"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Saturday, December 31, 2011

animal guesses

Evan and I have a little bedtime ritual. After we read books, we play a game called Animal Guesses. It's pretty self-explanatory: One person thinks of an animal (the more of a "stumper," the better) and provides clues in order for the other person to correctly name the animal. It's a sweet, quiet, thoughtful time that I really love (and I love it all the more because it's a game that Evan "saves" for me....he and Sam don't play it on the nights that Sam reads to him, and when I suggested that he play it with Mom Mom on the rare night that we went out, he said, "Oh, no thanks. That's just a Mommy and Evan game.").

And the kid is really good at it, too. Some of the animals that I've had to figure out recently have included a bandicoot, a proboscis monkey, and a pipefish (the clue that gave this one away was learned in an Animal Dads book we have: "The daddy of this animal has the babies....and it's NOT a seahorse!"). He's getting pretty good at scaffolding his clues, too. He'll start, for instance, by saying that it's a mammal, allowing my guesses to be wildly random like Horse, Elephant, and Fruit Bat. Then he'll narrow it down, finally disclosing the specific fact that we have read about or watched on PBS's Wild Kratts. Occasionally he'll throw me off by providing a clue like, "It's medium-sized-biggish," or "All I can tell you is that it only eats plants. And sometimes meat. But mostly plants......and some meat." And sometimes he forgets that I'm the one he's trying to stump: "It's a reptile. Or an amphibian. Or, wait, what's a newt again?"

Last night, though, he was tired. I can always tell when he's really tired, like, doesn't-get-out-of-bed-even-once-after-I-tuck-him-in tired, because he gives away the answer without even trying to stump me. After correctly guessing my Clouded Leopard in just four clues, Evan yawned and said, "Okay, I have one: it's a longish, snaky animal. And it lives in the Eastern part of the....hmmm? The country? Or World? I don't know, exactly. I just know it lives in an Eastern part. And it has a pattern on it's back that looks like diamonds. And it's got a special rattling tail."  I thought really hard before guessing: "Is it an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake?"

"Man, Mommy," he said, his eyes already closing, "You're getting really good at this game."

Lesson Learned:
THAT. That, I love.

Friday, December 30, 2011

post-christmas

On Christmas morning, Evan ran into our room at about 6:15 (not bad at all) and woke us up with an excited: "Let's go see if Santa ate up his cookies!" .... and maybe brought you millions of new toys? Max, who had started rolling around and talking to his buddies in his crib about five minutes before, was quickly brought up to speed that it was, at last, Christmas morning: "Woohoo!" he cried, "Let's go find Bear Ticklish!" ....uh, he's back at the North Pole with Santa, buddy. Am I the only one who is practically jumping up and down in anticipation of The Discovery Of The Loot??

That all changed, of course, once we rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs. Max first spied his trampoline....

...and stayed right there for most of the morning. In addition to jumping, during which he repeated over and over, "Look! Look! I'm getting bigger and bigger and bigger! I'm JUMPING!" he used the bar as a monkey swing...


...during which he commanded: "Watch me, my family of monkeys! I'm swinging on my monkey swing!" And we all had to, of course, stop what we were doing, watch him swing, and respond, "Ooh Ooh Ooh, Aah Aah! Good swinging, Little Monkey!"

Evan's immediate favorite was the Samurai Ninja Castle. This was a last minute switch on Santa's part, who had originally chosen the Bat Cave for him. At Target, about a week before Christmas, though, Evan ran up to the Samurai castle and started waxing poetic about it's Coolness. I showed him the Bat Cave and casually suggested that it (with it's fully functioning elevator and Top Secret Entrance!) was pretty awesome, too. "Yeah, I guess so," Evan admitted, "but this Ninja castle is...So....So....Cool." So a quick, coded call to Santa's helper later, and the switch was made.


....and I'm so glad we did. He LOVES the thing. It's been the first toy, really, that he'll play with, totally independently, for an extended amount of time. It's pretty amusing to watch him play with it, though...as he has No Idea what a Ninja or a Samurai actually is. He uses the zipline and the glider features...and occasionally the "Samurai Disc Blaster" as a "Pizza Thrower." Other than that, though, there's a lot of: "Can I come into your castle? No, you may not. And if you try, I'll bonk you down with my Ninja Glider! Ah HA HA HA HA!" 

