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.

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.

friendsfrench

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. 😉  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.

graze

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.

Reid’s First Year in Review

My video tribute to our littlest boy’s first year of life.

(What did you think I’d forget? I was just set back a little… given the cross-country move and temporary living arrangment. I didn’t get the Mac back until January. I’d say two months isn’t too shabby with all that we’ve had going on.)

Enjoy! I tried to make it as sweet as he is, but he sets the bar so stinking high!! :)

Song: “Sweet Disposition”, Temper Trap

Graham Turns 4: The Birthday

That last post leads us to the birthday celebration itself. February 5th was an all-round great day.

The party thing stumped me for a little while. It’s an interesting conundrum since we just moved to the area. We don’t really have established friends yet, and while we have adults we could have invited over, Graham is old enough now that he wants to party with his people – not ours. (Go figure!) Daycare parties are territory I’m not ready to broach. He only ever talks about one friend he has there, and inviting his entire class when he’s only been there 3 months seemed odd.

So, we decided to keep the party just us this year. Andy & I did everything we could to make it super special for him.

IMG_7368

IMG_7369

IMG_7371

Something simple and all about him. It turned out to be absolutely perfect. Big parties with lots of people tend to overwhelm our guy – at least so far they have – so our little all-about-you day was just what he needed.

I included a little video clip of the present-opening at the end of this post so you can see how amped he was.

One of the big gifts this year was a ‘big boy’ chair from Grandpa Craig & Grandma Sue.

Anyone who has been reading this site the last three years has seen the establishment that IS the RED CHAIR. Graham loves it. It’s just for him – down to the personalized embroidery. It’s his size. It’s…. errr :::record scratch:::

IMG_1752

Correction: It was his size. Time for an upgrade!

IMG_7372

Much better!

We had ballooons, T.V. in the morning, unprecedented “fruity weekend cereal” before school on a Wednesday.

IMG_7377

That night, we ordered sausage pizza (Graham’s favorite), ate tons of birthday cake (everybody’s favorite) and watched A Bug’s Life in our movie room.

IMG_7381

A great day for a great kid. Happy, happy birthday, my G. I love you to pieces!

Want to see the birthday boy, in action? Here you go!

Note about the green Jell-o. We’d had it the night before at dinner, and he’d asked me to put that in his cake. Culinary innovator, that one!

Graham Turns 4: The Year in Review

It was a mere four years ago that we were all watching the Winter Olympics last. But me?

I was watching them with this little thing in my arms.

IMG_4382

And now here we are again, but four years later.

IMG_0101

Where has time gone? And when I look back at just one year ago – to pictures of his third birthday celebration, I realize that he’s changed a ton just in the last year.

IMG_9637

So it goes with children, I guess. He looks like such a baby in that picture, doesn’t he?

My Graham. G. Gray. Bubba. Big Bro.

It’s funny. When I was pregnant with Reid, I had very real fears about losing touch with my first-born. That I’d miss things. And sure, let’s be honest, I’ve missed things. But what’s weird is that I feel like I have learned so much about Graham this year. Moreso than from the previous three years combined.

The great thing about Graham is that he gives you 110%. Always. Whatever emotional state he’s in. It’s 110% percent.

If he’s happy; he’s ecstatic. If he’s upset: HELLFIRE AND BRIMSTONE. If it’s quiet at the dinner table, he says, “So, Mommy, what did you do at work today?” If he’s scared, he talks his way through his fears.

To wit, if I could only use two words to define Graham, they would be Passion and Spirit.

IMG_0004

IMG_5865

IMG_5793

IMG_5820

IMG_0853

IMG_5394

IMG_0892

IMG_6412

IMG_1011

IMG_1142

IMG_7082

IMG_7134

IMG_7357

And, oh, the goofiness. It will resuscitate me after a terrible day and just about send me to the looney bin when I’m needing some good, quiet behavior. It’s useless trying to reprimand him for it, because he usually just makes me laugh in spite of myself.

Yes, Graham can keep his adults on their toes and seem like a tough nut to crack, but don’t let his vivacious exterior fool you. There is a huge heart beating just below the surface. Graham is a sensitive, old soul to his very core, and I’ll be honest:

There were times when we forgot that this year.

Graham got in a teacher relationship at school in Texas that wasn’t good for him. He struggled there. He struggled at home. We tried to clamp down tighter to get his behavior in check, and his spirit just worked harder to break free. Every day when I would drop him off at school, I’d get a stern face from his teacher, and, “We had another bad day yesterday.” Another bad day. After another. After another. Then, “We can’t keep doing this.” Then, “Something is going to have to change.”

I’ll be honest. I was worried we would be asked to leave the school. It led to a pretty unhappy few months for everyone involved, because we were desperate to course-correct.

And guess, what? We were trying so hard to control what we couldn’t that we forgot to nourish what we could. To get Graham feeling confident on the inside so he could shine through to the outside.

IMG_9785

IMG_0303

IMG_1184

IMG_1282

IMG_1403

IMG_6157

This last picture? That is the woman who turned it all around for Graham – and ultimately us – when the school director moved him to her class.

She called him “Sunshine.” She gave him hugs and kisses. When he did something cool in class, she showed him off to his friends and teachers. She was calm, firm, kind and had high expectations for Graham. She yoked him with responsibility, and he worked so hard to show her that he was worthy of her praise. So hard to not disappoint her.

She celebrated with him. She saw misbehavior in class and traced it back to needs that weren’t being met. I am tearing up writing this, just like I would tear up at my every feeble attempt to tell her how unbelievably grateful we are that God placed her in our path.

Our angel.

Whew. :::flaps hands in front of eyes::: Okay, where were we?

Graham, as all kids his age, adores asking questions.

And okay, I’ll admit it: I was [naively] looking forward to the question stage. Little did I realize, that they would often be completely unanswerable questions.

For instance, last month he unpacked a rogue shot glass from a moving box, pointed at the thick part at the bottom and said:

“Why can’t I touch that?”

Me: “Touch what?”
Graham: “Touch that.”
Me: “What, the thick part?”
Graham: “Yeah.”
Me: “You want to know why you can’t touch, what… the inside of the thick part?”
Graham: “Yeah.”
Me: “I don’t know, hon. Because it’s the middle.”
Graham, now frustrated and yelling at the shot glass: “WHY IS IT TRYING TO HAVE A MIDDLE!?!?!?”

See? Completely unanswerable. And, at times, frustrating for all involved.

I say ‘keep it coming,’ though. We make a point of praising Graham for asking good questions. Because, after all, nobody is supposed to know all the answers – but it’s the good question-askers who can really make a difference. Plus, that’s basically all I do for a living: ask questions.

Which brings me to my heart-swelling topic: the boy is a chip of the old block. He both loves science…

IMG_1698

… and food. Cooking, to be exact. The second I get into the kitchen, Graham is pulling a chair to the counter asking if he can chop or measure anything for me.

IMG_6040

IMG_1634

IMG_7015

But the thing he loves most of all in this world? Moreso than even me or Andy?

Baby Reid.

IMG_9791

IMG_4915

IMG_6359

IMG_1621

IMG_1743

Oh, does this boy ever LOVE being a big brother. He is both loving and fiercely protective. He knows what Little Bro needs – often better than Andy & I do – and will go to bat for him when he thinks we’re not getting it right.

Finally, even though the milestones aren’t as many now that G is getting a little older, there were some firsts in Year 4.

First movie in the theater: Monsters University

IMG_4445

IMG_4455

Loved it.

First trip to the dentist?

IMG_4886

Nailed it. (Seen here with Dr. Findley… or, as Graham calls him “Dr. Friendly.”)

Of course, we had our cross-country move to Wisconsin. Graham is loving the snow. Rock on, buddy. There’s tons of it to be had!

IMG_6765

IMG_7125

(Try and get this guy to pick up a shovel 10 years from now. I dare ya!)

So, that about sums this year up. It’s probably enough for one sitting, dontcha think? Tune in tomorrow for a [much, much shorter] post about G’s 4th birthday celebration itself. :)