Monday, February 28, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Unicorn in the Night-Time

Max in dreamland... he crashed on the couch after a day out on the town with Daddy

It's funny how Paul and I have programmed ourselves to hear what we are supposed to hear at night. Basically, we have assigned ourselves each to one child- I get Louie and Paul gets Max. Lucian can be screaming bloody murder and Paul won't even roll over, but if Max so much as whines, Paul jumps out of bed to his side! Max hasn't woken up at night for months, so I wasn't sure if Paul's reflexes were still in shape. But lo and behold!

It was 2:00am on Friday, and I awoke to the sound of Lucian wailing (not an uncommon night-time occurrence), and I noticed that Paul was already up! It took me a second to get oriented, then I realized that Max was crying as well (apparently, my programming is the same as Paul's, in reverse!) I got up to check on the situation and found Louie sitting in his crib crying while Paul tried to comfort Max. I laid down my little boy with his blankie, and he was out in no time. But before I went back to bed, I heard Paul ask a distraught Max if he wanted a drink of water.

Out of the blue, Max responded, "Unicorrrrrrnnn!"

What the...??

"I want my UNICORN!!!" he sobbed. (FYI, Max does not own a unicorn of any kind.) Finally Paul got him settled down by telling him that he could close his eyes and dream about unicorns again if he wanted to. He snuggled in and drifted off to dreamland... apparently to find his... unicorn? Whatev, dude.

Silence overtook the house again, and Paul and I chuckled ourselves to sleep. The next morning, we told Max what had happened. He had absolutely no recollection but thought the whole story was pretty funny! Now in those rare moments that he is not wearing a pirate hat, he has been running around with his finger pointing out from his forehead and neighing like a horse (Unicorns neigh right? That's what I told him). Could we be moving in the direction of castles, knights, unicorns and dragons? Only time will tell...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Play to Learn, Learn to Play

There are so many awesome places to bring kids in the Twin Cities, but most of them cost a chunk of change. Thankfully, the libraries in the area offer passes to many of these places for a reduced rate, or even free! I managed to get my hands on a free pass to the Minnesota Children's Museum for this weekend- they're kinda a hot commodity, only a limited number are available at any given time. I called one library- they had one left but couldn't hold it for me... it went out the door literally minutes before I showed up. I called another library- nope, all out. But, third time's a charm! The third library I checked had one left, and that one I managed to grab before it was snagged by some other penny-pinching mommy.

We wolfed down a quick dinner when Paul got home on Friday and took off for the Museum. I tell you, this place is a kid's dream come true! Every room is chock full of exciting, engaging exhibits to peak the interest of little brains. I think I'll let the pictures tell you the rest of the story...

First, we visited the Lego Castle Exhibit. Dragons, knights, costumes, jousting, castles, and legos! What more could you ask for?

"Do dragons sit on thrones?" was the question of the day

Checking out the dragon's treasure

Using giant Legos to build a castle

Next up, the nature room! Lots of caves to explore, animal costumes and puppets, hands-on learning.

Through the hollow log

There was a mirror positioned in a rock across from this turtle so he could see himself. He thought it was pretty awesome.

Fake crawfish, real water!

"I'm sticking out my teeth like a beaver!" says my little log chomper

Checking out a larger-than-life anthill

Then, after a quick pit-stop to do some face painting...

...we were off to World Works to learn about water, paper, levers and gears. Good stuff!

Making paper medallions

Louie LOVED the water tables

Last but not least was Our World, an exhibit boasting a grocery store with plastic food, a Chinese restaurant, a doctor's office, and Max's favorite, the recording studio!

We stayed until closing, but I know Max would have been happy to play until the sun came up the next morning! I'm sure we will find our way back to the Children's Museum many times in the years to come. If you ever want to join us, let me know! The more the merrier.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sea Chanteys

Sorry if anyone is tired of hearing about pirates on this blog; maybe I should rename it "Captain Salty's Adventures on the High Seas" or something. I don't see his pirate obsession going away anytime soon, in fact at the moment it is as strong as it's ever been! The first thing he does every morning is put his pirate hat on and pick up his foam sword, and most mornings I find myself being "sworded" and/or thrown overboard before breakfast.

But I just couldn't resist sharing this story with you all- Max's love of music and love of pirates have officially collided. We were driving home earlier this week listening to the radio when we suddenly noticed Max singing to himself in the back seat. We turned down the radio and this is what we heard:

"If you're happy and you know it, walk the plank!
If you're happy and you know it, walk the plank!
If you're happy and you know it, and you really wanna show it,
If you're happy and you know it, walk the plank!"

