Monday, December 29, 2014

A Year in Review: 2014


Chris and Erin welcome 2014 by announcing the new job at WSU. The Polar Vortex sends Michigan into deep deep deep deep snow. The Frozen soundtrack plays over and over, making long days that much longer. Erin and the kids play outside on a "warm" day, only to notice it is 11 degrees. Chris dissertates.


Chris takes the kids to his parents for a weekend to collect dissertation subjects. Erin spends her alone time throwing things away, watching the Olympics, and enjoying a Netflix marathon of Bomb Girls. Quinn and John turn 2 and everyone wonders how its only been two years. Chris dissertates.


Everyone loses their minds over the Polar Vortex that WONT. END. The family makes a trip to Chicago with grandma. They ride the train, go to the Aquarium, and see the sights. It is all sorts of fun and all sorts of crazy and Chris and Erin vow to never go to a big city with small children again. Chris dissertates.


Chris and Erin take Carly to Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago Cubs. She gets a batting practice ball and a $9 hot dog. Then the game starts. Erin takes her for a walk by the second inning. Erin makes her grandpa's divine carrot cake on Easter. Chris dissertates. 


Erin forces Chris to pretend to graduate so she can take pictures of him in his doctorate hood. Chris turns 31. Quinn loves her "butt", also known as a "bike". John cries a lot, as he does not have a "butt" of his own. Carly is traumatized by t-ball. Chris and Erin fly to Washington and have two days to find a house to buy. They find it on day one. Chris dissertates.


PACKING BOXES ALL THE DAYS. The family makes their final visit to Lake Michigan. Chris and Erin reach 8 years of marriage but no one remembers because . . . . Chris dissertates.


Chris defends his dissertation. The heavens open. Angels sing. Erin and the kids take off, crying as they leave Lansing. They enjoy an extended Idaho vacation while Chris is left to do dissertation revisions, pack the truck, and clean the apartment (with lots of wonderful helpers). Chris makes the cross-country trek solo while listening to Harry Potter audio books.


The family arrives in their new home of Pullman, Washington. Carly turns 5 in the midst of piles of boxes. Erin experiences culture shock and intense Target withdrawal. Chris starts a new job. Carly starts a new school. Mike the painter is practically a 6th family member. 


Erin eats her feelings and begins the journey to gaining 10 lbs (you think I'm joking). Carly is traumatized by Montessori school. The family picks apples from their apple tree. John and Quinn are two and a half and finally start speaking in full sentences. 


The dust begins to settle as everyone finds a groove. Carly likes school. Chris likes his job. Erin turns 28. Both sets of grandparents visit. The house is coming together and feeling like home. The kids make the cutest trio of Trick-or-Treaters. The only thing wrong in the world is Erin's lack of access to a cider slushy from the Cider Mill in Charlotte, MI. 


Quinn potty trains like a boss. John doesn't. The family heads over the river and through the Montana mountains to Mimi's house for Thanksgiving. Erin spends the Thanksgiving feast doubled over with food poisoning. Chris experiences norovirus flashbacks and brings Erin constant glasses of water to avoid another ambulance ride. 


The family celebrates their first Christmas in their new home. Santa finds them and even manages to squeeze down the very skinny chimney. Chris and Erin end the year in a new home, with a new job, settling into a whole new phase of life. But they are overwhelmed with gratitude for all that happened in 2014, and love the three little people they shared it with.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December days.

There seems to be a trend these days of life going by way too fast.
December has been no exception.
Now Christmas is just days away and 2015 is around the corner.

We kicked off our holly jolly Christmas by picking out the perfect Christmas tree at a local tree lot. Professionals tied it on our roof this time around, so Chris and I didn't have to climb through our car windows. We took it home and gave it a prime spot in our living room. We've been decorating and undecorating and redecorating it ever since, in various states of dress and undress.

We've been decking our halls. We are so excited to be spending our first Christmas in our first house. Lights, wreaths, and stockings have been hung. We have had a wonderfully mild December, so Chris was able to get up on the roof after we returned from Thanksgiving and put lights up. After about a minute on the roof he grumbled, "Now I know why my dad hated doing this so much." He was nice to do it for me, because our first year in a house could not pass without lights lining the roof. Our home feels so cozy and festive. The presents under the tree are frequently explored and inspected, and occasionally used as building blocks.

