I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachel's Baby Shower

It's been almost two weeks, but I'm finally posting pictures of Rachel's baby shower. She is due on December 24th (Merry Christmas everyone!) I haven't been to many showers, other than my own, in the past couple of years. It was a relaxing afternoon, eating, playing games and catching up in the midst of celebrating Rachel's impending arrival.

The incredible cake - it may be hard to believe, but I think it tasted better than it looked.

Genevieve is awestruck by the fondant flowers.

Dana did such an awesome job coordinating games and working that glue gun to make a hat out of the ribbons! Go, Dana, go! We also played some hilarious games - if you notice the strange necklaces everyone is wearing in their pictures, the goal was to not say the word "baby" or you had to eat one of your peach rings on a string. It was surprisingly difficult. We would be quick to point out someone else's slip-up, but not even realize when we had slipped ourselves. Matthew was good at causing everyone else to mess up, asking, "What is that present for? What kind of blanket is that gift?"

Oh yeah!

This is Eve and Anna during the baby food taste test. I coordinated the game specifically to NOT have to participate. Gross. I'm pretty sure this is a picture of Anna trying Chicken & Gravy!!!

I know it's only the beginning of the process, but it's really exciting to think about another baby coming into the family. All I know is that she is a girl AND will be sporting some of the new cloth diapers we got for her. It is so strange remembering my own baby showers and not yet knowing the person inside of me. I'm sure Rachel is feeling the same type of anticipation!

The Brutal Logic of Toddlers

Ayla (in the middle of a tantrum): I don't like anything! I don't love anything!
Gregory: You love me, don't you?
Ayla: No!
Gregory: 'sad face' :(
Ayla: When Momma comes home, SHE can love you.

Ouch! Such brutal logic. We weren't expecting this much sass for at least another decade. I think Ayla had picked up a few drama-queen techniques when her 5 year old cousin Laine visited this summer. All little girls can be sweet one moment and brutal the next, and Laine fits the category. 99% of the time she is kind, patient and loving... until a bad mood strikes. When children/animals attack!

For example, one morning when Laine was annoyed with us she really hit us hard by criticizing our clothes. "Your dress is disgusting! Your clothes are ugly!" She went through every person in the room and told us how "gross" we looked. It was obvious that she really meant it. I knew my clothes were gross, so I didn't care- but if I had been another 5 year old at that moment, I probably would have been traumatized.

The problem is that when Ayla speaks the truth about something, it isn't always meant to be hurtful, it just comes out that way. But because we often spend so much of our energy trying NOT to offend other people, we have forgotten how to explain differences and be sensitive to it. People's appearance is a big deal to Ayla right now. Walking in Target, she says, "That lady is big!" Okay, so she was bigger, overweight, whatever. But oh my god, people certainly don't want to hear or talk about it - unless you're sitting in a Jenny Craig office. While I'm not embarrassed (I won't be until she knows better), I just have to be honest right there on the spot. I hope I don't send any ladies into a depression when I calmly explain, "Yes, that lady was bigger, but everyone comes in all shapes and sizes!" And Ayla still continues...

Usually the victim of scrutiny is understanding and can laugh at the situation. The other night, my cousin Austin was visiting us for dinner. He's, well, bald. For most men in my family, it's expected - they all saw it coming. My father was completely bald before graduating college. But he accepted it. No hairpieces, nothing. Bald at twenty. He left what hair he had (around the sides) and I always thought it looked nice. Austin has also let "the bald" work to his advantage - he just shaves off whatever hair still decides to grow and goes for the streamlined effect. Maybe for better fuel economy?

While he was trying to enjoy his steak, Ayla asks, "Why don't you have any hair?" And to add insult to injury, her logic continues, "But Momma has hair, I have hair, Dadda has hair, even Jackson has hair!"

We can't argue with her. She's right. But it is brutal logic.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Questions of the Week

I know the book Waiter Rant has already published some of the most unbelievably ridiculous stories to be told about working in the restaurant industry, but sometimes customers can still surprise me! The author Steve Dublanica started his work on an anonymous blog and soon had enough stories (and enough followers) to put together a book.

