Here in KC

Hello there! Quick post. No pics. Maybe I’ll just post pics in the next entry for catch-up  purposes.

We are wrapping up a weekend at Andy’s folks’ house in Kansas City. We have had a great visit. The car trip out was great. We’ve made it out to eat, to a natural history museum and Legoland. We had a visit out to Grandma Vena’s apartment, and tonight Andy’s Aunt Sue and Uncle Dave made a stop through.

Reid’s been cutting his two upper eye teeth, so he’s been a bit fussier than usual and we’ve been indulging his paci (he calls it “nonny”) habit more than we normally would. Otherwise, he’s showing off all his words. In fact – new this weekend – instead of saying “Where Grampa?” he’s saying, “Where Grampa go?”

Graham’s been entertaining himself with all of Uncle Michael’s spare toys that have been left around: namely a Batman mask and superhero Pez dispensers. Amazingly he has been sleeping in Michael’s room, Reid has been sleeping in the guest room and Andy and I have been sleeping in what was his room. Let me recap that for you:

We fill every room in the upstairs of Andy’s parents’ house.

How did that happen?

Last night, we drove downtown and hung out with my cousin, Lorien, and her boyfriend Ryan. We had a great time – ate Ethiopean food (cue the Billy Crystal joke from “When Harry Met Sally”) and played games back at Lorien’s condo. It was so nice to connect and have an evening that didn’t involve wiping mouths and refilling sippy cups!

Tomorrow we leave for home. Oddly enough I have to be in Chicago tomorrow night, so I’m picking up a rental car in Iowa City and leaving the boys to drive the remainder stretch of road back to Madison themselves. I’ll drive from Iowa to Chicago to watch some focus groups, then I’ll continue the drive home to Madison afterward.

Suffice it to say, I will be quite tired tomorrow. :) Aye aye aye.

Just a quick update from here! More later!

A Different Kind of Anniversary

As the leaves change color and the weather cools, it feels more and more like the Madison we moved to just about a year ago on the money. It was October 25 last year that I drove out of the parking lot at Frito-Lay for the last time. We had a good-bye tour – with friends and church family. We packed up the house, turned the key in the lock on the front door and never came home again.

Staring ahead at the road before us, we knew it would be difficult and tried to preemptively remind ourselves to keep the faith. We knew it would ultimately get easier.

Life in a 2-bedroom apartment was no picnic. Work for me was like starting a new school. Work for Andy was elusive at first. I remember making my way to the grocery store on the evening of Day 2 and crying in the produce section. A clerk stopped and asked if he could help me find something – like I was somehow at sea because I couldn’t locate the olive bar.

We started to make the most of it. The apartment became settled. We looked for, and found, our new home. After closing, we used to pack the boys up and come visit the house. There was no furniture in it, just a welcome mat and a roll of paper towel. Sometimes we’d bring food, sometimes not. Mostly, we’d just come sit on the kitchen floor while the boys chased each other through the house and soak in the feeling that it was going to be OK.

It’s hard to believe that was all less than a year ago. Starting new is scary. It’s scary to leave friends and hope you’ll connect elsewhere. It’s a scary thing to quit on sure money and have faith that you were competent enough to find it again.

When we were in the thick of this transition, the Barenaked Ladies song “Odds Are” was in heavy rotation on the radio. It became my theme song. If you’ve never listened to the words, they basically tell you that everything you’re afraid of? It’s probably not going to happen. It’s certainly no excuse to never try. Odds are everything’s going to be alright.

And you know what? Everything totally has.

That’s the Way Life is, Mom

have to share a conversation I had with Graham – 4.5 years old – last night. Over his plate of chicken nuggets.

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Graham: “Mom, let’s pretend that you’re a girl and I’m a girl so we can get married.”

Me: “First of all, I am a girl, so we don’t have to pretend that I am. Second, why do we both have to be girls to get married?”

Graham: “Because sometimes it’s a girl and a girl. And sometimes it’s a boy and a boy. That’s just the way life is, Mom.”

Me: “Oh yeah?”

Graham: “Yep.”

Me: “Who’s been talking to you about this?”

Graham: “Sophie” [another preschooler friend of his, quite precocious I might add ;) ]

Me: “Ahh.”

Graham: “I talk to Sophie and Greta a lot. They know a lot about life.”

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The end. I was slayed. We moved on. It was no big deal for Graham. He’s still the age where he thinks he can marry his mom, so there’s clearly no need to go into the adult-world complications of marriage and relationships and who gets to do what and who deems what OK and not OK. There were no emotions coloring this conversation. Graham is ruled by a word of black and white. Emotions really only surface when it is a question of fairness or basic human need. Today for him the facts are simple – sometimes it is a girl and a girl. And sometimes it is a boy and a boy.

Because that’s just the way life is.

Pearl Jam, Milwaukee

When I meet new parents, I often ask what they like to do for fun. When they inevitably stare out into space – trying to remember what it was that they used to do when they had the luxury of free time – I reword my question thusly:

“You know, … what survived kids?”