But beyond the first faves, I must say that this was pretty much a Home Run Christmas. EVERYthing was played with....even if it did take Evan about three hours to open each of his gifts.





And, now that we're home from our post-Christmas trip to visit family, we're rediscovering the joys of the Christmas Loot all over again.

And Magic? Yup, there was that.....when Evan opened up THE Police Crane Rescue Truck, he just stared at it for a minute....then turned to me (who was, of course, ready and aiming the camera)...


....and then he said, "Do you think Santa snuck into Target and got this for me?"

Lesson Learned:
We did have our moments of Too Much Holiday, to be sure. Like when Max split his forehead open on the dining room chair during Christmas dinner (and kept a goose egg bruise to show off for the next few days). And the fact that neither boy slept from the hours of 2-4/5 AM either night we spent (all in the same room) at my parents' house. Or that one time (or dozens of times) that there was pouting and/or tears when the Christmas Cookie Quota had been reached for a particular day. And then there was that Oh-No-He-Didn't moment when Evan suggested that I "knock it off." Oh, yes he did. But I have a feeling that'll be the last time he try out that phrase on his Mommy.

But in all, it was the most Wonderful Time of the Year. It was busy, over-sugared, under-rested, over-stimulated, and Everything I hoped it would be.

And now the decorations are all put away, the toys have found their new homes, and I'm ready for a good night's sleep.

Friday, December 23, 2011

the adventures of bear ticklish: the final chapter 2011

I can't believe he leaves us tomorrow.







The following photos were discovered on the camera (which was sitting beside our Elf on the counter, power on, lens cap off) the morning after Evan learned how to use the Timer function on our camera. Turns out, Bear Ticklish was paying attention to the tutorial as well, and wanted to try his hand at Being The Photographer.





Evan said, "Oops! Try again, Bear Ticklish!"


On our final night of Elf Adventures, Bear Ticklish hung on tight to the Stockings To Santa countdown garland. Every morning the boys watch eagerly as Rudolph jumps (with Sam's or my help) one Stocking closer to Santa. Tomorrow morning, they'll find that Bear Ticklish already moved him ahead, in anticipation of the big day.


Lesson Learned:
Oh, Bear Ticklish. We'll miss you little buddy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

maxwell

My Maxwell. My silly, sweet, dance-with-his-whole-body Big Boy. He's changed so much over the past few months. (Almost) Gone are the days when he would run, laughing maniacally over his shoulder, away from me in Target. He asks politely now to get out of the cart with a promise of, "I'll walk gently with you, Mommy," which he always keeps. He's helpful while shopping and patient while we adjust his brother's straps for the 100th time when getting back into the car. I mean, VAN. (And I'd better not forget it.)

Max is confident. He'll often wander away from whatever activity Evan and I are involved in and find his own game, perfectly content to be on his own, yet anxious to return to share with us the funny new game he's come up with. Lately, his favorite is to march around the house waving two three-foot-long dowel rods in the air. (He's my second kid, so I let him. Molly will be juggling flame-throwers when she's two.) While marching and waving poke-someone's-eyes-out sticks, he sings at the top of his lungs, "MarCHING band! MARching band! Marching BAAAANNNDD!" The game, naturally, is called Marching Band.

Sometimes, if Evan is feeling less-than-thrilled to be his audience, Max will create his own cheering section. He "very gently, Mommy, don't worry" carries the Nutcracker collection from the window sill in the dining room to the kitchen floor...


After he lines them up very deliberately, each in their own individual tiles, he continues on with his Marching Band parade circle around and around the kitchen/hallway/dining room loop, with the Nutcrackers enthusiastically applauding his show. This can go on for dozens of minutes at a time. Dozens.

But even when the parade is over, the Nutcrackers remain the favorite toy of late. Max brings them to the coffee table, arranges them just so, and talks to them.


