Nervous Energy

Well, it’s been all about keeping busy in a climate of we-know-something-but-can-tell-you-nothing-but-it-could-have-everything-to-do-with-your-job. I’m a girl who likes to know things, so I’m going a little crazy.

Andy and I have created several Plans B, if you will, but none of them are turnkey and we just don’t love any of our options in the event that I am let go. Sigh.

So we’re just trying to fill our dance cards for evenings and weekends. This weekend, we visited the National Mustard Day festival in Middleton. They are serious about their mustard, man. It was a gorgeous day. Folks around here were complaining about how hot it was that day, but we’ve lived in Texas – we know better. ūüėČ

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Graham tried the climbing wall.

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Just… no comment. Graham was so excited to see the Wienermobile, and it just makes me sad right now. Things are just not how they should be, and it all feels pretty unfair. But I, like any mother would, pushed it down and mugged for the camera.

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He makes a pretty cute hot dog.

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Reid and Andy searched for food. Free hot dogs! Free mustard! (Ketchup? $10) See what I mean? They are serious!

Don’t worry, Jim Gaffigan. They’re on it.

Otherwise, this weekend we did our darndest to keep the kids busy. Graham lost TV privileges this weekend, so we had to get creative.

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One roll of painter’s tape = highway network for matchbox cars!

I’ve also been systematically decluttering our house. I chose to start with the unfinished basement (?!), so it’s plugging along slowly. This weekend I made it to – dun dun DUNNNN! – the baby stuff.

I’ll be frank. It’s looking more and more like we’re going to be a family of 4. Logic is sort of in the vein of: know what you can handle. We’re so wishy-washy though, we refuse to completely shut the door on the possibility. So fine. We’re operating under the assumption that we will not be having any more kids and decluttering the stuff accordingly. The only things we’re keeping are things that: (a) are akin to keepsakes for the boys, super special jammies and nice outfits, handmade things, etc or (b) don’t take up huge swaths of space and would be expensive or a complete pain in the rear to replace.

Case in point – I’m keeping the breastpump, but allllllllll the nursing supplies, covers, storage necessities are gone. Even bottles. The carseats will go after they grow out of them. Not sure about the crib yet, but we’re thumbing our nose at old wives’ tales and leaning toward giving it the heave-ho.

Anyway, because I know this is¬†all so¬†fascinating… there is something cathartic and empowering to decluttering. I’m sort of done storing stuff we are only keeping around ‘just in case’.¬†¬†I’m selling a few marketable things on a Facebook community. I’m passing on treasured things to friends. And I’m loading up a carful each weekend to take to goodwill.

Mostly though, it just keeps me busy. I’ve got a ton of nervous energy, so I’m channeling it the best I know how.

Better than doing nothing while we wait.

A Different Kind of Anniversary

As the leaves change color and the weather cools, it feels more and more like the Madison we moved to just about a year ago on the money. It was October 25 last year that I drove out of the parking lot at Frito-Lay for the last time. We had a good-bye tour – with friends and church family. We packed up the house, turned the key in the lock on the front door and never came home again.

Staring ahead at the road before us, we knew it would be difficult and tried to preemptively remind ourselves to keep the faith. We knew it would ultimately get easier.

Life in a 2-bedroom apartment was no picnic. Work for me was like starting a new school. Work for Andy was elusive at first. I remember making my way to the grocery store on the evening of Day 2 and crying in the produce section. A clerk stopped and asked if he could help me find something – like I was somehow at sea because I couldn’t locate the olive bar.

We started to make the most of it. The apartment became settled. We looked for, and found, our new home. After closing, we used to pack the boys up and come visit the house. There was no furniture in it, just a welcome mat and a roll of paper towel. Sometimes we’d bring food, sometimes not. Mostly, we’d just come sit on the kitchen floor while the boys chased each other through the house and soak in the feeling that it was going to be OK.

It’s hard to believe that was all less than a year ago. Starting new is scary. It’s scary to leave friends and hope you’ll connect elsewhere. It’s a scary thing to quit on sure money and have faith that you were competent enough to find it again.

When we were in the thick of this transition, the Barenaked Ladies song “Odds Are” was in heavy rotation on the radio. It became my theme song. If you’ve never listened to the words, they basically tell you that everything you’re afraid of? It’s probably not going to happen. It’s certainly no excuse to never try. Odds are everything’s going to be alright.

And you know what? Everything totally has.

Birthdays and Words

Last weekend was simply great. I had a birthday on Saturday – which is awesome in and of itself – but on top of it I was so lucky to have my parents up for a visit.

Right before my parents arrived on Friday night, Graham and I were setting the table. He said, "Oh, Mommy! We should make a menu so they know what we'll be eating!"

Right before my parents arrived on Friday night, Graham and I were setting the table. He said, “Oh, Mommy! We should make a menu so they know what we’ll be eating!”

