A castle for my knights

27 01 2010

One of the most difficult things for me about being a Mom is playing with my kids. I know that sounds horrible. I love being with them and watching them play with my husband and with each other. I just can’t seem to do it myself.  I go into the playroom with great intentions but I always end up pulling out the legos or just reading them a book.  Sometimes I’m envious of my friends (Lindsay) who could easily take a job with SNL or be a professional storyteller. I think what a better Mommy Keller has because she can play the role of the White Witch or pretend to be Wendy from Peter Pan. It’s not that I lack interest. I am actually terrified of pretending. As a kid, I remember running from the girls who wanted to play house or school. It was as if I was being asked to speak a foreign language.

Knight Bradley and his cardboard castle

So I can’t participate in all the imaginative play and dress up that goes on at our house and that makes me sad.  But…I had a revelation yesterday as I was thinking of a craft for us to do together.  I’m a great builder and model maker and even though I don’t want to be the princess in the castle I can make the castle.

So…Bradley & I spent all of Bennett’s nap time building this and it was SO fun. It was one of the most relaxing, and rewarding afternoons I have spent with him in a long time. Finally I am realizing that I need to figure out the things I enjoy and use those giftings to engage the boys. I’m sure we’ll still do lots of legos but I feel encouraged that I am capable of expanding my horizons when in comes to finding meaningful and fun activities.

Notice the window Bradley cut by himself...with a box cutter.

Moving on…I rarely include funny stories from the week but that was one of my hopes in starting this blog so here are a few.

On our way to preschool last Thursday everyone was quiet and happy for a change. it’s just a 5 minute drive but there is always at least one, maybe two, kids crying or screaming (or both) all the way there.  All of a sudden Bradley says, “Mommy look at this big, hard, red booger I found in my ear.” Even though I can’t believe he just said that I remind myself that this is life with boys. Of course he insists that I inspect it so he passes it forward. I take a look and as I expect it’s dry earwax.  Disgusted I pass it back and Bradley announces, “that must be why my ear has been hurting so bad.”  “Guess so,” I reply. Just then Bennett tunes in and thinks that I have given Bradley a piece of candy. He tries to steal it from him and in the struggle over the ear wax (thought to be candy) it gets dropped and both boys begin freaking out.  Bradley is devastated that he lost his ear wax and Bennett is still convinced that he is missing out on a treat.  Dexter is usually so laid back but he’ll join in if there is too much noise so he begins to wail as well. Oh the drama of the lost earwax.

Then on Saturday, we took the boys and my Grandfather out to lunch at Jason’s Deli.  On our way home Joe & I were commenting on how smoothly lunch had gone when Bradley chimes in with another announcement from the back seat (also involving boogers of course). “I have a raisin in my nose. What should I do?” I immediately assume he’s lying or mistaken. He’s been telling lots of Jokes (lies) recently so I told him that it was a funny thought but that he did not have a raisin in his nose. Joe gave him the benefit of the doubt so he said “push on one side and blow.” Bradley says “Ouch that really hurts”, so Joe says, “try the other side.” Just then a huge red Craisin came flying out of his nose along with plenty of snot to keep it fresh. We got our laughs in for the day. Why do kids put things up their noses? I had to go to the doctor to get a jelly bean out of my nose when i was little and my friend Andrea put an entire sandwich baggie up her nose. What a great story that is.

Ok, last story. Yesterday when we got home from preschool, Bradley ran to the bathroom to go number-two. I asked if he’d let me use the toilet first since I would be really quick.  His response was hilarious. “Of course Mommy. Even if you have to take a long time, womens always go first.”  Joe, you’re teaching him well.


An old friend.

22 01 2010

Nine months ago I reconnected with an old friend. Ashley & I had been out of contact for a long time. It’s not like we had a fight or anything. We had just been on different journeys and our paths took us in different directions for a while.  It wasn’t a bad thing. It was actually great for both of us but I was glad when our paths crossed again. When we reconnected we had both grown in so many ways and I believe we truly enjoy our friendship more now than ever before (just wish we lived a little closer). Anyway, one of our strongest points of connection is this deep soul place where design, art, craft and color dwell.  It’s not that we like exactly the same things or even have the same giftings but we appreciate and understand the other’s love for those things.

So anyway, she also hooked me up with my old friend craftiness.  It’s funny to think that craft is something I’ve had to put down for a while, but it is.  I’ve talked before about my desire to control by keeping an orderly house and that’s where my control idol and my creative passion run into to each other in this horrible clash.  As a child I LOVED crafts. I’m pretty sure I never played with a doll or a traditional toy (not that there is anything wrong with that) but I was constantly making things. It was part art, part science, part craft. One of my fondest memories was freezing crayon shavings in water in the freezer and then watching them melt in the sun. In high school I loved making jewelry and then in college I had plenty of opportunities to express myself since I was in design school. Sadly, since then I have shunned that part of me because it’s messy. Graphic design (btw, I finally posted a bunch of my logos on the flickr site) seemed a clean alternative to craft because it all sat neatly inside the computer. Recently though, my hands are beginning to go crazy and long to make things. By definition craft is an activity involving skill in making things by hand.

While Joe was away last week I pulled out the pliers and all the broken jewelry I had saved and got to work making some earrings. Whenever I wear necklaces they get ripped off my neck so I don’t really bother with them anymore but I’ve saved all the pieces with the hopes that I might one day restring them or make something else from them.

broken necklaces make for nice earrings

I’ve also been looking at a few creative blogs (from afar) with the hopes that I might start trying to do more craft type activities with the boys.  In the past they have either been completely disinterested or have created disasters that have been so out of control that it’s not worth it. And we’ve never ended with anything to show for all the effort. I guess the process is more important so perhaps I need to change my mindset. I guess it’s ok to reference other people’s blogs (if not someone tell me) so look at these:

Smile and Wave look at her house tour…so not me, but so cool.

Lil blue boo look at the things she has made. Most of it is too girly for me but some is really fun.

Ashley Ann Photography notice the crayon shaving craft. So close to my heart.

Joy . blog my good friend. Mother, wife, craftswoman, photographer.

So anyway. I’ve known about my order idol for a long time and I’ve started to feel guilty for not dealing with it.  Relaxing is repentance for me but I’m just not there yet. I mean, if I decide to slack on my housekeeping all I have to show for it is a messy house but perhaps if I make a bit of a mess because I’m creating things then it might seem worth it.  That will be my starting point.  I don’t know what I’ll make next but I have some ideas.

Pouf. My retail therapy.

20 01 2010

On the one hand, shopping is dependable: You can do it alone, if you lose your heart to something that is wrong for you, you can return it; it’s instant gratification and yet something you buy may well last for years.
— Judith Krantz

I would not call myself a shopaholic. I wouldn’t even list shopping as one of my top 10 hobbies.  I might even say I don’t like shopping. But sometimes, every once in a blue moon I feel like I need something…something material to sooth my soul. I think I might be an interesting case study when it comes to this rare urge I encounter. You see there are just four places I can not resist.  The Dollar Store, Goodwill, Ikea and Design Within Reach. Goodwill is a great place for me to go because I LOVE finding something cool for just a few dollars.  If I find nothing cool I buy something anyway and tell myself it is cool all the way home. Then I shove it in the yard sale box in the garage when I get there.  The Dollar store is even better (Mighty Dollar is my new fav). I mean everything’s a dollar right? How can I go wrong?  And Ikea. A prize goes to the woman who can walk through close to 400,000 square feet of super fun, super cheap stuff and not buy a single thing. Even if I made it through the store without buying something (which would never happen) I’d certainly find something in the “as-is” room that I couldn’t live without.

Unfortunately Design Within Reach is a different story but oh how it makes my heart sing. I’m pretty sure they don’t carry anything with a price tag under $300 (not so “In Reach”). But…if you go in often enough, as I do, you might stumble across a floor sample or two marked down just enough to make you think it’s a deal. It’s not the kind of showroom that would EVER advertise a discount or a sale but if you’re bold enough to ask they will disclose those coveted floor models that can be carried out the door for the right price.  I’m ashamed to admit how many “deals” I’ve gotten there.  Take a peak in my garage and you’ll see my acquisitions. Joe says if we ever move he’ll allow me to have a room to showcase my chair collection. That would be fun.

So speaking of moving, it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a few years.  There are all kinds of reasons to move…and even more to stay put.  School is still up in the air. Not sure what will be the best option there.  We’d like a little more space down the road but we don’t really need it. We love living on a cul-de-sac and our yard is great. Our house couldn’t be more poorly built or the design more stupid but we’ve done so much to make it reflect us and the things we like. We love the community of which we’re a part and the conveniences to which we have access. Except for Ikea, I can get to all my favorite retail outlets in less than 5 minutes. Seriously, we should not move.

But when the moving talk ceased that “need” showed up again and I made the trip to the dollar store where I bought 12 glasses and 6 picture frames, then the trip to Goodwill where I bought 3 pair of jeans for Bradley, then the trip to Ikea where i found a 5 x 7 flokati rug in the “as-is” room for $40 (along with 20 other things). And then came the trip to DWR. There weren’t as many samples available this visit but something did catch my eye. It was a Primary Pouf in Berry. At first glance you’ll wonder whether its soft or hard, foam or concrete, heavy or light. It’s one of those things that I knew was meant for me that no one else would understand. The foam cushion is soft when you park it though firm enough to leave your drink on top of it. Though its concrete-like appearance makes it look heavy, the Pouf is quite light so you can move it around easily. The boys love it because it’s so light and of course anything they can move is perfect for building forts. Now I’m just hoping they won’t take a bite out of it.

Berry Berry quite contrary.

So I get this thing home and I love it but it really needs a companion. That said, I have spent the last two days searching for one on eBay, Craigslist, everywhere I can think to look…I just don’t want to pay full price for the mate.

After getting weary with the search I begin to find my way out of the fog and I laugh at the fact that I am trying to satisfy my longing for heaven with a big pink foam cube and as squishy as it might be it won’t fit.  I really do love it and it makes me happy when I look at it so I’m keeping it. However, from here on out it will serve as a reminder that while I’m living here, I’m not meant for here.

See why it needs a friend? They look better in multiples.

Bennett speaks…and bites

13 01 2010

World's Cutest Kid. (Picture not taken in my house or my chair)

Bennett is our middle-child, about to turn two. He is quite possibly the cutest kid that has ever lived. I say that without any hesitation or shame.  He has the longest dark eyelashes, the clearest blue eyes and a pudgy little face that I could eat with a spoon. He’s also the loudest child I’ve ever heard.  He reminds me of a squatty little elf with more energy than is human. He got his first tooth at 9 months, crawled at 9 months, waited until 14-1/2 months to walk and at 23-1/2 months he is just starting to say a few things.  I was so excited today that he finally started to make some progress with his language. As we walked into preschool to pick up Bradley, he passed his little friend Stone, pointed to him and called him by name and then the next person we passed was my friend Hope who he also called by name.  I was completely shocked. You would have thought he had just spoken a complete sentence had you seen my excitement.

So along with the slow language development (which I am really not worried about) has come a lot of frustration.  I know he understands most everything we say but he can’t say much in response.  He’s mastered pointing and dragging me places to show me things but in general he just cries and screams a lot.  The latest thing is biting. First he started biting me while Bradley was n Germany.  Of course I was irritated but felt that we could curb the behavior quickly. As soon as Bradley returned he started biting him.  I never saw him do it but I saw the bite marks.  Last Friday he bit him so hard in the stomach that Bradley started bleeding.  Bradley is our dramatic one so of course that was quite the trauma.  After much discipline he has continued to bite him so I’m at a loss for what to do.  I was grateful he wasn’t biting anyone else…until yesterday. I heard him being cute and making car sounds as he was playing with a school bus in the playroom. I ran to get the video camera and I snuck in so he wouldn’t see me. When I got there he was biting Dexter (our 9 month old). Apparently he didn’t bite him hard enough to get the response he wanted so he went after him again.  I know you’re thinking “put the camera down and stop him,” and I did but I had to show Joe that I had caught him red-handed.

So last night at community group Bradley told his babysitter, Nikki, “Bennett’s bad. He’s been biting. He is an evil spirit.” I promise he did not hear that from me. I don’t know that I’ve ever even said the words “evil spirit” in his presence.

Anyway, I’m open to suggestions about the biting. Someone said they used kool-aid powder every time their daughter bit.  What have you found that helps?

His many faces. All sweet.

Bennett aspirating his teddy bear.

Our Year in Review.

2 01 2010

This is a REALLY long post and is more for our personal record as a family but if you have the time I’m happy for you to read it.

2009 was special. I’m sure that I’ll catch myself saying the same thing next year but I’m one of those that thinks life just gets better every year.  I do try to rehearse God’s faithfulness in the past, and I look forward to the future with anticipation, but for the most part I tend to be present in the now.  In fact I’m so much of a now person that it will be hard for me to sit down and record some of the highlights of this past year.  I’d rather tell you about the best December ever, this December.