He tells them about Bear Ticklish's latest adventure or what he hopes Santa brings him. (Which, as of yesterday, was "Puzzles, just puzzles," which is unfortunate because I happen to have already wrapped his presents from Santa, and guess how many are puzzles? Right. So, maybe I'll be making an unexpected trip out all by myself between now and Saturday night.) Once, I even overheard him confessing to the Nutcrackers his anxiety over staying with a babysitter for the first time.


I was surprised to hear him say, "It'll be hard, very hard," because I didn't even know he was listening as I talked to Evan about the approaching Night With A Babysitter....because Max wasn't even supposed to know about the Babysitter...he would be in bed before she even arrived...and when the big night arrived, he was--he had no knowledge that she was even here! Several days later, he told the Nutcrackers how much fun he had with Maddy the Babysitter...



But getting back to the puzzles.... This kid is hooked. Now that he's mastered the 24-piece board-puzzles, he takes two out at a time, dumps and scrambles all the pieces together and gets to work sorting and completing the puzzles simultaneously.


I mean, he must be some sort of genius kid to figure out how to create his own problem-solving Challenge Round, right?

And then, in the very next minute, he'll dump all of the balls out of the ball bin, put the ball bin over his head, and walk around the house bumping into walls and furniture...having the time of his life.

My brother said, in the most loving and affectionate way, "He's JUST LIKE the kid from Parenthood."

And he is.

And he just melts me when he greets Evan in the morning with a bear hug and an, "I just love you, Evan." Or when he crawls over to my lap, "opens" my tummy and kisses it with a, "Hiya, baby Molly girl!" Or when he curls up against me while I read to him in his rocking chair, with the binky that he now just uses at sleep time, and reaches up to hold my ear.

My Maxwell. Who is thisclose to becoming a Big Brother, and who will step into that role as he's mastered every other milestone to date: with confidence, ease, and humor. My Maxwell, who is still so little, yet who already knows how to use those big, blue eyes to get me every time. My Maxwell, who is always willing to play Jessie to Evan's Buzz Lightyear...not Woody, not even Lotso, but Jessie, Every Single Time, with no complaints.

Lesson Learned:
My Maxwell, who just woke up from his nap and is calling for me...so this post, for now, is complete.

Monday, December 19, 2011

north african curry

I have been loving curry recently...I'm not sure if it's a true pregnancy craving, I'm not having Sam run out at 9 o'clock at night to pick some up or anything (which I've been known to do for macaroni and cheese and Papa John's breadsticks), but I've been loving it nonetheless. We've had our fill of the mild Thai green curry recipe, though, and I wasn't sure if the boys (or my heartburn) would appreciate spicier Indian curry at the moment, so it was time to expand our culinary map.

I read a bunch of North African Curry recipes on various online recipe finder sites (food.com, allrecipes, etc.) but, of course, failed to bookmark any of them, so when it came time to cook, I had to kind of wing it. It worked, though! So here it is, recorded for all of Internet eternity, so I never have to fail to bookmark it again.

North African Curry

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. pieces
one onion, chopped or sliced
little bit olive oil

cherry tomatoes, quartered
three or four celery stalks, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

spices (all amounts approximate)
*3/4 tsp. cumin
*1/4 tsp. turmeric
*1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*1 tbsp. (maybe less) parsley (I used dried, but would have used fresh if I kept fresh herbs around)

chicken broth, maybe 1 cup, maybe more if you want it more soupy
cous cous, cooked

Make it:
Cook onions over medium-high heat in a bit of olive oil until they just start to turn translucent. Add chicken and cook several more minutes until starting to cook through. Add veggies, chickpeas, and spices, stir to coat evenly. Add broth, cover, and reduce heat. Let simmer for 20 minutes or so. When I lifted the lid after about 20 minutes, it was really soupy. I cooked it for several more minutes, uncovered, to thicken it up a bit. Serve with cous cous.

Lesson Learned:
I LOVED this. So did Sam. So did Max! He ate up every bite (but this is also the kid who eats raw onions and olives by the handful). Evan wasn't into the cooked veggies or the sauciness, but devoured all of the "Yellow Chicken." I may throw in some carrots next time, too. And maybe some spinach leaves at the very end. Not that he'll eat those either, but that's why I serve "safe sides" (raw carrots, apple slices, yogurt, dried fruit, etc.) at every dinner, especially when we're trying new dishes. This one's going into the rotation for sure.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

movin' right along

The sign makes it official.


