Friday, August 31, 2012

Home and the spaces in between


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Ahhh Hawaii.  Calm shores, balmy breezes, perfect humidity, peaceful mountains.  Not that I would know, I've never been there.  But Jon has.  In fact, that's where he was this week.  Must be nice. But meanwhile, back in the real world...

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Major fat lip, more on that later.

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In case you haven't noticed, he's most definitely in the "I can pick out my own clothes" stage.
Before Jon left, I decided to whip up a batch of these bad boys.  Brownies might very well be one of the Top 10 Things In Life I Love.  I never really sat and thought about it before, but it just might be.  I must confess, I've always been a boxed brownie kinda girl.  It's just too easy.  A bag of mix, an egg, some oil and water and wa-la: delicious chocolate.  I've tried a few homemade recipes and always ended up disappointed.  Well, not any longer!  I love this recipe.  So much so that I've made it twice in less than a week.  I like to let it cool, cut it into tiny decadent squares for guilt-free mouth popping, and hide them in an inconspicuous container in the back of the fridge.  The kids don't have a clue.  The only reason I'm telling you all this is because THESE brownies, well they're what got me through the week.  (And also so you know where to find your chocolate fix should you ever be at my house.)  I pulled the whole tray out of the oven moments before kissing my man goodbye.  And I have the last two bits scheduled to be consumed between now and his return this evening.  And I've been enjoying their delicious cocoaness all the in-between.  I'm not kidding, I'm convinced my blood pressure drops when I bite into one of these squares.  I'm sure that's not medically sound, but in my heart it's true and that's all that matters.

Okay, enough about the brownies.

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Her self-defense skills have really improved!
We have guests coming here any minute and while your first reaction may be "Oh you poor thing, having to deal with guests right after being on your own all week," really I'm quite relieved.  I've got six extra people to amuse my kiddos, pay attention to all their stories, push them on the swings and shower them with love.  After doing all that on my own this past week, I'm ready for recharge.  And I'm looking forward to feeding and entertaining adults for a change.

Of course, there is that whole preparation element to having guests, and we've been busy doing that as well. I started cleaning on Monday.  I'm getting smarter though.  I began with the dusting since that's something that my kids can't undo.  Moved on to outside stuff.  And then finally got down to cleaning the bathrooms and mopping the floors. Hmmm, tough choice since the best case scenario would be doing them all in the last 5 minutes before anyone arrived. 

Instead, I cleaned all the bathrooms last night while the babies slept ... and then carefully monitored each and every visit the boys' took to the restroom, making sure it looked just as good after they left.  And then Jack and I took care of the floors this afternoon.  Yes, I let him help.  Because the alternative would have been fielding questions, doling out snacks and keeping him from walking off the rug all while trying to do it myself.  Just give the kid a sponge and a bucket of water and he's good to go!

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And then there are the groceries.  A necessity for any good holiday weekend.  I've been taking all three kids out shopping with me more and more often lately, simply because Jon's not home enough to allow me to plan otherwise.  It's not easy because a.) handling three kids anywhere, even home, isn't easy and b.) I require a lot of concentration whilst grocery shopping.  I try to be organized.  Sometimes I even re-write my list in aisle-order just to avoid having to push that massive cart any more than necessary.  But in the end, when you throw a preschooler, a toddler and a baby in the mix, it doesn't usually make much difference.

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She spends a lot of time on her belly these days, but cannot roll to her back.  And she likes to let me know every morning around 5am.
First of all, we have a rental car this week.  And we're very thankful for that.  Ours is getting repaired and after 10 days of no vehicle at all, anything is a step-up.  They gave us a Terrain, which will fit all three car seats in the back.  It's tight, but do-able.  The problem is the kids are all practically on top of eachother.  So you have Julia blowing raspberries on Jack, and Jack touching Jude's seat, and Jude kicking Jack's legs.  And suddenly a two mile drive to the grocery store seems neverending. 

But we did arrive and were able to track down a cart big enough for my small brood.  Can someone please tell me why those toy car carts never have functioning seatbelts?  Forget the fact that the wheels are never in line or that the horns don't beep.  I just want working straps.  So I don't have to remind my boys 33 times in a row to stay in their seats.  It would definitely make my life a little easier.

But before the seatbelt battle there was the bouquet battle.  You know, the floral area, that is right inside the front door.  I never buy flowers, but today I decided I needed to.  And Jack wanted in on the decision.  Except we both had very different ideas of the perfect bouquet.  I wanted something reminiscent of end-of-summer: wild and assymetrical.   Jack was stuck on the flourescent daisies - neon blue, green and pink.  He put it in my cart, I took it out.  He put it back in, I took it back out.  We'd hardly been in the store two minutes and I was ready to head right back out.

