Hello December!

…oh what fun it is to take pictures of three children in tie-dye holiday shirts and red pants, romping around our yard and our neighbor’s driveway on a beautiful Saturday morning.  This is how we kicked off the month.

With two papers still to finish, I am about texted out right now.  But the semester end is in sight.  Then it is on to more holiday baking, crafts, gift buying, and a couple birthdays to plan.  Shawn’s get older and Sidney’s growing up fast.  My baby’s going to be a year-old in less than two weeks.  She running around, giving kisses, and saying “Go, dawgs, go!” these days.  A whole year has passed and I cannot get over how adorable she is.

Riley and Adrian, too.

And Shawn.

Enjoy the pictures!

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Sheet Walls, Listening Ears, and Church Change

Halloween pictures and three quick stories…

Sidney is walking all over.  A couple nights ago, we rigged a “secret base” in the playroom by arranging a sheet over the couch and the chair.  Sidney saw the sheet edge that was hanging down and went after it like it was a wall.  Down she went, laughing all the way.  On her next pass by the secret base, she did it again.  Sheet, lunge, forward fall, laugh.

Adrian has been struggling a bit with listening recently.  He’s even missed his evening show a couple of times as a result.  We’ve been working with his teachers to help him work on his listening skills.  At school, they started this thing with listening ears.  Adrian reaches up to both ears and makes a clucking noise to turn them on.  They still turn themselves off sometimes (maybe they are solar-powered?), but it is adorable watching him turn them back on and get focused on listening and making better decisions.  Of course, he’s also been really sweet recently.  He hugs Sidney all the time and helps unpack her bottles at daycare.  He gives me kisses and holds my hand.  He helps set the table and clean up the playroom.

When my parents were here this past weekend for the UGA football game (and to visit us!), my dad gave Riley a pocket full of change for the collection plate at Sunday School.  She is so happy to be jiggling her change all morning.  The plate comes closer to her, and then the tears start to flow.  She does want to give up the change.  First we get her to get a coin out.  Then one for her brother.  Mind you, this is all under duress, and now she’s crying even harder.

Through sobs: “I don’t want to give it all.”

Same girl who the day before made a collage for a teacher at her school who gave her a pack of Skittles the other day.  Exact same girl.  It was awful.

Finally, pocket empty, face red and wet, Riley calms down, and the ordeal is over.  Apparently generosity has an on and off button, too.

We used this as an opportunity to talk about giving to others.  And we laughed about it.

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More ways to celebrate fall…

Tonight or tomorrow or the next day, I plan to do a kid update.  The little ones been busy making us laugh and ticking milestones off their lists.  I’ve even got some videos.  For now, I wanted to add to my list of autumnal affairs.  I have been so into fall this time around, and I thought I would share all the big and little ways we’ve been making the most of the season.

1.  Two ingredient pumpkin cake.  Cake mix and pumpkin.  That’s it.  It was so good that Riley wants to make some for her teachers.

2.  Pumpkin dump cake.  I found this recipe on Pinterest (from Cookies and Cups) , and I decided we had to try it.  My mom ended up making it to for her and Alli and CE.  Rave reviews across the board – except from Riley and Adrian.  The pumpkin part was too pumpkiny for their tastes.  But that worked out for the best.  More for Shawn and me.

3.  Pumpkin swirl coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  Yes, I know I mentioned this last time but it needs to be brought up again.

3.  Sweet potato pie from McDonald’s.

(Image from mochachocolatarita.blogspot.com)

4.  Crockpot corn chowder.  I consulted my mom for a recipe she had used recently, but then I ended up just going with what we had on hand.  Two cans of corn, lots of potato chunks, two yellow squash cut into chunks and slices, milk, water, one packet of onion soup mix, some flour, salt, and pepper.  In the crockpot all day.  The note was just right for fall.

5.  S’mores campfire nights in the backyard.  I am so, so glad I splurged on our fire pit back in August.  We have spent the past two Saturday nights on the back porch with our new fire pit.  This past Saturday, Adrian and Sidney played in the pack and play (well, Adrian dove in, threw all the toys out, threw the toys back in, then dove in again, then repeat) while Riley chilled in a lounge chair, Shawn started up the fire, and I prepared s’more stuff.  And because we were thinking about camp, I asked everyone to share something they were thankful for.  Shawn was thankful his long week of conferences was over.  Riley and I were really thankful, for everything from golden brown marshmallows to Adrian not breaking his neck to winning a poster at book fair night.  I love that we get to have nights like these, the five of us, singing the bear song and licking sticky marshmallow gobs off our fingers.

