The sweet things in life

My boys are really sweet. I often get overwhelmed by their aggressive behavior, insensitive interactions, and disrespect; but I find that when I dwell on the sweet things they do- those tender moments multiply. So, a list:

-Scotland is still leaving “stockings” for Tom by his bedside. Yesterday, his sock hung from his bedstand drawer and inside was our Happy Family Dad toy.

-I left two cookies from our last night “family night” treat for the boys, and told them they could eat them before breakfast while I did Yoga. Together they decided that they would each save a piece of their cookie for Dad.

-Often when going downstairs, Anders will stop at the top and say “Bye Mom,” and blow me a kiss.

-I’m very strict with treats. So when I loosen up and unexpectedly offer a cookie after lunch Scotland almost always gives me a kiss and hug.

– Anders has the best manners these days. He tilts his head when he says please, and says “Tank ew Momma” anytime I give him anything.

-Both boys go running when Tom gets home, exclaiming “Daddy!!!”

-The other night during movie night both boys joined me on the rocking chair. Reclined back enjoying “The Tale of Desperaux” I felt immensely happy. Two boys beside me, and a little gal kicking happily inside.

-Anders often struggles to wake up. From time to time I’ll go in and sit on the end of his bed, he’ll lay his head on my lap and slowly come to, as I rub his back.

-Scotland has learned that sleep is to be respected- thanks to many post call Dad days. The other morning Anders had woken up at 5:45 and gone back to bed with me, Scotland was up around 6:30, peeked in on us, and seeing us asleep closed the door so as not to disturb us with the light in the adjacent room- and then played quietly.

-When Anders will snuggle in close to me and say “Momma!” with a sigh, when he joins me after his ridiculously early wake ups.

-Anders has gotten into the habit of waking up with Tom at 5:45. (He now typically wakes me up before Tom’s alarm does.) They have developed this little ritual of Anders sitting on Tom’s lap and eating dry cheerios for a few minutes before Tom brings him back down to bed to finish the night off with me.

-One night when Anders was saying the prayer he said “tank dee for Momma!” probably ten times. His prayers are some of the highlights of my days. He often says: “Deer Hev Fathah. Dank dee for Momma. Dank dee for Daddy. Dank dee for Scots. Dank dee for food. Jesus Christ. Amen.” He can say them completely unassisted, and I’m always touched when he’ll add something Dank dee for cars, or books or something. Who gets to say the prayer has recently become a fight (flip flopping from the previous fight when nobody wanted to say the prayer. I guess I’ll call this an improvement? Here’s hoping we can get over the fighting now!)

-The other morning Anders and I were snuggling in bed. He was as content as could be until he heard his brother scampering around upstairs. He quickly stirred and said “Scots!” and slithering out of bed said “I go!”

-Often when Scotland or I will stub our toes, or say “Ouch!” Anders will come up and ask with a tilted head and sweet voice “You okay?” He’s even taken to giving Scotland hugs when he accidentally hurts him.

-Today I was watching a friends two sons. The younger is just one. Anders mothered him the entire time, showing him toys, taking him to the window to watch the cars- and pointing them out to him, and making sure he didn’t get into trouble.

-Scotland’s willingness to incorporated Anders in his play, and teach him various skills always touches me. He’s consistent with his Tae Kwon Do lessons. He’s always very encouraging. Squeaking “Good!” in a high pitched voice, when Anders follows orders. This evening as I was preparing dinner he came running into the kitchen: “Anders is going the potty.” He had helped Anders with his pants and diaper, and coached him, until Anders was able to release four small poops. After each one, Scotland washed out the potty and encouraged him to do more. I gave them each 4 mini marshmallows for their efforts. Satisfied they went back into the bathroom for more. I actually had to say “Okay, no more going potty. It’s time for dinner!” Both teacher and student were ecstatic with their progress.

-Scotland gets so excited when Anders says a new word. “Mom, did you know Anders can say egg?!”

-Anders is becoming quite the ham, and there is nothing he won’t do if it will make his brother belly laugh. They’ll get going and then anything becomes hilarious.

-I had a rough night a few days ago and wasn’t very patient with the boys. Anders came out of being put in his room, a few tears running down his face, and his head down. I apologized for being impatient and bent down to give him a love. He gave me a sweet, full hug and patted me on the back, total forgiveness in his eyes.

I try to savor all the times when either boy will just nuzzle their head into me while we’re reading stories, or randomly come up and hug my legs. I’m sure there will be a day when such open affection is rare. They crave affection. I’m always surprised with how delighted they are when I force tons of kisses and hugs on them. They’ll shout “No, Stop!” but their bright eyes and wide smiles makes it clear that they, like me, love to me shown they’re adored.


Keeping it real

In a world of photo editing, Pinterest, and selective sharing, I always appreciate a good “real life” share. I came across these photos from Christmas and they made me smile. This is what our nativity reenactment looked like:

Both boys were most excited about being angels. This is a carry over from last year when Scotland dressed up as an angel several times a day. The angel costume was the only one that Anders was willing to don. The sparkly gold-starred halo appealed to him.

Hallelujah jive?!

Two worshipping wisemen. Anders, that looks like total devotion to me.

It’s easy to feel that spiritual things like this aren’t worth doing with kids of this age- because they tend to be more chaotic and crazy then spiritual. But I’m beginning to learn that the spirit is much more nuanced and diverse than I usual think. He is quite capable of touching active little boys hearts.


Brotherly love

Last week, we set up the toddler bed in Scotland’s room, thinking we’d give the shared room a try. It resulted in many late nights (full of fun for the boys) followed by days of emotional duress and conflict when their fatigue hit them. It didn’t take long to realize that, when other options were available, the shared bedroom wasn’t our thing.

So, Saturday we took down the crib and moved the toddler bed into Anders room. The last few nights there has been much screaming and tantruming at the door by Anders- who fortunately can’t quite open the door if closed tightly. The length of these tantrums has grown shorter, and I was hopeful for tonight. As I’d hoped, his crying ended soon after it’d begun. I sat downstairs reading, and feeling smug that our transition was near complete. About 30 minutes later I hear “Mommy, Mommy?” in a low husky voice. At first I assume it’s Scotland, but no, it’s Anders. He crawls up on the rocking chair with me to watch the video I was watching on my phone about how our church helps refugees. Scotland came down a few moments later saying “I want to cuddle!” One on each side we sat snug under a blanket as I explained the sad predicament of millions of people, we pondered what we could do. Then I sent them back to bed. Scotland happily obliged, and fortunately, Anders followed suit. They walked upstairs, single file. I didn’t hear a peep or sound afterwards. Could they possibly have just gone back to their beds? After 15 minutes I came up to investigate. Anders door was closed, his bedside lamp shining under the door. I quietly opened the door to find his bed empty. I tiptoed down the hall to check if he was in bed with Scotland. Not in bed, but happily asleep on the floor near him.

My heart warmed at the love of my two boys. They are the best of friends. Witnessing their sweet relationship is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. They may not be permanently sharing a room, but I secretly hope that there are many nights when they sneak in to cuddle up together.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin carving:

We started the holiday festivities off at FHE on Tuesday when we carved pumpkins, halloween music playing. Scotland carved a scary face, Tom a Tiger, and I a bat. Anders painted a pumpkin. Tom had him help him clean out his pumpkin. At first Anders refused but finally got in on the fun. Scotland was meticulous with his cleaning. Even spending a good amount of time at the sink- washing it out before he felt it was ready to be carved. We all enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds for a treat!

It took a bit of encouraging before Anders would stick his hand in.

But he finally did.

Friday morning Scotland had his preschool halloween party. The two “outings Moms”- Caroline especially went above and beyond to create this darling party for them- complete with a spooky lunch and foaming witches brew!

Preschool Party:

Church Party:

We had such a fun sweet Halloween with our little guys. Friday night we had a blast at our church’s harvest festival. A great variety of games- life size angry birds, hoop fest, cake walk, donut eating contest, face painting, magnetic fishing and bag decorating all made for a memorable night. Anders participated in everything, and had to be nearly dragged away from each activity because he just didn’t want to stop! They finished the night with the trunk or treat and were overjoyed to dump out their bags and see their spoils when they got home. Scotland, happily shared his with everyone.

Sweet Bro. Geddes letting Scotland try out his real sword.

I loved all the creativity that went into the activities. Our past bishop made this angry bird catapult based off his wife (our RS president’s) idea!

The High Priests put together this fishing activity with real poles.

This was Anders’ favorite though- balls!

Note the ring on the pumpkin- go Anders.

Trick or Treating:

Batman, Lion, Warrior Woman, and Stick man (sans mask)

Saturday night we went trick or treating in our neighborhood. It’s a sweet street, quiet with few trick or treaters and few houses. Once again it was darling to see Anders be such an active participant, he want to carry his bag, and knock at each door. He quickly got a hang of the “choose a candy” but not the “only take one!” He vigorously roared for everyone, and Scotland was super social introducing each of us and telling what we were dressed up as for Halloween. He was SOOO proud of his batman costume. I found the outfit at Goodwill and he was determined to wear it despite it being a bit too small. We borrowed the cape and mask from friends. Boy did he strut his stuff; running to feel his cape fly out behind him and showing off moves when requested at the doorstep. He was polite and grateful, and I beamed with pride at his maturity and kindness.

We came home, examined candy, and ate some while we watched Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin.

It was so fun to have Tom join us this year. We had him home ALL weekend, which was treat enough for me. The boys just soak him up when he’s here. Anders, who has been sick all week, wanted to be in his arms as much as possible. And Scotland was constantly requesting another session of LEGO creating, fort building, or some other sort of play.


