Friday, March 30, 2012

T's Tourney Trip

The Final Four takes place this weekend. As you can tell from the last month of posts here, it's a fun time in our house. Tobin has been more involved in this tournament experience than ever before. The big story from the first weekend of the tournament was his early birthday present from Grandpa and Mimi, a trip to watch his beloved Tar Heels play their first round game in Greensboro. I was also the beneficiary of the trip, because I took a half day at work and drove us down. We ate lunch in the car after being sure to pack the necessities: UNC gear and Tobin's bracket:

ready to roll

On the way down, Tobin was even chattier than usual. He is a master conversationalist on an average day. But his stream-of-consciousness observations and rapid-fire exposition that Friday were remarkable even by his high standards. I asked if he would help me watch for signs to reach the Greensboro Coliseum. He responded "I'll even help you look out for curves--there's a curve right there!" We saw a semi truck pulled over by a few highway patrol cars. T opined "They may have stopped it because it had a bomb in it. If there was a bomb in it and it went off, the driver might get hurt. So the police stopped the truck to make sure the driver wouldn't get hurt. Or maybe its doors just opened on the highway. Or it could have had an accident."

His energy was high enough that he even spent a chunk of time talking about the latches on his Star Wars lunch box: "It's great because if I need it to be open, I can open it. But when I close it, it stays closed so I can carry it and nothing falls on the floor. 'Cause I wouldn't eat food from the floor of the car."

As we got off the interstate, I asked Tobin for his predictions for the day's games. He suggested Alabama would beat Creighton "Because I have them on my bracket. And they're Uncle Donnie's favorite team." He was positive Carolina would beat Vermont, so I asked what the score would be. He said "I think UNC will win by about 19."

Tobin was awed by the crowd of Carolina blue in the lobby at the Coliseum. We found our seats to watch the shootaround for the Alabama game. He was a little concerned at the light turnout for the beginning of the game until I explained that most of the people who were coming would come later for Carolina. The game was good, and went down to the final shot. As you can see, Tobin was a little disappointed in the result:



After brief disappointment with Alabama's loss, Tobin got to see his favorite team play for the first time. He was thrilled, and cheered as loudly as anyone in our section. By the end of the game, he was on a first-name basis with most of the players, shouting things like "Come on, Harrison! Nice block, Tyler! Behind you, Kendall!" As excited as he was, whenever he sat down, he had his bracket in his lap, updating it during the day as we heard scores from all over the country.

in our seats

We enjoyed hot dogs and popcorn and pretzels during the game, and yelled ourselves hoarse cheering the Heels on to an easy victory. As we filed out of the coliseum, we walked back through the lobby where Duke and Lehigh fans were waiting to get in. Tobin thought it was hilarious that UNC fans chanted "Let's go Lehigh!" as we left. His thoughts on the possible upset? "I don't think Lehigh can beat Duke, because they're a 15, and 15s really don't beat 2s."

We ended our special trip with a milkshake on the way out of town and discussion of UNC's chances going forward. There are more pictures of our trip here. Allison said we were both beaming when we got home that afternoon. I don't doubt that was true.

carolina boys

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Evan at 33 months

nap hair

Lately, I've been noticing how long and lean Evan is when I pick him up. He somehow feels lighter than his baby sister--even though he's still got about 10 pounds on her. Anyway, I've been reminiscing about two years ago when he was this chunky monkey:

encouraging

He's more boy than baby every day. While he still sleeps in a crib at night, he just yesterday asked for a pillow that has quickly become as essential for sleep as his baby doll and puppy dog. I think he wants his bed to be more like Tobin's. And he demands water as a ploy to delay us saying goodnight. He wants to carry his brother's backpack when we pick Tobin up from school. He occasionally pretends to go potty by standing in front of the toilet like Tobin does. (He's shown no strong interest in potty training, which is just fine by me because I'm not ready for that transition quite yet either.) Recently, we decided to try letting Tobin and Matt go without Evan to T-ball practice, thinking it would be easier for Matt to help out without having to keep tabs on Ev. Evan was heartbroken when they left to "play baseball" without him. We were just finishing supper, so I offered him some ice cream as consolation and then said he could take a bath with Lauren. Both seemed to lift his spirits and help him forget he'd been left behind.

33 months old

Evan does love being with his sister. When I carry her in to see the boys after she wakes up in the morning, he'll reach up to her and say something like "Hi Waurnen! How you doing? I wanna kiss me, kiss me!" And he gives her an enthusiastic kiss, much to her delight. When there's music playing, sometimes he'll hold her hand and ask her to dance, swinging her arm gently. Sometimes, he does have trouble remembering to be gentle and kind with her. Seemingly out of the blue, he'll intentionally push her over. Or he'll take a toy that he's sure is his. We've corrected him many times for such infractions. The other day as I was carrying him back to take his nap, he put my cheeks in his hands, furrowed his brow and said, "I no push Waurnen. Okay, Mama?" I'm not sure if he was mocking me or having a sincere repentant moment but either way, I had to smile. And shake my head.

cars

As Evan approaches three, he's especially temperamental. (Imagine!) He changes his mind quickly and forcefully. I'll offer him yogurt at the end of supper and he'll act offended and say "No, I don't want yogurt!" emphatically. And then when I start to sit down again, he'll wail, "I want yogurt! Pwease!" Sometimes I have the presence of mind to anticipate his change of mind and things go a bit more smoothly. I continue to find that in most situations in which he gets upset about life, if I remain calm but firm, we get through whatever it is fairly quickly. It's as if he needs to flip out for 60 to 90 seconds and then he's over it. I know things may get worse before they get better with him at this age but at least I have a strategy.

focused

The challenge of big emotions aside, Evan continues to move through life with enthusiasm and his own distinctive style. Recently the two of us have been playing board games. I think Matt or I remain his best partners as big brother is a bit too conventional with his rule following. When playing Candy Land, Evan likes to keep all the pieces to himself but will permit--sometimes insist--that I wave "hi" to them. The colored gingerbread men tackle each other. Frequently. With Connect Four, he likes to separate the colored chips, handing me "Tobin's yellow" chips while he keeps the red. He wins each time he completes a column, exclaiming "I did it!" My role is to set up said column completions. Memory is the closest he comes to being a traditional gamer. I try to use only about four or five matched card pairs at a time. He points to the cards he wants and patiently waits while I flip them--kind of like a live-action iPad. He's really quick about making the matches and gets so excited with each one, jumping up and down while saying "Yes!"

How I adore watching him figure out how to be a big boy, all while remaining planted in the wonderland that is toddlerhood. I wanted to get a video of him saying or doing something funny but oddly enough he disappeared right after lunch. So I was left chatting with Spider-man, who showed up about the same time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wellness weekend

sweet smiley swinger

After a week spent sniffling, coughing and aching, we headed into the weekend on the mend. And oh, what lovely weekend it was.

The weekend festivities officially started on Thursday when our friend Caleb flew in from Colorado to surprise Matt and our friend Bryon with a visit. Matt was very confused when someone knocked on our door at 8:30 on Thursday night, as we had the kids in bed and were presumably settled in to watch that night's Sweet Sixteen games. He looked at me, and I couldn't help but smile since I was in on the surprise. He greeted Caleb with honest astonishment and a big hug. So much fun! The guys watched the basketball games that night at our house and then met at a sports bar to catch Friday night's games. Matt, still feeling a tad under the weather from our family cold, headed home at halftime of the Kentucky-Indiana game, which was fantastic. Caleb visiting was enough to buoy Matt's spirits but the way Kentucky played just put things over the top.

Then on Saturday afternoon it got even better: Aunt Ashley arrived!

aunt ashley in the house!

Not long after her arrival, we headed to the Boohers for dinner and basketball. We watched Louisville win a tight game over Florida.

matt & bryon

We admired the littlest of our crew, Hazel, who's almost three months old!

hazel, alli & caleb

And Tobin, Evan and Miles played their own hoops, of course.

shootin' hoops

Saturday night brought some strong thunderstorms. That made for an especially lovely day Sunday as the rain washed away a lot of pollen and cooled off the temps. It felt like early spring! We enjoyed the morning at a local park where the kids played and Matt, Bryon and Caleb enjoyed some disc golf.

ash, tobin & evan

Then it was back to our house to watch Kentucky play Baylor for a chance to advance to the Final Four. Evan--who is rebounding well from his ear infection--woke up from his nap in time to catch the end of the game. Kentucky cruised to victory!

someone had a good nap.

And Caleb and Lauren got better acquainted. She like his cap, Duke logo notwithstanding. And his beard!

lauren & caleb

We said farewell to Caleb on Sunday but Ashley stayed with us most of Monday. Matt had a teacher work day so he got to sleep in a little and come home a little early. We mainly just relaxed, ate Matt's pimento cheese, played with the kids and ended our time together with supper at Chick-fil-A before Ash headed home to Atlanta. 

Really the only bleak spot in a very bright weekend was UNC's loss to Kansas on Sunday. We were sad but Tobin took it in stride, saying something like, "At least we still have another team to cheer for." Indeed. Go Cats!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sick day(s)

sick day

On Wednesday, Tobin stayed home from school because he was running a fever and had a runny nose and cough. He'd caught the cold-like virus that started with me and then spread to Lauren and Evan. I knew I felt bad the first few days I had it, so I figured it would be good for him to rest plus I hoped to spare spreading germs to his school classmates. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever kept Tobin out of school for illness since he started pre-K last year. He's had the occasional cold (never with a fever) but that's it.

He took it easy for a few minutes but spent most the day playing with his brother. They seemed to be particularly intent on scattering toys far and wide that day but I was totally in anything-goes mode since we had nowhere to be and I just was happy my sick kids were, well, happy.

most of the day was like this.

On Thursday morning, Tobin was fever-free and really hadn't seemed that snotty most of his "sick" day so he went back to school. He pretty much insisted he was all better and ready to return. Meanwhile, Lauren and Evan were still suffering from snotty noses. Lauren has acted the sickest of all the kids. Her first two nights with the cold were rough, but since then she's been back on her normal nighttime and daytime sleeping schedule. Still, she's been a tad fussier and clingier than usual. She's also cutting some teeth and so very close to officially crawling, so basically there's a lot on her baby plate right now.

playing the part

While Lauren has acted the sickest, it turns out that Evan has been the sickest. I found out today the little guy has an ear infection. I suspected something because he has been and remains the snottiest of all the kids. And he ran a fever the first couple days then was fine for the next few, but suddenly last night and this morning his temperature was up to the 100 to 101 range. Plus he just looked sick with heavy eyes and pale lips. So I took him to the doctor, who confirmed an ear infection and prescribed antibiotics. Apparently, March is tough on Evan. Last March he had his first-ever ear infection. And then a couple weeks later, still in March, he had his second. So this current ear infection is his third and, oddly enough, also in miserable March.