6.  Acorn sweeping afternoons.  Shawn has swept our driveway completely clean every weekend.  By the next weekend, the acorn field is continuous, devastating.  He sweeps again.  Adrian, with a mini push-broom, helps.

7.  Scarves.

8.  Slippers and hooded sweatshirts at home.  

9.  Fleece sleepers for the baby.

10.  Glitter top pumpkins.  Riley has been obsessed with glitter, so using some Pinspiration, we set out a tarp and glittered the pumpkins the kids got with grandpa and grandma.  They look amazing.  And the project was so much easier than carving.

(Idea and image from HGTV.com.)

11.  Cookie butter from Trader Joe’s.

How To Be an Aunt

I have wonderful aunts.  My kids have wonderful aunts.  And now I get the chance to be an aunt.  I am still reeling from this realization, especially after my trip to Virginia to meet my niece and nephew and spend time with the proud new parents.  It was nice for a change to take a back seat in terms of child care and newborn anxiety, to not be the one in the hospital bed recovering from a c-section and waiting for milk to come in.  This time around, I got to be the one changing diapers, tracking feedings, and holding the little ones, whispering promises to them of future shopping trips and spoiling and second and third helpings of sugary treats.  Caroline, I wonder where I got all those ideas from?


Unfortunately, I probably won’t see the twins again until Christmas, so my aunty duties are long-distance for now.  But I already have Christmas presents bought for them.  I’m already planning nicknames and future play dates when all of the cousins can get together.  I can’t wait to hold them again.

So in the meantime, here’s my stab at what I think being an aunt means, lessons I’ve learned from Aunt Barb, Aunt Lynne, Alli, Claire, and Caroline, as well as my experience thus far.

1.  Don’t buy “mom” gifts.  This might be hard for me, but I’m going to work at it.  Basically, this means not being quite so practical.

2.  Keep in touch and inquire often.  Right now, I am completely invested in the bowel movements of my niece and nephew.  I long for updates throughout the day.

3. Plan fun activities that involve shopping, sugar, and play-dough.  This is all from Caroline.  She’s got this step down and Riley and Adrian love her for it.

4.  Don’t worry about sugar intake or making messes or spoiling.  At the end of the day, the kids go home to their parents.  Hehehehe.  Yes.

5.  Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle.

6.  Find special ways to get involved.  Aunt Barb and Aunt Lynne used to take Allison and I school shopping in Ohio.  I remember those outings well.  Aunt Barb and I found my senior prom dress on a clearance rack for thirty dollars.  I loved the way it shimmered.

7.  Support the parents without parenting.  In other words, I get to be the good cop for once.  Okay, so maybe I am usually in good cop mode even with my own kids…

8.  Start traditions.

9.  Have fun.  It seems like aunting really is all about having fun with the kids.  No baths or bedtimes or vegetables to fuss about, for instance.  Get ’em dirty.  Stuff ’em with snacks.  Laugh ’em up.  C-squared (both of their names start with C), that’s what I’m talking about!

10.  Be there.  For the kids.  For the mom.  For the dad.  Help create a network of love and support.

Did I mention I’m excited about this aunt business?

How to NOT dine out

1.  Do not want to cook on a Friday night.  Instead, show up at IHOP with three happy children and two hungry parents.  Scan menus.  Play with sugar packets.  Feed baby yogurt pops.  Wait.  Start stopwatch timer.  Play with salt shakers and syrup bottles.  Wait.  Color kids’ menus.  Wait.  Feed baby more yogurt pops.  After fifteen minutes, ask a passing manager if she knows who your server is because you still don’t and now the happy children are morphing into hungry not-so-happy children.  Patient yogurt–pop-eating baby starts to fidget in her high chair.  Manager takes drink order and assures you server is on her way.  And she is.  So you order.  Make only one special request, like no hot peppers in the egg skillet dish.  Start waiting again.   Big kids start crawling and squirming in the booth.  Baby throws straw, spoons, her sippy cup on the floor.  Only wants food.  Food that you don’t have yet even though everyone around you, even those seated after you, has theirs.

Food arrives.  Egg skillet dish has hot peppers in it.  Send it back to the kitchen.  Cut kids’ food up.  Pour syrup.  Give pancake bits and pieces to baby.  Let husband have your bacon while he waits on his egg skill dish with no peppers.  Eat as fast as you can.  Any minute, squirming quasi-eating kids are going to morph again, this time into syrup-hyped-bouncing creatures for whom the Booth is Not Enough.  Resist the urge to savor your banana bread french toast which is delicious, really, but would be more delicious if it had arrived, say thirty minutes ago.