This always brings an immediate response of one (maybe two) things that they still do that’s just for them. “We go bowling,” or “I brew beer in my garage.” Etc. For Andy and I, the answer is concerts & music. We make time to go see our bands live when they come around on tour.

So, last night, Andy and I hired a sitter and ditched the boys in pursuit of mid-week musical goodness. Pearl Jam’s penultimate performance on their Lightning Bolt album tour. This is sort of poetic, because it was in November last year that they hit Dallas, just a couple of weeks after we’d packed our things and vacated the state of Texas. I had to work, so I stayed behind in Wisconsin with the boys while Andy flew to Dallas and met up with his brother, Brian, to watch the show.

Last night was my turn, and it was worth the wait.

Concerts are sort of boring to read about, I think (unless you’re an uber-fan), so I’ll sum up with: Those guys pulled out all the stops. And, no, really. I mean it. They looked a little tour-worn, but you could also tell they wanted to play it out with style.

As for Andy and I, mid-week concerts are getting harder to do. Andy had to work on Monday, and I had to coordinate getting the kids from school and set up with a babysitter in time for us to leave, drive to Milwaukee, find something to eat, get tickets from Will Call, and get into our seats before the show started. They had no opening band, so the pressure was on to get there on time. Stressful.

Andy’s still smiling though!

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Anticipation!

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Selfie before the show started. They were having trouble getting people in the doors efficiently (hence all the empty seats behind us), so the show began a little late.

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We had great seats – thanks, Ten Club!

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They started with a song off their new album (Pendulum) and, a few songs later, played Baba O’Riley with Rick Nielsen. Yep, a usual closer about 4 songs in. That was the first right turn of the night.

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Next up, they played Yield, their 1998 album. I can’t really, fully explain how transcendent this was, but you’re going to have to trust me… every out-of-their-mind Pearl Jam fan was like, “OMG. OMG. They’re *@$%#ing playing YIELD.” This statement from all the concert-goers in the fan club section and commenters from jealous Twitter/Instagram/Facebookers who weren’t in attendance. In reality, they could have been playing any album front to back, but for some reason, we were all convinced that this was the best choice they could have ever made.

I can’t help but laugh in spite of myself. In the moment, we – a bunch of grown adults – were acting like kids who just came home from trick-or-treating only to be told we were now going to open Christmas presents. In the groggy morning after, all I can do is chuckle at how excited we all were.

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At some point, someone from the crowd threw a Packers Cheesehead [hat] on-stage. Eddie, after much debating what to do, said something to the effect of “I’m from Chicago man, I can’t wear this.” A risky move – being in football-crazed Wisconsin, but he made the right call – the crowd erupted in cheers. He made a bet that he had a decent Chicago backing and he was right.

He made amends later, though.

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The show kept going and going and going and going. Andy and I were so amped about this… until it got to be 11:00. Then 11:15. Then 11:30, and they were showing no signs of stopping. Three songs deep into the third encore, they didn’t even seem to be slowing down. Eddie was talking to the crowd, and Andy and I did something completely unprecedented.

We left. :( Snapshot in time to be certain: We were an hour and 20 minutes from home, it was 11:30 and we’d told our sitter we’d be home at midnight. We looked at each other, nodded, and headed for the door with another few couples. Eddie seemed to be leading into something, so the other couples stopped on the stairs to watch. I shook my head at Andy and said, “If I don’t keep going I’ll never leave.”

We hit the lobby of the arena when Yellow Ledbetter started playing. We both froze in our tracks and at least one of us yelled guttural pain sounds at missing it. Andy said, “Do we go back?!” I shook my head, we had to go. Come to find out this morning, they played two more songs after that. We wouldn’t have been leaving until Midnight.

So, yes. Concerts have survived kids to be sure, but even that – for now – doesn’t look the same as it used to. Someday we’ll get back in the swing, but for now, I’m happy to be part of it even if just for a little while.

Busy Fall!

We are in October, arguably my favorite month for inexplicable reasons, and enjoying every second. These past few days have been completely water-logged, but we are making the most of it. Evening cups of coffee… fires in the fireplace… I’ve got a good book going thanks to stumbling across a book sale at the library. (The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – great read so far!)

We have been B-U-S-Y people the last few weeks!

It all started with my cousin, Betsy’s, wedding. We, of course, had an amazing time. Last time we were in Minneapolis was in July 2012. I was pregnant with Reid and Graham was 2.5 years old.

Here I am with my cousins Courtney and Stewart (a.k.a one of the Minnesota Twins). If you want a tearjerker, have the bride’s twin brother officiate the wedding. Betsy’s momma may have walked her down the aisle, but Stewart made it pretty apparent that there was more than one person giving her away that day. ::sniff::

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Always a happy time when we get to meet up with Mom and Dad. Graham was elated to not only go to a wedding (his *most* favorite event) but ALSO see Grandpa and Grandma. Combine this with being able to stay in a hotel and the excitement was pretty much at an 11 all weekend.

