Monday, May 25, 2015

Haircuts and Cookouts

I finally gave in. Christopher got a haircut. He didn't love it.

I felt the same way when I saw all of his lovely curls fall to the floor. Honestly, though, I think he will feel much cooler this summer without that long hair sticking to the back of his neck. And I can always let his hair grow out until the curls come back.

Aside from the hair-related trauma, it was a lovely long weekend, despite the rain. Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, I look forward to long weekends. Having Ben here one extra day is so nice, and it means a break from caring for my niece. (I adore my niece, but I'd be lying if I said having three kids here isn't challenging at times.)

We had cookouts all three nights, two with family and one with friends. I had several gin and tonics. And a bloody Mary. We took the kids on a bike ride to the lock and dam on the Mississippi River. I went to Target by myself.

We tried to go the Aquarium at MOA on Sunday. What was I thinking? The place was packed. Clare and I did go down the log chute ride, though. Have you ever been on that? She begged and begged. I had her watch it to make sure she really wanted to do it. She did. Well, I'd never been on the ride before, and had no idea it is filled with huge, creepy, animatronic characters. So of course she was scared out of her mind. I don't think she minded the actual ride, but those statues did her in. Poor girl. After we got off the ride, she told me she'd wait until she was 10 to try it again. Then she collapsed into the stroller.

This week is Clare's last week of preschool. I am both happy about and dreading this schedule change. It will be nice not to have to rush off in the morning, but it also means no break. Clare is doing two camps this summer, though, so she'll have a little time with her preschool friends then.

I am looking forward to lots of park time, though. Even if it means holding Christopher down to put sunscreen on him, especially now that the back of his neck is bare.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Number Nine

Just a quick post to note that today is Ben and my 9th wedding anniversary. We are celebrating by doing...nothing. I might use the day as an excuse to have a glass of wine tonight, though.

One of the challenges we've faced lately is the division of labor on the weekends. I tend to dump the kids on Ben on Saturdays and Sundays, because I badly need a break. I get frustrated when Ben has other plans, which to be fair usually involve yard work or other house projects. I know these things have to be done, too, and it is impossible for me to mow the lawn or do much other yard work during the day, especially now that I have Josie.  This situation has sparked more than one argument.

Usually, though, we manage to get everything done (or decide to ignore it), and have some family time. Ben really is a great partner when it comes to the daily grind. He does the dishes. He puts Clare to bed. He gives the kids their baths.  He gets up with the kids on Sundays so I can sleep in. And, he NEVER complains when I tell him I have plans with friends or my sister. (Not that I have plans all that often. I am boring.) And, most importantly, he is a great dad. The kids shriek with joy when he comes home.

He doesn't read this blog, but I'll say it anyway. Thanks for everything, Ben.

Monday, May 4, 2015

19 Months

I went on a kid-free trip last weekend with some friends. We rented a cabin on a lake in Hayward, Wisconsin. The weather was beautiful and we stayed in our pajamas drinking coffee until noon each morning. We also drank a lot of beer. We were in Wisconsin, after all. It was a wonderful and much needed break. Everything went really well here, too. Oh, except for this:

That's eight stitches. As Ben put it, he tried to "break the stair with his chin." Ben raced him to urgent care (with a crabby Clare in tow), only to arrive two minutes after they closed. He ended up in the Emergency Room at Children's in St. Paul. After taking care of a screaming Christopher and buying some french fries at McDonald's for a hungry Clare, he finally got the kids to bed at midnight. Christopher has had more scrapes, cuts, and bruises in his 19 months than Clare has had in her almost 4 years. He just plays rougher. He throws his little body around with abandon.

He is obsessed with cars. If we're in the front yard, he'll stop whatever he's doing to watch cars drive by. We were at the wolf exhibit at the Como Zoo a few weeks ago, which is situated near the parking lot, and Christopher was thrilled. He was completely uninterested in the wolves. There were SO MANY cars there. What more could a little boy want?

Christopher always wants to eats pickles. He keeps forgetting that he hates them. He does love coffee, however. Since I drink decaf, I let him indulge in a few sips.

Ben keeps threatening to cut his hair. It hasn't happened yet, but I think I am going to lose that battle soon. He will get pretty sweaty this summer, and his hair will be glued to his neck. It will be a sad day for me, though. I just love that hair.

He follows multi-step instructions, including throwing things in the garbage, something he just loves to do. He added the word "cookie" to his vocabulary today, and has started nodding his head "yes" when he wants to do something. Usually that is either eating or going outside, his two favorite activities. He is attached to his blanket. Luckily I have two that are basically the same.

He is a screen junkie. He knows how to operate the PBS Kids app on my phone. A few days ago he was reading the "Cat in the Hat" book. He kept trying to swipe it, while shouting, "Go! Go! Go!" (For those who don't know, the theme song to the "Cat in the Hat" cartoon features those words.)

Christopher is still my sweet boy, but he has attitude to spare. I was worried about leaving him last weekend, but he made it very easy. He was VERY happy to see me when I got back, though. I will never say no to one of his huge hugs.

As for Miss Clare,  I had to share this funny little gem from her. We were playing catch the other day, and she asked if I was ready for the ball. "Yes," I said. "Are you born to be ready?" She asked. Yes Clare, yes I am.

And now, a video of Clare and Christopher being silly gooses.

For awhile I thought this was going to have to lead off this post. He came around.


He is SO uncomfortable with Baba Ralph.

At the park.

Hard at work at Baba Steve's office.

Ready to walk to the Groveland Tap. Yes, Clare's baby is riding in her shirt.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

18 Months

He loves having his picture taken, but he does not love sitting still. Oh, Christopher. How'd you get to be so big?

Last week we were at the Children's Museum, and Christopher was getting hassled by another little girl. She was pushing him out of the way, and trying to take any toy he had. Her mom was right there, and she kept saying, "Leave the baby alone!" even though Christopher was bigger than that little girl. Anyway, I let it play out because I wanted to see how he would handle it. He looked surprised at first, and just ignored her the first few times she did it. We ran into her again a bit later, and she AGAIN pushed Christopher. He, very calmly, firmly grabbed both of her arms and moved her out of his way. It was hilarious. And that other mom sure has her hands full.

Christopher has added a few words to his vocabulary: go, ball and CLARE. That one is the best. He sees her and says, "Hi Clare!" Except he says "Care." It is adorable. He tries to repeat all of the words that I say. I love having little conversations with him. He is so proud when he can correctly identify an object, and since I am powerless in the face of his smile, I give him the positive feedback he is looking for.

Christopher is very interested in what other kids are doing, and tries to copy them. (Obviously, his role model is frequently Clare.) We had a playdate last week with a herd of boys, plus Clare, and they were running around the house like maniacs. Christopher was chasing after them, hands in the air, grunting and screaming with the best of them. Sometimes he went the opposite way, but he was having a ball.

He loves to feed people. If he is eating crackers, he shares his snack. And he is determined about it. He will stuff food in your face, and YOU WILL EAT IT. Even if your mouth is already full. It is sweet, though.

He is still a good eater and good sleeper, but he has terrible table manners. He throws food on the floor constantly. I immediately take his plate away, but the lesson hasn't sunk in. I can't remember when Clare outgrew this habit. Luckily we have wood floors, so clean up is easy.

He has been struggling a bit with separation anxiety. He just wants his mama. I love the hugs I get, but I don't love the crying. The other day I was headed out somewhere, and he stood by the backdoor sobbing as I walked to the garage. I could see him still standing there as I backed the car out of the garage. Ben told me he got over it 30 seconds later. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. I am glad he recovers quickly, but it can still be stressful.

We are visiting my parents for Easter. Clare is pumped for the Easter Bunny, and doesn't seem nearly as scared as she was of Santa. This doesn't seem logical to me, but okay. Maybe it's because we've been kind of vague about what the Easter Bunny actually does.

Happy Easter!

Monday, March 23, 2015


Clare has become an unreliable narrator. I don't think she's necessarily lying on least not every time. For example, the other day I asked her how her tumbling class went. She told me that it was a very small group that day - just her. I asked her if her friend Benjamin was there, knowing full well he was. "Nope," she said. Hmmmm...

Then there are the times when she just outright denies things, like saying she doesn't have to go to the bathroom when she clearly does. Or, she'll go into the other room and tell Ben that I said it was okay if she has another cookie. I didn't. I guess she is just trying to manipulate us, to see what she can get away with.

The other day, she told me that she and her preschool friend Ella did not want to play with another boy in their class, Sam, because Sam "was being mean to them." I was concerned, and asked her what Sam was doing. Well, it turned out he just wasn't following their specific instructions for HOW to play with them. I informed Clare that is not the same thing as being mean. (I think Clare will face this problem a lot in her life. She has very specific ideas about how things need to be.)

Then, though, she told me another story. She said that every time she plays with another little girl at her school, the girl pulls Clare's hair. Is this true, or is it just another tale? I asked her what the teachers did about this, and she said, and I quote, "The teacher never sees it." Hmmm, again.

I am going to mention it to her teacher, just in case. Clare didn't seem all that upset by it, or I would call her immediately. I also want Clare to deal with her own problems, though, and I am sure she will also be faced with a little hair pulling now and then.

Of course, now that she has this new, shorter cut, maybe she won't.

So how do you handle your child's truthiness? I am hoping this is normal, but maybe it's not?

In other Clare news, she is so excited to be able to play outside again. (Yes, it's cold again. But it won't last, right?) Last week, when I asked Clare if she wanted to ride her bike outside, you would have thought it was Christmas morning. She was jumping up and down and shrieking with glee. She was seriously more excited than I have ever seen her. Except maybe when she sees her cousin Josie.

She is loving school, and despite her bossiness her teacher told me she has lots of friends. She is already busy planning picnics (complete with guest list) and her birthday party in June. She really wants to celebrate her birthday at school because apparently the kids get to be the line leader and hold the maracas? A big thrill, I know. Sadly for Clare, her birthday will almost always fall outside of the school year. I don't know if they'll do anything for the summer birthday kids or not.

She talks constantly - her vocabulary is huge and she is funny. She loves to tell knock knock jokes that she makes up herself. Those are pretty hit or miss, but I laugh sometimes. Just not when she tells me to.

We start soccer tonight, and Ben is going to be her coach. Hopefully that will keep her fear at bay. She still has trouble starting new things, but she is very aware of this fact. I hope this helps her learn to cope quickly. She is already much better than she was, partly because I understand her temperament so much better now that I can help her prepare.

I am sure I'll say more about this in her birthday post in a few months, but age 3 been tough. I am looking forward to this summer and age 4. And lots of warm weather!

She walked around the house in this get-up for hours.

Friday, March 13, 2015


My grandpa passed away last week, and I really want to write something here to honor him. I've been having trouble finding the right words, though. Everything I write feels clunky. So I apologize if it comes across that way. I'll say this, though: I loved my grandfather so, so much. I was lucky to have had him in my life for 35 years. Even though I knew logically that he was not going to live forever, I always kind of thought he would. I will miss him dearly.

Baba Bob, as he was known to Clare, grew up on the Iron Range in Hibbing, Minnesota. His dad worked in the iron ore mines there. Bob left town when he was 20, though, to join the Navy. I love the following story, and I think it exemplifies the Family Impatience. When Bob went to enlist in the military, he tried the office of the Marines first. There was no one there. "I am not going to wait around," my grandpa said, and headed for the office of the Navy instead. Thank God he did. I wouldn't be alive if he hadn't, because it was the Navy that sent him to Chicago, where he met my grandmother on a blind date. They were together for just six weeks before he shipped out to the South Pacific, where he spent the war on Guam listening to enemy radio transmissions. My grandparents were married in November of 1945. That's 69 years of marriage. Amazing. At my sister's wedding, the band did the "anniversary" dance. You know, the one where each married couple stays on the floor, leaving as the years are called out until only the couple who has been married the longest remains. Well, my grandparents were the last ones standing. When asked how they made it work for so long, my grandpa yelled, "Don't talk!" He was joking, of course. He and my grandmother had a loving relationship, and he talked plenty.

My grandpa worked in radio (ending up as the station manager of WKTY in La Crosse), owned a carpet store, traveled the world, and participated in an exercise program at UW-La Crosse for more than forty years. He was still going regularly just a few months before he died. Most importantly, to me, he was the perfect grandfather.

He was funny. So funny. I visited him in the nursing home at Christmas time. "There's a nurse here I call Godzilla," he said. "Well, not to her face." He always had a story and a joke. It was so fun talking to him. He could be serious too, of course. I remember talking to him when I was trying to decide where to attend college. I wanted to move away, but I felt guilty, thinking my parents would be upset. "You have to live your own life," he said to me. So simple, yet so true.

He loved his grandchildren. I know he loved his great grandchildren, too, and I am so happy he met them. Clare adored him.

There is so much more I could say. There are so many stories. I want to write them all down. For now, though, I'll end with this. My dad described him this way in the obituary he wrote for the paper: "His family and friends will always remember him as a great husband, father and grandfather, and for his intelligence, thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness, and exquisite sense of humor."

You were the best, Grandpa. I'll miss you always.

Robert H. Topinka
August 24, 1922 - March 4, 2015

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

17 months

I might cut his hair someday.
If there is a door open, it must be closed. This is the law in the land of Christopher. Is Mommy still standing at the refrigerator removing food for lunch? Doesn't matter. That door will be closed come hell or high water. The same applies to drawers.

This has been a stressful few weeks for a number of reasons, one of them being Christopher's raging diaper rash thanks to a GI infection/teething. We're not sure which. Before that, it was a cold. And before THAT, it was a header off a table at the library, resulting in a trip to urgent care. The conclusion: he did not have a concussion, but he does have a nasty goose egg that is currently a lovely shade of purple. So it has been a rough few weeks for the little guy. He seems to be slowly but surely on the mend, though, which is good because I miss his smiling face and good-natured personality.

He seems to have a new word every day. His current favorite is cheese, which he yells with glee when I get out the camera, or when I open the refrigerator. (That he then tries to close.)  In addition to his other words, he now says baby, eat, boot, Josie (his cousin), car and nana (banana). He tries to say window. He says vroom vroom a lot when driving his cars across the floor. When asked, he can point to his head and his feet.

He enjoys sleeping, and typically doesn't fight naps or bedtime. (Except for the past few weeks when he's been ill or hurt.) When I tell him it's time to go to bed, he walks over to the stairs, ready to go up. In fact, sometimes I think he gets annoyed that we spend too much time putting him to bed. The other night I was singing to him, and he kept grumbling and whining, so I stopped. He rolled over, thumb in mouth. I was dismissed.

One part of the bedtime routine that he does love is reading books. He'll stand at his bookcase, looking at the selection. One will get tossed on the floor, while the chosen one is brought to me. I wish I could know what he is thinking. I have no idea what his criteria are. Right now he is especially enjoying first word books, although "Goodnight Moon" has always been a favorite, as is the kids' version of "Pride and Prejudice" that I couldn't resist buying for him.

He loves saying hi and waving goodbye. He adores Clare, and tries to say her name. It's a hard one for him, though. Other times he sees her coming and turns and runs. Or, he hides whatever he's playing with so she can't take it. He'll wave his arms at her to keep her away. It's pretty funny watching them interact.

It's a fun but exhausting age. It will be even more exhausting once my niece is with us full time, but I think it will be fun, too, especially when Christopher and Josie are old enough to play together. And Clare is actually very helpful when she wants to be, so I think we'll be okay.

When I went to download the pictures of Clare and Christopher I found, and I am not exaggerating, 40 pictures of parts of faces, walls, and who knows what. I also found the evidence of who was responsible, as if I couldn't tell:

Clare really want a picture of herself and Christopher with their stuffed toys. Christopher wasn't having it, but that didn't stop Clare from striking a pose.

Read to me, please.
Practicing Yoga.