Friday, April 26, 2013

Lessons Learned: Thoughts on Sand & Water Tables

I caved. I've gone NINE years without a sandbox. And then, a few weeks ago while in Charlotte, my BFF, Mandie, convinced me I needed a sand/water table. I pushed back saying that they always looked like muddy, dirty messes...

"Just put sand in it," she said.

"Don't add any water," she said.

"It'll stay clean that way," she said.

"My girls play in it for hours," she said.

Hours of outdoor entertainment so I could feel less guilty about my time on the computer sounded like a good deal to me... and no mess? I could probably get on board. Just don't add the water to the sand and water table. Brilliant. I could handle that.

To Amazon Prime I went. Two days later, I had a brand new sand and water table delivered to my door. Just in time for my nephew's visit, too! Woot woot!
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Olly and Hank LOVED it. Chuck rather liked it too. They played and played... pushing cars through it, filling tiny buckets and dumping them into "mountains", and burying their hands.

And then it happened. Exactly what I knew would happen. The tiny buckets of sand started being dumped on the porch. And then down over the deck. And then it became VERY funny when we told them no and they did it more sneakily (which, then, we found hilarious - stinkers). And then it started tracking inside the house on the bottoms of little feet...

I'm not a total neat freak so everything seemed alright at this point. A round of sweeping was well worth their happiness. We were outside after all. And they're boys. Boys need messes.

"I'm a good mom," I told myself. "If cleaning up is all I have to do, then let them make a little bit of a mess. No worries here." Can't you just hear all the other mom voices in my head giving me a golf clap for this thought?? Awesome mom dot com right here, y'all.

And then...

"Can we please have water too?" Charlie begged. "We won't make a mess. I promise."

So I added water. Because they're cute. And it couldn't be that messy, right? Maybe a little muddy in the water side, I figured. Mandie is usually right about stuff but she can't ALWAYS be right. Maybe my kids would just keep the sand and the water sides separate...? And they're really cute. Caving was kind of my thing with this stupid sand & water table already. It was a theme. And I'm a good mom with my own cheering section in my head for times just like this when I let go of things... I had to go all in.



Sand Mud was everywhere. Faces. Hands. Clothes. Deck. Ground. And when Henry took a handful and threw it in the house... they were D-O-N-E.
Lesson learned. Never add water to the sand & water table. Mandie is always right. 2013-04-26_0001

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Air & Space Museum with a Canon

I had never been to the Air & Space Museum before this weekend! Can you believe it? I feel like one of those regular DC people who have lived here forever but have never done the DC stuff because "that's just for tourists"!!  I'm one of those people that tourists stop to ask for directions, then scoff and say "you've never been!?" Ha ha ha. Not really. I've been to literally everything else, including the Dulles Air & Space museum, but I'm letting this little slice of DC virginity soak in and make me feel more like an assimilated citizen instead of the giddy girl who is overly enthusiastic about being out of Texas!

While my brother was visiting this past weekend, we took all of our boys down into the city to explore the museum. A fun fact about our visit? Ok, well a fun fact for ME... is that I shot the day on my brother's Canon instead of my Nikon. I ALWAYS play with my brother's Canon whenever he is with me because I like to know the differences between the two brands. It was A LOT of fun to play with.
One thing I noticed at the DC Air & Space verse the Dulles one was all the hands on exhibits. We live right near Dulles airport so we have been to the museum out by us many times. It is HUGE with an awesome control tower that overlooks the runways of Dulles and, of course, the space shuttle is pretty danged amazeballs... but we've said a million times as we are walking out how disappointing it is that we cannot go inside ANY of the planes. Not even a guarded sheet-of-plastic barrier peek. I mean, they have the flippin' Concord just chillin' right in the middle of the place and we can't even look inside!? I find that terribly annoying. I really want to look inside that Concord!!

But down in DC, where there is much less space, my kids climbed in a Cessna (to be fair, they have one at Dulles too but there are only certain times that it's available for play), they walked through a DC-7, we walked into the top story of a full sized 747 and could check out the huge cockpit, and there was another rocket-like thing that you could walk through as well but we forgot to go in it.

