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Monday, April 21, 2014

(P)Easter.

I found myself at Meijer at 10:30 on a Saturday night, wearing slightly too big leggings with a noticeable hole on the left hip, flattened flip-flops held over from last summer, and an awkward-fitting sweatshirt my mother bought me mere weeks before finding out I was pregnant with Kiedis. My hair pulled back in pigtails and hidden under a pageboy hat, no make-up, glasses, and exhaustion identified me enough as a parent for a random person to stop me and ask my opinion on a gift for their child.

I watched the girls nearly a decade my juniors teeter about on their sky-high heels in their tiny skirts and painted-on pants, carrying bottles of cheap liquor or wine, something between a smile and a grimace crossing my face. Not that long ago, it feels, I was that girl with my handsome boyfriend/fiance at my side, celebrating for no reason at all nearly every weekend.

I both miss those days and rue them.

Now, I stood trying to wrap my tired brain around the task of building two (P)Easter baskets for my children after a last-minute decision that we would mark the day after all.

In years past, we would all gather for ham and candy at my grandparent's house -- me and my family, my brother and father, his two siblings and in combination seven other cousins, one of which has three children of her own. It's a loud family affair, but it's what we've come to know. However my grandfather spent most of the week in the hospital, so hopes for a joyful gathering (or any gathering at all) were quickly and quietly dashed.

That left marking this spring-coming holiday on my shoulders, which led me to Meijer after a day of house projects and trips to Home Depot.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever sleep more than six hours, at best, again.

I wandered the aisles, trying to remember what exactly it is that you put into plastic baskets supposedly left by a giant rabbit under the stealth of night besides copious amounts of candy. I mean, I definitely already had some of that in the cart, but I wanted something more, something with substance.

I traversed the perimeter of the store, finding things here and there -- some fancy spill-proof bubbles (spoiler: not spill-proof), little coloring kits, themed water bottles, gardening gloves (they've been asking for them) and t-shirts with licensed characters emblazoned upon them, and toothbrushes.

They desperately needed new toothbrushes, and my kids are still young enough to be excited by anything new to them. Also, see above about candy.

I stayed away from the seasonal stuff, the pre-made baskets. As what happens often with Christmukkah, we buy them things they need or to help them learn, maybe upgrading to the version with the idol du jour upon it so the better to entice them with ... and we leave the other stuff to other people, friends and family members. We have enough toys to fill three classrooms, it feels, and I would rather my kids learn to use their minds than let their things do all the work for them.

And lo and behold, the next morning as they discovered their little baskets, they were overjoyed at their findings. A small egg hunt commenced through the living room and dining room, then through the day as we worked outside on our projects they reveled in their gifts, simple things but not without purpose or substance because I would rather get them things they could use than crap that will have to be pitched in a few weeks.

Never bring anything into your home that is neither useful or beautiful, but hopefully both.

The weather was warm enough to require wardrobe changes and sunblock, and nice enough to spend the majority of it outside, together, as a family. We ate dinner by candlelight at the dining table on this rare Sunday off, the mood lighting requested by my children because maybe they somehow understood the specialness of the occasion in some way.

And the day, it felt perfect.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Four Pairs Of Chucks At The Door.

It was an impulse, for sure. The day was set to be lovely edging towards actually kind of hot -- sunny, breezy, a welcome entrance of Spring turning slowly into summer.

My boss has warned me not to get used to this kind of paycheck, the one with the commissions after the largest renewal period for subscriptions of the year. And in my mind, I know I should save it, every last cent, hoard it away for the impending future to cushion the many falls I'm sure I'll take.

But I wanted out of the house. It was the first Saturday I didn't have to work in two weeks. My family was all together for a stretch of time longer than six hours.

And I wanted to celebrate the best way I know how.

So we drove to the outlets.

I let my kids pick out pretty much whatever they wanted. A Captain America t-shirt that will only probably last this summer before he outgrows it? Sure. The too-big silver ballet flats on clearance? Why not, she'll grow into them anyway. Half-hour at the playground so smartly put in the center of the complex in the early afternoon sun while I sat over-layered for the weather, attempting in vain to hide the mess of eczema my shoulders, chest, and back have become? Of course.

We skipped a great deal of the stores that I usually might have perused -- and some were closed, wiped out of the store fronts but not off the maps just yet -- but while I was on the hunt for a few good items, I gained far much more joy letting my littles take charge of their wardrobes, letting their individual personalities shine a little more than my thrifty shopping usually allows.

And when we got to the Converse store, magically having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale (even on clearance!), I let my children pick new shoes for themselves, only to be dismayed when Kiedis picked a pair from the toddler section.

They looked too small to me. He was insistent about the blue shoes and began taking the Chucks he had on, the ones I made him wear as opposed to the boot-esque ones he usually dons for outings, off of his feet and pulling at the laces of the shoes in the box.

I thought by trying them on, I could show him that they were too small, that I could reason with him.

