Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Break from the Coat

So this happened yesterday.

I usually find weather talk to be mundane unless it is regarding a crazy blizzard or tornado or something but the temperature being 52 degrees in the middle of January when it is usually below zero for a high is pretty crazy.  This has been going on for the last week so the snow is gone which can mean warmer temperatures for awhile because the bare ground absorbs heat (or something).  Yesterday I was excited all day to make our return to outside play now that the days are getting a bit longer and Tessa can walk! 
Well, I hustled us all outside as soon as Ben and Tessa woke up from their naps, thinking that they would be giddy with glee.  Well, the whole experience was nothing but a bunch of whining and mud. Waaa waaaaaa.   
We started in the back yard.  I thought Tessa would be so interested in being outside that she would be happy to play on the deck but she immediately went down the stairs and started crawling (not walking) in the crusty ice layer in the shade of the house.  I decided to move the party to the front of the house so we could play with some riding toys.  Tessa ran down the driveway and slipped on the ice crust in the gutter (our house faces north so the sun doesn't hit our driveway very long this time of year).  Then I put Tessa in Ben's favorite car and he got all possessive and didn't want her in there.  I got him to push her for a short time and took a picture.  It looks like a good time but it really wasn't.  I make a lap around the circle and she liked it but Ben dragged along behind us being crabby. 

Then I suggested he ride his "bike" (riding toy with four wheels and no petals) and he screamed "NOoooooo" and Tessa started crawling around on her knees again.  So after about fifteen minutes I put a stop to it and inside we went. But at least I had the chance to feel 52 degrees for a while before normal January comes back again! Actually, I kind of missed the snow for Ben.  If he's going to be outside it is better to have clean snow to deal with instead of mud.'s a picture of Allan. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Legos & Legos & Legos

 In my most recent post, you saw the lego shaped candies that we have been using to encourage (not bribe!) Ben to use the toilet.  They are very desirable to him because he really looooves legos.  He had some of the big, babyish building blocks before with the huge connectors on top but he has discovered the real thing.  I think it started when he watched "The Lego Movie" one weekend this fall when we were at my parents' house and it was on HBO.  Then, my mom unearthed our old childhood lego and duplo stash from the attic.  This stash is a plastic Rubbermaid box filled to the brim with blocks.  A few intact sets remained put together but mostly they were all mixed into a crazy two foot deep pit of fun.  Of course, instead of the age appropriate duplos he gravitated toward the real choking hazard legos and all kinds of weird things started happening such as this:

He was allowed to bring a few small ones home in a sandwich bag and I have pocketed a few blocks several times to use as emergency car distractions.  He also obtained a small stack from his cousins when he visited them when we were in Texas.  And for Christmas, he received a few Duplo sets.
Legos have long been the bane of parents' existence, causing endless messiness and clutter, pain when stepped on, and general annoyance.  Nothing is more chilling than the clatter of hundreds of blocks cascading to the floor.  I recall an incident that happened way back in my childhood, when I was probably around five years old, where a large bucket of legos that my mom had just put out of sight were discovered dumped all over the floor and she demanded that someone take responsibility.  She was not happy about those blocks being dumped all over the floor.  I did not do it, and my sister denied it, and we suggested my brother did it but he was too small to reach the shelf.  I ended up getting blamed and my sister, who actually did it, was off the hook.  My mom was really ticked off about those blocks being dumped and now I know why.
But, regardless of how incompatible with a pleasant home environment legos are, there is no denying that they are a great toy that contributes to creativity, they are not loud, and they provide lots of entertainment for kids and a break for parents.  So we parents accept the legos along with stupid under the sea themed Sesame Street toddler adapters on our toilet seats, years of car seat shuffling in our vehicles, and the necessity of sweeping the kitchen floor four times every day (this doesn't mean I do it that often...)

Look at that focus!  Notice that there are small legos on the duplo base.  Filling those flat pieces with legos is a very popular activity for him.

