Rock and right

Last weekend Chris and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. Five seems monumental to me although I'm no fool; I know this anniversary is merely a handful of years compared to the many we have vowed to have. Still! Five! 

Chris, with the help of generous hosting from our dear friend Dylan, planned a perfectly simple getaway up in Michigan for the two of us. Well ... I mean, the three of us because Elise, my sweet Maggie (pet name for magnet), thought it just would not do to be in anyone else's arms but mine while cutting her first teeth. So Elise tagged along, and it really was fine and dandy because traveling anywhere with only a baby and not two boys who operate at one, self-proclaimed, mind you, cheetah speed is just luxurious. So, thank you, Mom and Dad, for spending the weekend with the boys.  

We loved Grand Rapids thanks to recommendations from Dylan and from Rachael, and the whole day felt like walking through a snow globe with fat flakes falling from the sky. You know, I did comment to Chris that it would have been better to have this five years ago than the dismal gray we were challenged to cheer up. 

Anyway, before we drove up to Michigan, Chris had snagged tickets to see Old Crow Medicine Show. It seems that every time I am pregnant and just about to pop, I can't get enough of one song. It's very similar to my appetite for mac and cheese. With Ryan, I couldn't stop listening to Adele's Someone Like You. With Conor, I couldn't stop listening to Lorde's Royals. And with Elise, I couldn't stop listening to Wagon Wheel. Originally, I was all about Darius Rucker's version, but Chris did some digging and found Old Crow Medicine Show. Wagon Wheel was our summer anthem. I can't hear it without thinking of the summer evening light streaming into our playroom and office and the boys singing every word while the baby in my belly stretched and poked. Here is a video of the boys. (The video is actually very similar to my memory since it is out of focus. I could say it was an artistic decision, but it wasn't).

Fast forward to the eve of our fifth anniversary when Old Crow Medicine Show came to South Bend. Elise screamed if my dad held her, if my mom held her and if Chris held her, and she doesn't sleep through the night. At all. Oh whatever, I thought as I resigned our plans for a kid-free date. She can just come with us. It won't be ideal, but it will be fine. 

Elise danced and smiled at all the fellow concert-goers during the opening act, and then she settled in on my chest for a nap that lasted the rest of the concert. I thought it was going to be fine, but really, it was ideal. I had rocked and swayed to Wagon Wheel for hours with a baby in my belly not knowing who she was other than our child and to hear the song live with that baby I now know as our daughter blissfully sleeping on my chest and with my husband holding my hand was just ... it was just right. 

Video of the song at the concert found here

^^^ youngest and tired OCMS fan after the show. (bonnet made my Whole Parenting Goods!)

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If Old Crow Medicine Show ever comes close to you, let me give you some advice: GO! The show was incredible, and the people watching was excellent. Such a good mix of fans! But seriously, I was only familiar with three of their songs, but that didn't matter. Here is a schedule of their tour

Oh Conor, Conor (birthday post four months late)

I wrote this four months ago on the night of Conor's birthday, but I never published it, oops. 

Tonight I listened through the door as Chris put the boys to bed. They love a story almost as much as they love stalling shutting their pouty eyes, and tonight was no exception. Chris was telling the story of Conor's birth, give or take a few details. Little boys don't care about dilation, but they do understand being born during a Notre Dame football game and new baby celebration via ice cream. Eavesdropping on them was one of those moments when I couldn't help but lean in a little closer to the door as I bounced a sleepy Elise, grin widely and add some depth to those crow's feet at my eyes.

Conor is our wild child, our little comedian. He is the first extrovert in our family and, boy, does his charm add a halo to his current contrarian identity.

He loves being the showstopper. I worry sometimes to Chris that Conor could end up down the wrong path easily from being blindly focused on pleasing after I noticed Conor is always looking to entertain and for approval. But come on, Katrina. Don't fret just yet. He didn't even understand that today was his birthday. You have plenty of time to get your prayer on.

