Friday, January 29, 2010

Snow Day

The top of his head clobbers my chin. Suddenly, he steals my nose. Twist. Kick. His tiny hands yank clumps of my hair as he wriggles in. His own flyaway hairs tickle my face as he rests his head below my chin. Snoring husband and squirmy two year old. It's 6:30 a.m., and it's a snow day.


After his shower, I dry him off with a towel and discuss the importance of getting the water drops off of himself before he steps out into the chilly hallway toward his room to get dressed. A moment later I turn to see him pluck imaginary somethings from his towel and place them on his chest and arms.
"What are you picking off of the towel, Jack?"
"Eye drops!"
"What?"
"I'm putting the eye drops back on me!"
Snow day.


We hold hands while we eat warm, buttered bagels and orange juice for breakfast. Because it is a snow day.


It is amazing how entertaining a vacuum cleaner is. We vacuum the whole house, except for Jack's room. He doesn't want it vacuumed. He asks if his rug can "be cleaned tomorrow, mama."


Later, it's time for cowboy boots and the cowboy hat. Then he re-reads the Christmas cards he stores in his toolbox. Apparently, each one says "Dear Jesus, I love mama. I want mama and daddy. The end."


We sit on the sun room steps to eat cold pizza and watch the snow. Elvis shouts to be let out. He begs to chase a squirrel that has dared to forage in this icy white afternoon. After dashing out into the yard to startle the squirrel that has long disappeared, Elvis realizes he can't make it back to the house because every blade of grass is coated with ice. He stands in the far corner of the yard. We exchange a knowing nod. I sigh. Everyone knows what I'm going to have to do. He waits while I get my shoes. He patiently sniffs a rock or two while he watches me trudge out into the blizzard and carry his ass back inside like a stranded calf ... because it is a snow day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life List

I love making a list.

Who doesn't? Especially this time of year. Aren't we all making lists? Let's make a list of who is making list! You? and you? Yes, and I know YOU are.

Anyone who has ever done some traveling on the interwebs is surely aware that life lists are all the rage. The credit goes to http://www.mightygirl.com/ for the birthing of such lists. One of my fave writers, I have enjoyed watching her cross off items from her 100-item-long list.

In the same vein, I thought I would start making my own list for several reasons. And then after talking with Eric about it, he started to make his own life list. And then I realized that making a life list should involve your life partner. Since pretty much they'll be the one watching the kid while you go do your life-list-stuff, right? It was touching to see how we had written some of the same things on our lists.

Why now?
1. Because I don't want to forget all of the things Eric and I hope to do someday
2. Because it will be interesting to one day look back and see the things that seemed important for us to include
3. Because maybe our child (children) will find it interesting


Boom!

Did you see that?

Just got to make another list!

So for the real list - which we will be continuing to add to I'm sure - here goes. (please note some items may be added only by one of us...)

1.Own a lake house
2.Visit Italy
3.Sip mint juleps with friends/family in the summer evenings on our wrap-around porch
4.Get a wrap-around porch
5.Take a trip around the United States to see major attractions: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Big Ball of Yarn, etc.
6.Write a book
7.Host a fancy dinner party
8.Meet President Obama
9.Have another child
10.Have a child with President Obama (just testing to see if you're still reading)
11.Go on a cruise
12.Paint the bathroom in our game room with chalkboard paint so everyone can leave hilarious/dirty messages
13.Get a game room
14.Have Christmas/Thanksgiving at our house
15. Own a Jeep
16. Tend an elaborate vegetable/flower garden with fountains and secret spots
17. Take an incredible photograph and then have it blown up and nicely framed in the house
18. Become a famous comedienne
19. Visit New York City during Christmas
20. Have an old fashion Coke machine in the "game room"
21. Drive a motorcycle
22. Attend the Olympics
23. Teach my children to water ski
24. Write. Every day.

I'm sure this list will continue to grow.

