Monster Cookies and Deyhydration

The weekend before Halloween tried to kill me. I mean, I guess it I did it to myself, but you know I don’t like to take credit for negative things. Really it was just the Saturday of the weekend, when we had a soccer game, the UNT vs. Rice game and then the fall carnival at Zach’s school. Any one or two of those things would have been plenty, but all three spelled disaster for me.

All started fine at the soccer game at 8:30 a.m. My parents were in town for the football game, and as is their tradition, the boys went to spend the night with them at the hotel. Granny Marsh and Papa Wayne are so lucky they are loved so much and to get to share a bed with my wiggly boys. Sooooo lucky.

I had to swing by and get Zach at 7:50 for team photos while everyone else met us at the game. The Walls were there too and I insisted we take a photo of all grandparents. No grandparents were particularly excited, but I have one photo of both my grandmothers with me and one with both my grandfathers and I treasure those photos. To the grand-kids they are all their family and I wanted that photo for my boys.

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My mother noted that the entire neighborhood must be at the soccer game and she is basically right. Liv found someone from their neighborhood (of course) and I saw three of my friends who are not even on Zach’s team. The league Zach plays in is huge and people from all over the inner city play in it. Plus, the teams are small with only six kids on each team.

The boys insisted on going back to the hotel with my parents (again, so, so lucky) so Alex and I grabbed a quick breakfast with his parents then headed to the football game.

You all know my love of Rice football games. For real, I love them. My mom had brought the boys matching UNT shirts and small footballs they played with the entire game. We moved seats about four times and everyone is just so happy to be there and relaxed.

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James and my mom are saying “Go Eagles! Go UNT!” –  just getting ready in the parking lot.

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My parents were very pleased to learn about the Roost (where you can drink in the stadium) and even though UNT lost, we had a fun time.

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It is borderline insulting how my boys look just like their father. Rude.

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But that was not the end of our day. James, Alex and I came home early so James could take a nap and I could make cookies for the Sweet Shop at the school carnival. Why yes, I do stay at home and should have made them during the week, thank you for noting that.

I was determined to make these monster cookies I had pinned last year. They looked fairly straight forward and darling. And they were.

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So during the hour and a half before I had to leave to set up, I stood up and made dough, rolled it in powdered sugar, baked it then stuck in the eyes. Then I had to put them in individual bags, of course.

I changed (again) and raced up to the elementary school to help set up Zach’s class booth at the carnival. I sat down around four and waited for Alex, the boys and my parents to get there. The boys immediately went in different directions as there was so much to do!

Zach loved this giant inflatable slide and James went racing through the ones for little kids.

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Around five I was chatting with some of my friends and started feeling bad. Like I might throw up and my stomach was cramping like crazy, bad. They immediately thought I was pregnant (NO) because they had been discussing how hard having three kids is when I bolted off. I assured them there was no way, though I did appreciate their concern.

I tried to drink some water and sit down but it just got worse. Alex finally told me that I looked like I felt sick and should go home. You guys, I was concerned I was not going to make it home. But I did and started pounding water. I have not felt that bad since I had the flu. While I was laying shivering on the couch I counted how much I had to drink that day. The entire day I had: one coffee, two diet coke, one beer and one bottle of water. From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Factor in a lot of standing and sweating it was no wonder my body wanted to shut down.

Luckily, I had Alex and my parents who didn’t even miss a beat. Alex and the boys stayed at the carnival for a while longer, getting to do all they wanted and my parents went and got food for the boys. They came and picked them up to head to the hotel (again, so, so, lucky) all while I laid on the couch drinking as much water as I could handle. By 7:00 I was feeling close to normal and starving. I took that as a good sign.

But I was so bummed to miss the rest of the carnival. I really was. I love those things. Apparently there was an obstacle course and the cake walk. Plus someone was dressed as Frankenstein in the principal’s office who would walk around once in a while.

Hopefully I have learned my lesson and will do better next year. But I am a slow learner, so it is anyone’s guess.

I need to stop calling him a baby

James turned three and I have not really processed it yet. I mean, I have, clearly we had two parties to celebrate, but I still think of him as my baby. Especially since I am trying to finish our 2012 photo album and keep seeing photos like this one.

But he is not that chubby faced baby of one, he is now three. With many opinions that he will share with you via a very loud voice and some exceptionally close talking.

On his actual birthday we had breakfast at Einstein’s and then he went to school, armed with pink cupcakes for his class. He wanted to go only one place for dinner, Chuck-e-Cheese. Of course. I invited Vince and Liv to come join us for the festivities. As if anyone could turn down animatronic mice and pizza. Vince came in early and took the boys to see Rio 2, as a birthday treat, which was an extra treat for me, since I just got to meet them at Chuck’s at 6.

James’s teacher’s made him this birthday crown that he decorated and wore most of the evening.

 Our family gets very intense on the basketball games.

 And cheating, that is totally, totally cheating, Zachary.

 What night would not be complete without a family photo in a parking lot?

So maybe our family gets intense on most games…given the photo of James on the motorcycle, Alex and Zach playing basketball, and me killing giant spiders attacking my jeep. They had already killed my guides!

Past and Future Memories

If you are like me (and we know you are, you crazy things) you often think, what of the things we do with our kids will they really remember? Alex has a great memory, he claims to remember things from when he was three. I remember things…but I think it is because I have seen them in photos for so long.

But one thing I know that I remember are our family dinners. We would eat together every night after the last person got home. I don’t know how early they started (and like to give myself a grace period of thinking it was not until elementary at least) but they continued through high school and anytime we were home from college.

 Grandpa Harvey at the table

My sister wrote a kick-ass essay about those dinners, focusing on the family table where we sat. She is a much better writer than me and really should have her own blog. Since she doesn’t, I decided to steal her material for mine, which she expected. She is wonderful – enjoy!

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My parents’ round kitchen table was stained a yellowing color, one probably chosen initially for its conventional beauty but long past the prime of fashionable. A few blemishes marred the yellow stain, carefully mended with a wood filler that could never quite match that original hue. Heavy and obtuse, the table stood squarely to the left of the small, yet functional kitchen, remodeled over time, bit by bit at the hands of my mother. The table commanded the den area of my parents’ small, oddly-laid out home, and was the center of our life.

My dad’s 38th birthday

My mother loved to read parenting books to verify her expertise in raising two daughters. One such volume of wisdom imparted to her the importance of The Family Dinner. Nightly, we were to sit at that round table and share a meal together.

The rules:

  • All must be present to eat
  • You must ask to be excused
  • No singing 
  • You must wear a shirt

We always giggled at the last one, a worn out rule from my mother’s childhood, a much maligned middle sister in a family of three boys with a baby sister ten years her junior officially taking away her “only girl” status. Those brothers of her youth always had to be reminded to dress for dinner, but in our household with two girls and a quiet Dad, that was never an issue.

For as long as I remember, family dinners were sacred. To miss a family dinner required a special request and allowance, best made while practicing your most formal persuasive voice. Whining and begging would not be tolerated in our house; however, a carefully phrased request was appreciated and accepted. To bring a friend to family dinner also required a formal request, though these were always allowed as more people at family dinners were readily welcomed.

As a child, I remember the milk pouring across that yellow stain as I tipped the glass clumsily again. I remember waiting for hours, my stomach grumbling, for my sister to get home from dance class at nine pm. Then when I also joined that dance class, everyone was waiting on me. Whenever everyone arrived home from work and activities, we all sat around that table, the 4 of us, my mom, my dad, my sister Kinsey, and me, nightly. My family isn’t one of those “lovey-dovey” types as my mom would say, but family dinners forced us to sit down and remember that we love each other. No matter what was going on in the family, happy, sad, angry, indifferent, we gathered to eat and reflect. Even when we started the meal with a teenagerly grouch, eventually something about our day came out.

I learned to tell stories at those family dinners. My mother, the best story teller of them all, would laugh heartily as she shared a story about her day teaching college students. My sister, animated and sarcastic, would share stories of her high school teachers and their quirky personalities. I often wonder if any of my students sit around dinner tables and laugh about my classroom. My father, the quiet only child, married into a loud boisterous family, who had two girls, would listen carefully and wisely. He never said much, still doesn’t, but when he speaks, everyone listens.

The yellow kitchen table stood sturdy and strong, and watched my sister and I grow up, move on to college and our adult lives. The table housed our art projects, then our drill team sequins, and finally our yearbooks and wedding gowns. My grandmother sat at the table not long before she died and helped us stuff my sister’s wedding invitations. Additional blemishes came, glitter was firmly wedged in all the nooks and crannies, but the table stood strong like a wise old priest keeping shared secrets firmly to itself.

