Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sneaky Sneaky

If I had to pick which one of my boys is the sneakiest, you can rest assured that Ben would not be the first to come to mind. I wouldn't actually call any of them "sneaky," but Mitchell does enjoy attempting to jump out and scare me (and has actually succeeded a time or two - remember my hair-drying story?)

So I was fairly surprised the other day when Ben brought up the subject of my squeaky step. This is how the conversation went down:

Ben: Hey mom, did you know we have one squeaky step on the stairs?
Me: Yes, but I didn't realize you did.
Ben: Oh yeah, I know exactly which step it is because when I'm sneaking around, I know to step over that step. It is so squeaky! If I step on it, you would know I was coming in an instant!
Me: Why are you sneaking around?
Ben: Oh you know, sometimes I just need to get around without anyone knowing where I am.
Me: Really?
Ben: Sure! I'm getting pretty sneaky, you know...

Hmm... I had better step up my game a bit here or I am going to have two boys jumping out at me from around corners, under tables, behind couches, and, apparently, down well-navigated stairs too!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

He May Have Just Made It

To tell you the truth, if I had actually planned on having a third child, I would have wanted a little boy still, but would have attempted to have him a bit sooner. My bigger boys are less than two years apart, while Jack trails Jack by 2 years, 9 months. I realize that is still fairly close, but when I see the bond the big boys have and then see how babyish Jack still is, I often wonder if he will ever have quite the same connection to his brothers as they obviously have with each other.

Jack may have just made the cut though. I know all families are different and age isn't always a factor, but this is just the way I think. My worries are constantly put to rest when I see them like this:

Now mind you: Jack is no movie watcher. He doesn't quite appreciate the humor of Mega Mind, nor does he feel the need to actually sit still, but he does love being sandwiched between his big brothers. After a few attempts to get them sitting together, I finally figured out the reason it wasn't working was because I wasn't allowing Jack to sit where he wanted: in between his brothers. Once we got the seating arrangement settled, Jack actually stayed there for longer than I've ever seen him sit in one place without food.

The situation soon developed into rambunctiousness, but all three of them loved that.

Jack is such a little instigator. When things need livening up, he sticks his finger up Ben's nose. If Mitchell ignores him for long enough, he will lift his shirt and flub his belly. Not getting enough attention? Here! Take a finger to the eyeball! Jack may be a few more months behind than I would have chosen, but he certainly doesn't care. He will be a part of the pack, whether they like it or not!

And they love it...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Can Do It Myself!

I am a huge fan of my boys doing things for themselves... in theory, that is. The big boys can easily dress themselves and get their own shoes on. They can even tie their own laces, but so often, it is just so much easier to help them with these things. They are so slow sometimes!

So now that Jack is at the point where he not just prefers, but insists on feeding himself, I find myself trying to stifle this progress. Would I love it if he neatly and quietly used his fork and spoon to lift small bites from his bowl to his mouth? Of course! What I don't love are his methods for getting the food to his mouth: holding a spoon in one hand, but using the other for squishing the oatmeal through his fingers, rubbing applesauce in his hair, opening up his sandwich and sticking it to his face, and stuffing as much food down into his lap as possible.

The problem with Jack is that he insists on being allowed to feed himself. He does not want to be fed every again. While I do try to stick to finger foods and other things he can more easily eat on his own, he does eat whatever we eat for dinner, and chili is just one of those things he can't manage very well! When he and I disagree over who will do the feeding, there is always a fight, and since I am the mom, I have to win and sometimes, we have to actually put dinner away and let him sit without anything for a while before we try again my way. He has even chosen to go without food at all rather than allow me to feed him.

His independence and determination are to be commended. I love that he wants to do things for himself. I just have to figure ways to slow it just a tad, as he is not quite as accomplished at... well, anything as he thinks he is!

Staying Connected

As my newest relocation is quickly approaching, I am thinking a lot about friends and loosing contact with them over time, as is inevitable with most friendships in the end. I have recently realized, however, that over this last winter, I hardly actually saw in person any of them anyways! With brutal weather, school schedules, sick kids, and other plans, socially hanging out with people the way I could when Ben was a baby was just not a possibility.

