Sunday, May 17, 2015

Reality is Sinking In

The last few weeks have been fun. Not particularly relaxing, but quite fun. Tomorrow I return to work full time and the true reality of having three children will slowly start to sink in. Actually it will probably sink in rather rapidly, particularly for Jen as she is tasked with somehow balancing baby feedings with getting the Bubses ready for school.

Thankfully my parents are staying one more week as a nice buffer and that will give us a little time to get our act together.

Ridding the Backyard of Monsters

We had a fun Daddy/Son morning where Jen took the baby for a doctor's appointment and I lead an expedition with the boys to rid the yard of all potentially dangerous monsters.

Searching the Neighborhood for Monsters

The mission extended out into the street where we ran the length of our small court and made sure that no offending creatures threatened any of our defenseless neighbors.

Play Room (Before)

The toy situation had gotten completely out of hand. We finally got time to go to IKEA and get some shelving to organize their toys into activity centers just like they have at school.

Play Room (After)

This worked for better than I could have possible hoped. Things have been much neater and easier to find. A bonus is that the boys were incredibly excited that they now have centers at home.

Martin's Ice Cream Face

Before Nana and Grandpa came we took the kids out for ice cream.

Elliott's Ice Cream Face

They made a horrific mess of themselves and showed their subtle differences in eating styles. Martin just inhales whatever treat he is given and makes a huge mess while Elliott is much neater and carefully savors ever bite. This backfires on him, however, as Martin expects him to share with him when he has finished his dessert.

Elliott Climbing the Rock Wall

Elliott's climbing prowess has been on display since he discovered the rock wall at the park and scaled it completely unassisted.

Nana Holding Josephine

Grandpa Holding Josephine

Nana and Grandpa arrived during nap time and got a chance to each snuggle the baby briefly before the Bubses awoke and spread disaster with their chaos.

Painting with Nana

Nana tended to the boys after they woke up by showing them how to paint with watercolors.

Grandpa Napping with Josephine

Grandpa took on the taxing job of watching Josephine.

Grandad Jamming Out

Grandad showed them a thing or two about rocking out on the guitar.

Beds with Guards

Lately they've taken to climbing the "safety rails" on their beds and it became evident that they would both probably end up breaking a leg as they insanely climbed up and bounced along on their beds. The safety features were now more of a liability.

Beds with Guards

So we took off the rails, another milestone in their growing up. I'm happy to report there have been no cracked skulls or legs as a result.

Another milestone is that they are now both happy with taking a shower at night rather than a bath. This technically saves me a lot of time, however, I'm already looking a little forward to being able to reclaim that small amount of alone time I get each day.

The Owl on the Way Home From School

Every day we walk home from school the boys are fascinated with a small black owl who lives in one of our neighbor's back yards, perched upon a small yellow slide. Unfortunately our neighbor recently built a fence. We knew it was coming and prepared them for it. One day the fence finally appeared.


Now the daily ritual of greeting the owl has been replaced by angrily yelling at the fence and demanding that it give us our owl back.

Mother's Day Brunch Table

Mother's Day saw us hosting a brunch. They boys enjoyed this immensely because it meant they got to wear their pajamas until about 3:00 in the afternoon.

Jamming with Grandad

After brunch Grandad took the opportunity to rock out with the boys and how them a thing or two about how to play their 3/4 scale guitars.

Terrible Mother's Day Photo

Then we posed all the mothers and children and tried to take a halfway decent photo of them. This is the best one I got, which is pretty pitiful.

Swordfighting with Grandpa

After dinner the kids all got their swords and launched a vicious offensive against Grandpa. He was able to hold them off and, despite it being a wildly inappropriate activity right before an already late bedtime, the evening closed with little incident.

Grandpa Sitting By His Handiwork

I was able to get quite a bit done in my time off. Most of all we were able to replace a lot of rotted boards on our deck in the preparation to wash it and get some weatherproof paint on it so that hopefully it will last a few more years before we have to sink some money into a replacement.

The immense satisfaction that comes with fixing or building something with your own hands will be short lived as I return to work tomorrow and any chance at free time disappears with that transition.

At least I'll always have time to relax when I shower.

Damn it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Three Under Three

Tomorrow marks the two week birthday of Uncle Dee Dee, also known as Josephine. The boys have taken to the transition brilliantly. Apart from being just a little more whiny than usual they have really embraced their new sister. Martin just is a little clingy and Elliott thinks it is hilarious to pee in his pants. He only does it at home for peak humor value. He knows that out in public it wouldn't be anywhere near as funny.

Welcome Home, Josephine & Mummy

When we got home we were greeted with a lovely welcome for the baby.

Presents from the Baby

The baby even had the foresight to pick up some gifts for the boys. Sadly she didn't have the foresight to buy two swords of the same color and now her brothers ruthlessly fight over the blue and red sword and try to give the nasty "Green goblin" sword to the other one.

Also, they have linked these toys together and think that football is played by someone tossing them the football from the grass as they stand on the deck and swing at it with their swords.

I think their idea of football is way better than the way it's normally played.

Feeding the Babies

The boys also had a fun time feeding their babies with Mummy.

Elliott Feeding Josephine

Dee Dee has eaten from a bottle about three times so far and Elliott was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky people that got a chance to feed her. Like most things with the baby I think one time will be enough and then he'll get bored and move on to other things.

Martin and Josephine

Martin has done the bulk of the holding and snuggling. Every time she moved a quarter of an inch he pats her head and says, "Okay, okay. Martin's here."

Backyard Sword Fight

With beautiful weather the boys have gone nuts in the backyard, mostly dueling all over the landscape just like Westley and Inigo though who is who is often under debate.

Josephine Sleeping in Daddy's Studio

During nap time I've had a chance to snuggle Josephine while I monkey around in the studio, or sometimes I've put her in her Rock and Play in a tight swaddle so she gets a really good sleep in.

Late Night Oberweiss Treat

Late nights, after the boys are in bed, we've been enjoying some of our plentiful supply of Oberweiss ice cream and homemade cookies as Jen give her a last feed, I change her, then we try to get some sleep. She's been doing really well. She wakes up ever 2-3 hours but eats with little incident and goes back to sleep pretty easily.

Dee Dee and Mummy's First Real Walk

On Friday Jen was feeling healed enough to go for a little walk to check out a neighborhood garage sale. Since we got there later than 9am on the first day of the sale most of the good stuff had been taken but it was great to get out and about. So far Dee Dee has gotten more sunshine in her first two weeks of life than the boys did in their first year.

Martin Watching the Kentucky Derby

Later on Saturday, after an epic no-nap meltdown, we did our annual tradition of pretending to care about the Kentucky Derby. We thought the boys would think it was fun to watch the horses. We were wrong. Martin brought out his rocking horse for a minute so I thought he'd be all excited and ride it for the duration of the ten minutes that we chose to watch. This lasted about thirty seconds and then he was off to color in the other room.

Elliott Draws Iceman

Elliott stayed on the deck the whole time drawing with chalk. He drew this picture of Iceman. I thought it showed some pretty good control as he drew a head, neck, two eyes, and even pupils in the same eyes. I have no idea at what level children develop artistic abilities or can interpret things but to me it seemed pretty impressive. Perhaps that is just because of my lack of artistic skills.

Elliott Contemplates Cookie Beside Firetruck

It was Elliott's turn to go grocery shopping with me on Saturday. I let him pick a treat and he picked cookies. Much like Martin the week before with cupcakes (or pupcakes, as he calls them) he held onto his single cookie with the love and nurturing touch of a mother holding a newborn. Outside we saw a firetruck and he was psyched to go up to it. When the fireman came out to say hi and ask him if he wanted to sit in the driver's seat he got a little shy and refused. It was a missed opportunity. It was only the shame that society has taught me to have over the course of my life that prevented me from asking if it would be okay if I sat in the seat.

Petting a Chicken

On Sunday we went to the Green Earth Institute, down the road, and they got to pet chickens. All day they were asking me if they could see a polar bear at the zoo. I'd tell them that we were going to a farm, not a zoo, and that there probably wouldn't be any polar bears. Then they'd ask me if we were going to see a sea lion or a rhino.

Dee Dee's First Home Bath

After thirteen days of being at home, being the responsible parents that we are, we thought maybe it would be time to give Dee Dee her first bath. The thing I forgot about babies is that they can go a seemingly infinite amount of time without a bath and still feel and smell fresh. It's easy to forget that when you have two rampaging toddlers who become sweaty, sticky, and stinky in the time it takes them to get from the bath to their bedroom, twelve paces away.

Going back to work will complicate things. Dee Dee sleeping less than twenty-one hours a day will complicate things further. But for now we'll enjoy the hectic but enjoyable life of having three children under three.

We're going to pay for this soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hello Goodbye

As a kid, growing up, I had a lot of cousins. There were fourteen of us on my father's side and three of us on my mother's side.

Samantha, Michael, and Me

My mother's side was made up of my oldest cousin Michael, me in the middle, and Samantha who was the youngest.

I worshiped Michael growing up. He was a few years older than me so there wasn't much cooler than hanging out with him. He had the coolest toys, the latest Intellivision games, and was just about the funniest guy imaginable. Even today, while he is a man of few words, when he does talk it is almost always side-splittingly funny.

Samantha was a few years younger than me and always looked up to me and Michael who she referred to as "Bralphie." At least I think that's how it's spelled. I don't think it's ever been written out before. She loved spending time with me though she was hesitant to at times. Spider-Man and my father were usually part of hanging out with me and both of those things terrified her. Spider-Man, presumably because of his weird, bug-like eyes. My father because of his huge bushy beard.

Me and Samantha

I got a call the day after Easter from my mother. She told me that my cousin, Samantha, had passed away. It was a shock. While we lived more than a thousand miles apart we kept in touch via Facebook and she frequently commented on the blog.

Instantly there was grief and sorrow but I was surprised by the first thing I thought of. I remembered a time that I deeply regretted.

The three cousins were together at my Aunt Pat's house and for some reason I was being foisted upon either my Aunt Pat or my Aunt Deb. For some reason they made me decide where I wanted to sleep for the night. On the one hand I could sleep over my cousin Michael's and hang out with him and play some of the cool Intellivision games I didn't have. On the other hand I could sleep over Samantha's, something I knew would make her really happy.

No one tried to tell me what to do. The decision was all mine and I hated it. It's the earliest memory I have of knowing I could do something to make someone else really happy. All I would have had to do was sacrifice a night of playing some sweet Intellivision games with my cousin Michael and I could have hung out with my little cousin who I was very fond of.

Of course I chose to go to my cousin Michael's. I was only about seven years old and I just didn't have the self control to be able to pass up such a rare opportunity. I felt bad about it at the time and I've felt bad about it ever since. I wondered if anyone but me remembered that incident. It seems unlikely but for me it was a defining moment in my life. It taught me that living with the regret of not doing a small thing to make someone happy is hardly worth any short term selfish fun you can have.

I don't remember playing those games on that specific occasion but I have never forgotten letting my cousin down. It would have been such a simple gesture that would have made her so happy.

As I got a chance to meet with family a couple of weeks ago I was reminded of how important I was to her and how important she was to me. Distance couldn't change that and I'm sure that silly little incident thirty years ago couldn't either.

She gave me a beautiful framed version of that picture above some years ago. She was always fun, funny, and full of love, remembering those childhood memories with a vivid nostalgia that none of the rest of us could match.

I will miss her dearly.

Boys Taking a Final "Drive" in the Ford Fiesta

Returning back to Illinois after my trip back home we were faced with the horrible and inevitable task of having to get a minivan. For people with fewer than three children their immediate question is: "Why would you ever do that?" The answer is obvious to anyone who has more than two children (or has done the math on having more than two children) is that there is no way around it. You cannot fit three car seats in anything else.

Sure, you could get one of those gigantic SUVs but nothing can match the ease of having sliding doors on both sides. Also, with a minivan you can stand up in the trunk. I'm not really sure why that's useful but it is pretty amazing that it can be done at all. I was shocked that none of the salespeople brought it up as a selling point.

Elliott's New Baby, Laura, and Diaper Bag

Prior to deciding on a minivan, Jen bought a baby for Elliott to match the baby Martin had requested about a year ago. Elliott liked the baby okay. When we asked him her name he immediately answered, "Laura." We found this interesting because we're not really sure how he even knows that is a name.

After playing with the doll for a few minutes he became much more interested in the diaper bag that came with it. In particular it came with a fake cell phone which became so popular that it had to be confiscated prior to bedtime.

That move was not quite as popular.

Jen with the New Minivan

Last Thursday, Jen took one for the team and spent the entire day at the dealership going through the horrible song and dance that is buying a car.

Martin Inspecting the New Minivan

Elliott Inspects the New Minivan

Eventually she returned home and the boys went right to work inspecting it to make sure it met their specifications.

The Boys' First Taste of Coffee Milk

After returning home from Rhode Island I was sure to make the boys some coffee milk to celebrate their ancestral heritage. Coffee milk is a uniquely Rhode Island beverage. It is neither coffee with milk in it, nor is it milk with coffee in it. Instead it is a sweet coffee syrup that you mix in with milk much in the same manner one would make chocolate milk. On Sunday I made them some with their pancakes and they enjoyed it the way any children descended from true Rhode Islanders would.

Elliott Coloring

Martin Coloring

After nap time we had a massive coloring session while Jen ran to the store. Elliott was able to color Firestar, something I had to scour the internet for as Firestar is not exactly Marvel's most successful franchise and didn't really make it into many coloring books. She is, however, Elliott's favorite superhero so we will be manufacturing Firestar goodies for him for as long as that remains true.

Bulk Gnocchi Preparations

On Monday, before work, I continued with my task of making foods in bulk to store in the freezer for when
uncle Dee Dee arrives. I made 10 potatoes worth of gnocchi and several pounds worth of granola.

I planned on making many more things in the coming weeks to load up into the freezer.

Then Jen had her doctor's appointment.

Traditional Pre-Labor Writing

Jen was told she'd have to go to the hospital after her doctor's appointment on Monday to be monitored. Right after telling her that she could go home on Tuesday morning they told her, "Just kidding, you need to have the baby right now. Today!"

So it was that I ended up racing home from work to the site of my wife wildly writing stories for work before delivering a child. This was a tradition dating back to her last unexpectedly rapid progression into childbirth in 2012.

Baby Josephine

Uncle Dee Dee arrived very quickly and after spending the time leading up to delivery debating we agreed to name her Josephine. There is some debate as to whether that will stick with Dee Dee being so stuck in the consciousness. However, after searching many bogus lists for names that pass themselves off as having Dee Dee as a nickname, it may as well be a nickname for Josephine as well. In fact, now it sort of has to be.

Coming to Meet Dee Dee

After 24 hours the boys descended upon the hospital, stomping through the halls and talking at unnecessary and inappropriate volumes for indoors. They brought presents for the baby and for their mummy.

Auntie Lauren Holding Dee Dee

Grandma with Josephine

Auntie Lauren and Grandma were thrilled to get a chance to meet Josephine and hold her.

It's a Girl!

The boys were thrilled because any time Auntie Lauren is involved with watching them they get a huge dessert course before and after dinner. It's hard to top that.

The Wombats Holding Uncle Dee Dee

The boys were pretty interested in meeting their sister after getting to tell all their friends at daycare about it all day.

April has been full of surprises; some good, some bad. It is sad to say goodbye to my cousin Samantha who I know would have enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures of little Dee Dee. Yet it is nice to welcome Josephine, however unexpected. Her early birthday means she'll be treated with an Easter birthday when she turns four and again when she turns fifteen. That will be an exciting experience for her and something not everyone gets to enjoy.

Our minivan arrived just in the nick of time. Tonight we do the car seat test with Josephine and will be leaving the hospital either tomorrow or early on Friday.

It has been a strange experience to be alone with Jen in the hospital with a single baby. It is surreal. It feels like we're doing some weird do-over where we try this whole thing again with just one child. While there's been no time for sleep there's also been a lot of time just holding the baby or sitting around and talking. A strange sensation took over this afternoon, something I haven't felt in years . . .

Boredom.

You don't get a lot of time to get bored with a full time job and two toddlers at home. I'm not the kind of person who likes being bored but I have to say it was quite refreshing to experience boredom today even for a short span of time. I savored it.

I'm looking forward to experiencing it again in 15-20 years.