Sunday, January 12, 2014

Juggling Act

Everything is harder with little kids, we all know this.  The littlest things like getting everyone out of the house and in the car are now epic undertakings that take skillful planning, timing, patience, and so much energy. Of which I have so little of.  Even on the weekends.  Saturday morning.  I often find myself at the beginning of the day with little planned but great intention to do SOMETHING, and then we finally muster up the energy to tackle that something (usually after a few cups of coffee) and we’ve already squirreled away a good part of our morning before Louie’s nap, so then it becomes, “What can we do? How long will it take? What will we do for lunch?”

And then.

Okay, let’s do this, quick.  You get the kids dressed, pack a bag with snacks.  I’ll go wash my face and brush my teeth and pretend I look good enough to face the outside world.

(Chaos for 37-45 minutes.)

Should we warm up the car?  Is this the cup he was using yesterday? Gus please put on your shoes.  Where is his hat? Bella stop being a maniac, you’re not coming with us! She’s driving me crazy, can someone let the dog out OH MY GOD.  Seriously stop fighting over that one innocuous toy and put your shoes on! Are you even listening to me? Louie I can’t carry you and put my coat on at the same time, I’m sorry.  Gross, you need your nose wiped, NO DON’T LICK IT! Yuck yuck yuck, where are the wipes?”

And so on.  And so on. 

It’s a familiar scene for many, I’m sure.  And some days are better than others, depending on how much sleep we got the night before, the Louie clingy factor (these days it is at about 175%), and Gus’s excitement level over the actual outing which of course determines the level at which he cooperates willingly. 

With this being our life, something ends up getting lost in the shuffle.  Like today.


We went sledding.  We had been talking about doing it this weekend, with the promise of such warm weather after weeks of below zero Minnesota winter hell, but yesterday didn’t work out.  Grocery shopping and cooking for a party I didn’t even want to go to won out over sledding with the kids.  I had mentioned it to my brother and parents on Friday, so when we decided we were going to actually for sure make it happen this morning, I gave them each a call.  Of course, by then it was 9:30 and we had tentative plans for the afternoon and there was lunch and Louie’s nap and we were all still in our pajamas, so cue the aforementioned chaos.  And also throw snow pants and mittens into the mix. 


My phone call with my mom went something like this, “Okay we are actually going to go, none of us are dressed, so it will be likely 45 minutes before we can get there, we are in get-out-the-door-mode, so I don’t have time to chat, but there’s your warning.  45 minutes if you want to go, okay, see ya, bye.  Okay, yeah.  Bye.”


It’s a bit of a blur. 


And then we make it to the sledding hill with only a few tears from a 2-year-old that just really hates wearing mittens, and we have an AMAZING TIME (it’s almost always worth it despite the stress of getting out of the house).



But my parents never come.  Ben and Michelle and their 10 month old show!  He is not so thrilled about the sledding but it is also his nap time. 


Still no grandma and grandpa.


(Louie is over it.)

Figured they just bailed.  My mom wasn’t feeling well, she works at 3:00 at the hospital, I understand.  Oh well.

Sure enough, its 11:30 when are walking in the door and she calls.  “Where are you guys, are you going soon, why haven’t you called?”


Of course I get a little snippy, say the wrong thing, “What do you mean, you’re kidding me right?  We’ve gone and are home again.  Two hours ago I told you 30-45 minutes! Why in the world were you waiting for me to call again? Do you know what my life is like getting out of the house for something like this?  I don’t have time to make a second call!”

Ugh.  Shut up Alicia.  She’s your mother.


Dropped another ball.  Never fails.  As much as I start to feel like I’ve got this down, embraced the chaos while still feeling somewhat in control, I screw up and hurt someone else’s feelings and act like my life is so hard.

It’s this place we’re in.  It’s sooooo all consuming, these little children.  This little life of ours.  I forget about or don’t pay attention to all of the others out there in completely different stages of their lives, but maybe just as difficult.  In different ways.  Some maybe not that difficult, but still, that doesn't make their time any less important to them.  It’s not all about me and my kids and I need to remember that.  Being a mom of small children IS hard, but so is being a grandma, so is having to work at a stressful job in a hospital, keeping people alive.  So is having one of your grown children 7 hours away, unable to even come home for Christmas. 

Just feeling like a jerk, and probably being way too hard on myself but still.  I hate dropping a ball.  

Monday, January 06, 2014




Little by little.  

Change doesn't have to be sudden. It's not necessarily something that happens in an instant, you might not even notice it if you're not looking for it.  It can creep in under the radar, present only in the small moments, seen in seemingly innocent interactions, growth disguised by everyday life.  

We've spent most of the last week celebrating Louie turning 2, and in all this family time (below zero temps and time off work for the New Year holiday means there has been a LOT of time home) I've really been able to sense a shift happening.  Or maybe it's already happened.

The boys' relationship is changing.  Their interests are merging, they are able to find common ground and they show empathy and compassion for each other in the sweetest ways.  There is a better understanding of what the other needs, how the other feels, and ways to play together that both will enjoy.  Of course this is a process.  They're both growing and learning and developing, and in this moment, it seems like we've hit a sweet spot.  We're in a place where Louie is able to communicate clearly, the baby stage far behind him, and Gus is getting better at controlling his emotions and dealing with frustration appropriately.

They laugh together, they tear around the house together, they gang up on their parents together. They have inside jokes, but then also each know what to do to really piss of the other.  Our days are a mix of giggling and arguing, but it feels like a healthy mix.  Parental intervention is needed much less, and that is a relief and makes day-to-day life much simpler and more manageable.

It's fun.  It should be fun, and right now, it is.  We spend our days playing pirates, super heroes, robots, animals, & dinosaurs, and I just love it.  With these little boys, well it just gets better, easier in ways, everyday.  I'm so thankful that they have each other and we get to be along for the ride.

Because without yesterday, we wouldn't be able to appreciate today.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Before December's over

(Posting on New Year's day because uploading my ridiculous number of photos last night ended up taking way longer than I had hoped, and I decided to stop ignoring my husband on New Year's Eve.  Please forgive the title and pretend you're reading this on December 31st.)

Recapping Christmas on today, New Years Eve day, definitely brings me back to doing the same thing at 6:00 AM 2 years ago, just hours before giving birth to Louie.  I remember getting out of bed finally, annoyed with the epic number of times I had found myself getting up to pee in the last two hours, and I sat on the couch typing away about our Christmas holiday.  The presents, the family, the food, the excitement, the exhaustion.  And it felt monumental, no other Christmas would ever be the same because there would be a new little boy in our family.  I was pensive about that, worrying, a lot of nervous energy, but still thinking I had at least a week or so to get over the hump and be TOTALLY READY.

Ha!  Of course I was an idiot, and when I was waddling to the bathroom like a drunk zombie every 10 minutes from 4:00 to 6:00 AM it was because I was having freaking contractions, not because I had to pee.  

And then 3 and a half hours later I was holding Louie in my arms while Dan sat next to me making shell-shocked phone calls to our family.

I was wrong, though, to worry that no other Christmas would ever be the same.  Because while the number of family members have changed, and of course we can't even imagine spending a Christmas without our Louie, it really is still the same.  It's the same scene every year, the same decorations, the same food, the same noise, sometimes even the same family drama.  Also so many lovely new moments.  New memories.  New traditions made.  I take comfort in all of that.  The new and the old.  It's what I love about Christmas.    

Tradition.  Ritual.  Comfort.  Laughter. Cookies.  

Cookies truly are a big part of the holiday aren't they? Baking with girlfriends, little boys who just CANNOT seem to figure out how to decorate a cookie without getting frosting all over the sprinkle shaker, putting together cookie plates to bring to each party, rationing them out to children as bribery in order to get "real food" in their bellies, melting Rolos on pretzel squares and calling it "baking"... Christmas cookies are my favorite.  

I'll get on with it, and let the pictures do most of the talking.  There are a lot of them, as catching up like this lends to.

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We went to the Holidazzle parade downtown the very first night of it's last selective run this year, the day after Thanksgiving.  It ended up being a good choice, as the temperatures that night were some of the lowest weekend temps that December would see.

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It was a great big jolly crew, Dan's whole family for the most part, and the boys were completely enthralled throughout the experience. To the extent that Gus was literally dancing in the street for us and Louie giddy with anticipation.  Truly a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad we made the effort on the final year of it's run. (Even though it took us an hour to get out of the parking garage on our way out of the city.)

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The next morning we set out to cut down our Christmas tree at Kringlund's Tree Farm, a tradition my family has had since before I can remember.

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Despite some apathy and sickness-related exhaustion on the part of both boys, ("Carry me mommy, carry me!") we had a lovely time.  These traditions aren't ALWAYS about fun, right?  ;)

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There's our keeper!

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My sister-in-law Michelle and my adorable nephew Graham, who is at that lovely age where he will almost always smile back at you.

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Super helpful.

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The tree going up at home, a picture taken prior to Dan messing around with the damn lights for about four hours.