We're moving.

And I'm So Excited about it. We're heading to a small town outside of a small city close to where we are now. I've lived there before and have wanted to return for a long time. Forever?

We chose this. Where we live now is where Sam grew up. I moved here after we became engaged and moved immediately into the safety net of having my fiance, my sister, and my brother-in-law here. It's always been comfortable, but it hasn't ever really felt like home. I don't know if our new city will feel like home right away, but since it's where we plan to raise our family, it will Become Home. And until it feels like Home, it will feel like an adventure. An adventure we're embarking on as a Family....without a safety net of built-in friends and family...Just Us. And that feels right.

We're so fortunate....Sam will continue to work for the same company: they have generously agreed to allow him to work remotely, although he won't work from home. I don't think he'd get anything done with two little "Chase me, Daddy!" boys aware of the fact that he was just behind a closed door. And I think I'd probably take advantage, too: "Can you just keep an ear open while I run to the post office really quickly?" So he'll rent office space nearby. Goodbye forty minute commute!

This move is a good thing.

It will be.

Right now, though, it feels a little bit like I became a crazy person at some point in the last few months and started making decisions for rational me....Making decisions disregarding the fact that I have a very sensitive little boy who is going to start kindergarten in the fall (big change) and who doesn't very well like Big Changes. Add "Moving To A New House In A New City" to "Starting Kindergarten" and we may have two crazy people in the family. But moving now, before Kindergarten, is definitely better than delaying this Big Change until after he becomes settled in school.

But I'm also sort of putting out of my head the fact that we have a very tight window of time for this move to be even a little bit convenient. We want to stay where we are until Evan finishes preschool (early June), but we want to be settled in the new place before Evan starts Kindergarten Camp in early July. We also will be traveling across the country in July to attend my brother's wedding (yay!). AND...we're building the new house...so...well, I'm trying to be optimistic. I really don't want to move twice, but at some point I may need to consider this possibility.

And I'm DEFINITELY in denial over the fact that, at some point, in the middle of showing the house, selling the house, building a new house, packing and moving (maybe, gulp, more than once)....I'M GOING TO HAVE A BABY. And then once Molly is here, I'll have a newborn. And a big boy who's going to need a lot of patience, reassurance, compassion, and support. AND a tornado-two-year old.

Oh, my.

Lesson Learned:
But this is a GOOD THING. We're HAPPY about this move. Seriously. Things will be crazy for a bit, but then it will be over. And when it's over, we'll be settled. We'll be raising our children in a place that we chose, not out of convenience or familiarity, but on purpose. Because the people are good, the schools are great, and the natural beauty of the place is breathtaking. Seriously: there's an apple/peach orchard less than ten minutes from our house. As you drive into our neighborhood, you see the houses nestled in a little valley with the mountains rising in the background. And our house? It's going to be amazing. Our Forever House.

So let the crazy begin!

Monday, December 12, 2011

decking the halls

I have de-Grinched. Here's what helped...

A Christmas tree farm with a FRONT LOADER to play on?
Perfect.


Hide and Seek in the trees


First Ever Gingerbread House decorating.
No worries about the milk in the royal icing this year!

Just one more gumdrop, mom, PEEEAASSSE?







A day behind schedule, but worth the wait...

Lesson Learned:
But what is REALLY reminding me to keep my cool...
 ...and...

The shopping is done and the moods have lifted. Time to start baking, wrapping, nesting, and ENJOYING the season. Fa la la la la, la la la la.

the adventures of Bear Ticklish: part 2

That little Elf of ours is starting to get adventurous...


And helpful...he tried to string the lights on the tree...



The next night, he started bringing over truckloads of decorations...


He found our shelves of family pictures and felt left out...



This was the hardest hiding spot for the boys to find...



The zipline! From ceiling fan to Christmas tree...


Peek-a-Boo!


Ball Pit Bathtub!



Lesson Learned:
This really is one of my Absolute Favorite Traditions we've ever brought into our family. Two weeks of hiding spots to go!