Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to: Backyard fun

Step 1: Lay claim to a large piece of flatted cardboard and climb aboard. Wait for someone to offer to pull said cardboard (and subsequently its passengers) down the backyard hill.

Step 2: Squeal with reckless abandon while cardboard sledding ensues.

Step 3: Beg for just one more ride even before exiting this new cardboard ride.

Calling all thrill seekers

Your children may be on the slightly spoiled side when they've been to Kings Island more frequently in the last eleven days than they have been to Target. The park has been open two weekends and they've been there two times? Spoiled kiddos, indeed.

But a typical Kings Island visit is trumped when cool cousins and thrill-seeking uncles join in. The trip to beat all trips when you're four.

Splashes to make.

Cars to drive.

Horses (or zebras) to ride.

Belly drops to anticipate.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday eye candy

Photos of the kids are priceless, in my opinion. As a result, I'd be embarrassed to admit how many digital pictures I have stashed in various folders on the computers in our house.

However, all those snapshots serve some purpose.

Some document the momentous occasions in their lives ... the birthdays, holidays and big happenings in little lives. Others were conceived as a means to capture their growth: little newborn feet tucked up under diapered bottoms while sleeping, wobbly first steps being taken or small glimpses of a white tooth just peeking through the surface of baby gums. And let us not forget those snapped for the sole purpose of future embarrassment.

While my trusty Nikon works stupendously for capturing our day-to-day nonsense and memories alike, every once in a while, I'm moved to actually surrender our not-always cooperative subjects to a professional, hoping for the best (I'm well aware of what I'm asking).

As such, over the course of four years, we've run the photo gamut. We've visited the whole range of options from the finished-photos-while-you-wait chains to the scary-minimum-purchase-required studios. While we've got a house filled with beautiful photos of the kids, none show them as truly as those taken during our latest photo venture.

A new father/daughter start-up, Hot Shots is located near Jungle Jim's, and was discovered only during a nice spring morning walk around the store's outdoor shopping area. The kids and I walked in not knowing anything about the new business, and left with an appointment scheduled for later in the week.

The kids loved the owner and photographer both, as they were very relaxed with the kids, and never came close to the "sit still and say cheese" methodology.

I love the shots they were able to get because for the first time in photographic form, I can see Alena's protective qualities, Alivia's true smile, Alysse's innocent spirit and Trace's awfully handsome, but very ornery ways all represented.

Here's a peek ...

And while I'm totally and completely biased ... aren't they cute?

*Please note that the date stamp does not appear on our photographs, I'll not explain why we're seeing it here or I might find myself in handcuffs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The birth of a mother

Yesterday Alena, Alivia, Trace and Alysse welcomed their fourth cousin into the world. Kolten Reese got cheers at the lunch table as I announced he had been born just minutes earlier.

They instantly started asking how to spell his name and when they could go see him and if they would be able to hold him. I was instantly reminded of how my life changed on September 20, 2004.

Pre-September 20, 2004, or maybe nine months before that, I wore fashionable clothes and trendy heels. Topics most needing my attention were where Jason and I could eat dinner on Saturday night or what bar everyone was meeting at for happy hour. I created not-to-shabby web sites from concept to surfing, and had computer knowledge exceeding your average Joe's. For the most part, I did what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted.

And while I was somewhat aware of the changes to come (for some reason even strangers feel the need to warn a pregnant woman of what's ahead), I wasn't prepared for the end of my old life and the start of my new one.

The very instant I heard her cry, the office politics, impending social calendar and things I thought I wanted to do held no priority in this new life I had found in the flash of an eye (or rather a few pushes). At 11:20 a.m. everything else ceased to exist.

From that very precise moment, everything would be different, including my heart. And so it played out again on October 24, 2005 and February 19, 2007 (twice, actually).

Fast-forward four years, and t-shirts now make up 99% of my wardrobe, my feet know no other shoes than Crocs and I have been known to go weeks (months?) without putting on make-up.

In my world, Red Box video rental machines are the greatest invention since the car, McDonald's is the "it" restaurant in town, and happy hour is spread out over the two plus hours it takes me to drink a glass a wine (that's if it doesn't get knocked over). I'm not ashamed.

In this new life, I've found time praising preschool artwork to be a better use of time than glossing my lips. In this new life, I'd rather wipe snot from a little nose on the free t-shirt Jason snagged from Symantec than my Ralph Lauren sweater (though, it's been known to happen). In this new life, I'm probably unemployable in the technology sector, but a daycare's most qualified prospective new hire.

While I don't know what an RSS feed is and I couldn't tell you what version of Cold Fusion web sites are being programmed in (are the kids still using that?), I'd bet I can potty train your 20-month old; put to sleep any tired, crying baby; and detect a fever sans thermometer.

Although some might surmise I've given up too much of myself, and instead of trading one life for another, I should have tried harder to meld the two, I'm at peace with where I'm at in my life (which doesn't necessarily mean my life is always peaceful). This place I find myself, while sometimes tantrum-filled with a little poop thrown in for good measure, is exactly where I should be.

I've gained the perspective of knowing there will be other Sugarland concerts to see, dinner dates to make and pedicure appointments to schedule. This new life offers so much more.

There are no re-dos in this business. Infant toes turn into walking toes which turn into flip-flop wearing preschool toes. A screaming newborn grows to be a cake-squishing one-year old who grows to be a four-year old who doesn't always need to hold your hand. No rewinds, no pauses, no stops. This is it, my single chance at this new life.

Welcome Kolten to this crazy cousin clan you've inherited, and thank you for the take-my-breath-away reminder of how, in a newborn-taking-her-first-breath moment, my life was forever changed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kings Island season opener

A little taste of Kings Island Opening Day 2009 with the Scott kids.

video

Watch quickly, the first blue car containing Alivia and Trace comes at you fast; followed by Alena and Alysse right behind in the orange car. The rest of the video is of children we don't know, and ours don't come back around ... the rides ends, thus my groaning at the end. If only I'd thought start recording sooner.

They started scream practice while we were waiting in line, so as not to disappoint.

Smiles, smiles and more smiles

After 61/2 hours of squealing, riding and walking, if these amusement park goers don't stay in the sack until 8 a.m. it's never going to happen. They were pooped!








Friday, April 10, 2009

Eggstravaganza

Eggs anyone? We've got three dozen colored, stickered up, glittering and puppy shrink-wrapped Easter eggs. Happy egg coloring, mess making and fun having!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Our potty chronicles (final chapter)

Are you hearing the angelic chorus of hallelujahs? Okay, maybe they are just in my head.

Since my beloved son took his first breath, I have been dreading the day when he and I would face-off for potty training. The horror stories of boys being so difficult to train, and my total lack of knowledge on the topic of boys and potties had me scared.

Secretly, I had convinced myself he could go to his prom wearing a Pampers Cruiser if need be. But, every now and then, my little man surprises me, and low and behold ...

he's potty trained.

Actually, the job has been done for a month or so, we've just been getting over the hump of here-and-there accidents (read: when he's too busy eating to admit to needing to potty, and instead chooses to wet his pants so that he can continue shoving Oreos in his mouth), and solidifying the ability to get the number twos where they need to be.

He's done it!

Our only remaining hurdle is public restrooms. An unfortunate incident involving an automatic flushing toilet at Jungle Jim's one Saturday morning set us back several weeks on the training, and has instilled in him an absolute refusal to use public restrooms.

As such, this little gem is worth its weight in gold. Until now, it had been money well spent for the girls and their on-the-road emergencies, but recently it has become my new best friend, allowing us to leave the house AND keep Trace's pants dry. (A bonus to the whole situation is that the back of our Suburban is spotless in comparison to any public restroom. Yuck.)

Truth be told, Trace was the easiest to train. No, that wasn't a typo, I wrote EASIEST. That's not to say the journey was without noteworthy highlights like the entertainment center being used as a urinal, but sometimes the end justifies the means.

Perhaps it's the 1,567 potty trips made in our house on a daily basis that allowed him to catch on quickly; but, he required very little training. The challenge was more in getting him to the bathroom quickly enough once he realized he needed to go.

This final chapter in our potty chronicles has taught me two things:

1. Maybe boys aren't so hard to potty train;

2. And while the cuteness factor of girls' clothes beats that of boys' clothes hands down, in the underpants department, there's nothing cuter than a pair of 2T boxer briefs.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tour stop 3: Pinkalicious penthouse

Their welcome pretty much sums up the pinkalicious penthouse: part glamour, part kook.

The half-way-up-the-wall wallpaper was removed and the pale yellow top-half has all been replaced by pink. So much pink, in fact, Jason claims the room glows. Yes, he hates it, the girls love it (this will serve to prepare him for their teenage years).

It's in this room that an entire drawer dedicated to hair ribbons, barrettes and clips exists; shoes and clothes threaten to overtake us all; and boys are strictly prohibited on beds and in the closet.

The Hello Kitty radio sings out country tunes all night (I swear they pick up songs through osmosis) and Taylor Swift posters outnumber the room's occupants.

The greatest addition to the room in our redecoration was a series of illustrations by Sarah Jane Studios. The series consists of 12 illustrations each depicting a month of the year. Their beauty lies in the sketches' simplicity and innocence. The girl reminds me so much of Alena, and her way of being evokes Alysse's little girl ways. Perfect.

So, if you're in the neighborhood, stop by the penthouse for some glamming up and Taylor Swift tune singing ... just follow the pink glow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rock-a-bye my babies

The girls could sell a few of these beauties, don't you think? I'd love a couple pair just so I could sit and watch them rock.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tour stop 2: Purple pixie palace

Alivia's bedroom is the one kids' bedroom that has not undergone a face lift, but deserved its due on our tour nonetheless.

I'm not willing to part yet with the calm purple stripes in her room, and she was agreeable to keeping things the way they are (we secretly discussed it's the best room in the house). My affection for the room is tied to memories of rocking her to sleep on my shoulder while sitting in a chair near the window. Would new paint cover up these memories? Probably not, but the feel of the room as it was, and is now, keeps them close.

She is the only girl in the house with her own room, and tends to be somewhat protective of it. Just last week she had locked the door after leaving her room so as to keep Trace out. Clearly, he's not welcome often.

Being the room's sole resident affords her a bit more space and, therefore, privilege of being keeper of the upstairs bookcase. She appreciates having a book handy at all times and has appointed herself librarian, keeping an eye on who pulls what book off the shelves.

Perhaps the highlight of Alivia's room is the abundance of all things animal. She has a large collection of turtles, both stuffed and ceramic, which are constantly being rearranged. The twilight turtle, a birthday gift from Aunt Jeanne, turns her room into a personal planetarium each night when the lights go out, and has also lured more than one visitor to our house into the bathroom with all four kids for demonstration purposes (suckers).

Owls, frogs, even a turkey and praying mantis can be found in Alivia's animal kingdom. She provides a wonderful home to any small creature.

Sleep tight, little pixie, amidst your raincoat-clad squirrel and swaddled turtle, your room is a snug little corner of our home.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

And we danced

Most days I find it amusing that it sounds like I'm transporting a children's choir in my car, and that it looks like I'm ushering in a gang of little people when we make an errand stop.

Sprinkled among most days are those few days when my ears ache for silence while driving and I daydream about jumping out of the car, whizzing into a store and dashing out with my two items in under 20 minutes.

After a non-stop chattering, singing, bickering kind of morning and a not-so-quick jaunt into Home Depot, today was deemed one of those few days. And then ...

While putting Trace in bed for his nap, he stood up and reached his arms out for me. Knowing immediately what he wanted, I picked him up and he wrapped his arms as tightly around my neck and shoulders as his little arms could manage.

You see, we do this some nights when putting him to bed and hearing a "good" song on his bedroom radio. We dance. We twirl around his room, cheek to cheek, swaying to the music.

During our bedroom dances, time seems to stand still. There are no worries about baskets full of dirty laundry, others waiting to be kissed goodnight or toys strewn throughout the house. We dance, just the two of us.

In the few minutes a song might last, I attempt to take in every bit of him and etch in my memory the moment. I'm well aware our dances are limited. In just a few years, dancing with his mother will be the last thing he wants to do, and in a couple decades we could be sharing a dance on his wedding day.

Apparently, he found this afternoon's song dance-worthy, and so we sauntered around his room like a mother chimp with her baby tightly clinging on. Not a word spoken, just swaying and spinning. And once our dance was over, he laid his head down, got tucked in and drifted off.

(For anyone wondering, it was Jake Owen's "Don't Think I Can't Love You" which prompted our inaugural pre-nap dance.)