A few thoughts on fatherhood

I read a couple of articles in the NYTimes this afternoon. They both spoke of the role of fathers. This one spoke of how, even within the same household, brothers fare worse than sisters when disadvantaged.  Researchers have been trying to define what is causing the gender gap, and how we can help boys. One of the answers, it turns out, is fathers. No surprises there, but not nearly enough talk.

“Boys particularly seem to benefit more from being in a married household or committed household — with the time, attention and income that brings,” Mr. Autor said.

I then went on to read this article. I’ll share a few quotes:

“The fatherhood bonus is based on the notion that fathers are extra-committed to work because they have a family to support. If they give any indication that they might prioritize family, they tend to be treated like mothers, and penalized. It’s known as the flexibility stigma.”

Claire Cain Miller gave props to Joe Biden and Paul Ryan for publicly stating that they were cutting back, to make time for family. And suggested that more vocal demands by men and women alike to prioritize family would benefit all.

It reminded me of a conversation Tom and I had a few months ago. We were talking about preparing children for careers and the difficultly of encouraging them towards professional success while also teaching them to value and find balance with family life. Tom made the point that we should teach our boys no differently than we will teach any future daughters. I want my boys to grow up choosing a career that will allow them to be stellar Dads, and to enter the work force with the understanding that they, like their wives, will have to give and take in order to fulfill their more important calling as parent.



Introducing the fifth member of our family!

A few weeks ago we got to see our third child. I wish I could verbalize how thrilling it is to see your baby for the first time. While my boys looked up and said “Oh” at the ambiguous smears of white and black moving across the screen, I saw my little peanut, curled up, smacking his lips and standing on his head- a silly grin spread across my face the entire hour. (I say “his,” not because I know we’re having a boy, but because I pretty much only use masculine pronouns around here! It’s a habit.) This last week, I’ve started feeling gentle movements, kicks and stretches, and I love it!  I feel too much is vocalized about the difficulties of pregnancy. Sure they are many, yes it’s tough. But I fear that when we focus on the negatives of child bearing we loose sight of the glories. We create a culture of grumbling and disgust instead of one of awe, and respect. I feel honored that as a woman I have the opportunity and the capability of creating a body, of creating a life. I marvel at the intelligence and skill built into my very being that knows how to create bones, DNA, hair. Its baffling, and demoralizing for some, that the act of child creation is involuntary. And by that I mean, one doesn’t mentally choose to say, “create eyes today.” Once fertilization takes place the process is set in motion and things pretty much happen on their own. I’ve heard some express that this lessens the impressiveness of the act. If anyone can do it, then it’s not that special. It doesn’t take a college degree, it doesn’t take hours of practice. It just happens. It’s miraculous. For me this calls for humility. My body, my spirit and its connection with the Divine is more powerful than I realize. It’s larger than “me.” I have capabilities beyond my thinking brain.

While the creative process is not a conscious one, it can be a spiritual one. My baby is very much my baby. Most of you are probably unaware that I have a third child, you haven’t seen him/her, his/her face hasn’t graced my Instagram or blog pages- until today, but his spirit is very much a part of my heart. I think of him/her, I pray for him/her, I plan for him/her just as I would for Scotland or Anders. My heart has expanded. He/she is alive, just within me. This is the joy of pregnancy that too oft is left unverbalized. I am thrilled to have welcomed a new life to our home, a new heart to love, a new face to kiss. We talk about our baby often. Anders is no longer our baby, his place as a big brother was established many weeks ago. How blessed we feel.

This little guy/girl was smacking his lips throughout the whole ultrasound. It was so darling! 


It’s fall, we went on vacation

Summer has been over for a good month, but it’s really felt like it the last week or so. There’s been a culinary shift. We eat pretty seasonally, since the bulk of our diet is vegetable based. Butternut squash has replaced green beans, applesauce- fresh berries. Today I made a batch of Myrtle’s applesauce. Grandma Myrtle was a dear friend whom we adopted in Cleveland as Scotland’s “Grandma.” She cooked great southern food, including a scrumptious applesauce. I hope I never forget the time we stopped by to visit and, as was the norm, she sat us down at her table to eat. Scotland was just starting on solids, but I gave him a taste of what amounted to apple pie in puree form, sans crust. He downed the whole bowl so fast I hardly got a taste. Myrtle happily supplied me with a large second helping. The next fall I called to ask the secret to her fabulous sauce: “Oh, you just cook down a variety of apples then add butter, sugar, and cinnamon until it tastes good!” Butter! I wouldn’t have come to that on my own. So today, I made a batch of applesauce that even Myrtle would agree “tastes good” with plenty of butter, sugar and Penzies apple pie spice. It’s divine. I think of Myrtle often, I miss her, but I feel closer to her now, that she’s in heaven. I like to think she can hear me when I talk to her, and that she checks in on me, just like she used to. We love you, Grandma Myrtle.

We spent the week in the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island specifically. One of the perks of Tom’s job is that he gets four weeks of vacation. And they can only be taken in two one week chunks and one two week chunk. We can request certain months for vacation, but specific dates are chosen for us, and they are selected in July for the following year. It forces us to plan, and make use of his time, as it is so special. It also means they don’t always coincide with family get togethers. I hate that Tom often misses my family reunions, but we appreciate that it gives us time as a little family to get away and make memories. We rented a small cabin that was right on the water. We spent our three days there playing in the sand, hiking, fishing, cooking over the fire and BBQ, eating outside, driving around the island, and enjoying the resort’s spa. The first day was gorgeous, the second rainy, and the third overcast. We made the most of the weather, hiking despite the rain, and enjoying family time playing games and reading books inside, but we were all thrilled the the rain cleared the third day so we could return to the beach, the pier, and the breathtaking outdoors. I’m really glad that we chose a place on the water, because Orcas Island has very limited public access to the water. The place we stayed West Beach Resort, had a good stretch of beach and a long dock from which to take in the scenery. The boys got drenched and totally sandy a few times each day. I was grateful that a change of clothes was only a few strides away! The ferry ride there is a good fifty minutes of sheer beauty. Islands dot the landscape in layers, with Mount Baker faint as a backdrop.

Now for pictures:

Day 1:

Ferry Ride

I tried hard to capture the beauty of the islands on our way in. But you just can’t capture the expanse. They seem to go on endlessly. It made me reflect on how incredible the human eye is. What a creative masterpiece. Despite my fancy camera, it couldn’t come close to capturing what I could see. 

Scotland was most excited about “discovering secret passage ways” in the ferry. Something he and Tom did last time they rode the ferry together. Tom as always, was willing to indulge his appetite, so the three of them set off to try out every stair well, elevator, and hallway. Leaving me to savor the wind in my hair, and the beauty before me.

I was determined to spot any whales that were had to be spotted. We were rounding the corner from Lopez island to Orcas when there they were two orca whales! We saw them dive in and out of the water several times, just as the captain instructed us all to return to our vehicles. We waited and watched a little longer before a firmer voice repeated the demand. I was tickled pink that my persistence had paid off, my wish granted, and that my two boys saw their first whales in the wild! (Lucky ducks!)

Our cabin- #4.

Beachfront property. Sigh. Scotland suggested we buy a house by the water in the future. I’m right there with you bud. (Well, except for the constant supply of sandy wet laundry!) 

Scotter and I had a blast building a “fish trap” on the beach the first afternoon, while the two other boys slept. I found that waterproof pants, boots, and rubber gloves made for a much more pleasant beach experience for me. Then I was willing to get “into it” just as much as Scotland, without getting squeamish about the bugs jumping out of the sand, or wet pants. I’d wished I would have sprung for waterproof pants for Scotland before this trip. He may be getting thigh-high waders for Christmas!

Our first night, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. A real treat since we didn’t see the sun the rest of the time we were there. We had tin foil dinners and s’mores for dinner the first night- note my boys there around the fire in the bottom right. (The tin foil dinners were a huge success- They had precooked and marinated BBQ chicken, diced baked potato, corn and onion slices. The BBQ flavored everything and the fire gave it all a delicious smoked flavor. The fact that everything was pre-cooked was key- it was just a matter of heating it up!)Day 2:

The second day it rained all day. But we were determined to make the most of it, so we set off in the morning to explore Moran State Park.

All started well. Anders and I were fully suited up- totally rain proof. Tom and Scotland were only covered on top, and had water proof shoes.

We chose the mountain lake loop, and stopped to play at the lake about a fourth a mile in. A poor decision. Scotland was thrilled to play in the water, as always, but fell in not longer after getting there. Which didn’t deter him from having a fabulous time at the lake, but did result in a less than happy camper once we hit the trail again. Let’s just say we didn’t make it the full four miles.

The boys would have happily played by the lake the whole day, throwing rocks, building boats, and being boys.

Note Ander’s rock!

After a long play session at the lake we set off again from the trail. But what followed was a good half hour of whining and crying from Scotland, negotiating/pleading/demanding from Tom and I, until finally I grabbed his hand and started skipping along belting out such greats as “Do you Ears Hang Low” and “Shinnamerinkadinkadink!” which lessened his displeasure, but didn’t completely stop it until I made him the soloist of “The Wheels on the Bus-” “The baby on the bus says: motioning to him” He immediately grew silent, laughing as over and over I sang the prompt “The baby on the bus says Scotter, that’s your part!” He thought it was hilarious and requested I sing that song the rest of the way back. Despite the emotional duress Scotland’s cold, wet state brought upon all of us we still enjoyed a beautiful, though brief hike.

Thanks to Anders rain suit. He was happy as a clam!

On our way home we saw a bunch of deer and then a huge bullfrog hoping across the road! I HAD to pull over. It’s not everyday a boy gets to see a frog that big. Of course I had to catch it, because well, that’s what you do when you see a frog right?!

The rest of the day was spent working on the Snap Circuit, reading, and goofing off in the cabin. We did head out before dinner to buy a fresh salmon to grill up, which was fabulous! Tom and I enjoyed seeing more of the island. We at dinner on the patio, listening to the rain pitter pater as we enjoyed grilled cheese and tomato soup, and salmon.

Day 3:

Anders and I were up first so we sneaked out to enjoy the early morning quiet so the other two could sleep.

We were rewarded with a bald eagle site-ing as well as fish, crabs, a starfish and of course lots of sea birds. With the rain cleared Anders enjoyed his breakfast out next to the water, and Scotter enjoyed a pre-breakfast sand session.

After breakfast, I took Scotland fishing. We rented a pole and tried our luck with hotdogs at the end of the dock. (As was recommended.) He had several tiny fish bite, and several larger fish sniff, but no takers. I was proud of his patience, and persistence, but after a good half hour lacking in excitement, he decided to move on to other things. I was surprised at my desire to teach him to fish, to show him the joys of fishing, the thrill of teasing the fish, the art of imitating the fly, worm, etc. I don’t think of myself as a fisherman, but I fished every summer growing up on our family backpacking trips, and I can appreciate the thrill of taking in a fish! I’ll admit I was disappointed that I didn’t have a license, and couldn’t try my own hand at snagging those whoppers down below.

We visited Eastsound that afternoon, it’s a charming tiny little town with a couple streets full of darling shops and restaurants. I’m always a sucker for the beautiful potted flowers tourist towns such as these support.

Day 4:

We headed back to the mainland around noon. After eating a scrumptious brunch at the Island Skillet. Fortunately the clouds had blown off and it was, again, a gorgeous clear ferry ride. We wrapped up our trip with a visit to Mt. Erie in Anacortes. The view was beyond breathtaking. Almost unworldly. Pictures can’t come close:

For future reference here’s my brief review of the vacation: We were really grateful we chose to rent a cabin instead of tent it. For one it was really wet, and we all appreciated our sleep. We had more struggles than we would have liked with Scotland. (I’m really appreciating our spacious house after our tiny cabin.) If we go again I’ll be sure to supply Scotland with water-proof gear, so he can go out whenever he wants without getting chilled. Next time I’ll plan it more thoroughly. There was a lot of “So what do we do now?” The indecision was hard on all of us. I liked having a kitchen, even though we did eat primarily pre-prepared foods. While it was nice to be there on the shoulder season because of it being quieter, and a little cheaper. I think we’ll go when the weather is more reliably nice in the future. We made the best of it, but we ended up in the cabin more than any of us would have liked. All in all we had a wonderful time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to leave behind the projects, stresses, and distractions of our home for some wonderful family time in a gorgeous place!

Equality in parenting

My sister-in-law sent this article around our family a few days ago. I have many thoughts about it, but haven’t had a chance to share them. I’ll do so here.

This article may be true for many couples. But I’m not sure it can be accurately said of mine. I think my husband’s job very likely meets if not rivals mine in stress and intensity. Interestingly, we are both in service occupations, and caring for people is difficult. Both of us have been thrown into jobs with little direction, and on site teaching. Both are required to do tasks we’ve never done before. Both of our actions poise potentially life threatening consequences.  Okay, maybe my job doesn’t qualify for that statement, but I’ll admit to constant worry about the long term consequences of my actions. Both of us deal with sleep deprivation- he, more so these days. Both are forced to multitask. So, as Ms. Senior says, “Its about the perception of equality.” At least when comparing careers, for me, we are equal- if not, he wins out on the more stressful, less-desirable front. Granted, I have only two children, and they are both perhaps on the “easy” side. And Tom is in the most intense year of what is already a grueling residency. I may have to revisit this article in, ahem, six years.

That being said the article did confirm that I am not alone on two fronts:

I loved this description of an emotion I feel often:

“Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.”

And to go along with it, the final kicker:

“They found that while leisure time went a long way toward relaxing fathers, it did far less to subdue anxiety in mothers. So what, you may ask, did calm the mothers?

Simple: Seeing their husbands make a bigger effort to reduce the pandemonium in the house.”

I’ll admit to feeling both comforted and annoyed by the realization that I’m not alone in wishing my hubs would assert himself more in the maintenance of the house. (He’s fabulous about caring for the kids! He always puts the boys to bed if he’s home.) When I let my negative brain kick in I started to feel the “Uh! Men!” slur arise. Which I quickly released, because I believe polarization is damaging. (Did you read the Pope’s speech?) But I was reminded of the many times when I’ve tried to suppress (usually unsuccessfully) frustration when Tom requested his day off be a “fun family day.” His desire for relaxation is always justified, and his intent to connect meaningfully with our boys is admirable. But more often than not I feel overwhelmed by the mounting list of tasks that our home requires. And the thought of once again tackling them all single handedly, almost brings me to tears. Wait, who am I kidding, I always have six hands tackling these tasks. Oh, that’s the problem! Somehow research proving that I am not alone in finding “relaxation” less than relaxing made me feel less like an uptight nag, and more of a normal woman. (Though logically I can appreciate this strength of men. Letting things go, relaxing.)

All this being said, there was a day or two there where these thoughts simmered and made me a little angsty. And then this happened, because, well, I married a saint: Tom called to say he was going to come home early. He could listen to his lecture at the library. I suggested he watch it from home, while the boys were doing their quiet time so I could run errands, etc. He watched his lecture, took the boys to Tae Kwan Do, and to my greatest delight made sure that Scotland attended to his chore of picking up the basement, and then made dinner. You better believe that that night as we watched “Cinderella” as a family (fabulous movie, if you haven’t seen the new one.) I was as relaxed and as present as could be. It was one of those idealic family evenings. The love was plentiful, and I did my best to etch it in my memory forever.

What made for the success? Two things. First, I was clear about my needs and expectations. “How about you come home so I can run out alone.” and “Scotland has to complete three things before he can watch a movie: 1, 2, 3.” And second, Tom was sensitive enough to catch my sincerity when I said “I’m feeling overwhelmed;” and willing enough to respond- not only by caring for the boys for the rest of the afternoon, but also by taking care of of the pressing household tasks. I’ll say it again, I married a saint.

Anders: 18 months

First “official” day in nursery. (He’s been attending for a month. Shhh. Don’t tell!)

My baby turned a year and a half this week. And boy is he a proud to be a “big boy.” He struts around after his brother, everyone like he’s one of them. He’s talking up a storm and mimics constantly. (Every time Scotland comes over and shows me his latest LEGO creation and tells me about it, Anders will immediately bring over the DUPLO he’s working on and chatter on about it.) He continues to be a total ham, bringing smiles and often laughter by most who see him. He’s officially a runner, watching him run down a hill the other day, his belly jiggling and his cheeks flapping with the movement is a sight I hope to never forget. He and Scotland like to “do their exercise” racing each other back and forth down the hall. Anders has started saying his version of “Ready, Set, Go!” The inflection is dead on, but only the “go” is clear.

Anders sees absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do exactly what his brother is allowed to do. And he gets VERY frustrated angry when I tell him he’s not old enough yet.  He was thrilled to be included in this painting project, and was very intent and focused. Unfortunately, this experience taught me that tempera paints don’t wash out. I guess he has a permanent painting outfit now!

This is a terrible picture but it captures Anders sleeping position of choice. He always goes to sleep like this. Feet crossed, bum in the air, arms to the side. I guess he needs to make room for his belly!

The house we rented in NH had this little play house, and Anders made singular claim on it. (Adrienne has a hilarious video of him closing the door, and shuttering the windows when she came over to visit!) He spent hours and hours in here. He created this little routine that he would repeat over and over: open the door, walk around and grab leaves, open the shutters, place leaves in the sink. Walk in the house. Close the door. Sit down next to the sink. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It’s Tom you can see sitting in the house above, and he said Anders performed this little pattern some ten times.

Where’s Anders?

His thinking face.

Anders is like Scotland in that he has this distinct thinking face. (Maybe all kids are that way, I wouldn’t know better!) More and more you see him examining things trying to make sense of them: the button that closes the garage door, the wheels on the stroller, the hook and eye of his duplo train.

He’s recently figured out how to assemble DUPLO and he’s beyond thrilled about it. He primarily loves building trains, often applauding himself when he gets a guy to stand up on the train, or finally gets a piece to adhere after a few tries. Other time he’ll raise both hands above his head and cheer. He’s always very proud of his creations, and as I mentioned early, typically finds me to show me what he’s build. He has a distinct train sound that he makes as he moves them around.

He continues to be an outdoor boy, often requesting to go outside as soon as he wakes up. He can now open the back door himself, and will often go out and play in the sandbox for a bit, or ride his bike. Scotland and he have figured out how to communicate when Anders needs a boost and they can now navigate our entire yard together, despite the rock walls. He loves harvesting in the garden. I’m hoping a few more green tomatoes will convince him that picking the red ones is a better idea! He’s learned about the native huckleberries that grow by the fort and will request I pick some for him when we’re up there together.

He continues to love balls and cars. He loves to play pass, and identifies “Ball” in all circular shapes, wherever we go.

His eating habits have improved. I’ve learned that he’ll gobble down stir fried and steamed veggies if they’re pureed. He now understands the concept- you can not have more X, unless you finish your Y. (Though he acts like he doesn’t every time!) He does NOT like to be fed, and will throw a fit when I suggest I want to feed him (to prevent mess). He’s a very messy eater and has a bad habit of throwing his plate when he’s done, though this is improving. (Drives me bonkers!)

