To Ned, Lucky & Dusty w/ love

Seems I had spoken too soon about Gabriel and Zeke’s headway with potty training. After my positive update on 3/13, I am sad to report that the twins regressed. It was an occasional accident here and there, but major mishaps were becoming the norm.

And then at our playgroup at Miss Amy’s on Friday, both Gabriel and Zeke went doo-doo in their undies. All the Moms Club gals were supportive and consoling, but that was just the last straw for me. So, Stephen (who was also at his wit’s end) and I decided to give up on trying to win this dirty, discontenting battle.

Instead, Gabe and Zeke are now commanding their own ships. Each is at the helm and can steer his boat toward the bathroom or back into diapers. Whatever works for him as captain, but we’re done with the exhausting prodding, the ineffective rewards, and the tireless timed potty breaks.

The boys hesitantly pose with their finally completed Word Wall. (Click to see the January gallery.)

I figure this is a control issue, plain and simple. And the more I try to exert my authority and my rules, the more the twins are going to resist. Let’s face it, the twins know what to do and how to do it; the choice just has to be theirs.

Over the few days that we’ve been more hands-off, the pirate ships of Captain Jack Sparrow (Zeke) and Will Turner (Gabriel) have been sailing on much smoother waters. Maybe it’s due to the cool “Pirates Of the Caribbean” references, but whatever the case, I think this new approach may be just the motivation needed to help each of our stubborn boys charter his own route on these stormy seas. It also serves as a nice break for the rest of us.

Comportment: Beyond the potty


I started keeping better track of the kids’ chores. Instead of saying, “Hey, who’s gonna help me with laundry?” and having all three gleefully volunteer for the task or none (I’m not sure which was worse), I decided to have one at a time help me with what I’m calling teamwork, as opposed to the less inspirational housework.

Daddy talks snow globes w/ Zeke on New Year’s Day.

This method offers me a conducive environment to instruct said child in the chore at hand (better focus on his part and greater patience on mine), while also helping me more fairly delegate whose turn it is to assist. It’s just a much better use of our time and energy and, so far, seems to me both more effective and enjoyable for everyone.

  • REST

Keeping the boys on a structured sleep schedule is always a feat. Whether it’s coping with Daddy sometimes traveling for work, tweaking our days to fit with Miss Jessie’s college schedule, or getting Miss Karen to babysit for whatever reason, it’s so darn easy for things to get out of whack.

For instance, we used to let the kids stay up late the night when Daddy would arrive home from a biz trip. But we soon realized that this homecoming treat was just asking for trouble, i.e. fatigue-induced meltdowns, lengthy whining spells and pterodactyl boy: when Gabriel or Zeke uses a high-pitch, screeching form of communication, even while saying, “Mommy, I’m being good now. Can I please have some water?”

Moreover, the dudes all intermittently have what Dr. Gay classifies as night terrors, of which a main cause is being overtired. Luckily, these bad dreams are rare, but still, it’s just another reason to remain vigilant in keeping the 3 Amigos on tight nap/nighttime schedule and as rested as possible.

The dudes feast on frozen yogurt during Zeke’s kicking-his-thumb-sucking-habit celebration.


An additional hill on which I’m willing to die is the battle for the boys to have good table manners. It has drastically improved from the days of food-throwing and constant drink-spilling, but we still have a long way to go to achieve genteel.

Case in point: the twins often consume at break-neck speed while gulping down huge bites, and this resulted in my having to give Zeke the Heimlich on 3/7. Scary! Then again, I had to use the maneuver on Houston once or twice long ago. And these days, he is pretty dignified during mealtime.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, however you wanna look at it), all the kids exhibit pretty polite behavior while eating out, as recently exhibited at Red Robin and Fuji Sushi, where the dudes ate their first-ever California rolls — a big hit with Houston, but not so much with his cheeky bros. Point is, I suppose progress is being made, however slowly and painstakingly it might be.

Early March saw both Gabriel and Houston regaled with their fancy-dinner rewards. Each dining experience treated the guest of honor to a candlelit meal on a non-plastic plate while drinking from a wine glass or champagne flute. Zeke also recently earned his final signature on the scroll, but we still own him his hoity-toity dinner.

Steve Martin, Chevy Chase & Martin Short: The original 3 Amigos. 

For all you “sons of a motherless goat”

I tagged Houston, Gabriel and Zeke as The 3 Amigos after the 1986 movie of that name. Being that the slapstick motion picture (a la Blazing Saddles) had such an impact on me back then and starred some of the day’s best comedic actors, I just assumed that everyone else knew about the classic flick.

But not so. Miss Jessie hadn’t heard of it or any of its stars, but then again, she’s half my age. So I wrote that off as a generational thing.

Yet, only one of my MOPS gals, who range in age from early 30s to mid-40s, was familiar with the funny film. Oh, the injustice!

I’ll leave you with the immortal words of the 3 Amigos themselves from the Singing Bush scene: Ned Nederlander, “Chip, chip, chip, chip, chip. Nanny!” Lucky Day, “Faaaaaaaarley, farley, farley, faaaarley!” Dusty Bottoms, “Hfurhrmrgurny.” Nuff said.


I’m not only playing catch-up with photos (obviously), but I’ve also found myself falling behind with keeping the blog up to date. Here are some recent happenings, along with a few older items to boot.

The vine that ate the South

As some of you know, I’ve been battling kudzu on our wooded property for years. I finally had to call in an expert in late February. The landscaper and his crew spent two days creating a buffer between Liberty Loop and the evil weed (which can grow up to a foot a day) still residing in my neighbor’s yard.

The landscaper clear-cut all the dead trees and dormant kudzu, and dug up and sprayed as much of the root system as possible to create a clearing. The thinking is that this buffer, which the kids named “the mountain,” will stop the spread of the vining vegetation.

I still must remain vigilant, keeping an eye out for any attempt at encroachment. But with my newly sharpened machete (thanks, Mr. Milt), my hardcore weedkiller and my keen kudzu-spotting kids, I am hopeful that we will eradicate (or at least, control) the evil plant.

It takes true grit & teamwork to get the easel box open. (Click to view “Christmas – Part 1” pics.) 

Now if I could just get rid of those darn moles — which are a protected species in my wacko state — that are infesting much of our subterranean lawn for the second year, my yard-improvement progress would be even more appreciable.

Who says child labor is bad?!? 

Wth all this work to be done, I am teaching the boys how to be good little yard-workers themselves. In early March, they assisted me in demolishing the old rip-rap-bordered sandbox and building our new “sand egg”: a much larger construction, which is oval and surrounded by vinyl landscape edging.

Since then, the dudes have helped me plant two fruit trees, and weed and mulch our berms, beds and gardens. And being the fans of water that they are, the 3 Amigos also enjoy using the huge watering can to soak our thirsty plants.

“The home is the ultimate education lab.”

This comes from a book I’m reading by Terrie Lynn Bittner, Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath — You Can Do This! And like the above lessons in horticulture, everyday life is brimming learning opportunities.

Miss Jessie and I find these sentiments ring true with pre-schooling. Here are some things the boys have been working on:

  • Ocean-them week — Learned about the seven seas and many of the critters that inhabit the water through books, art and games. Jessie also brought over “Finding Nemo,” which enthralled the dudes and evoked many pressing inquiries. We tied up the week by feasting on fish at Libby Hill, the kids’ favorite seafood restaurant.
  • St. Patrick — Learned about the Apostle of Ireland, pressed shamrocks, went on a leprechaun treasure hunt and ate green pancakes.
  • Ireland — The agenda for our coming is week is more about the Emerald Isle: history overview, early Christianity there, the Great Potato Famine, cooking Irish Meat Pie, etc.
  • Vikings — We will also introduce the kids to these Norse warriors through their time spent in Ireland and will continue with that theme the following week.
  • Pirates — Since vikings are infamous for their acts of robbery and criminal violence at sea, I thought that would tie in nicely with a much-overdue lesson on pirates, which is one of the boys’ main obsession these days.

Zeke, one of our resident train aficionados, is in choo-choo heaven. (Click to view Part 2).

Sunday school

Our church has outstanding children’s programming and the 3 Amigos truly enjoy their classes. But for whatever reason, kids are sometimes aloof about discussing what they learned in school.

However, Zeke bolted from his room last weekend and eagerly asked, “Hey Mommy, you want to know what I learned in class? I am not ashamed of the Gospel!” He was so proud of himself and his succinct recitation of the lesson. And as a mom, it was wonderful to see my child’s enthusiasm for learning about the Bible.


On 3/8, I attended the open house for a Spanish-immersion magnet school. Although, it seems like a phenomenal public school, I’ve decided not to sign up Houston for their kindergarten lottery.

Instead, we will work on Spanish at the home front, weaving the language into the kids’ lessons and conversations whenever possible — something Miss Jessie, Stephen and I are already doing. Eventually, Stephen wants to implement a Spanish-only day, in which no English is spoken during the allotted time.

Amigo merriment

Here are some fun things the boys have been up to lately:

  • The kids love to dance, especially to the current pop song, “Move Like Jagger” by Maroon 5. Zeke is particularly gifted at boogying. It is hysterical watching him shake his stuff just like the Rolling Stones frontman … very groovy indeed!
  • On 2/23, we attended two play dates. In the morning was interactive-sports activities hosted by Moms Club. Then in the afternoon, we met Miss Christie, Asher, Jackson and Piper at McDonald’s for eats and Play Land fun.
  • Dina, Kara and Meredith visited the weekend of 2/24-2/26. As always, we had a blast with our Virginia brethren.
  • Gabriel finally got his pool date with Daddy on 3/2. (This was for the second diamond competition.) Stephen said it was a blast and looks forward to his next one-on-one outing with Houston, and then the with Zeke, who just won the most recent round.
  • On Thursday, Houston went to Alyssa’s for a “game date” — a new reward opportunity that treats Houston to an hour of Wii video gaming at her house. This helps limit his video game requests for at-home play and serves as a powerful leveraging tool for motivating good behavior.
  • On Saturday, the family attended a reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The boys we enamored with all the different types of soldiers, the cavalry, the wartime musicians, and of course, the weapons and artillery at the 231st anniversary of the dramatic Revolutionary War struggle.

The boys check out the globe — one of the two gifts Houston requested from Santa.

Soccer studs

We signed the 3 Amigos up for soccer. This is Houston’s third sport and the twins’ first! The Y league is for 3-4 year olds and the dudes are all on the same team. (We didn’t want to have to attend three separate practices and games.) We met their coaches last weekend and then their first practice was Friday.

The players were broken into two groups: Houston and Zeke trained with Coach Nellie and Gabriel was with Coach Tiffianie. I think splitting them up whenever possible will be a healthy thing for the boys.

Daddy, who watched the whole practice while I took off to get some exercise on the recumbent bike, said they did fantastic following instructions and delighted in all the kicking and running. I caught the first few minutes and it was simply too cute!

Merriment for Mommy & Daddy

On 3/8, our pastor’s wife, Donna, invited the woman from our Families On the Grow class to her house for eats and conversation. It was nice to get to hang out with some of these ladies outside of Sunday school, and it was lovely to get to know Donna.

Stephen happened to return from a biz trip that night , so I met him out for a bite to eat en route home, since Miss Jessie was already babysitting the kids.

