We Get What We Give

December 29, 2013

Graham_Chiefs_Small“Mommy, will you play with me?”

My sweet Graham asks this question nearly every day. And being the fool I am, my usual response is, “Oh baby, I’m making dinner…working…cleaning…[insert lame excuse]. Can we play later?”

“Sure, Mommy.”

Much too often, “later” never materializes. Graham finds something else to do, and I keep on with my boring adult task of the moment. He seems happy enough, and I don’t worry too much about it. And yet…I do.

Graham is a free-spirited, independent child, moving quickly from adventure to adventure. One second, he’s playing tackle football with Wyatt in the front room. The next, he’s wearing a dinosaur mask and growling at passersby. And the next, he’s building a bow and arrow from stray sticks. He’s always, always busy, and it’s easy to just let him do his thing. After all, he doesn’t need entertainment. He’s perfectly capable of amusing himself for hours!

But what he does need—and crave—is attention from the big people in his life. He wants you to come into his world from time to time, joining him for some Hobbit swordplay or a Hot Wheels drag race. And he wants to join your “boring adult” world, too, especially when mowing the lawn or cooking is involved.

Graham will take attention however he can get it—positive, negative, doesn’t matter. When left to his own devices, he’ll generally find his way to trouble, and he’s perfectly satisfied when you come running to put a stop to it. It’s easy to think he’s just mischievous with a bold streak of naughty. But really, he wants people to pay attention to what he’s doing. And the more attention you pay, the more you catch him being good.

Christian and I have learned that Graham’s behavior generally reflects the investment we make in him. When we put positive energy in, we get a solid return in sweetness, cuddles and good conversation. When we withhold attention, we get paid out in tantrums and trouble.

The math is pretty simple. We get what we give.

Advertisements
Published in: on December 30, 2013 at 1:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Honeymoon Rinse and Repeat!

Honeymooners

June 10, 2013

Ten years ago, Christian and I started out on this funny journey called marriage. We were practically children at the time—still in college, utterly naive and very poor. But we knew we had a good thing going, and getting hitched seemed like the natural next step.

Our first order of business as a married couple was to jump on a plane to Cabo San Lucas for what proved to be a completely perfect honeymoon. Christian’s generous uncle and aunt gave us a week of their timeshare as a wedding gift, and we were able to stay in a posh suite at a beautiful seaside resort in Baja California.

We had no funds for food, mind you, and subsisted on pop tarts and Goober peanut butter sandwiches for most of the week. On the one night we did “splurge” and go out, we shared a single meal and a cocktail. But you know what? We were happy as clams and didn’t feel a bit sorry for ourselves. We were in love, enjoying a week of wonderful relaxation in a setting more beautiful than any we’d seen. It was perfectly perfect.

We made up our minds on our honeymoon that 10 years later, we’d go back to Cabo to celebrate our first decade as Mr. and Mrs. Nord. And this past week, we did just that. We had a bit more in the bank this time and were able to forego the peanut butter and pop tarts. But the essence of our trip was very much the same—time spent in quiet companionship, easy conversation, lots of laughter, a few minor mishaps and a little adventure along the way.

More than anything, our second honeymoon reminded me how lucky I am to be married to such a remarkable person. Christian is a catch, and I am deeply grateful for his love, friendship, patience and unwavering support.

So here’s to another decade! And another, and another, and another. It’s 50 years or bust, baby!

__________________

Check out a few photos from our 2013 Cabo adventure. For more, visit Facebook.

Our beautiful seaside resort, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica

Our beautiful seaside resort, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica

Ready for our dune buggy adventure! We got dirt...everywhere.

Ready for our dune buggy adventure! We got dirt…everywhere.

Wonderful anniversary dinner at our honeymoon resort, Sunset Beach

Wonderful anniversary dinner at our honeymoon resort, Sunset Beach

Walking the long, long beach on our last day in paradise

Walking the long, long beach on our last day in paradise

Published in: on June 11, 2013 at 4:25 am  Comments (1)  

Fabulous Four

January 24, 2013

Monster GrahamOn New Year’s Eve, the Nord family officially said goodbye to the Terrible 3’s. Our little man Graham turned Fabulous 4, and we’re all pretty excited! (Understatement.) Don’t get me wrong—I love Graham to pieces and give thanks for every day he’s in my life. But 3 is a tough age, especially for parents who suffer from Patience Deficiency and Whine Aversion (both debilitating medical conditions).

