Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When Sleep Eludes You

Isn't that a Cybalta slogan? Whoever coined that term, I feel like it's all I've beeen muttering for the past three weeks, each night at "bedtime".  And not because sleep eludes me, but because it eludes my almost 3 year old (34 month) child. 

I've mentioned before, and I'll mention again, that M & I are NOT good when itcomes to lack of sleep.  Of all parenting struggles, I feel like this is the hardest so far.  (Yes, I know I know, when he is older he'll have bigger issues and problems, bla bla bla, but right now, this is about the most frustrating thing ever.)

I think one of the reasons we're so frustrated is because he had a span of awesome sleeping.  After hiring our sleep coach when he was 4 months old, he became a great sleeper.  Of course, he had a random spell here or there, and sleep was always a problem when he was teething, but we've never had a problem last for a couple weeks. 

But we're going on week four of "having trouble falling asleep."  Nothing really has changed, except that he transitioned into a big boy bed earlier this fall (I've read that sleep disruptions can occur about 6 months after transitioning-- and we're right about there).  Our schedule is the same, our bedtime routine is still in place, and the only thing that varies is taking a bath every other night.   We always always always read books before bed, and then he's "down" for bed between 8:15 and 8:30.  And typically, he fell asleep by 9:00.  But gradually, that turned into 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, and 10:00.  OUR bedtime is 10:00!  (I know, we're super pathetic, but we just turn into pumpkins right after House Hunters wraps up)  I feel like we're shifting out of balance again, and C is starting to associate bedtime with not being able to sleep, which bothers me a lot.

Of course, I'm a solver so I ordered and skimmed the Dr. Ferber book  (I've read it cover to cover twice after checking it out from the library-- thought it might be time to invest in a copy).  And here's what we've tried so far: 

*Shortened nap (C is still an excellent napper-- and has no problem falling asleep in his bed at naptime which is a good thing) but this didn't change a thing.
* Long nap (letting him wake up on his own) but this didn't help at all as he slept 3 hours and I finally went in to wake him.
* No nap-- this was the worst idea by far as he was fine until about 4:30 and then every tiny issue set him off and he had fewer coping skills than normal (he doesn't have any good coping skills really) and he still didn't fall asleep until after 9:00.
* Same bedtime--but he just keeps falling asleep later and later despite this
* Late bedtime-- we've tried putting him down close to the time he falls asleep, with the logic that he would take less time to fall asleep.  The first night, he was asleep by 10:00 after going down at 9:30, but last night was the WORST (yes, we were at my parents, yes it's Christmas) and he didn't fall asleep until close to 11:00. 

And this morning, I'm writing this at 7:30 in the morning.  As in, C was up and at 'em by his usual clockwork time of 6:50.  Ah lovely.   (And people tell me teenagers are annoying-- I cannot wait for the years when he sleeps in!!!) So, we're kind of at a loss for what to do-- we just know this cannot continue.  M & I are workig on being more flexible and less freaky-out-ish, but we're sort of failing.  We'll keep trying.  We'll just keep trying. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Illusion of a Snow Day

Well, since we just had two back to back snow days (Thursday and Friday) we've officially be on Christmas vacation for three whole days.  We were totally dumped on with snow Wednesday night, which, combined with the 40-50mph winds led to giant drifts, snow covered roads, and absolutely no way we could have school.  I should have been thrilled but honestly, snow days are a bit overrated in my book.

Perhaps it's because when I think of "Snow Day", I still think of what snow days meant in high school: sleeping in, reading books, watching movies, putting together puzzles, playing Monopoly, and maybe drinking Boone's Farm wine or strawberry vodka at someone else's house who didn't have teacher parents.  And I still haven't shifted into mommy brain yet.  (What will it take?) When I got the call about Thursday's snow day, I was excited for about two seconds and then I realized:  I'm going to be trapped inside my house all day long with a two year old.  I'm going to die.

Now, it turns out it wasn't horrible-- just pretty bad.  But we all survived.  C definitely beat me in the tantrum department, but if I'm being honest it was probably a close race.  I know I was put on the list for "Worst Mom of the Year" when I told C that he was driving me crazy and he put his little forehead on the counter and cried, "Don't say that Mommy!  I not drive you crazy!"  Note to self:  Use words like, "I need a moment.  Mommy wants privacy in the bathroom for five hours" or something like that.

It's not that I don't enjoy hanging out with him (that's my disclaimer), it's just that entertaining someone with an absurd amount of energy in one house when there is no possibility of going anywhere else (our driveway was totally blocked) is hard.  I even thought I had prepared for being trapped inside by checking out an ipad from school-- but that only led to frustration on my part when he kept swiping the screen back to the home screen and couldn't quit touching everything that wasn't supposed to be touched.  I also thought we could do some baking (you know how much C loves to help in the kitchen) but that only led to numerous tantrums when I insisted that he eat his super nutritious lunch of noodles and jello before sampling our goodies.  It was too windy and cold to actually go out and play in the snow, and even if the temperature had been warm enough, the wind had blown most of the snow in our yard into one huge drift between our house and the neighbor's-- not exactly "playing in the snow" snow.

To top it all off, I definitely got the award for "Worst Wife of the Year" by getting overly annoyed when M was mysteriously absent at 5:10.  (Where WAS he?!  My babysitting shift was over and he was late!  How dare he!?)  So, I did what any passive aggressive wife does.  I texted him at 6:15:
"Where are you!?!?"

He rolled in the door about two seconds later, covered in snow, and smelling of ripe diesel engine.  He had just spent the last 75 minutes out in the dark and freezing cold weather, clearing our driveway and several of our neighbors as well.  He cleared the drive of our 88 year old neighbor lady, whose son has a terrible back and could only do his own drive.  He cleared the neighbor guy's across the street, who was going to have to shovel his way out-- and the drifts had to be about 5 feet high.  And he cleared ours.  So that "my wife and kid could actually get out in case we have another snow day tomorrow".  Oy.  Why do I suck so bad?  I'm going to blame his mother on this one-- she just raised him right.  He's always doing nice things for other people-- especially me.  And I..... have no excuse.

