Friday, December 25, 2009

In the St. Nick of Time

Merry holidays! I was going to send out physical cards this year, but with the economic downturn, it seemed like a showy display of excess, so I’m back to email. Let’s just jump right into things.

This year Harper turned 3. She spent a lot of the year avoiding the potty (STILL) and depositing fecal matter into any public pool that was made available to her. I will need therapy to get over the trauma of some of those diapers, and I don’t believe for one second that any of those “accidents” were truly accidents. She finally decided to use the potty about 14 minutes before she started at a new school that required potty training; just to prove a point, I’m sure. Harper also spent a lot of the year being petulant, stomping her foot, looking sullen, and screaming at her brother. As a result, Harper spent a large portion of the year in her room in time out.

To nobody’s surprise, she also gave us our first broken bone from the kids. We took Aaron out for his first soccer practice late in the summer, and within 15 minutes, Harper had fallen on a soccer ball and broken her arm. Over the next 8 weeks we went through 3 casts (pink, purple, and blue), one arm re-setting, and extensive eardrum damage to anyone in a 50 foot radius at the orthopedist’s office. She still has a weird bend in her arm, which they assured me would correct itself over time, but honestly, I think they were just sick of her screaming. She’s actually sustained a lot of injuries this year- most of the spring was spent with a good portion of her nose missing after she face planted on the pavement. It’s not so much that she’s accident prone as she’s kind of insane and has no idea what the words “be careful” mean. A week after she broke her arm, we looked over to find her 3 feet off the ground, scaling the nets on the soccer goal (pink cast and all). Harper’s favorite activities include asking for junk food all day long, making messes, stealing things from Aaron and lying about it, watching television like it’s a religion, and playing on the computer. If she’s not on the computer or in front of the TV, she is adept at making your life miserable enough to just give in and turn on a movie to keep her quiet. She has demanded for the past few months that we call her “Pink Ballerina”, has walked on tiptoes for 6 months straight, and can be found dancing in any place where she hears music (or not) (my apologies to the Panera patrons who were subjected to the 3 year old performing some sort of wildly age-inappropriate Solid Gold tribute). She is obsessed with princesses, fairies, pink, glitter, and weapons of any sort. When she’s not being awful, she’s actually, well, asleep.

Harper pretending she's not evil

Aaron turned 6 this year and started first grade. First grade has been a dramatic improvement over last year. Even though there are still plenty of issues, we’re well into the school year and have yet to get a phone call from the principal or a note from the teacher asking us to have a conversation about keeping his private parts private. In my book, that’s a success. When Aaron isn’t hitting Harper, flicking her in the head, or telling her to “SHHHHHH!”, he finds really creative ways to spend his time. These include building any imaginable object out of paper and tape, reading, writing dozens of books, and building objects out of Legos that are more complex than my car. When I can’t figure out the DVD player, Aaron is the person I ask to make it work. In an effort to make sure I use my children to benefit me, I’ve decided this mechanical affinity is best served by learning how to work the washer and dryer, and with each new chore he gets, my life gets a little bit easier. I need to find a lightweight vacuum cleaner. He remains annoyed at our bumbling incompetence and ridiculous rules, but seems relatively content to live here until he figures out a better plan. When Aaron’s not drawing or writing, he likes to spend his time refusing any food that isn’t a chicken nugget, coming up with moneymaking schemes (losing teeth, setting up a toll booth on the street, etc.), or asking questions. Oh, the questions. I tried to write them all down one day, and I am not even kidding when I tell you that by noon I had already filled up an entire sheet of paper. The questions range from the banal to the existential, and more often than not, my answer to them is “I don’t know”, “it’s magic”, or “because God made it that way”.

Aaron being pensive

In July of this year we had to put down our 13 year old lab, Storm. That was awful, of course, but our remaining dog, Babe, has really enjoyed being an only dog. She’s now the bus stop mascot and considers it her God-given right to climb into the back of my car for any possible errand. If she’s not allowed, she takes advantage of our newly non-baby gated home to climb into our bed and shed on the pillows. She’s a black Chow, and our sheets are white, so it’s not like she’s even trying to hide it.

