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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

coping

We had planned a "Cookies and Cocktails" party for a few of our new friends for Sunday, December 16. I'm so glad we did. It was nice to, for a few hours, come together as friends in celebration instead of sorrow. It was nice to be able to watch our kids playing together and feel that warmth of gratitude spread among us without saying a word of the heartbreak we were actually feeling. We didn't want to talk about it....there were little kids with big, wide open ears beside our elbows. And also, we didn't need to talk about it. Behind every smile was The Look. A where do we go from here? look. 

It was just what I...we....needed. 

It was a simple affair. There were cookies, of course.



And drinks. A few new Pinterest recipes I had been wanting to try....

(nut and cheese-free in our house)

(I skipped the parmesan. Still great!)

And for the kids, a Make-Your-Own Reindeer Food station. (Thanks to Kelle Hampton for the inspiration.)



 



And it was good. Great, actually, if I let myself not feel guilty about celebrating amidst other families' sorrow. It provided some balance during what otherwise would have been a very hard weekend.

Monday came and the pit in my stomach returned with a vengeance. Anxiety? Yes. Though I always tended to be a worry-wort-ish person, Motherhood gave me a good, healthy dose of Anxiety. My mind goes to pretty scary places pretty easily. I hear that's not uncommon among the Mommy Set. (Right? Anyone?)

But Monday? I could do this, right? Put Evan on a bus? Send him off to school? Yes. I could. I must. But....what to do until I see him hop down off that bus at 2:51?

Operation: Keep Busy and Distracted

Max and I prepared for his Special Reading Time at school. On Tuesday, I was going in to read Frosty the Snowman to his class. (He chose the book. I was *thrilled* that it meant that I would get to read/sing instead of just read. Oy.)

I had been holding on to a Make-Your-Own PlayDough recipe my sister had passed along. I decided that Monday was the perfect day to give it a try. Instead of food coloring, we added Peppermint Extract into the dough. When it cooled, we kneaded white glitter into it and, voila! PlayDough "snowballs" for each of Max's friends.



Those were super-tight shots to shield you from the rest of my kitchen counter.

Oh, okay, here's the rest.


...although you can't see the sink full of dishes from this angle. Or the fact that Max has systematically, though neatly, emptied the drawer he is rifling through in an effort to find the "right" snack plate.

Lesson Learned:
Because I (we) have followed too many of these heart-wrenching tragedies, I have learned that I am an information junkie. I need to read/watch/talk/think it through endlessly to make what little sense there is to make in an effort, I think, to convince myself that it really won't happen to me and mine.

Although the more I read and watch, the more Experts tell me that it's happening more frequently and more horrifically in places Exactly Like the bucolic little town we are so happy to call Home. Stomach Pit threatening to overwhelm.

So, because a control freak like me can't control for everything, I'll do what I can. And for now, for always, it's to love these little babes to pieces.


**PlayDough Recipe:

1 c. flour
1c. water
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 c. salt
1 Tbsp. oil
Food Coloring

Mix into microwavable bowl. Cook on high for 2 1/2 minutes, stop and stir every 30 seconds. Knead on wax paper with flour.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BLW: the loaded spoon

Molly has been in a little rut food-wise, lately. I wanted to expand her options but she isn't into meats and the variety of fresh produce is somewhat limited right now. We tried dairy-free cheese (Daiya brand) and she wasn't a huge fan (I can't blame her). We'll keep at it, but in the meantime, we gave Soy Yogurt a try. And to do it, we Loaded Her Spoon.


The theory behind BLW dictates that Baby is in charge of bringing food to mouth. So to introduce a food like yogurt, you dip the spoon (or "load" it) and place it on the tray for Baby to pick up and bring to her mouth.



After a few misses--spoon to cheek, back of spoon to mouth, fully-loaded spoon to floor, etc.--she made contact.


And it was good.





There was some good finger-play in there, too. She mixed and mashed and licked those babies clean.


