Monday, November 24, 2008

The Trouble with Fs

Conversation a couple of weeks ago between my mom and me...and Addison.

Mom: So how much was Davis's airfare to Atlanta for Christmas?
Me: Davis is free actually because he's a lap child under two.
Addison: (interrupting) Mom, Davis is NOT free. He's one and a half.

Yes, Addison has conquered all other sounds in the English language except for "th", leading now to confusion between the word "three" and the word "free". How do I explain this one to him?

Man

One of Davis's latest words, which should be no surprise given the pumpkin we carved for Halloween, is Spiderman. He doesn't actually say Spiderman, but instead says MAN! with great enthusiasm. Addison has several pairs of Spiderman socks, and every time we put them on or take them off Davis points vigorously and shouts, "Man! Man!" Is 21 months too young to be identifying Marvel comic characters?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Snow

It doesn't matter how old I get or how many winters I've lived through, there is something truly magical about the first snow. We've had flurries for the past couple of days, but today it actually stuck. Not much, but enough to make it feel like the holidays and to give me the needed oomph to write our Christmas letter.

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There is something really odd about snow falling on autumn leaves, a bizarre melding of two seasons, but perhaps not quite as schizophrenic as snow dusting the geraniums which are still growing happily in my mom's whiskey tub out front.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brotherly Love

Things have been hectic all week with painters, Trey among them, doing a little of everything throughout the house. I've had the task of keeping the children paint free and occupied in the midst of what can only be described as gallons of temptation. Nevertheless, something happened yesterday that couldn't escape blog memorializing.

With all the furniture moved every which way to make room for touching up the trim, Davis inadvertently clonked his 90th percentile head on the corner of a hutch. Since it was late in the day, all usual self control was thrown to the wind and uncharacteristic, Addison-type theatrics ensued. I cuddled and comforted him to little avail. Eventually, still sobbing, he insisted on getting down and wandering off. I heard him still crying in the other room but now Addison was saying something to him. I sneaked a peak into the other room where I beheld the following scene. Davis, reaching just breast high, had his head laid on Addison's chest, arms flung around his big brother's waist. Addison in the same heartfelt embrace was gently patting and stroking Davis's back, chin resting on the top of Davis's head, saying, "Don't cry, Davis. It'll be OK." Davis's tears flowed freely still, but somehow seemed less hopeless in the knowledge that his dearest pal in the whole world was standing with him. It took my breath away.

This past Sunday, Dr. Ryken preached on Ecclesiastes 4, and this sweet, simple scene was my living word picture of that deep spiritual wisdom.

Two are better than one...For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow...a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4.9-11

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boy Babies

Who said boys can't be maternal? Davis is as loving and nurturing as they come. He just doesn't have dolls upon which to bestow that tenderness. Instead, he has transferred all such care to his little matchbox cars, which he now calls his "babies". He walks around the house cradling them in his arms. We never embark on an outing that he doesn't have one clutched in each fist and possibly one or two in his pockets. He's been known to sneak them into his crib at night, a sort of metal security blanket. He knows what their real name is but still calls them "baby". He's now even taken to calling Addison's car-shaped toothbrush baby as well, which, incidentally, he carelessly dropped into the toilet on Sunday. Shhh...don't tell Addison.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I've been working the past few days on compiling the second Holloway Clan blog book. After hitting some early snags and nearly giving up in despair, I'm now well into the month of December (the book goes from August to August). Compiling, designing, and reformatting a year's worth of material is a huge undertaking and one which required a bit of prodding from Trey this year. I've been knitting like a madwoman trying to finish matching Christmas vests for the boys in time to get their portraits taken at Target, pictures which will in turn be put in our Christmas cards. I have our annual Christmas letter which needs to be written and rather far down on the to-do list was the second volume of the blog book.

Now, however, I'm on a roll, initial inertia surmounted, and I can hardly describe the emotions evoked by reading back through the events and experiences of just one year ago. Aberdeen has felt increasingly far away, like a distant dream whose memory is being carried away with time. Reading through our real life events, lingering over the photos has helped to bring it all much closer, remembering the brilliant autumn colors last year after a wet and dreary summer or the lighting of the Christmas tree at King's with its mulled wine for all the long suffering parents has been my therapy. It was real and it mattered in our lives, and although the particulars may blur or disappear with time, this written family history endures. Decades from now I can read back through, relive, taste, feel and know that for two years in our past we lived in an amazing place called Aberdeen which changed us forever and will always be with us wherever life's path may lead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Non-Toxic

Photo courtesy of booleansplit at flickr.

