Thursday, March 18, 2010

Carnival Pictures

So here are the pictures from the school carnival:
Addy: "Wow! I've never been to a carnival before!"
Jackson: "Uggghh, I think I overdosed on kettle corn."

Hanging out in the "wild west."

Camryn is one to come prepared, steed and all.

Jared was extraordinarily proud of the root beer he won in the ring toss. He made sure I understood in no uncertain terms that Dave and I were not allowed to drink any of it while we had our late-night TV parties after the kids are in bed. Dangit.

Plum tuckered out. Eating massive amounts of kettle corn can do that to you.

But Camryn is still going strong- the night is young!
What better way to finish the night than by getting your face painted?

Jared getting his face painted- with Harry Potter's lightning-shaped scar, of course!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Carnival

Jared and Camryn came home from school yesterday and after practicing piano spent the afternoon playing Wii, keeping Jackson engrossed in watching their game. Jared made a point of reminding me that we needed to leave precisely at 6:00 to go to the school carnival, and then immediately went back to his Wii game. I responded in kind by actually starting dinner early before going back to blogging.

At about 10 minutes to 6:00, Jared suddenly emerged from his video-game-induced trance and realized that it was almost time to leave for the carnival. "Mom," he said, "we need to eat dinner! It's time to go to the school carnival soon!" So I told Jared and Camryn to set the table while I answered an email. Apparently, I was neither speedy nor earnest enough in my work for Jared's taste, because he soon interrupted, "MOM! From how you are acting, you would think you didn't care about going to the carnival AT ALL!" (Really? Whatever could have given him that impression? I don't know if there is anything I look forward to more than corralling 4 kids through crowds of hundreds of people by myself.) Regardless of any false impression I may have given, we quickly finished our dinner so we could leave.

As we were finishing dinner, I heard a very loud squirting sound coming from the vicinity of Jackson's diaper. This did not bode well for our estimated departure time. I took Jackson out of his high chair to change his diaper and he'd had a blowout that leaked all the way down his legs. I threw Jackson into the bath to clean him up and miraculously, he didn't throw a fit, but was happy to grab his bucket and fill it with water. But, alas for Jackson, this was not fated to be a leisurely bath. As soon as I turned off the water, he said, "No! Want bucket!!" and turned the water back on himself, sticking his bucket under the faucet. Finally, I turned off the water and grabbed Jackson from the water in one swift motion. Then the tantrum started. Screaming, yelling, wet flailing arms and legs. Luckily, two-year-olds --even tall ones like Jackson-- are still not quite a match for a full-grown adult, so Jackson's diaper and clothes were put back on, much to Jackson's chagrin. Jared did his best to help, telling Jackson hopefully, "Party! Party! Treat!" But Jackson's tantrum didn't subside until we were actually driving away in the car, armed with a sippy cup of milk. (I suppose now wouldn't be a great time to comment that sometimes I am very thankful for car seats with straps.)

Once we were driving away, Jackson decided going in the car was fun. Until we turned in a direction that wasn't the way towards Ranell's house. Then another tantrum started, "Yell's house! Yell's house!" But we went to the carnival, undeterred by Jackson's protestations. Once we got to the school, Jackson figured out this might be okay. It took about 10 minutes in the pouring rain to unload both smaller kids into the double stroller (meanwhile the diaper bag fell out of the car into a puddle) but we finally made it in. We bought tickets and I let Jared and Camryn loose. As I repeatedly jammed the stroller by accident into random people I realized that there were way too many people crammed into that gym to have any hope of being able to navigate with a double stroller in any way that could remotely keep up with them.

So I took Jackson and Addy around. We waited in a 15-minute line so Jackson could play a fishing game. He won a tiny fish and an "Atomic Warheads" sour candy. There really isn't any way to explain to a two-year-old that he won't like the shiny-green-wrapped candy he won, so after a half-hearted attempt I gave it to him. He tried it three different times just to make sure it wasn't some kind of mistake before he decided that yes, the candy really was sour instead of sweet, and chucked it across the room. So Jackson and I bought some kettle corn and chilled while I fed Addy and Jared and Cam spent their tickets. After a while we went to play the cake walk, stroller and all, and we won a Krispy Kreme doughnut! I leaned over to check on Jackson and he was clonked out, fast asleep, oblivious to our fantastic stroke of luck.

I spent the last little while at the carnival dinking around, taking some pictures. While I am not a fantastic photographer, I enjoy the chance to step out and observe life from behind a lens. I grabbed a few shots of poor exhausted Jackson, asleep in the stroller. As I took pictures of Jared and Camryn enjoying the carnival, I noticed how much they were enjoying themselves. Rather than their typical "paste-on-a-smile-because-mom-is-taking-a-picture-and-I-have-to" looks, their faces beamed with the sheer delight and genuine enjoyment of childhood. This really was a big deal to them and they were having a fantastic time. It made me glad that I hadn't followed my first (or second) impulse to skip out because of how much work it was going to be to drag four kids out in the rain. So, once again, my kids stood in the way of my plans to become a crochety old lady who never goes anywhere. Who needs Disneyland anyway when you have the school carnival? [Pictures will be forthcoming.]

A Morning O'Fun

Just in case my 6 blog readers haven't gotten tired of posts about Jackson and his larger-than-life antics, here is another one.

Yesterday morning I was racking my brain as to what I could do to get Jackson out of the house that didn't involve me spending large quantities of money as a by-product. I had tried clothes shopping with Jackson and although sheer willpower and desperation on my part made it possible, the thought of another morning spent with Jackson crawling under dressing room doors wasn't ringing any bells for me.

[Did I ever mention how strange it is that I actually look skinnier in Ross dressing room mirrors than in Nordstrom dressing room mirrors? Maybe it's the fact that there isn't the strategically placed extra mirror to show your backside or maybe it's because I can justify buying more than one thing at Ross. Or maybe all the skinny, fashionably dressed salesladies at Nordstrom just make you feel bigger. You would think that a store like Nordstrom that gets so much right with customer service could invent mirrors that make you feel smaller. But I digress...]

Only moments later I got a call from a friend inviting me to go to preschool playtime at the indoor field house. Brilliant! For only $2 I got two hours of Jackson running around on a large, fully enclosed field. This was perfect. At 10:00 am I packed snacks, piled the kiddos into the car and was off for a fully fantastic morning involving room for Jackson to run, other moms to talk to and getting out of the house. Except Jackson was involved so things couldn't go exactly according to plan.

As I drove in the direction of the field house, Jackson was happy and  excited, but only until we turned off onto a street that wasn't in the direction of Ranell's house. Then he started screaming, "Yell's house! Yell's house!" I tried to explain that we were going somewhere fun and we were going to play with friends and toys, but he wasn't buying it. It was all-out tantrum time. When we got to the field house I finally got Jackson out of the car and in the door of the place. Then it finally clicked with him that we weren't going to another clothes store. And so we relaxed and settled in for our morning o'fun. Until Jackson decided he was hungry.

It was still a little early for lunch when we left at 10:00, but I did have the foresight to pack some snacks. Unfortunately Jackson, being the efficiency buff that he is, didn't see the need to stop playing and exit the field to eat the raisins he found in the diaper bag. But the rules said "No food on the field," so I took him out to eat his raisins. Which was fine for a minute or two. But, apparently Jackson thought it was obvious to any thinking human (even a two-year-old) that there was no reason to stop everything to eat raisins when you could just as easily eat raisins while you were climbing the slide and hucking toys at other children. But he couldn't find any way to get this self-evident fact across to his dense, efficiency-challenged mother. And so a tantrum ensued.

After much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally managed to convey the fact that though efficiency-challenged I might be, Jackson was NOT going to get the raisins at the same time that he was on the field and he went back to running and playing on the field in our morning o'fun. But apparently, having an entire soccer field with toys to play on was not enough for Jackson. He figured out how to unlatch the enclosure to the field and spent the rest of the time we were there outside the field, crawling up and down the benches and trying to sneak his way behind the receptionist's desk.

Alas, our morning o'fun soon came to an end and we were back at home, engaged in our normal occupations --Jackson: poking Addy in the eyes; Me: dropping whatever I had started to rescue her from her brother's "love". (I would be curious to find the ratio in my life of items started vs. items finished.... but I digress.)

Riding into Battle

Once Dave and I were together with my sisters and Dave's sister Jen (who is a full-fledged honorary sister to my whole family) and we were playing a game of "True Colors", where you read a statement and then vote on what you think people think about you (You get points by predicting accurately whether you will get the most votes, some of the votes or none of the votes). The question was "You are riding into battle for a hopeless cause. Who leads the charge?" I thought this one was obvious: everyone would vote for Dave. I voted for Dave and then guessed that I would get none, so I was floored when I got the most votes. "But what about Dave?" I asked.

My youngest sister, Megan, who has a knack for observing and analyzing people commented on it:

"If we ever had to work together to go into battle for some hopeless cause or something like that, Dave would be the one who came up with a plan, organizing everyone and telling them what to do. Jen would be the one who finally said, 'Let's not just stand around planning forever,' and made everyone actually get into action. And Karen, she is the one who would ride at the front of the army into battle on a charging horse, waving a flag in the air."

The imagery of it just made me laugh out loud. I had never really thought of it like that before, but I could totally picture it- me Don-Quixote-like on my horse, riding into certain death. I wonder if I would have my diaper bag with me?

Friday, March 12, 2010

On Weighty Matters

The other night someone was telling me about a new diet plan. It is really hard-core: it has really specific foods and you can only eat about 500 calories a day. But supposedly it "really works." I guess it is supposed to be revelatory that eating only 500 calories a day will make you lose weight. I think they used to call that "starving yourself." That works too. At least temporarily.

I actually have a new plan that I follow for losing weight. It's a mix of a couple different programs. I do Weight Watchers but I don't count points very strictly. I add in a "free day" to eat what you want like Body for Life, but I skip Body for Life's hard-core exercise and eating only whole foods 6 times a day. I follow the principles of my mom's 90-day OA high veggie, no white-flour or sugar diet, except I don't have quite as many veggies, I sometimes eat refined carbohydrates and I don't weigh and measure my food or plan my meals in advance. I love the idea of eating only "clean foods" but I make exceptions when it's expensive, inconvenient, I don't feel like it or something looks particularly delicious. I love Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food," and make a concerted effort to eat less meat and more plants (except when I'm tired and meat is easier or veggies are too hard to chop). But no matter what, I always limit my portion sizes-- I just have lots of small portions if I happen to be particularly hungry.

I'm sure you get the idea. My plan of "mixing of a couple of plans" for losing weight usually ends up with me pretty much doing what I've always done and weighing what I usually weigh. I was successful at weight loss once before. Losing weight is fairly simple and straightforward (but by no means easy... I wish!):
1) You change your habits permanently and your weight will change permanently
2) Make healthy food choices and control your portion sizes. It helps to eat veggies and whole grains and other foods that help you "feel full," but ultimately, it comes down to a) Finding a plan and sticking to it and b) Eating less. Neither of which is very fun.

And I love food. No, I really LOVE food. I enjoy eating. I love to feel full. I love to eat treats. Luckily for me, I also love veggies and whole grains and I love to feel well-nourished and I don't enjoy the blech feeling of eating too much junk, so my weight has never gotten horrendously out of control. But I don't like to feel hungry. And I don't like losing weight. Not one bit. And did I mention I love treats?

But I like being skinny too. And right now I'm not. I know, I don't look awful, but I'm still technically "overweight" according to my BMI and could use shedding 10 or 20 pounds. So I go back and forth. Part of me is OK with how I look and enjoys eating a relatively well-balanced diet punctuated by delicious treats, but the vain part of me still wants to be skinny... I know that it is a slippery slope. Even when I was at my skinniest, I still wanted to be yet skinnier.

When I'm being honest with myself, I don't know if I care about it enough to expend huge amounts of energy right now just so I can coddle my vanity. But I'm going to try to keep taking baby steps in the right direction: a little bit more exercise, a little bit less of the treats.


Do you ever have days when you just need some verbal affirmation? I'm having one of those days. But rather than choosing someone to whine to (nah, I just whined on my blog instead) or calling Jen (my sister-in-law who is one of the best people I know at making you feel like a million bucks) and making her tell me that I'm fantastic, I'm going to take a do-it-yourself approach.

Dear Karen,

You have a two-year-old right now. That pretty much explains everything. (Hmmm... I'm not off to a good start, maybe this just isn't my talent. Let's give this another shot.)

Jackson may be a handful, but he is sweet and adorable and way too cute. He loves to go to friends' houses, but this is because he is well-adjusted and not because he doesn't like you or because you are a bad mom. Yes, he throws tantrums, but when he is older he will put that strong will to good use. You will be so glad you held your ground with him when you see what a charming, successful adult he grows into (I can hope, can't I?). You have really great kids and the world's cutest baby. (Seriously, I'm not exaggerating on that one. She is a perfect doll!)


This week has been tough. Much as I love Jackson, he is at a tough stage right now. He is a very hands-on boy: his hands are always on-- the baby's face, the laundry, my computer, my book, the music stand on the piano.... If I get Adelyn to take a nap or play happily on the floor, he comes up and pokes her eyes, slobbers on her or just sits on her. There isn't a mean bone in his body, but he just doesn't understand the meaning of the word "gentle." I've wondered if maybe he just needs more physical affection, but adding on the hugs and snuggles hasn't lessened the poking of the baby. I've tried taking him out to do fun stuff, but his appetite is insatiable: as soon as we are done doing one thing, he just wants to do another. Eventually laundry, dishes, feeding the baby and other random necessities need to get done.

Jackson loves the car. Unfortunately, Addy is not such a fan and with her it is much easier to be at home. Every day after his breakfast and cup of milk he asks to go in the car to "Yell's house" (Ranell's house). I love that he loves my friends, but we can't hang out at Ranell's house all day every day of the week. I've tried taking Jackson to do other things, but as soon as he realizes we aren't turning the right way to go to her house he starts crying, "yell's house, nell's house, dis way!" Or if we go somewhere else and he likes it, then as soon as we get home and park the car in the garage he starts crying for "yell's house." It's starting to make me feel bad that Jackson likes her house so much better than ours. What am I doing wrong that he can't be happy here? I'm at the end of my rope. I took Jackson to preschool play at the indoor field house today and thought it would be perfect for him- a chance to run and get energy out on a huge field that is fully contained with a door! He spent most of the time either throwing a fit because he wanted to eat raisins on the field (against the rules) or exploring how to open the door to the field and then crawling up and down the benches on the outside. What's a mom to do?

Beyond that, Addy has needs too. She's pretty laid-back, but she likes to be held and snuggled (and protected from Jackson's love). There is stuff to get done, meals to make, dishes to do. For the first time in my life I actually hired someone to help with cleaning. It has helped a lot (although part of me feels like I'm not doing my job), but I still just feel like there's not enough of me to go around. There's not enough of me to keep everyone happy. 

I know. I need to look at the glass as being half-full. There are so many other parts of my life that don't have any scarcity, that it is almost laughable. I don't have a scarcity of children, for starters. :) I don't have a scarcity of food, to which my figure will quickly attest. I don't have a scarcity of opportunities or talents, although there may be a scarcity of energy to pursue them right now. I have so many blessings and I am truly grateful for them. The fact that I have kids to challenge me and make my life more interesting is something to be grateful for. But sometimes I just need to have a whine session. And some phases are easier than others.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Urgent Message

Yesterday my mom called me to make sure that Dave and I had gotten back from Utah okay. (Did I mention that Dave and Addy and I went to Utah for the weekend? We flew out Friday morning and came back Sunday night. We were gone for a grand total of 55 hours. More on that in another post.) Of course, we had gotten back just fine and so I was chatting with my mom when Jared came up and started gesturing to me like he had something to say. Jared knows he is not supposed to interrupt me while I'm talking on the phone, so I motioned for him to just wait until I was off the phone to tell me whatever he had to say. But he kept gesturing and acting like it was really urgent so finally I asked my mom to hold on for a minute.

"Jared," I said, "what did you need to tell me?"
Jared pointed to our bunch of bananas sitting on the counter. "Look at the sticker mom!"

Sure enough, there was a sticker with a picture of a cartoon monkey on our bananas.

"Mom, the monkey on that sticker is from 'Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz.' We have that Wii game!"

And that is what Jared so urgently needed to tell me that warranted interrupting my phone call.

Aren't you glad to know what is truly important in life?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Life in Jacksonville

Today has been an all around winner day. Yes that is sarcastic. Some days being the parent of a two-year-old is just plain too much for me. Let me preface this post by saying that Jackson, bless his heart, [Don't people always say that right before they're about to say something negative? As if it somehow counteracts it?] is one of the sweetest, cutest children I have ever met (I'm not biased)- a veritable embodiment of joy and the sheer delight of living. But... (you know it was coming as soon as I said "bless his heart") I don't know if I am going to survive this child (delightful angelic-smiled, sweet blond-mop-of-hair, celestially-blue-eyed boy that he is)!

This... kid... is... a... handful.

I was watching a friend's one-year-old daughter today and Jackson (bless his heart) spent the whole time trying to push her off the slide (happily, with a loving smile on his face), taking toys away from her or seeing how big of a toy he could throw at her before she would break down and bawl. I would immediately take him into another room and put him on "time out" (rather pointless with a two-year-old) or try to distract him with some other thing to do, but no entertainment I could provide was quite as fun as persecuting Natalie.

I finally got Jackson to leave Natalie alone and he immediately went to baby Adelyn as his new source of entertainment, seeing how hard he could fling her bouncy seat (you ain't seen a "bouncy seat" until you've seen Jackson work it), laying on top of her in a happy smother, drooling on her face, permanently staining her clothes (by kissing her belly with red-pepper stained lips, of course!), vigorously pushing her baby swing (no lazy-swinging ride for this baby!) or attempting to feed her a fruit leather (that one she actually liked). I cannot tell you how many times I have put Addy down for a nap in her co-sleeper only to find Jackson climbing in with her (in other words, climbing on top of her) a few minutes later. If only I got a dollar for every time I said, "Don't sit on the baby!" or "Don't poke the baby!" or "Don't slobber on the baby!" or "Don't lay on top the baby and stick your fingers in her eyes!".....

I usually do a decent job of harnessing my inner two-year-old and keeping some semblance of control through all of this (although I almost laughed out loud when Jackson got mad at Jared the other day and showed his anger by yelling and hurling a pair of my shoes at him). But there are some days when I think, "Why can't I just yell 'No!' at the top of my lungs, throw shoes when I get mad, demand whatever I want NOW and leave messes to get cleaned up by other people?" (Oh wait. Then I would be a celebrity and not a two-year-old.)

We have our cherished daily routines: I try to check my email or work on my laptop while Jackson demands to watch "Bird" or starts pushing random buttons as fast as he can (if this doesn't work he tries to close my laptop lid and sit on it or just kick the keyboard). Jackson getting at least 5 fruit leathers out of the cupboard. At least 3 stinky diapers and one soiled onesie (at least he's regular...). Attempts to fold laundry followed by the family favorite game of "laundry jumping." Attempts to do dishes punctuated by desperate attempts to save Addy from her brother's "love." About 17 requests to go to "Uh-nell's house" or "yell's house" (translation: Ranell's house; apparently she is way more fun than I am).

Jackson is becoming a great talker with an amazing vocabulary. He can get across almost whatever he needs to-- and it is pretty dang cute: "Uh-nell's house! Car! Socks and shoes! NO! Dis way!!" or "Taco. Cheese rop." [Taco bell Cheese roll-up]). The problem is that while he has learned to ask for what he wants quite well, it is much harder to get him to understand that, yes, I understand what he wants to have, but, no, he can't have it. Add to this that he is a persistent boy and you get a day-long chorus of requests to go outside, to the car, for milk or to go to Ranell's house (all the highlights of Jackson's existence, apparently). It makes it very tempting to give in to all of those requests so he will flash one of his million-dollar smiles and give you an approving, "Uh-huh!"(like 'You're the smartest grown-up I know.') instead of a humongous tantrum.

I had something else profound to say, but Jackson (who had fallen asleep in the car) is awake now and Addy is unhappy that she got set down. So any profound thoughts will have to wait for another post.