Every night I load them back in their container even though I generally have the philosophy that putting away things that are used constantly (such as winter hats and gloves, favorite sippy cups, and bath toys) is a complete waste of time.  The only reason I do it is because I fear that if they are left out day after day they will spread all over the house.  And, I know Ben should help pick up but with legos he just ends up trying to play with them.  Most mornings I hear him running down the hall followed by the wonderful sound of this happening:

One night I pulled out he instructions and actually build what was intended with one of his sets so I could be sure that most of the blocks were accounted for.  It's a farm yard. 

Some animals are not shown, but commit this to memory because it will never be seen again.  Any time I start building one of these buildings Ben takes over and this happens:

But that is what they are for, right?  It's fun to see what he comes up with. 

To my dismay, Tessa also really enjoys the choking hazard sized legos.  I don't worry too much about it anymore since she has proven herself in this hazard filled house over the last few months and seems to know the difference between what is food and what is not.  But it's still unsettling.  The scene below is from this morning.  I'm sure I was helping Ben in the bathroom or something and she took the opportunity to climb on the chair and spill his bowl and destroy his lego creation. 

Yes, those are Fruit Loops.  My kids eat those awful, sugar filled, artificially dyed, little rings.  I actually read a click bait article this week that I saw on Facebook about the worst kids cereals.  I'm sure you know where I'm heading with this and I don't have to tell you which was the worst.  But don't worry, only about 20% of the loops actually end up in anyone's stomach.  Usually most of them end up spilled all over the place like this. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Table Climbing and Lego Candy

I feel like I want to post regularly about funny little phases and stuff Ben and Tessa do the way I did when it was just Ben.  This blog is almost like his baby book and material on Tessa and current observations about him are certainly lacking.  So this post is going to be filled with what is happening with those two! 

The weather has been above freezing for the last week, which is unusual for January and very pleasant after the worst weather I had ever felt two weeks ago when I headed to Frisco!  Anyway, Ben wants to play outside all the time and I don't really have a reason to say no.  On Sunday I played outside with him for awhile instead of just watching through the patio door and we made some snowmen with the melty snow. 

Yeah, I know.  They are really nice...No point in trying very hard though, since he knocked them over repeatedly so he could rebuild them. 

He wanted to put a hat on them so I tried to use leaves and other junk I could find laying around and I broke some ice crystals off the snow and made princess crowns.  He thought that was fun.  What a princess-y looking snowperson that is! 
And Tessa...Tessa, Tessa, Tessa...
Like I said in my last post, she is really getting to be a little maniac.  She learned how to climb on the kitchen table which is stressful and annoying because it's really hard to keep her away from it.  Even when I pull the chairs away they always end up back in their proper spots and up she goes when you look away for a few seconds. 

She also loves to climb up on the couches, hurdle over the arms, and grab whatever is on the end tables and throw it on the floor.  This usually means that glasses and mugs are always laying on the floor.  Our lamps have these little chains with a ball at the end instead of a switch and Tessa figured out how very fun they are and she has almost knocked them to the floor many times by pulling on the chains.  Oh, why, back in 2005, did I pick out lamps for my apartment that had little chains?? 
On the other hand, she is showing her development in fun ways as well.  She will bring books to me to read to her and if you say, "get a book!" she will bring you a book and she likes to point to body parts like her nose or hair when you ask where they are.  She also gets mad now when you take things away from her. It's kind of funny.
The biggest news is that Ben is potty training!  I feel like a lame-o even typing those words so I am going to keep the details to a minimum because some things should just not be on the Internet forever.  I would hate to have details about being potty trained out there for everyone to find.  All I will say is that it is going well and today Ben had his first outing, to the Y and the bank, without a diaper or pull up and it was a success. 
There is a lot of information about training out there, and one of the most favored techniques is the reward system.  You give the child a piece of candy or a sticker on a chart every time they go where they are supposed the POTTY! (cringe, I hate that word).  M&Ms are the favorite candy that people suggest on the Internet.  But we have the ultimate training tool:

Lego candy! There is a candy store in the mall with bulk bins and back before Christmas Justin took Ben in there to look around and get some special jelly beans and they came out with these.  We had that same bag stashed in the cupboard to give to him sparingly and I remembered them during his first potty training day.  We had to buy more but let me tell you, nothing gets him to that toilet faster than saying "Lego Candy!"

