Friday, December 20, 2013

{joy} from the carlsons

We hope this season finds you experiencing the joy of friends and family.  Or at least pockets of time without the stress of shopping and shoveling.  

Having a 3 year old has helped us take a step back from the To-Do list this year to enjoy house decorating, snowball fights, and new aspects of gifting.  Eg. The gifts are constantly being moved to/from our couch, where Chase feels it keeps them safe from Kiefer stomping on them (one year old's new favorite thing, not kidding).  Also learned quickly wrapping should only occur while the boys are sleeping to avoid the wrapping paper rolls immediately being "refurbished" into pogo sticks or bats....

During 2013, Kevin has continued to save the playstation game at a time. He continues to work as an accountant at LaSalle and also volunteers as a punching bag/jungle gym for Chase’s classmates at church. He’s a pretty big deal in pre-school social circles.

Tracy is still managing events for BMO.  As a career mom, she has been blessed from the inspiration and encouragement of other moms in her monthly Career Mom lunch meeting.  The presentations and brainstorms have helped in so many ways in my parenting (and sanity).  Shoot us a note if you would like to start something similar in your community -- highly highly recommend.  Happy to provide topic ideas, tips for getting started, etc.  

We took our first family trip this year and went to San Antonio.  While we loved the water park, Sea World, and Safari, we didn't love the travel. And by "we", specifically Kiefer. We may take the next few years off from vacationing with kids so it will feel more like a, well, vacation.

Not that Kiefer is all bad (just when in a car/plane/anything restricting movement), as he has really blossomed into a fun character who enjoys to dance, wrestle, and hang upside down.  

Chase is using the potty and we look forward to the day he no longer wants to show us each and every successful attempt, or in his words: a "special surprise". He prefers not to wear a stitch of clothing, so many nights are spent with a tiny streaker running around the house.  

With the boys tucked in to bed, it is time to sneak in some gift wrapping without being pummeled by the roll.

Much joy to you all this season!
Kevin, Tracy, Chase, & Kiefer

Monday, October 14, 2013

How to Become a Millionaire

First off, You're Welcome.  Because if I wasn't so tired/lazy, these ideas would already be in motion and you wouldn't have the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of such high reward potential.  My only request is a 5% cut of future earnings.  Deal?

Battery Changer:
I typically buy toys without batteries (per the photos above).  You may think it is because I am an amazing mother who encourages my children to use their imagination; not allowing the toy to create the fun for them.  Uh, yeah sure, that's it.  

Hours of my life and strands of hair have gone missing due to dead toy batteries.   

The first obstacle is finding a teeny tiny screwdriver to release the 6 (SIX!!) miniature screws holding in the batteries.  The second issue is keeping the bouncing child calm while they wait for their toy to rise from the ashes.  Once the minuscule tool is located and the batteries are revealed, only then do you realize issue three.  You have A batteries, AA batteries, and two D batteries.  This toy requires three D batteries.  Of course it does.  So you stock up on D's thinking "these toys won't get the best of me."  But they will.  The next toy will reveal a need of C batteries.  

Please, I beg of you.  Start a business visiting families to change out dead toy batteries.  You will retire early and you will retire wealthy.  I will be your best customer.  

Toddlers into Energy Source  
How on earth do wind turbines turn wind into usable energy?  Do that.  A toddler is given some good exercise and you can guarantee a nap?  Done.  I have a toddler to contribute (for a fee of course).  

Frustration Free Toy Packaging: 
Though I have numerous complaints with toy packaging, I will focus on my top two rants: The Opening and The Wrapping.  

The Opening: 
There are typically two ways a child receives a wrapped toy:

(1) At the store, a toy is selected and the child carries the toy around asking incessantly when they can open it.  As a smart parent anticipating this scenario, the toy is the last item selected before you pay and leave.  Yet, no matter how quickly you navigate to the checkout, the child's anticipation and fervor is unrelenting.  Not to mention the toy aisle is the furthest location from the store exit.  After prying the box from the child to pay and 55 "can you open this" asks later, you arrive home.  Only to spend the next 45 minutes wrestling the hermetically sealed item out of the packaging.  Normally it should "only" take 20 minutes, but with the child trying to help, the process is lengthened and increases your number of self-inflicted scissor wounds in an attempt to avoid cutting your offspring.

(2) A birthday party.  Same bouncing, impatient child as in #1, but with more children crowding the unopened toy, the hysteria for instant toy gratification is immeasurable.  

