Sunday, March 30, 2014

Going Green

These pictures are all from the week of St. Patrick's Day. Eli has had a little bit of an attitude lately. If I ask him to do something, he often yells, "NEVER!" It's very endearing...

Here he is probably being crabby because we had to drive on the freeway. Any time we get in the car, the first question Eli asks is, "Do we have to go on the freeway?" If the answer is yes, he throws us looks like this. For some unknown reason, Eli totally hates the freeway. His freeway hatred is rubbing off on Carson, as Carson will now ask, "Are we on freeway?" every time the car starts going somewhat fast. Funny boys.
We've entered busy season. It hasn't been that bad so far. Jeff has been home by 8:00 every night, so he has been able to help me with bedtime. One evening while Jeff was working late, the kids were being particularly ornery and whiney and screamy. As I was getting them their bedtime milk, I looked  our the window and saw a beautiful, bright rainbow. It was just what I needed to calm me down and take a breath before wrestling the kids through their bedtime routines.
Eli is quickly learning the benefits of having a younger brother. Carson is practically programmed to begin picking up toys if you just sing the Barney cleanup song for him. He happily sings along while dutifully cleaning any space he occupies at the mere mention of the cleanup song. Eli has picked up on this, so when I ask Eli to clean his room, he demands Carson to join him, and then Eli sits on his bed and sings the cleanup song in an effort to motivate Carson into action while Eli sits on the sidelines reaping the benefits.

I couldn't help but appreciate Eli's cleverness. And I took the stand that as long as his room gets cleaned, he can go about cleaning it through whatever resources he can muster. If that means delegating his duties to his brother, so be it. I got a little glimpse into Eli's potential as a leader, rallying the people around him to get a job done. If that's his personality, we'll let him rally Carson into his chores until Carson revolts.

Likewise, Eli somehow convinced Carson to push him around the backyard one afternoon on one of his toys. Carson pushed Eli around for at least 10 minutes at a time. Then they would switch spots. However, Eli would only push Carson for about 1 minute before making him get off. It was so funny how they had their little system and both boys were as happy as could be. They did that for hours.
Carson. Carson. Carson. His over-a-month-long sleep strike is starting to be humorous now that Jeff has whipped his sleeping routines into shape and has him taking naps again. But before Jeff worked his magic, I had many afternoons of this view from my sewing machine:
After at least an hour of trying to get Carson down for his naps, I would tell him, "Fine, Carson! I don't care if you sleep, but you have to stay in your room for quiet time. You can play with your toys, you can do whatever you want, but you have to stay in your room."

This is one of my favorite tricks. It's kind of like how my sister once told me, "The speed limit is 30 because they expect you to speed and go 35." So I set fake speed limits, so to say, for the boys. I set the rule one notch higher than what I really expect, so they think they're in trouble when they barely break my rule, and they stay quiet and in line.

Case in point, Carson was supposed to be in his room (speed limit is 30), so he "broke the law" just a little by defiantly plopping down on the steps just outside his room. He didn't dare go 40MPH and charge all the way into the kitchen, clearly breaking the rule, he just tried to let it slide a little bit by parking it on the stairs. So he sat there for at least 45 minutes. Perfectly still. Protesting nap time. Shyly eyeing me through the crack between the walls. I still got my 45 minutes worth of quiet time, with his rule breaking keeping him quiet. So win-win.

He finally braved up to emerge looking ever so guilty, knowing he broke the rule not to come out of his room. And I have to take a picture of his guilty little face because he's just too cute when his conscience has the better of him.
Another funny thing about Carson, he is in a phase where he thinks every speck on the ground is a spider. He has to crouch down to inspect every possible spider. One day we were at JoAnn's and there was a pretty big piece of black lint on the ground. Carson was crouched down like this, trying to decipher whether it was a spider, and then Eli ran by, resulting in a gust of wind that whooshed the lint ball right next to Carson. 

Carson. Freaked. Out. It was hilarious. He screamed bloody murder, and had the most scared little quivering lips I've ever seen. 
Spiders don't scare Eli anymore. Rather, leprechauns are the thing that scare our nearly 4-year old. The day before St. Patrick's Day, Eli and I were coloring. Eli started squeezing glue all over his piece of paper saying he was making a trap.

I seized the opportunity to give Eli his first dose of St. Patrick's Day-ness. You see, I set a goal for myself this year to do more holiday related things on holidays. I am such a boring mom. I don't take advantage of the excitement of a holiday to do something fun and different with my kids, so I decided on St. Patrick's Day Eve to begin to change.

"Eli! Are you making a trap for a LEPRECHAUN?!?" I eagerly asked.
"What's a leprechaun?" He timidly replied.
"Well. A leprechaun is a small little guy who likes rainbows and gold and four leaf clovers. And he's really fast. And he comes on St. Patrick's Day -- which is TOMORROW! Are you going to try to trap him?" I began to explain.

This prompted a 2-day constant explanation of what a leprechaun is, and what they do, and are they nice, and do they fly, and why do they like gold, and do they like green, and do they like blue, and why can't we see them, and do they like people and do they like bad people and so on and so forth. Two. Straight. Days. Of endless questions. And concerns.

And then we had another two straight days of Eli blaming leprechauns any time anything around the house was mildly misplaced or not as Eli remembered. "Mom, did the leprechauns drink all our milk? Did the leprechauns move my bed? Did the leprechauns steal my blanket?"

It was only after those four days of detailing the inner depths of a leprechaun that I decided I don't mind keeping the holidays low key because a certain preschooler in our house needs a logical and literal explanation of every new idea he hears. Maybe we'll introduce the Easter Bunny in another five years.
Eli and Carson in their green on St. Patty's Day. Eli wet the bed the morning of St. Patrick's Day, and I coincidentally put a green sheet and green pillowcase on his bed. Eli was so excited I had done his bed up all green so the leprechauns would like his bed.
Carson and I have a nice routine on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We drop Eli off at preschool, and then Carson gets free reign of the TV while eating all the string cheese his little heart desires. He has to have a pillow on his lap to watch a show, which I think is completely adorable.
Eli had a St. Patrick's Day party at preschool and learned about the Blarney Stone (which I don't even know that much about). All I know is if you kiss it, it gives you good luck. Eli got his very own Blarney Stone that he and Carson spent the majority of the holiday smooching. When Carson was told to go to his room for bedtime, Carson couldn't part with the Blarney Stone, so at 8:00 at night, Jeff was wandering out in the backyard trying to find a "Blarney Stone" for Carson. If only I had known earlier in my motherhood career how entertained my kids would be from kissing a dirty old rock!
Carson is a total mimicker. He completely adores Eli. He does EVERYTHING Eli does. If Eli is ever out of sight, all Carson says is, "Whereli" It's all one word when he says it. I love watching Carson trying to keep up with his older brother, and following his every move.

With the nice weather, we've been going on a lot of walks, and I see Carson's mimicking most obviously when I let the boys get out of the stroller for the last leg of our walk. Carson is Eli's little shadow, rolling wherever Eli rolls, picking up whatever rock Eli picks up, veering off the sidewalk at the exact same places Eli veered off the sidewalk. It melts my heart to see how much Carson looks up to Eli and how he thinks whatever Eli's doing is the coolest thing in the whole world.

Yaaayyy for spring and lots of park days!
We were having a hard time with Eli at bedtime about a month ago. We used to let Eli play in his room with the door closed for as long as he wanted at night, and he just fell asleep on his own when he got tired. But I started noticing he was staying up waaaaaaay too late and wasn't falling asleep until he was past the point of exhaustion because he would get too busy playing.

We instigated a rule where if he stays in bed at night, he gets to play Nintendo64 the next day. If he gets out of bed, that's fine, but he loses Nintendo. For a boy who loves Nintendo, that was all it took to get him to stay in bed and go right to sleep at night. It's been awesome!
I had a million curtain orders over the last month, so my kids got used to seeing me stuck behind my sewing machine. I have noticed and learned to appreciate that my kids like to be where I am. If I am in the living room, they are in the living room. If I have to do a load of laundry, they meander downstairs with me to do the laundry. If I'm getting ready in the bathroom, they're shuffling through my makeup with me.

I sometimes find myself saying things to them like, "Why are you in my stuff? Don't you want to go play with cars or do puzzles or trains?" And they look at me like I'm crazy. Like why would they want to do that stuff when they could be right next to me instead? So even though they make simple tasks a little more time consuming, and make a mess of my makeup and look bored out of their minds  to be enduring my daily routine, it's sweet when I realize they are happy to just be with me.

One day last week as I was not wanting to be behind my sewing machine, but needing to get orders out, I was grumpily pining away and wishing I could just be with my kids without the extra responsibilities of maintaining a business. This is an inner battle I have often as I'm sure many mothers do with trying to find a balance between all the millions of things we have to do, and all the time our kids require of us.

So on this day, with my mom guilt in full swing, it was particularly sweet when Eli quietly sat down next to me and played with an empty bobbin and a threadless spool, racing them along the table, giving me smiles as I finished up the order. He was so content to just be there, right by me, even though I was a little preoccupied. He could have been anywhere else in the whole house, or outside since it was a nice day, but he wanted to be with me. And I was grateful to have him there, easing the stress of my orders.
And then we have this cuddle bug, fresh out of the bath, in the middle of his mandatory post bath snuggles.
I love my boys. And as they get older, and I see them together, I'm so grateful to have two boys. They are the sweetest brothers. They are so much fun, and I love having them in our family!

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Here's a slew of pictures that have fallen between the cracks. First up: Jeff's birthday. We had angel food cake and that's the extent of what he wanted for his big day. Also I surprised him with a ladder. I mostly bought the ladder because we have Amazon Prime and the ladder shipped for free with Amazon Prime. So I kind of wanted to see the feat of getting a 6-foot ladder shipped to me for free. It was just as awesome as one would imagine.
Carson has started sticking his hands in his... "pockets." Even when he has pants on with real pockets, he still prefers his version.
We took the boys to Cherry Berry for our monthly family date night. The boys slurped down worms while they enjoyed a little TV. We need to teach them to be better dates.
I'll blame the blurriness of this picture on maintaining the anonymity of Eli's joy school group. But I don't think I've said yet that we have started up a little joy school with a few moms in our neighborhood! Eli LOOOOOOVES it! And he does so good! He listens and participates and is learning so much! It has been just what we needed to keep Eli busy throughout the week.
David and Mary came to visit us last month. The boys LOVE having their grandparents stay over.
Then we went down to Ben and Tana's baby's blessing for one last hurrah with all the cousins.
I love all the boy cousins Eli has on the Excell side. The curse has ended up being a blessing because they are all so cute together, and Eli adores his older cousins.

Behold the mildest winter that ever was. This year has been awe-some! We spent the majority of February at the park. Because it already felt like spring. In February. That's what I'm talking about!
Here's Eli throwing me some sass because I told him to smile for the camera.
Confession -- We have never been too great at brushing Eli's teeth. We have started trying to be more consistent in the daily fight against cavities, and somewhere along the way Eli started doing this move for teeth brushing time. It works like a charm. He holds out his cheeks, and I "tickle his teeth." We've finally got this tooth brushing thing down. Only cost us a few cavities to get there.
Carson has continued to prove he will be our most medically expensive child. All in one day he fell off our bed, landing on our nightstand, splitting his lip open so bad we were on the verge of rushing him in for stitches/glue, and then he banged his head on his door for nap time so hard that he gave himself a bloody nose. This kid!
Eli's best friend moved away this month. Tears were shed. Eli was being super ornery the day after his friend moved away, and I said to him, "Eli! Why are you so crabby today?!?" Then he quietly replied, "Because I'm sad Benjamin moved away." :'(
Here's Eli in happier times.
One day on our walk, I was pushing the stroller when Eli startled me by reaching up through a tiny slit in the stroller to hold my hand. It melted my heart.
And here we have Eli. Sucking his thumb. Mind you, he has gone probably 6 months now without sucking his thumb. And he's suddenly started again. WHY?!?! When we tell him to stop, he covers his eyes thinking we can't see him. So then we tell him he's going to suck his thumb off his hand. We're good parents.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

No Sleep Tonight

Just in case anyone ever asks you, "Would you rather have your child be out of his mind crazy during the day, but sleeps like a champ, or would you rather have your child be perfectly content all day, but his sleep schedule is completely unpredictable and nonexistent," let me tell you the correct answer.

It's the first. And after much observation and experimentation, I can say that with certainty.

Eli was a hard toddler. As all toddlers are. But he was pretty nuts. However, the one thing he would give me was my rest time. My sanity recovery period. The blessed four-hour daily nap he blessed our lives with. Not to mention the consistent 12 hours at night. He needed a lot of rest to keep that body functioning at such an accelerated pace during his wakeful periods.

And then there's Carson. Who is also a hard toddler, but in a totally opposite way. Of course. Because it would be too easy to give me another kid just like the first one who I finally mildly figured out.  Carson is pretty mellow. He's a go-with-the-flow kinda guy. Until you utter the words "bedtime." And then he shoots off like a loose cannon and takes you out with him into the utter depths of exhausted despair.
There were signs of Carson's sleepless countenance ever since his first day of life. My first night with Carson, I put him in the nursery at the hospital. Every time the nurse came into my room with Carson, she would be laughing and telling me Carson was such a funny baby because he would be totally asleep, and suddenly be wide awake in a matter of seconds. I remember her saying, "He wakes up and is wide awake, ready to go."

I didn't fully understand this until I saw it for myself. Carson was sure to show me of his ways as soon as we brought him home from the hospital. I remember watching endless episodes of "The Bachelor" at 3:00 in the morning with wide-eyed Carson. At first it was easy to brush off as him having his days and nights mixed up, so I let it slide.

But then I noticed he didn't sleep a whole lot during the day either. I remember one day after Carson had been up most of the night when he was less than a week old. I had Carson in his bouncer, and he was looking tired. I bounced him a little bit until he dozed off, but then I'd look over at him five minutes later and he'd be awake again! This is the defining moment of when I either jinxed myself, or had incredible insight into my future with Carson as I made a mental note that he really didn't sleep that much. Especially for a newborn!

You see, I have this brother. And I've heard horror stories from his younger years. He hardly ever slept as a baby. And he still doesn't need sleep. He can consistently function off as little as one hour of sleep at night with a booster night of 4-8 hours in there every once in a while. I began to fear this trait was genetic, and Carson was a carrier. I began to mentally prepare for years of wakeful nights as Carson's refusal to sleep grew more prominent with his age.

I once looked to myself as the sleep expert, the sleep nazi, the ultimate sleep trainer, but Carson was wiping me of every sleep title I held. I birthed with him a wave of humility aimed directly at me, as Carson left me repeatedly calling my sister and scouring the internet for tips and tricks on getting a baby to close those never weary eyes.

We have sleep trained the kid at least 12,000 times. It works for one day and then he's back to his hourly wakings. So we were left to try other methods like singing him to sleep, or lurking in his doorway shushing him with every whimper upon bedtime, or putting him in with Eli hoping the buddy system would calm his night time woes. We put him in a toddler bed per our doctor's suggestion, we took away his binky, we blamed molars coming in, we tried getting him attached to stuffed animals and blankets. Nothing. Works.

Except when it does. Like sometimes one thing will work. And then Jeff and I will have long detailed conversations about it like so:
Me: I think we got it figured out. So we have to read him one book with Eli. Then we have to go into his room and read him two more books. Then we have to sing him two songs. Then we put his blanket on and say goodnight. You have to let him know who's boss. Then you quietly leave the room as you sing, with your voice quieting ever so much with each note. I think this will work.
Jeff: Yeah. That worked really good tonight. I think he has finally learned to stay in his toddler bed. I bet he'll sleep through the night tonight.
Me: I was watching Super Nanny all day today, and I got a lot of good tips in case he does wake up tonight. Here's what we do...

And then BAM! One night's success is another night's failure. As soon as we utter the words, "I think we've got it figured out" in reference to Carson's sleep situation, he flips our bedtime world upside down and throws us unexpected curve balls.

Carson: Oh. You think you have me figured out? How about I puke all over my pillow tonight. The one night I went down without a fuss? Yeah. It's because I was actually sick. And now I'm barfing. So have fun with that.
Carson: Yes. I do like when you sing me to sleep. That's really nice. I will make you do it for hours. Every. Single. Night. I will make you buy a CD player because you'll get the genius idea to record yourself singing me songs to play outside my door in an effort to fool me into thinking you're still there, when really you're not. But guess what. As soon as the CD player arrives, I will refuse to respond to singing as a method to get me to sleep. Sucker.
Carson: One more song. One more book. Blanket on. Blanket off. One more song. One more book. Milk. Milk. Milk. Light on. Light off. Giggle Giggle. Welcome to your slow and painful death by exhaustion.

And then when you get him to sleep, you're never safe. No. Just as you lay your head down to finally get some shut eye, that's when you hear him chatting in his room. Because he's ready to be up for the day. At 11:00 at night. He's already had a good three hours of sleep. He's ready to go.

Or maybe he makes it past 11. Maybe he sleeps until 3. Then you get the pleasure of waking up to him breathing on your face (if you're Jeff) and saying, "Make pancakes, Daddy." Or maybe you hear him get up at 4 and play in his room for two hours. And then there's the times he wakes up at 12:00 then 1:00 then 2:00 then 3:00 then he'll be nice and let us sleep until 6:00 when he decides to be up for the day.

Bonus -- He doesn't let me go in his room anymore. If I go in to ease his midnight fusses, Carson goes ballistic. Full on rage, anger and ferociousness. If Jeff goes in, Jeff just has to say, "Go to bed, Carson." And bam. Carson's out. Provided I haven't already been in to get him in a tizzy. Then we're all up for hours.

Oh. And have I yet to mention he's refusing to nap? It's been over a month now and the kid has decided naps aren't his thing. Mostly because naps involve sleeping, and he's never been a big fan.

Sooooo. There's Carson Baby. And there's the reason Carson may always be our baby because he's making it hard to imagine being up with him plus another baby all night long. Heaven. Help. Me.

Carson. If you're reading this 20 years from now, put down your computer. Go to the store, and buy me a bouquet of roses for the bags you have permanently left under my eyes. Thanks. Now go to bed.

Monday, March 03, 2014


Once upon a time when Jeff and I were celebrating our very first Valentine's Day together, I wrote him a book. Six years later, I reread the book for the first time and laughed until I cried. I figured you might enjoy it too.