We greeted 2009 in Asheville with my family.  We left just after Christmas to vacation with my parents, sister, both grandpas, grandpa’s friend Robin and brother, sister-in-law and niece. It was magical.  We stayed in a home just across the Golf course from the Grove Park Inn so we spent lots of time there walking the decked out halls and enjoying the gingerbread house displays. Each New Year’s day we celebrate my parents’ anniversary, which is always exciting. We also learned some sad news just several days after Christmas. Our sweet friend Sydney was diagnosed with a significant brain tumor and while we continued to enjoy our time with family, the remainder of the trip was tinged with sadness for me.  I can’t claim that I made any formal New Year’s resolutions as a result of the news, but I did experience an umbrella of perspective that has lasted all year.  Watching the Gaylord’s walk through this with hope and grace has called me to re-evaluate the way I approach each day.

In January we realized that with another boy on the way we would begin to feel a little tight in our home so we decided to convert part of our garage into a playroom. Joe & my Dad worked every weekend through the winter until it was completed in late February. The end of January was crazy busy for us as we celebrated Joe’s 30th birthday with a Sushi party on Saturday and then Bennett’s first birthday with a pizza party on Sunday.  I was wiped out by the end of the weekend but both birthdays were too significant to just wink at.

I celebrated my 31st birthday in February with the opening of a new IKEA in Charlotte.  God new that a local IKEA would please me more than winning the lottery. The last weekend of the month Joe & I had our first getaway without the boys.  The last time we went on a trip alone was before Bradley was born. Our good friend Shelly offered to watch them but at the last-minute she had to travel to California for her Grandmother’s funeral so her Superhero/Fireman husband stepped in and took great care of the boys.  We were so excited to get away and to visit an Aloft hotel that we didn’t flinch at the fact that we stayed in an airport hotel in Charleston and stayed in our room for two days. That weekend crossed into March when we had our first real snow of the season.  The boys loved it and Bradley even got to build a mini-snowman. Fortunately March was relatively uneventful. Physically and emotionally I was so exhausted from being pregnant with two energetic boys that I couldn’t have done much anyway.

April was quite a different story.  The first weekend in April I took Bradley & Bennett to my Grandpa Stancik’s 85th birthday party. It was a two-hour drive that seemed to last twenty.  I was so exhausted by the time we arrived that I wasn’t phased by the fact I forgot my shoes or that the boys spent the evening eating desserts and having sword fights with the dinner knives that I neglected to remove from their place settings. If things weren’t busy enough the next weekend I thought it would be a good idea to have a yard sale with my equally pregnant friend Lindsay to make room for the new babies. The next day was Easter and we journeyed to Gastonia to eat with my aunt and uncle. Sadly all I can remember about that day is that I almost got in a fight at the Country Club where we were eating with an old man over the last piece of key lime pie. I was 9 months pregnant so I won but he didn’t refrain from cussing at me just loud enough for me to hear.

Dexter’s C-section was scheduled for that Friday and by Wednesday there was no way I could carry Bennett around another day.  Bradley started walking right at one so I was surprised and disappointed that at 14 and a half months Bennett was still showing no interest.  I managed to drive the three of us to a play date that day but I made Bennett climb out of the car and crawl down the street, sidewalk and up the stairs to the house were we were playing. I think he got the point because that evening he started to walk. I was singing praises.

The next day my parents arrived to stay with the boys while Dexter was born.  I didn’t sleep a wink but we made it to the hospital the next day bright and early. Dexter Abbott Pay was born via c-section at 9:15 weighing 6 pounds 9 ounces and measuring 19 and a half inches (that information is general and may not match his birth announcement but not many people even saw it because I never got around to mailing them out). He was the cutest little frog you’ve ever seen. Bradley adored him and he fascinated Bennett and I was obsessed with him. Unfortunately I got a spinal headache that lasted a week so our first week was a little rough but my c-section recovery was much faster than it was with Bennett.

Joe only had a few days home with us so my sweet grandpa Deibler offered to help me by paying for a sitter a few times a week.  Thus started our love affair with Miss Kristen. I don’t know how we would have made it through those first few weeks without her.  Dexter was a really easy baby but I wasn’t at my best and he made three!

On May first Dexter turned two weeks and Lindsay delivered his best friend Porter Hartman White. That same day Bennett had a poop event I will never forget.  I put him down for a nap, he took off his diaper pooped in his crib, used it to finger paint, went to sleep, woke up, pooped again and rubbed it all over his face, hair and the wall. It was a nightmare.  Took me an hour and a half to clean it up. I wasn’t even able to walk very well yet.

