Wednesday, August 31, 2011


And this is what happens when Hallie tries to make breakfast all by herself.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I Can Do It Myself! (No Really, I Can!)

Last weekend I suddenly realized that Will was old enough and capable enough to make his own breakfast. I talked him through the steps on Saturday, and on Sunday I supervised from the dining room.

Selecting his cereal.

Gathering his bowl, cup, and utensils.

Transporting everything, via rocket ship chair, back to the counter.

Pouring his cereal.

Getting out the soy milk and orange juice.

Pouring the milk (while I held my breath).

Recapping the orange juice.

Breakfast is served!

I bet you can guess where all this independence means for our family... This weekend, for the first time in nearly five years, Tom and I are BOTH sleeping in while the the kids fend for themselves. Will knows how to watch On Demand cartoons and make breakfast - what more could they need?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Wish...Things Kids Say and We Wish They Could Take Back

I've hemmed and hawed for the last two hours over whether or not to write about what happened to me tonight, and while I probably shouldn't do it, I'm going to anyway. Because I know writing it down will make me feel better. And because (I hope) my mom and mother-in-law and friends with kids will comment and tell me that their kids have done the same thing to them and that they got over it.

Tom had to work late tonight - so goes the beginning (and the middle and the end) of the university semester. As a treat for the kids, who were missing their dad, we...

1. Went to Blockbuster to rent a movie.
2. Played on the indoor play structure at the McDonald's next door.
3. Purchased Happy Meals for dinner.
4. Had a picnic with said Happy Meals on the floor of the living room while watching the movie we rented.
5. Took a bath in Mom and Dad's "swimming pool" bathtub WITH the jets on.
6. Finished the movie curled up in beanbag chairs.

Not a bad evening, right? At least until that point it wasn't.

I asked Will to pick out a book to read before bed. He said no.

I told Will that his two choices were picking out a book to read before bed or going straight to bed. He said no.

I told Will that if he didn't make a choice I would make a choice for him. He said no and ran away.

I made the choice for him and put him straight to bed, at which point he told me he didn't like me anymore. Will tells me he doesn't like me whenever he doesn't like what I've asked him to do or not do, and while I tell him it hurts my feelings, I try not to overreact.

It was after I'd sent Will to bed and was tucking Hallie in that he went for it - he told me he wished I was dead.

I have no idea where he heard the phrase - we certainly don't use it in our house, and I'm pretty sure the four Disney Channel cartoons the kids watch On Demand don't either - and as it turns out, he doesn't really know what it means. He knew it was hurtful though, and he chose to direct it at me. (We did eventually discuss what Will said meant, how it made me feel, and better ways for him to express his anger. Not sure that conversation was all that productive.)

So I'm kind of sad, I'm pretty pissed off at Will, and I'm wishing there was a way write this outburst off as just another thing almost-five-year-olds do and eventually outgrow. Is it? That's what I'm wishing for tonight.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hallie's First Haircut

With the exception of a trim of three “rooster tail” hairs at four months old, Hallie has never had a haircut. She has very fine hair that has, since she was born, been growing out in crops. As one crop reaches about an inch and a half, the next crop shoots out of her head both around her forehead and at the top of her neck. Though I hated the idea of cutting off even a millimeter of Hallie’s gorgeous curls…

No curling iron needed - those ringlets are all natural.

…I decided it was finally time to start evening up her crops of hair with little trims.

Here's Hallie before:

And here's Hallie after. She doesn't look any different, but there are considerably fewer snarls at the ends of her curls.

Another “first” we can file in the College Station folder!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Allergy Update #4

(Read Allergy Updates #1, #2, and #3.)

This morning Will and I returned to the allergist for Will's fresh milk challenge. (In case anyone is keeping track, I've spent more than 10 hours at the allergist this month alone. They're going to set a cot up for me in one of the smaller exam rooms so I can save on travel time and gas money.) His first skin test was negative, but his second skin test was positive (negative = good/no reaction, positive = bad/documentable reaction); these results, when combined with all of Will's test results collected throughout the last few months, make absolutely no sense. Even the allergist is baffled. So while Will played Star Wars math games on his Leapster, the allergist and I discussed all of the options in front of us as well as all of the possible outcomes associated with these options. Long story short, I chose to go ahead with the fresh milk challenge.