It just seemed sort of odd to me that the giant and NEW Dulles museum doesn't have anything like that!
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I am a huge aviation nerd. That's something I'm pretty sure I've picked up from my engineer big brother because it certainly doesn't come from me naturally. I hate flying. But I loooove airplanes. I am a complicated and complex human being who very often makes no sense whatsoever.

I wanted to read ALL the stuff. Do you know how hard it is to read all the explanation plaques in a museum when you have a 5 month old, 2, 3 and 8 year old to keep your eyes on?? Impossible. It's 100% completely impossible. I told the hubs as we were leaving that it is a total shame that we never went to a single museum before Charlie was born. To be fair, we were really too busy sleeping until 1pm on weekends back in those days...
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Henry spent the weekend professing his love for Oliver. Very often, Henry would tell him that they were best friends and encourage his cousin to follow him everywhere. "Come ON, Oliver!!!" It. Was. So. Cute.
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Toddlerhood is so exhausting.
This is the point of my blog post that I gush over how amazing my big brother is. I adore him. This is nothing new, I've always thought he was amazing (aside for a few years in high school when I was way too cool for him) -- but watching him be a dad and an uncle makes my heart explode. He will play and play and play with our kids. Past the point where, as a mom, I'd be done. He's funny with them in a way that I have never been able to be myself... and he's always genuinely interested in them. And they ADORE him because of it.

Mikey and I frequented the Charlotte Discovery Place all the time when we were kids. My mom would give us some money for food (you know, back in the 90s when it was safe/safer... to just drop your kids there for a day...?) and we would ALWAYS save that money to buy astronaut ice cream. It became a tradition over our childhood that we cherished. I can even remember our little conversations about how we couldn't buy too much lunch so we would have enough leftover for our ice cream. :)

Now, whenever we go to science museums (which we do a lot when we're together because we are a nerdy-chic family), my big brother buys astronaut ice cream for Charlie (insert a big, fat, giant, heart-melty "awwwwwww" here). We realized on this particular trip that we will need to amend this passing-on of tradition to include buying a few more packages of ice cream because Henry and Olly definitely noticed they were left out on this and FREAKED. Ok, just Henry freaked.

Side note: It was $3 back then. It costs $7 now. Since it was my brother's birthday, I paid for this round. $14 for two packages of 3 inch squares! How is this even possible? We don't even have a space shuttle program anymore! I'm not even supporting dudes going up in space with that additional $4. Rip off.
After the museum, we walked outside and played goofed off on the mall for a bit. We took the obligatory family photos in front of the Capitol. Some of which were photo bombed. And children, or my big brother, convinced us that we should take nose-picking shots...
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The little guys were super interested in the dirt path. And my big brother was interested in being awesome with the kids.
And little man H fell asleep on the way home and snoozed on the couch for much of the afternoon. Being a toddler is really exhausting.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Snuggling Weston (And Maybe a Deep Thought or Two)

I am in love with my nephews. L-O-V-E. I just adore them. Everyone loves their nephews this much, right? I sure hope so.

My brother was kind enough to buy them flights to come see me this past weekend. Oh. And he and his wife came too. But mostly, they just brought me my babies.

My sweet Olly-Bear turned two just a few months ago and precious, adorable, Smiley-Guy Weston, is five months. My camera was addicted to Westie. For one, well, it's obvious how gorgeous he is. And two, he can't move!!! So fun to not chase or coerce or beg him to smile and stay. You just oogle and google over him (which I do anyway) and he busts out with the happiness. 

slight nephew obsession
At one point during the weekend, I was leaning over Weston as he laid on my bed. I was really supposed to be folding laundry while he kept me company... but instead, I was kissing his belly and that precious soft skin on his neck.  As I kissed him and told him what a perfect little boy he is, he looked at me and I looked at him and a thought washed over me...

He is brand new to this world. And he knows nothing about it yet. But there he is - only five months into a 100 year go of it - and he is smiling already. Smiling is one of the first things babies do. They are born. They can eat, sleep, breathe and poop. And then, before anything else, they smile. My nephew reminded me this weekend that our human, that our natural instinct, is to love. Weston's natural instinct is happiness, trust, and love

I think when the world seems so cruel... it really means something that we are all brought here with the same starting out point - love.
I have so many mommy friends and know so many women who fret and worry over raising their children to be good people. I know I do. I over-analyze and over think and worry, worry, worry. Did my lack of patience with potty training scar them for life? Did my scary scream because they were fighting over the same toy for the 5 millionth time send them to the dark side?? Did I spend too much time working today that the lack of doting attention is going to send them over the edge? I have been known to attack friends with older children who seem to have raised theirs to young adulthood in tact and BEG them to tell me how they did it. I think, as mothers, we want to find the right parenting recipe to ensure our children will safely grow from this sweet innocence to be kind, thoughtful, intelligent, respectful and loving adults. We want to protect them. That is our natural instinct as mothers. 

