August 2013

The Landing

On July 28th The Landing at Hoyt Park opened in Tosa. This is the 2nd location for this style of beer garden, which is run by the same people who opened the Estabrook Beer Garden a couple years ago. The new beer garden has been a welcome addition to Tosa. It’s in an idyllic environment along the Menomonee River, and is easily accessible by bike (the bike trail actually runs through the middle of it). It is also the perfect complement to the Tosa pool: we now have water on one side of the building and beer on the other. It has already become a favorite meeting location. We have been there with Gabby & Grandaddy,
Grandpa & Grandma Linda,
and most recently Kevin & Jennifer when they visited us one evening last week.
Chris has even gone there to attend an official(ish) meeting for Y-Tribe.

This has given Chris an excuse to use the giant beer stein that was left to us by Mimi (we think she would be happy to know that it’s being used to enjoy a beer with family and friends),
and it’s given Everett a chance to try the world’s largest pretzel.

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We decided to go to Colorado for a week to visit Sean, Kathy, Dillon, Connor and baby Aidan. It was kind of a last minute trip that was motivated by the fact that Chris had to travel for work to Salt Lake City, and because we wanted the boys and girl to meet each other and have some time together. This was the first flight for Teddy and Gwen and it was an adventure for us to fly with three children. We left for the airport about 4:30am on Sunday morning. Our secret parking area was full, but we found another spot nearby (sorry, we can’t divulge where this is located). First challenge: wheel all of our stuff and children into the terminal. We hadn’t thought this through ahead of time but managed ok. Second challenge: get through airport checkin and security. We are experienced enough to know that airline and TSA rules for children are about as predictable as the weather. We had birth certificates for the babies and a passport for Everett, and for this leg of the trip we needed all of these documents (but we needed none of them on the way home). All of the children did great on the flight. We arrived early on Sunday morning and Sean met us at the Denver airport to help us pickup the rental car and haul our stuff to their house.
As soon as we arrived the older three boys were inseparable. They played all day, everyday together.
By Monday they had invented a game called Mingo in which you throw a wet washcloth at someone while saying “Mingo!” On Tuesday morning Chris drove to Salt Lake City for work and returned Thursday night. While he was away he missed the USA Pro Cycling Challenge that went right by Sean and Kathy’s house.

Prior to this trip Chris explained to Everett some of the crazy things that Uncle Sean roped him into during past trips to their house. One was hauling a refrigerator up a nearby hill with 10% grade.
Another was hauling a 300 pound stone coffee table up the stairs to the main floor of their house.
So by the time we arrived on this trip, Everett was asking questions like “Uncle Sean, why are you always getting my Dad involved in these cockamamie schemes?” And it turns out we weren’t going to be disappointed on this trip either. For the last few years Sean and Kathy have held an annual BBQ at their house, building on the 50 year tradition of BBQs at Dad’s house when we were growing up. This year the BBQ was planned for Saturday night, our last night in Colorado. One key feature of Sean’s BBQ is the cornhole tournament with two person teams (see here to learn more about cornhole and related terminology). The couple who wins the tournament gets bragging rights for a year, and to further edify this honor Sean decided to get a trophy engraved with the names of the winners.
Great idea. So on Thursday evening when Chris returned from Salt Lake, Sean asked “Do you want to go for a bike ride?”. Again, great idea. Sean also made a passing comment that we might have to make a “brief stop” on the way. Here’s what happened: Sean and Chris rode over Swan Mountain to Frisco and stopped at a trophy store to pickup The Cornhole Cup. However, when we got to the store we were surprised to find that it was closed (it’s closed daily from 1:30 to 2:30 for lunch).
If we were on the east coast then 2:30 would mean 2:30, but 2:30 mountain time means about 2:45 in actual time (even though the atomic clock is just a few mountains away), so we waited for about a half hour for the store to open. During this time it started to rain. Once we got the cup, we carried it by bicycle to the Building Permit Office for the City of Frisco so that a friend could bring it to the BBQ the next day.
On way home we managed to dodge the rainstorms, though Chris accidentally broke one of the pedals on a loaner bike while he was just riding along (JRA). Sorry Tina! This begs the question: why does Chris keep getting involved in these schemes? The truth is that he secretly enjoys these adventures because they are fun, challenging and unpredictable. And at the same time they provide an opportunity to poke fun at family members for their non-engineer-like approach to solving problems. Conversely, other family members sometimes make fun of engineers for coming up with vastly complex solutions to seemingly non-existent problems. So it all works out.

On the way to the Denver airport on Sunday we stopped to see Mark and Katrien and their two children, Zander and Ayla. We had a very enjoyable lunch with them in their backyard, and we provided photographic evidence to our families that we were in fact able to get together, which is no small achievement considering how busy all of us are and how many children had to cooperate to allow this to happen.

During the flight home from Colorado, we were on a “completely full flight” on Southwest Airlines. Translation: we were on a flight with 4 empty seats within two rows of us. Nonetheless, the flight attendants scolded Chris for bringing carseats on the plane. He was optimistically thinking that even though it was a “completely full flight”, he had flown Southwest often enough to know what that means, and that there might be empty seats where we could put the twins. Instead, the flight attendants asked us to each hold a baby in our arms and that we put the carseats away. Chris tried to put them in the overhead bins as he had seen other parents do in the past, but there was just no way that these carseats were going to fit. So he dashed to the front of the plane to gate check them while one flight attendant held Teddy (she provided photographic evidence that she is a grandma with seven grandchildren), and we each had a baby in our arms for the duration of the flight. They were fussy, but it was mostly ok until it came time for bathroom breaks. Near the end of the flight we changed their diapers, and we asked Everett repeatedly if he had to go to the bathroom. He assured us that he didn’t, which lasted until the plane was about to land and we had made the final trip back to our seats with clean babies, at which point he told us that he had to go right away. Both of us were pretty upset with him and told him he had to hold it until we got to the airport. To this he calmly replied “That means you aren’t taking care of me and you aren’t doing your job as parents.” Goodness. If this is what he says when he is five, what are we in for ten years from now?

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As parents we have learned a new vocabulary, starting with the different meanings of the word latch. First was the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system, which makes it easier and safer to install carseats. In fact the number of LATCH positions was a deciding factor in choosing the Honda Odyssey over the Toyota Sienna (the former has five, the latter has three). We anticipated that the extra positions would provide us with more flexibility when configuring the car to accommodate friends and family such that the most limber people (i.e. children) could get in the third row of seats. This technology might seem like a mere convenience, but in fact was developed in response to the fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of mortality among children, and continue to be a significant cause of injury.

We also learned of the sacred nursing latch. Before having children Chris had a very pragmatic view of breastfeeding: Mom produces milk; baby is hungry for it; put baby to breast and all is well. In reality it can be much more complex. The most concise explanation we have heard is that breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Mom and baby need to get into a rhythm that works for both of them, and there seems to be little room for anxiety or impatience. Many years ago the dynamic between Mom and baby was explored by Edith Jackson, a child psychiatrist who directed the Yale Rooming-in Research Project at Grace-New Haven Community Hospital from 1946 to 1953. Her research was based on the revolutionary idea (at the time) that Moms and babies should room together after birth. She and her team observed many families during this project, and one result was the identification of different breastfeeding personality types: the barracuda; the excited but ineffective; the procrastinator; the gourmet; and the rester (a.k.a the nip and napper, which was Everett’s type).

The latch has become a subject for children’s clothing,¬†and has also entered politics. You may have heard about the Latch On NYC initiative last year from the beloved but controversial Mayor Bloomberg.
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Lastly, we note that after Everett was born we started making onesies with artwork we couldn’t find anywhere else. We might soon make one like the following to serve as a conversation starter between children.
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Yesterday afternoon Cress returned from Cincinnati and brought Trinity with him. Everett was super excited for her visit, which coincided with the arrival of the twins and the Wisconsin State Fair. In the evening we ate tacos on the patio and then Gabby and Grandaddy took Trinity and Everett to a hotel room for the night. This was the first night that Chris and Melissa have been alone in the house with the babies. It was strangely quiet, and allowed us to sleep on and off until about 9:30 the next morning before we got ready for their first church service at 10:15. At the start of the service Pastor Chris came by and showed us a secret room off of the main chapel that contained a couch for nursing and a family bathroom. Nice. We spent about half of the service there. On our way out afterward Pastor Margaret made a comment about the babies’ blankets that somehow involved Prince George, but neither of us really understood until we read the news later in the day. It turns out that our friend Lauren recently gave us a set of baby blankets that were also used by the royal family when George came home from the hospital, and there has now been a worldwide run on them.

About midday we took the family to the State Fair along with Gabby, Grandaddy and Trinity. The twins get a LOT of attention. We think this is partly because they are infants and partly because they are twins. Many, many peopled cooed at them, asked their age or asked if they were a boy and a girl. Since their birth we have discovered that there are a lot of twins in the world, based on disclosures from people who either have them or were one of multiples. One woman told Chris it was too soon to have them out of the house.

Everett and Trinity seemed to have a fantastic time. Everett is now of the age that he can find and engage in activities without our intervention, and having Trinity with him certainly helps in this regard. They found an endless supply of things to do and see.
Fair Foods

In the past we have always written about novel, horrifying-yet-delicious fair foods. This year we tried BEER BATTERED BACON WRAPPED CHEDDAR HOT DOG ON-A-STICK and a REUBEN BRAT ON A PRETZEL ROLL with horseradish sauce. Both were as delicious as expected. We also stopped by the Cream Puff Pavilion to pickup the six-pack we had ordered ahead of time. Also delicious.
At this point you might be wondering about the scandal suggested by the title of this blog entry. You see, Cream Puffs are huge in this area and they are only available this time of year. We even hold a world record for the largest cream puff (126 lbs). You can acquire them via pre-order, as we did, but there are also several other options. You can buy them from the State Fair and select local restaurants; you can also buy them from a special drive-through off I-94; if you are feeling dairy anxiety then you can call the cream puff hotline (414-266-7111); if you can’t get out of the house then you can even pay for Bell Ambulance to deliver them. To keep up with this level of deliciousness the State Fair requires 1200 gallons of cream each day. Unfortunately, a major dairy producer in Wisconsin who was supplying the fair suddenly went bankrupt earlier this year, so instead the cream will be provided by Prairie Farms, an Illinois dairy! If this were Florida it wouldn’t even be newsworthy. However, we are the dairy state, and in the midwest this qualifies as a major scandal. It’s as if New Zealand ran out of cream and had to import from Australia. Or France decided to import from England to make cheese. Other fairgoers didn’t seem to notice, but we knew they were a bit off.

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During our first church service with the twins we sat behind a family with two boys and a girl who appeared to span the ages of about 2 to 7. The girl’s age was about midway between her two brothers, and during the service she could not leave her younger brother alone. She was picking him up, pulling out his pacifier and generally manhandling him, though he was pretty agreeable for most of it. The parents did not intervene until it was getting close to time for communion, at which point the girl pretended to fall asleep across the seats. It was clear to everyone that she wasn’t really sleeping, and the parents tried a variety of techniques to get her moving, ranging from gentle encouragement to stern insistence using a muted but serious voice that is acceptable for church. But eventually they gave up – she stayed behind and immediately “woke up” after communion.

These kinds of experiences are amusing to watch as long as they involve someone else’s children. If it were our children acting this way I think we would have been pretty upset. However, it’s also becoming clear that there are some things we just need to get used to. We have learned from watching Everett and from talking with other parents that younger siblings get manhandled a lot by their older siblings, and as a parent you just need to let it go. Everett loves to get right in the faces of his brother and sister. It feels like too much to us and drives us crazy sometimes, but the babies don’t seem to mind. We also recognize (and have heard from other parents) that one of the worst things we can do is make Everett feel like his siblings are on some elevated status relative to him. We draw the line at times when he wakes the babies up and then informs us that they are crying.

During this church service we made an important discovery: there is a secret room for families and nursing mothers. The door to this room is literally right off the side of the main chapel. And it’s pretty deluxe: audio from the service is provided via a sound system; there are two rooms with couches and chairs; there is a family bathroom with a changing table. We spent about half the service in there. Now that we know about it, Chris would prefer that we attend all services from that room so that he is spared from sitting still for an hour.

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