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Two of A Kind – Workin’ on a Full House

23 Apr

I only started really listening to country music during the summer between high school and college, mostly because a country station was easiest to find while driving all across the state of Wyoming for my summer job – but it also started because I had recently broke up with a girl who liked punk rock and so I decided to get as far away from that genre as possible. One day driving on a particularly lonely stretch of highway (there are plenty of them in WYO) the sultry smooth voice of Mr Garth Brooks came on and I had to turn it up.

She’s my lady luck – Hey, I’m her wild-card man wafted thru the pickup cab… I didn’t pay close attention to the song at first and I couldn’t resist trying to imitate that croon as loudly as possible. After a while I paid more attention to the words and started to wonder what that life would look like. I had no desire to have a full house, a “big” family, and certainly a full house would qualify as big. I grew up with one sibling, most of my friends were part of a 4-person family, so it seemed natural to lean that way. And even though I was surprisingly content with one kid after we had Nolan, The Mrs and I also agreed that a family of four had a nice fit to it. You guys know the rest of that story.

Fast forward over a decade and here I sit on a couch that has juice or maybe even a couple of snot stains on it, among a living room littered with toddler toys and baby bouncers, three kids quasi-peacefully sleeping upstairs. That song’s title has become my reality. I have the perfect full house, Kings over Queens, with a couple jokers (dogs) as a kicker; it’s a hand that is tough to beat. In fact I’d imagine most people wouldn’t bet against it. And that is fine with me.

The most asked question we have heard over the past few months is simple: “Soooo… what’s it like having 3 kids? How is that going?”. The answer is actually also very simple, if surprising – it is awesome. I am serious.  In some ways having 3 kids has even been easy. Yep, I said it. Easy. But it is true. In so many ways having 3 is actually easier than having 2. The Mrs often said after Tad was born that going from 1 kid to 2 was like “getting kicked in the face”. How very apropos. What we realized after having a third kid is that the increase in difficulty starts to reach an asymptotic level – the work increased but not as much as it did from 1 to 2. And there are many days when it really does seem easy to have 3 kids demanding our attention. You can go ahead and call me crazy. In all honesty I can not imagine my life without our crazy ragamuffin crew, and for a variety of reasons.

Don’t let me fool you, it is not all sherbet and unicorns. There are plenty of days, and nights, when the work gets to an overwhelming level and there are times when the screaming can suck the energy right out of you. We have plenty of evenings when we are simply thankful to make it to bedtime but more often than not we’ve learned to sit back and enjoy the moments we get with all 3 kids.

As much as you hear how unique you are as you grow up, there is something that is really stupefying when you realize how different your kids are. I mean, I can’t be the only one that was surprised when my second son acted nearly opposite as my first son, can I? No? Bueller….Bueller? Ok so maybe that is all on me – but wow, how crazy is it to see how different your children are? We have one with an incredible imagination, another with the wanderlust of a nomad, and a third that has a heart-melting smile. I’ll let you decide who is who. To observe how each of them is constantly growing, evolving, and learning is rewarding, satisfying. It is often the fuel that keeps waking you up and pushing you forward.

But it doesn’t stop there. Watching the way they interact with each other is an absolute blast in itself. Not even kidding, there are times it is even humorous to watch the boys fight it out over a toy. That sounds bad but I think it is part of being a parent. I don’t want them to fight – and I stress to the boys in particular how they will be the only two who truly give a crap about each other in years to come – but there are times when it is just funny to see how they try and enforce their will on each other. Nolan approaches it softly. His heart is such that he doesn’t really want to hit his brother, so he just gets very tense and shakes his clinched fist very close to his brother’s back. Every once in a while he’ll make a connection and immediately look at his mother or I to see if A) we saw it or B) what the consequence will be. Tad on the other hand has no issues with physical confrontation. He’ll smoke his brother with a bat, stick, rock, fist, truck, or whatever else he can reach in the moment. Go figure, right?
However the best interaction to see as a parent is how both boys treat their baby sister. It is heart melting. Each of the boys like to get right in that poor girl’s bubble and love on her with hugs, kisses, pats, or other forms of “love”. Sometimes that love manifests as head butts, bear hugs, or dog piles. Poor Elise. But it’s all in love. It’ll be up to Josie and I to make sure that love continues, but it is good for the heart to see it start so early.