There has to be a better way.  

The Wrapping:
Wrapping a packaged toy is a lesson in futility.  There are typically three nice solid sides to toy boxes.  And then a gaping hole where you can view and push one button of the toy.  Once the wrapping is complete you have to hold it only on the solid sides and are not allowed to touch or let wind blow on the precariously covered hole.  Try explaining this to the child who demands to present the gift to his friend.  

Since our gifts always ended up with a peek-a-boo tear in the front, friends now only receive gifts in bags. 

I leave it in your hands to help parents worldwide by developing a packaging system which is easy to wrap and open.  Please.

Nail Clipper or Pill to Stunt Nail Growth
I will pay big money to have someone visit my house weekly (which still is not frequent enough) to trim my one year old's nails.  Tools required: Clippers and a Car (or CTA pass).

Why does a nail even need to grow dead cells at such an alarmingly fast rate?  If you create a lotion or pill to simply slow the growth, my child will no longer resemble Wolverine for days on end.  Especially since our little man sustains far too many self inflicted wounds and doesn't heal quite as quickly as the true superhero.  Though his daggers do help level the playing field in toy battles with his older brother.  

I will try to look at the silver lining (self defense) until you have the capital to get this up and running.  

Write a Children's Book
Concerned because you don't have a theme in mind nor do you have a firm grasp on verbs, adjectives, fragments, and run-on sentences?  Well, you are in luck, because this is the perfect recipe to become a children's author.   My extensive research has shown nearly all books are poorly written with weak story lines...but, hey! look at these cute drawings!  

And these are the books my son continues to clamor for.  His specialty tends to be the this-is-so-terribly-written-it-is-painful-to-read category.  My toddler's favorite book highlights a black and white checkered elephant, who is also a ventriloquist.   Yep.  Because that makes perfect sense and is a breeze to explain.  

Kids obviously have no concept of bad literature, so you may as well make some easy money and add to our reading pile. 
Here's hoping you bring one of the ideas to fruition so we can both get some extra cash flow.  That's right, "we" - the ideas are worth a little something...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

one year {take two}

Kiefer Maddox Carlson.  One Year.  He made it.  More importantly, we survived too.   

When reviewing the monthly progression photos below, Kiefer's first year of life can probably be summed up as: 
0-6 months:  What's happening?  Where am I? | 7-12 months: HEY!  I like it here!  I like you guys!

0-1 Months: Kiefer entered the world as the teeniest baby I have ever seen.  And slept really really well.  During the day.  Only during the day.

2 Months:  See above.

3 Months:  The first non-gas related smiles surfaced.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, the smiles were mostly at night, as he still hadn't transitioned to a normal sleep schedule.

4 Months:  Develops an amazing ability to grip all items.  His favorite object: Mom's hair.   His method: grip it and rip it.

5 Months:  Does NOT like to have any limbs moved against his will.  Which isn't bad...unless you need to change his diaper or his outfit.  Which is all. the. time.  

6 Months:  Sat up and started playing catch (if we could convince him to release the beach ball from his gums).

7 months: On our milestones calendar, we wrote: "Kiefer Teething!"  With an exclamation point.  Apparently we were delirious.  Needless to say, his teething has been anything but exciting.  The only exclamations around this phase typically follow the phrase: I found the medicine!!

8 Months: Loves Yogurt Melts.  ONLY yogurt melts. Dislikes every other solid.  Crawled.  Stood.  Pushed his walker every waking moment until covered in sweat.  Therefore creating a vicious circle of needing more yogurt melts to replenish his energy.

9 Months: The school claims there is footage of Kiefer eating and enjoying his non-yogurt-melt meal.  The teachers say he loves (LOVES!) vegetables and cheese.  Allegedly.  Have yet to see this so-called evidence.

10 Months: Kiefer finally stopped flirting with the idea of walking and took his first steps.  Prefers the opposite direction.  We want to go right?  He heads left.  We need to go straight?  He doesn't.  Opposite. 

11 Months: If Kiefer were a super hero, he would be Potty Boy: powers include finding open toilets in the blink of an eye (joyously throwing in his hand and splashing around); pushing Bjorn potties faster than a speeding bullet (and typically hiding or removing the actual, required seat insert). 

12 Months: Experiences best birthday of his life - there was clapping, high fives, and dancing to anything with a beat (probably didn't even notice one family member say the wrong name during his happy birthday song). 

Kiefer has been a good addition to the family (and yes, we still consider this our complete family).  His smile and laugh are contagious and we look forward to seeing this little fireplug grow (hopefully pushing past the 25th percentile) and learn.  And I look forward to the day when my hair is no longer involved in his favorite game.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Picture Perfect

Me, obviously no better than others clamoring for photos.  Chase, a social media kid in training.
The emergence of social media has made my life simultaneously better and worse.  In just a few minutes, I can touch base with friends and family -- interesting trips, recent accomplishments, and funny random quips.  Please don't guilt trip me with the "face-to-face is better" lecture.  I agree, but with two small children & working full time my choice is either never see anyone or take what I can get on facebook.  

One of the greatest perks is reconnecting with friends of the past.  A perfect example: My grade school best friend and I drifted apart after her family moved.  Most likely due to struggles over long distance conversation topics beyond the "I played with My Little Pony and Barbie today" from our first letters.  

Whoa, sorry.  I am probably getting ahead of myself here.  For the younger generation, a "letter" is the way people communicated in the old days.  We would take out paper and write words in long hand -- without using abbreviations -- with pencils or pens.  Pencils are...oh, nevermind...

Shockingly two 9 year-olds couldn't keep close from a long distance.  But with the existence of facebook (just a "few" years later), we can now share life events & updates without searching for a stamp.  Though with a new daughter in her life, I am guessing there may be talk of My Little Pony again in her future.

And while many have a similar reunion story, we most likely also share a similar struggle:  The photo obsession.  When experiencing a milestone or new adventure, instead of living in the moment, my first thought is often a variation of "how can we get someone to take our picture and how quickly can we get this photo online?"  

This was poignantly clear at my recent work event with Chicago Blackhawks player Patrick Sharp.  The event was to provide a small, select group time with the player and the cup.  Instead of networking with Sharp, it turned into a boring and stuffy photo line.  Hardly any words were spoken.  Guests walked up, handed their iPhone to a stranger, and prayed for a good photo to post seconds later.  It was sad to see people sacrifice what could have been a memorable experience to cyber brag.  By the photo above, I was obviously no different. 

Even my three year old was sucked into the photo trend.  He was crazed about meeting the mascot at a nearby baseball game.  Crazed.  The prospect of giving "Ozzie" a hug was all he talked about.  Nevermind that our son had not heard of or seen this animal until I innocently mentioned he was about to visit us.  Finally, an exhaustive 20 minutes (and 200 "Where's Ozzie?" questions) later, Ozzie entered the room.  After Chase watched the other children mob the furry cougar for photos, he wanted the same.  So as we scrambled for a picture, the hug was lost in the shuffle. 

I realize this comes across as an anti-photo campaign, which isn't my intention.  In no way do I inspire to be like my husband, who would have no photographic evidence of his life if not for me.     

Luckily, there is hope for our family.  Upon realizing Ozzie left without a hug, our son was distraught.  Fortunately, we tracked down Ozzie for a hug and "conversation."  Now our boy beams at his photo with Ozzie because of a great memory.  I just hope to have the same attitude in situations -- to  focus on the moment more than getting a picture perfect pose.

Speaking of facebook, another huge perk is the ability to "like" the Will Blog for Sleep page!
You're Welcome.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mothers vs. Fathers: In the Public Eye

Left: At the scene of the crime; Right: Celebrating Father of the Year
Being a mother and a casual observer of the human race, it warrants me the right to shed light on the interesting public response to parents out and about with their children.

A battle of Mothers vs. Fathers, if you will.  

Thankfully it isn't actually a competition.  Because there is a clear "winner"....and it isn't me.

Let's start with an the average bus ride experience.  As I board the bus, baby strapped to my front; toddler pushing his way through the sea of legs, it is business as usual.  No one notices my existence or offers a seat.  The only time an eye is lifted is if one (or both) of the children makes a scene.   And these once avoidant eyes now contain harsh scrutiny.  Most looks have a bonus "tsk-tsk" noise to accompany them.  I am so lucky to have the "village" there to help. 

Now swap the mother with the father in the above scenario and watch what happens.  The bus door opens and as people notice the father with tot and baby in tow, a sea of smiling faces gaze adoringly in his direction and fall over themselves to offer him a seat.  The children receive pats on the head and a murmur erupts regarding this Father of the Year. 

And if the children act up, the previous judgers lean over to help out any way they can.  It sparks up conversation.  Numbers are exchanged.  Okay, the numbers thing is an exaggeration.  But he would truly make a killing in the lady department if it wasn't for the whole "baggage" of having a wife.

True, this is one isolated occurrance.  Does the same Father Effect happen elsewhere?

One morning I had to cart both kids solo to gymnastics class, as Kevin was unable to join.  While the class was a pretty good time, Chase had to be patient while I shifted  the baby around to be able to ensure Kiefer wouldn't topple over as I steadied Chase on the balance beam.  Chase waited while Kiefer and I took a short feeding break and was forgiving when we skipped the parallel bars since I have yet to grow the necessary third arm for situations involving holding two children -- one balancing precariously 6 feet from the ground.  

Two weeks later the situation was reversed and Kevin attended the class alone.  When asked how the morning was, he exclaimed "it was great!  When I got there, one of the coaches saw I had both boys and took Chase through the course while I held Kiefer."  

I wish I could say I was surprised.  

To be clear, I think my husband is an amazing father and absolutely fantastic with our kids.  Heck, I devoted a whole blog entry to him, so he knows he's good.   He deserves the accolades & extra support...but don't moms too?  The assumption from society is that I should be doing this all and handling it alone perfectly well because I am a mother. 

I'd like a pat on the back too.  Or maybe an empathic smile that implies: "good job mom.  You can make it through today".  

Or at a minimum, let's stop with the tsk-ing.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Signs You Have a Toddler - Part II

As a continuation of Part I, below is the second half of signs you may have a toddler.  Based on my final score of 100%, we are neck deep in "toddler" at home:

(5) You eat really healthy.  Until the kid is asleep.
When my son is awake, we are incredibly healthy.  We sing songs about trying new and healthy foods.  We smile as we ingest carrots: MMM...this is so good, you'll love it!  

Then our son goes to bed.  Within seconds, ice cream is removed from the freezer, and/or Doritos sit out in the open, and/or cookies are finally released from their cupboard.  If I am honest with myself, the charade is 50% health and 50% selfish.  While I want him to avoid sugar, I also don't want to share.  Those Milano cookies ain't cheap.

(6) Each day has a 75% chance of dancing
And a 100% chance of singing.  When spontaneous dancing occurs, it is easily my favorite moment of the day.  Music not required.  "Dancing" is defined as mostly hopping around, running in circles, followed by flopping to the floor.  There is a slight potential of bruising, but it's worth it.

(7) If I am getting a babysitter, my night better be amazing.
I've turned down many requests for a quick drink after work or a fun networking event.  While fun, it's not $15/hour fun.  I am not wasting my money (or time) on a good movie.  It  has to have the potential of being revered as one of the funniest or most action packed of all time.  Or at least have Daniel Craig or Emma Stone as one of the actors.

Dinner out?  Maybe, but there are rules.  If this is the newest and hottest restaurant in town, I am game.  If it is the joint around the corner, no thank you.  I may as well take the kids, because someone will saddle up to our table with them anyway.  If I'm paying a sitter, I  want my night to be kid-free.

(8) Your floors are dirty.
It's almost a joke to clean them.  As soon as I pick up the broom, my son wants to help.  Which, in theory, is cute.  In reality, he manages to find any dirt piles and re-distribute the grime.  Like desperately freeing an animal who has been caged.  Or if he uses the fact I am distracted to walk throughout the freshly cleaned rooms munching on only snacks with a high bite-to-crumble ratio.  

So if you visit my home unannounced (or potentially even with fair warning), please keep on your shoes.  Otherwise, potential is high for you to leave with some cheerios or jelly adorning your socks. 

(9) Commercials make so much more sense
To be fair, this starts somewhat at the birth of your child, but when they are toddlers, the commercials are like mini-dramas -- you laugh, you cry, you identify...and then of course you buy the product.  Hands down my favorite is the woman who cleans with the swiffer in half the time then runs around pointing at a book saying: I'm going to read one of these! 

(10) You are an incredibly slow runner 
No matter what, I can never quite reach the ball or cross the finish line before my toddler.  Sure, my legs are 3x the length of his, but I am impossibly slow runner.  And on the off-chance I magically (read: accidentally) arrive first, I somehow can't get my hands around it.  The toddler always wins. 

And don't get me started on my skills at hide and seek.  They are just pathetic.