October 31, 2014

Getting Emotional

Life here is as crazy as ever.  The boys are keeping us hopping and sometimes it feels like I never get a chance to just sit and think.  They are hilarious and infuriating and wonderful and awful.  Usual toddler stuff.

Tonight DS and I are taking them trick or treating for the first time.  Last year I pushed them through the neighborhood Halloween parade in their costumes, but that was it.  This year we all have costumes (mine is something I'm throwing together from the closet; it seems I follow that trend of putting everyone in the family before myself and never got around to thinking about my costume), and we're going to take them just around the little street we typically circle on our no stroller walks.  We know all of our neighbors thanks to a yearly block party, and they all have kids, though most are older, so at least on that front I know it will be a smooth experience.  They do enjoy walking up to people's porches, but they don't have any idea about the concept of trick or treating, so we'll see how it goes.  I don't even think Bear will let me put his costume on him; it involves a hood.

I'm surprisingly emotional thinking about it this morning.  Parenthood never seems to stop throwing me for a loop.

September 15, 2014

Terror

This weekend, for my birthday, I went to NYC alone.  No kids, and no husband because he was watching the kids.  There were a lot of wonderful things about the trip that I'll try to remember to post later (though, let's be honest, my track record is poor at best), but one thing in particular happened that was terrifying.

I was on the subway heading back to Penn Station to catch the train home.  A young man got on the train, dressed all in back, wearing a backpack, his face covered in a white mask.  He walked the length of the car and settled in front of the door that was directly across from where I was sitting.  He fidgeted and hopped around, like he was psyching himself up for something.  He kept bending over and adjusting his mask, hiding his face, and generally looking uncomfortable and antsy.  Then he would stand up, mask in place, and blatantly stare at people on the car.  A few times he shifted so he was looking out the door between trains.

Now, this is NYC, so the chance that he was just a nut job, or weirdo, or even street performer, were all real possibilities.  Also, it's NYC, so the chance that he was a terrorist was also felt like a real possibility.  It was 9/11 weekend.  I was absolutely terrified at the possibility that this man was psyching him up to do something terrible.  I assumed there was a bomb in the backpack.

No one the train was reacting much.  Most people didn't even acknowledge him.  A few looked at him, curious.  Only one other person seemed even slightly concerned.  I could feel panic rising in me, but there was nowhere to go, and no proof that this person meant anyone harm.  I fought to keep my breath steady, to appear unconcerned.  I refused to look at him except when he bent over to adjust his mask, because I was positioned in a way that he wasn't hiding his face from me when he did so and I wanted to be prepared just in case something needed reporting.  I quickly decided that if he were a nutjob, I did not want to draw attention to myself by staring.  If he were a street performer, I did not want to encourage him to repeat performances terrifying people by engaging.  Not looking at him also help keep me from having a panic attack.

At the next train stop, he went to the open door, crowed loudly as if in triumph, and exited the train.  The people getting on sort of laughed, in that way that people do when they're trying recover from something out of place and feel reconnected with the herd.  I have never been so relieved in my life.

I still don't what his purpose was on the train, or how common an occurrence something like that is in the city.  I've lived in a metropolis long enough to have experienced many random and odd things on the subway, but this was the first time one has made me scared for my life.  It is not something I hope to repeat.  It's also not something that will keep me from going back to NYC and enjoying myself, because everything we do has an inherent risk, and the chance of this happening again seems small.  I am thankful that I have some grasp of my own continuous risk assessment of the world, because I can easily see how this one incident would completely shut down a person.

April 23, 2014

Garden 2014 - Post 01

I've had a container garden of some form or another for most of my adult life.  Gardening is something that feels like an extension of myself.  On occasion it feels like a chore, but for the most part it is something I constantly itch to do.  One of the bonuses of owning a house with a yard is the prospect of having a legit garden where I can grow my own vegetables.  Not just a tomato here or there and a few herbs, but a serious crop that could help feed us throughout the summer.

In pursuit of that goal, I spent quite a lot of time last week researching raised beds, where to find good dirt that will deliver, and sorting out which vegetables to grow and how to arrange them.  I had a very elaborate plan made within two days, thanks in large part to the site Smart Gardener, which is amazing.  Then I compared the projected cost of materials to what was available in the bank and became disheartened.  I thought I would have to wait a whole year again, and I had been so excited about all the plants that were going to fit into the little space I had planned.

