It is the sound that fills the rooms of our mostly-empty home on a daily basis. The boys have developed an insatiable appetite for reading. Their definition of reading is that they get to bring you a book, sit in your lap, turn pages while you're reading, and excitedly point to pictures on the page to either identify them or eagerly ask you what they are.
Reading is exhausting.
They have also decided that most of the time they would rather scream and writhe around like angered snakes than sit in their high chairs. This means that sometimes they sit in regular seats and eat from the other side of their high chair tray.
Sometimes we can trick them into sitting in their seats if we give them a fun activity like blowing on their stew to cool it down.
There hasn't been much cooking going on these days but I did make a turkey chili that I threw together late one night using almost exclusively foods rejected by the boys at dinner. While it's not typical to have broccoli in one's chili it actually worked out pretty well.
Nana and Grandpa came to visit at the beginning of the month and this meant that we could once again break out the terrible Peek-a-Zoo book. I don't mean to disparage Peek-a-Zoo. It's a very nice book but it awakens an ancient animal ferocity in the boys such that it cannot be left in the normal book rotation. It inevitably leads to fights, hitting, and crying. Also, they enjoy ripping the book to pieces when given the chance.
They love it too much.
The best part of Nana and Grandpa's visit is that they bring their various electronic devices and allow them to be played with. While the boys don't fully understand the use of such devices they do understand that they are portals to Elmo videos. The good part of this is that I think they now think that only Nana and Grandpa hold the keys to the Elmo treasure so that frees us to live a largely Elmo-free life.
At least for now.
My parents also brought me this Spencer Trappist Ale from the first Trappist brewery in America which is conveniently located a short drive from my parents' house where I grew up. This was a much more exciting moment
This was like my own personal Elmo.
For dinner I threw together French Onion Soup made with the stout beef broth leftover from the short ribs I made a while back. It came out very well with the stout taking the place of the more traditional red wine. Perhaps it was more like an Irish Onion Soup though I probably lose points for note making the crostini on top in the shape of a shamrock.
Doug brought over this local Polar Vortex beer to celebrate what has been one of the most hellishly cold (poor metaphor) winter.
I don't remember which night it was but the boys somehow got their shirts so wet and/or dirty that they were forced to brush their teeth shirtless like a couple of beefcakes.
Martin has become frantic when I pick him up at day care. He insists that he be allowed to hold his daily report sheet for the duration of the trip home. Sometimes he is generous and allows Elliott to hold his own sheet but more often he wishes to hold them both.
On a Sunday morning, while Jen was at yoga, we took the guys grocery shopping. It is an activity which can entertain them for up to 60 minutes before they get bored. While it's not a book about a zoo it is a chance to identify many produce items. I'd say that they are probably at a fifth grade level for identifying produce and possibly a college level for animals.
On Monday we took them to the children's museum where we also met up with grandma and they had a blast.
Martin refused to wear his apron and got completely soaked before I was able to force one onto him. It didn't seem to bother him that it was 15 degrees outside and he was wearing a completely soaked shirt.
It also didn't stop him from falling asleep in the car and even allowing me to put him in his crib. He did wake up after about 45 minutes and I changed his shirt for him before he immediately passed out again.
Elliott had no such problems.
They had a nice three hour nap to build the energy back up to wrestle with Grandpa.
On Tuesday it was Mardi Gras and I threw together the quickest possible breakfast for dinner to keep with our tradition. While not as elaborate as years past it was tasty.
Elliott would not calm down so we had to have him sit with us during dinner. Eventually he cried so much that I had to take him to to the doctor.
The only time he cried this badly was when he had a double-ear infection. Apparently this time he was only teething so after some ibuprofen and cuddling he eventually fell asleep and spent the night with us.
The next day we got a visit from Auntie Anne and Cousin Jackson. Evelyn joined in and even had her first taste of Mum-Mums. She got through most of them before Elliott ate her leftovers.
The toddlers enjoyed guitar time. Daddy did not because it usually involves them holding the strings so that they don't make any noise then yelling, "Bye!" I'm not really sure why that is.
Grandad and Grandma gave us this gigantic bear after an evening where we complained about the sheer number of stuffed animals we were inundated with. This unwanted addition now increases the volume of our stuffed animal collection by 100%.
To add to our pain Elliott has become quite proficient at climbing up onto our tables and just sort of crawling around.
Martin has also become proficient at identifying his cousin Jackson which is no doubt a treat for Jackson to be poked on the head while having his own name shouted at him.
After one nap where the ladies went shopping I came up to wake them from their nap and found Martin in a completely empty crib wearing no pants.
Apparently he'd run out of things to throw into Elliott's crib before he fell asleep and resorted to removing clothing. Elliott didn't seem to mind.
Elliott also didn't seem to mind pushing Jackson around on his rolling zebra. This surprised me a bit because it seemed like riding would be the sweeter of the two gigs but as long as they weren't fighting over the toy I was going to obey the Prime Directive.
The Saturday dinner at Jen's parents' house reminded me of what it would be like if I could actually have a few uninterrupted hours to actually make something nice for dinner for a change. It harkens back to a long ago time that I deeply miss.
But at least we have an obnoxiously large stuffed bear now.
I picked up some 20 month cupcakes for the kids to enjoy and make a huge mess with since Saturday was the 20 month birthday for the Wombats.
Even Evelyn got in on the action by frantically licking a cupcake.
On Monday temperatures crept up into the 50s! It was hard not to resist a walk to day care to pick them up. This proved to be a little treacherous as I bounded through giant piles of melting snow and ice. I had to improvise on the walk home and take a somewhat more circuitous route on the return.
The whole way home they identified the sky, many birds, and incorrectly called vans buses. I had not ever walked to our new house with them so when we entered the garage they saw their cozy coupes and wagons and demanded many rides.
They also demanded to eat dinner at the table like adults. Adults that get food all over the floor and cry when they aren't immediately presented with more cheese.
One thing about Elliott: when eating avocado he will not eat a bite until you confirm his correct identification of it when he shouts "Av-ca! Av-ca! Av-ca!" I lost focus and didn't realize that he had been sitting their yelling "Av-ca! Av-ca! Av-ca!" for several minutes. When I confirmed, "Yes, avocado!" he immediately ate the bite.
Since Peek-a-zoo still remains locked up above the TV Martin will go over every so often and yell, "Zoo! Zoo!" There are fewer tears now but he must have seen me hide it because he has never forgotten.
The last five months have been the unhealthiest we've eaten in years. Quick dinners, more takeout, lots of heavy sauces, Thanksgiving, Christmas, family visits, and an overall lack of outdoor activity have contributed to (me in particular) feeling like an unhealthy ball of crap. This has lead to a greater focus on healthier cooking. So far, so good. We'll see how long we can keep this up.
This morning we got about five or six inches of extremely heavy snow in what most are hoping will be the last accumulation of the season. A woman from a few houses down came over and used her snow blower to clear our driveway before I was able to shovel it all so I feel like we owe her a debt of gratitude.
The yard looks beautiful with the midday sun reflecting off of the fresh snow but I've seen enough. It's time to melt, go away, and leave my hard to be a Woodstock-like mud pit and usher in the inevitable 48 hours of spring before temperatures get over 100.
After eating dinner outside a grand total of zero times last year I am looking forward to once again grilling and having dinner outside, a joy that seems like an unthinkable reality at the moment.