Incredibly, Evan hasn't acted sick. He's been sleeping day and night like a champ. And I've asked him many times over the last few days if his ear hurt. He has always whined dismissively, "Nooo!"--as if to say, "Please, stop asking me that, Mama." So all that makes it a little less heartbreaking but still I'm anxious for him to be on the mend. I'm thankful that somehow he's been able to be his usual charming, silly self. My sweet little trooper.

couch potato

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Missing Mimi

lala w/her mimi

Please indulge me while I mope. I am (hopefully) at the end of a cold. Evan has the cold, as does Lauren who hasn't been sleeping well, which means little rest for me. I'm listening to Tobin sniff and cough as I write this, so I'm assuming he's coming down with it too. And over the weekend my mom flew back home to Florida. It's never easy living 700 miles from my parents but it feels especially hard right after a visit. I'm really missing her company and assistance.

The silver lining in living so far from family is that it makes our time together all the more meaningful and precious. And we just had a particularly lovely visit from Mimi for a luxurious ten days. Thank you, Dad, for sparing and sharing her that long. We missed you!

Mimi arrived on a Thursday morning. After dropping Tobin off at school, the babies and I headed to the airport to retrieve Mimi from her "airplane in the sky!" From the moment she climbed into the back of the van, Evan chatted her up, pointing out trees and trucks and "waterrr" all the way to "Ebban's house!" Once home, he had immediate plans for her: playing golf outside. Watching my kids enjoy their grandparents is one of the best parts of their growing up. Evan would wake up each morning and from each nap, saying "I wanna see Mimi." And if she wasn't immediately in sight, he'd call out "Mimi, where are you?" Later that afternoon, she helped Evan ride Tobin's bike. On the deck, no less. But he loved it.

bike lesson

We had beautiful, warm weather while she was here and the boys had her outside supervising deck basketball; playing golf, kickball and baseball in our yard; and finding new adventures jumping over creeks along our usual walking trails. There was also time for quieter moments, like playing Tobin's favorite board game, Qwirkle, while the babies took their afternoon naps.

qwirkle!

In addition to being a fantastic playmate for the kids, my mom is amazingly helpful. She has a knack for simply getting things done. Within her first 24 hours here, she managed to accomplish something I only get around to every few weeks (months?): vacuuming our entire house, even under couches and other furniture. I got a kick out of this picture of the babies watching Mimi vacuum; it suggests that they are less than familiar with the vacuum cleaner. They do see it--just not very often.

what's that, mama?

While she was here, Mimi also put up a new shade in the boys' bedroom, fixed a broken doorknob, cleaned our windows, dusted the ceiling fans and generally kept the house neat and orderly. At the end of the day, when we usually have to help Tobin pick up the day's toys, there'd be little to clean up because Mimi had picked up throughout the day. I also feel as if I have a self-cleaning kitchen when she's here. I'm fairly fastidious about my kitchen, which means I spend a lot of time in there with all the cooking and cleaning required for a family of five. Not only did Mimi make us some good food, she also spared me a lot of wiping down counters, dishwasher loading/unloading and the like.

Mimi always encourages Matt and me to go on a date while she's in town. We left her at home with pizza and Netflix for the kids and went out to eat. At this stage in my life, a dinner out with just my husband is one of my most favorite things. I enjoy a meal that I neither have to plan, prepare or clean up. I don't have to remind anyone to eat, or get up to get water right after I've served someone more yogurt, or feed anyone spoonfuls of pureed vegetables with one hand while I try to feed myself with the other. Matt and I enjoy leisurely, uninterrupted adult conversation--even if it almost always seems to work its ways back to smiling and laughing about children. After dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant, Matt and I came home to find three happy kids, all ready for bed. So nice.

During this particular visit, it seemed Mimi shared so much of our lives. She saw and felt Lauren's first tooth. She attended our friend Miles' birthday party with us. She witnessed me failing to get Evan to eat a single Chick-fil-A nugget followed by me crawling into the play area tubes to retrieve him from tackling another toddler. (Stinker!) She watched Tobin's first T-ball practice of the season. She saw Lauren get this close to crawling. She helped Evan and Lauren take their first bath together. And she watched a lot of college basketball with us--even filling out her own bracket and discussing the first two days of the tournament in minute detail with Tobin.

Although I'm missing her acutely right now, I'm so thankful for Mom's visit. I appreciate her generosity and resourcefulness. And I love how she loves my babies. I also adore how they're learning that Mimi is one of the most important (and fun!) people in their lives. With the memory of this particularly wonderful visit, we look forward to our next time together. We love you Mimi!

pretty girls

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tobin at 70 months

seventy months

With the NCAA Tournament underway, Tobin wears a UNC t-shirt or jersey most days a week. And this week of his life was made extra special because a couple days ago, he attended the Tar Heels' first tourney game in person. Matt will share more about that awesome experience later.

