23 March 2015

Hostages at the Battle of Yorktown

Afternoon sun slants down around you. The once-bustling Yorktown is now a ghost town of bullet-riddled buildings. French, British, and newly-declared American men lie in new graves all around. Sunken ships form a blockade just down river, and as you hear cannons booming you wonder: "Is this the end? Or is this the beginning?" 

That's what I was wondering anyway as we circled a very slow heritage trail loop and looked at empty field after empty field. 

"This is Surrender Field!" enthused Chris. 
"It was nap time over an hour ago! You said we'd leave at nap time! I SURRENDER before I die of boredom!" was my thinking. 

Everything is interesting before nap time. Nothing is interesting after. 

Yorktown is actually quite important in American history; this is where the Revolutionary War ended when British General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in 1781! Amazing! 

It's also where Chris drove around for TWO HOURS looking at boring empty fields with signage that read: "Once there were farms here, but they are now crumbled and have been reclaimed by forest." "Stuff was here before it was destroyed. Now there's this nothing." 
SNORE. We literally drove around looking at nothing. During nap time. With two unhappy kids in the back. "I'll consider this trip a success if we walk through historic Yorktown and drive by a couple battlefields," Chris said. We enjoyed a lovely stroll through the village along the bluffs, then down along the riverwalk, before I pointed out it was nap time (1:15) and Isaac's cold medicine was wearing off. So we met Chris' requirements AND THEN SOME, but he still grumbled when I insisted we leave at 3:30pm. 

It was kind of a repeat of our failed first visit to Williamsburg, complete with Chick-fil-A on the drive home. Day trip guidelines from our kiddos? THOU SHALT OBEY NAP TIME. 

Fortunately, Chris had the foresight to buy a CD of colonial music to listen to on the drive, so that was awesome of us ("HA ha ha! This music is funny!" laughed Isaac, mimicing the flute solo), and he bought me a tin of loose-leaf Earl Grey tea blended especially for Yorktown Battlefield by Oliver Pluff & Co. 


17 March 2015

Early Cherry Blossoms!

We found some! Ok, it was only five tiny trees blooming on the side of Hampton Boulevard, but Eloise and I did not let that stop us! We turned around and pulled over, waded through ground cover, and did not feel silly at all. I mean, CHERRY BLOSSOMS, people. Do what you have to do. Spring is coming! 
And OF COURSE Eloise and I had a front porch cherry blossom tea party (as per tradition). Isaac slept through it. Happy St. Patrick's Day! I feel like we had the luck o' the Irish today with this golden weather! 

14 March 2015

Museum Family Date!

Chris asked me on a date Saturday evening---a Familydate! Family dates are nice because it's less of a hassle than trying to find a babysitter AND we're home early. Going out after putting the baby to bed is beyond me when Eloise is still up three times most nights. 

So a fun family outing fit the ticket. We decided to hit up the video game exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art before dinner at Gordon Biersch. 
Eloise loved the exhibit. She smiled at everybody, admired the art, and generally cuddled. Isaac seemed confused by the video games. Chris and I laughed about finding our old toys in a museum. Wow. 

Isaac really wanted to go see the animals and toys...which weren't there.... So instead, he got dragged around to see Grecco-Roman statues, an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, and lots of paintings. "I want to go upstaaaaaaaaairs!" he whined until we got upstairs. Then it was, "I want to go downstaaaaaaairs!" "Nah, we're going over here," I told him, and was rewarded with an absolute classic grimace of total boredom. It was awesome. 

I had doubts about whether we could successfully go two places with the kids. We did it! The restaurant, a brewery in the Virginia Beach Town Center we'd heard was kid-friendly, was not yet crowded when we arrived at 5:30pm. It had a nice, steady volume of noise. Perfect! Isaac was uncharacteristically whiny, but I figured it was because we woke him up from his nap. Turns out he was due to barf all over his bed around 2am, between Eloise wake ups, but if course we didn't know that yet. He'd woken up screaming from a nightmare the night before, waking up Eloise in the process, so I was surprised everything was going as well as it did. 
We sampled brews, ordered dessert, got home in a timely fashion. 

Chris wanted a back scratch, which I agreed to in exchange for some compliments. "You're a great back scratcher?" Try again. "I liked walking around the museum with you and seeing what art you liked." Now THAT is a compliment! 

We both agreed an enormous painting of angels appearing to shepherds was our favorite. Except maybe for a metal piece depicting two combatants fighting over a girl, with the victor standing on the neck of the defeated and his arm around the girl. We couldn't remember the actual name, but "Mine's Bigger" seemed appropriate. 

Conclusion: totally impressed with the (FREE) Chrysler Museum! I will go again! And if Isaac isn't sick next time we go to dinner it will be even more of a success! 

The Tropics

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair."
---Charles Dickens 

My friend Peyton let slip a little secret: there's an orchid exhibit in the greenhouse at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens through the end of March. Early last week, Mary and I sloshed through melting snow to step into Singapore. Glorious! 

Cloudy, cold skies and slushy snow; hot pink orchids. This dichotomy is so our life right now. When Eloise only wakes up once during the night, I feel like I can do anything! Adventures with the kids! Submitting articles and blogging! Hosting tea parties for the neighbors! 
But then she wakes up seven times and screams for two hours in the middle of the night for no reason while Chris is gone. Isaac has nightmares and wakes up shouting, so the whole house is awake in addition to baby wake ups. Isaac barfs all over his bed and wakes up Eloise again. And that's just the past few days. Life is a hassle. Everyone is exhausted and our erratic nap schedule further isolates us. Despair. 

On one hand, Isaac's ernest antics, silly dances, funny jokes; Eloise's giggles, huge smile, funny expressions; their evident delight in each other AND THEIR PARENTS---life could not get better!! Jackpot, baby! Our kids are the best! 

But the sleepless months---our old, creaky house's layout that has us practically sleeping side-by-side so everyone is always waking everyone up, even with sound machines---maddening. 

I feel like I live near more close, supportive friends and are better connectioned than ever. At the same time, I feel more isolated than I've ever been when Chris is gone, the baby has screamed for 90 minutes, dawn is hours away, and I'm crying as I lose my mind. 

I am the best, most loving, giving, sacrificing, joyful version of myself. I am the grouchiest, angriest, most unpredictable, yelling-est, awful, worst version of myself. (To that end, our pastor said a couple weeks ago that Christ doesn't promise us a formula to reduce sin by 10% annually. On the contrary, year by year we see more and more of our need for God's grace. I am needing a lot of grace these days. Sigh). 
We have endless opportunities go find fun and engaging things to do, but getting tiny, needy kids bundled up with 54 items of clothing (each) to brave freezing temperatures when we're exhausted before we even step out if the house is prohibitive. I pack minimally, but diapers, the necessary change of clothes per kid, snacks and water for Isaac and me (I'm nursing a five-month-old---constantly so hungry I'm dizzy), a heavy awkward car seat, jackets, mittens, keys in hand---ugh, I never want to leave the house again just thinking about it. Someone is always crying. Someone is always pooping. WHY IS EVERYTHING SO DAMN DIFFICULT ALL THE TIME? 

I attempted to kind of pull it together...you know, in life...and streamlined our entryway. Cleared living room clutter. Made an attempt to be more organized with dinner planning and shopping so we don't arrive home from the store with everyone weeping. This is the first time in our marriage that Chris' schedule has been regular enough to plan meals at all. But inevitably, if dinner is ready on time, Chris has a work crisis, Isaac has a hangry meltdown, and Eloise needs to go to bed right when we sit down. Cold food always. 

This is the best! Nothing is worth it. Look how fun! We're succeeding! I will never sleep again. I want to jump off a cliff. Look! Just a tiny crossbody purse, happy tot, and a baby koala in this fine weather! We're finally ready to go and Isaac has to use the bathroom and Eloise needs another nap. I can't even see the door through the pile of outerwear. I want all the babies! I could never survive another baby. Warm weather is coming! NONE of my warm weather clothes fit. 

"You will look back on these months as some of the hardest months of your life," my mom encouraged me. I think I wept with relief. I can't remember exactly---I'm not getting enough sleep to store memories properly. 

I hate being stuck inside all the time. I love how Eloise tucks her foot into my elbow when she's nursing just like Isaac used to. I actually hate nursing---OUCH, still. But I love the snuggles, and when she falls asleep in my arms. I feel sloppy a lot of the time, but who cares? I hardly have time to think about myself, which is probably healthy. And it's not sloppy, it's 'disheveled chic'. Right? Right?? 

"It doesn't get easier. It just gets hard in different ways." ...why would you say that to me? Excuse me while I find a bridge to jump off. 

"Just wait until you have four!" ...seriously, not helpful. 

"Just love every moment!" I do! Sort of. I simultaneously want my kiddos to stay tiny and adorably ernest and precious and MINE forever and ever...and want them to GROW UP AND SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT LIKE NOW. Although really, that time will be NEVER, because I'm pretty sure the last time I got scared and crawled in bed with my parents I was home from college, and I know I've woken my mom up with late texts unfortunately recently...ha ha...aaaaaaahhhhhhh, sorry Mom. :( 

Today, even though Chris is gone again, we had a lovely day: Isaac felt better after barfing, a bird visited our bird feeder, gorgeous clear weather, tasty dinner, and of course our favorite movie, BEARS. And both kids are finally in bed. But the damn cat is yowling. 