He is very decisive about matters with his curt, "Stop it!" "I do it!" "I don't wike it!" "Bad boy, MAMA!" (one of his fave expressions ... hmmm) or indignant, "No!" but my personal favorite is when he says, "Yes," not because it is easier when he agrees with me, but because he hasn't gone down the slippery slope of following down the poor example his mother is setting with the colloquial, "Yeah." He normally lowers his voice when he says, "Yes," and it goes extra low and his pouty face is turned on high when he is feeling emotional which isn't an infrequent occurrence during these toddler times. 

Conor shares the story of Dr. Seuss' Go Dog Go aloud very often and in detail. This is how his narration goes with his precise finger pointing on each canine displayed on each page: "Dog. Dog. Dog. Dog." Turn the page. "Dog. Dog. Dog." You should hear the story when he gets to what the dog's are doing up on that tree! It's a dog party! 

His favorite food is whatever I'm eating when it's not a mealtime. The little bird follows me around or perches next to me cocking his head back chirping, "Some, Mama. Some, Mama! Some, some." which in reality sounds like, "Dumb, Mama. Dumb, Mama! Dumb, dumb." 

If Ryan isn't home, he will go around the apartment calling, "Wyan? Wyaaaaaan!" until I tell him he went somewhere with Dad. Sometimes his disappointment leads him to lean against the door, let his feet slide out from under him, lean his head back with a single tear rolling down his cheek mournfully crying, "Wyaaaan!" He used to called him "Wyee," and I'm sad I don't think I have it on tape. If you are ahead of him, he yelps for you to wait for him, "Wee-me, Mama! Wee-me!!"

His exuberance for tackling on the playground makes many a parent ask me, "So he must be really big, huh?" Well, allow me to share some inside info ... he's in the 99th percentile for weight ... and the 27th for height. He's a compact linebacker who is very confident in his solid build and who likes to have his mom apologize, "I'm sorry. He's only one ..." oh wait! I don't have that excuse any more. 

(Edited to add that I guess now he is 81st percentile for height ... I'm not going to take height measurements as accurate until the kids start standing for their measurements at well-checks rather than the nurse making pencil marks according to how cooperatively a toddler stretches, ha!)

Do you want to see what it's like to live with Conor? Here, let me show you:

^^^ His favorite activity this summer, I'm not kidding. 

^^^ He was just buttering me up. ^^^

^^^ He's still a good egg ^^^ 

Those photos do not include the time he took soft wax from an unlit candle and smeared it deeply into the crevices of the keyboard while I was chitchatting during a play date nor tonight when he crushed leftover banana pancakes into the carpet while I was getting out ingredients for dinner (alright, you got me ... while I was getting out ingredients for dinner in between sneaking bites of apple pie. Dumb, Mama, dumb).

In spite of all of his destruction, I just can't describe his charm and how constant the urge to squeeze him is. Conor gives the best hugs. They are neck and teeth hugs; he throws his arms around your neck with his stubby little arms (maybe he will have TRex arms like Chris ;) ) and then he grits his teeth together to give the hug some emphasis. They are addicting. 

^^^ Cute shirt from my friend, Ellie.

He comforts and gives the best back pats when he sees sadness. "Po' guy," he soothes. He knew every word to the fight song and the alma mater well before this two year anniversary of his birth, and he is also partial to "Let It Go," "Wagonwheel," and "I'll Make a Man Out of You." 

Thank you, Conor, for being the child who taught us how God can love us all so immensely. Happy Birthday, Conor Baby Chunk Monka Boo-Boo Bottom! 

Dad is always right

... or so he likes to think he is most of the time. Yesterday, he was right!

Chris texted me yesterday asking what our plans for the day were. I was standing on a terrain of unfolded laundry while Ryan and Conor were yelping about boxing on the bed, and Elise was having the time of her life with the crinkly wipes package. There were no plans for the day except for play catch up so I texted back with my favorite smart alack response, "Idk my bff Jill." (Does anyone remember that commercial??) He's been married to me for almost half a decade (nowhere near as cool as half a century) so he didn't have to ask what I meant with my weird texting and just responded, "Go exploring!" I glanced at the Superman underwear, stained onesies and mismatched socks I was standing on and thought that exploring sounded much better than the present. 