He says: go, hi, bye, car, ball, where’d it go? (his most common phrase), Her’dis!, ma (first thing he says when he wakes up), Dada, blankie, thank you, Jesus, shoes, NO! (I used to think this was his automated response to anything asked of him, but it turns out he must genuinely NOT want to do most of the thinks I ask him, because when I say something like “Would you like a cookie” he quickly nods his head (so deeply his chin hits his chest) and says “ya.”  Don’t, WOW!, okay, oh! let’s go!

We often play the game “Where’d it go?” whether it be picaboo, or looking for his shoes. He’ll always say in a really high pitched voice with his hands out “Wher’dit go?” and when he finds it, or uncovers his eyes, he’ll say in a lower pitched voice “Her ‘dis!”

The other day in the car, Scotland asked: “Mom when did Anders get a lower voice than me?” “What do you mean, bud?” I asked. “He just said (in a low voice) Where’dit go?”

Hangin’ out with Poppa, and wearing his hat

He’s rather particular. In the morning he’ll cry for me to come, but as soon as I enter his room he’ll flop back down into child pose, and close his eyes. But if I say “Oh, are you not ready to get up yet” and walk towards the door, he’ll sit up and start crying again. He likes me to kneel there next to his crib and wait until he’s ready. We play games where he’ll stick his arm through the crib and I”ll kiss his hand. It’s our sweet time together.

His Victory pose.

He has four teeth up top. He just cut his fourth tooth on the bottom, and he has all four molars.

He is super social and says “Hi” and “Bye” to everyone. He’s gotten such a positive response to his friendliness that Scotland has started to join him in the act. I can assuredly say that Anders has single handedly increased the number of smiles in our house by a large margin. And we were already a pretty smiley family before he was born.

He will do anything for a laugh, and once you laugh he will do it over and over and over. Like the other night, I was fixing dinner, and he started doing a three legged down ward dog. Scotter and I chuckled, so he started spinning in circles on his feet and hands lifting up his leg every quarter turn or so. We laughed and laughed- and he loved it!

He’s never been one to watch any TV, but Scotland has recently taken an affection for Wild Kratts, and Anders quite enjoys it too. (He particularly likes the parts with footage of live animals.) It’s darling seeing him sitting there, a little couch potato watching TV. It rarely lasts over ten minutes.

His friendliness and flirtiness make him much loved. His Aunt Dantzel particularly adores him, and he her. The young women in the ward always gush when I’ll ask if they’ll hold him, and he’s always sure to ham it up and get a laugh out of them.

He says sweet prayers. He’ll put each hand on his chest, bow his head, and mumble quietly to himself!

Toothed grin

I love these last few pictures because they really capture the effect that Anders has on people. You just can’t help it! I can’t tell you how many people laugh out loud at his tilted head, squinty eyed, dimpled grins. (He’s apparently learned that his more exaggerated ones get better laughs, so he usually goes there first!)

We’re all absolutely in love with Anders. He has brought such an added measure of light heartedness and jovialty to our home. He’s strong willed and opinionated, hilarious and silly, sweet and affectionate, rebellious and naughty, obedient and attentive, social and friendly. But most of all, smiley. Happy half birthday Anderoo! We love you.

Anders 16 month milestones

This post is long overdue, and many of these “milestones” have been in place for months. But in hopes of never forgetting the many darling things he does:

Penguin hugs- When Anders gives hugs he puts his arms down flat against his side, or against his chest and presses his body and head into you.

Child’s pose-bum in the air, head on his blankie,

Adores his “Chip chip” (stuffed monkey), “Lovey” (bunny/blanket) and blankies (gets giddy when he sees them in his crib and pulls them out, and nuzzles them- often laying his blankie on the ground then doing child’s pose on top of it, his head resting on it a content smile on his face.

First Haircut

Hates diaper changes.

Shoes- he LOVES shoes. He prefers to be wearing shoes, and wants to put them on as soon as he wakes up. He gets so excited when he sees a pair of his shoes and will bring them over to me, even if he is already wearing a pair. He said “Shoez” for the first time last week.

Signing- Anders seems to really appreciate the sign language we have taught him. He beams with delight when he signs “water” or “drink” and I say “Are you thirsty? Would you like a drink?” Or when I open the door for him to go out after he’s looked me in the eye and signed “outside.” He regularly uses, “hungry,” “outside,” “dog,” “drink,” “night night,” “bird,” “bread” and “hot” but he also knows “Please” “thank you” “more” and “all done.” It’s so darling when he’s sitting there eating breakfast and he sees a little bird at the birdfeeder, he’ll say “cheep cheep” and sign bird. He’s also lately started signing dog whenever he hears a dog barking.

Just this last week he’s started to attempt speaking more. He’s said shoes, car, rock, Jesus, that, Momma, Dadda.

Smiles. They’re constant. They’re wide mouthed. They light you up. The other day we were at IKEA waiting to make some returns. One lady near us was taken in by his friendliness and talked and smiled at him, another woman gave very little response. He kept looking at her and beaming, and beaming and them became quite serious, clearly puzzling over why he wasn’t getting his typical response. He just stood there staring at her for a long time. And then looked back at the more joyful woman and gave her another dazzling grin, she burst out laughing.