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I may not be able to select bows, tights and dresses for formalwear, but I like to think I’m pretty good at getting these boys as dapper as possible. Reid got to re-wear his button-down and tie combo but we added a sweater vest to complete the ensemble. Ended up being the perfect weight for Minnesota fall.

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Graham – who has decided he loves his sport coat – sported a new bowtie and, under that jacket, a pair of suspenders. What with the tendency to have his pants slip right off those narrow hips of his, he was completely stoked at the mere idea of suspenders. Totally functional. I think he’d wear these every day if I’d let him.

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The beautiful bride (a.k.a. the other half of the Minnesota Twins – haha, you thought I was talking about baseball earlier, didn’t you??) and her handsome groom. :) So excited for these two. :) ))

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We danced well into the night. Yet again, the boys hung in there through the reception so they could get to the dancing. Graham not only danced with his Grandma & the bride, he also asked another little girl to dance 100% without prompting from any adult. She was too shy to take him up on it, and he was pretty disappointed about it. Eventually he recovered though. Clearly.

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During the day on the day of the wedding, Reid was sneezing a notable amount. I told Andy, “Great, he’s starting a cold.” ‘Tis the season right? Sure enough, a runny nose started the next day and so Reid caught a cold. No big deal.

Until it was a big deal. Reid went to bed on Tuesday night with his temperature running 1 degree above normal. (I know, I wrote it off too.) He woke up the next morning with some difficulty breathing. Off to the doctor.

Trip to doctor

In general, his spirits were good, which was GREAT. But given his elevated temp 5 days into the cold and the fact that his doc heard wheezing all throughout his chest, we were given a breathing treatment in the doc’s office. Thankfully, his lung sounds improved after the treatment, so we didn’t have to march off to get a chest x-ray. We were debriefed on Enterovirus D68 and sent home with explicit instructions to call if anything changed.

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We spent the rest of the day snuggling and giving inhaler meds, and we got lucky: even though he’d gone to bed with whistling and wheezing lungs, he woke up with NO breathing struggles. Woohoo! Mark that as another virus down on the books.

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We’ve been thinking a lot about Halloween costumes around here. After much discussing what he and Reid could be for Halloween, Graham settled on Milk and Cookies. One day last week – after picking the kids up early from school – I carted the kids off to the fabric store so I could figure out how to make the boys look like a delicious snack.

I’ll paraphrase by saying: taking two mobile preschoolers to a FABRIC STORE after school is a terrible idea. After the 1000th request not to run/yell/pull things off shelves/beg me to buy something, Graham disappeared into a different aisle and yelled, “MOM!!!! I WANT TO BE CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!!”

He had found the Marvel superheroes fabric. I don’t even know if Captain America is a Marvel hero (I can never remember Marvel vs. DC), but it had spurred an idea in Graham. I, completely over the idea of making the kids’ costumes this year, pressed Graham to commit that he reeeeeeeally wanted to do that. He was 110% sure. So, I said, “Then we’re going to Target.”

To Target, we went. And after a bit of costume-trying…

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We landed on a Captain America costume for Graham and a Spider-man costume for Reid. (“Reid, you want to be Spiderman for Halloween?” “YEAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”)

We tried on the costumes that night, and they are perfect. A little bit, I feel like we’ve wandered into what moms of girls have described to me as “Disney Princess Territory,” only for boys. But they love them. And I don’t have to slave over a sewing machine for hours over the next few weeks. Win-win.

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This weekend, we signed up for a mini-session with a local photographer. It’s been a year-and-a-half since we’ve last had our pictures taken. My biggest goal is getting a capture of us as a family, but updated pics of the boys were needed. We’re still waiting on the proofs, but I snapped a couple while we were waiting on the photographer to finish with another family.

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We’ll summarize by saying: there’s a reason I hired this out. The boys are not only completely in-motion at every moment but also impatient at being told to do ridiculous things like a) “stand still” or b) “look this way” or c) “smile”. My iPhone pics are cute, but I have a lot of ‘cute’. I wanted more ‘framers.’

Outsourced.

Our photographer Erin Moore – a mom of 4 girls, I might add – was amazing. And based on the sneak peeks from our session, I think we’ve got a couple winners at least. :)

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Those are the big things. A couple of honorable mentions:

1. We think Reid might be a lefty. He’s got some serious fine-motor prowess with that left hand. If you give him that same marker in his right hand, he grips it in his fist and does huge broad strokes. Left hand? Pencil grip and tiny marks. (Also, I know he needs a haircut!)

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2. The boys’ daycare just moved into a brand new building this week. Absolutely phenomenal! The last building was sort of this dumpy old-looking house. Great program, less-than-desirable facility. Now they’re in a beautiful facility too. We are all loving the change!

So “that’s it.” That’s all we’ve been up to. Next up – the holidays and much travel to many places to see much family! Here we go!