Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Same Old {Grief} Story

We're seriously closing in on four years since Andrew died. The quick update?

I'm still sad and angry about him dying. I know sadness is the primary emotion, but anger comes out most often it seems. Acceptance doesn't appear to be near or even possible.

I don't mask anything well, so if you talk to me on a regular basis, you'll likely sense the anger and sadness when I talk about him. I'm just still so beside myself.

I'm mostly busy and super thankful to have his brother and sister to drive me nuts and amaze me everyday, but if you asked if I was happy or content, I would honestly never choose those words.

Someone asked me the other day if everything was going great with us, as if the alternative was something horrific or saddening. And really, things are going as great as can be with two kids. Except, the obvious knowledge of us really having three means that no, everything will never equal going great like, ever. There's always an addendum, it seems, to our happiness. I know we're not the only ones who've experienced tragic loss, and I'm aware that many people live with that similar addendum.

At nearly 4 years out, I'm still angry with God, even though I don't believe he saves us from harm or is the one who inflicts. I think he is supposed to be a comfort, simply put. I do believe God showed up in other people after Andrew died. The nurses who were doing a lot of the dirty work for us, the friends who showed up in such a horrible situation to offer their presence when they probably just wanted to flee the scene, the strangers who sent cards, and the list continues. I think I'm most angry with God because I don't know who else to be angry with.

I rarely cry. The tears are there occasionally and flood like a river. But mostly, they're absent.

Being at home with the kids can make things even harder, ironically. I have my hands full, but my brain is not full of anything but tasks. The intellectual stimulation is lacking because time does not allow for much of that, which then allows for sadness to creep in. This mom job can be really lonely in itself, and then even more lonely when you know you're missing 1/3 of your kids.

It's a cooler fall day here. The grief season is approaching.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Phone Took a Bath + Maryland Trip to Grandparent's House

We are back in action at the Wilson abode after a super fun weekend. The getaway started off a little rough, however, with me hurriedly stuffing a quick laundry load into the machine last Wednesday, only to realize 5 minutes into the FULL CYCLE that my phone was probably at the bottom of the washload. Yep, indeed. A morning of blowdryers and rice and filing down a bobbie pin to make a suitable Pentalobe screwdriver to open my phone and then leaving it for 4 days in the rice I prepped that did nothing for the cause.

I went along the entire trip and finally visited the people at the cell phone store to tell me my phone would be replaced for a mere $400. Ehm, nothankyou. What Benjamin doesn't know, is Mama is now using "his" phone. When I replaced my old iPhone3G with the iPhone4G, I loaded a bunch of educational apps on there for him like Hooked on Phonics.

But Mama needs to be able to communicate with the outside world. And my own mama is sending me her old phone to use that's better than the one I'm currently stuck with and all will be well again. That's the phone debacle in a nutshell.

Did you know there's a case called Lifeproof that is water resistant? Yeah, me neither. I'll be owning one of those bad boys when I upgrade to a new phone next year.

Last Thursday, Benjamin went to preschool and then we picked him up and headed straight for the airport. We found ridiculously low prices flying into Delaware (2hrs away), so hopped on those tickets. I packed minimally to avoid checked bag fees on the low-cost carrier and it turned out to be an excellent decision. We even came back with a few articles of clothing that weren't even used! It also helps that we ran a load of wash (minus the cell phone addition) during our short 3.5 day trip. We literally took on board 3 backpacks and a diaper bag. The carseats were checked and the BOB double stroller was gate checked. It survived, but a chunk of the handlebar foam was compromised.

We saw old friends that the husband has known since childhood, went to a county fair, a harvest festival, had delicious dinners and even more delicious desserts, went on a brewery tour, had an evening to hang out with friends, introduced Claire to her great-great grandparents, spent lots of great time with the grandparents and aunt "Mansa" and shared the husband's childhood home for the first time with our kids. Benjamin had never been to Maryland in his 31 months of life until this point! Well, except in utero. It's just so much easier when people travel to him, but he definitely found it beyond special to sleep in Aunt Mansa's bed, go on an airplane (despite having been on many before) and explore a new place.