Non-toxic, two words which bring tremendous comfort to every mother whose child proudly informs her, "Mommy, I just ate the inside of the Play-Doh ghost." My sneaky son surreptitiously swiped the ghost and pumpkin containers of Play-Doh from Halloween and thought the gooey white substance inside the ghost looked appetizing. My stupid follow-up question was, "How much did you eat?" By the looks of what was left, he didn't ingest much, thankfully. No doubt I'll find out just exactly how much tonight. In the meantime, I had a good chuckle at Hasbro's FAQs:

What are the ingredients in PLAY-DOH compound?

The exact ingredients of PLAY-DOH compound are proprietary, so we cannot share them with you. We can tell you that it is primarily a mixture of water, salt and flour. It does NOT contain peanuts, peanut oil, or any milk byproducts. It DOES contain wheat.

PLAY-DOH compound is non-toxic, non-irritating & non-allergenic except as noted: Children who are allergic to wheat gluten may have an allergic reaction to this product.

Phew. Dodged that bullet. Now I'm curious just how much Play-Doh, and crayons for that matter, are ingested by children before the age of sanity kicks in? Are there figures on this?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holding Down the Fort

After just one short week back with us, Trey left for Dallas again yesterday. We're all grateful this will be our final separation for awhile. When he's gone, I notice the number of imperative sentences I use exponentially increases. "Clear your plate." "Flush the toilet." "Stop torturing your brother." By the time Saturday rolls around, I'm sick of hearing me talk. The reality is, however, that the two other times Trey has been gone the boys have been almost eerily well-behaved. It's almost as though they sense me being outnumbered and decide to take it easy on me. Nevertheless, by the end of the period, I'm fully exhausted and ready to throw myself at the feet of all the amazing single parents in this world who do the same thing day in and day out with little to no relief and even less recognition.

To all single parents out there, I salute you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Murphy's Law

Photo courtesy of fishyfish_arcade at flickr.

Oh the irony. We leave the UK, and the pound falls to a five-year low. Right now it's trading at 1GBP to $1.56 and some analysts expect it to go as low as $1.40 sometime next year. The very worst I remember it getting when we lived in Aberdeen was around November 2007 when it topped out at $2.11. Although it doesn't sound like a lot, all those extra pennies add up considerably for folks with most of their money still in dollars living in a country where they pay in pounds. On the bright side, it's hopefully alleviating some of the high cost of living for my fellow Americans still in Great Britain and, according to this report, is stimulating more travel and retail purchases from across the pond.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Phillies Parade

One week ago today was the Phillies victory parade down Broad Street. I had toyed with the idea of taking the boys in, but I had reservations given the crowds that were expected. However, my time living abroad has given me new perspective on adventure. I knew this was an experience I couldn't miss. Who knows how long it could be before another Philadelphia World Series. Regardless of how young they are, my boys had to witness this event if only to tell their children some day they were there. Thankfully, my dad was very eager to attend the parade as well and more than willing to help me transport the wee guys into the city.

We opted for public transportation since many roads would be blocked in Center City. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea. I have never in my life seen the train so crowded. We waited for about 15 minutes while my dad got our tickets and by the time we made it up to the platform, the line was through the door, around the corner, and up the block. We weren't even able to get on the next train that pulled up since it was too packed with fans. Thankfully, the next one had empty seats in the first car, and we were able to ride it comfortably all the way to the end of the line.

Addison waiting for the train. Our mode of transportation was a real highlight for him.

My dad, Davis, and Addison all in Phillies gear.

The packed parking lots. If you look carefully, you can see the line of people creeping up the street.

The view north on Broad Street right where we got off the subway. The little man perched atop City Hall is William Penn, or Billy as the locals affectionately refer to him.

Addison and I waiting on the stoop of my brothers' apartment, which is just two blocks from the parade route. We stopped here for a bathroom break.

