Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tips for Ordering Christmas Cards

I love getting Christmas Cards.

I love the time of the year when the contents of my mailbox holds more than bills and junk mail.  I love opening letters addressed to me and my family filled with beautiful cards and pictures of beloved friends and family.  I realize that Christmas cards as a tradition has sort of died out with the advent of Facebook and social media.  We can keep up with friends and loved ones throughout the year and see pictures of them almost any time, so an actual card isn't really necessary.  But I love them just the same.  That's why I make efforts to send them out.

However, it seems like Christmas Cards do not love me.  I always seem to have issues with them.  One year, my order was sent to a different city, and I had to wait an extra week for them to be reshipped to the right place in order to pick them up.  Last year, I hurried and snapped a picture of my kids in front of my house, which was a minor nightmare in itself with my almost-two-year-old who wouldn't sit still.  None of the pictures were great, but I chose the best one and ordered cards.  When I picked them up, I was appalled because the picture was blurry!  How I didn't realize that before ordering them is still a mystery.  But I was too embarrassed by them to send them out to anyone other than my own mother and close friends I could laugh with about them.

This year, however, I have stumbled across a special secret which I am convinced is the key to achieving Christmas Card Glory.  I'm not one to post deals and advice, but I can't keep this one a secret.  It's too good.  Here...

Here is how to have a Christmas Card experience you can be proud of:

First, spend about three hours on the Christmas card website trying over and over again to design and order your card.  After realizing that the site is not working, use the online chat button and chat with one or two or three different agents while you try to troubleshoot the issue.  Click a bunch of buttons, close windows, and hope you saved any projects you were working on in the process.  Then after hours of frustration, figure out that the site is magically working (without any real help from said agents), and finish up ordering the cards in about two minutes.

Second, patiently wait your appropriate 5-7 days to pick up your cards, knowing that they're going to be good this year.

Third, pick up your cards.  Haul the kids out to the car in 3 degree (-20 windchill) weather, then realize that the envelopes that came with your cards have someone else's name and addressed printed as the return address.  Make the kids get back out into the cold to go talk to the people, only getting a phone number to call about the mix-up.

Fourth, call the number.  Spend 45 minutes on hold, listening to eight bars of horrible repeating canned telephone music that will eventually get stuck in your head.  Finally talk to an agent who says that they will email their vendor about the mix-up, and that you will receive an email about it within 24 hours.

Fifth, wait impatiently for 24 hours, hearing nothing.

Sixth, call the number again.  Spend another 45 minutes on hold, getting more and more irritated by the awful music.  Speak with another agent who says that they haven't heard anything from the vendor, and that at this point, you might get your envelopes in another week, which is less than a week before Christmas.

At this point, fly off the handle a little, wondering why in the world they aren't fixing this silly issue!  Printing new envelopes would take them approximately two minutes.  They could and should be at your door within two days.  Not an extra week.  Make it perfectly clear that you expect the issue to be resolved within two days, and if it's not, you will be asking for a refund.  You are informed that another email has been sent, and that you will receive communication within 24 hours.

Seventh, wait impatiently for another 24 hours, hearing nothing.  Wait another couple of days to see if envelopes will appear in the mail.  They do not.

Eight, call the number again.  Spend another 45 minutes on hold.  Grit your teeth and will yourself not to crawl through the phone to rip the canned music out of it.  Finally speak to another agent, thoroughly express your position and your displeasure.  Wait another ten minutes while she investigates the issue.  Then listen incredulously as she tells you that nothing has been done about the issue, they they are doing everything they can, but that you aren't going to receive envelopes for more than a week.

This your moment.  Firmly explain that their inability to fix their mistake is unacceptable.  Calmly state that you expect a full refund for your inconvenience.  For the first time, they will say what you want to hear, "Oh, of course.  We'll get that credited back to you within 3-5 business days."  But that you need to call back if you don't get a confirming email within 24 hours.

And there you have it.  You, too, can score Free Christmas Cards to delight your friends and family!  It will probably cost you your sanity and give you a major headache.  If you're extra lucky, you may even have dreams filled with eight bars of repeating canned music, like me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Busy Bee

Which is busier?  A Bee, a beaver, or Accomplishment Girl?

Here is a story for starters.  I have decided that my Ward Choir needs some extra help to learn the music I have chosen for our upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas performances.  We just had a two-week hiatus for General and Stake Conferences, and I'm going to be out of town for two weeks in November.  Between that and the fact that we only get 30 minutes each week to rehearse, I'm feeling a huge time crunch to get things done.

So, I decided to make rehearsal videos for the choir and post them to youtube.  It was Spiff's idea, and I think it's brilliant!  However, making the videos is time-consuming, even though they are completely un-edited and very poor quality.  It was hard to find time to make them when the kids weren't around.  I felt like I was trying to squeeze in video-making moments for an entire week.  I finally finished them last night and emailed them out to the choir today.  Feels good to check that off the list.

The other side of that coin is that the choir needs music to practice with if they're going to practice at home.  We don't have enough copies of the music for everyone to have one, nor do I trust everyone in the choir to be able to bring all the original copies of the music back to church.  So, I need to make copies, which I will destroy after we're done using them (I do know about the whole copyright thing).  I tried using the church library copier at the church on Sunday, and the kid who is in charge of making the copies refused to help me because it's a job that "just takes so much time."  He then went back to staring at his phone.  I agree that it takes time, but I was so mad!  I may or may not have stormed out of the library, as I said (as politely as I could, in a signature high-pitched Mindy mad voice), "It's okay.  It's okay!!!"  But I was really mad.  I am trying to magnify my calling, and he was making it difficult for me to do my job.  Now I have to find some more time to get away from my kids and get the copies done during the week.  Not impossible, but difficult and frustrating.

I came home from church on Sunday feeling completely overwhelmed by all of this, and by my huge to-do list filled with large projects, not small tasks.  Projects are difficult for me because of the kids.  It's hard to start anything because I never know when or if I'll be able to finish it.  I'm proud to report that I have pulled-out my Accomplishment Girl Underoos, and I have been the Master of Projects this week!  (If I worked at a large corporation, they were give me an award for that.)  Just to prove to myself that I can get things done with my kids around, here is a short list of my accomplishments and the coincidentally super-awesome dinners we have had this week:

Sunday Evening--I picked out background music/playlists for my sister's wedding (three lists including Classical piano music, Jazz, and other easy listening songs).
Plus I made Crockpot Pork Carnitas w/ Southwest Blackbean Salad and Cilantro Lime Rice for dinner.  So good!

Monday--Took the kids to the library.  Took the time to get the kids and me to the store to buy a thumb drive, load my sister's music files onto the drive, and go back to the store to send it to her.  I also went through my bins of kids' clothes and toys, pulled out Winter clothes for the boys, put things in give-away piles.  I love getting rid of things!  It feels so good!
Dinner: Chicken Noodles.

Tuesday--Took the kids to a playdate with friends.  Then cleaned out the garage and put away Summer toys/tools so that Spiff can park in the garage over the Winter...you know, since it's snowing here now.  Made Choir rehearsal videos.
Dinner: Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew (one of my all-time favorite recipes that I have had forever and can't find on the web)

Wednesday (today)--I did laundry, and I did the other side of the Winter Clothing job, which was to put away all of the Summer clothes and shoes and get out Winter Gear.  I changed out any too-small clothes in the kids' drawers to store for later.  I went through two of my own drawers and got a whole garbage bag full of things to take to Goodwill. Also got a haircut while the kids played with friends.  And I finished up the choir video/emailing-links project.
Dinner: Pork Carnitas Enchiladas

Other thoughts:
1.  Good food always makes me feel better about pretty much everything.  I'm so glad to have the chance to eat some of my favorite foods this week.
2.  The week is only halfway through.  Maybe I'll be able to tackle some of my other projects.
3.  Or maybe I'm tired now and need to take a break.  I should do something fun with the kids.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gunner's Fifth Birthday

My Gunner turned five last week.  I can't believe how fast time is flying, and just how big he is getting.  I was telling him about how I went to lunch with some good friends on my due date with him, since I wasn't in labor.  I told him how those good friends' now-six-year-olds were just babies.  I told him about how the next day, I was in labor all day long, and how our friend, Maggie, and her then-baby Charlotte came over to hang out with us.  And about how we walked and walked and walked all over our neighborhood that day.  I told him about how I called Spiff out of his evening class when I thought we needed to rush to the hospital, and about how he came right home and ate a hurried dinner before we zoomed to the hospital, only to wait and wait and wait all night long for Gunner's arrival.

