Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Letters from the edge

Does every parent struggle with self-doubt? I kinda hope so. 
Recently, my self-doubt has become a relentless nag. WHY is the life-work balance so hard to get right? WHY do I feel like I should be doing more, contributing in a more meaningful way? WHY can't I get the right level of fulfillment if I'm doing such "important work"--you know--raising these three miscreants?
Well, I've got no answers.
But I've got letters.
Two glorious, adorable letters, folded and taped for security, that landed on my desk just when I most needed to read them. Here they are:
Oh yeah. M&Ms included. Has better mail ever been sent?
In the interest of full disclosure, it's just one piece of paper, but the sheet clearly contains two hearts, each surrounding a separate note.
First up, Patrick's--
Here's the transcript:
Dear Mom,
Thank you for always being so sweet. [A lie, but I'll take it!] I know if you and dad weren't here, me, James, Elliott and even Riley would not be standing here. [Love! But wait. Does he think I birthed the dog??] It is also very fun spending holiday traditions, too. [Preach!] You are the [tragically, this superlative was ripped out by tape..., but I feel 96 percent certain it was positive!] mom in the world, ask James.
After that thoughtful allusion, James' letter needs no introduction. 
Recorded by Patrick, here's the transcript:
Dear Mom,
Mom, I think you are my best friend. [For real. Is it just me, or are you dying?] I like my neighbors in every way. [Okaaaay. Really odd jump there, kiddo, but I'll keep reading.] Dear mom, I'm glad you will start me a show. [Sure. It's the least I can do.] I like to go to school. [Yup. In conclusion, ... yes. This all makes perfect sense!]
So, just as I do every single day, I back away from the edge and choose to laugh at these boys and this life and trust it's all going to be OK. Because if not, I have chocolate.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Law-abiding citizens (for the most part)

With only a thin veil (named "Halloween costumes"), there's been serious concern about Patrick's life of crime.

Need I remind you of the eight-year-old's thug life?
Phew! Chilling! Especially with the mock turtleneck for warmth.
Anyway, I want you to know it was all an act. My boy is still following all rules and regulations, as far as we can tell. I mean, look. Can you spy him in this shot from a recent third grade field trip to city hall?
Might this photo help? Yes! There he is! It's Chief of Police Patrick, whose first order of business is to arrest that incompetent twerp measuring for uniforms and accessories.
Don't you love it? Patrick played the cop in the mock city council meeting, but really should've been allowed to bring the hat home. At least we have photographic proof!
Not to be outdone--because he's Elliott and shall never be outdone!--Elliott got to tour the Ohio Statehouse and Supreme Court of Ohio. He and a small group of trouble-makers got to hear arguments in a real case, participate in their own mock trial and wine-and-dine (or lunch) with Senator Jim Hughes (pictured below and to the left). See Elliott with his I-don't-NEED-to-tuck-in-my-shirt-unless it's-the-U.S.-Supreme-Court outfit??
Unkempt appearances aside, I hope you'll believe these Scully boys are on the straight-and-narrow. JAMES, on the other hand...
James has developed an unhealthy--and dare I say criminal?--relationship with the Halloween candy bowl. He carefully picks out his two pieces, gobbles them down, then turns to me with his best puppy-dog eyes and says, "I didn't like those. Can I get two more?"

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Weeeee! It's Halloweeeeeeen!

If it's been 365 days, I know only one thing: It's time to blog again!
Hooray for Halloween! And hooray for the first time we actually had a jack-o-lantern for all three boys!
Our approach is this: Each boy draws his own design on paper, and I sketch it onto each pumpkin. So, each artist is pictured to the right of his own creation below!
P.S. If you're very impressed by the three-year-old's design, please know he described it, and Elliott drew it. Then, Elliott decided there were far too many "fancy" designs, so he'd go "classic."
Speaking of Elliott, we might as well kick things off with him! Wanna guess what his costume was? Here's a hint. A little hint Elliott calls "comms."
Here's a better hint. Not at all surprisingly, Elliott was a Homeland Security agent.
If you're thinking, "It's as if that child plays dress-up just to be MORE serious," we'd all agree with you. In fact, a friend suggested he consider dressing as a tax accountant next year, and I'd say it's in the top three of possible 2016 costumes.
Could this be my favorite feature? He carried a briefcase with a Homeland Security logo that said, "CANDY CONFISCATION, Protecting the Public Since 2005."
On the other end of the law spectrum, we find Patrick.
Although he looks like he should be cupping his hands and requesting soup, he's actually a hardened criminal who's just broken out of jail. Here. Try this shot:
Actually, he was only half of a criminal enterprise. Here's his best bud, the one who sprang them from the clink.
I'd like to point out that I stopped snapping to request no more pleasant smiling from these thugs... Ah well. Details.
And speaking of details, here are all of the criminal accessories we could come up with:
Handcuffs, a red crowbar, money bags and a ball-and-chain, which Patrick insisted on calling a "ball chain" no matter HOW many times I corrected him. Oh, and the matching bandit mask his buddy's mom carefully crafted for Patrick was lost just hours before Trick or Treat.
If you're wondering where these fellas research bad guys, look no further than Lego! Tada! The inspiration:
OK, OK. You're on the edge of your seat for the unveiling of James. Your wait is over!
He's Firefighter James! And he seriously had a professional-grade (hand-me-down!) uniform:
Why yes, he DID collect candy in a fire extinguisher. Thank you for noticing! And JUST because Elliott gave me a stern talking-to, telling me no one cares about these details and no one's going to read these things and WHY do you DO this stuff..., here are all three panels of my pretzel-barrel fire extinguisher:
He slays me with these faces.
Here's our whole crew before stuff broke, accessories ran away and the ball-chain tripped its wearer.
Ahhhh, I just love it!
And I love that our fantastic neighbors hosted their annual pre-T-or-T dinner party in their garage! As their daughter pointed out, "We HAVE to. It's TRADITION." And when our kids actually eat something WITHOUT sugar, we all appreciate the heck out of this tradition!
Here are all the kids from our street that we kinda corralled and marginally got to look toward the cameras at the end of the driveway. They'll all be licensed drivers next week, so I'm glad we pushed to get this photo!
Oh, and just adjacent to this party garage, we found the prop the led James to win Halloween.
I mean, BOOM.
At this point, Elliott had already cut out to meet his crew of friends and their fabulous, pizza-serving parents. By chance, I saw him only once during the whole evening. And because he's a loving son,  he dutifully stopped to pose for my camera. See him there?  
Luckily, another parent captured these wacky kids while they were all still amenable to the paparazzi.
I walked with James and remembered that no one moves at a three-year-old's pace except a three-year-old. (I extend my thanks to the whole entire village that helped our boys get through Trick or Treat 2015!)
Luckily (and strategically), the fire extinguisher filled right up before we even made it off our street, so James was thrilled to head home to inspect his haul.
His big brothers, on the other hand, are practically professionals, and they took full advantage of a two-hour candy-collecting window. As is now their norm, they collapsed into bed and then got to the serious sorting and trading in the a.m. 
And DO YOU KNOW what else? For the first time in four years, we DIDN'T have a steady downpour during Trick or Treat! It spit and sprinkled on us, but we were unfazed. Can't ruin our Halloween, Mother Nature! :D

Saturday, November 1, 2014

No whine on Halloween!

If your concern is that we're all going to forget a bevy of these children's memories because I blog annually, you're probably right.
But! I'll be damned if we forget a single Halloween moment!
To kick things off and show you how mature and refined we've become since I last blogged, check this: Candy trading didn't take place until the morning after Trick-or-Treat!
Prep, as you know, started ages ago. This year, Patrick and Elliott were ultra-dedicated to the gutting part of pumpkin-carving. At least one of them (Elliott) LOVES roasted pumpkin seeds, but at this point, Patrick was convinced he loved them, too.
Patrick's design and finished product--
Aaaaaaaaand Elliott's--
(Don't you worry. That's a plastic knife from the play kitchen.)
God bless Patrick. We had quality one-on-one time working on creating his costume. These are the memories we'll remember forever.
I know, I know. Enough with the touchy-feely, lovey-dovey stuff. Here. This photo of a hungry lion will snap you right outta that!
Well, HOW ELSE would you dress for your errands when it's October 31st??!
(P.S. Pictured here is the lovely little lady James and I babysit. She's pretty cute, but let's be honest. She's just a prop in my never-ending photo shoots.)
As you may have heard, this was the first year Riley was an only dog for Halloween. (Rest in peace, Tragus!) To brighten her spirits, I decided she should be included in the fun.
As it turns out, Riley was less than thrilled. But her brothers loved it!
This was the moment when she looked right through me, as if to ask, "What did I do to deserve this? What, Mom?" (Sorry, girl. But you look supercute, AND you have the same size neck as Pete! NOW we know!)
I didn't torture Riley past that point, so I moved on to the human subjects. Here, in his first real trick-or-treat appearance, is James as Cookie Monster! (Obviously, he carried a cookie jar that said, "but me like candy too.")
And THIS is why I love Halloween!
Here's the exact moment when Cookie Monster noticed the giant chocolate chip cookie approaching. Look at that crazed glint in his eye!
Patrick's "help me" sign was a last-minute (but crucial) addition to his costume. The mixing bowl as a candy catcher was Patrick's idea. :)
COOK-IE!!! Um, mum, mum, yum...
Ah, yes. There IS another kid living here! Thank you for remembering.
Elliott approached me a month or more ago and asked if he'd be allowed to go trick-or-treating with friends this year. Had it already come to this?! I'm already out of the creative equation?? The answer, basically, is yes. So, I said he could, but I challenged his group of pals to come up with a group costume. They agreed.
This is the result.
If I have to spell it right out for you (dummy), he's Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon and star of a literary series these little brainiacs love. Each of the four kids picked a character. But the funniest part? Elliott rejected the first wig I bought and insisted on the one you see above. Then, by the time he met up with his friends, he got self-conscious and didn't want to look silly. He lost the wig entirely once the lady friends entered the party!
Nevermind that the only other boy volunteered to be the Cyclops. Wrap your arm around the girls!
But look at me getting ahead of myself!
Pre-T-or-T, our awesome neighbors hosted their annual potluck dinner party. I made this and promptly told anyone who'd listen it was the cutest thing I'd ever made! You should make one, too. It was easy, but even children were impressed. (Whoa.)
Here's a majority of costumed kids on our street. Don't you love it??
I caught James, just after he dropped half his hot dog, lifted somebody's purple pumpkin and was out. Ding-dong, candy, got it. See ya, Mom!
Since Elliott was too cool for us, I joined a couple of other parents with Patrick, James and two other second-graders. And if you're thinking, "My, but it looks wet and freezing and miserable," you would be entirely right.
But the haul was great. Elliott had A BLAST with his friends, even watching the Percy Jackson movie after trick-or-treating! Patrick did great, too, and his costume held up surprisingly well in the weather conditions that seem to be our new norm. James lasted longer than any of us imagined and fared pretty well, even if he was saying, "Trick-or-treat! Fank you!" to the driveways, long before he got to most doors...
Details. Those are just nit-picky details.
It was an awesome Halloween 2014! :D