And it was a huge success. She's had yogurt probably four or five times now and it's a definite favorite. Best at breakfast before she's dressed or at dinner right before bath, though, because....wow. That's some Yogurt Hair, Baby Girl.


Lesson Learned:
It's a messy method, but BLW remains one of the best parenting decisions we've made. I honestly don't know when or how this kid would eat if she depended on me to spoon-feed her. Mealtimes are a bit hectic around here, but with BLW, Molly is just one of the gang.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

real magic

Evan came home from school yesterday with the book he had ordered from the Scholastic Book Club. Of course, we had to read it right away. Twice. After the second reading, he turned the last page to see the other titles in the same series of books.

"Lego City," he read, "Fight this Fire." Then he looked up at me, quite pleased with himself and his reading.

I pointed to a word: "What does this say?"

"Fight," he answered correctly.

"Hmm....but it looks like it should say fig-hut." I feigned, "How did you know it says 'fight'?"

"I just looked at it and I just knew it. I didn't sound it out, I just knew it."

"You didn't sound it out, huh? You just knew it? You know what that's called, buddy?"

"What?"

"That's called READING."

Lesson Learned:
No red suit or white fluffy beard needed for that kind of magic.

Monday, December 10, 2012

the most wonderful time of the year

It is magical, isn't it?

Not because it really is, but because we make it so. Or wish it so. Or WILL it so...even when it's not, because the kids just won't have fun and enjoy it, despite our best efforts to MAKE them have fun and enjoy it. They fight over who gets to turn on the Christmas lights (even though we have three sets of lights to plug in and four ROOMS full of candles to turn on). They argue over who gets to lick the cookie dough spatula (never mind that we ALWAYS have one for each of them). They spend the entire Angel Tree Shopping Trip adding to their OWN wish lists and sulking when we don't let them buy even just one thing, even with their own money. They run wild through the house "playing Santa and his reindeers and some ninjas" and, without fail, one always ends up in tears. They're each up multiple times each night and up for the day by 5:30.

And it comes as no surprise that overtired, overstimulated, can't-wait-two-more-weeks kids have a hard time showing their Christmas Spirit.

But we continue to look for the Joy of the Season. Because it's there. Somewhere? Way down deep?

Even when Max crosses his arms over his chest, furrows his brow, and says in his grumpiest voice, "I am So Mad at you, Mommy, for getting the red and green candy canes and not the pink and purple candy canes." We look.

And when Evan has difficulty saying ANYthing to ANYone in a voice other than a demanding, angry,  stubborn voice. We keep looking.

And when Molly....nevermind. The Christmas Spirit is alive and well in this kid.


We look for The Magic, and sometimes, maybe sandwiched between a meltdown and a "THAT'S NOT FAIR!" we find it.

Exhibit A:
Evan tiptoed in to where Bear Ticklish, our Elf, was hiding one evening before bed. He didn't know I saw him go, and didn't know I was eavesdropping. "Bear Ticklish?" he began, "I want to tell you where you should be tomorrow when we wake up. You should be on our Christmas Tree. But not just ANYwhere on our Christmas Tree. You should be up at the very top by the star. You can hold on tight to it."  I heard it and I tucked it in my pocket, knowing the next morning's Elf Hunt would be the Best One Yet. Magic.

Exhibit B:
Max has been walking around the house singing Christmas Carols for weeks. Jingle Bells was a first favorite. He sang, "...in a one-horse, open sleigh" as "...in a one horse, slope and say." When I tried to teach him the real lyrics, he said, "Okay, but I sing it however I want, it's MY Jingle Bells." Now, he's moved on to the more sophisticated, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and even has the part about the figgy pudding down. Step aside Mariah Carey, there's a new Christmas Diva in town.

Exhibit C:
Evan wrote his Christmas list the other day. There were only two things on it: "A ninju robot" (Phew! I'm pretty sure that one's already in Santa's sack. And, "Molly to be happy." And then he smiled at me and said, "And I know YOU want her to sleep through the night! But I just want her to be happy." He may have a hard time showing it to me and Sam some days, but man, that kid can turn on the Sweet Lovin' like no other.

