The Things They Say

I realize that kid quotes generally aren’t absorbing to people other than their parents. However, this is first and foremost a (very rarely updated) family journal so here goes.

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This baby lives to take off her pants. Winter, Shminter. You can always tell when she’s succeeded because she lets loose a delighted chortle, then goes on tour showing off her pudgy pink legs to the whole family.

Josie (19 months) has a beloved elephant. We gave Elephant to her for her first Christmas and he quickly became her special toy. For a long time she didn’t call him anything. A couple of months ago she started calling him, of all things…”Beer”. Beer the Elephant. We finally figured out that she was copying her big sister who has a beloved bear, very originally named “Bear”. After a month of “Beer” Josie made a fresh verbal attempt at “Elephant” and landed on “Onion” as her best approximation. Another month later and she’s crept forward to “Ey-fun”. We will miss Beer-Onion the Elephant.

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Jack (4), casually announced to no one in particular while putting on his astronaut costume: “I’m getting ready to save the world.”

Moments later, struggling with the costume’s zipper with his tongue out in concentration he panted “I’m. Not. Ready. To save. The world.”

Finally dressed he pumped his fists in the air, cheered “I’m ready to save the world!” and…ran straight over to his sisters to roar in their faces and deliberately annoy them as much as possible.

If you’d asked me for a three sentence summary of A Four Year Old Boy that’d do it.

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Jenny (2.5) doesn’t understand what an astronaut is, but has her own astronaut costume that I bought for a couple dollars through a local swap site last fall. She loves dressing up with her big brother. The other day I helped her into her costume as Jack put his on. Jenny strutted all over the house pointing to herself and announcing “air-cot! air-cot!” I can’t figure out if I’m raising an astronaut, an apricot, or a French green bean.

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Annie is going through a potty mouth stage. It’s typical for four, but that doesn’t mean it’s socially acceptable when a preschooler walks around all day to a steady mantra of “poopy. poopy. poopypoopypoopy.” Last week she tried it again with her Occupational Therapist. The OT told her that they could only use nice words while playing together. Annie’s solution was to stand up, run to the corner of the room, cup her hands over her mouth and whisper “poopy” as softly as she could any time she felt the urge to misbehave. With that out of her system she’d run to the therapist to play politely, sure she’d obeyed the rules. I don’t like potty mouth but I have to admit that kid brains crack me up. Got a favorite method for reforming a potty mouthed kiddo? I’m all ears.

Town

Will you come on a walk through town with us? Let me introduce your friendly tour guides:

“Mom. I don’t speak English yet. Also, the fat pink thing keeps grabbing my hair beads. Make it go away.”

Oh. Never mind. Beg your pardon. Let’s check with the backup tour guides. Guys?

“These are the Methodist church steps. We like the church steps. We will go up and down the church steps for the next hour. Your readers will be very interested in the church steps Mom. See?”

“No, kids. They probably won’t.”

“Well the Grandmas will. And the Aunts. See, we’re cute! Who wants to walk through town when they can see us climb up and down these stairs fifty times!”

“I do. But you’re right, at least the church is pretty.” (Top and bottom cut off because Annie proceeded to step in a fire ant nest and I ditched the camera to wipe hundreds of swarming ants off her legs with my bare hands.)

Today’s weather was perfect for a meandering walk through town this morning. We detoured off the main street for a wander through the farmer’s market. The sweet lady who bakes cakes and has watched the twins grow up from babyhood gave us free scones. We spotted motorcycles, puppies, cars, fountains, and a pig statue in a store window. We threw tantrums (well, some of us) and climbed walls. A good day in any toddler’s book.


Halloween 2015

 

Advance apologies to all the grandparents for the low-quality photos. We were trying not to lose four kids in the crowds, and everybody pasted on a stoic look every time a camera appeared.