Then the next morning, we continued the kid-free theme with a jaunt to the gun club. This outing was actually my idea. Who says “date nights” have to entail romance and darkness? I can’t think of anything much more enjoyable than heading to the great outdoors with your hubby to tear off a few rounds for target practice and stress relief with? It was incredible fun!

Mommy milestones

  • February 21 marks the day that I completed my first entire book since becoming a mom. (Having the opportunity to read uninterrupted and without distraction is definitely one of the perks of riding the recumbent bike at the Y.) Sure, I’ve started a few tomes over the years, but haven’t made it cover to cover in a long, long time. Sadly, this was a huge deal for me!
  • Then on 3/1, I took my first shower while the boys were awake and I was the solo caregiver. (If you can’t use TV for that, then it ain’t worth having.) It actually went fine: nobody got into the kitchen knives, opened the door to a stranger or burned the house down. And it proved that the dudes are indeed growing up and can take care of themselves when need be. How liberating!

Gabriel & Houston open yet another Christmas present.

Small world

  • During one of my recent visits to the local CC communities, I ran into the midwife who tended to the latter stages of my agonizing 32-hour labor and delivery with Houston. Turns out that the person who brought my first beautiful baby boy into this world now homeschools her kids and uses the method we’ll begin using in the fall.
  • It also turns out that one of Stephen’s co-workers has twins and his wife had a difficult pregnancy, which required a high-tech operation. But beyond that similarity, they also went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where the very same surgeon who saved Gabriel and Zeke also did their prenatal surgery.

Zeke’s lungs & Houston’s eyes

Speaking of fancy operations, I emailed Dr. Petty, the surgeon who performed Zeke’s lobectomy to remove his CCAM back in June ’09. I inquired as to whether Zeke’s “yucky” might reside in a jar somewhere on the campus of Wake Forest School and if we could possibly come sneak a peek at it. He said after the pathologists made slides for studying it under a microscope, the actual mass was incinerated.

However, the good doctor was kind enough to send me some links in hopes that they’d “hit the ‘gross out factor’ the boys are looking for.” I haven’t showed the images to the kids yet, but click here if you wanna check out what a “yucky” looks like. If that’s intriguing to you, here is another one. I’m sure the 3 Amigos will find these disturbingly cool.

The drops we were using to treat Houston’s bloodshot eyes weren’t helping. On 3/15, I finally took him to Dr. Gay, who diagnosed him with pink eye. She said symptoms of the virus aren’t always goopy and/or crusty eyes, which is what I had been looking out for and why I hadn’t taken Houston to the doc sooner. Anyway, his new Rx seems to be doing the trick.

Turning the proverbial poopy corner

However protracted the journey has been, we have come a long way from the twins sticking their hands into a dirty diaper to investigate their doo-doo status.

Or the boys trying hard to convince me that they still need to go potty, even though a big poop was already residing in their undies. Man, has it been a messy ride!

Gabriel gets fashionably festive for cookie decorating @ Matthew & Jonathan’s house.

As of now, the dudes wear undies all the time (around the house and yard, on every adventure and outing, and even on road trips). Accidents are still semi-commonplace, but seem a little less frequent with each passing day.

Gabriel and Zeke mostly have the peeing thing under control. In fact, they just recently began peeing in the potty without any assistance, and they are amazingly adept and hygienic about the whole process.

I attribute these good mechanics to the fact that Gabe and Zeke have been going solo in the backyard for a while now. Once they mastered the downhill rule, all that remained was target practice: aiming at blades of grass, leaves, tree trunks and the like.

Bowel movements are bit more elusive. Luckily, most of their poopy accidents occur while in diapers, which they only wear during nap time and to bed at night. My theory is that they make the conscious decision to hold it and hold out for diapers.

Fortunately, the twins can physically control the urge, yet they opt for the ease and convenience of soiling a diaper and letting mommy change it. I know they will eventually outgrow this indolent habit. Plus, it’s better for me than dirty undies and the nasty cleanup that follows. Buy hey, progress is progress.

Houston breaks in the new easel — the boys’ main Christmas gift from Mommy & Daddy.

In other health news

On 2/10, the twins had their first head-to-toe wellness check with our new pediatrician, Dr. Gay. Gabe came in at 39 pounds heavy and 39 inches tall, while Zeke is just a tad lighter and shorter — odd since Zeke typically has the hardier appetite.

To my surprise, the boys were much farther behind on their vaccinations than I had thought or hoped, and they each had to get three shots. For a couple days thereafter, Zeke had a fever, which is a normal yet unfortunate reaction for some kids. But good news is, the twins are finally up to date with their vaccination schedules.

Dr. Gay also found a small amount of fluid in Zeke’s ears. It wasn’t enough to warrant antibiotics, so she advised me to give him Claritin for a few weeks. At his check-up yesterday, one ear was clear and the other had a few droplets. The doc said to continue with the meds throughout the spring, which is a good idea considering our family’s history with seasonal allergies. I have already been giving Houston Claritin for a while now due to his increasing allergy symptoms.

Houston & Zeke do their best @ following Twister’s rules.

And then some time last week, Houston’s left eye became persistently bloodshot, so we’ve been giving him eye drops to boot — a regrettable course of action since he detests anything eye related. But just yesteray, Houston decided he would rather be brave and have the trauma be brief, than kick and scream and have the experience drag on and on.

So out of the blue, Houston accomplished a Herculean feat all on his own. I mean, I had accepted the exhausting ritual just ’cause a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. So thanks, Houston, for being such a mature boy!

Speaking of growing up, I attempted the triple-threat endeavor of taking the 3 Amigos to the dentist all by myself on 3/1. Unlike less volatile and fear-inducing visits to other docs, going to the dentist has always been an parental exercise in patience, compassion and safety in numbers.

None of my go-to folks could accompany me, so I mentally prepared for the worst and forged ahead. But to my great surprise, the dudes were casual, as if getting a dental cleaning was no big deal. They were calm and care free, friendly and fearless. Boy, have they come a long way!

Gabriel helps Salty, the dockside diesel, chuff down the track.

I got a free orthopedic screening at the Y on 2/15. The physical therapist diagnosed me with “quadratus lumborum tightness” and a “hip flexor strain,” which are conditions stemming from my 32-hour labor and delivery with Houston. My pelvis area and the surrounding tendons on the left side of my body have never felt right since then.

Over the years, this has spread to my hip, lower back, outer thigh and even my shoulder — pain felt only on the left side of my body. That’s the reason I’ve taken a hiatus from swimming. Can’t really do freestyle or backstroke without a working shoulder. Major bummer.

So, the therapist taught me how to do some core-strengthening stretches, which truly have improved things. Wanting still greater mobility and certainly less pain, I plan on visiting the good therapist so he can help work out my kinks even more effectively.

Bob (the cat) is cashing in on her nine lives. See, I was seriously considering putting her down a while back. Her physique was gaunt and her personality was manic. Bob has always been a weirdo, even for feline standards, but she seemed quite unhealthy.

Not a hard sell for the biggest sweet tooth in the bunch, Zeke was thrilled w/ his belated gingerbread-man treat.

Despite her age (15 and a half) and the cost of the initial testing, we decided that the loyal, but peculiar cat deserved another shot. Turns out, she has hyperthryoidism.

After three expensive trips to the vet, we now have her Rx tweaked. Surprisingly, the meds are fairly inexpensive, and even more shocking, she takes the small oral pill without much of a fight.

In short, Bob’s doing great: she has gained weight, is much less crazy and is a lot more tolerable these days. She is still a pain the butt, but I’m glad to have her around for a few more quality years. We love you, Bobby!

Click the above photo to view December’s part 2 gallery and the top image to check out part 3. The train shot is a teaser for the forthcoming Christmas-day pics … keep your eyes peeled.