What is the secret? What is the answer? Shield them from violence? Homeschool? No video games? No social media? Pack their schedules with extracurricular activities? Religion? No religion? Hold off on braces until they're 16 so that the mouth full of metal keeps all the potential mega-hormoned boyfriends and girlfriends at bay (thanks mom. I see now how brilliant this tactic was)?  Pray they become the nerdiest of teenagers that only want to stay home and hang out with mommy? I am personally really hoping for that last one... 

I wish I knew the recipe. I'm as lost as every other parent. 

But I think I'll fight this world for my babies, for my brother's babies, for my sister-in-law's babies and for all babies with the same overwhelming and strong feeling that the tiniest and newest human beings are born with - love. 

In all things, I am going to try to do my best. I hope I make the right decisions in parenting (and aunt-ing). But the one thing I am CERTAIN OF is that I will love them. Immensely. And Always. So far, it seems like an essential part of the recipe. 

Oh, and I'll photograph them too. Immensely. And Always. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cherry Blossoms

Years ago {nine to be exact}, when DC was still so very new to us and I was very pregnant with Charlie, I wanted to see the blossoms for the first time. I couldn't bear fighting the crowds with a ready-to-pop belly so Mike drove me down after dark. I remember sitting under the trees and moonlight twinkled off the blossoms as they fell onto our heads. It was that exact moment when DC moved into my heart... and I knew, even if we were to move away, DC is and will always be our home.

Two weeks ago, after what seemed like a never-ending winter, pink blossoms again covered the trees lining the tidal basin. As the wind blew, the pink snow fell to the ground and left a guided path towards spring of perfectly pink petals.

And even though I was so busy and had many other things I could/should have been doing, I dropped Henry off at preschool and raced to the city to meet my cousin Chelsea on the steps of the Jefferson. We walked slowly with the crowds and breathed in the beauty of every blossom. DC is my home, at least for now. And I will cherish her and all of her many, many blessings.
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Pink snow. It's sooooo much better than real snow.
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Trains That Never Came (and Why FB Is So Good)

A few weeks ago, I took the boys to Clifton on Charlie's last day of Spring Break. Charlie really wanted to have a train run over a coin that he placed on the tracks. We had tried to flatten a coin a few weeks earlier but after the trains passed, we couldn't find the coins. So this time, Charlie was prepared. He had the idea that he'd tape the coins to the rails so they couldn't pop off the tracks from the vibrations of the trains.

We pulled in and a VRE train passed right away. Charlie was thrilled. He took his tape and his two quarters and got them all set on the tracks. And then we waited. And waited. And then waited some more.

After awhile I told the boys we could go get a treat at the coffee shop and hopefully a train would pass by while we weren't watching it so closely. I'm sure I said something super motherly like "a watch pot never boils". Or maybe not because that doesn't sound like me. I was probably too busy convincing Henry to stop whining...  Yup. Yeah, that sounds much more accurate.

At the coffee shop, Charlie chose a seat by the window and stared back at the tracks. Just wishing and hoping. It broke my heart to see how much he wanted those coins to be flattened and all that wishing and hoping could not make those trains come. When you're a little kid, something so simple is so huge in your heart. Trains have been his lifelong love and I knew he just wanted that coin.
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I love that Henry wants whatever his big brother wants. I love that he will climb the table so he can see what Charlie sees and to be where Charlie is. It's something that never, ever grows old for me.

I love these images so much.
If we didn't have baseball practice that evening, we could've stayed. We could've waited it out. But instead, I gave Charlie another 30 minutes to wait in the chilly, blustery wind... for a train that never came.
As I sat at home later that night and took the color out of all of these photos so the disappointment could be really felt, I couldn't stop myself from sharing Charlie's little story on Facebook. Certainly a train would pass. They always do. It seemed like such an odd thing that such a simple childhood want could go unfulfilled.

