Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You Know You're a Mom...

My girl Arizona Mamma does "You Know You're a Mom When-sDaze" and I absolutely love participating because every single post without fail has me nodding my head along with her and either laughing or crying because every mom can relate on at least some level.

Sometimes, that's great!  Other times, uh, not so much.

We, for instance, have had a particularly rough start to the week.  Sweltering weather has kept us cooped up inside and I'm trying to get the house ready for the grandparents' visit (yay!) at the end of the weekend, so I've been trying to do too much and maybe not doting on the kids to the extent they'd like.  The result?  A big, hot mess.  I'm a hot mess, the house is a hot mess, the kids are a giant ball of hot mess.  Hot.  Mess.

At this point, I think the cleaning and organizing I'm trying to do is actually making the house worse because the kids are trying extra hard to un-do my work... and then some.

So, you know you're a mom when you try to put laundry away and you see this:

and you think, "I should stop them..." and then you think, "but I should put these socks away first and they'll leave me alone for a second..."  so you let it continue for another minute.

Then you realize that they've dumped 4 books in the tub and you didn't see it at first.  One of those books was a library book.  Due yesterday.

So you come up with a solution:

...because you need to turn that book in when you run errands later.  And while you're waiting for your book to dry, you determine you should clean the bathroom, but in your haste to put everything back before the kiddos realize what you're doing, you end up with this:
...which results at 11:49 pm in a big, disgusting mouthful of diaper cream.  Yummy.  See?  Hot mess.

Anyway, while you're quickly putting stuff back on your bathroom counter, ignoring a 3-year-old's insistence that your betta fish needs a friend, you've left them unsupervised in the living room in front of a tv show, so it should be no surprise to see this:
... and now that 3-year-old logic makes sense.  Plastic fish, real fish.  Real fish, plastic fish... it's all the same, so why not cohabitate?  Awesome.

Jordan had also, in this time, removed her diaper, peed on the kitchen floor and had then occupied herself by dropping Cherrios into the air vent, and Addison had discovered Jordan's puddle. 

So, the net result of my cleaning?  A dirtier, more chaotic zoo of a house, kids who needed sanitizing, a load of wet laundry that needed to be re-run because the dryer was being used for a book, and a late start on our errands, leading directly to Car Nap Syndrome and a ruinous evening, not to mention the distinct feeling of zinc diaper cream slathered on your teeth and tongue.  Our hot mess has become hotter and messier.  What?! That's only possible if you're a mom... or maybe someone who has lots of unruly cats and dogs and a few ferrets... maybe.

AND, wouldn't you know it - this post also eeks its way in as my first entry for

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... a super-nerdy, super-fun meme you can check out at THIS spectacular blog!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Becoming Butterflies...

Well, it happened on Saturday... those adorable, stinky little caterpillars  finally decided they were ready to break free and fly away.  Jack and I took our pot of parsley outside and gingerly opened the netting...
Isn't he beautiful?  I coaxed him onto my finger without touching his wings and he hopped happily to Jack's finger from there.  We spent a few minutes admiring his beauty and marveling at the incredible transformation that took place in just a couple of weeks.
They must have eclosed quite a while before we realized they were out because they had already aired out their wings and had gotten circulation going to them... He only tested his wings a few times while we were holding him.
He fluttered his wings ever so slightly as if to test the wind... he delighted Jack with the display of his gorgeous colors...
... and Jack could hardly believe this had been the 'pillars we had so dutifully been guarding in the entryway of our house.
Jack kept giggling about how the legs were tickle-y and that he was so pretty.
But this little guy was ready to go out and explore the world in flight.  Without warning, he took off, surprising both Jack and I with the suddenness of the departure.  He danced around us for just a second before disappearing into the afternoon sun.
Jack watched him go, in disbelief.  He didn't understand why Fluffly had to go away.  He didn't understand why we couldn't keep him.  So he watched with sadness as the second butterfly followed his companion.

To be honest, hot tears stung my eyes as well. 

But it was beautiful to have been a part of something like this. 

So, my entryway is empty once again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Black and White Wednesday...

We had a fantastically fun weekend involving the beach on Saturday and church (which was a HUGE success - love it when that happens!) followed by a trip downtown on Sunday.  The city has so much fun stuff to offer and we're still enjoying discovering all of it.  We have been talking about walking across a big pedestrian bridge and spending some time in one of the many parks.  It was raining when we arrived so we ducked into a gourmet cupcake (two words that are nearly holy when placed next to one another, in my opinion) bakery to snack on super amazing carbs for a few and wait for the storm to pass.  It did and we loved the bridge - it was stunning!  Apparently the city recently re-did the wood planking and updated the bridge... it's so beautiful and welcoming and the two shores it connects offer so much - shopping and boutiques and restaurants and museums and parks and artwork.  Amazing. This place rocks.

Here are a few more fun shots from the weekend!

Today, while you're looking at other pictures on Lisa's blog, I'll be taking the kiddos out and about to enjoy more new things around here.  Excellent. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Caterpillar Rescue Society

Total members of my new club: 1.  Maybe 1 1/2.  Jack is on the fence about whether or not he wanted to rescue the caterpillars or play with them to... uh... "sleep".

Back on Mother's Day, family and I planted potted herbs, including parsley.  Recently, while I was watering said parsley, I noticed this little face staring back at me:

Super cute, huh?  Well, he and two buddies had taken up residence in my parsley.  Jack and I were overjoyed by their presence (...and Justin just rolled his eyes.  I didn't tell the girls because they eat things.) and spent a bunch of time watching them crawl amongst the leaves. 

One little fella was perched up high on a stalk munching away on a leaf and let Jack pet him a couple of times:
See?  See how delightfully plump and... stripey they are?  Love them.  In attempts to get a good shot of the third of the bunch, I noticed this weird little thing...

See those orange things coming out of its head?  Apparently they pop out and squirt stinky stuff into the air when the caterpillar feels threatened.  I didn't not know this until later.  Nor do I know why it felt threatened when I put my hand near it and Jack could pet one with no problems.  Apparently he has a "way" with caterpillars.

These, by the way, are black swallowtail caterpillars.

Anyway, after we took our pictures of them, Jack and I left them alone, hoping they'd do their pupate thing.  When I went back later to check on them, I realized that the one Jack had been petting wasn't around.  My guess is that he made some birdie a very delicious breakfast.  Womp, womp.  Well, I wasn't about to let my new-found buddies (even if they DID want to squirt stink at me) meet with the same fate as their companion, so I snatched the parsley pot and took it inside, much to Justin's chagrin. I placed the pot on a stool near our front door so it could get plenty of sunlight but the 'pillars would be safe from predators.  And Jack.

The accommodations apparently didn't suffice because they kept trying to escape the pot.  In search of what, I don't know.
Each escape attempt necessitated I gingerly pluck the caterpillar off of whatever surface onto which he'd wandered (door jab, door knob, wall, stool, pot, floor) and place him carefully back on the parsley.  Each time, I got sprayed with those annoying orange things.  And it really really smells foul.  I didn't even notice the smell outside, but indoors, it's very potent.  And it lingers on your skin.  It's pretty gross. 

I was annoyed.  I was just trying to help them and all they could do is spray me with stink.

Finally, I got smart and put my (slightly) higher functioning brain and opposable thumbs to work for me and built an enclosure out of pantyhose, kebob skewers and a mesh laundry bag.  I had cleverly thwarted their plans and that night, they attached themselves to a skewer and a parsley stalk and went about forming chrysalises.  So, there they remain for the next couple of weeks.

I can't figure out how to photograph them through the mesh, and I'm worried that attempting to move the mesh might damage them, so I'll post pictures of the butterflies when they eclose!  Stay tuned!