In fact: (2/11) A few more things to add from Eric's life list:

1.Take the family trout fishing
2.Play golf with Jackson
3.Find a place to hit golf balls within walking distance
4.Go to Greece
5.Sail the islands
6.Build an entertainment center
7.Flip a house
8.Learn Japanese
9.Finish the quilt
10.Finish a 5k in 21 minutes
11.Play rugby
12.Become an engineer
13.Teach for a living
14.Ski
15.Visits Dayton, Ohio to see Greg's cousins
16.Travel with Pop and Dearie
17.Write a book with Amanda
18.Shoot a spoof video
19.Do Quicken

The exercise ended up being more difficult than I thought. We get so caught up in the day to day battles and victories that sometimes it's hard for me to think big. To think beyond work issues and tonight's supper and whether or not Jackson is ready for the next size shoes and why is the dryer taking so long to dry...

Excerpt from a Bon Apetit Interview with Maggie Mason abut Life Lists: When you start writing your Mighty List, try not to worry about practicalities. A hundred things is a lot to think about, so after you write down "get pilot's license" and "visit King Tut's tomb," you'll still have a lot of room for the mundane stuff like, "watch less TV." Let yourself dream big, and change the list to suit you as you go along. The whole exercise is supposed to be fun. Post your list in a prominent place and get started on the easiest thing. Even if you don't keep up with it, you'd be surprised at how much can happen for you just because you've written your intentions down. It makes you conscious of the things you want for yourself, which helps you move in that direction.
------

After some obvious goals and a few fun ones, I was surprised at how hard it became to answer: If someone asked you what is it that you've always wanted to do, what would you say?

What would you say?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friends and Family Part III: Lowlights

Not everything can go as planned, we all know that. However, our journeys to and fro were fairly uneventful. We left rough weather behind us and all were in good spirits along the way. But here are few of the less perfect moments:



Chocolate Meltdown: They only time Jackson came unglued was during the first ten minutes of the trip back home from Chattanooga. And really, it was my fault. I had brought with us some tiny holiday chocolates from Omi. Over our travels we would open one and all share it. I though it would be fun to start the journey back with a little treat. That morning, it seemed Jackson's holiday spirit had vanished and he wanted it all to himself. Who wouldn't? Anyone who has ever been around a two-year-old will know that there are just some things they won't do at that moment. No matter what. And during that particular moment, the chocolate was not to be shared. After a bit, we all recovered and were on or merry way.



We've All Got Baggage: Some of it goes unclaimed. On the drive back home, we were to pass through Scottsboro, Alab. A place that hosts the largest Unclaimed Baggage Center: http://www.unclaimedbaggage.com/ A few months prior, my parents had visited it and knew we would enjoy the unclaimed inventory. So we made plans to stop by and take a peek. But on that cold morning, we learned that the shop is closed on Sundays! http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246013383/?edited=1 Why we didn't check the hours on the site, prior to leaving is a mystery. However, the detour did take us through Gurley, which is where Eric spent much of junior high. So we took some time to see some memorable spots.



You Spin Me Round: After trekking the train at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo area, we dashed over to see the waterfront area with its large stone animals that turn into fountains during the summer. Jackson climbed aboard giant lions and elephants and horses. However, stick a pole through the beast and spin it around and Jackson will have nothing to do with it. Just behind the stone creatures was a magnificent, fairy-tale-like carousel with all the bells and whistles. It was beautiful. While Jackson was not particularly fond of the last carousel he rode in Oregon, I thought maybe now (six months later) we could try once more. He stepped on with confidence and selected a giant frog for his ride. He bought it for about 30 seconds. After that, he began to waver and finished the ride in my arms as we watched the world go by. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50981739@N00/4243642832/

So just to recap: giant stone animals=good; giant spinning animals=not so good.

Friends and Family Part II: Highlights

It is still January so, while late on some details of our holiday adventures, it is still early enough in the year to jot down some of the highlights.
Of course, spending so much time with tons of family is always the best part of any trip. It warmed my heart to see so many family members that upon arrival always greet us as if we've never left. Jackson slipped in with his cousins as if they'd been pals for years.
There were however a few moments that were really special, thoughtful, hilarious, memorable, etc. that I never want to forget.

Car Rental: This was encouraged by my father who does it on a regular basis when it comes to lengthy traveling. And I must say it was a great idea. We saved a lot of wear and tear on our vehicles and the SUV we rented was bigger and more comfortable for all the passengers we picked up along the way. It also had all-wheel-drive which came in handy several times. I highly recommend it because there was no better feeling then handing over the keys of a somewhat trashed out vehicle (by a two-year-old and dog!) to someone else at the end of a long trip.

Becoming Kate Gosselin: Yes. I will admit it. I transformed into crazy Kate and was a packing fiend. But it all came in handy so many times. I tried to think of every possible scenario and was proud of myself when all of the toys, ideas, distraction techniques, snacks, etc, came in handy. I even saved a Christmas present from Omi as an emergency back up plan. Unwrapping the gift was fun for all: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246045479/

Jackson: While I did need several pre-planned packed moments for distraction, I was blown away at how perfect Jackson was. He only had one melt down the entire time. I really enjoyed watching him take in all of the excitement of a small family vacation. He loved riding in the car, stopping to see sights, getting to know friends and family he had never met before, running the halls of the hotel, eating his fair share of sneaky sweets handed to him from some relative, dancing the night away, climbing elephants and of course worshipping his older cousins.

The Duel: Watching Aunt Emmy and Auntie Fave compete over Jackson's sleepy hugs was highly entertaining. (see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246834734/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246057779/ for examples).

Conveniently Delicious: One of the THE things to do on this trip is to devour a burger at the Monterey ConvenienceMart. We all piled into the tiny gas station for one of the most delicious burgers ever. The best part about enjoying your burger among the aisles of candy bars and sodas, is getting to know the locals as they pop in to say hello. Everyone treated us like family and many knew of my father-in-law long before I did. One gentlemen took a liking to Jackson and helped him and cousin Davis begin a healthy gambling problem at the quarter machine. Uncle Gary was also helpful in ensuring the boys go deep into debt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246788602/. Other 'healthy" firsts included Jackson's first Krystal burger. I was sad my father was not there to witness the event, but Jackson certainly enjoyed his first tiny, burger of awesomeness. And I did get a pic. You know, for his Jackson's fast-food scrapbook: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73102019@N00/4246013617/

The Entertainer: From busting his best moves on the dance floor to strumming up silly tunes for family members, watching Jackson's One Man Band was hysterical.

Home for the Holidays: Being at home for our Christmases was wonderful. Weather it was Lil Christmas or Christmas, some of the best moments are just sitting with family enjoying the wreckage that is post-present-opening. I always love seeing the decorations I grew up with and watching Jackson enjoy them, too. From clothing to a keyboard to a train set, Jackson was equally thrilled with each gift. Something that made me so proud of him. Mom's Christmas dinner was beautiful and getting to relax and visit was the best gift of all.

Finally Family: We arrived in Chattanooga with a ton of laundry, and a lack of sleep. Sylvie got us back on track with snacks, soap and sherry! We finally got to introduce Jackson to family he's never met before. We got to recharge with catching up, more gifts and traditional black eyed peas for News Year's Day. Jackson's highlight may have been getting to see the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, something he's talked about ever since seeing a photo of my parents when they visited Sylvie months ago. Even though it was icy cold, he soaked in every moment of that train "ride."

Holiday Moments...
Catching Izzy trying to "help" with dinner.
Playing trains all morning, afternoon and evening.
Jackson singing in the church choir during the Christmas Service with my parents.
Taking walks to gawk at a neighbor's outrageous holiday display.
Listening to Uncle T-Bone's iPhone call out for various species.
Spotting deer along the way.
Watching Margo laugh while Jackson winks and explains that he got his blue eyes "from my mama."
Shopping for bath toys and tennis shoes with the girls.
Jackson beating me at Operation in Aunt Gloria's warm and cozy living room.
Faking the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac with my sisters-in-law.
Seeing the photo of Jackson tucked in the corner of Aunt Brenda's dressing room mirror.
Listening to my cousin-in-laws give me helpful parenting advice.
Uncle Ronnie's moonshine-soaked cherries.
Slowly crawling through thick fog high up on the mountain.
Seeing Paw-Paw surrounded by his siblings.
Finding my son at the bar ... devouring a corn-dog.
Watching T-Bone navigate The Stairs and later try to navigate the dance floor.
Uncle Ronnie sneaking Jackson away to show him the tractor outback. Several times!
Sharing a cutie or two alone with Jackson and Davis to ring in 2010.
Rifling through Sylvie's Christmas cards while Jackson makes up stories for each one.
Hearing the giggles when Jackson gets brave enough to start up the jacuzzi tub.
Taking pictures of Eric's childhood home.
Talking with my best friend about anything and everything during a 12 hour car ride home.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Show Time - A movie review in three sentences