What he writes is SO on point, and easily categorizes all customers into specific categories. Some people are egomaniacs who dine in restaurants to abuse the staff and build up their own broken egos. Some are people who tip in compliments - as in, they think the more that they say thank you, the less money they have to leave at the end of the meal. Oh! if my bills could be paid with nice words. However, my favorite statement is "If you can't afford to tip your server, you can't afford to eat out." These should be lessons passed on to our children along with simple please and thank you.

I don't encounter many non-tippers at my restaurant. It's too small-town and friendly for that to happen often. Not to say it doesn't happen - especially if we are busy. Someone might take the signed credit card slip with them or assume their friend put the tip on their portion of the bill.

I do, however, encounter a lot of dumb questions. Yes, dumb - to describe it any other way would be dishonest. Here are two winners from this week:

- A man looks at his menu, scans all of the items and asks, "Do any of these have tortillas?"

1. We're talking about a Mexican restaurant.
2. All of the menu descriptions clearly say "choice of flour or corn tortillas". (And while I'm on the topic - I can't count how many people have asked, DUH, What's the difference?)

- A woman, without looking at the menu, asks, "Which of your lunch items are hot in temperature?"

1. You mean, as in "cooked"? Restaurants cook food. Welcome to the world.
2. I clearly explained that all of the meat or seafood was grilled, along with the other ingredients - EXCEPT for salads. Just to clarify.

When I hang out with my friends who have spent time (like prison) in the restaurant industry, these stories can go on for hours. From fast food to high-end hotel bars, customers can still be pretty obtuse. Does anyone out there have a good "dumb" question they've heard while serving?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

They Might Be Giants (so SSSHHHH!!!)

We went to a They Might Be Giants concert last night at Mr. Small's in Millvale. I haven't been to a concert in possibly 4 or 5 years (if you don't count the ABBA cover band we saw at the Benedum). Mr. Small's is a really cool space, a church converted to a theater, among other things like recording studios.

I like going to shows like this because it's not a "see and be seen" kind of atmosphere. Women wear jeans and t-shirts, not BCBG miniskirts. Everyone is there either because they're really into the musicians or are willing to check them out for $25. Because I am quickly approaching thirty and don't often indulge in cool social events, I sometimes feel self conscious. I hate looking around a bar, concert, whatever and realizing that I'm (oh no!) way older than most of the people there. This was not the case last night.

They Might Be Giants have been a very popular, but under the radar kind of band since the 8o's. The band was playing most songs from their 1990 album Flood. If we put this on a time line, we're going to get a lot of people who were either in high school or college when this came out. This put us, along with our friends Thaddeus and Emily, lower than most on the age spectrum. Many of the heads blocking my view of the stage were balding. I looked over at one point and saw a woman sending a text that said:

"Thanks for babysitting. Is everyone asleep? Do you know how to work the tv?"

I was practically texting the same thing! I was so excited to be in a venue filled with parents thrilled to be out on a Friday night, just like me! Okay, that wasn't everyone - but at least there were more than 5 of us.

We had found our spot in the crowd WAY in the back, near the bar. We were all listening to the music, but also talking. Yeah, talking, which turned out to be quite offensive to some couples standing near us. I probably would have never known if I hadn't had to walk by them to get to the bathroom. They were the kind of people who get themselves so worked up paying attention to other people, but can't seem to go somewhere else or simply ignore whatever is bothering them. Emily and I were walking towards the bathroom when I heard someone say to her,

"When you get back, can you stop talking? All we hear is talking. We paid to be here."

Just take a moment to absorb that statement. ALL WE HEAR IS TALKING. Oh, you don't hear the BAND playing their loud instruments plugged into amplifiers or singing into these amazing machines called microphones? AND they paid to be there. I didn't realize there was an option to get in without paying.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty incapable of hiding my facial expressions. I looked at these people like they were telling me what size underwear they had on. As in, I couldn't care less what you saying right now and is this really happening? You're upset that someone is talking at a concert. I can often hold my tongue, but I'm sure my face had already said it all. We made it clear that we, in fact, wouldn't stop talking upon our return and I ended it with my ever sarcastic, "You'll be fine."