We both burst out laughing and told Max that we loved his song! For the rest of the drive we were serenaded with countless verses of his own creation, including (but not limited to): If you're happy and you know it,
-Hoist the mainsail
-Say 'Arrr!'
-Do a parrot (braaak!)
-Go to land (Land ho!)
-Find a treasure
And on, and on, and on.

Then last night, we were treated to a new pirate song, "The pirates on the ship say 'Arr, arr, arr!'" This also developed into a multi-verse song, "The sails on the ship go wave, wave wave", "The ships on the ocean go sail, sail, sail", "The mateys on the ship go 'Yo Ho Ho!'" etc, etc.

I'm just waiting to see what he comes up with next. Old Captain Bogg had a ship? Hey there, Matey, have you any gold? The possibilities are endless!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Boy. [boi] (n). 1. A crazy little imp who will put himself in any situation that seems fun and/or interesting, regardless of the consequences. 2. The sole greatest cause of a mother's joy and gray hair.

(This was Louie's idea, by the way. I walked into the room from the kitchen in time to see Max clambering to join his little brother on an adventuresome climb up the diaper box mountain. A three-year-old balancing on that box? No big deal. A 12-month-old who can't even walk? Slightly different story...)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Cradle will ROCK!

I borrowed this picture from the Okee Dokee Brothers Facebook page. See if you can spot Max

My favorite radio station in the Twin Cities is 89.3 The Current. They are a branch off of Minnesota Public Radio, and they basically have free reign to play whatever they want- most times I love the music, occasionally I can't stand it. But that's the beauty of it! Plus, they play tons of local music, which holds a special place in my heart. The Twin Cities boast some pretty awesome local talent!

Every year, The Current hosts a family day called Rock the Cradle, where they have live kids music, puppet theater, an "instrument petting zoo", and storytime with the radio DJ's... plus a whole host of other offerings. They take over the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Children's Theater for a day, and the place is CRAWLING with kids and families. This year, we decided Max would have a good time, plus (of course) the Okee Dokee Brothers were scheduled to play!

Even though the sky was already dumping snow on us after Mass, we decided to brave the roads and drive into Minneapolis for the event. Oh my goodness, I don't even want to know what it would have been like on a nice day! All of the street parking was taken, and the ramps both had signs flashing "FULL. FULL. FULL" to warn people against entering in vain. Ahh, but enter we did, on the off chance that those signs were lying. And to our amazement, a car was pulling out just as we drove in! We managed to snag one of the rare covered parking spots and avoid having to take a shuttle from blocks away!

We were blasted by the snow as we walked to the building, but we thawed quite quickly when we got inside. We shed our coats and went off exploring. Sadly, we had thought we were planning ahead by bringing a baby backpack instead of a stroller (they had advised against strollers because of crowding) but ended up having to ditch the backpack (apparently backpacks are forbidden in the gallery... news to us!) and Paul carried Louie all day. Bummer.

First stop was the Okee Dokee Brothers concert. We were early, so we made our way upstairs slowly through the art galleries. One of the volunteers pointed us toward the "magic elevator" down the back hall. It was a super old, still-functioning elevator with a door that had to be pulled open manually... super cool! Up three floors we went, then off to the concert. We were not disappointed. Justin and Joe put on an awesome show, as always, but for the first time we got to see them with a full band! Max danced his way through the set, and Lucian clapped after every song.

After the show, we found the DJ Storytime with Mark Wheat. All of the kids got to sit up on stage, and Max found a spot in the very back. For the first two stories, he sat quietly and listened... then I saw him get up on his knees and crawl toward the reader's armchair. Pretty soon, he had hidden himself behind the curtain, followed by two other kids! The other two came out right away, but Max was happy to play by himself in the dark back there. Then he popped out and said "Peek-a-boo!" -- either oblivious to or fully enjoying the fact that there was an entire room of people looking right at him. Mark half-jokingly called "security!" and some volunteers went to retrieve my son from the off-limits area. Ohh... it was only slightly embarrassing when I had to walk in front of the stage to pick him up.

Next was the instrument petting zoo. Max checked out all kinds of drums, bells, and a quarter-sized violin. Then it was snack time, and we met up with my brother Ben before the second Okee Dokee concert. We were disappointed to find that they had started their second set early due to weather and we had missed most of it. But Max didn't mind, he joined right in on the dancing up in front of the stage.

The drive home was snowy and slow, and Max and Lucian both fell asleep within three minutes of getting on the road. They got a nice long nap as we crawled our way across I-94 back home. What a fun day!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tales from the Crib (or The Great Pacifier Hunt)

There are certain habits that Max had while sleeping in his crib that Lucian has somehow picked up on (osmosis? ESP?) and brought back to life. For starters, Max always felt that the very best time to fill his diaper was during the first twenty minutes of nap time. I had forgotten about this trend until Louie picked it up again recently; he will be quiet just long enough for me to think he's asleep and begin some project or chore, then BAM! The wailing begins and I open the bedroom door only to be greeted by a cloud of stink. Not such a fan of this. But if I had to choose, I'd pick this over his other new-found habit.

I think it's probably very normal for kids who have pacifiers to want to chuck them out of their cribs in order to avoid falling asleep. Again, Max did this from the time he could stand in his crib until the time he transitioned to his big boy bed. However, most children (at least in my previous experience... i.e. Max) would throw the pacifier on the floor nearest the door, because that's where they stand screaming until someone takes notice. Oho! Not so, I have found, with our new little sneak!

I'll set the scene for you: I lay Lucian down with his paci, blankie, and a few stuffed animals. His eyes glaze over as I rub his cheek, and he makes little humming noises. Oh good, he'll be out like a light in seconds! Ahh, but only a short while after I leave the room, the cries begin. After waiting a few minutes (anywhere from 3 to 30...) to see if he'll put himself back to sleep (yeah...right), I go up to his room to give him back his paci and lay him back down. But wait! Said pacifier is nowhere to be found! I look behind the door, on the floor, in the crib, under the crib... finally, there it is against the wall. I actually have to move the crib to reach it.

So I settle him back in with his stuffed animals, blanket and paci (all of which I retrieved from the floor) and leave the room again. Another few minutes pass by and again the wails begin. This time I wait a little longer, but the screaming just gets more intense. I go in to give him back his paci and check behind the crib- it's not there. It's not on the floor anywhere around the crib. This time, he has managed to toss it underneath the dresser against the adjacent wall!

Usually he falls asleep after two or three rounds of this game, but I assure you, the pacifier is never in the same place twice during one nap time. I think our record is six; he had a cold and was having lots of trouble falling asleep. I found the paci, I'm not lying, in six different locations on his floor: under the radiator, behind the crib, behind the door, in a pile of stuffed animals, in the dirty clothes bin, and under the rocking chair. It's a small room, so there are lots of interesting hiding places within close range. I swear this kid is toying with me! He just loves to see me crawl around on the floor in search of the elusive pacifier. Just when I think I must have found every possible place he could throw it, it ends up somewhere new! And then, just to throw me off, it's occasionally hidden in the corner of his crib... the last place I would think to look!

I dunno guys, I think I'm being outsmarted by a one-year-old.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Question Mark


I think our son might one day be a college philosophy professor; his preferred means of engaging in conversation is to ask questions. Currently, he favors asking "What are you?" This question gets posed to every stranger that crosses his path- the man waiting for his takeout at Chin Chin's Chinese Restaurant, the woman who happened to walk down the same Target aisle as us, the librarian, the cashier, the dog walker. Usually this question is received with a puzzled but amused look, and some attempt at an answer. Most commonly heard is "I'm good! How are you?" (To which Max inevitably responds, "Good. What are you?" I still haven't figured out an answer that will satisfy him.)

Lately, at least around home, his questioning has gone to new heights. Instead of saying, "Look at me! I'm (fill in the blank)-ing!" like normal kids do, he turns it into a question. Tonight, for example, he ran into the living room and danced in circles on the rug, yelling "Am I dancing? Am I dancing? Am I dancing? Am I dancing?" until I finally asked him, "Are you dancing?"

"Yes." he said, and stopped.

Generally I am the one who finally caves into the incessant questioning, but today I don't have much of a voice. So I passed the torch to Paul, who at first tried to ignore him... but couldn't as easily ignore my glare from across the table after Max purposely threw himself on the ground and began: "Did I fall? Did I fall? Did I fall? Did I fall? Did I fall? Did I fall? Did I-" "Did you fall, Max?"


Then Paul decided to turn the tables. "Am I sitting on a chair?" he asked. "Am I sitting on a chair? Am I sitting on a chair? Am I sitting on a chair?" He could have done it all night... no response from Max. The kid was completely oblivious. I don't think that's quite fair.