How has it been five years?!  It feels like only yesterday.

But G is so excited to be five.  He feels like a big kid, and he feels so important.  Spiff and I reveled in celebrating his birthday at this perfect stage of his life, when birthdays hold some sort of magical childhood quality.  G asked for balloons on his birthday, so we got him balloons.  He asked if we could decorate, so I bought him a birthday banner.  He woke up to a festive house, and he exclaimed, "Oh, it's just what I wanted!"  I love how such small things can bring such great joy.

We had birthday cinnamon rolls in the morning with Maggie and her kids (who are still helping us celebrate G's birthdays), followed by a trip to the local zoo, a park, and a stop at the drive-through for lunch.  His friend spent the afternoon playing with him.  I made him his requested birthday dinner of pork chops and vegetables (I love that he chose that over pizza).   He opened presents, and we had friends over for cake and ice cream.

Such a perfect little birthday.

For me, the rest of last week was spent in birthday preparations, admittedly made more difficult than it had to be by yours truly.  I did cake.  And it took way too long, as it usually does because I really don't know what I'm doing.  But it was mostly fun (bonus!), and Gunner truly appreciated my effort.  He loved his Tintin Cake, and he even told me that it was better than the Thomas the Train cake at the grocery store bakery.  So, I think that's a win.

One funny cake story:
At the very end of making this cake, I was applying the pictures to the side of the cake.  I put the Yellow Plane up, and one of the little grey wing supports fell off.  Those supports were grey fondant wrapped around a toothpick.  When I looked at the plane, I couldn't see either of the two supports.  I looked and looked for the second support, but I never found it.  Eventually, I figured that it had fallen off and I had thrown it away with some other garbage, so I cut out two little grey strips to replace the other, heavier supports, and called it good.

I finished the cake, took pictures, showed it off to Gunner, posted pictures on FB, and served the cake to friends.  Then late in the evening of G's birthday, after the kids were in bed, I was in the kitchen cleaning up and taking care of cake leftovers.  I looked at the undisturbed picture of the yellow plane...and found my missing support sitting on top of the pontoons!!! 
Can you see?
It's all I can see when I look at the picture now.  I can't believe I couldn't find it until after everything was over.  So silly!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Late in the afternoon the other day, Spiff declared that he needed to take Gunner out for some Daddy/Gunner time.  They decided to go on a bike ride together around our mile & a half long trail that loops our neighborhood, a loop that's a little long for Hobbes to do with them. 

As they got ready and headed out the door on their bikes, Hobbes was so sad to be left behind.  So, I took him on a Mommy/Hobbes ride, just to appease him and avoid a Big Cry.  He got ready as fast as he could, and we followed the boys out the door, Hobbes on his little Strider.

He could see them up ahead of us, and he wanted to follow.  I let him lead the way.  We went down our sidewalk and across the street, just like Daddy & Gunner.  We went up the big hill, with our eyes on them until they hit the downhill.  Hobbes followed, climbing the hill and carefully coasting the downhill until we got to the edge of our neighborhood.  I asked him if he wanted to turn around and go home or keep going.

He looked out on the bike trail, looking for Gunner and Daddy, and said, "I want to keep going." 

So we did.  We rode the little trail, and he did such a great job.  He listened to me, slowed down when I asked, watched for traffic, and rode carefully.  And fast.  I had to run to keep up with him.

We got about 2/3 of the way and rounded a big corner.  He was so proud to get there.  But when he got around the corner, looked ahead of him, and did not see Gunner and Daddy, his face fell.  It was like watching a mud slide.  He had honestly thought that he would catch up to them, and he was so very disappointed when he realized that he couldn't, even with his greatest effort.

I got down and told him how proud I was of him, and that he was doing a great job.  And we could tell them how hard he worked when we made it home.

It perked him up okay, and we made it home, where we told Dad & Gunner all about his big accomplishment.  I have never seen such an honest display of pure determination. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gunner Funnies

Some funny things my almost-5-year-old Gunner said recently:

Spiff told Gunner that he would be On Call tomorrow.  This shows how well G knows the routine...
Gunner: So, you will work all night.  Then you will come home and sleep until lunch.

While looking at a picture of the Tetons (keep in mind that Spiff took G skiing in Utah, not at the Tetons, of course):
G (said in a matter of fact tone): When dad took me skiing in the mountains, he made me go down a Teton.  I went beeeeeewwwww, down so fast, and then I landed on my head in the snow.

During a discussion about money:
G: I have more money than you.  I have 17 pennies and 1 dime.  Um...how much is a dime? Because I have one of those.

While listening to the HMS Pinafore in the car:
G: Mom, is there a Pina-three and a Pina-two and a Pina-five?

While playing Legos one day, Gunner dive bombed us with a Lego bullet from his Star Wars Plane:
Hobbes: Stop that, Gunner!
Gunner: I can't stop.  I don't really know what this thing is doing!

Last, but not least, this little story:
Gunner wrapped some green yarn around and around an area of the banister and declared that it was a spiderweb he made for Halloween.  I expressed my greatest mommy pleasure at his creation. 
He got all sad and said: I thought it would scare you.  I made so that it would be spooky.
And later:  Why didn't my spiderweb scare you?!
And later...we hung out in the kitchen for a while, ate some dinner, and then I sent him downstairs to get his jammies on.  He turned around and started down the stairs.
And he said, in all seriousness: Ahh!  I forgot my spiderweb was there, and it scared me!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hobbes Funnies

Here are some funny things my little 2 1/2 year old Hobbsie has been saying lately:

Hobbes loves motorcycles and said this after finding the new motorcycle-themed library books I brought home for him:
I dreamed this motorcycle!

While wrestling with Hobbes one day:
Me: Look at this tiny bummie you have!
H: I had a tiny bummie?  You had a big bummie, Mama.

On one of Spiff's Call Days:
Hobbes: Where's Daddy, Mama?
Me: He's at work.
H: No, he's not.  He's at home.  He's sleeping.

Once while encouraging Hobbes at the potty:
Me: Good job, Hobbsie!
H: You're Welcome.

Hobbes says to me while getting ready to go out to play:
H: Please help me my shoes, Sweetie.

H: Tank you gidding me a bandang, Mom. (Thanks for giving me a bandaid.)

While playing with Lego guys:
H: Can you make a dork, Mom?  Can you make a big dork?

Playing with Lego guys on a Lego plane:
H: They're flying outing their hats on!

Famous Phrases:
Don't go outing me!!!  (Don't go without me!)
He hadding the tiny yellow doom doom. (He has the small gray axe.)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


The week after we met Spiff's family in St. Louis, they came to us at home.  After the funeral, we drove straight home so Spiff could go back to work.  His mom and sister toured around for a few days and eventually made their way to our house.  Hobbes did an actual leap for joy when he saw them in the driveway.  They spent the next few days making my kids very happy.  They read to them, talked to them, played with them, told jokes with them, walked with them...everything that makes them happy.  I'm sure it was quite exhausting for both CFG and Mhana because my kids didn't give them a moment's rest.  But Grandmas and Aunties are the best.

While they were here, we went to the apple orchard and then baked pies.  We ate delicious food together, although we didn't eat out.  (Eating out is only fun occasionally, and I had had enough eating out during our previous weekend in the Lou to last me a lifetime.  Or at least a month or so.)  We drove to the SPAM Museum and learned all about processed meat.  It was okay fun, and I loved that the SPAM Museum doesn't take itself too seriously.  We stayed up late talking and enjoying being around each other.  It was so so nice to have them around.  So nice to be together.

Then they had to leave, and we were all sad.  Gunner cried and cried, and I had to quickly think of a game plan to distract him.  We invited his favorite friend over to play.  Good thing he was available because that was one sad sad kid.

I love having visitors, but it's really crappy when they have to go home.  It's even worse when we don't have a definite plan for when we'll see them again.

