creative baby proofing

When Austin was a baby, we kind of slacked in the baby proofing department. Sure, we covered the outlets, and we used a baby gate as needed. And, of course, all cleaners and hazardous materials were placed safely from his reach. But, that was the extent of it.

He opened and closed cabinets at his whim, pots and pans all a strew. I cringe looking back at the death trap of a coffee table we had. And, it took me entirely too long to part ways with the various fragile decor around the house.

But, during the peak age of baby proofing, our house was on the market… for a year. I can tell you right now that hundreds of latches on every single door in your home don’t make for promising showings. So, we made do without.

Here we are with Everett in the throes of curiosity and mischievousness. He is mobile and fast, and I feel like I’m a first time parent again. A new house and new obstacles.

I think it’s safe to say we need to look at some more traditional methods.

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We need new baby gates. Ones for stairs and one for wide openings. We need latches for cabinets and potties, and more outlet covers. Forget plugging anything in to visible outlets. Everett will find them and try to eat them. Really, I could just use another set of eyes… and hands.

Looking back, I can’t fathom how we survived without baby proofing every square inch of our house when it seems so necessary now. Perhaps that’s the difference in one versus two kids. It’s hard to keep a constant eye on two moving objects that rarely coincide with the same direction.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple people, including strangers, tell me that Austin is the most active child they’ve seen. I’m never sure if that’s a compliment or code for GOOD LUCK! But, as Everett becomes more and more mobile, I’m not sure that he isn’t going to follow big bro’s lead. He is on the move. He is quick. And, he is up to no good.

No more waiting. Time to corral these kiddos.

Any recommendations on your favorite brands or items for baby proofing?

the Christmas tree

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In 2008, we celebrated our first Christmas as a wedded couple. Less than three weeks prior to that, we closed on our first home. Despite towers of cardboard boxes and a completely disheveled home, we still put up our first Christmas tree.

It was beautiful. It was adorned with delicate glass balls gleaming in purples, reds, blues, silvers and golds. Gifts of Christohper Radko and Wedgewood ornaments were our extra special contribution to the tree. And, perfectly wrapped presents created a wreath beneath it. We snuggled under a warm blanket together, sipped our hot chocolate and admired our first tree in peace.

Three years later, we had a freshly mobile one-year-old. Austin’s interest in the tree was short-lived, but long enough that the Christmas tree received its first remodel. Our precious CR and Wedgewood ornaments were elevated to the penthouse of the tree, safe from curious hands. Amazingly, only one gift huddled beneath the tree required a re-wrap that year.

In 2012, the remodel turned more into a renovation. Not a single glass ornament made it on the tree that year. Bless Costco and their extra large tubs of plastic ornaments. I truly believe they were tested by toddlers. Unbreakable. I tried whole-heartedly to have gifts underneath the tree that year, but, in the end, I re-wrapped every single gift at least once. Ironically, when Christmas morning came, we had to coax Austin to open all of his gifts. Rule #1 of kids: Nothing is nearly as much fun with your parents’ permission.

Another year. Another change. Our Christmas tree went up the day after Thanksgiving. No glass ornaments again. They are safely stored for a less destructive age. The tree went up perfectly, and it looked as though we would have a similar tree to last year’s… until today.

I walked into the living room to find Austin nestled next to the tree. He had removed one of the cushions from the chairs, and there in front of him, he had lined up a number of ornaments from the lower extremities of the tree. He smiled at me, and proudly showed off his collection. A few moments later, I spot Everett bounding after a giant, glittery ornament much like a puppy. In fact, when he finally captured it, he celebrated by attempting to eat it, despite it being the size of his own head.

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So, this year, I have two options. I can remove the bottom half of the ornaments, or I can let it be. This is the year my tree becomes our family tree, and I’m just going to let it be.

What a transformation we have seen over the years. As we change, so does our tree. The Christmas tree tells our story. It’s messy, imperfect and a little rough in spots. But, it’s always colorful. It’s always bright, and it is well loved. Ornaments will come and go, but the precious moments we share as a family beneath this little tree will carry on.

That first Christmas seems ages ago. No longer is there the same peace and quiet surrounding the Christmas tree. There is something better. There are snuggles, sweet giggles and wonderment from two precious boys that far outweigh the quiet. It’s a different kind of peace.

