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

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Night Owl

Where has the sleep gone?

  No question, we are a family of night owls. Before having kids, Gregory and I would regularly sleep until the mid-afternoon (if I didn't have to wake up at some hideous hour for work), go about our day, and then stay up until nearly dawn watching TV, hanging out, having dinner. When we had jobs that kept us working until midnight... that was our "normal" time to unwind and spend time together. We never really felt that we missed much by skipping the morning entirely.

When I was a little girl, my parents used to joke that "Uh-oh, it's 11 o'clock... now Alexis is gonna get crazy!" It was as if my body only recognized the late hours of night and I was always pumped up with energy. I remember many nights in my bed, lying awake and wondering why I wasn't tired. It's my personal circadian rhythm, which is more in sync with the likes of raccoons and vampires rather than the human race.

 Ayla is quickly following in our footsteps... with one major difference. She doesn't sleep late in the morning! Isn't it an unspoken agreement that if I, as your parent, have to stay up late with you... that you'll continue to sleep the usual 10-11 hours later into the morning? Maybe it's the summertime, maybe it's part of her maturing - but Ayla is sleeping less and less.

  Last night, after Gregory had fallen asleep, I retired to bed to read my book. Ayla had been roaming around the house, getting Berenstein Bear books, putting on Band-Aids, playing with her toys. If she is quiet and enjoys herself... there is no reason to force her into bed. However, all of the lights had been turned out downstairs and I heard a rustling at the kitchen table. Ayla was sitting there in the pitch night, attempting to draw! Now that is desperate! I turned the light on for her, and after about 45 minutes of drawing princesses, she came to say goodnight. This was well past midnight.

 Of course, she woke up bright and spunky at 8 am!! I start to panic a little, as this is the onset of summer. All day, every day, all of the kids are with me! We try to exhaust them with playing in the sun, running in the sprinkler, trips to the zoo, walks around the neighborhood.... but every night it seems they are more and more energized instead of depleted (like I feel!).

 The point of my story - we need to teach these kids the beauty of sleeping in. Right now, they are happy in the mornings, crazy at bedtime and super grumpy in the afternoon when they should be taking naps.

 In other news, Ayla just had her preschool graduation on Tuesday and it was the most precious thing! Dressing 4 and 5 year olds in cap and gowns might seem unnecessary - but it was adorable. Her class put on a presentation, songs and introductions. Ayla was so proud and happy, and of course we were too! It's an understatement to say that we will miss her teachers very much - as much as it was difficult to leave Pittsburgh, I think it was fate that Ayla ended up in that exact classroom with Miss Harris.

Poor Eli, the boy next to Ayla, was scared of being on stage. So Ayla held his hand and when it came time for his introduction, he couldn't do it... so she said it for him! What a friend!

So happy!

Jackson getting some love from his sister: these hugs are rare!

Miss Harris!

Thumbs up for education!

  On her report card, Miss Harris wrote, "It's been such an honor to work with Ayla this year! She is one of the most creative students I've ever worked with. With her kind heart she's a friend to all of her classmates. I know for certain that Ayla is going to have an incredible Kindergarten experience. I just wish I could keep her here!" The feeling is mutual, Miss Harris! We love that Miss Harris nurtured our little "weirdo" and has encouraged Ayla to be herself. And Gregory was commenting that kindness and compassion are two of the biggest attributes we can hope for our daughter. The ABC's and algebra will all happen, but a good heart and ability to make friends: that's so much more important in the end.

 So now it's the beginning of our summer and we're kicking it off with a trip to Virginia for a wedding. A few days in Pittsburgh, maybe some Mexican food from Azul and lots of time with family. This will be the first time that many people will be meeting Elliot... it's hard to believe he's been here for almost a year!

Elliot is starting to figure out that we are ALL WEIRDOS.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

You know what today is!

It's Father's Day! 

August 14th, 2006... the beginning of madness!

  From day one, almost five years ago, to today: 

Washing and detailing the car. Nothing says Dad more than minivan!

Elliot watches the hose/car washing with wonder. And look! our stupid 4th child, Baxter, is cowering with fear in the background!

Jackson was pantless, so no front shots... nothing indecent here!

Gregory, you are doing a great job! I appreciate how much a partner you are in caring for our children and how little I have to commiserate with other Moms at the playground when they start husband-bashing. And when I say little, I really mean I don't have anything to say.

  Our children adore you and we can only hope they appreciate how much you do! Parenting our three insane kids is a non-stop, relentless job and you never shirk from the responsibility. You encourage Ayla to be kind (and a weirdo!), teach Jackson the virtues of Star Wars and care enough to try and try again to give Elliot a bottle, no matter how many times he turns it down.

 They think you are awesome and so do I!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Clean House

 I had a goal when we first moved into this house to take pictures of each room as we set it up... and then share it on the blog so people had a sense of what our home looks like here in Buffalo. But most of the time, our house is too messy for me to document the state of affairs.

