weekend

Signs of Life

Saturday morning I begged Brooklyn to eat her yogurt faster, resigned myself to braiding her hair (“Anna braids, mommy”) at the breakfast table, and packed snacks in the monkey backpack while sucking down iced coffee. Tyson and I hustled everyone into the car, buckled a crying Nolan into his carseat (“But I want to get in the car from the other door!”) and left at 7:52 to make the six-minute drive to the ballpark so the twins could play the first game of the day.

Their games are usually on Wednesdays, but this Saturday was Player Appreciation Day so every team had a game. It felt like a parenting level-up to be up and out of the house for an 8:15 ball game on a Saturday. Saturday morning sports definitely seem like big-kid territory. Except our kids are still small enough they chased balls around the field (three or four of them after the same one) and practiced holding their back elbows up when it was their turn to bat. I chatted with a grandma behind me in the stands (“I’m so jealous you have twins!”) and she told me stories from when her kids were young; how happy she was to see so many kids out playing ball in our town.

Later I took my volunteer shift in the concession stand. I collected crumpled dollar bills from dirty fingers and heard a whispered order from a girl whose curly head barely reached the counter. I passed out Big League Chew to boys with freckles across their faces who weren’t much older than Caden and Brooklyn. I mixed slushies and wrapped hot dogs in foil and fished ice cream Snickers bars from the freezer.

After my shift ended we made our way to the “big” field so the kids could line up to be announced for Player Appreciation Day. I looked at all the kids gathered on the field, noted that the t-ball kids were just versions of the teenage little leaguers in miniature. The coaches each called their own players names and gave out high-fives as they ran across home plate.

Caden, Brooklyn, and Nolan sat and ate candy afterwards in the shade of a tree: their reward for a long morning (and consolation prize for being given some warmed-over root beer floats). I looked around and wondered how many of our memories might take place here at this very ballpark over the next decade or so. Boys and girls ran around in their MLB logo-ed jerseys, backpacks slung over shoulders, chasing each other with water bottles and tennis balls and freezees.

And I was saddened by the thought that Rachel Held Evans will never get to see her children run the bases in oversized batting helmets and brightly-colored jerseys on a bright, blue, cloudless summer day.

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Her funeral took place later that day. I hoped to get home from the ballpark in time to watch the livestream online.

We did make it home with a few minutes to spare. The twins threw batting helmets and gloves on the floor of the mud room and raced off to the backyard while I went upstairs to my room, to watch a funeral on my computer, which seemed like a strange thing to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon but there we were through the miracle of technology.

I couldn’t sit still. I was fidgety, the computer was too hot to set on my legs comfortably. I set it down to paint my nails (“Orchid-ing Aside”). I briefly wondered if this was this an appropriate thing to do while watching a real, live, actual funeral. I knew Rachel would forgive any heresy in my actions.

The sun streamed in through the wood blinds in my room. I kind of hate them; they’re always dusty, though they look nice if you don’t peer too closely. The light is almost always perfect in our master bedroom, no matter the time of day. I thought of what a perfect day it was and yet somewhere in Chattanooga a husband was having one of the absolute worst days of his life. (Along with two small children, too small to even know it was supposed to be one of the worst days of their lives.)

I answered a quick email and deleted a few others. I noted the Post-it note on my laptop that’s been reminding me for a month that I need to find a nightstand for Caden and Brooklyn’s room. My mind wandered to thoughts of what to make for dinner and things I needed from the store. I put the clothes away that somehow always end up in a pile on the floor in front of the dresser.

I sat and folded Nolan’s laundry as I listened to Sarah Bessey tear up while she gave the most beautiful reading of Mary Magdalene and the disciples arriving at Jesus’ tomb. I smoothed out plaid shorts and wondered why half of Caden’s underwear ended up in Nolan’s laundry basket while Nadia Bolz-Weber trembled in her patterned glasses and salt-and-pepper curls. She spoke of the male disciples who looked in the tomb only to see a pile of folded laundry inside, where Mary Magdalene saw angels.

The doorbell rang and I ran downstairs to find a neighbor girl looking for the kids to play. I chatted with her and her dad for a minute as she told me about her own softball game that morning, how she saw Caden and Brooklyn on the field. I also discovered a package I had ordered on the steps. New sandals (brown with thick straps and a heel); brought them upstairs to try on (keepers).

I mentally planned my outfit for church the next day (to incorporate the new sandals, of course) while adding my own silent “amen”s to Nadia Bolz-Weber’s benediction blessing the preschoolers who cut in line at communion and the closeted and those who can’t fall apart because they needed to keep it together for everyone else.

As the funeral ended (“It is well, it is well with my soul”) I fielded a phone call from my mom. We talked about the progress on the playset my dad is building for the kids. We talked about future plans, weighed the pros and cons of dates and timing. We said good-bye.

The livestream ended and I clicked the tab closed, somewhat hesitantly, as though putting death aside were a thing that could be done so easily.

And I went back out to rejoin my own bright, living world.

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A Dinosaur Princess Birthday Party

You know I can't resist posting about the kids' birthday party each year. My inner creative goes nuts as I research everything that has to do with anything connected to the party theme. And I think this every year, but this time, I mean it: This was my favorite birthday party yet!

The theme? A dinosaur princess one, of course.

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Brooklyn's dress. Tiara headbands.

I'll say it was easier to come up with dinosaur-themed things than princess ones. Taking to Google for a "princess party" search ends up with a billion results featuring Disney princesses, but what if you just want a generic princess theme? I settled on lots of gold, sparkles, and crowns, and hoped the shiny dinosaurs were enough. (According to the two birthday kids above, they were.)

Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

Stomp, sparkle, roar, we're turning two and four! Clever...right?

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Cupcake  wrappers . Pearlized  dinosaurs . Gold  dinosaurs . Dinosaur  sprinkles .

Cupcake wrappers. Pearlized dinosaurs. Gold dinosaurs. Dinosaur sprinkles.

I praised myself last year for the genius move of ordering out for all the cakes. This year? Well, it got away from me. I lost January to guests, work travel for Tyson, and family travel for us all. By the time I was thinking - really thinking -- about all things dinosaur and princess and party it was really too late to order anything from a bakery. I tackled all three cakes and 36 cupcakes the day before the party. My cake decorating skills may be mediocre, but it was nothing some sparkles, sprinkles, and gold dinosaurs couldn't save.

(And if you're interested: Layer cake recipe. Buttercream frosting recipe. Chocolate cupcake recipe. Apple spice cupcake recipe. Cream cheese frosting recipe. Everything turned out yummy and I will be using all of these recipes again and again. Especially that chocolate cupcake one - yum!)

Definitely my favorite one. That   pterodactylis giving me life.

Definitely my favorite one. That pterodactylis giving me life.

I create a photo banner every year with pictures from the past twelve months. It's one of my favorite (and most difficult) tasks. We leave it to hang for a few weeks even once the birthday festivities are over, and then I tuck the photos away in a box upstairs. It guarantees that I've at least printed out some photos each year instead of leaving them all to the digital confines of my computer.

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Dinosaur  banners . Gold  balloons .

Dinosaur banners. Gold balloons.

Mostly, it was dinosaurs, dinosaurs everywhere.

Literally everywhere.

Dinosaur  necklace .

Dinosaur necklace.

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Brooklyn is shaking her groove thing with one of these dinosaur tails. Foam crown craft. Ginormous giraffe courtesy of my brother. That's what uncles are for, right?

This was also probably the most relaxing birthday party we've ever had. I toned down the guest list to a more manageable size this year and the kids were all old enough to fend for themselves. I didn't have to worry about nursing a baby or hovering over six tiny hands trying to reach the cupcakes. (Only two tiny hands... *cough* Nolan *cough*) 

Everyone had fun with all things "dine-a-sord" (that's a Nolan-ism) and princess. Caden asked me if we can have another party after quiet time today. I'm enjoying the last few chocolate cupcakes. Also prepping for actual birthdays around here on Tuesday (the twins') and Thursday (Nolan's). There's a chance that our current snowstorm may be keeping us snowed-in tomorrow, but at least our house is decorated appropriately.

If you're interested:

Candy first and third birthday party
Barnyard second birthday party
Ties and Tutus first birthday party

Room to Breathe (Or: Celebrating Less Pile-Ups Around the Train Table)

Words haven’t been coming very easily to me lately. The blank screen or empty page has seemed more intimidating than usual. Part of it is this season of the busy — last week either Tyson or I or both had something each and every evening. Our weekends have been full, with fun things mostly, (a wedding, a birthday party, meeting Santa at “Elsa’s ice castle”), but full nonetheless. My typical free time has been taken over by either Christmas shopping (my goal: 100% online) or a little girl who doesn’t want to nap. I suppose it's hard to find the words when I can't even find the time.

Last weekend, though, I kicked everyone out of the house. Actually, I warned Tyson the night before that they had better be gone before I got up. I needed a few hours alone in the house and I didn't want to see or hear anyone. The seeing part worked well — they vanished before 8:30 — the hearing not so much. (The energy that three kids under four have at 6-something am is truly amazing.)  I attempted to sleep a little longer before I gave in and propped myself up on pillows instead to read a book and wait for the calm. 

I made my way downstairs to a fresh pot of coffee (bonus points, hubby) and a quiet house. I may not have had the words, but I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish without small children around.

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The playroom. (Feel free to shield your eyes from the sheer horror.)

It's been a source of frustration to me for awhile. It was...okay. It worked well enough, and in fact a playroom that I could sort-of-but-not-quite-see from the kitchen was one of the selling points of the house. But things had become sort of hodge-podge since we'd moved in. The bottom line: it wasn't laid out as well as it could be. The kids were constantly tripping over one other (admittedly on purpose sometimes) and there would frequently be pile-ups around the train table. Paintings were falling off the wall, only weakly held by the washi tape that seems to work for everyone else but only causes our creations to float to the floor. (Seriously, any washi tape recommendations?)