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Our town hosts a downtown Trick-or-Treat the day before Halloween during the afternoon. It’s ideal if you have young children. We took the kids out then so we wouldn’t have to juggle walking the neighborhood, handing out candy, and getting over-sugared kids to bed in one evening. Annie kept politely trying to give a piece of candy to each person who offered her one. Jack literally started shaking in terror when he saw a preschooler dressed as Spiderman; it never occured to me until then that he hasn’t seen a mask before and didn’t know what had happened to that kid’s head. After a couple stops they got the idea and started having fun. On Halloween proper I baked oatmeal-raisin cookies to make things a little special. The Man and the twins raked up the maple leaves in the front yard (or rather, the Man raked and the twins “raked”). We handed out candy and the kids loved standing at our door watching the Trick-or-Treaters after dark. Once we’d packed everyone off to bed the adults sipped hot cider and read while the last of the candy hunters headed home outside. We never did carve the pumpkin, but there was just enough special in the weekend to make it fun for everyone.

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This year the twins were old enough to get that something special was in the wings. A huge part of my childhood pleasure in holidays was the anticipation, not just the actual day. As a child your birthday party may only last two hours but you revel in the weeks of buildup planning games or food or picking party plates and cups at the store with Mom. Advent and weeks of making and baking build up to Christmas. Lent and Holy Week set the scene for Easter. Grocery shopping, pie baking, and washing the best dishes precede Thanksgiving. Trick-or-Treating is over in an hour or two but as a kid I spent weeks brainstorming, sketching, and pulling together Halloween costumes.

Did you make your own Halloween costumes when you were growing up or did you buy them? It feels like Halloween costumes have shifted a lot in the last couple decades. In my kindergarten class’s pictures almost every kid wore a homemade costume – some handsewn just for the holiday, some in a sports uniforms or odds n’ ends from the dress up box. This year about 95% of the kids who came to our door wore store-bought outfits.My husband tells me he always had premade costumes back in the 1980s, though, so perhaps it’s just a regional difference. We very nearly joined the storebought ranks this year because I thought about costumes but took no action until the day before Halloween. At that point the only ones left in the twins’ size at Walmart were superheroes (they have no idea what those are yet), Disney princess costumes (also no idea), or devil temptress outfits (FOR TODDLERS?). I grabbed $6 in supplies from Walmart’s tiny sewing section and threw together simple costumes with an hour of quick snipping and hand sewing; that homeschooled childhood spent in quilting circles finally came in handy! In the end it was surprisingly fun to use the creative part of my brain again and the twins had fun watching the process and loved wearing their costumes.

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Robin Hood: Jack has been pretending he’s Robin Hood (“Wobin Hood”) since we watched the old animated Disney Robin Hood movie for a family movie night. I folded a piece of green cloth in half, cut it to his width, snipped a neckhole at the fold, and cut the bottom edges in a zig zag. We wrapped it with a brown belt. He wore a green shirt, his sister’s green leggings, and his brown church boots. I quickly handstitched a simple Robin Hood hat out of two sheets of green felt and added a red feather from construction paper. I stitched together a quiver out of a sheet of brown felt and some twine, but decided against a bow since I wanted his hands free while we walked around.

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Bear: Annie loves bears but does not like being bogged down by extras and accessories so I kept her outfit simple. She wore brown pants and a brown shirt from her dresser. I painted a bear nose on her face with one of the $1 Halloween makeup kits. I looked at a couple pictures of bears for ear shape and spacing, folded a piece of brown felt in half, and cut out the right shape for ears at the fold so I could bend it over a pipe cleaner and sew each ear together for double-thickness and stability (too long and floppy and the ears would say “puppy”, too big and round and they’d broadcast “mouse”) ). In retrospect I should’ve just sewn them over a headband. My original plan to twist the pipe cleaner into her hair didn’t hold, so I ended up just wrapping it around a headband anyhow.

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Cowgirl: We weren’t going to dress Jenny up but realized at the last minute that her birthmom might like a costume photo. Jeans, a handmedown shirt, pink cowboy boots we’d received as a baby gift, and a fabric scrap for a bandana did the trick. No hat, but she hates hats anyhow.

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Baby: This one was complicated. We dressed the baby as a baby.

 

 

 

 

Barbershop Quartet

We’ve always cut Jack’s hair at home. However, this morning I took him out for his first barbershop haircut. The Aquaphor incident left Jack’s hair looking patchy, gummed, and motheaten despite our best attempts with scissors and scrubbing. Our clippers pieces are broken and distributed among three cabinets, and it was $6.95 cut day at Great Clips.

I settled into a styling chair with Jack on my lap. We were the first customers of the day so all four stylists gathered around to chat and watch his 1.5 on the top/1 on the sides materialize as they waited for business.

“Awww. Look how good he’s being!” “Is he talking yet?” “How old is he?”

“Two and a half.”

The clippers continued buzzing round Jack’s head while he sat silent and wide-eyed (a rare state for him).

“He’s so cute! How many kids do you have?”

“Three, with number four on the way.”

“Oh, so he must be the youngest then.”

“Uh, well, no…he’s the eldest.”

*clippers freeze in midair* *blank wide-eyed stares from four pairs of eyes*

What can I say. We’ve yet to mail Christmas thank you notes and last summer’s vegetable garden still needs to be cleared, but we’ve been extremely efficient about accumulating children these last two years.

2014 in Review, Part 1: January – June

It seems everyone on the internet wrote family reviews covering the past year. I like the idea because I only wrote sporadically in 2014 but there are many details I don’t want to forget. Our year was blessed, busy, and full of big ups and downs: illness, travel, a back injury, extreme work stress through the winter and spring, a new baby, weeks in the NICU, another new baby… Fair warning that this is a long, unedited post full of run-on sentences and giant photo dumps. All but the grandmothers, beware!

January

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(All photos from our Illinois trip, bottom three by my awesome sister-in-law, who runs her own photography business).

After hosting the Man’s family at our home for Christmas we flew to Illinois to spend New Year’s with my family.It was so nice to catch up with my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, niece, and nephew. After several days at my parents’ place we drove into Chicago to spend a few days with the Man’s family as well. Unfortunately we all caught a vicious cold that knocked most of the family off their feet for four solid weeks.  Rather than spending time out in the snow or exploring in downtown Chicago we mostly stayed in by the fire and coughed. I ended up in the ER with pleurisy (…it felt so…Dickensian. Who knew that was still a real diagnosis?). Even after we flew home we all slogged through most of the month feeling feverish, miserably sick, and sleep-deprived from pathetic babies who coughed so hard they vomited at night for many weeks. In addition, the Man’s hospital started the new year deep in preparation for a major inspection that kept him away from home and stressed much of the time. It was a rough start to the year! Bright points in the month included catching up with our families, Jack learning to walk in Illinois (cheered on by crowds of relatives), celebrating our niece’s first birthday after a medically rocky year, visits to Daddy at work when he couldn’t come home for evenings, and welcoming our fifth anniversary at the end of the month.

February 

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Things finally began to improve on the illness front. The Man and I celebrated our anniversary a few days late by hiring a babysitter and taking a day away by ourselves to hike in the snowy woods, grab some Mexican food, and enjoy baby-free conversation. Extended time together and long outdoor expeditions without kids’ on our backs are very rare treats these days; our hiking day was one of the high points of the year. We also enjoyed a few rounds of beautiful snow. While the Man’s work continued to be intensely stressful, things felt quieter on the home front. I got the house back in order after our sick month, cooked, played with the twins, and took them out as often as possible for walks, hikes, and outdoor time. Just for fun at the end of the month we took a quick weekend trip to Charlotte, NC. Everyone enjoyed the break from work tension and the chance for a little “city time”. We rented a small cheap apartment downtown via airbnb and spent a couple of days walking, hiking, enjoying treats like French pastries and Chinese takeout, exploring the city center and old neighborhoods, eating breakfast out, and (wheeee!) wandering IKEA for an afternoon while the Man stayed with our napping toddlers. There isn’t an IKEA for hours around our home, which is probably a good thing for our bank account. We also racked up our first (but far from last) call to poison control after the kids found a scent diffuser plugged into the apartment wall, broke it open, sucked down the gel, and vomited on the rental’s couch. Lovely!

