May 2015

Almost Seven

We are now in the midst of the summer 2015 travel extravaganza. This started on May 20 when we left for Cincinnati and will continue for several more weeks. The plan for the next three weeks is that Melissa and the children will stay in Cincinnati while Chris travels back to Utah. This will be the longest that Chris has been away from Melissa or any of the children. It also means that Chris will miss Everett’s seventh birthday party. To make up for this, and to try to address Everett’s requests to have more time with Mom and Dad, we wanted to plan a trip with him just like in the olden times before the twins were born. It’s been a hard adjustment for him to share our attention with the twins. He has remarked often that he does not get as much attention as he used to, which we acknowledge and agree with. He has also started pointing out that “I asked for a brother OR a sister. You gave me a brother AND a sister. OR, not AND.” This is debatable – Melissa distinctly recalls him asking for AND. But it doesn’t really matter at this point because twins come as a pair.

Our trip with Everett was made possible because Cress and Amanda generously offered to watch the twins for a night. So on Tuesday morning we drove to King’s Island where we went on rides for a few hours in a park that was mostly empty.
First we went on the Beast, but Everett found this a bit overwhelming so we dialed it back a notch and rode White Water Canyon a couple times, followed by some rides in the kid park.

Later that afternoon we went next door to the Great Wolf Lodge where we swam until about 6:30pm. Up until that point we asked Everett many times if he was hungry and he always said no. But as soon as Chris talked him into getting out of the water he said he was starving. We dithered about where to eat and finally decided on a room picnic: Everett got two slices of pizza while Chris and Melissa ate carryout from the hotel restaurant. By this point we were all pretty tired. Story time was at 8pm and Chris thought that afterward we might be in for the night. Instead, Everett suddenly perked up and said he wanted to find out more about MagiQuest. We had seen children playing this on previous visits to the GWL, but never really looked into it before. The difference now was that Everett received a $50 gift from Gabby and Grandaddy to spend as he wanted, and that the MagiQuest objects are spread throughout the hotel – we passed many of them between the lobby and our room and they certainly caught Everett’s eye. So he used his birthday money to buy a magic wand and start the quest.
We found two runes before bedtime at around 10pm. He and Chris were both asleep within a couple minutes.

On Wednesday morning we got up a little after 8am and went to Waffle House. Everett had chocolate chip pancakes and bacon while drinking coffee creamers. Afterward we went back to the lodge and finished collecting the remaining seven runes for MagiQuest. Every magi has his own style and practices. Along these lines, Everett soon grew to believe that his spells would not work if his parents were standing too close. So for each spell he would first point the wand at Chris and Melissa to get them to back up a few steps, and then he would cast his spell.
Afterward we spent about three more hours at the waterpark.
One unanticipated consequence of visiting these parks when there are few people is that there are no built-in rest periods such as standing in line. Instead we were walking constantly at both King’s Island and the Great Wolf Lodge. And the addition of MagiQuest meant about three more hours of walking up and down among the different floors of the hotel. Everett was exhausted by the time we left the Great Wolf Lodge and was almost coming unglued the rest of the afternoon. This kind of behavior is a rarity for him, but a reminder for us as parents that we need to build in times to rest and eat. We were back at G&G’s house by around 3pm.

That night we had a family dinner of salmon and cabbage and put the children to bed. An hour later everyone got up again because Gwen pooped and Everett needed something from us about every 10 minutes and Teddy wanted to play on the couch (a.k.a the bed). So we changed diapers and sang some songs and put everyone to bed again. It was a great birthday celebration and we are thankful that we got to spend this time. Happy Birthday Everett!

Link to Great Wolf Lodge 2015 photo gallery

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Camp Grammapammapammapa

A.k.a. Clifty Falls 2015: the multifamily, multigenerational Memorial Day camping weekend with three sets of grandparents, although technically it can’t be Camp Grammapa if the intervening generation of parents is present. Still, camping rules are pretty lax to begin with: Everett had Cocoa Puffs for dinner and the twins had lollipops for breakfast. This year we reserved five campsites, three in the island and two across the street to the north. Thanks to all of the grandparents for making this weekend happen!
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To join the camping trip this year we flew from Salt Lake to Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday, May 20. This was the first of the last batch of flights during which the babies are lap children, and while the main motivation was to save money, we have been dreading it for some time. We got up around 6am, finished packing the car and were on the road to the airport by 6:30am as planned. By about 7:15 we had all 7 bags checked in by Skycap: two bags of carseats, one bag containing two pack-and-plays, two suitcases for Mom and children, one duffel bag for Chris and one 10-person tent. In the past we have never been able to checkin lap children at Skycap but apparently that has changed. They also seem to be more forgiving of luggage size – the tent was under the 50 lb limit but the dimensions were likely larger than allowed.

The flight was rough even under good circumstances. We tried to mitigate the chaos by giving each child an iDevice and a pair of headphones. Each baby got an iPod Touch and Everett got Chris’ old iPhone 4 (but without cell service). All devices were loaded up with movies and family pictures and kids music.
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This worked great for Everett and worked ok for the babies, but they didn’t seem to grasp that they had to avoid touching the screen to allow the movies to play. We had an extra seat on the leg from Salt Lake to Chicago so had a row of three seats for the kids to run around a bit. Then there was an hour delay in Chicago (on the plane – we didn’t switch planes) and we got into Louisville after 4pm. By 5:30 we were on the road to Cincinnati.

Thursday was spent running errands and getting some rest after the previous day of travel. Friday morning we packed the car for camping while the adults took turns keeping the babies occupied. Here is how the Play Doh activity went:
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We recently bought a new tent for camping. It’s a Coleman 10 person tent that prominently advertises on the bag that it can be erected in 60 seconds.
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We found that this was true: it did take 60 seconds, plus 29 minutes for all of the other pre- and post-preparation, so it all depends on when you start and stop the timer. This is a three season tent with two doors and a soundproof divider in the middle. It provided plenty of room for the two pack-and-plays, a sleeping pad for Everett and an inflatable queen mattress for Chris and Melissa.
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Camping: the babies are overwhelming. Partly because of this, and partly because of his age, Everett’s freedom has increased dramatically. He is officially an older kid now. He is off with them running around well after dark, and we must rely on collective parenting and intuition to detect if something is wrong. He was gone for long periods of time with Trinity, in radio contact, but we still didn’t know exactly where they were. He was also tending the fire with minimal supervision. There are lots of children throughout the campground and the pace of life is slow.

Friday night: we put the babies down around 7pm. Around 8:30 we realized that Teddy was still awake and crying, so we got him up and he had snacks and sat by the campfire with Grandaddy, and about an hour later we put him back down. He screamed so loudly that we woke Gwen up. Melissa tried going to sleep with them and by the time Chris came into the tent a short while later it was complete chaos: Melissa was exhausted and there were two toddlers on the loose. Chris played an episode of Jack’s Big Music Show for them and at around 10:30 we told Everett it was time for bed.
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Finally at 11 everyone was quiet. In exchange for losing 4 hours of sleep at bedtime the children slept an extra hour until 8am. It was chilly at night, probably around 50 degrees, and everyone was cold when we woke up.

On Saturday Everett lost another tooth. Matt setup a hammock setup between two trees. The adults are too heavy for it, but the kids loved it, including the babies. By the second day the older kids realized that they could flip the hammock over and swing upside down like this:

After a few hours of this Everett walked up to Melissa and said “Mom, this just happened” and showed that he had a mouthful of blood. He fell out of the hammock face first and had lost his second front tooth. He was a little shocked but didn’t cry and was back to his normal self after a few minutes. Soon afterward the babies took a nap while Chris and Melissa and Everett went to the nature center to see the turtles and snakes. Afterward we drove to the trailhead at Oak Grove where Melissa and Everett hiked the tunnel (which is open for the first time this year after being closed for about a decade due to white nose syndrome among bats). Meanwhile, Chris hiked around it and met them at the south entrance.
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Saturday night: we gave the babies a bath and them down around 7:30, and soon afterward sat down for adult dinner. The Barbers cooked Nancy’s Juicy Steak for dinner (named in honor of their former neighbor Nancy Westerhaus), which was delicious. After dinner we sat by the fire for a while until around 9:30 when Chris realized that Teddy was still awake and needed a diaper change. This also meant that Teddy got to stay up for the marshmallow fight (sorry Gwen!). He really got into it and even started throwing marshmallows at Dad.
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Sunday morning: around 8am Teddy was standing up in his crib saying “Hi! Hi! Hi!” The rest of the day was spent listening to the Indy 500 on the radio and slowly packing the cars while also trying to entertain the babies. They didn’t take much of a nap and instead spent some time in the baby pool. Will Power came in second. This meant that the Butson family won $12 from the betting pool, which was just enough to treat the Barber-Butson family to ice cream at Dairy Queen in Versailles.

Signs that this was a successful camping weekend: everyone was safe and healthy; no weather calamities; the children were exhausted when we got home Sunday night. Everett fell asleep in the back of Gabby’s car on the way home and it was very difficult to rouse him, but after a few tries we got him to walk inside and shower and eat and we put him to bed.
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Nimbles & Noonles

The babies’ verbal abilities are now expanding rapidly. They have gone from single words to conveying ideas using small sentences. This is a major turning point for all of us: for them it is now getting easier to express themselves, and it’s getting easier for us to understand. Like Everett (and most other children), the desire to speak is so strong that even when they can’t recall the correct word they will try to reproduce something similar, and if all goes well then this will be close enough that their parents will understand them. This is how it starts.

One of the roughhousing games that Dad plays with the children is belly nibbles. We recall the time at our Kavanaugh House when Everett was about 2 and said “Dada, can you nibble me?”. So Chris pounced on Everett and after a couple minutes Grandaddy said “Now that’s a proper nibble!” Everett has since grown to dislike it, but the babies seem to enjoy it quite a bit. Recently Chris started doing the same thing with them and a couple days later Gwen said “More? More nimbles?”. Chris knows that she wants to roughhouse because she sits in his lap and gets a pouncy look in her eye. She also does not like sharing Dada’s lap – if either of her brothers tries to join her she says “Like it!”, meaning she doesn’t like it, and she tries to push them away while saying “No! Off!”. Alternately, if Chris tries to nibble her and she doesn’t want it she says “No! No nimbles.” For some reason this feels different from when a boy says no.

Teddy has always been a picky eater so we take notice when he likes something. After a fair amount of experimenting we now know that he likes bacon and sausage. He also likes yogurt, or foods that resemble it such as sour cream. And of course he also likes anything that falls in the dessert category – tonight when we went to Mark and Emina’s house he took almost no interest in dinner but this changed as soon as dessert came out. As Chris ate bites of cake Teddy would open his mouth wide and smush his cheeks up against Chris’. This is the same kid who’s first word was “cookie” last December. Another food that he recently discovered is “noonles”, as in mac and cheese or really noodles of any kind. It is a relief to us to be able to find foods that he will eat, even if it is a limited list. Despite his pickiness, he can be pretty funny and spontaneously goofy at mealtimes. The other night he pulled his bib up over his head and waited for us to notice. He also takes food and puts it on his head while saying “Hat!”.

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Tonight Chris was playing with all three children on the bed. We were doing the piggy dance when Everett said:
“Ok Dada let’s make this good! Big bananadingdoos – really high! And then a ginormous flomp at the end!”
Of course Gwen and Teddy saw this and immediately took an interest. Teddy walked over to get some bounces, and Gwen started saying “My turn!”
After a while Chris said breathlessly “You…guys…are…wearing…me…out!”
Without missing a beat Everett said “That’s the point of us!”

The New York Times recently published an article called The Only Baby Book You’ll Ever Need. This was a review of “The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings,” by David F. Lancy. Coincidentally, Professor Lancy is in our new home state at Utah State University. According to the book, one of the key differences in the way that different cultures raise children can be boiled down to one concept: pick when green or pick when ripe. We are clearly a “pick when green” society. According to the article, Professor Lancy calls the American style of childrearing a “neontocracy” in which adults provide services to relatively few children who are considered priceless, even though they’re useless. The harsh sounding part of this sentence is the last word, though no one we know seems to argue with the concept of a neontocracy. Along these lines, when Chris was growing up he sometimes visited houses that had two staircases. Invariably one was the “front” staircase while the other was the “servant” staircase. The latter was probably an anachronism, but reflected that it’s purpose was to allow the house staff to efficiently go about their work without being seen. In our new house we have two staircases. One ends at the front door landing, while the other leads to the master bedroom. Hmm. Perhaps we should move into one of the children’s rooms?

One alternate view of the neontocracy which isn’t mentioned in this article is the idea that the “pick when ripe” cultures miss out on a lot of the joy and fun of having children. However, it is virtually impossible to infer this without learning more about those cultures, and so on our next family vacation we are going to visit a country with a parentocracy. That is, as soon as we can find one.

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