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Brother, My Inspiration

As this blog has grown, and as I have grown, so has my love for photography.  At first, it was merely a way to document and retain memories of my college sweetheart-turned fiance-turned husband, and eventually, of my children.  Somewhere along the line, my little brother Mike introduced me to photography as an art that can do all of the utilitarian functions of capturing memories and moments, but also embody the essence of those moments.  Mike showed me that when an experienced photographer picks up his camera, he goes beyond encapsulating the visual impression to render a lasting record of a feeling.  As a mother, to whom all moments are precious and far too impermanent, such a magic seemed profound and nearly holy...

Mike is talented.  He's not just talented, though, he's gifted.  In photography.  In so many other things.  When I began to question how he was able to take something that many people would take for granted or overlook as mundane and transform it into an awe-inspiring image, he started with the basics.  He introduced me (painstakingly, for him, I'm sure) to digital photography and explained how cameras work, how lenses work, how editing works.  He told me the nuances of ISO and aperture and saturation and contrast.  He showed me how to take better pictures with my own point-and-shoot and then handed over to me his old Canon digital Rebel SLR.  It was huge and it felt clunky and I was terrified of it.  But it became something to me that I could never imagine... it became an almost living connection to my family - to Mike.  I learned so much with that camera.  I captured my baby girls' first year of life with that camera.  I photographed our lives.  I watched us all grow through its eyepiece and I feel an affection for that great gray beast that I have never felt for another inanimate object.

How do you thank someone for that?

Mike taught me to look at the world differently.  He always has, and I never appreciated that for the gift it is until I tried to replicate it.  I doubt I could ever imitate something like that.  But the desire to attempt it pushes me to be a better photographer.  To try new things.  To learn more.

In addition to his stunning photography, and perhaps as a compliment to it, he is an incredible climber - ice, rock, mountains... He has nearly killed himself in more ways than any other human I can fathom.  Avalanches, getting lost at dusk on a 14,000+ foot mountain, racing down a trail on a mountain bike, flipping over rocks and through trees on a motorcycle... He's either got no fear or he's got that much confidence in his own ability to overcome the harshest of God's creations.  Maybe it's both.

Regardless, I admire him so much for it.  I, who have always stumbled over doubt and hesitated with the "what-if"'s staring me in the face, cannot fathom climbing Mt. Rainer and photographing not just the gorgeous vista, but the actual razor-sharp feeling of the overwhelming cold.  I will never know the exhilaration of achieving the impossible the way Mike does on so regular a basis.  The strength and perseverance necessary to conquer the absurd challenges he finds (or creates) leave me speechless and in awe.

Moments in my life have seemed like insurmountable obstacles.  And I have been tempted to quit - to take the easy route.  But a few people in my life have inspired me to push through... My Mom, my Papa, and my brother.  I have, in different instances, taken my courage from the knowledge that they would not falter... that they would find within themselves the resolve to carry onward.  For that, in addition to so much else, I will be forever grateful.   Mike has emerged from darkness with his enduring sense of humor and ever-increasing drive to help other people, and his continuing ability to overcome challenges blows my mind.

There are few people on this planet who have such a wide range as Mike has in his life.  He has seen some of the most devastating, ugly, and painful aspects of the human condition.  He has been knee-deep in the engulfing sorrow we are capable of feeling.  And he has seen some of the most stunningly beautiful vistas we are given the honor of living amongst - many of which he has captured as incredible photographs.

When Mike isn't climbing stuff or taking pictures of stuff, he's saving lives.  He has unselfishly turned one of his greatest passions into a productive, incredible endeavor.  He is part of the Search and Rescue squad in our area of Colorado - tirelessly risking his life to save others'.  Many others'.  Many times.  He has plans to pursue further education to become a paramedic, and he is driven enough to get there.

Every time I pick up my camera and frame a shot, I think of him.  I wonder, "Is this what Mike would have done?  Would he compose it like this?  Would his ISO be this high?  Do I have enough saturation or are my blacks as velvety as his?" When I need strength, I catalog his achievements.  When I need to laugh, I remember his antics. 

