Sunday, December 17, 2017

Obsessive Compulsion

We've had a string of incidents this week that demonstrates how we are in for some trouble. Specifically, our two youngest boys are giving us a run for our money. 

Merritt is adorable, and usually very pleasant. However, he has developed a need to have music playing at nearly all times. Strangely, this tends to happen only when I am around, as he almost never makes the demand of Kira. As soon as I get home from work or wherever, he will come running to me, then demand to be held. That is all well and good for a few minutes, and I sincerely appreciate that he misses me. The problem is that he does not seem satisfied with just a few minutes of attention. He demands that I hold him for 5, 10, 20 minutes at a time. If I need two hands to unload the dishwasher or blow my nose, he screams and cries like I just took away everything that is precious to him. 

Then, to make matters worse, he is not fine that I just hold him. After about 30 seconds of being held, he starts pointing at the computer, making a little beat, and singing "We Will Rock You" by Queen. That means that he wants to listen to music. That's fine, because I generally relax with music on, but he never seems satisfied with whatever song is playing. He has maybe three songs that he really likes, and we can never tell which one he wants, or whether he'll let us stray from his favorites. What ends up happening is that I hold him, scrolling through every track I own, while he screams at the computer. I'm trying to be flattered that we share the same taste in music, but wishing that he would up his game in the vocabulary area. This whole scenario has been especially trying this week, because Thursday morning I woke up with some back pain, and it hasn't been going away very well. I have some stretches that ease it pretty well, but holding a screaming and kicking toddler is not helping. 

Still, our worst offender is easily Hakan. He has got to be the most stubborn entity that has ever existed in reality or imagination. His potty training went very well, for a while. In the last couple of weeks, he has almost given up on it entirely. We call them "accidents," but I ask you, is it an accident to willfully ignore bodily cues until it's too late, and then to hide while allowing the body to do what it needs? After several encouraging talks, incentives, reasoning, pleading, and begging, we are out of ideas. We almost forced him into a diaper yesterday, which he vehemently opposed. He wants all of the status, pride, and comfort of underwear, without having earned the right to wear it. We are not sure what else to do except put the rest of the planet on hold and get just as stubborn as he. 
Hakan did the same thing this morning when I was trying to get him dressed for church. He decided that he wanted his pajamas on. I offered him incentives to get dressed, tried making it a game, left him alone with the warning that we would need to get him dressed in a few minutes, and everything else I could think of. When the deadline came, he fought me as if his life depended on keeping those clothes off. 

If we could just find a way to harness that willpower - to steer it toward something productive and helpful - perhaps we will keep him out of prison for a few years.
On the bright side, Hakan and Merritt can be a lot of fun. Hakan had a great time at a birthday party and the park yesterday. Merritt has been really cute lately when he plays a school game. He will put on Hakan's backpack (with Kira's help), and then wave goodbye to us as he pretends to go to school through the garage. He even took out his pacifier once and handed it to Kira before "leaving," because we all know you can't bring your binky to school.

Carver is looking forward to Christmas, but he may be even more excited for this week when he starts going to full-day kindergarten. As I've mentioned before, he loves school, so the chance to be there even longer really gets his tail wagging. We started him off with half day, because he would get wiped out in the afternoons, but he seems like he's ready to take the plunge. We'll see if it's all he hopes for.

Avey is counting the days until we leave for Colorado. She seems excited to do something out of the ordinary routine of going to school and then hiding in her room while the boys tear the house apart. We don't know that it will be that different in Colorado, where she'll be around several cousins, but at least she'll have more places to hide, and more projects with which she can occupy herself. Probably more than anything, though, she is looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars movie, as we've arranged to see it over the break.

I am done with the semester now, but still have several projects to do before we leave. Kira and I will be busy getting ready for the trip while simultaneously managing the kids, who never cease to surprise us.

Safe travels to all of you (if you're traveling), and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 10, 2017


This week felt busier than usual for many reasons. It was my last week of teaching (this coming week is finals), and that always means that I have several students who suddenly become concerned about their grades. I had one just today email me asking about when the final project was due. I told him it was due three days ago, just like it says in the syllabus, and he asked if he could still turn it in for partial credit. I said that was fine, but to please turn it in as soon as possible. He emailed back, and it became apparent that he had not even started the project. To what is the world coming?

Another part of the craziness was that Avey had two concerts this week. On Tuesday, she played the flute in her band concert, and then on Thursday, she played the violin with the orchestra in their concert. Naturally, those two days are already our busiest as I am in the city until the late afternoon. Still, it was fun to get the boys out of the house, and it was great to see and hear what Avey has been learning. 
Thankfully, the craziness has also been accompanied by a few improvements in Merritt's behavior. I mentioned recently that his appetite has been minuscule. Well, for some reason it was much better this week. He is especially interested in hot dogs, but he's also eating eggs again, so he may just make it to adolescence. We wonder if the lapse was because of some molars making their way to the surface, because his sleeping has also improved quite a bit. One night this week, I for sure completed a full sleep cycle uninterrupted. I could tell, because when I woke up from it of my own accord, I felt a little less like I had been drugged and dumped on the side of the road after a boxing match I had lost, which is how I normally feel.
I also finally got my root canal procedure totally finalized with the permanent crown. It's been nice to once again feel like I have my tooth back. Since the pain began so long ago, I have been avoiding chewing on that side of my mouth. Now that I can start using it again, it's like learning to chew all over again. Thank goodness for modern dentistry!

We had our first real snow yesterday, so the boys went out to toss it around for a while before coming in from the frigid cold. It's not supposed to get much warmer from here on out, yet the snow is still basically all gone, so this winter has been lame. Last year was just like this, too. Maybe Colorado will be a winter wonderland for us!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Toddler Daredevil

Things are busy as ever here, but we've managed to squeeze in some fun where we could. We live just a block south of a township called La Grange, and they held their annual Christmas event downtown. It's meant to be a boon to the local businesses, so they draw out crowds all over with trolley rides, a little train for the kids, pony rides, and even a little petting zoo.

The weather was unseasonably warm (we still have had no snow worth mentioning), so it made for a pleasant evening. We skipped Santa's appearance, which turned out to be the right choice, because we got to do all of the best stuff with shorter lines. 
It was especially nice to get away from the normal nonsense around the house. A toxic combination of head colds and Merritt's curiosity have made for a trying time lately. Nearly all of us have gone through the cold symptoms, which have been bearable, but frustrating. Merritt may have had it the worst, after a few rough nights. It may also be something about his molars working their way through. In either case, this has to stop. One night early this week, he awoke around 2 a.m., and never settled back down. I gave up and just got up with him at 3, thinking maybe he was hungry. He ate a little, but mostly just wanted to play. Kira traded me around 7:30, when I went back to bed and she got the kids off to school. Still, I feel like I haven't really recovered. Maybe he hasn't either, because this morning he oddly slept in more than an hour.

He has been into everything this week. His new favorite thing is to climb onto our kitchen table, and then to explore things up there before throwing them off. Last night, he found a fun way to dismount, as you can see in the video:

He also thoroughly enjoys his ability to open the refrigerator: he will get it open and then play with everything he can reach in there, sometimes emptying it a few bottles at a time. To top it all off, he demands music almost all day. He seems to want specific songs to play, but lacks the language skills, so he just screams at us until we find what he wants to hear. 
At least he is learning a few things while he's making more work for us. Our oven is built in such a way that the broiler door is easily reachable for him. He usually leaves it alone, but when we turn on the oven, he can hear the gas burning inside, so he likes to open it to watch the pretty orange flame. He seems to understand the danger, because he has touched it only once (which was mostly an accident) with just a little pain. He still likes to open it, though. This week, he may have finally learned how to deal with the heat, though; he got into a kitchen drawer where I keep the oven mitt. He pulled it out, put it on, and then opened the oven door to watch the flame. 

The kids are all excited for Christmas, and I've got almost all of my shopping done. Now, we just need some snow!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Give Me a [Thanksgiving] Break

We are sad that our Thanksgiving break ends with today. We had a wonderful time avoiding our normal duties and obligations. Although Carver sort of missed school, he and Avey had a blast playing video games and watching movies, I was glad to avoid the normal work routine, Kira was glad to have another set of hands around and to avoid the back-and-forth of dropping off and picking up to and from school. 
It's Exactly What it Looks Like
I started Monday off on a bit of a rough note with my root canal. The endodontist told me it was my rearmost molar, but I had been feeling the pain right above the tooth in front of it, so I spent a few minutes asking him to convince me. He was very polite about it, and did eventually talk me into it. I'm glad he did, because, after the procedure, the pain is totally gone. He told me that I have a very long molar, and the roots were apparently oddly shaped, making it a difficult job, but he got it done. He warned me that I would probably feel very uncomfortable for a day or so, but I never did feel any discomfort once the feeling came back. I went home in a strangely good mood. 
I spent Tuesday grading papers and tests, sorely disappointed in the students' performance, and their complete disregard for the many practice options and tutorials I made available.