I got to plan a day of fun. :)

We went out to breakfast, hit up the Dane County Farmer’s Market (favorite quote from my mom, marveling at the size and attendance: “They do this¬†every weekend?!”), popped into the state capitol building (a first for me!), visited Clasen’s European Bakery, and ate some birthday cake from Trefzger’s bakery in Peoria, IL (a long-standing family favorite, from my mom’s growing-up days). Then everyone took naps after lunch. :) That night, mom and dad babysat the boys while Andy and I got to escape for dinner and a movie. It was a perfect day.

We stopped into the Wisconsin State Capitol building to look around while we were downtown at the farmer's market

We stopped into the Wisconsin State Capitol building to look around while we were downtown at the farmer’s market

We also stopped into a toy shop on Capitol Square. Reid did some hat modeling.

We also stopped into a toy shop on Capitol Square. Reid did some hat modeling.

Reid rode on "papa"s shoulders after the toy stop - he's clapping his hands at some violinists out front of the store (just off camera)

Reid rode on “papa”s shoulders after the toy stop – he’s clapping his hands at some violinists out front of the store (just off camera)

My beautiful birthday cake. Lemon chiffon - yum! yum!

My beautiful birthday cake. Lemon chiffon – yum! yum!

Reid reenacted his first birthday

Reid reenacted his first birthday

Lots of lovely greetings from family!!

Lots of lovely greetings from family!!

While they were here, Mom and Dad, Andy and I put our heads together and picked a date and location for a camping trip – together! Mom and Dad are going to come with us next time! Graham is so excited he is not going to be able to wait until August to go!

Graham, camping out on his bedroom floor

Graham, camping out on his bedroom floor

Today [Tuesday] I kissed my boys good-bye and headed to Chicago for some focus groups. I’ll stay the night here and head back to see their sweet and silly smiling faces tomorrow.

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Tonight, when I called home, Baby Reid yelled, “HELLO!!” over the phone. That kid just keeps picking up more and more words!! (We just recently banned the pacifier except for sleep, because his doctor was a little eyebrow-raise-y at how few words and sounds he was making at his 18-month checkup.) Things he has literally started saying in the last week as a result of the stay on daytime pacifier use:

“Weid” (Reid)
“Go-go”/”ya-yoh” (Hugo)
“Coo-KEE!” (Cookie)
“Bye-bye, Papa!” (First sentence, saying good-bye to Dad while he was visiting)
“Howp” (Help, not yet heard at home – but they say he says it at school!)
“Shoe” (Formerly “SHTHHH”)
… and generally tons of babbling sounds

I will say that, as a result, we have found a couple of instances of Reid sucking his thumb, but as annoying of a habit as that would be to have to break, it wouldn’t be as impedent to language development. So, as they say, we’re picking our battles. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, no?

Epilogue: Superfluous shot of the boys playing nicely together. Not fighting. No biting (::ahem::). Just… civility. Like the cover of a parenting brochure. ::contented sigh::

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A-Camping We Will Go

If you’re supposed to eat a pound of dirt before you die, then our boys must be at least halfway to goal after this weekend.¬†Yes, we went camping – and for three out of the four of us (okay, four out of five if you count Hugo), it was for the first time ever.

To just decide to up and go camping when you have never attempted to lead a trip yourself is fairly daunting. Yes, inarguably a very economical way to entertain yourself for a weekend, but the cost of entry isn’t exactly nothing. We needed basically everything you need to survive a couple of days outdoors. Thankfully, we now live in Wisconsin, where it is just as likely that you would go camping on any given weekend as it would you go swimming at the community pool. Advice and secondhand camping gear has been ours for the picking.

On the advice front, I had the realization fairly quickly that the best way to solicit camping advice is at work. If, in the first five minutes of a meeting while folks are congregating, I wonder something in a fairly loud voice in the direction of the person sitting next to me, I’ll soon have 5 or 6 people chiming in with some great opinions on Debbie’s Camping Dilemma du Jour. Between my little work think tank, umpteen blog posts on family camping and 27 Pinterest pins – I felt comfortable enough to enter acquisition mode – looking into Craigslist and garage sales to fill out our needs for our first trip.

I’ve got tons of advice for first time campers for another post someday, but we’re fresh from our trip, so this needs to be written.

We had an amazing time.

I say this, and there were times that I’m pretty sure Andy wanted to huddle in a corner of the tent and pray for a cab to come take him home, but on the whole we left wanting more. Camping was a weird vacillation of high and low moments.

