Category Archives: Tyler

Wait, what?

Yes, this post will include a house update. BUT FIRST!

Earlier this week I stopped by my friend’s house. Her daughter and Tyler are 12 days apart and, for the first time this year, have classes together at the middle school. I walked in the door and my friend says, “Brenna, YOU TELL WINDY WHAT YOU JUST TOLD ME ABOUT TYLER.”

Oh, Lord, I thought, he’s dealing drugs at school.

“Well,” the eighth grader began, “Tyler is… like…. kind of…

WHAT?? JUST TELL ME!

….popular.”

(stunned silence)

“Wait, what?” I could not believe my ears. “Tyler? Our Tyler?”

“Yeah, I know, right?”

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So that was weird.

OK, now we can talk about the house.

The plumbers have done their work, with a couple of exceptions. They still need to re-rough the drain lines under the kitchen sink (SEXY) and the City of Tallahassee needs to turn on our natural gas (GASSY).

The electricians have contented themselves with punching an alarming number of holes in our walls and ceilings.

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Really? Was every single one of those necessary?

There have been a series of minor crises. In my head, the severity of a problem corresponds to the number of digits in the price to fix said problem. So, we’ve had a four-digit mouse problem, a three-digit HVAC problem, and a three-digit van AC problem…. in the last week.

We’re also remembering – slowly – why we bought this house in the first place. We’re finally seeing through the veil of repairs to the house itself. The porch is an amazing place to sit, whether it’s first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee, or last thing at night with a glass of wine. The bedrooms are taking shape, and the kids have spent a couple of nights in “the big house.” I have not – my rule is that my coffee maker and I must sleep under the same roof. Also, the mouse problem brings with it a flea problem, which no.

It appears that we’ve inherited a cat along with a landscaper. We call him (her?) Bonus Cat. It’s all black, and it loves to lurk in the crawl space and scare plumbers and electricians.

I believe the electricians will be done, or substantially done, by the end of next week. Fingers crossed, people!

 

 

 

 

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Halloween

True story: Jason doesn’t like Halloween. I adore Halloween. He doesn’t think it’s a holiday. I don’t either! But I think it’s a lot of fun. And I don’t hear him complaining as he’s crinkling his way through a bag of leftover candy. AHEM.

We agree to disagree on Halloween.

Last year, we hosted a big Halloween party. This year, we were too busy.

Friday night was Trunk or Treat at our church. A group of young adult members wanted to put together a series of Seuss-themed trunks. We had the Lorax, the Grinch who Stole Christmas, the Cat in the Hat, the Sneeches, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Hazel was roped into duty as the fish in a bowl from the Cat in the Hat.

Inspiration:

Execution:

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I made her costume using a red t-shirt, red remnant fabric (felt and velvet), a red bandanna for the hood with black and white felt for the eyes, and a posterboard on which I painted the fish bowl. Total cost: $8.87 and about two hours of time.

Saturday was Halloween. Jason and Tyler went to the FSU game while Hazel and I made chili and pumpkin cream pies for a party that night.

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Hazel wore a hand-me-down Tinkerbell costume, which was perfect because it was 85 degrees outside.

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Despite my repeated prompting, Tyler failed to come up with any clever costume ideas, so he recycled a mask from last year and that was that.

I’m glad we had a breather this year, but I hope to put a bit more effort into Halloween next year.

 

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New York, New York

This summer, I asked Tyler what he wanted for his 12th birthday. To my mild horror, he replied that he wanted “to travel.” Specifically, he said he would very much like to go to New York.

It was a lovely, though expensive, answer.

He went so far as to dig up an essay he’d written in third grade, detailing his dream trip to New York.
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(Translation: Have you ever really wanted to go somewhere and planned everything, I have. If I went to new York City I would ride the subway. They are very fast. The first sub I went on I almost barfed. Subways are cool. The second thing I would do would see the Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Liberty has about 257 steps. I wonder how big it is. The third thing I would do would see the empire state building it is the second tallest building in the world. It’s in the big apple. The fourth thing is to see the FAO Shwarts. It’s a famous toy store. I’m going straight to the Lego sec-shons (said like this). The third thing would to go to see Uncle Bubba. He is awsome (said like this.). I hope I go to New York.)

From this essay and conversations with the boy, I made a short list of things we had to do:

  1. Ride the subway
  2. Statue of Liberty
  3. Empire State Building
  4. The Lego Store in Rockefeller Center (due to the closing of FAO Schwartz)

I needed to get creative. I found cheap plane tickets through Jet Blue, and my friend Jamie graciously agreed to put us up in her apartment. Tyler’s birthday was August 1, but New York in the late summer is almost as oppressive as Florida, but with far less air-conditioning and far shorter tempers. I booked tickets for late October, and then got to work planning.

