Ben's Little Treasures

Growing up, Mom taught us that we never went somewhere empty-handed.

It's ingrained in me now. If you're going to a friend's house for dinner, ask if it's alright if you bring something for dessert. If you're going for a playdate, make a pan of brownies. If you're not able to make something ahead of time, then stop at Tim Horton's for a small pack of TimBits. Not only does this guarantee you'll have a never-ending supply of sugar (ah hem,) but it shows that you appreciate their hospitality and acknowledge the work it took to prepare their home for your visit. It's the Italian way. Grandma Lombardo always said, "You don't ask if they want coffee. You ask what they want in their coffee." Who doesn't appreciate that sentiment?

Anyway, I don't remember ever telling my boys about this age-old Italian tradition. But I guess I never had to.

Benjamin has a thing about not going somewhere empty-handed. Everytime we walk toward the door to make our exit - to playgroup, to church, to Target, to the wagon for a walk - he grabs for something to hold in his hand. Most of the time, I need to ask him to leave it at home. Especially if we're going on the front porch - that toy would be guaranteed to be thrown over the side! But there are many other times when I just let him take his beloved ball or Little People figurine or flashlight. Not the hockey stick, though. Or the balloon. Those are fights waiting to happen. Our van is constantly littered with these little treasures, especially since Mommy usually grabs a second identical treasure for Jack to hold in case he grows jealous of his brother's toy. Or perhaps I should say when he gets jealous. Brothers.

But please don't think I mind. I really don't. I make trips to the Dollar Tree for the very purpose of finding new treasures for him to adore.

During the past few weeks, though, this same habit has applied to bedtime. And naptime. Before being sent to the confines of his crib, Benjamin will scour the immediate area around the couch (where we do our book reading/singing/praying routine) for something to take with him. A stuffed animal would be the most obvious and normal choice. But he's only taken a stuffed animal once. More often, it's a Hot Wheels car. A bouncy ball. And today... are you ready for this?... an ice pack.

An ice pack? Yes, an ice pack. I doubt he cuddled up with it, but when I checked on him a few minutes later, he was peacefully sleeping in his usual spot, with the ice pack just a few inches from his face. And yes, it was warm.

Ben knows that he should never go somewhere empty-handed. He just knew.

That is my son... and there's the proof.


Highlight of my Day

My Great Aunt Mary and Great Uncle Ron came to visit the boys this morning. It's a shame we don't see them very often, even though they only live about five blocks away.

My Aunt Mary is my mom's paternal aunt. Italian aunt. 100% Italian. Short and with a pretty healthy-sized nose and slightly stocky build, Aunt Mary never had kids. She's the kind of woman who would gaulk at how tall we got, how talented we were and how beautiful we played the piano. Honestly, we could never do wrong, according to my Aunt Mary.

Uncle Ron is a male fashionista... or perhaps it's fashionisto. You've never seen a grown man get more excited about clothes or cologne. Uncle Ron has always doted these huge Coke-bottle glasses, though you still can't be sure his vision is any stronger because of them. Always the first to laugh at his own jokes, he's much more likely to forget the punchline and say, "Mar, how did it go?" When I was little, he'd hide a dollar bill under each of our dinner plates and couldn't wait for us to sit down in our seats and discover them.

They are such a sweet couple. They're in their seventies now and the only thing that's changed about them in the past thirty years I've known them is their speed. They must just a little slower these days.

But we had such a great visit and my sides still hurt from laughing. I wanted to tell you about the highlight of my day, because of their visit.

I could talk about how funny it was to hear Uncle Ron keep mixing up the boys' names, even though I was sure to put Ben in blue, just like always. But not only was he mixing them up, he was calling Jack "Jeremy." Poor boys started responding to just about anything!

I could also tell you about how Aunt Mary thought their little caterpillar was a crocodile.

I could even brag about how sweet it was to watch each of my boys run to each of them and embrace them in a big squeeze, followed by a gentle kiss on the cheek.

I could also talk about how hilarious it was watching Uncle Ron with the boys' baseball bat, swinging at the air and then jokingly starting to fall down after every swing. Jack and Ben were in stitches. So was I. So was Aunt Mary.

And gosh, if only I could have counted how many times my aunt exclaimed, "aye aye" or inhaled a long "heeeeeeeee" in worry or fascination as she watched the boys climb, jump off of or dive into the couch.

But by far, the biggest highlight of my day was watching them do "Ring around the Rosie." All four of them. The boys grabbed their hands as they made a little circle in my dining room. We sang the song as Uncle Ron, Aunt Mary, Jack and Ben shifted their feet to the left to form a little circle. My aunt and uncle looked so cute, huntched over, holding two two-year-old's little hands in each of theirs. Jack and Ben couldn't take their eyes off of them. Then, as they got to the end... "we all fall DOWN!" you would have expected the boys to fall to the ground. We've done it a million times before. But they didn't this time. They watched the two grown-ups gently fold their knees, but otherwise, stand still. So the boys did the same. "No!" Aunt Mary laughed, "fall down! You fall down! I can't!" But the boys just stood there, still holding hands, and knees slightly bent. They sang it again (and this time, I could barely sing because I was laughing so hard.) And when they got to the "We all fall DOWN!" Aunt Mary bent down on one knee. But the boys still stood there, completely enamored by their new playmates. Aunt Mary couldn't stop laughing as she tried to encourage the boys to fall to the ground, but the most they would do is fall to one leg. "Ron, help me up!" she laughed, "I can't get up!" He waddled his way to his wife and extended both arms to pull her up before they tried the game a few more times. I don't know if this scenario sounds funny to you, but it was absolutely hilarious!

