Saturday, February 28, 2015

fail whale

We had Elliott's birthday party this afternoon at our house, with friends and extended family. The party was at 2:00, so I was counting on having a little bit of time beforehand to finish getting the house cleaned up. The bibliophile and her husband had invited Nico to a civil engineering / construction / building kids' thing at the museum, so I sent him and MB off to that at 11:00. Elliott and I went and did the week's grocery run plus picking up party drinks and snacks, so we got home around noon. I fed E lunch and put him down for a nap, then started hustling through my chores. At about 1:30, I was trying to finish up the floors so I could wash the dishes, so I decided to take the case of beer I'd bought down to the basement. I turned on the stove to boil water for iced tea, then grabbed the beer and headed downstairs. As soon as I got to the bottom of the steps, the handle on the box ripped and it fell on one corner, completely smashing one of the bottles. I ran and got a towel from the laundry room to soak up the puddle of beer, then opened the box to assess the damage. It wasn't that bad - only one bottle broken - but all the rest were covered in beer and would be sticky if I didn't rinse them. I hauled them all to the laundry room to rinse them in the sink, then found another box to put them into before I broke more of them. I found a garbage bag and stuffed the beer-soaked box into it. About this time, I started to notice that I was smelling smoke. I thought maybe someone was smoking a cigar in the neighbors' driveway, but it got stronger and then I realized something was definitely burning upstairs. I ran up to find that (of course) I had turned on the wrong burner, and now the huge box of tea bags I'd just bought was in flames on the stove. Like, actually in flames. I did manage to stay mostly calm, though my method for removal was not so smart. I grabbed an oven mitt and sort of swatted the box off of the burner, but this caused loose tea to explode everywhere since the bags were falling apart. Luckily the tea just sort of crumbled and went all over and didn't light anything else on fire. There is a small burnt spot on the kitchen timer now, but it could've been much worse. Despite going off and causing the alarm company to call us every time MB tries to make a steak in the cast iron skillet, the smoke detectors didn't even beep once during this whole debacle. Everything turned out fine and I think the house pretty much aired out in the thirty minutes I had all the windows open before the party started. But seriously, who gave me a license to be an adult? That was clearly an oversight.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


More than once on the day Elliott was born, I briefly forgot he was in the hospital room with us. He was such a peaceful presence that when we put him in his little bassinet cart for a nap now and then, I'd find myself suddenly realizing after a lapse that hey, the baby, he's here now. I recalled this with some amusement while putting him to bed tonight, on the evening of his second birthday. My placid infant has grown into a child whose presence never goes unnoticed. I have become a little worried that my descriptions of him here and on his baby book blog make him sound difficult or high-maintenance. When I say that he's stubborn, opinionated, high-spirited, physically daring, does that read as hard to handle? I hope not, because he really is wonderful and not particularly difficult. While it is true that he's much more likely to get into things than his brother was and that he has a mind and a will all his own, I do not think he's any more challenging than the average two-year-old. As my mom likes to say, he says yes as much as he says no most days, and even though his tantrums are pretty spectacular, they don't last long. He's a good boy.

He's so very different from Nico, and it's wonderful. We visited friends last fall who don't have kids, and one of them asked if I thought the boys were similar. When I said no, hardly at all, he remarked that it must suck, having just about figured out your kid and then getting a completely different version the second time around. I honestly told him, no, it's awesome. The basics of keeping the child alive and clothed are really the same, so it's not like I had to start completely from scratch, and now I get to discover a whole new parenting experience. I knew intellectually before Elliott was born that he would not be a duplicate of his brother, but in my imagination, all I could picture was a second copy of the kid I already had. He was the only child of mine I knew, so I didn't have a frame of reference to imagine anything else. But from the beginning, we could tell. This one was his own man.

We also lucked out that we have two kids who are different in so many ways but both mostly easy to raise. I won't say either is always easygoing, but neither of them have presented any challenges that are truly concerning, anything that makes me worry deep down that we're doing something wrong. They also complement each other well, and their personalities so far seem to balance out. Of course they tussle, they'll argue once Elliott has more words, they'll eventually become teenagers and briefly ruin my life, but today, I have no complaints.

Elliott at two is a big personality. He grins, he glowers, he laughs, he shrieks, he demands things and refuses other things and says no a lot (a lot). He holds his arms out and cries, "Hug! Kiss!" and just this week has said "Yuv you, Mama" while wrapping his little arms around my neck. The other night we had an entire, albeit brief, understandable conversation about what he wanted for dinner. (No blueberries, but yes strawberries. No yogurt, applesauce instead.) When thwarted, he will sometimes collapse onto the floor in abject misery. He gets over it pretty quickly. He always dumps out a toy bin instead of reaching in to pick out the thing he wants. He often dumps the bin, then looks at the pile and decides he didn't want anything out of there after all. He can assemble his zoo track by himself. He likes trains and airplanes, but also other vehicles. He carries around whichever flannel receiving blanket we give him with no preference, but loves his stuffed kangaroo best. He is learning and growing at a pace that is truly breathtaking, and even on the days when he tests me and pushes all the limits he can, I still feel that he's a wonderful gift.

Happy, happy birthday, baby Elliott. You're one of my life's best surprises.

Monday, February 16, 2015

You must be new.

MB's company sponsored a free weekend of indoor mini golf for employees and guests, and after our plans to go with friends fell through, we decided to go ahead and take both our kids yesterday afternoon. Yes, you read that right: we took a two-year-old mini golfing. On purpose. It was comically bad. He was SUPER EXCITED to be there, mostly so he could dip his tiny golf club into the unnaturally blue water hazards and run ahead to collect all the golf balls that the rest of us putted. And of course Nico howled with indignation every time Elliott ran over to pick up his ball, and of course Elliott literally kicked and screamed any time one of us picked him up to try to prevent him from interfering. I had to laugh, it was so bad and so obviously inevitable. It was like we had never had a toddler before, or more specifically, like we'd never met this particular toddler before, since I suspect Nico at two would've been much more circumspect about the whole affair. MB ended up striking a truce with Elliott around the 8th hole, when he got Elliott to agree to ride peacefully on his shoulders for the rest of the outing. Even putting one-handed with a 27-pound monkey perched on his back, MB still kind of kicked my ass. He even got two holes-in-one in a row. So it all turned out okay in the end but seriously. Are we new at this?

In other we're not so bright news, we were almost taken by surprise by the weather event of the season, since we don't watch the news and I hadn't checked the forecast all weekend. I finally saw someone talking about snow in Tennessee on twitter, so I checked and we were predicted to get 5 - 8 inches overnight Sunday into Monday. That would've been one hell of a surprise to wake up to this morning! We ended up with an official total of 5 1/4" which was enough to close the schools for the day. Since I was off today anyway, I spent the entire day at home with the kids. It went well, especially considering we almost never just stay home for a whole day. We usually have an outing or at least an errand. The schools are closed again tomorrow since there are concerns it will all freeze over tonight, so I may stay home with them again. I figure I'll wait and see if anyone else decides to brave the unplowed park road into work before I make the trek myself. Nothing of major note happened today, though I did finally capture an excellent Elliott stinkeye for posterity. This is his go-to expression when he's unimpressed or annoyed and I love it so much.

This was after we had the audacity to offer him crackers while his pizza was in the oven. Clearly we are monsters.

Reading:  First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Playing:  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

Saturday, February 07, 2015


I've been experiencing an increasing level of distress over what had started to feel like blog abandonment. My life has been eating my writing mojo of late, but the longer I go without trying, the harder it gets to even attempt it. And it's not that things have been bad or even particularly stressful - on the contrary, I'm generally pretty happy. It's probably a combination of things. Work is typically balls-to-the-wall busy, and in a using my brain kind of way, so that when I get home I'm just tired, and often still pondering various work projects. For instance, in the shower the other night instead of planning out a blog post, I was mulling over ideas for a grant we're getting ready to start writing. Not an un-valuable use of my brainspace, certainly, but also not one conducive to journaling about my cute kids. There's also my unofficial but I guess official resolution to do a better job keeping up with the house, which means cleaning after the boys go to bed most nights. Plus I am trying really hard to do some workouts at home in the evenings (Started Betty Rocker this week, and what the fuck, amirite? She's adorable, but what. the fuck. with some of this stuff). I guess this is a long-ass way of saying I seriously don't know how some of y'all do this. Full time jobs, kids, not-disgusting houses, workouts, AND blogging? I don't even sleep much and I can't get it all done.

Anyhoodle, we have been busy around these parts since I last logged on. Nico had two birthday parties, one at home with the extended family on January 17 and one at the nature center with his classmates and playdate friends on January 24. We'd never let him have a classmate party before, but turning five felt significant enough to warrant it. I'm quite glad we said up front that we probably wouldn't do another one until he turns ten, because as great as his party was, it was exhausting. I let Nico choose the animal visitor and he picked a snake, so we did a whole snake theme. It was super simple as far as parties go - we paid for someone to bring in the animal visitors (there were three snakes) and do activities with the kids for half an hour. We served cake shaped like a snake with crackers, string cheese, and grapes and set out little water bottles and juice boxes. The kids were WAY EXCITED to watch Nico open his gifts, and then we gave everyone a super-nostalgic wiggle snake and parted ways. Then we went home and I took a three-hour nap. Birthday success! He also got a birthday club card from the carousel at the mall good for a free ride and a punch balloon for himself and up to nine friends, so we met our playdate crew there the Monday after his party and treated them all. That was super fun, actually. And after that, one of the other moms treated us all to Pump it Up, where my kids were admirably self-sufficient. Of course the birthday experience was more important than the gifts, but Nico got some really spectacular toys. He got several great Lego sets, three big boxes of K'Nex, and a set of snap circuits. I wanted to play with all of it after he went to bed. The snap circuits are really cool, and he's been building with the Legos and K'Nex pretty much daily since his parties. So far, five is pretty fantastic.

Almost-two is rather fantastic, also. Elliott has had a huge vocabulary explosion in the last two months, and it's the best thing since Nico had his first big language burst. One day E kept saying what pretty clearly sounded like, "Oh no! Shark!" but I didn't think he knew what a shark even was, so I'd repeat back quizzically, "Shark?" and he'd yell "AAAAAH!" It was so weird and hilarious. Turns out there's a very similar conversation in one of his Pooh videos at my mom's house.

We read Bear Snores On every night and he waits with barely-contained anticipation for the page when he gets to name all the characters. I don't know how to adequately describe how much I love this, other than to tell you that if it were possible to get a tattoo of the sound of him saying "badger," I would do it in a heartbeat.

He totes his beloved kangaroo everywhere, as well as whichever receiving blanket is around - he has no real preference on those. He will kiss and hug and "love" his Roo-uh, and sometimes ask me to do the same. Mom told me one day last week that he set Roo on his high chair tray while he was eating and had a long conversation with him. Elliott would lean down and babble to Roo, then tip his ear toward Roo as if listening to him. Then he took Roo's paws and made him sign "more." I wish mightily there was a video of this interaction, but alas. E will also fix little play food snacks for his stuffed toys and play with trucks and the other day at the consignment shop, he got his hands on a wooden leopard while I was trying on jeans and barreled around roaring magnificently. He is our instigator, toy-dumper, risk-taker, and sass-spouter. He's also loving and sweet when he feels like it, and pretty cute on top of it.

"Mama! Hat."

As for me, I have a wisdom tooth coming in and have a newfound sympathy for babies everywhere. Teething is in fact a bunch of bullshit. My fascination with Unfuck Your Habitat continues unabated. I actually re-activated my ancient tumblr account so that I can post before and after pictures on it, so if you are the kind of person who likes looking at other people's decluttering photos (as apparently I am), you can find me and my embarrassing amount of material goods here. This weekend I'm beginning the long-overdue process of liquidating my gigantic CD collection. I am halfway through the first of four huge diaper boxes and I am utterly horrified about the amount of money I spent on CDs in my youth. Kids these days have it easy with their option to download singles for $1.29, man. There's probably more, but after three days of having this in progress, I figure I'd better hit publish before another week goes by. To all of you who are still around, thanks for being here. I appreciate you even more these days, I think.

Reading:  Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Playing:  Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams