Friday, July 31, 2009


I feel like a genius every time I turn the heel on a sock, but today, I feel especially brilliant because I finished Elizabeth's little dress. It is, by far, the most complicated thing I have ever knit. It has multiple yarn changes, different types of stitches, and pleats. I had to Kitchener the shoulders together, and then un-Kitchener them because I attached the wrong ones. Whoops. I called my mom cursing about that one.

I do still need to crochet the trim around the neck and sleeves and then block the whole thing, but I couldn't wait that long to take pictures of my sweet girl in her new sweet dress.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In which I prove that I'm an idiot

My little point-and-shoot camera takes video, but apparently I am too stupid to use it. I wanted to shoot a video of Campbell playing on my dad's treadmill and this is what I got.

Somehow it escaped me that I can't simply turn the camera on its side while shooting video.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It was a vacation

Many people asked whether visiting my parents qualified as a real "vacation," and they all seemed to be surprised when I said that it did.

Yes, there was the stress about the plane flight, and there was the havoc my children wrecked at my parents' house. Here's a picture of the living and dining rooms to prove that they made a huge mess.

But I still had fun.

I enjoy spending time with my family. We all share the same odd sense of humor, and I laugh harder with my parents and sister than I do with anyone other than my husband. And even though I've never lived in my parents' house, it feels like home to me. Being there just makes me feel better.

Plus, with my mom, dad and sister there, I had three extra pairs of hands to wrangle children. My mom took delight in catering to their every whim - giving them ice cream and snacks at the drop of a hat and picking Elizabeth up every time she started to even look the slightest bit unhappy. My dad took the big three to the pool every day; my parents' neighbor said he looked like he was leading a string of ducklings up the hill to go swimming.

Thanks to their help, I was able to do things I don't normally have the chance to do at home - like read, take naps, and knit. I also got a ton of paying work done during the first three days of the trip.

So, yes, it was a vacation, and a very good one at that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Yesterday evening I flew home from Atlanta with the kids, and I have nothing exciting to report. With my sister's help, we got the kids through security and to the gate. The kind gate agent let me pre-board, and a nice family let me switch seats with them so that I could actually be next to my kids. OK, so there was a mix-up with the seating, but it was easily resolved, so that doesn't count as exciting. The kids behaved well, even Campbell, who was beyond exhausted.

The sweetest moment of the day occurred at the Austin airport. As we came down the escalator, the kids spotted B waiting for us. The girls sprinted down the last few steps and ran for daddy. Campbell had to wait until we got to the bottom because I wouldn't let him run down, but once he touched the ground, he bolted straight for B, climbed up him and held on for dear life. It was like a moment out of a Hallmark card commercial.

It made my tired heart melt.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More than I ever thought it could be

I have always had a love-hate relationship with the American Girl Doll phenomenon. On the one hand, I hate the rampant commercialization of the dolls and all of their paraphernalia. The dolls are so expensive, as are all the outfits and magazines and books, and kids can't help be be lured in by the "lifestyle."

On the other hand, there is my life-long love of all things miniature, and I think the dolls and all their gear are pretty cool. If we had the room and disposable income, I might be tempted to have my own dolls doll.

There is an American Girl Doll store about 15 minutes from my parents' house, and on Wednesday, my sister and I took the girls there for a treat. I hadn't initially planned on going, but at the last minute I decided I couldn't miss the fun.

When we got there, Ella went into her quiet mode, clinging to my hand and whispering about everything. Lily, on the other hand, acted like she owned the place, darting here and there and dragging my sister along to see everything.

We had told the girls that each could pick out one outfit and one accessory set. I thought the girls' heads would explode from all of the choices available. Lily zeroed in on an angel outfit, but when I told her she couldn't also get the the very expensive matching flute set, she started her search again. Ella picked out a Depression-era schoolgirl's outfit and backpack set. Lily finally settled on a cute 1950's bikini and sandals outfit and a snack set.

Once we made our purchases, we went to the Bistro for dessert. The Bistro was filled with mothers and daughters and dolls, who had their own high chairs to sit in and menus to order from. We sat at the soda counter, along with Ella's doll Hermione and Lily's doll Ginny. The girls were silent as they watched everything going on.

Ella ordered an ice cream sundae that was almost as big as her head. She didn't even come close to finishing it. (That's Aunt Sarah in the background.)

Lily ordered chocolate cake with ice cream and whipped cream and strawberries. She was too busy looking around to eat much of her treat.