I’ve been reflecting about our family adventures as I always do at this time of year, and I’ve thought a lot about why the merry old age of 3 was so generally grumpy for Graham.

Why does he despise everything I cook?

Why does he insist on wearing pajamas all the time?

Why does he take such fiendish delight in the words “fart” and “poopy”?

Why does he run and hide under the dining room table when I’m already 10 minutes late for work forcryingoutloud???

The answer is clearly and obviously “because he was 3.” My logical brain knows this, and yet I’ve pondered these questions as I would the great mysteries of the universe.

When it comes to Graham, though, I think there’s a bit more to the answer. It comes down to the fundamentals of his personality, which vexed me deeply at age 3 but will probably make me very proud as he grows into adulthood.

Graham is his own man. He is confident. He is decisive. He is spirited! He’s also frustratingly stubborn, but then again, so am I…and I rather admire that quality in myself. 🙂

Without a doubt, Graham will lead a life of adventure and independence. He will travel the world. He will skydive. He will climb the sheer side of a mountain with no ropes or shoes. And he will most certainly cause me many hours of anxiety.

But he is also the delight of my life—such an interesting and wonderful person, and I can’t quite remember what Christian and I talked about before he arrived on our scene. So here’s to the Fabulous 4’s for Grammy Henry! I wish him a year—and a lifetime—of brilliant escapades, pirate adventure and a restful nap from time to time.

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Family with Fur

Christian and I sometimes dream about a life without pets. No more litter boxes to scoop. No more running out of dog food at 8 o’clock at night in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. No more fur…everywhere.

This is only a dream, of course. When it comes to pets, we’re “lifers.” There’s something special about sharing our home with these troublesome albeit loveable creatures. They’re a major pain in the rump, but somehow it’s totally worth it.

Our attachment to the fur-people was made painfully clear this last week when we had to put our cat Bimbo to sleep. She battled and dominated cancer a year ago and bounced back in fine shape. But this past week, her body got the best of her, and she went downhill very quickly. Late Sunday night, we had to take her to an emergency clinic and send her off to that great catnip farm in the sky.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard in my life. It’s funny how ridiculously attached you can become to a critter. Bimbo was something like a child, though I didn’t fully realize how much she meant to me until she was gone. We’ve really felt her absence this week, and it’s been a melancholy time for Christian and me.

Bimbo was a wonderful kitty. We called her “Bimbo Baggins of the Shire,” and she was the perfect little hobbit—hairy feet, a tad grumpy and hungry all the time. She was also a staple fixture at the foot of our bed and had no trouble leaping up there even after she lost a hind leg to cancer.

One of my favorite memories of Bimbo was last year around Christmas time. Christian and I were piled in bed with Wyatt and Graham, and Bimbo was in her usual spot at our feet. Graham was checking her out with a look of concern and finally said, “Mommy, Bimbo needs a new brown leg. We can get her one for Christmas at Target.”

The boys always considered Bimbo “their cat.” She patiently tolerated all their brutish behavior—petting her fur in the wrong direction, schlepping her around the house, and generally disturbing her sleep. She never complained, and I loved her for it.

When we had to put Bimbo down, I was really worried about how the boys would react—especially Wyatt, who is very tender hearted. We broke the news to them at dinner the next evening, and Wyatt responded with an open-mouth look of shock for about 10 seconds followed by (of all things), “Can we get a new cat?”

Good grief. I suppose I should be thankful for the lack of tears and drama, but I was rather expecting a little more sorrow. Oh well. I suppose Christian and I shed enough tears for poor Bimbo to make up for the boys’ indifference. And I suppose we all need to move on with our lives. Missing Bimbo won’t bring her back, but I do miss her just the same. She was my good girl, my little friend, and there will always be a spot at the end of my bed for her little furry soul.

Published in: on October 7, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kindergarten Memories

June 17, 2012

I’m not sure who liked Kindergarten better—Wyatt or me. He had an awesome year at Calvary Lutheran School in South Kansas City, and I’m more than a little sad that it’s over. He went in as a wild thing and came out the other end a bona fide student. A happy, confident boy who can read, write and tell you all about it five times fast.