The second weekend in December we headed down to the Tri-Cities area for my aunts wedding. The day before the wedding we met up with our dear Michigan friends who live in the area. It was so fun to see Cameron and Camilla and their sweet girls after exactly two years apart. We joked with them when they moved that we would follow them to the PNW, and it is pretty great that it actually happened. After torturing our Red Robin waitress with five small children and four chatty parents, we headed to see my running buddy Jessica and her kids in her new house. After the years of schooling, it is wonderful (and crazy) that we now where we always talked about wanting to be. Friday night we stayed at a hotel, went swimming, had a picnic dinner, and collapsed exhausted into bed.

Saturday morning was wedding day. It was a warm and sunny day, and my aunt, Janell, and her new husband Mickael were incredibly beautiful. It was so fun to be there, to see family, and to take my kids to my grandparents house for the first time. It was a quick visit, but hopefully we can return soon. I have so many wonderful childhood memories in that house. It was a fun family weekend getaway, and the kids slept the whole way home.

The rest of our December days have been filled with general Christmas cheer. Lots of hanging out in Christmas jammies, or swimsuits, and reading Christmas books, watching Christmas movies, and doing Christmas projects. We have been the benefactors of anonymous friends doing the "12 Days of Christmas." Every night we get a new surprise on our door. I applaud their endurance, as it makes me tired just thinking about it. But they have supplied me with several crafts for the kids, decorations, tinsel the kids put on the tree, and a star-shaped basket that perfectly fit my most-played Christmas CD's. Our December wouldn't have been nearly as Christmasy without them.

We had some friends over for our graham cracker house building get-together. Quinn requested a beach, which was perfectly two-dimensional. The winner of the night, however, was probably Hogwarts, complete with Hagrid's hut, womping willow, and the giant squid in The Great Lake. One tradition that I was sad didn't work out this year was going to the Nutcracker. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas time, but the only production in our little town was on a Sunday. I'll have to work harder to find one nearby next year. But I did manage to take ballet-obsessed Quinn on a mommy-daughter date to the local ballet company's winter recital. Quinn was absolutely mesmerized by the whole thing and was talking excitedly the whole time. One-on-one time is pretty rare right now, so it was so sweet to share that with her.

But one of my favorite little moments this year came last week during our Family Home Evening. We watched the video The Coat, which brings me to tears all the time. It is perfect for kids, and during it our three had very concerned faces, Quinn in particular. We talked about how a lot of people don't have as much as we do, and headed to the store to pick out toys to donate to a local charity. Quinn picked out a puppy that wiggled and barked when you tickled its chin. She loved that puppy. When it was time to give it away, she held on tight with the saddest little eyes, begging me to keep it. I reminded her about the boy who didn't have a coat, and told her how some kids don't have presents under their tree like she does. She thought for a minute, then placed the puppy in the donation basket with a big proud smile on her face. We are imperfect parents, but I pray we can teach our kids to feel the happiness that comes with thinking outside yourself and giving to others.

Carly had a fun-filled December at school. I appreciated the way her school handled the holidays. In Michigan, Carly had a generic "Winter Holiday Party" which I understood as trying to be politically correct. But instead of pretending all these holidays don't exist, Carly's school embraced the diversity. They talked about different countries and cultures and how they celebrate. They made it a learning opportunity so the kids could understand and appreciate differences in one another. During the month they celebrated the festival of St. Nicholas and St. Lucia, lit a Menorah, learned the words to Feliz Navidad, and rode the Polar Express in their pajamas. I don't expect schools to teach my child about the birth of Christ, that is my responsibility, but I loved that instead of banishing all, they embraced all.   

Our last festivity before the main event was a cruise to the North Pole. We headed to Couer d'Alene and took a boat to see Santa and a holiday light display. It was a fun adventure for the kids, and we had a great time as a family, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Chris and I joked that it reminded us a little too much of the "booze cruise" episode of the Office. That being said, watching the sun set on the water and hearing our kids squeal as their names were read off the "Nice List" made it pretty sweet. And Carly declared it "the best day of my whole life", so we'll call it a success.

We are ready for Santa. Quinn has been traumatized by Santa a few times. He came to our ward Christmas party and we've seen him driving through neighborhoods twice, and each time she sadly asks why he hasn't brought her Sophia dress yet. Now Christmas Eve is almost here, and if the sparkles all over my closet are any indication, she'll be getting that longed-for Sophia dress.

This season has gone by too quickly. I'm not ready for it to be over, not ready to surrender my Celine Dion Christmas CD, not ready to take down the tree. We'll be soaking up every minute of this week. Because it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

how to potty train a twin.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out why November was such a blur, and then I remembered . . . potty training! Potty training wins the award for "Most likely to make a Mormon mom start doing Vodka shots." I have been putting it off, and I really had no intention of trying until after their third birthday. But for the past several months they have been showing the "signs" of readiness. When Quinn starting requesting diaper changes every time she was wet, I decided to pull the trigger. I started the Monday after Halloween, figuring we'd be far enough along to be able to enjoy the Christmas season. I made charts, they picked undies, and a jar was filled with Skittles. 

Let us go back in time 3 years and reminisce on potty training Carly. Potty training Carly was miserable. 1) I read the booklet about potty training your kid in three days. They made it sound like you could actually potty train a kid in three days. They recommended you have your kid be naked on the bottom and ask them every 2.7 second if they have to pee while not going anywhere ever. I put so much pressure on myself and on her, I wasn't sure Carly and I would ever be friends again. It took a lot of forgiveness on both ends. 2) I was in the third trimester of my twin pregnancy. My girth and intense hip pain and never ending nausea just made scrubbing pee out of the carpet 8 times a day not that much fun.

I had a better plan this time. Number one: don't be pregnant. Check. Number two: expect it to take a long time. I had a philosophical discovery during the year (yep!) it took to fully potty train Carly: it is a total lifestyle overhaul. All the sudden they have to pay attention to what is going on with their bodies. And not just notice, but take action. Its no easy feat. When you teach a kid to walk you don't just set him on his feet and give him three days. No, he starts with walking toys and scoots along the couch and then takes one step from mom to dad and then after a long learning process, he learns to walk. Its a life change. And so is learning to use the potty. My plan was to give them time. Number three: don't put myself on lockdown. It just wasn't going to happen. First, Carly goes to school every day. Second, I like my sanity, and I wasn't willing to lose it. We had potty training "sessions". They wore panties (poor John calls his superhero underwear "panties". One in a long list of hazards of only having sisters.) whenever we were at home, and I put a pull-up on them to leave the house. 

One thing I noticed right away was involving Carly was a must. She loves owning her big sisterhood, and helping them learn something big like this was very exciting for her. Mostly because she is type-A and likes leading the way. Also, I quickly discovered the problem with potty training twins was the same problem as anything else with twins: there are two of them. I would be sitting with one twin in the bathroom and the other one would be in the living room peeing on the carpet. So I had Carly sit in the bathroom and watch for signs of pee. She would cheer them on and help them wipe and show them how to wash their hands. She was a real lifesaver.

So how did it go? Let's start with Quinn. Wouldn't you know it, Quinn was potty trained in about three days. Who needs a book when you have a Quinn!? This girl, my peaceful newborn when her brother had colic, by sweet baby when her brother was always screaming. This angel girl figured out that potty so quick. She was very motivated, primarily by underwear. Big sister has awesome underwear with princess and flowers and strawberries on it, and Quinn would look at that underwear longingly. Quinn got Dora and Rapunzel panties and nothing was coming between her and wearing those panties. She had the normal expected accidents in the first days, but by the end of the week I took her to the library in panties and she stayed dry. The next week we went on a family day trip to Lewis/Clarkston and she stayed dry. At the end of the month we drove to Idaho and she stayed dry for a five hour driving stretch! She still has an accident once in a while when she gets so busy playing that she doesn't want to stop. The fact that she is always wearing a big princess dress and/or a ballet leotard has also caused some problems. But there have been so many times she stops what she is doing and yells "Me go pee pee!" and runs to the bathroom. The last few days she has been kicking me out and going all by herself, just like big sissy. Today she nudged me and said "Go out please, mommy." You don't have to tell me twice.