Two hours later ... we finally made it outside. 

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Almost right after we exited the apartment building, Ryan exclaimed, "MOM I HEAR A BIRD!" like it was the most newfangled and stupendous sound he had ever heard. We walked very slowly at a Maria-Montessori-approved pace to the woods. Conor stopped every two and a half seconds to stick his sword in the snow. Ryan was Raphael, Conor was Leonardo, and the hypothetical coyotes were the bad guys. We off-pathed it a bit down a stretch of snow covered with almost erased footprints. We stopped a few times to scratch our heads and guess to whom the mysterious small tracks in the snow belonged. Conor was rarely without, "snowball fights," known to everyone else as "snowballs." His term alludes to his current terrible-two way of life. Ryan wanted me to take a photo of him running through the snow. The supreme moment of our great adventure was most definitely spotting a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree. 

(A little aside ... this kid! Last night after dinner, in the amount of time I went to pick Elise up from her horribly late nap and helped Ryan in the bathroom, he managed to eat half a stick of butter that was left on the table).

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The walk back was drudgery. Snails would beat us in a race. Many threats of no hot chocolate were thrown up in the cold air to add some pep to their step to no avail. 

That was our exploration. We saw four airplanes, four birds, five nests, one red-tailed hawk and, although I thoroughly checked when Conor asked to hold my hand three times, no flying pigs. 

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Also - isn't this the best St. Valentine's Day gift you've ever seen?

Play is work

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As predicted, preschool is grand. The very first morning did get off to a rough start. I thought I had set my alarm when my phone recharged, but nope ... we all overslept (which normally doesn't happen ... our children are like the crocodile in Peter Pan. They must have swallowed alarm clocks that are always just ticking and tocking). We had visited the classroom last week so Ryan could be a little more familiar with the place, and I thought someone had informed me that breakfast would be served until 8:50. I confidently told Chris, "Oh breakfast is until 8:50 so Ryan can eat there!" Ryan didn't want to wait anymore once he had donned his chosen outfit (never mess with a ninja shirt, khakis that clasp rather than button, his grey hoodie, Spiderman socks and his running shoes) and repeated, "Can we go now??" every other minute. Conor, Elise and I watched them drive away, and I, of course, started to cry big, fat tears. I sat down on the carpet in my room sobbing, and Conor wouldn't stop hugging me. He'd hug my neck then pull back to check on me and comfort with a chirp, "Mama!" 

Later, I found out from Chris that breakfast ends at 8:15. FIFTEEN not FIFTY. UGH. So I sent my very first child off to his very first day without any breakfast. I don't think I'll be seeing any stickers after my name on a hypothetical gold star chart. Fortunately, they serve a snack, and Ryan was so distracted by all the new toys to play with he didn't crumble to the ground from my accidental neglect. 

Chris reported that Ryan made a beeline for the zebra and rhinoceros and that Ryan's reply to his, "Okay, Ryan ... I'm going to go now ... ," was a simple, "Okay. Bye." It was as easy as that.

Ryan currently calls going to school either going to school, going to "research," and going to "work." What a glorious age it is when you have play as your work. 

So all two days of preschool have been good to us. We are very thankful that we get emails every afternoon of what activities were enjoyed because Ryan is a preschooler of few words. We now have a little bit of solidarity to offer to parents with children who answer the daily question, "What did you do at school today?" with, "I don't know." 

Today was a nice day that started early and will end late. We finished The Witches from this set of Roald Dahl books tonight - our first chapter book read-aloud. Conor was feverishly flipping through it grumbling, "Grrrrr! Shhhh! Then! Mouse! Mouses!" The rest of the day was pleasant, too. Conor, Elise and I hit up Costco, and Conor chatted with me the whole time in his sweet little voice. "Look! Beer?" he announced while we perused the wine selection. Elise hung out with me while the boys napped and gave me lots of grandma smiles while I packaged up orders.  While I put Elise down for the night, the boys watched The Day the Sun Danced because it is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, but we couldn't find the Our Lady of Lourdes DVD. 

There was actually a mishap this evening, but that bathroom really needed to be scrubbed anyway. Maybe that's why unfortunate bathroom accidents happen - to keep lackadaisical housekeepers on their toes. But! Instead of delving deeper into that event, here are some photos from today. 

^^^ Ryan gave him his fruits snacks from his friendship bag (I wish I could say it was purely a generous alms, but Ryan is weird and doesn't like fruit snacks), and I gave him a Hatch Prints sticker.

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^^^ Conor doing his best mom face. Mirrors are not needed when you have toddlers.

^^^ Angry face at age 4

^^^ This is the state of affairs 95% of the time in our house. Elise sitting with one of these or her fish, Ryan being an inch from Elise's face with his pants showing a bit too much and Conor running around in circles yelling. 

^^^ I overheard Ryan shout, "Conor! The sun!" The sun becomes such a novelty in the land of the perma-cloud. I found them dancing on the bed while I was playing The Head and The Heart. Later Ryan kept calling me to so I could watch him "dance!!!!" He was fake running on the bed. So he thinks he can dance, huh?

^^^ Inspecting the new delivery of mugs! Offer It Up mugs and my new Morning Offering mugs are going to be released on Monday, February 15th at 12:00PM EST. 

^^^ And here is a bonus of Elise from yesterday just because. 

I know

I still have memories from preschool. On beach day, I remember that I brought in the Disney princess towel that my mom had hand-embroidered with my name, and I wore a pink one piece bathing suit. Quite randomly, I remember some grandma scolding her granddaughter to never put shoes on the table when we had used shoes as planters. Preschool was fun!

Would my four-year-old self ever imagine that preschool would someday rack my body with uncontrollable sobs? Of course not, but that is exactly what is happening. Ryan starts preschool tomorrow. He laid his complete outfit on the dresser tonight all ready for the morning. We never had set plans for preschool, and, at this moment, we still don't see him entering school full time until probably the second grade. For various reasons, preschool became the right move for right now, and I'm full of excitement for my sweet boy (and for the "break" I'll be getting, but let's be honest ... Conor pulls his own weight in terms of energy and defiance). 

But last week, while peering at his supply list, my chest started to heave and tears fell. Crayons, markers, glue, the keys to his ride out of dependency. I just can't believe that it is over. Never again will all our children be only in the nest. I'm hoisting myself up to peek out of the trenches I so wished would end. The trenches that made me sob for a break, a much needed break, and yet here come sobs again. But this time they come because the break has arrived, and it will slowly stretch year after year until our home is completely quiet. Silent heavy sobs anticipating the heavy silence of the future. Wasn't it just yesterday that I saw his dad for the first time in a Facebook friend request? Wasn't it just yesterday I felt him kicking in my belly for the first time and danced around full of joy in our first apartment to the best of Disney songs? Wasn't it just yesterday I was staring at him shell-shocked in the hospital, firmly resolved to never have another child? Wasn't it just yesterday I called his pediatrician to see if cloth diapers would make him bowlegged? 

I don't know if I cry only because it's over or because I'm also not sure if I cherished it enough.  

At the same time, I know to be grateful for the four full years we've had at home. When I was newly pregnant with Ryan, I was a nanny. I remember holding the baby I cared for and crying because I thought I would have to hand my baby over every day to someone else from the beginning.  That fear didn't come true. 

I know that eight hours away a week is nothing, and that he will enjoy the break from the same humdrum toys our tiny apartment holds. I know he's ready.  Tonight he prayed, "Please help me at school. Please help me, God. Please help me when my crayons are broken." Ha.

I know it will be grand. But please excuse me while I go sob some more.