March 

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For the most part, I stayed home with the kids while the Man battled ever-increasing inspection tasks at work. There were lots of long days and late nights. On weekends off, we always loved gathering for worship on Sunday mornings, and joining our small group for Bible Study and a shared meal together on Sunday nights. The friendships we’ve made through church, and, in the last year and a half, our small group have been a rich source of encouragement, edification, and fun. Several months of increased stress on my back finally sent me to the pain clinic; several months of doctors visits, x-rays, chiropracter visits, and PT followed. As the weather warmed up, the kids and I spent many days out on walks or in the yard clearing up after winter and prepping the gardens for Spring planting. At 18 months Annie finally started walking one day as I played with her in the backyard (she’d had us nervous due to other developmental delays). At the end of the month the Man’s stepmother flew down to watch the twins for a long weekend while we drove off for our very first kid-free getaway together. We went to Savannah, Georgia, and absolutely loved the gorgeous architecture, much-lauded squares, food, and ambiance. Unfortunately, the Man’s work once again intervened. Mid-way through our first full day in the city hospital staff began calling and texting non-stop about the inspection. By that evening we learned we were being called back early. We left first thing the next morning. While we thought Savannah was amazing, incessant work interruptions and the Army cancelling our leave really put a damper on our special trip away sans kids. Perhaps another time.

April

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We kicked off the month with a miserable bout of stomach flu. Once recovered, we headed to New York City with the twins for some meetings and time with extended family. From our fairly isolated town Manhattan is a very inconvenient place for a trip with small kids. Add in the logistics and costs of packing, sitters in another state, transportation with car seats, etc, then reversing the whole process two days later and it’s an enormous amount of work! However, most worthwhile things take some effort. It was a good change of pace to dress up, eat fancy dinners out, walk a bit in the city, sit in meetings, and catch up with family as the cousins played. We were glad to survive the trek back and resettle the kids into their usual routine, though! Once home we planted our vegetable garden. We also went through a very rough stretch of toddler tantrums with Annie (as in, four hours of screaming a day for a full week). We celebrated Easter with local friends (who patiently endured more toddler screaming, and took the family photo above) and spent lots of time outdoors soaking in the beautiful springtime South.

May 

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As the twins edged closer to the two year mark we privately started talking about adoption again. We didn’t feel ready to adopt right away, but knew that the process can be very long. Since we knew that another lickety-split adoption like our first was highly unlikely (*cough* yes, well, we’ll see…), we mentally set a time frame of four years until another child came home. We hoped for something much faster, but didn’t want to get our hopes up in the face of long timelines and the usual bureaucracy. We quietly started to do a bit of internet research and talked about special needs adoptions. At the end of the month my parents visited. We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and then spent several days renting a cottage together right on the beach. If you’re traveling in a group, it definitely pays to rent a house; even though we stayed right on the beach and had a whole cottage to ourselves we spent far less than if we’d booked a couple of cheap hotel rooms further inland since we cooked our own meals. We loved the convenience of space to spread out and having the beach right out the door – no packing sandy toddlers and gear in and out of the car several times a day. We all soaked up time playing in the ocean, walking on the beach, boogie boarding, digging in the sand, exploring the local historic town, eating ice cream, watching dolphins, sea and skies out the cottage windows, wandering the marinas, playing games, and watching movies together. Unfortunately the tension of the never-ending inspection at the Man’s work continued to hang over our heads and interrupted the trip a few times. Regardless, it was so nice to spend time as a family, relax, and enjoy the ocean. Having my parents’ extra helping hands and staying right on the beach made it a real vacation for the Man and I (perhaps less so for the grandparents!). Nothing makes you appreciate your extended family like having small children! We don’t live near any of our family members, so their visits are always a treasured treat.

June

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Southern summer settled in. We played in sprinkler with the kids, took family bike rides, picked blueberries in our yard, grabbed homemade ice cream at the farm, ate dinners on the porch, and watched with pride as our toddlers took their first hike on their own legs. It’s a milestone as big as anything on the pediatricians’ charts in this outdoors family! On Father’s Day, our usually silent Annie who hadn’t really spoken in half a year and had never sung a “real” tune, surprised us by humming through “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” perfectly in its entirety unprompted. Definitely one of those “blink and stare at your child open-mouthed” moments. We put out preliminary inquiries to a few agencies for information packets on their domestic, international, and special needs adoption programs. We also emailed our old adoption agency just to see if adopting through them again was even a possibility. We mutually confirmed that another adoption with our old agency was not a good option since we’re likely to move out of state within the next year or two.

