Pearl Jam, Milwaukee

When I meet new parents, I often ask what they like to do for fun. When they inevitably stare out into space – trying to remember what it was that they used to do when they had the luxury of free time – I reword my question thusly:

“You know, … what survived kids?”

This always brings an immediate response of one (maybe two) things that they still do that’s just for them. “We go bowling,” or “I brew beer in my garage.” Etc. For Andy and I, the answer is concerts & music. We make time to go see our bands live when they come around on tour.

So, last night, Andy and I hired a sitter and ditched the boys in pursuit of mid-week musical goodness. Pearl Jam’s penultimate performance on their Lightning Bolt album tour. This is sort of poetic, because it was in November last year that they hit Dallas, just a couple of weeks after we’d packed our things and vacated the state of Texas. I had to work, so I stayed behind in Wisconsin with the boys while Andy flew to Dallas and met up with his brother, Brian, to watch the show.

Last night was my turn, and it was worth the wait.

Concerts are sort of boring to read about, I think (unless you’re an uber-fan), so I’ll sum up with: Those guys pulled out all the stops. And, no, really. I mean it. They looked a little tour-worn, but you could also tell they wanted to play it out with style.

As for Andy and I, mid-week concerts are getting harder to do. Andy had to work on Monday, and I had to coordinate getting the kids from school and set up with a babysitter in time for us to leave, drive to Milwaukee, find something to eat, get tickets from Will Call, and get into our seats before the show started. They had no opening band, so the pressure was on to get there on time. Stressful.

Andy’s still smiling though!

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Anticipation!

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Selfie before the show started. They were having trouble getting people in the doors efficiently (hence all the empty seats behind us), so the show began a little late.

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We had great seats – thanks, Ten Club!

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They started with a song off their new album (Pendulum) and, a few songs later, played Baba O’Riley with Rick Nielsen. Yep, a usual closer about 4 songs in. That was the first right turn of the night.

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Next up, they played Yield, their 1998 album. I can’t really, fully explain how transcendent this was, but you’re going to have to trust me… every out-of-their-mind Pearl Jam fan was like, “OMG. OMG. They’re *@$%#ing playing YIELD.” This statement from all the concert-goers in the fan club section and commenters from jealous Twitter/Instagram/Facebookers who weren’t in attendance. In reality, they could have been playing any album front to back, but for some reason, we were all convinced that this was the best choice they could have ever made.

I can’t help but laugh in spite of myself. In the moment, we – a bunch of grown adults – were acting like kids who just came home from trick-or-treating only to be told we were now going to open Christmas presents. In the groggy morning after, all I can do is chuckle at how excited we all were.

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At some point, someone from the crowd threw a Packers Cheesehead [hat] on-stage. Eddie, after much debating what to do, said something to the effect of “I’m from Chicago man, I can’t wear this.” A risky move – being in football-crazed Wisconsin, but he made the right call – the crowd erupted in cheers. He made a bet that he had a decent Chicago backing and he was right.

He made amends later, though.

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The show kept going and going and going and going. Andy and I were so amped about this… until it got to be 11:00. Then 11:15. Then 11:30, and they were showing no signs of stopping. Three songs deep into the third encore, they didn’t even seem to be slowing down. Eddie was talking to the crowd, and Andy and I did something completely unprecedented.

We left. :( Snapshot in time to be certain: We were an hour and 20 minutes from home, it was 11:30 and we’d told our sitter we’d be home at midnight. We looked at each other, nodded, and headed for the door with another few couples. Eddie seemed to be leading into something, so the other couples stopped on the stairs to watch. I shook my head at Andy and said, “If I don’t keep going I’ll never leave.”

We hit the lobby of the arena when Yellow Ledbetter started playing. We both froze in our tracks and at least one of us yelled guttural pain sounds at missing it. Andy said, “Do we go back?!” I shook my head, we had to go. Come to find out this morning, they played two more songs after that. We wouldn’t have been leaving until Midnight.

So, yes. Concerts have survived kids to be sure, but even that – for now – doesn’t look the same as it used to. Someday we’ll get back in the swing, but for now, I’m happy to be part of it even if just for a little while.

Spring Headlines

Obviously, I’ve fallen short for an effort to capture full-detail stories, but here are my best attempt at some headlines from the last couple of weeks!

Graham Contends for Title of Best Big Bro EVAH

My heart catches in my throat so much these days because Graham just, time and time again, bends over backward to love on his little Reid. In fact, G even goes so far as to call him “my baby”. If I pick up Graham from school early for a doc’s appointment or a swim class or something, he’ll worry aloud halfway to our destination about the status of his absent brother.

“Reid is in the baby class, Mommy? … Daddy’s picking up Reid? … Where is Reid? … Is Reid in the baby class at school?”

And so on and so forth.

Graham tells me what Reid does or doesn’t need when he’s crying – insisting that he knows Reid better than I do. This weekend when Reid started fussing, without a word, Graham got up, got Reid’s pacifier stuck it in his mouth, held it in long enough for Reid to get ahold of it, then got Reid’s little bunny [to be introduced later this entry] and gave it to him to snuggle. My heart stopped in the best way possible. 😉

Andy Celebrates his 30th Birthday – Again!

I made the traditional frosted angelfood birthday cake complete with the traditional 3-candle salute. 😉 (Past, present and future!) We all sang “Happy Birthday” – except Reid, who toasted Andy’s birthday in his own way: by guzzling down 6-ounces of milk.

There were presents too – clothes, tools, gym membership (HINT HINT… j/k. actually just trying to gift my husband some de-stressing time) and a new picture frame from the boys complete with a print of their latest sitting.

Graham was amped about there being an ACTUAL (read: not made up) birthday in the house, and Reid, well, Reid did what Reid does best…

… sat there looking completely adorable.

Happy 31st, Baby!

Spring is in the Air

The boys had their annual Bonnet Parade and Easter Egg Hunt at school on March 22nd. It’s a tradition there to have the kids make spring-themed hats and parade around school showing off their efforts.

The weather was very cold outside, so the administration decided to keep kids indoors this year. We entered the school and the first thing we saw was Reid’s face through the window of his baby class wearing this little number:

O.M.G.

Andy and I suffered an instant and simultaneous death-by-cuteness. Nothing like a baby wearing an enormous flower on his head, completely unaware that anything is not as it should be.

Graham shared a similar reaction.

The kid could NOT stop laughing at his little brother.

Like… could not stop. Ever. It kind of went like this:

“HahahAHhAhAha… Look at Reid!! Look at Reid!! HAhaHahaHAhAhah Look at Reid!!!!”

So funny. But it didn’t make for an easy group pic. This was the best we could get.

Graham’s visor, if you’re curious, has green tissue paper leaves on it with a fuzzy red and yellow caterpillar crawling on it. Super adorable. Not that you can tell. He’s too busy busting a gut at the sight of his baby brother.

Happy Easter!

Easter followed shortly thereafter.

I sang at church, making for a super crazy day. The Easter Bunny visited our house, leaving these baskets…

… and hiding the eggs we’d dyed the day before.

 

I swear Paas egg dye has gotten crazy better since we dyed eggs as kids. I also credit Pinterest for giving me an idea on how to give the eggs a bit of extra time to absorb some color:

Ombre eggs! This was essentially a practice in serial dilutions. Drop an egg in an inch of dye, and keep adding water at given increments until the egg is covered. Not that I care much for the fade-tastic trend, this was merely a way to keep anxious and impatient preschooler’s hands and mind occupied long enough to let the eggshells take up some dye. I think G did a really nice job!

So we hunted the Bunny’s eggs, ate some chocolate, got dressed and went to church, came home for naps, then proceeded to join up with friends at the Reeves’s annual Easter celebration.

Reid met all the little kiddos, but Mason was his favorite. :)

We hunted eggs there too!

Graham (bottom of the above picture) dominated – being well over a year older than everyone. He even got into a groove of cracking eggs open with one hand, taking the candy inside, then handing the empty egg shell to one of the little kids. (Don’t worry, we had him practice finding eggs and giving them – intact – to the toddlers too!)

Remember the little bunny from Reid’s Easter basket?

Reid LOVES him. I was shocked. I think the Easter Bunny got Graham and Reid matching bunnies just because he thought it was cute.