Everyone knows I'm a sucker for talking animals, talking miniatures, talking statues, talking figurines, etc.
Thankfully, Hank Azaria and Bill Hader work their magic and save large parts of the movie.
Plus you learn a little history and gain an appreciation for saving important old stuff.

We give this two out of five Oreos.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Entrapment

As I rounded the corner into the master bath, I spotted Jackson standing near the sink holding a tiny bottle of eye drops in his right hand and its even tinier lid in his left.
I quickly snatched the bottle out of his hand and got down face-to-face with him.
I transformed into CSI-Mom-Mode and noted there were no drops around his mouth or eyes and the bottle still felt heavy (recall the saline incident of 2009? http://houpley.blogspot.com/2009/11/youd-better-check-yourself.html)
Then I began to question my 36-inch tall suspect.
"Did you eat any of this?"
"No."
Hmmm. He had no alibi, yet he stood firm, claiming innocence.
I decided to go another route I learned from my sister-in-law, who has a five-year-old boy.
"What did it taste like?"
"Sugar!"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Show Time - A movie review in three sentences



I love me some Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx plays an incredible likeness to the real-life performer.
The crazy seemed a bit cliche, and the movie couldn't decide if it was a documentary or an artistic piece.
Who doesn't love a good cello performance?

We give this movie three out of five Oreoes.

One More Thing

My mother will tell you and I'll admit it.
I was the Champion Staller when it came to stretching out bedtime routines.
Aren't most children?
One more glass of water.
One more song.
One more snack.
One more story.
One more potty break.
One more conversation.
Wait! I just need to tell you one more thing...

I was the master.
Well, it seems my trait has been passed on.
Jackson has taken my crown. He is the Stalling King.
The worst part is that he does it all in the sweetest most loving way.
Like a true master, his requests tug right on your heart strings.

Wait! Big kiss, mama.
Ok.
A sloppy kiss!
Ok.
Hug!
Ok.
I need a high five!
Ok.
One more song, mama.
Ok.
Wait! Love you, mama. I need a hug from daddy. Can you go get him? I'll wait right here for him.
Ok.
Daddy! I need a song.
Ok.

You tired, mama?
Yes.
Me too.
Ok.
Be quiet, mama. We don't want to wake up daddy.
Ok.
I need to go potty, mama.
Ok.
Don't turn the water on too loud, it will wake up daddy.
Ok.
One more hug?
Ok.
Mama! I need my flashlight!

And then as I'm kneeling beside his bed, about to fall over from this crazy bedtime dance, he reaches out in the dark and places his finger on the tip of my nose.
"Boop!" he says giggling under his quilt.

Man, this kid is good.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tickle

Hey Mama! Don't put your face in my armpit!

More Grace

Tonight's grace:
Thank you for Mama.
Thank you for Daddy.
And I want a cookie.
Family!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friends and Family Part I: Geography

We have spent the last three weeks soaking up every free moment with friends and family over the holiday season. It has been hectic and there was a lot of traveling but well worth it.
To us, the holidays are all about the people we love.
No gift is greater than that of a good time with close friends and family.
Warm and cozy nights were spent talking, sipping wine, catching up, dancing, reminiscing and getting reacquainted after such a long time apart.
There is much to be told so I thought I would start with our Holiday Geography.