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After many hours of mostly enjoyable decorating, the living room is finally looking like Christmas.  Gus was adorable and helpful this year getting the tree up, which was particularly fun, I honestly feel like some of these traditions that occur leading up to Christmas are more enjoyable than the actual holiday. Christmas is all about the anticipation, right?

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Helping with some "baking: at my mom's house.  Louie reacted to popping a peppermint Hershey kiss into his mouth by spitting it out in disgust and shaking his head, "I don't like it, I don't like it."

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I had been whining to Dan that the tree was missing something, garland of some kind, to balance it out.  He disagreed.  So when he was at work one day the boys and I went to Target and bought some beaded garland.  Gus mostly just wanted to run around the house with it like a maniac.

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We put together a gingerbread house while Louie was napping one weekend, a first time for all of us, and it was a total hit.  Probably helped that I accidentally bought a "pre-built" house at Costco, all we were responsible for was the decorating, there was no time for Gus to lose interest.


My girlfriends and I had our annual cookie exchange in early December.  The night was truly wonderful, so full of laughter and irreverence, even some ridiculous texting exchanges with Betsy in Chicago.


We each bake different types of cookies on our own for the exchange, and then spend the night baking another big batch of cookies together.


Found this little piece of decor at some random shop this year (Home Goods?) and added it to the mantle.  It was a fun to use it as a countdown for the boys.


We skipped out on our church's Christmas program this year mostly because we were too lazy to attend church since maybe last spring, but Dan's brother still invited all of us over for lunch and sledding after the program.  Typical us... we didn't go to the program, but came for the food and fun.  :)






It was a blast.


Downtown Minneapolis Macy's Santaland.  7 minutes of pure magic for the boys.


Poor Gus was terrified during his Santa experience this year.  The Macy's set-up is not the greatest for our kid.  We waited in line, not for long because we chose to go right away on a snowy Monday, and then were directed into this tiny room.  The door was closed behind us and there was Santa, in the other corner of the room was a Elf photographer all set-up to go.

Completely horrifying for Gus, I wish I would have known.  He did great last year at a mall where we stood in line for 20 minutes watching other children sit on Santa's lap and have a nice time.  He had time to get used to the idea, time to make a game-plan in his head.

The tiny room with seemingly no exits was thus, terrifying.  I felt bad.  He had to be essentially restrained from running back out the door from where we came, and then he spent the next few minutes while Louie did the Santa photo opp thing, hiding behind me sniffling with a tear-streaked face.  


Louie was okay with sitting on Dan's lap, next to Santa, but refused to make eye contact with the big dude.


Gus did have a Christmas program at pre-school this year, and it was absolutely adorable.  I was a bit nervous about how it would go, since he sometimes has a hard time when put on the spot-light, even just being in front of or amidst large crowds is hard for him.  He gets both over-stimulated and uncomfortable for sure, and sometimes doesn't seem to quite know what to do with himself, which often lends to misbehavior.  (Whatever that really means.)

Well, he struggled a few times, got wound up, but he was making eye contact with me on and off throughout most of the concert, and if I just gently shook my head or gave him that "look", he would settle down.  He's made an immense amount of progress with that stuff over the last year, finding ways to calm himself in those situations, I'm so proud of him.

He ROCKED it during the first song, Jingle Bells, and I was beaming ear-to-ear the entire time.  You could hear his booming voice over every other child's.  So hilarious.  


Afterwards there was cookies and punch with the family that was able to make it for the program on a Tuesday morning.  He was proud to show us some of his artwork and the toys he plays with at pre-school.  And I talked with both of his teachers and was touched by how much they truly know and love my little boy. One of the teachers told me she was so happy to have been able to touch base with me because she wanted to tell me how much she absolutely loves Gus, she said they have a "connection" and she really is so happy to have him in class.  She started tearing up telling me this, which caused me to tear up, and our conversation was relatively short-lived after that.

I don't have to say this I'm sure, but it is such a relief to know that he has someone like her on his side, and to really feel convinced that he is not just a name on a list for these two women.


He was proud of himself as well.  So great to see.


Both boys have become obsessed with the "What Does the Fox Say?" video this month, which is both bizarre and hilarious.  Louie requested it before bed one night and Dan obliged.


A rare family self-portrait.


Gus's Christmas gift for Dan and I, made at preschool.  Seriously.  I died.


A collection of Holiday cards, hanging on the wall in our bedroom.


My brother came home the weekend before Christmas, so we hosted my mom's extended family for appetizers and drinks on Saturday.  The boys admittedly watched a lot of TV that night, our house busy with a bunch of adults.  (Watching Elf here.  My favorite!)


Nathan and his littlest nephew.


A lot of people in our small living room.


The Sunday before Christmas, before Ben and Michelle headed to Milwaukee for the week and Nathan went back to Chicago, we spent the day celebrating the holiday with my immediate family.


Someone went WAY overboard with the presents again this year, my mom is hilariously Grinchy about Christmas and gift-giving at the beginning of December every year, almost always stating at least once, "Just so you know, I don't think I'm buying much this year, it just seems so pointless and I don't know what any of you want."

And then this happens


My kids were off the walls excited to get with the opening of presents.  Per usual, the anticipation is always better than the actual event because they both got tired of it quickly and just wanted to play with all their new stuff.  We had to come back to their gifts after brunch, we were all losing steam.


This is Louie's pattened "fake scowl" he likes to do when he's being asked to smile and he's feeling uncooperative.


Baby Graham's first Christmas!  (Can you spot the McDonald's iced coffee? It's always lurking somewhere.)




Michelle and I spent a bazillion hours a few Saturdays ago putting together a calendar for my parents.  Worth the effort, but damn.  I'm terrible at those things because I'm terrible about making decisions and just picking photos.  Also, I take about 3,000 photos a month, on average, and then I do little to no cutting or organizing of them once they're on my computer.  So yeah.  Exhausting project.


My mom is hoping to get Graham into Thomas, huge Ebay score here.


My kids LOVED it.




Quality time with uncle Nathan.



On the 23rd, we did Christmas in the evening with our little family, not knowing when else it was going to happen, and not wanting it to blend with the "Santa" stuff on Christmas morning.  The night started with an argument over how much of his gingerbread cookie Gus could eat before dinner, which proceeded into some ridiculous meal-time shenanigans and arguments.


The night was saved by presents, of course.  ;)



Gave Louie this little puppy carrier, and he named his new puppy "Joke".  The most random name ever and I love it so much.


The Jake and the Neverland Pirates game for his Leadpad was a hit!  Biggest hit of the night actually.  Darn kids and their electronics.


On Christmas Eve we switch off every year between going to Dan's grandparents' house and my Aunt's.

This year we went to my Aunt's, and it was a lovely time, despite the fact that my mom was working, Nathan was back in Chicago with Eric, and Ben and Michelle were in Milwaukee.  Our little family was very unrepresented, so I a glad we were there for my dad.



My aunt is really into the details of hosting, her home at Christmas is breathtaking.


And here we see my dad hyping out the kids before dinner.


This was our table, the other half of the crew was in the other room.

My grandma said the prayer before we all started to eat, and both boys folded their hands so sweetly, which made me say a little internal, "Awww".   Then in the middle of it, Gus could be heard exclaiming, "It's over! Is it over?" And then, "That was really long!"


We did find ways to keep the boys entertained, though it was dicey at times with no toys and no other children to play with.  Here they are playing Santa with Jeanne's funny little dancing hat.


Funny hat again, watching White Christmas.




Terrified faces watching the Jim Carey version of The Grinch.  Didn't last long.


Christmas Eve in our home.  All ready for for some giddy little boys to wake up and find.  Being Santa is fun.




Gus with his beloved Buzz Lightyear.  The one thing he consistently asked for all season, and of course, Santa delivered.


Since my mom had to work in the evening on Christmas day, we invited my parents to come over after presents and we had cinnamon rolls and eggs while the boys hyped up and showed them their new toys.


And then it was a trip out to Elk River for another huge meal and celebration at Dan's Aunt's house.  Gus was so thrilled to be going somewhere where his best friend Lucas would be.  ;)



Dan's dad can seemingly fall asleep anywhere, anytime.  This was during the mayhem of presents.


Louie loved playing with Abby's "girl toy" (what he called it) and they played house for about 30 minutes together.  This kind of play is something Gus has NEVER been interested in, so it's fun to watch with our sweet little second born.



The amount of toys and gifts that needed to find homes was overwhelming, but I spent a day this weekend purging and organizing, and we're feeling all set.  We'll see how I'm feeling about that after Louie's birthday party this Saturday.  


And finally, the last of the holiday celebrations, the Saturday after Christmas, with Dan's immediate family.  This was the pile before a number of families arrived.




One reason I am grateful to get back to normal after so much Christmas festivity, avoiding these ridiculous mealtimes of cajoling and bribing our children to actually eat.  I know I need to let it go, but I also know that at least one of my kids is very affected by what he eats.  Letting him get by with eating just sugar is a recipe for disaster.


In their hot tub.  (i.e. a box.)


Pretending to sleep.

Watching the Grinch on grandma's bed.  The perfect end to a truly blessed and joyful holiday.  We are so lucky to have so much family to celebrate with.