When we left, I asked the girls what they thought of the place. Ella said, "It was more than I ever thought it could be."
So, yes, American Girl is rampantly commercial, but it's also lots of girly-twirly fun. I'm glad I got over myself and went along for the fun. The looks on my girls' faces was worth every minute.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The kids and I are in Atlanta visiting my parents this week. So far, much fun is being had by all, and I have a bunch of posts about our trip stacked up.

My parents live in a fairly large (especially compared to our house) home that is filled with interesting artwork and photographs, oriental rugs I'd be willing to kill for, and family heirlooms and antiques. It is also a very comfortable house with big squishy sofas to relax in. Even though I've never lived here, it does feel like home.

And my children are doing their best to reduce it to rubble. Within 12 hours of their arrival, the kids had scattered toys in pretty much every room of the house.

The girls dragged the big bin of Legos up from the basement and emptied it in the entryway, right in front of the door, guaranteeing that anyone entering the house would skid out on the infernal little blocks. After a day of having everyone trip, I made the girls move their Lego village to the living room, where it grows by the day, when Campbell isn't playing Godzilla and crushing all the houses while laughing maniacally.

The dining room has been taken over by Campbell's new race track and cars, and the kitchen has one of those big foam hopscotch sets across it. The breakfast room is littered with Elizabeth's toys, because she noodles around on the floor while we all sit at the table to eat.

The family room has turned into Campbell's personal gymnasium, and despite my best efforts, he leaps from sofa to chair to sofa to ottoman. We had near disaster the other day when he went crashing through the tea party for 6 that Lily had set up on the floor for her and her dolls.

Even though I've restricted the kids to the kitchen for snacks and meals, they are still managing to spread cheerios and pretzels and crumbs all over the place. I chase them around several times a day, vacuuming in their wake. (And by the way, I want to marry my mom's vacuum. Sorry B.)

Campbell is wrecking his own special brand of havoc on the house. The other night he was playing up in the TV room while watching "Bob Pants," when I heard a crash and then him wailing in terror. He'd somehow managed to knock a huge, heavy piece of framed artwork off of one of its nails, sending it crashing into a neighboring wall. Fortunately, Campbell wasn't hurt and the glass didn't break. And the ding I though Campbell had put in the wall had already been there. When I asked Campbell what had happened, he said "It fell!" And when I asked him what had made the frame fall, he wailed, "MEEEEEEE!" He's given that corner of the room wide berth since then.

Last night my mom said that she couldn't figure out how the loveseat in the family room kept moving out of its proper place. Almost as if on cue, Campbell came running across the room and dove head-first into the loveseat, shoving it a good six inches backwards and answering my mom's question.

My parents built this house 20 years ago, but it may not survive until the end of the week.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm glad that's over

We survived our trip to Atlanta, but just barely in my case. I spent most of the day as a nervous wreck and finally broke down and took a tiny speck of Xanax in the hopes that it would help, but it didn't. As my husband will attest, I don't handle situations that are essentially out of my control very well - and pretty much all of yesterday was out of my control.

Things did not get off to an auspicious start. Even though I had checked in online, we had to stop at the check-in counter to get a gate pass that would allow B through security with us. There were three counter agents and four customers, and yet it still took us 20 minutes. The guy behind the counter apologized repeatedly for the delay while I stood there and vibrated from fear that we were going to miss our flight (I have a thing about being late). At some point, but I don't remember when, the counter agent handed me a driver's license, which I put in the pocket of the sling I was using to carry Elizabeth. He then handed B a gate pass and sent us on our way. At the time, neither of us thought to question why the man hadn't asked to see B's ID.

When we got to the entrance to security, I fished the driver's license out of the sling pocket only to discover that it belonged to some man I'd never heard of. I frantically pulled out my wallet, afraid that I'd somehow lost my license, and find it right where it belonged. I gave it and the other license to the TSA agent and explained that I had no idea who the man was. He gave me a very strange look. After he finished checking our boarding passes and figuring out who was who, he asked B for his gate pass. It was then that we discovered that the name on the gate pass matched the name on the stranger's driver's license. The driver's license that I fished out of my pocket. The TSA guy gave us another very strange look, like we were trying to pull something. But what a couple with four kids could be trying to pull is beyond me. The TSA guy told B he couldn't let him through without a gate pass with his own name on it. We had a quick discussion about whether he should go back to the Delta counter to get a pass with the correct name. I quickly vetoed the idea because of how long it had taken us the first time.

So we kissed B good-bye and waded on in to the security lines, which were mercifully short. All I'll say about going through security is that it was every bit as chaotic as you could imagine trying to get four kids, two car seats, and three carry-ons through would be, but we survived. The TSA agent who had dealt with us at the entrance came over to screen our stuff. He really seemed suspicious of us.