I love our tree. I love its story, and I love that it is ours.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours this Christmas season.

the shower dance

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I’m not a morning person. I never have been. I never will… at least, voluntarily. My children have forced me into a morning person’s life. I still eyeball the clock each and every morning. Groan at 7 a.m. Roll over at 6 a.m., and mutter a couple indecipherable words at 5 a.m. or earlier.

The first thing I yearn for each morning is not a cup of caffeine. It’s a shower. Showers are my coffee – a shot of sanity before our days of chaos. But, personal hygiene itself can be a mystical creature when two little ones hijack your schedule.

I’ve been spoiled. Every morning, the hubs manages breakfast for the boys. While he spoons out oatmeal, slices strawberries and is hit with the first tantrums of the day, I shower. Not a long, pre-children wash, but a quick spurt of uninterrupted hygienic bliss.

Occasionally, I am on my own when business calls. Today was that day. Sometimes, I opt out of fresh and clean, and settle for “try not to see anybody” grungy. But, today, I had somewhere to be, which means bathing was a priority. You are all welcome, by the way.

We started our morning at 5 a.m. Hungry baby. Fed baby. Screaming baby. Up for the day. Followed shortly by screaming toddler. Whiny toddler. Up for the day. We did our breakfast routine with minimal upsets – other than I selected the “wrong” spoon for Austin’s oatmeal – and, then, it was time. I had to get ready.

I placed Austin on the bed with free reign of the iPad and easily within my view. Five seconds later, he was completely immersed in Thomas the Train. Win. Then, on the floor, I created a maze of toys and expertly placed shoes for Everett, just to keep his attention. Start the timer.

In the five minutes I took to shower, I hopped out once to dislodge Everett from underneath our bed – a favorite place of his to roll, listened to Everett cry the entire time despite him actually sitting their gnawing on a toy in between wails, talked Austin through five meltdowns because the internet was freezing up his show, and convinced Austin to drop my eye liner before he used our cabinets as a coloring book… again.

I give you the shower dance. Lather, Rinse, Repeat for two more days. Bless the hubs and our normal routine.

Perhaps, I should rethink my social agenda this week. Or, I guess I can always blame the smell on the boys. Stinky toddler feet? Yeah. I think we’re covered.

three

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Last night, as I crawled into bed, I took a brief inventory of the collateral damage surrounding my bed.

I noted a significant spot of dried spit up in the middle of my side. Animal cracker crumbs trailed from end to another. And, a large pile of clothes – clean or dirty, I don’t even know – heaped across the end of the bed. You know what I did? I brushed the crumbs slightly closer to the hubs’ side, snuggled underneath those clothes and atop the spot, and went to sleep. Ew. Ew. Ew.

I just didn’t care. There was no energy to change sheets or decipher whether those clothes were, in fact, headed to the closet or the laundry basket nor did I desire to vacuum the carpet where I suspect the cracker crumbs continue. Not even an ounce of energy to care.

Last night, I waved the flag of defeat. The children have won, and I am sleeping in spit up. I think this would be considered a low.

Recently, I feel our days more resemble snippets from war documentaries than Sesame Street episodes. Austin rebels and cries, and there have been few outings that have not ended with me carrying him out like a football. And, then I nag and shout and talk like a broken record to a brick wall 99 percent of the day. It’s just a phase. It’s just a phase.

I fear the three’s might just be the end of me.

But, today, he surprised me. I took him grocery shopping with me. Something I have vowed never ever to do unless we are going to starve to death without that trip right that second. And, even then, it’s a coin toss.

Things were going semi-smoothly. I had only told him to sit down in the basket 59 times and not to touch anything 112 times. Out of nowhere, a big grin creeps across his face, and he says, “You’re fun, Momma. I love being with you.”

What?? I actually thought I had mistakenly heard him, and asked him again what he had said. He repeated, smiling and staring up at me with his big brown eyes. I just couldn’t understand. I scold. I nag. I shout. I’m constantly distracted by cleaning or laundry or errands. And, here is this child, thrilled to just be with me… or, thrilled to torment me. And, I’m fun.

He made my day. He made my week. As mothers, we are exhausted and feel unappreciated. We put everyone and everything before us. We often take the brunt of the chores, and it’s hard when Dad is always the “fun” one.

But, take heart, mommas. We are fun. We are amazing. We are loved beyond measure. And, our children recognize it long before we do.

Maybe three isn’t so bad.

