Friday, December 19, 2014

Note to Self for Next Year

The Christmas gifts that we spent lots of time and energy thinking about, saving for, shopping for, and in some cases, making for our kids:
Play tent
Indoor play sand

The Christmas gifts that we should have scrounged around late on Christmas Eve for our kids:
Bubble wrap
Cupcake liners
Glue sticks

And then we should have put those gifts in the grand finale of all kids' Christmas gifts: A CARDBOARD BOX.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Botanical Gardens Trains

Last Saturday we braved the protest crowds (if only because we didn't know we'd run into them) to visit the trains at the U.S. Botanical Gardens. We got there only 15 minutes after they opened and already a line had formed. Sigh. But thankfully it moved quickly. Un-thankfully, we also moved quickly...right through the exhibit. But thankfully, fantastic milkshakes were next on the agenda.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Did It

A couple weeks ago Chuck convinced me to buy a smartphone. (So yes, unlike this very sexist article, Chuck is the one encouraging us to live outside our means. Take that!) It's an Amazon phone, it was on sale, and it gives us free Amazon Prime for a year. AND I'm choosing a plan that is only about twice as much as my super cheap pay-as-you-go plan I was using with my dumbphone. So the cost really isn't terrible. We got the new SIM card on Saturday, and I haven't seen my family since. Gee, I love these things.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why We Don't Eat Vegetables

Why, yes, that IS a live worm in that green squash.

Oh, and if you are the kind person who left a bunch of apples on our doorstep, thanks! I mean, it's not a bag of steaks (look for Carol Watts' article), but if we're not going to eat vegetables, fruit will do. Insert smiley emoticon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The End of an Era

That's it. We no longer will be buying diapers, something we've done for over six years. Whoa.

How did it happen? Chuck and I have been talking to Ollie about it for months. He knew it was coming and on the day before Thanksgiving, we started. Why Thanksgiving? We knew we'd be home the entire weekend and thought it would be a nice early Christmas present to ourselves. I mean, why ruin Christmas?!

I begin with a parenting fail number 1: In order to get Ollie to recognize when he needed to go to the bathroom, we filled him with Gatorade. This led to about a zillion accidents. Whoops. It got better once we dehydrated him. (Not really.) But the first day went okay.

Parenting fail number 2: We put diapers on him for nighttime, because, duh. When he woke up and we tried to get underwear on him, it did not go well. Poor buddy had a massive tantrum. Finally underwear won, and we decided never to put diapers on him again for fear we'd never get them off. Thursday (Thanksgiving) was really hard. Chuck and I were both preoccupied with the holiday duties and didn't want much to do with potty training. And come Friday morning I was ready to quit and wait until Christmas.

Parenting success number 1: Chuck convinces me to keep at it and we do. And Friday was so much better! We learned that Ollie was not the kind of kid who takes well to bathroom trips every time a timer goes off. So once we accepted that and let him take the lead, he did. He did really well and we were feeling much better about the whole thing. And since then, every day has gotten better. He usually waits until the last minute, but tells us when he has to go and then runs off to take care of it himself. There was the time when I had to run two errands. I had him go to the bathroom right before we left (and he went), but at the first store he had to go again (a lot), and then again at our second stop. Oh the joy.

So overall, things are going well. Except with poo. Why is it kids don't want to do this on a toilet? Last Wednesday was particularly bad and I was so frustrated. Unlike his brother, Ollie has no problem doing it in his underwear. But while in Cleveland, Ollie had a great experience, and it's been better since then. Phew.

So, in the end, of course it's totally worth it. Plus, I still kinda like little boy bums in underwear. Sorry; it had to be said.

Monday, December 8, 2014

We Didn't Shoot Our Eyes Out!

Weekend trip wrap-up:

Cleveland. Meh. The drive up (with a newly-potty trained boy) could have been so much worse. But the drive home, with only one stop and sleeping boys, couldn't have been much better! It's possible the boys' favorite thing about Cleveland was the hotel. I wasn't impressed with their downtown Christmas lights (there weren't any) and the advertised two HUGE nutcrackers turned out to be inside a casino...a place where my nutcracker-loving boy can't go. There will be tears. We toured the house and museum on Friday, before the crowds, and that was fun.

The run. So great. It was raining pretty hard during breakfast, and I was pretty depressed. But you better believe I prayed away that rain just in time for our start. The race was well-run and filled with so many characters! The most-often seen costume was definitely a bunny suit, followed by the leg lamp. We weren't the only Black Barts, but there weren't too many of us either. The best costume was the man dressed up as Flick, carrying a pole and pretending his tongue was stuck to it. Seeing all these people really made the six miles (my slowest racing six miles, mind you) go by quickly. We took a five-minute stop at the Christmas Story House to take pictures, and that didn't help our time either. (I won't tell you how MAD Rhett was when we made him wear a black trash bag filled with boy and blanket in the stroller.)

Kirland. After Cleveland was a bust, we looked around for other things to do and saw that Kirtland was close. Who knew?! (And pretty sad that it takes a silly 10K to get us to church sites, but so it is.) So after the race and after we cleaned up, we drove over and visited the temple and the church history sites. The end.

Friday, December 5, 2014

I'm Such a Fun Mom!

Wednesday's advent activity was "Boys' Choice," which turned into playing some Christmas games. While Rhett was at school, I whipped up a couple of fun games: snowman bowling with toilet paper rolls and "Roll a Snowman".

Let's pretend I didn't ignore Ollie for a little bit while I made these, or that later that night, I yelled at the boys that I was done being their mom for the day...okay? Okay!

P.S. I know you're all dying for a post on Ollie's potty training, but I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with that and our trip today. To keep myself sane, some things must wait. But don't worry, I'm not crazy-holidays overwhelmed. Just enough overwhelmed to not want to write about four poopy underwears in one day.

P.P.S. Race tomorrow! Two Black Barts will be representing...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


This year, we started our Thanksgiving celebrations on Thanksgiving Eve. Taking a page from my friend Kathy's book, we ate a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving dinner: pretzels, toast, jelly beans, and popcorn. You know, all the four food groups. Thursday, we did a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and it was, as expected, really fun.

The company, of course.
The food, of course.
We made our first turkey, so maybe we're full-fledged adults now?
I remembered to use my china! I got it from my grandma, and I never remembered to use it before now.
The projects! I made napkins, napkin "rings," a table runner, two centerpieces, and Mayflower ships for the kids' table.
All three women walking around with cameras taking pictures of the food.
All seven "big kids" (sans one baby) happily playing with parents happily ignoring.
Having it all cleaned up by 8:30 and being asleep by 9:30.

None! Oh, maybe being in such a rush right at before we ate that Chuck forgot to change his shirt before eating. But if that's the worst, then it was pretty darn good.

Monday, December 1, 2014

First, the Important Stuff

Sure, we just finished Thanksgiving. Sure, I have some fun pictures. BUT way more pressing is this:

Chuck and I are running "A Christmas Story" movie-house run on Saturday. (Cousin Melissa, if you're reading, feel free to stop and move on to something far more interesting to you.) But because we've been so busy with Thanksgiving plans, I put forth no time or effort in preparing for this race. Sure, we've both been running, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about our costumes. What should we wear? Any good ideas for quick, easy, and cheap things we could do to make ourselves more festive? Or maybe something for the boys, (seeing as though we'll be pushing them in a stroller)? You know, our two little versions of Ralphie and Randy? Help!

P.S. These boys are ridiculous. I hate when this is the best shot you get, you know? I might actually miss 12:30 church just a little; it'll mean less time to whip up new ties before church.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Why is it that the color of candy that I like the best is always the one that is represented the least? My life is HARD. If we're talking little-kid candy (you know, the only kind worth eating), I almost always prefer the reds and the pinks. But the other day when Chuck surprised me with a bag of flavored Tootsie Rolls, I was shocked (SHOCKED I tell you) at the lack of representation by my favorites.

For proof, I give you this simulated graph (and no, it being simulated does NOT take away from its validity). Notice the dearth of pinks. Tragedy.

P.S. Maybe some of you out there actually like the lime runts? Or the yellow and green Skittles? Maybe you'd be interested in a trade? All my green and yellow candies for your red and pinks?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Planning

This is our second year having a friend Thanksgiving, but our very first as hosts. (Not that family aren't friends, but you know.) At first I was nervous about hosting. I mean, doesn't the host provide the turkey? I've never done that before (you know, like I've never mowed a lawn). But then I invoked the power of the "People dumber than I have done this," and all was well. That's when the fun began: all that planning! Who was coming, what would we cook, where would everyone sit, where would the food go, what crafts MUST be many lists and diagrams and I LOVE IT ALL. It's the most excited about Thanksgiving I've been in a long time.

P.S. I haven't seen the usual glut of Thanksgiving posts on Facebook this year. Here's one for you: I am extremely thankful to not live in Buffalo right now. I can't get over those pictures of all that snow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where Did We Go?

Remember when I watched some friends' kids back in June just because I wanted time away from my own kids at some future date? Well, that future date was earlier this week. Through some miracle of scheduling, Chuck and I were able to get out of town Saturday at 5. By some anti-miracle, I forgot my camera.

What did we do? We got dinner locally, and then drove to Cacapon State Park in West Virginia. We stayed in the lodge there and just had a nice night. We woke up and took a run together. (Remember that we're running the Christmas Story Run in just over two weeks? Chuck's training for it, and let's just say that I got to run at our race pace.) After breakfast we headed to nearby Berkeley Springs. We walked around town, shopping at antique stores and boutiques. It was awesome. Then we headed to our next destination, Bedford Springs (with a stop at Everett, PA on the way). This hotel was so fancy, we couldn't even park our own car. Whoa. That evening we enjoyed the room, had dinner, and then swam in the indoor pool.

Monday morning the weather was terrible (wet and cold). I ran inside, and then Chuck and I stayed in our warm, dry room until almost noon. It. Was. Amazing. We grabbed lunch and then, because the weather was still pretty bad, we took a driving tour of covered bridges. By then the rain was gone, so we went back to town for some shopping. After that, we played two games of bowling. Sweet. Then back to the hotel for dinner. And a false fire alarm at 11 p.m.

Tuesday morning was still cold, but snowy! I could run outside! We hung out in the room for a bit and then went back to town for lunch. After that we headed home with one stop at some outlets. Man, I really HATE clothes shopping. We were early enough to drop off our stuff at home, unpack, and get Bruno before we picked up the kids, almost exactly 72 hours later. I wish I could say that I was thrilled to see the kids and cuddled them all evening, whilst they obeyed everything I asked them to do. But no. I was tired. They were tired. It wasn't the worst night we've had, but not the best.

But getting away is always worth it. Always. I can't wait for the day when Rhett and Ollie are old enough to watch themselves. Let's hope that we raise boys responsible enough for that. And if not, I'm sure Natalie won't mind taking my boys again, right?!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Being an Adult is Lame

I'm sure I've discussed this before, but man, sometimes (most of the time), being an adult is soooo lame. And one of the biggest, most-overrated parts of being an adult is homeownership. Don't get me wrong; I'm not about to sell my house an move into a rental. But sometimes (most of the time), I just wish we had never bought a house. I feel like Chuck and I end up making bad choices when it comes to repairs. Putting in the window well caused floods when we get tons of rain, the porch has bits of paint that are chipped already, the refaced cabinets are peeling in one spot. UGH. And the latest: our basement shower. I'm still pretty worked up over the whole thing, but let's just say that I won't be purchasing any more home improvement Groupons/Livingsocials/whatever. However, I will say that the shower looks better. Too bad I'm afraid to actually use it.


AFTER (as if I needed to say it)

We think (hope) most of our problems in that shower are due to the humidity. There's a fan in the room, but it doesn't do enough. So we bought a small dehumidifier and hope that will help. Also, because that shower is super tiny and we have a standard shower curtain (which therefore is always really folded), I'm going to cut it in half so the moisture doesn't just hang out in all the creases. And then hopefully we won't have to do this again in five years.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Funny-to-Me Things My Kids Say

Poor Rhett was sooo excited to try on his suit and just couldn't imagine why the sleeves came to his elbows! Poor growing boy.
Rhett, in tears: Mom...what's happening with my suit???

I don't even remember what I did to deserve this...
Ollie: When you turn into a nice mom, then we can have balloons and new balls.
I guess I probably didn't give him balloons or new balls.

Looking at picture of me when I was seven...
Ollie: Why do you look different? I mean, why do you have a different face?

Clearly not understanding how it works...
Ollie: What if on your first birthday you turned 65?

Clearly not understanding how it works, part two...
Ollie: When I turn two, I will get the slide back.

After getting a whiff of a very smelly diaper...
Me: Ugh, Ollie you stink!
Ollie: That's right. I'm just like a skunk!

Heard from the bedroom during quiet time...
Ollie: I'm not a ka-nig-it!
You know, like "knight" but not?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Breakfast is Served (again)

Last year we let Rhett and Ollie eat as much of the Halloween candy as they wanted on the day after Halloween. After that it was gone. We decided to do the same thing this year because we loved that they didn't know there was candy still in the house. (Because c'mon, like I would actually get rid of it, right?)

Why it was a BIG mistake: These boys are getting bigger! Bigger means a higher candy threshold. And wow, I was really impressed (in a bad way) at how much they could really eat. Or, in Ollie's case, how many things he could sample and then leave all over the table. (Gee, sound like someone last year? At least the boy is consistent.) The only real food ingested was some leftover pizza at lunch. For dinner Rhett had a main course of Starbursts, a side dish of Reese's peanut butter cup, and dessert of Kit Kat. Sounds like all the food groups! Ollie was less formal. "Oh, I want that. Now I want that. And NOW I want that." Sometimes it all went into his mouth at the same time, sometimes it was, as previously mentioned, just left on the table.

But why we'll do it again: After three later-nights and one day of total candy craziness, the boys were tired. And seeing as though Sunday marked the end of daylight saving time, it was perfect timing. The boys slept until...wait for it...6:40 a.m. EASTERN STANDARD TIME. This is 7:40 a.m. body time, people. It's nothing short of a miracle.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Last Monday we had a gorgeous day to carve pumpkins. Too bad the adult's pumpkin had already rotted on the inside before we even started! Oh well. Stupid $5 Sam's Club XL pumpkin. And then before we knew it, it was Halloween! Rhett has wanted to be a saber tooth tiger for months, and once I saw this, I thought I could do it. So I did. The shirt is a bit tight, but that's okay. The whole thing is made out fleece (except for the white sherpa), so he was plenty warm. And bless Ollie because I hit the homemade-costume jackpot with him: he wanted to be a green ghost. Done. We trunk-or-treated on Thursday night and then went around the neighborhood Friday night. I should mention that Friday was a no-school day for Rhett. We watched some Halloween shows, went to a playgroup potluck, did some quiet time, played potato stamps, and got ready for trick-or-treating. It was a pretty good day.

And yes, maybe Chuck and I got into the spirit as well. And no, we're not Velma and Shaggy, rather Daria and Trent. Check out "Daria" on Amazon. You won't be disappointed. Promise.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Non-Halloween Post on Halloween

How can I post about Halloween until it's actually happened? So I can't. I won't. But I will talk about my cell phone.

On Wednesday I was at Target. I was talking to a friend when I pulled out my phone to send a quick text because I was meeting another friend. When Friend A saw my phone she said, "What century is this?! What is that?!" She was, of course, referring to my ancient cell phone. Which isn't actually all that ancient, but the fact that it's not a smartphone makes it appear so. She then asked if she needs to buy me an iPhone (to which I should have answered YES).

But the fact is that I don't want a smartphone. Two days a week I sit at a computer. The other days, when I'm home, my computer is always on and I can check email or look up something quickly if I need to. But if I'm out doing something with the boys, why do I need it? I survived this long without having the world at my fingertips, I'm pretty sure I can keep it up a few more years (or decades). And I still have a regular cell phone. If I absolutely need something, I can call Chuck or my sister and have them look it up for me. See? Maybe my dumbphone isn't so dumb after all.

Plus, there's the thing about the cost. Sure, you can get the phones cheap, but man, those monthly plans are monsters (at least for the iPhones). I spend about $15 a month on my dumbphone. Could we afford a smartphone for me? Sure. But that money has to come from somewhere, and choosing between my retirement or a smartphone is an easy choice. Kidding! Of course I'd take money from the boys' college educations. I'm not going to rob my retirement.

