Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter Snapshots

I am entirely grateful that I spend most my days with my favorite two little munchkins. Soon enough they will be school age and I will be back in the real world working a full time job with full time stresses. For now though, we'll play a bit longer and enjoy making tough decisions like should we make an obstacle course or slide down the stairs in sleeping bags first?
Twice in her life Madelyn has put on a tutu. This time it was off in 30 seconds. The cowboy hat stayed on, however, and she added a pair of cowboy boots.

Paper airplanes on a rainy day.

The bookstore on yet another rainy day.

Story time. Madelyn is off camera climbing up the puppet stage. At this point I am getting glares from other parents and the owner of the bookstore but I'm more concerned with capturing this sweet Patrick moment for eternity than being a good parent.

This girl loves to paint and get messy like it's her job. Absolutely one of the things I love most about her.

He did about 6 layers of paint on this paper then used the back of the paint brush to practice spelling his name.
Patch liked that if the letter wasn't perfect he could easily wipe it away with the paintbrush.

Arctic Rescuers on a mission to find lost animals with our flashlights in the dark. We saved a lot of animals that evening (and cleaned up the house a little too).

Stories and snuggles
Making jellyfish in a bottle.
Patrick told me his didn't exactly look like a jellyfish but for a pretend one it was pretty good.

Reading books in the blanket fort.

Jumping in puddles.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Growing Up - The Conclusion

(This is part of a series of posts. See here for the introduction.)

What have I learned this week? I've learned that growing up is inevitable.Obviously, I knew the getting older part was pretty unavoidable but thought I could escape some of the other more annoying and/or boring aspects of it. Turns out, not so. It takes only a few seconds of looking at my birthday list to see that I've turned into a full on snore fest - I asked for Turbo Tax, a tie hanger, a car trunk organizer and other such mind-blowing items. It's my 30th birthday and the most exciting thing I could think of to ask for was a Mandolin Slicer so we can get our stir fry on (STIR FRY!!).

Another thing I've noticed about getting older is that things that used to be enjoyable just aren't any more. For example; I used to like a good rain. Throw in some thunder and lightning and I was all about it. The heavier the better. Now when the sky starts pouring down, my adult brain immediately jumps to a leaking roof, trees falling on our house and insurance claims. The dull roar of thunder that used to make me pause in awe of how huge and magnificent this world is now just makes me tense up and pray my children stay asleep and the dog doesn't pee on something.

I know this all sounds depressing, but it's really not. I'm actually pretty happy about all of this. You know how much easier it is to think of something to do on a Saturday afternoon when the probable result is closer to "go to the park" than "see how close I can come to being injured or killed by doing something fun but stupid"? I'm not saying I don't still want to go sky diving someday and I'll never enjoy a new song or bad-for-me-but-oh-so-good meal. I'm saying that if the worst thing about growing up is that I listen to music I like, eat food that's good for me, wear clothes I'm comfortable in and have to finally worry about natural disasters (that I probably should have worried about all along) and the paperwork that comes with their destruction, then I'm cool with that. Because there's a ton of stuff about growing up I love. I'm married to the most amazing person I've ever met and the more time we spend together, the more I fall in love with her and get to know her and look forward to spending even more time with her. I have two amazing kids that learn and grow and astonish me every single day in new ways. I can't wait to see what our kids turn out to be like when they're older. I want to meet teenage Madelyn and know what her favorite subject in school is and if she likes dance or basketball or plays an instrument (or all three!). I want to see Patrick when he's 15 and find out if he's still as methodical and curious as he is now. I want to know what kind of music he listens to and if he still loves books. The only way to find these things out is to get older. If that means I have to become a little less relevant and endure some awkward looks from younger people, then so be it. I'll gladly wear my cargo pants, look forward to Dave Matthew's Band albums and lose some more of my hair if that's what it takes to spend another day, month or year with Angie and the kids.

