Monday, March 30, 2009

My amazing husband

I married the most wonderful man. There are dozens of reasons why he is awesome and amazing - enough reasons for countless posts. I will limit this post to one reason, though, OK? Today, I am going to tell you about his amazing talent. He can build anything! And he does a terrific job. He always laughs because he did not do well in Wood Shop in school, but something must have stuck! Or maybe he is just naturally talented. Whatever the case, he continues to impress me with his creativity, his patience, his attention to detail, his skill, his knowledge.
Staining Spencer's Toy Box
He started with staining and finishing furniture that we bought at Ikea and other unfinished furniture places. I have mentioned before that Poppy has always built wonderful pieces of wood furniture. He was always David's idol. I can see him now, in a tiny basement storage room in our stairwell in Germany. He would be sanding, staining, applying polyurethane, sanding, applying polyurethane - going through all the steps. And I would say, "D, Poppy is not here. Why are you struggling with all of this?" And he would smile and say, "But he will see it someday, and I know he'll notice any mistakes." He was probably right. BUT Poppy has never been anything but proud of David. No other men in the family have ever been too interested in wood working, so David has been like his little protege.

Anyway. The first big thing he built was Jessa's toy box. He was very cute and spent a lot of time on it. And Jessa was right there with him - helping. She loved it once it was finished. And once he saw the finished product, it only made him want to do more.
Jessa inspecting his progress.
She was quite pleased with her awesome toy box!
Spencer has benefited from his desire to do more. . . With Jessa, we would buy a piece and he would look at it and think, "I can do that!" So with Spencer, he built a lot more things. Plus, in his defense, when Jessa was moving into her big girl bed and room, he was in Iraq. Not too much free time for building, you know?? But he has built almost every piece of furniture Spencer has.



First were his shelves - he used Jessa's as a guide, but made them his own.
Next was his "big boy bed." Spencer was done with the crib when he was about 15 months old.
While we were in Atlanta during Lucas's treatment and transplant, David built this.
Then it was time for Spencer's toy box and then some shelves.

The latest and coolest thing my awesomely talented husband has built is a train table for Spencer. Holy Cow! This thing is incredible! And Spencer is so excited! Poor D, he has already agreed to build another one for our neighbor who watched him building Spencer's. I guess when you are talented, you have no choice but to share it with the world.

Spencer has been needing a train table. He was not really ready for one until we were preparing to move - not the best time for new furniture. Then David deployed, and I did not want to try to buy one without him. Plus, I knew he could make us something that we would like even better than anything we could buy. So we waited. Poor Spencer was in need of a place to play trains badly. He did not play as often as he wanted to because he had to drag it all out each time. He had to patiently wait, but now the wait is over! He is beside himself. He ran around the house singing "train table, train table, train table" all afternoon after David presented it to him!
Spencer enjoying his new train table - a whole bunch!
Spencer is in love with his new table. How did Spencer and I get so lucky to have such a talented Daddy and husband?? And now that you have seen his handiwork, I bet you'd agree that he is pretty amazing, huh?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An extra special guest

Spencer's class has a very special member. He is not very talkative, but he is a great listener. He gives great hugs. He always lets his friends choose what game to play, so everyone wants to play with him. He is a good friend to each and every other class member. He makes people so happy. We are so lucky to know someone like this. His name is Beary Bear.

Each day, the teacher lets one student take Beary home for a sleepover. He has a cool backpack where he hangs out and has a journal. Each person he visits, records all the fun adventures that Beary has at their house in the journal. Some people even include pictures. And then every day at circle time, Miss Christina reads the journal entry aloud and lets Beary's buddy elaborate. And then it is time to choose Beary's new sleepover friend.

Spencer has been talking about Beary ever since we started this new school. He could not wait for his turn. Conveniently, Beary's visit corresponds with your snack turn. Since the calendar was already done for February, we had to wait for the new schedule. And yesterday, it was finally our turn to host Beary for the night.

Words cannot accurately express how precious my baby boy was when I walked up to his classroom. He was BEAMING with pride, grinning from ear to ear, and wearing Beary's backpack. I will never forget that sweet look on his face. And as we were walking to get his backpack and go to find Jessa, he was strutting! Other kids and moms from other classes saw the backpack and were saying things like "Oh, there's Beary!" and "It's his turn with Beary!" This made him EVEN more proud and excited. Jessa noticed right away and asked what the backpack was. Spencer proudly replied, "Beary." When we got to the car, he pulled him out to show us. Jessa was immediately green with envy. She said, "I think I picked the wrong class! I should have picked his class so I could have Beary, too." My explanation as to how they were placed in classes based on their birthdays fell on deaf ears. . .
I did not have the camera when I got to his class,
so this is right when we got home. He was still pretty fired up!

This is Beary coming out of the bag to get his grand tour of the house.

Boy was Beary tired when he got here. Jessa's penguin was happy to share a bed.

Spencer was thrilled to let Beary do everything with him. He carried him everywhere. Poor Beary is showing the signs of spending every night with another family. He is definitely loved. His eyes are wearing off and the Care Bear's logo has worn off his booty. But he still seems thrilled to play with all of his friends.

Did I mention Spencer took him everywhere?

Beary enjoyed the playground, and he LOVES trains!

We went to the PX, and Spencer made sure that Beary was strapped into the car seat.

Safety first, especially with special friends.

Spencer let Beary ride in the cart with him while we shopped. Then they got to ride the carousel because they were so well-behaved while we were running our errands.

What a cool idea this Beary the spend the night company! The kids LOVE it. They look so forward to it. And they feel so proud and so important. Plus, it reminds the parents about snack day! It is a win/win, wouldn't you agree??

Spencer snuggled Beary close all night. The he cried the next day when he had to come home without his new friend. Never fear, after 11 more students, it will be our turn again! YAY!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Megaphones

More versatile than you may think:

A couple years ago, just before football season, I ordered each of my sweet babies an orange megaphone and some blue and orange shakers. Jessa was way more into them at the time, but I wanted them each to have them. The shakers have been lots of fun off and on since we got them, but the megaphones were not initially a big hit. They have been in the bathtub a time or two (not sure what that was about), but overall, they have not gotten much use. Until now. . .
They have fallen in love with these megaphones! They use them to magnify their voices, as they were intended, but they have many other uses.

Some of them may surprise you. For example, did you know that you can eat things through them? Yes, you can! Hold the small end to your mouth and drop a piece of pasta down the large end and every once in a while, the food actually makes it into your mouth. Wow! It also is a nice telescope when you are looking for something or someone. Spencer took it with him to pick Jessa up from school, and we may never have located her on the playground without his "telescope." You can march around and use it as a horn, while at the same time beating on it with a stick. Voila, Spencer is a one man band!

Or you can use it to help you hear better.

It also resembles a volcano if you place it on the table with the big side down. Thankfully, they are satisfied with imaginary lava so far.

A megaphone can be a lovely hat - or stick a whisk in it and apparently it becomes a "cooker hat."


Spencer even pushed his around in a stroller - now that's love, right?

The most interesting time we have had with the megaphones was at supper the other night. We were all 4 sitting at the table. And not unexpectedly, Jessa and Spencer each had their megaphones with them at their places at the table. Well, do you think we were able to have a nice dinner with the megaphones simply resting on the table? Of course not! Megaphones are meant to be USED!


I will pause here to say that yes, many parents would have demanded that the megaphones not come to supper or not be utilized. However, I am firmly in the "pick your battles" camp. I do not care what they have with them as long as they are seated at the table with the family and actually eat something!

It started out innocent and relatively quiet. Jessa would ask Spencer for something while speaking at a normal level through her megaphone. And it was a subtle change each time one of them spoke into their megaphones, but their voices became a little louder with each use. Before I knew it, I was about to go through the roof, and I did not know why. Then I realized it was because my sweet angels were practically screaming at each other through their megaphones. All of the sudden, I had had it. I was so frustrated and so tense. I raised my voice (in order to be heard over their magnified voices), and said, "That is it! Put your megaphones down and eat your supper!" They both got quiet, and started to comply and put their megaphones down. It was at that moment that I caught David's eye. His head was turned away from us, and he was about to bust a gut trying to not laugh out loud. Then I stopped and thought about what I had just said. And I said, "Not something you ever expected to hear at the dinner table?" And he laughed out loud and said, "Exactly!" So then we all had a good laugh. Aren't megaphones fun?



Every day these monkeys keep us on our toes! And every day I say and do things I never thought I would! It is true what they say about how you do your best parenting before you have children. . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

An affliction of Southern Children

I love Georgia! I love the South! I love being Southern. I am so happy and proud to be a G.R.I.T.S.!! That is the one thing I worry about with the army because I want my children to be Southern, too. I am glad they have never lived anywhere but the South. They may be in the third house of their short lives, but the only states they have lived in are Georgia and Louisiana. I love that they were both born in Georgia. I love that they order "Sweet Tea" when we are out to eat. I love that they say "y'all." I love that they love boiled peanuts (or as they call them "wet peanuts).