And even though I may be a little bitter about the fact that I can't be a good care-taker for my child and still have 8 hours of free time I think I'll eventually get over it.  The good news is that we got through two snow days (thankfully C had a pajama Christmas party to go to at daycare on Friday-- he was ecstatic and so was I!) and one weekend day.  We're officially on the countdown till Christmas-- and I'm starting to look forward to it.  We can get through Sunday and hopefully Monday too.  Then we'll be busy with travels to Spencer and Dubuque which will kill most of the week and hopefully be fun and relaxing-- unlike our snow day.  But thankfully, I documented the snow day in typical fluffy facebook style, posting this adorable picture of something C did for 45 minutes, implying that our entire day was just a glorious day of snuggling, baking, giggling, crafting, & playing.  And that's what I'll remember, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Loss for Words

I'm still at a loss for words after last Friday's horrific tragedy in Connecticut.  My mind is jumbled with so many thoughts and emotions, but like everyone I talk to, my heart is just overwhelmingly aching for the parents and families of the children so sadly taken much too early.

Going to school on Monday was such a weird experience for me.  Of course, I never thought about not going, but as I walked through those doors on Monday, my mind was just filled with thoughts of "What if...".  I'm not sure how it could be any other way.  The entrance I always use is always unlocked.  Monday, of course, it was locked tight-- as were all other doors.

I had sent an email out to staff, attaching helpful articles to send home to parents just in case they aren't capable of googling as well as me. (No, honestly, there is a lot of unhelpful junk out there, so it's nice to be able to know which sites have credible resources.) I also offered to visit with classrooms about Firday's incident with the teachers.

A few teachers took me up on this offer and sat quietly while I led a discussion with little ones about the "sad thing" that happened at a school in Connecticut.  My verbage was very elementary (obviously) and honestly, I don't know that I could have handled much more than that.  As soon as the topic was in the open, the kids eagerly shared what they knew.  It was obvious they wanted to talk, were craving the chance to share the information they had with others.  Some had questions and some had 'solutions'.  Others had been shielded from much of the news.

Conversations like these are so difficult to have with kids and I found myself at a loss for words and on the verge of tears each time I visited the classrooms yesterday and today.  The thought of anything happening to any of "my" kids in our school kept creeping into my mind as I gazed into all of their eyes.  And god forbid, the thought of anything happening to my own kid just takes my breath away.  I can't imagine what those teachers and staff members went through on Friday and I only hope that I would be as brave and courageous as they were.  Honestly though, I feel as though my first instinct would be to lock myself in my office, hide under my desk, and stare at my little office collection of family photos.

While I have no idea what our future holds, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of these tragic events.  And now, only days after such a gut-wrenching incident, political talk is fueled by such raw emotion, that makes both sides all the more adamant on their stance.  Of course I have no solution and I'm strangely annoyed with the simplicity of some suggestions.

Mike Huckabee has boldly claimed that the outbreaks of violence happen because we have removed God from the public square. A religious scholar and facebook friend of mine eloquently wrote this: But I recall when God was in the public square (the way Huckabee prefers it, with prayer in school, Bible readings, and so forth). With "God in the public square" we engaged in racial slavery all the way to its grotesque end. We denied women equal rights, and we drove (if not hunt
ed down) Native Tribes and Mormons westward into reservations and/or isolation. With "God in the public square" we engaged in public executions, vilified gay and lesbian people, and denounced Catholic schools as centers of superstition--and castigated Catholicism itself as contrary to American democracy. With "God in the public square" we killed women we thought were "witches," and we criminalized interracial marriage. The list, of course, is much longer. Without question, then, we need to be very careful--especially we who still call ourselves 'people of faith'--to indict with such damning charges against secularism, when we who claim to be advocates of God have been among the worst of those who are cruel, prejudiced, and violent.

Several of my friends are making the simple yet obvious statement, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  True, but come on now, obviously that statement could be put into any possible sentence as inanimate objects typically don't threaten people without the help of a person.  I'm so thankful that while M and I disagree on a vast majority of political platforms, we have a united front when it comes to the 2nd amendment.  We will never understand why citizens need the right to own a high powered military assault weapon.  (Does anyone else see the irony in that the same party that wants to deny women reproductive rights and marriage rights to same sex couples argues strongly for the right to own such weapons?) I personally, don't feel comfortable with guns in the house, but I understand that many believe it to be necessary for their safety (even though statistics show there are more accidental deaths from guns bought for protection than there are deaths from actually protecting a family from danger).  I personally, don't like the act of hunting (well, actually, I love the walking around on a crisp fall morning, in the peaceful midwest weather--I just don't like the dead animal part) but I understand that many do-- and I'm married to a pheasant hunter-- which is fine because pheasants don't have brown eyes and I really couldn't handle mason shooting something with big doe brown eyes.  But really, a hunting rifle and a military type assault rifle are considered one in the same?

I know I won't solve any political debates with my less than eloquent writing, but sometimes it just helps to clarify my own thoughts.  As the mother of a toddler, with (hopefully) a long life ahead of him, I'm so concerned for this future. I want to do everything I can to ensure his health and safety but I realize that a huge portion of this is going to land out of my control.  And when I think back to those possibilities, I'm again at a loss for words.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

And so the questions begin...

A few weeks ago, our daycare provider's 14 year old chocolate lab died.  He had lived a good (long) life, was suffering from cancer, and was starting to have recurrent bladder infections.  His joints hurt him and he hobbled around--so it was clearly time for him to go.  Nicole, C's daycare gal, had told us of their plans to put him to sleep, but I didn't mention anything to Charlie about it.  Some part of me was thinking that maybe he wouldn't notice.  (Yeah right, like the kid who notices every detail would miss the fact that a dog is suddenly gone.)

