Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Home Again Home Again.

We made it home yesterday, after fourteen hours of traveling. The kids did marvelous - I was the biggest mess of the bunch. I just get so frustrated and touched out and I just want five minutes to myself to go weep or scream. I'd almost rather drive, because at least then the kids are strapped into their seats and they can't touch me, and I can play their music for them, and also, I don't have to worry about the judgement of other travelers when I beg Ellie to stop talking or tell Adam to stop crying.

There were storms in Chicago, so our 10:45 flight got delayed until 12:10. We boarded the plane and were sitting, waiting for the ground ordinance in Chicago to clear. But then it hailed, so they were going to have to inspect all of the planes and no one was allowed in or out. Back to the airport, after an hour just sitting there (thankfully, the plane was full of nice midwestern people who smiled when I let my baby crawl up and down the aisle.) At the airport, I had a calmative and we had lunch, and just sort of wandered around, waiting for the call to go. Our 10:45am flight left at 4:15pm, for a 45 minute flight (but at least the flight attendant gave us free hooch.) Then we sat on the tarmac in Chicago for an hour until they could get us into a gate. In Chicago, we got dinner, and then tried to keep everyone sane (read: me, I'm insane) until the 7:45pm flight out. The kids were really good - we tried to just let them get out all of the possible wiggles, in hopes that they'd sleep on the way home. When I was changing Ellie into her jammies in a bathroom, she told me that it was "the best day ever." GLAD YOU THINK SO, YOU LUNATIC. 

The flight home was four hours. Ellie watched Frozen, Adam slept for the first hour and then cried most of the rest of the flight. He had about an hour of cuteness, and then he was just so whipped. I was standing up and rocking him and bouncing him and shushing him and being mean and frustrated with him... and then he finally fell asleep during the final 20 minutes. KILL ME. Ellie of course, did not sleep at all, and passed out in the car on the way home, to be dumped directly into her bed.

As much as yesterday turned me into a crabby, melodramatic bitch who whined about never traveling again, I am so glad we were able to be home this weekend. Seeing Ellie eating her breakfast and chatting with Grandma Rosie, or putting on a show with Hailee. Adam getting walked around by his uncle David and uncle Bennett and playing puzzles with Aunt Betty. While we were sharing memories about my grandpa, my kids were making some wonderful memories (sure, they're still really little, but I can do some of the remembering for them.) 

Now it's back to regular life. The cats are home from the vet, looking not too much worse for wear (Thor does sort of look like he'd rather die next time than be boarded.) I managed to get everything unpacked, and am now just sort of mystified as to how an empty house can get so dirty! We got both kids in the shower this morning to wash off the travel funk, and in a few minutes it's off to music class. Adam has been napping most of the morning, and Ellie is on the couch with a pillow and blanket, blearily watching Elmo. Hopefully they'll all take some good snoozers today. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Howard William

We successfully made it to Wisconsin on Friday night. The flights went really well - Adam slept most of the flight to Chicago, all snuggled up in the ergo. Ellie watched Frozen and sat with Gigi for a bit, though she did do some crying on the way down, since her ears hurt. The nice man at the Admirals Club let Gigi take in all of her guests, and so we ate sandwiches and drank free beer and relaxed a little, and made it just in time for our puddle jumper flight to La Crosse. Dad, the Thiels and Lisa were all there to meet us at the airport, and Ellie and Hailee rode the escalators until it was time to go. I really couldn't have asked for better travelers - Ellie happily pulled her own suitcase through most of the airport, she sat nicely for the most part, and Adam did the best he could despite being incredibly tired at the end. And I'm so glad we had mom and Sara with us to tag team everyone (and again, free beer at the Admirals Club.)

Ellie has been so delighted to spend time with Hailee and Grandma Rosie, and seems to understand the basics of Grandpa Howie being in heaven. Yesterday morning was the Celebration of Life at St Luke's, where Grandma and Grandpa were married, and where we often went with them on Sunday mornings when we were in town. I haven't been to the church in years (and it no longer holds regular services, because the attendance was down so far) but it was definitely a trip down memory lane. There were lots of great pictures of Grandpa around, and everyone who came was so sweet in sharing their memories. Hailee sat with her dad for the most part, but Ellie was in and out of the cry room (which had a million nice toys, and was such a relief for me to see when we arrived) and Adam was content to hang out with Hailee's mom.

It was not as horrible or sad as I was expecting. I brought along a Grandma Pat hankie, but didn't sob into it. It was so wonderful to just be with my whole family, sharing memories, having lunch and laughing. We have also been having fun talking to Grandpa's urn - bringing it around with us, letting him go back down to the basement and check out his old desk, etc. It really feels like he's still with us. Plus the kids keep everything light - when we started singing the first hymn Ellie, in her gigantic pink sequin dress, asked if this was a dancing party. She also liked holding Grizz's hand to walk in and out of church, and was really eager to be allowed up to the front to speak (that did not happen for her.) After naptime, we went over to Lisa and Greg's hotel and Ellie went swimming with Grizz for an hour or so, and then we all went over to John's and had some of the delicious leftovers from the reception. Like savages, we ended up eating the end of the beef brisket with our bare hands, standing around the kitchen island. And of course, ended the evening with a dance party, as we do.

I was honored to be able to speak on behalf of the family yesterday at the church. Below is the text of what I read:

On behalf of the Thiel family, I’d like to thank you all for being here today with us to celebrate the life of my Grandpa, Howard Thiel. Thank you to those who come, having known him as a young man, a father and husband. Thank you to those who knew him as a friend, a volunteer and a coworker. And a special thank you to those from Hillview, who helped care for him so well for so long. I had contemplated getting up here and just doing my series of impressions of Grandpa, but decided that perhaps I would save that for the reception afterwards, though I think Grandpa would have approved, as no matter how sassy our impressions of him got, he was always able to take the opportunity to laugh at himself, and to laugh with his family. He knew he was a character, and that we loved him for it.

My grandpa was a combination of very strong, and very, very soft. He was a big guy and a big presence - his sheer size, his giant bald head, his piercing ice blue eyes and his booming voice. His hands were like giant paws, and when he hugged you, it was a bear hug that crushed you into his barrel chest. He had big opinions too. If a business had wronged him, you heard about it, even if it was twenty years ago. If you were in the car with him and he disapproved of how someone was driving, he’d let everyone know, with classic lines like “it’s people like that who should be riding the bus,” and “the sign says stop, not park.” And he took a special joy in saying “no one here by that name” and hanging up on any telemarketer who couldn’t pronounce Thiel. We were all familiar with his big snore too, rattling the windows even in the middle of the day. He’d fall asleep in front of the television, watching the Weather Channel, but if you snuck in and tried to change it to something actually interesting, he’d suddenly startle awake and say “I was watching that!” Despite his big voice, I don’t remember him yelling at us grandkids very often, despite the fact that we generally wreaked havoc on his home - tearing up the wood post on the front stoop when trying to learn to ride a unicycle, screwing around and wasting postage stamps by plastering them all over his desk blotter, and once, running the facet in the basement bar without realizing that there was no pipe connected to the drain.

Grandpa was also big in the community, with a long legacy of volunteering. He was active in community theater in Holmen. He was a volunteer at Gunderson Lutheran for seventeen years, and he was very active here at St. Luke’s Methodist Church, where he and Grandma were married in 1950. It’s easy to imagine the spirits of him and Clem being here right now, perhaps listening, but more likely wandering around and getting some fixes and chores done. After a brief stint in the Army, he was a proud member of the American Legion in Holmen. He was very devoted to Kiwanis and went every week until his final months, serving as president when he lived in Sparta.

After his stroke, his sense of strength and character became even more pronounced. For someone who was used to doing everything himself, and spending his days helping out others, he bore the loss of his independence with a great stoicism. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, and if he complained, he mostly limited his complaining to the state of the food served to him at Hillview. He was determined do whatever he could for himself, and heaven forbid you tried to do something for him if he could figure out a way to do it himself. Ask Aunt B about getting her hand slapped for reaching over to help him with something on his tray.

