Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday! Happy New Year!

January 4, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh, Musings, how I’ve neglected thee! When James mentioned it had been awhile since I’d updated this thing, I told him I was too busy living life to blog about it.

Liam’s two-week winter break has made it difficult to sit at the computer for very long. I’m counting the days until school starts again (one more to go! He starts Tuesday – why not Monday?!!) On the bright side, I’ve been sleeping in until 9:30 every morning, so at least there’s that.

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

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1. We made Christmas cookies for the family! Liam requested gingerbread cookies, and I found a quasi-easy, less spicy recipe that was more like a ginger-flavored sugar cookie. I say it was quasi-easy because while the recipe was easy to follow and didn’t require a lot of complicated ingredients, we still had to chill the dough, then roll it out in flour, then cut everything out. Liam was absolutely covered with flour. And then when we were done, it yielded all of 16 cookies.

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The cookies were so good, we couldn’t bear to part with them. So, back to the store I went to pick up more flour and butterscotch pudding, and away we went with a double batch this time. I also threw in an extra batch of peanut butter blossoms, a family favorite. Finally, I had enough cookies to send to the whole family, plus some to keep for ourselves. I didn’t finish until 10 PM. A labor of love.

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2. Christmas finally arrived! As is our tradition, Liam opened his ornament on Christmas Eve – this year a talking Harry Potter sorting hat ornament. He loved it. I wisely chose to wrap his presents in as few packages as possible – only wrapping the big boxes and putting all of the smaller presents in a big gift bag. Liam got us up at 6:30, and we got about a five minute snooze before he was pestering us to wake up. In his stocking he found a couple of Twinkies – a treat we’d seen made on a TV show but he had never tried before – and fake dog poop, which had him mystified until I explained what it was. It quickly became his favorite gift. After hearing, “There’s a poop on you!” twenty times, Santa was starting to regret this present. Liam was already pretty poop obsessed – it’s all he talks about these days, and it’s his favorite word to write. He makes up songs about it, usually involving “poopybutt” as a key lyric. Oh, the joys of kindergarten boys.

Then Liam got down to business. He opened his first present…and then all present-opening ceased until he could play with it.

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Moving right along, we made it through everything else – lots of books, games, clothes, and art supplies – until we got to the big shabang: his new Hot Wheels track.

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A pretty good haul this year, and not much assembly required. A win-win!

3. Then my parents arrived for Christmas dinner and to stay through the weekend. I cooked a honey baked ham, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce in a can. I also made James’ favorite, peanut butter pie, and to keep my sanity, I bought a pecan pie from The Village Inn. So not much actual cooking, really. And it was perfect. Dad brought his famous Reverend Wright rolls, and we had ourselves a feast. Liam ate ham, plain green beans, and a roll. Oh this picky eater!

The next day James watched Liam while we went to see the movie version of Into the Woods. I have fond memories of this musical, both from the PBS performance I saw a billion times in the 90s, and from our high school production of it when I was in ninth grade. I was a lowly set designer, but it was a great show. The movie had its flaws – it’s hard to top Bernadette Peters as the witch, even if you’re Meryl Streep – but I still enjoyed it. Agony was hilarious, as always. But some of the more humorous lines fell short. There’s something about having a live audience that really adds to the performance.

That evening we bundled up and saw the pretty Christmas lights at Botanica. I’d been looking forward to it all winter, but what with Liam’s constant whining and my having come down with a cold, it wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped. We wisely put Liam in the stroller, but then he sat in there like a little dictator, bossing me all around the trail. “Turn this way! THIS way! No! You’re going the wrong way! Turn around! I don’t want to stop HERE!” Yeah. Fun. Maybe next year Liam age six-almost-seven will be slightly less of a pain in the ass.

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4. Then it was Liam’s sixth birthday! The birthday that lasts for a month! He got another game (Sorry, a classic), a remote control truck, a homemade 6 shirt from my mom, a crank piece for his marble track, and the biggest present ever, a giant firehouse! He’d actually asked for a dollhouse, so I searched “dollhouse for boys” on Amazon and this is what came up. It has a kitchen, an exercise room, a TV room, a bathroom, a basketball court, a helicopter, a fire truck, and a pole the guys can slide down. Needless to say, it was a big hit.

Liam asked for a birthday party this year, so after my parents left, I got started planning. We set the date for January 3, and the requested theme was Wild Kratts, a children’s show about wild animals. We spent a whole day gathering jungle-themed decorations and party favors, we planned out a fun craft for the kids to do while I’d be making cotton candies for our eight little guests. I ordered a jungle animal cake from Dillons. Everything was set.

Until…

The damn weather. Freezing rain, sleet and snow. This is Liam’s first actual birthday party with friends, and I’m realizing now how difficult this is going to be to pull off every December/January. I had to contact all the guests, postpone the cake, and reschedule for the following weekend. Then Saturday came…and no ice, no snow. For the love of Pete!

Thankfully most of the guests are still able to attend on the new date, though Evie and Milo will be missing out. We’re planning a trip to KC over MLK weekend, so we’re going to recreate some of the festivities with his cousins then. Hence the month-long birthday celebration. Now I just have to keep Liam from catching a cold or flu before Saturday. Sigh. I think next year we’ll move this to May and have a one year/seven year birthday for both kids.

5. Our new fridge is on the way! Back before Thanksgiving we had a repairman out to fix the noise our freezer was making. It was supposedly an easy fix – just replace a part in the fan – but the guy somehow managed to break it so badly that Lowes had to buy us a new fridge. Thankfully the fridge still keeps food cold, but all of the controls don’t work, and we can’t get ice out of the dispenser. A hassle, to be sure, but livable. Of course, they weren’t just going to give us a new fridge – we had to go through weeks of submitting paperwork and waiting on an official decision from the Lowes legal department. But, finally, our gift card arrived a few days after Christmas and we could get our new fridge! I wasn’t satisfied with our original fridge – the stainless steel is a pain in the ass to clean, and the ice dispenser shoots ice all over the floor – so I did a ton of research and found something that solved both of those issues. I rushed over to Lowes…just to discover I’d have to order that particular model and it would take 37 days to arrive. Well, we’ve lived with it this long, what’s another month, right? I got a call today saying it had already shipped, so I’m hopeful they can deliver long before the February 3 delivery date. Fingers crossed!

IMG_34266. We had our 20 week checkup. Liam came along and got to hear the baby’s heartbeat. I expected him to have a lot of questions for the doctor, but instead he saw fit to steal the doctor’s rolling stool and talk non-stop about his dog, Lucy. Oh well. Doctor says everything from the last sonogram was normal, except that my placenta was positioned kind of low, so we’re going to do another sono at around 30 weeks. Just in time for spring break, so Liam can come along then, too! This baby girl twists and turns and kicks all over the place, but the doctor said not to expect anyone else to be able to feel it for another four weeks. We’re still deliberating on names, and it may come down to the wire if we can’t agree. I spent a day rearranging our guest room closet and taking all of the baby hand-me-downs out of Liam’s room while my tummy is still small enough to manage such tasks. Ah, if only I could stay this size! I’m staying on track weight-wise (despite all the sweets I’m eating! And better than I did for my first pregnancy. Thanks, pilates!), but I still feel bigger than I was at this stage last time. Here, you be the judge:

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7. Happy new year! This is the first year we let Liam stay up late. I told him all about the count down to midnight and the ball dropping at Times Square in New York, and he wanted to see it for himself. But the poor guy only made it to 10:30, and James and I conked out around 11:30, waking up to hear fireworks going off outside and to smooch before passing out for the night. Liam came up to our room at 6 AM asking, “Is it midnight yet? Did I miss it?” Poor lil’ guy was pretty disappointed, so I brought up the countdown on YouTube and we watched it with breakfast.

8. Liam had his 6 year check up. He grew 1.5 inches and weighed one pound more. Which puts him in the 2nd percentile for weight and the .15 percentile for height. But at least he’s growing, which is good news. We’re still working on constipation issues, and the doctor suggested we load him up on Mirilax over the summer and get this resolved while he’s out of school. I guess this problem will become chronic until we roll up our sleeves and really tackle it with lots of fiber, laxatives, and bathroom breaks. Between a new baby’s arrival and pretty much re-potty training Liam, I think I’ll call it my Summer of Poo. Joy.  

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8. The wind chill was –1 today, but Liam insisted on playing in the paltry amount of snow we got. A small consolation for his postponed birthday party. And afterward, hot chocolate with marshmallows. Yummy! And messy.

9. Finally, we come to the reason I’m even able to write this long-ass blog post today. We’ve started a family tradition of sorts: The winter break family TV binge – for me it was four seasons of The Walking Dead, for James it was four seasons of The Tudors, and for Liam it was the entire first season of The Pink Panther. Liam and I have to tussle over the Netflix connection, but it’s worth waiting until he goes to bed for me to enjoy my show just so I can hear him crack up every five seconds at the Pink Panther. He’s taken to giving me pretend bombs to blow me up. “Oh, moooom! Here’s a bomb!” Perhaps this will surpass, “There’s a poop on you!” That would be nice.  

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Happy Birthday to Evie!

September 3, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Evie turns seven Friday, so we celebrated early at the Kansas Arboretum in Overland Park over Labor Day Weekend. We had ourselves a nice little BBQ picnic, complete with hotdogs, chips, and homemade woopie pies. Yum! Sorry no photos of the actual present opening…Liam was in a mood, ready to run around when the rest of us were ready to sit down, so I couldn’t man the camera. Besides, present pictures are so boring, don’t you think? Instead I followed these crazy kooks along the myriad foot paths all around the lush landscape. And here’s a rare sight – all four of the kids in one frame! Wow. For the most part Liam and Evie ran ahead, Camden and I  weren’t far behind, and Milo wanted to be carried, forcing the rest of our merry band to trail behind and take a lot of breaks.

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Evie stopped to pet the fishes…a lot.

By mid-afternoon we were all hot and tired and ready to go home. Well, all except Liam, who dragged me, grandpa and grandma over to see the trains. Can’t leave without seeing those!

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That evening we met up with James and his friends in Olathe for sushi. He and Travis had spent the afternoon playing golf in the hot summer sun. I had to bring a picnic lunch for Liam because, and I quote, “Sushi! Ewwww, grooooosss!”

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I had my favorites, salmon and a smoked eel dragon roll. The sushi was only so-so IMO, but the presentation was fantastic! Everyone’s meals came out with tiny LED lights underneath. Cool!

On Sunday Dad and I biked a very ambitious 30 miles on the Little Blue Trace trail, a concrete and chat trail that runs mostly through farmland from Independence up to Atherton. We passed this scenic barn, but all I had with me was my iPhone. Still, with the wonders of Photoshop, it turned out pretty decent. Eat your heart out, Instagram filters!

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The last 10 miles were brutal – the temperature was rising into the 90s, my butt was sore, and we ran out of water. Why do I always do this to myself? But the sweet reward of an air-conditioned truck and $1 sodas at Sonic soon had me forgetting all the pain and suffering. Mom wasn’t too pleased that our morning jaunt turned into an all-day affair, but she and Liam had a nice time playing games, and we did manage to get dinner fixed in time for another Shaver invasion. Mom’s famous BBQ sweet and sour pork, this time with dad as the chef. One of my favorites, and it was delish!

A Shaver Invasion

August 2, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Liam is such a quiet, unobtrusive little kid, it really does feel like an invasion when his cousins come to visit. But these beings from another universe are the friendly kind, so we don’t mind.

The night before they arrived Liam was still getting over a nasty cold and our air conditioning crapped out. I braced for the worst, but Liam seemed to rally once Evie ran downstairs to play, and the air conditioning was fixed by Monday afternoon, just hours after they arrived. Let the playing commence! Poor Milo always seems like the odd man out. The older kids kept running and hiding from him, exclaiming that he was a monster. Milo would stand outside the shut door yelling, “Me no monster!” Thankfully he’s a pretty easygoing kid, and while at times he ran to mama to “make Evie stop it,” he mostly played on his own contentedly. At one point Evie got bored playing with Liam, which Liam of course blew up about. But I redirected him to play with Milo, and soon they were happily building marble tracks. Evie joined in the fun when she was ready.

Jill and I are both reading a book that is helping tremendously, Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic. Evie and Liam both fall under the “spirited” category, though the traits they exhibit are from different ends of the spectrum. While Evie is highly energetic, extroverted, creative, and sporadic with her eating and sleeping schedule, Liam is sensitive to his environment, fearful of change, and a firm introvert. They are both incredibly persistent and stubborn, which makes being their parent particularly challenging. But the book offers concrete examples and advice for how to turn a standoff into a success. I’m learning to “find the yes” when Liam digs his heels in, and I’m trying to get him to help me solve the problems that usually end with tears and spankings. Evie responds wonderfully to the challenge of solving a problem, and Liam is warming up to the idea. It’s not perfect, but I’m feeling a little less at my wit’s end and ready for school to start now.