The most shocking thing of all was on day two. We were playing and she stands up and says "Me go poo poo!" and runs to the bathroom. She sits on the toilet and goes poo poo. I was bewildered. You mean she wasn't going to be so afraid of pooping on the toilet that she would go 5 days refusing to poop and end up curled up on the couch in intense pain holding it in until we gave her children's laxatives? Because that is what big sister did. She'd hold it in and it would make her sick and crazy moody, like a 15-year-old on her period. I kid you not, we affectionately called it "poop PMS". It took her months to go on the toilet, and longer still to do it consistently. And Quinn did it on day 2? She's my favorite; don't tell the others.

As for John? My theory on John is that God created him especially cute, pathetic, and endearing so that he would survive. John started to get the general idea of what was going on. But his motives were not pure. He was all about the candy. John is gifted in the ability to pee on demand. He would ask for candy, and I would tell him only if he went potty. So he'd run in there and squeeze out a few tinkles and pocket his winnings. And then 5 minutes later wet himself all over. Where did that pee come from? It was against the laws of nature. He got that he was supposed to pee while sitting on the toilet, he just did not grasp staying dry. He is just too lackadaisical. The other issue was splitting my time. Quinn was doing well, so I switched focus to John and Quinn started struggling. I had to pick, and since Quinn was almost there, I focused on her. I stuck with it with John for three weeks. When we left town for Thanksgiving he went to full-time pull-ups because I didn't want him having accidents all over my parents house. And now he is in pull-ups the same way he was in diapers, more or less. He does ask to go a few times a day, but his pull-up is always wet. Now I feel like this time of year is so hectic, and the parts that aren't hectic I want to enjoy, so I've kind of eased up and will come back fully energized after Christmas. Fingers crossed this plan doesn't backfire.

So if you're wondering why this post is "How to potty train a twin" rather than "How to potty train twins", it is because I don't know how to potty train twins. I am 1 for 2. But, hey, that is 50%. 50% off is quite the sale, and batting .500 is unheard of in the major leagues. John will get it. Just like sleeping through the night and learning to walk, he'll probably do it 6 months later than he should have. Ever since Quinn's water breaking forced him to be born before he was ready, he's always been on his own time table. He'll get it. I can wait for him.

Is it crazy that I miss diapers? I do. I have changed a ridiculous number of diapers in the last three years, but diapers are easy. You never have to drop everything and run across a store and cover a public toilet in toilet paper and plop your kid on at just the last second when they're in diapers. But I do love patting Quinn's tiny little girl bum. And I do love watching her furrow her brow, intensely deciding which pair of panties to wear. And I do love the proud smiles she gives me when she goes potty all by herself. As a mother, it is always bittersweet to watch them grow. You miss them being what they were, but your heart soars with what they are becoming. 

We survived round two of potty training without having developed any drinking habits. Fingers crossed for when we do John (again). 

Monday, December 8, 2014

thanks and giving.

I have no idea where November went.
But I wanted to write a few things about it before it is too far gone.

My life feels like a strange combination of out-of-control and perfectly settled. My kids are busy. John and Quinn are approaching three years old, and they are non-stop. There is a never ending stream of requests. I regularly find myself simultaneously playing trucks with John, ordering ice cream from Carly's ice cream shop, and reading Quinn book after book. I don't know how other mothers keeps up. I don't keep up. I'm always getting my trash-kicked in one facet or another. But we have a happy home and a happy life, so I'll accept the piles of laundry and unmade beds.

Carly is s superb school girl. She currently loves math activities. She finished the "hundred board" (a Montessori milestone), and is now moving on to counting chains, where they count by 4, 5, 6, and so on. It was so fun to see her finish the hundred board, as she had always talked about it in an intimidated way. She is also working on the early stages of reading. Her favorite thing is imaginative games. She could play pretend all day. At parent-teacher conferences her teacher even mentioned she occasionally has to reign in her imagination when it gets in the way of work. There could be worse problems. Carly leads J and Q on pirate ships, though jungles, and opening their own businesses and libraries. It is so fun to watch them play.