The response on Facebook was shocking. So many people wanted to comment on the pictures as a way of sending a great big cyber hug to my little guy. And this is why Facebook is so good. Because it brings people together and people are good.

A week later, a friend who I have known since kindergarten but have only seen twice in 14 years, put a card in the mail to Charlie. She had seen my photos and wanted him to have that coin. She took her own kids down to some tracks and taped coins to the rails and then sent their flattened penny to Chuck.

She took time from her day to do something kind for my little boy. She didn't have to do that but she did it for absolutely no reason other than to know that a little boy far away would be happy.

I love that when you cannot always count on trains to be on time or to even run the rails where you are watching... you can always count on the kindness of others.

Sandy, thank you. We are so grateful for our coin... but even more grateful that there are people in the world with big, kind, and thoughtful hearts.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wall Paper {Kids Were Here}

My Charlie. My precious, perfect, amazing Charlie.

Sometimes I find that he has left a trail of his imagination all over the house.

Recently, I found a full city skyline wrapping around the kitchen island... CharlieArt-8823 CharlieArt-8818 CharlieArt-8819 CharlieArt-8817Last year, when airplanes were the thing, Charlie literally wallpapered the basement with hundreds of drawings of airplanes. For some reason, the desire has resurfaced... but this time (since I've JUST redecorated/decluttered/organized the basement), the plane wallpaper has been relegated to JUST the stairway leading to the basement. Airplane Tours begins April 12th, y'all. Make sure to get your tickets!! It actually takes a REALLY long time to see (and hear) about every single plane... so, bring a snack. :)
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Double Dipping

I try not to be the mom who thinks too much on when my boys were smaller... but dyeing eggs is one of those yearly traditions where how they've grown from the years before becomes very visible. This is such a trick of mommy hood. It's always these holiday traditions when the pictures are taken and upon holding them up to each other year after year, you see your babies turn into big boys and then into big brothers. And then one year, they can dye their easter eggs without making a huge mess, without fighting, and without needing you sit closely.

This was that year. Neither of them needed me. Sadness. Tears.  Silent whimpering... oh, forget it. Full out ugly cry.

So... when mom duties are minimized, it's time for pictures. LOTS of pictures.

Charlie, my little scientist, was highly interested in WHY the dye dots dissolved in vinegar...
I am sure there are many parents out there who are super cautious of their three year olds near egg dye... however, Henry "can do it myself". We don't dare help. And it's always surprising how his stubborn assertions of independence are valid. He CAN do things by himself. He's so capable already. It's amazing how always having a big kid to watch helps this teeny tiny toddler figure everything out YEARS before Charlie did.
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My favorite part of dyeing the eggs this year was watching Henry. We had 18 eggs and 9 colors of dye. As you can imagine... it did not take long to color all of the eggs. I remember seeing his face when I said "all done!!"... he just couldn't believe it. Dyeing eggs was too much fun to be over that fast. I saw his little face as his brain worked through this and he suddenly stood up, reached across the table, grabbed a colored egg and plopped it back into another cup of dye.

Sure, this mommy's first instinct was "oh no!!! The eggs will be so ugly!", but I stopped myself from passing this thought on to the boys. If plopping all the eggs back into the dye turned them all brown, well, we would have all brown eggs and call them organic. We were pretty sure the Easter bunny held to a strict organic, vegan diet anyway. Happiness and experimentation is far more important than that neurotic voice that comes in your 30s wanting everything to be perfect. Afterall, isn't having your little boys make a crazy mess of their easter eggs as they giggle and decide on "which color next?" just about as close to perfect as it comes?
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Charlie has always been my little "creative" and personifies everything. In kindergarten, when he was learning to write his alphabet, letters would get faces and personalities. He'd draw elaborate stories in the margins of his workpapers. It's only in third grade that he has finally been "broken" of doodling as his school brain wonders towards his imagination.

How does that relate to Easter? All of our eggs get faces and names, of course. :)
Henry tried to draw faces too but ultimately got frustrated and just watched his brother while eating a jammy sammy. Gosh, they are so cute.
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Here's wishing you all had a wonderful Easter holiday!!! :)