Except they weren't too small. They fit, nearly perfectly.

Sure, a growth spurt will render them useless -- but the shoes I've had him wear for nearly half a year now, they are three sizes bigger than the ones he wanted in the store.

Maybe that's why he liked the boot-esque high tops and not as much the plush low tops. The extra height for the laces helped keep them on better.

I looked at Tova, concerned as well, and grabbed a smaller size of the style she'd picked out. And again, they fit far better than the shoes on her feet, the ones she constantly fell in.

I don't know what the crap happened with my brain, but both of my kids were wearing too-large of shoes and it was all my fault. I thought of the shoes I'd donated a few months ago, the ones that were probably also too big, and cringed. I thought they were too small -- why did I think they were too small? -- and there went shoes I probably could have put them back into in a growth spurt or two from now. The light wear and tear on them probably stemmed from the kids flopping about inside of them, not from their feet trying to escape them.

I hope there are some kids out there getting great use out of them. Because they were barely used.

So I bought the kids new shoes. And, as the deal couldn't be beat, I got a pair and even sprung for their dad to get a pair, too.

The kids proudly wore their new Chucks out of the store, the shoes they walked in wearing tucked away into the boxes in the shopping bag with the two adult pairs and two extra sets of laces for each kid. And I tried to find comfort in that I could just wash their current shoes and tuck them away for a later time, when they might actually really fit.

At home, I cleared out the winter shoes for the kids and laid out their new sneakers (along with the flip flops they'd picked out as well) along the top of the shoe rack, flanked by the two new pairs of adult shoes also awaiting their turns this season. I mused at how Kiedis prefers high tops while Tova likes low tops, wondering if I'd some how fostered that from some of their very first pairs of Chucks or not.

And I thought about the birth announcement I made for Tova, of four pairs of Chucks on our old stoop stairs, two black, two purple. Another pair of shoes at the door makes us now a family of four. Here I sat, almost four years later, still struck by the image of those four pairs of shoes lined up in a row -- my lavender low tops with teal rose print; Tova's black lows with a double-tongue of silver on top and purple furry cheetah print folded over purple laces; Kiedis' cushioned black high tops with a pillowy back in neon blue with fluorescent yellow piping and laces; Kyle's pre-faded red lows with subtle blue trim.

Sitting there, it was apparent how we'd all changed since then, our individual personalities more clearly on display in our choice of footwear. But still, it remained -- four pairs of Chucks at the door ...

I don't know how to end that, anymore.


I know I should have saved that money -- there's still a good amount of it left -- but the looks on their faces this morning as they excitedly got dressed in their new clothes and new shoes, the freedom I was able to afford them in those moments on Saturday, that was completely worth it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dragons: Defenders Of Berk Part 1 {A Tabulous Review!}

So remember the giveaway I did a couple of weeks ago?

Well, last week in the mail our very own copy of Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 showed up all magically and since it was Spring Break and raining and the kids and I were just kind of staring at each other waiting for someone to do something, I pretty much opened the envelope and then handed it to Kiedis to see his reaction.
He SCREAMED. Like, hands on the sides of his face all Home Alone style.

And then we had to watch it.

Since it's several episodes all strung together, I opted to just play a couple so we didn't end up marathoning the whole thing. Kiedis ran away for a minute and I was confused ... until he came downstairs with his Hiccup costume I made him for Halloween and the toy shield we'd purchased as a prop for said costume, yelling "HICCUP AND TOOTHLESS AND DRAGONS! I LOVE THE HICCUP AND TOOTHLESS AND DRAGONS YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!"

So safe to say he was excited.

Later he grabbed his Toothless pillow pet and was "riding" it around the house yelling for Astrid and Snotlout and Fishlegs which I tried so hard to get a picture of but he wouldn't stay still. At all.

Over the span of the next few days we eked out a couple of episodes at a time, all of us transfixed on the continuation of the story plot from the Riders of Berk series. Without spoiling anything, it's safe to say a whole bevy of characters return from the previous series and the story plots manage to believably continue and in some cases converge pretty seamlessly. All of your favorite characters are there, and the animation and dialogue is the great quality you'd expect after seeing the first series.

Also, I will say there's a whole thing with Hiccup's shield that spans the Defenders series that once Kiedis realized that he actually had the same thing (as the shield we bought was a licensed Dragons toy) he was SUPER THRILLED and spent the next couple of days actually figuring out how to use it as a crossbow which yay fine motor skills! and problem solving! but boo using a weapons and shooting things inside the house.

All of that to say that if you have a How To Train Your Dragon fan in your home (or are one yourself, because I am) this DVD is completely worth adding to your collection, especially with HTTYD 2 coming out this June.

Many thanks to DreamWorks for making both of my kids' Spring Break a bit more exciting!

I received a copy of this DVD gratis but all opinions within this review are my own. I really wish I could have shown you all Kiedis on that pillow pet with his shield and costume because it was PURE GLEE. Also this post contains some affiliate links.