Wednesday, I was back to the dentist for a temporary crown, and then home for some last-minute grocery shopping for our meal the following day. We opted to stay home and do our own meal, which I much preferred.

We figured the kids would be more likely to eat ham than turkey, so we had a big glazed ham along with our rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon, and pie. I made a chocolate pie because it's chocolate pie. I also tried out a fresh strawberry pie at Avey's request. I'd never made one before, but it turned out very well, so that may need to be a new tradition for us. The meal was delicious, and the day was generally low key. 
The weather has been sunny, but cold, so the kids mostly spent our vacation indoors. Still, Avey made it a point to be pleasant with her brothers, so everything worked out alright. Carver even seemed to pass on the patience. For example, one of Hakan's favorite things is to fill the bathroom sink with water and then play with some toys in there. He especially likes to use a Lego minifigure in there, but it's Carver's. He asked Carver very nicely if he could borrow the figure, but Carver at first declined to share the toy. I was listening, and suggested that Hakan offer Carver a trade. Carver, overhearing my input, had an idea, and said, "Hakan, how about this? You can play with the Lego, and then when you're done, you play with my new toy car."

Hakan agreed to this scenario, and I left it more confused than when I entered. That would be like me going into a restaurant and saying, "May I please have a free sandwich?" to which they reply, "Only if you promise to eat a free sundae afterwards."

On Friday, the kids were anxious to bust out the Christmas decorations. Kira prevented it from turning into a free-for-all, opening only one tote at a time, and keeping them focused on one decoration area at a time. We started with the tree, and had a great time explaining the kids' ornaments' origin stories. I got the outside of the house lighted up reasonably well, and we are trying out colored bulbs in our porch lights (red and green). Those are lots of fun.

I got in a home improvement mood (probably to avoid doing my normal work), and got fixing things here and there around the house. I was quite excited to switch out a power outlet in the kitchen where our highest charging traffic is. I put in a new one that has two USB charging ports in addition to normal outlets. Now we can charge our devices while also using the toaster oven!
Kira spent most of Saturday gone at visiting teaching, which she would probably do twice a week if she could, just to get away from the normal monotony of changing diapers and feeding kids who don't want food.

Merritt is one of the worst with his eating, lately. For several weeks now, he just refuses to eat most of what we offer. It seems that the other kids went through phases like this, too, but Merritt is especially challenging. He turns his nose up at even his most favorite foods, when he clearly should be hungry. But then, some meals he will mow down almost whatever we put in front of him, keeping us constantly guessing. He keeps growing, so he must be okay, but it's enough to drive us nuts.

We are really looking forward to our Christmas break. I have just 2 more weeks left of classes, while the kids have 4 left. We hope to see some snow this year, too: Tomorrow's forecast is 60!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pain in the Canal

This was a somewhat exciting week for me as I have no classes scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving, so I've got a little bit of flexibility in my schedule. Still, I somehow ended up with a lot of grading to do, so I'm not off the hook entirely. 

Any relaxing I might have done this week was overshadowed by fairly intense dental pain. After my procedure a few weeks ago, I had high hopes that we had solved the problem. I was mostly okay, experiencing just some discomfort every now and then, but it wasn't when I chewed, so I thought it might be okay and getting better. For a few days, it felt like all was well, and then I tried flossing early in the week. That was a clear mistake, as it seems to have set something off. I was in a lot of pain that night, but ibuprofen made it tolerable, and then the next day it was manageable until I tried to sleep. It's finally back to being bearable without medication, but I've given up and decided it's time to get it fixed. I have an appointment with the endodontist tomorrow. That should be a blast.
My pain aside, we had an enjoyable week. Friday night was the variety show for Avey's and Carver's school. Avey opted not to enter, but Carver was part of a short skit with the other Kindergartners, all saying the Pledge of Allegiance. It was nice to get out for a little bit and see the kids' acts. 

Even though Kira had made sure they had short naps, Hakan exploded as I was taking them home (Avey and Kira stayed). It had been raining most of the afternoon, and it was very cold. Hakan wanted to jump in a big puddle as we were on our way home, but we were all cold, and I was in no mood to deal with cold and wet feet on top of getting the boys to bed. He had a complete meltdown in the car, but I was certainly not going to get Merritt back out of his car seat and haul us all back to where the puddle was. When we made it home, Hakan refused to come inside, instead crying in the car in the garage. I got Merritt to bed, checking on Hakan every few minutes and inviting him inside where it was warm. After 5 minutes or so, he came inside in a very pleasant mood. It was almost eerie. 
We had a nice Saturday. It was my brother's birthday, who would have been 34. He died in a car accident four years ago. In his honor, we made a birthday cake, ate frozen pizza, and macaroni and cheese for lunch, and then we went bowling. 

The bowling alley was a little scary, smelling of smoke, and some of the equipment was as old as I. Still, we had a good time. Merritt kept us busy with his desire to run all over the place as hard and heavy objects were swung around. Hakan got bored after 6 frames or so, but enjoyed exploring. Carver kept smashing his fingers when the bowling balls would come out of the machine, but he seemed to like tossing the balls. Avey was a little disappointed that real bowling was quite different from bowling on the Wii, but we blamed the balls for being so heavy. 
At least we have Thanksgiving coming up. We've opted to decline an invitation and do our own thing at home. We figure the kids might actually eat ham rather than turkey, and we have some pies planned out. I just hope that my stupid tooth is up for some heavy duty come Thursday.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Three Dozen

This week marked the 36th anniversary of my birth. I am now closer to 40 than to 30, and there is no turning back. 

The family was kind to me, probably because at this point it is risky to startle or upset me in my fragile condition. Even the slightest rise in blood pressure might cause me to crumble to dust. In any case, we polished off my birthday cake from the weekend, and opened a few cards that came on my actual special day. 
On the actual day, I had a normal long day of work, so aside from a nice note from a coworker, there was not really anything too special. However, I did treat myself to a meal at a fancy German restaurant for lunch. I walked past it every time I was in the city, and always wanted to try it. The meal was good, and it was a good way to break up the monotony of the workday.
Aside from my getting another year closer to my demise, Merritt thought it would be a good idea to wake Kira and me up at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. Hakan was up with some small issue just before then, but Merritt started stirring just a bit then, too. He stirred every few minutes, so I got up to see if I could adjust him. I picked him up to see if he would settle back down in our bed, but that set him off. He screamed. He screamed and kicked and simply would not be consoled for a full 15 minutes. We tried everything we could think of just shy of injecting him with a tranquilizer. It was like he was sleepwalking, but left out the "walking" part and replaced it with screaming. He finally passed back out, but it made it very hard for Kira or I to get back asleep with that live grenade in our room. 
Naturally, that morning was my scheduled peer evaluation, where one of my colleagues was supposed to attend my class and offer feedback on everything. I was tired, but felt well enough during the 8 a.m. course. It went well, and then she asked the students to stick around so she could ask a few more pointed questions about me and the course without me there. She came by my office later to tell me that they had very kind things to say, with one student even commenting that each semester he checks to see what I'm teaching and then schedules his semester around that. That was a nice salve on a day that otherwise was destined to be an open wound.
Friday was something new. Carver had a fun sock hop scheduled at school, so Avey and Kira got his outfit and hair all planned out. He went dressed like a greaser, with slick hair and everything. Kira was one of the parents who were invited to help out with the preparations, so I "worked at home" while Merritt napped and Hakan vegged out on the couch so she could go. She had a good time, and so did Carver.
Friday was also the first snow of the season for us. It was a pathetic first snow, with hardly anything sticking to the grass, but there was just enough on the street for some car accidents, so I suppose that makes it official(?).

Merritt has really shown some character lately. He is very much into music. One of Carver's favorite things these days is to watch and rock out to music videos that we've approved, so Merritt has become accustomed to having a steady stream of beats pumping out of my computer. When he's got the bug, he comes over to the computer, rambles some nonsense words while pointing at the screen, and then dances while imitating a drum beat. Although it's adorable, it's also a real challenge, because he seems to want a specific song, but he lacks the language to tell us which one. I make my best guess, and then he screams at me for getting it wrong. He can sometimes point to it if he sees it, but otherwise, we are left with a very angry child.

Hakan's potty training is pretty much complete. He sometimes refuses to use the potty, but that's usually right before bed, when everything feels difficult. Those times, he just wears a diaper to bed, but still wakes up dry almost every time. It's been strange and wonderful to have only one kiddo in diapers, and we can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Carver has been working on mastering drawing since starting Kindergarten, but that seems to mean to him that he draws the exact same thing every time. He presents us almost each day with a new drawing or painting of the whole family, with each member portrayed in his or her favorite color, then with Carver's name above us. Avey and I discussed this and decided we should perhaps try to coax Carver into expanding his repertoire. Avey then showed him how to draw a simple dog. Carver tried it and had a hard time, but he seems open to practicing some more. If he puts half of the effort into art that he puts into perfecting his tumbling-on-the-couch moves, he'll be in good shape.

Avey has been in a helpful mood lately, offering even to bathe Merritt with our supervision. She's been very kind to keep him entertained at times when Kira or I are unable to tend to him (usually because the other boys are having some crisis). We hope that this helpful streak continues. On a related note, while Kira was helping at the school for Carver's event, Avey's third-grade teacher pulled her aside to tell her that when Avey was her student, she'd done a little performance where she talked and acted like an elderly woman. The class had thought it was so funny, that this teacher pulled Avey out of her normal class to come and perform in her elderly woman character for her current students. She was, of course, a big hit.

We are so surprised with how quickly the year is coming to a close. We'll try to wrap it up strong!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Enter November

Halloween came and went quickly this year. The kids all went right after Avey was out of school and I was still in the city. They got a good haul, and then it was home for a light dinner and bed. We had just a few trick-or-treaters come by our place, leaving us with a nice stash of candy. 

Things are getting cold and wet around here again, so that we are getting stuck inside more often. Still no sign of snow, which is pretty rare for Illinois. It's driving us a little nuts, actually. There's been enough rain, and it's still not frozen yet, so I have had to mow the grass twice in the last few weeks. I wish the darn weather would just make up its mind instead of keeping us in limbo. 
First Day at Nursery
Merritt keeps us on our toes. He seems reluctant to learn words, even when we coach him. He doesn't seem to mind using the hand signs for things he wants, but outside of "Dah dah," "Ma ma," and "No!" he doesn't seem too interested in talking. He knows animal sounds and clearly understands what we're saying most of the time. He'll mimic our actions, too. It just seems that learning verbal words is not something that strikes him as interesting for now. Surely he'll come along soon. 

Since Hakan began potty training, Merritt has made a meticulous study of the process. Last night, he sat himself down on the practice potty (fully clothed), sat for a minute, and then came over to me. I smelled that he had filled his diaper, so changed him, and then when we flushed the potty, he looked at me and rubbed his hands together to indicate that it was time to wash his hands. He knows all of the steps, but we're not sure we're ready to tackle that untamed beast.
Hakan's potty training is great! He was accident free for the whole week, and even wore underwear to bed a couple of nights. He must have really decided to commit to it; He's a really determined guy. When he decided he was going to get good at doing his own buttons, he would not even let us touch them. When he decided that he was going to buckle himself in his car seat, we were forced to watch him struggle at a distance or catch his wrath. Now that he's acquired this new skill, we are thinking about preschool. He's been painfully bored while Carver is away at school, so it might do him some good to find new partners-in-crime.
The rest of us are managing. The boys are all mostly over our colds, and the girls never really got them. Carver had an awesome Saturday at a birthday party for a classmate. Avey keeps busy with her schoolwork, reading, and movies. Kira and I changed the clocks last night, dreading the fallout of boys waking at what would become the 4:00 hour. We hope to have them adjusted to the new time soon. 

My birthday is coming up this week, so we'll do some of the celebration today, and we did our cake yesterday. Getting old gets real old, real fast. Still, I appreciate all of the warm thoughts and kind gifts I've received! 

We'll have more to report next week!