But we hadn't reached the oranges yet.  And when we did, Jack was certain he needed some oranges.  But they weren't on the list and they weren't on sale.  I won that battle but somewhere around the potatoes Jack decided to venture out on his own and before I knew it I couldn't find him anywhere.  And neither could the friendly associate working in produce.  He was just about to get on the loudspeaker when Jack rounded the corner carrying a box of pasta. 

And so I gave the boys another "stay in your car ... or else" speech, and the results of that lasted until we passed the bathroom.  I purposely made everyone go to the bathroom before we left home just to avoid such a fiasco.  But you don't argue with a toddler boy about whether or not he has to go potty.  It's an interesting process.  Holding a baby while also assisting a two-year old with his pants, and then holding them both up and keeping Jude's aim true.  But we're used to it by now.  I may only have two hands, but I've learned to use other means to balance children.  And Julia has learned not to move a muscle when Mom has her dangling over a public toilet. 

We finished with the potty and made it all the way to the final aisle without further mishap.  And that just happens to be the bakery... where they put donuts in shiny display cases with bright lights.  So while I was trying to figure out the best deal on pita bread Jack asked if he could go "look at the donuts."  Meanwhile Jude is right behind him echoing: "Looka donuts. Looka donuts..."  I crossed the final item off my list and Jack wants to lead the way to the counter but Jude still wants to "Looka donuts."  So I'm running between two aisles, telling Jack to stop, freeze, don't move until we catch up.  And then back to the bakery to tell Jude hurry up, lets go, get in the car.  Back to Jack, who forgot he wasn't supposed to move.  Back to Jude, who isn't moving.  Meanwhile Julia is getting dizzy in the Ergo.  In the end I ended up carrying Jude to the cart myself, while also carrying his sister.  And we get everyone back in the cart to wait in line.  And wait.  For the sake of fellow shoppers they should let moms with kids check out faster.  But instead, they let the guy just buying lunch and the lady just buying a gift card, but who also wanted to pay with a check and then get cash back, yada, yada, yada ... in front of the lady with three small children.  No problem, I'm all about being adaptable.

I asked the boys to help put the items on the conveyor belt just to keep them away from the candy rack.  But they can't reach the bottom of the cart.  So it ends up that I hand them the stuff, they put it on the belt, and then I move it so that everything actually fits.  So we're checking out, Julia is one lullaby away from falling asleep in the Ergo, Jack is eyeing up the candy and Jude is crawling up the side of the plastic car.  And then he slips and bangs his already fat lip (from tripping on the bunk bed steps while trying to run away from mommy) on the way down.  Screaming child. Blood everywhere. And a line of customers wondering what that crazy mom did to her son to make him cry like that. 

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Jude just wants held.  I just want to contain the blood in my cupped hands.  And the cashier just wants me outta there.  She picks up the phone and makes some special code announcement over the loudspeaker that apparently translated to "this lady needs assistance to her car" because soon another associate was there, offering to push my cart while I cleaned the blood off my coupons and grocery list.  And then she escorted me out and loaded all the bags into my trunk while I loaded my other "items" into their carseats. 

And then I said "thank you."  What I wanted to say was "I'm so sorry.  I try not to take all the kids out on my own. My husband is out of town this week.  He's in Hawaii of all places, hahahahahahaha!  And I'm just a crazy mom surviving off a few fitful nights of sleep and whatever scraps of food my kids leave behind when I'm finally able to sit down to eat."  But I didn't say that.  Probably a good thing.  In the end, I'm just relieved it wasn't our car.  Because now they won't recognize me the next time I visit.  I'm sure that my three littles won't give it away or anything.

We did eventually make it back to the house and to naptime in one piece.  And then the garage called to say our car was finally fixed.  And the best part of all is that they didn't charge us for a completely new transmission or the rental car even though the warranty had run out, just because the car had such low mileage.  (Thank you Lord!!)  And while thinking about getting the children out the door and into the car, driving to the gas station and garage and then going through the paperwork, car switch and car seat transfer ... I suddenly realized I was making spaghetti for dinner.  And that I had just mopped my floor.  And that I needed to feed 3 kids 3 and under.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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Crawl tactics: "Julia, touch Mommy's toes!"
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Her frustrated response: "Mommy, YOU bring your dumb toes to ME!"
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Two seconds later: Oh look, a small seed.  Or is it a rock?  Maybe a giant booger.  You never know around here.
I threw the half-started spaghetti sauce into the freezer for another day (when my floor isn't so clean), dumped a few random items from the fridge into a cooler, grabbed a blanket and promised my kids a picnic (for good listeners of course!) after picking up the car.