I want to instate a rule that they are NO rules when it comes to talking at concerts. Especially when we aren't sitting in assigned seats and when they aren't any seats to begin with! Nothing was stopping these losers from walking away if we were ruining their night. But people like that love their own misery and can't help themselves from huffing and puffing and saying passive-aggressive things out loud but never directly at another person.

Upon our return from the bathroom, not only did we continue talking, but the talking included a lot of dramatic "SSHHHHH!" at each other and making fun of them. Sure, it was immature but they still couldn't just walk away. We had a prime spot right next to the bar, so we sure as hell weren't going anywhere. One of their choice comments was, "You picked the wrong person to f&*k with, I'm gonna put you through a wall." I laughed. And Gregory noticed that the meathead who said it was sucking down a Smirnoff Ice. How's that for intimidating? Incredulous would be the best word to describe my feelings for those sad, sad people.

I still had a great time, and did listen to the music that I, ahem, paid for.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Once was lost, but now is found

I'm not referring to my soul - that would be quite a lengthy post. I'm talking about the rebirth of my favorite necklace.

Let's just start this story with the understatement that I am not good with jewelry. I lose it; especially if it has any value. My jewelry box (which lies under the bed untouched for 6 months at a time) is filled with one earring of every variety. I can't be lucky enough to lose both, it's always one.

I think jewelry is beautiful, but only on other people. I have a hard time wearing anything bigger than stud earrings, it looks, well... cluttered. I have to make a conscious effort to wear bracelets or change necklaces or more than one ring. I think to myself, "Alexis, you're a grown woman and you never wear any of this stuff. Just put it on and walk out the door. Don't double check it in the mirror. If there's ever a time to wear diamonds or pearls or gemstones - it would be this wedding, ballet, opera, etc." I make it half-way through whatever event I'm attending before the excess jewelry is at the bottom of my purse.

With my track record, I had thought it couldn't get any lower than losing my engagement ring. Let me be more specific: my grandmother's one-of-a-kind miracle mount diamond engagement ring. I lasted about two years before somehow losing the diamond while still wearing the band. I looked down at work one day and it was GONE. In a retail store. Somewhere between the cash register and the storeroom. It was so hopeless, it could only look for a few minutes before making a teary phone call to Gregory. We never found it - in our apartment, the car, the store, anywhere. I now wear a very similar ring that was purchased in the antique section of Thomas Jewelers. It has remained intact for 4 years and counting!

But, while the engagement ring has survived my bling ineptitude - my favorite necklace recently was lost. Gregory had given it to me before we got married, as a celebration of our "1 year" engagement anniversary. It's the perfect necklace for me, a tiny curved piece of silver with delicate diamonds. For it's size, it has always drawn a lot of attention - people always complimented it. It is also the only necklace Gregory has ever gotten for me. Can you blame him? Giving me gifts of silver or gold is a risky endeavour.

It's my fault for taking it off in the first place. I wanted to clean it. I wanted to protect it from Jackson's prying fingers. But I left it on a shelf in the bathroom in July and never saw it again - until a few days ago.

And I certainly can't take any credit for finding it. I had hidden the fact that I couldn't find the necklace at first. It took me about a week to ask Gregory if he'd seen it back in July, hoping that he had and was trying to teach me a necklace-keeping lesson. I was too saddened to really think it was gone. Can't I be trusted with anything? Do I really have to lose jewelry ALL of the time?

This week Gregory began cleaning out his summer shirts and replacing them with winter clothes. At the very very very bottom of his drawer was my necklace. Underneath piles of t-shirts, all the way across the house from the bathroom. How it got there is a complete mystery. It can't be blamed on cats or babies - which most everything usually can be. If there is a ghost moving my stuff like in the Sixth Sense, I'm fine with it - because at least it can be found, if only a few months later.

