Friday, August 31, 2012

Tale of a Third First-Trimester

I can't believe Summer is almost over! Here's a quick rundown of what's been going on:

After Moses finished his first year of preschool, he attended two weeks of camp and one week of VBS. Caleb and Joshua finished Kindergarten, completed their first season of summer league swim team, and attended three weeks of VBS. While not attending these activities, the boys have enjoyed swimming in our backyard pool and watching Gospel Bill, Winnie the Pooh, Ice Age, and the Olympics (the boys thought the object of volleyball was to hit other players with the ball and make them fall over, and they erupted in laughter every time this appeared to happen), interspersed with the compulsory completion of a worksheet or two. While the twins whined and complained about having to write a couple sentences and scrawl a rudimentary illustration, Moses has been busier than ever creating an endless stream of self-initiated art projects. Our dining room table is constantly littered with scraps of paper, markers, crayons, scissors, tape, and staples. I think we need to get him his own studio, or maybe at least his own desk so that we can more easily use our dining table for its intended purpose.

I'm glad that we had swim practice and VBS to force us to get out of the house, because otherwise we probably would have just stayed home all day and the boys would've gotten absolutely no social interaction or exercise all summer long. As it turns out, I am expecting baby #4 and my morning-sickness was exponentially more severe than it ever was when I was pregnant with Moses or even the twins. Actually, it was so bad (my doctor offered me a nausea prescription, which I declined), and at one point I was measuring so large (we know it wasn't due to overeating because I could barely keep anything down), that my doctor suspected I was having twins and ordered an ultrasound. So at around 11 weeks we found out that it's just one perfectly healthy baby, which was either a huge relief or a slight disappointment, depending on who you ask!

In the throes of my first trimester misery, I passed the days glued to the couch or hovering over a toilet while the boys learned to fend for themselves. I'm proud to say that they now know how to use the toaster oven and microwave. And I am forever grateful to my mom who cooked dinner for us several days a week during this ordeal, so that we didn't have to subsist solely on Subway's tuna fish subs (one of the few things that appealed to me) and take-out pizza. I literally could not bring myself to cook dinner for two and a half months. One time my mom brought dinner over, only to find me curled up on the hallway floor outside the bathroom, half-clothed, with Caleb sitting beside me reading me a Dr. Seuss book and trying to coax me to drink water. She said I reminded me of herself when she was pregnant with me.

Many other women I know who have children of both genders also testified that their morning-sickness was much worse when they were pregnant with their daughter, so I was convinced that a miniature baby girl must be responsible for my suffering, and at times the prospect of a daughter kept me plugging along on days when I felt truly afflicted. But as the date of my ultrasound grew closer, and as I began to feel better at around 15 weeks, I wondered if my intuition might be wrong and we might be having another boy. I did marry a Wolf, after all, and Wolfs don't tend to produce much in the way of female offspring.

So before the ultrasound technician even said anything about the baby's gender, I could see the evidence myself while she measured the baby's thigh bones. After three boys, I guess we've been through this often enough to know what to look for. I just laughed. Honestly, I was slightly relieved. At this point, a girl child would be a mystery to me. And practically speaking, another boy will be more affordable since we have everything we need in the way of clothes and toys, and he and Moses will be able to share a bedroom when they're older. An added bonus (for me) is that I will be able to continue to defer to Joe when someone has a bathroom emergency in a public place. And best of all, encouraging friends have assured us that God must have great confidence in our ability to raise godly men.

Some quotes from this summer...

"Mom, mirage rhymes with garage!" -Moses

"Mommy, Rockette is brown just like me! She's brown like me!" - Moses

"I only want one baby, so I can have a twin. If you have two babies, then I won't have a twin." -Moses

Me: "Joshua, you got a little sunburned today. Your cheeks are pink!"
Joshua: "I know, but it's ok. God will make me peach again."

"When I become a grown-up I'm going to go to Norway and live in town. I'll live in town like John Marsten. But I will need a heavy coat and a face mask so that my eyelashes don't get frozen." -Caleb

Joshua: "Ohhh, what a furry baby!"
Moses: "I am not furry! Only animals are furry."

Joshua: "Ohhh, baby!"
Moses: "Mom, Joshua is fawning me." 

"Mommy, when I was a little baby I saw some water in your belly and I just dranked it. I was very thirsty. And I swimmed in your belly when I was drinking some water. It was fun in Mommy's belly. Yeah, it was very fun." -Moses
"Mommy, when I was in your belly it was very dark and I could see your skeleton. It was scary in Mommy's belly." -Moses
"Moses, don't be like Piglet. You need to have faith." -Joshua, when Moses was afraid of the dark
"Don't worry, maybe God can turn your hair black again." -Joshua's response to Mimi's new head of gray hair.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Something is Growing Inside of Me

I did my best to transcribe the conversation I had with the boys earlier this summer when I first told them that we were going to have another baby:

Joshua: Mommy, why do you feel sick all the time?

Me: Because something is growing inside of me.

Caleb: Is it a banana?

Joshua: Is it a tomato plant? (Context: we had recently planted tomato plants in the garden).

Me: Not quite. It's something that's alive.

Caleb: A snake? (Context: he had recently been slightly traumatized by the sight of a big black snake in the front yard).

Joshua: Cucumber plants? (Context: we had recently planted cucumber plants).

Caleb: What color is it?

Me:  Probably peach

Caleb: An orange?

Joshua: A pineapple? Is it brown?

Me: Maybe brown or peach.

Joshua: Coconut?

Caleb: An apricot? A peach?

Joshua: Ginger? Ginger cookies? (Context: candied ginger and ginger cookies, which are supposed to suppress nausea, were among the few things the boys witnessed me eating in those days).

Caleb: A tree?

Joshua: Strawberry plants? (Context: the boys had recently helped me plant a bunch of strawberry plants).

Me: What grows inside of bellies?

Caleb: A little baby? (I nodded my head). Are you kiddin?

Joshua: Is it fake or is it real?

Caleb: Are you sure?

Joshua: Will it be Moses' twin?

Caleb: Moses! Mommy has a baby in her belly!

Joshua: What should we call him? Kevin? John?

Moses: Probably I want to call him Giddyup

Caleb: I think it will be a girl

Moses: I want to have a sister.

Joshua: I only want to have brothers.

Caleb: Where will the baby sleep? In bed with Mommy?

Me: Yes.

Caleb: Where will Moses sleep?

Me: In your room.

Moses: My sister will sleep in my bed?

Caleb: Moses, you will sleep in our room.

Moses: I will, for my sister. (Moses started sleeping in his brothers' room soon afterwards, but not until after he back-pedaled on his kind words and vehemently protested the arrival of a person smaller than himself)!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

States Mania... or should I say, Maine-ia?

The twins, especially Caleb, have become utterly obsessed with states, as in the United States. Thanks to an iPhone app called "Stack the States", and the fact that they can now both read, they probably have more extensive knowledge of states, their capitals, landmarks, and where they are located in relation to each other, than most adults, let alone their fellow 6-year-olds. For example, they know that Charleston is the capital of West Virginia, that Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, that HI is the abbreviation for Hawaii, that Arizona shares a border with Nevada, and that the Space Needle is in Washington. They can identify all of the states by shape, and can even distinguish all those similar-looking big boxy states out west. Moses has taken up a residual interest in states, too, and regularly reminds us that his favorite state is Oregon. Caleb says that when he grows up he wants to be a solider so that the Army will send him to live in lots of different states, since we quickly shot down his initial proposal that our family of five board an airplane to visit all of the far-away states.

As an extension of their obsession with states, looking for non-Virginia license plates has become the boys' new favorite pastime. Every car ride, whether it's a quick jaunt to the neighborhood pool or a lengthy 3-hour road trip, is peppered with constant loud exclamations such as, "Oh look, I see Maryland!" and "That car is from New Hamster!" Despite pointing out to the boys multiple times that Maryland cars are nearly as ubiquitous as Virginia cars since it's right across the river, they still beam with excitement at the sight of a Maryland license plate. And living in a neighborhood with a strong military presence, the boys have had the joy of seeing Alaska, South Dakota, Florida, Texas, and Vermont plates on a daily basis. The boys get particularly excited in anticipation of seeing a non-Virginia plate when they observe that a car that doesn't have a license plate on the front bumper, since we explained to them that Virginia law requires a license plate in the front and back of the vehicle. Our road trip to West Virginia last weekend to attend Joe's cousin's wedding was a non-stop, very loud barrage of "Oh look! I see a car that's..." Once we crossed the state line, Joshua speculated that  West Virginian children would see our van and say, "Oh look, I see Virginia car!"

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Saux" pas

Ever since the weather started warming up, Caleb has insisted on pairing his shorts with brightly-colored socks pulled half-way up his calves. Horrified, I have attempted to correct his fashion faux pas by begging and pleading with him to wear ankle socks instead, but to no avail.

On Friday afternoon I arrived at the twins' school about half an hour early for pick-up, so Moses and I just hung out in the car and watched a class of 6th-graders play kickball for a while. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that about half of the 6th-grade boys were wearing colorful socks pulled halfway up their calves! A wave of shame swept over me as I realized that I had inadvertently tried to thwart Caleb's attempts to be "cool". As a relatively young mom (with a pretty good fashion sense of my own, if I must say so myself), I assumed that I would always be somewhat cognizant of the trends of my boys' generation, but apparently I've already started to lose touch. I guess I need to observe the 6th graders at recess more often. Or maybe I just need to watch more iCarly...

On an unrelated note, as I'm sitting here typing this, the boys and Joe are playing WWE Smackdown on the Gamecube. Within the span of a few minutes, Moses has legitimately corrected his older brothers twice:

Caleb: Did that bad guy losed?
Moses: No, that bad guy lost.

Joshua: I'm so glad we have this movie!
Moses: It's not a movie, it's a video game.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Little Sluggers & Our Community Organizer

The twins are doing much better at T-ball this season. I think that having a year of experience under their belts, plus an extra year of maturity, has definitely helped. And speaking of belts, it also probably helps that this year we bought them real baseball pants and belts, too. The belts aren't even real baseball belts like the ones their teammates wear, but the boys haven't seemed to notice or care. If it looks remotely like the belt Daddy wears to work, it must be cool. Even though they hate tucking shirts into their pants, they are willing to do so when they're wearing their Yankees uniforms, since it'd be a shame not to show off such a classy accessory.

Unlike last year, in which you might recall Caleb refused to participate in his first game and was therefore excluded from a post-game outing to Roy Roger's, this year the boys look forward to practices and games and you can actually see them smiling while they're batting, running, and even playing the infield. The outfield remains an unpopular outpost, but who can blame them, since the ball rarely travels that far. And whereas last year the boys basically ignored all balls that were hit or thrown in their vicinity, this year they chase after them aggressively. We knew we'd come a long way when, at their second game of the season, Caleb got up to bat and their coach warned the other team that he's a "big hitter." Upon realizing that our boys might actually have some potential at this sport, this past week we made a point to practice batting and throwing with them in the back yard, and despite Moses launching into a screaming fit every time one of his brothers caught a ball that he felt entitled to possess, it has really paid off. At last night's game, Joshua smacked a ball into the outfield. Way to go, boys!

And let's not forget about Moses. He enjoys batting and throwing with his plastic bat and ball, too. Baseball actually seems to come quite naturally to him, as he just appears to know how to achieve the perfect stance and form, sans instruction. I think one reason is because he pays attention so well when his brothers' coach is working with the older boys. His opportunity to play T-ball next year as a 4-year-old can't come soon enough.

