Sunday, December 27, 2009

Oh Holy Night

My Christmas visit at my brother's house continues and they have provided me with so much blog material that I think I will have to go through the events of Christmas Eve and Christmas day in several posts. I'll start with our experience getting to church service on Chirstmas Eve.

In most families, going to church on Christmas Eve is a given. The time may be up for debate if there are multiple services at the church, but going is never in question. In our family...let's just say there was a lot of discussion about going or not; even questioning friends to find out if they are going so we could base our level of guilt on how many of our peers would also be absent from the service. (For the sake of my relationship with my SIL, I should say that several of her friends were at the movies and McDonald's rather than church.) I didn't want to create any stress in the household by insisting we go...but I really didn't feel right about missing out on know, because JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. So about 20 minutes before we would absolutely have to leave in order to get to church on time, three of us decided to go. The rest of the group could fend for themselves on judgment day. Matt got a free pass because he was sick but the rest of the group is going to have some explaining to do.

The church service was in the next town over and we made the mistake of letting mom drive. Even though the roads weren't icy and it wasn't snowing hard, she drove tentatively and kept questioning us about road conditions. Needless to say, we were 3 minutes late to church. And that 3 minutes made all the difference....

When we walked in to the church building we could hear the congregation singing so we thought we were home free to sneak in. For some reason, though, they don't stand when they sing at this church. (can I just pause here and say WHO DOES THAT?! I have been Methodist my whole life and this is the first time I have ever seen a church where they don't stand when they sing. Someone should tell them that you sound a lot better when you stand. And trust me, this group needed all the help they could get. Just sayin...) (if you are reading this and you were one of the people at church that night, I am not talking about YOU here. I am talking about the "others" that were singing. Not you.)

It was at this point that my sister in law told us that we were not going in. My mom and I looked at her like she was crazy because we had just driven 20 minutes in the snow to get there and we were definitely going in for the service. But she insisted. It was easy for us to just walk in 3 minutes late because no one knew us. She knew everyone so she wasn't having any part of that. So we compromised and sat in this back room that was 1. not lit 2. not heated 3. didn't have chairs and 4. had a frosted window that allowed us to only see shadows of people inside the church, not actual faces. On the plus side, it had an intercom so we could hear the service perfectly fine.

We followed along with the readings, recited the Lord's Prayer and sang the verses of the songs we knew (without hymnals, of course). According to the Christmas program, we had "Special Music" next. Apparently the two people that were supposed to sing the music walked up to the front of the church--we could tell because we saw the shadowy figures move from the pews to the stage. Then they turned on a.....boom their backup music. Except that the system they used had the background mic turned up way too high so we couldn't hear the singers at all. Not even a little bit. I figured we just couldn't hear because we were in the back room that is not meant for viewing the service.

Since we couldn't hear anyway, I just started jotting down some notes to help jog my memory about the night for when I finally got a chance to write about it. This made my mother and SIL very nervous. There were attempts to steal the pen from me. My mom kept whisper yelling at me to stop writing. My SIL kept threatening to not talk to me again if I shared everything that was going on. I ignored both of them and muttered something about freedom of speech. Besides, taking notes was pretty unnecessary because there was no way I was forgetting about this ridiculousness. (for the record, my notes were stolen and thrown away after church)

After the special music someone from the congregation went to the pulpit to read a passage from the Bible related to the Christmas story. Before he began to read he asked everyone to stand. I thought oh sure, NOW you stand. We were 30 minutes into the service at that point. So we stood. In the dark (and cold) back room. All by ourselves. I could just see Jesus looking down on us and shaking his head.

The next "Special Music" was presented by a girl that my SIL knows so she was excited to hear her sing. We moved up closer to the frosted window to make an attempt to see the girl while she sang. As the background music started again it was clear that we weren't going to be able to hear a thing. It was odd, too, because the church was very small and there was maybe 20 feet between where we were standing and where the girl singing was positioned. I thought for sure we would be able to hear better if we were in the chapel so I snuck around to a side door and opened it slightly to stick my head in. No luck. The music was also loud inside the church. No one could actually hear her, which was too bad because apparently the girl that was singing is really great. Listening to the background music alone wasn't very inspiring. Or Christmasy, for that matter. It was just sort of awkward because here you have a whole church of people staring at a girl who was putting her heart and soul into a song and no one could hear a thing. But we did see the earnest on her face and her hand movements were lovely. Guess that counts for something.

As soon as that song was over my SIL was ready to leave. In fact, she started walking out. I objected saying that we still had a reading and Silent Night to go before it was over. And it was only 6:40 so it wasn't like the service was taking forever. But she kept going saying something about "sometimes just making an effort is all that matters!" And then she said that we could do the reading and sing Silent Night in the car while we drove home. Somehow I didn't think that was the point of going to the service. But that's exactly what we did. As she was pulling out of our parking spot to head home, she grabbed her program and read the "leader" part of the reading. Mom and I responded with the "congregation" part as we recited the words printed in the bulletin.

In the car while we were driving home.

Like it was perfectly normal.

When the reading was over we all simultaneously broke into Silent Night. There wasn't a pause or any hesitation. No one looked at anyone else to confirm that we were actually going to sing--the reading was over and then we all just started to sing. I was thinking it was the weirdest thing I had ever been a part of.

We couldn't remember all the words to the second verse so mom grabbed her phone and googled it. While she was doing that Tina turned on the radio and the station happened to be playing Silent Night at that exact moment. My SIL called it a "Christmas Miracle" and said that it justified the whole evening at church. She said it was God's way of telling us that we were ok.

Somehow I think our souls might have been better off if we had gone to the movies or McDonald's.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A List

It's the end of the year and the media seems to be full of lists so I am jumping on the "laziest way to write" bandwagon. Why should I try being any better than CNN? Who do I think I am, anyway? This is for the best.

  • Jack got his stitches out on Thursday. According to Matt, he didn't even flinch when they tugged on them to get them out. Tough guy. I wouldn't know because I wasn't there. No way. That is definitely a "dad" kind of task.
  • My friend Blake finally showed his face after being away at Grad School for the last 4 months. Don't feel bad for him. It wasn't like he was so totally engrossed in his studies that he just couldn't make the hour and a half drive to Austin. He went to almost every A&M football game, including the away games. He also went to Disney World. DISNEY WORLD. In case you didn't know, Florida isn't an hour and a half away from Austin. Yet he seemed to be able to make it to Orlando and not to Austin. In FOUR months. He clearly missed us dearly. We gave him a hard time about it when we went out for happy hour. It was great fun and I felt like we picked up right where we left off.
  • Blake totally made up for being MIA by letting us park our car at his parent's house so we wouldn't have to pay for airport parking. Not only did that save us a wad of cash, but it also allowed us to be dropped off at the door rather than having to drag 2 kids, 2 strollers, 3 suitcases and 2 carry on bags through the parking lot and on a shuttle to the airport. Just getting the kids from the curb to the check-in desk caused us to sweat profusely, so we are grateful for the lift from Blake.
  • And by "us" I mean me and my mom. Matt is still at home so don't try and rob my house because you think we aren't home. I'm smart enough to know not to blog about not being home while I am actually gone and just leave my tiny house with nothing valuable inside open to crooks and robbers. I care too much about our laminate floors and stained counter tops to do that. Besides, one look at my master shower and you would mistake our house for a frat house and leave immediately for fear that someone might slip something into your drink.
  • By the way, the whole reason we were even at the airport is because we are in Illinois visiting my brother's family. Maybe you recall me talking about them before. This is Jack's first visit up north and his first time seeing snow. It was snowing when we got off the airplane and he loved sticking his tongue out to catch snowflakes. He ran around in the snow as if it wasn't slippery at all and caused me a minor heart attack because I think we can all agree that he is accident prone (see: just about every post dedicated to Jack).
  • Christmas at my brother's house can only be described as overwhelming. In fact, I think if an alien who had never experienced Christmas before were to be sent to this house to get an understanding of what the holiday was like, the report back to the mother ship would probably just be a picture of him curled up in the fetal position. First of all, there are a lot of kids here. Between my brother's four, my two, and all the kids in town that are friends with my nieces, this house is never quiet. Not at midnight, not at 6am. NOT. EVER. Secondly, because of the large number of people, there are a large number of presents under the tree. Almost an entire room full of presents. It is an embarrassment of riches. Each kid has 3 sets of grandparents, a great grandmother, God parents, best friends, cousins, gifts from friends, neighbors and so on. Even Annabelle's gymnastics teacher gave her a gift tonight. It is crazy.
  • But even crazier is what happens on Christmas Eve after church when they open presents. It is hard to describe the scene at this house when 4-6 kids start to rip through the wrapping paper to check out their gifts. You can't expect little ones to sit patiently while each person opens one gift at a time. I mean, you definitely won't find a bunch of people calmly sitting around in Christmas sweaters sipping hot cocoa while they go around in a circle opening a gift and showing the group while everyone ooohs and ahhs. Not in a million years. Instead, it is a total free-for-all. You are lucky if they stop to look at who the gift is to before they rip through the paper. And you better not dare give a gift card at a time like this or it will get thrown away for sure. It doesn't stand a chance. By the time it is all over, the room is filled halfway to the ceiling with used wrapping paper and at least one kid is buried somewhere in the pile. Generally everyone survives, but it is touch-and-go for a while. I will make it a point to keep an eye on little Jack so he doesn't get trampled or lost in the chaos. It is the funnest thing you have ever experienced but if you are one of those people that likes things to be orderly (ahem, dad), you might need to take a Xanax.
  • I will be sure to document with pictures because I know there are some of you out there that don't believe me. Some people are thinking that I am taking some creative license in this story. Those people would be wrong, but you don't have to take my word for it. I'll have evidence when I return home from our visit.
  • In other news, I continued a family tradition by going to the 2 little girls' classes today at school to read some Christmas stories. I did this with the older 2 when they were in pre-school and grade school so I was excited to have the chance to read in the younger ones classes. There had to be some good reason why the school district would make these kids come to school during the week of Christmas. RIDICULOUS.
  • Anyway, things were great in Annabelle's class. All the pre-schoolers loved good ole' Aunt Amy. They couldn't get enough of me. Savannah's class was a little more reserved. No one tried to kiss me or anything. I guess first graders are much more suave than pre-schoolers. I thought everything had gone well with the first graders, too. After school when I asked Savannah if she liked my visit, she said yes and that the only weird thing was when a girl next to her wondered out loud if I was fat or not. I responded that she should have seen me 4 months ago; there wouldn't have been a question. The girl is 6 so I really shouldn't be bothered by this but I can't seem to shake the feeling that all I want to do tomorrow is go back up to school and sit on that kid. Jerk.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baby's First Stitches

But this isn't a post about that.

Instead, this is a post about what a jerk I am.

On Saturday night, Matt, Josh and I were just getting in the car to go to my favorite Christmas party of the year when my aunt and mom started yelling out to me to come back in the house because Jack was hurt. Mom had managed to carry him to the front door by the time I got there and all I could see was blood all over his face. I had no idea where it was coming from. His mouth was covered in blood, his cheeks, his chin and nose. It wasn't until mom moved her hand that I saw the gash in his forehead and blood started pouring out. As I grabbed Jack from her, I pushed her out of my way and said, "why does this always happen at your house?"

I regretted it instantly. It just...came my panic over his injury. I saw a flashback to the time I was called over to their house after Avery fell in her walker and had blood coming out of her head. I had a sick feeling in my stomach and his screaming was making my heart hurt. My brain ceased to operate correctly and failed to prevent me from saying a really insensitive thing to the woman who loves my babies as much as I do.

At that point it was hard to tell what I felt worse about: Jack's injury or my mom's.

As Matt and I drove to Urgent Care with Jack whimpering in the back seat, I talked to him about how awful I was for saying that. He kept telling me that this was a freak accident and could have happened anywhere. He reminded me that Jack is a boy and this won't be our last trip to Urgent Care. He talked about how scars add character (and he may have said something along the lines of, "chicks dig scars" but I tried to block that out of my head). All that is to say that he didn't make me feel better about my comment to my mom.

But how could he make me feel better? There was no defense to what I said. When the going got tough, I turned into a huge jerk.

I apologized to her profusely. She clearly loves my children and takes great care of them when we aren't around. This was a freak accident. Jack had tripped over a pillow from the couch that fell on the floor and ended up hitting his head on the corner of the end table in the living room. What are the chances that he would hit in that exact spot? Of course there wasn't anything that she could have done to stop it as it was happening. We had only been out of the house for 60 seconds so it wasn't like she was letting him run around and party while she napped in her room. I know all of this. I knew it then, too. I just don't know what got into me to say such a stupid thing.

Jack is feeling fine now and will get his stitches out on Thursday. The other good news is that my mom understood that I was out of my mind when I said that to her. She was big enough to tell me not to sweat it. She even kept the kids for us again while we went out with the people from my office for our Christmas party tonight.

They just don't make them any better than my mom.

(edited to add: I won't mention that Avery accidentally shut Jack's fingers in the car door while we were at the Christmas party tonight. I mean, how much abuse can the woman take?) *wink*

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Avery's First Haircut

Sure, she might be close to 3 and a half, but she hasn't been fond of the idea of a haircut so we just haven't ever tried. But lately her hair was starting to get stringy so I started talking up the idea with her. I may have actually said that princesses get their hair cut. *cough*

(Just uttering that sentence made me question my own ethics. I mean, how far am I willing to go to manipulate my child into doing something I want her to do? A Princess reference? Really? It's like I don't even know myself anymore).

The problem with getting her hair cut was that I told her the story of "Frizzy Lizzy" to get her to let me brush her hair. My friend Lauren told me about this tactic after it worked with her daughter. So every night before bed I would tell Avery all about "Frizzy Lizzy" and how she would never let her mom brush or blow dry her hair. Finally, Lizzy's hair got so ratty that she had to have it all cut off and she looked like a BOY! (when you say "boy" by the way, you have to really emphasize the word. You know, like BOY is the worst thing you could ever be).

It solved my daily hair brushing issue but it created a phobia of hair cuts. She was so afraid that she would end up looking like a boy that she wouldn't go anywhere near a pair of shears.

So, I started talking to her about what it is like to get a hair cut. Then I took her with me when I got my hair cut so she could see what it was like at the salon. Then there was the whole princess reference...and she finally agreed to allow us to get her hair trimmed.

And this is where I bring up the second reason why it has taken so long to get her hair cut:

I didn't want to do it.

She has these curls that I am totally in love with. They are little ringlets that make it look like we curled her hair but didn't brush the curls out. And I was afraid that cutting her hair would get rid of the curls. I held out as long as I could but I started to realize that we had to blow dry her hair a lot more lately because it was getting stringy when we just let it dry. That meant that you couldn't really see her curls anyway.

So off to the salon we went...

The BEFORE picture. Just in case cutting her hair turned out to be the worst decision ever and her hair is ruined for life. It can happen. It happened to me in 3rd grade when my mom got my hair permed and cut like an old lady. TRUE STORY. I was never the same after that.
A shot of the back. It had been straightened that morning so I didn't even get one last shot of her curls.
Here she is at the salon with my hair stylist, Vilma. We knew better than to take her to a kid's place. Too much noise and distraction for our little scaredy cat.
She did a great job sitting still.
She even managed a smile every once in a while.
And the curls still seemed to be there, even as she was cutting.
Oh, and also, I asked her to only cut about 1 inch off her hair. I mean, let's not go crazy or anything.

I love this picture because you can see that she is looking at herself in the mirror.
And there you have it. She was all done and we all survived. Curls and everything.
And then later we went to a parade and she totally managed to avoid looking at the camera the entire time.

All was right with the world.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Up To My Eyes In Cake Balls, That's What

Oh, man. I am so far behind. Let's see...what have I been doing that has kept me from posting about Thanksgiving, the Turkey Trot or Avery's first haircut?

I know! I got caught cheating on my wife and she chased me down the lawn with a golf club. Now I am spending all my time trying to make things right and stay out of the media spotlight.

oh wait. That was someone else.

No! No! I was busy explaining how I ended up at the White House State Dinner last week. I got some vague emails saying something about possibly attending a ceremony that had nothing to do with the dinner and those gave me the impression that I was a welcomed guest for the main event.

no, that was someone else also.

Oh, I remember! I was busy escalating troop levels in Afghanistan. You know, right before I pick up my Nobel Peace Prize next week.

nope. Still not me.

Well there had to be some reason why I didn't post for 10 days but I just can't put my finger on it right now. Regardless, I will be back this weekend with a recap of our Thanksgiving holiday and my fun night at the Pioneer Woman's book signing. For now, since it is approaching 1 am and I just finished making almost 150 cake balls for the week, I'm just going to hit the sack.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Another Post I am Documenting for Future Therapy Sessions

Avery has it in her mind that you don't wear underwear with a leotard. Up until tonight I really didn't care either way. But tonight she wore a new long sleeve pink leotard to gymnastics and when she put it on I realized I could see her little tush right through it.

Asking her to take it off and put on panties was like asking Ohio State fans to stop being jerks. That is to say, it was met with much resistance.

Oh, man. She whined. She fussed. I think there was a foot stomp. Thankfully Matt came home at about that time and offered her ice cream after gymnastics if she would just put on panties. (If you need "parenting skills" mentors, we are available.)

She agreed to the ice cream and quickly took off her leotard and put panties on. As soon as they walked into class, Avery went up to one of her friends and Matt heard her say this:

"I'm wearing panties so I can get ice cream!"

I doubt we'll be invited to a play date with that family anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Greatest Surprise We Ever Survived

Jack is 20 months old today. That is the exact age Avery was when he was born. Just thinking about that makes my head spin a little.

I can't imagine having a newborn right now. Even if Jack was our only child, I can't imagine bringing home another baby because he is still very much a baby himself. Sure, he walks and talks to some degree (mostly just 2 word phrases and a lot of hand gestures mixed in with some sign language) but he still depends on us for almost everything. In fact, most of the time he still wants to be held--much to the displeasure of my back. When I look at him I realize just how much of a baby Avery was when he was born and it kind of blows my mind.

How did we handle a new baby when we already had one at home?

We were fooled by her vocabulary. By the time Jack was born she was speaking in complete sentences. I talked myself into believing she was a big girl. That's the only way I could feel better about robbing her of being the center of our attention at such a young age. But no matter how much I tried to convince myself that she was a big girl, I know now that she wasn't.

How did we handle a new baby when we already had one at home?

Jack is such a cuddler. I wonder if Avery would have been, too, if my lap hadn't been occupied by my pregnant belly. She loves to rock before bedtime like most kids do, but she rarely just sits in our laps and snuggles on the couch like Jack does. In fact, that is one of my favorite things about Jack. He loves to hug and lay his head on our shoulders when we hold him. He likes to wake up a little bit earlier than Avery so he can get some solo cuddle time with us before he starts the day. After about 10 minutes of that he demands a "banana!" or "Bar!" and the day begins.

How did we handle a new baby when we already had one at home?

Once it became obvious that I was pregnant, strangers would ask me when I was due. When Avery was with me, they would almost always follow my response with, "oh, my. Two in diapers. That is going to be so hard." Or the equally helpful, "20 months apart? Well you won't sleep for a few years but you should be ok after that." Matt and I would just look at each other knowing that we shared the same feeling of helplessness. I mean, there wasn't much we could do about it. The train had left the station. And realistically, this was the only "normal" we would know so we just figured we would take it one day at a time. But looking back, I don't know how we got through the early days of sleepless nights coupled with temper tantrums and potty training.

How did we handle a new baby when we already had one at home?

When I look at Jack I see a baby. Not because he is my youngest. Not because I am holding on to anything. Not because I don't want him to grow up. It's just a fact. My boy is still very much a dependent baby who needs help with everything from diaper changes to getting dressed to opening banana peels. His size may fool you but his sweet baby smell and unsteady walk reveals it to be true.

How did we handle a new baby when we already had one at home?

So when I look at Jack today, on his 20 month birthday, I wonder what in the world we were thinking. How did we mistake Avery for a big girl? How did we fool ourselves into believing that she was old enough to share our love, affection and most of all, our attention with a newborn? I can't even wrap my mind around the idea of having a new baby now--with Jack at this age. I can't even begin to comprehend how we would handle it.

And yet, we did. We did handle it. We handled everything. From midnight feedings for Jack and 6am wake up calls from Avery to breast feeding during temper tantrums. We managed to have 2 in diapers at the same time. We were able to sleep at night--after the first few months--with relative consistency. We grew closer not only in our marriage, but in our friendship.

Clearly we owe a lot of thanks to my parents and aunt for pitching in when the going got tough. There is no doubt that our Saturday nights of uninterrupted sleep keep us sane throughout the week. Maybe I should go as far as to say that we couldn't do it without them. I hope we never have to find out.

What I know for sure is that having our big baby boy in our lives has been such a blessing. We are so fortunate to get to raise two very different children and watch them both grow and develop in their own way. Seeing the two of them getting along and playing together just makes my heart want to burst. Avery is Jack's biggest fan and he loves her so much. They share (most of the time) and keep each other entertained.

I can't say that I would want to figure out how to handle 2 in diapers again. But I can say that I am certainly glad we were blessed with the chance to figure it out this time. Sleeping in past 6am on Sunday is great but we sure do miss seeing their faces light up when we get them out of bed in the morning. There is just no substitute for Jack's morning cuddles and Avery's attempts to sneak into our room by hiding under her blanket so we can't see her walking through the door.

Happy 20 months, my sweet boy. We are so blessed that we have you in our lives. And happy 40 months to my little girl; the greatest big sister we could have ever asked for.

Jack was being coy. 20 month picture.

I think he learned how to be coy from his big sister.
Avery at 40 months.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things Jack Ate Today

Between 6:40 and 8:20 am, he ate:
  • a banana
  • a granola bar
  • unsweetened applesauce
  • unsalted pretzels
  • grapes (2 servings)
And after each thing he yelled for me to get him MMMOOOORRRRREE! MAMA! MMMOOOORRREE!

Things I said no to when he asked:
  • another banana
  • another bar
  • another serving of grapes
  • triscuits
Someone hold me. We are going to be so poor when he is a teenager.

Nom Nom Nom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm Sure Emeril Never Has To Put Up With Kids Like Mine

Avery loves to help us cook, as you might have gathered if you watched the video I posted of her last month. She helps Matt make smoothies for breakfast every morning and loves to help crack the eggs when I make cake balls. That's why we were excited when she turned 3 and we could take her to cooking classes at Young Chef's Academy.

It took us a few months to get a class that worked into our schedule (what?! It's football season!). So when we found out that a Big Chef/Little Chef class was coming up in November, we signed right up. Lucky for us, our friend Alex and his wife Lisa are the owners of the Young Chef's Academy in Round Rock so we have the hook up on when classes are coming up.

Our first class was last Saturday and just as we suspected, Avery loved it. She was so excited the whole car ride there. She asked questions about what they would have at the class and what her teacher's name would be. She was very intent on picking out her own apron, which would be pink, of course. We really couldn't get to class fast enough for that child. It might have been the longest 15 minute car ride of her life (and mine).

We got to YCA just in time for class to start. Chef Lisa came out to the lobby to meet the kids and go over the rules. That's when I realized that we have "that child."

Oh, you know the one I am talking about. Poor Chef Lisa could hardly get a word out before Avery was talking over her asking questions. Chef Lisa talked about grabbing an apron and Avery shouted, "I want a pink one!" before she could even finish her sentence. When Chef Lisa informed her that she only had white ones, Avery tried to tell her about the pink polka dot apron she has at home.

(That's when I considered backing up a little hoping that maybe I could pretend to be the parent of one of the other kids that was sitting there quietly.)

Even though the class was for kids 3-5 years old, somehow Avery was the only one that was talking like crazy. The others were sitting there like sweet angels just listening intently to what Lisa had to say.

Once we had our hands washed and aprons on, Chef Lisa reviewed the menu with everyone. When she started describing how to shred carrots for the first recipe, Avery said "I want to do it! I want to do it! I want to shred. I like carrots!" It didn't matter that Lisa had already prefaced her statement with the information that everyone would get a chance to help shred carrots.

Maybe Avery didn't believe her. Maybe Avery was experiencing some form of short term memory loss that caused her to forget that Lisa had, just seconds earlier, told everyone that they would get a chance to participate. Maybe Avery has a hearing problem and has gotten along in life just by watching for context clues. It's possible that she has trust issues and simply didn't believe Lisa. I really don't know. All I can say is that Lisa is a better woman than I am because I was ready to strangle this child of mine.

Don't even think that she would let me help her because that was NOT happening. We might still be there shredding that same carrot today if Chef Lisa wasn't good at being tricky. She was able to get the carrot away from Avery by distracting her with the next cool thing, which happened to be a knife.

While Lisa was trying to explain how to cut the bread, Avery was busy saying, "I want to cut! I want the pink knife! I want to cut. Can I have the pink knife? Can I have the pink knife? That knife, right there in your hand. Can I have it?" I thought her head might actually explode. She could hardly keep her bottom on the chair when she was waiting for Lisa to give her a knife and a plate.

It was right then that I realized that Lisa was sent directly from Heaven because there is no way that I could deal with children like mine all day. Especially with knives so close within reach.

OH THANK GOODNESS she happened to get the pink knife and plate. Imagine! I wonder how Chef Lisa knew that Avery wanted it so bad...

After she rolled her hotdog in the bread that she cut and smashed, she patiently waited for her turn to brush butter on her bread. She was uncharacteristically calm when she was waiting and I was thinking that maybe she was over her initial excitement and was settling down back into her normal self. (oh please! oh please! oh please! let her just be excited and not really like this in real life. oh please! oh please! oh please!)
The pictures make her look much more innocent than she really is.
Chef Lisa showed her what the ingredients for the carrot soup looked like after they were finished cooking but before they got mixed to smithereens. Despite already knowing everything, Avery was very interested when Lisa would show her ingredients, tools, or food that looked different. She did seem to pay attention to Lisa when she wasn't getting ready for a new task.

But her patience was short lived when Lisa brought out a wisk that they would use to mix the honey mustard. Before she could even tell everyone what they would be doing Avery wanted to make it clear that SHE COULD STIR. SHE WANTED TO STIR. SHE COULD DO IT. I'm not even sure Lisa finished her instructions before she just handed it over. I mean, it wasn't like anyone else was learning anything with Avery boldly proclaiming to KNOW HOW TO DO IT ALL. (I started to think that this should be a drinking class and not just a cooking class.)

I don't think Lisa got the wisk out of her hands before Avery took over.
And then she stirred again when it came time to mix the yogurt into the carrot soup.

Sweet relief came when all the food was done and it was time to eat. Chef Lisa talked about the importance of trying something even if you think you don't like it because "your tongue might like it even if your eyes don't" which actually sunk in with Avery. She tried everything and even though she didn't like the soup or honey mustard, it was new for her to at least have a taste.

Later when Grammie asked her about class she repeated her newfound knowledge that trying new things is good because your tongue might like it. I was happy to hear that she learned something in class since she seemed to know it all while we were there.

Well of course she has to try the hot dog. It's all about trying something new...
*(slaps hand to head)*

I think it might have killed her to actually look at the camera for one picture.

All that is to say that I guess I am going to owe huge Christmas gifts to Avery's teachers because I had no idea what they had to put up with all day. This was our first experience in a class together since she was 2 years old in Gymboree. She obviously wasn't such a know-it-all then. Everyone knows that 3 year olds are much more worldly than 2 year olds.

Matt is going to take her to the next class so I will be interested to see if she behaves the same way with him as she did with me. Lisa was fantastic with all the kids. It has to be tough to have some totally quiet kids that you aren't really getting any reaction from and then have Little Miss Chatterbox that you can't seem to find the "off" switch to. She had such great control of the class and Avery really did have a great time.

She can't wait to go back to YCA for another class in two weeks. I hope Lisa is all stocked up on patience by then. :-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Times the Fun

We go to a lot of great birthday parties that I always intend to blog about but then time passes and it just seems weird to post about a party we went to several months ago, so I just move on without writing about them. Fortunately for me, the birthday party that we went to on Halloween was for a set of twins that turn 1 today, which makes this post's timing PERFECT.

(pats self on back since procrastination has finally paid off)

My sorority sister, Liz, and her husband Pecos welcomed baby girl Ali and baby boy Stone on November 10th, 2008. They waited several years for their turn to be blessed with such gifts so we were thrilled when we got the news that they were expecting twins! What a double blessing.

And double work. Double the diapers. Double the sleep training. Double the feeding schedules. Double the teething and the laundry and the colds. Double the waking up in the middle of the night. Double the growth spurts. But most of all, double the love and happiness that those babies brought into their parents lives. Double the kisses and cuddles and first smiles. While I know it has been exhausting for Liz over the past year, I also know that she wouldn't want it any other way.

Their party was in San Antonio, about an hour and a half away, from 12-3 which is prime nap time in this house. Both huge strikes against going. Plus it was Halloween so we had tight timelines that we had to stick to in order to be home in time to get! candy! from! strangers!

But none of that mattered since there was no way that we were going to let nap schedules or long car rides keep us from being there for the twins' big day. We really wanted to help celebrate such a great first year for the whole family. The toughest year is over and now on to the big milestones in year two!

We knew it would be a nice party because Liz and Pecos have always been great hosts but they far exceeded our expectations for this one. To start, the decorations were fantastic. They didn't miss a detail for the Halloween inspired affair. I wasn't smart enough to remember to take pictures, of course, but trust me. Awesome.

There was an orange and black painted archway that you walked through to get into the party. Once in the backyard they had a huge blow-up slide with a ball pit at the bottom and a big bouncy house to play in. Perfect for both of my kids! Avery loved the bouncy house so much that she hardly stopped jumping, even when she landed wrong and jammed her finger. Jack was a fan of the ball pit and playing on the swings. They also had a big blanket laid out in the lawn with toys that were perfect for the 6-12 month crowd. They really did have something for everyone, which gave us the chance to visit with friends our own age while the kids played.

The food table was perfectly decorated and stocked for both kids and adults. They had Mickey Mouse shaped chicken nuggets, the cutest PB&J sandwiches, cream cheese dip made to look like a spider, oreos made to look like caterpillars, caramel apples with m&ms, pretzels and so much more. The drinks for kids were served in the cutest little plastic bottles that they got to take home and the treat bags were full of fun halloween candy and toys. The drinks for adults came out of a large silver keg. You just can't go wrong with that.

After the kids played and ate and played some more, Ali and Stone took off their costumes and got ready for some cake. It was clear that Stone was much more into it than Ali was. She pretty much gave us dirty looks the whole time (hey! I don't like it when people stare at me while I am eating, either) and didn't care too much for the cake. My kids were the exact same way the first time we gave them cake, so I could totally relate to her.

Stone seemed to think it was strange that we all gathered around them, sang the birthday song and then watched while he licked icing off the cake, but he didn't let that stop him from enjoying his special treat. It was fun to watch him discover how yummy cake and icing are.

Pretty soon after that Jack stuck his thumb in his mouth and laid his head down on Matt's shoulder so we knew it was time to head back to Austin. We sure had a great time celebrating such a special day with our friends. We just couldn't be happier for Liz and Pecos. They are such good parents and you can tell that those babies were definitely worth the wait.

Here are some pictures from the party.

Stone was looking at Pecos as if to ask
"Are you sure I can eat as much of this cake as I want to?"
Nom Nom Nom
Happy Guy with a face full of blue icing.

Ali wanted to enjoy her cake in peace.
I didn't want to make her mad so I just snuck in a few shots of her.
Like most girls, she wasn't a fan of getting her hands all dirty. But she did start to get into it after she realized how delicious cake is. Smart girl!
Ali and Stone playing in the ball pit. He was a monkey and she was a cat in a tutu. They were both very cute.
Jack also really enjoyed the ball pit. I had to take him out after he started indiscriminately throwing balls around. Safety first, kids. Safety first.
After 3 years of wanting nothing to do with bouncy houses, Avery is officially a fan. She hardly left the inflatable energy zapper the whole time we were there.
My dear friend, Amy, was in town from Denver for the week. It was wonderful to see her again after more than a year. I think the last time she was here I was still on maternity leave. It is crazy how time flies.
He isn't quite as light as when he was 2 months old. Let that be a lesson to you, Amy. Don't stay gone that long or you won't be able to lift him next time!
I don't remember this girl's name but her Aunt brought her to the party. She is one of Liz's neighbors, I believe. Anyway, she took a liking to Jack and it was so cute to see her holding his hand. Jack was slightly confused by it, but he went along for a few minutes. Girls have that kind of power over men, even at a young age.

Uh, kind of hard to deny that these two are father and son. Look at that facial expression that Matt is passing on to my sweet boy. I just want the girl that will eventually marry Jack to know that I had nothing to do with the looks that he gives. That is all thanks to Matt.

Jack put his thumb in his mouth as soon as we got into the car. I think he was asleep by the time we hit the interstate. We didn't get so lucky with Avery, but it didn't matter because the party was worth it. We all had a great time.

Happy 1st Birthday, Ali and Stone!

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Little Charmer

Such a happy guy in the car.
His new favorite thing to do is to ask us either, "What happened?" or "What are you doing?" (which actually only comes accross as "doing?" in the cutest little high pitched voice.) And he always makes his hands go like this in the picture when he asks.

Here's my little newsboy in his peacoat and hat.
I love his look in this picture. He is paying close attention to what is happening on Sesame Street rather than me taking pictures of him, but I like the result.

He is talking much more lately. It's a fun game to try and figure out what he is saying, but more and more of his words are crystal clear. It's been neat to experience this phase because Avery skipped it altogether. She went from single words to clear phrases and complete sentences in just about 3 months (from 15-18 months). Jack has his moments of gibberish where his face is completely serious and his gestures indicate that he is really trying to tell us something but his language is in some kind of Nordic dialect that I have never heard before. And then he will have moments where he tells us in no uncertain terms exactly what he wants. "Cookie!" "Open!" "Night Night!"

The other great thing he is doing now is nodding his head yes or shaking no when we ask him questions. It really has made life easier to be able to ask him clarifying questions. Plus, it is so cute when he emphatically nods his head in agreement.

When he wants us to follow him somewhere he gestures us forward with his hand and says "C'mon, mama!" which is very hard to resist.

We know what is looming, though. There is no avoiding that he'll be 2 in just about 4 months. It's out there...mocking us...laughing at how much harder it will be with a 2 year old that doesn't actually speak in coherent complete sentences. But for now, we are loving every minute of our sweet boy's new-found communication tricks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Last weekend was just a blur of busy. We had so much going on and I can't believe we were able to actually accomplish almost everything we planned. On Friday I baked cake balls for a birthday party order and delivered them at 9pm. Then on Saturday we took the kids to a birthday party for one of my college friend's twins. The party was in San Antonio at noon so we had to leave around 10:30 to get there in time. I will post more pictures of that party later next week. They did such a great job of making the party fun for all ages.

Then we rushed back to Austin to get the kids ready to trick-or-treat. After not really napping and eating way too much sugar, I was ready to give Avery to the first person to ring our doorbell. Luckily she got better as we got outside and saw her friends in costumes.

On Sunday we participated in the Race for the Cure with some of my friends from work. It was a great crowd and we were very happy to be a part of it again this year. After that we met some friends from college for lunch and before we knew it, the day was over (stupid time change).

Here are some pictures of trick-or-treating on Saturday.

Jack started off as a peacock but Matt just couldn't stand it and felt that it was too feminine so he made me change him back into his monkey costume. Obviously no one ever took the time to tell Matt that the male peacocks are the best looking ones. Sad, really.
Here's my little butterfly princess (according to Avery, it's the shoes that make her a princess as opposed to just a regular butterfly. duh). Her costume came from Shimmer Sister.
Jack was ready to get the show on the road so he couldn't understand why he had to pose for pictures when he had heard the rumor that people were just giving candy away for no reason at all.
Avery was pretty scared of Poppa in a clown costume and took some coaxing before she would warm up to him.
She finally reluctantly decided to approach this new, scary Poppa. And for the rest of the night, she kept asking if Poppa was going to take the paint off his face. Ah, the life of a parent of a 3 year old. The questions just never end....

Jack didn't have any problems running right up to Poppa, even in that crazy costume. He just can't get enough of his Poppa. He actually chooses him over me most days.

I love this look that Jack is giving Dad. It says..."I know that's you, Poppa, even if you are dressed up as a cast member of "Killer Klowns from Outer Space."

Avery kept an eye on him wherever she went. It was pretty funny to watch her keep her distance from him.

Jack raided the candy from Grammie's house and then was ready to head out and get more candy from total strangers.

Avery was terrified of this witch. Jack actually went up to her first. Avery didn't approach her until Jack was safely back in the wagon. So much for being a protective big sister.

Thank heavens we ran into Avery's BFF Kendel while we were out because she had been asking about Kendel all freaking night. Every time we talked about what we were going to do next she would add, "And then we are going to see Kendel..." and I wanted to just throw myself in front of an on-coming car.

Jack thought it was an "eat as you go" program. He didn't have anything in his bucket because he would eat it as soon as someone would hand him some candy.

WHEN ANIMALS ATTACK. It is just never pretty. (This is what happens when you give a toddler 3 pieces of candy. Be warned, friends. Be warned.)

Hard to keep the wild ones away from the candy bowls. Uncle Josh was not going to be the one to try and stop him.

Rona came out with her Cowgirl Sherif costume on and the kids loved it. Avery had all kinds of questions about the handcuffs. Jack just wondered if she had more candy to give him.

Thankfully, because the kids are still so young, we were able to get away with only going to 4 or 5 houses. I think they will catch on more next year and we'll end up going all over the neighborhood.

Uncle Josh totally hooked them up with candy, though, so there was no shortage in their bags. In fact, I took some heat from a friend of mine because I gave half of Avery and Jack's candy to Kendel's big sister who missed Halloween this year due to an illness. She called me a socialist who was forcing my liberal views on my child and unfairly giving away her candy.

I called it sharing.

Just remember kids, good always triumphs over evil. (ahem, I'm looking at you, Micha!)