I think the only embarrassing thing about this situation is that both of my parents have iPhones (even if the only thing they do with them is make calls). To balance that, my sister doesn't even have a cell phone. I know; we're a weird family.

P.S. If I was any good at Photoshop, I'd put my face in there instead of Zach's.

Annie is on Amazon Instant video. I totally forgot that Daddy Warbucks' name is Oliver! "I'll call you Ollie, my hot tamale." This is going to be used a lot in our house from now on.

P.P.P.S. To get in the Halloween spirit, Chuck and I watched a couple "Tales From the Crypt" this week. I love that show.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do As I Do

A couple of weeks ago, I read some advice given to a parent who was struggling with little-kid-hood. (Sound like someone's blog you read?) The columnist's advice was to basically mold these little individuals into beings that are just like you in hopes of them some day growing up to be people you want to be around. So take them to places you want to go, do things that you want to do. I've been mulling this over ever since.

First, what do I want to do? It's been so long, right? I like to camp, hike, run, read, hang out with Chuck, go to craft fairs, and chat with friends. Guess what? I already do these things with my kids. (Well, maybe not run, but I used to when they didn't fight in the double stroller. And when we had a double stroller.) But we camp with them, we hike with them, I sometimes-for-five-minutes read my book in front of them, I drop them off at places so I can hang out with Chuck (so maybe that one doesn't count), and I take them to playgroups so I can chat with friends. I should be happy, no?

Problem is, they're still kinda cramping my style. I mean, I want to go backpacking, not just car camping. I want to hike eight miles, not just one. I want to read without being interrupted. I want to go on a date with Chuck without paying $50 for a babysitter. I want to go to lunch with friends and not be at a playground.

But (there's always that big butt). BUT. I know, I really do. It's just not the time for that. It's the time for car camping so that one day they'll really love it and will have endurance and strength for backpacking. It's the time for small hikes with treats at the end so that one day they'll love all-day hikes with me. It's the time for me to run alone just for alone time. It's time for me to show them that I love reading so that some day they'll hide in their room for hours reading (and leave me alone--ha). It's the time for me to develop friendships at the park so that when all our kids are in school, we can go to lunch together and eat stuff our kids would never touch.

It's okay. I'm okay. This dude is definitely okay. (The other dude was at school.)

P.S. I'll tell you what I don't want to do. Go to BounceU. Go to "truck touching" events. Go to Disneyworld.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scary Stuff

Have a little bit of time on your hands this weekend? To get you in the mood for Halloween, I bring you...some LINKS. Ooooh, scary.

First some real, spooky stories. Full disclosure: some bad language exists in these stories.

And if you don't have time for that, surely you have time for a one-minute horror flick?

Finally, want to guess my costume? It involves black boots, a green blazer, and some round glasses. Who am I?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween of Yesteryear

I think the next time Emily and I are together, we should definitely try to recreate this picture. Because it would be awesome.

P.S. How yesteryear? Maybe 30 or 31 yesteryears or so.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Camping Wonderland

We visited our eight state park, Elk Neck, this weekend. (And don't ask why it's called that; I haven't a clue.) We got up there fairly early on Friday, hiked (without complaint), jumped in leaves, played with cousins, ate dinner (with complaint), and then asked to be put to bed. Pretty good day! Saturday we ate breakfast (with complaint), hiked (without complaint), and went up a lighthouse (and screamed about goblins). Our campsite came with two little frog ponds en suite, so that was exciting. However, the camp store here left much to be desired, especially when compared to Pokomoke. But it was a pretty cool little park.

We left Elk Neck and headed to Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park for kids. Rhett went on nearly every ride and Ollie nearly all of the rides Rhett did. The boys had a spectacular time and we closed the place down. It was a long day for everyone, and sadly only half of us were allowed to fall asleep in the car. When do I get my computer-driven car?

P.S. Can I just say, I'm done with this one night of camping thing. We have to do better. Two nights from here on out. I so wish we had done better at taking advantage of this with late church. Sigh.