Jason and I are same old, same old. I started work early this year working for a defense contractor, which is a far cry from drawing buildings, but really interesting. Jason is still working “drawing pipes”, and we both love our jobs, so what more can you ask for? In our spare time, (haha! Spare time! Good one.) I lift weights and run, mostly to accommodate my bacon habit. Jason runs, mostly to get away from the insanity that is our house. I also still enjoy coming up with new house projects, purchasing all of the supplies, drawing a few details, and then giving Jason a deadline. It’s been working for 10 years now, so why mess with a good system? In fact, as I write this, it’s 6:30PM on Christmas Eve and Jason is frantically sawing, hammering, and drilling to complete Aaron’s big Christmas present, a loft bed (and Harper is yelling at him to hush it, because she’s trying to watch a movie. Isn’t she God’s most precious little angel?) I bet right now Jason’s wishing we had just gone to Ikea. I think we’re going to have to leave out some Red Bull and No-Doz for Santa tonight.

This letter is pretty indicative of our life this year. Down to the wire, completely slapdash, and just kind of getting things done, although maybe not as well as they should be done. I’m still in awe of how much time and energy (and MONEY!) two little kids can suck from two grown adults. Here’s the obligatory “but we wouldn’t have it any other way”, mostly because the offers we’ve gotten for them on eBay won’t even cover the cost of shipping them.

We really hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season and have a great 2010. As a shout out especially to people in design and construction; this past year (and a half) has been a terrible one for our field, and our thoughts are with every one of you- and anyone else who has had a rough go of this year. I don’t know a single architect, designer, or contractor who hasn’t been negatively affected by the economy, and we’re hoping and praying that the industry (and the country) sees a little more life next year. I know it’s not just building that’s getting hit hard, and I hope that things look up for everyone.

Thanks for putting up with us for the past 12 months and we hope to see each and every one of you sometime in the next 12!

Much love,
Sara, Jason, Aaron, & Harper (and mangy Babe)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Haha! Right. Like a summer at home with The OCD Perfectionist and The Bossy Diva could count as a vacation.

I have a stack of post-it notes that I've been collecting all summer year, and now it's so overwhelming to write an individual post about each of them, that I'm going to have to just condense a few. I try to write these thoughtful posts, but then I remember that I'm keeping this blog for my kids, not for an audience. And when I say "for my kids", I mean "when they come to me in 25 years and say all they remember of their childhood was mom screaming a lot, I can show them this blog and say 'but do you see how BAD you were?'"

This summer we went to the pool a lot, because it's a free way to spend the day, and the kids love it. Harper spent one too many times pooping in the pool, so she got put on pool banishment until she became the boss of her own poop. And then mommy relented, because there's not much worse than sitting at the pool with a 3 year old who whines the entire time about wanting to get in the pool. Measure that misery against a poop-filled swim diaper, and it's kind of a wash. Eventually Harper seemed like she was becoming the boss of her own poop, and I foolishly gambled and took her without a swim diaper. As I'm watching the kids splashing around, I see Harper at the edge of the pool looking into her bathing suit bottom. I know exactly what happened, and I run at breakneck speed to get to her. As I'm walking up, she says "Hi! I pooped in my pants", and then I tried to hold my head underwater until I blacked out and hoped by the time I came to, someone else would have dealt with the whole thing. I grabbed her in a death grip and marched her back to our chair, at which point brown water is starting to stream down her legs. I wrapped her up in a towel and shoved her under one arm, grabbed everything else with the other arm, and hissed to Aaron to get out of the pool now, we had to go. Mercifully, the locker room was empty and supplied with plastic bags, which were used to scoop out, well, you know, from Harper's pants as I showered her and hoped that someone came by quickly with a spray of bleach. We got home and I gave her a proper shower, and then proceeded to freak out on her with a ferocity she had never before seen. In the 2 1/2 weeks since that freakout, and she hasn't had a single poop accident. I was telling my sister, and she said "didn't you have success with that method with Aaron before?", and was reminded that yes, the Super Parental Freak Out was the last (due to success) method in a long succession of methods in trying to get Aaron to stop swearing a few years ago. Which leads me to believe that my children are kind of dumb. I mean, you know I'm going to freak out eventually, and now that I know it's the only thing that works, I'm just going to get there that much faster. Wouldn't it be easier to save us all the trouble and just listen one of the first eight hundred times I ask you something? (Their answer is "it's easier, but not as much fun").

On one of those many, many trips to the changing table in a locker room, Aaron was watching me change Harper and I saw him do a double take, and a very concerned look came across his face. He whispered to me "hey, mommy?", and motioned me over. I leaned over to him while holding onto Harper and he whispers in my ear, while looking at her diaper, "Mommy, where is her PENIS?" How he has lived and bathed with this child for 3 1/2 years and never noticed that she has no appendage between her legs is beyond me, but I'm sure it's somehow a failing on my part for not teaching him. (Although, really, didn't he notice that I call her private parts something different than hers?)

Harper is much more interested in anatomy. A couple of months ago, she and I were showering together and I looked down to find Harper standing up, but bent in half at the waist.
"Harper, what are you doing?"
"I'm looking at my tootie!"
"Well, good grief, how closely do you need to look at it?"
"There's something in there!"
"What are you talking about?"
"What is IN there? Look! There's a button right in my tootie! What IS that?"
And I hemmed and hawed and mumbled something about the proper name, and said the button's supposed to be there, and it's all okay, and no, you do not need to see mine, and then I got out of the shower and wrote out a post-it note.

I wrote it on the same post-it where I had written a reminder about this summer when I was using the restroom, and Harper, as she is wont to do, barged in. I know this is entirely too much information, but she was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by what was going on. "What IS that?! Is that blood? Are you okay? Is your tootie hurt? What is THAT? Is that a bandaid for your tootie?" To all of the people over the next week who had to hear Harper tell them "My mommy has a bandaid in her tootie, and when I'm a mommy, I'll have blood in my tootie, too!", I apologize. And also to any of you who had to read that who are kind of squeamish. (Although if that makes you squeamish, you should probably never have children).

Good grief, every story in here has been about bodily functions! That's gross, and also embarrassingly indicative of how I spend my life.

Just a couple more little post-it notes that I want to make sure I don't forget (sorry, I can't make them all stories. Some are just little things that make me and Jason laugh and I want to be able to tell my kids when they're grown).

Jason has been biking with the kids over to a pond nearby and they'll feed the ducks and watch the turtles. Harper asks regularly "can we go to the turtle ocean?", and for some reason that's really precious to me. I guess it does look like an ocean to her.

Last one. At the YMCA, there are water slides the kids can go down, one red, one yellow, and one blue. The kids wait at the top of the slide, and the bored teenage lifeguard mumbles "red, yellow, blue" when the kid on the appropriate colored slide can go. One day when Harper was on Pool Banishment, I saw Aaron, "gobbles" still on his eyes, having an in-depth conversation with the bored teenage lifeguard. It involved lots of arm and hand gestures on Aaron's part, and a lot of leaning over and polite nodding on the lifeguard's part. That night when I was making dinner, I asked Aaron what he and the lifeguard had been talking about, and got an answer that summarized my boy perfectly. "Well, I was telling him that instead of saying 'red, yellow, blue', that it would be a better idea to have a light that all the kids could see, like a stoplight, but instead of red, yellow, and green, the lights would be red, yellow, and blue. Then instead of having to say the names of the colors, the lifeguard could just press a button and the right light would light up. I've been working on it in the office since we got home". I haven't seen it implemented yet at the Y, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

So, it really has been a good summer, if you ignore the arguing, screaming, bickering, crying, and tantrums. The kids took a vacation with Daddy and my mom to see Jason's mom. They got to pet horses on the beach (because my mom is a rebel and ignores the rules). They've spent a lot of time at the pool and are turning into great little swimmers. They've been spending a couple of days a week with my mom while I work, where they've been spoiled rotten with countless trips to the movies and play places, and more ice cream than they have had in all of their previous years combined. They got to go to a neighborhood fireworks extravaganza that was beyond impressive, and surprisingly not interrupted by any police officers. They had to say goodbye to an old friend, our dog Storm, who was ready to move on over the Rainbow Bridge. They got to take a vacation with all of us- including our dog Babe, to visit friends in Hilton Head, where we got to shove 5 children in front of a TV instead of our usual 2. Overall, it's been a really great summer! And I cannot wait for them to go back to school.

Thanks to Mama Sharon for the pictures!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back in the saddle. Or potty seat, as it were.

Remember this post? Ha! What a joke. Unfortunately, the joke is on mommy. Since that post, almost a year ago, Harper has managed to make zero progress, unless we really want to be honest and assess negative progress, in which case her progress has been impressive, indeed.

Oh, I'm sorry. Harper just walked in and told me she pooped in her underpants. Hang on.

(I swear on Baby Jesus that she really did come in and say that when I was typing that.)

So I don't know if Harper has inherited my distaste for public restrooms (which borders on an actual phobia), but if that's the case, then it wouldn't make sense that it would carry over to home, too. It also wouldn't make sense because despite never using a potty for anything other than dropping plastic toys into, she still wants to visit and sit bare bottom on any public toilet she sees. I think that part might just be so she can get me to face my fears, because as I hiss a constant refrain of "DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING! Do not TOUCH that!", she does things like put her hands right on the toilet seat, drags her hands along the walls, shoves her hands in the toilet paper dispenser, and asks (via demonstration) what that funny box is on the wall next to the potty, and is that for those band-aids mommies put in their pants? This is all while I'm cursing myself for being duped into yet another unproductive trip to a public restroom and wondering if it's appropriate to carry a spray bottle of bleach with me for exactly these moments.

If that's not enough to make you refill your birth control, then this most certainly will be, and if I had a tag of "Too Much Information", it would absolutely apply to this post, so I highly recommend not reading this if you're settling into a meal of any sort.

Last week we went to a birthday party at what can only be described as a VERY SWANKY country club. We walk in and get handed our towels, walk past the restaurants and main pool, walk past the outdoor bar, and then down a terraced lawn to the secondary pool, which is absolutely amazing. Slides that are three stories tall, beach entry, gorgeous lounge chairs and umbrellas and outdoor fans, and teenage lifeguards that look marginally less bored than the ones at my YMCA. We're playing in the water for a little bit, and then Harper decides to throw a big fit and refuse to do anything other than sit in my lap and be sullen to anyone who tries to speak to her. (This is partially because, I'm sure, that the party, held from 12-2PM at the VERY SWANKY country club, decided to provide us with the Very Swanky nourishment of water or tea, which was delivered by waiters, but without a side of chicken fingers, so tempers were starting to flare). About 1:30, Harper decides to get back in the pool again, and is playing happily, probably because she needed a few minutes in the Very Swanky pool water to really get her bowels moving. She walks out and happily announces to anyone in earshot (Ha! I typed "earshit" until my browser corrected me) that she had pooped and needed someone to clean her up. Nobody else volunteered, so I ended up gritting my teeth and walking Harper to the bathroom to deal with not only my hatred of public restrooms, but even worse, a dirty swim diaper. I'm surprised nobody had a clown in there, or maybe my 10th grade Biology teacher, just to really top things off. Maybe if I could have driven over a bridge to get to the bathroom, I could have completed my trifecta of Things I Hate the Most.

Once we get in the bathroom, even I, veteran of dirty swim diapers, was astonished at the mess confronting me. I honestly had no idea what to do. It was EVERYWHERE, like she exploded or something. I had a pack of wipes and her towel, and those were my only tools. After I had exhausted the wipes, with no noticeable improvement, I went to paper towel after paper towel, soaked in the sink, wipe, throw away. (And even in the midst of this, I was thinking 'thank GOD that I got a single bathroom unit, so I have access to the sink and nobody is here to bear witness/ call the Very Swanky country club police.") Finally I remembered that right outside the bathroom was a water cooler with a supply of plastic cups, so my final effort was to stand her up naked over the floor drain and pour cups of water on her, which seemed effective enough.

I washed her suit out in the sink, and balled it into some paper towels. I had one diaper with me, so I put it on her, and then balled up the Very Swanky towel so that only the clean part was showing, all 14 square inches of it. I wiped up the bathroom as best I could, cementing forever in my head that public restrooms are the most horrid places on earth. And then I held Harper's hand and walked out of the restroom, carrying my disgusting load of, well, crap, and towing a three year old dressed in a diaper and crocs (fake crocs, at that!), which is about as un-swanky as you can get. I found a towel bin, and disposed of the Very Swanky towel, although it was better served going into an incinerator, but I figure (hope) that they probably use some (a lot) of Very Swanky bleach when they wash those things.

The rest of the party had left by this point, kindly taking my bag with them, so I got to extend our walk of shame through both pools and into the restaurant where I could get my hands on Harper's cover-up. (And as I'm putting it on, I notice there are still flecks of, well, you know, down her back, and wonder if there is any limit to the amount of shame one person can feel). I assume at this point that even if I had an extra $60,000 laying around to pay my initiation, that I have probably guaranteed I will never get an invitation to become a member, because Harper is obviously swank-deficient.

We washed our hands again and then sat down to 10 cupcakes for the 8 kids. I guess the 12 adults were supposed to split the other two cupcakes, but I gave up my share because my appetite was pretty much gone.

We finally left and Harper declared it a wonderful party, but I think the moral here is clear. If you have a party at a mealtime, you should feed people, or someone might poop in your $60,000 share of your pool.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Aaron has decided that non-stop talking doesn't really cover his bases as far as how much he wants to communicate with us. I mean, there are always those times where he wakes up while we're sleeping, and there is likely something on his mind that needs to be shared RIGHT THEN and not one second later, so what's a boy to do? Until recently, what he would do was march himself into our room, regardless of the hour, to share with us the important information of the minute, which might be something as urgent as wanting to make sure he got an orange vitamin the next day, because he's had 3 days in a row of a red vitamin, and he would really like to switch to orange.

For Christmas, one of the presents he got was a small whiteboard and markers, and he has really taken advantage of using these to make sure Jason and I stay on task and stop acting like mindless, forgetful buffoons. Or maybe he uses these to express some brilliant idea he had at 3AM. Here's a sampling of what we've found propped outside our bedroom door.

"Dad, I know what Sharon would like from you. A blanket."

What a helper! Jason was wondering what he could get his mom (Sharon) for Christmas, and Aaron had it all figured out. In the middle of the night. Better to wake the whiteboard than us.

"Yay! Yay! New year is here! In 2009, we want to make a party!"
This was what we woke up to on (well, duh. You can figure out the day.) Something about the grammar seems weird, like he hired someone with a rudimentary understanding of English to translate it for him. Probably because he was engrossed in the details of the festive confetti drawn around the word "prtty" (party). You may not understand the words, but the graphic design conveys everything you need to know.

"Dear Daddy, my clothes go in the CLOSET. Remember."

And yes, the "remember" was more of an order than a nice reminder. I don't know how Aaron puts up with our incompetence. Daddy was explicitly told that we're not laying Aaron's clothes for the day on the chair in his room anymore, that now we're going to put them on his closet shelf. If daddy wants to disregard the new order of business, that's fine, but don't think it goes unnoticed. (And another illustration to help make his point. "See the CLOTHES? Do you GET IT?" I have every reason to believe he was rolling his eyes when he wrote this. I shudder to think of how daddy's annual review is going to go.)

"Daddy, I am downstairs".

At least he didn't want us to worry. And just in case one of us woke up unable to read, there's an illustration to help clear things up. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. Or three words, in this case.

A couple of weeks ago Aaron lost his first two teeth, one on a Tuesday and one on Thursday, and he left us a really funny whiteboard message to show us what the tooth fairy left him, but he erased it before I got to take a picture of it. (And I'm only mentioning it so I can let you know that Aaron has lost his bottom two front teeth and looks so stinkin' cute.)

This one isn't a whiteboard message, but another new hobby of Aaron's. He's learning how to tell time, and is understanding the difference between AM ("at morning") and PM ("past morning"). Since my watch and most of our clocks don't provide any clues as to whether we're in AM or PM, Aaron has taken it on as his duty to be the keeper of the meridian. He updated our refrigerator every morning and afternoon for almost a week.

Aaron's looking over my shoulder and wondering where the picture of AM is. Sorry, kid, I missed that shot. But these other ones I got are a great reminder for me of how fun it can be to live with an almost 6 year old boy.