Growing up isn't always fun. It's not a "cool" thing to do and it's not easy. But for something that I was supposed to not want, it's certainly one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Growing Up Part III - Clothes/Movies/Culture

(This is part of a series of posts. See here for the introduction.)

Here's the thing: I don't have many clothes that look like anything purchased in the last 5 (ok, 10) years. Why? Because I don't need to buy new clothes (I tell myself). All my clothes still fit that I wore in high school. It's not like I'm getting any bigger or smaller. I also don't have the money to just go buy some new clothes. All that money has been diverted to diapers and wipes and regular professional household carpet cleanings for when the first two items don't work together. (We don't really have literal crap all over our carpet. It's mostly just milk or juice from when the kids play the game "We're a couple of ninjas that can sneak any drink or snack out of the kitchen to handle carelessly in the family room." Their game, my name.) Plus I've never had to think about staying current with my clothing. When you're young, you buy clothes at least every year for school (Something mom's like to do way more than the kids, by the way. I'm pretty sure the new clothes are 80% for them.). Stores sell whatever is in style and current so, by default, you dress in things that are usually pretty current. But I haven't done any significant clothes buying in about a decade and it shows in everything I wear.

Here's a good example. This is a picture Angie and I took about 10 years ago in a photo booth, not long after we started dating...

Pretty sweet shirt I'm wearin', right? Looking all current and new. You know what though, it's kind of hard to see in that picture. Let me show you another picture of me in that shirt...

Hey wait! There's Patrick and our current kitchen and an aggressively receding hairline! You know why? That picture was taken last weekend while the kids were helping me make chili. SAME. SHIRT.

It's been that same way for movies and culture in general. Now, I've seen movies in the last 10 years. But, not a lot of them. Especially in the last 4 years. Last movie I saw in the theater? Winnie the Pooh. Before that? Couldn't even name it. Iron Man maybe? That movie came out in 2008. It's now 2012. I used to practically memorize movies I liked and could quote them all day long. Movies like Tommy Boy, Billy Madison, Office Space, The Usual Suspects and dozens of others were cataloged in my mental movie bank and could be recalled at will.

The problem is that I still quote those movies, only nobody under 23 knows what I'm talking about. Right now it's just awkward but I'm hoping that I can keep this up for another ten years and then just pretend I'm some kind of time traveler when talking to younger people. Here's how I'm thinking that conversation would go...

Walking down the street listening to some Pearl Jam, I get stopped by two teenagers. They look worried.

Teen 1: Hey man, are you ok?
Me: (singing) Jeremy spooookee iiiinnn....sorry, what?
Teen 2: Are. You. Ok?
Me: Oh yea, I'm fine. Just rockin' out. What are you dudes up to?
Teen 1: You just looked a little...out of place...you from around here?
Me: Yep, right up the road. What do you mean "out of place"?
Teen 1 to Teen 2: (whispering) See?! I told you he doesn't even know.
Teen 2 to Teen 1: This is crazy! How could you tell?
Teen 1 to Teen 2: Just look at his clothes. He's wearing green cargo pants and a baseball tee and doesn't show any sign of embarrassment. He either just woke up from a coma or is a visitor from the past. He probably couldn't even tell us who the president is.
Me: Guys, I can hear you. And to answer you, the president is David Palmer. Hah! Nailed it.
Teen 2: What? Who is David Palmer?
Me: You guys watch 24, right?
Teen 1: What?
Teen 2: What are you talking about?
Me: Nothing. I just thought...I mean, I know you're young but...I thought maybe you'd...it's gotta be YOUR bull. . .
Teen 1: ...
Me: Tommy Boy reference? No?
Teen 1: ...
Teen 2: Anyway, are you feeling ok? Does the jump make you nauseous or anything?
Me: The jump? I'll tell you who will make you jump. Kriss Kross! Amirite? Come on guys, up high!
Teen 1: I'm not giving him a high five. Who knows what germs he brought with him from the past.
Me: Oooooh, you guys think I'm from the past?
Teen 2: Well, yea. Look at you. The cargos, the iPod 4th gen, the blank but happy look in your eyes.
Me: What? These cargos? Are they not cool any more?
Teen 1: They were never cool.
Me: Oh no, they were definitely cool. Ask your Dad. He'll tell you.
Teen 1: My Dad is the most uncool person I know. I'm not asking him anything.
Me: Suit yourself. Someday though, you'll be wearing his clothes. When you finally get a job and realize you don't have any clothes that fall into the category "business casual."
Teen 2: No way. My mom will take me shopping for new clothes when that happens. She LOVES doing that.
Teen 1: Yea, what is that with them?
Teen 2: I don't know. I can't figure it out.
Me: Good to know some things never change. Anyway, trust me. It'll happen. Also, you should pick good music to like right now because you'll be listening to it for most of the rest of your life. And the jokes you think are funny now? You'll still think they're funny 20 years from now and so will your friends but nobody else will. You'll turn into a human version of that morning drive-time radio your parents listen to now while they hover car you to school (side note: can we PLEASE get hover cars in 10 years?). You and your circle of 5 friends will all think witty, sarcastic jokes about TPS Reports or whatever the modern equivalent is are hysterical and the rest of the youthful world will roll their eyes.
Teen 1: That sounds horrible.
Me: Well, at that point, you really have two options: you can convince yourself they "just don't get it" and whine about "kids today" and turn into a bitter old person that thinks their generation is better than any other or you can understand what's happening. Accept it. You're getting older and less relevant. It's what happens. Just embrace it and be happy you're still around. It doesn't matter that what you enjoy is old. You enjoy it, and that's what matters.
Teen 2: That explains the blank but happy look.
Me: Ok guys. I gotta run. I need to pick up some stuff from the store then text my wife that I'm on the way home.
Teen 1 to Teen 2: Holy crap he still texts! Hahahahaha! I bet he's one of those weirdos that still pays for a cell phone even though the cell chip is implanted in our ears at birth! Let's promise each other now that we don't turn into that.
Teen 2 to Teen 1: Definitely. I don't care how old I get. I'm not going to be that lame. These jean shorts are cool now and they always will be.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Growing Up Part II - Food

(This is part of a series of posts. See here for the introduction.)

I love food. I really do. I don't mean that in any kind of snobby way either, believe me. I'm not some kind of "foodie." (Can we make that the last time anyone ever uses that word? Thanks!). Almost any kind of food will do because it's all pretty great. The only food I really hate is asparagus. Honestly, asparagus tastes like what I imagine Satan's armpit tastes like; which is something I really try not to imagine very often. Even if I somehow manage to choke some asparagus down, it's still not over. Later that day while enjoying an otherwise pleasant restroom retreat, it comes back to haunt you like the Ghost of Bad Meals Past. I don't care how much salt or garlic you put on it (by the way, those are like the Duct Tape and WD-40 of the culinary world; they can fix nearly anything), the asparagus taste will manage to sneak out and kill every other flavor.

Scientific proof.
As for the rest of the food kingdom(?) it's all pretty darn tasty. Sure, I like some foods more than others but I have a fairly laid back palette and am willing to at least try most anything. I wasn't always like this though. I distinctly remember many nights around the dinner table growing up where I'd be the only one sitting at the table for what seemed like hours after everyone else had left, staring at a plate of broccoli or peas. Other than vegetables though, I really wasn't picky. I once ate an entire container of fried chicken from Kroger while drinking a quart of eggnog just because it's what was available. At an old job one time, somebody brought in a 5 gallon bucket of chocolate icing (couldn't tell you why) so I got myself a bowl full of it with a big cup of half and half (there was no milk) and downed the whole thing. I have countless stories of ridiculous foods in unthinkable quantities consumed by my friends and me. Not as some kind of dare or badge of honor, just as a regular course of the evening.