I think Paul doesn't mind this questioning phase - every true philosopher knows you don't ever actually tell people anything. You just keep asking them questions until they figure it out for themselves.

Sooooo... food for thought: What are you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why My Boys Need Their Daddy

Simply put, it's because I don't do this

Or this

I can't do this

This? Not so much.

But it makes them look like this

And that makes me happy too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coming out of Hibernation

Forty-five degrees! I can't even remember the last time our thermometer read that high... at first I thought it might be malfunctioning. It can't possibly be above freezing. We're not that lucky... are we?

So we have been taking full advantage of the bearable (not quite ready to call it beautiful) weather and donning our snow gear! First was sledding on Saturday: Max had the time of his life! Lucian, not so much. He went down the hill once, and that was plenty for him. He stood in the snow twice, two times too many. Poor kid, not quite the daredevil his big brother is, but we'll work on him.

"I'm not really sure about all this..."

Max went down the hill several times all by himself, and he enjoyed exploring the expansive snowy tundra at the bottom of the hill almost as much as the actual sledding. Paul followed him around, throwing snowballs and teaching him how to make snow angels.

Strong Man Max tries to pull Daddy up the hill in the sled

Yesterday was another day well worth experiencing. Forty degrees and sunny! I'm not so ambitious when Paul's at work, so we stuck to the backyard. But that was adventure enough. Sunday evening, we arrived home at about 8:00pm to see that the entire mass of snow from the roof of our deck had slid off into the yard, completely blocking the path to our back door! We ferried the boys across to get them inside, then Paul came back out to shovel us out. While a bit of a headache that night, it made for a pretty fantastic play area yesterday! We're calling it Avalanche Mountain.

We also had some major thawing, creating a nice puddle for splashing! Max spent a good chunk of time running, galloping and skipping from the garage to the house, trying to make the biggest splashes he could.

This time, Lucian got to have lots of fun too. He never left his blanket on the deck, he never had to touch the snow, and he didn't have clunky snow boots on. Couldn't be happier.

I still won't be sad when all of this snow melts away and we start to see some green again, but if more of winter was like this, I think I'd be a happier person!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentines

To the three most important men in my life,

Happy Valentine's Day! You mean the world to me.

Love, Taryn/Mommy/Mmmmaa

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sock It To Me

I have an ongoing battle with myself between doing things for Max and letting him do them on his own. It usually sounds something like this: It's taking him forever to get that jacket on! We need to go... but it's a great learning experience, trying to put it on by himself... but we need to be there in fifteen minutes! It will take him at least that long... but I need to work on my patience, his little mind is growing... but if I just did it for him we'd be out the door already... but look at him struggling to overcome an obstacle- this is so good for him... etc, etc, etc.

If it's not a matter of being late for an event of some sort, I generally try to let him struggle his way through things. Well, at least I try to try. It's just so hard sometimes! I can do something in .5 seconds that will take him minute after minute of trial and error. "Here, let me get that for you" is such an easy solution!

Last night, Paul and I decided to let Max get undressed before bed all by himself. Head to toe. We gave verbal instructions ("Pull your arm into your sleeve... now the other one... now pull your shirt over your head...") and it went pretty smoothly.

Until we got to the left sock.

Oh. My. Goodness. I was about to pull my hair out! He pulled, and he tugged, and he rolled around on the ground. That sock was stuck. It took some major restraint on my part to stop myself from going into "Here, let me get that for you" mode. We watched and gave instructions... which he generally ignored in his attempts to remove that stubborn sock. I wasn't timing the event closely, but it must have been about fifteen minutes that we let him struggle, until finally he got the right grip on it and yanked it off. Fifteen minutes of "Oh, you almost- oh- not like that- try to- well- what about- do it like this-" and I think Paul removed and put on his sock at least five different times as an example. When that darn sock came off, it was such a relief! I felt like this was so much more than just a sock.

What in the world will I do when he gets older and the stakes get higher? When he's in little league sports and I can't run onto the field to help him catch the ball? When he's writing a paper in high school and I know I could write it better? When he's preparing for his first job interview?

Does it ever get easier to let them struggle? Or does it just keep getting harder? I'm afraid the answer is probably the latter. Now I know why my mom tells me she would get nervous before my performances in high school. I always thought, "Hey, I'm the one up there sticking my neck out, you just have to watch!" But watching might be the hardest job of all. What if he fails? What if people laugh? What if he gives up?