Hide and seek. He’s the kid that does it with whoever’s sitting in the pew behind us. It’s one of the few ways I can distract him from screaming and spinning when I change his diaper.

Eating. He loves to eat. He seems to have textural issues. A dish that he’ll put his nose up at in the chopped form, he’ll scarf down when blended- mostly vegetables. He still breaks out in minor hives around his mouth when I feed him scrambled eggs or peanut butter. He just doesn’t eat eggs any more, but he loves peanut butter.

Outdoor boy- he loves being outside and requests to go outside several times a day. (Every time I sing praises to our home with it’s fenced, private backyard!) He loves the sandbox (Despite it’s 1/2″ of sand). If I go out with him he likes to have me help him through his routine of toys: 20 seconds on the scooter, 20 seconds on the bike, 10 seconds on the rocking horse, then we play ball, and then he wants me to help him climb the ladder up to the fort, then he wants a few pushes on his swing. It’s the same order everytime, the same short durations. He’s bound and determined to get up to the climbing trees where Scotland loves to play (a bunch of HUGE rhododendron that I pruned up so the kids could climb in them. He has successfully made it to the top a few times on his own, but he’s also gotten stuck enough times to be more cautious now.

The best development of late is his ability and desire to play with Scotland. A month or two ago their interactions were frequent and loud- Anders did a lot of screaming. I’ve worked hard to teach both boys better ways of interacting, and tried to stand back a bit more and let them work it out. It seems to be working because they play together so well now. Scotland loves the company and Anders loves to be included. Anders plays legos with Scotland, they wrestle, they play in the sandbox, they run around and chase each other, and more and more they CRACK EACH OTHER UP! Hearing the two of them bantering back and forth, laughing hysterically at the other’s silly sound or crazy movement always brings a smile to my face. Anders puts up with a lot. Where he used to scream every time Scotland took something from him, now more often then not he just runs with it. He can put up with a fair amount of wrestling, and seems to be learning when to run off, and when he does need to cry for help. (Scotland sometimes forgets that he’s playing with a one year old and not a fellow four year old!)

Running. You probably couldn’t technically call it running, but his arms are swinging and his little feet moving fast and you can tell he thinks he’s running. The movement is clearly a delight because it’s always accompanied with a smile and twinkling eyes.

Taking instruction

Writing. Anders has a natural pencil grip. He scribbles with good control. He loves to sit up to our desk downstairs and color next to Scotland.

Backing up to sit in your lap.

Helper. He loves to help sweep- usually just using his broom to scatter up the pile I swept up. If he sees me carrying something large, he’ll reach his hands out to help. He’s forever joining me with a tool to build a cabinet or work on the kitchen in someway. I nearly always vacuum with him holding on walking along with me.

Looking dapper on Mother’s Day

Just this past week he’s turned into a cuddle bug. He’s never been a super huggy child, but all of a sudden he’s started to just come up to me his arms held high with a little whimper. I’ll pick him up and he’ll turn his head to lay on my shoulder, and move his arms flat against his sides- a penguin hug. I love it!

Social. He loves people and attention. Last week during Sunday school he entertained two of the elderly sisters behind us for the full hour. If they dared look up at the teacher he would do something darling and funny to bring their eyes back to him. He passed his ball back and forth, he tickled them, and more than anything he smiled, then tilted his head and smiled some more. At first I felt bad that he was being so distracting but then looking at their own beaming faces, I figured this was probably as good for them as anything!

He loves being involved in Joy School. And loves to have friends over.

He continues to love his sleep. He goes to bed around 6:30 and wakes up around 7:00 then usually takes a 45min-1 hour morning nap around 10:00 and another one- two hour nap around 12:30.

He likes looking at books, but doesn’t much like being read to. Well, his favorite thing is for you to have a book that you read, and for him to have a book that he looks through next to you. He DOESN”T want to sit on your lap. And he DOESN’T want to look at the same book that you are looking at. He’ll get out books through out the day and sit down and flip through them looking at the pictures.

He loves playing kitchen.

He continues to love balls.

He does this adorable thing during prayers (well rarely during the prayer.) He puts both hands on his chest (like he’s too chubby to fold them across himself or something) and bows his head. It’s darling, and lasts 2 seconds.

He’s very independent. He’s happy to play on his own. He takes commands well “Anders will you go get your jacket/shoes, we need to go.” He gets the goings and comings and goes with the flow well. He walks the halls of the church like he owns the place, and people always comment on what a little man he is. (It’s clear, that he is totally unaware of how much smaller he is than the rest of us.) When we enter the library he immediately wants down so he can beat his brother to the computer station.

He uses a fork well.

By and large, he’s a really easy baby. Just keep him fed and well slept! We love our Anders. He keeps us laughing and smiling.