But from that point on, everything was smooth sailing. Campbell had a blast watching all the big planes coming and going while we waited to board. The gate agent took pity on me and allowed us on the plane first. The flight attendants carried Campbell's car seat to our row and gave us extra cookies and sprite during the flight. The four kids behaved perfectly throughout the trip, even Campbell, who never complained about being in his seat. They were so good that passengers around us complimented me on their behavior.

We got off the plane to find my sister, who had bad news. My mom thought our flight arrived two hours later than it did, and she and my dad had just left the house, which is an hour from the airport, to get us. It's a good thing my sister called them when she did, or we would have had an even longer wait.

In the meantime, we herded the kids through the teeming masses, rode the underground train, and got some dinner. But I am very glad my sister was there to help. I'm not sure I would have made it through without her assistance. Campbell was bound and determined to get separated from us.

Eventually my parents arrived, and we headed for home, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We had a few glitches, but none that made it necessary for me to have a nervous breakdown or to cook and eat one of the children.

I hope our return trip goes as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Thursday was my birthday, and even though I was in a funk about getting older, I had a good one. I started with a mani-pedi at a swishy salon and ran errands without children in tow. In the afternoon I took a two-hour nap while B kept the kids entertained in the blow-up pool in the back yard. And then B and I went on a date together while his mom babysat the kids. Excellent all the way around.

But the best part was when we got home from dinner. My m-i-l had supervised the girls while they made a birthday cake for me, and she let them go nuts decorating it. They used an entire container of pink sugar sprinkles and at least half a container of nonpareils. Plus they added extra decorations with pink frosting, M&Ms and 12 candles.

It was, without a doubt, the most decorated cake I've ever had. And the crunchiest.

There were so many decorations that when I blew out the candles, I sent a shower of sprinkles and nonpareils across the table, which the girls thought was hysterical.

All in all, it was a very good day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bedtime bliss

Last night I escaped the house for an evening out with the divine Wendi Aarons - we had a good dinner and then did some shopping and bookstore trolling. It was a real treat.

When I got home, a little before ten, the big girls were still awake and watching a movie with B. I crawled into bed with From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I bought for Ella but decided to re-read for old time's sake.

B stopped the movie to take a call from his dad/business partner, who is heading into the wilds of Canada for a two-week rafting trip, and the girls got antsy waiting for B to come back inside. I invited them to crawl into bed with me, with the warning that they had to be still. I'm not sure how long we lasted before all three of us were sound asleep. B came in and snapped a picture.

Unfortunately, the flash woke me up, but I'm glad to have this picture. B carried the girls off to bed, and I went back to sleep. Falling asleep snuggled in with my big girls was a lovely way to end the day.

Happy Love Thursday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Crossing the line

There's a fine line between brave and insane, and I think I'm about to cross it.

On Saturday I am flying with the four kids, but not B, to my parents' house in Atlanta for a seven-day visit. Everyone keeps saying how brave I am to attempt this, but I think I really fall into the "insane" category. I suppose it all depends on whether I can pull off this adventure without killing or losing a child or becoming a raving alcoholic or checking into a psych hospital for a "rest."

Since I planned the trip, I've been constantly talking about how "easy" it's going to be, like if I say it enough, it might actually come true. Or I'll actually believe it.

Here's my argument for why the trip will be "easy."

  1. B will be able to get a gate pass and sit with us at the Austin airport until our flight leaves. I won't be wrestling four kids and gear through security by myself.
  2. The flight is less than two hours, and it's direct.
  3. The big girls are seasoned travellers, especially Ella thanks to last weekend's trip. They'll have books and notepads and such to keep themselves busy.
  4. I'll be strapping Campbell into his carseat to keep him contained throughout the flight. He hasn't managed to escape his five-point harness, yet.
  5. My sister is flying into Atlanta on the same day and is planning to hang out at the airport and meet us at the gate to help wrangle everyone.
  6. We won't have to pick up luggage because I've shipped everything ahead of time. Each girl will carry a backpack with her books and a change of clothes, and I'll have a bag with changes of clothes for me and the little ones.

I keep going through this list and telling myself everything will be fine, really.

But then I start thinking of reasons why the trip won't be easy - like getting four kids, four carry-ons, a stroller and two car seats through security, even with B's help, and onto the plane, without B's help. Or the specter of Campbell's having a meltdown mid-flight and all the other passengers wanting to toss him out the window. Or Elizabeth, who's going to be a lap baby, coming apart at the seams and wailing. Or having some sort of weather or mechanical delay that causes us to sit in the plane, on the ground, in Austin for hours and hours on end.

Yeah, I'm definitely insane.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Climbing updates

Ella and B had a great time in Salt Lake City for US Climbing Nationals. In addition to hours and hours at the climbing gym, their trip included forays into the mountains and weather in the mid-80s during the day, all while we sweltered here with day after day of 100 degree weather. Not that I'm bitter. Much.

Ella climbed beyond our expectations. In the sport climbing event, she placed 17th over all out of about 36 girls in her age group. In the speed climbing, she placed 12th over all. In both events, she made it through the semi-final rounds, but not the finals.

Most importantly, though, she handled the stress of the competition like a pro and had a lot of fun on the trip. She has a long time ahead of her to worry about how she scored and where she placed. Right now, all we care is that she climbs as well as she is able and has fun doing it.

I'm having her write a "What I did on my trip" essay that I'll post, along with some of the pictures she took, when she finishes. It could take a while.

In the meantime, I'm glad to have B and Ella home safe and sound, as are Lily and Campbell.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Scenes from my week

It's been a rough week here at Chez hokgardner, and I don't have a coherent post. So here are some snippets of what's been going on.

As a result of our half-arsed attempt to potty train Campbell, he's spent a lot of time this past week running around naked. The other night he strolled by naked, wearing stickers on his forehead, neck and belly button, and wearing a ladybug backpack that had a toy guitar sticking out the top. I ran for my camera, but by the time I found it, he had taken off the backpack, which is what really completed the look.

The girls have had Target gift cards burning holes in their pockets for months, so on Tuesday, I finally took them to Target to spend them. I was a bit worried that their brains would freeze up with the wealth of possible purchases available, but they made their selections fairly quickly. Their choices perfectly illustrated the differences in their personalities. Ella picked a science project kit that included instructions and supplies to make little electrical circuits and electro-magnets. Lily picked fancy dress-up shoes and a fairy princess ballerina bride doll.

After a few days of problem-free chore time, we've had a rough patch. On Wednesday I had to drop the hammer and be mean mom again. We had a full slate of fun morning activities planned - a trip to the art school to pick up Ella's pottery from art camp, a stop at the new library for more books, lunch at P-Terry's - but I told the girls that their room had to be clean before we could go. Instead of cleaning, they spent their time bickering over everything. I even gave them extra time, with a warning that the day's fun would be cancelled if they didn't finish in 15 minutes. They didn't, so I had to make good on my threat. Plus I still made them clean up their room. Everyone was upset - the girls because they weren't going on their outing and they still had to do chores, me because we weren't going to be leaving the house. I sort of shot myself in the foot on that one, but I needed to follow through.

Wednesday afternoon Lily couldn't find her shoes even though her bedroom was "clean." I opened the girls' closet to help her look, and the avalanche that buried me was like something out of a cartoon. Dress-up clothes, sweaters, games, art supplies came tumbling out. It turns out that when they cleaned their room, they did it by jamming everything they could find in their closet and wedging the door closed. Sigh. I'll be going in tomorrow and doing a thorough cleaning - including throwing stuff out.

The girls have been playing with baby dolls all week. Both of them came in my room giggling the other night because they had put on the tops to their hula outfits as bras, which they were then hauling up to nurse their dolls. There's something a little off in watching your daughters pretend to breast feed baby dolls, but there's something even more off in seeing your son pretend to do it, too. I walked in the living room to find Campbell sitting on the sofa, doll pressed to his chest. The way the girls were giggling, I have a feeling they put him up to it.

At one point, as Ella was nursing her doll, she looked at me and said, "I don't see how taking care of one baby is so hard. I mean, this is easy so far." To my dismay, I found myself explaining how taking care of a real baby is so much harder than taking care of a doll - "Your doll doesn't cry! Your doll doesn't poop! You don't have to change diapers! You don't have to clean up spit-up!" Ella's response was to shrug and say that it still seemed easy to her.

As a result of lots of visits from family in the past month, we've made a number of runs to the airport. Campbell loves getting to go there, even though he really has no idea what happens at an airport. But he still gets a kick out of seeing all the planes. Yesterday, though, was more than he could handle. We took Ella and B to the airport for their trip to Salt Lake City for climbing nationals, and Campbell was distraught at being left behind. As we drove away, leaving Ella and B behind, Campbell was in the back seat wailing, "I want to go to the airport! I need to go on an airplane! Peese mommy, peese!" Next Saturday, when we go to Atlanta, I think little head will explode when he realizes that he actually gets to go in the airport AND on a plane.