I know that independence is a great gift that I can give my children- teach them to work out problems, work through frustrations and make good decisions on their own when the consequences are minor, and they'll be more prepared later in life.

So I'll keep working on patience and restraint... for my sake as well as his. Hopefully by the time he's in Little League, I'll be able to calmly stay in the bleachers as he misses that fly ball. I'll sit back and allow him to get a B+ instead of an A if he worked hard on that paper. I'll send him off in suit and tie to that interview without calling ahead to gush about my amazing son that they have to hire.

I'll let him take his own socks off.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pearly whites

The day has arrived! I no longer have to worry about my little boy gumming his food for the rest of his life. I won't need to get him dentures at the age of three. He has a TOOTH!

Lucian was up from midnight to 3 am, cranky and fussy, refusing to go to sleep. I knew something was up. Lo and behold, when I looked in his mouth this morning, I could see the beginnings of one of his bottom teeth starting to poke through! I clicked a spoon on it- this is no mirage, it's an actual, bona fide, real live tooth.

Steak dinners, corn on the cob, here we come!

Next milestone, that elusive first step...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sunset in Assisi

"It was now the sweetest hour of the twenty-four: 'Day its fervid fires had wasted,' and dew fell cool on panting plain and scorched summit. Where the sun had gone down in simple state- pure of the pomp of clouds- spread a solemn purple, burning with the light of red jewel and furnace flame at one point, on one hill peak, and extending high and wide, soft and still softer, over half heaven. The east had its own charm of fine, deep blue, and its own modest gem, a rising and solitary star: soon it would boast the moon; but she was yet beneath the horizon."

This is officially my favorite quote from Jane Eyre, our current Book Club read. Isn't that the most amazing description of a sunset you've ever read? It's making me totally impatient for summer, when we can run outside barefoot and watch the sunset without the risk of frostbite. Today has been such a tease; I heard birds singing this morning, I looked outside and saw beautiful blue cloudless skies, and then I looked at the temperature: one degree. ONE degree fahrenheit! My hopes were dashed.

I guess we'll just stay in and pretend it's a nice day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Secure Your Own Mask First

Back in the fall, I had the joy of spending some time with my good friends Bridget and Annie in South Dakota. We went out shopping completely childless for an entire evening (leaving behind a total of eight children) and it was HEAVEN.

While out and about, I got some of the best parenting advice I've ever heard. We were chatting about motherhood, the joys and the woes... but as is usually the case, the woes tended to win the battle for air time. We commiserated about all of those things common to every mother that can make parenting difficult and frustrating.

Then Annie said something profound, and I've thought about it almost every day since then. "You know how when you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant gives directions about using your oxygen mask? They always remind you to secure your own mask first before assisting others."

She went on, and here's the kicker: "I've learned, in my years as a mother, that I need to secure my own mask first in dealing with my children. If I'm not taking care of myself, my relationship with them suffers and I'm not able to be the mother that I want to be." Whoa. Yeah.

I realized that in my striving to be a "good mom" I was often forgetting that the word "mom" inherently infers a relationship between two people. BOTH of the people in that relationship are equally important. I need to take care of myself if I am going to be able to take care of my children.

I think that every mother can interpret this advice in a different way. Some moms neglect their physical needs (healthy eating, exercise), some their emotional needs (date night!), and some- like me- their psychological needs. Again, Annie described it best. She has made it a habit to spend an hour a day on something that SHE loves. It might be sewing, blogging, scrapping, but it must be something that makes her feel like Annie. I got to thinking about what it is that I love, and at first I came up blank! I love my kids, I love my husband... but what do I love to do? When do I feel the most like me?

Since then, I've spent some time discovering new hobbies and rediscovering old ones. I now try to spend time each day being just Taryn. Of course, there are times when this gets hard- when kids are sick, when husbands are gone, or any other of the countless number of wrenches that get thrown into our plans. But I think that if we make it a rule to remember ourselves, our children will benefit because we will be living fully and authentically.

I do have to make many sacrifices as a mother; often I get less sleep than I want, I can't sit and read a book all day like I might wish to, I more often spend my money on diapers and hot dogs than new clothes and restaurants. But these are sacrifices that I can make in an attitude of love instead of frustration if I realize that I am not called to sacrifice who I am. Maybe you all knew this already. Maybe I was just a little late to the game... but if it's new to your ears, it's advice well worth considering.

Check out Annie's beautiful family on her blog, The SD Daniels. She's kind of my idol, but I guess I can share her.