I guess it’s pretty clear that Ezra has been the star of the show here for the last 16 months. This is for two reasons, one of them being that it’s really sort of tricky to navigate what you should share about your kids once they get older and the second is TIME, as in, I don’t have any to write more than one substantial post a month. To remedy this, I’m going to try to do a quick family update each month when I post my photo sets so I can write down some of the cool/annoying/awesome stuff the rest of us are up to and at least give the illusion that our world doesn’t revolve around a despot toddler king {which it 100% does}. Ezra will still have his own post for the time being because he is my babaaaay and I’m not ready to let that go just yet.

So Let’s start with me. As it turns out I’ve become a bit obsessive and have absolutely loved documenting our every day family life over on Instagram for the My 365 Project. It has been a HUGE push to better my photography skills which are now somewhere between Does Not Suck and Can Sometimes be Okay When I’m Not Screwing It All Up. I take out my big camera pretty much every day and I love reading articles and watching video tutorials when I can squeeze them in. Recently I watched one about Newborn Photography which blew my mind… too bad there were so damn many precious, tiny babies in those videos, distracting me from actually retaining any of the information.

Here are my favorite shots from February 14, {the whole set is here}:

3.5.1 3.5.2 3.5.3 3.5.4 3.5.5 3.5.6 3.5.7 3.5.8 3.5.9

Other than being a chauffeur, homework overlord and packer of backpacks for the older two, I’m enjoying the calm before the {dance} storm. Competition fees have been turned in and we’re hoping one of the costumes will be handed out for decorating this week sometime. UPDATE!!: I now have a fringey pile of orange and pink and approximately 800 stones to affix to it! {Also: Sweet baby Jesus in heaven, please bless our room mom for not including those teeny/tiny/miniscule devil sequins, I am forever in her debt, AMEN.}   So: YAY! Let’s get this done! And: Oh God. I’m going to die from E-6000.

Here Lies Christy, who at 2am after 14 straight hours of gluing varying sizes of irritatingly small, iridescent stones, mistook her wine for the E-6000, gluing her throat shut. It was a good death. RIP.

Moving on to Bill… You remember him right? That guy I married? I wouldn’t really know since he’s done nothing but workworkwork for the last few months. Thankfully, he’s able to do part of this in the evenings on our couch but still, it’s been a really busy time for him both with work, personal projects and the side stuff. We divide and conquer from the hours of 4:30-8pm and then it’s back to his laptop until 11ish. Since he likes to watch stuff while he works, we pick a series to binge-watch so at least we have the pretense of together time. Against my better judgement, I let Bill choose the show this go-round and he picked Breaking Bad. We tried this show once a couple of years ago and after the third episode I told Bill if he wanted to keep watching it that was fine but I just couldn’t spend my relaxing time watching something so painful that I wanted to throw myself off a bridge after each episode. And yeah, I know, Best TV Show Of All Time, Is One of The Greats, yada-yada-accolade-cakes. I get that, I really do. My opinion though {which was right on the money after those first 3 episodes {re:THE PAINFULNESS} and unchanged when we watched it all the way through}, is that the first 2 seasons were pretty meh, save a couple of episodes, then in the third season they turned the characters into 100% unlikable, reprehensible shells of humans. There was no fading into gray for me, really. They went from conflicted, desperate and confused to The Most Terrible People and by the last third of the 4th season things blew up.

I’m not going to turn this family update into a BB recap but since it has dominated my time with my husband for the last 2 months I will say this. The writing and acting in the last 2 seasons was truly smart and really just downright phenomenal. But. And this is a big, huge, hairy but. I can’t handle watching shows where everyone is awful. There is no one to root for on this show, save maybe one, and even this guy has done so many despicable things and suffered such terrible losses, there’s no way he’ll ever come out functional. This makes each episode something you have to suffer through. Maybe other people could root for Walter White {but you’re probably a closet sociopath, FYI}. Not me though, not even at the end and I think it’s sort of troublesome if you actively want your protagonist to bite it. I get the whole idea of the “anti-hero” but man, I just found the whole thing to be so reprehensible, and even though I appreciate the art of it, {TL;DR!} you could not pay me to watch that shit again.

Okay, stay tuned for next month’s Bill update when I talk about True Detective, Scandal or House of Cards, because that is what our marriage has turned into at this point.

*     *     *     *     *

Rowan: My first born has been a busy little bee with school and dance. She officially turned 8 and a half which is still just so weird to say. My kid is like, old and stuff. School has been going really well. So well, I feel like anything I write here will just sound like obnoxious bragging. I can take pretty much zero credit for this anyway, it just turns out I am raising the non-magical Hermione Granger, complete with tears when school is cancelled for the 6th snow day of 2014. She’s tested out of the curriculum reading assessments through third grade. She gets herself up early so she can read for fun and while math isn’t her favorite and she has to work hard, she gets great marks. She has an excellent memory so history tests are super fun for her and she aces them. Most weeks I forget to go over her spelling words with her {super mom, I know} and she has brought home a 15/15 every week, save one, the entire year. Do you see what I mean about the bragging? I sound like a total asshole right now but I don’t care. She works hard. She’s so independent. And I’m so proud of her.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book. For fun. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I'm fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book before bed. For FUN. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I’m fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid. Like ZERO percent chance. Back me up, everyone who knows me…

Conversely, dance has been rough for her this year. I touched on this a few months ago, about the challenges of the flexibility amidst the other choreography and how it’s been tough for her. Rowan isn’t a Career Dancer. She doesn’t have the natural flexibility. She doesn’t have a family member that was or still is a dancer that can help her at home {for free} with the intricacies. She doesn’t have room in her house that she can practice without hitting the couch or a coffee table or another human. She also doesn’t have parents who have a huge disposable income for $50 worth of private lessons a week. Though this has always been the case for her, it was made really apparent this year as so many of the girls at the studio are doing this extra stuff. Rowan has always been very happy to just be a part of the group and work her hardest but based on all the extras the other kids are doing she’s starting to fall behind and feel what she’s contributing isn’t good enough for her team.