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Like Living in Pottery Barn...

Like many people (I say people to be inclusive but I think we all know I mean women) I enjoy looking through furniture and home goods catalogues like Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel and especially Pottery Barn.  And for a mom who fantasizes about a tasteful and functional house, nothing can beat the Pottery Barn Kids catalogue.  I am constantly re-submitting my name to stay on their mailing list because I never order anything.  I ordered a crib sheet for Tessa's crib last year so I though maybe that would keep me on their radar but it takes more than a $19.99 clearance purchase I guess. 
These pages make a stylish and organized life with little kids look so easy and attainable. 
Because, you know, little labeled bins make your house neat and tidy.  Hahahaha.  HAHAHAHAHAAAHAAAAA. 
But regardless of my combined obsession and distain for this sort of organizing system we decided to build some sort of storage system in Ben's closet.  I guess I should say that Justin decided to do this and then did all of the work.  The toy situation in this house has been getting just unlivable.  I know having too much is a first world problem but it really has been a problem.  Toys are everywhere, in every room of the house.  They are under the kitchen table, in our bedroom, thrown on the landing of the stairs, on the kitchen counters, you name it.  The living room is where we spend most of our time and you generally can't walk in there.  Very bad feng shui.  It is the opposite of feng shui.  I read an article about feng shui recently that said the entry of the house should reflect you as a person which really disturbed me because if that is the case I am apparently a dirt and gravel filled, stained floor mat of a person with piles of shoes in my soul and scuffed and finger printed walls in my heart.  Gulp.
So here is Justin's finished project.  There are shelves on the opposite end as well. 

It looks really good.  That evening I got to work sorting toys by categories such as tractors, Cars and Thomas and other character toys, trains and tracks, books, balls, construction toys, etc.  Ben immediately went in and dumped all of it out on the floor.  That wasn't really what we had in mind BEN!  And to make it worse, Ben's favorite toys of the moment are Duplos and the train track set so those are what he always dumps front and center on the living room rug.  And yes, I could insist that he play in his room but he wants to be around me and I don't want to sit in his room all day room it is. 

Here is Tessa enjoying a rare expanse of clear floor.  Her closet is next on the to do list! 
Here are a few other pictures from the recent weeks.  I have had trouble fitting in computer time due to Tessa's recent acquisition of the skills to climb on the furniture by herself so now I can't go anywhere to get away from her when she is awake.  She is into everything and I can't to ANYTHING.  I forgot about this challenging stage in Ben's life.  If I clean or do laundry she is there undoing what I've done.  If I sweep or vacuum she is under foot spreading the dirt piles around.  If I try to sit and read a magazine or book she climbs up and rips it out of my hand to look at it and of course any technology is out of the question.  If I watch something on TV she is loud and gets quiet when I hit pause and then as soon as hit play she gets loud again.  That is why I am constantly looking at the internet on my phone.  It is not productive but at the moment it is the ONLY thing I can manage to do when she is awake because it can be done discreetly.
Here is a picture of our view over the city on a recent frosty morning.  I thought it was pretty.    

Here is a series of the kids hanging out on the couch. Ben wanted Tessa to sit with him under the blanky (which is a towel that I put over the couch because Ben is being potty trained and is doing quite well with by the way and thankfully since he will be 3 in two months!) 

She was happy, and then she got mad! 