Despite his bluster, my grandpa was one of the most caring, careful, soft-hearted people I have had the pleasure of knowing. He was generous, honorable, and incredibly kind. In many ways, he remained a life-long Boy Scout. Always prepared with a blanket and a flashlight and a tool box in his car, just in case. When my grandma and I went for road trips around the midwest, he made sure we left the house with a cooler packed with sandwiches and sodas, and that the car had enough gas, and then when we got home, he’d clean up after us. In 1969, when Grandma decided she wanted to take her three teenagers to Europe, he helped plan the trip, and then drove the family around the continent in a VW minibus, without the aid of GPS - just him and Grandma, and a map, trying to show their kids more of the world. And closer to home, he was willing to stop at any quilt store that Grandma wanted to visit, and once she finished spending all of their money on fabric, he’d put together tables in the church dining room so she could get the patches laid out, help pin together all of the layers, and live with the quilt frame in the middle of their house as grandma worked her magic. He also bought a boat and was in charge of driving it when his kids were teenagers learning to water ski, even though he couldn’t really swim and didn’t like the water.

If you needed something done around the house, he was happy to do it. Many people knew his garage as “Howard’s Hardware Store.” If you needed a car fixed or a machine tinkered with, you could visit Grandpa’s immaculately organized garage, and he would find the part for you, fix your machinery and then refuse to let you pay him for his time or trouble, because he’d enjoyed doing it. When my family moved, which we did often, he’d come by and help with all of the little household improvement projects. He helped John and Betty build their new place, and anything Barb needed, he was there to do - I can still see him gently cradling one of her weiner dogs in a blanket so Auntie B could clip her nails. There was also the occasional banging around when it came to home repair - he once got a finicky laptop to work by tapping on the side of it with a hammer, which I’m sure was not Dell’s recommended method of repair. In the Holmen house he built a chute from the bathroom closet down into the laundry room - we always loved tossing our clothes down and watching to see if they made it into the hamper.

As kids, there was always a bike for us to ride when we visited his house, with the tires freshly inflated and the seat adjusted as we grew. Anything he could do to make us happy, he was happy to do. As a nerdy middle schooler, I expressed interest in Readers Digest, so he got me a subscription. He happily saved quarters to help Sara finish her state quarters map, in exchange for the thousand of pop can tabs she collected for him to bring to Kiwanis. He was the kind of man who carried dog treats in his pocket, both for his beloved Clem, and for any dogs he might see while out and about. Despite the fact that when I offered to get him a kitten, he’d tell me it would only end up in a burlap bag in the river, he was often seen with a cat in his lap when visiting our house, and the summer that our family cats stayed at his house, legend has it that he was even caught giving Sparky a little smooch, which earned him the title of “cat kisser.” He loved keeping the bird feeders full and watching the birds in the back yard, though he had choice words for the squirrels.

He was always willing to chat up a stranger and visit for a bit, with his big stern face breaking into his enormous smile. He loved paying for things with the gold Sacajawea dollars, and would tell me “I like to leave them as tips for waitresses. They think they’re only getting seventy five cents, but really, they’re getting three dollars!”

He and Grandma were always there for us kids, to celebrate our accomplishments and tell us how proud they were. They made sure to be there for confirmations and graduations, and Grandpa cried like a baby at our weddings. From our school plays, to the plays we put on in their living room, they were glad to watch us acting, and put up with us acting up around their house. They came to band concerts and piano recitals, and after his stroke, Gramps took great pleasure in going to Kari’s basketball games, even if that first winter he knew he might have to wait in the cold for the less than reliable bus to pick him up. I was able to find my family in the stands at my high school graduation because I was able to spot Grandpa in his Gilligan style hat and his blu blocker sunglasses worn over his regular sunglasses from across an entire football field.

He and Grandma also enjoyed taking us out to see the world - to community theater productions, to the zoo, and a memorable trip to Circus World when David and I were in kindergarten, where Grandpa sat next to me and assured me that the lion tamers weren’t actually whipping the lions when I started crying. Possibly my favorite story about grandpa is when he and grandma came to visit me in grad school, they took me to see the Lion King. We sat down and I joked about a little girl a few rows ahead of us who had a bag of candy, and how lucky she was, even though I was old enough to go get my own candy if I wanted it. During intermission, Grandpa left to use the restroom, and when he came back, he presented me with a giant, overpriced concession stand bag of Sour Patch Kids, which we shared during the second half of the show, despite Grandma’s cautioning him about his blood sugar.

His three great-grandkids didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him until after his stroke, and I am sad at all they missed out on, because I know he would have loved to keep them in bikes and snacks and bear hugs. Even if he was tired or grumpy or not feeling well, his eyes would light up when Hailee, Ellie and Adam appeared in the room. If it was possible, he adored them even more than he adored the four of us. He was so proud to tell stories about them or show off their latest pictures.

Grandpa wasn’t big on saying I love you, but he has always been incredibly loving in his own ways. When we were kids, he would affectionately refer to us as “little monkeys” while we were busily destroying his house and begging for a ride on the ride on lawnmower, and all my life, he’s told me I was “such a girl.” After his stroke, he couldn’t offer up a bear hug, but he would grab me with his good arm and pin me against his shoulder with his arm and his gigantic head.

The first time I visited him after his stroke, I spent my nights listening to Coldplay’s “Everything’s Not Lost,” to deal with my sadness. And even now as we are saying goodbye, I know that everything’s not lost. I know his influence is with us when I watch his kids alternate between teasing and taking care of their grandkids. I know he’s with us when we’re motivated to give back or do something for someone else. I think of him when I figure out a way to fix something with my own two hands or when I find myself putting a blanket in the back of my car, just in case. I know he is with us when I encourage Ellie to practice her own Grandpa Howie impressions by pulling her pants up just a little too high and yelling “I’m Grandpa!” or when I catch myself thinking “hurry up you idiot, and maybe you’ll make it to the front of the line” when someone blows past me on the freeway. I know there will always be a gap in our lives as we figure out how to take care of ourselves and take care of each other the way he would want us to. There is no way to replace the way he loomed large in all of our lives, because he was always such a good man, “such a grandpa.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


There's a reason that they describe teething as having "molars erupting." Poor Adam has had moments these past few days where he is an absolute volcano of discontent. Last night he woke up at 3 screaming. Not crying or whining, but full on screaming. I ended up rocking him and feeding him, but he was up again at 4, and crying off and on for a half hour before I got up and snuggled with him. It ended up that the only thing that soothed him was being held by his mommy, so I flipped back the covers on the guest bed and we curled up together for an hour or so. He started stirring, obviously restless in my arms and sick of being sweaty, and I was able to put him back in his crib, where he slept until morning. It's tiring, but it's also really rewarding to feel him settle in my arms, and it's sweet to have him fall asleep tucked under my chin. He's becoming less of a baby every day, so I try to find the good in those little moments. And then this morning when I felt like a run over dog turd, I "consoled" myself with the fact that last night was a bad night for Adam, but it would have qualified for an average night with Ellie. And then I wept.

We had music class today, and Ellie and Lexi mostly screwed around together, despite repeated reminders that it was time to listen to Miss Elena, not run around and yell about their outfits and toenail polish choices.

I mean, check out this glam squad!

Afterwards, I had a very comforting message from Dad, who stopped in at the Admirals Club on his way to La Crosse today, pled our case to the people working there, and got us actually booked into seats on our flights. That's a huge weight off my shoulders. And also, sort of concerning that in an age where you have to take your shoes off and let the TSA see you naked, a guy can amend the reservation of three other people, just by knowing their names and flight number. But such is the power of Mr. Frequent Flier (and hey, I'm not complaining, though a couple of my girlfriends are sad that there's no chance I'll pitch a fit about sitting next to my family - they had told Tim to be sure to whip out his phone and youtube any tantrum I might have.)

This afternoon we spent a lot of time out in the yard. I cut back some ivy while the kids played pretty happily. When Ellie rode in the Cozy Coupe, Adam actually took a few independent steps to get to her. He CAN walk, he just doesn't WANT to.

This is what it looked like last night while I was doing the dishes after dinner. It's not a bad life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

We had a really nice Easter weekend. A lot of company, a lot of cooking, and a lot of just relaxing with the people we love best in this world. Nothing more you can really ask for. I regret that I didn't make the kids put on their bunny ears and pose for me, but I guess we were just busy doing not too much of anything. Thankfully, Gigi took a couple of pictures with her phone.

Sara and Ellie dying eggs on Saturday morning, after their sleepover. Ellie followed it by taking a three hour nap - Gigi probably napped roughly the same amount!

Real men wear pink, and refuse to look at the camera.

Ellie in her big dress (and polka dot sweatshirt) hunting for eggs in the front yard

As for her basket - Ellie was thought her scooter was "so great!" and then announced "I wanted a purple and yellow one!" INGRATE. Back to books and art supplies for you!

She got the hang of it pretty quick, and it's been true love since. She scooted all over Cathy's back yard, and this morning was out riding before school (yay for school being back in session!)

Now that Easter is over, I can no longer avoid that it's almost time to head back to Wisconsin to say goodbye to my Grandpa. It feels like I've been thinking of him constantly since he passed away a month ago, and yet, this morning the realization that we were heading out THIS WEEK makes me want to sit down and ugly cry with delayed grief. Plus anxiety about flying with two little kids, anxiety about the service, anxiety about the whole shebang. I am a big web of feelings, and have been calming myself by making a packing list and starting to pack. At least I have all of our black clothes lint rolled and folded.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Three and a Half.

Our little lady officially turned three and a half today! These pictures are from yesterday, but you get the general idea. And yes, that is the same dress she was wearing when I took her picture in front of the flowering hedge a few weeks ago. It's her favorite dress - she'll be wearing it until she busts every seam, or until it falls into rags. It already has a small hole in it, but every week, the second it's clean, she begs to wear it.

I find Ellie to be an impressive little lady. She's incredibly bright and inquisitive and talks like an adult most of the time. She's also funny and LOVES making us laugh, and she is sweet and snuggly too. The other night my shoulders hurt and I asked Tim to rub them for me, and she came over and told me that SHE would do it for me. We've started talking to her about going to Wisconsin for Grandpa Howie's funeral - I told her that we are going to say goodbye to Grandpa Howie, since he got very sick and is up in heaven, and her response was "we will visit him and make him feel better!" And of course, she continues to be the sweetest big sister ever. She's also impatient, whiny, and not the best at listening, but we get along okay (for the most part.)

This weekend has been another whirlwind of gatherings in our back yard. Jake and Dawn came over and Jake made us dinner on Friday night, and we were able to eat outside. Tonight we had Lexi and Whitney and their families over to eat, after Jeff used his truck to help Tim pick up Don and Eileen's old BBQ. Everyone enjoyed the new table, and the girls had a fun time with their usual bike riding, flower picking, and negotiating turn taking by screaming. Tomorrow morning Gigi, Grizz and Sara will come over and hang out for Easter brunch! I'm so glad to be entertaining so much, even if my dishwasher is getting tired.

Tomorrow morning the Easter bunny is bringing Ellie a scooter - I cannot wait to see her face. This is really the first thing that she's mentioned wanting over and over again. Any time we see a bike or a scooter, she will say that she wishes she could ride it, or wishes that she had one. And now she will! She's also getting a few other odds and ends. Adam is getting some books and a new lambykins (you can never have too many - this week he tossed one out of the stroller and we never found it. Ellie says a bunny took it to their burrow, which is plausible I guess!)

They are such sweethearts, my loves.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Same and Different.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. For weeks on end, I could not get Adam to eat a berry. He'd eat apple, he loves banana, but offering him strawberries was like trying to feed him poison. Putting raspberries down on his tray was basically just asking for him to smash them and squoosh them around until it looked like he'd murdered someone. But now all of a sudden, he can't stuff them in quickly enough. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, they are his favorites.

A funny about Ellie - all winter long, I couldn't get her to stay under her blankets at night. She'd tell me to just cover her feet when I tucked her in, and then when I went to check on her before going to sleep, she'd have kicked everything off, no matter the temperature. Now all of a sudden, she can't cuddle in enough! She is like a little burrito in bed, and I finally put a flat sheet on  her bed. So we'll see how tangled she is in the morning.

Lastly, since Ellie was small I have mostly avoided Babies R Us. The one near us is really janky and staffed by morons, and the prices are never as good as what I can find online. But I had some giftcards so tonight I braved the place. Uff da - it is my version of a hellscape. All the loud toys made with cheap plastic. Some creepy cat toy meowed at me and started pawing the air when I walked by. I mean, it's not like I only give my children hand forged wooden and iron toys, but I do like to keep the loud, easily broken junk to a minimum, mostly for my own sanity. However, it'll all be worth it when Ellie freaks out on Easter morning, seeing the sweet pink scooter next to her Easter basket.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Egg Hunt Redux.

Sunday we had another egg huntin' party at our house, this time with our original group of baby friends from Mommy Matters. Well, half of them or so. We had a lot of last minute drop outs, which ended up being okay because things were wild enough with Ellie and a bunch of loud boys.

Here they are, oldest to youngest (with Adam sitting with Ellie, instead of towards the other end.) Now almost everyone is a big sibling! (Hunter, in the middle, is an only child.)

This picture cracks me up. So all of the kids in our group are within a few months of each other, and Jonathan (curly hair) was always the biggest one out of all of them. As they were leaving, I was curious if Ellie (who always seems so tall for her age) was the same size, but the only good level place was the wall around our planter. They're about the same height. And then all of the other kids wanted to hop us as well. What a bunch of monsters they are! (except poor Hunter. He looks like is someone's kid brother.)

Speaking of kid brothers, this is a common sight in my house hold these days:

And just for funnies, this is what happened when the ice cream train ran dry on Friday.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Open for Business.

We hosted our first official back yard party yesterday (I like to call it the Backyardyparty.) A bunch of my mom friends came over to hunt for Easter eggs. They apparently did it last year too, on the day that Adam was born (his birthday was originally supposed to be my baby sprinkle, but they changed it to an egg hunt when I had to tell them that I would be unable to attend my own party.) So this year, I offered to host!

It was really nice - each mom brought over a dozen eggs for the kids, and after everyone arrived and got settled, we dumped the eggs in the yard and set the kids loose. They ranged in age from three and a half to freshly two, so they're not very competitive yet, and they sort of bumbled around the yard like puppies, sometimes completely oblivious to an egg that was sitting right at their feet. They all had a good time, and there was no pushing or shoving or egg stealing, which was nice. I've heard a lot about how crazy things can get when communities and churches do egg hunts, so it was nice to do something low key. Ellie was happy to open one egg, eat a package of fruit snacks and then head back into the house to get her friends to play airplane with her (they drag bags around the house and then go sit on the bed in Adam's room, pretending it's the airplane that's taking them to either Chicago or Lake Tahoe.) Adam had two other little baby friends to play with on a blanket, and he was also happy to crawl around and get into things, like usual. The only sad moment was when he was sitting in front of the slider, and one of the other kids kept asking him to look out, and then finally yelled "LOOK OUT" and Adam burst into tears and laid face down on the concrete. His little feelers get hurt so easily, and he does not appear to have the Miller hollering gene (when we first got married and got in a fight, I started yelling, as I prone to do, and Tim was so sad because he thought I was going to divorce him. I JUST LIKE TO YELL, OKAY! IT HELPS ME HEAR MYSELF BETTER! [I know, I know, add it to the long list of self improvements that I'm working on.])

So the yard did well for egg hunting, and the table was great for the mom guests (and one dad, who beat a pretty hasty retreat to Starbucks after we started talking about childbirth - there's two new baby brothers who will be joining the group in the next three months, one who should be here in three weeks or less!) I'm so glad we went with eight chairs and the extra huge table - it seated everyone perfectly. The one downside Tim and I noticed when we had dinner outside earlier in the week was that you have to get up to pass the condiments if there's a small group. Perhaps we will hire a manservant to deal with this problem. Ellie and I made snowball cookies in the morning, and I also put together some avocado dip, and a baked brie.


Overall, a good time was had by all. Until six, when the kids started getting tired, hungry and overall ornery. Why is it that all departures seem to involve tears? Just the way of our small folk, I suppose.

The whole crew, post hunt

Throw your hands in the air, if you're a true player

Hey, DOWN IN FRONT. And get a hair cut, you damn hippie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Domestic Bliss.

It has been a much better week this week, on many fronts. The kids are sleeping better and napping better, Hello Kitty hasn't gotten peed on as much, and the whining has been dialed back quite a bit. Part of it is probably that Ellie is waking up from her nap 30-60 minutes before Adam, and so she and I have that time to snuggle, read and play Play Doh. It makes a huge difference, and helps us all feel better. That's been probably the hardest thing about having two kids, is balancing their needs against my abilities. With Adam on the verge of walking, and out of sync on nap times, he's been out of sorts, but the past few days we've been in a better rhythm, so more time for my sweet little Miss.

Today after our walk and lunch we made some cookies for the Easter Egg Hunt we're hosting this afternoon. She is such a good little baker - she loves scooping and leveling the flour. Last night at dinner time she was thrilled to help me set the table, and she's good about cleaning up and clearing her place. My other favorite thing lately is hearing her sing along to songs in the car, songs other than Miss Elena songs or those damn songs from Frozen. She has been loving the songs from Adam's baby slide show, and it's funny to hear what she thinks the words to Feist's 1-2-3-4 are.

I also have been loving seeing the two of them together. She's been riding on Adam's little construction car and he practices walking by pushing her along. They wrassle while I fold laundry, they play blocks together, and any time they can play piano or family band, they're both playing along. So cute! On our walks, we go through a little tunnel and this week Adam has started getting in on the fun of hooting to hear his own echo. Today when he'd hoot, Ellie would echo him, and it made me laugh when I was so tired and sweaty and ready to lay down and die (seriously, this heat can go be elsewhere.)

Another sweet moment - yesterday morning everyone was awake, and when I came back from the bathroom they'd climbed in bed with Tim. Ellie announced loudly "DADDY IS THE DADDY LION AND YOU'RE THE MOMMY LION AND ADAM AND I ARE YOUR BABY LIONS!" and then we all curled up and roared at each other. Then when we're out and about (usually in stores) she will run a few yards away from me and pretend to be the baby lion who is looking for her mommy, and I say "where is my baby lion?" and she runs back and we hug. It's very sweet.

How can you not love this kid?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chore Helpers.

I got out the vacuum, they got out their brooms

I moved the tent into the hallway to clean Ellie's room, they got out their instruments to serenade me

I flipped the recliner to get the crumbs underneath, they did... whatever they did here.

Thanks kids, you are such good little helpertons!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Grandpa Charlie.

We've had a very nice time having Grandpa Charlie and Dorothy around for the past week, even if having all of the basketball loving Sconnies around didn't keep the Badgers from losing their game in the final seconds. Grandpa and Dorothy brought Ellie a new bag of rocks for her rock collection, which she was very excited by (kid loves her some rocks - it's a family sickness) and overall, she was very taken with her great grandpa (and sort of hand her mind blown when I explained that Grandpa Charlie was MY Grizz.) She loved listening to him play harmonica, and was very interested in showing him all of the towers she built.

But of course, no can do-sies when we tried to take a nice picture tonight.

Adam continues to be SO CLOSE to walking, though has disappointed us all by not taking his first step when Grandpa could see it. He'll probably start walking at 8am tomorrow. He's started standing on his own more and more in the past few days, and will even do things with his hands while standing, and maintain his balance.

He's a funny little dude.

Meanwhile, Ellie has seemingly turned into a twelve year old over night. First of all, she loves to pretend that she's five. And she's got herself an imaginary friend, a sister named Elena. They go on the airplane together, sometimes with Adam, sometimes without, to go visit her cousin friend Olivia (who also sometimes lives in my stomach? And who I need to go to the hospital and birth?) Her imagination is out of this world, and she is so, so smart. She's taken to pointing out all of the numbers and letters she sees, especially street addresses and the words "Hello Kitty." Today after preschool we went over to Starbucks to have a little treat - some scones (or stones, as she calls them) and an iced coffee for me. After she scarfed her stone, she asked for some water and I asked her if she wanted to go order one, and she said okay, and said she could do it herself. So she went over to the counter, and asked the barrista for a water and spelled her name for him, nice as you please (he was very sweet to her.) Today at the park she climbed all over some equipment, following in the footsteps of a bigger girl who had befriended her, and she tried out using the girl's scooter. She's getting so big, so fast, and turning into a real kid. Last night she and Tim dueted on "Love is an Open Door" in the car, and it was about the cutest thing ever.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Backyard Completed!

This has already been an incredibly productive weekend! We went on a really nice family walk, and went on what Ellie calls "the adventure trail," where we saw a couple of families of mallards with their new ducklings, and the two random orange koi/carp/carrot fish. When we got home, Adam went down for a nap, Ellie got babysat by her friend Elmo, and Tim and I did some yard work in anticipation of our new table being delivered! And because, as promised, we are doing our very best to keep up with yard maintenance. I don't relish being the worst looking house on the block. Though also, I am not very motivated to scrape weeds out of sidewalk cracks when I walk outside and find that someone has let their dog poop on my driveway. Still, today I was the master of all weeds, with my angry hands and my bottle of Round Up. And Tim was the master of the mower.

The table looks great! I am so glad we went with the largest one they have, because we have lots of entertaining to do this coming summer.

It fits nicely under the cover and doesn't take up too much room - there's still a good bit of space for Ellie and friends to drive their trikes back and forth, and it fits all eight chairs well. As you can see, we did keep the little blue patio set as an alternate seating area. And because it's such cute furniture, even if we only use it a couple times a year for pictures of the kids.

I mean... right? Please note: Ellie is wearing that skirt today. She's still the very cutest.

But back to the yard. Here is a photo of Ricardo's handiwork, putting in the succulents and the crepe myrtle trees.
I think it looks great! And yes, there has been a lot of new growth on the neighbor's trees, but I wouldn't put it past them to raze them back to bare stumps at any point, hence why we planted some trees of our own.

So, TA DA! This is what we'll be working with for the near future. I'm really happy with how it's all turned out. The patio cover has made a huge difference in keeping our house cool, and provides such a nice seating area. We have eaten outside a ton since the chairs arrived. I like that we kept the grass for the kids to play in, but there's enough concrete for bike riding and chalking and playing around. At some point we may do the whole fire pit/built in grill area, but for now, I think what we've done is perfect for our needs and concerns. Tearing down the old cover over the kitchen has also been great - we don't miss it at all, and it makes the side yard look so much bigger and brighter. Our lemon tree and peach tree are starting to blossom a little, so hopefully we'll have some fresh fruit this summer!

The other new addition to our house is this:
It's not pretty, but hopefully it'll keep me from repeating "Adam, that is not for babies" fifteen times a day for the next few months. He just can't help it. He loves electronics so!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Week in the Life.

It's been sort of a crazy one! My saving grace with having two kids is that they usually take an afternoon nap at the same time, and I get a few minutes of quiet time to myself. Not this week! It feels like one of them is constantly awake, and no one is in a good mood (because they're overtired!) Ellie has been especially mouthy and rude. People say "oh, wait until she's a teenager," but frankly, I would love for her to just tell me she hates me and slam her door, or ignore me for her friends for a few hours. A three year old is all of the attitude, none of the avoiding. She is right on my tail at all times.

Wednesday I attempted to be a nice mom, and since no one was napping, take them to the Spectrum, which is a big outdoor mall with a nice carousel. Plus it has a Target, and I needed to return a hideous bathing suit. So we did our return and walk over to the carousel... to find that it's closed for repairs. Ellie's reaction was like I had just burned the place down in front of her, using her favorite stuffed animals as kindling. The saving grace was that Tim was at a boozy work afternoon at the Dave and Busters next door, so he brought us in to the dwindling party, and Ellie ate some chicken fingers. And on the way out we stopped at a store that only sells rhinestone items and she got a new Hello Kitty "jewelry-o."

Also, here is what she looks like, walking through a mall:

And here she is with her Gigi and Grizz! Doing safe things, with people who don't have bad backs.

Today we had a couple of our friends over and the girls did some good playing outside together. There was some minor screamage over the trike, and the kids picked all of the little ground cover flowers on the side of the house, but the thing that they enjoyed the most was a long piece of ivy that I yanked out of the Indian Hawthorne. The three girls each grabbed part of it and ran back and forth for about fifteen minutes, playing a minor game of crack the whip, while Adam played with the leaves that got stripped. Who doesn't love that sort of free entertainment?

This is also good free entertainment. The hour before bed time, always a crazy show around our house.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesdays with Mimi

First off, I think a blog post got lost in the shuffle - I made a slide show for Adam's birthday with pictures from his first year, but I don't think it posted on the night of his birthday. If you have 15 minutes, you can scroll down and check it out.

I swear, I thought Adam was going to take his first steps today. We were about to take this picture
And he was standing next to the couch, and suddenly let go and stared at me for a long second, as if he was going to come and get the camera. And then he sat down on his duff.

He is so funny. I feel like in addition to walking, he's just weeks away from really starting to use his words. He has said mamamama a few times, clearly directed at me, and when he sees the cats he will either just flat out SCREAM at them, or he will make K and T noises (for kitty.) Another crazy cat baby being raised at our house.

Meanwhile, Ellie has been astounding me lately. She can now count all the way to forty (aka, thirty ten, which follows twenty ten and actual twenty) and is big on recognizing and calling out letters. Soon I won't be able to spell things over her head. Like C-A-N-D-Y, which is always delicious to eat when she's not looking.