We miss them.  We are grateful that they came and grateful for some wonderful memories.  Sooner or later, we'll either live close enough that we can see them sometimes, or someone will finally invent that Transporter Beam and distance won't be an issue any longer.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis

I have a confession.  I have never seen that movie, even though I lived there for four years.  There are tons of things to do in that city that I never did, including riding the tram up to the top of the Arch, going to Grant's Farm and the transportation museum, walking up to the top of Tower Grove Water Tower, running on Grant's Trail, or personally picking up food from Pappy's BBQ (yum!).  These are all fairly classic things to do in that city, and we never made the time for any of them.  Not that we didn't keep ourselves busy.  We had a list of favorite places to visit/play/run, and we used them frequently.

I had a chance to rectify some (not all) of my former mistakes a week ago when my fam and I met up with Spiff's family in STL for a weekend.  We met his mom, sister, and his uncle's family from CA for his Grammy's memorial service.  We had such a great weekend.  The weather was perfect, sunny and warm 70s.  My kids were angels.  We packed so much fun into three days that we were all completely exhausted every night.  We did visit our old favorites, including the (World's BEST) Zoo, Pappy's lunch eaten at Tower Grove Park, Grant's Farm, Dinner at the King & I, swimming at the hotel pool, the Botanical Garden, and the Arch (still didn't ride that tram...no regrets).  We saw hot air balloons in the air during the Forest Park Balloon Race (although we sadly missed the Balloon Glow because we were traveling).  We drove through our old neighborhood and past our old house.  I even met a friend for a my first run on Grant's trail.  We met our friends for dinner one night, and my kids had the time of their lives.  Gunner declared after we left that he loves their daughter and "feels like marrying her."

Man, I love that city.  I admit that there are things about it that I don't miss.  It's a pretty run down urban area with a whole lot of racial segregation.  It's also filled with a lot of grumpy people.  I also admit that it has been nice living in a different region of the country known for its nice people.  I like nice people.

But all the other stuff that I mentioned before...all that stuff...I have a deep love for it all.  It is all beautiful and fun, but mostly it reminds me of good times during Spiff's medical school, before we had kids, the years we had our babies, the years I had to get to know Grammy, the years we met so many wonderful friends...the ones who became family away from family, while we all struggled through that time together.  We lived there as a couple longer than any other city.  It became home, and part of me still feels that it is home.

Most of all, spending time with Spiff family was glorious.  They live in Oregon, and we rarely see them.  I miss them and so badly wish that my kids could have a close relationship with them.  It is great to see how Gunner interacts with them now that he's a little older.  He loved them both so very much this time.  Hobbes, too.

And Grammy's funeral was lovely and perfect.  She was in the Navy as a young woman, teaching soldiers to work machine guns.  So, she was buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.  They gave her full Naval Military Honors.  My kids were completely silent and mesmerized throughout the service; they could tell how special it was.  It was impossible not to cry when the soldier knelt down in front of Spiff's Mom to present her with the folded flag.

We held an informal memorial at the grave cite where we all participated through prayers, readings, words, etc.  It was so special.  I sort of love funerals, as long as they are not over tragic circumstances.  I love how it gives me closure.  I love how they give family and friends a chance to gather together in order to celebrate the life of a loved one.  I love how I have always left a funeral feeling uplifted and peaceful after communally remembering our loved one.

That wrapped up our quick weekend in STL.  I wish we had had time to visit some other friends who still live there.  I wish for a reunion with our friends who have moved on.  But I'm filled with gratitude for a visit with family and a great reminder of a beautiful time in our little lives.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Northshore (Half) Marathon Recap

Just a quick recap of our event on Saturday.  We dropped the kids off at our friend's place on the way to Duluth.  They were thrilled to see their buddies.  I was grateful to my friend for playing Auntie for an entire day.  Hobbes wasn't too happy to let Julie help him with things, including night-time visits when he woke up crying, or in the morning.  He wanted Mom, not Julie, to get him out of bed.  He also didn't want to pee in her toilet.  What a weird thing.  He had an accident and locked himself in her bathroom because he was so upset about it.  He told her, "I will pee in my mom's potty."  She told him he needed to pee in her toilet or he needed to wear a diaper, which was the perfect threat to get him to relax enough to pee in someone else's toilet with someone else helping him.  So weird.

Besides that, Spiff and I had a great time.  We drove to Duluth, picked up our race packets, and checked out the inline skating expo.  Spiff was thrilled to be in a building where there were actual speed skating vendors.  It's such an obscure sport that we only know of one actual store with a business space and store hours (happens to be in SLC) where they sell inline skating supplies.  Otherwise, purchases need to be made online.  Pretty neat to be where the birds of his feathers could flock.

We also happened upon a fantastic Neopolitan Pizza Place where we ate dinner.  That pizza was heavenly.

My half marathon was okay.  Not my best.  Not my favorite, either.  This event was an inline skating event, and they happened to tack on a running 10K and half marathon.  There were only about 100 people running the half, which is the smallest event I have participated in.  It was difficult for me to not be competitive in such a small group.  I wanted to be able to run faster than I was able, and I started out too fast.  My first 6 miles were great (8:30 miles), and then I ran out of energy and dragged myself through the last 7 miles (9:30-10:00 miles).  It was supported like a skating event.  Water stops were fewer and further between.  The course was beautiful, running right down the shoreline of Lake Superior into downtown Duluth, but it was a straight, almost flat run, and not the most interesting one I have ever done.

So, even though I had a good time of 1:58, it is hard for me to feel good about it because I didn't finish strong.  Next time, I will train differently.  I apparently care a whole lot more about speed and strength than I thought I did.

The best part of my race was being able to recover all by myself afterwards.  I walked back to the hotel, got myself a vanilla steamer, took an ice bath and shower, cleaned up and checked out without having to worry about the kids or anyone else's schedule.  Heaven.

Spiff had a GREAT time doing his first inline marathon.  He skated a great race, all 26 miles.  He felt good and finished strong, despite the strong headwind.  He finished in 1:47 (faster than I have ever run a half marathon, by the way), which was 7th place in the open division.  He had a lot of fun, and he wants to do it again next year.

I loved watching the speed skaters come in at the finish line, which was right in the harbor.  It was beautiful (I saw a huge ore ship come in under the draw bridge, and there was also a sailing regata going on the harbor), and a ton of fun.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Like a Weed

Before Gunner's Tonsillectomy, the nurse at the hospital told me that I needed to take him home that day and measure him.  She warned me that after he healed, he would start sleeping better, and then he would grow.  Well, I didn't measure him, but I have noticed that he is growing.  It's insane!  I swear that I can almost see it happening, that he is bigger today than he was yesterday.  He is growing out of his clothes like crazy.  He's growing, and he's getting more mature.  I'm sure that the Tonsils haven't helped with the second one, but it's neat to see him hit milestones as he inches towards the big Five.

Here are some examples:
Since we didn't have tons of toys to play with today, I got out some other forms of entertainment for the kids, including some puzzles and games we haven't played with in quite a while.  I was seriously impressed at Gunner's ability to do puzzles that he couldn't do all by himself six months ago.

Also, Gunner and I sat and played an entire game of Lightening McQueen Bingo.  And it was fun.  Actually fun!  He all the sudden understands about taking turns and working towards little goals.  He never got upset, and he didn't end the game by throwing a little tantrum and storming away in a huff like he often has.  He even said, "I'm really enjoying myself."  I'm thrilled!  I love playing games, and I'm seeing a whole world of entertainment possibilities open up to me as my boy grows up a little.

Now a couple of funny stories:

I took the boys to Storytime at the library, and Gunner was hilarious to watch while the librarian read book.  He was so into it.  He loved the stories.  He was one of those kids to loudly answer all of her questions.  I sat there happy that he was enjoying it.

At one point, we were reading a story about a naughty little dog who makes bad choices, like deciding to eat all of the cake, or chasing the cat.  After getting caught and getting into trouble, the little dog was faced with another difficult choice.  The librarian asked, "What will George do?!"

Gunner yelled out, "He will change his attitude!!!"