After an absurd amount of research, I decided to get City Passes for each of us. This was a good decision. I definitely feel that we saved money on tickets, and there was never any issue using them.
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We flew out of Jacksonville on October 21, arriving on Jamie’s doorstep near midnight after a flight delay and a long Super Shuttle trip (which I prefer to think of as a low-cost tour of various midtown hotels).

Thursday morning we hit the ground running. First up: a ride on the real-live New York City subway. It wasn’t even 9:00 a.m., and we’d accomplished 1/4 of our goals! Winning!

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I decided we should start with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I was just beginning my senior year of college when 9/11 happened, and it very much shaped the end of my college experience. The last time I was in New York, the site was bare, and I was eager to see what had been done.
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The museum was very well-done. I was surprised by how much of it focused on the building itself – the engineering that made the buildings possible, and the forces that brought them down. My guess is that because the memory is still so fresh, people are not as willing to part with the personal artifacts that might one day find their home in the museum. That said, the dozen or so Kleenex dispensers scattered around the hall were put to good use.  Untitled

After the tour, we headed to City Hall and Chinatown for some lunch at Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, which serves (surprise!) tasty hand-pulled noodles in a space the size of my family room. I got pan-fried noodles, Tyler got noodle soup with pork dumplings. Both were delicious.
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Fueled by carbs, we were ready to tackle another list item: The Statue of Liberty. We made our way to Battery Park and caught the ferry to see a real big lady. It was around this time that I began regretting my choice of adorable gray Converses for the weekend. My pinkie toes had already developed large blisters from sock-seam chafing. Needless to say, I was psyched to sit on a boat for a few minutes.

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Tyler and I agree: the Statue of Liberty is surprisingly impressive. I mean, everyone knows what she looks like, but to see her up close is just awesome, in the old sense of the word. Awe-inspiring. We took the free audio tour, which I recommend. I wish we’d had more time to sit by the water and gaze at the skyline, but they were closing up shop by that point.
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Back in Battery Park, we discussed our next moves. We were scheduled to meet a friend in Brooklyn for dinner at 6:30, and she’d suggested walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as an appetizer, so we started strolling up the east side of Manhattan. As the Brooklyn Bridge became clearer, I realized that the pedestrian walkway is above the roadway – and I am moderately acrophobic. I wasn’t going to say anything, but Tyler had a mild freak-out about the height as well, so we nixed that idea in favor of taking a cab across the bridge into Brooklyn.

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Nope.

 

Dinner that night was at Pok Pok, a very nice Thai place, followed by ice cream at the Farmacy, which was straight up the most Brooklyn thing I have ever seen. Ironic mustaches and floral rompers for days, y’all.

Friday morning we headed to the American Museum of Natural History. But first – brunch at Shake Shack. Delicious. I had a caramel shake and fries, Tyler had a chocolate shake and a burger. Don’t judge.
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The natural history museum is a heck of a thing. It has four floors of dioramas, skeletons, and other artifacts. We saw probably 75% of the exhibits on display, and that was exhausting. I developed a new appreciation for taxidermists.

Behold, the bear-seal.

After many hours, we were museum-ed out.  Grabbing street food (falafel for me, gyro for Tyler) we wandered across the street into Central Park and rested our brains – and our feet. Tyler spotted a huge rat and tried to pet the pigeons. Oh, Tyler.

Our next destination was Rockefeller Center, home of Tyler’s new favorite place: THE LEGO STORE.

Several dollars later, we met Jamie at The Kunjip in Koreatown for some authentic Korean fare.  Surprising everyone, Tyler did not sear his own flesh on the hot stone pot in which the food was served. Way to go, Tyler.

It’s funny – I’ve been making bibimbap for years, having never tried the real thing. I was pretty close!

Jamie took one for the team and walked us through Times Square. Quickly. Zoom!

Friday night we saw Les Miserables, which Tyler thought was fantastic. It was wonderful to watch him enjoy something so far outside his normal experience. Now he wants to watch the movie for comparison’s sake (and to hear the songs again).

Saturday we stayed in Jamie’s neighborhood. We had brunch at an Irish place, then met up with another Amherst alum and his family at a local playground. They have two babies, so Tyler was thrilled. He loves kids, especially babies. We ended up spending most of the afternoon with them, which was delightful. Then we walked into Fort Tryon Park before an early dinner at a Salvadorian restaurant.

