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Is Trouble Making Genetic?

Is Trouble Making Genetic?

Back when I was roughly Ellen’s age, I decided it was time to leave my mark on the world in a very literal way. My mother had previously been an Avon representative and had a good supply of nail polish. When she was occupied (I think gardening) a friend and I got into her stash and proceeded to paint everything – our bodies, my toys and books, the kitchen table – EVERYTHING. I don’t have any photographic evidence of my mischief (this was back in the days of film cameras and I think documentation of their child’s unruliness was not the first thing that came to my parents’ minds), but if you visit my parents’ house they can point out spots on various pieces of furniture where my “art” still stands strong 26 years later.

Nail polish on the Floor

Today when Cooper ran into the kitchen to inform me that “Ellen has purple all over her hands!” and I found her hands and a small portion of my bedroom floor lacquered with purple nail polish I almost had to laugh. She doesn’t seem to be quite as devious as I was as a child, but maybe that’s just because I didn’t have a big brother keeping an eye on me.

Fancy Hands

The Saga of the Swing Set

The Saga of the Swing Set

Way back in February we had this genius idea of getting the kids a swing set for a combined birthday present. We even proposed the idea to extended family suggesting they might contribute to the playground fund instead of sending gifts. Even though the idea was not widely adopted (it seems there is some sort of a stigma surrounding cash gifts), we had already found a great deal on a swing set and committed ourselves to building it when we gave Cooper a picture of it for his birthday in May. (Hell seriously knows no fury like an autistic child whose reality does not match up with an idea that’s gotten into their head.)

Thus, we drained the fund we’d saved up to build planter boxes in the front yard (we can garden for the next 50 years, but the kids won’t always be little) and the swing set was ordered. While we waited, we took care of a few landscaping  issues. Nothing big, just chopped down a tree, dug up a few stumps, and removed a significant square footage of grass.

One June afternoon, a giant pallet was finally dropped in our driveway.  The description indicated the whole thing could be assembled in about 10 hours and while we had our doubts we figured we could get the whole thing up and running with a long Saturday and perhaps a few evenings of work.

Defective Part 1

Before advancing past step number two of the assembly manual, we realized there was a problem. Really, a few problems: warped lumber, holes drilled in the wrong places and a beam with a significant amount of dry rot.

We halted our work to do a full inventory of all the parts before contacting the company’s customer service. Fortunately, the company was really good about sending out replacement parts.

In the meantime, we improvised keeping the kids entertained.

After the new parts arrived we set to work again. It took an entire day just to lay landscaping fabric, build the main tower and get the ground underneath it level enough to please our in-house engineer.

Every Saturday we weren’t traveling we’d do a little bit more, sometimes working with headlamps after the kids went to bed. If me posing with nursing covers or taking pictures of food in the backyard hadn’t already convinced the neighbors we were a bit odd, this surely did. The next morning the kids would race outside to see what new gizmos had been added on.

By the time school started back up, we’d finally gotten the whole thing together and we were just waiting for a new budget to roll over so we could give it the finishing touches.

Last weekend, Noel went to two different Home Depots before 7am to rent a truck. At first we weren’t even sure if they would rent it to us because they’d had a  bad experience with someone else trashing a truck when they hauled loose gravel. Luckily, the guy was nice and said, “I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear what you said you were doing with it and make sure you bring it back clean.” I’m pretty sure we returned it cleaner than we got it so no harm (or fees) were done.

We carted wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of mulch and hauled railroad ties from the front yard to create a border.  (Best workout ever.) Then we painted the whole thing with a clear sealant and did the hardest thing of the whole journey: kept the kids off it for two days. It only took the entire summer, but the swing set is finally done! I can only imagine what kind of a haphazard deathtrap this swing set would be if we’d put it together in only ten hours.

Noel taking the swing set we’d inherited with the house to be destroyed by a neighbor’s seven children.
Summer Lovin’

Summer Lovin’

Apparently, summer is over. I’m still not sure how that happened. Three months ago when preschool ended I made a master list of things I wanted to do. I even divided it into categories and made a master schedule for what days of the week I would attack different types of goals. Then I never looked at it until yesterday. Instead of feeling bummed that I didn’t successfully micromanage our summer, I’m doing a recap of the fun things we did do (and even without careful scheduling we did manage to do a few of the things on my list).

In addition to meeting our new cousin/nephew, camping, and hosting visitors we’ve also gone to weekly summer clubhouse movies,

had weekly park days with friends,

Park Day

attended art playdates hosted by my talented friend,

Art Playdate

splashed in the pool in the backyard,

Yard Poolvisited The Splash (Cooper is a water slide addict!),

The Splash enjoyed lots of rain (it has been such a mild summer here),

Rainjust chilled in the backyard,


considered starting a nudist colony repeatedly found Ellen wandering around in all sorts of outfits,  some more preferable to others,


Puddle jumpingVisited the Botanic Gardens with our friends Russell and Jessica,

Wading Climbingfound a few geocaches (the kids love it since it’s like treasure hunting),

Geocachingeaten ice cream,

Ice creamfinally taken a ride on the 1¢ horse at the grocery store, 

all over town Ride the horsey indulged in donuts after our last summer speech session,

donuts! and found Ellen sleeping all sorts of places since she fights naps, but still needs them now and again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOverall, I’d say summer wasn’t too shabby. Only a whole school year before we get another shot at it.

Suddenly We’re Those People

Suddenly We’re Those People

What happens when Ellen won't settle for anything less than being held when I'm trying to make dinner.
What happens when Ellen won’t settle for anything less than being held when I’m trying to make dinner.

When we only had one kid, it was easier to hide, but now that we have two kids it’s painfully obvious. We’ve become those people. You know the people I speak of. The ones that make you want to avoid any type of free day at the museum, the ones you don’t want to sit behind in church, and definitely not the ones you want to be sitting next to on a cross country flight. This last week has been full of reminders that this is what we’ve become. A trip to the Botanic Garden spent herding kids that were unwittingly engaged in a constant game of chicken with all the other patrons. Our final summer movie where Ellen refused to sit in her seat, almost got in a brawl with a toddler that tried to steal her chair, and shouted commentary during the entire film (e.g. “Silly squirrel” followed by maniacal laugher. “It’s a dog! Woof, woof!” followed by more maniacal laughter.)  Then Saturday when we did some rare shopping, Ellen threw a huge tantrum because she’s on a nap strike and Cooper kept disappearing which had us in a perpetual clothing rack frisking frenzy.

Ellen insisting on getting her own utensils.
Ellen insisting on getting her own utensils and yes she’s not wearing pants. She rarely does these days.

To top off the week we went to church. Our pew was sandwiched between two friends who each have a small child. As we wrestled our kids and tried to put a quiet end to their orchestration of raspberry blowing we’d exchange glances that said, “I know, sometimes I wonder why we ever come out in public too.” At the end of the meeting we all stumbled out into the hall, our arms full of discarded shoes and broken crayons. We gave each other pats on the back and politely said thank you to the widows  and women without children who told us they just love to watch our children at church.

Super Cooper eating blueberries. Or is it that he thought I wouldn't recognize him in disguise and he'd miss a lecture on not eating all the berries!
Super Cooper eating blueberries. Or is it that he thought I wouldn’t recognize him in disguise and he’d miss a lecture on not eating all the berries in one sitting!

Even though most days leave me exhausted, I’m glad I have these little people that remind me to live in the moment. There are perks to being those people after all. No one tells you you’re too big to go down the tube slide at the park or questions your sanity when you dance in the aisles of the grocery store.  Even the low expectations of strangers is kind of nice since they’ll congratulate you when your toddler only throws one fit when waiting in a long line at the post office. We weren’t always those people and from what I’m promised we won’t always be them either, but for know I’m just doing my best to hang on to the ride and not get thrown off.

The best picture we could get of us on our trip to the Botanic Garden.
The best picture we could get of us on our trip to the Botanic Garden.
A Few Gems of the Kids

A Few Gems of the Kids

My mom takes amazing photos. She’s beautifully documented so many important events in my life from my wedding to graduating from college to bringing home my babies.  Pretty sure I’ve been the recipient of thousands of dollars worth of free professional photography over the years. Every time we visit I usually get some awesome pictures of the kids.  Here are some gems from out most recent trip to Utah.

Ellen loved her photo shoot with grandma. Definitely not camera shy.
Ellen loved her photo shoot with grandma. Definitely not camera shy.
Ellen sweetly kissing Porter's head.
Ellen sweetly kissing Porter’s head.
Cooper lost deep in thought. That little boy sure can be pensive sometimes.
Cooper lost deep in thought. That little boy sure can be pensive sometimes.
It's sometimes hard to capture Cooper's smile on camera since he's not a poser like Ellen, but the kid has a great smile.
It’s sometimes hard to capture Cooper’s smile on camera since he’s not a poser like Ellen, but the kid has a great smile.
Even though Ellen is a girl, she's generally the wrestle instigator. Luckily Cooper's a good sport.
Even though Ellen is a girl, she’s generally the wrestle instigator. Luckily Cooper’s a good sport.
Best buds hanging out in grandma's yard.
Best buds hanging out in grandma’s yard.


It seems my kids now have some competition for favorite grandkid, so I knew a post about my kids was in order to remind everyone who really has the best kids. Alright, so their cousin is pretty dang adorable and I am as smitten as anyone (and dying to meet him)! We’ll let him be the favorite grandkid for now . . .

PorterStill, an update is in order. We’ve had a lot of rain this spring which has been awesome for all our plants, lots of fun for the kids, and a challenge for my stain removal skills.


Our plants are thriving and already so much bigger than last year.

Right SideWe still have a long list of things to do that we are slowly chipping away at as our budget allows, but in the meantime we’ve got a bunch of watermelon plants and tomatoes in pots in the undone areas. Still doesn’t look too bad though.

Left Side

Ellen has discovered the joys of spraying herself with the hose.

Cooper is practicing his tree climbing. Okay, so I helped him get up on the branch, but he’s getting pretty close to doing it himself.

Ellen is throwing out societal expectations and gender stereotypes. She LOVES playing in dirt which is fine with me, but I wish she’d be more agreeable about wearing pants sometimes.

Girls Love Dirt!The kids have been “helping” us with yard work.

Ellen has found one more undesired use for the dinner table. Others include: a giant napkin, canvas, and dance floor.

Table SnoozeMy youngest brother has decided to go to Utah State next year, so these pictures are for him. Go Aggies!

Little Aggies

Go Aggies! Noel used the money he won from our race to buy himself a hammock. He’d had a rough couple of weeks with injuries, illness, and other stressors so he is due for some relaxation. Now, if only the kids would give it to him.

Hammock On Father’s Day Ellen refused to go down for a nap for me and kept yelling, “Go back . . . Dad!” so Noel snuggled her until she fell asleep. I guess that’s one way to tell your dad you love him.

Father's DayAll in all, I think my kids are still contenders 😉

March Madness

March Madness

We haven’t really followed college basketball since we were in college, but nonetheless March is always a month of madness for us. Birthdays, anniversaries, crazy weather, pi(e) day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. Throw in a cold circulating through the family, a class that steals most of our Saturdays, and a handful of Boy Scout related activities and things get pretty crazy. Since we last posted, we celebrated pi(e) day with an amazing coconut cream pie (find the sneaky whole wheat crust recipe here).

Coconut CreamEllen got a late birthday present in the mail. She calls Sully “Kitty” like the little girl in the movie which makes our hearts melt.

Kitty!Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a breakfast of green eggs (AKA spinach, sun-dried tomato, and feta eggs, recipe on our food blog).

Then meeting up with some friends at the park.

Double Slide

My little monkey.
My little monkey.

Eating Reubens, a very tasty way to eat corned beef and cabbage.

RuebensRich mint brownies.

Mint Brownies And finished the day scribbling with green bath crayons.

Four Leaf CloverOn the first day of spring we grilled hamburgers and I snapped a photo of the flowers popping up through our buffalo grass.

Signs of SpringFriday I made a cake for a friend’s birthday (recipe coming soon to our food blog). And we video chatted with Vanessa Joy since it was her birthday too.