I could blather on about all the fun and exciting things Wyatt did in Kindergarten, but instead I’ll share a video that I created for his teacher. It sums up Wyatt’s adventures and friendships better than simple words could express. Be sure to watch it with your sound on for full effect. Enjoy!

Published in: on June 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Reading Machines

April 23, 2012

While Christian and I were frantically getting ready for church yesterday morning (with a whopping 10 minutes to spare), I suddenly noticed that the boys were quiet. This generally means bad things. Like emptying out the refrigerator. Coloring on things I care about. Or sneaking the entire contents of their bedrooms down to the basement.

I began a speedy search of the house, certain I would find something that would not make my day. I heard little voices coming from Wyatt’s room…cracked open the door…and found them both in Wyatt’s bed, tucked under the covers, reading. Super. Cute.

It makes my heart happy to see both of my boys turning into bookworms. At three years old, Graham is gobbling up books as fast as we can feed them. He has a particular hankering for the Critter books by Mercer Mayer (“I just did it myself!”) and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (“I’ll eat you up!”). Generally speaking, if the story’s main character is strong-willed, adventuresome and naughty, Graham loves it.

With his amazing memory for books, Graham has started “reading” to us lately. It goes something like this:

Me: “That very night in Max’s room, a forest grew…”

Graham: “…and grew and GREW until his whole room is a forest and he sails away to the wild things and they roll their terrible eyes and show their claws and Max says ‘BE STILL!’”

I think Graham has a future in writing CliffsNotes. 🙂 His motto is “skip to the good stuff!”

Wyatt, on the other hand, is reading every word these days—all on his own. He’s wrapping up a very wonderful year of Kindergarten and reading up a storm. It’s amazing to watch a child’s mind come alive as he learns to read. In just a few months, Wyatt has gone from sounding out each individual syllable in painful detail (“g-rrr-ih-ul-ay?”) to reading fluently at the 1st grade level and beyond (“gorilla!”).

Christian and I are quite proud of our bookish boys and hope they’ll continue down this path. I can’t imagine going through life without a rich cast of characters floating through my mind, and it fills me with delight to think that my boys will soon encounter Oliver Twist, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, Bunnicula, the Baudelaire orphans, and maybe…just maybe…the great Elizabeth Bennet. (Hey, a mom can hope!)

Published in: on April 24, 2012 at 2:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Fact or Fiction

January 17, 2012

A typical weekday evening in the Nord household sounds something like this:

Mommy/Daddy: “Wyatt, how was Kindergarten today?”

Wyatt: “Oh brother. Fine.”

Mommy/Daddy: “What did you do?”

Wyatt: “Ummmmm…we went outside one time and we played in the warehouse two times.”

M/D: “Oh, yeah? Did you learn anything?”

Wyatt: “Nope.”

M/D: “Lovely.”

You can imagine my surprise and delight one recent evening when Wyatt responded to my “How was your day?” query as follows: “We had a program today at school. The first and second graders from the other campus came over on the school bus and did a program for us. Then we went outside to play and we had hot chocolate when we came back inside.” Though not exactly an academic discussion, I was nonetheless pleased that he had something moderately interesting to say about the last eight hours of his life. I thought, perhaps, we were having a breakthrough.

Such hopes were quickly dashed, however, when I went to choir practice that night. You see, I happen to sit next to Wyatt’s Kindergarten teacher in the church choir. She’s a lovely woman, and we like to chat it up while the rest of the choir rehearses their parts. While our lone bass stumbled through a particularly tricky passage, I leaned to Wyatt’s teacher and said, “So, I hear you had a program today.” She looked at me puzzled. I said, “Didn’t you have a program from the first and second graders at the other campus?” She said, “Noooo…” I asked if they had gone outside. No. Hot chocolate? Definitely not.

Wyatt had made up the whole story. And with confidence! I was dumbfounded, and frankly felt pretty dumb. He had taken me for a ride on his imagination train, and I’d been a very willing passenger.