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that eventually, I will just get blog updates every few days from everyone I know, telling me all about daily life, funny stories, disgusting messes, crazy kids, loving husbands...

When else have moms gotten to talk so much without interruption? I tell you, if all you blogging moms are anything like me, your husband can't truly pay attention to you when you are answering his question of "How was your day?" because you loose him in the first, mundane sentence; but write it down on your blog and he will laugh his you-know-what off!

Nothing replaces getting together at the park with your kids or getting a cup of coffee together. Knowing a friend is near by and would be there for you in person should you need them is irreplaceable. A computer is not a friend and anyone who invests all their energy into their FB or blogosphere (did I just make that word up or is it a real word?) relationships is not doing the work required of them as a relational human being. It is certainly not a substitute.

But after I have spent most of my energy out there being "the new girl" yet again and feeling frustrated and annoyed at beginning more relationships yet again (which does not come naturally to me!), and finding a social life for myself and my whole family, I will open my computer to the comfort of reading your blogs and keeping up so easily with your lives. I will miss you, but I'll be watching you!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Important Discoveries

While Jack is constantly adding new words to his vocabulary, he has made four new discoveries lately that have led to some important new words.

Discovery #1: The pile of dirt and dust in front of my broom

While I like that Jack loves me to sweep, I don't love why he loves it. If I ever can't get Jack to follow me, all I would need to do is get out my broom and he'd come running! He just loves that pile of dirt I sweep up! He wants to dance in it and stomp on it. He wants to pick it up and inspect it. He wants to pick bits of food out of it and eat it. He wants to re-spread it throughout the house. This discovery has led to his new word: "dirties." "Dirties" is what I am sweeping up and what he points at right before he pounces.

Discovery #2: His pockets

Jack is almost as obsessed with "treasures" as Mitchell is, but is far less discriminating when it comes to what he considers a treasure. His favorite treasure right now is rocks. He will search the playground over for all rocks. He loves the size that fills his hand but are not heavy. Another reason he loves this size rock is because it fits perfectly in his sweatshirt pocket. He discovered his pockets when I pointed them out as an alternative to stuffing his treasures down my shirt. He now runs around the playground, picking up rocks, yelling "pocket!" as he fills them.

Discovery #3: Some things do not taste nice

While he still likes to put most things in his mouth for a taste, he is finally discovering that not all things are tasty, hence the new word, "yuckies." This word is usually accomplished by quite a bit of spitting and drooling and funny faces.

Discovery #4: He does have a mom!

I finally have a name! No longer am I just whined at or climbed upon or chased around as if I am no more important and deserving of a name than the couch or stairs. I am not called "daddy" anymore or just smiled at with his toothy smile. He finally discovered that my name is "mama!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sneaking In A Little Change

How many "do-overs" do you get in life? Really, how many times do you, as an adult, get to completely start over - change your attitudes, what kind of parent you are, what kind of Christian you are, what kind of wife/husband you are, what kind of friend you are, what kind of house-keeper you are, what kind of worker you are... ?

For me, it is difficult to change mid-stride. I have people who know me and know how I operate. They know my attitudes and how I handle situations and my style of life. A drastic change in any area invokes questioning and explaining and discomfort. It is tough to change right in front of your friends and family. They know you too well.

What you need to facilitate change more easily is to completely change everything!

Now, it just so happens, I am an expert at changing things up dramatically. It appears I am incapable of living anywhere for more than 2 years. Move number 7 since I married, coming right up!

Now, I am tempted to be sad. Other than the brutal winters, I have absolutely loved Chicago. My friends here are amazing. My neighborhood brings me happiness. I love my neighbors and the streets around me. While I was hoping to move up in the housing department soon, I was not planning on going farther than a few blocks: I do just love these surrounding streets. I love the boys' school and I love how close I am to it. I love that my neighbors and I trade kids for grocery trips and I love that I know almost everyone at the playground in the afternoons. I love this city and I love my life here. I will miss almost everything about my life here - the TERRIBLE winters I have experienced will NOT be missed...