Typical college midnight snack.
Most days now, I just eat normal food, like a normal person. I even eat vegetables and fruit on a regular basis. It's not that I can't eat crappy food like I used to. On the contrary, I'm a grown up now - I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT. It's one of the most amazing things about being a grown up. I could have strawberry waffles covered in Nutella and syrup at every meal for a month if I wanted to. Nobody can stop me. If I decide ice cream, hamburgers and beer for brunch sound good, I can make that happen.  Just last month I got hungry while we were watching TV so, at 10:30 at night, I ate a very large plate of microwavable taquitos and drank two glasses of eggnog (if you can't tell, I like eggnog). But that's a huge exception to my normal eating habits these days. 10 years ago that would have been "Thursday." You know what I ate last Thursday? Chicken and broccoli with mashed potatoes and a glass of water.

I now pose the question of the week: how did I get here?

It happened slowly. When I was younger, food was what I ate when I was hungry. That was it. That was really its only purpose. My younger brain simply computed "hungry" + "food" = "not hungry" and I moved on with my day. "Food" didn't really have any other pros or cons. As long as it was something that would cancel out "hungry", I was happy. But when you grow up, you realize that not all food is created equal. Filling my stomach with chocolate icing is significantly different than filling that same space with chicken and broccoli. It's not like I didn't know this information when I was 20; I just didn't care. Something was triggered in me to suddenly look at food as more than just something to cancel out "hungry." It has a far more multifaceted function to it now and I see it in a list of various pros and cons with every meal. "This has a good amount of protein in it which is nice because I'll stay full longer, but it has more calories than I'd really like it to. Although, I could use the carbs in this meal over here since we'll be going for a run later. And this salad has everything I need in it but, you know, IT'S A SALAD and I'm not a woodland creature." The fact that salad is even an option in my diet these days is astounding. The only way I would have eaten a salad 10 years ago is if you replaced the salad leaves with roast beef and the tomato with brats (but keep the croutons, onions and bacon bits please. And add more cheese for love of disregarded cholesterol.)

Maybe it's getting married, maybe it's having kids. It's likely my taste buds have just worn out over the years and I can no longer tell how terrible squash actually tastes. Maybe it's just that my "try not to die before you're 40" instinct has kicked in (that's Survival Instinct's sad cousin). Whatever the reason, I eat plenty of healthy food on purpose now. And you know what? It's pretty good. I feel good almost all the time and I'm hopefully setting a good example for my kids. I'll even eat vegetables. Well, except asparagus. There's no vitamin on earth they could put in to that plant that would make me choke down it's disgusting taste. You know, at least until I'm 60 years old and writing a blog about how great asparagus is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Growing Up Part I - Music

(This is part of a series of posts. See here for the introduction.)

It should be no surprise to anyone that knows me that my taste in music is what initially tipped me off to this whole growing up thing. I’ve always loved music. It’s been a huge part of my life even to the extent that, at the root of it, it's how I ended up meeting the woman I married. Through my teen years and early twenties I was constantly listening to music. All the time. Any CD I could get my hands on was worth listening to and pretty much all my disposable income (which, by the way, is the only kind of income you have when you're a teen/early-twenty-something) went to buying new music. When Napster came along and I found out I could get music for FREE (read: ILLEGALLY) I went nuts and downloaded thousands upon thousands of songs. It was wonderful. I played drums a ton throughout high school and college and was always looking for new sounds, new drummers to aspire to and music that hit me in a new way. No genre was off limits either and I therefore listened to some ridiculous stuff. The problem with hearing that much music is that it can't all be good. I listened to a lot of really terrible music; and not in a "guilty pleasure" kind of way. More like a "it sounds like someone recorded a witch being boiled in molten hot cats while trying to sing the Star Spangled Banner backwards" kind of way. Those are the albums the artists really know are terrible but play if off as "if you don't like it then you just don't get it." Guess what - I get it and it sucks no matter how much you try to play it off like it's bad in a cool way.