Now that I have the necklace back, I'm realizing how much I missed it. I missed its' sentimental value. I felt disappointed in myself for losing yet another beautiful piece of jewelry. Thank goodness I have a husband who rotates his summer/winter wear. We might not have uncovered the necklace until we moved from this house. And I just might have given up on jewelry altogether.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get your groove on

Yesterday was one of those Sundays. It's our only full day off together without work and I always scheme master plans for accomplishing chores, making little day trips and preparing a tasting dinner from one of my many unused cookbooks. The plan yesterday was to take Ayla & Jackson to pick out pumpkins at Soergel's Orchard.

Last year was a relatively successful visit. The weather was beautiful, everyone enjoyed picking out pumpkins and enjoying the fresh fall air. We managed to balance babies and pumpkins on the tractor ride and Ayla enjoyed some local, delicious apples.

This year, however, with our children one year wiser and more strong-willed, was not as relaxing. I brought the camera, but forgot the battery. Ayla whined when we got to the pumpkin patch because all she wanted to do was ride the tractor. I paid $2 for her to jump in one of those inflatable bouncy tents and all she did was stand in the middle covering her eyes. Neither child could be put down, therefore making it difficult to carry our pumpkins. Jackson was REALLY not into visiting the farm animals. With small children, I'm discovering that most activities are a sport in coercion and negotiation - a mental task that can exhaust me in minutes. Gregory talked me down from my own temper tantrum right in the middle of the pumpkin vines.

The fun continued when we got home. More whining and crying. Jackson is going through a mommy-hold me all of the time-phase. I can't explain how difficult it is to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer while holding a 26 pound baby in your arms. Everyone was grumpy and hungry.

Then I had to go over to my mother's house to do more chores.

Then I went to the grocery store. I filled my cart, got everything on the list - and then realized I had left my wallet at home.

I was desperately counting down the minutes to bath time and just hoping we could make the transitions to bed without any more meltdowns. I was sitting in the living room with Jackson, stacking blocks, when Gregory joined Ayla down in the basement and starting playing his drum set. Ayla had been banging away and I didn't care anymore how dirty she was getting. But as soon as the banging turned into a rhythmic beat, the mood changed. Jackson perked up, looked around and started bouncing. He stood up and almost ran to the basement door. I could almost hear him thinking, "MUSIC. MUST DANCE." We went downstairs to watch Daddy play the drums and Ayla danced with us on the dusty floor.

With all of the things we had been trying all day: begging, time out, pleading and buying of candy - all it took was a little music therapy. The mood had shifted. Everyone got their groove on and therefore everyone was happier. Go 'head, girl, go 'head get down.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You know you're a mom when....

You know you are really a mom when you have to put going to the bathroom on a list. Seriously. It has to fall somewhere between the daily activities and two toddlers are certainly not understanding of someone else's bodily functions. Can't go until Ayla's used her potty in the living room. Can't go with half of the dishwasher emptied. Can't go while Jackson is having an epic head-pounding temper tantrum. Somewhere between almost needing a diaper myself and don't make me laugh!, I get to number #28 on the to the list and I get a moment to myself. Well, not exactly to myself - there's usually an audience because I can't get the door locked in time. The good point is that Ayla is very supportive. She uses the same appreciative tone that we used when she first started using the potty, "Good job, good job for going wee wee!"

You know you are the mom of a toddler when you have to look up answers to her WHY questions on Wikipedia. The response "because" just isn't cutting it anymore.

You know you are a mom of two toddlers when folding laundry is a self-defense sport. I probably started the fun, but my kids love to throw around clean laundry. Throw it down the stairs, throw it in big piles, bury siblings, knock it off the bed... which is cute for about 10 seconds. Then I become the mean task-master who actually has to sort and get these clothes into drawers.

You know you are a mom, when at the end of the day, you feel proud of the small accomplishments. Ayla and Jackson both brushed their teeth AND I got a good picture of it. One email was returned. I made dinner AND cleaned it up. We hugged, we read books and the cloth diapers were washed.