A man on stilts with a Phillies flag, just some of the entertainment as we waited eagerly for the parade to begin.

This is how you keep two toddlers happy while they patiently wait two hours for the parade to begin. FOOD.

The boys in front of our little spot on the corner of Fitzwater and Broad. The crowd was still relatively thin at this point, but it grew as the time approached until we were completely surrounded. Apparently, our stroller became a magnet for other families with children who must have seen us as friendly and sympathetic bystanders.

The crowd emptying onto Broad as soon as the parade passed. It lasted only about 10 minutes and consisted mainly of 18-wheelers loaded with the players, their families, and upper management.

The trip back was interesting to say the least. We headed home around 1:30 by which time people had been drinking for awhile. We took the elevator back down to the subway and when the doors opened, we couldn't even squeeze off of it. There were so many people down there. I had this momentary feeling of claustrophobic panic, but everyone behaved themselves well and kept their heads. It took us about half an hour to get a train back to Jersey, and although we had to stand the entire trip home, we all were buoyed by the enthusiasm and spirit of the day. In many ways, the experience wasn't so much about the parade itself as it was about a city rallying together in celebration of a long awaited championship. It was a proud moment to be a Philadelphian, one I will not soon forget! Check out the rest of the pictures in the Phillies Parade album.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's a Girl!

I am in a state of complete and utter shock! The very first look at our baby the tech got was a perfect between the legs view, and she said, "I think you've got your girl." I sat up slightly on the bed and said, "Are you serious???" I can hardly describe what an incredible moment it was. She checked several times and then the doctor further verified it.

Even more importantly, however, the baby is healthy, growing, and squirming a lot. In fact, she...oh my goodness, I'm saying she...wouldn't exactly cooperate with the tech and it took a little longer to get all the pictures and measurements. Right now she is frank breech, but there is plenty of time for her to turn.

Thank you for all your well wishes. I'm sorry to have left you hanging for so long today, but this was news worth waiting for!

We got a 4D glimpse of the baby, my first experience with this amazing technology. She's a little thin yet at only 21 weeks, but it's still amazing to see the contours of the face. Her right hand is clenched in a fist covering her right eye.

The money shot, and, oh yes, she is definitely a girl. Addison's ultrasound did not look like that.

Spiderman

No project in the Fletcher household is ever undertaken lightly, which often means going all out on even simple tasks. Most people carve ordinary pumpkins. Not us. We pick a challenging pattern with a high likelihood of failure. Got to keep it interesting, right? In recent days Addison has really gotten into the old Spiderman cartoons from the '60s thanks to his Daddy and their instant availability on YouTube. So when it came time to carve this seasonal gourd, my dad suggested a Spiderman tracing. I found a stencil online, which we then enlarged and modified slightly to work with a pumpkin. I purchased special pumpkin carving tools at Michaels which were immensely helpful for the finer carving of this intricate pattern. It took us the better part of two hours, with breaks, to complete it, but it was well worth the effort.

Cutting the top off the pumpkin. Here you get a good view of the stencil we used to transfer the pattern onto the pumpkin skin. The little orange tool lying on the table immediately to the pumpkin's left was a tracing wheel, which pricked the skin and left the stencil imprint for cutting.

Addison was very eager to help with supervision, of course.

My dad gutting the pumpkin while Addison looks on in complete fascination.

Davis found the candles of greater interest than the carving even attempting a wee taste.

Pumpkin micro-surgery.

Spidey all lit up. More photos are in the Pumpkin Carving album.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This Day in History

Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois last night.

There have been two moments in my life so far when I knew I was experiencing an historic event, an event which would be talked about and studied for generations to come not just for the immediate ramifications but for its global impact. The first was 9/11, and the second was yesterday's election. On November 4th, 2008, the American people resoundingly elected Senator Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States with a margin of more than 7 million popular votes and well over the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

Whatever you think of Obama's political ideals or personal choices, whatever side of the issues you fall on, whether today you awake with the elation of a kid on Christmas morning or the depression of the day after, there is no denying that this day in history will be remembered for a long time. The country is waiting with breath that is bated. And so is the world.

"This is our moment...to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can."
~Barack Obama, victory speech

If my time living overseas has taught me anything, it is that Americans are the most optimistic, determined, hopeful people I've ever known. There is nothing we cannot achieve. There are no limits to our aspirations. What we do not like, we can change. What we haven't yet realized, we can accomplish. As I walked into the voting booth yesterday with Addison's hand clasped in mine, a profound wave of gratitude washed over me that I was born in this great land with so much freedom and so much promise. My prayer this day is that in the midst of bloody international conflicts and global economic failure, a new day is upon us, not because we have elected any particular man president, but because our God is still on the throne. He can use any vessel. So for Obama supporters, don't let your hopes soar beyond the reality that he is just a man with many failings, and for his detractors, don't lose heart. Our God is King!

Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat

In case you hadn't figured it out from my hint, Addison and Davis dressed up as the Man in the Yellow Hat and Curious George respectively. Finding a monkey costume was easy enough, but what I discovered when I came up with the idea a few months ago is that a child's costume for the Man in the Yellow Hat doesn't exist. I searched high and low to no avail when I finally stumbled upon photos a woman had posted from the year she had done the same thing with her boys for Halloween, creatively compiling the outfit for our yellow friend, and her description gave me some direction for making my own. The shirt I already had. The pants were part of a karate outfit I bought on Ebay. I then dyed both garments to get that Big Bird color so associated with this character. The hat was purchased from a Curious George website. I made the tie out of felt. The black wellies were another Ebay acquisition, and the finishing touch, the belt, came from Kmart. I had as much fun visualizing and putting the costume together, I think, as Addison had wearing it, and it far exceeded my expectations.

It tickled me to see the flicker of delight and recognition light up faces as we passed fellow trick-or-treaters or greeted neighbors at their door. The boys really got into the action making it two whole blocks before their little legs gave out.

As a bonus, I discovered a woman who was auctioning off almost an identical, handmade costume on Ebay about a week before the holiday. The last bid I saw had it at $51?!? Now I know what to do with the costume for next year.

Our little monkey.

Addison ready to get candy, bucket in hand.

Davis was a trooper and walked most of the way himself. Periodically, he would tug at the banana in his right pocket, which was sewn in, and say, "Bite!"

The gang ready to hit the streets. With a costume that brightly colored we didn't have to worry about being visible. The rest of the photos are in the Trick or Treat album.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where to Begin?

So much has happened over the past few days, and I have so much blogging material with so little time to post that I had to pop in for a quick preview lest I leave you hanging.

The Phillies WON THE WORLD SERIES on Wednesday after Game 5 was suspended nearly 48 hours due to rain! It was an incredible, magical moment, one I will never forget, and Friday I took the boys into the city along with my dad, braving the 2-4 million people who flooded the streets of Philadelphia to experience the joy of this long-awaited celebratory parade down Broad Street. I can hardly describe what it was like, but I'll try when I post more about it.

The parade occurred on Halloween, so after we headed home and the boys got a much-needed nap we took them out trick-or-treating for the very first time. I couldn't have predicted how much fun that was going to be as both boys really got into the spirit. What did they dress up as? Here's a hint. Think the lovable, mischievous pet of a misguided, monochromatically dressed owner, the fictional creation of Margret and H.A. Rey. Still unsure? Stay tuned.

As part of our Halloween celebrations we carved an amazing Jack-o-lantern, Spiderman. It was ambitious and a little crazy, but I guarantee you the coolest carved pumpkin you've ever seen.

And that brings us to this week. Tomorrow is an historic day in this country. We will either elect the very first African-American president, or we will elect the very first woman vice president, definitely progress whichever side of the issues you fall out on. I think we're all a little politics weary here. Every other commercial on TV is campaign related, especially since NJ is a next-door neighbor to the hotly contested electoral state, Pennsylvania. It will be good to bring this season to a close.

And finally Thursday is a BIG day in our family. I go for the mid-point ultrasound at which we should be able, if the baby cooperates, to find out the sex. I get more and more excited as the day nears. I am going down officially on record as predicting a girl. Yesterday we went round the table making prognostications, and, as the odds would dictate, we're evenly split. Perhaps third time's the charm?