The only picture I got of this little game was on my cell phone. Still, I think it captures the moment.

When they left, after Uncle Ron had made a few speedy trips to the bathroom, he said, "That was the most fun I've had in my entire life." I'm sure there were plenty of moments that may have surpassed the laughs that was had in our household today, but it definitely topped my list for the day. Possibly my week. Thanks, Aunt Mary and Uncle Ron, for reminding me that we're never too old (or young or fill-in-the-blank) to have a little fun.



Progress. Progress. PROGRESS! We are so grateful for progress!

As it turns out, our lady house had quite a few suitors... that resulted in quite a few proposals. After four days on the market and seven showings, we got four offers. Unbelievable. I don't know, perhaps I'm a little old-fashioned. I assumed there'd be a longer courting process, but I guess that's how this new game is played! And we couldn't be more thrilled.

Our house is now in-contract! The "sold" sign is proudly displayed on our front lawn and we're moving forward! We close in July and are able to stay for three additional months, giving us some time to find a new home. Which is good... because... well, we can't find anything just yet.

I'd appreciate your prayers as my husband and I continue to talk about things like square footage, number of bedrooms, neighborhoods, money and yards. So much discussion. So much looking. So many open houses. So much pressure.

For those of you that have house-hunted in the past, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Especially if you have kids. When you're looking for a house, it feels like you've got to have the next ten years of your life all planned out. Perhaps the next twenty. You feel like you need to know how many more kids you'd have (and their sexes, of course, as it relates to the number of bedrooms,) where they should go to school, if your husband's job will change focus and when and to what, what kind of community would best suit you and how much you can afford and will be able to afford in the future. That's a lot to know. Especially when the only thing I feel good about these days is what I'm making for dinner each week and even THAT changes depending on what kind of day I have!
This could be a long process for a recovering control freak. Hmm, perhaps I'm not recovering at all! I'd rather save ourselves the heartache and just learn all of the details now so we can continue to go about our day-to-day activities in a much more relaxed and confident manner. I just want to know everything. Doesn't seem like too much to ask! :)

In the meantime, we will continue to look at pictures of houses, drive-by neighborhoods and schedule appointments to see houses we think we may like. All while trying to enjoy some beautiful weather with my boys, prepare healthy meals for my husband and keep my sanity. I'm going to need your prayer on this one! ;)


They've Learned So Much

Jack and Ben on their 2nd birthday (and our 4th wedding annivesary, May 5th)

My thoughts have been very retrospective during the past few days. Remembering, celebrating, observing and wishing there was a way for me to bottle things up just as they are so I can enjoy them again in the future. I want to freeze a few moments in time. Bottle up a few laughs. Store up some toddler twin talk. Savor these precious moments. Perhaps that's why I take so many pictures!

It occured to me yesterday how much the boys have learned in such a short time.

They sleep through the night.
They walk, run, jump and climb like nobody's business.
They love to color with crayons, pencils and pens, but especially markers and paint.
They babble quite a bit, but have a little more than a dozen words they use all the time.
They can imitate almost any animal. The elephant is my favorite.
They like to imitate my mom's Italian hand gestures.
They love to read.
They feed themselves.
They drink from a cup.
They cover their mouth when they sneeze. Well, Ben does anyway. Sometimes.
They will eat any type of fruit, any time of day.
They ask to sing certain songs by doing the motions.
They pat their brother on the head to say "I'm sorry."
They can point out the letters "S" and "O" from a mile away. "J" and "B" too, but not as predicably.
They can draw a line, a circle, dots and squiggly lines on command.
They say "woah" and "bus" and "tree" constantly during carrides.
They hold our hand when we're walking.
They fold their hands when we pray. And then they say "Amen."
They are a joy to parent.

Some of the things they've learned are things we had to work for. Others, they learned naturally on their own. It occured to me how overwhelming parenting was when I realized how much they would need to know. Gosh, I know how to hold a spoon, but how do I teach someone else to do the same? How would they learn that they're not supposed to touch outlet covers, jump out of the crib or run away from mommy in public? How do you discipline? How do you get them to sleep for an extended period of time?

But as more time passes, you learn. You research, ask other moms, experiment, you fail, you do a search in Google, you try again, you succeed. Some of these skills are things we had to teach. Andy and I would talk extensively about what we hoped for them and then came up with a plan. We tried it, tweaked it and tried it again. We've made many mistakes. But thankfully, the boys didn't know any better. We grew more confident and tried our best to stay consistent. We tried to give them some space, respect and some structure. They watched us, mimicked, copied and depended on us. And somehow - in spite of ourselves - they've done extremely well.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan and Benjamin. I don't know who has grown more in the past two years: me and your daddy... or you guys?