Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Birthin' Babies

I took the weekend off from writing. You see, my dissertation is finished...to my committee...ahhhh.

Yesterday, I took the day to just enjoy it and think back over the past three and a half years. It's been a whirlwind. Scarlet O'Hara might not have known about birthin' babies, but I do--both the human and doctoral variety. At the end of the day, they are amazingly similar.

In the beginning, it starts with such an innocent, simple idea. Let's have a baby. Let's get a doctorate. You know it's a journey. You know it's a lot of work. But...at that point...you know nothing.

You start reading. You take some classes. You get more advice than you could ever use or really want. You have big ideas and big dreams. Everything is shiny and new, tucked away in files and drawers. It's neat and tidy.

Then the real work begins. A baby crying in the night. A proposal that needs tweaked. A dissertation that blows up. Hours and hours of cleaning up mess and reveling in the shiny moments--the moments when all the world feels right before it gets so hard again.

That baby becomes an extension of you. It's a piece of your identity--your soul. And you send it out into the world, to your committee. And you hold your breath, and you hope it's treated nicely...and I'm still hoping.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Winter's Spring

When I picked the kids up yesterday, it was 68 degrees and sunny. Clearly, we had to go to the blue park. The kids decided they wanted to ride there. Mr. Man is still figuring out the tricycle:
He prefers the Fred Flinstone method: just push it forward with your feet on the ground. Who needs peddles?

Issa was so proud to be riding her new scooter:

You have to love the pose!

There is nothing better than swinging and sliding:

Evan was so proud:

(I know I cut off his forehead, but the facial expression is classic Evan.) He learned to climb up this contraption all by himself yesterday:

The one visual you are missing was my favorite moment of the afternoon. We were halfway to the park when two little kiddos realized they could get there a lot faster if they ran. Somehow, I ended up carrying the tricycle, scooter, and helmets the rest of the way. I'm still not quite sure how it happened, but I know I laughed the rest of the way there. Thankfully, they managed to ride their respective vehicles the whole way home.

There's nothing like a dose of spring to bring out some smiles.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Little Secret

My teaching schedule this semester is a dream. I teach from 2-3:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays--after the post-lunch sleepies and before the late afternoon drag. I can pick up my kids every day, and life is great.

And...I have a little secret (although I suppose this makes it very un-secret). I come home between class and when I pick up the kids--even though I drive right past Evan's school. I only have 20-30 minutes, but it gives me time to switch gears, unpack my bag, and get one or two little things accomplished. It is fabulous. Don't tell the kids.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Got it Right

In the midst of juggling a career, a family, and a dissertation, there are many days when I get it wrong. The balance is off, and I go to bed vowing to do better tomorrow. Often, I feel like I missed a moment--let my mind be somewhere else.

Yesterday, though, yesterday, I got it right. I had a productive day in terms of work, writing, and housework. I picked Issa up and we headed to the optometrist, and she was sad to know she doesn't need glasses. (I want to capture that because they are coming...and they will be followed by the "I don't want glasses" years.)

We finished early, and we picked Evan up early. We went to the library, got our books, and talked about how it was spring in January--the sun was shining and it was 65. Instead of coming home, we went to McDonald's. We got milkshakes, and I sat and really watched the kids play in the Playland. We had the place to ourselves, and I saw how big my kids are getting. Issa climbed all the way to the top and made it down without needing to be rescued. Evan attempted to make it to the top, and I rescued him. I listened to them laugh and watched them climb. I really saw them, and my heart was happy. My mind was there, and all was right with the world.

Here's to another day of getting it right...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boys and Girls

Further evidence of the difference between boys and girls:
See that hook on the left? That is Issa's coat hook, and it has been there for over three years.

See the two bare patches on the wall? Those are where Evan's hooks used to be. He has managed to pull three off the wall. He's not overly rough; he's just emphatic. He needs to be really sure that coat is on the hook. It does not end well for the hook...or my wall.

Since the rule is the kids have to hang their own coats up when they get home, we needed a new solution. Enter the hanger. It is tied to the banister above, and if he pulls the banister down we have a bigger issue.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Evidence of the Weekend

We had a fabulous weekend filled with nothingness--because sometimes you just need that. We enjoyed a brunch out after hair cuts, high quality naps and snuggles, and even a few creative endeavors.