Truly, truly---the best of times, the worst of times. 

Equal Opportunity Weather Zooers

We go to the zoo ALL THE TIME, meaning every week or two when the weather is nice, and at least once a month in the winter. Mary and I braved the elements to see the animals in the SNOW. It was awesome. 

Red pandas (not related to actual pandas, and pictured top right) are the cutest animals I've ever seen. They're featured in the Zoo Calendar (November) and Isaac woke me up one morning pointing to it saying, "Look, Mama. It's that cute thing." I guess I've made it clear to everyone that I think they are adorable. 

Well, they like cold weather, so both were climbing all over the place. Adorable! The bears dug around the snow in their enclosure. Elephants left massive footprints in the snow as the sun came out and steam rose off their backs. Isaac chased a poor peacock into a corner, where it looked around in a panic, looked back at Isaac, and pooped. Isaac literally scared the shit out of him. Hee hee. 

I don't know why I do a blog post about the aquarium each time we go and never the zoo. WE LOVE THE ZOO! 

Even when we get home crying, grouchy, and late for naptime, we know we'll go back soon. We love the zoo! Next time I might buy the kids some sweatshirts to wear next time we're there. 

When we went to the Halloween thing at the zoo right after Eloise was born (For the record: IT WAS A MISTAKE) Chris looked down at his shirt and realized he was wearing a Gulf Breeze Zoo sweatshirt to the Virginia Zoo. "Wow...y'all must really love zoos...." we pictured someone observing. Oops. The ONLY reason Chris and I have (matching) Gulf Breeze Zoo sweatshirts is because it was 10 degrees cooler in Gulf Breeze that day than it was at our house and we were unprepared! Really! 

But we really do love the zoo. 

12 March 2015

Spring is Coming

"Right now we have chickens, ducks, a couple pigs, ponies." Good news from Mount Pleasant Farm! 

Isaac heard me calling around asking about Easter chicks for cute photo ops and looked at me earnestly when I got off the phone. "We're going to a FARM?!" 

"...yeeeees we are! As soon as Eloise wakes up!" 

Trying to plan around a time is very difficult for us. Activities that slide with Eloise's nap schedule are more successful. So she woke up and off we went, complete with picnic lunch packed in an Easter basket. 
We walked into the farm store and the lady I spoke with on the phone looked totally bewildered. I told her was the one who called about petting some chickens. 

"Yeah, you can buy some feed and see if they'll come over to you. I don't know if they will. And watch out if that pig comes near the fense. He bites. The barn is open but don't go in it." 

We circled the fowl pens, waved to the pig and ponies. Most of the rest of the time, Isaac just climbed on the wooden train. That was pretty cool. We sat on our tiny blanket for some lunch and it started to rain. "Let's get your shoes back on! It's starting to rain!" Isaac flopped down on the blanket next to Eloise before totally losing it. "It's starting to rain! We have to go! Help me, Mom! HELP ME! AAAAAHHHH!" I was completely bewildered. "Isaac! It's not raining yet! I only felt two drops! We just need to get moving before it starts raining." "HELP ME, MOM! It's RAINING! AAAAAHHHHH! It's thunder and lightning!" Ooooooh. A jet was flying overhead and Isaac thought it was loud thunder. He calmed down with this new information, but that's still the fastest we've ever mobilized back to the car. 
"SIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH," I sighed as I pulled back onto the road. "Whyyyyyy does everything have to be so dang difficult all the time? Even on days we have the energy, inclination, weather and nap schedules align to get out of the dang house it's not even neccessarily worth it. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh." My own thunder clouds were forming. 

"That was fun!" Isaac chirped from the backseat. "We're having a fun day!" 
"Really? You had fun?" 
"Yeah! We went to a farm and played on the train!" 

Ta-da! I guess we had an awesome time after all!! Success! 

05 March 2015

Happy Girls' Day!

March 3 is Girls' Day in Japan! It's celebrated with Hina doll displays, silk crepe decorations strung together, and a song. Traditionally, you must take down the decorations right away or your daughter won't get married. 

Well, Eloise's baby mobile over her crib is actually a Girls' Day mobile I attached to a music box to spin around at bed time. She loves it year-round...or at least for all five months she's been out and about. 