And then it was time to head back to the airport, which ended up being an adventure unto itself. Part of the A line was closed, so we had to divert to the J train and take the AirTrain in from a far north station. It ended up taking almost 2 hours to get to the airport. Then our flight was delayed – for four hours. We landed in Jacksonville at 2:30 a.m.

To his great credit, Tyler never complained. He was a fantastic little companion on this trip, and I will be happy to travel with him any time.

However.

When I got the dirty clothes out of his bag, I found four pairs of clean, folded socks. That means he wore the same socks for four days.

Oh, Tyler.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. The weather was beautiful, the crowds were minimal, and the food was delicious.

My takeaways from the trip are obvious: wear the most comfortable shoes you own, pack a family-size bottle of Advil PM, and budget extra travel and wait time for everything. You’re all set!

 

 

 

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Mischief Managed.

This year, we did something very different for Christmas.

We didn’t buy any presents for our kids.

Gasp! Horror!

Instead of spending time and money at the mall or on Amazon, we surprised the children with a 4-night, 3-day vacation to Universal Studios. I found an sweet package deal for an amazing Harry Potter-themed adventure.

All three of the older kids have watched the Harry Potter movies and read the books, and love the stories. (Let’s face it, Jason and I are huge fans, too.) We knew that this vacation would be a perfect gift for them. It was unbelievably hard to keep the trip a secret, but we managed to wait until they returned to us at noon on December 28. We sat them down and handed each of them an envelope. Inside was a letter (bearing the Hogwarts crest) explaining the trip, a packing list, some spending money, and maps of the parks. They FREAKED. Hollyn cried!

We left that afternoon and arrived in Orlando by dinnertime. Our package included early admission to the parks, so we hit the hay.

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Monday morning we entered the gates just after 7:00 a.m.

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We made a beeline for Diagon Alley.

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JUST LIKE THE MOVIE, OMG OMG OMG.

After breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, we spent the whole day exploring Diagon Alley, riding the Hogwarts Express, and wandering around Hogsmeade. In short, we TOTALLY GEEKED OUT.

Tuesday we went back to Universal Studios, where we explored the rest of the park. We started later in the day and went back to Diagon Alley at night, which was a different (but equally cool) experience. Wednesday we devoted to Islands of Adventure, and on Thursday we came home.

The trip was outstanding. The kids are old enough to spend a whole day on their feet without losing their minds. They loved the Harry Potter worlds, and rode a ton of rides. We loved being able to give them an experience, rather than things that they will outgrow and cast aside.

Hazel was an angel the entire trip. She was happy to go wherever we went, as usual. Like her big brother, she’s a delightful traveling companion.

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I can’t say enough good things about the Harry Potter attractions. They are truly immersive experiences, and it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into each detail. I am not the biggest fan of theme parks, but I was blown away. If you’re a fan of the books or the movies, it’s worth a visit.

Happy New Year!

 

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And Then We Came to the End

First things first: Have you had that baby yet?

Friday was my last day of work. We decided that three children at three different schools plus a newborn (plus three pets, plus a house) equals a full-time job. I seriously doubt I will do nothing – relaxing is not my strong suit – but I don’t think I will ever return to a clock-punching desk-jockey position.

I held my job for almost seven years – longer than any other job I’ve ever had, and longer than either of my marriages (so far). My first five years out of college, I had six jobs. Since 2007, I’ve had one.

I feel like I have lost a bit of my identity. Someone asked me over the weekend what I did, and I said, “I’m a paralegal” before I realized that might be a lie. Talking about work, commiserating about work, griping about work – these are sacred American traditions. You can’t really complain about your children the same way.

I tried very hard to keep my work life and my personal life separate. As much as I fiddle around decorating my house, I put almost zero effort into personalizing my office. When I left on Friday, all my personal belongings fit into a small box, and most of the space in the box was taken up by a fleece jacket.

Today is my first day as a domestic engineer. It is also my due date.

Last weekend, we took my camera and tripod out into the back yard to get a few pictures before Kate the Chicken’s arrival, as I realized that I didn’t have a single picture of me, Jason, and my bump together.

Problem: solved.

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I also got a few with my firstborn.

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We had a hard time taking the whole thing seriously for very long.

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I’ll be spending this week waiting for Kate the Chicken, making lists (MY FAVORITE) and trying not to wear myself out. Wish me luck!

 

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What a Difference a Decade Makes

Tyler and Kate the Chicken will be over ten years apart in age. Many people have asked me if this pregnancy has been different, and how.

Most of the time, the honest answer is that I don’t remember all that much from my first pregnancy. Which is probably why I signed up to do it again!