Armed with all of this parenting information, we brought all three kids to Liam’s tumbling class at the Y Tuesday morning. Murphy’s Law in full effect, the regular teacher wasn’t there, and the substitute was wholly unprepared for us to play while she ran the class. I had run it by the regular teacher a couple of weeks before, and she had planned to test the kids and offer a “free play” day for all the siblings. Instead, the substitute asked that we stick to one small area of the gym. Thankfully there were other siblings there, and while they didn’t have free reign of the equipment, Evie soon made a friend to jump around with. Frankly, I was more concerned with how Liam would respond to a substitute. The last time that happened, we had to leave early because he was so out of sorts about it. This time around was much better – maybe because it was a different substitute who seemed to work better with kids this age, and maybe because his cousins were taking the heat off the attention I usually focus on him during class. At any rate, Liam did great adapting to a different class routine, and I’m holding out hope this will bode well for Kindergarten.

Liam did so well that a lunch at BJ’s was in order. It was definitely a more trying experience with three kids instead of one, and our waiter was clearly new at the job, which added to the stress. But I had plenty of cars, card games, and video games to keep Evie and Liam occupied. Milo was a little more of a challenge, but he perked up once the Pazookie arrived.

Having survived the outing, we got even more ambitious on Wednesday, setting off for Exploration Place for a couple of hours. The kids had a blast, and despite the crowds, Liam did very well. He had only one outburst while waiting behind Evie at the harvester simulator. I thought it was more fair to let Evie go first because she’d never been there, and I used it as a teachable moment for Liam. He writhed on the floor, pouted and screamed, whined and threatened. I kept talking to him, tried using humor to lighten his mood, tried explaining the fairness of the situation, but to no avail. Finally it was his turn and the tears suddenly dried up. Jill spent most of the time separately with Milo, and after chasing him through the gift shop while he tried to pick up and buy everything within reach, we were ready to head home for some much needed wine and Chicken Tikka Masala dinner.

Reading this book, I’m trying to anticipate the moments when Liam does the most acting up. One of them is when people have to leave, and I knew when Evie and Milo had to return home, I was in for one of Liam’s monster tantrums. I tried to head it off by warning him when they were leaving. First a 30-minute warning, then a 10, then a five. All the while he was perfectly okay with the concept. Yes, they’re leaving. We’ll see them again soon. But then when it was time for them to go, he unleashed the fury. He punched Evie in the arm when she said she had to go. She wasn’t going to stand for that, so she just left. I’m really proud of her for not hitting him back. We brought her back in after a few minutes and talked to Liam about it. I think the big issue had to do with interrupting their play. He was prepared for her to leave, but they were right in the middle of a game, which made him upset.

Today, at the Farmer’s Market, I finally had a parental “win”. I was trying to come up with a solution for waiting in line, which almost always triggers a tantrum. I remembered when I was a kid I used to play Rock, Paper, Scissors with other kids in line. So I taught him the game, and we put it to use waiting in line for the balloon animal man this morning. And it worked! No whining, no crying, no complaining that he was TOO TIRED to WAIT in this STUPID line. I praised him afterward for being so good and patient in the line. Tomorrow we’re off to see the new Planes movie. Perhaps we can employ this technique in the concession stand line.

Give ‘em Hell, Grandpa

July 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Grandpa Marvin passed away July 1, 2014. His eyesight and memory had left him, and his frail body decided he’d had enough. He was 84 years old. Grandpa didn’t really plan for old age: I think he figured at 75 he’d keel over from too much drinking and too much smoking. He was always very caviler about his death. It’s been a rough year for him and my parents, and I’m glad he’s no longer dealing with the pain and indignity of old age.

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Marvin wasn’t your typical grandpa, especially for me. Always laughing, usually drinking, and definitely being merry. Young at heart. I remember Jill once accidentally called him “Uncle Marvin” and I quickly corrected her. Grandpa said, with a wink, “No, she can call me uncle if she wants to.” On Father’s Day one year, a waiter at lunch mistakenly thought he was our dad. He got a real kick out of that. We went to a big reunion in Wichita when we were kids, and I remember driving down in his convertible. Grandpa always had cool cars. My cousins had a pool, and we couldn’t wait to get our swim suits on and jump in. And guess who was sporting a Speedo on the diving board? We were at once highly embarrassed and kind of impressed. It was a story we told for years, grandpa in the Speedo. Sheesh.

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When my family went to visit him in DC in 1993, he took us for a grand tour, always claiming that the next stop was only "a couple of blocks away." He walked us to death and never broke a sweat! He took us to a rooftop restaurant and told a story about once eating there and seeing the President (George Bush senior) taking off in a helicopter from the White House lawn. He had a story about everything, and he seemed to know everyone. In Kansas City, where he lived through my high school years and the rest of my adulthood, he couldn’t go two blocks in Westport without bumping into someone he knew. To us kids, it was like he was famous.

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In high school, his stories about his work in television and newspapers started to make a real impression on me, and I decided I wanted to become a journalist. When I started writing for the school paper, I sent him my first article. He said, "Never lead with the date," then taught me how to write a good lead. He took me to KU to show me his alma mater, hoping I’d enroll there in the fall. He even took me by his old frat house, Sigma Nu. He had taught journalism at KU in the ‘60s, as well. Despite the beauty of the campus and the history for my family, I couldn’t turn down an almost full-ride scholarship to the rival school, MU, which was also the #2 journalism program in the country at the time. Four years later, he’d jokingly introduce me to people as the granddaughter who graduated magna cum laude from the WRONG school.

For History of Journalism, we were assigned to interview a person over the age of 70 to get their impressions on how journalism has changed over the years. Ever the over-achiever, I chose to interview grandpa, an ACTUAL journalist, about his incredible career. It was here that I finally understood the context for his stories, the ones I’d heard since I was a kid, and ones I was hearing for the first time. How he’d been a reporter in Cincinnati, then through a stroke of luck (and massive layoff), ended up working with the pioneers of television news. Then he landed a prestigious job at ABC-News in New York. He covered Gemini rocket launches, race riots, LBJ at the Ranch. He described the inner-workings of journalism before the computer age, pounding the pavement for a quote, calling it in on a pay phone, using a Linotype machine to typeset the copy. All very fascinating stuff. The professor gave me an A. Weeks later I mailed him a copy of my report, thinking he’d like to see it. And he sent it back to me covered in red ink! Grandpa Marvin, ever the editor. You can read the paper here if you’re at all interested.

As an adult, my relationship with my grandpa was even more atypical. I worked with him on the Kansas City Better Business Bureau publications, designing the cover and inside pages, for a couple of years. We used to drink and talk politics at Dave’s, his favorite dive. Democrats of the world, unite! When Jill lived in St. Louis, we all visited her for the Fourth of July. The morning after, Marvin and I went on the hunt for an open bar to get our drink on, mostly because we had nothing else better to do, and we thought it’d be fun. He was always up for an adventure. We took the Metrorail all the way to LaClede’s Landing to find not a single bar open before noon. What gives, right? Undeterred, we took the train back to Jill’s neighborhood and finally found a bar opening just as we walked by at 11. I had a screwdriver, he had a Vodka cranberry. Good times.

