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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Potty

As we are within a month or so of Uncle Dee Dee's arrival there are several large projects that need to be accomplished. One was potty training, another was buying a new car that can fit all three children, and the last was general preparations of the Uncle Dee Dee lair.

Perhaps you could add a fourth task of coming up with a slightly more appropriate name for Uncle Dee Dee.

Police Call Box

Instead of working on any of that we built a kickass house for the boys that ended up looking a lot more like a TARDIS than a house.

Grandma and Grandad's Birthday

We celebrated Grandma and Grandad's birthday with a normally chaotic family dinner and a nice visit from Auntie Lisa.

Bear Cave

We also took some time to play in our bear cave and practice our roaring.

Officer Martin and Muffin Bear Reporting for Potty Training

Then the day was upon us. Jen spent days setting the stage. We woke up that morning, two Fridays ago, and Jen demonstrated how Muffin Bear uses the potty and how happy we all are about it.

Mummy Explaining the Potty Rules

She reviewed the rules and the treats they could expect to get upon peeing in the potty.

Potty Training Treats

The bathroom was set. For your benefit I will not post a picture of what it looks like eleven days later.

Airborne Elliott

Then they were put into their underwear. Elliott expressed his joy through one of his favorite activities: jumping.

Martin's Power Pose

Martin made a pose which took in all the power he undoubtedly felt from wearing his Thomas the Tank Engine underwear. Shortly after this picture he went Super Saiya-jin.

Potty Day Tea Party with Grandma

After a great morning and a nice nap we invited Grandma over for a tea party.

Dairy Queen

After a great weekend we celebrated with a trip to Dairy Queen which the boys found very exciting. We were served by a flustered 15-year-old who was left running the place by himself with lines out the door since it was unexpectedly 70 degrees for the first time in six months. We also watched a hockey game and Martin commented on how much they loved to play hockey.

Welcome Home Song

We also left the boys later with Jen's mum as we went to look at minivans. We returned after a horrible, terrible experience with slow, annoying dealerships who only like to waste your time. Luckily we returned to a fantastic welcome home song performed by the boys. It was much better than having our valuable time wasted by slow-ass dealerships and unnecessarily meeting stupid managers.

Playing in the Tree

After nap we climbed the tree in the back yard. Martin was terrified for about thirty seconds then immediately turned around and wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon in the tree.

Elliott "Libertine"

When we picked them up from daycare on Friday, one of their teachers told us that Elliott now refers to himself as "Elliott Libertine." This is a word I'm pretty sure that neither Jen or I have ever said out loud as long as they've been alive. However, we are steadily learning that somehow the boys can learn words even if they've never heard them.

I'm thankful that at least he probably doesn't know what the word means. Though he is kind of a libertine.

Passover Salmon Crepe

Passover Lemon Poppy Potatoes

Passover Horseradish Panko Crusted Cod with Roasted Asparagus

Passover Matzoh Crunch

The following night we had Passover dinner together. I made smoked salmon crepes, lemon poppy potatoes, horseradish panko crusted cod and asparagus, and matzoh crunch.


On Saturday we had a week off from swim class and the boys celebrated their new favorite album, Paul Simon's "Graceland." This continued the trend of them loving 1980s soft rock.

Dying Eggs

While I was at work on Saturday the whole family got together and dyed eggs in my absence. This would mean that they'd want to crack these eggs open and eat them after their Easter egg hunt the following day. No amount of convincing could change their minds.

Easter Presents

Following the Easter Trail

Easter morning was pretty exciting as they discovered candy right outside their doors and followed the trail downstairs to find presents, bikes, and more candy!


Martin declared that he loved the rabbit and that "he's my best rabbit."

Easter Fun

Easter Play

There was a lot of fun had in the Easter egg hunt despite being peppered with insults by family members who felt that our eggs being empty were a crime against all humanity.

If there were more dentists in our family they could have jumped to our defense.

Easter Lamb

Potatoes Au Gratin

Grilled Asparagus

Easter Ham

Country Pie

Green Beans

Much delicious food was had for dinner.

2008 Gevrey-Chambertin

And we also enjoyed a wine that we purchased on our last trip to France. We had it shipped home, aged if four years, then had Jen's mother declare that it was "nasty." (She later relented.)

Easter Pavolva

Easter Pavolva

We rounded out the dinner with Jen's pavlova. They boys screamed "cake!" when they saw it. We informed them that it was pavlova and Elliott repeated "pav-lov-a" again and again like Beavis learning a new word.

So here we go, entering into our last month as the parents of only two children. Soon there will be an additional infant to be named later. We will lose every bit of free time, sleep, and quiet that we have accumulated over the past years.

Thank God. This was getting way too easy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Marching Toward Three Children

As the severe winter cold begins to recede we are left facing a spring where we will welcome our new daughter, currently going by the name Uncle Dee Dee, and also give the boys free reign of our backyard to destroy it in a way to match the inside of our house.

The Running Piano

In the cold months there has been a lot of play on the running piano.

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Drawing Time with Daddy

And there have been many demands to draw Spider-Man, their current obsession. Above is an example of the Spider-Man I drew while having both of them hanging on my arms and shouting demands. Normally Martin shouts directions at me which result in a giant ball with a Spider-Man head and stick arms and legs. He then demands that I draw Firestar and Iceman to occupy the exact same space and gets mad if I don't fulfill that impossible request.

Recreating "The Princess Bride"

There have been a lot of clothes hanger fights while yelling quotes from "The Princess Bride."

Bubs Closet (Before)

Also, I took to remodeling their horrendous closet to make it a little more user friendly.

Bubs Closet (After)

The resulting shelving from Ikea has made the closet much more useful.

New Shelving

The downside is that it has become a jungle gym for the boys, making the already arduous task of dressing them in the morning into even more of a hellish nightmare.

Orland Park Bakery Paczki

On Mardi Gras we had our traditional breakfast for dinner as well as some paczki, a local Polish pastry that may be the most delicious thing I've ever had in my life. Surprisingly they were only lukewarm about them. That was fine though because I was happy to eat all of their disgusting, drooled-on leftovers.

Elliott's Restaurant Diaper Mishap

We've taken to going out for lunch after swim class every Saturday. One Saturday we went to the Taco place and Elliott ended up in soaked pants as a result of PPP (Poor Penile Placement) in his diaper. This meant that I had to change him into a fresh diaper and we had to leave the restaurant with temperatures in the single digits with him wrapped in Auntie Lauren's shirt. Elliott was extremely annoyed because, as far as he was concerned, we had simply removed perfectly good pants from him and refused to let him wear them for no reason.

Decorating Cookies

Jen made sugar cookies with them on a day off and this resulted in a similar situation to the gingerbread house incident where it simply devolved into them just eating icing.

Dinner By The Fire

With the temperatures still extremely cold we were also able to enjoy some dinner by the fire, a Bubs favorite.

Drawing on the Wall

Jen got them some markers to draw on the windows which, of course, ended up with them drawing all over the walls. While they are washable it's not a trivial task to remove the marker from the walls. However, we were thankful that this new drawing area is far away enough from our couch that it did not get involved.

Martin in His Fort

Grandma has begun teaching them how to make forts which usually means I come home to all the chairs, blankets, sheets, and toys right in the center of the kitchen floor at least a few times a week.

Storybots with Nana

Nana and Grandpa came up for an extended two week trip which meant plenty of Storybots for everyone.

Naperville Winter Ale Fest

It also meant we were able to spend a toe-tingly cold day at the Naperville Winter Alefest. We got tickets a while back thinking it would be much less crowded than the summer alefest.

That ended up being a grave miscalculation.

Elliott Feeling Grandpa's Bald Head

Elliott took the opportunity to expound on how Grandpa has no hair on his head, something Grandpa undoubtedly appreciated.

Maine Redneck Elliott

With the changing weather Elliott also got a chance to dress up like a Maine redneck.

Window Drawing with Grandpa

Grandpa was also able to draw on the window, following their distinct commands of drawing whales, mermaids, and skeletons.

The Beer Map

Uncle Doug came home from work last Friday with a giant map, ready to try the best-selling beers from each country. This is a fun game but sadly it means we're going to have to drink a lot of very crummy, mostly skunked European lagers in green bottles.

But projects like this aren't about having fun, they're about winning. Once we have everything on the list, we win!

Not sure how much luck we'll have getting our hands on some of the non alcoholic beers from the Middle East or the beer from North Korea, but it will be fun trying!

Irish Soda Bread and Kerrygold Butter Outside

We had our St. Patrick's Day feast the following day and it was so warm we enjoyed our soda bread, cheese, and butter outside on the deck! This sure beatthe year we lost power in the bitter cold.

Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

The dinner came out great with the traditional bangers boiled together with the corned beer despite Jen's mother's extreme hatred of corned beef.

Elliott's Blue Frosting Mouth

We went to a friend's birthday party on Sunday where the cake was a huge hit. The only problem is that cakes with extreme-colored frosting on them should come with a warning about what your child's poop is going to look like the following morning. So as not to alarm forgetful parents.

S-Shaped Pancakes

Martin's new thing is freaking out in the morning and demanding specifically shaped pancakes. Sometimes he wants polar bears. Sometimes he wants random letters. Here's a picture of me giving in and just cutting his round pancakes into S-shaped pancakes.

This is a phase I wouldn't mind seeing end immediately.

Uncle Dee Dee Ultrasound

All the while Uncle Dee Dee is doing great. It's much different than Jen's previous pregnancy where everyone was worried about everything and she was being tested all the time. Now, while tired of the persistent acid reflux, there's been very little testing or cause for concern. In fact, we're so busy with the boys that even she forgets she's pregnant most of the time. This is a huge difference from last time where it was all we thought about or talked about.

Last night Dee Dee seemed to be performing some sort of acrobatic routine in the womb. This was fun for me, less fun for Jen, and probably a blast for Dee Dee.

Despite her acrobatics she looks so calm in this picture. It's like she's unaware of the frenetic madhouse she's about to born into. Soon enough she will be napping in the corner as Martin screams at me because his pancakes are not the right shape.

I apologize in advance, Dee Dee.