But, let’s not take our chances. If I tell him he’s four, will that take care of things?

picture imperfect

ImageIt’s fall in Texas. The mornings are cool and afternoons toasty. Only a handful of trees have received notice of the season change. And, the only true indicators of fall are incited ourselves.

Here in Texas, where the weather boycotts cold fronts, we celebrate the spirit of fall. We do pumpkin lattes in 80 degrees, oversized wreaths exploding with leaves and scarecrows, and we do pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins. Did you know there are at least 10 pumpkin patches all within a 10-mile drive from my house? I love it.

This fall, a number of obstacles have kept us from a trip to the pumpkin patch. But, I decided to throw sanity and priorities aside – who needs to grocery shop? -, so we could have our day at the patch. I’m a sucker for perfect pumpkin pictures.

I recruited my mom to help wrangle the boys. We took them to this great farm called Big Orange Pumpkin Farm in Celina, Texas. It’s a beautiful farm with pumpkins, animals and tractors. A little boy’s dream. I couldn’t wait to let loose the camera.

After dragging the boys across the farm for picture after picture, and halfway blinding them with the flash, I gave up. If one wasn’t crying, the other was trying to make a break for it. And, Austin didn’t even care about the pumpkins. What was the point? So much for those fall photos. Begrudgingly, I handed Austin the cup of animal feed that I had been leveraging for cooperative, smiling pictures. As he ran off with his prize, I continued to scroll through my photo fails when I heard it.

Giggles. Sweet giggles were erupting from my Austin. He laughed and smiled as the goats gulped feed from his tiny hands. At first, all I could think was how badly we would need some hand sanitizer after this. But, then I watched. I really watched. There was pure joy and wonderment pouring from him. We stayed there for a while, soaking in the moment. Austin pet the goats, inspected each one and begged for just enough food to feed the rest of the animals. He even found a posse of goats and dubbed himself their leader, chattering away at them with explicit instructions not to eat the rocks they appeared to be licking.

This is what this trip was about. Not about the pictures to remember this day, but about making the moment itself and making that memorable. Pictures sure do tell a sweet story, but it’s even sweeter living it.

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a marketing miracle

I bought Austin a new toy today. It was met with the same enthusiasm as if I had handed him an ice cream cone dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles. You know what it was? A broom.

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I would personally like to thank the person who first began marketing cleaning supplies as toys. Child labor? Perhaps. Brilliant? Absolutely.

“Look, kids! Cleaning is fun!”

Whoever you are, pure genius.

Vacuum cleaners, kitchens, brooms, dust pans, mops. Every kind of domestic item in pinks and blues, all the perfect size for your toddler. Why does anyone pay for a housekeeper anymore? Put your feet up and let the kids “play.” They can even provide us with a half-baked cupcake from the EZ bake oven. Score.

I love when Austin wants to help, even if it means a bigger disaster than when we started… which it always does. He never lets me vacuum alone. He always wants to sweep. And, if I would let him, he would be covered in suds washing dishes.

But, I wonder, when does it stop? When does “helping” and cleaning become a drudgery on their lives? What changes that makes us realize cleaning is a chore?

Perhaps, it is when we learn to rationalize. And, cleaning just doesn’t seem rational.

Who actually wants to sweep up a mess that will only reappear five minutes later? Or, make the bed that we will crawl straight back into? Or, wash the same plate for the millionth time? Yeah… Playing tag or making mud pies sounds a bit better. Our children must think we are nuts for spending so much time keeping things tidy, or at least, semi-sanitary.

This means toddlerhood is a critical point in the cleaning circle of life. Take advantage, moms. Let’s load these kids with the best vacuum cleaners, dusters and mops while it’s still fun and games. We don’t have long until they catch on.

Long live marketing.

a little cheese with a lot of whine

I’ve had a difficult time writing this week. Not for a lack of things to write about, but, really how to put these thoughts into words without leaving behind a garble of whininess. There is no guarantee this entire post won’t be littered with such. In fact, it will be. Because writing it down always make me feel a smidge better. Reader be warned. Bring on the whine.

I’m having a pity party this week. I’m tired and overwhelmed. And, if I have to endure one more mega meltdown from my toddler this week, especially in public, well, I might just join him. Cue dual temper tantrums in Target, Aisle 5.

It’s been a dizzy couple of weeks between discussing Everett’s need for a new helmet, a diagnosis of his sensory aversion, and various other family stresses. And, this week has just been the cherry on top.