While I am tempted to be sad, there really is a part of me that thrills to the idea of moving. Seriously, when else do you get such an amazing chance to begin again? No one knows me where I am going. No one knows my bad habits or complacent attitudes. No one will hold me accountable or ask questions if I suddenly change things up! I can be a better person and no will ever know that I haven't always been this amazing!

I can't let this opportunity slip through my fingers and take the easiest, most comfortable route, which is to continue on exactly as I am now, just in a bigger city. That said, I won't let Matt read my notes on the subject either, for fear that he will actually hold me accountable to my intended changes!

Just In Time!

Ben has just gotten to the age where privacy is a concept he understands and nudity can be embarrassing at times; but Jack is still oblivious to the idea of modesty.

This evening, after I had stripped Jack down for his bath, I remembered that I had picked up an item at the grocery store for a neighbor but forgot to get it to her. As I knew it was part of her dinner plans, I felt I should get it to her before dinner. Now do I really need to redress my baby to walk a carton of sour cream down the block a few houses? No? I didn't think so.

So off we went: Ben on his scooter, Mitchell holding the sour cream, and me holding a very naked and very happy with his freeing nudity Baby Jack.

We delivered the sour cream to our friend, who was quite surprised and amused to see us with a naked little boy, and made it home just in time! Anyone with a naked child under 2 years will see where I am going with this: Not 5 seconds after I set him down on his feet inside the door, he straightened up tall, said "pee pee" and hosed down my kitchen chair.

I'm just glad he is not only showing signs of being aware of his bodily functions (perhaps an early end to diapers forever is in sight???), but, more importantly, that he didn't hose down me while I was holding him!

The big boys got a kick out of it, at least...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cardboard Cut-Outs and Life-Sized Dolls

Have you ever been startled or downright frightened by someone not doing anything scary but simply sitting or standing in a place you least expected them?

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a room for us all to play in. It was a great room, but to get there, you had to race through a dark and spooky part of the house, then up equally dark and spooky stairs before you could turn the light on. Once we got to the top of the stairs and were in the room, we'd then turn the light on, and for a little while, jump right out of our pants. Someone had placed a life-sized cardboard man right at the top! Even after a few times and we knew he was there, he still scared us into giggles!

Matt and I had a similar experience this last week while looking at houses. We were wandering around someone's home with our realtor, pleased with everything and feeling quite happy and comfortable picturing our own family within its walls. We were just beginning our inspection of the second floor and peaking into the first bedroom when Matt yelled, jumped backwards, and swore all at once! I was only a second behind him and mimicked the exact same reaction when I caught up with him!

There was a life-sized doll sitting in a chair, facing the door, just staring at us! She had a dazed, spaced-out look to be sure, but to the unsuspecting visitor, she looked real all right! I can't help but think that family set her up like that on purpose to spice up the house-hunting process a bit.

The fact that the realtor was in the hallway quietly chuckling rather than rushing to our aid betrayed the fact that he was already aware of this doll but gave us no warning.

Once our pulses slowed a bit, we were able to resume our tour of the house, but were a bit more cautious entering rooms from then on. We are thinking of telling the owners we would love to have their house, but only if the scary she-doll stays.

Dude Style

I am surrounded by males in my house, so naturally, there are things I prefer not to be done that make sense to me, a female, but don't seem to be so black and white for the rest of my family. I have learned that when I am the only one who thinks a rule or a style of doing something makes sense or is the best way, the alternative gets called "dude style."

Some examples of dude style:
Drinking milk out of the carton
Going outside in the cold or rain with no jacket
Riding bikes with no helmet
Not washing hands before meals
Sleeping with as little clothes on as possible

When I ask Mitchell if he would like to get his jacket on before we go pick up Ben at school, he replies, "Nah... I'll just go 'dude style'."