Exhibit D:
We went to see a huge light display at a botanical garden and park near my in-laws house. There was a life-sized unicorn made out of lights, a Christmas Light maze, lights, lanterns and decorations in every tree, and a huge Chinese dragon made out of lights that you actually walked through in one part of the park. Evan, Max, and even Molly just stared, mouth open, eyes sparkling, as we walked through the park. There was Magic that night, too.

Exhibit E:
They clean up pretty well this time of year, too.


Lesson Learned:
I don't want to wish these next two weeks away. We have a lot to look forward to....lots of memories to make...lots of fun to have. And I. Will. Enjoy. It. And so will they, whether they like it or not.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

thanks and giving

Thanks... 

The day before Thanksgiving, Max and Evan set up Thanksgiving feasts for their buddies:

It's a Feast at the Clubhouse!

Ninjaaaaaa-GO! It's Turkey Time!
Thanksgiving morning, Molly danced to Colbie Calliat during the Macy's Day Parade.


And, on what was an unseasonably warm day in late November at Grandmother and Grandpop's house, we played in the leaves.



....and posed sweetly for pictures.


Before we ate, we wrote our Thanks on Grandmother's Thanksgiving wreath. My thanks, of course, were three-fold: Evan, Max, and Molly. There are others, naturally...including, but not limited to the fact that Good Decisions Were Made in November by the majority of my fellow Americans. 

(But there's no room for politics at Thanksgiving.)

Max (whose leaf is pictured below, on the right) is thankful for "Mommy." [Heart. Melting.] Evan is thankful, as you might be able to see, for "Ninjago." [He's growing up too fast. He, too, was once thankful for Mommy. Sigh.]


After we ate, and enjoyed time with family...and then ate some more and enjoyed even more time with even more family. We wrapped up our weekend with a visit with friends on our way back home.

The babies evaluated each other.


And the lunch table overflowed with cuteness.


And I was thankful for the strength and the bond of True Friendship...where time and distance and life changes don't take away from the relationship...but add to it. Where the months between visits disappear the moment you're in each other's company once again. Where the kids play like siblings, not because of time spent together, but because of a level of comfort felt. 
And where the husbands are as happy to hang out together as we are.

We love you guys.

And Giving...

The boys, particularly Evan, but Me-Too Max, too, are getting to the age where we want to make Charity a regular part of our lives. Generosity for generosity's sake. Yes, it's nice to be thankful for what you have and mindful of the needs of others at this time of year, but really, we want Giving (and volunteering, supporting local business, etc.) to be a regular and natural thing we do. Because we can. And we should.

And so, even though it seemed to come at a Giving time of the year, we wanted to make a Teachable Moment out of Superstorm Sandy, and the devastation that was left in its wake.  We were affected by the storm, minimally, but the boys knew about it as it was happening. Immediately following the storm, we went to New Jersey for my Grandpop's funeral. The boys saw, firsthand, some of the more damaging effects of Sandy. They saw downed trees, gas lines, and storm-strewn debris. They heard my relatives talking about days and days and days with no power. They heard about the people, unluckier than my relatives, who had lost their homes and everything in them.

And when we got home, it was my birthday. I was given some money by my parents and also my grandmother who instructed, "Be frivolous. TREAT yourself!" And I did. I freshened up my fall wardrobe and felt perfectly treated. When my new clothes arrived (because I do all of my shopping online...), I made a big, gushing show of my loot. I donned my new cardigan and twirled in the kitchen saying, "What a lucky Birthday Girl I am!"

Then, I became serious. I looked at alllllll of my new clothes and I did some thinking aloud....loud enough for the boys, seated at the counter, to hear: "Hmmmm. Now I have all the clothes I need. In fact, I can't think of ANY thing else that I need to buy right now. But I have some money left over from my Birthday money. Hmmmmm......"

Pause.

Pause.

"I know!" I said, as if it had just occurred to me. "I should donate some of my money to the Red Cross! They're helping the people who lost their clothes and houses and toys in Hurricane Sandy!"

Evan was very quiet. Listening. And then he hopped off his stool. "I'll be right back!" he shouted as he bounded up the stairs. And when he returned, he was holding his wallet. He carefully selected some of his dollars (all of which have holiday stickers on them from his Great Mom Mom, who sends him a crisp $1-bill every holiday and birthday) and handed them to me: "Mommy, these are MY extra dollars. You should send these to the Red Cross, too."

My heart swelled with pride. And we poured it on pretty thick. "Evan! What a kind and caring, Big Boy thing to do! This is really going to make a difference for those people in New Jersey who have been so sad since the storm. Doesn't it feel good to help others?" We talked it up. We won't over-praise forever. But they're still learning about generosity. Someday, there won't be any congratulating when they drop a buck in the Salvation Army bucket because they'll know that donating, helping, giving, volunteering is just What We Do. But we're still in the days (years?) where we high-five when they eat all of their Healthy Bites at dinner or wipe their own noses. So we celebrated the good choice.

While the praising was going on, Max was very quiet. Listening.  And then he hopped off his stool. "I'll be right back!" he shouted as he fast-as-he-could made his way up the stairs. And when he returned, he was holding his wallet. He climbed back up on his stool and laid each and every one of his dollars out on the counter. As he lined them up, perfectly straight and facing the same direction, I started to get teary. My little boy. Just three-years old. And GIVING is already coming so naturally to him.

"All these dollars here?" he started, "They're all mine. Just for me."

Um.....

"Max!" said Evan, "You should give some of them away to the Red Cross!"

"No, it's okay," I reassured them both. "Donating some of your money is a very Grown Up Decision that you made today, Evan, and we're really proud of you. Max is still learning about donating, though. Maybe he'll choose to help others in a different way, or when he's older."

"When I'm older, all these dollars are still going to be just mine and for me."

Oh, my Maxwell.

***

When I originally sat down to write this post, several days ago, this was the end of the story. And it was a good one. A funny, true, glimpse into our lives. It was sort of perfect in how it sums up my two yin and yang boys at this moment in their lives and at these stages of their development.  But then, yesterday, Max came up to me with three dollar bills crumpled up in his hand. We hadn't talked about Donation or the Red Cross in over a week. "I'm ready to make a Grown Up Choice about my dollars," he said. I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was of him. And man, you should have seen the look on his face when Sam got home and he got to tell Daddy of his Grown Up Choice.

What a kid.

Lesson Learned:
And now, on to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Monday, November 12, 2012

handsome in pink

At the beginning of last summer, I gritted my teeth and brought the boys to the Crocs-knock-off section of Target. I hate those damn shoes, but they're perfect for protecting toes on the pool deck and for hosing off after a trip to the beach.

Max, of course, pointed to the bright pink fake-Crocs. The right thing to do would have been to buy the bright pink shoes. I hesitated, though, because I assumed that he would soon outgrow his love of pink and would, halfway through the summer or sooner, refuse to wear them. And then what? Buy MORE stupid fake-Crocs? Instead, I steered him away...but I was careful not to disrespect the pink: "Oh, look, Max. They also have green in your size. Green like a crocodile...get it? Crocodile? CROCS?!" He thought this was hilarious and so agreed to the green.

I regretted my decision all summer.