After library storytime, I took the kids to a local toy store to play with their free train tables.  That toy store was having their own storytime, and it was packed with people when we walked in the door.

Gunner took one look at all the kids and parents and exclaimed, "Holy Mackerel!!!"

Also, I sort of love it when my kids make other people giggle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Two Sides of the Bed

My children confuse me.  Some days are so awesome.  There are days when they are such joys to be around.  They have finally reached ages that they can play together, and those good days are so much fun.  They follow each other around making the other one giggle.  They can't be more than two feet away from each other.  They still fight, but sometimes not so much on good days.

And then there are horrible days.  Days when they are whiny, rude, obstinate, bored, discontent with everything we do, and they fight all day long.  On those days, nothing I do seems to help, and I eventually lose all will to live...or at least all motivation to continue trying to help them.  I have no idea why some days are so good, and others so so so bad.  There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

Yesterday was one of those bad days.  They argued with random kids at the park.  They complained about being at the grocery store.  They misbehaved in the bath and then laughed at me when I got upset at them.  I sent them to their room to re-shelf a pile of books while I straightened up their toy room.  They briefly decided to happily work together on a project which entailed piling up ALL of their belongings onto the built-in desktop in the playroom.  Every toy, dress-up, blanket, stuffed animal...all things in one giant pile of stuff.

Then the obvious next step was the destruction of that pile, which led to toys flying everywhere.  Everywhere!!!

I stood there looking at that mess...at the toys that I had just barely put away in their away spots.  And I could not bring myself to put any of it back where it belonged.  I gathered it all up and took it all away. 

I took all of their toys away.

The new rule is that they can have their toys, one bin at a time, and they must clean them up before getting anything else out.  They seem completely fine with it.  For this one first day, I have loved it, and my house is relatively clean.  I don't know how long I'll do this, but for now, I'm happy not to have piles and piles of little toys dumped all over my house.

Today was also a Good day.  Today, they were pleasant, played well together, played well with other kids (mostly), shared toys, and were content to be at home and play with the one bin of cars and planes they asked for. 

I wish I could figure out what triggers a good one and what triggers a bad one.  Maybe I need to be checking what side of the bed they get out of each day.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Little Update

I ran the Rochester Half Marathon a couple weeks ago, and it was very fun.  It was a small event, only about 300 people, but well-run with plenty of support.  The weather was beautiful, and I ran with my friend, who finished her first half.  It's such a great achievement!  Her husband and kids met her at the finish line, and I was so happy to see them absolutely beaming at her!  It wasn't a PR or anything remotely fast, but it is always a good confirmation to me to know that I can run the distance.  I'm looking forward to The Northshore Half on Saturday!

So, it turn out that I do have some resources available to me.  I took a choral conducting class while in grad school.  The class was for complete beginners, and I didn't learn much, but I did get some helpful little books on choral conducting which I pulled out to remind myself about the things a good choral conductor does.  I have been skipping over warm-ups because we don't have enough time to learn our songs.  But warm-ups are vital to so many aspects of choral singing, and I have vowed to do them, even though it always ends up taking up at least 10 minutes.

I met with my choir yesterday and did a few warm-ups, during which I discovered that there are few choir members who are quite tone deaf.  Not matching pitch at. all.  It's hard for me to remember that people don't know how to do that.  Probably like how people who speak French (Spiff & Mhana) don't understand how a person like me doesn't naturally internalize it when it is being spoken.  I'm not quite sure what to do with that, other than to continue doing warm-ups and to continue teaching.

The whole thing is very tricky with our limited time, very diverse age differences, and varying levels of talent and musical ability.  But I did decide that I need to get back to the drawing board as far as the Christmas program is concerned.  I need easier songs.  Like I have mentioned, easy/pretty/enjoyable arrangements are not easy to come by.

Speaking of arrangements, what are you favorite composers/arrangers who offer free online sheet music for ward choirs?  And what do we all think of Sister DeFord?

Friday, September 06, 2013

Paste One On

I had a conversation the other day with a very nice woman at church.  She told me about how she raised three musical children.  Music was very important to her, and it sounded like she was extremely disciplined while her kids were young and taking music lessons.  They had a strict schedule, starting at 6:30 in the morning, where they did a 30-minute rotation on three separate instruments, rotating at the end of each 30-min interval.  I was very impressed and my inner piano teacher was doing a standing ovation at the thought of three serious students whose mother so thoroughly supported their lessons.

She told me that the most important thing to her was that they loved their lessons.  She said that the interviewed countless piano teachers, and eventually went with the one who said to her, "If I can't make your kids love the piano within a month, I won't teach them."  (That's not a promise I have ever heard any music teacher make to any student.)

She continued to describe the lessons with this woman who would teach the kids strictly by showing them how to play something.  The watched what she did, and followed along, learning by rote.  She didn't put paper in front of them until after they had learned something by heart to show them that what they were playing looked like "this".  In this way, her children were playing things that were very advance for their level because she had simply shown them how to do it, rather than making them learn the notes.

At this point, my inner piano teacher's insides were beginning to squirm.

She continued again saying that the teacher told them, "If there is anything you don't like about the music you're playing, feel free to change it at will."

That's when I pulled out my very best Smile-and-Nod.  My inner piano teacher was silently screaming and running away! 

I sat there smiling, but I wanted to say, "You and your kids were getting Hosed!!!  That isn't teaching!  That is permissive.  It's something that more closely resembles giving a grade of Crocodiles for Spelling.  Of course those kids loved their piano lessons.  They could do anything they wanted and get off Scott free!  What a waste of time and money!"

I wanted to ask her how in the world she was okay with that, but I didn't.  Apparently, my outer smile-and-nodder is much nicer than my inner piano teacher.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

More Choir

So, here's another choir subject:  Christmas Choir Music

I am working on putting together the Christmas Sacrament Meeting Program.  I really need to get the choir working on the songs, but I'm having some issues choosing music.  I loved the program I put together last year.  I didn't have my choir last December, so I put together four separate musical numbers to be performed during sacrament, interspersed with three short testimonies/talks.  I thought it was a lovely program, filled with great music and speakers.  The only downside for me was that it required a whole lot of outside rehearsal time for me.  Not entirely un-doable, but tricky and time-consuming.

Since I have the choir this year, I'd like to use them.  Personally, I love the Christmas hymns and most carols, and so I try to stick with that when I'm choosing music for my choir.  I want everyone to have the Christmas Carol Singing experience.  I have been in choirs that have done very non-traditional and unknown Christmas music, and I have left feeling unsatisfied.  Granted, that was a secular college choir, not church.  But I would also like to stay far away from Joe Blow's Sappy Original Christmas Compositions that are so prevalent while I look through the music filed away in the stake choir library.  Those tend to leave me with the same kind of unsatisfied feelings, only worse because I don't like the songs.  That's another discussion topic for another day.

I have sort of decided that I would like my choir to do two songs on the Christmas program this year.  At the moment, it feels like it will be too much to ask of them, considering the things we discussed in my last post.  But also, I am having an extremely difficult time finding good/beautiful arrangements that are easy enough to be accessible for them!  Preferably, I'd like SAB arrangements, and there are very few of those.  I feel like my current options are either a) bad songs/arrangements, or b) nice arrangements, but too hard so it won't end up sounding good.   It's very frustrating.

My questions:
If you are to sing in a church choir, and you are to participate in the Christmas Sacrament Meeting program, what do you prefer to sing?  

What types Christmas Programs have you enjoyed in past years?  (This is keeping in mind that I'm not going to do a whole big program with narration of the Christmas story.  Not my style.)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


I am serving as the Music Chair and Choir Director in our ward.  I was called to be the Music Chair just after moving into the ward a year ago, and had a really hard time diving in and scheduling musical numbers for sacrament meeting when I didn't know anyone, much less their musical talents and abilities.  I have since become more acquainted with people, and I have a bit of a system with scheduling, and I have been able to iron out some of the initial kinks I found when just starting in the calling.

I volunteered for the Choir Director position because it seemed easier than finding someone else to fill the job.  After doing both for a while now, I have realized that the two jobs are quite complementary, and I like being able to control the musical number schedule and change it at will.  I like the behind-the-scenes aspect of the music chair, and being in charge of choir has been good for me.  It's nice to have a creative outlet.