But these days, I listen to really bad music that is not bad in a cool way. It's just bad. Mind numbing, soul achingly awful lyrics auto-tuned over the catchiest hooks science can create after years of analyzing what we buy. I'll listen to songs like "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry and think "that wasn't that bad of a song actually." (Heads up: that song is actually TERRIBLE!) If my eighteen year old self heard me think that, he'd set off a thousand fireworks on my doorstep after stuffing my mailbox full of Krispy Kreme donuts (not that my eighteen year old self ever did that to anyone…this is just hypothetical.). Sometimes I'll catch myself really getting into a song like "Moves Like Jagger" and suddenly want to drive into a tree. So how did I get to this shameful low of music patronage? This metaphorical rock bottom of audio intake?

These guys would hate me. (+1 for old movie reference!)
The answer is "Time." Or a lack of time, really. When you're a teen, you have nothing but time. I'd sit around and listen to a full album a few times in a row just to let it really "sink in" and make sure I was catching all the important subtle parts. Now, about the only block of time I have to listen to music is when I'm driving. And even that is limited since much of the time I'm driving I have the kids in the car (I don't count "150 Fun Songs For Kids!" as music. If you can sell me 150 tracks for $0.99, you're doing music wrong.). It really comes down to the 15-20 minutes on my way to work and my way home from work. The thing I've found is that if I don't have time to really digest music, I'll just turn to the most immediately obtainable music around. Since I can't find enough consecutive moments to "let an album sink in" any more, it leaves me with two options: 1) listen to stuff I already know I like and have fully gained a respect for or 2) listen to whatever is easily accessible (both musically and logistically speaking). Option 1 is fun because I get to listen to a lot of great '90s music that I grew up listening to and love. I also listen to a lot of what my parents listened to while I was growing up which is cool too because my parents actually have really great taste in music for the most part. The downside is that I get in conversations with younger people and say things like "that's like one part in that Spin Doctors song where…no, Spin Doctors. They're a band. No they're really cool. Whatever, never mind." and then leave the conversation feeling old. The alternative to that is option 2. Option 2 starts by saying "sure, I'll listen to this one Katy Perry song on the radio right now just because I don't feel like lifting my arm to change the station" and ends with me humming "California Gurls" a few hours later while cleaning up dinner. Pretty soon, that awful song I heard on the radio has been going through my head enough that it's not so awful any more. My brain/decency/good sense have become anesthetized to how truly crappy the song is. And since most songs out sound nearly identical, once one song is deemed acceptable to my otherwise functioning brain, all crappy songs are given a pass. Suddenly I'm singing along to songs put out by American Idol contestants and Rihanna. It's a very slippery slope of craptastic music and I'm clearly on the descent.

My friends Alex and Tony have always had cooler taste in music than I have (well, maybe not high school Tony. But college Tony, for sure.). I could at least keep up with them in a conversation though since, even if I didn't like something, I'd at least listened to it once or heard of it. But when I hang out with them now, if we talk about music, they might as well be making up band names just to mess with me. (Actually, anyone that knows Alex and Tony know they probably ARE just making up band names to mess with me.) Now with services like Spotify, I can at least see what Alex, Tony, my brother Jonathan and others are listening to and hopefully pick up some cooler, more current music. It's really my only hope.

I feel like I can at least see how I got to where I am, so hopefully I can fix it. I feel better knowing why some people still think music from the '60s, '70s or '80s was the greatest music ever. It's because they really haven't listened to much good music since then. It's not their fault though. Life gets in the way of things like that. Hopefully I can dig my way out of this musical abyss soon. Because on days when even cheesy radio music seems like too much, I turn to talk radio. And folks, talk radio is the absolute bottom of the audio barrel.

See you tomorrow for our talk about my taste (or lack thereof) in food.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Series On Growing Up

This is a series of posts that’s not specifically about the kids, per se, but definitely involves them from a cause and effect perspective in a lot of ways.

I’ve noticed for a while now that I’ve adopted several behaviors that fall into the following two categories:
  • Things my parents did when I was growing up
  • Things I didn’t understand why my parents, or any adult, would ever do until recently
I turn 30 this month so it seemed like a good time to take a look back at the last 10 years or so and examine how these behaviors came to be. My initial reaction was that I was just becoming more like my parents over time. (Or, probably more accurately put: I have always been like my parents and over the last decade of my life have finally been comfortable just being myself and those traits I happen to have in common with my parents naturally came to the surface.) Some of these are very specific to my family; like my temper or my inability to make a decision when it comes to things like where we should eat dinner or what movie we should watch. But a lot of them are behaviors I had always noticed adults doing as I was growing up and wondered (mostly) to myself “what is wrong with them?” When you're younger, pretty much every adult that you see looks and acts like the kid everyone makes fun of in school. We all promised ourselves we wouldn't turn into that, but slowly and surely I am becoming that person.

How I look to younger people. But, you know, with less hair.
Any time I see a behavior that I don’t understand, I REALLY want to know more about it. And if that behavior is also one that I exhibit then I REALLY, REALLY want to know more about it. I don’t like not knowing why things happen, in general, and I especially don’t like not knowing why I do (or don’t do) something. I’ve been thinking recently about these adult behaviors I’ve seemed to adopt and tried to retrace the steps to find out where they came from. A sort of forensic review of my path to lameness. I really want to be able to point to this series of posts one day when 13 year old Patrick or Madelyn asks how I got to be so lame. I can just pull this up and say "Here is exactly how. Step by step. And you will too."

So, over the next three days, I'll pick a specific behavior each day and dig in to how I used to act, how I act now and what I think got me there. Here are the three I'll be looking at:
  • Music (alternate title - "Kids today listen to crap!…and so do I…") - wherein you'll find that I actually kind of like a couple Katy Perry songs and have redefined "cutting edge" as being the first one to hear an Adele song on Star 94.
  • Food (alternate title - "This broccoli tastes great! Wait, where did my life go wrong?") - wherein you'll discover that even with my weakening taste buds and lower food standards, I still hold asparagus to be the most horrible thing to eat on earth.
  • Clothes/Movies/Culture (alternate title - "Of course I can wear these jean shorts, they still fit. What? They're not cool anymore? Oh, they were NEVER cool? Huh.") - wherein you will discover the last time I bought clothes for anyone over three feet tall was years ago and I'm still convinced my cargo pants have some life left in them.
This will probably be a constantly changing list and I’m sure I’ll revisit it again in the future to update with more odd behaviors explained. Make sure to check back every day this week to read all the posts. I'll wrap it up on Friday once we're on the other side of this and see if I'm any better for it. Or just more depressed. I suppose I won't know till we get there. See ya tomorrow!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christmas 2011

Wow, it's almost been a full month since we updated the blog*. So...Christmas. We're all still thinking about that, right? Good! Then let's dive in...

Christmas this year seemed like it would never end. Usually when events are described that way it's a bad thing. Like, a headache that would never end or a bad song that wouldn't end or examples of an easy concept that wouldn't end (I get the hint). A Christmas that doesn't end is pretty awesome though. The kids were surprised and elated every time we said we were going somewhere else to give and get more presents. We also managed to make it through this Christmas without a single person vomiting; which, if you're a regular on this blog, know that's not always the case.

Christmas started out with a weekend at the cabin. Aunt Mollie and Uncle Drew are living it up in Colorado, but everyone else was able to be there which was super fun. Patrick and Madelyn loved getting to spend time with the family and especially loved playing with cousin Creighton. Any time they weren't sure what toys to play with or just had a bunch of energy, they would simply run from room to room yelling and chasing each other then fall on the floor laughing. They thought it was hilarious and it was pretty hard for the rest of us to disagree. There were also several sets of matching pajamas for the cousins going on thanks to Aunt Mandie and Angie.

One of the big presents for the grandkids was something called The Summit. It's basically a little rock climbing wall with a trampoline-material level in the middle. Papa said that on the assembly instructions video it took two guys about twenty minutes to put the whole thing together. In real life, it took four of us the better part of an hour and a few adult beverages to complete the assembly. In the end though, the kids went nuts for it and it was all worth it. Despite the cold weather, they spent most of the afternoon climbing up and down and up and down and up and down...

Christmas continued on actual Christmas morning. After we all went to 6:30 Christmas Eve mass together, I played for 9 PM mass which meant that I didn't get home till almost 11 (which is amazingly what time Patrick finally went to bed - but we'll save that story for a future post). That also meant that we didn't get done setting up for Christmas till almost 1 in the morning. Angie had found a bunch of Christmas decorations we put up to add to the fun. We also had a train set that we put together to go around the Christmas tree that played Christmas music. The big gift for the kids this year was a fort-with-tunnels kind of thing. It's basically a tent, a teepee and a little house that have tunnels going in between each to crawl around in. It's also basically the size of any room in our house; something Santa didn't realize until it was setup. The thing is seriously huge though and is pretty much the whole reason we spent the next few days transforming our dining room into a play room. It's size definitely made for a fun Christmas morning though when the kids first walked in the room. I think it took them a few minutes to realize what it was and that they could go in it to play. Most of the rest of the morning was spent inside either the tent or the teepee playing with toys they got or reading books. We finally had to drag them out when it was nap time.

In the afternoon, we went over to Grandma and Grandpa's house for presents and dinner and fun. My Aunt Ellie, Uncle David and their girls came over too which is always a treat for the kids. You may remember that Patrick is a pretty big fan of Chelsea. Dinner was amazing, as always, and everyone had fun wearing their "Christmas Crowns" and reading the terribly bad jokes that come with them. Patrick got a remote controlled car that he thinks is the fastest car in the world. While it's not exactly how I thought the car would be played with, one of the kids' favorite things to do is chase it around the cul-de-sac while I drive it (this Dad gig is pretty rough sometimes). Like this:

And Maddy finally got the umbrella and rain boots she's been wanting so she can splash in the puddles with her big brother :) Of course, when it's not raining she just walks around with it open inside (great idea) and sings "Let's Go Fly a Kite" over and over. I know I should tell her not to but it's really cute and so far hasn't broken anything, so we let it slide.

We also spent some Christmas time with the Barkers. Our kids love playing with Andrew and Jordan and can never get enough of their Uncle John and Aunt Wendy. Other than the running and playing and laughing and Patrick learning more about Star Wars characters from Andrew than any adult I know could teach him, the highlight was making dessert. Angie had made individual car cakes for the kids and then got a bunch of decorating candies and icing. All four kids went to town on decorating their cars. I think they actually had more fun decorating them than they did eating them, which is saying something. Here's  a picture of the messy fun...

And as if all that wasn't enough Christmas, we had one final day. The Beans were out of town on Christmas day so we got back together on New Years Day to celebrate "sibling Christmas." Our favorite part was watching the cousins play together with their new toys and a game of "pin the nose on the reindeer" for the kids. As an added bonus, we got to take Carson home with us for our first cousin spend-the-night! We'll have another post with pictures and stories from that event but, needless to say, it was a great way to end the Christmas celebrations!

Here's a slideshow of all the fun or you can check out the whole gallery here.

*Blog Note:
Even though it's been a long time since our last post, we're going to try to post more frequently and about more varied topics. With all the events and get-togethers we have, the blog, at least for us (so we can only imagine for you too), can turn into just a list of things we've done. We want to make sure to keep capturing events like Christmas and birthdays and everything else but we also want to make sure to capture the experience of parenting and living life with Patrick and Maddy right now. We don't want the whole blog to be "here's what we did last weekend" for every post. So, we're going to try to start posting about parenting in general, life with two, specific challenges we've faced and even some things that aren't directly about the kids but more about our lives with kids. Hopefully this will make the blog more fun to read and more fun to write. I know some readers have gotten in a habit of checking every Wednesday morning (we apparently got ourselves into an accidental schedule of posting on Tuesdays a while back) so I wanted to give you a heads up to check back more frequently. I know for certain there's a week coming up where there will be a new post every day.