thriller

We dropped Steve off at the train this morning. That meant an early Friday morning departure. I treated the kids to Dunkin' before heading to school (awesome Mom that I am) and found myself in such a caffeinated good mood with the holiday weekend ahead that we had ourselves a little 80's dance party. "Thriller" came on and boy, did Caroline love the zombie arms I demonstrated for her. She laughed and "car danced" all the way until the voice at the end of the song. You know the one I mean. I turned around smiling to check on her and there she was, absolutely terrified, hands over her ears. I reassured her, it was OK, and the man was going to laugh and wouldn't that be funny? It wasn't. His laugh made her squirm in her seat and thankfully, Rick Springfield saved the day with "Jessie's Girl.

I was reminded of my own experience with "Thriller." Thanks to satellite radio I know that the song debuted in 1984, when I was six years old. I might have been the biggest six year old Michael Jackson fan. I used to scream when he came on the television, I would yell upstairs to my mother, "Mom, Michael Jackson is on, come quick!" I owned an LP of the Thriller album and I regularly danced to it in the living room or in my bedroom on my Fisher Price record player. When that music video came out, it was a very big deal. They were debuting it on MTV, but the local video store was renting it. I begged my parents, pleaded with them, to please rent it for me. They tried to talk me out of it, "it's scary!" I was undeterred. It was Michael, and I HAD to see it. They acquiesced. I watched approximately 30 seconds of it and hid my head in the sofa. I could hardly sleep that night, certain that the undead were lying there in the space between my bed and the wall, waiting for me to fall asleep so they could eat my brain.

I often say that Caroline is so very much like Steve, but where scary things are concerned, she is ALL Mommy.

signs

Connor has learned from his big sister that the trick to bedtime is to be as cute as humanly possible with as little actual movement as you can muster. The children literally fade into the landscape of the house, blending perfectly with the couch or the pillows on our bed. This is how you get extra minutes added to your "awake time." I attended the funeral of perhaps my favorite patient of all time yesterday. I knew I would need a little extra strength, so I wore the bracelet my grandmother passed down to me for my confirmation. She was my sponsor. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Her father gave it to her when she made her confirmation. I still have the note she included in the box in her perfect penmanship, so that someday I might pass the bracelet and the note down to my own granddaughter. A photo would be perfect here, but I don't have one handy. It is a silver chain of roses with the stations of the cross on back of each bloom. It was a tub night yesterday. We divided and conquered. Caroline and Steve retreated downstairs, while I wrangled Connor into dinosaur pajamas. We read about Harold and his adventures with that purple crayon and "garbage out." While we snuggled together amongst pillows, he noticed my bracelet. "who give this to you?" "my grandmother, Granda's momma." "oh, that nice momma." I tried to tell my two year old how he was in a way named for her; eleaNOR and conNOR. He asked me to sing "my song," which apparently is "please don't take my sunshine away." We sang an extra round for grandma Eleanor, while his fingers fumbled with the roses and flipped them back and forth. The boy who could literally sit in his crib wide awake talking and singing for an hour or more went right to sleep. It's hard not to think of the possibilities of that other world; My patient, my bracelet, my grandmother, my boy, all connected for those few minutes.

Myrtle Beach, SC

The whole McFam was lucky enough to spent some time together in South Caroline this past week.


The weather might have made us pale northerners stick out from the crowd a bit, but it was bike week, so there were plenty of other people getting looks from the people watchers. We had one solid beach day, but



we all agreed we did things we wouldn't have normally done.

We visited Alligator Adventure! Caroline says we saw "twenty" and Connor says we saw "two," but we really saw way too many to count. It wasn't just gators either. There were tigers and turtles and parrots and bats and SNAKES. I got over my intense fear of snakes and took Caroline into the Serpent Room where I nearly passed out at the sight of the Burmese Python... until we got to a window where I couldn't find the snake and then I was sure I kept spotting one slithering on the ground. Caroline wants me to share the story of the Tiger Feeding, where she saw a tiger "eat his hot dog without taking the wrapper off (in actuality it was a huge chicken bone) and then puke it all up, and then eat it again." This was by far Kiki's favorite part of our time at Alligator Adventure. Here is Auntie with our favoite little lyle, lyle crocodile, a pile of juvenile American Alligators, the kids getting friendly with a safe to touch gator, and Con being Con.








A visit to the new Sky Wheel along the Boardwalk was a must. Both kids told us it was their favorite part of the trip when we snuggled in bed before Shel Silverstein last night. Caroline can't wait to bring her "I heart SkyWheel" sticker to show and tell this week.



No trip to Myrtle Beach would be complete without some golf, so we managed to fit in a quick round.



One pint sized traveler preferred The Muppet Movie and made her impatience known to one and ALL. As Auntie kerry said, she was just saying what all the grown ups want to say, but can't. "I WANT TO GET OFF, I DON'T WANT TO BE ON THE PLANE ANYMORE!"


The other enjoyed the actual flight so much that when we hit some pretty scary turbulance at one point causing a woman to scream, he laughed and said "Do it again!" He was so into the flight prep on the ramp at the airport that we even tried to say hello to a pilot. To the Douchey US Airways pilot who refused to acknowledge the little boy who said "Hi Pilot," ppppttthhhhh.


Aside from the laughs, the great memories, and spending time with some of our favorite people, this was by far my favorite moment. Connor insisted on pulling the kid's rolling bag all the way from the carousel when we arrived, all the way to check in, and then ALL the way through Logan to the car. by himself. People in the airport cautioned, "aren't there laws against that?" The men who braved seats behind and then in front of us offered to take him golfing with them, so long as he brought his own beer money. My least favorite moment would be when he took a nap on me during our layover in D.C. and pooped the most awful poop of forever that permeated the air around him and I swear to you I could smell it all the way from D.C. to Boston. Thanks to Little Keeks and Big Papa for their sweet southern hospitality.

size matters

Caroline has been pretty true to size throughout her life. When she was six months old, the tags on her clothes were "6-12 months" and now that she is five years old, she is of course sporting size five dresses and jeans. She recently became aware of the size. I was in the middle of the dreaded seasonal switchover and her clothes were so jammed into her dresser we could barely close the drawers. Short sleeved tees pushed up against corduroy pants thanks to the unseasonablly warm temps in April, followed by 50 degree days in May. You go ahead and tell Caroline she can choose any dress she wants one day and then talk her into a sweater and wool socks the next. It wasn't pretty. I have to pat myself on the back that I seem to finally have a grip on how to handle the seasonal switch out. I cull through and keep a few wintery items and lots of layering pieces in the drawers and relegate anything too worn or ure to be too small to the donate or hand me down box. I place anything that has a prayer to still fit in the fall in the "saving it for next season box." For the first time, I had help with my task, and that is when she realized she is a size five. Anything that read "four" we put aside for hand me downs. Then the real fun began when we started hanging the cute dresses in the closet and emptying nantucket red skinny jeans and Bermudas into her drawer. Her wardrobe has a preppy nautical feel this season. As I typed this I realized that I just got a bunch of preppy nautical update for myself as well. Clearly, I was coveting my five year old's closet. All was well until one day Caroline refused to put on her pajamas. I couldn't figure out why. "they say four and I not four! I'm five!!!" I had a good laugh about that. She carefully checks the tags on anything she suspects might not be a size five. She cannot understand how she wears a size 12 shoe or how I wear my size since I'm 34. It has also come up when we encounter situations she previously had difficulty managing, like leaving the playground. I'll remind her that when it is time to go, we leave without antics or whining or sassing. "mommy, I was four then, I'm five now." I would hope I could use this to my advantage a la, "you are five now, not four," but it never seems to work that way.

clear

A house around the block has been undergoing a big renovation for months. It's mostly happening inside, but I still drive the long way (often) to check it out. I'm the nosy neighbor lady who wants to count trucks, see what the painter will be painting next, imagining all the "new" happening within the walls. Today I really needed a run. It has been one of the most stressful weeks at work, which is you know, awesome. Lots and lots I could say about that, but I am going to do my best to just shut my mouth and cope. This means we are drinking wine tonight, lots and lots of teeth staining red wine. I got home and needed to clear my head. So I plugged in my ear buds, stretched my legs and took off for a jog. I headed by that house and as I ran past I saw the same green dumpster that has been in the driveway throughout the renovation. There were no commercial vans, no pick up trucks, just a white SUV in the driveway and that green dumpster. I glanced over, noticing some broken green wood beams sticking out and I gasped.

The swingset.

I had noticed it before, long forgotten, sagging to the right, pushed all the way to the tree line. In fact, I had always noticed it, the symbol of the family's childhood, abandoned there in the yard, falling apart, fading into the dense woods.

I thought of her instantly, the kind mother of the three now teenage kids who I see walk by with her little white dog in the afternoon. I imagined her standing at the door with her coffee, having gotten the kids off to school, staring at the empty expanse of her children's early life. I tried not to think of her walking past it to get to her car, having to see it sticking out when she returns home from errands. The memories she must have of those kids playing out there, the evidence that those days are just memories set to be carted off to the dump.

I started my run wanting to clear my head of all my work crazy. It didn't take more than 100 yards for me to think about other more important things.

collective sigh

Just like that, the week ended, and we were all back together. At 9:30 PM Friday night. All of us still awake because once they knew he was coming home, nothing could keep the kids from being there to welcome him back. They didn't care if the flight had been delayed two hours. I set out making dinner and they stood at the counter stirring ramekins with salt and other seasonings. Who knew that could be so much fun?

Here is the sign Caroline taped up to the door for Steve to welcome him home. "I miss you Daddy."


Our little family apparently now includes a very tall princess with hair down to her toes. Funny, I haven't noticed a raven haired Rapunzel around here. Steve loved that she drew herself the same height as me and Connor as a teeny tiny boy. The pictures they draw at this age really give so much insight into how they view their world, themselves.

After happy hugs and many eye rubs, we got the kids to bed, and settled at the kitchen table with a glass of wine to detroy nearly an entire skillet of The Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta. Holy crap you guys, it was sinfully good. It was all we could do to put a small bit of it away for the next day. I can't wait to have an excuse to make it again.

We were all exhausted and there was such a sense of peaceful presence in the house that even Caroline slept until nearly seven both days this weekend. Both days. Unprecedented. There were few plans, just a committment to a mandatory all house nap on Saturday afternoon. We cooked out, the kids had their first taste of corn for the season and the enjoyable experience of melted butter and salt running down their hands.

It's back to the regular grind tomorrow for all of us, but I have to leave you with the image of Connor and the Hokie Pokie. We danced it together tonight and taught him how to point both fingers in the air during "you do the hokie pokie and you turn yorself around." He marched everywhere tonight with just those two fingers pointed very purposefully into the air, serious as ever, as hysterically literal and sweet as a little boy can be.

The last sleep of Operation Canadian Tuxedo

Yes, it is upon us and we are so close to the end of this week that I almost want to click my heels together and call it a success, except it isn't quite over yet. Sure, tonight is the last sleep, but if I called it done now I'd be neglecting the morning rush, the work day, an ear recheck in the middle of the day (I have a perfect plan, which means it will get completely destroyed at approximately 8:02am), a daycare pick up, a meal, a post meal pandemonium, bedtime for at least one, and a welcome home meal for Steve. So really, I am quite far from the finish, so far that my previous near sigh of relief has been replaced with a sinking panic. It will be ok. We didn't come this far to fall on our faces now, but man. SO CLOSE.