Anyway, as expected, the kids were asking about the dog the next day.  She explained to them that he was really old and was too sick to live anymore and that he died.  I was happy that she told me about this, so that if C asked questions at home, we would be on the same wavelength.  But a few days later, at the park, C noticed some fallen leaves and asked why they were all crunchy.  Why were they falling apart?  Without even thinking, I told him that it's because they had died.  And he looked at me and said,

"Cody got died.  He flew up way high in the sky and died."

Oh my.  Now what?  Where do I go with that?

"He flew in the sky?"

"Uh-huh.  He flew up way high in the sky and got died.  No more."

I decided to leave it at that for the moment, but my assumption is that there was some mention of Heaven and going to Heaven after dying, etc. etc.

Which brings me to my dilemma.  Considering my lack of belief in the afterlife, how do I explain death to a kid?  Especially a toddler?  Of course, I ended up just sticking to the facts and using nature as examples.  We talked about how things like animals and people are alive right now.  They can eat and make noises and move around.   And plants are alive too-- just in a different way.  (That might be a lesson for another day)  But when they get too old or too sick or too hurt, they die and we don't get to play with them anymore.

So this morning, C tells me that Binga died.

"What?  He died?"

"Yeah."  (Makes a really sad face)

"Wow, I bet you're really sad."

"No, just one of the Binga's died.  Not my Binga, I still have two more left."

"Oh.  I bet you're happy then."

"Yeah.  But did Grandma Ruby got died?"

"What?  Yes honey, Grandma Ruby died."

"No, she just got hurt on her head."

Oh my.  Oh my. Oh my.  Where do I go with this?  Acknowledge that he's correct without scaring him into thinking that bumping your head can lead to death?  Oh my.  $hit.

And before I could think too much more about it, C had decided he was finished with his lunch and ready to play downstairs.  The topic was avoided for now, but leaves me with a bit of homework-- to figure out how to tackle this topic in a caring yet factual yet non-scary way.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

TheThree Big T's

Before having a little boy, I never really believed that they just become "all boy".  I assumed that they were led to an interest in what I call "The Three Big T's" (trains, trucks, tractors) by way of their parents and caregivers.  I didn't believe that it could just happen.

But I kind of believe that now.  Looking at my own child, who happens to be currently obsessed with trains, I wonder where this obsession came from.  The same is true about tractors and somewhat true with his interest in trucks.  As I examine how this happened, I just can't pinpoint a time where I actively steered him in the direction of any one of those toys.  In fact, we don't even have many trains-- he has two larger wooden ones, and one small wooden/ magnetic train.  So how did this start?  Where did it happen?

When we were visiting the Spencer grands, he noticed train tracks.  (We don't have tracks in our small town)  Since he was driving with his grandmother, he convinced her to drive around town looking for a train to go on those tracks-- which they spent a half hour doing--until they found one.  (I'm told I'll understand this behavior when I myself, become a grandmother.  Right now, I just find myself making up stories about the missing trains--"Oh, they're all at the engine shed getting washed."  "I think they're all taking their nap!"  "All of the trains are at a birthday party in another town."  "These tracks are just to bump our cars over-- there's no trains on them.") Just recently, he was playing with his tiny wooden magnetic train when he looked up and asked me, "Mommy, why I not have any tracks?"  (Hmmmm..... actually the answer is because we're banking on Santa Claus coming through with those!)  Lately, we have been bribing him with a trip to Barnes & Noble if he is a good boy in Target (which he typically loves anyway).  Although he is crazy about books, it's the train set that keeps him occupied long enough for me to read a few chapters.

Tractors are another mystery to me.  Maybe this really shouldn't be a surprise because we do live in rural Iowa-- tractors are abundant.  And, our backyard is a field-- sometimes we're lucky enough to witness planting and harvesting with the big tractors.  But other than that, we don't have any farmers in the family and really nobody talks about tractors a lot.  Yet, they are one of his favorite things to play with.  His grandma gave him a vintage metal tractor with a trailer attached and I swear, he plays with that thing almost every day-- mostly hauling plastic animals but occasionally we'll see the odd shipment of plastic toy food or wooden blocks.

And what little boy doesn't love trucks?  Again, I've never found myself encouraging C to play with trucks, yet that is what he tends to want to pick out when given the chance.  And lately, he's become very interested in the fact that his daddy has big trucks at work.  The other day when M used the work truck to bring some materials to our house, C insisted upon playing inside the big truck.  His eyes sparkled with excitement as he climbed up into the (grubby and manly-smelling) big work truck.  He was in little boy truck Heaven.  (Imagine his excitement when his daddy takes him for a ride in it someday!)

So what's my hangup with The Big Three T's?  I guess nothing, really.  It's just that I'm not for him being considered "all boy".  I'm not crazy about that description.  It's like suggesting little boys are that simple-- they like dirt and mud and frogs and balls.  They are loud and energetic and boisterous. They like to run and jump and crash into things.  They like big stuff like the big three T's.  Even the "boy toys" assume this is the case.  And have you ever tried to buy scrapbook stickers for a boy?  Tons of everything I mentioned.... but missing plenty as well.

I feel like my little boy is more than "all boy".  (Doesn't every mother feel this way?) He doesn't really love mud or messy stuff.  In fact, he usually asks for a napkin or wet wipe of his fingers are sticky.  He'll tell me the instant he spills-- because he wants it cleaned up.  He is particular about his clothing.  No tags, no khakis, no jeans, no sweaters, no layering of any kind.  He loves cooking/ baking/ playing with pretend food and grocery shopping.  He is obsessed with Minnie Mouse and always wants to be Daisy.  He loves Polly Pockets, playing "babies", and playing "dollhouse".  He's crazy about singing and dancing and is pretty gross-motor-skill challenged at times.  He often asks to paint or draw and likes fine motor skill tasks.  He has an attention span and is a pretty good listener.  He thinks a lot and questions everything.  He loves books so much and is often found reading on his own just for fun. 