In the meantime, Moses stays busy drawing, picking flowers for Mommy, building "fire places" with sticks, and looking for his "sweetie birdies." At his parent-teacher conference last week, his teacher asked if she could clone him. It was no surprise that she said that his fine motor skills are outstanding for his age, but what I didn't know is that he's taken upon the role of being an "organizer" in the classroom. I asked her if that was a nice way of saying that he's bossy, since I know he has those tendencies, and she said that no, he actually keeps his classmates organized in a very peaceful manner. For example, she said that if the toy parking garage is out on the floor during free play, Moses does a very good job keeping track of who was playing with which car, and if someone snatches a car from someone else, he will insist that they return it to its rightful owner before anyone resorts to violence, crying, or tattling. She said she doesn't have to worry about the children fighting as long as Moses is overseeing the operation. Seeing that he is such a gifted "community organizer," I think it's safe to say that Moses is already well-qualified to be President of the United States. Whether or not he pursues a career in politics, he's certainly shaping up to be a strong leader, just like his Biblical namesake.

And since I managed to skip the entire month of April, I have quite a compilation of thing the boys have been saying over the past month:

"Ow! I hurt my head. Don't kiss it." - Moses

"Don't eat too much! I don't want my mom to be hyper." -Moses admonishing me not to eat too many jellybeans.

Moses, wearing a Santa hat: "I'm hungry."
Joe: "You're already hungry, Moses?"
Moses: "I'm not Moses, I'm Santa. Say, 'are you hungry, Santa?' Yes, I am." 
Joe: "What are you hungry for, Santa?"
Moses: "Candy canes."

Moses, being contrary: "What is Larry's last name?"
Me: "I don't know, maybe it's Cucumber?"
Moses: "No, it's not. His name is Larry Cucumber."

Joshua: "Look, that person has four dogs!"
Me: "Four dogs? That's crazy."
Joshua: "I don't know why some people just want to have a-plenty of dogs."

Moses: "Ohh, look. It's my sweetie birdie. Hi, sweetie birdie."

Moses, yelling from the porch loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear: "PRAISE THE LORD!"
Me: "What are you praising the Lord about?"
Moses: "Cocoa's fur growed back. Praise the Lord!"

Joshua: "Is it turtle season yet?"
Me: "It sure is."
Joshua: "Oh, I'm so glad it's turtle season! I like to catch some turtles."

While getting ready to disembark the Metro at Woodley Park/Zoo, after repeatedly telling the boys our destination...
Caleb: "Where are we going? Are we going home?"
Moses, clearly annoyed: "What do you think?! We are going to the zoo!"

Joshua: "I love Mommy better than toys."

Caleb: "Thank you, Mommy, you're the best woman!"

Friday, March 30, 2012

Kale Lovers and Naughty Presidents

Lately Caleb has been very preoccupied with what size clothes he is wearing. He reasons that since he is 6 years old, he should only wear size 6, 6/7, or S(6/7). A few weeks ago I bought him an Angry Birds shirt and a Lego Star Wars shirt. My little fashion icon was bursting at the seams and couldn't wait to wear them until he checked the tags and discovered that they would in fact not burst at the seams if he wore them. Silly me, I should have known better than to buy my tall six-year-old a size M(8) shirt. And so the shirts hang, unworn and forlorn, in the boys' closet.

Caleb also insists on folding up his sleeves if they even so slightly cross the threshold of his wrists. This morning as he was getting dressed, I thought I'd appeal to his tendency to pay attention to aesthetic detail and pointed out that if he folded his sleeves as usual, the NFL logo of his Redskins sweatshirt would be covered. I thought this might be a good way to convince him not to fold his sleeves, since they honestly were not too long and looked kind of ridiculous folded. After agonizing over this dilemma for a couple minutes, Caleb figured out that he could instead tuck his sleeves inward, thereby not obstructing his view of the NFL logo. And it's not that he really cares about the NFL or even knows what it is. You see, today was "Sports Team Spirit Day" at school, which is why I had them wear their Redskins sweatshirts for the first time, and when I asked them if they knew what sport the Redskins play, Joshua was at a complete loss and Caleb hesitantly guessed "basketball". I guess this is what happens to boys whose fathers couldn't care less about professional sports (not that I'm complaining)!