Prom, 1996

A few years ago, the family dinner table found itself being replaced for a smaller table more sensible for a couple of empty nesters. And while I still visit that small house that sits quietly back from Woodland street, just a block from a now bustling Loop 288, the yellowing table is gone. Even without its stolid presence, we still find ourselves, now with husbands and children in tow, sitting around the smaller and unblemished kitchen table to share stories and laugh together. And on those most special of nights when children are fast asleep and husbands left to their own devices, we might end up with just the four of us again, sitting around the table, laughing and teasing each other, and sharing stories of our lives.

In my own kitchen, a small rectangular table sits quietly in the breakfast nook. I so proudly purchased the table for a very reasonable amount, like the responsible new teacher I was. I brought it home in a huge box far too large for my small frame to handle. Painstakingly, I put it together following every instruction carefully. In my head, I dreamed of one day my own family sitting around this wood table, not quite as sturdy as the one I remembered, but still a solid place to house my dreams. The years passed, and I uncertainly moved that small table from apartment to apartment never sure where it would end up. Finally, I secured its spot snugly in my first home purchased with my husband, and now sit my own two cherub faced girls at that table. They are firmly strapped into booster seats, but I smile at the future. Sticky with juice and leftover dinners, I relish the day when I will sit with my girls and their quiet dad, just the four of us at that table telling stories of our days.

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Isn’t she amazing? I mean, I know I am biased, but she is just the best. I hope my boys have as many fond memories of each other growing up as I do of my sister. 

Here is what you missed

I have been MIA for four weeks and not one of you submitted my photo to the news and started a search party. I am insulted. I thought I was more to you than words on the Internet. My #1 reader (my dad) did finally email me to ask if the blog had moved.

Wait, am I being overly dramatic again? You know you missed that.

Well, instead of rehashing the entire month you missed, I will give you the highlights to bring you up to speed.

1. I now have a five year old. Zach had a super fun ninja party at a local gym, complete with nun-chucks and ninja belts. So far, I am really enjoying five vs. four year olds. Less whining; more getting fully dressed on his own and smidge more patience with his brother.

2. I got totally busted, by Alex, for my James is not impressed series on Facebook and Instagram. Alex’s friends kept telling him how funny it was (thank you) and how serious James is. Since Alex does not understand social media and cringes at that phrase, it caught him totally off guard. I know I have read him those posts in the past, but he didn’t understand the full magnitude. Image explaining a meme to your granddad. That is Alex’s level of understanding on anything technical and/or Internet-wise. Anyway, he was not pleased with me, to say the least. He felt I talking negatively about our kids. You guys know he doesn’t read this blog. And while I wanted to roll my eyes, he is, technically, James’ father and, I suppose I should, technically, respect his opinion. Plus, James is getting more impressed and is now overly animated, so my materially was being ruined anyway. I have retired the James is not impressed tagline. Though I will be doing one full rundown here on the blog for posterity’s sake.

I mean, look at this photo.

I can’t possibly make this stuff up.

3. I am now 36. No further comment.

4. Alex and I spent New Year’s Eve in New York City, even getting to see the ball drop.

The boys stayed with the Walls and got to stay up late, eat ice cream and swim, inside, almost every day. Alex and I got to spend time together, not eat dinner at 5:30 and pretend we were young again. However, New Year’s Day after drinking and dancing into the wee hours it was very apparent we are not. Please refer to #3 above. My Aunt Vickie, Uncle Rick and cousins Stephanie, Brett and Matthew were there, making NYE even more fun.

Why I am molesting my darling cousin, I don’t know. And why do I look so old? Don’t answer that.
5. I got to spend time with my darling nieces over Zach’s birthday weekend and got to hair braid and pony tail make to my hearts content. That is what is great about having a sister who shares (the same can’t be said for Lauren; I am not a sharer), she just steps aside and let’s me dress the girls and fix their hair. My boy-only-having self needs that. A lot.  The weekend was a mess of screaming, shouting, running and eating. Someone was always pushing a shopping cart into the wall and “reading” books at the top of their lungs. My house is like that without any additional children, so it was just a bonus that the girls were running right along with my boys.
6. Christmas happened. Jack the Elf left (after becoming a ninja for Zach’s birthday), Santa came and everyone got everything they wanted. I am soooooo glad it is over, I don’t even want to re-hash it. 

Aren’t my children charming on Christmas morning?
7. I watched a lot of House of Lies and now have a total potty mouth, mainly in my head. They say the F word constantly and I don’t know why the moms I hang out with don’t. It seems so normal after watching 13 episodes. Please be warned if you are having a play date with me.
That is about it. You are caught up. But next time, please make more of an effort to let me know you missed me and your life is not complete without me. I can’t just guess that you are feeling this way.

I have been Wall-itized

My mom’s dad moved to Houston a few weeks back. He had been living in North Texas close to one of my aunts and my mom. I was selfishly happy to have him move here so I could see him more.

The last time I saw him, prior to him moving, was after the terrible road trip when the boys and I went to Denton. I took Zach to Dallas with me one night, so I could see my Vegas girls and he could hang out with his cousins. The next day I took Zach and Charlotte to see my papa, who we call their Big Papa.

His assisted living center was having a church service that my mom thought he would like to attend, but would forget about. So she thought if we went at that time we could encourage him to attend.

The timing is perfect and we arrive right before it started. He had forgotten (or didn’t want to go) but we made him go anyway. Unfortunately it was Rite I of the Episcopal liturgy.

Ugh, I really, really don’t like Rite 1 (which is just the language in which the read the service). It is all “thoust” and “wilst”, and basically hard to understand. No thank you, I am a Rite II girl all the way. Plus the priest kept encouraging everyone to visit his church online, as his sermons are posted there. OK, calm down, Father. We get it; you are tech savvy, but no one at the service was below the age of 85, don’t push your luck.

My bad attitude aside, the kids did awesome. Zach and Charlotte each sat in the chairs and pretended to read the hymnal the entire time. It really was a miracle. The priest was clearly nice to bring the service, any service, to an assisted living center as well.

Our my mother’s plan was for the three of us to eat lunch at the center but Big Papa said Charlotte and Zach would prefer to go to Whataburger. I, personally, think he didn’t want to deal with all those other old people coming up and chatting about his “precious” grandchildren the entire time. My papa is not a chatter. He does not like small talk and especially with strangers.

So I tossed his walker in the back of my car (it would not fold as he had drilled a tray on it), loaded up one old person and two kids and off we went.

It was at this point in the story that my mom stopped me. She was aghast. Her comment, “Let me get this straight. You took a two year old, a four year old and a very unsteady 88 year old man to Whataburger??” I had not even given it a second thought. Both she and my aunt were shocked.

In a very unlike-me move, I had not even thought about anything going wrong. “What if he had fallen?” “What if one of the kids had run off or knocked him down?” “What if someone had to go to the bathroom?”

Because, you see, Alex had just been to see his grandmother (she is only 94) the weekend before and taken the boys and her to McDonald’s for breakfast. And he never thinks anything can go wrong.

It is official, I have been Wall-itized.

I mean, I guess it had to happen at some point, we have been married eight years and together for twelve this Halloween.

And in true Wall fashion, everything was fine. We got to the restaurant fine (though I was convinced we were lost), everyone ate their Whataburgers and drank their chocolate milk (well, Papa drank Charlotte’s). We then we loaded back up to head down the freeway to his apartment.

Really it was a nice trip., Papa enjoyed watching the kids and Zach had very important questions for Big Papa like why he could not hear even though his ears were “huge” and was he going to die before or after Grandma Ena. You would think the kid had money on it or something for as much as we have to discuss that last one.

Now I am glad that I was Wall-itized then, as Papa is not really up to going to Whataburger these days. But don’t worry James and I just bring it to him. I know his order and taking James out to eat is basically not an option. He needs to roam around while eating, which is very easy to do at Papa’s place.

Plus Big Papa has chocolate that he lets the boys eat entirely too much of. 
But isn’t that what a Big Papa is for?

Why do I assume I can do things?

Like take the boys, alone on a (should be) 4.5 hour road trip to my parents house? Oh, I know why. Because other moms take their children on long plane flights, road trips, etc. and handle everything with such grace. I should really know that a person who calls her child an asshole can’t handle things with grace.

By the end of the trip I had announced I was no longer taking questions (but you have to, Mommy, you have to) and had basically yelled at James, “WHAT JAMES, WHAT?? I AM RIGHT HERE! YOU CAN SEE ME!” Not my finest hour(s).
I really thought it was going to be fine. Not good, not great, but fine. I really should have known better when Liv said to me, “Oh, I guess you can do that on your own.” The Wall’s never think twice about taking the boys anywhere so that really should have been my first clue.
I had so many things to do in the car. I had the iPad charged and ready (they fought over it), I had a magnetic dress up game (they fought over it), I had individual bags filled with cars, crayons, airplanes and brand new coloring books for use with the new car trays I made them.

Yes, those are perfectly good cookie sheets, Modgepoded with colored paper. Your eyes are not deceiving you. I saw it here and remembered the night before we left that I had purchased these cookies sheet months ago (as in about six months ago) and being the craft horder that I am, came across them during my clean out.

I obviously did not have time to spray paint them like she did, but I let the boys pick their paper color, traced the sticker that came with the sheets and got to work. 

And you all know I was sooooo proud of myself for having all the stuff and whipping these up.

What is the phrase, the pride goes first before the fall? Just give me a minute to really build it up for you.

Here are my sweet boys (an hour of out town) holding their trays and looking so happy that their mommy is so crafty.

This is also before I realize that the cookie sheets, though the smallest I could find, were still way too big for a two year old. James did not like the crayons all being on his table so he threw them each onto the floor then screamed for me to get them. To balance it on his legs he had to hold it with one hand. This meant that when he tried to play with the magnetic men they would slide around causing him to scream more. To summarize for you, there was a lot of James screaming at me in the car. A lot.

I will say that Zach loved it. He totally used it a ton and it was perfect. But when Zach was using it, James had to try to use it too. Terrible; it was a terrible, terrible idea. At one point I ripped it out of James’ hands, spewing crayons everywhere, and threw it on the passenger seat floor. Again. Not my finest hour(s).

My only good idea of the trip? Stopping at this park just off the highway in Centerville. We stopped both coming and going and it really helped us all to get out and run around. It made it slightly easier get back in the car. Only slightly.

But we made it. And we are all still speaking to each other though I did need some quiet time during James’ nap. I am slowly starting to forget the drive…but it is going to take a while.

For my garden loving mother-in-law

Every season my mother-in-law, Olivia asks me if I would like some new plants and then lists what she is thinking of bringing. I always say yes.

Because she then comes and plants them for me. Usually with some help from Zach. But never with help from me (she is so lucky to have me). She plants them where she knows they will get hit with the sprinkler because I am obviously not going to traipse out there and water them. She then reminds me to turn on the sprinkler (again, so lucky). And I love it. I love having veggies the boys and I can pick and herbs to use when cooking. I never have to buy chives again. Ever.

She has a bigger garden in her backyard. So this year for mother’s day, when I started looking around for gifts for her and my mom, I spotted some homemade plant markers. You know I loved these:

DIY garden markers

Not only would I have to buy polymer clay but I love how simple they are. However I am trying to de-hord my crafting supplies and not buy more so I pinned the idea but nixed it for this.

Next I spotted these and initially I liked the kid involvement aspect and how bright and colorful they are. Liv likes bright and colorful.

I was thinking through all the craft supplies I have when I thought of the large rocks flanking our sidewalk in the front yard (terrible). What if I combined the two above ideas and have the boys paint rocks and I could stamp them?
Bright and colorful for Liv but I had to buy one of those mini-stamp set I have been coveting at JoAnn’s. My handwriting is simply not an option. HAD to buy them. Not to worry, I had a 50% coupon so it was a minimal investment and they are tiny so don’t take up much room. I know, I know….call TLC.
The boys really enjoyed it. We walked to the front yard and both boys were instructed to pick rocks that had as flat a surface as possible. James was really just excited to get to pick up rocks and throw them into a bag.
Then we set up in the driveway and I let them paint their little hearts out with acrylic paint. I put James in pants I didn’t care about which was good, as evidenced by the first photo, but Zach stayed clean in his smock.
James really was going to town. He painted about 4-5 rocks at one time. I kept asking him if he was done which he consistently replied, “NO”. Not nicely, naturally.
And the finished product! A couple coats of spray polyurethane and they are done.
The stamps do take some getting used to but I love them and will be stamping many things in the future. Spoken like a true horder.

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