Upon arrival, have egg dish immediately packed up.  Flee.  Take all three children to parking lot while husband puts at least half of each item ordered into to-go containers.  Make comments like, “We’re never coming here again!”  “No more going out even for free kids’ meals on a Friday night.”  “I wonder if I can find a recipe for banana bread french toast on Pinterest?”

At home during movie night, finish eating dinner.  Let kids run around playroom to exhaust their syrup energy.

2.  Celebrate grandparent arrival with a trip to Olive Garden, grandma’s favorite restaurant that just so happens to have a coupon that expires today for free kids’ meals.  Decide this is dining out destiny.

After water appears on table, wonder about bread sticks.  Watch bread sticks, then salad appear at other tables.  Let fifteen minutes pass.  Bread sticks show up.  Shake off the wait.  Kids are still entertained by grandparents, playing I-Spy, and sleep.  Place order.  Make two requests for sauce substitution.  Wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Tell husband you think it’s your family, that you are black clouds in restaurants.

When the entrees arrive, know you are black clouds.  Both sauce-change requests have been ignored.  Send them back and start waiting again.

At the end of the meal, flee with kids to the bathroom and then the car while they are still happy.  Meanwhile, have waitress lose credit card in her apron.

3.  Take everyone, grandparents too, to Moe’s for Moe’s Monday.  Be excited that the dining experience at Moe’s is not contingent upon servers.  Declare this a fail-proof eating out adventure because you have done it so many times.  What could possibly go wrong today?

Start ordering at counter.  Halfway through husband’s burrito order, have baby boy throw up on husband.  Finish burrito order while husband and baby boy go get cleaned up.  Hear sounds of more throw up over by bathroom.  Pay for everyone’s order and get food to the table.  Blame over-excitement and consequent throw-up of baby boy on a successful trip to the dentist appointment, a bouncy ball, and fluoride.  Sit down to eat with half-naked baby boy sitting on husband’s lap.  Dig into nachos.  Feel splatter on shoes.  Look over.  Try not to look down at the floor.

Have grandpa ask for a mop and wave goodbye to husband and clearly sick baby boy.  Finish meal with the rest of the family.  Talk about not going out to eat for a long, long, long time.  Bring home candy as a consolation prize for husband who had to change his clothes at least five times in a two hour period because baby boy either a) did not have a bucket or b) possessed underdeveloped etiquette and/or skill to utilize bucket appropriately.

By morning, be sick.  Everyone except baby, that is.  Take a vow not to eat out for a month.  Maybe a year.  Maybe longer.

What We’re Stuck on…

Me

White Collar (My new series to watch on Netflix.)

Cobblers

Spanish translations (at least until my test on Wednesday…)

Baby pictures (for a school project)

Coding (just finished my first website, hand-coded in HTML5 and CSS…will post a link once its live.)

Riley

Gymnastics (She has one sad-looking cartwheel.  Imagine a turtle attempting such a feat!)

Hugs (I gave her 17 hugs before bed the other night.  A good night.)

Fast shoes (aka her sneakers)

School.  (She tells me all about it at dinner…centers, books, jobs, lunch, kids that misbehave, etc.)

Sorting. (The other day, she put a penny, cup, button, and straw on each desk in Shawn’s classroom.  I take full credit for her amazing sense of organization.  One of these days, I am going to turn her loose on my closet.)

Adrian

Songs (“twinkle twinkle star,” “boat ride,” and “bus ride” are his favorites.  And grandpa has at least a half dozen verses in “the wheels on the bus.”)

Sitting on the counter in the kitchen (“Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.”  That is how our days start.)

Any activity that involves a ball (soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, egg-toss, ping-pong, etc.)

Stuffing food into his face so he can be considered “done.”

Helping me prepare dinners and bake.  (From his counter perch, he can be quite helpful.)

Sidney

Eating (Peas, poofs, cheerios, toast, mango, banana, sweet potato, etc.  Girl loves her food.)

Standing up and cruising

Crawling on top of me when I attempt push-ups and sit-ups

Sophie the Giraffe  (Her new favorite toy.  One squeak and she is all smiles!)

Riley and Adrian (She can sit and watch them play for hours.)

Shawn

In a word, Atlantica.

 

Oh, and stickers.  We all love stickers.  I would post the pictures of the kids covered in them, but they are minimally clothed.