Maybe the reason that I point this out is because so many of the things that C loves to do are considered "girly" things-- for little kids.  It's interesting to me that it's totally normal for men to be clean, become chefs, buy groceries, take care of their homes, become singers/ dancers/ actors, have artistic abilities, become "helping professions" like psychologists or teachers, and enjoy reading.  But when you talk about little boys enjoying these things, or try to buy toys for boys, the message is clear that girls play with cooking/foods, dolls, doll houses, art stuff, and music.  Boys play with the Big Three T's.

As M & I are deciding what to get C for Christmas this year, I'm noticing the toy thing again.  And like I've mentioned a zillion times before, I just wish toy makers would do a better job at keeping things gender neutral.  That being said, I know there are some amazing companies out there with gender neutral toys-- I just wish was true with the majority of companies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yeah, I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Did you just sing, "With Somebody Who Loves Me"?  (Because if you did, I love you even more)

When I was in fourth grade (maybe 1987?) I received this tape cassette for Christmas: 

O-M-G.  Possibly the BEST album ever (well, that was my 4th grade opinion).  And my poor family had to endure a 3 hour car ride to Grandma & Grandpa's house on Christmas day with the song, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on continuous play.  Since I was a normal elementary aged child, I wasn't particularly concerned with the wants or needs of my fellow family members and I was probably pretty adamant on the musical selection being Whitney.  (Well honestly, someone had to be--or Sister would have probably picked "Raffi" and the parental unit would have tried to kill us with the super new technological sounds of "Mannheim Steamroller".  Whitney was the clear choice, right?) 

And even though my three travel companions weren't exactly thrilled with my new Christmas gift, I knew that my grandpa Arv would be delighted to hear my new tape.  I remember him telling me that he loved Whitney Houston-- and just as I had hoped, he popped that tape into the double tape deck downstairs about two minutes after we waltzed through the doors.  And, the poor man even agreed to attend a dance concert (I use those words very loosely here) in his basement later that night.  --I'm sure we probably charged some coins to attend this awesomeness-- though he might have wooed us with sugar cubes instead-- he was always sneaking those home from his office and letting us munch on them when we came to visit.  (And for the record, I'll kill my dad if he lets Charlie eat sugar cubes at their house.)   

Anyway, although I don't remember too many specifics, I remember laughing hysterically as Sister and I jumped around "dancing" to Whitney's new album.  The music was cranked, we were "dancing", and Grandpa was singing along as he watched the "show" from his burnt-orange swivel rocker chair.  (I'm pretty sure that was the chair.)  The fun and high I experienced that day was so memorable to me as a kid-- I know I'll never forget it.  Yet I wonder if my parents even have any recollection of this "event" that I cherish.  There was just something....magical about it to a child.  The Christmas season-- specifically Christmas Day, being with my grandparents, great music, and lots of laughing--things that occupy a special place in a kid's memory bank.      

I've only mentioned my paternal grandpa, Arv, a few times in this blog.  While I vividly remember my grandfather, my memories are tinted with "kid lenses" because I never knew him as an adult.  I think of him as the very tall man with the very big shoes who let us clunk around in them whenever we came to visit.  He was the guy who let us eat sugar cubes and let us endlessly "ride" the elevator at his office.  He was the man who drew fantastic doodles of horses, the man who let me order only sausage patties (no pancakes) at McDonald's breakfast.  He was the man who drank lots of coffee, did lots of crossword puzzles, and had an alarm clock that went off really early in the morning.  He unexpectedly passed away when I was only fourteen, so in many ways, I feel that I didn't know him as well as I would have liked.  Slowly, however, family members have shared stories and tidbits about my grandpa with me as I've grown up, and in some ways, I feel like I've gotten to know a man that I didn't really know

And while I'm not a believer in "looking down on us", I have to admit that I do love the idea of a Heaven and often times find myself kind of 'believing' in that possibility.  But honestly, that kind of belief is similar to the way that I still believe in Santa Claus-- meaning, I don't really believe it to be true, but the idea itself leaves me with a nice, warm, happy feeling which, most definitely, is true. My true belief is that eternal life involves living on through the legacy you leave behind and the memories you create with loved ones.  Reflecting on this as an adult, I realize that a person may leave several different legacies behind-- for they are probably different types of people to many loved ones in their lives.  My grandpa probably did not leave my parents and aunts/uncles with the same memories as he left his grandchildren-- which is such a gift for all of us.   

So last night, as I was driving home from a friend's house at the beginning of this Christmas season and heard Whitney Houston's song on the radio, I was instantly taken back to my grandparents house on West 9th St.  And that magical Christmas morning feeling bubbled up inside my 35 year old self-- and momentarily made me feel like I was ten again.  The drive home was only about four blocks-- but I think I smiled the entire way.  And as I did so, I thought of Christmas.  I thought of basement dance parties, and surprising to some, I thought of my grandpa Arv.    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vivvy Book Sneak Peak

In less than two months, my grandmother will turn 90 years young!!  And to celebrate the occasion, my mom has agreed to create a photobook-- made up from photos of our entire family.  And folks, my mom's side of the family is not exactly small.  I think this is a huge undertaking but she seems excited to put it together.  I can't wait to see the finished product!

I had fun finding photos of our family to put in the book for Grandma but the more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking of memories spent at her house when I was growing up.  Having grown up with my grandparents right across town means my entire childhood is peppered with daily life memories of my grandparents.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully express how meaningful that experience and those memories are to me now as an adult.  It is something that I truly cherish.  But how do I highlight some of the super simple things that will forever remind me of Grandma Viv?

The answer:  A photo collage.

I love how it turned out and hope she loves it too!

Book Report: "The Happiness Project"

Remember my nerdy secret that I write a book report after I finish reading a book?  I don't post many of them to this blog, but I really found this particular book interesting.

You can check out my review here.

And if you want to see more of what I've been reading, you can watch my goodreads list.  (I'm in LOVE with that website)

Do you have recommendations?  (I'm always looking for good books)  Happy Reading Folks!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Live from Dubuque....'s Sesame Street!

