Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's been one of those weeks . . .

where I tab around and accidentally send a blank post to your feed reader :-)

though how I was originally going to finish that thought was when you find yourself saying crazy things like "Matthew, we do not lick Catherine/the grocery store floor/the table/the car etc."
Despite Matthew's poor choice of places to put his tongue recently, it turns out Catherine's the germy one and harboring another ear infection.
Rocking the vintage UVA apparel wasn't quite enough to brighten spirits but a few doses of antibiotics have helped tremendously (except between 3am and 5am.  awesome.).  I forget how tiny Catherine is at almost one year since she's all muscle, excitement and motion, but here's Matthew in the same outfit at 3.5 months:

And maybe it's a point of cultural commentary on growth charts and baby sizes and maybe not, but these c. 1980 duds are both labeled 18 months!

It's actually been kinda a nice week at home with the kids.  I work 2 days a week and on the other three we tend to get together with friends in some way.  With a holiday and sick kid we've just been doing a lot of hanging out (and some well overdue cleaning/organizing) at home.  Meanwhile, Matthew's been busy making lots of volcanoes, oobleck and finding his letters in the rice while I tend to a baby that hasn't wanted to be put down all week.
 And reading lots of books with daddy:
 When Catherine hasn't been squirming and freaking out, she's had a few adorable moments inbetween:

 Mr. "no pictures mommy" is all smiles as soon as I start taking pictures of Catherine and ready for the limelight.  What a goober!

 And finds himself mighty hilarious these days:
 Though to be fair, I find him fairly hilarious too!  The other day we were outside and all of a sudden he's created a pile of things.  I start to listen closer and he's saying to himself "no, that's not big.  Okay I find something bigger"
I'm pretty certain this was his own rendition of this Sesame Street skit:
I'm off to pack and *fingers crossed* we're on the road again tomorrow night.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One day this will be funny(er)

You may remember that a million moons ago we were going to go see my grandmother and pick up our lawn mower and crap from the old property.  After 4-5 weeks of cancelled trips for fevers, poor planning, work obligations etc. we made our closest attempt yet.  The condensed play-by-play of the weekend went as such:

Thursday - Catherine feels a bit warm.   This is reminiscent of our first attempt at this trip, which turned out to be a 24 hour thing.  Trip is still on.

Friday - Catherine's temp is 102 and she's a hot sweaty mess.  She definitely can't go to daycare but status of trip is TBD.

Friday afternoon - Catherine has not left my arms all day, making any attempt to work from home impossible and one attempted vendor call comical.  We pick up the trailer but postpone our departure until Saturday morning, planning a fly-by trip if needed so Catherine doesn't share her germs with grandma.  James and Matthew pick up the U-Haul and Matthew couldn't be more excited about it (or maybe it was just the toy they gave him).  Oh yeah, did I mention it also started snowing?

Saturday Early Morning - We get the kids up around 5:30a and are on the road at 6.  Catherine still has a fever but we decide to push on (mistake #1).  The plan was to stop in Livingston for breakfast to go then get back on the road.  As we head out of town and the road is empty, I say "hey, since it's daylight and early, let's go through the park on the way down instead of the way back" (mistake #2).  In Livingston I check the weather for the towns on the outskirts of Yellowstone and they all have the same weather as Livingston, mid-30s/snow.  Weather/Roads in Livingston seem manageable so we figure we can handle the park and veer south (poor assumption mistake #3).

Saturday Mid-Morning - Get to Gardiner.  Starting to see cars with 3-4 inches of snow on top.  Get to the park entrance and our exit park strategy through Jackson has been closed.  Instead of turning around and backtracking 40+ miles we decide to press on and head east out through Cody (mistake #4).  Head out toward Tower/Falls, not noticing the sign that parts of the road are closed until a few seconds too late.  Take this picture and turn around South toward Norris and figure then we'll head east through Cody instead of cutting our losses and getting out of the park (mistake #5):
Head up the mountain with our all wheel tires and Uhaul behind us.  Notice the other lane that hasn't been plowed recently has 5-6" of snow in it.  Press on.  Get to a point on a narrow uphill where our tires just start spinning in place.  Try not to panic.  James starts pushing, others jump out to push (because we're basically blocking traffic) and we get going uphill.  (rookie Montanan mistake #6 - when we cleaned out the garage last weekend in the 70+ degree weather, I put away our winter road kit) Finally decide to abort the Yellowstone Park mission and turn around.  Get stuck again.  More help and we're headed/sliding downhill to safety.  We pass a few other cars in much worse states of "stuck" than we were and by the time we've gotten back to Mammoth over 1/2 the park roads have been closed.

Saw a few elk by the road which almost redeemed this stressful 3 hour timewasting excursion:
Especially since they're looking a lot less scraggly than when we saw them 2 weeks ago:
Until a few minutes later we hit a decent sized rock we mistook for a chunk of snow (mistake #7).  This was annoying but we didn't think anything of it and pressed on.  Matthew was super jazzed about Grandma's house and as we made our way back to the interstate he created his own version of "Are We There Yet?"
Noon - 6 hours after starting we arrived in Laurel, the place we should have arrived at 8am.  Stop at McDonald's for lunch.  As we go to sit down, a 95 year old man beckons me over and then shares that the world is going to hell and if I wanted to raise good kids I'd cook for them and feed them at home and keep them away from restaurants like McDonalds.  Because I have a soft spot for curmudgeonly old ranchers I don't punch him in the face and instead thank him for his advice and his son is then excessively nice to us the rest of our meal :-)  As we head out to the car I notice a giant rainbow radiating from our car.  Upon further inspection there's a lot of oil under our car.   Luckily there were 2 dealerships across the street and one was open and willing to take a look. Though we probably paid a premium on the car/repair for it they thankfully had a welcoming waiting area/cabin with snacks for the kids to roam around, including a little secluded play area that kept Matthew entertained for 3+ hours and a rocking chair which helped with a sick baby who desperately needed a nap:
Early afternoon - While waiting for the verdict on our car, I encourage James that he may as well go shop for a car since that's what we were going to be doing the next weekend.   Long story short James' new commuter car is also a minivan and we cracked the oil pan in our regular van when we hit the rock in Yellowstone.  Even with a new van in hand, we couldn't easily get it to tow the trailer the rest of the way so we called it a (LONG) day and headed back home.

On the upside of the weekend, we were able to take some time on Monday to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day.  We headed downtown for the parade and a chance to impart at least a small bit of what the day is about to Matthew.  In his two year old brain though he was most excited by the F-15 flyover:
And of course the horses:

He did his part with lots of clapping and waving:
Hopefully planting the seed of understanding of what an amazing sacrifice those men and women in the parade and his own ancestors have made for our nation.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

All About Catherine

 Oftentimes, I feel like Catherine just gets dragged along for the ride in the family with such a busy brother, but she definitely has her own personality and interests.  The impact of how quickly time flies is strong with her as I can't fathom where the last year has gone.  My snuggly little baby has become this little wild child.  She's recently taken to lots of pointing, dancing and giggling during dinner and is picking up some signs.  Mostly she just likes to look at her hands:
During dinner she still loves her fruits and veggies (though she has definite opinions about some of them), but that doesn't mean that she won't share with a captive audience.  Unfortunately as Matthew winds down with dinner (and winds up with his silliness) Catherine does her best to mimick his actions, smiling and shrieking the whole time.
Due to the sun coming in from our deck doors, Matthew has taken to eating while sitting right next to Catherine.  Though he didn't care for his tomato soup the other day, Catherine sure did find it delicious.  Too bad it was on the day all the bibs were in the wash:
Speaking of mimicking, Catherine sure does love that brother.  As much as he still has a lot to learn about boundaries and self-control, Catherine keeps going back, even to spy on him as he sleeps!
Okay, maybe it was to get in some uninterrupted reading time without Matthew's ongoing narration!  Catherine sure does love her books, especially her new teddy bear book from Uncle Ed:

Catherine's still super mobile and all over the place.  She's standing and cruising but knows that she's far faster crawling so any attempts at walking result in her plopping down and crawling the rest of the way.  For better or worse there are very few obstacles she's not willing to crawl up, over or around.
If I take my eyes off her for a second at the park she's crawled away and up the stairs and headed toward the ropes in the big kid section.  The girl has yet *knock on wood* to have any real separation anxiety.  Even at daycare I go in and set her on the floor and by the time I've turned, she's headed toward the shelves.  
This means as we have our work cut out for us when we're working in the yard or outside.  Catherine's always been one to entertain herself but now its worrisome when she's busy for too long because it generally means she's in trouble!  She really likes our front planters (that we have yet to plant or remove so they're mostly full of dirt (okay) and rusty nails (not so cool)).
And mostly just likes to eat the dirt:

 And the wood dowels for my project:

I hope the germ and allergy experts are right about kids needing lots of exposure to dust, pet hair and germs because Catherine's second favorite activity is playing in the dog bed.  It's hard to describe exactly how she launches herself into them, but it's always with the side of her head.  Here I think she was annoyed June was in the big bed so she headed to the other one:
And of course, as much as I love all of Catherine's activity and chatter, there's nothing sweeter than a baby sleeping.  She's a pretty good independent sleeper (though some upcoming travel may challenge this notion):

But somedays there's still nothing sweeter than a baby sleeping on your chest.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All About Matthew

We had a fantastic weekend that overflowed with friends, fun and lots of little everyday things that make life worth living.  For us, spring/summer have been the seasons of life-changing events.  We got engaged the summer of 2005, married the summer of 2006, moved to Wyoming the summer of 2007, moved officially to WY the summer of 2008, had Matthew the summer of 2009, moved to Bozeman the summer of 2010 and had Catherine the summer of 2011. Prior to all that we were stuck on the academic calendar of summer change for one reason or another and spring/summer meant change in one way or another.  Without a looming move or pregnancy or job change this is our spring/summer to just enjoy and we certainly have.

With two summer babies the summer also marks their milestones in a very pronounced way.  Last summer we spent a lot of time slowly following Matthew on hikes and walks while this summer we're busy keeping up with him.  The previous summer he was cruising around grandma's house as we got it ready for the renters and the summer before that we were spending time "sunning" on top of the root cellar to ward off jaundice.

This summer Matthew's developing by leaps and bounds.  He's inquisitive, super-chatty, and becoming more self-confident.  Though I love watching the kids interact with each other, I treasure my one-on-one time with each one and they each thrive with more individual attention (plus it feels a lot less like refereeing!)  By nature, Matthew is cautious.  He walked late, but when he did he didn't fall much.  Like his dad he's a thinker.  He's 6 steps ahead of me in the chess game of life.  Because of his innate (or influenced because he was the first kid) cautiousness he rarely gets himself into dangerous situations and when he does I try really hard to sit by and watch because he can generally figure it out on his own.  I was so proud the other day when we went to a new park and he tackled this all by himself while I sat on the sidelines:
Luckily, this was 2 days before he hit his "NO PICTURES" stage.  Each day I watch his internal struggle for asserting his independence.  Sure, he still wants and needs our affection but now its on his terms of "one hug, one kiss, one cuddle."  Beyond asserting independence he also is experimenting with control and is the affection dictator in the morning, demanding daddy give Catherine or Mommy "one more hug, one more kiss, one more cuddle".  For better or worse we're generally happy to oblige.
 Aside from his own development he definitely has a budding shadow and he takes his role of big brother quite seriously but is still learning that "NO CAFFRINE" isn't the answer to all his sibling woes.   Much like all his moods his affection for Catherine can go from hugs and kisses to the stealing of toys in a matter of seconds, yet Catherine keeps coming back for more.
 The benefit of my teaching experience (in a nutshell: being jaded by the system of test pushing) is that I'm not eager or willing to sit down and do "school" or "lessons" with Matthew at all, but I know enough about child development to recognize yet be in total awe of the process by which Matthew is developing early reading skills from basic storytelling, to letter recognition, to symbol reading, memorization and more.  As if we needed another person vying for our 3 section paper, Matthew's pretty insistent on reading it each morning with us.  He generally spells out the letters in the title then tells us about the pictures.  If he's being especially toddler-ish, he points to everything on the page asking "What's that?"(even if its the same drawing repeated in all three frames of the comic strip).
His memory is frightening.  Not because it's amazing necessarily but because it reflects how much he's learning and holding onto compared to just a few months ago and the profound impact the littlest things we take for granted have from his point of view.  On Mother's Day James and the kids took me out for breakfast.  As we were driving over there Matthew kept asking for a yellow hat.  One day we had been out looking for a new sunhat for his giant head so I figured that was what he wanted and I explained something and kinda ignored his continued mumbling about it.  Last weekend we went out for wings (next to the pancake place) and as James and I discussed that's where we were going Matthew erupted in cheers for a yellow hat.  I don't think we'd been out for wings for months but he definitely remembered, as well as remembering that last time they went to Home Depot they got a shovel, and the thought of going back was pretty exciting:

He's also pretty insistent on wearing his snow boots when we go out so on the off-chance we find a puddle the boy wants to be prepared.

 Matthew's also quite the prep chef.  He loves to help cook and bake.  Here he helped me make pizza dough.  His favorite part is sprinkling anything:
 Well, I guess second favorite because his first favorite part is always tasting!
I just taught him how to use a knife with a banana and watermelon.  He was so proud of himself when he was done and besides mincing some of the pieces, he did excellent work.   Meanwhile, I was practically losing it because my baby was looking so focused and grown up and using a knife and as he announced to anyone or any animal that would listen, he did a good job.
And then he couldn't keep from tasting it and started singing, errr, shrieking into a metal mixing bowl at the top of his lungs and was back to being my precocious 2 year old.  
Last but not least another fun aspect of his budding personality is watching his relationship with the animals.  He loves to throw the ball for Sky, though he prefers to throw it someplace where Sky has to work to get it (into the tree, into the house).  Sky often protests by bringing the ball to James and I instead, but at the end of it all, a thrown ball is a thrown ball I guess.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hot Water, Steam and More Buff-lo

We (and by we I mean me and the kids because James is crazy low on vacation days unfortunately) took Ed and Georgina to Yellowstone on the last day of their visit.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day.  Unfortunately, there's one problem with visiting the park in the cool days of the shoulder season.  Steam.
Well, and a bit of wind here didn't help :-)   For a certain 2 year old obsessed with steam (from cars, the tea kettle, the sink, geysers etc.) the abundance of steam was awesome.  (Especially since all week he'd told us that geysers were "scary just a little bit" so in toddler logic geysers=scary and steam=exciting.

Unfortunately, the steam did take a bit away from viewing the geysers and some of my favorite pools.  We did get to peek at a few of the deep blue pools though and the gorgeous blue skies of the day certainly helped with the experience!  I loaned my camera to Ed for the day which was great because he got some great shots of not only the scenery but me and kids which is a rarity.

 The last time I visited here was on our honeymoon (when getting a picture without a bunch of other tourists in the background was near impossible)!
Anyway, back to present-ish day:

We saw quite a few of these guys on the trip (not surprising).  As Matthew recap-ed for everyone "Saw Buff-lo.  No get out the car."

We also saw these guys and with the help of some zoom/cropping have at least a little digital proof:

Of course, no trip would be complete without a stop at Old Faithful.  It was a great day to be at the park because it was relatively empty.  This meant Old Faithful was relatively quiet.  Luckily these two monsters were there to disrupt the tranquility with their happy shrieks and incessant talking:
Matthew was not as keen on waiting for Old Faithful but was very concerned about "going to see more animals".  We talked about the animals we had seen and what we might see.  When I asked him what he wanted to see he said "snakes".  I explained that it was unlikely we'd see snakes, to which he countered "no.  Go see snakes at the zoo."  We also were discussing how sometimes animals visit old Faithful and we could tell from the Buffalo Dung that buffalo had been there.  He then noted "Buffalo poop.  Need to go pick it up."  Oh the world from a two year old's point of view.  Catherine got bored and wandered off (another great part about the park being pretty empty was letting her crawl on the board walk since she'd been cooped up in the backpack/carseat all day):
Of course Matthew had to follow:
And at this point between Matthew's giggles and Catherine's little shrieks combined with their 4-legged stance set some dogs at the end of the boardwalk crazy so we called the adventure complete and headed into the new visitor's center then back on the road.  It's hard to show off Yellowstone in one day (especially with a baby and toddler in tow) so after Old Faithful we headed toward Yellowstone Canyon, one of my other favorite spots in the park.

 Catherine and my foot sat out a few of the stops so she could stretch her legs and I could rest mine.
 Matthew however was ready to explore:
And we were all ready for some good barbecue at the end of the long day.
All in all a great day in a great place with great people and definitely something we should be doing more often!  And speaking of hot water, in addition to building our fire pit we fired up the hot tub this weekend. So far no leaks and everything works (we think) so once we give it a test soak or two (and get the electricity bill!) we'll be deciding whether or not to keep it.

Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...