We celebrated Girls' Day with weather gorgeous enough for a front porch tea party with all the neighbors who have ~five-month-old baby girls. So much precious! 
Eloise can shakily sit up for a few seconds, LOVES her bumbo, adores Isaac and giggles at all his antics, drools and chews constantly, and stuffs everything she finds in her hands into her mouth. She is ok being strapped into strollers without her car seat finally, and even sat up in a shopping cart this weekend. She continues to have the most mesmerizing eyes I've ever seen. Isaac always says, "I don't want Eloise asleep! I want Eloise awake!" when she needs a nap. He also says, "Daddy loves Mom, and I love Eloise!" She is very ticklish, but really just LOVES attention. And generally being in Isaac's orbit. She wakes up very early. 
And if a precious baby girl isn't enough hope for the future, we happened upon a beautiful crocus this week in the neighbor's yard, while snow still piled up around our yard. Warm weather is coming! I remember waiting for the crocuses to peak up behind the swing set when I was little. Delight! Happy Girls' Day! 

26 February 2015

Kokeshi Doll Tea Party

"Oooooooooh, Isaac, I do not want to go outside. But I will come out with you if you REALLY want me to." 

"Ok mom, let's do that. Let's have some fun in the snow!" My tot actually said that. 
Over five inches of fresh snow padded last week's snow, ice and slush. I can't see my car's windshield. I am not used to this kind of weather. Norfolk schools have been out for six or seven days this month. What?! 
But snow days mean neighbor play days: Shoveling snow, building lumpy snowmen and snow forts, bulldozing snow off the deck table. I even let three preschoolers and my neighbor watch this ridiculous, snowy, matcha tea-kokeshi doll tea party photo shoot under the snow-laden branches in the backyard. Even though they all looked at me like I was crazy. 

Hey, sometimes you have to strike while the teapot is hot and the rain chain is snowy, you know? 
We've had cozy, HOT HOT HOT tea inside after nap time many afternoons this week. Creme Brûlée tea sweetened by maple sugar cubes with Chris on yet another snow day. A little tea party to discuss four-month-olds, work, and to meet the new neighbor. Getting the preschoolers together to wreak havok on the upstairs and generally have an interesting and awesome time. I have to admit that February is not quite all that I dreaded, even if it started dismally! 

24 February 2015

Tiny Bear's Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

This is it! Five stars for "Tiny Bear's Bible" is written by Sally Lloyd-Jones, the woman who wrote "The Jesus Storybook Bible." I may have thought I was selecting this FREE review copy when I picked "The Toddlers' Adventure Bible," which I rated three stars. 

"Tiny Bear's Bible" is AWESOME! It covers the Old and New Testaments in 11 stories, stiff board-book pages, and a cheesy-adorable fuzzy bear cover. When I was little I would've eaten that up. 

The stories are told in rhyme to Tiny Bear and predictably cover creation, Moses, Noah, Daniel, Jesus' birth. I really like its coverage of Jesus: the stories get across the gist of His message, death, and redirection in a tot-appropriate way. 

I didn't like how the tot Adventure Bible skipped the crucifixion completely. No. Death is part of life and I don't agree with shielding kids from it. And Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is the ENTIRE POINT OF THE BIBLE. 

So far our approach has worked well with Isaac---we just discuss death as we encounter it---and this Bible talks about Jesus' death and resurrection resulting in our living again with Him! Hallelujah! And that's so important, for our kids to know from a young age the hope we have in Christ. Otherwise, death comes along and life seems totally hopeless. 

Anyway, we're also currently watching the Disney movie "Bears" on repeat, to the point where Isaac says, "No, I not a boy! I not a monkey!" "Well, what are you?" "I a BEAR CUB!" So that is another point in this Bible's favor at our house! 

Conclusion: this is a Bible I would buy as a gift for my own kids or friends aged four and under. An excellent first Bible, prequel or supplement to our favorite "Jesus Storybook Bible," also by Lloyd-Jones. 

Clear and Present Danger

Chris carried Isaac up and down all the ladders on ship as he gave his dad and us a tour. Look at us NOT repeating past mistakes! 

He showed us the tower and the bridge. The flight deck was covered in ice and snow. Even the hanger inside was (literally) freezing. Now I understand why Chris needs about two hours to thaw when he gets home from work. Brrr! 

Ice and snow on the waterfront (can you see the cars cocooned in ice?) and military battleship---thrilling all around! 

And no kids tumbled down any ladders. Success! 

Aquarium: 1, Kruegers: 2

"Grandad! Come here! I want to show you something!" Isaac corralled Grandad into the kitchen to show him the awesome cheesy photos of our foursome at the aquarium a couple weeks ago. 

The photos, pinned to the frige with periodic table of element magnets, were a great investment. Isaac points to them while I make dinner and says, "We're in a clam! We're on a stingray! We're on a turtle! I don't like it o-po-pus." 

So Isaac showed these prized treasures to Grandad and told everyone we were going to the aquarium. With enthusiasm like that---and a season pass---who could say no? 

On our way there I asked Chris what his favorite part is. "The bathroom." Eye roll. I turned around. "Isaac, what's your favorite part of the aquarium?" "The turtles and the stingrays." 

I turned back to Chris. "Isaac gave me a real answer!" We saw those turtles! And we saw those stingrays! And Grandad got Isaac another set of photos to admire on the fridge, and Eloise took a nap. 

Little Lady Eloise did unfortunately repeated her nurse-and-blowout routine, so this post almost got titled "aquarium: 1.5, Kruegers: 1.5," but in the end, I claim the day in our favor! 

19 February 2015

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chris' parents arrived safely last night and got to enjoy Norfolk's coldest February 19th in over 100 years. How cold was it? So cold that Knitting Mill Creek froze completely over all the way down to the Ladayette River. BRRR!! Chris tossed a huge ice chunk onto the iced expanse. Isaac thought that looked like fun. As he approached the bank, though, he started to slide down the riverbank toward the ice! Just a few feet thankfully, and Grandad helped him back to his feet and across the street to the sidewalk. 

To celebrate Chinese New Year, we got Chinese takeout. My fortune cookie gave the Chinese word for "swimming." Oh, you ironic cookie, you. Isaac's read, "Try your best to avoid arguing with your elders and superiors." Unfortunately, my cookie is the more likely to be accurate. 

Happy Chinese New Year! I hope we have no swimming in the nearby creek or river in the Year of the Sheep! 

18 February 2015

Snow Henge and Other Oddities

This snow is terrible for raising up a snow population. Our attempts at building a snow family peaked with one lone snow mountain man---a man of isolation and mystery. Why does he wear that enigmatic smile? 

But here's what this snow IS good for: SNOW HENGE. The top several inches sort of iced over, then broke off neatly into tablets and stackable slabs when gently kicked. Chris, Isaac and I balanced the satisfyingly solid snow bricks into several impressive towers, the tallest of which was over my head. 

Within an hour of completion the neighbors had texted us a compliment (thanks, Megan!). Snow family's got nothing on that! 
Eloise is not a huge fan of the snow, but Isaac sure is. Tomorrow our low is five degrees. FIVE. No further plans for Snow Henge expansion. 

An aside: the kiddos have been unwell for almost two weeks with a series of coughs, snot, congestion, fevers, etc. After the 100th time Isaac coughed right in my face I, in a fit of stellar parenting, said, "Please try not to get Mom sick. If I get sick, who's going to take care of you?" Isaac thought about it. "Dad!" "No. Dad's gone. I'm all you've got. There's no one to help if Mom gets sick so please cover your mouth when you cough." Isaac seemed unphased by my grouchy scare tactics, but guess what. When I inevitably contracted the crud, Chris got Monday off for Presidents Day, then got two snow days off. After weeks of sleeping 3-4 total hours in 45 minute chunks (one night I was up SEVEN TIMES between the two crying kids sick and waking each other up), I took NyQuil and had a three-hour morning nap. Yay! Dad's home to take care of us after all! I told Isaac I was sorry for saying that and God provided Dad time off to take care of us. Fortunately God is bigger than parenting fails. There's hope! 

Snowflower and the Secret Tea

The first time it snowed I had a fantasy of a delicate cup of tea steaming in the crisp new snow. But...it was cold outside and then the snow melted. Then Winter Storm Octavia gave me another chance! 

Isaac and Chris mounded up a snow mountain man in the front yard, Eloise snoozed snugly upstairs, and I had my hot cup of Marshmallow Macaron Tea in dappled sunlight under the fir tree. 

14 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

We kept it simple this year with a family date to O'Connor Brewing Company, a brewery about a mile from our house. 

We'd heard it was family friendly. With picnic-style benches, dogs, other babies, and a lot of ambient noise, it totally was. 

The brews are charmingly named after local nautical themes. We got a sampler and tried them all! I don't remember which ones were my favorites. We had a great time! 

While the kids and I were staking out a table, I spotted a lady with a half-finished bag of Kroger brand chips and some salsa. I was secretly amused by this; even more so when Chris showed up with the chips and salsa we ordered at the bar...a full, unopened bag of Kroger brand chips. 

"Come on, at least dump it in a bowl!" Chris laughed. Maybe it's a hipster thing. We're a little out of it lately. Or maybe next time we'll just stop at the grocery store on our way in!