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That's flatbread, in case you're wondering what I'm feeding my kids.  It's my second attempt and still not a sucess. Which is also why I'm feeding it to my kids...
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She looks so big when her mama actually remembers to put her in footwear.

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The playground, so much easier to navigate with 3 kids than a grocery store.
And that was how we rewarded ourselves for spending the week without Daddy. Yes, he may get balmy breezes, a king sized bed all to himself, a full night of sleep (well, except for the jetlag stuff) and the luxury of going to the bathroom unattended.  But I get hugs and kisses and "I love you Mommy's" (or as Jack said earlier this week "I love your pajamas, and your hair, and your ears...").  And I get to be serenaded by Jude's giggles and adorable 2 year old voice.  And I get to watch Julia the last few days before she starts to crawl (because it's going to happen any day now, it just has to!).  And I get to enjoy the respite of a quiet evening after the kids have gone to bed and after the insanity of constantly being needed.  It would be nice to go to Hawaii, or any of those other places that Hubby is setting off to, but in the end, it's nice to know I'm right where I belong.   Home is where it's at. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The boys are back in town!

I'd like to tell you I got loads and loads done during Grandy Camp, but the truth is I mainly just worked and cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. And then I did more work and enjoyed a house that stayed clean for longer than a hot second.

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It's a very odd feeling having your family reduced by 3/5s for a several days. Two years ago, when it was just Jack and I during the day, having one small child around was not a "break." But these days, only having one baby around is a HUGE break. To the point where I almost didn't know what to do with myself.

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Well okay, I knew what to do, I had a whole list of things to do, but I was so unaccustomed to long stretches of "free time" that I wasn't quite as productive as I had dreamed. Suffice it to say, it's a very weird feeling. To not be needed as much as I'm used to. So I was glad to still have my girl around to keep me grounded.

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But oh, did I miss those boys! Oddly enough, not as much as last year. Perhaps I'm older and more aware now. Perhaps I realize what a gift 5 days of reduced-motherhood is. Or perhaps I realize what a gift my two little guys are and how much joy it brings me to share that gift. And on that note, thank you Mom and Dad for taking such good care of my boys and for giving them a wonderful week in Pennsylvania!

By the time Friday rolled around I was good on all my work, the house was clean, my husband was back in the state and we were all a little exhausted. But it was Friday night, we only had one sweet angel under our care, and we didn't know when such a situation would present itself again. So we deemed it a "date night" and Julia and I anxiously awaited our man to get home from work and whisk us away to dinner.

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Once again, the opportunity was a bit overwhelming and being the excellent decision-maker that I am *cough, cough*, I had no idea which establishment on my list to hit-up that night. Jon had only to say "Where could we go that we would never take the boys?" when it suddenly hit me. I knew exactly where we would eat that night. And it danced its way across my mind in the form of two words: lettuce wraps. Okay, so that's not the name of the restaurant. But it was all that was on my mind. See I knew we had to do PF Changs because the last time we went there, in Las Vegas, I ended up blinking back tears because the experience was so horrible. And we only had one child back then. We've never been back. Until last Friday.

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And it went much better this time around. There was actually a free concert going on in the streets so we got to eat outside on the veranda and enjoy our lettuce wraps to the tune of Irish music. And Julia got to bob her head and scream to her heart's content and no one even noticed over the bagpipes. And of course she was fantastic, despite the fact that we were out well past her bedtime. If I had to bring a baby along on a date it might as well be our Lia!

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Marmie and Poppa brought the rest of our family home on Saturday. I saw them pull in out the window, opened the door and the next thing I know Jack's running towards me for one of his powerful, almost-knocks-you-off-your-feet hugs. Jude was not far behind him, until he got about halfway, at which point he suddenly changed his mind, turned around and ran to hide between Marmie's legs. Oh wonderful, my kid doesn't even want to see me. I guess that means he had a good time at the grandparents. He eventually warmed up. And aside from asking a few times a day "Where Marmie/Poppa go?" he seems to enjoy being back home again.

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In other exciting news, the kids weren't the only thing in the back of my parents' truck. Marmie and Poppa also brought us back a bunkbed for the boys! We had been looking for months. I checked out a few Craigslist ads but all the good ones were scooped up in less than a day and the rest ... well, they just weren't "the one." So when Marmie called one Saturday morning while out yard saling, out of breath with excitement, I knew it must be good. Introducing, the Jolly Roger:

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Yup, this thing is so big we decided to name it after a ship.