NYC tripWhen I moved to New York, he and Jill took a road trip through Philadelphia, New York, and DC. I think by the time they made it to Brooklyn, grandpa had had enough sight seeing. While Jill and I went out on the town, grandpa walked down to the diner every day for breakfast and lunch, then sat on our back porch with a book and a drink in the afternoons. The waitresses soon started calling him by name. We’d come home in the late afternoon with a story about Coney Island or Manhattan, and he’d be relaxing with his reading glasses on and some concoction in a glass. It was on this trip that he confided that he’d never been sure about that Republican husband of mine. But after getting to know him better on this trip, he concluded that James was one of the rare “good” Republicans, one who believes in conservative fiscal policy without any of that anti-gay, anti-abortion BS. Plus, he’d graduated from the RIGHT school.

Later in life grandpa had to move to an apartment with more amenities for the elderly. Not assisted-living, but he had a button in the bathroom he could push to call the paramedics. It was downtown, right next to the big, golden-domed Catholic church. In fact, his apartment window afforded him a glorious view of it. Marvin, a professed Atheist, couldn’t escape the irony of loud church bells every Sunday morning blasting through his new place. We used to tease him that he could pick up some dates at Bingo, to which he replied, “Not likely. These ladies are so old!”  

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Grandpa always talked about writing a book about his life. I really thought that he’d have some secret manuscript hidden away on his computer. But procrastination always gets the better of us, doesn’t it? When his eyesight failed him, we tried to get a voice-transcription program to work on his computer so he could finally collect his stories. But we couldn’t get it to work. Thankfully, my Aunt Cary had been jotting down notes whenever she’d talked to grandpa, detailing all of the familiar stories we’d heard over the years. A couple of years ago she mentioned to me that she’d been doing this, but the notes were scattered and incomplete. Could I take a look at them? Six months in, it became our labor of love. I organized and edited all of her notes, she got even more stories from him, and my cousin Erin helped with the immense editing task. I compiled a list of questions, then sat him down on my trip to Kansas City to clarify some of the confusing parts. My parents collected photos from as many people as they could find and scanned them for me. Then I did what I do best: I designed a book. We called it I Think They’re Looking at Me, Sonny: The Illustrious Life of Marvin Arth. The title is taken from our favorite Marvin story:

Marvin went to John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in January of 1961. Frigidly cold, it had snowed two feet the night before in Washington. It was very difficult to get around by public transportation, so Marvin walked everywhere. Marvin was standing in front of the Ambassador Hotel where he was staying, and a car with Ohio plates drove by. All the people in the car were waving and cheering. Marvin thought they were waving at him because his ward in Ohio had the highest turnout for Kennedy in the state. He waved back. Then he turned around and saw former president Truman standing behind him. Truman said, “I think they’re waving at me, sonny.” Several years later, when Marvin saw Truman at the presidential library, Truman remembered the incident and told Marvin he was a good Democrat because he had waved back.

 

Cover MockupWorking on this book, I felt an amazing kinship with my grandpa. In piecing together the bits of his life, I found out things I’d never known before. I had a (mostly) complete picture, from birth to old age. And you know what amazed me the most? I fact-checked all of the names and dates he mentioned, and he had every single one of them right. Mind like a steel trap, even at age 80. That’s why it was especially heart-breaking to witness his rapid decline. By the time we finished the book, he was starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s. Macular degeneration had almost completely taken his eyesight. I had to record an audio version of the book so he could read it. I’m sure if he could have seen the pages he would have covered them in red ink. Ever the editor. It’s not perfect, but we’re proud of it, and we’re glad so many people have gotten to read about him and his life. We don’t have any more copies of the book left, but you can download a full PDF here.  

On the last Friday in June I saw my grandpa for the last time. I didn’t know that at the time, but I had a bad feeling he wouldn’t last the week. He lay nearly comatose in the bed, but he opened his eyes when I said his name. I told him I loved him, and that he should rest. I’m sad I missed his memorial at Kelly’s on July 4; I was in Lexington visiting my in-laws, but my cousin, Scott, and I got to at least video-chat with the rest of our family that day. My family set up a website with pictures and tributes to Marvin from friends and family, and it’s been wonderful to read all the warm thoughts and memories people have written. He really was one-of-a-kind. And I miss him dearly.

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Lexington or Bust

July 7, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A summer vacation to remember. Let’s start at the top left: Jacob, Patti, Michael, Joanna, then Kim, me, Ann, Chris, James and Liam, then Colton, Devin, Brady, Robert and Cade. A houseful of grandkids running around for an entire week. It was madness!

We took two days to drive, stopping first in Lee’s Summit to stay with my parents for one night, then stopping in Springfield for two nights to stay with Bob and visit with Chris and Ann and the boys. Let the record show that at just a few months shy of age 13, Brady has officially outgrown me!

IMG_3001Kim drove up from Texas with her husband, Jacob, and her step-sons Cade and Colton. We texted each other amusing photos of our children at various stages of car trip boredom. (I told him, “I’m sending Aunt Kim a photo, don’t pick your nose.” I should have known better.)

Chris couldn’t get off work, so James and I agreed to let Brady and Devin hitch a ride with us on our Springfield-to-Lexington leg. We stopped at James’ favorite local eatery, Skyline Chili, where all three boys ordered their coneys WITHOUT chili. Sheesh. At least Devin tried a bite.

I was a little concerned how Liam would react to a house full of cousins, but he held his own better than anyone expected. He wasn’t too interested in playing soccer outside, so he spent some quiet time playing Xbox with daddy or reading Harry Potter with me, which I think helped him calm down when the noise and excitement got to him. The rest of the time he spent playing chase and hide-and-seek with anyone who would play with him. The boys all got along great. I was astounded there wasn’t more fighting, especially among the younger ones. Colton is six months younger than Liam, but he mostly wanted to tail the older kids.    

Our first ambitious outing for the week: Malibu Jacks, a nearby family entertainment center. They had mini golf, go karts and arcade games. James, Liam and I culled ourselves from the pack to play mini golf while the rest rode go karts, which Liam refused to try, even with daddy riding with him. We tried a few arcade games, though Liam was limited in what he would try or could do. The highlight of our trip was the S’mores in a bowl, which Liam and I devoured in under a minute. Yum! Say “cheese” Liam!

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The next day, Robert suggested what turned out to be a fantastic outing to Fort Boonesborough, a replica fort from the 1770s. Liam delighted in popping in and out of little log cabins to watch re-enactors demonstrate needlepoint, wood-working, and other essential tasks for these settlers.

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His favorite, by far, was the blacksmith. All of us gathered around to watch him work the metal, but Liam stayed for nearly half an hour, asking question after question, intensely interested. After everyone else had left, the blacksmith said, “You were my biggest fan today, so you can have this,” and handed him the piece that Liam had watched him work on, start to finish. What a cool souvenir!

Of course, we needed to get an arrowhead in the gift shop to add to his rock collection, and a whistle, which we instantly regretted. I picked up some gunpowder tea to try at breakfast.

 

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Then it was time for a Pirate Birthday for Devin and Colton! Michael, Joanna and I took the kids to Jacobson park while the rest of the grown-ups set up the party. The kids had a great time climbing around on the enormous wooden playground, a relic from the early 90s, and one of Liam’s favorite parks. Liam didn’t trouble himself keeping tabs on his cousins: while Devin and Colton dutifully followed the older two, he amused himself by walking up and down the ramps, sliding down the slides, and crawling through the narrow passages. The other boys got bored and wanted to do paddle boats (Uh, no way, guys), then settled for kicking the ball around with Uncle Mike. Liam was perfectly content to stay on his own. It’s funny to see how different he is from his cousins, how introverted and focused. It was a little challenging at times (like at the upcoming birthday party), but mostly he just did his own thing and was okay with that.

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Party time!

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Predictably Liam only hung in there for a few minutes of the festivities. They had a “pin your sticker on the treasure map” game, a lengthy scavenger hunt, and a pirate skull piñata. Liam gamely let them spin him around, though refused to wear a blindfold. Then stuck his sticker right at his eye-level. Very cute! Then the rest of the pirates looked for clues in the backyard.

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After burgers, hotdogs and brats, it was time for cake. We went with a patriotic theme, mostly because the rest of the cakes at CostCo were too childish or girlie, lol. It was the third of July, close enough.

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Colton asked for all the stars, and Robert obliged.

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This kid is hilarious.

I think the kids were suffering from a sugar hangover the next day. James, Liam and I went to my cousin Scott’s house for lunch, and Liam got a chance to play with another cousin, Luke. We call him Baby Luke, but now that he’s two, I think we’ll have to stop calling him that. We had a lovely, QUIET time, and Liam and Luke played really well. Liam even gave Luke a big bear hug when we were leaving, which I don’t think he’s ever done with another kid. He’s usually the hug-ee, and reluctantly so.

After dinner we walked over to a block party in the neighborhood. They had a couple of bouncy houses, sno cones, hair painting, a band. Liam took a brief tour of the fire engine, and then he’d had enough. Too much noise, too many people, and too long away from home. Ann, Devin and Colton came back sporting red, white and blue hair. Sounds like they had fun.

Batteries recharged (and another chapter of Harry Potter 3 under our belts), it was time to shoot off some fireworks! We weren’t sure it would be Liam’s cup of tea, but he seemed to like throwing those little paper poppers and pulling the strings on the plastic confetti poppers. He even held a sparkler…with great care.

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10530760_10203537744476327_7102701092384471111_nUncle Mike and Uncle Jacob handled all of the fireworks lighting. Incidentally, Liam kept confusing the two. When I explained to him that the uncle he’d been playing with all morning was in fact Uncle Jake and not Uncle Mike like he had told us, he replied, “Well, I’ll just call him Uncle Mike.” We eventually straightened him out.

At any rate, we had fun littering the street after it got dark, and the kids enjoyed watching things get blown up. Needless to say it was another late night for all of us, and a very early morning for Kim and Jacob, who planned to drive straight home to Texas he next day.

We took our time, stopping in St. Louis to see the arch and staying the night in Columbia. I took Liam around my old campus, and he had a great time running around…until he fell and skinned his knee. He said, “Mooom, we’re going to have to stay in our hotel for a MONTH so I can have time to RECOVER. Wahhh!” For the love of pete. We were so ready to get home. 

Thanks to Robert and Patti for hosting this circus, and thanks to all of James’ siblings for making the long trip. I think we’ll be ready for another one of these in another four years, right?

Quality Time in KC

June 11, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh, Liam. We had ourselves a busy long weekend! Dad and I have been talking about riding some of the Katy Trail for months now, so I decided to make a weekend out of it. While waiting for the rain to clear out, we hit the town with the grandparents. First stop, the Nelson for their new Glass Labyrinth exhibit. I think every kid under the age of six whacked their heads into the walls at least three times in this maze. Liam was no exception, crying and demanding kisses and cuddles each time. Grandpa took his hand to help lead him through, and while dad watched one little girl on the other side of the glass knock herself silly, Liam took a sharp turn and did the exact same thing. It was hard not to laugh. But eventually we made it back out again. photo 3

“Grandpa, you’re gonna have to carry me.” Quite traumatic.

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After a scrumptious lunch at Okie Joe’s (the Z-man is the bomb!), we headed to the new Prairie Fire Museum in Overland Park. Liam had a great time running around the building, and we were eventually able to corral him into the Discovery Room to look at bugs, rocks, and dinosaur bones.

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I think his favorite were the magnifying glasses. He had a great time opening drawers and touching everything inside of them. He even helped an older girl put together a giant praying mantis. But a meltdown in the gift shop over my refusal to buy him yet another stuffed animal, and we knew Liam had had enough activity for one day.

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Saturday we met the Shavers at Union Station for lunch at Fritz’s. The kids delighted in watching our food arrive by electric train. Though my mother had the unenviable task of putting in everyone’s order – you have to ring them on a telephone at your booth. But, amazingly, the order came out right, and everyone (when not being crowded by his cousins) was happy. Then it was off to the Crayola store where Milo did all his birthday shopping, dragging around a set of paints and a few plush toys all around the store. Liam and Evie each got the same castle-themed maze book.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the model trains and playing with legos. All was going well until Liam’s tower got knocked down. He was doing ok putting it back together, but one piece appeared to be missing, and he just wouldn’t. let it. go. He had a fit to end all fits, and nothing I was doing was calming him. Finally Jill scooped him up and took him out into the hallway, and I think he was so surprised he didn’t have a time to fight her off like he’d done to me when I tried to the do the same. Eventually he calmed down, and then he insisted he be carried all the way back to the car. Another over-stimulating day, I suppose – he immediately fell asleep in his booster seat.

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Sunday Liam had a nice, low-key day at grandma’s house while dad and I hit the trail. We took the bikes up the Clinton, a little over an hour’s drive from Lee’s Summit. I figured we’d cover the 15 or so miles up to Windsor in about an hour and a half, judging from my usual speed when I used to ride the trails to work. Except I didn’t figure how much harder it is to ride on chat – fine gravel over asphalt – instead of black top. And the trail was slightly more uphill on the way there. Three hours later we finally made it to Windsor for lunch. Whew! We saw some amusing sights along the way.

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We saw a dozen or so decaying telegraph poles from the 1870s, but this one still standing directly under a highway overpass we found the most amusing. After resting up a bit in Windsor with a light lunch at Nita’s Café (and paying $2.35 for a bottle of water at the Caseys, sheesh!), we made the return trip to the truck. Dad had an odometer hooked to his bike, and just like when I was a kid, I was constantly asking if we were there yet. By about mile 20 my knees were aching and my butt had a permanent bike-seat imprint. Sometimes the chat was so loose and deep it felt like I was biking through mud. Mile 33.6 finally came, to our relief! Note to self: paved trails are cake compared to chat! Another note: be sure to check my tire pressure before I leave. Dad got out the air compressor when we got back home and managed to inflate my tires to the proper pressure and it made for a much smoother ride.

photo 5Monday, on our way back home, we stopped at The Great Mall for an impromptu play date with Miles at the Cosmic Mini-Golf place. Liam raced ahead, putting his ball about two inches from the hole and hitting it straight in, while Miles and I played a proper game. One of these days I’ll get Liam to play the right way! At any rate, Miles beat me by three points, but Liam declared himself the winner. Sure, kiddo. That sounds about right. We also found a killer pair of red shades for Liam, and now he’s looking like such a grown up boy. This summer is going too fast, and before I know it he’ll be starting kindergarten. In the meantime, we’ve still got lots of fun summer days ahead.

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Mother’s Day Weekend and More

May 13, 2014 at 10:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Friday Liam’s preschool hosted a little Mother’s Day tea. All the moms and grandmoms were invited for a song, a special present, and some refreshments at the end of the school day. As we sat in chairs, the kids all filed in. Liam, as always, was the smallest.

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They sang two cute little mother songs, both of which Liam refused to sing, as usual. But I did catch him counting to three on his fingers along with the kids in one song. I call that progress!

Then the teacher went down the line and asked each student to show their drawing of their mom and say when she looks her prettiest. Hilarious and adorable.

In case you missed it, he says, “When she has curly hair.”

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He even put me in my favorite color dress. I love it!

Then we were presented with a little gift that the kids made us. One by one the children delivered their little marigolds to their moms.

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And a little card that read, “I love you. Liam.” In red, naturally.

Here’s my flower.

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Feeling very special, indeed.

On Saturday my parents came up for the weekend. I picked up some steaks at my new favorite butcher shop, Sigs, which isn’t new at all, just new to me. Thanks to Tracy for recommending. Then I took Liam out to the downtown Wichita Farmer’s Market. We’ve been talking a lot about locally grown foods and eating healthier. Course, I then proceeded to buy him chocolate chip cookies because he was such a well-behaved boy. But I also got some asparagus, and a delicious homemade blueberry pie. 

That afternoon I took my parents to a mother’s day ice tea tasting at my favorite (and only, apparently) tea shop in Wichita, Chelmsford Tea. They had an assortment of refreshing ice teas to sample, and some delicious hors d’oeuvres. Bought my mom a lovely blue scented soy candle and a tea called “Garden of Eden” to make at home.

Mom admired the yellow roses that were in full bloom in my front garden. Through almost no effort on my part (I think I threw some fertilizer on there a month ago when I re-did the mulch), I had a ton of pretty blooms. So we made some cuttings for ourselves. James is all for free flowers…and a way to shut me up about him never buying me any!

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While we were at tea, James took Liam out to get me a mother’s day gift – a box of Godiva chocolates. So sweet!

Then it was time to grill. And just in time for a big rainstorm. sheesh.

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Thanks to James for the assist. Just as I went to flip the steaks over it started hailing. But by the time they were done, the rain had stopped. And by the time we sat down to enjoy our scrumptious filet mignons, the sun was shining. Oh, Kansas!

Mom and dad couldn’t leave Sunday without lunch at BJ’s. Specifically, their new Salted Caramel Pizookie for dessert. That lasted about 30 seconds before we licked the plate clean. Yum.

The rain continued Monday for Liam’s class field trip to Tanganyika Wildlife Park. Tracy and I rode down together, and you should have heard Amia and Liam chattering away in the back seat. Highly amusing when she tried to teach him I Spy, “Liam, here’s how you play. I spy something green. It was grass! Now your turn.” LOL.

The rain tapered off as we got there, but it remained stubbornly cold. We shivered our way to the giraffes, the rhinos, the pigmy hippo. Liam was pretty good about staying with the class. He even volunteered to feed the birds…until he realized what he was in for. He quickly passed the food to me before we walked inside the enclosure, and I was immediately swarmed with parrots. Liam, of course, wouldn’t pet them. Or get very close to them. But he laughed when a bird landed on my shoulder, and another on my hat. I wasn’t the only one getting swarmed.

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Bailey’s mom was making quite a ruckus, lol.

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And Tracy didn’t even have any food. They were everywhere!

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Sweet little Amia feeding the birdies.

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And that’s as close as Liam would get. That smile of his cracks me up.

We spent the rest of our time with the kangaroos, the turtles, the bunnies, and the goats. I’m sure there was more, but we decided we’d be better off saving it for a warmer day. We stopped off at Starbucks for a hot beverage and some cake pops. Yay for field trips!

The Illustrious Marvino

May 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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How to describe my Grandpa Marvin…he wasn’t your typical grandpa, that’s for sure. He had an incredible career as a journalist, he traveled the world, married on numerous occasions, and drank like a fish. He always had a story to tell, a basketball game to watch, a poker game to play. He loved when my sister mistakenly called him “Uncle Marvin” instead of grandpa. He once took my three-year-old cousin, Erin, to a bar and taught her to play pool. Fiercely independent, he marched to the beat of his own drummer, sometimes (most times, as inevitable divorce loomed ahead) to the detriment of his family; my mother, aunt Cary, and my grandmother. Despite it all, he’s family and we love him. Which makes this year one of the hardest my family has had to face.

My parents retired in January 2013 with so many plans to travel and enjoy their free time. But things started going downhill for Marvin shortly after they got back from their trip to see me in Florida. He called at all hours of the day and night, confused about what time it was and when my mom would be picking him up to go to the doctor or out shopping. His macular degeneration had gotten so bad that he was legally blind. And the man who prided himself on remembering every name, date and detail as clear as a bell was starting to forget. Everything.

Soon my parents were driving to his apartment downtown once a week, then twice a week, then almost every day. In May they found him an apartment in Lee’s Summit so he’d be closer to them. My mom started cooking him meals and bringing them over. She brought him books on tape and DVDs from the library. He called her numerous times a day. She or my dad would have to rush over there late at night to attend to his minor emergencies. And by the end of the summer it seemed that grandpa needed more help than my bedraggled parents could manage. It was time for Assisted Living.

Here’s the thing you need to know about good ol’ Marvin: He never expected to live past 65. Heavy drinking, heavy smoking, heavy living would take their toll, he was sure of it. But predicting life and death is as pointless as playing the lottery. And now with no retirement savings, no plans for old age, it fell to his descendants to make sure he was provided for. He never wanted it to come to this. He was constantly apologizing for having become such a burden. He got terribly depressed. He wanted to die.

One afternoon, sometime after we moved to Wichita, I was visiting with my parents while grandpa was there. I’d brought Liam, and my sister came over with her kids. It was a busy day – my parents had finally found an assisted living place that would take Medicaid and that finally had a room for him. It had taken them months of research, calling, asking around. And it was going to cost a lot of their hard-earned retirement money, unfortunately. But he had a spot, and the place was very nice. So they spent the afternoon moving his furniture while Jill and I stayed with grandpa and the kids. Grandpa got tired and decided to take a nap, and Jill offered to go get us some lunch. The kids were playing quietly, grandpa was sleeping, all was quiet…before the storm.

When grandpa awoke, he got terribly confused. He thought he needed to get ready for the morning, take his teeth out, take a shower. I tried to reason with him, and he got very agitated. My parents warned me he’d become very OCD about his teeth and showering. He was constantly taking his teeth out, taking a shower, then putting them in. And if he did it in the wrong order, he’d have to start over again. A symptom of Alzheimer’s, we were told. So he was sitting on the bed, half dressed, fiercely cursing at me, and I was fighting back tears, holding his hand, heartbroken to see him this way. Of course, the children picked then to start screaming about something, but he seemed relatively calm, so I was able to leave him in the bedroom until my parents got back. After an hour he was back to himself.

Assisted living had its ups and downs. He was still constantly calling my parents, and they could hardly leave town to go anywhere in case something happened. He went through two room mates before they finally decided it was best he have his own room. He threatened suicide and landed himself at the Truman Medical Psych Ward for a week. Grandpa grew increasingly more paranoid, swearing that “they” were out to get him. That people were outside his window talking about him, spying on him. He once told me his shoes could turn him invisible. He claimed to have worked on FDR’s presidential campaign. He thought he’d skipped a bunch of birthdays and now he’s 100 years old. He talked a lot about his past, hung up on regrets, extremely depressed. He got his facts confused, and he’d fixate on things that never happened. If he got to ranting too much, the staff would settle him down in the sauna with a glass of chocolate wine, and he’d simmer down. His old friends made a point of visiting him when they could, taking him out to lunch at Neighbors or eating with him in the dining area. My sister and I brought our kids up there sometimes, and my parents brought him over to their house for Sunday dinners. All was relatively well until the big fall.

Seems like there’s always a big fall. Just one slip on my parents’ front porch, and blam, broken hip, paramedics, hospital stay, rehab. Now it’s looking like he’ll have to stay in nursing care, which might be a good thing for him. His Alzheimer’s decline was getting worse, and it was only a matter of time before he’d need round-the-clock nursing care. He lost so much weight that his teeth don’t fit him correctly anymore. His last bastion of civility, keeping a clean-shaven face, has fallen by the wayside. We’d never seen him with a five o’clock shadow, much less a beard.

photoLast weekend Jill and I paid him a visit along with his step-daughter, Renata, visiting from NYC. He was pretty depressed when we arrived, but Jill offered to give him a shave, and we wheeled him outside for some fresh air. Renata is amazing – I got to know her better when we lived in NY – and I think she was a bit shocked to see “Marvino” who she always had a special bond with. The last couple of times I’d seen grandpa in this new rehab place he was depressed and withdrawn. But he lit up when we three girls showed up to rescue him. He became noticeably more lucid, almost his old self. Though he did confide in us that he’d made four-star general in the Army last week. From the guy who’s never served a day in his life! We grinned and played along.

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After weeks of rehab, hopefully he’ll be able to walk again, though probably with the help of a walker. Mom said typically when the elderly enter full-time nursing care, they only last about six months, according to the nurses there. Morbid, I know. But this whole experience has me pondering the societal norm, watching our beloved grandparents wither away to nothing, losing their minds and their dignity. If Marvin could have his way, he would have gone peacefully in his sleep months ago. As it stands, all we can do is wait, visit him as much as we can, make sure he’s well cared for and reasonably happy. Even though we know most of the time he’s not.  

Easter in Kansas City 2014

April 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Now that we’re only a three-hour drive from Kansas City, we could easily make it to my parents’ house for Easter this year. We drove up on Saturday and spent the afternoon dying eggs, then pasting faces, hats and hair on them. Last year Liam lamented that these hard boiled eggs were in fact real eggs that did not contain candy. But this year, thanks in part to our new stance on picky eating, he happily gobbles down hard boiled egg yolks. At dinner he had three. Yum! We also managed to get him to finish his plate of spaghetti by bribing him with a trip to his favorite place in Lee’s Summit, Dairy Queen. After much hemming and hawing (per usual), he choked down his entire dinner and we set off for DQ. My grandma Weddle was also visiting from Indiana, so while the boys walked, we drove. Liam loves the walk almost as much as the ice cream; having to cross the train tracks means he might spot a train!

Bright and early Sunday morning Liam raced to the living room to see what the Easter Bunny left him. As he pawed through his basket, he picked up a cardboard box and asked me what it was. I replied, “That’s your chocolate bunny.” To which he replied, “Why is it all squished?” Sure enough, his hollow chocolate bunny had melted on the drive up. Oops! I told Liam we should write the Easter Bunny a letter, but ever a child of the cell phone era, he said, “You should just text him!” We finally agreed that I should call the Easter Bunny Hotline and see what could be done. So I did, while he listened intently. After my “conversation” I told him the Easter Bunny would bring us by a replacement chocolate bunny tomorrow.

After his breakfast of eggs he didn’t eat because they weren’t yellow enough, bacon he wouldn’t eat because it wasn’t turkey bacon, and pancakes he devoured three at a time, he helped me hide eggs in the backyard before his cousins came over. Initially we’d planned for James to distract Liam while my mom and I hid the eggs. But we quickly discovered Liam is way too nosy for this kind of deception. Besides, he had so much fun hiding them – more fun, in fact, than finding them. When his cousins arrived and we handed the kids their baskets, Liam insisted that he didn’t want to participate because he’d been in charge of the hiding. Even though that meant less candy for him. Which was totally fine by me – he still hasn’t gotten through all of his Halloween candy from last year.

Camden and Milo joined the rest of the adults for our mid-day meal of ham, potato salad, fried brussel sprouts, devilled eggs and stuffed mushrooms while Liam and Evie locked themselves in a bedroom to play. (We made sure to put away the scissors, glue and glitter. One can never be too careful.) We had to shove off around four, and the kids were all in high spirits despite having to part. Liam’s new Harry Potter obsession made the drive a bit more bearable – now instead of a 90-minute cartoon, he’s occupied by more than two hours of live action Hogwarts wizardry.