Today was our rush day and I managed to propel myself out of bed ontime. I somehow hurt my neck on Saturday and it is STILL bothering me, and sort of clicking, and I need to turn my whole body to look left when driving. Nice. So sleep hasn't been so restful, but I am more annoyed than suffering. We got to Kiki's ontime and I walked into my meeting on time, so there's that. Work continues to be a challenge and today was one of those days, but I managed to get myself home in time to prep for the evening, pre label the cracker packets and juice boxes for lunches (I cannot tell you how much time this saves me!might make it a part of the daily routine before I grab the kids at school), and read a few chapters of that CRAZY book the rest of the world is reading. It is cray cray and I keep stopping myself saying "WHY! am I reading this?!" (often ALOUD) and then I go ahead and keep on reading.

I picked up the kids. They went screaming into the parking lot, refusing to be caught, and circled the car like wild animals. Normally, I'd lose it, but this week has brought great clarity. Caroline "pphtthh'd" at me as I hoisted her into the car and I close the door and gave her the death stare through the window. As we drove out of the lot, I calmly went through the brief history of time since pickup. "You tossed your sweater at me, you refused to wear your coat, you ran away from me in the parking lot, you "phhhttthh'd" me, and you are now whining. All of this in the three minutes since I got you from school. Let's put this behavior behind us and move on so we can enjoy the night." And it worked. I did not raise my voice. I did not lose my cool. It just worked and there was peace in the land. WIN! See, I did learn something this week!

I had one who asked for salad and one who asked for green beans at dinner and I couldn't bear one of them refusing their vegetable when the main course was Caroline's most favorite "pasta with butter." She ate two helpings of pasta (and most of Connor's!) and two servings of salad and then asked for more blue cheese dressing, which she licked off her fingers. Connor played in the sink again while the girls had an ABBA dance party. We took videos, but I lack the energy to go through that process.

The kids took a shower together. Connor was so upset that he didn't get to take a tub, I had to drag him into the bathroom from the corner he was cowering in, which I know won't win me any mother of the year awards. His sister, to her credit, put her arm around him and reassured him. We got him done fast and I gave her the go ahead to rinse her curl conditioner out while I dried and diapered him. While I toweled him off I told him how proud I was of his bravery and gave him a big high five. Caroline pulled on her pjs while I hung the towels and by the time I returned, Connor was in his pjs too, courtesy of big sister. For real, she got him dressed! If I had realized this was a possibility I would have done that sooner. Big Sister dressing Little Brother, could be a game changer!

I settled them into our bed with microwave popcorn and lemonade and while we had planned on an actual movie, the dance party had run long, and we had to settle for viewer's choice On Demand Disney Jr. They loved it. Throughout the show, "mommy, what you say in the da bathroom?" "I said you were brave!" "brave" another high five. That kid kills me.

Con went to bed and Caroline hung around while I typed up the last bit of my paperwork. With PBS "Royal Weddings" on in the background she fell asleep leaned up against me and I didn't move her until I had to leave to go get the laundry from the dryer. Sidenote: I should have flown through all the shows on the DVR that are just for me, but instead I watched a lot a PBS, a scary amount of WWII coverage on the Military channel (?!), and if I am being honest, all the current episodes of Dance Mom available, both the original and Miami. In fact, there are other odd things about how we did things this week that are so completely outside of the norm like the fact that we only played downstairs in the play area exactly once all week. I kept them busy upstairs with dance parties and fires and snacks and activities with scissors and those amazing Bananagrams tiles that they didn't even lament about not being able to make a horrific mess for mom, party of one, to clean up. I washed most of the dishes by hand. Why? I cleaned out several drawers in the kitchen and the medicine/beauty product shelf of the linen closet. Again, Why? I spent more time in our bed this week than in the entire month of May, but clearly that was because it was the comfiest place to be all by my lonesome when the kids went to bed.