When I become overly frantic with tasks and projects and the frustration of another day being completely consumed with what exactly; I mentally remind myself that this is exactly what I should be doing. Perpetual messes aren't so terrible and my two little people couldn't care less about them. They are just fighting for a portion of the time I have to give. Like very aggressive cats. But it's all about balance and expectations. Is the house messy? Check. Am I exhausted? Check. Is the DVR almost full because we can't keep up with it? Oh check. When I measure my life in those terms - I'd much rather be lacking in my prime time tv (because you can just rent the whole season when it comes out on DVD!) than lacking in time with my family. They're only this little (and needy) for such a short time.

Seeing this kind of sibling love could turn any bad day around.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Checkin' out at the library

I've recently rediscovered my love for the library. After college and all of it's required reading, it took some time to adjust to reading for enjoyment again. Some people love to hang out at Barnes & Noble, where I do admit the magazine section is amazing, but I'd rather be at the library. First of all, it's free. B&N inspires you to want to buy things (naturally) and I almost always regret a book purchase. Fiction, that is. I've re-read a fiction novel maybe once or twice in my life - the Harry Potter books and some O.Henry stories. But to buy another book that will sit on my shelf for the next twenty years at home without knowing I really like it, it's just not appealing to me. The library lets me "commit" to a book that I've heard Oprah recommend and then hopefully get it back out of my house in time for the due date. And again, this is free.

I always loved checking out the local libraries wherever I have lived. Denver, Cleveland and Carnegie all had beautiful and unique buildings. But I've been back to my original library stomping (or should I say stepping quietly) grounds in Sewickley. My very first library card was issued in Sewickley - in which I distinctly remember bringing a piece of mail with my name on it in order to get it from the strict children's librarian. I participated in the summer reading programs every year and dropped my slips into the assorted raffles, hoping to win an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins for finishing Little House on the Prairie. This is another nerd alert, but it was always something I looked forward to in the summer. I would research elementary school projects with my friends and spend way too much change in the photocopy machine. The library still has the same solid wooden tables and chairs - where we would look at Teen magazines and procrastinate doing the 6th grade country report.

But now, my time is divided between the adult fiction and the newly expanded children's library. It is beautiful. An entirely separate wing devoted to puzzles, audio books, computers and of course, picture books for kids. I quickly have to choose my own books and rush up the stairs to appease Ayla. I acknowledge that she is more interested in the Duplo blocks and fire-truck puzzles than picking out her books. But I'd accompany her there just to be surrounded by the books and muffled sounds of the library. I love the plastic covering on every book and especially seeing the old handwriting from when the librarians had to manually record each lender.

Every visit, we pick out a few items to take home - If You Give a Moose A Muffin, Madeline or Fix It (a story about a little bear who no longer wants to watch tv, but wants to read instead). We also indulge in a video. We thoroughly enjoyed the 1980's Raffi concert and Elmo teaching us Spanish. But occasionally, I do pick something ridiculous. Yesterday, I was searching for anything with baby sign language but settled on a special dance video instead. It's, um, weird. It shows only the dancers feet moving along to nursery rhymes. But instead of singing these nursery rhymes, it is a woman attempting def jam poetry style. Ayla and Jackson were enthralled - but the horrified look on Gregory's face said it all.

Maybe I'll be traditional and stick to checking out the books at the library. It is what they do best.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chicago - Hosting the Abells, not the Olympics

Sorry, Chicago. I thought our visit last weekend would have secured your bid for the Olympics! I did everything I could to help out.

Last weekend, we took a road trip (we are gluttons for punishment, right?) to Chicago to visit my first college roommate Sara, her husband Shane (who often hung out in that dorm room) and their beautiful daughter Evie. It was a visit that was loooong overdue. The last time we saw each other was when they lived in Philadelphia in 2005 - all before the life-changing experience of having children. It was becoming shameful that I hadn't met their baby, quickly growing into a little girl, when we are only a day's drive apart.