The Geography
After Little Christmas in Fort Smith, we headed back to Tulsa only to turn around the next weekend for holidays Little Rock.
After Christmas there, we returned home for only two days before packing up for our final stretch and long haul of the season: Tennessee.
We left a blizzard in Tulsa and headed for an Uncle in Conway. After a quick bath snack for Jax, we loaded up Travis and headed to Memphis for an overnight pit-stop with Dan (Jackson's godfather) and his pregnant wife Sarah.
The next morning we headed to pick up the Mother-In-Law in Jackson, Tenn. Only to find out she was no longer there but instead on the fast track toward Nashville. So after catching up with her at a Backyard Burger outside of Nashville, we made our way to the "Land of Copleys," or as some call it Cookeville, Tenn.
After celebrating New Year's Copley style, we loaded up the rental once more and trudged through the mountains to Chattanooga.
To Sylvie's house we went, and visited with more family.
After two nights there, we were on the long 12-hour journey back home stopping in Scotsboro, Alab. for a quick look at the UnClaimed Baggage store, which in case you were wondering- is CLOSED on Sundays! Oops!
After that realization, we made a stop in Gurley, Alab. to take a tour of Eric's childhood neighborhood.
After an episode of "Eric! This is Your Life" we moseyed on for lunch in Corinth, Georgia.
From there, we made it to Little Rock for some refueling and finally drove in to Fort Smith for sleep. The next morning we drove back into a freezing and snowy Tulsa, that looked as icy white as when we left it.

Cookie Monster

After a week of extensive traveling and much merry-making, Jackson has had a slow start when it comes to getting back on track.
Actually, he has been great when it comes to getting up and getting ready for school but the last two mornings he has been going about it rather slowly.
So in an effort to lighten his mood and get him moving, I mentioned his warm oatmeal ready for him in the kitchen.
He responded by telling me he didn't want any oatmeal.
So like any health-conscious mother would do, I upped the ante with a cookie.
"I've got a tiny cookie in your oatmeal!" I bargained.
He was thrilled about that and came trotting down the hall, but as soon as he glanced in the bowl of oatmeal and saw the garnish of a moon shaped cookie he was filled with dismay.
"I want a whole cookie!" he moaned, the tears welling up.
"Honey, it is a whole cookie," I explained. "It's shaped like a moon."
"It is not shaped like a moon! I want a whole cookie!" he shouted with full on fury.
"Well, it's either this cookie or no cookie at all," I said and presented the ultimatum by slowly taking the cookie out of the bowl and putting it on the counter next to it.
He then set fire and spewed forth venom as he snatched up the moon cookie and promptly shoved the whole thing in his mouth.
At once.
Without taking his eyes from my face.
Like a tiny crazy person.
The expression on his face made it perfectly clear: "C is for cookie. And it better be a whole one, bitch."

Grace

After finally getting the meal on the table, I threw myself into my chair glanced around at the lovely faces around our warm and tiny kitchen table and said "Why hello, family!"
At the word family, Jackson suggested we all hold hands and say grace.
We agreed and as his chubby hand was squeezed in mine, we all closed our eyes and he "announced" his grace:

"I want cookies.
And I want grace.
Family!"

Smile Pretty

I like to think that Eric and I will expose Jackson to a healthy variety of music. While we enjoy a top 40 hit as much as the next guy, we also like some rare tunes and are of course true believers of Classic Rock gospel.
I've never been able to stay on top of the ever-changing music landscape, but I've found my favorites along the way all thanks to friends that are incredibly in the music-loop.
You can tell our tastes are beginning to rub off on Jackson.
There is always a song or two involved when putting Jackson to bed, but which song depends on who is in charge of the night-time routine.
My set list includes Janis Joplin classics, Ani Difranco and sometimes Dusty Springfield. But mostly this is because those are the only songs I know from beginning to end.
Eric's regulars include Cat's in the Cradle, No Sugar Tonight by Guess Who and some Beatles.
Most of time I never think that Jackson is truly listening to the words, but merely enjoying the soothing sounds.
Turns out I'm wrong.
Not only does he now sing all of the words to Cat's in the Cradle, which is absolutely heartbreaking, but now he makes requests.

"Sing Watch Your Back, mama," he asks meaning Ani's politically tough song Every State Line heard here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebROXP8-IN0

Yikes!

Fortunately, I have been singing him a slightly edited version. I just hope the next time his teacher scolds him he doesn't point at her and say: "Smile pretty and watch your back."

What would you sing?
*here is actually a version of Ani singing it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HENZtPnBac0&NR=1
Maybe this means Jackson will be an immigration lawyer? or at least a tolerant human being.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Was your holiday this awesome?