While Tobin hasn't worn holes in those shirts yet, his pants are suffering from an epidemic of holey knees. I was culling his clothes the other day and counted five pairs of pants or jeans with sizable holes in the knee. And curiously enough, the holes are only in the right knees. Only about two of these would be worth patching--were I to attempt such a thing. I think they're more likely to be converted to cut-off shorts. In any case, they won't be handed down to Evan as pants so I'm trying to store this in my memory for when I open the 5T box for Ev in a few year and wonder, Where are the pants?!? Recently, at the end of a laundry week, I sent him to school in holey pants. I was kind of self-conscious about it but then I noticed several other boys in his class had holes in their pants' knees too. When I chatted with his teacher, she assured me this was a busy boy phenomenon. It appears the holes can be explained by style of play and, upon further inspection, that my boy is growing very quickly. His pants are suddenly at or above his ankles. Fortunately, I had some larger pant sizes in reserve (courtesy of Mimi's shopping last fall) and it's getting close to full-time shorts weather anyway. He couldn't be more excited about this, as one of his favorite things to do lately is change into shorts when he gets home from school.

I've had a couple more chances to volunteer in Tobin's class this past month. There, I'm watching him become a big kid before my eyes. He acts differently than he does at home. It's not a stark contrast but there's a subtle difference in his mannerisms. He's comfortable and confident at school too, and it's amusing to watch him be silly with his friends and attentive with his teachers. I've even seen him roll his eyes and laugh in an exaggerated way when one of his friends said something funny. I still think of him as my fairly reserved, kinda shy little guy so I especially enjoy watching him loosen up.

silly sweet boy

Another area where Tobin comes out of any perceived shell is with sports. Whether watching basketball and checking his tourney bracket or playing PIG or HORSE (or any other similar-length word of Tobin's choosing) with his dad, Tobin does so with gusto. This past week, he started practice for his second season of T-ball. In his league, he had the option of trying out for a more advanced division--since he played T-ball last year--but Matt and I decided another year of T-ball/modified coach's pitch was appropriate. He was the youngest player on his team last year so all of his coaches and most of his teammates have moved up. But our first impression of his new team is that it's going to be another great year. Really, we have no reason to expect anything else as all of our organized sports seasons (two soccer and one T-ball) have been so much fun. The only thing better than watching Tobin watch sports is watching him play sports. He gets so excited when he does well and he truly takes missteps in stride. I was just asking him which position he liked playing best in T-ball. He said, "Well, I've only played two positions in practice this year: first and third. I think I like first base better because you have to catch more. And I'm not very good at catching, so I need all the practice I can get."

That sums up so much about how Tobin approaches sports . . . and life.

  multitasking

Friday, March 16, 2012

Out = In (Lauren at 9 months)

kitchen help

Today marks the end of Lauren's ninth month outside my belly. Already. Of course, it also seems she has always been part of our family. She is clearly the happiest, sweetest baby in the whole world.

  pretty baby girl

She remains wonderfully healthy and exquisitely plump. At her well baby check-up earlier this week, she weighed 23 lbs. 14 oz. (95th percentile!) and measured 27.5" long (50th).

perfect

Her diet still consists mainly of breast milk but she also enjoys oatmeal, yogurt, applesauce, bananas, avocados, green beans, sweet potatoes and squash. She eats most of these in the pureed form, as she just cut her first tooth three days ago. You can't easily see the tooth yet but she looks like she's trying to show it off here:

can you see my tooth?

Her first tooth timing was excellent because her Mimi happens to be visiting. The two of them have enjoyed each other's company so much over the last week or so.

big brother is funny.

Lauren's sleep patterns are fairly consistent. She takes two naps, lasting 60 to 90 minutes most days. At night, she usually wakes up once or twice but nurses and transfers easily back to her crib. It's all kind of relative to me because, at her age, Tobin was sleeping with us. Evan had moved reluctantly to a crib and had enough trouble sleeping that we ended up sleep training him. Though I wish she would sleep uninterrupted, I'm happy and rested enough to avoid more dramatic measures to help her sleep better. I have recently let her fuss at the beginning of the night when she seemed to have trouble falling or staying asleep. But she seems not to be having trouble with that anymore. And occasionally, she won't fall asleep nursing so I'll put her back in her crib awake and she might whimper a few times but almost always goes to sleep. My experience with the boys makes me appreciate her relative consistency and also remember that things can change for the better or worse quickly. I feel confident in her ability to soothe herself to sleep (She adorably sucks her thumb!), so I'm hopeful she will continue to progress--apart from the occasional setback.

She's not quite crawling yet but is on all-fours frequently. It's kind of a nice stage for me because she can pivot and scoot and roll to get most things she wants without moving too quickly from one place to another. So I can bring her in the kitchen with me, give her a few things to play with, and get some things done while she's safely underfoot. Tobin was crawling by now but Evan was not, so she's right on target. Although it appears she's not even close to standing, she will try to pull up on an adjacent table or chair. So perhaps she'll cruise before she crawls.

Lauren's chatting us up regularly now, mainly with: "da da," "nuh nuh," "guh guh" and "duhhh!" She claps and makes gestures that approximate waving and pointing. She recently thrilled her big-big brother with a "buh buh." Tobin declared: "Mom, she said 'brother'! It was her first word!" Mainly, I think she's just making sounds but I imagine the associations will come soon. And she will have an eager audience awaiting--and then applauding--her accomplishments.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tourney Time

The NCAA Tournament is an exciting time in our house. I've followed for as long as I can remember, and Allison has been a fervent fan at least since we started dating. Tobin is all in, too. At least half a dozen times this weekend, T said "Dad, I reeeally want to do my braaacket." Even though I explained every time that the brackets wouldn't come out until Sunday evening, he kept asking. Evan isn't interested so much in watching basketball as he is playing it (more on Evan's bracket at the end).



Tobin cheered his way through the seeding Sunday, and we set a date to fill his bracket Monday after I got home from work. On Monday, I asked "Do you want to do it on paper or on the computer?" Pragmatically, he decided "Computer. My handwriting isn't so great, and those lines are really little."

After getting logged in, the bracket was before us. In the past, Allison and I have put controls on T's picking, like refusing to allow him to advance a 16 seed over a 1 or a 15 over a 2. No such things necessary this year. He understands seeding and the at-large process better than many adults I know.

From the West region: "New Mexico versus Long Beach St.? I've never heard of either of them, but New Mexico has a 5 and Long Beach a 12, so I guess that means the people who make the tournament think New Mexico is good. So New Mexico."

Also in the West: Tobin has been a little obsessed with Murray State since they were the last team to lose a game all season. When he realized it, he exclaimed "Murray State still only has 1 loss! Every other team in the tournament has at least 2!" This logic led him to name Murray St. the upset winner of the West region over Michigan St.

After my assurances that John Henson would in fact play for the Tar Heels, he chose UNC to win the Midwest region. The only upset he chose in the region was the 9-8 game between Alabama and Creighton. Why Alabama? "They're Uncle Donnie's favorite team."

In the East region, his bracket followed the seeding exactly. I told him Tuesday evening that one of Syracuse's best players was ineligible, and that he might want to re-think his picks. He considered it briefly, then said "No, I'll keep it the same. They're a really good team. Even though Cincinnati beat them, I think they're good."

Last, the South region is where Kentucky holds the #1 seed. If you'll remember, Tobin remarked last December, when Kentucky beat North Carolina by 1 "I hope they play again. Next time for a championship." In dual decisions that make me proud, Tobin chose Kentucky to win the region and Duke to lose before reaching the Sweet 16: "Notre Dame will beat Duke. Notre Dame beat Syracuse this year, and Syracuse is way better than Duke."

With his Final Four of Kentucky, Murray St., Syracuse, and North Carolina set, he quickly advanced North Carolina and Kentucky to the final game. I expected him to follow suit and choose his Tar Heels just as quickly to win the national title. Instead, he stopped and thought for a while, chewed on his lip and thumb, then looked away from the screen for a while. He gave me a sly grin, then clicked on Kentucky to win the title. When I asked if he was sure, he said "They're both great teams, but Kentucky is just really good. I hope UNC wins, but I think Kentucky will beat them."

Given Tobin's excitement, Allison and I both tried to get Evan to pick games and join the fun. Allison pulled the computer out and tried to get him to look at pictures and pick teams. It went something like this: "Which one do you want? Michigan or Ohio? Wolverines or Bobcats?" Evan would say "No, no want Wo-vine or Cats." Or like this: "Do you want Eagles or Bulldogs?" "No. Want Eagles and Bulldogs." I wound up filling up parts of his bracket for him, asking him throughout the evening which he would pick based on mascots. Since he loves animals, his is probably the only bracket in the country that features a California (Golden Bears) vs. Florida (Gators) championship game. He was much happier hooping on the deck instead.

swish!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday mishmash

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Mimi is here! My mom arrived on Thursday and is visiting until this coming Saturday, which means ten days of baby chasin' assistance for Matt and me. Of course, she helps in so many other ways, including cooking and cleaning. She's so much fun for the boys especially, who've had her outside playing golf, kickball and baseball most of the daylight hours.

Speaking of daylight, on Saturday morning Tobin came into our room on 6:03 and whispered loudly, "Hey Dad, my clock says it's 7:03. Can I get up now?" We figured out his computerized (not atomic/satellite) clock thought it was March 11 already, having not accounted for a 29th day in February. So we lost an extra hour of sleep as DST started a day early, courtesy of Leap Year. Another reason it's great Mimi is here! We reminded Tobin that if he wakes up before everyone else, he doesn't have to wake anyone and can just play quietly by himself. At least the kids slept a little later Sunday and today.

On Saturday, we went to our friend Miles' fifth birthday party at an indoor playground. Replete with an awesome homemade dinosaur cake and an old school ball pit, the party was a fun time for all! Tobin and Miles are great friends and can enjoy being the same age for the next two months.

good friends & such big boys

Over the weekend, we learned that Tobin did not gain admission to either of the public magnet schools to which we applied. He got wait-listed (#166) at the public charter school. While we didn't fare well in those lotteries, we still have the possibility of moving to a better school district. Alas, figuring out first grade remains a work in progress.

Yesterday was So-So Selection Sunday. It was tough watching both Kentucky and UNC lose in their conference tourney finals. Although the losses had little effect on either's seeding--as they were both #1 seeds--it's never fun to see your favorite team lose, whether you're five or thirty-five. On a happier note, Tobin and Matt loved watching the NCAA Tournament selection on CBS last night. I was making supper but overheard Tobin cheering when UNC was selected as a #1, and also giving hearty applause when bubble teams Texas (Miles' favorite team) and--oddly enough--NC State made the field. Regarding the latter, Tobin was pulling for as many North Carolina teams as possible to make the field. Tobin has been asking since last week when he can fill out his bracket. That will be the first thing Matt is tasked with doing when he gets home from work today. And he will so happily oblige.

As previously noted, we love March Madness! Even the littlest among us.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Explaining Dennis Rodman

page 1

Although our focus is mainly on college basketball this month, Tobin has taken an increasing interest in the NBA. Neither Matt nor I have paid much attention to professional basketball in many years--except for maybe watching the NBA Finals--so we find this new-found interest amusing. But it's totally understandable as we've recently acquired the revamped NBA Jam for our Wii. Tobin and Matt have put in a some quality father-son time playing. I don't play but as I understand it, you can play two-on-two matchups and also "unlock" classic players. This leads to entertaining exchanges like Matt advising Tobin that he probably shouldn't use the Cavaliers' Mark Price and Brad Daugherty against the Spurs' David Robinson and Tim Duncan. I think Tobin ignored this advice and played with the Cavaliers duo. He also has a thing for the Browns in his imaginary NFL games. The kid loves Cleveland!

classic T

Another classic player Tobin has encountered is Dennis Rodman, who plays for the Chicago Bulls in the game. He notices Rodman has green and orange hair. But our son is more concerned that Rodman's jersey number 91 defies the convention of each digit being five or less (so a referee assigning a foul can identify a player's two-digit number by holding up the appropriate number of fingers on each hand). Over supper one night, Tobin asked Matt why Rodman picked 91. Matt explained Rodman seemed to like being different from other players. Matt pointed out that Rodman also had different colored hair, an especially extensive coverage of tattoos and wore earrings and nose rings. (He did not mention his cross-dressing!) Matt said sometimes people like Rodman just feel or act different from others, but what was important about him was that he was a really hard-working, talented basketball player. In fact, Matt noted, he was one of the best defensive players and rebounders to ever play the game. I'm not sure this completely sated Tobin's curiosity, but it went a long way in stemming the tide of questions.

Another thing Matt mentioned was that Dennis Rodman was one of my Memaw's favorite players. And that's totally true. My mom's mom, a kind, gentle, Southern Baptist lady from Lake Charles, Louisiana, loved the Chicago Bulls. I remember visiting her in the summers and watching those classic early-1990s Eastern Conference Chicago Bulls-Detroit Pistons games with her. She adorably and nervously cheered on Michael Jordan and company. She didn't care much for Rodman, who played for Detroit then. But when Rodman joined the Bulls for their 1996-1998 three-peat as NBA Champions, Memaw held him in as high esteem as Michael Jordan. When her children or grandchildren made snide remarks about Dennis Rodman's appearance or his antics, she would come back with a quick defense like "All I know is, he's a great rebounder. I don't want to hear anything ugly about him." Memaw was fairly soft spoken; when she spoke strongly on a subject, people listened.

So oddly enough, a basketball video game has me thinking about Memaw, who passed away last October. Of course, I also find myself thinking of her often because of my current line of work: raising three kids. Her brood was twice the size of mine! I try to imagine what it was like tending to the needs of six children, raising them in a time very different from now. I know it was hard and that she faced special challenges, but I find such inspiration in her legacy. Her six kids remain remarkably close. Since 1990, all six siblings, and many of their kids and grandkids, gather each summer for a week-long vacation at a Louisiana state park. Incredibly, all six of her children were together at her bedside during the last days of her life. All sixteen of her grandkids traveled to Lake Charles to be at her funeral, hailing from as far away as Durham, North Carolina and Chicago. After the service, Matt paid her a great compliment when he said the stories people shared made him wish he'd known her better. To know Memaw, was truly to love her. She embodied a sweet strength that I admired as her granddaughter and can only hope to approximate as a mama.

Amusing association aside, I think Memaw's affection for Dennis Rodman exemplified her magnanimous view of people. I hope Matt and I can honor her memory by teaching Tobin to search for the good in each person he encounters. And I like to think that some of the excitement Tobin feels when he pulls for his favorite team comes quite honestly--from Memaw.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Daddy Day

daddy and me by allisonandmatt
daddy and me, a photo by allisonandmatt on Flickr.
Today was Daddy Day at T's school. Since they won't be in school for Father's Day, the school welcomed all the dads in for donuts and a little time with their kids. T was a great host. In the picture above, he's holding a book he made for me called "Daddy and Me." In it, he notes that I'm as tall as a door, that I cook breakfast, and that I can't cook beans. It ends with the words "My dad is the best dad in the world because he loves me."

We completed a page of the book at the table in his room. Each of us traced the other's hand on one of the pages to finish it. From the classroom, we moved on to the next phase: donuts.

donuts!

You'll notice I'm wearing two ties in the picture. The more prominent one is a paper bow tie Tobin made for the occasion. Underneath the bow tie is the one I chose for the day. It's a tie that belonged to my dad: a panda tie I remember him wearing when I was a kid. I pointed out my tie to T and he said "Good choice for Daddy Day!"

We chatted over donuts and juice. Topics of conversation included the upcoming NCAA tournament, why Krispy Kreme donuts aren't crispy, why some dads don't wear ties, and--most importantly--whether we could go back for seconds of juice and donuts.

When we finally had to wrap it up, I walked T back to class, where he gave me a guided tour of his classroom. I was the last dad there, and the class was beginning their work for the day, so I begrudgingly conceded that I needed to go. I left him at the table to work on his writing.

back to work

I headed home for lunch with Allison, Evan, and Lauren. The swirl of pride and love and gratitude for my family welled up in my eyes more than a few times today, and made Daddy Day more special than I can summon the words to say. I'll let the painting T made for today conclude instead. It's called "Playing Ball with Dad."

"playing ball with dad"

Monday, March 05, 2012

An inauspicious first

mid-morning snuggles

Over the weekend, Lauren finished her first-ever round of antibiotics. She is healthy and happy, which is an important point to make as I launch into the somewhat harrowing tale of my first-ever encounter with a particular ailment.

