“In a Continual State of Inelegance”

That’s how Jane Austen said hot weather made her feel. Now throw in lugging around three huge boys and insane temperatures, and the English novelist couldn’t be more apropos in describing my summertime experience.

But if looking a little rough around the edges is what it takes to get the clan out and about for fun and adventure, this unfashionable mama is willing to make the sacrifice.

A proud Papa loves his 3 Amigos.

And perhaps soon I will have more time to deal with this “inelegance” because we just found a part-time Nanny, who will begin helping me out in late August. I’ve been searching for a while and finally found a perfect match for the fam and our needs. Her name is Jessie and she’s an education major who adores kids, has tons of experience, and seems smart, dependable and energetic.

Jessie will help with light housework, basic child care, taking the kids on outings or to appointments, pre-K and other academic-type stuff, arts and crafts, outdoor activities and even hopefully getting the kids excited about music (she plays the piano) … whatever it takes to assist me in giving my kids the best care possible, while also affording me some extra time. I can’t wait for her to start!

Another big change is that Stephen left his corporate job of 10+ years and now works for an IT start-up. After searching for months, he landed a job that will require he learn and use newer technologies, take more leadership roles, and be a more creative developer.

Stephen’s also telecommuting full-time (read: he works from home while the 3 Amigos and I are here), which has certainly taken some getting used to. Luckily, the boys and I are gone a lot. Sure, we’ve had some growing pains and had to iron out a few wrinkles, but after just three weeks, I’d say it’s going pretty well.

Gabriel attempts to grab a geyser @ the spray ground.

Houston’s 4th birthday was June 26. Aunt Dina, and cousins Kara and Meredith arrived for their three-day visit that day, which was an awesome gift unto itself. We had a pool/slip-and-slide party in the afternoon with a few close friends and neighbors. We didn’t want the get-together to be anything major, since Houston’s big present was out trip to Tweetsie. The remainder of the girls’ visit featured a trip to the spray ground, McDonald’s and the Children’s Museum.

Independence Day weekend entailed swimming at Miss Heather’s and then cooking s’mores and hotdogs by campfire at our house on Saturday. After hitting the early service at church on Sunday, we attended a neighborhood party, which also featured more pool fun.

It seems that with each outing — whether in a kiddy, inflatable or real pool — Houston’s swimming abilities improve by leaps and bounds. It’s an amazing thing to watch both his knowledge and confidence progress so quickly and, of course, little bros following suit by attempting to emulate all of Houston’s new skills.

On the actual holiday, I was wracking my brain as to what the kids and I would do. Stephen needed some free time to prepare for his first day on the job, which began on July 5, and none of my limited local options seemed like they would be worth the effort.

Zeke is thrilled by the aquatic awesomeness of the spray ground.

So, I took the kids on an impromptu three-day visit to Gramsey and Papa’s. The boys were in awe of the downpours, hail and lightning/thunder we witnessed on the drive up. While there, the kids picked veggies; took nature hikes with Grams “the naturalist;” gave Dina a run for her money; were thrilled to have Kara spend one night; had a great time hitting Auntie Lisa’s house; and were treated to some brief time with Uncle Albert, as well as a rare hang-out from Cousin Rick.

It was some time this week that Zeke not only earned his first reward sticker in a while, but also turned the corner on his near-constant contrarian behavior. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a short fuse or a fighting spirit, but I’m hopeful that Zeke is nearing the end of his terrible 2s. His misbehaviors have become short-lived, and he’s easier to calm and more willing to follow instruction. It’s wonderful to see more of our sweet Z-bird and less of the hooligan that has possessed his body for nearly a year. Praise the Lord!

The following weekend, Granny and Grumps visited. Grumps is looking and feeling great — what a blessing it is to have the boys’ beloved grandfather back in the swing of things. And then Granny and Grumps had the boys up last weekend to give Stephen and I time to get the house in working order. Even though they were asleep in the car when Granny took them to see a waterfall (one of their current obsessions), the boys had a blast in the mountains.

Some Moms-Club kids take a break from swimming.

Stephen and I have been attending LifeCommunity (a.k.a. Sunday school) at church since July 10. Ours is called Family On the Grow (FOG) and is for the parents of babies to preschoolers. It’s an intimate forum for learning, asking questions and discussing relevant topics. Stephen and I are excited to be a part of the thought-provoking class.

We kicked off the week of July 11 by tagging with Daddy to a lunch date with Uncle Greg and Mr. Max. Unfortunately, I was starved and had low blood sugar, and subsequently showed my butt by overreacting to some minor kid misbehavior. My rant was quick, but I hate that two good friends of the family had to be subjected to it.

Max, who has very well-behaved older kids of his own, wrote me a nice note, reassuring me that I’m doing a good job as a mom and our hard work will indeed pay off — “I see the discipline you have exerted in the lives of your children, and the godly influence you bestow will be rewarded” — and offering insight as to how he and his wife learned to handle such parental challenges. Thanks, Mr. Max!

After two weeks off, we returned to Miss Pat’s on July 12, and she was blown away by the twins’ use of questioning, sentence length and structure, use of descriptive words, and overall chit-chatty behavior. Both Pat and I agree that articulation is really the only area in which they could improve, so she gave them an assessment specific to this speech skill. Both boys scored within range for their age, but toward the lower end. Nothing to worry about, just something to work on.

Houston does a happy jig during his swim lessons.

In fact, Pat said, “I can tell that you and Stephen read to them a lot.” What a nice thing to hear. I mean, I oftentimes have to force myself to do books with the kids, since I’m usually exhausted by nap time and their bedtimes. So, it’s extremely rewarding to know that our diligence is having positive results.

Miss Pat gave them another round of tests this week. The gist is that they are scoring solidly in their age group in every category — everything from communicating about comparisons, colors and opposites, to relaying comprehension, logic and empathy — and well into the 3, 4 and near-5-year-old range. Great news and proof that Miss Pat has been a godsend.

On a related note, the boys had their first visit to “story time” at the library. The subject was “planes and trains,” which I figured was the perfect opportunity to give them a whirl at the notably quiet facility. Well, the 3 Amigos couldn’t have been better. They were attentive to the storyteller, loved the readings and took part in group participation. They were even well-behaved during a post-library oil change and inspection for the mini-van. Way to go, boys!

It’s not just books they love. The 3 Amigos adore music and aren’t ashamed to show it. It was long overdue, but we finally got some new VeggieTales CDs and other kids albums, and the boys have already memorized lots of Sunday school ditties and silly songs.

Houston patiently awaits a ride in the canoe.

Thankfully, their repertoire has grown beyond “Kumbaya,” although I believe that is still the twins’ favorite (since they unexpectedly break into it at the most random of moments). Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them.” I don’t think my kids will ever have that problem.

Some other recent fun includes a Moms Club outing to Faucette Farms; Jack and Lettie’s 5th birthday party at a waterpark in Charlotte; a trek to Matthew and Jonathan’s for a never-dull playdate; and trying to “catch it” when Mommy creates rainbows with the garden hose.

Health updates: the dudes are at the tail end of a nasty summer cold; Zeke had a check-up with his allergist, who tweaked his medicines; and Houston had his annual pediatric check-up. Not only is he age 4, but he got four vaccines (yikes!), weighs 44 pounds and 44 inches tall.

Lastly, R.I.P Yoda-fish II.

Click the top photo to see a few pics in the June gallery; the above photo for shots of Houston’s swim lessons (many are crappy, but sports photography is not my forte); and the pic of Zeke to check out our first trip to the spray ground.

A Day Out w/ Thomas

On June 11, we took the boys to see Thomas the Train at Tweetsie Railroad as an early 4th birthday gift for Houston. Since the amusement park is located about five minutes from Uncle Adam’s house, we stayed the weekend at his mountain cabin.

That first night was a rough ‘cause both Zeke and Gabriel woke up with coughing fits. Since then, we’ve upped Zeke’s allergy meds to include both Singulair and an inhaler, and have also been giving Gabriel some nightly antihistamines.

The birthday boy strikes a pose w/ our beloved Thomas.

Thus far, these medicine tweaks have helped with their cough-variant asthma (yeah, we’re pretty sure Gabe has the condition, as well, but we won’t know for sure till he has his allergist appointment later this month), but unfortunately, we didn’t have those extra prescriptions on hand while in the mountains.

Despite sleep interruptions on Friday, the boys were raring to go on Saturday. Adam went to Tweetise before us so he could hook up with Mr. Willie and his kids, Jack and Lettie (also twins). They’re our pals from Charlotte, who we don’t get to see that often, but they were able to make the trek to celebrate Houston’s birthday.

We were also treated to a visit from Granny and Grumps, who came to town for the occasion. Granny did Tweetsie with us, while Grumps vegged out at Adam’s.

The kids’ first ride was the merry-go-round. Houston and Zeke were comfortable, but Gabe was a white-knuckled about the whole thing. Next, they “drove” the racecars. The one Zeke and I were maneuvering broke down, so the lady in the car behind us actually had to push us into the finish line. Zeke thought that was way cool.

The 3 Amigos fly on the airplane ride @ Tweetsie.

The airplane ride was a huge hit, but the tilt-a-whirl was a bust. Everyone hated it, except Houston. “Too fast,” Zeke told Daddy, while Gabe shrieked and clutched me as we rode the seemingly endless torture machine. I was never a fan of the tea cups, so I don’t know why I thought I could pull this off. Luckily, no one hurled.

Our train ride with Thomas was much more pleasant. As the high, lonesome whistle echoed through the mountains, the boys settled in for their locomotive adventure. There was a welcoming cool breeze blowing through the train cars, and the smell (and gritty feel) of coal permeated the air. The ride featured a cowboy-and-Indian skit and some passenger-participation hijinks. What a blast!

After that, the kids had ice cream, met Sir Topham Hatt, rode horses and relaxed in a stage coach. The good times continued once we were back at Adam’s, where the 3 Amigos, Jack and Lettie shot bad guys with their new guns and played to their hearts’ content.

Zeke loves his & brothers’ first-ever ride on the merry-go-round.

That evening, Granny and Grumps took the boys back to their house so Stephen and I could spend some kid-less time with Adam. It was a lovely respite after our day of Thomas fun.

Other June stuff: Houston’s actual birthday was June 26, and we had a small pool party for him (details and pics in the next blog).

The day before our neighbor, Miss Heather, and her kids, took Houston to see his first movie at the theater: “Cars 2.” And earlier that day, Heather and her girls entertained all my boys at their house for hours on end so I could get some shopping done for the birthday shindig.

Moms Club had a playgroup at a “spray ground.” The free facility features geysers, huge water guns, falling buckets of water, arching fountains, misting sprayers, etc. It was a fabulous way to cool off after working up a sweat on the park’s climbing equipment, and all three boys were adventurous on this aquatic outing.

Granny & Gabriel get serious about driving their cool race car.

Houston’s swim lessons were a smashing success. They finished up on June 22 and his coach, Miss Bethany, gave him a positive final report card. Houston’s progress was amazingly fast. He now feels comfortable in the water and understands the basics: paddling, holding your breath under water, floating on your back, pool safety, etc. He is at the point that he’s willing, able and excited to learn even more about swimming.

Houston also likes showing off his new skills to Gabriel and Zeke, who absolutely love imitating anything and everything that big bro does, so hopefully Houston’s knowledge will rub off on them.

This was evident the last time I took them all swimming at the Y a few weeks ago. Daddy met us in the pool after his workout and the twins were drastically more at ease in the water than they had been the two previous times. Thus, it was not near as stressful for me – always a welcome thing for any mommy.

More good news re: Houston comes from his annual eye appointment. You may recall that Houston has Horner’s Syndrome – damage that occurred to his sympathetic pathway while in the birth canal – which in turn affects the muscles in his left eye. The congenital condition gives him slight ptosis of this eye lid and causes the eye to be hazel, not brown like the other.

Houston & Gabriel enjoy the view while riding on Thomas.

In fact, the doc said that his Horner’s eye will probably continue to lighten as he ages ‘cause the lacking sympathetic stimulation interferes with melanin pigmentation in the eye. The doc added that he wouldn’t be surprised if Houston had one brown eye and one blue by the time he was an adult. Are the ladies gonna love this or what?!

Houston was courageous and polite at the appointment – a total 180 from his abhorrent behavior from his previous visits – and has, thankfully, overcome his fear of the eye doctor. We are quite proud.

But the best part of the visit was that the check-up couldn’t have gone better. See, Horner’s can oftentimes lead to astigmatism, damage to the lens and/or cornea, and all-around bad vision. But thankfully, Houston’s eye sight is great and the doc sees no signs of any of that other bad stuff. So, if his appointment next year is as good as this one was, the doc said that he will only have to have eye exams every two years.

June also entailed a visit from Granny and Grumps. As always, they freed us up to get things done around the house and yard. But it was an especially timely visit for me since I was trying to heal a sprained ankle I got from tripping over Zeke and landing on my foot weird while trying not to crush him.

Ride ’em high, cowboys: Daddy offers encouragement to the dudes.

  • Some twin notes: Neither Zeke nor Gabe has mastered the fine art of spitting. But what’s especially funny is Zeke’s version of “spitting” while brushing his teeth: leaning forward dramatically while exclaiming “dobby.” Yep, he’s a nut.
  • Gabriel has officially stopped saying “gock” and instead uses “yes” like a pro.
  • Both Gabe and Zeke are asking lots of questions, which pleases Miss Pat. “What that sound?” is a favorite of Gabe’s.
  • Zeke’s new fave statement is “Me need some-den.” He never knows what that something is, but he finds great pleasure in asking for it.
  • The kids have finally memorized our one Veggies Tales CD from beginning to end. I do believe it’s high time to invest in a new album of ditties by Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.
  • The 3 Amigos are also making great strides in learning their nighttime prayer. I’d say Houston’s about half way there, while the twins are excellent at yelling out a few words here and there, most notably the final word(s) of each refrain.

Click the helicopter photo to check out the part 1 pics from Tweetsie and the above photo to see part 2. Lots of June pics, including birthday and spray ground shots, are forthcoming, as well as many other visual goodies.