Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I’m trying not to.  It’s so hard.

Oh my sweet Gus.  He really is his own self, and I love that about him.  He is so charming and affectionate, such a mama’s boy, and funny and rambunctious and really really smart.  And also… stubborn and strong-willed, oh yes.  And when you push, and don’t take the time to do it gently, he pushes back. 

This picture of our two boys from last Friday night, before the big Halloween Party at Dan’s grandma’s house… well it makes me sad.  Because this was taken after a half hour of pleading, reasoning, shallow threats, attempted bribery, and finally even shamefully saying things like, “All the other kids will be wearing costumes, don’t you want to be like the other kids?”

This was a battle that I didn't need to wage, because in the grand scheme of things IT DOES NOT MATTER whether or not Gus wears a costume this year.  It doesn't even matter if he goes trick-or-treating.  So why do I push?

I can’t seem to help it sometimes.  I was so frustrated on Friday night that he was still fighting me on this, even though I took his lead and went with the lamest costumes ever for both kids because he wanted to be a ghost “like Percy!” from a Thomas episode he recently watched.  

As I was doing it, the pushing, I was angry with myself for caring so much… caring about what other people would think?  Caring that I might not be able to post a cute picture of him in his costume on Instagram.  Caring that he would somehow “miss out” on something that might be fun for him (and us), but at the same time I was refusing to see or hear him in the whole situation.

I took away his power.  He is three, so there are not a lot of things that he has control over in his life, but his body, how he feels about doing certain things, those are his and no one else’s.  By pushing when I really don’t need to I am telling him that his feelings don’t matter, and that rather than thinking for himself it is more important to do what everyone else does.    

He was crying about 30 minutes before this picture was taken.  Real tears.  He hated having that big stupid white t-shirt on, he refused to wear the white stocking cap, he just wanted to go to great grandma’s house and see all his cousins and eat pumpkin shaped cookies and not wear something that made him uncomfortable.

Now I can see how stupid it was to push him on something so inconsequential, but in the moment, it was just another thing he was fighting me on.

And that picture.  His little fidgety hands.  His slumped shoulders.  His sad and unbearably sweet big blue eyes.  Oh this picture makes my heart hurt. 

…honoring his feelings and making sure he knows that it’s okay to be HIM, because there is only one of those, and its okay to be different… those things are so much more important to me than getting a fun picture on Halloween.    
So I’m working on it.  Next time I’ll do better.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's do this, fall

We are reeeally making an effort this fall, more-so, I'm finding myself obsessed with making the most of this beautiful yet short season.

That means that even though most days I look like this:


(Tired, un-showered, possibly stinky, literally willing my eyes to stay open after a night of dealing with a baby who refuses to go back to sleep for more than an hour after waking at 2:00 AM)

I am still able to rally, all in the name of fall-is-awesome-and-super-fun-with-little-children-and-some-day-I'll-be-able-to-sleep-again-so-we-WILL-go-make-some-memories-and-WE-WILL-LOVE-IT.

Fist pump!

So this weekend we went to the pumpkin patch, and there were photo opps aplenty and loads of cuteness to go around.

My plans were not going to be ruined by a little drizzle.  Even though Saturday's weather was pretty gross across the board, it magically stopped raining mere minutes after arriving at our destination.  Thus despite the overcast skies and the muddy ground we had a great time wandering around and picking out the perfect pumpkins.  
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Gus immediately went over to this little pile of pumpkins on display and sat down to cheese for us.  I was blown away by such an un-Gus-like cooperative attitude toward having his picture taken.  And then he patted the pumpkin next to him and said, "Louie, come sit here!"

I die.  

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Instead I handed over the camera for once so it could be documented for the future by something other than the self-portraits on my phone that I was around during my kids' childhood.  ;)

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HA!  The boys look unsure of being photographed with Ben and Michelle here.  

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The baby-blue head-to-toe look was not on purpose.  Louie had fun at the pumpkin patch but for most of it he really really really wanted to get DOWN in the mud.  Ugh.  I forget sometimes how much wrestling is involved on outings like this with a not-yet-walking-but-fully-mobile-baby.