Issa decorated our house for Valentine's Day:
She made 12 of these hearts, or 120 if you ask her because she is only counting by tens these days. They are all hanging on this pillar; our Valentine's festivity is very contained.

Daddy and the kids constructed a train world:

Please notice the urban center and the suburbs across the bridge.

I cooked and ran the tidy circle, but...

I did not do laundry. Yikes. The sad thing is this is not all of it! I have already done one load and there is more to gather. Yikes. I suppose I should go tackle the mountain...

Friday, January 20, 2012

And So It Begins...

Apparently, Issa is five going on 15.

She is part of a research study at UNC, and she had an appointment to go play games yesterday. We headed out a little early to get ice cream in the little mall that houses the study's office space. When we arrived, we discovered the shop had closed. Fortunately, we stumbled upon a fabulous little patisserie where we enjoyed incredible cupcakes, fresh orange juice, and coffee, and Issa chose her wedding cake. It is stunning.

She had a blast playing games, and we picked Evan up and headed home to get ready for ballet. While we were getting ready, we rocked out to Hannah Montana. It was so fun.

On the way to ballet, I pulled out my imaginary microphone and launched into my best rendition of "Superman." I thought I was one cool mom. Then I hear this from the back seat: "Mom, do not do that at the studio. It would be so embarrassing. You have two choices: you can do that and I won't snuggle you tonight, or you can not do that and we can snuggle. What do you choose?"

Well....hello mini-me. There was a part of me that took it as an invitation to launch into my best rendition--dance moves and all--at the studio. However, I opted to behave myself. I'm sure I will have plenty of opportunity to embarrass her over the next few years...

Thursday, January 19, 2012


They have an art table. We have a kitchen table, and a work table upstairs. Where do they choose to color while we're getting ready for dinner?
The kitchen floor. Of course. I may get slightly annoyed dodging children while trying to open the refrigerator, but it's nice to all be together...I will keep chanting that as I dance my way through dinner prep.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Sweet Girl

Yesterday afternoon, I had food poisoning--a kind of food poisoning I have never imagined and will spare you the gory details of. It was not pleasant.

By the time it was pick-up time for Issa, I thought I was through the worst and managed to pull myself together long enough to go get her. It was a gorgeous day, and I had promised that we could go to the park after school. By the time I got her in the van, I knew the park was not happening.

I explained my tummy troubles, and I waited for the tears. None. Not one. We pulled in the driveway, and I told Issa to get herself and her stuff out and meet me inside as I was sprinting for the house. Her little kindergarten self did just that. She put her things away, and fixed herself a snack. When I made it to the couch, she curled up next to me with books, and we took turns reading. Some she read and some she picture read, but she never complained. She took an extra turn when I didn't even feel like I could read. When the worst had passed, we played Go Fish (a few million times), and she was content to just sit with me and play. No complaints. No I'm boreds.

I'm feeling a million times better, and I am so grateful I have such a little angel. I think I'll keep her.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Valentine's Day House

Since the kids and I were home yesterday, we decided that we should convert the Christmas gingerbread house into a Valentine's Day gingerbread house. You can see where Evan's priorities were:
There were candies and frosting to eat, after all. We had such fun. Issa was very careful:

She's really mastering how much frosting you need to make the candies stick. Evan still loves working with the pastry bag:

Here is Issa's side:

Please notice all of the frosting roses.

This is my side:

It's not as creative, but I love the order of it. (Have I mentioned I have issues.)

Here is Evan's side:

Issa declared it a hot mess.

We had a blast, though, and I don't think we will ever get tired of redecorating this little house. It now has a place of honor in the armoire, and it makes me smile every time we see it. Sometimes, it really is the little things.

Monday, January 16, 2012


First of all meet Gorgeous:
She was briefly known as Joyous, and replaces Gleeful who was found gleefully bobbing about in the tank on Friday. Bummer. Gorgeous seems to be doing quite well, and we're hoping for good things!