It has been quite a journey this week, transformative in many ways for all of us, Steve included. I'm not sure what I am looking forward to more; Steve coming home, the meal I have planned for him, the glass of wine I will guzzle, or the swiftness with which I will be able to fall asleep knowing we are all under one roof.

Operation Canadian, oh whatever, is he home yet?

Day Four here and we are really ready for Daddy to mosey on back from Canada ANY OL' TIME. We are managing surprisingly well, though every little task seems to take a lot longer without the extra pair of parental hands. Cleaning up from dinner and making lunches is like a march through an endless desert, but I've found some ways to get through that time. Fill the sink and let Connor "clean" the silverware, stir the water, and exclaim, "bubbles!" over and over. Write a sentence of Caroline's choosing on a piece of paper and pass over the Bananagram tiles. That girl went to town tonight hunting down letters to spell out "who took the ball." Thank you, Bananagrams.
It may have been our best morning yet to accomplish my goal of "relaxed, yet ontime." Thursday morning is the worst day in terms of morning rush, so we are ALL getting to bed a little early tonight in anticipation. I'm up waiting for the fire to die down enough to safely get to sleep without having nightmares of you know, the house burning down or my own personal worst fear in life, having to choose which one of them to save. So yeah, DIE fire DIE.

Oh, did I fail to mention that we had a fire tonight? I prepped that fire before I even went to get to them from school, sweeping out the hearth, crunching the paper under the stacked wood. I picked up some of those super long "S'more Stix" and a bag of Jet Puffed Marshmallows. After dinner (the crowd pleaser chicken tacos) we lit the fire and roasted marshmallows. I panicked the entire time that one of them would poke their eye out with the ridiculously pointy stick and I would get a big FAIL for this week. The kids loved it. We must have spent a good half hour enjoying the fire, roasting barely cooked marshmallows (they cannot yet appreciate a perfectly roasted melty marshmallow), and listening to quiet music. This means they each ate at least 6 marshmallows. Good God, what was I thinking. Thankfully, American Idol came on and I moved the television over to the living room and Caroline had herself a little dance party. That girl loves herself some American Idol, though she is a little peeved that Colton got voted off.

I captured one of the best photos of Caroline tonight. After a car ride that included the statement, "I am the mother and you are the five-year-old, that's why," it was nice to see her smiling and sitting so nicely. I can see her grown up self in this shot. What a beauty, inside and out.


Here is the actual roasting. LONG stix! I had the two we used cleaned and stored back in the original bag before I realized (and said outloud), "Oh God, this is exactly what Kiki would do." (Keeks, that's a compliment!)


Later, one down, one to go.



Two more sleeps.


Operation Canadian Tuxedo Day 3

We slept in this morning. I think we all needed a little break and some extra snuggle time. When Steve called at 7 over the iPad, we hadn't done very much in the way of getting ready for the day. The kids loved seeing him, but are still way more impressed/excited by seeing themselves on the screen.

Steve sent some photos of the view from his company's office. He would want me to stress to you that this is not zoomed in at all. They are really this close to the Rogers Center and the CN Tower.


He headed over to the Rogers Center after his class got out to catch part of the Blue Jays game. Why wouldn't he?


The kids and I enjoyed breakfast for dinner; the waffle edition. They gorged. I gorged. There was lots of syrup and confectioner's sugar.


After dinner the kids enjoyed the other big surprise of the day; matching tool belts from IKEA. Seriously, adorable. You can sort of see it around Connor's waist. He was not so sure about the whole wearing the belt thing at first, but monkey see, monkey do. Once Caroline put hers on and I started siging, "Handy Caro," he was all in. Here they are "Handy Mannying" the doll highchair. Caroline got down on her knees and examined the underside of the tray and annouonced, "Yup, I thought so, we are to have to take this apart and start over. Sorry Buddy."


It also bears mentioning that Operation Canadian Tuxedo prompted this lovely photo snagged by my cous Kris on the T.


More fun Wednesday. Just three more sleeps.