B has started working from home full time. He's taken over what was my office space, and we're waiting on our handyman to install a door so that he can close himself off from the rest of the house and the associated noise. But for now, he has to listen to the chaos of my life as a stay-at-home-mom. One afternoon, as I was sitting on Campbell, who was screaming and attempting to escape from time out, while holding Elizabeth, who was sobbing because I had to stop nursing her to sit on Campbell, B came around the corner, took one look at the uproar, and said, "I could never do your job." I wasn't sure if that was supposed to make me feel better.

With any luck, my next post will be more organized. Plus I'll have the result of Ella's climbing.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

He'll be in therapy for YEARS

We've started potty training Campbell, and by "we," I mean Ella and Lily.

I bought Campbell a little potty a while back, and in the past week he's started showing interest in using it. When Campbell peed in the potty successfully for the first time, the girls did the happy potty dance with him and put stickers on him and on his potty chart. There was much joy in Mudville.

The second time Campbell used the potty, the girls were in the bathroom with him, reading books to him when he peed. I gave candy to Campbell as a reward and offered Ella and Lily candy, too. And then I told them that every time they got Campbell to use the potty, they'd get a treat.

That got their attention.

Now every time Campbell looks like he might need to pee, the girls hustle him into the bathroom and put him on the potty. The three of them are spending more time than is possibly healthy in the bathroom reading books and waiting for Campbell to pee.

Part of me worries that it's a really bad idea to let Campbell be potty trained by his big sisters, but then the part of me that is exhausted tells that other part to shut up. If it weren't for his sisters, Campbell might never be potty trained.

Today, though, we're all suffering from a bit of potty-training fatigue. Campbell is rebelling against his sisters dragging him to the bathroom every 10 minutes, and the girls are tired of being trapped in the bathroom reading his highness stories while he sits on his throne. And I'm tired of washing load after load of training pants and towels. Campbell's back in diapers, and we're all taking a break.

And when we get started again, I'll let the girls help and try not to worry too much about Campbell's future therapy bills.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lesson Learned

I’ve learned a lot of things in the almost nine years I’ve been a mother. Friday I learned that I shouldn’t take my oldest daughter with me to shop for bathing suits if I want to keep my dignity and self-esteem intact.

Ella and I were out and about Friday, running pre-4th of July errands, and I decided to take advantage of my escape from the house by looking for a new bathing suit. It’s been four years and two babies since I’ve bought one (maternity suits don’t count). We were near Old Navy, so I stopped in; I’ve gotten cute suits there in the past.

Their bathing suit selection was pretty thin. They had lots of tops and bottoms, but very few that actually matched. Ella helped me sort through, and she would hold up matching sets that she found. Unfortunately, none of the suits she found were in any way, shape or form appropriate for an almost-40 mother of four. They were barely appropriate for an 18-year-old. Each time Ella held up a teeny-bikini, I’d have to hiss at her, “NO! Put that away.” And then I’d have to explain, in hushed tones, why I didn’t want it. When I’d say something like “It’s too small!” or “It’s too skimpy!” She giggle and wave it around before hanging it back on the rack.

Finally, I found a cute one-piece suit and headed to the fitting rooms to try it on. While I changed, Ella climbed the walls, literally; turns out she can climb more than rocks.

My kids see me in all states of undress on a regular basis. I don’t remember the last time I was able to take a shower without one of them poking their head in to tattle on the others or to request a snack. But trying on a bathing suit with an audience was more than I could handle. Ella wanted to know why I was leaving on my panties to try on the suit and helpfully pointed out that she could see them sticking out from the suit. Then she asked, loudly, why my “boobs” were showing so much, did I want them to show like that, and why do “grown-up ladies” like to have their boobs stick out of their suits. At this point I heard giggles from neighboring fitting rooms. The final straw was when she cracked up and told me that I looked like a pear. More laughter from other customers.

The suit was ruined for me after that comment. I’d never be able to wear it without thinking I looked like a pear, even if I didn’t. So I got dressed and headed for the exit, Ella giggling the whole way behind me.

I think I’m going to have to buy a suit the same way I did last time – order several different styles and sizes, try them on in the comfort of my own home, and send back the ones that don’t fit. And you can bet I’ll be locking Ella out of the room when I do.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Another 10 inches

Last summer I donated 10 inches of hair to Locks of Love, and apparently I inspired Ella. This spring, when she went to have her hair trimmed, she asked if she could keep growing it out so that she could make a donation.

Tuesday was the big day. She went for her hair cut. Here she is before.

And with her hair bundled into pigtails for the big cut.

Immediately after the cut. The stupid flash didn't go off.

And after. She looks beyond cute with her new bob.