I think that about catches us up. This week is Spring Break so maybe March will give us a little bit of a rest.



Five Things I Might Not Have Discovered If I Wasn’t a Parent

Five Things I Might Not Have Discovered If I Wasn’t a Parent


5. That fresh air, sunshine, and dirt really are necessities of a happy life.

4. How relaxing going to the dentist can be. I’ve always dreaded dental appointments (and I actually have pretty nice teeth so it’s completely unwarranted), but these days I look forward to anything where I just get to sit in a chair and do absolutely nothing.

Sweet Kisses Zonked

3. That bedtime really is the most wonderful time of day.


2. How absolutely hilarious it is to have minions watch you while you workout.

The kids thought it was really cool to see the candy being made and even cooler that they got broken candy canes at the end of the tour. It didn’t stop Ellen from trying to steal a lollipop though, the little klepto.

1. That the phrase “like a kid in a candy shop” really is a great descriptor, but the phrase that really deserves to make it into our vernacular is “like a parent with a kid in a candy shop.” Or even worse, “like a lone parent with two kids in a candy shop.” Totally been there and it’s terrifying 😉


Why Co-Sleeping Could Never Fly At Our Place

Why Co-Sleeping Could Never Fly At Our Place

Previous to our marriage, Noel and I had roommates complain about our excessive tossing and turning and as newlyweds we’d often joke that mysterious bumps and bruises were casualties of sleeping in the same bed. These days we sleep like the dead, but when it sounds like an all-out brawl has commenced in our kids’ bedrooms, we repeatedly find ourselves wild-eyed and out of breath facing the calm exhalations of their dreams and not the intruder we expected. With us as their parents though, should it really come as any surprise? We’re a family of thrashers.

Munchkin Book Club
It looks like they’re being adorable, but they’re really having a secret meeting to discuss how to ruin another beautiful night’s sleep.

The kids have been like this from the beginning. While pregnant, I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to the strange sensation of someone doing somersaults in my belly. When they were babies, I would often bring them into bed hoping at least one of us could get some rest (and at that point I would have slept nude in the front yard if it would have made a difference), but they’d just kick me in the ribs, poke me in the eye, or scream in my face. Sleep just wasn’t in the cards no matter what configuration our pillows took.

Ellen trying out the homeless sleep in a box thing.

Sleep is much improved from the baby days, but when the pitter-patter of little feet makes it’s way across my bedroom floor in the twilight hours, I cringe and pretend I can’t feel the eyeballs that are locked on me like a target. But they never go away, so I always relent and pull a little person into bed with me. It’s sweet for about the first 10 seconds when I  wrap my arms around them and nuzzle my nose into their soft hair, but the tender moment rapidly dematerializes as I turn into a human punching bag. Even if it’s 5:30am we’ve learned by now that trying to sleep is futile so we surrender our pillows and start the day. The child (or children on particularly fabulous mornings) snuggles under our covers delighted to have the big bed all to themselves, which I think was their devious plan all along.

Cooper discovered my stepping stool was the perfect lunch table. This has nothing to do with sleep, but it needed to be shared 🙂
Snow, Mud, and Pumpkins

Snow, Mud, and Pumpkins


Once there was a snowmanWe had enough snow last week for the kids to go out and make a little snowman before it all melted. Despite the kids’ disappointment, snow that doesn’t stick around that long is definitely my favorite kind.

Pink CoatFall was back by today, albeit a very muddy version, and we headed to a pumpkin patch with some of our playgroup friends to squeeze in some more fall activities before winter takes over for real.

GoatThe kids all loved the farm animals and the hay bale maze. I loved being tall enough to navigate our way out.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey also enjoyed the pumpkin patch which was really more of a mud field, although some of the moms weren’t too pleased. Stuck!My kids have gotten way more dirty in our own backyard, so I wasn’t too bothered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll I really wanted was a picture with both of my kids smiling, but the photo gods were not on my side today.

Bye Kittens!

After we’d seen all the animals twice we confiscated the little people’s muddy shoes and restrained them in their car seats. Other than accumulating a huge pile of laundry, I think the trip was a fun success.