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.

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)  

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  

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  

Thank You for Coming

February 13, 2011

After 97 years of a life well lived, my wonderful Grandma has gone to Heaven. We celebrated her life yesterday in Caldwell, Kansas and laid her to rest next to Grandpa in the Czech Cemetery. It was a tough day, of course, but also a joyful one as we remembered Grandma’s terrific sense of humor, eager interest in the world around her, and love for her family and friends.

Grandma was a great lady. There’s no other way to put it. She was always sharp. Always classy. And she had a gift for engaging people in conversation, even when she couldn’t hear very well anymore. Part of her “gift of gab” was her ability to ask good questions, which is an art I think we’re losing in modern society. Most people are so caught up in their own lives and want nothing more than to talk about themselves. Grandma, in contrast, was always asking questions of others. “How are you?” “What’s new with your job?” “What activities are the children doing?” “Did you hear about such and such in the news?” “What do you think of this athlete or that coach?”

She had an uncommon interest in learning new things, right up until her very last days. She read every scrap of her daily newspaper, always had a crossword puzzle near completion, and was ready to chat with anyone on a wide variety of topics: politics, sports, business, the economy, farming, you name it. I was always so impressed by her active mind, and every year I would remark, “She’s 93 and sharp as a tack!” “She’s 94…95…96…97 and still sharp as a tack!”

I was and am very proud to be her granddaughter. She represented so many qualities that I hope to possess myself. Grandma was strong willed and incredibly determined. She was intelligent and witty. She wasted NOTHING—not time, not money, not any little thing that could be re-used. And she knew the meaning of diligence and sacrifice in the face of significant hardship and loss.

Grandma was indeed a great lady, and I emphasize the word “lady.” Like many of her generation, she always wore her pantyhose and earrings, always wanted her hair just so, and always had impeccable manners. Every time I visited her, even if our conversation lasted only a few minutes, she would smile and say “Thank you for coming.” It was a great gift to my mom, sister and me that on Grandma’s last night with us, she awoke from a sound sleep as we were leaving, looked us right in the eyes, smiled, and said “Thank you for coming.”

I would say many things to Grandma now if I could. Things I wish I would have expressed to her while she was with us. But in the absence of her physical presence, I’ll send her this simple message: “Thank you, Grandma, for coming into my life. Thank you for the gift of my wonderful mother. Thank you for being so sweet to me and to my children. And thank you for setting such a lovely example of a life well lived.”

Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Escape to Merry London

October 24, 2010

My lack of an English accent is my lifelong sorrow. Given the time I’ve invested in reading Jane Austen’s complete works (and re-reading them more times than I care to admit), I feel that I deserve an accent fitting my love of all things English. But alas, I’m an American, and I’ll always speak with the rather bland, non-descript inflection of my fellow Midwesterners.

Why not challenge fate, though? Why not see what can be accomplished with a little accent immersion? These were my irrational thoughts a few weeks ago as I jumped on a plane with my good friend Annie and jetted off across the pond.  Perhaps a week in merry London would turn me into a regular Kate Winslet!

My experiment failed, of course, though I did pick up some really excellent expressions. (For example, “I’m feeling a bit peckish!”) The trip was not a loss, however. Annie and I had a fabulous time tromping around the city, seeing everything we could possibly squeeze into our meager free time. (We were there, unfortunately, for business and spent most of the week cooped up in a conference center.)

Though our London adventure was brief, we made the most of it, as illustrated in this photo journal:

Annie and I in Newark, ready to board the bird!

After approximately an hour and a half of sleep in a two-day period, here we are waiting outside Buckingham Palace for our tea time with the Queen. She totally stood us up! Inconceivable.

Is this the way to the Ministry of Magic?

Pubbing it up with a pint or twelve.

I love the taxis in London. I would absolutely drive one of these! You wouldn’t believe the storage space.

Annie and I went to church at Westminster Abbey—a beautiful and memorable experience (if you don’t count the brief time I nodded off during the sermon. Ooops!)

These signs on the street literally saved us from certain demise as we traipsed about the city. In my opinion, the British drive on the wrong side of the road. This is not a complaint. Just an observation.

 

Our fancy-schmancy lunch at Harrods. Yum!

The smile on my face indicates that I had not yet realized that we were five minutes late to get into the Tower of London. Rats!

The Traitor’s Gate, where Anne Boleyn was brought into the Tower of London for a little off-with-her-head action.

A late-night stop at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Followed by a dinner of Bangers and Mash at one of the oldest pubs in London. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese dates back to 1667 and was built for people who were approximately four feet tall.

After a long week of work and fun in merry London, Annie and I were happy to head home to our boys, our cell phones, and our cars with correctly positioned steering wheels.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 9:48 pm  Comments (1)  

Bossy McPhee

August 15, 2010

“Grandma, when I tell you to stop when we’re in Target, you need to stop immediately!”

That would be a direct order barked at my sweet mother by my too-big-for-his-britches four year old. He seems to be going through a rather lengthy assertive phase, and he has lots of ideas on how big people should behave in his presence.

“Mommy, listen. This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to stay here and take care of Graham, and Daddy’s going to take me to [insert desired location of the moment…the pool…Smoothie King…the park…McDonalds…what have you].”

Christian and I are trying to figure out where Wyatt’s big-boss personality is coming from since neither of us is particularly pushy. Well, OK. Maybe I’m a little pushy, but nowhere near the level of our little Tony Soprano. He seems to thrive on doling out orders and bringing down the hammer when we don’t follow his instructions to the letter.

Just today, we were driving home from church, and Christian and I took advantage of a few minutes while the kids were strapped in their car seats to actually have a conversation with one another. Grammy Bear was busy babbling away to his stuffed pig (AKA, the beloved “Pig-Pig”), and we thought Wyatt was also perfectly content, lost in his own thoughts. As it turns out…not so much.

Interrupting me mid-sentence, Wyatt says, “Mommy, can I tell you something?”

“Sure, Wyatt. What’s up?” 

“Well…[long pause]…Well, I don’t like it when mommies and daddies talk to each other and kids can’t say anything.”

“Oh yeah, Wyatt?”

“Yeah. When I talk, I need you to listen to me.”

Christian and I look at each other, stifle a laugh, and heave a sigh. “Wow, Wyatt. I would never have guessed that about you,” I say.

What’s to be done about all this bossy-boss? For starters, we have to stop finding it cute and funny when Wyatt tells us like it is. But darn it, it’s cute and funny! He sounds so enthusiastic when he shouts to me in the car, “Mom, when you see a goat, shout GOAT!” And I love his little news anchor hand gestures when he’s putting me in my place. So serious. So professional. Just plain cute.

I know, I know. It’s wrong to indulge him in this current phase of ruthless dictatorship. (Can you really call it a phase when it’s been going on for a year or more?) In our defense, though, Christian and I don’t bow to his every command. Technically, we are still in charge of our household. But we’re not in a rush to squash his “leader” personality, partly because it’s just who he is, and partly because he amuses us.

Until his classmates start greeting Wyatt with a “HEIL!” when we drop him off at school, I guess we won’t worry too much about his quest for world dominance. It will surely be much less cute when he’s 13 and pimply. I just hope it won’t be too late then to reform our Bossy McPhee.

Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Jiminy Cricket! We’ve Lost Our Minds.

June 5, 2010

Christian and I are pleased to announce a new addition to our family! No, not another baby. Something ultimately more time consuming, messy, needy and destructive—a puppy. She’s a Pembroke Welsh Corgi to be exact (or as I like to call her, “the queen’s dog”). She’s truly cute as a button with her stumpy little legs, Yoda-style ears and ever-smiling doggy mouth. However, she’s also a complete pain in the rump—Little Miss “The World Is My Chew Toy!”

If we could do it over again, we’d probably name her “Trouble.” But instead, we call her Cricket—a nod to my obsession with all things English and Christian’s love of sports. We adopted her in mid-April, and over the course of the last several weeks, she’s basically overtaken our home—requiring nearly as much attention as our two children combined.

“Don’t eat that rug, Cricket!” we say.

“Stop herding our children!”

“Did you seriously just pee on the floor? You’ve been outside for the last two hours.”

“Is it really necessary to eat your crate?”

She’s a piece of work, that Cricket Nord. But despite all her badness, she’s also a wonderful pet and a joy to have around. It’s refreshing to have an animal who actually wants to spend time with us—quite the opposite of our two spoiled, insolent cats. Cricket is all smiles, all the time, and her happiness is contagious.

I can’t say that I would recommend getting a puppy to any parents of small children, but if you’re hell-bent on doing it as we were, you really can’t go wrong with a Corgi. It’s a great little breed, and our Cricket is a particularly fine example of Corgi cuteness. I warn you, though—you will be herded like cattle. You will be unable to catch her when she zips around your house like a speeding bullet. And you will be completely taken in by her intelligence, sweetness and charm.

Enjoy! 🙂

Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm  Comments (2)