DS was in full support of this garden, and so he helped me come up with a solution for this year that was easier on the wallet.  Last summer I had attempted to put a couple of green bean plants in the yard, and they were quickly eaten by bunnies.  So I knew whatever I did would need to be protected.  Our solution this year is some very cheap chicken fencing.  It was just big enough with two rolls, with enough left over to have a removable bit on bamboo poles that acts as a "gate".  I think I'll still need to use some tent stakes or something to pin down the bottom, because a determined critter could probably weasel its way underneath, but it seems pretty sturdy otherwise.

The start of one of the new garden beds


We also picked up a 2-sided garden tool for hoeing and cultivating.  I've spent my limited free time this week painstakingly removing the grass from what will be my beds.  For now I'm just scattering this around the areas of the yard that dip and flood during heavy rains.  I should probably get some grass seed at some point.  This is some serious labor right here.  As of today, I have one 12x4' bed done, and one more to go.  I've laid them out exactly where I had planned to build the raised beds, so hopefully next summer those will be easy to install.  After the grass is gone, I'll work in some compost and good gardening soil just to beef up the yard nutrients a bit, and then hope for the best.  I haven't seen any evidence of moles or anything that would come up from below to eat the plants, but I guess we'll find out.  For now, I have seeds sprouting in little containers, just waiting for their new home.  I'm planning to grow a lot of plants that are new to me.  We'll see how it works out.

Today was a bit chillier than the last few days, but here are some of the things we've been up to with the boys.

Practicing some stair skills.

First day it was warm enough for the water table.

Curled up on the couch playing with the LeapPad.

The boys' new bird feeder.  Monkey has already learned how to sign "bird".  It's very exciting.


April 16, 2014

Out of the House!

We've been struggling with Monkey wanting to climb every single thing in the house.  Some things I don't mind.  The couch? Go for it buddy.  Climbing to the top of the couch and then using it as a boost to climb on top of the window sill? PLEASE DON'T DO THAT!  Ugh.  Their antics are getting crazier and crazier, and I worry it won't be long before we're dealing with cracked skulls.  Bear doesn't seem to realize how rough and heavy he is, and prefers to show his love to Monkey by standing on sensitive areas like his face and stomach.

Brotherly love.

But it's not all bad.  They can be so incredibly cute or sweet, sometimes both.  Bear is my little scavenger, and he's constantly looking around for food scraps.  He'll eat anything he finds on the floor (which is usually something he threw there himself during lunch).  Tonight I found a couple of cookies that had been tossed off the high chair, and I placed them on the coffee table.  He noticed 30 minutes later, and his little dance of joy was spectacular to behold.

A dangerous game of hide and seek

We spent last weekend in SC for a wedding.  It was our second time flying with the boys, and they were great.  DS's mom met us there and watched the kids.  I'm pretty sure this was the first time we've had a whole evening away from them together.  It was so lovely, almost 8 hours!  Not to mention all of his "snowboarding" friends were there.  Such a nice reunion.

Honorary cousins of the boys!
Bride & Groom

On Sunday, his sister and her kids came up too, and the whole family went to the zoo there.  It was hot, and very crowded.  I'd been there before, but I honestly didn't remember a single thing about it.  We rented one of the zoo double strollers since we hadn't flown with ours.  There wasn't anywhere to put our diaper bag, and attaching it to the bar immediately made the whole thing tip, even with the kids in it.  So that was a pain, and there was only one "belt" for the both of them.  It was challenging.  Even still, hanging out with the four of the kids together was really fun.

Checking out an ostrich from the stroller.

Not long before that, Bri and I took them to our zoo.  It was our first time visiting with the new KidZooU open, which was actually really cool.  There was a farm section just for littles like mine that can be gated off so they don't get lost.  It has large wooden cutouts of animals with little buttons the kids can push so the animals make their sound.  Monkey thought it was the coolest.  They also got to pet some goats and sheep.  Some of the doors at the zoo are spectacularly lovely.

Smaller than an ant!

Petting some goats
Dragonfly wing doors
Now that the weather is (sometimes) nice, we've been playing on the deck more.  Lots of bubbles and running around.  They don't exactly listen when I ask them to come back yet, so the deck is an easy place to contain them for now while letting them get some fresh air.

This guy was "helping" clean the deck. Spoiler: He's the one that put that dirt there.

Bubbles

We also had some friends visit.  They wanted to visit this local sculpture park that was built by one guy over years and is a sort of architectural mosaic.  I had never been before, only walked past, so it was neat to run around inside it a bit.  We were holding the boys most of the time, but there was a section that was fairly open and empty of crowds, so we let them run a little bit.  Bear was completely fascinated with the floor tiling.  He looked at every step he took and kept bending over to touch the different textures.

   

The inside was also used as an art gallery that caters to mosaic artists, and there were some really lovely pieces that used maps and weather patterns and galaxies to great effect.

Art by Yulia Hanansen | http://www.mosaicsphere.com
Detail of The Center of the Universe by Rachel Sager | http://www.rachelsagermosaics.com/

So if you get a chance, check out Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, because it's fairly inexpensive and pretty cool.  Better than I expected, if I'm being honest.

We also went hiking at a small local park.  It was our first time with the kids, which was exciting because DS and I have been longing to get back outside.  I don't think we'd really done anything together beyond neighborhood walks since I watched him climb when I was pregnant.

The remains of a formal garden, but no signage to clarify.
Under a train bridge.

It's actually kind of nuts how busy we've been lately.  How exciting!



March 27, 2014

On the Move

Both of the boys are walking!  It's really a sight to behold.  Monkey has been for a while now, but Bear finally took the plunged while we were visiting DS's family in West Virginia two weeks ago.  His learning curve since has been fast, and he learned to climb almost immediately.  Just today he was walking along on top of the coffee table, which makes me nervous because it's uneven (it's really no higher than the couch, so the falling part isn't my biggest concern).  I was signing "sit" to him and asking him to just sit if he's going to be up there.  The little scamp just smiled and signed it back to me and went on about his business.

Monkey kissing? the couch.  I don't even know man.

We had a lot of fun in West Virginia.  Traveling seems like a possible thing now (within reason), especially since we picked up some portable DVD players for the car.  We survived a trip to Boston and this one with very little trouble.

DS's grandmother remarried shortly after our own wedding, and he brought his own grandkids into the mix.  They come say hi whenever we're down there, and this was the first time we've visited where the boys could play with them.  There was a lot of chasing happening, which was entertaining.

Monkey getting chased, but also, on the phone.
Pap's youngest granddaughter has really taken to Bear (she spent a good portion of our last visit just holding him).  She worked with him for a long time, and now he's pretty good at actually stacking his cups!  Sometimes he doesn't know which order is best, but his coordination has gotten a lot better.

Bear stacking cups.

We got to spend some time outside, which still isn't happening much.  The winter has been long and cold and snowy this year.  The forecast is finally starting to look promising, but this week it was cold and snowy again.  So that weekend was extra special just for being outside.  Granny's crocuses were just starting to bloom, and Monkey was fascinated with them.*

Monkey inspecting a crocus.

Bear liked being outside as well, but he was much more interested in getting dirty.  We went to a park nearby that wasn't really great for small kids, but it was something to do.  The swings (only one baby swing, but a lot of regular ones) were over a smooth pebbled gravel.  Bear spent most of the time there just digging his hands into it and throwing it around.  And then of course he started shoveling the rocks into his mouth...  A similar thing happened the next day out on the porch, but this time it was with the dirty in Grannys flower pots.  He was really intrigued with the way it ran through his hands.  It was super messy, but I let it go.  I've been working hard to let them discover the world, even though sometimes every inch of me is screaming against the dirty and mess and danger.

Dirt is the best toy.
 One of the best things about going to West Virginia is that DS's mom can make the trip too.

Having a great time with Granny J.
 We've fallen into a fairly nice routine since.  Now that both boys are walking, my days are filled with the literal sound of pitter pattering feet as they chase each other around the living room.  They can climb on pretty much every piece of furniture we have, so nothing in that room is safe anymore.  Just the other day Bear pushed their castle slide over to their high chairs and used it as a ladder to reach his lunch scraps (kid seriously loves food).

I'm still trying to get monthly photos with the Care Bear, but it's harder to remember now that the months are such big milestones.  The days seem very long, and yet the weeks and months just slide by.  Time is a weird thing.  But here is what it's like getting them now.  This one was only a half month late :P

14.5 months
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*A reminder that those I've designated as "family and friends" on Flickr can see all the boys' photos.  I'm still trying to avoid full face pictures on here for now.  Just send me an e-mail if you need me to add you.

March 06, 2014

Joys

A list of things I am currently loving:

  • I've spent the week with one of my very best friends at their place in Boston.  I haven't seen them but about 3 times since leaving Santa Barbara, and it's been like a balm to my soul.
  • I've eaten like a king since I've been here.
  • That includes massive amounts of King Cake.
  • Monkey has been waddling around their living room with his hands clasped behind his back.  I have no idea where he learned that, but it's so funny to see a teeny tiny person do it.
  • Bear is currently in a sunny corner reading a book about dinosaurs, which has a roar button. He actually mimics the roar.  It's fantastic.
  • Bear has also taken an interest in sausage, and was enthralled to watch it being made this morning.  I'm really looking forward to being able to include them both in the kitchen and cooking.
  • Both boys have started randomly snuggling me throughout the day on their own.
There are more things, but the day is getting away from me.

February 19, 2014

Woes

Things have been difficult around here.  A slow build up of one thing after another, with no breaks, no relief.  Yesterday things came to a head and I just broke down.  I spent some time sobbing on my kitchen floor while the kids napped.  That uncontrolled kind where the sounds coming out of you aren't even really human.  Not my best moment.

This week, DS is off in California for a conference.  Taking care of the kids by myself from dawn to dusk and then some is beyond exhausting.  It doesn't help that we've been snowed in for the past month.  Longer if you count the time before when it was just too cold to take them outside.  They're also going through a mental leap right now, and the start of those is always filled with tears.  They were better today.  We always seem to have one day of each leap's fussy phase where it's nothing but tears and screaming from morning to night.  Hopefully it stays at the one.

We seem to have a multitude of expenses since the new year.  Bear's emergency room bill came from his "I'm going to swallow a stick today" incident.  The washing machine broke.  My car failed inspection.  DS's car wasn't even starting.  Our tax return came at just the right time, but it's also a little depressing that it couldn't go to something more exciting.

Do you know until a few weeks ago I'd never been separated for more than 3 hours from my kids?  And that one day I was I was doing something I hated and actually cried while I was out.  I still don't have any close friends here, though I've gained a few acquaintances.  One of those lives close and might turn into something; we'll see.  Basically, in the last 9 months or so, the only person I've had any contact with is DS.  As much as I love my kids, they aren't company in the sense I need.  It's incredibly lonely and disheartening to feel so cut off from the world.  It's not doing good things for my parenting skills either.

I have this permanent soreness in my shoulders and neck from being tense all the time.  I know exercise would help, but finding the motivation has been difficult.  I feel so exhausted all the time.

I'm just in a bad place.  I don't think I realized just how bad until DS left and I lost the one human contact I had.  I've started trying to dig myself out.  I had a play date today, and I'm going to some mom event in the neighborhood tomorrow with the boys.  I have some workout dvds coming for extra motivation on that front.  But a lot of this stuff I just don't think I can fix.  I can't seem to find a way to make extra money to cover things like a babysitter or a night out, or even taking off some of the stress of trying to figure out how to make it to the end of the month.  I mean, I don't want to give the impression that we're poor, because we're not.  But our budget is very tight right now.

I'm trying to spend more time actively engaged with the kids, even though all I want to do is hide in another room and breathe.  I'm starting to fear that their skills are lagging behind because I'm not encouraging and working with them.  I know that comparatively, I'm not a bad parent.  They're happy, and fed, and healthy.  But I know I could be doing so much better with not all that much effort.  I wish I had some kind of "teacher's workbook" for parenting.  "Day 410: laugh 20 times, find all the red things in the house, sing 10 songs, read 5 books."  I do so much better with things when I have clear instructions.

I'm looking forward to my husband coming home.  He acts like he doesn't do much around here, but I can tell you that I wasn't hyperventilating before he left.  I'm not sure how he handles everything he does.  He's a superdad.  Also, the weather is starting to improve.  It's still touch and go, but you start to get the sense that winter won't last forever, even if it is still here.  As much as I love winter, I'll be happier to have them when the kids are old enough can be bundled up to play in the snow.

Maybe tomorrow I will list out all the good things, but tonight I just needed to get out the bad.  Sometimes it helps just to get things down on paper and off your chest.