I should mention that over the weekend we did a major cleaning and put toys away and once they were out of sight it has been easier to keep them out of mind. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


It's Wednesday, and the weekend is now behind me.  And what a weekend it was. After missing last year, I made my return to Frisco and Justin made it for the fourth time.  It was the FCS Division I Football Championship, and NDSU was there for the fourth year in a row.  We almost lost.  I even talked to one of Justin's co-workers who said they turned off the TV when there were two minutes left because they just couldn't watch...and then we won.  FOUR-PETE!  A ring for every finger!
I flew and Justin drove.  We both left Thursday, which turned out to be the day a polar vortex decided to move through the region.  I few out of Williston and dropped Ben and Tessa off at Justin's sister's house in Stanley on the way.  He drove to meet up with friends in Fargo.  I am not exaggerating when I say that it was the worst weather have ever drove through myself. It was snowing on and off, it was freezing cold, and most of the drive was dark because I left early in the morning.  But what made it very terrifying was the wind.  Besides the occasional summer thunderstorm, I have never been out in wind like that ever.  EVER.  I made my way north on Highway 83 and could barely keep my bearings.  After about 30 miles I saw blinking hazard lights ahead and at first I thought it was an accident but it was a semi with a double trailer driving with hazard lights flashing.  Let me tell you, those red lights were the only thing that helped me along that stretch of highway.  I lost sight of them once in a blinding fog of snow and my stomach did somersaults.  That driver has no idea what he meant to me that morning.  Eventually the snow cleared and daylight came and I was able to see clearly but the wind continued to howl.  When I reached Michelle's house I could not open the door of my car.  The wind was blowing it shut and I had to put my feet against it and squat it open.  It was just horrible.  Once Ben and Tessa were safe I felt a lot better but my slow speeds that morning left me with no time to spare to get to the airport. 
Williston and all of Western ND has been in the news regularly since the oil boom started.  My parents lived in that area when I was a baby back when there was another boom in the early 80s and I haven't been there since.  I kind of thought all the talk was an exaggeration but it is just like they say.  It is like instantly you are driving along Highway 2 and suddenly you are in a traffic jam of tanker trucks behind you and in front of you and on the sides. Williston is a small town that became huge so it lacks the sights and stoplights for such a busy highway and the airport is tiny and there are no signs to guide you there.  Suddenly you see a little monument that says "International Airport" and you turn and drive between a few businesses and there it is.  It's like any other very small airport but the traffic through it is high volume.  I parked my car and went inside and you could barely move in there.  It was mostly working men coming and going and oil company vehicles were lined up outside picking up and dropping off.  The bathroom line for the men was down the hall and I walked right in to the women's room. 
I wedged myself in one of the few empty chairs in the place.  There is a temporary terminal set up that connects to the main terminal so you wait for your turn to wait in the temporary one where you board the planes.  I was in the middle of a group of men from Mississippi who were going home for 21 days so I talked to them for awhile.  Of course the plane was iced up in every way possible and once we boarded the pilot informed us that, due to the size of the plane (a small one with one row of seats on one side and two on the other) and the strength of the wind the plane could not take the weight of a full tank of fuel so we would have to stop half way and refill.  The result of all this was that I was going to miss my connection to Dallas.  I was starting to feel panicked about missing my flight and I hadn't eaten lunch so to hold off a low blood sugar meltdown I ordered a $5.00 bag of pretzels with mustard dip and called Justin while we were in Nebraska getting fuel.  There was a flight with three open seats two hours after my original one so he called and got me a spot on it!  So finally I could relax! 
I arrived in Dallas in time to meet some friends who were arriving the same time.  We were getting picked up together so I went to their gate to wait.  It was fun to be waiting because it was like the old days before excessive airport security when you would get off the plane and see happy reunions all around you.  I was so happy to be there!  I had a lovely night with a hotel room all to myself and a nice buffet breakfast with my friends the next morning while we waited for the drivers and other people arriving on Friday to show up. 
We went to lunch at a favorite Frisco bar that has become a tradition over the years....and then proceeded to stay there and drink for ten hours.  Hey, it's Frisco?! 
Game day was pretty cold, like 30 degrees, which would have been OK if just the tailgating part was outside but the game was outside too.  So it was a long day of coldness.  I, ummm, misplaced my phone in a taxi cab on Friday night (we tracked down the driver and got it back on Saturday night) so I don't have many pictures except ones that other people sent me.  This one is my favorite:
It's Bison Alum and NFL player Marcus Williams!  This is kind of a tradition because we have a picture from the first Frisco trip with him.  He was gracious.  There were a lot of people wanting to talk to him.  I said "Good job in the NFL!" and he said "Thank you".  Hehehee!
There were four odd seats apart from the rest of the group and so my sister, brother-in-law, our friend and I took them.  We knew they were high up but it turned out they were in a special row at the top that had chairs instead of benches and also cup holders and lots of leg room.  It was pretty nice actually. 
Before the game there was some pageantry and an airplane fly-over.

There is the moment we won!  After a few minutes the whole field was gold .

We were behind an Illinois section and they were not very happy that they lost in the last two minutes. 

This is as close as I got to the front.  We didn't go down until almost everyone else was already down so we were toward the back. 
There is a high def panoramic photo on the Internet where you can zoom in and find yourself.  Here, in the second row, you can see from the left under the goal post, my dad, mom, Justin's mom, Justin, my cousin's husband, and my cousin.  I think that is my uncle in the white hat as well. 

There we are in our special row!

And a closer look...yeahhhhh....

I don't know why I'm sitting.  Probably because my head was pounding.  Haha.  Actually, there was a standing room only person right behind me who was pretty short so I was trying to be considerate when the action was slow which I think was happening here because everyone is talking to each other and not watching.  Also, I spend most of the game swaddled in a blanket and extra coat.  Since I am not wearing those things it could mean I just sat down from going to the bathroom or something.  At least I don't look like a zombie staring at my phone because...oh was lost in a taxi cab!
I made it home on Sunday and while waiting at the gate in Denver to get back to Williston was recognized by old family friends who my parents met when we lived in Western ND when I was young.  The woman knew me and I heard someone say my maiden name and she asked if I was my mom's daughter and we made the connection.  That was crazy.  They have seen my parents occasionally but I don't think they have seen me except in Christmas cards. 
On the drive back to Stanley I was able to take in the scenery more since I wasn't gripping the wheel in terror and I am still kind of enamored with the whole oil patch experience.  It's certainly not traditionally beautiful but something about it is inspiring.  Seeing flags flying high up on those rigs and knowing that so many people have gained their dignity back (I still am thinking about those men from Mississippi) because of what is going on there makes me feel patriotic or something that I can't really put into words.  I know there are issues with crime and lack of infrastructure but personally I got a good feeling about being out there and not a bad feeling.  Right after I graduated from law school I had a job offer to work out there and I turned it down and I still think about what it would have been like.  Also, ladies, single ladies, if you want to get married and you have an adventurous outlook , go to Williston for a few months!  Holy crap there are men everywhere! 
When I arrived to pick up the kids, Ben immediately started crying because he wanted to "stay at Auuuntie's!"  He had fun playing with his cousins.  It was OK though, because Tessa gave me the "Jump into the arms" welcome that I was hoping for!
Now, the holidays and Frisco are over and it's really time to get back to a routine.  Exhale...


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy 90th Grandma Irene!

Over the weekend we celebrated Justin's grandmother's 90th birthday. Her birthday was back in December but this large gathering of family and friends was held on Saturday.  Of course, there was a blizzard but that didn't stop anyone from getting there!  Unless the interstate is closed people in ND generally hit the road! 
I can't remember the first time I met Irene but one of my earlier memories of her is seeing her frying homemade donuts in the kitchen of Justin's cousin's house (formerly her house) during the opening weekend of hunting back in probably 2003 or 2004.  She has always been so nice to everyone and I no no exception and she always has a compliment for my shoes or my dress and says, "when I was young I would wear things like that!"
She earned a teaching degree from Mayville State (one of her former students now friends was at the party!) and beat cancer in the 1960s.  She has experienced the loss of a son, Justin's dad, and her husband and has persevered to live to know approximately 20 great grandchildren (I hope that number is correct!)
On the day of the party my camera malfunctioned due to a very low battery so my memory card ended up being filled with a bunch of empty files so I found a few older pictures of her on my computer. 
Tessa's baptism.


A visit from baby Ben during hunting season in 2012. 

She is in good health and could live for many more years!