When I ask Ben where his pajamas are and why he woke up almost naked in the morning: "I was hot so I slept 'dude style'."

"I couldn't reach a cup, so I drank some milk 'dude style'!"

I'm sure I am missing out on many things by not having any other little females in my family, but my dudes sure do seem like the perfect fit for me as a mother. I do have to admit, "dude style" does seem the way to go sometimes...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

For My Mom

I can't tell you how many times I have wondered, "How did my mom do it?" I have one less child than she does, and I don't work from home, yet I find myself wondering how anyone could handle more than I do sometimes. My mom did.

Mom, you fed us, clothed us, drove us to school. You kept us clean and saw that we did our chores. You showed us how to work hard and make sacrifices for your family.

You braided my hair every Saturday night so my hair would be pretty on Sunday mornings. You made amazing dresses for me for Easter Sunday. You were always on my side when my skirts were "too short" at school. You taught me to cook and how to take care of the entire kitchen from start to finish. You made me my own cook book full of your own hand-written recipes which I couldn't do without. You saved things from my childhood that you treasured and thought I would one day treasure myself. You wrote down all the silly or funny things I did and said.

I may not always do things the same way you did them when your kids were younger, but your ways are always on my mind, weighing in on my decision-making processes. My life is different than yours was when I was the age my children are now, but we have so much in common still as mothers. I am the good mother I am today because I was taught by you what a great mother is! I love you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

One Thing I Will Miss

If you read my blog, you know by now that I am not one to get sentimental over my babies. I never wish for infancy to last longer. I never think or say "they are just growing up too fast!" I never wish for time to freeze and my children to stay little.

If anything, I tend to push progress. Although a pretty easy-going and laid-back person in general, I fear my kids are on to me and will take advantage of that if I am not purposeful about what I expect of them. Just yesterday, I almost had a tired Mitchell in tears (not a feat easily accomplished!) because of some homework he couldn't (I suspect wouldn't) do.

Should I defend my love for my small children here so that you don't think me a terrible person? Nah... You know me by now.

I do have to admit though, what got me going on this post was the sound coming from Jack's room early this morning as he woke from a long night's sleep. I just love it. Although a man of only a few real words, he sure has a lot to say! I love how he wakes up and just gets right to the talking. He lays in there for some time just babbling. It almost sounds like a real conversation that he is busy having with his stuffed dog and blankie, if only it were in English...

Experience with the other two boys who went through this adorable stage tells me that when his real words do replace his constant stream of babble, the talking to himself for long periods will come to an end and he will want/need someone to talk to. I love this phase.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's For Lunch?

I had the delightful opportunity to chaperone on Mitchell's class field trip yesterday. While certainly challenging and sometimes frustrating to be surrounded by that many pre-schoolers (it was two classes combined), the humor sprouting up everywhere more than made up for the fact that none of them can line up and stay in a line for more than 3 seconds, the class rule: no fingers in yours or anyone else's noses is only harder to enforce the harder to try, pushing each other is as natural as breathing, silliness is as contagious as yawning, they REFUSE to go the bathroom in groups but need to go the moment you come back with the last kid, and they are even worse at remembering names than I am! By the end of the trip, I had resigned myself to answering to "You! Hey, you!" and "Mitchell's mom!" and "Hey, lady!"

While funny things were constantly being done and said (like the little boy I sat near on the bus who had a whole list of great questions like "What do camels sound like?" and "Why are killer whales called 'killers'?" and "Can killer whales eat 100 baby seals?"), the funniest time for me was lunch time.

You should have seen the excitement when they all sat down to eat. For most of these kids who get home from school long before lunch time, this was their first experience bringing a lunch with them to school and they were just crazy about it! They were unpacking every item, opening each thing, taking a look at it, then sampling each thing before adding it to the pile in front of them. They were comparing their loot and attempting to trade. They were showing off their napkins. Each kid wanted to show me and talk about each item his mom gave him, which was difficult given the kid to adult ratio, but I tried to listen to them!