Aside from that, this weekend was fabulous! The kids have been slumber partying in Evan's cave:

They made a little nest of sleeping bags and blankets, and then they built a wall to keep dragons out:

I bet you didn't know we had a dragon problem around here. It seems to result in two very happy kids:

Aside from that, it has been a weekend of spoiling. Brad kept our two and Shelby Saturday afternoon so Crystal and I could have a much-needed Mommy date. Issa has declared Daddy does the "best, best, best, best play dates." There was cookie baking, crafting, dress-up, and lots of playing. While I was out, a friend called to see if I wanted to go see a movie, and Brad said I did. So...I had an entire day out on Saturday. It was almost more than this mama could handle!

Yesterday, we just played. It was wonderful. There is nothing better than listening to my kiddos laugh hysterically with each other. And now, I have an extra day with them and a gingerbread house that must be decorated for Valentine's Day. Priorities, people.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wondrous, Wondrous Thing

I just walked back through the door from Issa's pediatric dental consult. In December, Issa got he first dental x-rays, and we discovered she had several small pre-cavities where her back teeth were rubbing together. Our dentist suggested we see a pediatric dentist, but the one she referred us to was not in our insurance network.

Enter mommy panic. I spent hours researching pediatric dentists in our network, and I finally made an appointment after agonizing over the decision. Should we just bite the bullet and pay the higher fees at the dentist we were referred to originally? Am I really taking my daughter to see someone based on a website and one phone call? She loves the dentist. Will this ruin that? Yes...I may have worked myself up into a state.

This morning, Issa and I headed to see Dr. Crisp. She was calm as a cucumber; I was an internal disaster with a smile on my face. From the moment we walked in the door, my anxiety kept falling. We were greeted by smiles and a huge fish tank. We met Miss Kimberly, Issa's "person." She will always be with Issa while we are there. Issa played games while we waited in the exam room, and then Dr. Crisp danced in, talking to Issa like I was an after thought--just as it should be. She noticed Issa's feather immediately, and they talked about that first. Issa was thrilled. After an exam, Miss Kimberly and Issa left to find a prize and play some games while Dr. Crisp and I agreed on a plan.

The plan is simple, and it is based on keeping Issa comfortable and calm. I have every confidence that her teeth will be fine, but I also trust them to take good care of all of her. She was elated by her visit and is still calm about the next one. She loves having a "person" at the dentist, and I'm thrilled that the "person" is another mama. In fact, Dr. Crisp only hires mamas, because only mamas know what nervous babies need. Yes...we are in the right place, and this mama's heart feels a lot more peace.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Survive the chronos and carpe kairos."

This is one of those brutally honest posts. I'm exhausted. I'm still trying to reestablish "normal" after the holidays, the semester has started and I have a high energy, big class, and I'm still trying to finish the damn dissertation. (My mentor once told me that you are not really finished with your PhD until you can only refer to your dissertation as the damn dissertation. I am there.) Add the normal day to day of two small kids and over flowing laundry, and I'm just exhausted.

Yesterday was a hard day--productive, but hard. I was dragging myself through everything. But there were moments, and I think I would have missed them had it not been for a woman I have never met.

One of the things I have loved about blogging is "meeting" other moms. Moms who can inspire me, make me laugh, or make me cry. Moms who make me feel like my life is pretty dang normal. So often, I think God puts a post from one of these women into my life just when I need it. You see, night before last I read this. This mom wrote with brutal honesty about how sometimes being a mom is so hard, and there is nothing more guilt-inducing than being constantly told to enjoy every moment because it's so fleeting. Who really enjoys every moment? She called those the chronos moments--the moments in real time when you would really rather be doing just about anything else. What we live for are the kairos moments--the moments when real time stops and you remember this is why we survive the chronos moments. When Evan asked me to sing his good night song last night and snuggled his head into my palm, just like when he was a newborn. When Issa read me a whole book and then proclaimed me the best mom ever. Those are what keep me going, and it was a wondrous thing indeed to hear the reminder right before I had one of those chronos days. Otherwise, I might have missed those kairos moments.

