Perspective & balance

Naughty has been winning out over nice recently, but mostly with the twins, namely Gabriel. “To hell with the consequences” is his current modus operandi, “No” is his favorite word, and “That would be a bad thing” is a frequent response to parental requests.

Zeke (left) & Gabriel bob for apples @ their 3rd birthday party.

Not only has Gabe been particularly stubborn and hard-headed, but he often laughs in the midst of punishment. I think Gabriel is just prone to challenging authority, no matter how negative the outcome. We’re working on him, but man, has mothering the G-man been a particularly exhausting and thankless task as of late.

Luckily, Zeke’s behavior has improved and his sleep-time tantrums have subsided, while Houston’s typical behavior is pretty sweet and polite. Of course, it doesn’t take much naughtiness on the part of one to rock the boat. After all, trying to maintain relative calm and obedience is a fragile thing even when it is achieved.

It’s a delicate balance of disciplining the troublemaker swiftly and effectually without having his influence start a domino effect, while simultaneously remaining stern and loving, and in control and patient. My new bumper sticker sums it up: “Motherhood isn’t for sissies.” Ain’t that the truth?!

“Double trouble” await the lighting of the candles on the “Candy Land” cake, made by Miss Jessie.

Interestingly, most of the bad behavior happens around the house. This makes for normally happy outings, but sometimes makes pre-schooling the 3 Amigos at home quite the challenging task. Miss Jessie is extremely helpful in this regard, so thank goodness we have her to assist in educating the boys and getting me prepared to eventually homeschool. However, any prayer you would like to say for me regarding the latter would be greatly appreciated : )

“The days are long, but the years are short,” goes the parenting adage. That perfectly encompasses the struggles and fulfillment that make up motherhood. So, I must maintain the balance when tackling daily struggles, knowing that these times (even the zaniest ones) are what make the lasting memories, and allowing that perspective to grant me inner peace and continued confidence.

Speaking of balance, I have sincerely lived by the “Simplify the season” motto this Christmas. October, with all its fall and Halloween events, leading up to Thanksgiving was swamped and stressed. Although we had tons of good times, I bit off more than I could chew and promised myself that I wouldn’t do the same with Christmas.

Gabriel takes the lead on the Liberty Loop scavenger hunt.

The boys and I have done just a few choice holiday activities, the family has only attended one party, and I did all my shopping online (and quite frugally to boot). It has been lovely to be able to truly enjoy the magic of Christmas and to impart the significance of Christ’s birth and subsequent holiday jubilation on to the kids.

Last week, we received a handwritten note in the mail from our pastor’s wife, Donna. The Sunday prior, she had seen the spectacle that is loading the hungry, fatigued, but nonetheless energetic 3 Amigos into the car post-church. Upon changing a dirty diaper in the back of the van, I yelled to Stephen, who was watching two of the dudes climb a light pole, “Okay, ready to roll.”

For some odd reason, Donna found great pleasure in witnessing our station in life, no matter how uncouth and uncivil. She stopped to talk to us, and we all had a laugh about the unsophisticated silliness that is so often parenthood. Anyway, her sweet letter read, “My prayer for your family is to feel connected and cared for at Westover.” And we do.

Zeke’s takes a swing @ the rainbow pinata.

Some other happenings:

  • It has been more than two weeks since Zeke has taken Prevacid and without incident, so I think it’s safe to say that he has officially outgrown acid reflux.
  • Houston had his first appointment with our new pediatrician, Dr. Gay. The friendly doc gave him a thorough head-to-toe wellness check, and said that his nose bleeds were due to dry air and could be prevented by daily saline spray.
  • Houston’s appointment offered Gabe and Zeke some alone time with Miss Jessie. The twins concentrated on academics, specifically penmanship, and their writing abilities and eye-hand coordination (most notably Gabe’s) amazed us both.
  • We started the no-interrupting game: the kids must touch our leg if we’re standing or our shoulder if we’re sitting, we give them a nod of acknowledgement, and then we let them speak when there’s a break in the ongoing conversation.
  • Daddy was talking football with the boys and, without prompting, Houston said, “My favorite football team is the Houstons.” Never to be outdone, Gabriel explained that he liked “the Gabriels.” Zeke’s initial pick was the “Zekies,” but then changed his team to the “Mommies.”
  • Jeopardy quiz: Zeke’s answer to the perennial question “What do you want on your pizza?” What is “Broccoli and ice cream.”

Safe on 1st, Houston enjoys his last t-ball game of the season.

  • The boys and I took Bob to her check-up last week. Good news is that she gained 1.4 pounds since starting her new Rx and “the zoo on wheels” had a fun and educational outing.
  • Last Saturday night, the family drove through an impressive Living Nativity (they even had a camel); trekked through a neighborhood-wide forest of lighted Christmas balls and other spectacular holiday luminaries displayed in an old, charming downtown community; and then attended an annual Christmas party we haven’t been to since 2005.
  • Last night, we finally went Christmas caroling to Miss Shawn’s and Miss Heather’s houses. We still have a couple more neighbors to visit, but overall, the dudes did great on both vocals and instrumentation. Our set list: Rudolph, Little Drummer Boy, Oh Christmas Tree, and Jingle Bells.
  • Today, we went to the Children’s Museum with Miss Christie from MOPS and her daughter, Piper. The dudes delighted in their faves — such as the fire truck, the trains, the giant legos, the mini-shopping market and the outdoor gardens — but also had a blast in the visiting Curious George exhibit.
  • Despite being pooped, Gabriel totally undressed himself at bath time tonight, which included the feats of getting his head and arms out of his shirt and his undies off. Quite spectacular.

 Nailing the t-ball stand is just as cool as hitting the ball!

Lastly, one of our adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” has animals as the characters. Ebenezer Scrooge is a cranky turtle and his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, is a beaver — a typically non-threatening critter, I would think. Well, Houston has convinced himself that the tame “beaver ghost” illustration is the worthy of fear, making him now afraid of the dark. I pray that’s short lived.

Funny thing is that we have another book of the Charles Dickens’ classic that features a spooky grim-reaper-looking Ghost of Christmas Future, yet that evokes no trepidation in Houston.

And just to keep things perfectly unpredictable, yesterday Houston announced, “I want to be Jacob Marley for Halloween.” Gabriel echoed, “Me, too.” Kids are so weird.

Click the top photo to check out part 1 of the festivities from Gabe and Zeke’s birthday party on 10/15, the pinata pic to view part 2, and the above shot to see happenings from Houston’s final t-ball game in late October.

The spirit of the season

We kicked off our day today by attending a “Birthday Party for Jesus” at Westover. Miss Lorrie and Savanah, who are not members of our church, came along for the celebration, which made it all the more special. It was a lovely way to spend the morning and to really appreciate the true spirit of the season.

Zeke & Houston use Crayola 3-D glasses to critique their sidewalk-chalk art (and each other).

Of course, the 3 Amigos don’t need much encouragement on getting aflutter over the holidays — religious, secular or otherwise. They are way into Christmas carols and know most, if not all, of the words to the classics, as well as some of the more obscure ditties.

Being the sons of an admitted carol junkie like myself, that’s not surprising, but it’s just so delightful to hear their wonderment expressed so purely through song. Not much can beat the sounds of happy children’s voices echoing through the home.

Admittedly, it’s not always joyful sounds that can be heard here around the zoo. Nighttime has been especially rough recently, since Zeke has been waking in the wee hours of the morning, usually due to falling out of bed or being drenched from a full diaper. And once he’s up, watch out: he whines and cries (seemingly) uncontrollably and is inconsolable for up to an hour or more.

Houston “milks” a cow @ Homeland Creamery back in October.

But the random things that spark Zeke’s episodes are nothing special. It may be that his cowboy hat has gone missing or the bedroom door is closed or his blankets are getting on his nerves, etc. Considering the bizarre nature of the sources of Zeke’s angst — not to mention the fact that he is barely audible during these irrational meltdowns — my guess is that he’s still partially asleep.

Still, Stephen decided that our new course of action is that Gabriel and Houston (who are almost always awakened by Zeke’s loud outbursts) will be rescued from the insanity and rewarded with getting to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed, while Zeke remains in the kids’ room. Fortunately, there were no semi-slumbering tantrums last night, but I think this tactic will work, if necessary.

Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to it, though. You see, I have been pushing this whole “Boys who listen and obey are happy, and boy who act naughty are sad” angle for a few days. It has been fairly effective around the house, as well as on outings. In fact, the 3 Amigos were so calm and well-behaved at the Y on Wednesday that the Child Watch gals joked that they thought the boys had left.

Zeke, Gabriel & Houston are “udderly” cute!

Some miscellaneous stuff:

  • On Monday, the twins had their final visit with our old pediatrician. We are in the process of getting all their medical records transferred to a new practice, which has been a long-standing goal of mine.
  • I’ve had an annoying dry cough for weeks now. After many failed medicinal attempts at curing my persistent throat problems, I think the Tussin DM Stephen bought me is finally clearing things up.
  • Last Sunday was the first day of not giving Zeke his Prevacid. We attempted this trial (under the supervision of his gastrointestinal doc) earlier in the year, but his puking reemerged. I pray that Z-bird has outgrown his reflux and can get off this daily Rx.
  • Gabriel is now consistently spitting toothpaste into the sink during his oral-hygiene regimen. He’s so proud of finally mastering the technique. Keep it up, G-man!

Gabriel is quite happy taunting this turkey at the dairy farm.

  • Stanley and Gabriel are best friends. Houston and Zeke aren’t at odds with the cat or anything, it’s just that Gabe and Stan have a particularly sweet and special bond. I suppose if Gabe’s turns out not to be a sensitive artist, he may opt to be a compassionate vet instead.
  • The dudes earned their 30th picture on their Chuck E. Cheese reward chart. Sure, it took them a couple months to accrue the meager amount of marks for decent mealtime behavior and manners, but it’s still a job well done. Congrats!
  • Our decrepit hand-me-down dryer — which required a pair of pliers to set the dry cycle — finally kicked the bucket. Thank goodness for “Cyber Monday” deals and a savings account.

Click the top pic to view the October gallery and the above photo to check out shots from our trip to Homeland Creamery.

Pumpkins are Christmasy, right?!

We took the boys downtown yesterday to watch the annual Christmas parade. Miss Lorrie, Mr. Kendal, Haylie and Savanah went with us, and it was a glorious day of fabulous floats and loud marching bands, although I think the dudes were as enamored with the parked police cars (with blue lights on) maintaining the periphery of the parade route.

Gabriel, Daniel, Zeke & Houston get zany during a pumpkin-patch outing in October.

We then had a late-lunch feast at Red Robin. This was Houston, Gabe and Zeke’s first time to the kid-friendly establishment, and they thoroughly enjoyed the eats with their friends. The 3 Amigos conducted themselves very well, with Zeke being the calm one at the parade and the most mannerly at the restaurant.

This good behavior was a continuation from our Friday-night excursion to a nearby Mexican joint. Our hungry boys acted with decorum, making us quite proud. However, they did let their imaginations run a bit wild over some of art in the restaurant. Gabriel got a little spooked over a longhorn skull … pretty understandable, I think.

But strangely enough, Zeke decided he was scared by a painting of a man riding a donkey. Our oft-dramatic child actually shed real tears when passing by the picture during our exit.

Sprinter Gabe races around the patch at full speed.

“He’s just a guy who needs to make his way through the village,” I reassured Zeke. “He doesn’t have a car, so he has to ride a donkey. No big deal.” But a determined Zeke decided the man was no good and eventually convinced bros of the picture’s evil nature, as well.

Daddy says Zeke’s penchant for theatrics and talent for charming manipulation will enable him to be a successful trial lawyer when he grows up. My current guess at future occupations for the other amigos is “temperamental, sensitive artist” for Gabriel, and “lofty orator,” like a politician or professor, for Houston.

Some big news: After much thought and consideration, and many prayers, Stephen has decided to take a new job. It’s a great career opportunity for him and some extra income for the family, but it will require hard work, communication and discipline on both of our parts, since the new gig entails some travel — a challenge for sure, but definitely manageable, if we play our cards right.

Houston & Zeke bring Uncle Greg a horde of gourds.

Some other news: Stephen and I had our elder interviews at church today. We shared our testimonies, answered questions about our faith journey, and discussed our missional goals for the future, thus, completing the final step in the process of becoming official members at Westover. Awesome!

Lesser news: Zeke has officially kicked his thumb-sucking habit; our new nighttime policy is certainly not a sure cure for the last-stand antics of the sleepy child, but it has drastically improved the bedtime ritual; and the Easter elf (our version of Elf On the Shelf: a bunny in “magic” elf pants) has been keeping a constant eye on the boys, reporting back to Santa any naughty or nice behavior.

Click the above photo to check out pre-Halloween pics from our visit to the Mount Pisgah pumpkin patch with Moms Club.