 I fall into the same motherly trap where I try to put on my best "face" and only show my house when it has been cleaned or looks out of the ordinary fantastic. I know that if we all just showed it like it really is, none of us would feel so guilty or inadequate because the dinner dishes weren't washed from last night or there are tiny pieces of legos in the bathtub.

 So... we have lived here almost six months and I'm about to show our second room in the house! We had Gregory's cousins over for dinner over a month ago and it took us all day to wipe and clean and make the room look presentable. Not just presentable, but sanitary. If this dining room was a restaurant, I know we'd be failing some major health codes. (We're potty training, okay!)

 Here are the pictures of our "sun room" or Florida room as people here like to call it. The word from our neighbors is that the previous owners added it on to their house and used it primarily as a playroom for their kids. I love that it houses our computer area, dog crate and "dining area" all in one and it gets great light for plants.

  I know this isn't the most exciting post of all time, but chances are, most of our friends won't visit us here at this house since it is temporary. Just imagine our wacko kids enjoying their meals in this room, looking out into the immense backyard and you'll get a sense of our new "home". 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Real Life Cat Nabbers

 Two nights ago, it is 10 o'clock at night; I've just changed into my pajamas and there is a knock at the door. Gregory and I look at each other - shocked - because well, no one knocks on our door ever! (Except when we order pizza, of course.)

  I answer to find a random girl on our porch, introducing herself and mumbling something about a black cat they've been feeding, her cousin wanting it and do we know who it belongs to? Why yes, I reply, it's our cat Pockles.

 He's an outdoor cat who is virtually impossible to keep inside and has made his way into many of our neighbors' yards. Pockles always returns and seems to be smart enough to avoid the two busy roads near our house. If he doesn't make it back before we go to sleep, Gregory usually props open the garage door and he spends the night there. Pockles loves to hunt and chase all sorts of animals - which is part of the reason we try to keep him indoors. We have found many a mole, bird, mouse and rabbit shredded to bits in our yard. The other morning, we watched him chase a chipmunk halfway up a tree.

 It's in his blood. He's a savage. But we try to avoid the unnecessary rodent bloodshed and do our best to block his constant lunges out the front door. He's busted through screens and meow-howls until it drives us crazy and we have to set him free. I thought his hunting was our biggest concern with Pockles, the outdoor kitty. Now I have to worry about cat-nabbing, pot-smoking neighbors!

 This girl who had knocked on our door was inquiring whether we wanted our own cat back. She had been feeding Pockles for God knows how long and started to delude herself that he was homeless. First of all, he is quite large and well-fed. Secondly, he is super friendly. Neither of those qualities are very prevalent in feral, abandoned adult cats. Here's a lesson in animal behavior: if you feed an animal, it's going to come back to that same person or spot regardless of whether it is being fed somewhere else. It doesn't love you or need you, it's just following the gravy train.

 Apparently our neighbor is one of those (how do I put this?) annoyingly over-concerned with animal welfare know-it-alls. I care about animals too. That's why all of our pets are from shelters and I'll do my part to get strays off the street. But I also mind my own business and know the difference between a sick and healthy cat. She kept asking: do you want him? Does he have a place to sleep at night? Is the cat spayed or neutered? Yes, yes and YES! Thanks for the unnecessary public service announcement. These are your concerns on a summer night in June when a fat cat slouches into your yard for a snack?

 I walk over to this girl's house, right around the corner (our backyards border each other) and they have Pockles shut in the garage. Gee, wonder why he won't go home! Oh yeah, because he's locked in a garage. I have to freaking ID him through the window to say that yes, in fact, he is my cat.

 Then the door was lifted...like I'd been granted access to deliquent cat prison. Pockles makes a run for it and disappears into the night. Then I am blasted in the face with the stench of cigarettes and pot. Honestly, the smell of cigarettes was more offensive and I understood a little bit of their moronic behavior. They had invited Pockles over for some munchies and marijuana and then started to convince themselves that he was a stray. I will admit that our cat doesn't have a collar on... but that's because he manages to rip them off every time we try. He has a microchip and that's the best we can do other than put him in a harness that might drive him insane.

 I can only be thankful that this girl had more sense than her boyfriend and cousin, or whoever they were. The one kid stormed off, angry that he couldn't have the cat, and apparently he had driven from another neighborhood with the intent of taking Pockles home with him. We would have never known what happened to him! Ayla's little kitty, that was given to her after her 2nd birthday, would have just disappeared forever.

 The whole situation was so surreal and weird that I just said goodnight and walked home. The girl apologized for bothering us, but not really for being so stupid about the cat in the first place. It wasn't until later that I started to ask myself the obvious questions. How long had they kept him locked in the garage? Why at 10 o'clock did she start knocking on doors? Why do you think it's a good idea to feed a healthy, well cared for animal? A dog would have been one thing: but cats don't give a f*%k about their owners.