The down sides of the choir job are the normal obvious ones.  I am working with amateur musicians.  I don't have enough time to rehearse them in our short sessions.  There is not a whole lot of great hymn arrangements that are beautiful and accessible to a choir of limited experience.  My accompanist has very little experience accompanying a choir, and she doesn't sightread.

With all of that, the very hardest thing for me is dragging my kids along to choir rehearsal while Spiff is at work.  It's super stressful having them running amok while I am leading 25 people in a rehearsal.  The choir members say they don't mind, and I am grateful for that, but it is stressful for me nonetheless.

I am very aware of how lucky I am in my choir.  I have ward members who support the choir.  I have people who come!!!  Anyone who has been in a ward choir before can relate to how important and amazing this small fact is.  I have not done any huge recruiting.  I haven't held any lasagna dinners.  I haven't baked cookies. I haven't called everyone on the ward list.  But I have 20-30 people who come to choir on a regular basis.  I am so blessed.

On the other hand, most of these people have little to no musical experience.  I am slowly learning the truth of this statement.  I have a tendency to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to musical knowledge, and it is difficult for me to take the ten steps back that I need to take and give them actual musical instruction.  I have two people just this last Sunday who requested that I do more teaching.  A quote from one guy, "Somewhere along the way, someone taught you the tricks to make you sound good when you sing.  I'd like you to teach us those tricks."

It's very true.  I had excellent choir directors in high school and college.  Some of the best in the business.  My college choir director was amazing.  He could take a bunch of kids with limited talent and turn them into a fabulous instrument.  He always taught singing tricks, starting with a daily warm-up that would directly relate to the technique of a section of a piece he wanted to work on that day.  He was constantly tweaking the sound and shaping it to the exact sound he was looking for.  He was so very talented at teaching choir.

My problem is that I don't know how to do what he did.  I am a choral singer, not a choir director.  I am a piano teacher and accompanist.  I have observed my teachers, I have learned some things from them, but I never took an effective choral conducting class, and my choral directing experience and vocal teaching experiences are very limited.  It has been over ten years since I have been in a great choir.  It is so hard for me to remember the things he taught me, much less be able to pass them on to the people I am responsible for now.

I know that I musical knowledge far surpasses anyone in the room.  I know I have things to contribute.  I have previously felt like I am making a pleasant experience for people.  I feel like they can tell they are learning and improving, and that they can hear when they sound good.  I feel like they must be enjoying something about my style because they keep coming back.

But now I feel inadequate.  How do I step back and start with technical basics for those who honestly don't know anything about music in our very limited time frame, while giving the rest of the choir an interesting experience they will enjoy?  Do I just assume that no one there knows anything about singing and music?!  Do I continue to give them the benefit of the doubt?  How do I channel my inner choral director (my inner Scott Anderson) when I have done nothing but be with my babies for the past five years?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

From a 2-year-old perspective

The boys and I Skyped with Spiff while he was on call Sunday evening.  Gunner especially enjoyed seeing Daddy at work, and he was very interested in the call room.  He asked Spiff to give us a virtual tour several times.  "Dad, can you show me your bed again?  What's that on the desk?  Oh, it's a computer!  What's under the desk?  Will you show me your bed again?"

What could possibly be more exciting than a call room?  Apparently nothing.  It is so very cool to see part of Daddy's work environment.

Hobbes, on the other hand, was a bit more skeptical of the whole situation.  He chatted with Spiff a little, and then quietly observed for a while before saying to me, "I don't like that Daddy one."

And then, "Daddy, get out of Mommy's IPad!"

It still cracks me up.

I guess an ipad-to-ipad video call would be hard thing for a 2-year-old to understand.  He is used to youtube videos, and videos we take of the family from various cameras, but he's not so used to such an interactive version of a video.

Monday, August 19, 2013

AG Works Out

I am training for two upcoming half marathons.  I'm running this one on Saturday.  I'll be running with a friend and using it as a long-run in order to be ready for this one in September, which I'm doing with Spiff.  He will be doing the Full Inline Marathon on his nifty speed skates.  We actually lined up a babysitter for the night so Spiff and I can go do this event together...alone.  I did just say alone.  I'm so excited!

My latest runs have not been so awesome.  Yesterday, I quit my treadmill run two miles early.  I partially blame the not-awesomeness of my running on my recent discovery of Fitness Blender.  (The other part I blame on my own natural not-awesomeness.)  I have been taking full advantage of FB's amazing and free full-length online workouts.  I have been cross-training with these, and I feel like I am getting stronger.    I like the idea of combining running with cross-fit style high intensity workouts.  I think that the strength training will eventually be very beneficial to my distance running.  But my legs are also very tired, which makes it hard to run. 

I have made a goal to do the 100 Squat Challenge every Friday.  My legs weren't nearly so sore the second time I did it as they were the first.  I will soon be a Goddess of Squats.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Oh, What Do You Do In the Summertime?

I love being a SAHM during the Summer.  We have had the most mild Summer I have experienced in years.  There were only about a week or two that it was hot enough that we didn't want to be outside.  Good Summer weather means lots of outdoor Summer fun, at least when we haven't been recuperating from surgery or *potty training.  I love our hours of riding bikes outside.  I love handing out otter pops like they're going out of style.  My boys are the very most happy when they are playing at the beach.  And when they're happy, I'm happy.

Gunner said, "I think Summer has gone too quickly for me."  I completely agree.  I will miss this Summer when it's gone.

Cold weather will come all too soon.  I finally put away all of our Winter Clothes at the end of June.  I am looking forward to Fall and trips to the apple orchard, and I always look forward to the deliciousness that is Fall Food.

Oh, but this Summer of my small children.  This one I will remember fondly.

*Note: Hobbes has figured out the potty thing!  We struggled with the #2's for a couple of days, but then he seemed to just get it.  He has spent 5 out of 7 nights this week dry!!!, which is something I would not have thought possible a week ago.  He even learned a new phrase from his older brother, which he now uses to inform me when he needs to use the bathroom.  His statements of "I need to go Potty!" are now alternated with, "I need to go so bad!"  I'm so proud of him.  And he is enjoying my free use of candy as potty bribery.

He has also enjoyed this book.  Best potty-training book ever.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Time I Died and Went to Heaven

Spiff planted a garden for us this year.  It was his baby.  He bought the pots, dirt, seeds, starts, and recruited Gunner to help him plant everything.  I stepped back and let them do that work, feeling that I had enough of my own regular things to worry about.

Then I watched them work, and I watched the plants grow, and the process has been so fun, and it has been so much fun to watch Gunner get so excited about growing things, that I even joined in a bit.  (I may have watered it a few times, and I always cheer when Gunner points out a new tomato blossom.)  I also began dreaming about the end-of-summer joy of fresh garden tomatoes and basil.

Sadly, over the Summer, we have watched our little garden be...well...not so awesome.  We apparently have a lot to learn about gardening.  Personally, I'm irked that we aren't automatically and naturally good at ALL things.  Some of the seeds they planted grew, along with a whole lot of "other" things that Spiff ended up weeding out, including about 1 million maple trees.  (I am never again having maple trees in my yard!)  We ended up with two smallish basil plants and a decent little crop of oregano.  I'm thrilled with those, but left wondering whatever happened to the cilantro he planted.  Gunner grew some small carrots.  He was overjoyed!

The tomato starts grew, too.  And then they stopped growing.  We have a few little green tomatoes on our plants, but nothing like our next-door neighbor's tomato crop.  Gunner thought she had planted pumpkins!  She has So Many Huge Tomatoes on her plants!  I am admittedly jealous of other people's tomatoes, and feeling down about our sad little unproductive tomato plants.

We did get to enjoy two of our little tomatoes this week.  And when I say little, I mean it.  They were about the size of golf balls.

So, I have given up on my dream of home-grown tomato salads, and relied on Costco to fulfill my wishes.  Apologies to my poor little tomato plants, but oh boy, Costco tomatoes can deliver!
Yesterday, I made this:

Good golly, if there is food in heaven, it most definitely is this Caprese Salad, made with basil and oregano from my own little patio garden.  You can't beat delicious and beautiful, in my book!