Max loves pink. And purple and lavender. He loves sparkles and glitter and princesses and cupcakes. His Birthday Cupcakes were frosted in gooey pink frosting and dusted with lavender sprinkles. In fact, his favorite game in the entire world ever was brought to him as a surprise from the Great Pumpkin:


When he's not playing the game, he carries around the princess cards remarking on the princesses' beautiful "costumes" and commenting on their cupcake decorations of choice. He asks me to tell him the story of when Cinderella and the Prince fall in love in the beautiful castle. He recreates the scenes of Cinderella being bossed around by her evil stepmother (I'm the evil stepmother) even though he's never seen the movie.  He collects special, small, shiny things (like my jewelry and shiny coins) in his Treasure Box, which he used ($3 of) his Birthday Money from Great Mom Mom for:


What can I say? He didn't outgrow his love of pink. Not yet. But he might. Someday. Maybe it'll happen organically, as his tastes and preferences change as he grows...they inevitably do. Or, they'll change by outside influence. He'll start to hear about "boy" things versus "girl" things and maybe he'll feel pressure to follow the "norm."

But maybe they won't.

I know they won't by pressure from within his family.

We were in the car the other day and, all of a sudden, Max sighed and said, "When I'm big like Evan I'll have to like other big boy colors best, like red and yellow and orange and brown." I asked him why he would think that he would need to pick a new favorite color when he was five. He sighed again and said, "Evan's a big boy and he doesn't like pink." I told him that everyone has different favorite colors and it's okay if Evan likes other colors more than he likes pink. No colors are better than any other. I assured him that he will always get to choose his favorite color, even when he's a big, tall grown-up like Uncle Mike.

When my brother Mike was turning three, all he wanted for his birthday was the Barbie Corvette. But he didn't want the coveted-by-his-sisters name brand silver Barbie Corvette...he wanted the knock-off "11-inch Doll" car. Because it was pink.  His idea of playing with Mr. Potato Head was wearing Mrs. Potato Head's earrings and glasses and carrying around her purse, as is also true for Max. When he grew up, he wanted to drive a pink garbage truck. My brother's dreams may have changed and that chubby little toddler clicking around in red sparkly dress-up heels may have grown up into 6'4" hulking 215-pound Guy, but if Max ever asks, he had better own up to still loving pink.

Lesson Learned:

I love that Max loves pink. It fits his personality. It makes him happy.

And what makes me happy is that, as worldly and streetwise as his Big Kindergartner Brother Evan may be, he's not so jaded to be the one to burst Max's color bubble....

Talk of princesses and castles came up while the neighborhood kids were playing last week. One of the boys made a "yuck" noise and said, with confidence, "Princesses are Girl Things. Girls like princesses." Max just looked at him. Evan said, "Anybody can like anything they like." Well said, big brother. Well said.

And I've learned from my mistake with those bright pink crocs. Max had all of Target to browse for his new winter hat....and he found the perfect one.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

7 minutes

...of her day today.

Reading (and eating) books.


...with only one sock on...


studying...


exploring...


discovering...


playing...



  
learning.



Lesson Learned:
I am in love with 8 months. I am in love with this girl.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

make-your-own mobile

Yes, she's eight (and a half) months old. Yes, we've been settled in our new house, and she in her new room, for more than four months. And yes, I just today hung Molly's new mobile in her room.

At least I hung it over a crib and it didn't take me until she moved to her Big Girl bed.

And here it is!


I started by using a circle punch (it's about a one-inch diameter circle) to cut circles of scrapbook paper that coordinated with Molly's bedding. (Her bedding is from Dwell Studio and I'm in absolute love with it. I'll have to find a way to recycle it once she leaves her crib.) 

Using a hot glue gun, I attached the circles to both sides of lengths of ribbon. (So the ribbon is sandwiched between two circles of paper.) Each ribbon has differing patterns of circles, with more or fewer circles on each ribbon, for variety and movement.


Then, again with the hot glue gun, I attached the ribbons to embroidery hoops that I had secured together with my....hot glue gun. I also tied ribbons around where the hoops crossed for added security. 


I covered the hoops with more ribbon, this one patterned, and again...with the glue gun. Then, I added ribbon ties on each side and end to hang it up.

I think it completes the room just perfectly.



And I think it's time we lower that crib mattress to the lowest setting. Look at my big girl!

Lesson Learned:
It's amazing what I can do with a hot glue gun and A YEAR.