Quinn loves ballerinas. She loves wearing her "pink tutu and dance black shoes!" and twirling around the living room. True to prima ballerina form, she is also quite the little drama queen when she doesn't get her way. She loves books. She loves dressing up. She loves sweets. She loves her sister and she loves her brother. She is a chatter. She will tell you a big long stressed-out story and the only way you'll understand is if you speak Quinnish. She's still a mama's girl, and her little arms squeezing tight around my neck is a feeling I never want to stop.

John is becoming an increasingly good talker, too. I write this every time, I feel, but he is a sweet boy who also happens to be a total stinker. He is discovering how to bug his sisters. He'll take a favorite object and hold it high and squeal "wooohooo!" He thinks gross body sounds are funny (is that inborn in boys?!). Every time he passes a man hole he says "Ninja Turtles in there!" While the twins don't nap regularly anymore John has been wearing himself out lately. He falls asleep on the way to get Carly from school and now has quite the reputation among the other moms for sleeping anywhere. I take him in asleep and he sleeps on the bench while all the kids come out. We even went to the book fair the other day and he slept through the whole thing crumpled up on the tile floor. We're classy like that.

As J and Q approach their third birthday they are looking like they will follow in Carly's footsteps with being much harder three-year-olds than two-year-olds. They are constantly demanding attention and throwing fits if they don't get to do what they want, like chopping things with a sharp knife, for example. They team up to get into mischief, and its so hard not to laugh right in front of them. They are a hilarious duo.

Our November was so fast, I felt like I didn't get to grasp the feelings of gratitude I usually try to focus on. But through a coincidence that wasn't really a coincidence, I witnessed giving and the Lord's hand in the little things.

A while before Thanksgiving I went to a meeting for my calling. As the group divided into smaller groups, I realized there wasn't a group for my specific calling, which is a Humanitarian aid worker assigned as a liaison to local food banks. At this meeting, I ended up with food storage specialists. I had the urge to sneak out, but decided to stay for information for my own family. I sat next to a woman and casually chatted with her. In our conversation, she told me about a food pantry that needed turkeys. I know that God has His hand in the smallest details, and I couldn't help but think it wasn't a coincidence I was at a meeting I didn't need to be at sitting next to this woman. I contacted the food pantry and they said they needed a large number of turkeys to meet their needs.

The meeting was on a Thursday night. I emailed the sisters in my ward on Friday afternoon. Over the weekend the turkeys came flowing in. I had a trunk full of turkeys by the time I made the delivery on Tuesday morning. I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the women around me. They are examples of giving, and I felt such gratitude to witness it. My heart felt warm as each one was brought to my doorstep. "We have so many turkeys for the people who need them!" Carly squealed. In the ocean of need that exists, our turkeys meant very little. But it reminded me of Elder Holland quoting Mother Teresa when she said that her work was just a drop in the ocean, but without it the ocean would be one less drop. It was such a blessing for me to witness this drop.

We spent Thanksgiving week at my parents house in Idaho. It was so good to be there. We hung out with Mimi and grandpa, went to Target (yay!), saw family members, got suckers from grandpa's bank, and ate at Five Guys. The night before Thanksgiving we had a pizza party with family. I put prosciutto on my pizza that was old but "probably ok," It wasn't ok. That night I got so sick. The food poisoning lasted all night and through the next day, Thanksgiving. I spent the day sick on the couch, not even able to come upstairs. I missed Thanksgiving dinner with my family. It would have made me so sad if I was able to care too much. Mostly I wanted the pain to stop. My good husband kept me hydrated, my parents gave my kids a Thanksgiving dinner they barely ate and let them decorate their Christmas tree, and my kids brought me hugs and smiles. It wasn't the best way to spend Thanksgiving, but it was a sweet reminder of all I have to be thankful for.

The only photo of Thanksgiving 2014.

It was a good November.