If this had been a single occurrence of truth-stretching, I probably would have shrugged it off. But unfortunately, Wyatt has been intermixing fact and fiction for several weeks now, and I can’t help but think that he enjoys pulling a fast one (or twelve) on the adults in his life. He hasn’t lied about anything serious, but there’s definitely a pattern of half truths, quarter truths and nonexistent truths going on here.

I stewed about Wyatt’s “program” story all night, and as soon as I could reasonably drag him out of bed the next morning, I did. We sat together at the dining room table, and I told him that he was busted. (He sulked.) I asked him why he lied to me. (Because he wanted to.) And I told him that he had made me sad. Did he like making me sad? (No, of course, he didn’t.)

I know this latest phase for Wyatt is perfectly normal. And I know it’s not the last time he’ll pull one over on me. He’s way too good at it not to try his luck a few more (hundred) times. There’s also a part of me that’s impressed by his imagination. The kid can spin a good tale, and there are lots of useful applications for such a talent. (Famous novelist, anyone?)

What this situation calls for is a little “channeling of energies.” Maybe a heavy dose of imaginative play will lessen his need to embellish his ho-hum life. Or maybe it will just make him better at his craft. Either way, he’s a good kid. And I love that little dude.

Published in: on January 18, 2012 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Freedom

October 30, 2011

Christian and I went on a kid-free bike ride on Friday afternoon. We’ve been trying to do this for approximately 5 years—ever since parenthood staked its claim on our mythological “free time.” With a few hours of relief from our hectic work lives, and with the boys safely tucked away at school, Christian and I made our escape down the Tomahawk Creek Trail, and we had the best time. The October sunshine was absolutely perfect, and we felt like kids again, speeding along with the wind in our faces. I’m pretty sure I inhaled a bug at one point, but no matter. It was a glorious afternoon.

As we pedaled along, my mind traveled back to my childhood summers in the country. As a kid, I was a bona fide bike-a-holic. My friend Brian and I rode all over the neighborhood, and we enjoyed total freedom in our little adventures. I can remember riding miles in the blistering heat, and there were many times when our folks had no idea where we were. And frankly, it didn’t matter. Our environment was safe. We were trustworthy kids. And we had earned the right to go and do as we pleased, within reason.

While Christian and I enjoyed our own little adventure on Friday, we talked a lot about our childhood bike excursions. We also talked about our own kiddos and their serious lack of freedom—at least at the present time. We watch those boys like hawks, partly because they are uber naughty, and partly because we are terrified at the thought of losing them. It’s hard to imagine a time when we’ll let them take off on their own bikes, riding out of sight to who-knows-where. It makes me crazy to think of it, but it also makes me very sad to think that I would not allow them the freedom I enjoyed as a kid.

The media’s hyper-coverage of childhood tragedies has given me leave to indulge my psycho mom-ness to the nth degree. And I do think there’s a lot to be said for being aware of what your kids are doing, who they’re with and where they are. But it’s also possible to take a “constant vigilance” approach way too far. Kids need freedom to play and chase and climb and break a few bones without Mommy being right there to squash their fun.

I hope we can raise our kids to be trustworthy, and I hope they’ll earn the right to do as they please, within reason. But most of all, I hope that we can parent like our own parents did—giving Wyatt and Graham the opportunity to make their own choices and mistakes, knowing that they are equipped to make good choices. After all, how can they grow up to be fine young men without inhaling a few bugs along the way?

Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 3:03 am  Comments (1)  

Gone in a Flash

August 14, 2011

Ah, summer is here. That wonderful time when we kick back, relax, and enjoy a cool glass of lemonade while swinging lazily in a hammock, reading an emotionally stirring best seller. Birds are singing. Lawn mowers are buzzing. Children are playing contentedly in the sandbox, taking turns with the shovel and pail while the dog rests quietly nearby. It’s summertime, and the living is easy.

[Please insert sound of record scratching…if you remember what that sounds like.]

Summer is GONE, and I’m ready to put out a missing person’s report on it! I swear, I turned around for one second and it’s vanished. Poof. Sayonara. See you later.

How on earth did this happen? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we put our house on the market…then sold it…then bought a new one…then moved…then celebrated Wyatt’s 5th birthday…then painted every non-moving surface in the new house…then had our cat’s cancerous leg amputated…then went on a much-needed family vacation? I’m certain this was all just yesterday, but perhaps I’m losing track of time. Yes, that must be it.

As I flung open the windows this evening for our first AC-free night in a long time, I heard the all-too-familiar chorus of cicadas singing, “Go to school! Go to school you fool!” I simply can’t believe how quickly summer escaped us this year. Wyatt is packed and ready for Kindergarten, Christian’s cross country season is underway, Graham is experimenting with women’s clothing at daycare, and we are all back in the swing of things…kicking and screaming the whole way.

I’ve been entirely remiss in my blogging this summer, and since I can’t even remember what we had for dinner this evening, I won’t attempt to describe our dog days with any wit or style. Instead, I’ll take the cheap and easy road…a photo journal. Enjoy!

Wyatt kicked up his heels in the Brookside Soccer Club. He was fairly terrible but very cute.

Graham and Wyatt put in the hard work to get our house sold.

Grammy’s future is so bright!

On moving day, Wyatt decided to find his perfect sleep number on the family room floor.

Grammy informed us that the Justin Bieber hairdo is so last season. Now it’s all about “The Rooster.”

Gone are the days of dark-wood paneling! After a marathon painting weekend, the family room is now bright and cheery.

Wyatt spends his free time dreaming up the next Facebook.

Peas. Pod. Need I say more?

Maiden voyage on the new bike! Easy on the breaks there, Captain.

Newly painted bedroom. Buh-bye pink walls.

First evening in Cape Cod with the family. Cold water cannot stop us!

The scuba brigade…and Pig-Pig.

Jacob, Wyatt, Abby…and Trout.

My little beach bum. No, really. He’s a bum. He has no job.

Bittersweet end to a wonderful vacation with our boys. Goodbye summer. We’ll see you next year!

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 4:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Tough Sell

April 22, 2011

After six years of happy residence in Santa Fe Hills, we put our first home on the market yesterday. This action was coupled with all the usual feelings of excitement, anxiety and uncertainty that come with selling…or attempting to sell…a house. But for me, there’s also a great sense of sadness. We did so much in this house as a family, and as much as I’d like a quick sell for the preservation of our sanity, I also dread the day that we’ll have to turn off the lights, shut the door, and walk away.

This house is very special to us, primarily because we made so much family history here. Some of our notable firsts include:

  • First baby (and second)
  • First bottles, binkies and blowouts
  • First rolls, crawls and steps
  • First smiles and giggles
  • First words—spoken and read
  • First tricycle rides and big wheel races
  • First dance parties in the living room
  • First tender hugs and kisses from our two wonderful boys

Christian and I also learned so much as homeowners, like how to build a deck, how to install tile, how to hang drywall, and how to paint, paint, paint. (Did I mention painting?) Out of all the hours that Christian and I put into remodeling nearly every square inch of this house, we also learned that we make a GREAT team as husband and wife. Sure, we bickered a bit, but we also supported each other, praised each other and powered through the difficult moments together. I’m so proud of Christian for all his handiness and hard work, and I think he’s proud of me, too, and happy to have a wife who gets her hands dirty.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve worked like mad to get our house picture perfect and ready for sale. We’ve finished all those last-minute projects, touched up all the paint, hung a window box for flowers—all things we should have done years ago for our own enjoyment. We’ve worked ourselves into near exhaustion, and I definitely hit a low moment one evening when I was painting over a thousand little fingerprints on our hallway walls. I realized that I was covering up all evidence that our children had learned to walk in this house, one wobbly step at a time. Christian found me crying, wet paintbrush in hand, and wondering why we were doing this at all.

Our first house is wonderful, indeed, for all the work we’ve put into it and all the memories we’ve made. Will it be a tough sell? The current market is certainly not kind to sellers, and I’m prepared to be patient…to a point. But I think we have a good chance of finding someone who will fall in love with it like we did six years ago.

For our family, though, this house will definitely be tough to sell. We’ve been so happy here, and it’s hard to imagine this house not being OUR house. I do look forward to finding our “family home”—the one we plan to stay in until the boys are grown and off to see the world. But this house, our first house, will always be special to me, and I think I’ll always harbor some regret about letting her go.

Published in: on April 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment