Friday, July 30, 2010

Birthday Parties

July has been a big month for attending birthday parties around here. Our friends Jack and Logan both turned four and Lena Anne turned two. Here are some cute pics of Caleb and Ethan on a two-seater swing at Lena Anne's birthday party this past weekend.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe

I have always really enjoyed reading, and so there are always grown-up books laying around the house. Caleb and Ethan frequently pick up one of my books and ask me to read it to them, so I explain that there are no pictures and it is a story for grown-ups. The other day, Marcus was reading Total Truth, one of his favorites, and Caleb asked him to read it out loud. So he did, for a few minutes. Caleb listened so well that I thought it might be time to break out a chapter book for him, so I went upstairs and got The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I'm not sure how old I was when my mom started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to me, but I'm pretty sure I was older than four. I was very surprised when Caleb (and Ethan) sat and listened to a whole chapter of the story. Since that day last week, we have read five more chapters together, and the boys (especially Caleb) are really into it. Ethan goes around fighting (invisible) white witches and saying "The Lion...The Witch...The War-dobe" in a sing-song voice. Caleb likes to pretend that he is the trouble-making Edmund in the story, and Marcus and I are assigned various parts, according to the game at hand. It is very fun to have them so excited about one of my very favorite stories from childhood.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. Fix-It Is Back

So here's an update on all the broken things, now that Marcus has been home from his surf trip for a week and a half.

The Bad :(
The master shower still has a leaking shower pan and it still looks like $4K to replace the pan and retile the shower, so we are continuing to use the kids' shower. We put in a claim with our homeowners insurance a few days ago, but they responded that only water damage caused by the leak is covered. If there is any water damage, we don't know about it, and it was not included in the preliminary $4K estimates. So it looks like we are going to be a one-shower family for quite a while.

The mortgage payment is still $75 more than before (because of escrow), although Marcus did valiantly pour over the paper work in an effort to alter that fact.

The AC is still not getting the house any cooler than 80 degrees from noon until around dinner, but we think it is probably just the unit getting old and having trouble cooling the house during the hottest hours of the day. Not eager for another very expensive diagnosis, the kids and I are just sweating it out for now :)

The Good :)
AT&T came and fixed the land line before Marcus got home from his trip.

We got back online with the new modem about four days after the original modem crashed.

Marcus called the company who made our Roku box and they sent us new one (since it was less than a year old). The new one, which happens to be an upgraded version with several new features, arrived in the mail a couple days ago, so we can once again watch movies on our TV :)

Best of all, it turns out that the Best Buy Geek Squad is as useless as Marcus thought they were, at least when it comes to video cameras. Marcus fiddled with the camera and diagnosed the problem. Then he ordered a simple part for $15 from Amazon (Best Buy wanted to charge $40 for the same part). He was right on the money, and now the camera will rewind properly and play back video again! It is good to have our electronics guru back in town :)

P.S. A few hours after I wrote the above, I pulled two dishes of cold food out of the oven, right at dinner time. They'd been in there for 40 minutes, but apparently the pilot had failed to ignite (even though the oven displayed a temperature of 400 degrees and the timer was going). We ate bread and steamed carrots (the only dish not in the oven) for dinner, and then Marcus spent the better part of the evening taking the oven apart and putting it back together. Thankfully, he accomplished in one evening a repair more complicated than the repair American Home Shield took more than two months to complete last year.

Now, if only all the other appliances and electronics could just hold themselves together for 23 more months...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dog Park

One of our good friends was a major player in the process of building a dog park here in Hoover. The dog park opened several months ago, but we finally got around to checking it out this past Saturday. We wanted to go early because it has been so hot lately. We got there, with the kids and the dogs, around 8:00 am, but it still ended up being really hot. After we arrived, we got the dogs out of the car and let them go in the dog park. The dog park has two sections, one for big dogs and one for small dogs, and both sections include agility courses, water fountains, sand pits and lots of grass for running and playing in. It's the nicest free dog park we've ever been to.
Riley and Shannon immediately sprinted across the beautiful, tree-shaded field. Once. Then they were pooped. They spent the rest of the hour we were there tottering behind us with their tongues lolling out, gasping for breath. They are really out of shape :) It made us feel really bad that they haven't been outside of our backyard in the past two years. I don't think we've done them any damage that won't be cured by regular trips to the dog park over the next few months, but they sure did look much older than their 5-6 years on Saturday!
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer is Flying By

I looked at my calendar just now, and nine of our fourteen weeks of summer are already over. I can't believe how quickly these weeks have flown by! In just five more weeks, Caleb will start attending prekindergarten four mornings a week at a local church (thanks to the generosity of his Nanna & Papa) .

Side note: even though my son is already registered and I fully intend to send him to preschool next month, I have to take a moment to make fun of the idea of "prekindergarten". When my grandparents were kids, kids started school at age 7. When my parents were kids, most kids started school in first grade at age 6. When I was a kid, almost everyone went to kindergarten at age 5. And, now, we've got this new thing called pre-kindergarten that 4-year-olds are expected to attend! Will my grandkids be learning how to sound out words & write their names before they are potty-trained?

Anyway, though I am very on-the-fence philosophically about preschool in general, I do think that this particular situation will be the best thing for Caleb. The only problem is, after nine weeks of summer, Caleb has gotten really used to being with me all the time again. And he is starting to exhibit some of the clinginess (to me) and disinterest in his peers that prompted me to enroll him in that 2-mornings-a-week program last fall. He told someone the other day that his favorite part of church was "when Mommy comes to pick me up from my class." Even though I haven't been away from him much at all this summer, he regularly asks me when we are driving somewhere whether or not I am going to stay with him or leave him there. Now, the positive side of this extra closeness is that he has been very considerate of me lately. The other day, I was sitting on the couch and he asked me if he could go get me a blanket because I looked cold. He's also started to imitate the way I talk to him, like this: "Mommy, can you get me a cup of juice? You don't have to if you don't want to, it is your choice, but it would make me happy if you would." Another one I've heard recently is: "Mommy, what movie are we going to watch for movie night tonight? I want to watch Aladdin, but if you want to watch the Ariel movie because it's your favorite, we can watch what you want." It is so sweet to hear him talk like that!

I'm sure the clinginess is just a phase, like everything else, but I hope he moves out of this phase before school starts, because it will be so difficult to send him if he doesn't want to go.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Disney Books

Nothing like having our video camera stop functioning to make the kids do the cutest stuff :). Several times in the past week, Caleb has offered (to Ethan) to read Ethan a book. Ethan eagerly accepts, and the two snuggle down into my big brown recliner. Caleb picks one of the Disney books from the library pile (Aladdin, Snow White or Bambi) and "reads" it to Ethan, page by page. Caleb has heard these stories so many times that he can actually recite sentences from every page verbatim. It is hilarious to hear him bust out with complete sentences like "Jafar, adviser to the Sultan of Agrabah, was searching for a magic lamp hidden in the Cave of Wonders." He never uses that many words in a sentence conversationally, but he has memorized so much of this book (from hearing it 3 or 4 times a day for weeks). Last night, just before bedtime, Caleb "read" Aladdin to Ethan for more than 20 minutes. I joked to Marcus that this is how people have families with 10 kids: the older kids take care of the younger ones.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Marcus and I are a little worn out this week. Part of it is that we're both getting over a cold, but the other part is that the kids seem to need so little sleep these days. For at least a month, maybe longer, Caleb has only been taking a nap once or twice a week. He's gone on nap strikes many times before, but the BIG difference this time is that he is still staying up until 9 pm or so on the days that he doesn't nap, and HE'S NOT WHINY OR TIRED in the late evening. It is looking to me like he doesn't need any more than the 9-10 hours of sleep a day that he has been averaging this month. The problem is, if he keeps going to bed at 9:00 pm and getting up at 6:30 am without napping, my child-free down time is pretty much over. According to my favorite child sleep "expert", Elizabeth Pantley, a 4-year-old should be sleeping 11-13 hours in a 24-hour period. Until this year, Caleb's sleep patterns have matched up with Pantley's chart very well, but for some reason, his sleep needs seem to have taken a dive, without any negative behavioral side effects.

Ethan, as well, is sleeping much less than Caleb did at 26-months. He has always been a more erratic sleeper than Caleb, but it does rather amaze me that he goes to sleep with Caleb at 9:00 pm (or later) and consistently rises right at (or before) 6:00 am. He does take a 2-3 hour nap every day, but that still puts his overall sleep at ~11 hours a day, on average. (Pantley says that 13-13.5 hours per day is average for a 2-year-old.)

So, for whatever reason, both of my kids seem to need about 2.5 hours less sleep each day than the average kid their age. This could be genetic, since I generally need much less sleep than the average adult, and was always a very early riser as a child. Or, it could be our lifestyle, which includes a couple of late nights each week. If the kids spent more of the day being whiny and irritable, I would be more inclined to buckle down and get them to bed earlier; but they are usually pretty good-natured and content, especially between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm (which are the extra hours I would be trying to get them to sleep), so I don't know.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If Only I'd Gotten a Picture...

Yesterday, I came down with a bit of a cold that dear hubby brought home from his trip to El Salvador. (I have to mention the origin of the bug to justify why my normally-stellar immunities failed me: who could expect them to be prepared for foreign cold viruses?) Anyway, I wasn't feeling well, so, when Ethan went down for a nap and Caleb didn't seem tired at all, I put a movie in for Caleb, got a few chores done, latched all the external doors (to make sure Caleb stayed housebound), and then went upstairs to sneak in a 45-minute nap.

When Ethan woke up, he immediately came to my room and woke me up, demanding that I get up "right now" and get him some food. To hammer home his point, he insisted that it was "9:00 o'clock" so I "have to get up!", which I guess in his little mind is the universal waking up time.

Anyway, he dragged me out of bed and we went downstairs. The hilarious sight that greeted us in the kitchen was Caleb, sprawled out with his blanket on the kitchen island, fast asleep. All I can guess is that, when his movie was done, he went into the kitchen (toting his blanket) to eat the snack that I'd set out for him at the bar. I guess he got tired while eating the snack, and, seeing his blanket where he'd put it on the island, just crawled up there to rest his head on the blanket. Next thing he knew, he was fast asleep. Ethan, always quick to state the obvious, exclaimed "LOOK! Bubba asleep on the table!" Stifling a laugh, I ran to get the camera, but the blanket dangling off the island was too tempting for little Ethan, so he pulled the corner and Caleb woke up before I could get a shot. Based on how groggy and disoriented he was when he woke up, I'd guess he was at least 15 minutes into a nap.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


For the past few weeks, our days have started out with this conversation:

Mommy: Well, guys, what do you want to do today? We can go to the pet store and then get some groceries, or we can go to the pool with John & Ava, or we can go to the McWane Center, or the Rec Center & the library... What do you think?
Caleb: I just want to stay home.
Mommy: You want to stay home? Don't you want to go to any of those fun places?
Ethan: I do! I want to go!
Caleb: No, I think I just want to stay home. Staying home and playing with toys is more fun.
Ethan: I not want to 'tay home! I want to go to the pool!
Caleb: But, Ethan! Let's just stay home and play! We can build a fort with a blanket and make a giant train track. And we can do puzzles and color and dress up like spider man and you can be a pirate. And we can fight all the bad guys and look for monsters!
Ethan: Okay, we can 'tay home and do all dose t'ings.
Mommy: Are you guys sure? You don't want to go anywhere?
Caleb: We're sure, Mommy. We just love staying at home and playing.

And that is the end of it. We've been spending 3-4 weekdays each week at home, ever since we got home from Florida three weeks ago. I make the kids go out with me once a week for grocery shopping, and once or twice a week so I can work out, but other than that, we've spent a lot of time at home. We've foregone play dates, story hour at the library, and mornings at McWane Center, all in favor of uninterrupted imaginative play at home. The only time Caleb voluntarily leaves the house is when we are going to his gymnastics lesson or going to a friends house (where he can enjoy uninterrupted imaginative play with more people).

Part of Caleb's shift to being a homebody is the heat, since both he and I prefer not to be outside when it is warmer than 80-85 degrees, so that eliminates the zoo, all the parks, the botanical gardens, and any hiking. But the rest of it is just that he and Ethan have a lot of fun together at home these days. And Caleb definitely delivers on the exciting plans he sells to Ethan each morning. We build forts, throw parties, set up superhero wars, create animal jungles, play Memory & Candyland, dress up in costumes, construct train track mazes, build zoos and farms with the Legos, do puzzles, read books, and play chase, tickle & hide-and-seek, not to mention the hours each day that they sit at the craft table: drawing, painting, coloring, writing, stamping, cutting and glueing. I guess maybe I can see why Caleb likes to stay home :) And as long as they are getting along and busy doing & learning, I am a happy camper.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Marshmallows & Shark Tanks

We were driving home from church small group last night, and, about five minutes down the road, Caleb pipes up with, "I've got to go poo-poo." He has this habit of "having to go" a few minutes into every car ride, even if I ask him just before we leave. We were still about 20 minutes from home, but I asked him if he could wait until we got home. He said no emphatically, so I brought out the big guns and offered him a marshmallow if he was willing to wait. He quickly and cheerfully agreed. Without missing a beat, Ethan cries urgently from the backseat, "I've got to go poo-poo!" I knew he didn't have to go, but he had me in a corner, so I promised him a marshmallow, too. I've got to give the kid props for making the most of every opportunity :)

The other story happened at the McWane Center on Friday. I hesitate to even post this because it is hard to describe exactly what happened, but here's my best shot. The McWane Science Center has a touch tank that contains stingrays and bonnethead sharks (follow the link for a picture). Children stand on a sloped step that is flush with the tank, lean over a little, and reach into the tank to touch the rays and sharks as they swim by. My kids have touched these sharks and rays many times since the exhibit opened about a year ago. I always keep my finger looped into Ethan's back beltloop while his arm is in the tank, just in case he loses his balance. I never expected that Caleb would be the one to tumble in.

It was just a bad combination of Caleb being too tall for where he was standing and the step underneath him being a little wet and slippery. He leaned a little too far forward to touch an approaching shark and his right foot slipped out from under him. His waist was too far above the side of the tank, and his center of gravity quickly shifted and caused him to tumble forward. I was standing right behind him, but my right hand was tied up holding Ethan's belt loop. I grabbed Caleb's left arm with my left hand, freed my right hand, and grabbed Caleb's flailing leg with that hand. The poor little guy was literally parallel with the water, with all of his upper body hovering over the shark tank, his hips resting on the side, and his legs sticking out behind him.

I pulled him off the tank and was amazed that only the left sleeve of his shirt had gotten wet. I was with a friend, and we were both pretty stunned by what had just happened. We'd both heard that a kid had fallen in there once, and now we finally knew how that could happen. Caleb was a little shaken up by it all and he cried a little bit...I think more from embarrassment than fear. I was a little shaken up too, but mostly just glad that I was able to catch him before he went all the way in. (As well as grateful that I hadn't inadvertently dumped Ethan in the tank while trying to free my hand from his belt loop :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Aunt Traci (and Maddie)

While Marcus was on his surf trip, his younger sister, Traci, came through town. She was traveling to a wedding with her one-year-old daughter, Madelyn (Maddie), and I was very glad that she could stop in for a couple of nights and spend some time with us. And despite the fact that Traci was in the midst of morning sickness and taking a cross-country trip alone with a toddler, we had a very good time together. Traci is one of those rare people who, no matter what is going on in her life, she can quickly and cheerfully step out of her own world and into someone else's. And that is just one of the reasons that it is always enjoyable to have her around :)
While I'm on the subject, I'd like to take a few paragraphs to highlight the many, many ways that Traci has been a blessing to our family, especially since we became parents. Traci lived in Gainesville with us when I was pregnant with Caleb, and she helped me shop, decorate and paint his nursery. On the day he was born, she was the first person to visit/hold him in the hospital (except for Mimi, Marcus and I, who were all present at the birth).
Eight weeks later, Traci gave up two of her weeks off to babysit Caleb at our house so that I could go back to work for the end of the school year (did I mention that this was just a few weeks before her wedding?). She plugged along every day with little Caleb, even though he spent the whole two weeks protesting breast milk from a bottle. And she patiently put up with my myriad of instructions. She seemed to really understand, though not yet a mother herself, how hard it was for me to leave him. After she and Josh got married and moved to Tampa, she continued to be a devoted aunt. She and Josh were the only family who were able to drive to Gainesville for Caleb's first birthday party.
When Ethan was born, even though she and Josh had received some tragic news that very morning, they drove up to Gainesville and celebrated with us, keeping their sadness to themselves so as not to put a shadow on Ethan's big day.
A couple of months after Ethan was born, Traci basically saved my sanity by giving up another week of her life to help us move from Gainesville to Birmingham. She drove one of our cars (with Caleb and our dogs in it) so that I could drive the other car (with 2-month-old Ethan) and Marcus could drive the moving van. And then she spent a full week helping us unload, unpack, and take care of our kids. By the time she left, our house looked like we'd been moved in for months. (I have to admit, I felt very sad and a little guilty that I couldn't do the same for her when she moved houses last summer, with Maddie just a couple of months old. I thought about it, but concluded that, with Caleb and Ethan in tow, there was very little I could do except add to the chaos.) Anyway, from the days (almost ten years ago) that Traci and I were both students at Harding all the way through today, she has consistently been such a blessing to me and my family.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Strikes #5, #6 and #7

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who expressed your sympathy and encouragement after my last post. It is really wonderful to have understanding friends. I was so bolstered by laughing at my ludicrous week with you that I took the next day's setbacks in stride. First, I got a notice in the mail saying that our mortgage escrow had a shortage, so our monthly payment would be going up $75 a month for the next 12 months. Later that morning, I took our video camera to Best Buy, because it had been acting up a little when I was trying to show my Mom some home videos the night before. The Geek Squad looked it over and told me two things: (1) the 4-year maintenance plan we bought from Best Buy when we bought the camera expired a few months ago, and (2) the part of the digital camcorder that was not working was the most expensive part, and it would cost more than the camera was worth to repair it (we bought it for $780 when Caleb was born) . Basically, our video camera has been totaled. Finally, after the kids woke up from their nap, I noticed that the house was unusually warm. I checked the thermostat, and, sure enough, it was 80 degrees when it should have been 76. I switched the thermostat from “auto” to “fan on”, but even after 2 hours of that, it was still 80 degrees in the house. I called the AC guy and he’s coming tomorrow afternoon.

Things going wrong this week has become so absurd that all I can do is laugh about it. I did tell a friend that, if we had a lottery here in Alabama, then I would buy a lottery ticket and then give it away, so that my bad luck could at least benefit somebody :) On the bright side, AT&T fixed the phones since I wrote the last post, so I am 1 for 7 on turning this ship around. Hopefully, the new modem will come in the mail tomorrow, so we will be back online as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nanna’s Visit

My mom (the boys’ Nanna), came into town for a few days to help out while Marcus was out of town. Sadly, in the chaos of our electronic degeneration, I never took the camera out, so I don’t have any pics to post. While Nanna was here, we went to the library, church, the McWane Center, and Caleb’s gymnastics lesson. We also spent a lot of time hanging around the house, watching the boys play. One night, Nanna put the boys to bed for me so I could go out for a late dinner with a good friend who is moving to New Hampshire this week. Deb and I had a great evening together, and I'm so glad Nanna was able and willing to help out like that. Another afternoon, Nanna and Ethan enjoyed some one-on-one time at home instead of going with Caleb and me to a birthday party. The two of them invented a really fun game where they both sit at the craft table and roll a little ball back and forth, as fast as they can. Ethan loved it!

I was happy to see that Nanna's health is better than it has been in years. She doesn't use a wheel chair or a cane anymore, and her walking is just a little slower than the average person's. She's weaned herself from most of the drugs she used to take for MS, and she says she has more energy than she's had in years. She is still working full time as a school counselor, and this is the first year that she finished the year with enough energy that she was sure she could return to work again at the end of the summer. Even the gastroparesis she was diagnosed with over a year ago has improved a lot: she can eat a lot more variety and in greater quantities without adverse effects. I am very glad she is doing so much better physically.

The boys didn't want to take Nanna back to the airport early Wednesday morning, but I assured them that Christmas would come quicker than they thought :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Broken House

So, the week before Marcus left on his annual surf trip, things around the house started breaking. First, the master shower started leaking into the garage. The plumber investigated the problem and then gave us an estimate of around $4K to rip out the shower tile, replace the leaking shower pan and retile the shower. Ouch. (We may just use the kids shower for the next two years.)

Two mornings later, I noticed that the cordless phone in the kitchen was blinking “Line In Use” (which of course it wasn’t). So I checked out the phones and found they all had busy signals. I called AT&T to let them know that our land line was not working, and they reassured me that they could send someone out within the next 7 to 10 business days. Wow, that is what I call customer service. Maybe the phones will be working before Marcus gets home from his 9-day vacation.

Next, our Roku box went caput. The Roku is an electronic device that routes video from the computer to the TV. We frequently watch movies/TV shows from Netflix instant streaming on our TV using this box. I was looking forward to catching up on a couple of shows that Marcus doesn’t care for while he was out of town, but the Roku decided to throw in the towel.

The final straw happened this morning. The modem died. It’s been working sketchily (is that a word) for a while now, but now it won’t come on at all. So I am without my #1 while-the-kids-are-asleep pastime, the internet. I called AT&T, and, in true form, they will have a new modem out to me in 5-7 days, for the nominal fee of $74.

Now I have no shower, no TV, no phone and no internet. Thankfully, I’ve got family in town to keep me company while my house falls apart. But, if my car dies or the power goes out, I’m moving in with a friend. (By the way, I posted this at the library.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Little Mockingbird

Here is Caleb in our back yard with a very young mockingbird on his arm. This little guy (or girl) has been hanging around for about a week, and we hope he will be strong enough to fly soon. The boys love watching him hop around. Caleb has named him "Honger, because he is always squawking for more food" (not sure what the connection between "Honger" and "squawking for more food is", but that's probably an irrelevant detail :).

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Friday, July 9, 2010

4th of July, continued

To continue yesterday's story...

The friend I called very kindly invited us to join them for a carnival and fireworks show in downtown Homewood, about fifteen minutes from our house. She gave me directions and told me where to park, so I loaded the kids back up and got there at about 8:00 pm (I had called Marcus from the road to tell him where we were going.) I told the kids about the carnival rides on the way over (which turned out to be another mistake). When we arrived, the lines for the rides were much longer than they had been earlier in the evening. Once again, I silenced my inner voice and stepped into a ridiculously long line and began entertaining the boys while we waited. More than thirty minutes later, we were up next. Unfortunately, that is also the moment when the ride attendant announced that the fireworks were about to start and this would be the last ride. Bummer. We were standing with a group of good friends from church, and only one of the six children waiting were going to be allowed to ride. My friends were kind enough to let Caleb be the one to ride, since we had had such a long night. The smile on his face while he was flying around on those swings almost made it all worth it. (Almost, but not quite.) Two minutes later, he got off the ride and we all headed back to the chairs for the fireworks show.

Meanwhile, Marcus had driven back to the neighborhood to put a couple of signs up for the dog we had taken back to our house. Within ten minutes of the signs being up, a guy called Marcus's cell about the missing dog. Apparently, the guy had been driving around the neighborhood looking for the dog. Marcus gave him directions to our house and then headed back home to meet him there. The guy was a little weird, but definitely grateful to have his dog back. His name was actually Billy Bob. No, really, that was his name. And to make matters worse, the dog's name was Billy Bob, too. (We found out later from our friends that his dog gets out regularly and Billy Bob is frequently driving around looking for him.) After Billy Bob and Billy Bob left, Marcus tried to meet up with me and the boys, but things were too hectic at the carnival, so he just headed back home.

Anyway, back to us at the fireworks show. The fireworks themselves did not disappoint. That was actually the best 10 minutes of the evening. Caleb was mesmerized with the explosions of light, and I had enough food left in my bag to keep Ethan still for the duration. When it was over, another friend was kind enough to help me and the kids get back through the maze of cars and people to our car. Then we sat in stop-and-go traffic for 25-30 minutes before things finally started moving. I was almost home at 10:30 pm when my friend (the one whose house we'd gone to originally) called. She was so sweet and so very, very apologetic. She explained that she thought the 4th was going to be observed on Monday night instead of Sunday night (as it actually was in some places), so she thought we were coming over Monday night. We laughed and laughed about the misunderstanding, and then made plans to get together on Monday night instead. I pulled in the driveway with two sleeping boys at 10:45 pm, carried them up to their beds, and had two glasses of wine before retiring myself. This was certainly an unforgettable 4th of July :)

Some pics of our friends at the fireworks show.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our Crazy 4th of July

Our 4th of July started off as planned...we went to church, had a very nice lunch at McAlister's with our small group, and then took the kids home for nap time. A little after five, we loaded up the kids and set out for our friends' house. When we got to their neighborhood, we were surprised to see a healthy-looking yellow lab, with a collar and a tag, jogging down the street. Since we are dog owners, and since our dogs' have gotten out a fair number of times, we decided to pull over and check the dogs tags. Unfortunately, the tag was just a rabies tag from a clinic in Panama City, Florida. I called the number on the tag, but, since it was 6 pm on a Sunday night (not to mention the 4th of July), there was no answer.

We spent the next 20 minutes calling the Humane Society, Animal Control, an animal hospital, and even the Hoover Police Department, all to no avail. (The police department at least had a very helpful automated message advising the caller to dial 911 in case of emergency.) Now, twenty minutes late, we drive into our friends' neighborhood with the dog in the back of our SUV. We've only been to this house once before, and it was in the dark, so we are a both a little unsure about exactly which house it is. I call my friend several times, but she doesn't hear the phone ringing (and therefore doesn't answer).

So we go with our best guess and knock on that door, but nobody is home. We try a couple more houses before someone comes to the door. The kind gentleman who lives there tells us that the house we had tried first was in fact the one we were looking for. So we head back to that house to try again. After about five minutes of ringing and knocking (and a little peeking in the window), we realize that there must have been a miscommunication, and that our friends are, in fact, not home.

So we get back in the car and begin a frustrated discussion of what to do with the dog. I want to let it go and see if it goes back home and Marcus wants us to take it back to our house until the owner can be located. While we are "discussing", the dog is panting and drooling all over the back of my car, and at one point it hacks up a hair ball. We are all frustrated and hungry, and I do NOT want the dog to puke in my car, so I acquiesce my side of the argument and we drive the 25 minutes back to our house, with the dog. By now, the kids have been in the car for an hour and a half, and they have not had the dinner or the fun I promised them, so that is what is foremost on my mind. Marcus wants to drive back to the other neighborhood and put up signs up about the dog, so he does that while I feed the kids.

This is really where the story should have ended, but, unfortunately, it didn't. There is something in me that never wants to give up trying to salvage something. In this case, it was celebrating the 4th of July with my kids. What I should have done is just given the kids a bowl of ice cream and let them watch a Disney movie. But, instead, I silenced the inner voice that told me to cut my losses and call it a day, and called a friend to see what she and her kids were doing for the 4th.

To be continued...

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Billy Bob, the dog.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Sunburn :(

So here is what happens when little boys think they know more than their Mommies, so they rub the sun screen off under their eyes and then continue taking off their sun hats, promising that they will not whine, even if they get a sunburn.
True to his word, he hasn't whined a bit, and even swears that it doesn't hurt at all. It's actually not as bad as it looks in the picture. Much of Caleb's skin has pink undertones whether he's been in the sun or not. He's only burnt under his eyes, and mainly his right eye. It's been three days now, and the pink is almost completely gone, but it looked pretty bad the first day. As fair-skinned as he is, I guess I should be glad we made it more than four years before he got his first sunburn.
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aunt Wendi

About nine months ago, Marcus's sister, Wendi, called us from Florida to see if she could come up for a visit the following weekend. The boys and I excitedly prepared the guest bedroom for her, and it has been dubbed "Wendi's room" ever since. Her trip out here was originally a job-hunting venture, and, since it was successful, she ended up staying on with us until early last week.
The boys have been so used to knocking on Wendi's door and asking her to play music for them, or show them cool little videos on her computer, or let them bounce on her bed. Ethan, especially, loved his one-on-one time with Aunt Wendi. Wendi joked that she and Ethan bonded because they were both second-borns and knew what it felt like to get less attention than their older siblings. Caleb's favorite thing to do with Aunt Wendi is go on pretend adventures. Wendi is an avid traveler, and she loved filling Caleb's imaginative head with foreign places.
Although it is weird to have her out of the house, at least Aunt Wendi is still living nearby, and hopefully we will all enjoy many years in Birmingham together.

Here is Wendi playing the part of Dora the Explorer during the boys' birthday party.
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Toy Store

Borrowing an idea from Mimi, I decided to set up a little store in our play room. I bought a few new toys (BOGO) at Toys R Us, and taped price tags to each toy. (There are also a few belated birthday gifts which we received last week that also went into the store :)
To keep things simple, we are using Chuck E. Cheese coins for money. The number on each price tag is about twice the dollar value of the toy, making each Chuck E. Cheese coin worth about $0.50. I think it will be a great way to teach them (esp. Caleb) delayed gratification, basic math, saving vs. spending, and (my personal favorite) get some daily chores done sans whining. So far, I'm only letting them earn 1-2 coins each day. Caleb gets a coin in his jar for cleaning up the whole play room before bed time, and for completing all of his "school" work each day. If Ethan is interested when Caleb is working for a coin, I give him a different job to do so he can earn a coin, too. I don't really expect him to understand much about the store, but life would be unbearable if he wasn't allowed to do exactly what Caleb is doing :)
My one fear is that Caleb will start asking for coins every time he does something I ask him to do, which is why I'm capping it at 1-2 coins a day, and only for specific jobs. I'm actually not a big fan of paying kids for household chores. In general, I think kids should do their assigned chores because they live in the house and are part of the family, not for money. But I think there are enough good things to be learned from this little store thing that I'll suspend my ideals for the time being :)

One final note about the store's name: Ethan wanted to call it "Caleb & Ethan's Store" and Caleb wanted to call it "The Star Wars Store", hence the extra-long combination name.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

A Timeless Fog

About a month ago, my watch stopped. It stopped and started for a few days, until I finally took it off, thinking it needed a new battery. I bought a new battery just before we left for Florida, but unfortunately, the watch still stopped and restarted with the new battery. Always reluctant to spend money, I remained watchless through our vacation.

It has been very weird to not know what time it is. I'm used to waking up at night and checking my watch, getting out of the shower and checking my watch, etc. And I am always checking my watch when we are out, mentally planning and adjusting our days. Besides my own desire to know the time whenever it occurs to me, the people I spend time with are used to me knowing what time it is, so I keep getting asked about the time. Anyway, I've limped along using car clocks and oven clocks and my cell phone, but that little time piece on my wrist has been greatly missed.

A few days after we got home, I had had enough of the timeless fog, so I bit the bullet and bought a new watch (consoling myself that 3 years was an acceptable return on my original $35 investment).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

Despite our hectic, on-the-go lives, I really am a homebody. I love being at home. In fact, if given a choice between going somewhere or staying home, I would usually choose to stay home. (The reason we are on-the-go so much is that Marcus and the boys usually prefer to go somewhere.) Anyway, I've been on a "we're-home-again!" high since we got home from Florida on Sunday night. Without further ado, here are the top five reasons I am happy to be home:

(1) Veggies! After eating fast food and take-out for over a week, I couldn't wait to get home and cook some fresh vegetables. The first night we were back, we had baked chicken with okra and corn on the cob. It was delicious! And I've got more okra, green beans, squash, more corn, potatoes, and lots of fresh fruit stocked up for the rest of the week. (The boys ate so much fresh fruit the first three days we were home that I was a little worried there would be repercussions.) It is definitely good to eat home-cooking again :)

(2) Computer! I missed my time online. I managed to check my email every day, and even write a couple of blog posts while we were gone, but I did miss my regular down time at my computer desk each night.

(3) My house! As much as I can, I leave the house spic and span before we go on a trip. I love coming home to clean floors, clean bathrooms, clean sheets, empty clothes hampers, and a very tidy house. I was able to pull that off this time, and it has been SO NICE to come home to a house that looks beautiful and needs no (immediate) attention from me.

(4) The weather! It was HOT in Florida. I don't remember being outside at any time of day the whole week where the heat wasn't stifling to me. I loved waking up at home on Monday morning to temperatures in the upper 70's. It gets very hot during the afternoon here in June, July & August, but the mornings and evenings are still nice most days. The boys and I played outside for a couple of hours Monday morning without breaking a sweat, and I once again felt so thankful for the milder climate we enjoy here.

(5) My bed! I'm not one of those people who can't sleep if I'm not in my own bed, but that doesn't mean I don't miss it when I'm out of town. Marcus and I splurged and bought a king-sized mattress from Sam's a couple of years ago, and now we have a hard time sleeping well on a queen bed (or smaller). Part of that is because we always share our bed with Ethan for at least part of the night, but the other part is that we've gotten used to spreading out.

We had a great time with family, but it is also very good to be home :)