We started the weekend traveling with a snotty, feverish sick baby. Not much of a break there. Zero sleep as well.

Enter Monday, and I decided it would be a brilliant idea to take my miserable baby and defiant toddler to have the oil changed on my car. Good thinking, Mom.

They estimated it would take an hour and 15 minutes to have the oil and maintenance done. Not as fast as I would like, but we could make it work. It was overdue, and it had to be done. The first hour and a half were stressful, but everyone had managed to stay content-ish throughout. When an hour and 40 minutes passed, Austin’s time was up. He lost it – over nothing. He threw a fit right there in the middle of the dealership. He screamed and cried and tried to hit me repeatedly. And, I had nowhere to go. It was raining outside. There was no reprieve inside. And, the dealership had basically kidnapped my car.

While hauling the stroller, holding back tears, carrying Austin and restraining him from smacking me in the face, I located the nearest technician begging him for a status on my car. He swore it was almost done. Just a few more things. “Hurry,” I sputtered. “Hurry.”

After two hours and 15 minutes of waiting, the car was ready and parked in the rain. Awesome. The manager apologized profusely and took a significant chunk off our bill, hoping it would ease some of the “distress.” I sincerely hope the rest of the customers who had to witness Austin’s performance received a comparable discount. It was an ugly, ugly sight.

On the way home, Austin fell asleep in the car just before arriving home. I didn’t have the strength to deal with his wake-up, so I just drove. And, drove. And, drove. Eventually, Everett fell asleep, too. For one hour, we continued to drive in the pouring rain, while I tried to refuel my patience and energy. It didn’t last long. Everett was the first to wake. By the time, I opened the car doors at home, both boys were screaming in unison. Happy Monday.

Tuesday was a poor report from the occupational therapist. Everett is farther behind on tolerating food than she previously thought. He is still young, but he’s going to have quite the uphill battle.

Wednesday, the hubs had surgery first thing in the a.m. to correct his sleep apnea. Basically, it’s a miserably uncomfortable surgery and recovery that included a tonsillectomy,¬†uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, endoscopic sinus surgery, nasal septal reconstruction and turbinate reduction. Yeah… he feels as awful as it sounds. But, they hooked him up with some excellent cocktails. See you in a month, honey.

And, this morning, after an all-nighter full of “quality” time with the kiddos, both boys had well checks. Shots all around. A referral for Everett for Synagis vaccines. And, let’s top it off with an ear infection for him, too.

I am done. I don’t want to know what Friday, Saturday and Sunday hold. Can I just pull the covers over my head, enjoy a glass of wine and call it a week? Or, maybe call it for the next two weeks because I’m not a fan of what next week’s schedule is stacking up to be either.

How does this whole “call in sick” thing work for moms?

Pity party, party of one. Would you like some cheese with that whine?

sing along

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The first time I heard Austin sing “Jesus loves me,” my heart melted. Such a precious, innocent voice singing such sweet words. My heart was full. What a proud day for me as a mom.

The first time I heard that same sweet voice sing a little Jay Z, I nearly slammed into the back of a truck. What did you just say?

Little ears. How they manage to hear everything and nothing at the same time.

Since Austin was an infant, I tried hard to keep only family friendly songs in the car when we rode together – Christian music, nursery rhymes, lullabies. But, occasionally, when I begin to feel twitchy from the 46th repeat of Six Little Ducks, I switch it to my pre-children music.

It’s a rare occasion. Most times, I opt for silence after I’ve hit my wall. But, some days, I’m weak, and I yearn for the days when I didn’t have to censor my song choices or turn the volume to a less deafening level. One of my favorite things to do when I steal away on a kid-less errand is blare my music and sing off-key at the top of my lungs. Yes, fellow drivers. I am the girl rocking out to her music in the car. Yes, I see you looking at me. And, no, I don’t care at all. Okay… Maybe I care a little.

Some days it’s tough to sweep that part of me under the rug and just be Mom. Mom who knows every single word to every single nursery rhyme. Mom who will play the duck song over and over because it makes Austin giggle. Mom who hasn’t updated her iPod with something other than kid tunes in the last two years.

But, then again, who else in this world will beg me to sing to him over and over again other than my kids? So, maybe I can handle a few more nursery rhymes… and a few less unsavory lyrics from my toddler.

Lesson learned. Jay Z does not equal kid-friendly music nor does the rest of my playlist. Bring on the ducks. I’ve got 99 problems, and this song is certainly one.