On Friday morning, we packed the car and the kids, stopping only a few times along the turnpike. It has become a habit to take our fast-food lunches outside and "picnic" in the grass. Whatever grass is available. Sometimes we have squeezed in between shrubbery on an island in the middle of a parking lot. But it feels so good to feel a breeze, however warm, and let everyone stretch if only for a few minutes.

Our drive was as non-eventful as possible. Despite the $25 in tolls! (I remember driving through Chicago when I was in college and painfully broke. Every toll-booth and sign indicating another $3 to pay was agony. Why is that, Chicago?) Ayla did have a meltdown over my offering a hard-boiled egg that was missing a piece, but luckily, Gregory can appease those kinds of problems with movies on his cell phone.

Upon arrival in Hyde Park, we got to see Sara & Shane's condo. I always love to visit homes that are unique - anything but your cookie-cutter, post 1980's modernly built home with white walls and zero personality. They live in a renovated building, in a growing neighborhood. My favorite kind of neighborhood, like Leetsdale. For example, they have long walls and extraordinary long windows (which Sara explained were a challenge to get curtains), but at least it's interesting.

Ayla had been anxiously awaiting meeting Evie. Even though they are a year apart (and when you're little, that can be such a big difference), they were instant friends. I do have to say that we were all won over when Evie was willing to share her amazing play room. A slide, blocks, musical instruments, a kitchen set, puzzles, fake food (my personal favorite). As f0r my poor boy Jackson - he's so happy to meet anyone. But Evie took her cue from Ayla, the occasionally gentle older sister, and they promptly ignored him for the rest of the weekend. They only noticed him when he came close to whatever toy they were enjoying and then screamed for him to get away. Such is the life of a 16 month old.

The beauty of visiting friends with children is that they understand exactly how much can be accomplished (or not accomplished) in a day. We weren't expecting to hit the hot tourist spots and check off items on a list. It was relaxing to hang out, catch up on all the details of the last four years and let our kids nap or play.

We saw the local farmers market and the community garden. We enjoyed great meals cooked by Shane. We listened to an outdoor concert at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival - where the kids cared more about sharing popsicles than the cool Caribbean jazz music.

For the more touristy options, we took a train ride downtown (good job, double stroller!) for a "hipster" breakfast at Yolk and to visit Shedd's aquarium.

On Sunday night, we were invited over to my cousins' (and his incredible girlfriends') condo for an amazing dinner. God Bless them for inviting everyone into their trendy, adult space and risking the damage of three toddlers. While Khaylen was slaving over home-made macaroni and cheese, pork loin, salad and peach pie, I caught Ayla jumping on their bed and Jackson pulling medicine out of the bathroom cabinet. (I think Evie was perfectly behaved, of course, while watching the Abell destruction crew. What more entertainment could she need?) I apologize profusely for the spit and handprint damage inflicted on the sliding mirror closet doors. That's just too irresistable, as these pictures show.

It was a great weekend trip, catching up with some very important people in my life. Thank you, Shane and Sara, for hosting us. And thank you, Austin and Khaylen, for rushing back from Cleveland to see us if only for a few hours. And your neighborhood smelled like chocolate chip cookies - the smell alone could entice me to come back to that city!

I understand that South America deserves a chance for the Olympics, but I still see your beauty, Chicago. (Especially when I don't visit during the winter months!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

The latest scoop...

I get an email subscription to some babycenter update that tells you "what to expect!" every couple of weeks. It always says something like, Your 3 year-old, learning to share (ha!) or Your 16 month old, Week 3, he's really moving now! They're a little bit cheesy but reaffirm my beliefs that Ayla and Jackson are right on track developmentally.

Every parent is overly excited by the simplest acts their child can perform. I'll admit to bragging about, well, everything. I remember when Ayla first started to vocalize. Even a whale-like noise at 2 months was enough for me to pull out the video camera. And then there was chewing food! And sitting up! And standing up in the crib! And taking a dirty diaper off in the crib! Even if what they have done is mischievous or disgusting - I secretly think it is awesome.