This morning, as I should have expected, Liam suddenly remembered that the Easter Bunny owed him a new chocolate bunny. And, of course, I’d totally spaced it. So I had to tell him that the Easter Bunny said something about stopping by later in the afternoon, perhaps, conveniently, while Liam would be in preschool. So after I dropped him off at school, it was off to the store for half price Easter candy! On the car ride back home from school, I told him he had a surprise waiting for him in his Easter basket. And then, because this kid is entirely too smart for his own good, he starts asking me how his bunny even got melted in the first place. It was night time when the bunny came, certainly not hot enough to melt chocolate. Sheesh. Thankfully those niggling little doubts didn’t deter him from enjoying his new bunny in its entirety when he got home.

Spring Break 2014

March 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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James left for DC this week, so we thought it would be the perfect time for a Shaver invasion. I stocked up on wine and Liam waited by the window. Soon enough, Monday afternoon they pulled in the driveway. Let the chaos begin! Liam was just getting over a cold, so he was in rare form, screaming and crying every time Evie didn’t want to play with him. And Evie was in no mood for a whiny five-year-old. So the adults self-medicated while the children worked out their problems as best they could. The peace was tenuous at best. So we decided to CottonCandy2break out the cotton candy machine. Ahh, that got them in line. They dutifully waited their turn as I made one cotton candy flavor after another. We had five flavors to choose from, and I think we tried them all. When my arm got tired, Jill took over. I have to say, when James got this thing I was a bit dubious. But it was a huge hit! The next day it was all Evie could talk about, and we managed to put the kids off until after dinner again, requiring them to finish their veggies (or in Evie’s case, whatever she will deign to eat) And they all CottonCandy3lined up like little birds waiting for mama to give them a worm. No fighting, no whining. Everyone got the flavor they wanted and everyone waited their turn. Then sticky children got in the bath (Evie and Liam in the jacuzzi tub marveling at the “shooting bubbles!”), brushed teeth, and got to bed. We put Liam and Evie in his twin bed, which ultimately we regretted. Jill and I were trying our best to catch her up on Season 3 of Game of Thrones amid numerous interruptions. I finally had to just sit in there with them until they nodded off around 10:30. So the kids were especially cranky all the next day while Auntie Mandy nursed a hangover and what turned out to be an oncoming cold. My mom wasn’t feeling too well, either, so dad came up to Wichita on his own on Tuesday to witness the madness. Milo stuck to him like glue, the older children bickered, and I had to make another wine run.

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With the change of plans came a change of menu – instead of bland Shepard’s Pie, I decided to break out the spicy Chicken Tikka Masala for us three spicy food fiends. Yum yum! Then it was more cotton candy, sticky children in the bath, teeth brushed, sleeping arrangements rearranged so all the children slept separately, and we had some peace and quiet. Yes! Jill and I finished the last episode of Game of Thrones, and then we decided to introduce dad to Breaking Bad. I never get tired of watching that show!

The next day Jill had to return to her day job, so the Shavers bid us adieu. We briefly entertained the idea of keeping Evie so she could spend more time with Liam, but it was apparent that these cousins had had enough of each other. We’ll be seeing a lot of them in the coming month, so just as well. My cold was just setting in, so I was ready for a little peace and quiet, anyway. Amazing how much the volume dips when you subtract two children.

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So dad, Liam and I took a little field trip up to Hutchison. First stop, the Strataca, the Salt Mine Museum. During the safety video I got a little worried about the hard hat rule. Liam hates wearing hats. And he wasn’t too happy, but he seemed to accept that he was required to wear it. He spent the first 30 minutes complaining about it and messing with it, but then we got on the underground train, and all was good. IMG_2675The exhibits were pretty fascinating, though dad got to see more of those than I did. I had a five-year-old pulling me around as fast as he could toward the train. We were interested to learn that at 650 feet below the surface, we were actually beneath the aquifer that services the water supply for the entire area, even Derby. Liam and I talk at great length about the water cycle, so he thought that was cool. I was surprised to see a whole cache of movie props and costumes that are stored in the facility. We took another ride on a tram through some of the darker parts of the mine, learning more about the history, cave-ins, red salt, and how water seepage can make the purest variety of salt. Then we stopped and got to collect our own salt rocks. Liam wanted to stay on the tram, so I collected a little bag for him and a salt rock as big as my fist to shine up and display at home. By the time we made it back to the elevator, I felt like my skin was covered in a fine layer of salt dust. And we were ready to see some sunshine again. How do those miners do it, I tell ya!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Cosmosphere geeking out to space stuff. An impressive museum, ranking in my mind up there with Smithsonian Air & Space and the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. I wish Liam would take more of an interest, but he instead sped through, dragging me along as I tried my best to glance at all the cool stuff. We made a stop at the lunar lander and waited for grandpa to catch up. I did get to see a cool moon rock. And Jim Lovell’s space suit from Apollo 13. And a video of the moon landing. After an emergency stop at the snack shop, dad and Liam snapped this hilarious photo at kiosk in the lobby. Liam still had his hat hair.

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We ended the evening with a gut-busting trip to Strouds, and the food was even better this time because I was ravenous. I find it hilarious that dad and I tend to order the same thing whenever we eat out. This time it was chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and ice tea. And let’s not forget a cinnamon roll. Our appetites must be genetic. Yum!

Thursday grandpa tagged along to tumbling class. The teacher gave the kids some time for free play, so Liam showed off his balance beam skills.

After indulging in a sea salt and caramel Pazookie at BJ’s (divine!), we headed for The World Treasures Museum. They were hosting some sort of a military event there, so it was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. As usual, Liam led me around, hardly glancing at the exhibits. We rode the elevator 30 times. And took the back stairs about half a dozen. We kept finding and losing grandpa, who wanted to read every plaque on the wall. Mr. Whiny Pants cut him a bit short, so we’ll have to go back another time so he can properly tour the first floor.

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Back home we broke out a souvenir from the salt mine that grandpa picked up for the grandkids: a tree that grows colored salt. He carefully mixed the formula and poured it into the tray. And then Liam managed to knock it over, doh! But we saved it, and as the afternoon wore on, it kept getting fuzzier and fuzzier. By bedtime it was a full-fledged pink tree. Very cool!

More whining and crying ensued the next morning when we tried to go out for breakfast and Liam didn’t get to finish his cartoons. I think poor grandpa, who seemed to have the same cold I did, was ready to get back to his peaceful, quiet house. I wish I could have gone with him! Perhaps next weekend, when I’m planning a short trip up to KC to see Divergent with mom and Jill, we’ll all be over our colds and everyone will be a better mood. Or we might be dropping off the grandkids at the orphanage!

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