Mike is a hero.  He is tragic, and flawed in some respects, yes, but a true hero nonetheless.  Without the darkness he has endured and continues to endure, he wouldn't shine as brightly.

I miss him.  I miss laughing at his absurdity and his goofy faces.  I miss his sarcastic wit and hilarious voices.  Living far away from family has been necessary for us to develop and support our family, but it has not been easy.  I would love to call him and grab our cameras and head out to take pictures of "stuff and junk" or to have him work with Justin to build some ridiculous mechanical device in my garage out of various random parts and pieces.  I would love to hear his commentary on my life with 3 kids and the idiocy that ensues.  I would love to show him that I'm trying, every day, maybe not with words, but in the way I live my life, to be a good big sister.  I'm trying to make him proud the way I am of him.  


I cherish each of these photographs.  I love that they are not only an embodiment of the beauty around him, but also a reflection of the beauty within him. And, I love him.  I will always love him.  He will always be my little brother, no matter how much he teaches me - no matter how much I look up to him.

Mike.. my brother, my inspiration.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Apparently My Brain Doesn't Work

I took the plunge yesterday and joined a local MOMs club because, well, let's face it: I have no friends and I think it's harder for Mommies to find friends and find friends for their youngsters than it is to find a boyfriend.  (Note I said "A" boyfriend... not a "good" boyfriend.)

Anyway, all that means is that I loaded the three midgets into the car, packed them a lunch, hauled 6 diapers (Jordan has some fun diaper rash so I change her very frequently) and a few pounds of Cherrios, sippy cups and other assorted kidgarb to the mall where they've got a fabulous indoor play area.  Not all of this fits in one bag, so I always carry a diaper bag in addition to my own bag which usually contains my wallet and camera and extra diapers or a change of clothes for the kids.

We got there and all was great - the moms were total sweeties and their kids were just delicious.  All of my midgets had a great time and I felt great about my decision to join.  Score.  Well, Jack's insistence on going potty brought our trip to an end and I swung through the restroom of the department store we had parked outside of to let him do his business and to change the girls and dole out cheese sandwiches.

Once I got all the kids strapped into their seats and had the stroller folded and tucked into the car I reached for my bag to set it on the front seat next to me... and it was gone.


Oh was I mad at myself.  I hurriedly unhooked the kids, unfolded the stroller, reloaded them in the stroller, and sprinted with them back into the department store.  I knew I must have left it in the restroom and I was just praying that no one had snatched it in the few minutes I had been gone.

At this point, you need to take a minute and picture me.  It was raining so my hair was a ball of frizz barely contained with a hair-tie.  The kids were all three confused and a little worried about the fact that their mom was sobbing and cursing and begging The Powers That Be for her bag to be there.  My mascara was smearing all over my face from the rain and my crying (pathetic, very un-Melissa-like crying [aside: I'm PMSing so I'm a little emotional right now] ).  I was sprinting through a fairly upscale department store - in the home section, no less - weaving in and out of displays trying not to knock over a shelf of crystal frou-frou crap that I can't afford even when I HAVE my wallet.  The girls were in the double jogger and Jack was perched on the front of it above the swivel wheel, holding on to his sisters' feet for dear life.

It was not one of my more graceful moments.

And of course, when you're browsing in a department store you can not avoid the pushy sales people who bug you and nag you and are uber-helpful when all you want is to find the cheapest shirt you can and get out with your sanity and savings intact; however, none of such people materialize when you actually need one of them.  I did what every self-respecting woman does at this point: I called my husband in a total panic and sent him into a total panic and probably made his entire office aware of what an absolute nutball I am.  Brilliant.