So what's new with Ayla?
  1. She lives in the world of pretend. Right now, she is sitting on the couch and laughing hysterically at herself and all of her "friends" (small plastic animals). Some are babies, some are mommas and dadas, and they are having a lively conversation. At any given moment, Ayla is either Snow White or Ariel or Sleeping Beauty. Yesterday she woke me up with "true love's kiss" as a prince. So far, she isn't very gender specific. :)
  2. She has been potty-trained during the day for over a year now. We've graduated to taking naps without diapers and I see promise for nighttime too. She has now taken to the habit of taking off a wet diaper in the middle of the night and getting up to go to the bathroom. It is VERY strange for us to hear a toilet flush after both kids have been put to bed.
  3. She wants to do everything herself. Getting dressed, brushing her teeth, pouring out snacks, opening the little Babybel cheeses, taking medicine, etc. It's definitely a lesson in patience for me.
  4. She loves to draw and paint. She is also becoming adept with scissors. But she demonstrated that by cutting her own hair today.
  5. And man, does she know how to express her feelings. The most popular phrase right now is "I'm frustrated. This is unacceptable!"
  6. On the other hand, she has the strangest terms for talking about affection. About once a day, Ayla will put her arm around me and say, "Mama you're my friend." That one makes sense. But when she really likes someone, she calls him or her a grandpa/grandma. She doesn't even call her actual grandparents by those names!
  7. After months of pushing her bike out on the sidewalk with her feet on the ground, Ayla has mastered the pedals. I can't wait for next summer to get her going on a bigger bike.
  8. She counts to eleven. After reaching eleven, she starts randomly spouting the numbers over again, "three, seven, three, four, one, five".
  9. She tolerates Jackson's presence most of the time. He can play with toys, as long as he doesn't interfere with her plans. There is a lot of pushing and the words, "Jackson, NO!" echo through our house. But when he is hurt or crying, she instantly becomes a loving sister, full of kisses and hugs. I'll take it when I can get it.
  10. She has always had a wonderful appetite - barely ever turning away a food. She loves vegetables and fruits, seafood, etc. But every time I put any effort into dinner, she refuses to eat it.
  11. But most importantly, she has a great sense of humor. Her favorite game to play with me is sticking out her tongue and dramatically leaning in to try and lick me. It's worse than tickling, knowing that she will full on lick your face.
Here she is, after stuffing two balls in her dress and showing off her new "bikinis"!

And how is Jackson?

  1. He has twelve teeth and there are more on the way. He's been drooling continuously for the last nine months. He also knows how to use these teeth as a method of defense.
  2. Along with walking, he is dancing. I'm not exaggerating - he twirls, he bounces, he shakes his booty. I'm just waiting for his first break-dancing move.
  3. He regularly says, "Dada, Ayla, baba (bottle), uh oh, and hi". Please take note that Momma is NOT one of his top words. For the words he hasn't quite gotten yet, he is learning sign language. Over the weekend, a friend Sara taught him the sign for "more", as in "give me MORE food already!" and he's been using it at every opportunity.
  4. He climbs UP the stairs. Only up. This means he spends a lot of time at the top of the stairs frustrated because Ayla has left him there....again.
  5. His first real attachment to a toy has been a talking babydoll. It gurgles and purrs and he absolutely LOVES it. His face lights up like it Christmas and hugs it close, patting it on the back. I know he really loves it because he tries to hide it from Ayla, the smart boy.
  6. He always uses a fork at mealtimes.
  7. He is very interested in the cats, much to their horror. He enthusiastically pets and grabs big chunks of fur - Dragonski is the biggest glutton for punishment. The other cats flee instantly when he points at them, but she sits there, hissing. Whatever.
  8. He is the master imitator. If Ayla had a shadow, it's name would be Jackson. I am constantly amazed by what he understands.
  9. No one is allowed to use a cell phone, computer keyboard or remote control without his involvement.
  10. He is extremely cute and knows it. When I scold him for anything, he turns on his charm and smiles, waves, blows kisses - basically anything to break you down.
  11. Jackson is an accessory man. He loves necklaces and scarves. I think the word love is an understatement. I have a feeling that someday he will be picking out my outfits.