The Lows

  • Getting to the campsite too late on the first night, then having a hard time starting a fire (#stressful)
  • Graham not falling asleep until midnight on Night 1 because he was so excited
  • Reid falling down about 100,000 times – including biting his lip bloody about 15 minutes after we arrived
  • Realizing that the camp stove didn’t work, even after we tested it at home
  • Realizing that the non-working camp stove was our only means to have COFFEE the entire weekend ::tear::
  • Realizing AFTER we got home that our camp stove actually works completely fine, we were just reading the directions wrong
  • When the stake that held Hugo snapped after he bolted toward another dog (!!!)
  • Forgetting Graham’s bathing suit (He wore Reid’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s shorts (He wore Graham’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s pajamas (poor Reid, seriously!!)
  • The wasp that got into the tent
  • Not realizing how much Reid throws EVERYTHING on the floor until the “floor” is comprised of wet dirt and mud
  • Reid’s game of “Lets run as fast as we can into the poison ivy and make mommy and daddy do that funny dash they do”
  • Sub-zero temperature swimming pools
  • No community barbecue grills when your planned dinner was hamburgers
  • Having a 4-year-old around when something goes wrong – meaning you have to answer 20 questions about what just went wrong before you¬†can move on WITH YOUR LIFE

The Highs

  • Sitting in front of a roaring fire that we built
  • Getting really good at building a fire from nothing but the materials surrounding us
  • Making and cleaning up after a meal – including washing and drying dishes, completely outdoors with no electricity
  • Completely perfect weather
  • Cuddling in a tent and falling asleep in the same room with the people you love most
  • Hiking through the woods to visit the lake
  • Meeting the friendly people camping around us
  • Two boys, constantly covered in dirt and ash, having the time of their lives
  • Letting go and being OK with the boys being dirty constantly
  • No ticks on anybody –¬†can I get an AMEN??!?
  • Laying down for an afternoon nap, staring at 360 degrees of trees blowing in the breeze out the tent windows
  • Realizing our $5 garage sale Coleman air mattress totally held air LIKE A CHAMPION
  • Putt putt golfing on the campground’s course
  • Friends who loan you campfire irons – which make the most amazing hamburgers, by the way
  • A weekend of “yes” – even if it’s Oreos at 3:00 in the afternoon
  • S’mores – seriously is there anything better?
  • I don’t think Hugo’s ever been happier
  • Totally unplugging and connecting to family. I took the phone out a couple of times to snap pictures, otherwise they were powered off to conserve battery in case of emergency
  • Graham, staring into the fire, smiling suddenly and saying, “I’m happy”

Not even 48 hours at a campground, and we have so many stories that we keep retelling over and over. Andy and I rehash lessons learned and what we’d do next time to be better prepared‚Ķ or eat better food‚Ķ or just do something a little differently. And the best I can describe this post-camping glow is: there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at taking your family away from home, outside, and keeping everyone fed and healthy. We connected, we had fun, and we took the less-than-ideal head-on and came out the other side with a great story.

So now I guess the question is: who wants to go camping with us? :)

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Our host turtle

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? "ABSOLUTELY" :)

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? “ABSOLUTELY” :)

I'd do a lot to see that smile

I’d do a lot to see that smile

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don't believe me when I say Hugo's like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don’t believe me when I say Hugo’s like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link! And by the way, that stake used to be straight!

Goofy faces with Daddy - such sweet moments together

Goofy faces with Daddy – such sweet moments together

I can't tell you the satisfaction of building a fire. It's like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of building a fire from nothing but a click stick and the wood around you. It’s like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!

Snapshot of Life in June 2014

Somehow here we are in June already. Can you believe it? How did this happen? I guess the year goes by fast when you’re praying for sweet sweet warmth until May.

Baby Reid turns 18 months tomorrow. I keep mentally logging all the things he’s doing and just what he’s generally¬†like to be around. Then I look at Graham, and I remind myself that I should write in his baby book too. So much has changed in such a short time. A post seems like a good enough way as any to document a snapshot of sort of ‘where we’re at’ in life lately.

Youngest first.

Baby Reid

Reid is an absolute joy. He is handsome as all get out. Don’t believe me?¬†Reference the picture, please.

Pajama Day

I didn’t even take these shots – they were posted in Reid’s daycare room. Little Owen there, bottom left, is your typical toddler. Dressed in his jammies, staring blankly at the camera. What a sweetie. Then you have Reid, up there in the upper right corner posing like he’s on the cover of GQ Baby magazine featuring an article on the latest robot trends in toddler fashion. This wasn’t even a fair fight.

That’s Reid though. He adores adoration and has perfected his method of getting smiles out of strangers. If eye contact doesn’t work outright, he’ll raise his chubby little arm and give them a little royalty wave as he passes by. Gets ’em every time.

Reid loves trips to Costco (free samples!), snacks (namely “Crack-EEEE’s”/crackers), making Graham laugh (it’s his ultimate goal at every meal), wearing people’s shoes around the house (EVERYONES shoes – he’ll try to take them straight off your feet), and running. Reid runs everywhere, and he’s pretty fast!