We've spent the last four and a half years monitoring absolutely everything Will put in his mouth, making sure he didn't eat or drink something that could quite literally kill him. I knew - both logically and instinctively - that going ahead with the challenge was the right thing to do, but that didn't make it any easier for me to watch Will consume what we had previously considered poison to his small body. I was sick to my stomach from the moment the challenge began until we finally called it quits two hours later.

There's good news and bad news.

The bad news... is that Will is still allergic to dairy.

The good news... is that Will's allergy has dramatically improved/decreased. He was able to drink a teaspoon, and then 30 minutes later, a tablespoon, of chocolate milk for the first time in his entire life. He didn't throw up. He didn't break out in a full body rash. His throat didn't swell. After the teaspoon and tablespoon we moved on to an ounce, which unfortunately led to watery and itchy eyes (which are considered an allergic reaction and therefore ended the challenge) but fortunately didn't cause any dangerous reactions. Will will continue the cooked milk muffin trial for the next six months (heaven help us, and thank you Grandma for offering to send Will a package each week he eats all of his muffins), at which point he'll try the fresh milk challenge again. The allergist is 99% certain that when we test again in February Will's dairy allergy will be a thing of the past.

For some reason I'm feeling particularly sad for my little boy tonight. To be honest, I wasn't expecting Will to completely pass today's challenge - an allergy as severe as Will's clearing up in just five months simply doesn't happen. But deep down I had hoped that today would be the beginning of a new way of living for Will. The beginning of a less-stressful, less-restrictive, more-enjoyable relationship with food and mealtimes and restaurants and birthday parties and friends' houses. He never complains (except about the damn muffins), and he never asks "why me?"; instead, he takes responsibility - in a way that no four-year-old should have to and most adults wouldn't/couldn't take responsibility - for what he puts in his mouth and his own safety.

So tonight I'm complaining for him, and asking why for him. But tomorrow I'll follow his lead and take responsibility for helping him play the hand he was dealt. I'll also say a quick prayer that come February, when the trial is over, this too will have passed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Will has now "marked his territory" in four College Station parks.

I appreciate the convenience of trees (for boys) when a bathroom isn't nearby, or when the bathroom nearby is disgusting, but what are us girls supposed to do? I figure I only have another month or two before Hallie also wants to "go pee pee on the potty tree yike Will"...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cupcake Extravaganza

Lately Hallie and Will have really started to enjoy the Pinkalicious books. Though we currently only own Pinkalicious, Purplicious, and Goldilicious, we’ll be picking up a few more books about Pinkalicious and her friends from the library next week so that I don’t have to continue reading the same three stories over and over again every single day.

Pinkalicious loves all things pink (gee, you think?), especially pink cupcakes. So Will, Hallie, and I decided to use the red KitchenAid Stand Mixer to whip up some Pinkalicious cupcakes, and to go with them, some Go Blue cupcakes as well.

Hallie does most of her baking without clothes on. Come to think of it, both kids do a lot of things without clothes on these days, seeing as it's a bazillion degrees here.

Blue cupcakes, blue frosting, and blue sprinkles. Go Blue!

Pink cupcakes, pink frosting, and pink sprinkles. Pretty, pretty pinkalicious!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Your Love is Lifting Me Hyer, Part 4

The Wedding!

Prior to the wedding, the Mueller/Ferris/Ekena clan gathered for a photo. Or 174 photos. This is the best we could do.

Sara and I dressed the girls in matching dresses, but this is the best picture we could get of them together that evening. Lily was EXHAUSTED, and Hallie wanted to go play with their babysitter.

Hallie's butt was far too little for the diaper cover that went with her dress (size 24 months - Hallie is 28 months old).

So after Lily went to bed, we took the diaper cover that went with her dress (size 6-9 months) and exchanged it for the diaper cover Hallie was wearing. The little diaper cover fit Hallie perfectly.

Ben and Laura's wedding was held in the Skamania Lodge Ampitheater, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, at sunset. Just as the sun began to slip behind the the Lodge, Laura walked down the aisle with her father. She looked relaxed and happy and gorgeous, and Ben looked relaxed and happy once he saw her.

After a beautiful ceremony, we strolled just 100 yards to the reception, which was held in a clearing in the woods on the Skamania Lodge grounds. If I wasn't already married, I'd be planning my wedding and reception to take place in this exact location - it was perfectly picturesque, like something out of a movie.

The path to the reception after dark.

Part of the group.

First dance.

Though the kids didn't attend the wedding, we picked up Will and Hallie after the ceremony so they could join everyone for dinner at the reception.

Pre-dinner dance party (with kids).

Timeout. (As Tom took Hallie away from the table for her timeout she waved to the entire group and yelled, "Bye guys! I go to timeout!" When she returned she yelled, "Hi guys! I back!")

There was wonderful company, delicious food, amazing drinks, glow necklaces/bracelets, and a rockin' post-kids dance party.

Betony and Lucas.

Kyle and Alexis.

Sara and Jeff.

Within the Camping Family Tom is known for his dance moves.

Cute, and kind of weird.

Congratulations Bed and Laura, and thanks for including all of us in your celebration!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Love is Lifting Me Hyer, Part 3

Ben and Laura's wedding was on Saturday, but because we knew we'd want the opportunity to spend plenty of time with the Camping Family and see some of the sights in the Columbia River Gorge, we few into Portland on Wednesday and didn't leave until Monday.

The Bridge of the Gods connects Oregon and Washington near Stevenson. The view from the bridge is spectacular, but is almost enough - if you're not a big fan of heights - to make you throw up. Unfortunately the bars along the sides of the bridge took a little something away from my picture. Fortunately there were bars along the sides of the bridge so we wouldn't plunge to our deaths in the river.

Friday morning we drove first to Horsetail Falls, along Oregon's scenic Highway 30. (We're wearing JACKETS! Can you believe it?! Hallie had all but forgotten what the word jacket referred to.)

After Horsetail Falls we drove on to Multnomah Falls. Despite the motivational literature, we decided to first hike (a pretty easy 1/4 of a mile walk) to the Lower Falls viewing bridge.

"Go ahead, hike on up! Hopefully you won't be hit by falling rock!"

The Lower Falls and the viewing bridge.

And then we decided to hike to the Upper Falls viewing platform (a more challenging one mile hike) as well.

The viewing bridge and the Upper Falls. The viewing platform isn't visible in this picture, but is just to the left of the mouth of the falls.

How Tom and Hallie hiked up the mountain. They chatted, kept a lookout for bananas (Hallie got confused between looking out for banana slugs and looking out for bananas) and "hunted" for pink horses and a brown octopus the entire time.

How Jeff and Lily hiked up the mountain. Lily yelled the entire time.

How Will, Grandma, and Grandpa hiked up the mountain. Grandma held a death grip on Will's hand, and Grandpa hugged the wall.

(In case you're wondering, I carried the camera and the snacks, took turns holding Will's hand, and carried Hallie 2/3 of the way down. She screamed - because she was mad about her Nutrigrain bar breaking in half - in my ear for a long enough period of time that I had to put her in timeout on the side of the mountain. Thing was, I didn't want to take her out of the backpack, so putting her in timeout meant that I had to sit in timeout with her. You're welcome for the entertainment, fellow hikers.)

When all was said and done, only Grandma, Tom, Will, Hallie, and I made it to the Upper Falls viewing platform. (About 4/5 of the way up, Lily fell apart and Sara and Jeff decided to take her back down. Grandpa went with them - he was looking for any reason to get down off that mountain.)

My photo of the falls wasn't very good, so I borrowed these from Adam's Facebook page.

I was incredibly impressed with Will, who hiked the entire 2.5 miles - must be all that working out he's been doing at the gym lately.

Friday evening we attended a bird show on the front lawn of the Skamania Lodge (our hotel/resort). It was the kind of presentation that, as an elementary school child, I would have found bland. But as an adult, it was fascinating. Two professional falconers (until that day I no idea "falconer" was a real profession - I assumed it was just something Saturday Night Live made up for laughs) and their assistant, Buddha. They showed and taught us about a variety of unbelievable owls, falcons, and eagles.

We decided this owl was Lily's kindred spirit because it didn't stop yelling the entire time it was out of its cage. Unfortunately Lily and the owl never got to meet.

Liberty the bald eagle had been rescued, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild three different times. Since Liberty could not survive on his own, eventually the decision was made to keep him at the bird sanctuary and train him to become part of the educational team. Our presentation was only his third outing!

Before his moment in the spotlight, Liberty wore a helmet to prevent him from being frightened or intimidated by the crowd. He looked adorable. And kind of confused.

Without his helmet.

Taking flight.

On Monday morning we visited two different wineries and ate lunch at the Full Sail Brewery near/in Hood River, