly to vote on things throughout the day. She looked completely confused at breakfast, but jumped right in and colored her box at lunch time.

I took Carly to vote with me. A friend came over to watch the twins, and would have happily watched Carly too, but I wanted to take her. I thought it would be a learning opportunity, a chance for her to see what I was talking about first-hand. And it was. She was initially very interested and excited, but I think her excitement was feeding off of mine, because by the time I was a third of the way through my ballot she was asking "When are we going to vote?" "This is voting," I told her. She wasn't impressed. I got to the last question, which was a referendum asking about the sale of a golf course (what?), so I let her pick which way I was going to vote, and let her fill out the ballot. She was happy she got to vote, and she even got a highly-trendy "I Voted" sticker. But she was more interested in the nearby playground. I suppose she is 3. I'll take what I can get.

We decorated Election Day cookies. The original plan was for bipartisan cookies, but Obama's logo was a bit too complicated for my non-existent decorating skills.

Tonight when Chris manages to come home, we'll color Electoral College maps and then put the kids to bed, and I'll stay up and watch returns for as long as I can stand it. But isn't it always fun to wake up the next morning and see what news awaits you? Its like Christmas morning. Almost. 

I love Election Day. These campaigns go on for months (or, heaven help us, years) and we are bombarded by facts and fiction, television ads and yard signs. It is the system doing exactly what it was designed to do, but it can be too much. But Election Day isn't about campaigns. It is the end-result; it is the destination. It is a whole nation of people going to cast their votes, going to put in their two cents. And at the end of the day when all the votes are counted, we have ourselves a new or re-elected president. There are no violent overthrows, no White House raids. Just democracy at work.

[with "Righty" the Elephant.]

Its a beautiful thing.

Happy Election Day.

Friday, November 2, 2012

these boots.

All of the sudden, it is practically winter.
The leaves are mostly off the trees, and the days have been cold and gray.
It was time to get my mom game together and get Carly some boots.
The last two years we've gotten Carly some "Uggs" copycats from Target. They are cute, and even better, really easy to get on. So today we headed out to get her some.

I tried to get her to try them on, and she kept running away , down the isle and across to the men's section in her little striped socks. I was losing my mind.

"Why won't you try them on?!" I asked her.
"I don't like those boots," she told me.
I picked her up to show her all the different kinds.
He eyes went wide and she got a big smile on her face and she pointed.

"Those ones!"

Black patent leather combat boots.
With purple shoe laces.

I was not excited about it at first, but I put them on her and they were just so her.
The girl was thrilled.

This girl is so unique. She is brilliant and has passions and interests I never expected from a three-year-old. She beats to her own drum. She is opinionated. I can only imagine how many times in the next 15 years we are going to have this exact same experience, me having one idea, and she picking something totally different. I want her to always be able to express herself exactly how she wants too (as long as she is modest), whether that means a dress every day or shiny combat boots with purple laces.

 I can't wait to see what strikes her fancy next.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

what should I be?

I have a goal for next Halloween.
I am going to figure out costumes a month in advance . . . and GO with them.
I was wishy washy this year, and ended up throwing together costumes at the last minute (like, seriously, I was at the store an hour before the Trunk-or-Treat).

Carly wanted to be a "scaaaaarrrryy cat!", and pretty much stuck with that.
I could do that.

I started with a plan to dress Q as a cow and John as a chicken, both costumes I could borrow from friends, and I would be a farm girl. Well, Q and J both HATED the cow costume, so I realized I needed them to be in costume without feeling like they were in costume. Too bad. Q made one cute cow.

[moo moo, I'm Q.]

I gathered up things we already had, found Q a $5 hat at Target, and BAM!, I had a witch, a pumpkin, and a cat. We went to find a black shirt for Carly's costume, and I found two: a plain black one, and one with sparkly silver polka-dots on it. I'll let you guess which one she picked. I guess it is no surprise; she has a tendency to put her own flair on her costumes. Poor John was a bit neglected. I got a Goodwill coat and cut the sleeves off to make him a little extra puffy (like he isn't round enough on his own . . . ) and put Carly's 4T jack-o-lantern pajama shirt on him. Whatever works, right?

[I'm not a witch I'm your wife!]

Carly loved her nose and whispers, though it itched her a little bit and it ended up smeared all over her hands every time I put it on. It reminded me of the year I went as a witch and had green face paint all over my face and it tortured me with itchiness. That is one of the most distinct memories from my childhood. Traumatizing.

[one of my favorite pictures of Carly of all time.]

[one of my favorite pictures of John of all time.]

For the most part, we kept our Halloween celebrations low-key this year. Last year we were totally Halloweened out by the time the 31st came, and Carly was traumatized, of course. So I didn't do too much with her. We did have a little Halloween playgroup and she had Halloween preschool. We went to our ward's Trunk-or-Treat on Friday, and, despite being initially spooked and requesting we go right home, Carly got an early reminder of just how fun getting all that candy can be.

[babies' first Halloween.]

 [Halloween pj's; Trunk-or-Treat success; "Uncle Brady is a kitty just like me!"; our version of holiday baking.]

Halloween arrived.
We did a Halloween "project", where Carly started to say all the things were scary so I drew happy faces on all of them. I tried to pull off some festive food. And we went to the grocery store. Doesn't get scarier than that.

Halloween night we went Trick-or-Treating with friends. It was a very cold night, so the dads stayed inside with the babies and we went up and down the street. Carly would go to the front door and hang back until EVERY kid had gotten their candy, I mean, it had to be completely clear before she'd go up. I wish she'd show that kind of patience at home! After every house, Carly would show me her bag and say, "Look, I got candy!" and then she'd say, "I'm sure having a fun time trick-or-treating!" I sure had a fun time just watching her.

[cat, Super Why, and octopus; waiting patiently; showing me her spoils; love my kitty.]

We warmed up afterwards at our friend's house, eating caramel apples and caramel corn. We came home to baths and a too-late bedtime, and the babies proceeded to sleep through the night and Carly slept  in until 9:30.

We'll call it a success.

Happy [belated] Halloween!