In other news, Caleb and Joshua have recently become obsessed with knowing which presidents of the United States were good and which ones were naughty. While Joe and I have been able to offer relatively educated judgements about the moral integrity of the founding fathers as well as the presidents who have served during the past 80 years or so, we have been at a loss when the boys ask us whether James Polk and Rutherford B. Hayes were good or naughty. The boys have a U.S. Presidents book that they like to consult in their quest to determine the goodness or naughtiness of each president, but the internet has also proven to be helpful. I was amused to overhear the following conversation between the twins a couple days ago:

Joshua: "Was JFK a naughty president or a good president?"
Caleb: "He was naughty."
Joshua: "Why was he naughty?"
Caleb: "Because he was not faif-ful to his wife."
Joshua: "John-John and Caroline's daddy was not faif-ful? Oh, that's too bad."
Caleb: "Yeah, and Bill Clinton was not faif-ful to his wife, either. Hey Mommy, what does 'faif-ful' mean?"

So if you were to ask the boys which presidents were naughty and which were good, they would probably tell you that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and the George Bushes were good guys. They'd tell you that Harry Truman, JFK, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton were naughty. And that Jimmy Carter was not necessarily naughty, but that he just made some stupid decisions. I'll refrain from passing judgement on our current commander-in-chief, although I'm sure the boys would be happy to offer their humble opinions if you'd care to ask them.

Moses, meanwhile, has been too busy drawing and writing to care about presidents. When I pick him up from school, he begs me to take him home so he can draw. He'll say, "Mommy, I want to go home and draw you a picture because I love you". Recent drawings have portrayed cowboys riding horses, flowers, our house, our new van, and carrots growing in a garden being eaten by the Easter bunny. I'm reluctant to say this, but his drawings are actually probably better than those of one of his older brothers (who shall remain nameless), probably because in his 3 short years he's dedicated more time to drawing than his brother who is twice as old as him. Whoever said practice makes perfect wasn't kidding.

And now for a few quotes...

Uncle Charles: "Branden! You can't run around in the parking lot! That car almost hit you!"
Moses, gesticulating sternly: "That wasn't a car. It was a truck."

Joshua, after he refused to participate in swim practice without his twin, who was at home sick: "I'm sorry I didn't swim, Mommy, I made a mistake. I'm so sorry, sweet Mommy. It's all my fault, I won't do it again."

Caleb: "Mommy, you are the best cooker because you just made me kale!"
Joshua: "Can I have some more kale?
Moses: "I love kale!"

Moses: "I see a fallabella! It's so small and cute."
Me: "Yeah, it's small and cute just like you, Moses!"
Moses: "No, I am big!"

Me: "Maybe we should give away the bunnies. They're so destructive."
Boys: "Noooo!"
Me: "We could get a pet fish instead."
Boys: "Ok! Yaaaay!"
Caleb: "Or maybe we could get a gun instead of a fish."
Boys: "YAAAAAY!"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our St. Patrick's Day Splurge

Some people have been puzzled by how we've managed to survive as a family of 5 in a 5-passenger car for the past three years. Since it seems like a lot of folks buy a minivan as soon as they find out they're expecting baby #2, I guess it might seem odd that we held out for so long. Honestly, it didn't really become an issue until the twins graduated to booster seats about a year ago. Whenever I took the boys somewhere in the car, I had to block out an extra 5 minutes dedicated exclusively to fishing around in the narrow crevice between the booster seat and Moses' carseat in a frustrating attempt to buckle the their seat belt one-handed. Times two.