Having 3 kids has been fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, now that it has been given to me. It hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been as much of a challenge as we expected either. We aren’t being kicked in the face. Some days we are actually thriving. This full house… I’ll keep it around.


Hanging from the Chandelier

16 Apr

We have a middle child… I know that is shocking to hear but it is what happens when your family offspring is an odd number. There is a middle. Our middle is a smug, shy, adventurous little boy whom we named Trevor and lovingly call Monkey, Tad, or a random mild profanity. Raising this boy over the past two years has me contemplating whether or not I have Tourette’s, schizophrenia, or both. I think it is passed time for us to talk about him.

Trevor was destined to be a middle child. In fact, had we not had Elise, he would be the oddest baby of a family I’d ever seen. See most kids that are the youngest of their clan are, well… spoiled. Take my wife for instance – er – never mind, bad example. But I think you know what I mean. Close your eyes, think about families you know and the youngest child is usually the prince or princess who gets away with FAR more than the older children got away with. C’est la vie. So Trevor’s spirit just never fit being the baby of the family. He wasn’t ever about being spoiled; he was all about being ornery! Trev is just… Trev.

If we didn’t have his spirit in our family we would actually appear publicly quite sadnessnormal. But he is the catalyst that propels us toward circus status. Whether we are out to eat and he randomly sends his entire plate to the floor or we are in the store and he knocks an entire product off the shelf a la Sadness from Inside Out, he always keeps us on our toes.

I know many of you reading this can’t believe that such an adorable child could possibly be that difficult. Let me just be blunt. Most days his cuteness is the only thing between him and Military Kindergarten. Wait – do they have Military Kindergarten? I just made that up. Now I have to look into it. Huh – his cuteness might not have saved him after all.
Here is a sampling of the adventures of Tad:

Sword fights – with wine glasses: Once the Mrs. was sorting some laundry and in walks Trevor, hands bloodied. Running back downstairs – which she had left a mere 1 minute earlier – she found two wine glasses shattered on the living room floor. Two things came out of this: 1) a lock on the dishwasher & 2) more wine glasses in the dishwasher.

Hanging from the chandelier: Trevor is literally a monkey. Or maybe he is more mountain goat. He climbs everything with shocking ease. His favorite obstacle is the counter height dining table we have. We’ve done just about everything to keep him off it. We’ve laid the chairs down, he uses them as a step stool. We’ve placed them on the table, he pulls them off. We’ve locked them in the closet, he picked the lock with his pacifier and next thing you know he’s back dancing on top of the table. His go-to entertainment once he gets up there is to hang from the light above the table. Much to the chagrin of our friends who also have kids and prefer to keep theirs off the table, we have just given up on that fight. Sorry ’bout it.

Scissors: If you haven’t caught on yet, the kid loves danger. He recently has developed an affinity to pushing a chair over to the cabinet where we have the scissors stored and getting them out. Once I had them in my back pocket, had my back turned to him, and the next thing I know he was crying. He had pick-pocketed me and poked himself near the eye.

Button-Pushing: On one morning the house was quiet. A little too quiet. And then the microwave turned on. Trevor had pushed a chair over to the oven, climbed up on top of the stove, and turned on the microwave. I can’t make this up…nor do I have to continue and clarify just how bad that one could have been.

Dog Food: Lacking proper nutrition from his parents, he supplements by visiting the dog dish frequently. He will often come up to you with chipmunk cheeks full of Authority Natural Chicken & Rice dog food, both insanely proud of himself and bewildered as to why you could possibly be upset enough to take his tasty treat away. Speaking of tasty treats, we have also learned to be extra alert when he is in the back yard and we haven’t picked up after the dogs that day…

I could go on and on … and on… about all of the things Trevor does to earn his middle child stripes, but I am making myself sick remembering and a little worried someone is going to call DFS on us. I promise you we are attentive, caring, responsible parents. By the way, I am not writing this for parenting advice on how to care for the little turd. If you believe you have ways to cure him, I will send him to you FREE – including shipping and handling. You can send him back once you get him straightened out or realize you’re just as inept as I am. I won’t hold my breath.

I love that boy with all of my heart, despite all of the frustrating moments we have had in two short years. I will often tell the Mrs that in a few years he is going to be so much fun because he is always up for doing anything. My kind of kid! But until then I am leaning toward taking a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Don’t be surprised if you find me hanging from the chandelier!




And A Fire-Breathing Dragon

9 Jan

I often talk about parenting as being a humongous puzzle. You are continually moving pieces around, flipping them onto different edges, often shoving them into spaces that they aren’t meant to be in, and always looking for the missing pieces. And at the end of the day, you’re always just puzzled. (HA! Dad jokes for days!)

One of the most debated parenting strategies in the ever changing puzzle that we face today surrounds electronic usage. When do you allow it, how much do you allow, what do you allow them to watch? Every parent struggles and debates on what stance to take on this and the Mrs and I are no different.
As many parents do, we started using an electronic device (her phone) just to keep Nolan occupied when he was feeling especially ornery in a restaurant or when – let’s just be real – we simply needed a break. He took to the movies on YouTube pretty quickly and we could always find a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or other acceptable similar episode to keep him quiet and happy for ~30 minutes. After a while this evolved into Nolan doing his own web surfing on YouTube which can be unnerving. Our feelings were and still are that he deserves some leash and trust as long as he shows he deserves. I can only recall twice when we have asked him to watch something different, or have just changed the video he randomly browsed to. He is 3-1/2 remember; he looks at the thumbnail previews for toys he knows from movies he loves. He doesn’t venture much outside those lines. I am confident of this because I review his viewing history often and I can quote a lot of the lines from the videos he watches over and over and over and over and over… and over… and over again.

This past weekend we were hanging around in our bedroom constructing our most recent IKEA expense, and Nolan was quietly and contently browsing his recent favorite topic: toy reviews. The kid will watch someone unwrap and talk about a toy for HOURS if we would let him. It is crazy! If you haven’t ever seen one of these, here is one that I hear Nolan watching all of the time (don’t watch all 10 minutes, or even 2 minutes): Lots of DinoTrux Toys!
It has even gotten to the point where when he plays with his own toys he talks in the same tone and inflection as these reviewers…. Hey, if you ever questioned the impressionability of a kid. Josie and I continue to be amazed by what Nolan has – and I don’t use this term lightly here – learned thru these videos. Skills he has picked up vary from songs to how to work a certain toy to just how toys could possibly interact.

Suddenly Nolan bolts upright on our bed, his attention torn away from his current YouTube video.
“Dad, Dad… Dad. Dad. Daaaaaad!”
“Yes Bubba?” – I had tried responding after the first Dad but he insists on at least 5 times saying anything regardless of your acknowledgement or not.

“I wanna make a video. Can we make a video?”

Absolutely, kid! The next half hour epitomized the reason that you become a parent. Watching him just naturally talk about his favorite toys, to himself, on his little tablet made my heart swell. The look of pride on his face as he talked about the features of each toy was unmistakable and deserved. He totally rocked it. He gets so excited that his words garble together and at times become nothing short of jibberish – sorry bud, but you come by that honestly.
And instead of me trying to put in words how amazing my kid is, you can just watch it for yourself. My absolute favorite part starts at ~ 1:30. I can assure you, I no longer have any regrets over allowing Nolan to use electronic devices. Watching his imagination explode and his creative side expand is worth far more than whatever harm someone may argue is being done. And a fire-breathing dragon.

Hi(atus) Again… It’s Me

26 Dec

They say that words written onto an internet page are as good as being carved into stone. I couldn’t agree with that statement more than I do tonight as I realize that it has been nearly two full years since I updated anything on this blog. Not to say that I’ve been lounging around naked in a bean bag chair eating Cheetos (to borrow a Ron White quip), but it is still a little disappointing that it has been this long.

It will be nearly impossible to chronicle all of the happenings of the past two years, so I will attempt to sum them up in the next sentence. Hang on to your hats..
Trevor Aaron was our second son to be born 8-weeks early and need an extended stay in the NICU before joining us at home where we settled in to the routine as a family of four only to be roused from that dream by a surprise (can’t put enough emphasis on surprise) pregnancy test in March 2016 that declared we would be a family of 5 made up of 3 kids the oldest of which was 3-1/2 yrs old when our princess Elise Ann was born in October – though not 8-weeks early she still managed to conjure up her own memorable entrance to the world.

Whew. I might have a future in word-smithing after that spectacle, yeah?! There you have it. In between raising an independent toddler and trying to keep the middle child alive – by the way, he was literally born to be a middle child, hindsight being 20/20 – we have somehow added to our chaos a beautiful baby girl. And it is on that note that I decided a proper journal of the adventures of the Pickle Jar needed to be revived. Some of the events we have lived through I will back track and pick up, some will remain only a memory in our mind that brings a smile to our face and hearts.

2016 has been one of the most incredible years we have ever been through both personally and professionally. Looking back I regret not writing down those memories onto the stone tablets of the web. Looking forward I see plenty of stories that will have to be written out to be believed. Like the time the boys had a sword fight in the living room with wine glasses. Or the time the boys helped me change the oil, and I looked down to see nothing but Trevor’s stocky legs sticking out from under the van. Or the time(s) we found the boys in the driveway in nothing but diapers/unders talking to strangers who were out on a walk. Or the time The Mrs caught Trevor literally hanging from the dining room light fixture. Or the time….


“We have to be parents again”

9 Feb

It was an obvious statement, but not one I was really ready to hear.

“Joel, what are we going to do? We have to be parents again!”.

The Mrs was — per usual — spot on. Grandma Soup, as she is lovingly called, we had just found out would be moving on to her own place after an extended stay with us. She had found an apartment about 30 minutes away. Ok, hang on.. Let me rewind a little bit.

9 months ago The MIL (mother-in-law) needed a place to stay and with rentals in our metro area being in the Top 5 (not verified but thoroughly believed) most expensive places to live we offered her a spare room in our home.
I’ll be honest — I wasn’t too sure of how it would all pan out. I mean, I had always enjoyed time spent with the MIL… but living under the same roof? Here were a few questions I had for the Mrs:

  • You mean I have to close the door when I pee now?
  • How do you enforce the house rules to another adult? Hold on…. we have house rules?
  • What if she clogs up my DVR with mindless reality TV?

As you can tell my worries were grounded in solid logic. I mean what’s the use in paying a mortgage if you have to close the door every time you use the restroom? What is the use of having a 60″ TV if you can’t watch Niagara battle Marist on ESPNU because there are 5 other shows being recorded all at once?? Ohhhhh boy… here is the big one: How do you undo the damage caused by 24/7 Grandma exposure? C’mon parents — you know what I am talking about. It takes twice as long to re-build & re-parent everything that a weekend with a grandma can tear down, spurred on by large doses of chocolate and non-existent boundaries. While the world is full of love because of grandmas… it is also full of sneaky rule breaking because of them too.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about. Not a damn thing. Do you know that the last nine months have been downright enjoyable, mostly because of all the help Grandma Soup gave us? Do you know that not once were we frustrated because of her lack of enforcing rules, or for jumping in between our son and us? Do you know that not once did I have to watch mindless reality TV instead of whatever mindless sports match I wanted to see? She was always quick to lend a helping hand, around the house or with Nolan, no matter how exhausted she was. She never over-parented us, or undermined our parenting tactics, no matter how much she disagreed with them. Most times she did more for Nolan than I did, even after she returned from working far more hours and fighting worse traffic than I did to get back home. Far too often I would almost shrug Nolan off onto her because he wouldn’t stop whining for her — guys, I have literally forgotten how to be a parent; she’s that good! She was gracious, patient, humble, caring, and kind. Grandma Soup is the world’s greatest MIL, and she’s an even better grandma.

This past weekend grandma moved on to another new chapter in her life and I hope she is as excited for herself as we are sad to see her go. While I know she will always be close by and just a quick call away if we ever need her, gone from our home is the built-in babysitter (mostly for our dogs) and the easy tie-breaker for arguments — though somehow her vote nearly always went with her daughters and against mine. Gone is the helping hand at dinner; the one who would rather starve and be drug to the basement to play with Nolan than eat her dinner after a long day.
The fact is we were blessed to have a grandma in the house for any amount of time. Maybe Nolan will never remember or realize how lucky he was to have her so close for this past year, but the Mrs and I will never forget it.

Ok, ok now the answer to the question you’ve all been asking — yes I’m getting paid to write this. Nine months rent sayy whaaaa!!!???

So if I may be excused, I have to go figure out how to be a parent again!


Grandma Soup & Nolan: Pumpkin Carving 2014

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