I stayed back with the toddlers while the Man headed to Chicago for some quality one-on-one time with his sisters, Dad, and stepmom. We had colds. He had dim sum, went to the Art Instititue of Chicago, and swam in Lake Michigan. It’s possible one of us had more fun :). I was so glad he got to enjoy a visit without the distraction of busy toddlers and their needs, though. The month ended on a sad note as we passed empty houses around town and empty pews in church. We’re in a military town, and June is peak PCS season. At least half a dozen of the families we knew best all packed up and moved to new postings simultaneously. Military life can be a gift when it brings new friends from all around, but it’s hard when duty calendars coincide and all your closest friends leave in a flood.

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

Today I’m joining the Like Mother, Like Daughter crew for {p,h,f,r} after a very long hiatus.

{Pretty}

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After a long stretch of hiking with babies on our backs or pushing them in strollers, the kids are finally big enough to hike on their own two legs. Their first independent hike was a mellow loop at a local park, with stops for every rock, stick, and dog on the path. We’ve always been an outdoor household, and it’s such a liberating feeling having the twins join us without carting them along like so much (adorable) baggage.

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It boggles my mind every time I turn around and see a pretty little girl where a squishy drooling baby sat a year ago. At least one baby is staying small; my Dad calls this doll his great grandchild because it’s his granddaughter’s baby.

{Happy}

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I think this might be the only photo ever shot with all of us smiling at the same time. It’s blurry, but I’ll take it. Jack’s been going through another round of toddler tantrums (“But Mom, I WANT TO RIDE MY BIKE DOWN THE STAIRS!” Yes, son. Your parents are so mean. We live to crush your dreams.). However, in between he has the cheeriest and most outgoing nature. We’re relieved that he’s finally developing some stranger danger after months of charging off to hug every stranger he passed.

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Annie loves her swing. No backyard trip is complete without a small girl dancing beneath the swing signing “More, more, more, MORE, MORE, MORE!” with increasingly emphatic hand flailing until an adult takes pity on her and boosts her up for a ride. Jack thinks he loves the swing, but always turns green and puts his head down on the tray after two minutes. He’s more of a slide boy.

{Funny}

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We set up the sprinkler in the backyard after church on Sunday. It’s impossible to water the vegetable garden without a toddler diving into the hose spray so I thought they’d love the sprinkler. They weren’t so sure. Annie quickly decided that the safest plan was to keep Dad between her and that strangely aggressive water.

Jack’s speech has exploded lately. My favorite is when he tries to say “Help, please.” It always comes out as “Apples, Peas.” I also enjoy when he’s planning something naughty and says “Uh oh” before he does it. Thanks for the warning, son.

{Real} 

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It took eight months to produce my first set of cornrows fit to be taken out in public. All previous attempts resulted in us staying home for the day to avoid public humiliation. The part lines are wonky, and the braids are fuzzy, but there’s hope! Meanwhile, finger coils, rope twists, bantu knots, flat twists, and braids are our friends.

Family in the Woods

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A week after enjoying our anniversary hike we headed back into the woods, this time close to home and with the niños. The State recently began developing a new State Park in our area. The trails they’ve blazed so far run through old farmland mixed with pine forests and a cypress-studded lake. It’s less wild and dramatic than a typical State Park, but that’s not a bad thing with toddlers. We can actually push our jogging stroller on the old farm roads instead of carrying the kids with our pair of injured backs; the first year of twins has not been kind to our spines. Midway through our hike we stopped by the lake to enjoy the views and let the kids throw sticks, wallow in the mud, and chew on leaves. Despite gray skies and sniffly colds all round (thus the zombie expression on Annie’s face) everyone enjoyed the mid-winter outing.

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