Overall, they both were excellent travelers on the plane and in the car. There were a few moments, but to be expected. I think the ages they are now make for better travelers than crawlers or early walkers, no question. Benjamin did not try to escape his seat at all this trip and only really had an issue when he was instructed to keep his seatbelt on (of which he knows how to unbuckle himself).
#familyselfie and small airports in Delaware don't have jetways when only 2 flights come in a week.
He's now an airplane-obsessed kid (despite having been on tons already in his 31 months of life). I rented two books from the library on airplanes and when at the park playing with other kids the other day (yes, playing with!), he was telling them about the airplanes in the sky and pointing them out as they flew by us. He talks of how his blanket went on the airplane and how he went to see his grandparents and how he will go see "Mickey House" on the airplane next month and how Gawbee and Grandpa will come see him via airplane. Airplane luv in the house.

We spent a morning (and then an evening) with old friends. Jeff & Erin were in our wedding. Jeff came by Erin's house and Erin's two kids played with Claire & Benjamin while Erin baked up some delicious bread and whipped cream. And coffee. Most important when traveling with kids, especially an 8mo who does not care to sleep well on the road (yet). I sure hope she changes this habit! Benjamin, on the other hand, slept like a rock every single day.
I've never been to a county fair more worthy of the title. I saw (and smelled) more pigs than I could count. Was enough to keep me vegetarian for an afterlife!
Off to the rides... the grandparents may have purchased THREE sheets of ride tickets for Benjamin in advance, so we skipped a nap and went wild! You know your 2-year-old is exhausted when he requests "go home, tired" after an epic day at the fair. He was out within minutes of being in the car.

These are the best photos ever, so I will share ALL of them. This ride goes in an oval but whips you around each curve. He went on with a stranger girl who had the best expressions and hogged the entire handle bar. Her mom was standing next to me, yelling for her to give him some space. They both looked happy as can be.
Right photo: favorite photo of the day. Month even? The best.

Claire meeting Great Gramie & Great Papa for the first time ever. 
Aunt Mansa is always a favorite. 

Aunt Mansa got us into Flying Dog Brewery for a tour and we had a great time. Also, lots of delicious dinners with family, including a ridiculously good peanut butter brownie cake thing.
Funny progression of Claire. Looks at each person and then... SCOWL. Haha!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dumpster Dive Kid Adirondack Chairs

We didn't actually dumpster dive, but we did grab some kiddo stuff from the curbside of a local neighbor who happens to be moving and clearing out. One evening a few weeks ago, the husband went for a jog around the neighborhood after the kids went down to bed. He came back telling me that some neighbors had a hoard of kid stuff up for grabs to be picked up by the garbage truck the following morning.

I was curious, so I headed there with the car. Among the items (basketball hoop, soccer goals, etc.) were two chairs. These were actually rather dirty and unimpressive. In their former state, they would've been trash for sure. But, knowing Benjamin and his love for furniture, I thought they could use a facelift and be decent enough to put on the deck for the next year or two.

No matter how disgusting they looked, the moment Benjamin laid eyes on these chairs, he was smitten. He toted them all through my house with the nasty cobwebs stringing behind and even busted out the hose to give them a wash. Yes, he knows how to turn on the hose by himself and often does, to my dismay!

Old School Buzz Lightyear and creepy princess cat eyes. I washed the chairs first outside but brought them inside to the utility sink for a scrubdown with dish soap.
For the cost of a can of Rustoleum (2x paint and primer), I am now less embarrassed of what the neighbors see when walking through the neighborhood trails behind our houses. 

I could've put a wee bit more effort and sanded before I painted, but Buzz Lightyear remains while the princess cat eyes are but a memory.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Will Poop for Chocolate

Back in March, I posted about Benjamin's interest to watch us do all things in the bathroom. I thought I'd update 6 months later on the lack of progress in the toilet training department. We own 3 kiddo potty seats, one kiddo topper and 1 transportable potty seat. We have undies and books and even a urinal he uses to store his bath toys. Remember that composter I regret buying and my husband basically laughing at me? Well, insert an eye roll from me on that urinal purchase here.

All that jazz and well, nada. No shocker here, he's not trained yet. He's officially two-and-a-half years of age and has peed or pooped on the potty about 11 times. Two of those were coerced by physically taking him and sitting him on the potty by Gramie and Dad, so I will accept 9 for the official count as of today. I have some hope for this afternoon, as we'll likely go pantless again as we've been doing when we're home for long periods of time (if he wants).

We're taking a relaxed approach for a few reasons:
1. If he doesn't want to do something, he'll fight us, tooth and nail.
2. I don't have the patience to potty train with an 8-month old and never leave the house. I'd go #crazytown. Also, while the weather is still nice, I refuse not to take advantage.
3. I don't really have a need to hurry him up, because his preschool is cool with changing diapers. Though, in the 7 times he has attended on his own thus far, he has been changed zero times. He does watch other kids use the potty (yay!) and possibly sits on one at school himself?
4. Admittedly, diapers are a little easier when we're out and about so often with just one set of hands and two sets of kiddo hands.

But don't get me wrong. I wish he would just announce he was done with diapers and it be that easy. My timeline is now: must be potty trained by August 2015 for preschool. He will be three-and-a-half. I'm thinking he will be able to do that. But a more strict timeline is currently set for Christmas when Dad is home. We will have lots of time during the holidays with two adults and no place to go in the frigid temps.

Currently, when we're home, we ask him if he'd like to take off his pants and diaper so he can go to the potty when he wants to. Sometimes he's interested, sometimes he's not. If he does go commando (undies failed us), I ask him often if he has to go to the bathroom. The first few times, I was cleaning up puddles left and right. But the last few times and just about all day yesterday, he was dry and peed nowhere but the potty. It's pretty adorable. He usually announces his interest to go potty and goes in and sometimes closes the door. He sits and runs out immediately either holding the potty or announcing his addition to the pot. Sometimes he's lying, but sometimes he's legit! We celebrate, sing a silly song, pick him up, high-five, call his grandparents, stamp a chart... and eat chocolate.

When he successfully pees or poops, he gets 2 "m treats" for pee and 3 for poop. If both, FIVE! He also gets a stamp on his chart and 10 stamps earns him a donut from Dunkin' Donuts. I'm sure you're judging me and you know what? I don't care. We like donuts. He asks for them every time we drive by (everysingleday) and has probably consumed no more than 10 in his lifetime. But they are a huge treat to him, so we thought it would motivate him.

Never thought I'd bust out the teaching supplies for a potty chart.
Bribery? I've seen every parent I know do it. Bribe with food? Terrible parenting, some may say. But I counter with the thought that we're all essentially rewarded for everything we do. Even if intrinsic reward, it's still something you do with the intent to feel a certain way or attain something. While we'd love for Benjamin to feel proud when he uses the potty, he's just not proud enough to keep at it. Stickers mean nothing to this kid. But donuts? The holy grail. And Lord knows he can use the calories, Mr. 18-month shorts.

Problem is, we're fairly convinced that some of this weekend's attempts at potty time were done with the sole interest to get chocolate, and not necessarily because he wanted to relieve his body the proper way. While he did have to go, we do wonder if he was going because he wanted the treats more than the need to go in that very moment like our bodies tell us.

One thing is certain, if you Skype with us or come over for a visit from now until he's ready for big boy undies, he might do a somersault with his boy parts in full view. Just ask my parents. They had a front row seat to the Benjamin naked Olympics yesterday.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Very First Garden

We planted our garden on May 31st (coincidentally the same day I found out I was pregnant with Claire last year!) in the spot of an old tree the husband cut down. Though beautiful, it was too close to the house and thus, the foundation. I purchased a couple garden boxes on Amazon along with a weed control bottom piece made out of some sort of material. We used the lasagna layering method of newspaper, peat moss-mushroom compost-soil, repeat. No manure was used. We did not use our own compost, sadly. When I bought our compost bin last fall, it grew cold very quickly and never really achieved high enough temps this summer to keep the internal temperature warm enough to ferment the compost. Win some, lose some. That investment has not proven to pan out as I hoped it would (picture my husband nodding his head here).
My footwear fashion statement here is embarrassing.

Now 3.5 months later, here is our crop total:

Snap peas: Around 150
Carrots: Hoards
Zucchini: 1, but there were a total of 4 that started and one holding on by a thread. Will it grow?
Peppers: About 10 (from starter plants)
Jalapenos: About 20 (from starter plants)
Cilantro: About a month's worth of cuts
Pumpkins: A total of about 4-5 have grown & still waiting... One was the size of a softball and was attacked. One was the size of a kumquat and attacked.
Tomatoes: 4 growing now and 3 of those are changing colors

What we learned:
- Snap peas should be planted against a wall of some sort. They grow quite tall and the 5ft. bamboo trellis I purchased was still not tall enough. It didn't affect the growth, but did make the top quite messy. We also had some weird fungus (?) attack them and make them spotted on the last harvest (of 3).

- We loved carrots. Maybe the most? We planted a very stubby, small variety based on the short depth of our garden boxes and the fear that they would hit too deep into the soil and affect our electric wires (very unlikely, but we are rookies). It was so much fun to have friends over for dinner or playdates and let the kids pick carrots at random. We literally just poured the seeds into rows and did not count. Possibly foolish as they might have been larger if we planted fewer due to shared nutrients, but it was loads of fun either way.
I can't seem to locate pictures of the really "big" ones, but the majority of good ones were about the size of a baby carrot for this variety.
- Zucchini seed packs really mean that you should not plant multiple seeds close together. They will steal nutrients and hog up so much space. I think we planted 6 squash plants and one produced even a nub of a squash (well, three nubs and one real zucchini).

- We bought a flat of starter peppers of a random variety. They were delicious when they produced, but they were rather small. One of the single plants in the flat produced about all of the peppers. The rest just took up space.

- The jalapenos were starter plants, too. I also LOVED having these constantly growing to use in recipes. Because they are spicy, they go a long way to season a dish and therefore were worth the purchase.

- Cilantro was a huge disappointment. I had visions of using it all summer in recipes and it lasted a month, if that! I had no idea they grew well and then immediately bolted a few weeks later. I loved having it to cut and put in recipes/guacamole/salsa, but it was such a short life!

- Pumpkins were.........well, we don't know. We were SO excited when the first grew and was doing so great until it was attacked! We caged it after, but the bugs continued to eat at the lacerations and it was just over from there. We have quite a few that are still small and it might be a pipedream to assume they will grow before our first freeze. These seeds were from a local pumpkin drop (so Midwest!) with a 500lb pumpkin. I knew pumpkin plants grew HUGE, but this one (of 6 seeds we planted) is maybe 20 feet long? It's enormous. Time will tell.

- My mom bought us a $1 Target spot pack of Beefsteak tomatoes and we followed the directions, started it in the house and planted in a pot (with wire rack thing) outside. It flourished! It's huge and beautiful and is currently growing four tomatoes. That's not much, but they do look super delicious and really healthy. We will see. Maybe they will ripen before they freeze and are ruined?!

- Buying "moisture bead" soil or whatever it was called is just a fancy name for added styrofoam. Not only is it ugly, but expensive too!

2014 garden, photo taken about halfway through the season (pumpkins around that corner)
What we'll plant/change for next year:
Snap peas: plant them against the wall/house. We won't be using up garden box space for them next year and the wall will add stability that is much needed.

Carrots: We intend to plant both regular (on the side of our house) and sqautty (garden box) varieties next year. I'm not sure about planting fewer seeds = ALL fat carrots as opposed to some that flourished and some that flopped. Maybe we'll experiment in different rows.

Zucchini: We'll plant again in the garden box, but plant maybe TWO plants and not six.

Peppers: I don't know. We will probably forego the pepper plants or possibly do starters inside ourselves of more known varieties. They just weren't large enough to really yield much.

Jalapenos: We'll definitely plant these again and possibly try our hand at starters ourselves and buying a few. Would be fun to compare side-by-side.

Cilantro: While we enjoyed having it that one month of the season, we'll consider planting and then removing once it bolts, then planting again for a second harvest. Half of the season our garden box looked barren because the cilantro jumped ship so early.

Pumpkins: We lost nothing here, but seemed to have gained very little, too. I don't know! We might try again, but question if there is enough sunlight on the side of the house we have them planted. And how to keep the rodents away? This year it took about 1 minute to dig six mini holes and plant them, so it wasn't much of a loss, but hard to watch when they were eaten often.

Tomatoes: Definitely plan to plant more and even start some in the house ourselves again. I am thinking we might have more luck with varieties that are smaller and produce faster (cherry, roma) and want to consider those to go in the actual garden boxes and run while on their own. It might be messy...?

Overall: We really enjoyed our first gardening experience! It was fun getting outside with the kids, having Benjamin water and share in his excitement with friends, picking carrots whenever others would come over, sharing the modest crop, picking veggies to use in dinner and just having something to maintain. I think this is as big as we're up for managing, though.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

$2 Grab Bags

I dropped Benjamin off at school this morning and did a victory dance headed over to Michael's for a little Halloween planning. Perhaps you can guess what I have him slated to be for Halloween just by a few hints?

I planned to make the ears myself, but then stumbled upon these for $1.60. Hard to pass that up!
While I was shopping, I noticed there was a big bin of $2 grab bags of (probably) summer clearance items. I was curious and decided I would put $8 on the blackjack table gamble of getting some fun craft items for the kids during those dreary winter months we'll have coming. I also hoped I'd find some fun stocking stuffers. Because I totally wanted to know what was inside each bag, I'll share the contents here with you all. You tell me what you think of the junk fun stuff I scored for my $8 gamble.

$2 Grab Bag #1:
2- Make-it-yourself drum kits with feathers, beads and all the necessities
1- Pack of eight monkey straws
1- Kissing flower ball thing
1- Minnie Mouse sticker book
1- Door hanger DIY kit
1- Bow with a clip on the back for a girl with hair. Hahah. See ya in a few years, hairbow!
1- Flower decoration (for flip flops apparently)
2- Gooey bubble blowing kits... I totally remember from my childhood

My verdict: $2 score!

$2 Grab Bag #2:
1- Rooster tumbler with straw (how hideous!)
1- Ceramic hot drink rooster cup with lid (both retailed for $20! I see why they were clearanced...)
6- Class of 2014 pens. Just funny. Speaking of, my first group of students I taught ever are freshman in COLLEGE. OMG, I'm old.
1- Cute owl that stands but is a blank canvas
1- Chandelier wooden ornament thing
1- Kissing white flower ball just like bag #1...what is that? And what am I going to do with two?
1- Pack of Jesus stencils
3- Crystal fireflies/butterflies
5- Clip-on decorative butterflies/ladybugs
1- Random red flower thing
2- Packs of foam stickers

My verdict: While I do think the owl tchotchke is cool and the rooster cups terribly ugly (yet functional), I'm still not sure it was worth $2. Maybe Claire will LOVE butterflies someday.

$2 Grab Bag #3:

1- large sand bucket/pail of good quality
1- Turtle DIY craft thing?
2- Cross mosaic DIY crafts
1- DAD button frame decoration kit
3- Hair ties
8- Monkey straws like in bag #1
3- DIY frames and some things to decorate with inside
2- Not-so-lovely smelling fragrance bead jars
5- Clip-on barrettes for little girls with hair. Again, hahaha.
1- Pair of aviator glasses I left in my car because I was totally wearing them and loving them

My verdict: Worth it only for the straws, bucket, hair ties and glasses. But the rest is junk.

$2 Grab Bag #4:
1- Disney Princess kite that looks to be Cinderella ...I'm so awesome for knowing that
2- Wacky Gliders
2- Balls and bats
1- Bubble wand

My verdict: Not bad. Obviously I knew some of what I was getting here and the sales associate encouraged me to buy this one. Figured if anything, the kite itself would've cost me $2, so it's a win here.

Out of the four bags, I'd buy 3 again. Not a bad gamble... but seriously... lots of junk to sort out.

Now I have to go hurry up and clean this crap up before the toddler wakes... and also, someone else go buy some of these and show me what you got! I wanted to open all the bags.