Caprese Salad:
1 fresh tomato, sliced
1 large avocado, sliced
1 small package of fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼ inch slices

Arrange tomato, avocado and mozzarella slices by layers in a circle on a plate or serving platter.  Pour dressing (below) over salad, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. bottled minced garlic
1 t. olive oil
¼ t. salt
¼ t. dried basil, or 1 T. fresh minced basil leaves
¼ t. dried oregano, or 1 t. fresh minced oregano leaves

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and stir well with a whisk.  (If using fresh herbs, it works best to combine first 4 ingredients, then sprinkle the minced herbs on the salad before pouring dressing over salad.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

There Are No Words

Found this little gem on our computer while searching for my little AG stick girl drawing.  Spiff emailed this to me sometime in 2008.  So, thanks go out to Spiff for today's Hahas!

Note: For those who don't know, Accomplishment Girl was the persona I created while I was in graduate school and needed some help finding motivation to get things done.  She did always help me be productive.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Like the new look?!

Potty-Training Update, or TMI about my 2-year-old's toilet habits

Potty-Training Update, for all those interested, but mostly just for me and mine.

Can I just start by saying how much I hate potty training?  Cuz I do.  I was right to wait as long as I did with Hobbes.  I'm not so sure how right I was to start him when I did.  It is so hard.

On the one hand, he can totally handle it.  He can and does use the potty when he wants to.  It all started out great when it was new and he was excited about it.  Then he realized that it is work, and that the work has to be done each and every time he needs to "go".  It was at that point that he decided that he doesn't want to be a big kid after all.  Unders aren't all they are cracked up to be.  He has told me that he wants to be a baby.  He has told me that he can't do it "because he's too little."  He has decided that peeing right there on the floor is a perfectly acceptable option.  It's easier, after all, than walking 5 feet to the nearest toilet.

Gah, I really don't like this.  Least favorite thing about being a parent.

Here's another thing that makes it hard, or at least different from when I trained Gunner.  With Gunner, I spent almost a whole week just focusing on his training needs.  We didn't leave the house or venture away from a potty for days.  I followed him around like a spy, watching his every move, knowing exactly when he would need to use the potty.

I just haven't been able to give Hobbes that kind of attention this time.  Day Two of training is an essential day, in my opinion.  Taking care of #1 is no big deal at this point, since the kid has had so much practice.  But #2 is a different story.  It's soooo new to them, and feels so foreign to let it go in a toilet bowl instead of nestled up close in a diaper, as gross and foreign as it seems to us.  They don't get all that much practice at it, since it really only happens once every day or so (ballpark), and it's essential not to miss those #2 teaching moments, or you end up dragging out training for a reallyreallyreally long time. 

My big mistake is that I did miss them.  Friday (Day Two), we were invited to the neighbor's house to play in the yard.  The boys were riding bikes and playing with bubbles.  Hobbes showed no signs of discomfort.  I checked on him several times, and he always insisted that he didn't need to go.  I continued to talk to the neighbor ladies while watching the kids play.  Hobbes disappeared around the corner for just a moment, and came back with pants full of poop.  Cleaning up poopy unders is way worse than changing a poopy diaper.  It just is.


Then there is the fact that Hobbes is so much quieter about it than Gunner was. The next morning, I went on a long run with a friend.  Spiff stayed home with the kids.  Hobbes pooped his pants while sitting next to Spiff.  He didn't even know.

Ahh, so frustrating.

Also, I decided I needed to drop night-time diapers for him.  I think that it was confusing for him to be allowed to go in a diaper sometimes, but not others.  I was giving him permission to be blasé about this.  So, put away all the diapers, and we're down to strict unders now.

Gah!  Stress.

So, here we were on Sunday, four days into training, with dwindling interests in the toilet, and without a successful pooping experience.  Sunday, when we have to spend so much of the day at church.  This particular Sunday when Spiff is on call.  I would have skipped it if I didn't have a church schedule full of things today, including running choir rehearsal, accompanying the musical number in sacrament meeting, subbing in nursery, and helping Gunner with his primary talk.  I couldn't for the life of me figure out how we were going to make it through the day.  But we did.  Hobbsie wore unders to church and had zero accidents while were there.  Good boy.

Then we spent an hour after dinner tonight coaxing him to go #2 in the potty.  He so badly didn't want to.  He asked me for a diaper.  I refused to give it to him.  He looked like he was in so much pain holding it in.  I begged him to go in the toilet.  I comforted, hugged, coaxed, pleaded, cajoled, bribed...you name it.  It took him a solid hour.  He held onto it until he couldn't any longer.  But he did it!  Hoorah!!!  I rewarded him with a cup full of M&Ms.

I'm so proud of him, and so excited to have a success!  He will figure this out.  He will.  And I will try to be patient, even though I hate potty training so very much.  Please pray for us.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The primary president from our ward passed along this story to me today.  I had to share.

Someone recently asked Gunner's primary teacher if she had any good stories about the 3 & 4-year-old kids in her class.  "Well, yes," she said.  Goes like this:

Earlier this year, the primary kids were preparing to sing a song in sacrament meeting for Mother's Day.  It was a sweet song, and the kids sang with their hearts and souls.  Gunner's teacher is a sensitive soul, and her heart was touched by the kids as they practiced. 

As tears rolled down her cheeks, Gunner leaned over to her and comfortingly said, "I don't like this song, either."

When Mama Ain't Happy

Throughout Spiff's medical journey, there are always those rotations, the ones that seem undoable.  This OB rotation is one of those for me and Spiff.  It's a Q3 call schedule, so he does overnight call every three days.  I don't think it would be so bad for him if he enjoyed the work environment, but he has never liked OB.  He likes the procedures okay, but doesn't like the nurses (who seem overly bossy--sorry if you're an OB nurse.  He probably like you just fine.), the crazy laboring women, or their sometimes even crazier husbands.  Mostly he has a hard time with all the many things that can go wrong in OB, and he has a hard time seeing sick children and babies.

So he is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted during this five-week month of August.  It's hard to imagine making it through the next three weeks when every day of work seems interminable, and he doesn't ever feel caught up on sleep and truly rested.

For the rest of us, this means that our jobs are harder, too.  The kids go every three days without seeing Dad, and then knowing that he'll be at home sleeping the next day.  They are pretty good about it actually.  They are used to it just being me and them, and I have gotten used to doing all the meals, activities, bedtime routines, and chores.  Normally, we do just fine.

But take this moment from the other day:
On Spiff's post-call day, while he alternately slept and tried to do work at home, we ran out of bread, and I decided to whip up a couple of loaves so I wouldn't have to go to the store.  I also decided to prepare dinner ahead of time, which was a double-batch (so I could freeze some for later) of cheese stuffed shells, with homemade red sauce w/ fresh herbs from my garden (because we have them).  I don't make it much anymore because it's so time intensive.  Between bread, dinner, and feeding snacks to the kids, it kept me being in the kitchen all afternoon.

The kids were so good all day, but both of them soft of broke down just before dinner with the Tired and Hungry Crazies.  Potty-training has really taken it out of Hobbes.  He's so so tired, and come dinner time, he was a wreck.  I had been fine all day, but I also ran out of energy just before serving dinner.

As we sat down at the dinner table, Hobbes was crying because I put butter on his bread.  Gunner was upset because he didn't want to eat the cheesy noodles.  Spiff looked and felt like a zombie and could hardly keep his eyes open.  I was trying my best to diffuse the situation, but coming up short.

Spiff looked around at our struggling family and said, "Look at our family of little wrecks, all leaning on our Pillar of Mindy."

As he said it, I immediately imagined myself as a Pillar holding up our household, and as I ran out of energy and crumbled, so did everyone else.  

This was a moment when I realize how much my little family leans on me, and it felt so overwhelming, and I feel so inadequate.  I realize that the old saying, "When Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is so true.  When I am feeling well, rested and happy, I can feel up for my many tasks, and I can do it happily.  I can handle the tantrums, the whining, the crying, the potty-training kid, the accidents, the mountains of laundry, the constant feeding of children, etc. 

But when I'm not in the right frame of mind, or I have a headache, or am sick, or whatever little thing comes along, and I find myself not standing tall, it really affects my family.  I have never thought of it before as a Pillar of Mom, but it is an accurate depiction of my role (and all mothers), but especially in this phase of my life.

Hopefully I'm up for the task.  My family is worth it.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

All About Hobbes

My little Hobbsie is such a joy these days.  So happy, so silly.  He talks nonstop, and it's so funny to hear what he has to say.  He throws tantrums, but they are still at the stage of being pathetic, ridiculous and funny to watch, instead of frustrating and scary, like an older child's tantrum can be.  
He zips around on his little Strider Bike like a pro, with a huge smile on his face.  It makes him so happy.  (Thank you for that amazing toy/tool, CFG!  We all love it!)  
He has a baby doll.  In my closet one day, he found my old Strawberry Shortcake doll that my mom made for me when I was a kid.  It's crocheted, with a plastic head, arms and legs, with orange yard hair that sticks straight out all over her head.  He fell in love with her and is now "His Baby."  He sleeps with her, snuggles her, and even gives her the occasional kiss.
He has such a naturally sweet personality.  I was watching one of his 2-year-old friends (Eliza, or "Wiza" to Hobbes) the other day.  The kids were playing outside, and I was on the phone while I watched them.  Eliza decided that she was done with us and wanted to walk home, and she started walking down the sidewalk.  I decided to see how far she would go (within reason, of course) before retrieving her.  Hobbes thought that was unacceptable.  He went after her.
I am used to Gunner's approach to any situation like this, which is to run as fast as he can, then grab onto the other kid and PULL them back, always resulting in injury.  I braced myself for the inevitable crying.  Instead, I watched in amazement as he ran to her, hugged her, then put his arm behind her back and lead her back to our yard.
Sweet, sweet kid.  I love him so much.
He still mispronounces things:
Hayhert: Favorite (ie. That's my hayhert Daddy right dayer.)
Hun: Fun (So fun, the beach!)
Hunny: Funny (Daddy so Hunny!)
Hubbud: Heavy (Oh, that's so hubbud!)
Pinder: Finger (I got a owie.  Could I a bandang on my pinder?)
He makes up words when he doesn't know what something is called, like a reflex.  Here are some of my favorites:
Doom doom doom: A Playmobile Guy's Axe
Hedge Hog: Postum (like hot chocolate)
Water Pie: Apple Juice
Hmpp: Maple Syrup
Gungeegah: The treadmill and rowing machine

Aaaand I need to potty-train him.  I have been saying that for a month now, and I keep putting it off, mostly because I'm lazy.  For several months, I have been saying that I can't potty-train him because he is too much of a free-spirit to be trusted with that responsibility.  Now I put it off because having a newly-potty-trained 2-year-old is a lot of hard maintenance work.  And I'm tired.  And he is settled and sleeping well, and it's hard to want to stir things up.

When I trained Gunner, I got all prepared, and started him on a Monday so he would have all week long to get used to things before we had to do church with a potty-trained kid.  I have been planning that strategy for Hobbes, too.  But I need some supplies, some reward candy, water-proof bed liners, etc., and I keep finding myself at Saturday night without having done my supply shopping.  Soooo, I say to myself, "I can't start him out this week, I'll wait one more week."  
Also, the other day while I was watching Eliza, who is slightly younger than him and potty-trained, she had two accidents after lunch.  Two!  Such a pain to clean it all up.  And even Gunner still has the occasional issue, two years after being potty-trained.  It's just so much work and such a long learning process that I can't seem to bring myself to do it this time around.

On the other hand, I have become increasingly irritated that he is still pooping in his diapers.  He takes care of his business in one of two ways these days.  He will either excuse himself to go play quietly in another room and then return with stinky pants.  Or he will stand in the middle of the kitchen and push it out, while scolding me for looking at him while he does it.  And there I am, laughing at him for scolding me with his hard stares and little pointed finger, and thinking, "Gah!  That needs to go in the toilet!"
So, it's time.  Every kid's gotta learn to go in the toilet at some point, and I guess it's time for us.

Today, I let him wander around sans pants for a while, just to see what would happen.  Then I pulled out some small unders for him to wear.  "Oh," he said, "unders, just like Wiza and Gunner!"  He was so proud.  Then he proceeded to pee in the potty for the rest of the day.  He told me when he needed to go, asked for help, and even took himself to the potty twice.

I'm pretty much amazed.  He is obviously ready.  I'll be making that trip to the store to buy supplies tomorrow.

Let's do this thing.  My sweet little guy is ready to be a big kid.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Amazing Screw

Spiff is on call tonight (gotta love q3 OB call month).  I have been babysitting all week long.  So, here are some Friday night Haha's for us all.  Enjoy!

 Gunner picked up this book at the library the other day.
Doesn't it look thrilling?!

Here's the first page:

Spiff and I laughed and laughed because it reminded us of these two videos/clips:

A Case of Spring Fever:

 A World Without Zinc (this one HAS to be based on the Spring Fever video.):

What would we all do without a world full of screws, springs and zinc?!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

North Shore Camping Trip, or How Spiff Saved the Day

This is the story of our impromptu camping trip.  It can also be known as the very definition of how you can take The Boy out of Oregon, but you should never take The Oregon out of the Boy.

Spiff had an unprecedented three days off in a row this week at then end of his latest rotation.  He's done with his month as a Junior Resident in the ICU, and he couldn't be happier to truly never be an intern again.  So we celebrated by taking an impromptu camping trip.  We drove up to the MN North Shore of Lake Superior. We headed out of town as soon as Spiff got off work from overnight call (which meant that he slept while I drove the 5-6 hours with Gunner chomping at the bit to Just Get There Already!!!), with our fingers crossed that we would find a camp site when we got up there.  All of the State Park Campsites were full when we got there, but we were lucky enough to find a lovely, almost empty, rustic State Forest campsite about three miles inland from the shore. 

When we found our campsite, we got to work setting up the tent.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after getting things mildly set up, we headed back up the road to see some sites.  We hiked around at Split Rock State Park and toured the lighthouse.  It is run by the historical society, and they have people in costume answering questions as they let everyone tour around in all of the old buildings.  The lighthouse keeper's house was my favorite, and the costume dudes had the old wood-burning stove in the kitchen running.  So cool!  We hiked down to the shore and threw rocks in the lake and had a great time.
Split Rock Lighthouse

When we got done with that, we headed south to buy firewood at a little town, and it started raining.  Spiff remembered that he had left the kids' clothing bag outside of the tent...and the fly of the tent wide open.  Remember how it was sunny when we left camp?  It was just sprinkling where we were driving, and we hoped it wouldn't be that bad.

BUT...when we got back to our campsite, we found 3 inches of standing water in our tent!!!  Gah!!!!!

Our sleeping bags were soaked.  Most of the kids' clothes were completely wet!  Spiff said a few choice words.  I cried a little.

Let me just say that this is the very first time in the nine years I have known Spiff that he has not closed up every flap on the fly and guyed out every line.  My Oregon Boy knows how to camp in the rain, and he never trusts a sunny sky.  And this is the very reason why!

We almost drove to a hotel, but after spending six hours driving to get there, I just couldn't fathom telling the kids to get back in the car.  I started moving stuff around in the car so we could sleep in the van.  But this is where Spiff gets really cool.  He adopted an amazingly positive attitude and started working on the tent.  He began bailing out the tent by soaking up the water with a chamois towel.  We turned on the heater in the car and used up a third of a tank of gas drying off our sleeping bags and mats.  And he actually did it!  I never would have thought it possible, but we slept in the tent that night, and we were mostly dry.  I am so grateful for an awesome husband who buys good camping gear.  Our little trip could so easily have been a complete bust, and it wasn't because he saved it.  I heart him.

Soooo, after a dry night of sometimes sleeping (who ever thinks that camping with a 2-year-old is a good idea?!?!), we woke up to a cold and rainy day.  Fifty degrees at the end of July?!  Ooookay.  I wasn't planning on that.  The kids were wet and frozen, so we hopped in the car and drove South to Duluth and went to the Tall Ships Festival.  Spiff and I had a great time drooling over all of the beautiful ships!  I loved it.  The kids, less so, but it was so cool that I didn't care that Gunner was super grumpy and Hobbes was ridiculously tired and crazy.  This was definitely worth seeing.