Let's add this experience to the growing list of:
"Things I thought I'd never do with my kid that I just found myself doing"

In my pre-kid life, I remember seeing ads for "Sesame Street Live" and thinking, "Those parents are nuts!  Why in the H#!! would you spend $30 to take your whiny toddler to see a bunch of adult sized puppets?"  It sounded like complete misery to me in my non-mom world.  But, as I've mentioned hundreds of times before, the world sort of drastically changed when I became a parent.

So when Sister emailed and told me that SSL was going to be in Dubuque the day before Thanksgiving and would I like to go to the show with her and Miss N?  I eagerly said YES!  Suddenly it sounded so fun!  It sounded like an experience!  It was suddenly an opportunity! C might meet celebrities! It was going to somehow add to the value of our lives.  Or maybe none of these things but it was going to kill 90 minutes that we were going to be in Dubuque anyway so what the hell.

The four of us met in Dubuque and were able to go to the pre-show where C & N posed for pictures and saw some of the characters do a little preview.

**Note: C is currently not into being told what to do.  This is incredibly exasperating when we say, "Charlie, say cheese!" and he deliberately pouts, looks down, or looks away. --you'll notice a pattern in many of the pictures to come.  However, we took the dang pictures and although he looks grumpy, he was actually having a blast.  (So much for documenting the moment-- thus the necessary candid shots)

After a good amount of play time, we headed into the auditorium and munched on popcorn until the characters came out on stage.  The first 35 minutes of the show were amazing.  C and N (and their moms) were pretty entertained the entire time.

Then we had to endure a 15 minute intermission and 35 more minutes of the show.   Miss N was more interested in walking around and climbing on her mother than paying attention to the characters on stage.  Plus, she was a little confused and kept singing Barney songs instead of Sesame Street.

C was totally into the show.  And the popcorn.  But he was getting increasingly irritated with Miss N being held by me and taking my undivided attention away from him. And by the time the show ended, he was in full meltdown mode.  (Is there a 2 1/2 year old version of mild colic?  Because if so, I think we have it in Spahnville.  Lately, C has a pretty regularly scheduled cry session for about 30 minutes in the late afternoon.  It's weird because you'd think he'd be rested after his naps but this is not typically the case.  M & I are chalking it up to a growth spurt because he's not teething and that's the only other excuse we know of.) C cried for about 30 minutes until we ordered our pizza across the street.  He was momentarily cheered up when I let him order chocolate milk, but quickly tailspun back into meltdown mode when I wouldn't let him drink the whole thing.  (440 calories and over 50 grams of sugar!)  So he took off his shoes in the restaurant and for some reason that made him feel better.  (??)

We quickly ate and headed over to the mall where we  met my parents (who were heading to Sister's for the holiday).  It was nice to relax and play in a quiet area and let the grands spoil the littles for awhile.  When we met M later that night, all C could talk about was meeting Cookie Monster and how fun the show was.  And in that moment, watching my 2 1/2 year old's face light up as he relived his SSL experience, I got it.  I understood that the afternoon had been an experience-- and had actually been meaningful to my little guy at this moment in life.  And while C will probably not remember Cookie Monster, I'm not sure I'll ever forget that Cookie Monster induced smile.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Elf on the Shelf Fun Hater

Disclaimer:  I don't want to lose facebook friends over this post-- 
so I kind of apologize in advance if this is offensive.  Now let's begin

Well, Thanksgiving has officially passed.  And in the USA, the day after we give thanks for everything we are so fortunate to have, we rush out to stores, and buy things we probably don't really need.  And we also decorate for Christmas.

When I was a kid, we had a fabric advent calendar that hung on the closet door.  A little stuffed mouse moved from pouch to pouch to count off the days.  Sister and I loved it because usually there was a little piece of candy or trinket tucked inside each pouch.  Sometimes decorative socks or hair scrunchies (remember, we are children of the 80's-90's) were pinned to our advent calendar.  I'm fairly certain that both of us really enjoyed and appreciated the effort that Santa's Elf put in each night.  

But we never, ever, had anything quite as creepy as this hiding on our shelf:

Isn't that picture just the creepiest of creepy?  Like 100 on the creep-o-meeter?  As if I want a little clown-like figurine wearing elf clothing staring down at my family-- watching Spahnville basically self destruct if we make it to ten minutes past bedtime.  And I can only imagine the anxiety I would have knowing that he's going to tattle to Santa on me.  (Now remember, I'm going for Mom of the Year and I'm pretty sure that little Elf on the Shelf guy would clue Santa in on how I'm actually not worthy of that award again this year.) 

But anyway, lots of people have this little darling in their homes.  Supposedly, he watches over the children at home and then reports back to Santa.  But at night he seems to be up to all sorts of naughtiness-- which is apparently hysterical and adorable for children to find in the morning.  Oh, that silly little elf!  What mischief will he get himself into tonight!?  But, unfortunately for Charlie, his parents are fun haters and we won't be doing "Elf on the Shelf" in Spahnville.  And when C's old enough to ask why, I'll tell him: 

"They don't sell them in our town."  (We'll have to avoid Hallmark)
"That's only for people who have really naught kids and need extra watching."
"We did that when you were little and he screwed up all your presents so we don't want that to happen again." 

Or I'll just say, "It's creepy. Do you really want a creepy little guy wearing a pointy hat looking at you all night?"  Didn't think so. (And whatever happened to the elusive phrase, "Santa's Watching..."?) 

But anyway, in anticipation of the upcoming Elf-on-a-Shelf craziness that is to be flaunted all over facebook, (probably soon--when does this little freaky dude actually arrive?) I'd like to beg you to please refrain from showing me what adorable mischief your little elf got into last night.  I don't want to see him taking a bath in marshmallows or making snow angels in flour or hiding in your (beautifully decorated--not tacky like ours) Christmas tree.  