So when Joe's friend and fellow guitar-player on the church worship team announced that his wife was expecting their third child a couple months ago, Joe decided that it'd be nice if we could give them the Santa Fe, a considerable step up from the 20-something-year-old Camry that his wife was currently driving. Their baby is due in August, so we figured we had all Summer to find a nice used van that fit our budget to replace the Santa Fe.

Then while we were visiting Granny and Babo over St. Patrick's Day weekend, they offered to watch the boys while we went out for a test-drive or two. It seemed like a good idea since neither of us had ever been behind the wheel of our top two contenders- the Odyssey and the Sienna. We assured the boys that we were just going to look at cars, and that we certainly would not buy one that day. Upon arriving at the Honda dealership, we soon found ourselves test-driving a souped-up 2010 Odyssey, but balked in discouragement when we learned the price. It just seemed like a lot of money for a used vehicle. Next, we looked at a 2012 Odyssey that cost slightly less than the 2010, but didn't have leather seats. My sincere attempt to be open-minded could not overcome the fact that I'd had my heart set on leather seats for the longest time. All of our couches are leather, and for good reason- I can only imagine the amount of destruction that three boys would wreak on fabric upholstery.

So, we cut to the chase and told the head honcho at the dealership to show us the cheapest 2012 Odyssey with leather seats that they had. He asked us what color we wanted, and I told him we didn't care about the color, all we wanted was leather seats and a low price. So he said, how about this one, and gestured toward the showroom model right beside us. "Sure," we said. What I didn't tell him was that it was the exact same Smoky Topaz color that I'd picked out on Honda's website when I "built my own" Odyssey online just for fun a few weeks earlier!

We were so unprepared to buy a car that day that amid negotiations, Joe had to leave the dealership and drive to the nearest branch of our bank and use the ATM to check the balance in our checking account so we'd know exactly how much we could put down. In the end, they offered to sell us the brand new showroom model, with leather interior and only 5 miles on the odometer, for the same price as the used 2010, which was nearly $4K less than MSRP. With the monthly payments working out to be just a little more than what we were saving each month from our recent mortgage refinance, we were sold!

The boys have been just as excited about our new van as we are. Caleb has written about our new van in his journal almost every day at school since we got it, each day discussing a new feature, such as its 8 seats or the fact that it is "zero years old". They fight over who gets to push the buttons that open and close the doors, and get a big kick out of talking to Daddy on the phone via the van's bluetooth technology. The salesman had assured us that the person on the other end would only be able to hear front-seat passengers, but our boys are apparently a loud exception.

At first we installed Moses' carseat in the middle row and the twins' booster seats in the back row, but Moses sulked and begged to sit next to his brothers. We thought he might enjoy a reprieve from being flanked by his big brothers in tight quarters, but apparently not. One of the countless nice things about the 2012 Odyssey is that the middle row of seats can be adjusted not only front to back, but also side to side. So we now have all three boys across the middle row of seats, and there is plenty of room in between each seat for the twins to buckle themselves in. So now, a task that used to consume 5 minutes every time we got in the car takes me no time at all because the boys can do it themselves! And in the mornings as we're heading out the door to school, the boys can open the sliding doors with the push of a button from inside the house. I used to give them the Santa Fe key and tell them to go unlock the car and get in, hoping that they wouldn't lose the keys somewhere between the house and the car, and if the keys did make it to the car, that no one would get knocked in the head by a swinging car door. As you can imagine, our mornings are much less stressful now.

And as fond as we are of our new Odyssey, parting with the trusty Santa Fe was bittersweet. It was the first car that we'd purchased together as a married couple after Joe's Taurus drowned in Hurricane Isabel. It had been with us through four moves and brought home our three babies. And it really was in good shape, with 100K miles down, and according to other 2003 Santa Fe owners, at least 100K more miles to go. But any sadness that we might have felt was washed away on Monday evening when we saw the huge grin sweep across our friend's face as she drove it away into the sunset.