Sunday, April 27, 2008

Seventies, sunscreen, softball and sand

Ahhh, finally the weather we'd been waiting for.

The past week found us swinging, playing in the sand and slathering sunscreen from head to toe (times four). We enjoyed dad's softball game on Wednesday and didn't miss playing outside one glorious day.

So much fun, so little time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who wants cake?

What do you get someone who has this? There's nothing you can wrap up and slap a bow on that wouldn't pale in comparison to being surrounded by life's most wondrous of miracles who each love you more than the last.

We said "Happy Birthday, Butterbean," with a book and a plant for her yard, but she would have walked away from her party with far more affection for the smiles and kisses she received than a library filled with books and an entire greenhouse.

Story sharing, pushes on swings and a few "Grandma"s trump anything purchased and can come every day of the year, not just one. That's the beauty of it all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lights! Camera! Action! (take 16)

Before you start asking for autographs, remember only one of them can print her name.

Last week our foursome were the side-show in a commercial advertisement for Tracy's Appliances. We can't tout agents or contracts, just the fact that we know the store's owners. This definitely helped in getting the work.

Nonetheless, the kids had fun, we've got great footage to reappear two decades from now and I have something to watch every time I need a chuckle (it's as though they keep coming ... even I began to wonder how many of them there were).

The spots started airing Monday, so it's too early to gauge their effect. But, should customers start busting down the doors at Tracy's we might have to renegotiate our contract!

One, two, three, cheese

It's taken 14 months, but I've learned to have our photos taken in smaller groups. The clothes, patience (little people), snacks and patience (big people) needed for everyone to get their photos shot in one visit is too much for us.

Now, two visits and we're talking. Less wait time, fewer little people to keep clean and happy and less stress for mom and dad.

So, a double visit to our Babies 'R Us store today and we've got the results below to show for our $3.59 per gallon gasoline (and yes, we drive one of those gas-guzzling SUVs and yes, we did our fair share of polluting on Earth Day of all days).

Supermodel at three

Alena has come full-circle with the picture taking thing. This is the child that required two trips to the studio to have her photo taken once just a few short months ago. Today her near-fit was due to the fact that she wanted her picture taken "more." Go figure.

Easy does it

Alivia has to be a photographer's dream come true. She listens, she cooperates, she smiles. It takes just minutes to get a few poses shot. I'm struck at how grown up she seems to be getting. While she still asks to be held and confuses her right shoe for her left and vice versa, she's getting so big.


Can't you just see it written all over his face? Enough said.

Not quite a smile

While she's not wearing the priceless smile that's hers and only hers, this is the best professionally taken photo we have of Alysse to date (minus those from the very newborn stage). So incredibly cute, this little sweetie just doesn't photograph well. I believe it's all the "stuff" around her in a studio. Lights, camera, strangers. She immediately tenses and is leery. As soon as she's removed from the area, she returns to her normal self. A photo doesn't due her beautiful little face justice.

Surprise, surprise

Apparently it can be done: Trace and Alysse in a photo together sans tears. A sharp contrast to the infamous Christmas card photo, huh?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Swoon, swoon

Move over old lawn guy, I've got a new lawn boy now. No, he doesn't fertilize the yard, trim with the weed whacker or sweep the sidewalks when he's done, but he's oh so irresistible.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You'll never know, dear, how much I love you

My pixie ... she's a kid every parent should have the pleasure of enjoying. While probably the most complex of our four, she's worth every bit of patience her two-year-old tantrums demand and returns the love you give in her own special way.

She's my mystery, a calming force and some days a true test of will. Sweet and oh, so innocent in one breath, while a moment later bursting with frustration and exhaustion over one of life's smallest challenges. A ying and a yang all wrapped up in one little package.

And while she's impressively smart, has an extensive vocabulary for her age and becomes more independent each day, I worry most about her. She's sandwiched between a drama queen in the truest form and a pair who garner attention because they're simply that - a pair. It seems some days that once the others have greedily soaked up their share of the attention, she's stuck in the middle, shortchanged.

At the same time, it might be this middle spot she's found herself in the reason she's who and what she is, and that's incredibly special. She possesses skills in patience and independence that an oldest child would never develop and a family's baby doesn't get the chance to because he or she (or in our case he AND she) is "babied."

The pixie has it all going for her, though. A sense of humor that makes you laugh, a soft side that melts your heart and the ability to take in the world through eyes all her own. Sometimes a clown, sometimes a fighter, sometimes an angel, but always my sunshine.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Asking price ... $30

FOR SALE: One little brother. Cute, but throws his toy cars in the toilet. Funny, but can be very loud at the lunch table. Sweet, but ornery more often than not. Insists on waking up at 6:22 a.m. and drools more than one would expect. Includes a toy toolbox that he can fix anything with and built-in entertainment via his dance moves. Asking price $30, or make an offer.

After throwing his cup on the floor for the 15th time and yelling at the top of his lungs during lunch, I asked Alena and Alivia what we were going to do with Trace.

"Let's sell him," was Alivia's response.

"How much do you think we'd get for him?," I asked her.

"About $30," she said.

Hmmmm, $30.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Victory is ours

Grocery shopping. It's one of the most burdensome things for me to do with the kids. Since Trace and Alysse were born, I've only ventured out grocery shopping solo with Alena and Alivia in tow. I've also shopped on weekend afternoons during nap time and at 9 p.m. on Friday nights. Taking all four and going it alone has been too much to get my mind around.

How exactly can I get everything we need while keeping a watchful eye on Alena and Alivia while occupying Trace and Alysse? More importantly, where am I going with all the little bodies? Where am I going with all the groceries?

Two carts. Yes, except the pull one, push one method just doesn't work well in my store of choice, Jungle Jim's. Plus, the train-like effect would just draw more attention to our traveling circus which we don't need (two weeks ago a Jungle Jim's bread delivery man vowed to say a prayer for me that night).

In an attempt to become more grocery shopping liberated, I've been easing us into it. In the last four weeks or so, we've made a couple weekday mini grocery shopping trips with all under-four-foot shoppers tagging along. During these tests, we've used the double stroller for Trace and Alysse to ride in, with Alena and Alivia walking on their own.

This system worked in keeping everyone happy, but allowed me only about $50 in purchasing power with what would fit in the basket underneath the stroller seats. Using this method to do all our grocery shopping would require about four mini visits a week. Not happening.

So yesterday, gathering every ounce of courage and patience I could muster, we went it alone for a full-fledged refrigerator-filling, pantry-stocking visit. I approached the trip with the brave outlook that always gives me that added boost of confidence: We can always run for the car and head for home.

The whole trip took about two hours and we managed to select, pay for and load into the car $194 worth of groceries. The secret to our shopping success ... miracle shopping carts I could kiss Jungle Jim himself for offering.

Prior to the twins' arrival my mom had given us a shopping cart cover made for two (see photo below). Ingenious, I thought, already loving my single version. However, I've spent the last 14 months trying to find a cart to use it on. At one point, I even attempted to use it on a normal shopping cart thinking we could fit one pair of legs through each opening in the cart's seat area. Trust me, doesn't work.

Having given up hope of finding an actual, real-life cart to use this little baby on, Jason reported seeing a few of these double-seater carts at Jungle Jim's. If this sighting was true, my shopping prayers had been answered. And sure enough, Jungle Jim's came through, giving me yet another reason to love the place.

In addition to the double seater feature, the front of the cart has a plastic car section that Alena and Alivia can ride in. While the germaphobe in me hates this less-than-clean appearing car part, it does provide enough room for play that the girls were willing to ride the duration of our visit and therefore speed up our progress through the store. Plus, I've already located my travel-sized bottle of Chlorox Anywhere spray which, in the future, will be spent sanitizing the seats, steering wheels and other various parts little hands may come in contact with.

Don't be fooled, our trip wasn't perfect. There were the nearly unavoidable "Mom, Alena pinched me"/"Mom, Alivia touched my hair" exchanges; a chewed up box of macaroni and cheese and a Trace attempt to bite Alysse's head during our checkout (more on this strange twin phenomenon later). There were NOT, however, any tantrums, screaming fits or bathroom visits.

Yes, victory was ours ... beautiful strawberries, juicy oranges and gallons of whole milk included.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Field of dreams

Today's theme was no theme other than getting out and about. I would have loved to have spent the day wandering the Cincinnati Zoo, but remember the dry, gorgeous 70 degree weather we're lacking? So, I let the little ones make the call.

I suggested a trip to the Cincinnati Museum Center's Children's Museum and was met with blank stares and no enthusiasm. Okay, next idea.

Over breakfast the girls decided a trip to ride Nemo and a visit to Papa's work was what they wanted to do. Fair enough, we can do that. I'd be willing to bet you could offer them abundant candy for the rest of their lives along with more Disney movies than they could ever watch, and they'd still pick a single trip to ride the little aquatic-themed three-seat carousel at the mall.

First up, Cincinnati Mills Mall and the "Nemo ride." After three turns on the carousel I had to cut my bunch off as there were two other mothers whose children were patiently waiting their turn (note Alena's less than thrilled expression faced with this scenario). Thinking ahead, I had driven through the bank and gotten a roll of quarters. Had the other small riders not been waiting, my little riders would have burned through the rest of the roll with seven additional rides.

The only thing that tops a Nemo ride for Alena and Alivia is a Nemo ride followed by a trip into the adjacent "Claire's" store. Yes, I'm a sucker, so "Claire's" was next

Amidst all the lip gloss, jewelry and little purses, we settled on two pairs of Hello Kitty sunglasses. They each need another pair of sunglasses like they each need another hole in their head, but sunglasses are less messy than lip gloss in the hands of preschoolers, so I gladly obliged their choice.

A quick spin around the Bass Pro Shop to look at the fish, bear and moose and we were packing up for the Hoosier state. A drive through McDonald's for happy meals, which ALWAYS make the girls happy, and we were ready to share lunch with Papa before heading off to work with him.

When first walking into the toolshed where Papa keeps all the tractors and other farm equipment, I wondered if our visit had been a mistake. The girls were hesitant that one of the enormous tractors would start up and Alena found many things to be "dirty."

After a short tour, though, Papa finally coaxed them to climb into a tractor cab with him. From that point, he probably wished they had remained timid. They had their behinds in a John Deere or two, a 2870 Case and an International Harvester combine. And upon planting their butts in each, there followed about 3,000 questions.

Trace and Alysse also took in all the sights, but were most happy driving a little John Deere Gator that just suited them.

Once we returned home, the remainder of the day was spent playing and reading books. Really, could there be any better finish? Oh, yeah, only a story about how Papa plants corn and beans each spring and then hopes for rain and sunshine to make them grow so that he can combine them in the fall ... told repeatedly while getting your hair put up in rollers.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Darlings, you look marvelous

Beauty was the theme of the day around here. Anything girly, outlandish and crazy fit into our painting up, dressing up, dolling up fun. The day's highlights are best told with the photos below.

Decisions, decisions: "Which crown will best match my Steelers outfit? Maybe I could wear them both."

Hot Mama Red: Cover your eyes Old Grandma ... we got all hussied up with our bright red nails.

Is Kiss looking for a new member?: "I wonder if I bat my fake eyelashes too if it would speed up the polish's drying time?"

Is Barnum and Bailey hiring?: Eyelashes and costume combined, she could make a wonderful clown/performing tiger hybrid.

Hands off: "Buddy, you better not lay a hand on my compact."

Wishful thinking: "If I say bibbity, bobbity boo loud enough will it all go away?"

You want me to do what with this?: The gritty, apricot face scrub I thought the girls would at least find intriguing was met with a reaction more closely resembling disgust.

Curly-q dreams: After showers, we rolled the girls' hair hoping for some morning curls. Let's just hope I'm not removing hair rollers at 2 a.m.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Totally Hollywood and "They're baaaaack"

Today was a split theme, let's start with the "They're Baaaaack" part.

"They're Baaaaack"

Yes, my lovies were back at the doctor's office today. I'm not sure this qualifies as "out of our normal routine" anymore, but it took up half of our day, so it gets half-theme status.

I've learned, if I have any inkling that something might not be right, make an appointment, or in this case four. Despite 76 doses of amoxicillin, I wasn't convinced all ears were well.

While the percentage of under-the-weather ears improved from 62.5% to 50%, Alena got the short end of the stick with both right and left ears infected today, instead of just the left ear infection she had last week. Alysse held steady and has another 10 days of antibiotic coming her way. Two steps forward, one step back, I suppose.

Totally Hollywood

Movies are a treat in our house. So, declaring today "movie day" made Alena and Alivia just giddy.

Perhaps once every three or four weeks we'll take in a movie at home. If I'd allow it, Alena would watch three movies a day. When she gets on one of her "movie asking days" my standard response is "we can't rot your mind too much." Most of the time I'm of the opinion that there are far too many other things we can occupy our time with rather than letting little minds rot in front of the television.

The chance to watch two movies - "Charlotte's Web," Alivia's pick and "Cinderella," Alena's selection - was simply mind boggling. Add to the mix popcorn and movie candy and they literally hit the jackpot.

To bring a little drama to life, we also reenacted a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The girls love to offer a bite of the poison apple and then give a kiss to wake Snow White. I can't even count how many times I've had to pretend bite, fall to the floor and wait for a kiss to come my way. You'd think they'd bore of it, but not yet.

The performance also includes a brief appearance by Squawky Dwarf and the absence of Drooly Dwarf, who was fixing things with his toy screw driver.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A brief interruption

Theme week is being briefly interrupted for Alysse's first hair cut. "The messiest," as Alena sometimes refers to the youngest of the drama queens, now has a bit less hair into which she can smash scrambled eggs, applesauce and Oreos. She was actually quite the cooperative little beauty.

Who are you?

Owls were the theme of the day as we kicked it off with two new owl songs during breakfast. New songs easily learned by preschoolers always make for smiles from pancake-filled mouths.

A school day for Alena allowed Alivia and I some time to whip up a loaf of WHO bread* this morning. Coming out of the oven shortly after lunch, it turned out surprisingly well (especially since I gave it a second punch down before popping in the oven ... another reason you shouldn't read recipes and try to have a phone conversation at the same time). Considering our picky eaters asked for seconds, I'd call it a success.

We also spent some time completing a couple of owl crafts (which Alena thoroughly enjoys) while talking about owls (which Alivia thoroughly enjoys). Such simple projects can yield terrific results and beautifully proud smiles.

*This idea and recipe came from a blog by Amanda Soule that I absolutely adore. One can only dream of being so wonderfully creative, patient and insightful.