Now, if you really are feeling the need to make people smile and think, "Ah, that's hilarious!" and get some good positive affirmation via facebook, then I encourage you to post photos of your little elf doing some Naughty Elf things.  These are my kind of "Elf on the Shelf-isms".  Let's take a look at my favorites: 

Strip Poker Elf:

"I think I dropped my earring" Elf:
Pissed-off Elf:

Surprise! Elf:

Bender Elf:

I am officially an "Elf on the Shelf Fun Hater".  But I'm loving the "Inappropriate Elf on the Shelf" ideas.  I was first turned on to "Inappropriate Elf-on-a-Shelf" from this blog post.  Last year she held a contest to create the most inappropriate elf.  I have to say, those entries lifted my spirits more than I ever thought a creepy little elf guy ever could! Now go have some inappropriate Elf fun! (And post them all over your facebook to brighten people's days!)  

And for the record, if we ever do participate in "Elf on the Shelf" in Spahnville, could you please add that to the very long list of things not to point out to me when it happens?  Thanks! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Few Random Charlie-isms

When I tell people a quick something that my (becoming more adorable every day) little toddler says, I'm often told: "You should write these down!"  And, I do (sort of) keep a little notebook but honestly, not as much as I should.  In fact, I've been absolutely terrible about it lately.  
So I think I'll just jot a few down here.

Lost in thought:
"How am I going to walk around all day with these awesome new shoes that light up?"
(We had to watch out for the first day or so-- as he was constantly checking out his new treads) 

As I'm getting C into the van, I said:
Me: Up two three four!
C: Bootie on the floor!
Me: What did you say?
C: I say bootie on the floor!
Me: Who taught you that?
C: My daddy.  (Gives me the biggest grin in-the-entire-world)

As our whole family gets into the van:
C: Is Daddy coming?
Me: Yep!
C: Is Daddy driving?
Me: Yep.
C:  Because he 'da MAN!
(Me: furrowed brow and questionable eyes to my hubby)

At bedtime:
Me: Be careful when you lie your head down, I don't want you to bump it on the headboard.
C: No.  Then I be like the old whistle man.
(Note: C gets the songs "It's Raining It's Pouring" and "This Old Man" a little mixed up.  And he thinks "This Old Man" is sung, "Whis-tle Man")

Driving home from daycare:
Me: Well, we'll go home and take a nap in your big boy bed!
C: No, I take a nap at Binga's house.
Me: Oh really?
C: I like to sleep in Binga's bed.
Me: Really? When did you sleep in Binga's bed?
C: o'clock ago.  I sleep there free-four-five-six-seven-eleven times.

Charlie loves the color orange.  In fact, when we bought new sheets for his big boy bed, they had to be orange.  Why? If you ask him, he will tell you:
C: I like orange.  It my color.

On the same color subject.... while visiting the pumpkin patch:
M: Look at all the pumpkins!
C: Ooooh, I like this one! It orange! It my color!

Getting out of the van at music class:
Me: Let's get your jacket on. Look it has pockets!
C:  (with the saddest face ever) But I not a gangaroo.
Me: ??????
C:  Gangaroos have pouches, not boys.

C was offering T pretzels while we waited at the airport.  At the moment, T is using a lot of signs.  When C complained that T hadn't said "Thank You", I explained that T did in fact say "Thank You" but he did it with his hands.  I showed him how T says "Thank You" and asked C to request it again.
C:  Here's a pretzel.
(T takes the pretzel)
C.  Say Thank You.  On your shirt.

C is noticing letters everywhere and can point out a few (He knows "B" "O" "W" "A" and sometimes "C"-- brilliant, right?)  Anyway, he noticed the letters on the button of M's jeans.  (G-A-P)  So M pointed out that C's sweat pants also said G-A-P.
M said, "G-A-P  spells Gap.  Just like your pants.  G-A-P spells Gap on your pants."
And C sadly looked up at him and said,
"No, mine G-A-P say 'Charlie' not Gap."

Mornings are difficult for us. Well, they're difficult for me because I don't like to really interact with any other people until I have had a significant amount of "me" time.  And a cup of coffee.  Unfortunately, I can't really say, "Sorry Charlie.  I'm just not ready to deal with you right now.  Let's chat in an hour." I feel as though the Universe has given me an extremely inquisitive little toddler  just to have some morning entertainment.  And I've never craved a tiny shot of Baileys in my coffee so much as I do when C is particularly..... curious. 

With that being said, these next examples all stem from morning car conversations.
 The song "Hey Diddle Diddle" comes on.  (Just what every mother wants to hear at 7:10 in the morning)

C: Mom?
Me: Yes Charlie?
C: Why the dish ran away?
Me: I don't know. From the spoon?
C: But dishes don't run away.
Me: No, you're right.
C: If dishes runned away, we not have any food cuz they would take our food and run away and eat it all up all gone.
Me:  I guess that's true.
C: And cows not jump over moon....Cows have udders!

Another morning, we drove passed a skunk that had just recently met his untimely demise.  :( Without even thinking I said,
Me: Ew, that's a fresh skunk!
C: Where!?  Where a fresh skunk?
Me:  Oh, just back there.
C:  Back where?  I not see a skunk!  (He's craning his neck to see the skunk)
Me:  It was just on the road.  
C:  I didn't see it!
Me:  That's okay.  It's gone now.
C:  I want to see skunk on the road.  (Whining-- nearing tears)
Me:  Oh my GOD Charlie!  It's just a  dead skunk in the middle of the road!
C:  I want to see dead skunk!
Me:  It's in the grass.  You can't see it anymore.
C:  Why it go in the grass?  Why it dead?
Me:  (Silence)
...more silence....
C: Mommy, I smell somethin'

But perhaps my favorite example by far is this:
C & Daddy sitting on the couch. C farts.  A kind of loud and duck like sounding fart.
M: Did you fart?
C:  M-hmm.
(long pause)
C: Did you wanna smell it?

And that's my life folks.  That is my life.  (And I'm kinda falling in love with it.) 

Christmas Card Sneak Peek

With Thanksgiving just three days away, you know what that means....

It's almost time to start sending/ receiving Christmas Cards!!  (No, of course we don't send Christmas cards, we are those people who send Holiday cards. I know it just irritates the heck out of some people but as anyone reading this knows, I'm not too keen on the whole "Jesus is the reason for the season!" business.)  

But I digress.  I use Shutterfly for everything, so of course, I always pick them for holiday cards.  Here's a little sneak peek: 

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

What do you think?  I love it!
(Joy and Love-- Now THATS's the reason for the season)

PS: This was my first attempt at embedding something!  And right now, if you purchase your cards from Shutterfly, then embed the finished product into your website or blog, they will send you a coupon for $10 off your next order!  (And my husband wonders why I keep running back to Shutterfly.  They have their hooks in deep!)   

Saturday, November 17, 2012

DeKalb recap...(A month late!)

I wish I was a bit more on the ball when it came to recapping our fun adventures!  But late is better than never, right?

As most of you know, C & I headed out to see Sister and her little girl a few weeks ago.  Her hubby accepted a job closer in our state (YAY!) which means she'll be closer to us-- by a LOT.  We are SUPER excited to be able to spend more time with them. But they still haven't officially moved and she is single-parenting it right now so we thought we'd swing out to give her some company on a weekend.

We lucked out with beautiful weather and were able to play outside most of the time.  Although it was definitely chilly, that seemed pretty appropriate for mid- October.

The highlight of the weekend was going for a ride on a TRAIN.  Like most 2 year old boys, C is currently obsessed with trains and having the chance to be near them, let alone ride on one, is pretty much the best thing ever.  Needless to say, he was pumped.  

We arrived right as the train was heading out-- he was sad we missed it and very worried that he wouldn't have a turn. Poor guy. 
Proud little man-- next to railroads that make him so happy! 
ALl smiles as they board the train!  Notice the grip C has on his ticket-- he was so excited to give it to the "gin-eer".
My adorable date!
Pretty sure there's nothing cuter than this picture, right?
N didn't want to smile-- she was too busy with the popcorn!
Picking out the pumpkins-- C marched right over, grabbed one, and got back on the train. He did NOT want to miss one second of being on that train.  

Waiting patiently while N picked out her pumpkin.  

Posing for a picture by the engine-- Who can say ham?  :) 

Of course the weekend flew by too quickly and we were heading for home before we knew it.  Thankfully, C slept in the car so his mother could recharge her batteries a bit (he was tired after waking up around 6:00 both mornings.  Thank you son.) and we both were good as new when we returned to Spahnville later that night.  C talked about that train ride for the next week-- I think it made a mighty impression on him.  I wonder what he'd say if we told him that same park offers a Polar Express ride in December?  Shhhhhh..... don't let the cat out of the bag just yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sunny Friend Visit

This post is dedicated to our sunny friends from Arizona who traveled up north to hang out with me and the C-man for a weekend.  I was SO excited for them to arrive that the week leading up to The Big Visit seemed to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  Finally, Friday night arrived and I met them at the airport about an hour away from our house.

It only took about five seconds before Kelly and I delved into conversation that literally didn't stop until Monday evening when we dropped them back off at the airport.  Her little guy, Turner, (I'm in love with his name--and him b/c he's so stinking cute)  obviously realized that we were going to monopolize all the talk-time so he fell asleep in his car seat about 30 seconds after getting on the road.

We deliberately planned nothing in particular-- which was a good way for us to go.  Saturday morning was spent playing downstairs and then outside.  The weather cooperated well enough for us to walk to the park and spend time running, jumping, swinging, and sliding.

I'm IN LOVE with this picture.  In love.  
Spahnville's version of a sandbox-- works great inside too!

T loved climbing on the swingset

Apparently, the fresh air wore out the little tikes because they went down for naps without any problems-- of course, C was up very early because he wanted to play with Turner instead of sleeping-- which was understandable.  That evening, we ate chili, made corn bread muffins, and played and played and played some more.

The weather on Sunday was a bit cooler and we were happy that we had the chance to spend time outside the day before.  After our little Picasas painted pumpkins, my college friend and her little guy headed up to spend the morning with us and help tucker out our boys.  The 3 of them played so hard and slept so well (yay!) After naps, we did brave the cold a bit and headed out to the tennis courts-- where both boys could run freely--- in a fenced in area.  (Whoever thought tennis courts were just for tennis obviously never parented a toddler)  We played at the park until dark (dang daylight savings) and then hung out at home some more.

"Hearing" silence is a little scary.... until you realize what they are up to. :) 

This Arizona kid isn't used to being all bundled up!  

T had to check his email.  He's a busy boy. 
We didn't forget to get a group photo!  (Thanks Mase) 
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Monday was our last day together.  C & I returned to our "normal" routine that morning, and picked up our guests after lunch.  We had decided to play at the Children's Museum in Iowa City until supper, then head to the airport.  Unfortunately, we didn't check the hours and didn't realize it was closed on Mondays-- until we got there.  Charlie said, "Probably you should just pull the door harder, Mommy.  Then we can go inside."  It kinda broke my heart a little.  But we managed to have (a lot) of fun in the mall and everything worked out fine (as things tend to do).

I must publicly apologize to Kelly for not hugging her longer and harder at the airport-- it's just that I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and knew it would be bad if I clung to her much longer.  So I gave her a quick squeeze and watched her head through security with her sweet boy.  After dropping them off at the airport, C and I headed home.  It's always a little sad to say goodbye-- especially to people who brighten up our lives so much!  Guess we'll just have to start planning our next reunion.  Right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Friend Cup Overfloweth

Awhile back, a brilliant person described three metaphorical "cups" in their life.

1. The Work Cup
2. The Friend Cup
3. The Family Cup

He explained that depending on the time of year, these 'cups' fluctuate with varying 'fullness'.  So at times when work was busy, booming, and prosperous, his "work cup" was filled.  But, all that busyness at work could mean less time at home, less time with his wife & kid, and ultimately result in a nearly empty "family cup".  Of course, this type of thinking is right up a counselor's alley so I immediately clung to it and started to realize when my cups were full or nearly empty.

For the most part, I think my work and family cups are pretty even keel.  Working half time allows me to keep my professional foot in the door, interact with (a few) adults, and feel like I'm out in the real world on a daily basis.  It also allows me to be home with my toddler in the afternoons and do Becky Home-Ecky things that keep me from going crazy.  My evenings are usually spent with a toddler, a husband, and a big slobbery dog and I'm pretty happy with all of that.

But honestly, my friend cup usually runs a little on the low side.  Of course, I have friends here in Tiny Town, USA--- but I'm not very good about spending good quality girl time with them.  Most of the friend interaction I have happens because we get our kids together-- so our quality time is usually spent wiping noses, kissing boo-boos, or helping two small people learn to share.  It isn't spent talking over old times, laughing until your cheeks hurt, and using way too many swear words & f-bombs for no apparent reason.

So to have the opportunity to see almost all of my BEST friends within a few weeks was simply amazing.(remember our sunny Arizona friends were just here last weekend, and only two weeks before that we got to spend the weekend with Sister and her little one.)  I'm going to recap all three of my little adventures but will start with this past weekend's scrapbook retreat because it's fresh in my mind.

Let's set the scene:

This old church was converted into a scrapbook/ crafter's retreat several years ago.  It sleeps 14 and has 14 individual tables for everyone to spread out in their own little space.  There are a lot of additional anmenties but I won't bore you with all the details.

Anyway, this little church is located in an even tinier town than Spahnville! Population: 300.  (But they do still have a post office that is open from 7-6:30.--And you wonder why the USPS is going broke.)

My college friend, Carrie, has been organizing this retreat for five years-- and it's always something that I make sure to have on my calendar for next year.  It's a great time to catch up with friends, eat good food, drink some good beverages, and yes, get a few pages scrapbooked.

(You can read about last year's retreat here, if you're super hard up for things to do today)

But this year, it ROCKED even more than normal because.....

This girl SURPRISED me there!!  To get the full effect of the surprise, you must first understand that this lady and I met at College A and did not like it there.  We survived the year until we could transfer to College B-- where we were roommates for a semester.  Then she moved off campus and into an apartment with the crazies that became some of my best friends.  She is in almost every college photo that I own, although sadly, I do not remember some of the photos having ever been taken.  Anyway, she and I road-tripped out to Colorado a zillion random times (remember the things you could do on weekends when gas was only .88 a gallon?) and after college she ended up moving out there-- where she lives today.  So to have a friend fly from Denver, CO to Itty-Bitty-Teeny-Tiny Town, MN was just quite...shocking!  I was just giddy with excitement for pretty much the whole weekend.  I kind of felt like I should just sit on her lap and soak her up-- but that might have made people feel weird so I tried to just enjoy her company from across the table.

Here we are!  The four college girlies reunited-- 
but missing Ms. Schwartz who has her hands full with two little boys at the moment.

So over the weekend, the four of us college buddies reminisced, laughed, ate, drank, and were very merry.  My friend cup was overflowing this weekend because it just felt so good to be surrounded by "girlfriends" who have so much history together.  It made me wish that the four of us lived in the same town--  not spread throughout the Midwest.  But, if we saw each other daily/weekly/monthly, would the time spent together be as sweet?  I'm not sure-- I just know this weekend was more than I ever could have hoped for!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trick-or-Treat Take THREE

Yes, we really just celebrated C's THIRD Halloween.  

Here's a peek at my little luv puppy in 2010:
(Sorry, I could't figure out how to do a Picasa collage-- I'm a little out of practice!) 

 And a peek at my little pumpkin last year:

This photo was actually taken in january-- he just LOVED (and still loves) his pumpkin outfit and often would choose to wear it. 
And here's 2012! (My little mouse)
Preparing for "The Big Day"

C has been VERY excited about Halloween for the past few days.  (His curiosity was peaked when I tried to explain why he was going to wear Mickey Mouse ears and red shorts in a few days...) So... he wore his costume.... a lot.  He wore it to Kindermusik on Tuesday, he wore it carving pumpkins that night, and then he wore it at daycare on Halloween.

Last night, the time had finally arrived.  It was The Big Day.  The weather was warm enough for us to be out without winter coats (YAY) but it was cool enough that we wanted to get started right away.  However, since I worked all day yesterday, I felt frazzled trying to get everything accomplished before 5:30.  (How on EARTH do you full time moms who have full time jobs outside of your homes even function!?  I am totally incapable and quite envious of that ability.  I'm still recovering from the anxiety last night produced.) Anyway, M came home from work, changed clothes and tried to coax C into going trick-or-treating.  But he was occupied with new books that had arrived in the mail and we could barely get the kid out of the house.  (Not to mention, that I couldn't find the camera, extra mittens & hats, his little tail, the face paint, etc. etc.  which produced typical Sphanville anxiety which led to a pouty--albeit adorable--little mouse.)

An adorable little pout, don't you think?
But after knocking on a few doors, he got the hang of things and warmed up to the idea of people giving him candy.

Of course, as a parent, perhaps the most fun thing is watching your child have fun.  And my child was having fun.  Lots of it.  And when you're lucky enough to be in a happy and positive relationship with your child's daddy, it's pretty darn fun to watch them hold hands the entire time.  Super Duper Adorable.

But one thing I wasn't expecting was how much fun I had watching the faces of the people who opened their doors.

We live in a "well established" (older) "neighborhood" (not development).  And many of our neighbors have lived here for..... awhile.  When they opened their doors, their faces lit up at the sight of our adorable little mouse.  If only I could bottle up the light and warmth that came from the smiles on these weathered faces! Without getting too sappy, I felt like you could almost see the memories cross their faces-- memories of their own children and possibly grandchildren who have all grown up as children tend to do.  And as I watched them, and watched my two guys walk hand in hand from house to house, I tried to soak up the moment-- and remember how sweet it is---in more ways than just candy.