Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All My Love and Everything

The youngest 

Hurry up! I got more playin' to do!
No cavities!
(I had to snap this one quick and dart out of the room so he wouldn't see me.)
Cheers! (Heeeeeere's Ben!)

Did you get a good one?

I'm ok, as long as I don't have to touch the slimy fish.

"You're cute, Mom," he will sometimes say when I walk through the door. "My little mommy, my good mommy, I love my mommy." His kisses are forceful (he will actually pull your face to his and plant one on you, hard), his hugs are of the squeeze-the-life-out-of-you variety, a borderline wrestling hold. When he's really excited, he will grind his teeth and clench his jaw and you can almost feel the energy radiating from his solid little body. You know where you stand with him. You're either in, or you're out. There is no in-between. He is almost three now, and tells people his birthday is "Six June." He likes Batman and Star Wars and Word Girl and Dora. He loves swimming lessons and will stand on the ledge, demanding you to "go back, go back, go back more" before he jumps into the water (so he can jump farther and make a bigger splash before we catch him). He is a natural in the water. When we stayed at The Wilderness indoor waterpark (Wis. Dells) this spring, he was in his element—going down waterslides designed for kids much older than him, kids who have been out of swim diapers for years. He was liberatingly fearless (go for it!) and terrifyingly fearless (he went for it?!) all at once. He rarely stopped moving. He loves to ride on the carousel at Maplewood Mall, preferably in the tea cup, but he'll also ride on the black horse. He tried rollerskating at cousin Lane's 8th birthday party and—while he couldn't stand on his own skates without toppling over—he had fun going around and around with Dad holding him up. (Adam was more of a wet noodle, and only wanted to go around the rink once before taking off his skates to play video games the rest of the night.) His favorite foods are cheeseburgers with fries and rotisserie chicken and pickles and olives and oranges and Cheetos and apple slices and grapes and just about any type of candy. He drinks a lot of milk. He would chew gum every day if we let him. He likes to play any of the sports his big brother plays (soccer, basketball, t-ball), but is also much more content than his big brother to simply sit and watch a movie. He is independent, and sometimes chooses to play alone, even if there are other kids around. He is infatuated with his big cousin Kayla. He can be embarrassingly stubborn and surly and downright cantankerous (I hate that! That's stupid! I don't like you! You're mean!), even though we tell him over and over that we don't use those words and we give him time-outs and we try to lead by example. (I'm really, really, really hoping this is a phase.) He loves to rough-house and wrestle with anyone. He can be extremely sensitive when he thinks people are laughing at him, even though sometimes it seems like he wants you to laugh. He sometimes talks to his blankies (green and blue), he sometimes talks to himself, he talks to us a mile a minute when he's excited (and talks and talks!). He likes to state that I work "downtown Minneapolis" and he lives in "St. Paul Minnesota" and he loves to tell knock-knock jokes that always start with "knock knock? who's there? banana. banana who?" and then fall apart after that (his punchlines never make any sense, which drives his brother crazy). He's learning to put on his shoes and is finally showing interest in using the potty and pretty soon he will be taking showers and getting himself dressed and brushing his own teeth and he won't need my help. Pretty soon he will be taller than I am and his voice will be changing and he'll be ordering steak at restaurants and I'll be wondering, "What happened to my baby?" When I fast-forward time, I picture him having the edge on his older brother—in height, in strength, in certain sports, with certain girls—and taking for granted the things that come so easily to him. I picture him as tall, dark, and handsome, with that thick mop of brown hair, those big brown eyes, those dimples (!), that mischievous smile. I picture him calmly accepting life (the good and bad) rather than constantly questioning it, I picture him showing his love with a good natured slug on the shoulder, a Hallmark card, a bouquet of roses. I picture him as the quintessential 'guy's guy' who can play and talk sports, hunting, and fishing, who appreciates the beauty of classic cars and motorcycles, who listens to good music, who has the ability to fit in with anyone, anywhere (when he wants to). I picture him having solitary hobbies and adopting a "take me or leave me" mentality (sometimes maybe a little more "leave me" than I'd prefer). I picture him rolling his eyes when I tease him about being a chubby baby (22 pounds at four months!) and how we used to call him a "crabby old man" when he was 2 years old and how—even though he could be cranky and defiant—he always, always had a sweet side, too, when he would beg me to tickle him under his chin and kiss me again and again and again and announce out of the blue, "I know who you are, Mom. You're Grandpa's little girl, and you're my mommy and I love YOU!" I picture him laughing at photos of him in his Batman costume, wearing it all year until it literally started bursting at the seams. And don't forget the painted toenails ... not once, not twice, but on three separate occasions, first red, then coral, then blue, then a command: "What are you doing to me, Mom? Take this off, NOW." (Oh, how easily impressionable little ones are. Uncle Jeremy will never live that one down.)  I picture us having fun together, laughing together, understanding one another, respecting one another, sharing inside jokes. I picture us always having this crazy intense connection, this bond.
He is Led Zeppelin's "All My Love."

The oldest 

Two "Poachlay" gift cards!

Waiting patiently for his dental check-up.
Oh-no, oh-no, oh-no, I'm gonna get dumped on by the water bucket!

First catch of the season. Cold May morning.

All smiles at the Gammelgarden Museum in Scandia.