*ahem*

But apparently the Easter Bunny is smarter than I am, because Reid completely adores his rabbit. Arguably more than Graham loves his, but eh – too close to call. The bunnies were both hits for these little boys!

Miscellaneous Things Happen In Between Times

Apparently Reid is old enough for the Exersaucer now!

Or, as Graham calls it, the “Extra Sauce”. Reid loves himself a little ‘extra sauce’. I think he’s caught on a little quicker than Graham did. I have a very poor memory when it comes to, well, EVERYTHING relating to Graham’s babyhood, so maybe don’t take me at my word.

He grabs on to toys, spins them, bounces his legs, and spins in a slow circle as he explores what’s around him. Reid definitely prefers to be sitting (or standing?) upright. He is a man on the go and has no patience for laying about.

Somebody hold me, please.

The week of Andy’s birthday we caught Eric Clapton (and the Wallflowers – weird combo, no?) live at the American Airlines center. We had awesome seats and I think it *may* have been in my top 3 concerts ever. Seriously, that good.

We also saw Scott Weiland at the House of Blues the week following Clapton’s concert. It basically rated my worst concert experience, to date. Scott had two opening acts, one of which was actually really good but not our style (anybody a metalhead? anybody?) the other was more our style but.. yikes. Then Scott decided to make an appearance at 10:58 p.m. For those non-regular concert-goers – that’s actually SUPER late to start a headline act. Most are well finished by that hour, what with noise regulations in cities and whatnot. He appeared an HOUR AND A HALF after the second opening act left the stage.

Since we had a sitter, to whom we’d promised to be home by midnight, we had to leave the show at 11:30. It was just as well, though because, as one reviewer put it, he “then spent the next 70 minutes dismantling whatever legacy [Stone Temple Pilots] has left.”

Yikes x infinity

Lastly, Graham’s been trying out a couple of lessons. We started ice skating a few weeks ago:

I’m not sure if he likes skating or if he likes the suckers (okay, he likes the suckers) but he’s been catching on really well! Graham REALLY likes the idea of being able to skate like his daddy, but he’s not all that willing to put in the work needed to get there. I feel ya, buddy. Sometimes a guy just wants to be instantly good at something and not have to work so hard at it! Sometimes a girl does, too. 😉

He’s also gearing up for summer with swim lessons too!

He took to lessons this year like a fish to water (no pun intended). He is LOVING getting in the pool, and his teacher is really excited about his quick progress. Yay Graham!

So, as you can see, we’ve been keeping quite busy around our house! The weather is, well, not trying to become spring-like at ALL. It’s been cold and rainy around here.

Graham’s been totally digging wearing his raincoat to school. (“It has dinosaurs on it!! RAWR!”) And Reid’s been managing to keep warm too!

In sorta related news: If you know of anyone whose kid has a larger-than-life noggin and needs to keep warm during brisky spring or fall weather (I think you need something warmer for winter) – I officially recommend L’ovedbaby’s Cute Cap knit hats. Reid’s been wearing the 3-6 month size since he was about 2 months old. They have been lifesavers in this unseasonably cold spring!

Today is better, the boys are off to school in short outfits, so progress is being made. I’ll be back on this week to post about Reid’s 4 Month doctor’s checkup and The Ear Infection that Does Not End. Another post for another time. Thanks for sticking with me for such a long entry!

This, That & the Other

I was going through my iPhone photos tonight and realized that a lot has gone on in the past month that I haven’t really talked all that much about. Here are some snippets.

Crosby, Stills & Nash

I Facebooked about this, but earlier this month I got to go see one of my parents’ favorite bands of all time. I grew up on the harmonies doled out by this three (with or without Young), and it was absolutely thrilling to see them in person.

Know what I found out? David Crosby is funny. Favorite little monologue of his:

“You know, people call us a political band… I’m not sure why. We mostly write love songs. But, while I’m at it, I’ll give you one political opinion. :::applause::: Just one…

I don’t think that when our forefathers were writing the Constitution that they  intended for the guy with the biggest T.V. budget to get the keys to the kingdom… :::roaring cheers from the crowd:::

… I wrote a love song about that.”

I’m sure I’m not doing it justice, but the line was perfectly timed. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Toddler Happenings

I haven’t really had a ton of time/energy to write about Graham’s development, but folks – we have seen such an improvement in behavior and decline in primitive toddler rage as Graham’s verbal development has really taken hold. We don’t count words in sentences anymore – the kid talks in short paragraphs now. I love this age.

Graham wants to do everything that we do. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the kid loves his guitar (yes, that’s a ukelele). I have never seen a kid so young with the kind of strumming action Graham has. He’s definitely been watching his father. Granted, he doesn’t always default to holding the guitar like this (hence the picture moment), but it’s amazing to see how much he picks up on. He sings into drumsticks like they’re microphones. He even told his Daddy yesterday that he would really like some drums like Brobee [the Yo Gabba Gabba character] plays on T.V.

With the changes in his vocabulary has come a certain change in awareness. In talking about the arrival of this enigmatic “Baby Brother” of his, he’s realized that there are things for babies and there are things for big boys. We actually haven’t pushed that concept too hard – trying not to force him into more responsibility than he’s ready for – but he’s drawn some of his own conclusions.

One of those realizations was that baby brother was going to wear diapers. And that he… also wore diapers. But, he pointed out, Graham is not a baby. That one sat for a few days and then – bam – sudden renewed interest in the potty and all things “underwear pants”. He went to school in undies today and stayed in them all day. Not the same pair, mind you, but there’s progress being made here. :)

Andrea’s Baby Shower

My friends and I threw another friend a baby shower this weekend. I mentioned it in my last post. She’s just about 30 weeks along with her first, a boy. Jaime and I ‘catered’ the event. It’s so fun to cook and yet… there’s rarely time to do it with any sort of real dedication with the kids (Jaime has twins).

We went really SUPER big on the menu, then slowwwwly pared back to sanity. This is the spread we ended up with.

Stuffed French toast casserole, yogurt & berry parfaits, caprese skewers, three kinds of crostini (goat cheese & fig, apricot & manchego, goat cheese & basalmic tomato), veggies, pita chips and hummus. All said, we unwittingly made a 100% vegetarian menu. We didn’t really set out to, but were pretty darn pleased with ourselves after the fact given our guest of honor is vegetarian. 😉

Ooh… and check these puppies out.

Speaking of things we don’t have time to do but still did anyway – Jaime and her mom made these adorable and AMAZINGLY delicious cupcakes. One set are Black Forest cupcakes and the other set are Vanilla Caramel. :::dies::: They were off the charts delicious.

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So that’s kind of what we’ve been up to lately. Just squeezing in this and that. This weekend Craig and Susan are coming down to visit and we’re getting new carpet on Friday. It’s things like my unabashed excitement over carpet that tell me I’m not in my 20s anymore. Just saying.

The Greatest Show on Earth

I think this might be record timing to get a post up. Especially these days. Because, yes, we went to the circus this morning and, yes, I am writing a post about it this afternoon. Probably wise not to get used to this sort of turnaround. The boys are sleeping off the excitement, and I, shockingly, have no desire to nap.

Today was one humongous DO-OVER with a heaping side of awesome. Remember last week, how Graham puked in the car on the way to the circus? Well, it turns out that I’d booked our circus event for the first of two weekends the circus was going to be in town. Thanks to Andy’s see-to-it-iveness and his office location in handy-dandy downtown Dallas (never thought I’d say that… also read: very, very close to the event center’s box office), he was able to exchange our tickets for last Saturday to this Sunday. Yes, it required a trip to the PHYSICAL box office to exchange. That’s getting rather unheard of in this day and age.

Anyhoo, we booked these tickets for the morning show and decided to make a day of it.  We started out in the Bishop Arts District at a restaurant called Oddfellows. It’s a Boho-style brunch place with incredible food. I’m seriously not overselling the food. Neither Andy or I could pick off the menu. I had pancetta, egg and mozzarella breakfast tacos with a side of red velvet pancake, and Andy had the brisket hash. Incredible.

Thankfully, they were all ready for Graham too!

Graham had a hard time choosing between “pancakes & fruit” and “eggs & bacon”. He kept asking us for “pancakes & eggs”. He finally settled on pancakes and fruit as his choice for this morning, and thus began a child’s interminable wait between when they decide what they want to eat and when the food is actually placed in front of them.

Andy distracted G by having him fix Andy a cup of coffee.

I swear that kid’s going to be a barista someday.

Eventually (and, mind you, not very much time had passed), the waitress came and took our order. I told her that Graham wanted pancakes and fruit. He heard me give his order, and he cocked his head down to his shoulder, looked way up at the waitress and said, “I looove fruit…” What a ham.

What did he think of his meal?

It was a consensus all the way around the table. Amazing place. Highly recommended. Go early – it fills up quickly!

45 minutes and three full bellies later, we were headed to the circus. Graham totally got it. He was wiggling and squiggling in the backseat the whole way from Oddfellows to where we ultimately parked the car. He said, “Graham goin’ ta circus!” “Elephants!!!!!!” and “I’m SO ‘cited!” Such a great age.

We’d been warned by Brian and Michelle at the high prices of the circus swag. $12 cotton candy, $10 sno-cones, you name it. Thankfully for them Charlie was content to see all the stuff and not have it for his own. Graham… Graham was not content just to see it. I swear we almost had to leave the place with a $30 stuffed elephant. He was infatuated with the elephants. We were able to distract him for the most part, but a kid behind us had this awesome sno-cone, and Graham was not about to go the entire circus with that awesomeness not in his possession.

(Does this remind anyone else of a certain scene in the Temple of Doom? Tell me I’m not the only one.)

Then the show started. Graham couldn’t decide if he wanted to eat his sno-cone, watch the show, sit in his seat, stand or sit in one of our laps. He basically had no idea what to do with himself. It was loud and fantastic and rather overwhelming. Eventually, he got in the swing of things and settled on viewing the show from his seat (for the most part) while we shoved sno-cone into his mouth every so often.

At some point, utter awe overtook him. Once in awhile, he’d reach up to hold my hand or quietly say, “Wow – look Mommy!” Mostly, though, he was in a stupor.

He loved the acrobats running around in giant revolving wheels.

We loved the circus too, truth be told. I think my favorite part was the elephants’ act. Hard to say what it was for Graham. :)

This one was cool too:

Crazy, right? With the giant cross-bow by us, we knew someone was getting shot across the room. But at one point, Andy blurted out “Holy s!#&, they’re going to light him on fire!”

We stayed the whole show and enjoyed every minute. Graham was exhausted by the end, but I hope he had as much fun as we did.

Oh, and we stopped by Andy’s office for a pit stop before hitting the road back to home. Graham was poking through Andy’s office and found a can of compressed air. He had just let us leave the circus without a stuffed elephant, but that kid would NOT back down over leaving Andy’s office without that compressed air.

And so, we have a picture proving just how lame his parents really are.

The end.

Ben Folds at the DSO, Take 2

Alternate Title:  “Why I Will Require More Coffee Than Normal This Morning”

Last night – WEDNESDAY night – Andy and I hired a sitter for Graham, and Brian and Michelle hired a sitter for Charlie.  We converged in the Arts District in Dallas, fought the Winspear [Opera House] crowd and the DSO crowd – our crowd, but a crowd nonetheless – for a table at a Tex-Mex place, had dinner, then headed off to the Meyerson to see Ben Folds perform with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  Andy and I were there in September 2009.  I was 20 weeks pregnant at the time.

It’s really incredible hearing a contemporary artist perform with a full orchestra.  Not only that, but he improvised a song about Normal, Illinois once he heard there was a resident of Normal in the audience.  On the fly.  Tinkering around on the piano, laying down lyrics.  Then getting a crazy idea in his head and telling violins to hold a high C.  Then telling the cellos to play a third and fifth above that (okay, cellos… below that!)  He built in parts for flutes, saxes, and percussion.  Not everyone in the orchestra was able to accommodate.  It’s tough when you’re used to playing with sheet music all the time.

Anyway, we were all pretty stoked to be there.

Nice to know that, while it’s likely not worth ALL the effort on a regular basis, we can still get out and do these things on a weeknight.

I’ve got a contraband picture from later on in the night too.

Very, very cool evening indeed… but please pass the coffee!