On Monday night a couple weeks ago, I was giving Lauren a bath when I noticed a red spot high on the right side of her bottom. Looking more closely, I realized to my horror that it was a full-fledged boil! On my baby's perfect little bottom! I was unnerved not only by the sight of the blemish but also that it appeared so suddenly.

That night in the bath, the sore opened and drained. I cleaned it and put on her diaper. She seemed not to be bothered by any of this and went on to sleep soundly that night. I read a little on the Internet (search terms: "boil baby bottom"!?!), trying to read just enough to be informed but not so much that I flipped out. It appeared that it could be a staph infection and that I needed to watch for increased redness and swelling, and/or fever.

On Tuesday morning, the spot looked red but not as scary as the night before. Still, it didn't look much better. That night Lauren slept well and remained fever-free and happy, but on Wednesday morning the sore was redder and larger in diameter. I scheduled an appointment with our doctor for later that morning.

Our pediatrician looked at the sore and prodded it gently to see if she could get something for a culture. When she couldn't, she decided to forego more drastic efforts to get a sample--much to my relief--and went ahead to prescribe the antibiotic Clindamycin to treat staph. She warned me that it tasted really bitter. I didn't think too much about that at the time as I was just thankful to have a diagnosis and something to fight this scary infection. Lauren was unfazed by the exam and our doctor seemed impressed that the sore wasn't causing her pain. I lamented what this revealed about the cleanliness of my home, but the doctor said I shouldn't beat myself about it since staph is everywhere. Nonetheless, I impulsively bought some bleach when we stopped at the grocery store later to get Lauren some yogurt.

When I was filling the prescription, the pharmacist asked if I wanted to add flavoring because this medication tasted especially bitter. Then he realized the only thing he could offer was lemon oil to mask the flavor because anything else would affect the antibiotic's effectiveness. He added that he had a daughter about Lauren's age and that she would gag and throw up bitter-tasting medicine. While I appreciated the sympathetic gesture, the pharmacist's warning only made me especially dread giving her the oral meds.

The medicine smelled of antiseptic anise and lemon. And I had to give her five milliliters (one teaspoon) three times a day for ten days. The first few administrations were really terrible. My poor baby has never had medication by mouth--except for her oral rotavirus vaccines and occasional multivitamin drops (I'm so bad about remembering to give her those.)--and she cried and gagged. To make the medicine easier to swallow, I'd give her about half a milliliter at a time, which prolonged the process but seemed to help her get more down. Thankfully, Lauren never threw up and as each day went on, she was less upset by the administration and would even open her mouth for me sometimes. She is so brave! Although she never enjoyed taking the medicine, she later figured out how to blow raspberries to prevent me from putting the syringe in her mouth and seemed quite pleased with herself. She is so smart! I would let her chase every dose with breast milk, which included lots of snuggling too. I also tried to feed her at least a little yogurt three times a day. Between that, breast milk and bananas, her little tummy fared well on the antibiotics.

Honestly, giving her the medicine was by far the worst part of this whole ordeal. The sore itself never seemed to cause her any discomfort. She never ran a fever or acted like she felt sick. The morning after we went to the doctor and within 24 hours of starting the antibiotics, the sore opened up and drained again. From that point on it improved dramatically. Today it appears only as a slightly darkened place on her otherwise perfect bottom. Here's hoping this is the last time we encounter staph.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A prelude to Madness

Last night was UNC and Duke's second regular-season matchup. In their first contest on February 8 in Chapel Hill, Duke made a furious comeback and won with a last-second shot by guard Austin Rivers. Since that game started at 9pm, Tobin didn't get to see any of it--which was a good thing given the Tar Heels' unfortunate demise. The following morning, I waited for Tobin to ask about who won, so I could put off breaking the news to him. He didn't mention it until we saw a replay of Rivers' game-winning shot on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays. We had the following exchange:
"Oh man, Duke won?"

"Yep, one of their players hit a last-second shot to win. Kind of like when Indiana beat Kentucky earlier this year."

"Oh . . . If Duke played Indiana, who do you think would win?"
And that was that. Understandably, Tobin wasn't interested in watching any highlights from the game, but he otherwise took UNC's loss in stride. As excited as he gets about certain games, he rarely cries about them. Two exceptions that come to mind are UNC's Elite 8 loss to Kentucky in the 2011 NCAA tournament and Kentucky's only loss this season on the aforementioned last-second shot by Indiana. Both times, he just got a little tearful and with the latter, he seemed to be genuinely confused by what happened. We relish his passion for sports, but we are grateful he seems not to be distressed by it.

Fortunately, last night's UNC-Duke game ended up totally different from the first. Since the game started at 7pm and it was a Saturday night, we promised Tobin he could stay up for the entire game if he wanted. We paused the game on the DVR long enough to put Evan to bed, and then the boys went ahead and started the game while I put Lauren to sleep. She took a while to wind down, so when I emerged it was well into the first half and UNC was up by about 15 points. Father and son were pleased.