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I mean, it even has its own staircase (that also doubles as a dresser). The boys are wild about it. Of course, we've already had our share of injuries courtesy of the steps (Jude got a major fat lip this evening). And we also have to constantly remind Jack to be aware of the fan blads (yikes!). And surprisingly, despite the fact that my petite little 2 year old has a double bed all to himself, Jude's fallen out of bed several times (a few extra pillows and giant stuffed dog have helped!). Oh, and there was that first night when Jude REFUSED to go to sleep for two hours until we finally conceded to a night-light. But other than all that, we're starting to settle in nicely. And the extra playing space has been a nice bonus too!

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And I don't know if it's the new bed or an overly exciting week at the grandparents', but these crazy cats have been sleeping in until 8-8:30am the past few mornings! Too bad their little sister has been starting her days between 5-6am. Maybe we should get her a bunkbed too.

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So thank you Jolly Roger bed for keeping the home-life exciting. We all know what Jack thinks about living in Maryland. I can only imagine how it feels to come back from several-fun-activities-a-day at Grandy Camp to an exhausted mama that is exceptional at putting the "stay" in stay-at-home-mom. Sweet dreams fellas! Board your bed and sail straight on 'til morning!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Letters from Grandy Camp 2012 (Part II)


Day 4
Hello Mommy and Daddy,

Jude and I are doing fine here in Pennsylvania. We have gotten used to the traffic sounds at night and Poppa even left Jude's bedroom door open last night. Marmie thought he would wake up from all the jake-breaking they hear through the back windows but we slept until 7:30.

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After cereal and Nick Jr. we headed to Half-Way Dam.

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Marmie packed a picnic lunch and Poppa made sure we had Jude's binky and blankie so he could work his naptime magic... which he did soon after lunch. Jude told him he was ready for his nap, so they took off for a walk through the woods and when they returned a few minutes later, voila!

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I made lots of new friends and Poppa helped us make a huge pond. We spent a lot of time mending breaches in the walls (because Jude liked to walk through them) and filling buckets of water up to make it 8 inches deep.

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Jude and I actually ended up mud-wrestling after all the water drained out!

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Poppa made a game of killing flies all day--this particular breed is very stupid, he says, because he could swat them one after the other!

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We stayed five hours and then picked up dinner at Wendy's. I had a baked potato and nuggets, Jude wanted fries and nuggets. Then we played at the "duck park".

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I made a new friend and ended up playing hide-and-seek with her. We had loooooong tubbies because we were soooooooo dirty and Marmie put my pajama's on Jude by mistake. He made it perfectly clear that he was NOT going to wear those to bed!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that as we were leaving the beach, we met a boy also named Jude!!! He wanted to shake Jude's hand, but Jude was too shy! Well, Marmie is ready for bed and so I must say goodbye. I told Marmie we would stay with her five days and then go back to Maryland!

Love, Jack

Day 5
Hey There Mommy and Daddy,

Well we decided to end our camp with a trip to Knoebel's even though the weather report was not very good. It ended up that it only rained the first few minutes after we arrived and the last few minutes as we dashed to the truck to go home.

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Good thing Marmie packed our pajamas, cause we were both asleep before we pulled in the driveway. Poppa just picked me up and plopped me in bed beside Monkey.
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It's all fun and games until someone asks you to get your picture taken with the bear.

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Marmie and I smashed into Poppa and Jude's car lots of times at the Bumper Cars. I really liked screaming through the tunnel on the train. Jude rode the airplane all by himself and even remembered to pull back on the "throttle".

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Poppa and I were the only ones playing the horse Race game so I won. Jude and I each got to pick two vehicles like the one on Cars because a little girl gave us her extra tickets. I drove the miniature cars and told Marmie the green one was the Coast Guard ship like Daddy was on.

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We rode the big antique cars and the merry-go-round too.

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I picked the biggest horse (the one that was in the "up" position) and rode right beside Jude. Jude smiled the whole time. Of course we ended the evening sharing a huge banana split. (Poppa ordered the biggest size too!)

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And then took one last train ride through the woods before heading home.

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Good-night! See you tomorrow afternoon!
Love, Jackster

And so ends another successful Grandy Camp.  I'm already looking forward to next year's camp.  Or maybe Camp 2.5 this winter.  Or maybe we could work out a monthly mini-camp.  Okay, I'll stop now.  I really did miss these fellas.  And although my life is cleaner and less stressful when they're gone, it's much fuller more meaningful when they're home!
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