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Dan steered Gus towards the pumpkins we wanted, it's nice that he doesn't have strong opinions about things like that yet.  

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We picked up some little gourds as well, thought it could be a fun project for our artsy and motivated nanny to do with the kids.  ;)

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Gus really loves this tower of pumpkins, and of course was obsessed with trying to rip it down.  Photo-op is redeemed by Louie's utter adorable-ness.  

Last Year

He was equally distracted last year when I tried to get a picture with him and the strange pumpkin totum-poll thing.  Some things do not change.

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The owner guy said OF COURSE! he can get up on the tractor, and even pulled out a towel to wipe down the seat.  Then, as if knowing the child he was dealing with, he pulled something off the tractor and pressed some button disabling the starter, "just in case."  

This guy clearly has known a few 3-year-olds in his lifetime.

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Just wait you two.  NEXT YEAR! you will have your own squishy baby to wrestle. 

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Both children were too interested in the corn to acknowledge their mother and her annoying camera.  I chose to share this one because I love that they both have the same expression of irritation/boredom/indifference with my "CHEESE!" antics.

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Gus and Uncle Ben exploring.

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Found a good one!

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Sunday, October 07, 2012

Gus rides a horse

We got out last weekend and went to an apple orchard just outside of town.  Ben and Michelle and my parents joined us, proving again how lucky we are to have so much family around, family that clearly love my kids enough to do stuff like this.  It was on my fall "to do" list and the weather ended up being absolutely gorgeous, like in the 80's, so I'm glad we finally fit it in.

It was fun, though excursions like this one are a bit more complicated with a newly "potty trained" toddler.  I spent way more time than I would have liked in the steaming hot porta-potties, and then when that didn't work, hiding behind trees, encouraging (begging) Gus to do his business.  Gross to the max.

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Anyway, it was fun to do something we did last year and really take stock of how much has changed in one short year.  Of course, obviously, this year we have Louie, and last year I was all round and pregnant.

Proof.  Oh how I DO NOT miss my maternity wardrobe and puffiness.  Just looking at those jeans is causing me post-traumatic stress.

Gus is just, like, a KID now.  It's weird, because last year I totally thought he was a kid too, you know? He was my big grown up two-year-old. And now he's THREE.  Life's a trip.

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Gus at the apple orchard, then and now.

A few things were different, a few the same.  First of all, this place, Apple Jack Orchards has majorly commercialized itself since last year.  I'm not necessarily complaining, it was somewhat fun to have more things for Gus to be able to experience, but also when I think about it, we could have probably done without the jumping pillow and the corn pit and have been just fine.  Gus would have been happy looking at the chickens for three hours, which is something I also remember from last year.  Loves those chickens.  So random.

Yeah, so it was really really really busy, insane amounts of people.  Last year it was a little later in the year and it was a dreary, somewhat drizzling day, so we had the place to ourselves.

My absolute favorite part of the day was Gus getting up on a horse!  Well, pony.  I couldn't believe it.  Last year he said he wanted to, we waited in line a bit, handed the guy our $4 (insane!) and then when it was time for him to get up on the animal he freaked out.  Flailing, screaming, no amount of convincing or bribing would have gotten him up on that thing.  Whatevs, no big deal, the guy was nice enough to give us our money back and we went on our way.

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Well this year, Gus rode that pony like a boss. He was so freaking proud of himself it sort of made my heart hurt.  Adorable.

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That's my family in the background, just after doing the paparazzi thing with their cell phones.  We were all SHOCKED that he really did it.

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CHICKENS!!!!  Seriously, we had to drag him away from the chickens when it started to get old for the rest of us, including Louie.

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Gus Train 2011

Last year we had to ask a dude to get the Cow Train going, and Gus was the only one on the "ride".  About half way around the field Gus started standing up in his car, so the guy driving stopped and went back and got him, and sat the little guy right down next to him for the ride back.

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I watched all this from across the field and nearly had a heart attack feeling so helpless and worrying that he was scared.

Gus 2011 Cow Train

Pretty sure he just got bored, particularly since there were no other kids, because he certainly seemed pleased with himself sitting up front in the tractor when he got back.

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This year was a little different.  A ridiculous line for the train and Gus threw a few tantrums while waiting.

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And he stayed seated.

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Later, while Gus jumped/sat on the giant inflated pillow thing, I brought Louie to the corn pit.

instagram corn pit louie

And when he wouldn't stop trying to put the corn in his mouth, my brother had the GENIUS idea to take off his socks and put them on his hands.  Genius I tell you.

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Exhibiting such smart thinking gives me no qualms about his future dad abilities.  (Have I mentioned my brother and his wife are having a baby in March?!!  YAY!)

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Louie and Gus liked the corn pit alright.  I, however, did not.  The dust from the flailing children made it hard to breath, it hurt my feet, and piles of it ended up in my underpants.  Not cool.

Before we left we had lunch by the river (apple donuts for the win!) and then waited in line again for Gus to ride a pony again.  Oh, and attempted to thwart Gus's multiple attempts to seclude himself to poop his pants.  And then another trip to the porta-potty, and lots of, "I don't have to go!"  Good times.

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Seriously, he was thinking about doing it here, when he accidentally photo-bombed Ben and Michelle.

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He's a natural.  

See you next year Apple Jack Orchards!  Gus will be 4, Louie nearly 2, and Ben and Michelle will have a six month old!  Craziness.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


I woke up this morning to a muffled “Arf!” coming from Louie’s monitor, which was sitting next to me on Gus’s bedside table. 

The clock said 6:45. 

Holy shit.

I bolted out of bed with the realization that that bark meant our nanny and her three-year-old son had just arrived and I was still half-asleep, laying in bed with my own three-year-old, and inappropriately dressed (no bra!) for bidding good-morning to this sweet young woman who cares for my boys while I’m at work.
Twenty minutes later, after splashing some water on my face and putting my hair in a ponytail, and digging around for an outfit in my laundry basket of clean clothes, I was out the door.  It was that kind of morning. 

I’m not getting a lot of sleep these days, all four of Louie’s top teeth have been coming through (FOR MONTHS) and I feel like my body has almost adjusted to functioning on a few hours of rest here and there, but yeah, when my children do allow me to sleep it feels luxurious and there is no inner-alarm clock that is going to wake me up when I need to get ready for work.  It’s like my body goes into survival mode when those precious minutes of sleep turn into more than an hour at a time, and I almost always wake up drooling and stiff like I hadn't moved an inch since my head hit the pillow.

Life is really good these days, if I was sleeping more I’d say it was excellent, but alas, I’ll settle for really good.  It is fall, the season of new beginnings, and every time I think back on how much things in our lives are constantly changing, it’s also jarring how much at the same time, they stay the same.  There’s no better way to describe the stage of life we’re in.

Dan's 32nd birthday at the end of August
Children change so quickly, they can grow inches taller right before your eyes but you don’t even notice until the weather gets cooler and you try to put the same pants on them that they wore four months ago.   This happened over the summer with both of my boys, and while it’s no revelation that children grow, it still surprises me and I’m hit with waves of nostalgia mixed with stress thinking about finding the time to pack away and pull out more tubs of baby clothes, more organizing of the closets and dressers.  It never ends.

Constant change, new seasons of life, growing out of clothes, new milestones, but still it feels like we’re just chugging away and the days blend and so often it feels like more of the same.  Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, and focus too much on the fact that it feels as if 90% of my life is spent in an outdated kitchen I absolutely hate, preparing meals, pouring milk, chopping vegetables, and wiping faces and counters and floors and high chairs.  But that’s not really true, and that drudgery is certainly not what I’m going to remember about these days (and years). 

So here’s a snapshot in time of RIGHT NOW.  The Big and The little, though it’s hard to know which are which right now.  Perspective in this stage of life is oh so wonky and undefined.     

Louie, Louie, Louie.  At nine months old he is such a little wild man and he has captured my heart with his antics.  It is pretty typical for me to walk in the door from work to a spunky little boy tearing apart the basement with glee and meddling in whatever it is his big brother is playing with.  Upon fixing his eyes on me he immediately breaks down in such deliriously happy devastation (does that make sense?).   He crawls and climbs all over for me, eating my shoulder and face, burrowing his head into my neck, a round and delicious ball of whimpers and giddy laughter.  He is desperate to nurse, to reconnect with his mother in the most natural of ways. 

There is then about five minutes of nursing and snuggling (I love these five minutes), and after such a dramatic reunion he is off again, raring to go, ready to rip apart the puzzle Gus is working, dart towards the stairs, crawl underneath the dog rubbing his head on her tummy, or rummage through the bathroom garbage.      
It’s a little frustrating adjusting to life with a baby and his early bedtime.  Gus has been a night owl for some time now, especially on the days he naps, but as of late, by 6:45 Louie is very much ready to be in his pajamas and calming down ready for bed.  Sadly sometimes I forget about Louie’s bedtime needs, because we’re so used to planning our lives around when or how much Gus sleeps.  We had a family dinner at my parent’s house on Monday night to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and I made sure to get Gus a nap that day so he could handle being out later than normal, because that is what we have become accustomed to doing. 

But what about baby Louie?  Oh Louie, I often forget about his particular preferences for bedtime at 7:00, and it doesn't really matter how well he naps during the day, he needs that early bedtime.   Monday night he was just FALLING APART and we weren't even through dinner.  We passed him around, we changed scenery, we handed him new toys, I even gave him bites of ice cream, but nope.  He was done.  It doesn't help that my family is the loudest family ever when we’re all together, talking over each other and chiding my mother for interrupting every conversation that isn't about something she wants to talk about, all of which I suspect over stimulates him and upsets his tired little brain even more.

So nine months in Louie is still getting a little bit of the shaft as the second child, life doesn't revolve around him quite as much as it did for his brother when he was a baby.  That’s okay though, I’m feeling less guilt about it as I realize it is a fact of life for second-borns and it absolutely does not mean he is any less loved or doted on. 

Also, he has the added benefit of being a baby with a big brother.  Oh my goodness he loves Gus so much.  No one makes him laugh harder, and no one is more interesting or exciting. 

Their relationship is ever-evolving, and it is so fascinating to watch.  Slowly but surely, Gus is getting more tolerant of having Louie all up in his face all the time.  Louie almost always wants to play with whatever toy Gus has, which is somewhat infuriating to Gus, but he is getting so much better at controlling himself and not acting out because of it.  He is learning to find solutions that don’t involve pushing or grabbing things out of Louie’s hands, or rolling over him.  He needs to be reminded sometimes, but usually he is good about sitting at the table with a puzzle or something else that can be “broken”, away from Louie’s destructive little paws. 

Gus is very concerned about Louie choking on toys, doesn't matter how big or small the toy may be, though I think some of his concerned exclamations of, “NO LOUIE, LOUIE IS CHOKING!” are a cover for, “NO!!! LOUIE IS PLAYING WITH ONE OF MY TOYS!” 

I’m on to him.

In the car and at mealtimes Gus lives for cracking Louie up.  I love it, Dan and I both can’t help the ridiculous grins on our faces when watching the two of them laughing together.   

Gus has seriously become a little boy overnight.  He has so much to say, but he still very much chooses when he wants to speak to you.  We’re still waiting for the day when he will CONSISTENTLY answer our questions and have a conversation that is initiated by someone else.  Like when I come home from work, I will ask him how his day was, what he did with his nanny, what games they played, etc.  And usually, he ignores me.  Then sometimes later he’ll tell me some of the answers to these questions, but it’s on his time, on his terms. 

So annoying. 

Oh yes, he is definitely three years old. 

This is a good thing though, because he is finally out-growing some of those two-year old issues we had.  I know THREE brings with it many more frustrations, but the kicking/hitting/pushing crap seems to have slowed down.  Thank goodness he is not that kid anymore.  He has his moments, and he is certainly a more aggressive and outgoing kid than others we have met, but it’s very rare he pushes and hits anymore.  And thank goodness he definitely doesn't do it for absolutely no reason, like before.  I know that sounds crazy, there’s no good reason to hit, but he went through this “stage” for about seven horrible months where he would just walk right up to a kid and push him or her, completely unprovoked.  Most people agreed that it seemed like he wanted to make connections with children but didn't know how else to do it, and we all hoped that as his verbal skills improved things would get better. 

And that’s exactly what happened, and we are all so thankful that that problem sloooowly faded away.  It was a long time coming.  He now plays nicely with friends, and while there are, of course, sharing “issues”, that is something we will be working on for many years I would assume.

And I’m so proud of our Gus for rocking the potty training thing.  I know I complain a lot about how horrible potty training is, but if I remove from the conversation the inconveniences it has created for us as parents, and focus just on him, it truly has gone so much better than I ever imagined.   It blows my mind to think about where he was at less than a month ago, I never would have thought he’d be out of diapers like it was no thing in just a few weeks.  He still has the occasional accident, and the #2 thing is a definite work in progress, but far and away, the kid’s maturity with the whole process was such a happy surprise. 
Of course there’s a new thing we’re dealing with now, something that popped up about two weeks into potty training, when we were all ready to pat ourselves on the back for kicking ass at it.

He is now afraid of going potty in public restrooms.  Like, TERRIFIED.  It all started with an incident with a self-flushing toilet at school that scared him, and now here I am, regularly parking in the back of parking lots so he can “potty in the bushes!” before we go in, or on the way out.  It sucks.  It stresses me out, and it has caused him to have to miss out on a fun trip to the Children’s Museum with my parents when they had to leave after being there only an hour because he was totally flipping out refusing to go and begging to go home and go potty.   (And there are no appropriately private bushes in downtown St. Paul.)   

Poor thing, I feel terrible that he’s so scared, and I waffle back and forth between being super sympathetic and honoring his feelings of fear, trying not to push him too much, and then getting really frustrated, annoyed, even angry that it is causing us to miss out on doing certain things.

So now we travel with a bucket in the back of the car, just in case. 

On Sunday we had a bit of a break-through at church when he finally “went” there after a lot of cheering and promising of suckers and holding our hands over our ears when we flushed.  There was much excitement and big hugs, and then after washing his hands he ran out of the bathroom to the fellowship hall to tell daddy all about it, yelling aloud for many to hear, “Daddy I go potty, see!  It’s not scary at all!” The two older ladies in the other stalls came out and congratulated him, and I heard them both talking to each other about waiting to flush until he was done, because they heard our very hushed and very important conversation about how loud and scary the toilets are.    

Ahhh potty training, it is a process, but I’m honestly just so stoked Gus has taken to it as quickly as he did.  I don’t think I give that kid enough credit and I should probably try to focus on “building him up” rather than expecting the worst.  But then low expectations have always been my parenting coping mechanism!  What would I do without them?

For this to be a true snapshot in time, I really should try to mention something about myself that does not revolve around my children. 

Let’s see…

Well my job is going well enough, I suppose, stagnant, but I have no problem with that currently.  Our new nanny situation is working out fabulously and it is AMAZING to just leave the house every morning, free and clear, no drop-offs, no begging Gus to go find his shoes.  Mornings and afternoons are truly so much less stressful on both of us parents. 

We haven’t been very good at doing the “date night” thing for a few months, but it does seem like we've been getting out a lot, we've had a few child-free weddings as of late, and are actually going to see a comedy show this weekend with friends, which is somewhat unheard of.  I may even wear a dress since I won’t have to nurse a baby, that’s so gloriously freeing!

I’m thinking about doing some easy cosmetic house updates, because I am so sick of some of the furniture/painting choices we made when we moved into the house eight and a half years ago, but it’s really difficult for me to dedicate much time or energy on a project like that when I’m so sleep deprived and all I want to do when the children are napping or being watched by Grandma and Grandpa is LAY AROUND.  Or see a movie or eat guacamole or drink wine.  Something like that.  Paint the dining room?  Egh.  I would prefer to wake up some morning and just have it be done for me.  

Anyone want to volunteer to come paint my dining room in the middle of the night?