Joe & I celebrated our 10th Anniversary on May 21st. We couldn’t take a trip so close to Dexter’s birth but we did get away for a date night at Brio.

Joe’s mom visited in early June. We so enjoyed her visit and I was grateful for the help. That week we also took a trip uptown to visit “Mr. Eric” at his fire station.  Bradley was in heaven and I was glad to finally be getting back into the swing of things.  One of our favorite summertime activities was Tuesdays at the Cameron Wood neighborhood pool with our friends the Lattas, Brays and Eichs.  Bradley got much more comfortable with swimming and I got a chance to visit with my good friends as we lived life alongside one another.

Joe took off the week of July 4th and we had our first ever Pay family vacation.  We visited Ocean Isle and much to our surprise our friends the Lattas and Harrises were also there visiting family. Joe & I were grateful to have friends to hang out with and the boys were glad to have playmates. I also took the boys to visit the whites at camp and Bradley & Keller went on their annual zip-line event.

In August I took advantage of the tax-free weekend to get a new computer and Joe & I started doing a home exercise program that we stuck with until the holidays got the best of us.

In September my brother’s family came from Germany for a two-week visit. While they were here we celebrated my brother’s 30th birthday and took a family vacation to Hilton head. The weather was perfect, the kids had a blast at the beach, I got to do some post pregnancy shopping, we ate lots of good food, and we realized how fun it would be to have them live close by.

In October Dexter insisted that I begin feeding him real food.  I was fine with it but it did mean that my life with three would get just that much more difficult. In late October Joe & I went to my college roommate, faith’s wedding.  It was our first night away since Dexter’s birth (thanks Mommy, Daddy, Aunt Anna and Miss Shelly) and we had so much fun visiting with old friends and just being together without any crying in the backseat. It was the reunion with friends at faith’s wedding that inspired me to begin a blog. Next came Halloween and the swine flu. We didn’t get the swine flu but school was canceled the week of Halloween because of it.  We were stir crazy by the end of the week and then on Halloween of course it rained.  All the kids had plenty of fun. No amount of rain could put a damper on the excitement that comes from candy & costumes.

November started the business that comes with the Holidays.  I decided to offer Christmas cards on my own this year with the help of my long time friend Ashley and we all of a sudden had a packed schedule. I spent November overwhelmed with gratitude, seriously.  I couldn’t believe how it changed my thinking and attitude about everything.  We spent Thanksgiving with family at my aunt and uncle’s in Gastonia and the next day Christmas came to our house.

We put up our Christmas tree on November 27th, bought eggnog and started playing Christmas music around the clock.  I think Joe & I were just as excited about Christmas as the boys.  I won’t say that Bradley is not excited about gifts…he definitely is. He tried to steal the fake presents that were wrapped for Jesus at the Church Christmas party but fortunately gifts are not the pinnacle of this Christmas.  I have to admit we did the elf on the shelf. I know it’s just a means of behavior modification but Joe & I enjoyed taking turns with “Elf duty” and the boys loved it.  Bennett even added the word “Elf” to his 50 word vocabulary.  Snow and egg nog were other recent additions. I’m curious if he had started talking at 18 months if he would have said things like pool or sunshine instead? So after a crazy week of Christmas parties, playschool productions and last minute shopping, we headed to Asheville to end the year where it began.  When we arrived we were greeted by over a foot of snow.  We all had a blast.

The next big news was the engagement of my sister, Anna, to her boyfriend, Ken.  It happened on her 27th birthday…Christmas Day.  So on December 25th 2009 she had 3 major events take place and she was 3 cubed.  I know I’m the only person who would care about something so silly but how exciting is that! They are looking forward to a mid to late summer wedding.

Then the day after Christmas Bradley left for Germany with my parents to visit my brother Paul, sister-in-law Cindy, niece Kaylen and nephew Baby Chase. Bennett took it upon himself to make up for any bad behavior I wasn’t having to deal with in Bradley’s absence and had the worst week on record.  He threw temper tantrums, was constantly hitting and biting me, screamed for hours at bedtime each night, jumped out of a grocery cart at Target and was just all around bad, bad, bad.  It was probably in part because I was dead set on getting the house organized and cleaned up from Christmas and didn’t give him the attention he needed. He arrived home safely today and I am so very grateful.

We got off to a good start in 2010. Bennett & Dexter slept in until 11 am…and we did too! Latest we’ve slept in since Bradley was born in 2005.  Hopefully there will be more rest in 2010.