Cowbaby Reid

But Reid isn’t all love and sunshine. He goes from zero to SCREAMING in no time if something isn’t going his way. Things that really set him off are:

Hugo getting in his way (there is a telltale short burst of a shriek from Reid, followed by a quick pop on the nose – poor Hugo – if we don’t intervene quickly enough), diaper changes, giving him something he DID NOT ASK FOR, ARE YOU AN IDIOT, I CLEARLY SAID, “RAHSMUCKLDUH” ARRGGHGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [this usually followed by sweeping the nearest tabletop clear of everything on top of it in rage.]

Reid’s a fairly decent eater, as evidenced by his hearty stature. He’s good with main courses and snacks. Fruits and vegetables are a dicey subject, especially if the fruits are cold. Forget it. He adores milk and all milk products.

He’s not a man of many words. Where Graham was a student of enunciation, constantly practicing and repronouncing words to match what you said, Reid’s more of a “whatever, you get my gist” kinda guy. If you try and teach him a word, he’ll just violently shake his head ‘no’ at you. He pronounces “Graham” as “Mammy”, “paci” as “nonny”, and “shoe” [as previously mentioned] “sh-thhhth”. It so reminds me of that Friends episode where Phoebe tries to teach Joey French, and he doesn’t quite have the ear for it.

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Graham

I don’t really know what else to say about Graham except he is turning into this marvelous, interesting little person.

Free Box

He is all Big Kid.¬†Graham has adventures, builds collections, takes on responsibility. He has this ability – which can be heartbreaking at times – to tell you exactly how he’s feeling and finds some great words for it. Just last night, he got really angry that it was bedtime, so he picked up a cowboy boot and threw it at the TV. By the sounds coming from downstairs you’dve thought he’d lit Andy’s head on fire, so I made the two separate, and I asked Graham to tell me what happened and how he was feeling. Sobbing – as you would expect a 4-year-old to be – he said, hiccuping, “I should have… known… Daddy would get… mad at me for that…” He just sounded so grown up, you know? He’s starting to understand that there’s often only regret on the other side of impulse.

Graham can make quite a few letters, and can even write his name now, left to right, with no help. The chore chart is still king at our house, but he’s swung back to favor instant gratification and buys himself a lot of whirlpool baths these days.

Every morning, Graham sleeps until 6-6:30 a.m., then emerges from his bedroom fully dressed.

Silly Graham

I don’t care how fashion conscious of a mother you are. The first time your 4-year-old pops out of his/her bedroom bursting with pride at how they got themselves dressed, the last thing you’ll want to do is undo all their hard work before sending them out the door to preschool. I mean, OK, let’s be honest: I want to redo his entire outfit. But the last thing I’d want is for him to work so hard then feel like he’d still not quite done it right. We’ll build from this. ūüėȬ† Fact of the matter is, half Graham’s class looks like the picture above. And it’s great. We walked a couple of houses down to meet our neighbors, and their four year old son was outside playing in navy blue fleece pants [in 75-degree weather] and a red plaid button-down shirt. And Crocs. It’s just a sign of the times.

Andy and I

Tomorrow, Andy and I celebrate our 8-year wedding anniversary. We went out on a date this weekend (we have discovered babysitters in Madison – YAY!) and were mentioning that somehow it both doesn’t feel like that much time has passed and feels like¬†exactly that much time has passed.

For our 8th anniversary celebration, we went to see a matinee of the latest X-Men movie, which was great, by the way. (We were a little scared to see it, because we’d just seen The Wolverine¬†on DVD. And…yikes.) Then we went out to a restaurant called Graze. It’s a great little restaurant on the square downtown. Farm to table concept. Craft cocktails, local artisan cheeses, fancy pickles… I had something with a duck egg on it. It was right up our alley. And so very Madison. Perfect stop for one of our first date nights out in the area.

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We both ate so much we went to bed with stomach aches – a sure sign we did it right.

Other than recent discovery of babysitters, Andy and I are settling right in here.

Andy’s new job has been great. He’s enjoying working around other IT professionals, and – like I did – finds his new job exactly the same and in every way different.

At home, he’s been getting really into woodworking. We no longer have a 3-car garage, but rather a 2-car garage and a woodshop. I never recall having an actual conversation that this would happen, but all of the sudden I was informed that the third bay garage door shouldn’t be opened because too many wood scraps are leaning up against it. He really enjoys having something to work on.

I continue to enjoy my job and am acclimating fairly well to new ways of doing things. At home, when I’m not playing or cleaning up after the boys, I’m either finding a bit of time to read (!!!), working in the garden – mostly trying to figure out what plants are back there (your visit can’t come soon enough, mom!!), and – as we just read in the previous post – trying to regain some independence and rediscover my girlish figure through running.

Basically, here we are. It’s summer. Things are growing, we’re settling in, and life is very,¬†very good.