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As it always is with me, I didn't really have a plan for the space until suddenly I did, and then I couldn't tackle the makeover fast enough. I set to work, throwing out broken crayons, used coloring books, and dried up Play-Doh. The old artwork came down, markers were relegated to a drawer away from the reach of little hands, furniture was moved and (sort of) dusted.

Then, the fun part. Toys re-arranged. New pictures hung. Colorful wool garlands draped.

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I finished less than two hours later. I was surprised at how much I did in so little time. (Do you KNOW what you can accomplish without small children around?!?) It felt so good

I haven't tackled a project like this for...awhile. Maybe since Nolan's nursery. Going from the before to the after. Exercising my creative muscle (my interior design creative muscle at that) gave me a rush, a sense of energy, a hit of adrenaline. It was like solving a puzzle. Besides the poster frames, everything in the room was stuff that we already had. (I knew I would find a use for those pricey wool garlands that I just had to have for their birthday party.) Truly, all I really did was throw out junk and shift things around. The best kind of update. 

He knows that he's not supposed to eat in here but also that mom is too busy taking pictures to stop him.

He knows that he's not supposed to eat in here but also that mom is too busy taking pictures to stop him.

There is space to play, less junk on the shelves, room to breathe.

It's nothing major, but it's a change, a cleansing, a re-invigorating of a little corner of our home. I feel a tangible relief in the fact that I've created a space that we all actually want to be in now. It wasn't the creation of words, but a different kind of before and after, one that I used to do quite often. A check-in with a part of myself. Oh, hello. You're still there after all. And it doesn't hurt that I completed it all just in time for the toy influx of the holidays. 

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Life Lately

“Come!” Nolan says, taking my hand and dragging me towards the TV. “Cooommmmeee!” And he points, expectantly, to watch another round of “You’re Welcome” from Moana. So much for no screen time before the age of two with this second-round kid. Enjoy, buddy. #thirdkidlife

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Though his actual favorite song is "Wheels on the Bus". "Bus!" he screams, "Buuuuusss!!!" Unfortunately, he knows that we have it on CD in the car. Just FYI, it takes us 3.5 rounds of "bus" to get to Target. 4 to get us to preschool. I don't even want to know how many it's going to take when we road trip it to Iowa.

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First day of Preschool:

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The outtakes:

Asked if they missed me and they both said, "No." In a tone like, duh, mom, why would you even ask that?

First day of dance:

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Stillwater is one of the more picturesque suburbs in the Twin Cities. I danced out there several times a week starting in elementary school, so I kind of feel like I grew up there. It's a bit of a drive, now - 45 minutes or so in light traffic from our house - so I don't get there much now. Saturday we were able to spend the day there, a first with the kids. 

We started out on a boat.

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Caden was in his element and asked 4587 questions about water and boats. Though I think he was disappointed it wasn't a boat like Moana sails on. (Only a little, though.)

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We then moved on to ice cream.

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I would just like to point out that Nolan's ice cream is half of a normal kid's-sized portion, and Caden's, which includes both his cone and the entire cup of ice cream sitting next to him, is almost a full-sized kid's portion. Why is America so overweight anyway? The world may never know.

We ended at the park. But not just any park. Teddy Bear Park.

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Where Nolan and this bear became BFFs. (And he's not sunburned, and no I didn't up the saturation of these images, kid literaly gets that red the second he steps out the door in any sort of humidity. Combine that with running around the playground like a crazy person and the result is a face as red as his pants.)

A little braver every day.

A little braver every day.

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Every. Time. We. Bake.

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Their combined voice power when they run around playing is louder than ten mixers running at the same time, but sure guys, cover your ears while this single mixer whirrs around on medium. YOU GUYS MAKE NO SENSE.

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Speaking of running around playing, Caden and Brooklyn's favorite game lately is to play "Neighborhood". Which, to most kids, would probably be called playing house, but here it's an almost never-ending refrain of: "Do you want to play neighborhood?" "We're playing neighborhood!" "You be the dad and I'll be the mom so we can play neighborhood." Maybe I have Daniel Tiger to thank? I really don't know, but it's adorable. They go to sleep, wake up ("The sun's up! It's morning!"), make food, go to the store, go to work, take care of their babies, and I was especially proud of Caden the other day as I overheard him say, "Daddy's going to make dinner because mommy has to go to a meeting. Bye mommy! Have fun at your meeting!" And also: "Daddy's going to the store so he needs the diaper bag!" and he slung a pink purse over his shoulder. That's right little man, you rock that pink "diaper bag", and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. #feminism

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Let it be known that the summer of 2017 was the official summer of "Do you want to see a trick?"

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Flips, drops, jumps, twirls, slides, and ten types of climbing. Between them there's nothing these three haven't conquered on this playground. And Nolan is RIGHT THERE with the rest of them. Might as well be triplets, after all.