Just kidding.

In my mind, this pregnancy has been easier in a lot of ways, but I think a side-by-side comparison is in order.

The Basics

Then: It was 2003. I was 23.
Now: It’s 2014. I am 34.

The Stats

Then: My pre-pregnancy weight was north of 190 lbs. I gained 50 lbs. during the pregnancy. My first post-partum pants were size 20.
Now: My pre-pregnancy weight was just south of 160 lbs. I have gained less than 40 lbs., with 5 weeks to go.

The Cravings

Then: MEXICAN FOOD, Shoney’s strawberry pie, Totino’s frozen pizzas (the really cheap ones), Apples and peanut butter
Now: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Apples, PASTA

The Exercise

Then: Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Now: Regular walks and prenatal yoga, plus a healthy dose of running around after three kids and three animals.

The Discomfort

Then: Heartburn LIKE WOAH (see: cheap frozen pizzas and Mexican food), constant low back pain, swollen ankles.
Now: Mild heartburn, occasional low back pain, swollen ankles started last week but are much better now.

The Emotional State

Then: I moved to a new state in March 2003, where I didn’t know a soul except my in-laws. I was unemployed. My father passed away in May 2003, when I was six months pregnant. It was, to put it mildly, a dark time.
Now: I am happily married in my home state, where I have developed a solid network of friends. I have a job that I find reasonably fulfilling most of the time. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME, knock on wood.

The Entertainment Options

Then: I watched reruns of TLC’s “A Baby Story” instead of attending a birthing class. During middle-of-the-night feedings, I had to resort to channel surfing – QVC, SciFi (before it was SyFy), news – or reading a book one-handed.
Now: In addition to my iPhone (introduced 2007), my Kindle (introduced 2007), and Netflix streaming (introduced 2007), I can still channel-surf or read a book one-handed. I skipped the birthing class again.

The Birth Plan

Then: Epidural. Healthy baby.
Now: Epidural. Healthy baby.

The Baby Plan

Then: Breastfeeding, disposable diapers, jars of baby food
Now: Breastfeeding, cloth diapers (to be fair, modern cloth diapers were not widely available in 2003), homemade baby food

The Information Age

Then: The internet was still relatively new in 2003. I didn’t know enough to peruse mommy-to-be forums and get yelled at by strangers for all my choices. Guess I really missed out.
Now: The internet has become a finely-calibrated tool with which pregnant women can scream at each other about their choices AND cite to multiple bloggers who agree with them. I avoid it entirely. Guess I’m really missing out.

How I Feel About the Whole Enchilada

Then: Mmmmm…. enchiladas. Tyler was my one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy landscape. From the moment he was born, we were a team. We’ve always had a very close parent-child relationship, and I am grateful for all the ways he made me a better, more organized, more responsible person. I feel like I grew up right in front of him, while he was growing up right in front of me.
Now: Mmmmmm…. enchiladas. It took me a long time to be comfortable with Kate the Chicken not being a boy. I have to keep reminding myself that she is going to be her own person, in the same way that Tyler is his own person.

How the Children Feel About the Baby

Then: What children?
Now: Tyler is very excited. He reports that he is especially looking forward to snuggling and reading books to her. The girls? Not so much. They see the arrival of the baby not as the incorporation of another human being into our family, but as a threat to their position in the household and their hold on their father’s time and attention. They have their moments of excitement, but I think there’s a lot of anxiety that we will force them to be full-time babysitters. We’re also getting a lot of “no one asked ME how this would make ME feel!” Which….no.

Obviously, I wish the girls were more excited. I also wish I could walk from the car to Publix without getting sweaty. But there’s not much I can do about either of those things right now.

What about Jason?

He’s completely psyched. He’s already told me that, since I get to spend all day with Kate the Chicken, he wants her bassinet on his side of the bed so he can get to her first when she wakes up. He’s gone to every OB visit except one, and gets a little giddy every time he feels her move. In short, he’s been the best, most supportive, most encouraging partner a pregnant lady could ask for. I don’t think anyone’s surprised.

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WGES

A couple of weeks ago, Tyler and some of his classmates were asked to read on the school’s morning news show. His class had collected coats for “Coats for Kids,” and had written notes to put in the pockets of the coats. The kids read their notes on-air.

Tyler’s note said, “I hope this coat keeps you all warm. Love, Tyler.”

He was way too excited to be on TV.

After he read his note, he hammed it up in fine style – waving, making faces, and generally being That Kid.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. This is the same child who got in trouble for doing the Worm during instructional time.

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