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Matt told me later that Tobin was so pumped up during the first few minutes of the game when UNC played so well. Our fairly reserved, understated firstborn is prone to uncontrollable giggling when he gets excited about a game. And he would enthusiastically note things like, "Man, I never expected UNC to be up 22-5!" UNC was pretty much in control the whole way, but Duke did make it a tad interesting at the beginning of the second half. By that time, Tobin was getting sleepy. He had his head in my lap and would drowsily and adorably keep track of UNC's shrinking lead: "Oh no, they're only up by 11." And then when they increased the margin: "Whew, I'm glad they're up 18 again. I hope they can hold on." He went to bed a happy boy as the Tar Heels finished off the Blue Devils 88-70. As Matt tucked him in, he whispered, "And Dad, you know what? Tomorrow, we can watch it again on SportsCenter." And of course, we did.

Today while we watched Kentucky finish a perfect SEC regular season (30-1 overall!), Tobin created and played with his own Duplo basketball court.

march = college <span class=

Indeed we will be watching, playing and discussing college basketball virtually nonstop for the remainder of the month. Just one week until Selection Sunday! Go Cats! And, when appropriate, Go Heels!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bedtime

After dinner, we divvy up: boys with me and Lauren with Allison. I help the boys meander their way through the evening and bedtime routine. Two variations of this routine exist: bath night, and no-bath night. No-bath night just picks up where bathtime ends. On bath night, the boys get to play for a few minutes--usually shooting hoops--while I gather supplies and draw the bath. Once the water starts running, both boys come running. Tobin might own a world record for time from fully-clothed to naked if that kind of thing was recorded (not that it should be). Evan once climbed into the tub fully clothed, so I usually make sure I'm in the bathroom when he arrives.

If I'm ever a diplomat, I'll refer back to my time as a bathtub mediator as the beginning of my treaty-making and conflict resolution career. A number of rules have been established:
"water on head"
  1. First in the tub determines who sits closest to the faucet. The faucet is exciting while it's running, and the water is deeper at that end of the tub. If you push, you lose the faucet seat for the next night.
  2. If the second person to enter the tub wants to be closest to the faucet, he must wait until the one closest to the faucet has tired of it. And no, you may not both sit there. It's crowded and the bigger person always enjoys that more.
  3. Splashing can be fun, but too much splashing is not fun. Tobin is not happy when Evan splashes him in the face. Evan is not happy when Tobin splashes him in the face. And Dad is happy neither when he is splashed in the face nor when excessive water is splashed on the floor. And no, Dad doesn't think it's funny.
  4. Bathtub toys will be forfeited if we don't share nicely or if we throw them at each other in a way that is not helpful. Repeated violations of this rule shall result in loss of said bathtub toy. And yes, that's why the boat went bye-bye.
  5. Whoever leaves the tub last gets to block the drain with toys to make it drain slowly and make funny noises. If you are already out of the tub, you may not adjust said drain arrangement.
shampoozles
During the bath, the boys eat their gummy vitamins, a vestige of a time when I gave Evan a dropper of liquid vitamins that a) he would sometimes spit out, and b) stains cloth as turmeric might. After toweling off, both boys brush teeth at the counter. Evan eats most of his toothpaste, but likes to make spitting noises over the sink. Tobin works on his spitting distance.
"bruff teef!"
From brushing teeth, we move on to pajamas. Naturally, Tobin puts his own on, though sometimes he just puts the top on and wanders the house. Evan uses a shark towel, and sometimes before I help him into his PJs, he insists on "See Mama scurry shark!" ("Go see mom as a scary shark" is my translation). Pajama time is no great obstacle, but our next requirement often presents one.

After both boys have pajamas on, it's time to clean up. Since our house is small, clean-up is important to a) make sure we find the toys we want the next day, and b) protect Mom and Dad's feet from airplanes, legos, and other miniature toys that magically seek out the arches of our bare feet after the boys have retired. Tobin understands the necessity of clean-up time, but has lately been struggling with Ev's intermittent participation. A sample conversation goes like this:
"Why isn't Ev cleaning up?"
"Well, he's two and he doesn't understand it completely."
"But he does it sometimes."
"Yes. He's learning."
"Why do I have to do it all the time?"
"Because you understand it and you have more responsibilities. When you were two, you didn't have to clean up as much. I promise Evan will clean up when he's five."
"So I won't have to any more?"
cleaning up
Once enough toys have been put up that we can move on, Evan and I read the first of the evening's books. Favorites lately have been The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hidden Hippo, and There's a Wocket in My Pocket. Often amid protest, I announce we're headed to bed after the last book. Evan kisses Tobin, Allison, and Lauren. If Lauren has already gone to bed, Evan blows a kiss through the bedroom door where she sleeps. Then, in the boys' room, Evan turns off the overhead light for me and we snuggle in the rocking chair. There I sing to him for a minute or two, then we read our last two books together: Curious George's ABCs and Goodnight Moon. He sleeps with a baby doll he's named "Baby" and a little stuffed Blue from Blue's Clues. Every night when I lay him in his crib, I say "Night night bub. I love you."
booktime
Tobin usually stays up about 30 minutes longer than Evan. He has a more varied routine. Sometimes we play a game (Qwirkle is a recent fave), sometimes we trade simple algebraic equations on the Magna-Doodle, and sometimes we read books. When we have time, we combine those three things in different combinations. Tobin likes to read more and more on his own, so we'll often trade reading to each other. His reading interests are so varied that I couldn't tell you his favorites at the moment, though it's a safe bet that we spend significant time with Dr. Seuss every week. When we're finished, Tobin kisses Allison and I take him to bed. I tuck him in (after making sure he has his favorite duck) and kiss him goodnight: "Good night, T. Have a good sleep. I love you."