And so...I stole her mantra for this title, and I sent her a thank you comment. It's how the blogging community works, and I am so glad I have joined the conversation.

Now...back to the chronos--you gotta do it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Not Happy but Gleeful

Sunday afternoon, the kids and I were watching the frogs (which we still do many times a day), and we realized Happy, the snail, was in fact not happy. He was dead. (It's a little hard to tell if a snail is dead, but the fact that he was upside down and didn't move even when we picked him up and turned him around made it pretty clear.) We were not happy. We were sad.

Yesterday, I picked the kids up and we headed out to PetSmart to find a new Happy. On the way, we decided that New Happy was not a great name. Instead, we would name him another word that means happy. A long list was generated. Allow me to introduce you to Gleeful:
She is a blue snail, and she seems gleeful in her new home:

She is quite big, and she could get up to two inches. Also, we are saying she is a she. We have no idea. We also picked up some new plants:

Our old plants were pitiful. Apparently, the PetSmart Harry Chapin failed me. You have to take the plants out of the pods, split them, and plant them directly in the stones. Oops. These are water onions, and with any luck they will have beautiful white blooms. Issa is so hopeful. Evan likes the "spikes" in his aquarium. I think he may cry if they bloom.

We are now happy and gleeful, and all is right with the world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Little Rat

See this face:
He may look all innocent and cute. Sure...that smile might melt your heart. The adorable way he still says, "Nuggle me," and spontaneously adds "My love you, Mama," or "My your boy," may make me want to freeze time and keep him my little man. Even the mess of balls and dinosaurs may make me laugh because, clearly, I have a boy. But...do not let him fool you. He can be a little rat. Exhibit A:

I made homemade bread to serve with dinner, and I left it on the counter while I was working on the rest of the meal. A certain little rat wandered by and took a bite right out of the side of the bread! It is a good thing he is so darn adorable.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Happiest Angry Birds

As part of the whole burn debacle, we realized we were dangerously low on bandaids and completely out of fancy ones. Issa proclaimed it tragic, so when she and I headed to the grocery store we decided to remedy the situation. I told her she could choose a box for herself and one for her brother. After discovering there is no such thing as Thomas bandaids, she opted for Scooby Doo for Evan, but she chose these for herself:
Angry Birds. Uncle Jeff introduced her to Angry Birds at Thanksgiving, and she has proclaimed it "their thing."

It's hard to believe Uncle Jeff has only been in our lives for a little over a year. When Aunt Shannon brought him home after Christmas, we all held our breath. Every other introduction of friends had been a disaster, filled with scowls and tears. Mr. Jeff was welcomed with open arms, and by January Issa dubbed him Uncle Jeff, and he didn't flinch. He is patient and kind with both of the kids, willing to be a jungle gym, a playmate, and a role model. (And...he treats my sister like a princess.) For all of that, I will be eternally grateful...and I see a lot more Angry Birds in my future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hot Glue is Hot

First of all, I am fine. However, I am not too bright.

I was working on a project yesterday, and I was trying to hot glue something to the bottom of something else. Unfortunately, the glue dripped down between my ring finger and pinkie on my left hand. In a moment of sheer brilliance, I grabbed said glue and burned my right thumb as well.

The point of the story, though, is not to warn you that hot glue is really hot. (You probably already knew that.) The point is to tell you how wonderful my husband is. When running my hands under cold water wasn't working, I plunged them into a bowl of cold water. As I watched my blisters pop and reblister, I called Brad at work.

Within minutes, he was on his way to the pharmacy and then on his way home. He literally cleared the shelves of burn treatments and dark chocolate. He came home, doctored my hands, and held me while I cried. Not once did he make fun of me. Not once did he point out that it was a stupid maneuver on my part. He brought me Tylenol, picked up the kids, and picked up dinner.

This morning, he helped me change the bandages, and he still hasn't said one word. I am so very, very blessed to be married to this man.

(By the way, the blisters look much better today, and the pain is much better. Hot glue is still hot.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Big Reveal

All week, I've been hinting at the big reorganization that happened around here. Well...here it is!

When Brad built Issa's desk, he made it adjustable so it could grow with her as she grows. After Christmas, she decided she wanted to be able to stand at her desk and work:
She loves it! We also cleaned out the inside and put some projects in there for her. And...we cleaned the art table!!! I didn't take a picture because it is just an empty table, but, oh, that makes my heart happy. Two bags of "stuff" left our house, and the angels sang.

We are all most excited about Evan's room. Brad built his bed to be adjustable, too; ultimately, it can be completely lofted. For now:

It created a really cool "cave" underneath--perfect for castle blocks, a cozy reading corner, and a garage for his trucks:

He is in love. And...all of his train sets live in his room now: I'm a little proud of the train boxes:

The tracks aren't interchangeable, and this gives him an easy way to sort and clean-up when it's time to start over. They are laminated so they should hold up, too! The best part: since the trains are in his room I don't feel like they need to be picked up everyday. It's more fun for him and less stress for me.

We are organized...all is well with the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Planes versus Roses

This little guy was my date for the Rose Parade yesterday:
He was enthralled:

Look! Airplanes!

He watched the floats so intently:

When the bands came on, he would march around the room. When the horses came on, he galloped around the room. Occasionally, he would land in my lap and snuggle, and occasionally I would lose an eardrum to shouts of "Plane!" or "Train!" or "Dinosaurs!"

It's funny. In the past, the Rose Parade has been about the flowers. How did they create that float? What flowers make the best water? How did they make that fur really move? This year, I saw the floats through new eyes. They were planes and trains and dinosaurs--larger than life and rolling down the parade route. It was magic. I forgot how they were made and got caught up in the wonder. It's funny how kids--especially little boys--can do that to you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Midwest Tapas and a Little House

Yesterday was one of those surprisingly fun days! We spent the morning sorting dolls clothes and making appetizers, but the afternoon was consumed with building a little house. It was a gift for Issa from one of my cousins, and we had no idea how much fun it would be! It took a wee bit of assembly:
Can you tell how much Daddy loves being photographed?

Issa spent a considerable amount of energy explaining to Evan that only Santa could go down chimneys and he should not try to go down this one. I think Evan actually was thinking about an attempt:

Then the kids moved on to helping Daddy:

Please notice Evan is also sitting on Daddy's legs. I'm pretty sure that was not the kind of help he had in mind. This might have been marginally better:

And when Daddy is an engineer, you know there will be a few extra steps not included in the directions. In this case, the corners needed tape reinforcement:

This house is not going anywhere. Once it was all assembled, there was decorating to be done:

Yes, my friends, we are all still in pajamas. It was that kind of day. (And for my family, yes, those are the Bushka pajamas circa 1990 something. They are comfortable.) We had great fun coloring. The outside is a giant coloring book and the inside is a blank canvas. We will be decorating for weeks!

I think this face says it all:

And for dinner, Midwest Tapas:

It's a once a year meal, but it was so happy. Yes...I would say that was the way to begin 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

Hello 2012! Our first activity of the New Year: building a race track:
There were some alterations to be made:

But the results were awesome! Those cars flew...sometimes right off the track:

I love Issa's face. How fast will it go? Will it crash? Thank goodness Daddy is an engineer:

It was big fun.

Last night, as we stood at the grocery checkout at six o'clock, buying groceries for the week and the bagel dogs and Kraft mac and cheese that had been voted the New Year's dinner treat, Brad and I couldn't help but laugh. We vaguely remember years where we would get dressed up and go out to a fabulous meal. Those years were followed by big fiestas at Mom's once the kids arrived. This was the first year we have ever celebrated at home. It was a quiet night of playing with new toys after a long day of reorganizing (more on that tomorrow). The kids were in bed early, and Brad and I just hung out, enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine, toasted the new year, and braced ourselves for this morning when we finally headed to bed way too late.

This morning, in addition to racing cars, we played dolls and made what I like to call Midwest tapas. New Year's Day was always an appetizer munchy kind of day, and I'm embracing that. French onion dip, cheese ball, sausage roll-ups, and oyster crackers. Yum.

There will be more playing and more unpacking later today, but it's a quiet day, and I like that. Happy 2012, y'all. I have a feeling it's going to be a great year.