"Mom, do you know where Jupiter is?" he asked one day on the drive from preschool to daycare (to pick up Ben), our few non-rushed minutes of uninterrupted together time.
How nice, I thought. He learned about the solar system today.  
"Um, isn't that one the biggest planet?" I asked.
What else, what else? What was that mnemonic device again? My Very Educated Mother Just Served us Nine Pizzas? Only hasn't Pluto been kicked off the list now? So anyhow, let's see, my-one, very-two, educated-three, mother-four, just-five. "It's the fifth planet from the sun." (Ha!)
"Did you know that girls go to Jupiter, to get more stupider?" he asked with wide-eyed innocence.
"That's not a nice thing to say," I caught his gaze in the rear view mirror and made a stern 'do-not-approve' face.
"Girls go to Jupiter, to get more stupider, except for YOU," he clarified. "I want you to come to Mars with the boys. I want to be with you all the time."
He is sweetness and light and innocence, worried about everyone and everything he loves. He will do things like hold my hand as we're sitting on the couch, then proclaim, "Your fingers are cold" and intertwine his toasty little fingers into mine, warming me up. His kisses are soft and sweet, his hugs are gentle. He is sincere and loving and optimistic and asks to be held every now and then and—unlike his little brother—loves cuddling on the couch. He has innocent crushes on Annika, Autumn, Shelby, Riley, Avery, and the stylist who cuts his hair. (I'm so scared that he will be the one to fall in love with the wrong girl only to have his heart shattered ... and I won't be able to fix it for him.) He loves to do math problems in his workbooks, he likes art projects and has complete confidence when coloring or painting, he regularly asks how to spell words and wishes he knew how to read already. He likes Star Wars and Word Girl and has tried to convince me on more than occasion that he wouldn't be scared of the Harry Potter movies. (right) He hates it when his clothes get wet and immediately wants to change if he spills or dribbles (he also hates tags on the back of his shirts; I have to cut them out). He is scared of the dark, scared of loss, scared of witches and ghosts and bad guys and his over-active imagination pictures worst-case scenarios on an exhaustingly regular basis. When he is overtired, he can be irrational, screaming and kicking when he doesn't get his way (whether it's being denied a glass of juice or telling him it's time to go when he wants to play just one more game of Wipeout or Wii bowling or Super Mario Bros. or wanting to do whatever his cousins or friends are doing—running around outside in stocking feet, not finishing lunch, excluding the little kids—even though I asked him to put on shoes, take a few more bites, play nice with everyone). He is friendly and tends to make friends easily, whether at school or the McDonald's playland. His best friends at daycare are Sam, Zander, and Ben (awww); at preschool they are CJ, Ian, and Michael; at family gatherings he & his cousin Logan are inseparable; he enjoys playing with all of our friends' kids —Ryan and Leah, Sofia and Reese, Greta and Aliza, Sadie and Jacob, Broder and Kaitlyn, little Jack and Clinton bean. He loves telling jokes and making up silly punchlines. He likes chicken nuggets and Kit-Kats and donuts with white frosting and waffles and french fries and Chipotle burrito bowls with white rice, black beans, no meat, no onions, no pepper, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, and guac on the side (for the chips). He would rather be active than sedentary (like his dad), whether he's helping with yard work, playing catch or soccer in the backyard, or shooting baskets inside. He loves playing games like Uno, Trouble, Doggie Doo, or Apples to Apples, even though he can't read the Apples to Apples cards and needs to play with a partner. He loves staying overnight in Forest Lake and gets excited when we spend a weekend there. He stays busy using his shovel to dig in his mud pile out back or doing his workbooks or playing board or card games with Grandma or throwing rocks in the lake or kicking a ball around in the backyard or helping Grandpa make french toast in the morning. His eyes light up at the mention of going to Grandma Patti's, where he knows he'll have her undivided attention, unbridled energy, and love, and he knows he'll get to eat what he wants and play Nintendo or drive the Power Wheels cars around the yard or color pictures or play ball outside or walk to Walgreen's. He is fascinated by people and places and pets. (He's asking for a dog for his birthday; and if that doesn't happen, he's asking Santa for a dog this Christmas. Oh goody.) When I fast-forward time to when he's a teenager, I picture him thinking the most like me, questioning, wondering, needing acceptance. I picture him surrounded by good people of all walks of life, trying to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, thoughtfully paying attention to his loved ones' favorite foods, favorite songs, favorite flowers, favorite colors (then surprising them later), scared of change, scared of failure, finding comfort in the safe and sometimes mundane. I picture him successfully coping with his anxiety through breathing techniques so he doesn't get physically ill before a big baseball game, a big exam, a job interview (that dang anxiety!). I picture him with stunning good looks: A beautiful smile, golden blonde hair, smooth skin, and a toned, lean build, oblivious to the scores of girls (many who he thinks of as "just friends") who are mesmerized by those pretty green eyes and long lashes. Handsome yet humble. I picture him being really good at math, in art, in baseball, in track and field. I picture him as an all-around stand-up guy. I picture us having long heartfelt talks and asking one another for advice and laughing about things only we find funny and sharing secrets and considering ourselves a rock-hard, unstoppable duo. Best friends.
He is Michael Buble's "Everything."

Double the trouble, double the fun

It's not as good a fort as Uncle Shawny would build, but it'll do.
 Como Zoo, followed by lunch at Cheeky Monkey Deli.
The three of us had a blast together!

On the carousel at Maplewood Mall (in the tea cup).
 I almost puked. They were fine.
Behold the power of the Swedish Dala horse!
It can transform sometimes-enemies into fast friends.

Next up = Summer sunshine, backyard bbqs with good friends, trips to the beach, birthday parties (Ben's third, Aaron's 40th, Adam's sixth, parties for cousins Max and Morgan), our annual college get-together near Green Bay, our annual family trip (to Itasca this year), camping weekend at Hok-si-la, my 20-year high school reunion (hopefully with Tonya in attendance!), annual lake-front get-together with the Blaine/CR crew (17 kids ranging from super adorable twin one-year-old girls to a 12-year-old who has them all wrapped around her little finger), and a family reunion in Madison. Exhausting and busy, but I honestly wouldn't have it any other way.