In my opinion, Georgia is the best state ever! We have it all! We have beaches, we have mountains, we have lakes, we have rivers, we have parks, we have all kinds of sports teams - we have it all! The perfect place to live!! I have such great memories of growing up in the Atlanta area. Stone Mountain, Zoo Atlanta, Six Flags, White Water - every kid's dream, right?

The only thing that is lacking in Georgia and the South (especially when you are a kid) is SNOW. Since we do not get a lot of snow, we do not have much equipment to clear roads, etc. So when a rare snow happens, the world stops. When I was little, snow was the neatest, coolest thing ever. We always got out of school. We got to play outside. Mom made us snow ice (a Tupperware cup scraped along the sidewalk to get snow, a splash of milk and vanilla, and a little sugar - I think. . .). We got to sleep late. The world sort of stopped. There was nothing bad about a snow day every now and then, right?
David and I, both children of the South were shocked when we were in Germany and snow was not that much fun. Sure it was fun to play in, but the world did not stop. What? David has to got to work? We are expected to DRIVE OUR CARS?! It is snowy and icy and dangerous, right? Apparently, in other regions of the world, people know how to drive in snow! Who knew?!
I already mentioned that my children have (so far) been able to be children of the South as well. So the only "snow" these babies have seen up close was a brief snow/sleet/slush "storm" Easter weekend of 2007 in Leesville, Louisiana. We were thrilled, elated, excited! SNOW!! David was in Wal-Mart when it first started and they actually made a store wide announcement heard throughout, "Attention shoppers of your Leesville Wal-Mart. It is snowing. I repeat, it is snowing."

SNOW BUNNIES, get it?
But there was no accumulation and nothing hung around longer than a few minutes. Bummer.
The point of all of this is to illustrate that my children are suffering from an affliction that many other Southern children probably face. I am not sure what the name is, but I believe it is a direct result of severe and chronic snow deprivation.
They see children on TV making snow angels, but they cannot do it. They desperately want to lay in the cold snow and wave their arms and legs back and forth frantically to create a lovely snow angel in the fluffy, white snow. But alas, they cannot. I have been able to capture their regional affliction on camera. This happens often, but I have only captured it a few times. I must warn you, it may be difficult to look at.
Are you ready?
Are you sure?
Here they are:

Jessa making a "grass angel" in the Summer of 2007 (note the broken arm).
Spencer making a "dirt angel" last week.
Although it was dirtier than the grass angel,
you could actually see the arm and leg impressions in the dirt.
Poor Southern children. . .

Saturday, March 21, 2009

When Jessa grows up

I know that this is a common topic for all children. Grown-ups are always asking children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I don't ask the babies that question all that often. I don't know why, I just don't. But we joke about things they fixate on and figure that is what they'll do.

Jessa does LOVE to dance. She sets up these ballet dancing shows in the den. She moves the table out of the middle of the floor. She turns off the lights. Sometimes Spencer is even her spotlight (he has to sit in front of her and follow her every move with a flashlight). Her favorite dance music is either the nutcracker or this CD with covers of Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne. She has to get dressed in a gown with slippers. I even sometimes have to put her hair in a bun. She learns new moves from Angelina Ballerina. She does take it all pretty seriously.

At school, they asked each kid in her class what did they want to be, to which she replied, "a ballerina."
Here are a few shots of her dancing:

She looks very talented, no?

When Spencer and I watch her, he will lean over and say to me, "Mommy, isn't she beautiful?" And I always agree! He loves her so much - so cute! But sometimes, she even lets him join in.
video

I apologize for the lack of lighting, but as I have said, the dancing conditions are very specific and always include darkness.

I am telling you all this as a preface to the REAL story. . .
I get my People Magazine every Friday (yay!). It is a highlight of my week!!

Last week, when it came, my sweet, innocent 5 year old daughter was browsing through it. She was very serious, studying the pages and checking it all out.

After a couple minutes, she said, "Mommy, this is what I want to be when I grow up."

I said, "Really, what?"

She proceeded to hold up a 2 page spread from my latest People so that I could see it.

"This is what I want to be when I grow up."


I did not know whether to cry or throw up!
My sweet angel baby girl wants to be Britney? What?!?

I kept my cool and said, "Oh, OK, but what is that, Jessa?"

She matter-of-factly replied, "A performer."

I guess I can live with that, as long as I have final approval on all costumes.
Don't you think that is fair?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Mug Cake

Something cool to try. . .
My mom saw this recipe on a friend's website. She sent it to me because (1) I like new recipes (2) the kids and I love to bake (3) she was curious, and (4) CHOCOLATE.

I am sharing it with you because (1) we had fun making it (2) you may like to try new recipes (3) it is a pretty cool idea, and (4) CHOCOLATE!

I pre-measured all the ingredients for each of us to mix up and put in the mug. (This makes me more able to enjoy our baking together.)

All the ingredients ready to go
It was so easy, and there are only a few ingredients. I am so glad we tried it!!
Mixing is serious work

If you are going to make cake, you have to crack a few eggs.

Spencer likes what he sees.

TA-DA!!!!!!!!
And here we are about to taste it:
David is never up for dessert, so it was just the 3 of us. It tasted pretty good, considering it was such a quick and easy recipe. Oh, and our microwave was higher than 1,000 watts, so I had to adjust the time.
Here’s the recipe:

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional but we saw it as mandatory)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
We also sprinkled some powdered sugar on the top, too.
Happy baking!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Socks: not just for feet anymore

My ever so resourceful son has found many uses for his socks throughout his short life. When he was smaller and we were in the car a while, I would look back at him to find him playing with his socks. His MO was to struggle to get his shoes off, and then he'd wiggle his socks off. They would then be carefully placed onto his hands. They could be puppets, he could try to pick things up with his sock hands, and he loved the sound of clapping his sock covered hands together. I searched for a picture to post, but I was heartbroken when I could not find one. Could it be I did not capture this precious Spencer stage?? I must believe there is a picture somewhere.

He has recently started using his socks for small bags. He takes them off and puts cars or trains or money or any small thing he can fit into his little socks. He carries them around with him all over the place. I love to find them later and peek in to see what treasures he has hidden inside.
One afternoon last week, he found yet another new use. I must say I would never have thought of this. And it is somewhat, well, gross. Apparently, you can put your animal crackers inside of your previously worn socks. Why don't more people do this? I mean, it is more Eco friendly, right?

God Bless Spencer! Such a precious little booger! And Max spent HOURS licking and chewing on the sock left behind trying to get to the cookies. He never did. . . Spencer is pretty smart, huh? His sock kept his snack safe from Mr. Max!

And a quick update: I saw the little boy in the tractor shirt!!! This morning when Spencer and I were dropping Jessa off, she motioned for me to get down to her level. She whispered and sort of gestured to let me know which little boy it was. I am so relieved to have this mystery solved.

AND I am kicking myself for not being attentive enough. There was a permission slip (or so I thought) taped to the sign-in clip board this morning. They were watching a movie about St. Patrick's Day and wanted parents to sign. I quickly signed it (Spencer was already starting to get upset about his impending drop-off and was on my foot latched onto my leg at the time) because I did not want her to miss anything fun, right? Well, this afternoon, she told me that her class got to watch a movie, but she had to leave! I wanted to cry for her. What an idiot I am! The list was for parents who did not want their kids to watch. Not only do I hate that she missed something fun, but I also hate that the other kids probably thought she was weird. I will definitely read more carefully next time. Poor Jessa!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The boy in the tractor shirt

Tales from preschool. . .

I am somewhat of a fanatic about my children (have you noticed that yet??). I am not saying never, of course, but as of right now I am unwilling to carpool to school. I am not saying that I will not drive other people's kids to and from school, but I cannot let go of the "drop off" and "pick up" with my children. I still want to be the last person they see when I drop them off and be able to kiss them (as long as they will let me) and tell them to have a good day. And I am so excited to be there to pick them up each day. I love the way their faces light up (especially Spencer's) as their eyes meet mine after a day apart. I am cheesy, I know! In fact the few times that David is able to go with them on his own, it is hard for me to even let him have the honored position of "drop off" person or "pick up" person. I do, though. He is their father, after all. I guess it is not unheard of for me to let him do something, Lord knows he wants to help! But suffice it to say, most days they are at school, I drop them off and pick them up.

The drop off is still pretty sad for Spencer - he is still suffering from a brief (like 10 seconds) burst of unhappiness when I leave him. But the picking up is the BEST! When Spencer and I approach Jessa, he hollers, "Jessa, we are here!" And I love to hear them excitedly telling me about their days. And there is not another time that they will even discuss their days. You have to get them right then, or forget it! At supper each night, I ask them to tell David some of the stories they told me, and I can rarely get either one of them to tell him, much less elaborate. They say, "You tell him."

Their most excited days are days they saw each other. This is the coolest thing ever. They both tell me from their own perspective what it was like to see the other one in their class. Jessa told me once that after seeing Spencer she almost cried after he was gone because it made her miss him so much. So sweet. . .

They dressed themselves - and we were at the mall. Luckily, we did not see anyone we knew!

The other day, Jessa was so excited to tell me about a boy problem she was having. (it is scary because she is 5, and David does not want to even think of her having a "boy problem." Apparently, there is a boy in her class that has decided he likes her. So he has taken to following her around. This frustrates her so much!

All the way home (and even after) she was recounting all the times he frustrated her. I have a feeling it was not as big of a deal as my drama queen was making it. He followed her to centers, he always stood behind her in line, he chased her on the playground. So I asked her who it was. She said, "you know, mom, the boy in the tractor shirt." I did not laugh, but I wanted to. I asked her what was his name. She did not know and again told me he was the one in the tractor shirt.

Once we were home, she brought it up again. This time, I was armed with her class snack calendar. So I went down the list looking for boy sounding names (although these days, it is hard to tell!). Jessa said no to each and every name. And she was starting to get frustrated with me, "I told you, he was wearing a shirt with a tractor today." I only saw a couple kids in the morning and a couple in the afternoon, so I never noticed what any of them were wearing! She even described it to me in more detail: "He was wearing pants. He had on a shirt. It was red and there was this tractor on it. Remember?" No, I did not. Poor Jessa, her mother is just so dumb!

When she told David at supper, he got the same answer. So we have no idea who this kid was. And he apparently got over her quickly because she has not complained much anymore.

But just in case, let me go on record: you, in the tractor shirt, leave Jessa alone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things I wonder. . .

If you are reading this and you do not have a preschooler, much of this may not make sense. I apologize if I confuse anyone, but there are some things that I really wonder after watching some TV with my babies. I know that I should not let these things get to me, but I cannot help wondering. . .

Do Max and Ruby have parents? We never see a mom or dad. There is a grandmother, but she does not live with them. What's up with that? And I do not think that Ruby is a responsible care giver to Max. Jessa and I think that she is not very patient with him most of the time. OR she leaves him unattended long enough to get into trouble. . . My friend Tara can attest to the frustration over Ruby leaving him alone to get dirty again and again. This is made more frustrating by the fact that her Ben wants to watch it over and over!!
Max and Ruby - on Nickelodeon
That being said I do love Rosemary Wells, the creator of Max and Ruby. She wrote one of my favorite books growing up was Timothy Goes to School. She is also the author of another series of books, my all-time favorite books since they are about a Westie named McDuff. . .

Gotta love that Wesite face
They are illustrated by Susan Jeffers, and she captures the Westie personality and expressions perfectly! Both Wells and Jeffers actually own Westies, which makes me love them more.
(nothing that I wonder about - just a quick plug, we LOVE these books)

On Little Bear, how come they always call the animals "cat" or "skunk" or "duck." In the forest where Little Bear lives is there only one cat or skunk? Wouldn't this system of names be confusing if there were 2 ducks? What would you call the other Duck? Duck 2?
Little Bear on Noggin
Along the same lines, in Franklin, he is the only one that has a name other than the type of animal he is. Why is he so special? And his parents are Mr. Turtle and Mrs. Turtle. Are all turtles in their forest named that? If so, I'd hate to be the mail-animal in their neighborhood!
Franklin on Noggin
How does Hello Kitty eat? Jessa asked me when she was like 3, "Mommy, where is Hello Kitty's mouth?" And I noticed that she did not have one! I played with Hello Kitty when I was little, yet I never noticed that. I guess I am not very observant.

Look Ma, No mouth!

When Max and Emmy go to dragon land, where do their mom and dad think they are? On that same note, when Boo is with Sully and Mike, do her folks not notice she is gone? Is there a search party? Police called?

Dragon Tales on PBS Kids Sprout

Disney's Monsters Inc.
Who is the bread winner in Calliou's family? I am all for stay-at-home dads or dual career families, but both of his parents are always around. Daddy (or mommy) never have to miss any fun trips to the museum or the park. What's up with that? Are they rich? Did they win the lottery? Is that how things are in Canada? David may want us to move if this is the case!

Caillou's Family Portrait - with both parents always there

Watching children's television makes me wonder many things. . . David laughs at me because he wonders who is watching these shows - them or me? Like when he sees me sitting on the floor putting together a puzzle alone. He always asks, who did you buy that for you or the children??