 Pockles was born outside (my mother found him as a kitten, alone, alongside a road. DUH! That's when you take it upon yourself to save an animal) and will always want to be outside. Both Gregory and I asked this girl to stop feeding Pockles and can only hope they don't get weird about this. In the past two days, he has run outside numerous times and won't come back until he's damn ready. It's just how he rolls.

 *** title of this post inspired by Abby McTiernan***

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just off of Main Street...

...Is a freakin' waterfall! 

 I mentioned this place, Glen Park, briefly in my last post... but it is such an amazing spot, that I had to give it more blog-attention. We discovered it a few weeks ago by accident. We had just finished dinner at The Irishman Pub and were looking at a small watermill behind the restaurant. Williamsville is a beautiful, little Sewickley-esque town, so we decided to explore a little further. Lo and behold, down a virtually unmarked sidewalk was a huge waterfall and idyllic park!

 It was almost as if the edges of our vision were blurred with fuzzy, soft clouds like in a dream sequence... a family-friendly "Happy Place" out of Happy Gilmore. Every bench and rock and tree was staged for a photograph; picnickers were sitting on blankets, drinking wine. A little family of ducks waddled around, so comfortable with people that we could sit right next to them while they took a nap.

 Gregory took Ayla and Jackson into the streams and ponds and went climbing next to the old Williamsville Mill. Their love of "exploring" and wading in water is epic and there was quite the temper tantrum when we finally had to leave at nightfall. 

"When do I get to go in the water?"

He fell on his butt almost immediately - but it's part of the adventure.

What do we do at a quiet pond? Throw rocks of course!

I had better close-ups of the ducklings with my phone, but this picture shows how enraptured we were!

 Honestly, it is one of the most peaceful and quietly stunning parks I've ever visited. We took our first house guests, Eve and Matt to see it. Luckily, that night local high school students were taking their prom pictures in front of the waterfall (sure beats taking pictures in front of the garden at home!) and that was spectacular people-watching in itself.

Our prom-perfect pose.

 If we can expect to find places like this secretly tucked into neighborhoods all around Buffalo, I am thrilled to spend our summer exploring the city parks.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wedding Wear

 Why is it so difficult to find a dress/shoes/jewelry to wear to a wedding? You know how it goes... you will see a nice dress in a store but not buy it because you don't have anywhere to wear it. Then you need to buy a dress and can't find one anywhere! And not only do I have to manage to dress myself, now there are three kids to keep looking fabulous! (Gregory's got his own attire covered, seriously, I rely on his advice in the fashion realm.)

 I was doing a some light (obsessive) web-surfing on Etsy and saw this great idea. I cut out cardboard templates, sewed the pieces together and then to the shirt/onesie. I think it turned out pretty well! I can't wait to see their cute little bodies with their "ties" on!

The casual cat walk-by makes me think that Koko might want his own formal wear.

 Sewing these two shirts for Jackson and Elliot took much less time than I spent obsessing over dresses online. Note to self: stop trying to buy evening wear from websites and just go to TJ Maxx.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life and Potatoes

 When sunshine and temperatures above the 50s hit Buffalo, apparently this blog takes a back burner to all other activities. Summertime is here and I'm out of the winter slump. I've been sewing like crazy to finish old projects and try new things; I've been moving seedlings indoors and outdoors and then finally into the ground in the backyard. I've been serving popsicles and filling baby pools.

 We have spent the past couple of weekends exploring this new city, driving to ritzy suburbs and drooling over potential real estate. We had our first houseguests thanks to Megabus and Eve and Matt's willingness to ride it so early in the morning! We're stopping for ice cream, trying "where the locals eat" types of restaurants and visiting quite possibly the most amazing park I've ever seen. We stumbled upon Glen Park after eating dinner in Williamsville - but that oasis deserves it's own post.

  With all of this activity, I may have let my tomato seedlings fry under the flourescent light - but our potato condo is a glorious sight. I found the idea on a gardening blog and have been amazed at how well it is growing. Most mornings, while the kids are munching on their waffles and honey... I let Baxter out in the backyard and sneak a peek at our sprouting potato plants. I must admit, I am quite proud. Thankfully, Gregory is here to actually build the thing, but I'm going to take full credit for the idea!
Minimal lumber and some weed fabric on the bottom.

Nothing says container gardening like Jackson's long hair and dress.

Potato "seeds" from the garden center - supermarket potatoes will not work. Planted on April 22nd.

We had growth in about two weeks! May 7th

By May 18th we needed another row of wood.

Elliot models his crawling acrobatics around the potato condo.

Add baby for size scale: by Memorial Day we added four more rows! (After this photo of course).
 Looks like we'll be heavy on the carbs this fall when we harvest!