In most cases it’s not a matter of dance mom one-up-man-ship, but that all these kids really love dance, want to do their very best and they have very supportive parents that are making that happen for them. And while I personally feel some of it is getting a little out of hand, if it works for the individual family then that’s thier choice to make . Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for us which will be a tricky road to navigate if Rowan wants to keep dancing competitively. In the meantime we’ve done what we can to help her through. We share private lessons with others so they’re not so spendy. We go to open gym so she can work on flexibility instead of paying $30 an hour to work one-on-one with a gymnastics coach. She shows up every day ready to work her butt off and she really does. We practice at home, couches, coffee tables and other humans be damned. I feel guilty, like I’m not doing enough to support her sometimes, but the reality is, dance isn’t our family’s only reality and I just have to make peace with that and hope Rowan understands when the other girls are progressing in a way that she isn’t.

I will say that the coolest thing to witness was a few weeks ago when parents were invited in to watch and the instructor was working on turns with them, which need some work all around. Some of the girls have been doing these turns for well over a year or two in various solos and small groups but a little over half have just started them in earnest since January and Rowan was having trouble finding the rhythm of them. She struggled the Tuesday before big time and when her teacher asked her to do it in front of everyone I held my breath, fighting the urge to throw my hands over my eyes but… she did okay, and compared to where she was the week before, okay was AWESOME. And when she was done her teacher gave her an approving smile and the other girls clapped for her and it was so, so sweet. She really is in with a great group of very kind kids, which is important to us because she spends so much time there.

3.5.12

*     *     *     *     *

After a completely activity-free fall, Keaton has been enjoying swimming lessons, a basketball clinic and joining the boys/partners dance at the studio. Swimming has been going well for him I think, but it’s stressful because Bill has to handle the two boys while I take Rowan to ballet. Ezra goes to baby swim from 6-6:30pm and Keaton does level 3 from 6:30-7pm. I haven’t seen Ezra at all and have only been able to watch Keaton 1.5 times which makes me feel shitty but just the way things worked out this time around.

Basketball was… sort of hilarious. Keaton definitely has an aptitude for sports; he has a good eye and great coordination. Since he’s never had trouble picking these sorts of things up, I thought this would transfer to basketball but it totally did not. The six sessions he had, he made a total of 8 baskets. He is not tall, on the contrary, he is a peanut compared to the other boys and while his fancy footwork was awesome while playing defense, you could totally tell they were the feet of a dancer, not a ball player. Still, the whole point was to get him out of the house for a couple of hours on Saturdays and to have fun, and both of these things were accomplished so I’ll call it a win while recognizing that we are NOT raising a hoops star.

3.5.10

In January we were asked if Keaton was interested in doing the big boys’ number at the studio. At first he didn’t want to do it and I practically had to drag him there but after a few practices he fell back in love with the booty-shaking and I’ll admit, it’s been pretty fun to watch him again. It was most definitely the right decision for him and our family sanity to pull him from the line numbers but I’m glad he’s still able to dance in some capacity~ plus it will give him something to do one of the days we’re in Florida for Nationals this June.

School has been going really well for him. He loves his teacher, his classmates and has gotten a green light every day so far. His reading skills have really taken off in the last month. He can now read Frog and Toad style books all by himself and while getting him to stop jumping around the living room like a maniac can be hard after a long day at school, once he gets settled in he really gets into the story. I’m so proud of how great he’s doing although I will say, he has been having some attitude and listening problems at home that are driving both his father and I nuts. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he is the child that requires the least amount of our time and energy. He’s so laid back and easy-going so we tend to just let him do his own thing which sometimes results in him feeling left out, and then he acts out, not terribly, but just enough to push our buttons. I hate that it’s come to this so we’re trying to make an extra effort to spend one-on-one time with him in hopes that the attitude and listening issues will work themselves out.

Okay! Wow! I’m… gonna stop now. That was really, really long. I had a lot to catch up on but the good news is, that shouldn’t be an issue if I keep this up month to month. Of course this is me we’re talking about so no guarantees. Hope everyone made it though February alive and here’s looking to somewhat of a thaw by the end of March.

 

 2.27.8

So this month was a fun one! Ezra proved adorable, funny, sweet, smart and crazy-entertaining almost all the way through. That is, until he got the plague and spent a week and a half looking like he walked straight off The Walking Dead set. Only a few weeks after getting rid of a miserable double ear infection, the poor budders got another double ear infection and nasty eye infection, which caused both his eyes to get reddish/purplish rings around them while secreting neon green goo.

I’ll just leave you with that visual for a while…Can you see it? Nope, the eye boogers you’re imagining aren’t green enough. Think 1985 then amp it up by 1000. They were impressively green. Now imagine getting hit in the face with a 2×4, because that is what his eyes looked like. And don’t forget the two lines of perpetually seeping snot coming from his nose {directly into his mouth EEEEWWWWWAAAAHHHHHH} and the raspy breath with the gunky cough. Paired with an unsteady toddler walk, and a vocabulary that is dominated mainly by grunts and screeches, I was 90% convinced there was a tiny zombie lurking around here. Good thing toddlers are too picky to eat brains. They would have to be banana flavored brains or possibly strawberry-apple but only if it was Tuesday.

Anyway, after all that fantastic imagery which has hopefully frightened you from ever, ever procreating, he’s better finally so, yay!

2,27,9

Here is what Ez did this month:

Besides turning into the undead, he also turned into a ham. Seriously, such a ham sandwich. Everything he does, he does with a big cheese-ball grin, waiting to see your reaction and it better be good otherwise he’ll keep at it until it is.