I finally found an employee who took pity on me (or, more likely, on my kids who now looked not just confused but terrified) and took me to find a floor manager.  Several sweet shoppers offered me words of condolence (and mercifully kept their eyebrows down and smirks off their faces) and offered to go re-check the restroom.  The manager told me she'd call the customer service manager and have her review the security footage to see if they could see when and with whom the bag left the restroom and if they were still in the store.  I, in all my pessimistic glory, imagined someone pawing through my bag, tossing aside my babies' Pedipeds, flinging cloth diapers away, and their greedy eyes widening when they saw the D90 nestled in the bag next to my wallet (which, for once in my life contained a bunch of cash) and every credit card you can imagine (in addition to my Books-A-Million customer loyalty card and my grocery store loyalty card, which for some reason really bothered me).  I saw this person (now a full-fledged villain in my mind, complete with cape and dastardly moustache) snatching my money and camera and ditching the bag under some clothing rack before escaping the store and leaving me in a shaky puddle of tears.

I sat down on the floor to wait for an answer from the manager about what the investigation revealed, only to hear, "Miss, they've got it!"  I shook my head and mustered only a "huh?" and blinked a few times, convinced I was hearing it wrong.

"Miss, one of the housekeeping staff found it and turned it in to another floor manager; the customer service manager is bringing it now.  It doesn't look like it's been opened."

My stomach about fell out my butt.  I sent hubs a text message and said they'd found it so he could stop canceling every account we have with every bank in the world and hugged my kiddos (who only looked annoyed now).

Apparently, a member of the staff entered the restroom after I had left to see if it needed to be cleaned.  She saw the bag and immediately grabbed it and took it to her boss, handing it over and saying, "I didn't touch nothing I promise!  Someone's got a bunch of kid stuff (sippy cups in the pockets) here."  The manager just held on to it and called the customer service manager who put 2 and 2 together when she received the call about the insane woman in housewares.

My faith in humanity has been temporarily restored!  And my faith in myself and my ability to function on a responsible, adult level has been utterly ruined.

BUT, my trusty camera and wallet and cash and Pedipeds and cloth diapers were safe.  I promised the manager I'd be a shopper at her store for life and hurriedly gathered my shattered dignity midgets and (all of) my belongings and headed home.

So, while you continue laughing at me, I'm going to go (online!) shopping for backpacks.

Black and White Wednesday

This is my little sister... Though, I have to admit, it's awfully hard to look at this picture and remember her as the obnoxious toddler she was.  She's grown into a very strong, beautiful woman.  There have been some rough patches in our relationship, but she's still my sister and I'm awfully proud of her... and proud of our friendship after all these years.

Now, if I could just figure out why there's a weird line on the side of the picture...?  Oh well.  As you can tell, some technical difficulties have resulted in some rather drastic changes to my blog.  Yikes... under construction, folks, under construction.

There's more fun stuff at The Long Road to China!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Keeping Cool

Apparently the whole world is roasting.  Or braising.  Maybe baking... I don't really know what the distinction is.  But I do know that I had been getting a bit miserable and have been cooped up quite a bit because keeping up with the kids has been super challenging with Jordan's walking taking off... add to that ensuring they're all hydrated in 100 degree heat... ugh.  Not to mention a few of our favorite spots, like this one:

are too hot to touch by the time we get there.  And serene scenes like this:

are all but gone as they become over-run by boisterous crowds with boats and jet skis.

So we have had to come up with a new way to cool off.  And since we live in an awesome place with no lack of great stuff to do, it didn't take long...
I mean, Jordan's cool, but that's not what I meant.
I'm talking about a totally free, totally fun, easy-as-pie (though, to be fair, I think pies are pretty difficult to make) way to beat the heat.  At the aquarium downtown, there is an amazing water feature that is part artwork, part heritage, and entirely available for kiddos to enjoy.

And we enjoy away! 
See?  Addie's saying, "Finally, a sista can cool off a little!"

She looks absurdly like a mini adult here.  Yikes.

I can't tell you how exciting it is to not only have found something like this, but to have it be so accessible is just icing - summer with kids is unlike anything else, and I was getting majorly bummed about not being able to participate.  So if you don't see me post for a little while, you can count on me being downtown with my feet in the water, watching three little people scamper around!


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