Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Shopping...or Not

This year, like it has been for many others, has been a very tight one for us financially. One of the budget cuts we had to make this year was in buying Christmas gifts. During the seven years we've been married, we've never bought birthday gifts or Christmas gifts for each other or for our kids. The kids always get presents from family and friends, and they are not old enough to notice that there is nothing in the pile from us. However, we have always been able to set aside the ~$500 to buy gifts for grandparents, our siblings, and their families at Christmas time. This is the first year that even that had to go. We've scaled down to just buying Christmas presents for our kids' five cousins, Bennett, Jasper, Chase, Kylie and Maddie. Although I'm sad that we have so little to bring to the Christmas tree this year, it does take a lot of pressure off to be buying only for children under the age of five. Not that the older recipients are picky or hard-to-please, but I just feel much more confident about choosing something that a preschooler will enjoy, especially since I have two "toy samplers" of my own at home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Driving to Searcy

About a week ago, Marcus made the call that we were going to pile the kids in the car for another trip to Searcy to spend Thanksgiving with my parents. The last time we all four drove to Searcy was over a year ago in October, for my 10-year high school reunion, and that trip did NOT go well. Let's just say there was lots of crying, whining and misery. The trip I made by myself with the boys back in May did not go any better (actually I thought it was significantly worse), so we set out two nights ago at 4:30 pm with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.

Much to our surprise, the trip went very smoothly. We didn't hit any traffic at all, despite it being the evening before Thanksgiving. And the boys were great! There was actually NO crying and very little whining. There wasn't as much sleeping as we'd hoped, either, but we will definitely take awake and content little boys over awake and whining little boys. The secret of Caleb's contentment was that he got to watch Wall-E for the first time on our portable DVD player. Why Ethan was content (and awake until 11:00 pm), we have no idea. He slept from 7:30 until around 9:00, but then he was just awake and relatively quiet for the next two hours. We sort of avoided talking to him, afraid to alter whatever was keeping him happy. Maybe he thought we couldn't hear him, like when he is in his crib. Or maybe he thought we didn't know he was awake, and he didn't want to blow his own cover. Whatever the reason was, he finally closed his eyes and conked out about 30 minutes before we arrived at my parents house. Both boys transferred fine, and Marcus and I visited for a little while before turning in for our six hours of sleep.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Time Out" Buddy

Here's a cute story to brighten your Thanksgiving "Eve." The other day, Caleb was looking at the DVD Mulan and politely asked if he could watch it. When we declined his request, he responded in a burst of anger and tossed the case onto the floor. He was promptly sent to time-out for that display of temper. Ethan, seeing his brother pouting on the floor, trotted over and plopped down beside him. With the righteous indignation that is such an integral part of Caleb's personality, he howled, "NO, Ethan. You are NOT in time-out because you did NOT make a bad choice." Ethan looked sideways at his brother, not at all put off by this outright rejection of his proferred sympathy. Instead, Ethan hopped up, took a DVD off the shelf, and perfectly imitated his brother's flinging misdemeanor. Marcus and I looked at each other and stifled our laughs. I recovered first and sent Ethan to join his brother, which he did with a HUGE grin on his face. Caleb, fairly outsmarted, just crossed his arms and glowered, refusing to awknowledge the brother who was now planted proudly beside him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy 30th Birthday!

This past weekend was Marcus's 30th birthday. Birthdays have always been a bigger deal in Marc's family than in mine, and Marcus particularly enjoys milking his "birthday boy" priviliges for all they are worth. He decided to be "birthday boy" (meaning he calls all the shots throughout the day) on Saturday instead of his actual birthday, which was Sunday. We had a low key day on Saturday...Marcus slept in late, then we took the kids Christmas shopping and went out to lunch. Then we came home, put the kids to sleep, and Marcus watched the Florida game while I made homemade lasagna for dinner (birthday boy's request). After dinner, Marcus went out to get a movie and play video games while I bathed the kids and put them to bed. He got home around 8:00 and we watched the movie he had picked out (it was G.I. Joe, and it was better than we expected it to be).

So when Sunday rolled around, Marcus thought his 30th birthday had already been celebrated. Little did he know that I had been planning a surprise party for him for over a month :) Marcus thought he was going to spend the afternoon helping our friend, Al Pollard, pick up a bunk bed for his 3-year-old boys from a house down in Pelham. Al picked up Marcus around 2:45 and they headed south of town. Al asked Marcus if he wanted to stop and play some video games, since it was his birthday and all. Marcus agreed, still not suspecting anything. They pulled up in front of the laser tag place where I and the other guys were waiting. Unfortunately, he spotted my just-washed-and-waxed car in the parking lot, so the surprise was busted a minute or so before he walked in, but at that point I didn't really care.

The six of us sang Happy Birthday and ate Dairy Queen Reese's Blizzard ice cream cake, and then played laser tag for two hours (five games). I'd never played before, and it was a TON of fun. I was very grateful to Aunt Wendi (who is in town job-hunting for a couple of weeks) for watching my boys so I could participate in the party. All-in-all, it was a big success, and definitely my favorite of the three surprise parties I've done for Marcus's birthdays. My only regret is that I forgot to take pictures!

On a final note, here are some words from the birthday boy, in the form of an email he sent to me and the guys who came:

Hey everyone,
Thanks for the great birthday surprise yesterday. I had a blast! Highlights of the afternoon/evening...
  • being surprised by you guys at the Game Zone in Pelham (though next time Rachel will have to park her car somewhere other than right in front of the store :)
  • ice cream cake (love it!)
  • 2 hours of laser tag
  • feeling like a kid again while racing around a fluorescent maze shooting people (Brad had my number though with 16 hits in just one game).
  • John Mark fake writhing on the floor for ~1 min while Rachel and I continued to shoot him
  • getting a group of 10-year-old girls (on my team) to chase down Al (on the other team)
Thanks guys for really making my birthday.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Caleb (Monthly Update)

Well, it's time for a Caleb update because he is 3 years and 8 months old today. So what is new in Caleb-land? He is over the 100-piece pirate puzzle that he was so into last month. We broke open a new 100-piece puzzle that he has done a few times, but it didn't capture him like the other one. Actually, this may be the first month in a long while that he hasn't really had an obvious favorite thing to do. Part of it is that we have been on the go a lot this month, so he hasn't had as much time at home as in previous months. Another odd development this month is that he seems to have (hopefully temporarily) lost interest in being read to. He looks at books on his own, but isn't nearly as into being read to as he has been, well, his whole life. Maybe he is moving toward being ready to read on his own. Or maybe I've just gone too long without checking out books from the library, and he is just tired of all the books he owns.

On the other hand, Caleb has been much more socially-focused this month than ever before. He is always begging to go see a particular friend (usually Matthew Jones or William Pollard). On days when we don't have plans with friends, he turns to Ethan and they have a lot of fun together on their own. (Despite the fact that the fighting to cooperating ratio hovers around 1:2, in favor of cooperating.) Right now, as I type, he and Ethan are putting their 20+ matchbox cars in a perfect row across the play room floor. Last night after dinner, they worked together to clean up the entire play room.

As I helped the boys pick up the toys, I realized that Caleb has inherited a very bad combination of Marcus and my characteristics: he is particular about where things go and how things are done, like me, but he is passive and reluctant to get up and do it himself, like Marcus. So he sits on the floor telling Ethan that he is doing it wrong. This is really a horrible combination, so he is either going to have to loosen up or get to work. Being anal and hard-working is forgivable, and so is being passive and easy-to-please, but it does not work to hold onto the bad side of both of those coins :)

Along with being more social lately, Caleb has gotten back into enjoying more physical fun. For a while there, he'd lost interest in sports and balls and even tumbling, but now it is all back. He is jumping, climbing, somersaulting, wrestling and playing soccer a lot now.

Behaviorally, the biggest challenge right now is a general resistance to everything we want him to do. We are cracking down on the whining that almost always ensues when we ask/tell him to do something, but even when he doesn't whine, he is often sullen and pouty as he complies. I suppose we will be talking about and working on attitude for the rest of our lives as parents (which will hopefully be the rest of our lives :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Ethan turned 19-months-old yesterday! He is doing all kinds of new things this month. In the motor skills arena, he is walking (as opposed to crawling) up and down stairs, while holding on to a hand or the rail. He has also finally mastered jumping. He's been able to jump on the bed for a while, but now he can leave the ground without the help of a bounce-friendly surface.

Behaviorally, Ethan has chilled out quite a bit this month. In an inverse coorelation with his dynamically-improving communication skills, Ethan's intense reactions have mellowed some. Now, don't get my wrong, he is still significantly more dramatic than most children we're around, but it's very nice to see him occasionally adjusting to an unwanted change without attracting the attention of everyone within earshot. He has also entered the "loves-to-help" stage. He quickly complies with any request that allows him to accomplish something, like throwing something away, putting laundry in the laundry basket, taking something to Daddy, putting a toy away, etc.

Also new this month, Ethan has sprouted a generous spirit. The other day, he did the CUTEST thing. We were hanging out with friends, and their little girl was whining for a balloon that had floated up to the ceiling. Her Daddy told her that she couldn't have it because she hadn't asked him nicely. Addison started wailing at her loss, and Ethan came running over. Apparently, he had been listening to the entire exchange from across the room. He looked right up at Addison's Daddy and said, "Al, balloon to me, 'ease?" Al smiled and made a show of giving Ethan the balloon "since he asked so nicely." And then Ethan shocked us all by instantly turning to Addison and handing her the balloon. He had run across the room to ask nicely just so he could give her the balloon and make her stop crying. This incident was the first of several very generous overtures that I have observed since then. He really likes to make other people happy, particularly if they are crying.

Another new thing in Ethan-land is a very strong attachment to two toys. One is a yellow motorcycle, and the other is a monster truck. Both are small enough for him to easily tote all over the house, which he does. We believe in teaching our boys that they don't have exclusive ownership of any toys, but I'm sort of looking the other way as much as possible as Ethan passes through his first toy attachment. Caleb never did get overly attached to any one toy or object, so I wasn't prepared for some of the problems this has caused. The biggest problem is when we can't locate one of these toys. The first thing Ethan wants when he wakes up in the morning (after drinking a cup of milk in Mommy's arms), is to find the motorcycle and the "big truck". A couple of mornings, it has taken me the better part of 15 minutes to complete this task. I've learned to look for them after the kids go to bed to make sure they are easily located in the morning. Another problem is Ethan's intense reaction to anyone else touching one of these precious toys. Caleb quickly learned that doing just that will get an amazingly loud scream out of Ethan, and all Caleb need do is feign ignorance when Mommy asks why Ethan is having a meltdown. "I don't know, Mommy. All I did was play with that motorcycle and he just screamed and screamed." Yeah, Caleb, you had no idea that was going to happen.

On a final note, here is a something I promised a long time ago and has finally made it to the blog: a picture of Ethan and Caleb playing on together.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


So I am finally getting around to our Halloween post. This year, Ethan dressed up in the lion costume that Caleb wore when he was 18-months-old, and we got Caleb a very cute pirate costume. Our Sunday small group had a toddler-focused Halloween party hosted by our BFFs. Some of the adults joined the fun and dressed up with the kids, and the hosts cracked everyone up by dressing up as Marcus and me (see picture below). Marcus and I dressed up as Wolverine and Jean Grey (the Phoenix) from X-men (I know all you Gainesville people have seen this get-up before, but you have to admit it's very economical to rotate through our costumes each time we move.) Anyway, we all ate finger foods and talked while the kids painted pumpkins, and then the whole crew headed outside for some trick-or-treating. We split into a couple of different groups since there were so many kids, but even so, our group included seven preschoolers and all of their parents, so it was more like a mass than a cluster :) But the kids all got a lot of candy, and they quickly learned the trick-or-treating etiquette of NOT running into people's houses, only getting one candy at each house, and always saying thank you. Tired and full of candy, we all headed home for a good night's sleep.