Tantrums. We are having them, people. He goes all wet noodle and flops around on the floor until he sees that I’m doing the Official Parent Ignore Tactic, where I hold my head up high and away from him with a face that, while attempting to look stern and remain uninterested and unemotional, is really holding it together just enough not to let the smile crack through. This worked pretty well for a while. He would see he wasn’t getting any attention and give up. Unfortunately toddlers are always looking for new ways to be asshats, so now he has started to get up from ignored tantrums, come over to me and swat me on the leg to get my attention. Then he gingerly gets back down into tantrum position and resumes his floppy fish impression, only now he’s just landed his butt on the Stair of Shame and nobody wins.

2.27.4

Says “jump jump jump” happily as he jumps on the bed or the trampoline.

Climbs. The coffee table. The chairs. The toilet. The big table. The stools. The toy boxes. The play table. If I try to stop him he tries harder. He does not give up until he has hoisted his giant diapered butt onto an object, stood up, grinned at you and claimed it as his own. I mostly let him just do it to get it out of his system because once he’s conquered something he tends to leave it alone unless there’s something highly desirable at the top, like the cats’ water dishes that he can splash in, then dump onto all my prized literature books from college. I’m >FROWNY EMOTICONING< at you, baby.

2.27.5

Loves:

Shoes. We somehow lost his shoes sometime mid-December and his boots, I can only surmise, must have sharp needles lining the insides, because he refuses to put any pressure on his feet to stand when they are forcibly fitted on his person. This meant that he spent 2 straight months in Hanna Anderssen sock/slipper things which are lovely but not really Minnesota weather proof so I was finally shamed enough to head to Target where I was greeted with 9,768 styles of adorable girls’ shoe styles and 5 versions for boys that are either plastered in superheroes or are a boring brown/blue/black. THIS IS BULLSHIT. Boys like shoes too, assholes. {Well, at least their moms do.} I did end up finding a couple of okay pairs hidden on a clearance end-cap, one of which was the size up in the pair he lost, but still. I shouldn’t have to keep buying the same shoe because all the other options suck, Target. I love you, but I’m really mad at you right now which still won’t stop me from dropping another $150 on things I “need” next time I go in to get toilet paper.

Good Lord, What was I even talking about before I got mad at Target? OH! Shoes. SO now that Ezzer finally has shoes again he loves to walk on hard surfaces so he can hear his feet make cool noises. He carefully lifts his knee up high and then drops his foot with a big smile when he hears the tap. It’s all kinds of adorable to witness, trust me.

2.27.10

Dance, which means pumping his fists up and down and then throwing himself onto the floor and writhing around. He gets all his moves from Bill, BTW.

Books. We read a ton every day.

My phone. You and Suri are super tight these days. You babble at her incessantly and she directs you to the 5 closest restaurants in our area. I think it might be true love.

Turkey. Every time we give you a bite you say “turrrKEY!” and gobble it up; pun 100 percent intended.

Rowan. You and your sister have been super close this month. She adores playing with you and making you laugh. Every morning after nursing I say “let’s go get Rowan and Keaton up!” You haul ass up the stairs ahead of me and start banging on the door. {Thankfully doorknobs still mystify you, I’m sure you’ll have them figured out by 18 months though because my life is nothing if not HILARIOUS already}.  I open it up and after you run over to turn the fan off {whitenoise} you proceed to climb up on your sister’s bed and shove your sweet little face between her nose and the book she has it stuffed into. Rowan has never liked being interrupted, she will forever be my trouble-with-transitions kid, but you are the exception. She just laughs and puts her arms around you, pulling you in for a morning hug.

2.27.7

Says:

Jump, turkey, please, thank you, cracker, cookie, hello, stop, drop, uh-oh, ouch, hot, da-bu {pretzel}, fish, duck, quack, moo, meow, kitty, book, baa, woof, choo-choo, sock, shoe, hat, juice, tub, ear, eye, nose and a bunch of others that I can’t think of right now. He really has had a language explosion, but 85% of these words are only discernible to Bill, the kids and I. He gets the inflection perfect but the annunciation is all off so it’s really near impossible to understand him if you’re not us. Still, this is huge. Such a massive improvement from where we were a month ago. His language skills have been so puzzling to us because he started out just like Rowan and Keaton. He was an early babbler, and was able to make all the consonant and vowel sounds he needed to form words. He had amazing receptive language skills and even started regularly mimicking a few words by 8 months like ‘drop’, ‘stop’ ‘meow’ and ‘dada’. Then he just stopped altogether and wouldn’t even try to say anything other than MEOW for 6 months so it made me really nervous. I’m so relieved he’s figured things out because communication has gotten much easier but really? He still does not say mama intentionally, so none of this counts. Nice try, baby.

2.27.2

The winter days are getting so long. The weather this year is trying to kill all of us what with the daily highs never even reaching the teens and the snowsnowsnow. That paired with the fact that you’ve been so sick a majority of the last 2 months means we’ve been stuck inside since December. I was really hoping spring would take pity on us and give us a pre-show by way of a thaw out but nope, here we are nearly to March and the windchill was almost 40 below this morning. I complain because wow, this is ridiculous, but really there is no one else I’d rather be stuck inside with for months on end. Yes, you can be a little dangerous {no more sneaking into the dishwasher and pulling out knives!!} and yes, you can be a little feisty, but oh boy are you sweet, and snuggly and there has not been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t said, “Oh, baby. I just love you.” Because I really, really do.

2.27.6

 

Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been seventy and surely would finally be blissfully earning the moniker we gave him much too young, “The Old Man”. My dad would’ve been a good old man, the best really. He already excelled at it by his late forties and that sort of thing only gets better with practice.

For his 70th, I’d like to share a story from my 15th.

Once upon a time, there was a horribly selfish 14 and 364/365 year old, who was incredibly PUT OUT by the fact that her dad was going to miss yet another of her birthdays. You see, my dad {yes, I will be playing the role of The Selfish Brat for this story} was the secretary for something called the International Claim Association, or ICA. {Which, totally unrelated but worth mentioning~ when I was a young thing I was a little hazy about all of this so I used to tell people my dad was a lawyer for the CIA. Untrue! But probably impressed a lot of very confused people.} In fact, my dad was an attorney for a life Insurance company so he was deeply familiar with the claim department of his company which led to his involvement in this organization.

Let me just break here to say, none of this matters. Except that it did because the committee meetings for this particular organization were often held the second week of September which also happens to hold an extremely paramount moment in history: the date of my birth. And because these meetings were often held at warm, sandy-beach locations, my mother naturally wished to accompany my dad and where did that leave me? A neglected orphan cruelly left to suffer yet another birthday alone {or, you know, in the company of very loving, capable grandparents and older siblings who more than made an effort to give me a special day, WHATEVER.} {I should also note that while my dad did very well for himself and his family, 5 kids in parochial school and all the various other expenses so many grunions incur, of which there were numerous and plenty, is not easy on the checkbook so taking us kids along was just not a viable option.}

By the time my 15th birthday hit, I was OVER it. Had it been a year later, I probably would not have cared, being at an age where spending the day with my friends would be much more important than hanging with my family but at 15 I was not quite there yet and the memory of my 12th, and golden, birthday still stung. On that occasion, not only was I was missing my dad but out of the goodness of my mother’s heart {she stayed home this time}, she agreed to baby-sit my severely ADHD cousin who had been served sugar and Mountain Dew at a Boy Scout function and who subsequently had to be locked out on the porch for fear he would destroy our house. It was an unpleasant experience and I told my dad he wasn’t allowed to miss anymore of my birthdays until I was over 18. I’m sure he didn’t actually agree to this, but somewhere in my head he did, so when I found out he would again be attending the ICA meeting over my birthday I was… displeased.

He left a day or so before the 12th of September. I can’t remember the conversation we had or the hug I’m sure he gave me, despite the fact that I had not stopped giving him The Filch Eye since I found out he was leaving. On my birthday, from Wherever, USA {I can’t even recall which warm, sandy location he was visiting this time} he called and I told him, after careful consideration, I would forgive him for ditching me if he brought me home something really, really special. Something to make up for not only missing this birthday but the handful of others over the years. He just chuckled in his way and told me to “be good”. I took that as a confirmation that he was going to bring me home something awesome. Something truly spectacular. And really? I should not have been this naive. I can say with almost 100 percent certainty that my father didn’t pick out any of our gifts growing up. I’m positive that task was delegated to my mother and she did a fabulous job at it so I don’t know what I was thinking. By the end of my dads trip I had myself pretty well convinced that he was bringing me the 1995 equivalent of a time traveling, golden unicorn that shit money. {Spoiler alert! That did not happen. Disappointing, I know.}

Anyway I had built this whole thing up in my head, so sure, sososososo sure, that my dad wouldn’t want to disappoint me and would have been sufficiently guilted into picking me out something fabulous. And sure enough, when he got home, he intimated to me that he did pick me out something special. All my teenage angst and rage dissipated, I was immediately filled with love! admiration! and awe for this wonderful man. This beautiful father who brought his newly minted 15 year old daughter a special gift. He passed me a smallish green box. Oh! Jewelry! I hadn’t even thought about that! Diamonds? Sapphires? Oooooo definitely sapphires, they’re my favorite and also my birthstone which makes them awesome AND meaningful. I was so in love with the contents of that box for roughly 20 seconds and then…

I opened it.

And it was a fish.

A fish made out of shells.

It wasn’t even a pretty fish.

It was a dumb fish.

It was the goddamn dumbest, ugliest fish I had ever seen in my entire life.

I hated it.

I hated that fish more than anything I had ever hated before and I was an angsty teenager so I hated A LOT of things.

Here is where I’d like to tell you that I pushed that hate deep down. Deep, deep down. And graciously smiled and hugged my dad for picking something out just for me. I did not do that. “What the hell is this?” may have been uttered. Also “A fish? You thought of me and bought… a stupid fish? Really?” I was not happy and after making sure this wasn’t a gag and my REAL gift wasn’t waiting for me outside, I left the little green box on the counter and stormed off to my room.

Such a brat. A complete, utter, ungrateful brat. To my mom’s credit, she was patient and understood why I was upset. Later that night, through the crack in their bedroom door, I heard her explaining to my dad that no 15 year old girl wants a fish made out of sea shells for her birthday. “They want CDs. They want pagers. They want Abercrombie shopping sprees. They really don’t want decorative fish.” And in true, unperturbed Garry form, he said quietly, “I thought it was nice.”

I did not forgive him easily. I did not take that dumb fish out of its box for weeks on principle. Eventually it made its way to my room, I’m sure my mom brought it there, and at some point I took it out. Inside was a little stand so it could be displayed and well, time is a funny thing, that ugly fish made it into that stand and was placed on a shelf in my room. I still hated it. It reminded me not only of being disappointed in my dad but of my own shitty behavior when I had received it… but there it stayed. Mostly forgotten, occasionally despised, for the rest of my years at home.

*         *        *      *

After he died I found myself in my old room. For the few months following the unexpected, I had abandoned my cozy loft apartment that still had my cats and my fiance, to give support to my mom in the wake of a loss that seemed as long and wide as all eternity. There, on my dresser was that dumb, ugly fish. And I picked it up, and ran my fingers over its cool, smooth surface, its sharp angled fins, and I cried. And I clung to it. I imagined my dad wandering off into the hotel’s gift shop. I saw him walking slowly along the shelves, scanning the various kitschy objects. Picking trinkets up, putting them down. I saw him pick up the ugly fish. I saw him smile at it. I felt him run his fingers along its surface. I heard him say, “I’ll take this one. For my daughter, she turns fifteen today!” And then they put that atrocious thing in that small green box and now here it was, 8 years later, a gift from my dad. A part of him here, waiting for me to love, and to appreciate the love it always had for me.

Ugly Fish {that’s its name… after all, a spade’s a spade} has spent every night since, these 10 long years of missing him, on my nightstand. It is a reminder to be gracious. A reminder that I was loved. A reminder of my dad. And I love him so much. And the dumb fish too.

Happy birthday, dad.

2.10.1

I have taken more photos this January than all Januarys combined since I got my first DSLR five years ago. I much prefer shooting in natural light because of the way our house faces and the window situation~ It really makes for absolutely dismal choices when trying to get the photos I want. So beyond a special occasion, my camera normally keeps the shelf pretty warm until April or so. I had big plans to brave the cold this year, to get out and shoot some beautiful, snowy Minnesotan scenes, however, it has been below zero nearly every day since Christmas and I know I was born and raised in this state but I’m sorry, I’m just not that hearty. So I had to suck it up and work on indoor shooting and I have to say, it’s forced some great practice out of me. Working with the light I have has been challenging, and I only get 1-2 good shots out of every 30 I take, but I’m learning and slowly getting more comfortable and confident about where to position my subject and getting more intuitive about what placement will get me the right shot.

I know I will be MORE than ready to get outside once the temps creep up into the 20s, but for now I’m happy with what I’ve learned and love that My 365 Project is keeping me motivated to get out my camera, whether it’s my Canon or my phone, and capture the life around me.

Here is my full January set, and these are a handful of my favorites…

2.9.1day28aday21bday26a2.9.2day28c2.9.42.9.3

 

 

Ezra had his 15 month check up and despite having an idiot for a mother who thought for some reason there were no shots given at this check-up {um, they give pretty much ALL of the shots at this check-up} you handled them like a champ. You actually cried longer when the nurse had the gall to hold your arm gently to your side while she took your underarm temp, which goes to prove what I have suspected all along, that righteous indignation ranks way higher up on your Toddler Importance Barometer than actual physical pain does. Here are your stats:

Height: 31.5 inches 61%

Weight: 22lb 12oz 49%

Head: 18.5 55%

All these numbers really mean is that you’re growing perfectly delicious fat rolls for me to nomnomnom. Good job, baby.

1.31.2

The good:

After a terrible 2.5 weeks at the beginning of the month, filled with painfully swollen gums and a double ear infection, Ezra has been feeling much better and has rediscovered his ability to self-soothe and play independently in bursts throughout the day.

The awful food throwing habit may have lost its appeal. {Knock on all of the wood, Internet, ALL OF IT.} I have removed his tray and transitioned his high chair to sit up to the big table with us. I put his food on a plate and give him a fork which he holds proudly in one hand, sometimes using it as a comb, while he eats with the other hand. The first few attempts have been mostly successful and while I don’t really mind feeding him as he runs around, I’d like to get him in the habit of eating at the table, but only if he’s not going to waste a third of our weekly groceries.

day14a

After a lovely phase where he’d grab the book out of my hands and throw it every time I opened one to read to him, Ezra is back on The Books and is really getting into storytime. YEA!

His laugh when he’s trying to be silly is an adorable HUH-HAH produced in the back of his throat and I dare anyone to keep a straight face while he’s doing it.

Loves his pets. Luna begrudgingly tolerates him and Fawkes is indifferent but Monk truly loves him, seeks him out and engages with him. And she is by far the most surly of the three so it warms my heart when I see her playfully swish her tail across his face and then flop down at his feet so he can snuggle her belly.

Ez is starting to get into cars which is both good and bad. For one, I’m ready to get rid of some of the clunkier baby toys currently clogging up my living room that he seems to be outgrowing. On the other hand, cars seem to procreate in their bin and spread across the floor like wildfire and OUCH, they hurt to step on.

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The bad:

Trash cans.

Pretty sure he threw our book-light away and god-knows what else has been unwittingly tossed since Ezra’s obsession with trash cans began. We try to keep the bathroom door shut but with two other kids in the house that doesn’t always happen. Also he’s figured out how to snake his arm through the safety locked kitchen trash so I’ve found a number of decidedly NON-trash items in there as well. Until I break this habit, we are now stuck giving the trash a thorough once over before we carry it out to the big bin, which is… lovely.

day23

Had his first time out! It was rather adorable, although he probably thinks differently. It arose due to the aforementioned trash obsession. Right when he figured out how to get his arm thought the small opening in the safety lock, he started a fun game called “going shopping”. Trash shopping. When the garbage is full enough he is able to pull out all sorts of goodies like banana peels, hardened bread crusts, wrappers covered in old food, etc. etc. On his first offense, where I discovered him with a banana peel in hand, surrounded by an assortment of items covered in some sort of…goo… I gave him a firm but loving “No Garbage” as I shook my finger in the direction of the garbage can {which in hindsight, probably looked like I was pointing to it excitingly, and declaring its awesomness} then I quickly picked up the mess, washed his hands and went back to folding laundry. Two minutes later he came back with a happy grin and a strawberry in his mouth. “Huh, how did you get a strawbe—–NONONONONO! GROSS, BABY!!!!!!!” I peeled the mushy, moldy, half-eaten from yesterday’s lunch berry from his firm grip, squishing the soggy thing all over both of our hands and once I had us both cleaned up I led him to the garbage and maybe a little more firmly, maybe a little less lovingly, told him NO GARBAGE, BABY. NO. NOT FOR BABY. He whimpered a little at my harsher tone but we seemed to have come to some sort of agreement so I brought him in the living room with his toys and I foolishly went back to the laundry. To no ones surprise, .0004 seconds later I heard him haul-ass into the kitchen but this time I was onto him and I caught him shoulder deep in the cabinet. He knew he was busted. In true toddler form he defaulted to tried and true tactics and immediately started to fake cry, in a sorry attempt to gain my sympathy for which I HAD NONE. I took his hand in mine, firmly repeated NO GARBAGE CAN and walked him over to the bottom step where he sat whimpering. At the end of his stair imprisonment {45 seconds or so} I leaned down and said I loved him but not when he was covered in trash so to knock that shit off. Then I gave him a hug. We all learned a little something, I think. Well, except for him. He still likes to sneak into the fucking trashcan.

day21

Teeth. You have three eye teeth to go and you’ll be DONE with teething until 2ish so I’m just hoping those suckers come in soon and swiftly because your mouth has dominated what kind of day we’re all going to have for the last 4 months and I’m just very, very over it. Plus, your poop is disgusting. No, really. Soso gross. {I would like to give you a firm and hearty THANKS for the days you hold it all in until daddy comes home. Don’t think that kind of thing goes unnoticed.}

He must have had a growth spurt in the last 2 weeks because he can now reach a ton of contraband on our shelves and counters that was previously safe-zoned. His siblings are quickly noticing their tried and true safe spots for their DS’s, iPod and iPads are no longer working. Mayhem has ensued, which, I’m pretty sure, was your plan all along.

Loves:

Books! His favs are Cats, Little Gorilla, Tickle Time, Five Little Monkeys, Pajama time, Blankie, Hey! Wake up, Touch and Feel Baby Animals, and Peek-A-Who.

Blanky snuggles.

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String cheese, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, hot dogs, peanut butter, bagels.

Playing blocks, especially the block train.

His trampoline, good for jumping and taking a little rest with blanky.

Reading and being silly with his big sister.

Sword fights with his big brother.

Ap-ple cheeks! Ap-ple cheeks! {Take it easy though, Baby. Mama’s cheeks are getting sore.}

Unplugging the wi-fi which he totally does on purpose for the sole purpose of messing with his mother. {STOP IT, BABY!}

The siren on his fire engine. {There is a special place in hell for the maker of this toy.}

Oh, Ezzie. This is all going by too too fast. My favorite this month? At the end of each day you and dad have your special bedtime routine. You have finally started uttering some semi-intelligible words including nigh-nigh which you say to me with a little wave after we blow each other kisses as I leave you two for stories and snuggles.  It is the sweetest moment of my day. We love you so much Ezzer.

1.31.1

Alright. I wanted to do a big holiday recap but for all but the first 2 days of our break, Ez was sick. We thought it was that his mouth was exploding with 4 molars and an eye tooth but after a week of sososo much green mucus, the fevers started in and then he quit sleeping, like, ever. I’m of the school of thought that When Thou Taketh Sick Children to thy Doctor, Thine Sick Children get Sicker, so I always do the wait and see method but this boy has been so miserable for so long, Bill and I packed him up and sat in urgent care for an hour before the doctor could see him. Of course he perked up when we got there, the Tylenol had knocked his fever down and all he wanted to do was run around and lick every germy surface he could get his mouth on so Bill and I just traded him back and forth, attempting to contain his toddleriness while exchanging knowing looks of GOD THIS IS TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY POINTLESS. However! He had a big fat infection in both ears so we are now on day 4 of antibiotics which will hopefully clear up one problem, the other being his teeth which I’m pretty sure will plague us til the END OF DAYS.

Anyway! I wasn’t able to accomplish a ton because of a screamy baby and two very squirrely children but I did finally manage to compile my November and December Flickr sets. November was pretty great {as Novembers go… it is NOT my favorite month} so I did get out a few times. December was pathetic. I don’t think I picked up my 7d more than a handful of times, but I’m so grateful for my iphone to capture the little moments, especially because all the best stuff seems to happen in shitty light and I am not practiced enough to navigate through my settings to get the shots I want, so the phone was my lifesaver this season.

Here they are:

November 2013

One of my favorites:

1.8.1

December 2013

One of my favorites:

12.30.5

This leads me to my next project which I started January 1. I follow a few instagram accounts that do 365 projects and was inspired to attempt my own this year. I’m only 8 days in but it has motivated me to pick up my big camera and capture small stuff every day. I know there will be days when I’m gonna regret this but so far it’s been a great experience. Here are my favorites from the past week…

day2 day3a day4 day7

I tried to focus on Rowan because I knew once school and dance started up again, my opportunities for photographing her would be sparse, plus she is sort of temperamental about getting her photo taken so I have to snap her when I can because I never know when she’ll let me do it again.

I have a lot of stuff in the works right now, both personally and for our family. {This is where I confess I’m cheating on this blog with a new tumblr blog that will be used to work through the massive overhaul of everything I’m stupidly attempting.} We have a BIG 2014 coming at us. The words for this year are WORK HARD. It’s going to be nuts but I’m hoping that this  365 project and my monthly shoot compilations will be a good reminder of all the good parts of our lives together, it is pretty super kaduper after all.

I distinctly remember the moment Rowan turned on me. My sweet, happy child, the baby who people always asked, as she smiled toothlessly at them, “Does she EVER cry? She’s so easy-going!” Just after she turned 14 months, I was walking through the mall when she arched her back in my arms, the toddler signal that she wanted to be released to try out her new-found ability to walk on her own two feet, a little trick she had only learned a few weeks before. I didn’t want to set her down but she was persistent so I plopped her at my feet and reached for her hand. In the past she had willingly grasped it without argument but as I bent down to enfold the tiny bit of pudgy knuckles in my grip, she was… not there. In a 10 second time frame she had made her way 20 feet ahead of me and holy crap, when did she learn how to run? Arms flailing, pigtails flying in the wind, she was FREE.

I spent the next, oh, 4-5 years of my life painstakingly trying to contain that girl’s independent spirit. Trying to find the balance of not squashing it all-together, but getting her to just please put her shoes on without a 20 minute argument/meltdown. Keaton was such a miserable little guy for his first 14 months but miraculously, somewhere just before 15 months he transformed into this happy-go-lucky, easy-going little fellow that, sure, pulled a few typical assy toddler moves {in contrast to his sister he was super clingy}, but he didn’t have the attention span nor the motivation to have tantrums and also was not driven to destroy us like his sister was during the toddler years.

So now here we are with Ezra, at this pivotal moment of toddler development and I am maybe a little frightened of what the coming weeks/months/years have in store for us. If there was a spectrum, with Keaton at one end and Rowan at the other, Ezra would most likely fall two-thirds of the way to the Rowan end. He was a happy baby, but not quite as easy-going and smiley as she was. He is independent in many ways, but much more reliant on me. They are both very, very stubborn. The main difference though is that he is way, way, way less verbal at this age than she was and he is very, very physically strong. This is maybe causing me not an insignificant amount of fear for what it will be like to actually have to take him out in public, something I’ve not attempted on too grand a scale since he became mobile. I guess what I’m saying is, uh, if you have any calming, soothing vibes lying around, I would greatly appreciate if you’d throw them at my toddler every chance you can get.

12.30.11

Now! Here’s how Ezra spent thirteen months…

* He learned to navigate going down the stairs backwards. He mastered climbing up them about thirty seconds after he learned to crawl at 8 months but after a few failed attempts to get down them face first, he just didn’t attempt it, which was kind of nice- I never even had to gate them off. If he went up to the loft, he’d just stay up there until he got bored, then he’d whine and I’d go up to retrieve him, and he just left the stairs going down to the entryway alone. Our house is 90% baby-proofed so he can really wander around wherever he wants and we don’t have to worry too much about what he’s getting into as long as the bathroom and bedroom doors stay shut. A day or two after he turned 13 months he finally figured out that he could make it down the stairs himself and after a few slow, tentative tries, he quickly learned to position himself on the top step, get on his belly, get a shit-eating grin across his face, push off with his arms and WHOOOOOSH,  he flies down backward at break-neck speed. Every time {no really, EVERY TIME} I run because I think he has fallen to his death but, no. There he is standing at the bottom, the grin still firmly planted wide on his cheeks.

12.30.9

{Full disclosure, he did fall once and crack his head good on the bannister. He got a bad bump but when I called the pediatrician they told us he was most likely fine as he wasn’t wobbly, sleepy or throwing up so to just wake him up a few times in the night to be safe. The bump was already gone by the next morning and it didn’t slow him down a bit, although I watched over him pretty closely for the next few days, impeding on his fun.}

12.30.7

* Into everything. Here is a comprehensive but not exhaustive list of things Ezra likes to get into {it grows by the nanosecond}: cupboards, bins, drawers, nightstands, make-up, toilet and accompanying paper, diaper stacks, diaper pail, cords, outlets and power strips {don’t forget to drool all over your hands or just go ahead and lick the sockets!} his siblings’ dressers which he pulls open and just starts FLINGING neatly folded clothing out of like there is goddamn buried treasure at the bottom and ohshit here comes mommy, better start flinging faster, must fling it alllllllll…., dog food and water dishes, bookshelves, old DVDs, whatever has been carelessly left on the first two inches of any higher-up table or counter-top, any glass that has been left out must be dumped unceremoniously, Barbies thrown asunder, sword bin ravaged.

12.30.8

I am pleased to report that while we do occasionally have to gate the tree off in the mornings while we’re all running around and upanddown and upanddown the stairs, Ezra has mostly left it alone, or at least there hasn’t yet been any major tree related disasters. He will walk over and bat at the branches while staring at us, testing how long it takes to get the firm No! or uh-UH! but that’s about it.

* Lots of firsts this month! First carousel ride, first time decorating sugar cookies, first time eating Christmas cookies, first candy cane, first ride in a sled, first time wearing boots and snowpants. You pretty much rocked all of it, except maybe the boots which you just… did not understand. When I stood you up after putting them on you, you flopped back to the ground, unwilling to put your trust in the clunky things. Oh well, this being Minnesota, you have a whole loooooong winter to get used to them.

12.30.3

* What is up with the sock thing, Baby? For whatever reason you hate them and figured out that if you take them off in front of me I just put them back on you so now you not only hide to go pull them off, you then hide the socks. I’ve found them in my nightstand, inside Tupperware containers, inside the child-proofed cabinets {uh, how are you doing this?} and in several random drawers. So far this is my favorite… I … don’t think this is what they mean by hanging your stockings…

12.30.1

* Language. This is still a tough one. You say your own versions {that mostly only I can decipher} of cracker, cookie, stop, drop, pretzel, nosey, uh-oh, nie-nie, cheeks, sock, thank you, kiss, and some other randoms but still don’t use mama, daddy, baby, please, up, more etc. It’s so frustrating because you understand almost everything we say. You follow commands! You will materialize out of no where, pointing to your mouth, if someone says marshmallow. If I ask for a hug or a kiss you gladly give it. If I ask you to go get your milk, or cup or shoe or ball you don’t hesitate! But you just. won’t. say. the. words. yourself. Grumblecakes. You still MEOOOOOOW. Incessantly.

12.30.2

*Throwing food. This has BY FAR been the most frustrating thing this month. We can no longert put food on Ezra’s high-chair tray so he can feed himself because after one or two bites he picks up a piece, holds it out to the side and stares at us blankly as he drops it to the dog. It’s BEYOND infuriating. {For us, obviously Luna is decidedly OK with this arragement.} To save food I began just sitting with him and putting bites directly in his mouth but now he just removes them, full of baby slime, and throws them over anyway. He refuses all vegetables and in true toddler form, has become pickier and pickier everyday. We’ve reverted back to the pouches of over-priced baby squeezers because he can feed them to himself, doesn’t throw them until they’re empty and at least there is some freaking spinach in them. I need to do a big diet overhaul for all of us in January, a big part of which will be to break this food throwing habit. Also, his facial eczema has only gotten worse. We cut out whole milk and most cheeses but fell woefully short on removing other dairy with the craziness of the holidays. So lots of food trouble-shooting ahead, after I get the big kids back to school.

12.30.4

* As far as breastfeeding goes, Ezzie dropped his day feeding completely so we are now down to one nursing session in the morning. I don’t know how long we’ll keep this up, I have a feeling we’re down to our last few weeks of breastfeeding which, sunrise/sunset yadayada.

* His molars are coming in soooooo slooooooow, and have given him a perpetually runny nose that is driving us all bonkers. The top two have broken through and are making their way down, and his gums on the bottom are so damn swollen that I forgive him for being a cranky jerk most days.

* Ezra went to the church nursery for the first time this month! Admittedly, we do the church thing mostly for the kids. I’m not saying all hope is lost, but after being part of the shady-ass Catholic church for 30+ years, I’m finding it really hard to immerse myself in any religion for all the rage and anger I harbor for the terrible things that institution covered up and their disturbing stance on the civil rights issues of today. I do love the very open and accepting little Episcopal church we’ve joined and I’m so glad my kids have a group of wonderful role models to spend a couple of hours or so with each week but, well, let’s just say I wasn’t heartbroken that Bill has taken over church duty for the last six months as services and Sunday school fell right in the middle of naptime. Now that we are OFFICIALLY down to one nap between 11:30- 2ish though, we’ve started to go back as a family. Ezra went willingly to the nursery the first two times but has since decided that having mom or dad chase him up and down the halls is much preferable to a roomful of toys and doting teenagers so we’ll see how long my comeback lasts.

12.30.10

Oh my Ezra. My very favorite time with you this month has been just after we wave through the window to the big kids as they get on the bus. I heat up my coffee and plop down on the floor. Sometimes we listen to This American Life or Radio Lab podcasts, sometimes we don’t. And then? We snuggle, or roll the ball, or tickle, or sing, or stack cups or build blocks or play horsey. I repeat words, you stare at me quiet and stubborn. You peek-a-boo from behind the couch or from behind your own chubby fingers. We laugh and laugh. The breakfast dishes are still in the sink, the laundry loads need to be switched, no one’s bed is made but I’m teaching you how to blow kisses and wow, I’m not giving up this moment for anything.

12.30.5

12.10.1

It doesn’t always feel like that. But today it does.

A decade of memories made without you. A decade where you didn’t hug me once. A decade where I didn’t steal your sunflower seeds or your car keys and get called, for the umpteenth time, The Ever Naughty. A decade where you didn’t see me graduate from college or come out of “the asshole years”. A decade where you didn’t see me get married. Meet my first, my second, my third baby. A decade where you didn’t get to see them grow.

A decade where you didn’t get to see me grow. As a person, as a wife, as a mother. All those hours logged in being my dad and for what? When you last saw me I was a twenty-three year old Aimless English Major Extraordinaire. Not the most hopeful place to leave a child off, huh? Oh, well, now I’m an Aimless Stay At Home Mom Extraordinaire so not too much has changed.

Except everything has.  And I’m sorry you’re not here. Sorry for myself, sorry for my siblings, sorry for mom, sorry for all of your grandchildren.

You want to know something I don’t like saying out loud because it upsets people? I don’t believe in heaven. {SHHH don’t tell mom, it’ll be worse than the Christmas Eve dinner she found out I pierced my tongue and that was no fun for any of us.} I don’t think you get to go up to some magical realm where everything’s perfect and we’re all reunited. Go ahead, all of you shaking your heads, I know you want to pity me so just get it over with. It is a beautiful notion, I’ll give you that, one that I completely understand the draw of… but I call FAIRY TALE.

I do believe you’re with me though, Dad. Your love and your life, the good and the bad, made an impression on my life and my shape as a person. Your love and energy and heart exist somewhere, on some plane, maybe cosmically watching, maybe not. Maybe just inside my heart. Sometimes I think I feel you but most of the time I just feel the empty space.

Either way, I know you’ve left a mark. Because of this, most of the time it doesn’t feel like a decade of loss, but a decade of gifts. You, along with mom, gave me the tools to become Me. Yes, some of it was achieved on my own, {I take full credit for my ability to swear so much over soso little}, but the model you gave has shaped me and I see that shape, your shape, everyday whether I always recognize it at the time or not.

Ten years. A decade. I will remember the gifts, but today the loss… well, it feels so wide, so open so huge right now.

miss you. love you. side hug. patpat.

~EverN

This boy.

So much, all at once.

Slashing, pewing, round-house kicking.

Jumping, wiggling, couch-flips.

Spinning, twirling, split-jumps.

Hugging, snuggling, kisses blown.

A spy. A ninja, both regular and turtle. A Jedi. A Stormtrooper. A puppy. A little boy whose mom died in a tragic motorcycle accident. A police officer. A fireman. A big guy teenager. A SYTYCD contestant who always gets a ticket to Vegas. A doctor. A patient. A baseballer. A footballer. A basketballer. A soccer baller. Not a hockey pucker, mom, I don’t like to skate. An olympic diver.

A dreamer of dreams so big and so small.

Kindergartener.

A little brother, a big brother.

A middle child.

Writer of names and random pronouns.

Reader of Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and whoever wrote all those stupid Star Wars books.

Lover and love of everyone around him.

Beautiful face, beautiful heart.

Energetic boy. Sweet boy. Our boy.

This boy.

We love you, Keaton.

SIX!

SIX!

Now blow out the candles on your cake... ah. shit. Well, we all know mama's not great with the numbers...

Now blow out the six candles on your cake… ah, shit. Well, we all know mama’s not that great with the numbers…

There we go. That's more like it, six year old.

There we go. That’s more like it, six year old.

Gratuitous lash picture...

Gratuitous lash picture…

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.

 

{* Last two pics, Christine Welsh Photography, First three pics, Christina “I can’t count to six” Gunter Photography}