We spent the evening at our campsite where the kids rode their little bikes around.  We ate dinner, built a camp fire, enjoyed each other, and then all slept like babies.

We broke camp the in the morning, drove South and saw the waterfall at Gooseberry Falls State Park, and then drove home.  This is definitely one of my all-time favorite family trips.  Memorable in every way.  I have never been to the North Shore before, and I loved it.  So many fun things to do!  I can't wait to go back.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ten to Fourteen Days

Here is the picture I was going to put up with my last post, but forgot to.  This is how Spiff prepared Gunner for surgery.  He brought home this anesthesia mask and had the boys anesthetize Best Friend, The Bear.  He taught them how to put the mask on his face and say, "Take a Deep Breath."  Thus the title of my last post.  Gunner got it quickly, and I hope it made him a little less afraid of the OR.  But really, it was Hobbes who won my heart with this as he put the bear to sleep saying, "Now this bear is sweeping.  Wake up, bear!"

Aaaand, now on to less awesome things.  The last 10-14 days: A 4-year-old's recovery from tonsillectomy.  Sheesh, it was hard.  The first 24 hours were like a honeymoon period.  He ate well, slept well, drank well, acted fairly normal.  We even went to storytime at the library because he seemed fine.  I was shocked and thought that it might not be so bad after all.

Then the honeymoon ended, and the pain hit him.  He acted like a sick sick sick little boy for several days.  Lots of napping, lots of flushy red face, lots of grumpy.  I felt so bad for him.

He had good times when he felt almost normal, and it was hard for all of us to remember that he needed to take it easy.  I arranged for Hobbes to play at a friend's house for a couple of hours one day.  I thought it would be nice to Gunner to have some special one-on-one time with Mom.  But Gunner was just super mad at me that he couldn't go play, too.  I took him out to get ice cream for lunch, and he grumped at me the whole time until he fell asleep on the drive home and took a 2-hour nap.

The hardest part of the whole thing was the medicine.  The doctor told us to give him regular old Tylenol and Ibuprofen for pain.  We had to give it to him every 3-4 hours, around the clock.  This meant we were waking him up at night to give him his doses.  Can you see the problems with this?

1) He got really tired of taking his medicine.  It seemed like we were dosing him every time we turned around.  It didn't help that the stuff didn't taste good.  It also didn't make him feel immediately better, so he didn't think it helped him at all.

2) His throat really really hurt, and liquids were the hardest to swallow.  After a couple of days, he decided that he did not want to swallow them anymore.  He flat out refused to take his medicine because it hurt.  So every 3-4 hours, we got to have an awesome 30-40 minute fight with him about taking his medicine. 
Me: "You need to take your medicine, Honey." 
Him: "No, I'm not going to do it!"
Me: "It will help you feel better."
Him: "No, it won't.  I doesn't do anything.  I'm not taking it."
Repeat.  Gah!

3) Nights were a big problem.  During the day, he was talking, eating, swallowing, and things were mostly fine.  But at night, he was breathing dry air, and his throat dried out and hurt a lot more.  He was upset when we woke him up because he was happy sleeping (Oh, the irony of that!!!), and he was even more upset that he had to take yet another dose.  None of us are happy people at 2 a.m., and that made for unhappy dosing wars.

4) I tried waking him up on a regular schedule for the first few days so that we could control the pain better.  But when that stopped working because he was mad about being woken up and having to take medicine, I let him sleep until he woke up on his own.  That was another problem because then his medicine had worn off, his throat was dry, and he was in a lot of pain.  It was so awful.  He told me several nights in a row, "I don't think I will ever feel better."  I spent a lot of midnight hours that week cuddling him, telling him that I know he hurts, and that I know it stinks.  I told him stories about how our bodies take time to heal, and that I know he will get better eventually because I have hurt before and I have gotten better.  It was a lesson in patience for me, for sure, and an amazing opportunity for me to cuddle my little boy and do my best to help him through something really hard for him.

I think it's interesting how these parenting experiences can sometimes draw up parallel views of our lives here on earth.  Unlike me, Gunner has no experience to draw upon that let him know that things will turn out okay, that he will heal and eventually feel normal. He doesn't know how to see past the pain and know that it was necessary and good for him. 

I can imagine that Heavenly Father is looking down on us when we despair during our trails.  He does His very best to comfort us, to tell us that it will be okay, that our hearts will heal, that we will learn and grow and be better people if we can endure to the end.  Like Gunner, I stubbornly say, "Nope, I'm never going to feel better.  I'm never going to heal from this.  Why did you do this to me?!  It's all your fault!  Why did you ever call the doctor?!?!  I wish you didn't have a phone!  I'm going to throw your phone in the garbage!"  (Wait, that's what Gunner said to me. Hahaha!)  And Heavenly Father comforts me even more with his infinite patience and love.

I appreciate the lesson I learned here and times when I can see my life through more of an eternal perspective.  I need to work on being more patient and loving with my children who have even less of experience than I do of enduring through trials.

And now, 14 days out, Gunner is feeling so much better, thank goodness.  It took him a week to sleep all the way through the night, and each day and night is better since then.  A friend recommended putting a humidifier in his room at night (why didn't I think of that?!), and giving him chewable medicine instead of liquid.  Both made a world of difference.  The most amazing thing is that he told Spiff one morning, unprompted, that he could tell that he was breathing more easily without those huge tonsils in the way.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Take a Deep Breath

Gunner had his tonsils taken out today.  Hobbes understands this to mean that Gunner's tongue is broken.  Enough said.

Well, maybe not.  It's such a routine thing that I almost feel bad writing about it.  Every kid gets their tonsils out.  Big deal.

But it is a big deal.  To me.  And to him.  Boy, I feel so bad for him right now.  We have now had the pleasure of taking him into the hospital for two surgeries.  Remember this (here, here and here)?  He is a healthy little boy, so it's hard for me as a mom to take my healthy, spunky, energetic little guy into the hospital, knowing that he's going to come home broken, sore and miserable.

He was actually pretty excited about this surgery.  We must have done a good job talking it up.  Either that, or he knew that he would get extra special attention, so it must be cool.  We took him in to meet with the ENT Doc last week, who is a really nice guy who loves kids and has four of his own, three of which have undergone ENT surgeries.  He was super nice to Gunner, and he made him feel special.

Then he got extra special mommy/Gunner time this morning, and all of the staff this morning was really great.  They treated him well, they asked him questions, gave him a special stuffed fish to hold, and let him wear special hospital jammies and slippers.  Daddy even got out of some duties in the ICU to be with him in the OR as they anesthetized him.  Surgery was going to be great.

And then it is what it is, and he wakes up hurting and disoriented, and he realizes the unpleasant realities that are surgery.  He said, "I'm not ever coming back here again.  I would have said No No No to surgery!  Don't call the doctor anymore, Mom.  I'll take your phone and never give back to you."

It's going to be a long couple of weeks.  But when all is said and done, it will be good for him.  The surgeon said that Gunner's tonsils were huge!  It definitely needed to be done.  Hopefully he will sleep better and be a happier little guy eventually.

Also, I didn't know about Adenoid Facies, which is when the cheeks elongate because the person is mouth breathing and struggling to breathe with every inhalation.  That's scary to me.  The ENT also said that Gunner was already showing some signs of facial development issues, so it's really good that we pulled those suckers out!  This is something that will sort itself out after a while since he won't have to breathe out of his mouth so much anymore.  Not permanent, thankfully.

A few more things:
Having him in the hospital for even a few hours makes me very very very very grateful for my healthy children.  I feel for every sick child and their families who spend so much time in the hospital that it becomes the norm for them.  That should never be a norm for a child.

Also, thank you, Maggie, for watching Hobbes for us today.  It gave me peace of mind knowing he was in good hands, and probably happier than if he had been at home with me.  He loves you. :)

My fridge and freezer are stocked with ice cream, popsicles, applesauce, pudding, jello, juice, and the makin's for smoothies galore.  It's going to be a nutrition free-for-all for the next couple of weeks until my poor little guy gets better.