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Monday, July 30, 2007

This weekend was all about birthday parties. Our first on Saturday was a celebration for the 4th birthday of our dear little pal, Abby Stucki. Abby had selected the wondrous place of Chuck E. Cheese for her festivities. I will always remember Chuck E. Cheese as the unattainable from my youth. I think we went there once briefly (maybe it was for a birthday party for one of Tim’s friends); I don’t remember. I was really little but I’m fairly certain that I was scarred for life because I didn’t get to play in the ball pit. I’m working through it at therapy though, no worries.

So, it was with much excitement all around that we arrived at Chuck E. Cheese on Saturday afternoon. Within two minutes of walking into the herds of sugar-filled, sensory-overloaded children, I realized that I wanted out. Matthew did too. He panicked. The noise, the lights, the action, the bigger than life size puppet animal band that sings too loudly – it was all too much for him. (And great practice for Disneyland next week). Mike was able to calm Matthew down, though the first thing he said to Larissa – Mother of the Birthday Girl was “I’m really freaked out.” Zach was, of course, ready to party – he was off in a run. I should’ve brought the Toddler Leash so that HE could practice for Disneyland.

We ended up having a fun, chaos-filled time. It wasn’t even well organized chaos though. The underpaid, under-age employees made a lame attempt at leading the kids in the most enthusastismLESS rendition of “If you’re happy and you know it…” that I’ve ever seen. I think they should’ve been singing, “If you hate your job and have a constant headache, clap your hands….If you wish you worked anywhere other than Chuck E. Cheese stomp your feet…”

Sunday’s party was a bit more up Matthew’s alley. Nicholas Coy’s 4th birthday was celebrated at a farm – complete with animal feeding and petting. Matthew and Zach were, of course, both clad in bright green John Deere t-shirts. Matthew braved feeding the sheep and the horses, and he pet the bunny and the pony. He was very disappointed however with the lack of tractors – particularly of the John Deere persuasion. He was definitely there in the hopes of tractor petting. Enough with the boring ‘ol farm animals! Where are the John Deeres?!

Matthew insisted on wearing his John Deere t-shirt to Church last night. When we walked up for Communion, Father Rob – who is the most kid-friendly priest that I’ve ever met – squatted down to give Matthew a blessing. He then said, “Hey! Cool shirt!” Matthew stood there for a minute, mystified that the priest acknowledged his John Deere shirt in the Communion line. He then held up the line a little bit more to say to Father Rob, “Yeah, it’s a John Deere shirt!” As we walked back to our seats, Matthew grinned at me and said, “He’s a John Deere priest!” Yes, he was even wearing “John Deere green” vestments. After Mass, Father Rob told Matthew that he’s from Wisconsin and his sister is the CFO for Case Tractors. She’s a John Deere traitor. Matthew half-smiled and said, “I was a really good boy in church. Do I get to go play on the [playground] toys now?”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Fairly Typical Morning and John Deeres Don’t Speak Russian!

It’s 7:30am. I have no idea what time Matthew wandered out to the sofa to continue his slumber, but there he rests. Once Matthew is asleep he is OUT. I’ve cut his fingernails, trimmed his hair and even vacuumed in his room when he’s been asleep. It comes to no surprise to me, now, that Matthew has remained asleep while Zachary and I are out here making some noise. But it appears that Zach is on a mission to test just how deep Matthew’s sleep really is.

Every time I look over, Matthew’s got a different object piled on him or placed carefully in his hand. Random toys have been clutched sleepily in his hand as has Blankie which Zachary seems to have lovingly shared with his brother (the ultimate sign of affection). Matthew has continued snoring throughout my attempts to wipe Zach’s runny nose (accompanied by tortured screams…his, not mine) and Zach kicking the entire high chair tray down to the floor while I fed him breakfast.

When I was in the kitchen preparing oatmeal, Zach was wandering about inflicting all sorts of brotherly love on sleeping Matthew. I heard a thwack, thwack, thwack. Hmmm, that’s one I better check out. Zachary was whacking Matthew on the head with his empty bottle. Ahhh, sweet revenge! That’s what you get, big brother, for never sharing your John Deere tractors with me. Mooouuuahhh-ahhh-ahhhh! [evil baby laugh]. Matthew merely rubbed his head, grunted and rolled over.

* * * * *

On Saturday, we rode the ferry to Vashon Island for our yearly Engaged Encounter BBQ. Of course this year was a little bit more stressful for us as Mike and I are the Coordinators and therefore sort-of “in charge.” (A scary thought)! Not only did we have to pack our boys and all of their necessities for a long day at the beach but we also brought two huge coolers – one full of raw meat products for the grill and one full of booze. (Catholics know how to party)!

Mike carefully researched the ferry boat times to figure out which we should be on. We arrived with no problems; made sure we were in the right line and eagerly awaited the arrival of our boat. After about 30 minutes wait, engines were starting and cars began to drive on to the ferry. All I could do was laugh when our engine wouldn’t start; Mike had left the lights on. Turns out this is a fairly typical occurrence and one of the ferry employees told us that we were “the fourth dead battery of the morning! And it’s only 10am!” They’re completely prepared for this, and within minutes another employee rolled up a battery on a cart and started ours in seconds. We made our ferry no problem with only a little bit of uncalled for excitement.

The highlight of Zach’s day was baptizing himself in the cold and salty Puget Sound. The day was overcast a but a little warm with occasional sprinkles; I hadn’t stripped him down to his swim trunks ‘cuz it was just a little too cold for that. I’d brought plenty of changes of clothes. I didn’t intend for him to get completely soaked head-to-toe though, but I realized after fighting it, that wetness was inevitable. Zachary splashed and kicked in the water and repeatedly dunked his forehead in, grinning from ear-to-ear every time he stood up.

Matthew’s day will always be remembered as the day that he met and fell in love with Nastya. Nastya is a 16 year-old exchange student from Belarus who speaks Russian and hardly any English – though she’s learning! Nastya will be staying with our friends Tom and Elaine and their two teenage girls for six weeks this summer. Matthew took a liking to Nastya on the ferry ride back home. He dragged her all around the boat, pointing out the extinguishers that the “fighterfighters” use to put out fires. Nastya told Matthew what those things were called in Russian.

Back in the car, Matthew kept trying to understand this Nastya and foreign language business. “Why does she speak French?” he asked. (Matthew assumes all other languages are French since he’s familiar with my occasional attempts to speak it to the boys). The entire ride home we explained to Matthew that Nastya speaks Russian and lives on the other side of the world. Later, I showed him on a map where Belarus was. (I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever researched the where-abouts of Belarus).

As a thank you for our hard work as Coordinators, Tom and Elaine and their girls (Nastya included) offered to watch the boys the next night while we went to a movie. (Harry Potter)! Matthew had been talking nonstop about Nastya and how he’d share his John Deeres with her. Turns out that the sharing came with strings attached. When Nastya’s tractors started answering Matthew’s in Russian, he emphatically cried, “No! No! John Deeres don’t speak Russian!!!”

Upon our return, the Haydens filled us in on this, their favorite Matthewism of the evening. Mike’s response was, “John Deeres in Russia probably speak Russian!” Hmmm, do they have John Deeres in Russia? It must be like how the cows in France say “Mu” instead of “Moo,” and the dogs don’t woof, they “oauh oauh.”

Friday, July 20, 2007

I called Mike this afternoon to inform him that our children are driving me to insanity. He asked if I was taking them with me. Yes, it’s very probably that we are driving each other totally nuts!

Matthew has become proficient in the art of back-talking, baby-talking, lying and aggressive behavior(ing). When I asked him after a time-out yesterday what he’d done to put him there he proceeded to list an entire litany of all his wrong-doings. Oh, he knows when he’s making a bad chance…and he’s almost proud of it! When I asked him why he had done these things he seriously informed me, “’cuz the bad guys in my head think it’s funny.” Great. I told him to ignore the bad guys in his head and try to just listen to the good ones.

He definitely has his really good moments. The other day after bath he was naked (that’s what happens when you bathe, you see) and we were brushing his teeth before getting into jammies. He asked me if I’d ever seen a naked pirate before? “Noooo,” I hesitantly responded. He proceeded to put his drinking cup over his hand (like a hook), squinted his eye (for a patch), and said “Arrrr, matey!” Pretty funny.

Zachary is quite the character too, these days. He’s a walking fool now – moving everywhere with rapid toddler speed. He’s great at baby sign language. So far he knows please, help, more, thank you, milk and water. He blows kisses like you wouldn’t believe, cuddles on command and waves hello and goodbye with unequalled enthusiasm.
Zachary has a bit of a cold (as do the rest of us Martins). He’s been waking up in the middle of the night begging for sympathy for his snot-and-phlegm-induced-distress. Mike or I will eventually stumble into his room, where we’re greeted with Blankie being shoved in our face (the ultimate show of cuddliness) followed by little outstretched arms. We plop with Zachary and Blankie into the chair where he’ll often snuggle down for a good cuddle. Occasionally, our book-loving-boy – despite it being 4am and pitch black in his room – will scurry off my lap in lightning speed to the book shelf where he begins grabbing board books and handing them to me in rapid succession. Upon realizing that I have no intention of reading him books, he starts to get a little ticked. I’m usually able to settle him back down until he realizes that I do have every intention of placing him back into his crib (aka: baby jail). Then, what follows is not a scream, nor a sob, nor lengthy crying. Nay, my friends it is a combination of all three PLUS the added yells and shouts of BABY PROFANITY. I can’t begin to type here precisely the profane curses directed our way (primarily because I don’t know how to spell them but also because I’m sure that they’re completely inappropriate and not for a PG-13 crowd).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We had a great weekend presenting on the Engaged Encounter retreat. We not only had a good retreat but we managed to survive our first overnight (two of them, actually!) separation from both boys. My parents reported that the boys were very good at their place. They took on the Martin boy mania with a specific tactic: “Divide and Conquer.” Matthew went to the beach with Grandma while Zach napped. Chris brought Zach to ride the tricycle downstairs so Matthew could play John Deeres/have quiet time. Matthew “helped” my dad move some rocks in their garden (I’m sure the job would’ve been nearly impossible without his assistance). And Zach had an outing to the park with D-Dad. As far as we can tell, after a weekend watching both of our children, my parents’ condo building is still standing and they’re still speaking to us.

Not that we had much to say to them. After a weekend of non-stop speaking (giving presentations to the 34 engaged couples) and schmoozing and visiting at meals, we (yes, even me!!!) were ready for a break from chit-chat. Getting to hear the different couples’ stories is one of my favorite things about doing EE. First of all, there are always the few that I really want to conquer. They come into the retreat with all this attitude, like “we already know everything there is to no about each other, we couldn’t possibly benefit from this crazy, touchy-feely-overly-Churchy [which it’s not, by the way] retreat. We’d be so much better off staying home.” If that’s you’re attitude…well, good luck with that. If you think you already know everything there is to no about your fiancĂ©, then you better just quit now; your marriage and life will be SO boring! You’re donating an entire half-year to a year to plan your wedding and you can’t be bothered to set aside one weekend to spend focusing on your PSU (Potential Spousal Unit), your relationship and your upcoming marriage?! The motto of Engaged Encounter is “The wedding is a day, the marriage is a lifetime.” We definitely have a story to share since our wedding day wasn’t the most ideal. Anyway, after being forced to come on the weekend and listening to the talks, writing and dialoguing we rarely get a negative evaluation at the end. Even the bad attitude couples usually write something like, “Yeah, I really didn’t want to come this weekend, but I’m so glad that I did. I learned new things about my fiancĂ©,” etc.

So, there are always a few couples that, for various reasons, stand out to me on the weekends. There were two on this particular weekend. I don’t actually have all that much to say about the first couple, just merely the fact that she was 16 and he was 18!!!!! They aren’t getting married until she graduates next year, but still. Holy Moly! And some people thought that we were too young to be getting married at 21!

The most intriguing couple to me this weekend were Suzy and Bo (not their real names, by the by). Bo first dated Suzy’s sister. Yeah, that’s pretty crazy in itself. Then after a bit Bo and Suzy’s sis broke up, shortly thereafter Suzy’s sis realized that Suzy and Bo were meant for each other, so she made the suggestion that Suzy and Bo date. Things went well and went quickly. Suzy (who is 21) lives at home with her parents, shares a room with her sister, and works on her parents’ dairy farm (located an hour north of Seattle). Bo and Suzy’s dates usually consist of chatting while milking 150 cows, sharing dinner with her family or “visiting in the parlor.” After they are married they will live in a trailer in the front yard of her family’s home. Both Suzy and her sister were home-schooled. Their parents just had a baby three years ago (so Suzy is 18 years older than her sibling). Suzy and Bo hope to have between 4-6 children who they will home-school and raise along with Suzy’s youngest sister. Suzy wore a gingham, plaid dress and cardigan sweater today and Bo wore a plaid shirt, jeans with large belt buckle and iron-toe work boots. Suzy gets up at 5 every morning and milks cows for 2 ½ hours. She then does other chores around the farm (such as mending fences, baling hay, etc.). From 5:30-7:30 every evening she milks the cows again. She’s even churned butter (but only once “because we realized that it was way too much work”).

Look, I realize that I’m a complete and total City Girl and completely clueless about the farming/country life. But isn’t that crazy and so cool?! I know that they were pretty amused – and hopefully not offended – by my inquiries about life on a farm. I like to think that my evident ignorance actually comes off as childlike wonder and fascination. I asked if they drink their own cows’ milk. Suzy replied in the affirmative. I then said, “That must be I really fresh milk. Is it nonfat? 1%? 2% Oh, wait, it’s Whole Milk, huh?” Suzy answered, “Yes, it’s definitely more whole than anything they sell in the store.” The other couple at the table was kind enough not to laugh at me too much, and Mike gave me a supportive and “oh, you’re so pathetic and yet so cute in your ignorance” kind of pat on the back. But man! Once I learned that Suzy has churned butter, I couldn’t help myself. I exclaimed, “Wow! You’re practically living in the Little House on the Prairie.” I am proud of myself that I refrained from adding “or in this case Little Trailer in Your Parents’ Front Yard.”

I told Mike that someday I’d love to spend a week…well maybe a couple of days, on a farm really experiencing rural life. He thinks I’m nuts, and that I’d never make it. I wonder if that’s due to the fact that as soon as we venture out past city limits (still in the suburbs though), the first question I always ask people is “How long does it take you to get to the grocery store? And more importantly, Starbucks?” Yeah, baling hay, milking cows and churning butter…how would I get my latte drunk while it’s still warm while doing all that?!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Look, it’s not you; it’s me. I just have to take a break – from updating my BLOG and writing, in general. It’s not that I want to be on a break. I do actually miss you, a lot. But somehow, once again, the Household Projects Fairy has stopped at our house and just won’t seem to leave. She always visits me in the summer. For me, hot weather means painting…inside. The weather heats up and I start looking around thinking, “OK, Rainbow House…what color have we not yet done and what surface is yet to be touched?” I start looking at my hands thinking, “Gosh, you look so naked with out any random splatters of paint…we better fix that.”

So, I decided to paint the kitchen. This was a fairly spontaneous idea. I started thinking “color” after a playdate at my friend Molly’s house. She is one of those gals who is a master decorator and crafty queen. It really intrigues me. When I’m in a house with all these soft, warm, neutral colors, I feel so calm and it just feels so homey to me. Then I come home and paint a bright red bathroom or our entire basement that looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream got splattered all over the walls. Anyway, I decided to tone it down a bit this time. I took the leftover yellow from Matthew’s room, added quite a bit of white and voila! We have Sunny Surprise…or Pale Moonlight…or Golden Glow…or…Sorta Saffron…or Not White but Yellowish. (Hmmm, maybe my career as a Paint Namer will have to wait). I think I decided on Thursday to subtedly hint to Mike that I was in the painting spirit. (He’s not a huge fan of the Household Projects Fairy. After all, her visits – though always worthwhile in the end, are often lengthy, messy and involve extra work for him). Mike was invited to a guys’ game night on Saturday night so I thought, “hmmm….time. To myself. What could I do? I’ll paint the kitchen before he gets home!” And believe it or not, for once my crazy plan worked! I had the place taped, tarped and painted before he walked in the door!

Apparently the yellow kitchen fix just wasn’t enough to get the Household Projects Fairy off my back (she’s quite persistent). So, despite the fact that the Clutter Monster has thrown up all over our house, the Cranky Demon seems to have taken over the children, and my arch nemesis LAUNDRY hates me and just won’t leave me alone…for some reason, I thought, hey! Now would be a GREAT time to remove all the ‘70’s poo-brown doors in the house and prime ‘em and paint ‘em white. (At least I’m actually painting something white and not a different rainbow shade). My long term goal is to get all of the doors and trim in the entire house de-poo-browned. This, will take some time. I need to get over my mentality that once I start a big household project I should just go, go, go until I get the ENTIRE thing done. I also dream of painting the hallway a sandy color (“Tuscan Winds”) and doing a shade darker accent in the entry way (“Soul Mate” – a sandy brown with a hint of mauve to go with the living room wall). That way all of the white trim will look even better. I don’t know how I’ll actually prime and paint trim – trim that is basically on the floor and VERY accessible to children. Some of my dreams just might have to wait until they start school. Or maybe I can ship them off to a Cranky Demon Exorcism Day Camp. They do have those, right?

And on top of everything else going on, Zachary has decided he hates his crib. He starts crying the second we put him in Baby Jail. After many attempts last night to calm him down, we did the whole horrible-parent “We’ll just let him cry it out” thing. He’d been gesturing to Stan, the big fan in the hallway. (Yes, we name inanimate objects). I thought maybe Stan was freaking him out. So, I plunked ZJ in the crib (er, I mean gently and lovingly placed him and snuggled him into his place of slumber) and closed his door behind me. A couple of minutes later I was helping Matthew brush his teeth when I heard a very quiet tapping at Zach’s door. (Thankfully, Mommyhood comes with Super Human Hearing when it comes to the safety or bad choices of your kids). I opened Zach’s door and yeah. There he was. Crying and carrying on like it was no big deal that he had somehow scaled up and over his crib railing to free himself from the confines of crib jail.

Right. Again we wonder how much of the Steroids (that I was treated with in the hospital to keep him cooking) are still cooking inside of him. By the way, new pictures of SpiderBaby and brother can be seen at

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ahh, God Bless America. The aftermath of the 4th of July with children is perhaps even more exciting and unexpected than a large fireworks display. Our little people are probably scarred for life and cranky beyond all imagination!

We actually had a great 4th. Although last night as we tried to comfort the boys from the occasional booms of firecrackers and the general wickedness of over-fatigue, we asked ourselves if it was really all worth it. I’m sure we’ll be asking the same thing next year on July 5th, when we do it all again – get them sugared up, over-excited and keep them up late.

Yesterday started with an early morning wildlife sighting here at the Martin Natural Wildlife Preserve. I know, I know. You’ve not been all that impressed with our mating bunnies and the bizarre love-triangle of ducks that’s taken place in our yard, but hang in there; this was well worth the wait. I was getting ready for my 7 miler with Andrea, I took a break from Vaselining my toes (combating running blisters) when I saw something out the front, living room window. At first I thought it was a weird skinny dog, like maybe a Greyhound, but it only took me a moment to realize that there was a deer – yes, a real life DEER – crossing the street and walking up into our front yard. There were actually two! Now, I’m not much of an outdoorsy girl, nor do I know all the technical terms for wildlife, but I’m fairly certain that these were does and maybe one was youngish (therefore, most likely one was the mama deer). When I was telling my parents of the deer visitation in our yard, Mom suggested maybe one was a yearling since it didn’t look all that young but not old either. I think I’m going to start referring to Zach as a yearling. When people ask me at the grocery store how old he is (like when I’m pulling him off the top of the grocery cart that he’s been riding like a surfboard), I’ll smile sweetly and say, “He’s a yearling.” (For some reason, I feel that should be said with a soft Irish brogue).

Anyway, back to the actual yearling in our yard (hmm, so then would it be a yardling?! I don’t see why not). They munched my neighbor’s floral growies (again, I’m not one for technical terminology) long enough for me to sneak out the front door and get a picture. They had crossed the street into our neighbor’s yard by the time Andrea arrived for our run. We were quite concerned about them getting back to the woods on Cougar Mountain via the busy street – Coal Creek – without using the crosswalk. Our neighborhood is called “Newport Woods” – but there aren’t really any woods in our suburb that I’m aware of. I’d be fine with the deers making our yard their home but our resident wildlife – the bunnies and the threesome of ducks – might get a little upset.

So, we had a great run in the morning, a quiet-ish afternoon (only having to scrape Matthew off the ceiling once after a round of neighborhood firecrackers was set off and terrified him for life), and then we packed up and set out for Bellevue where we always spend the 4th. For the last several years, we’ve met up with friends in the downtown park for a picnic dinner, fun, festivities and fireworks display. Last year we, along with our childbirth class friends (Megan, husband Kelly and son Jack – who Matthew adores with every bit of his soul) stuck out the rain to watch the fireworks show, this year we survived the heat – it was 85, sunny, clear and beautiful. My parents – who just walk up from their place for the show at 10 – were willing to keep Zach with them. (So, we didn’t have to worry about chasing him around and he went to bed at a normal-ish time).

I took Matthew and Jack over to the fire truck where they got new firemen hats and stickers. They also got to see inside the back of an ambulance AND sit in the front seats. We only got in a little bit of a trouble. To Matthew it was, “Don’t close that door, son,” and to Jack it was, “Don’t climb over the seats, son.” Some good Kodak moments, I assure you. I’ll harass Mike to get our pictures up soon…we’re way overdue (no real shocker there).

Matthew was definitely nervous about the fireworks and has talked for days about how he’d get to hold Green Bear and that Green Bear would growl at the “thunderworks” and scare them away. He came up with a method of “self-talk” (that would be my therapy talking) that seemed to calm him down pre-show; he kept telling us that he was going to “poop out the fireworks.” We’re not sure where that came from, and I can’t imagine that that would be pleasant, but it did seem to help – for a while. Also, during the evening, he managed to bite into a glow stick. I won’t be surprised if he does have interesting, glowing post-4th-feces. I’ll keep you posted. (OK, no, I won’t).

In the end, the pooping out of fireworks technique didn’t work and he got pretty upset when the show started (despite Green Bear’s presence, Mike and I sandwiching him between us, Matthew’s hood up over his head AND his Matthew-Martin-ear-covering-technique – just fold ‘em over). Thankfully, sitting on Grandma’s lap eventually was the best idea, and we all got to listen to her running commentary, “Oooh, a John Deere green one! Those are my favorite. Ahhhh…Oh, that was a big boomer one, we don’t like those, huh? Wee! They look like rocket ships. Ooooh….Ahhhh…” Hey, whatever works.

Unfortunately, by the time we got the boys home at 11:30 there were still firecrackers going off in the neighborhood (thankfully, this is the last year they’re legal in Newcastle, WA !!!). Matthew was tired enough that they didn’t distress him too much. Zachary, however had a second wind, was wide awake and pretty freaked out. He came up with his own version of “soothing self-talk” – it involved the right combination and placement of comfort items: cuddling with mommy or daddy, holding blankie up to his nose, sucking his thumb, holding on to a bottle, and occasionally pointing at the picture of a dog in his favorite board book and growling. (All animals, according to Zachary growl. This includes: cats, dogs, ducks, rabbits, and deer in our front yard or that we’ve seen on runs. He seems to be taking after my knowledge of nature – which isn’t much). In the end, he gave up (OK, we gave up and just put him in his crib) and fell asleep.

It’s 10AM, July 5th – Matthew hasn’t even woken up yet, and Zach was up early and is already back in his crib asleep! We know how to wear these kids out!