It wasn't just funny how the kids reacted to lunch. It was also humorous to see what each mom sent with her kid. These little 3 and 4 year olds had whole sandwiches full of all sort of nutritious things, which would have been enough to fill my adult belly! One kid had a bagel almost as big as his head. Another kid had a picture of his mom in his paper bag. A little girl had quite the diverse selection of deli meats and cheeses all sliced and put in separate baggies. My favorite though, was the boy who brought a gigantic bottle of orange juice. He opened it up, took out three straws from his bag, put them in, then tipped the bottle up to drink out of it (why did he put straws in it? I don't know...) and missed his mouth. The juice dumped all down the front of him and puddled in his t shirt in his lap. I made him stand up then and the puddle splatted on the ground. So much for his giant bottle of OJ... Shucks.

We had a blast, but it was quite a long day for the kids (and me!) and by the time the bus came back for us, we were all very ready. You might think worn out preschoolers would fall asleep on the ride home, but no, I believe the bus ride was their favorite part and NOT something to be slept through! Driving along Lakeshore Drive in a big, yellow school bus would have been enough for these kids. We could have just done that, I think!

What a fun age when everything is an adventure, mud is the best thing ever, a big, bumpy, squeaky school bus brings you delight, silly faces make you laugh 'till your tummy hurts, and you are allowed to walk around with your finger in your nose and come out of the bathroom stall with your pants still around your ankles...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Missing: One Red Shoe

I am a HUGE fan of Converse Chuck Taylors for my boys. In fact, every member of my family has a pair and we wear them out! We should get paid to wear them, we are so stinkin' cute in them!

I try not to buy too much for my littlest boy, as he truly does have all he needs and more handed down from his older brothers, but when I discovered that his shoes were a bit tight a few weeks ago and the next pair I had waiting for him to grow into were way too big, I immediately bought him his very own pair of little Chuck Taylors - bright red!

I put them on him every day. They are the cutest thing ever and I smile every time I see them. Jack (with his weird shoe obsession) carries them everywhere when he isn't wearing them. He fills them with toys and rocks and plays with the laces. Money well spent.

Yesterday though, I went to get them to put them on them and one was missing. No big deal - that is quite common. Jack carries shoes all over the house and has his favorite hiding places for them - my kitchen cupboards, under the couch, in Mitchell's bed, in the secret closet...

But after checking all these places, I found no missing little red shoe and I had to really start thinking "outside the box" for unusual places a small shoe could hide. I searched EVERYWHERE! I looked in toilets and trash cans and opened every drawer. I looked under beds and on all bookshelves. I broadened my search to include the backyard and garage, the car and even the garbage bins. I upped the stakes a bit by promising $1 reward to any boy who found the run away shoe. Even after the promise of money wore off for the boys and they gave up, I continued my search, mostly now motivated by my need to discover what in the world happened to this shoe!

I had almost given up hope and truly searched everywhere more than once, when I decided to check one last place that i hadn't given quite thorough enough of an examination. I have a lidded basked that holds all the boys' winter hats (since I make them myself, they have A LOT of winter hats and they take up an entire basket...) I dug my hands down in it and didn't feel anything but soft, yarn-made hats. As I began to shut the lid once more, my good sense got the better of me this time and I re-opened the basket. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, right? I began to theatrically toss hat after hat out of the basket, almost enjoying my frustrated childishness and making such a mess in my search that no one but myself would clean up. I got to the bottom of the basket, with dozens of hats now on the ground, when... I found it! There was that little red shoe, at the very bottom of our winter hat basket!

This was no accident. Someone purposely burried it here. I shouted with triumph and ran into the living room to show off my victory to my family! Mitchell saw that shoes, heard where I found it, and said, "Hey, I put that there! I hid it in the hat box!"

You.. little... stinker... I honestly searched off and on ALL DAY for that shoe. That little red shoe that you hid and then forgot about, even though we were ALL searching for it; even though I promised you a whole dollar for its return! Oh, Mitchell...


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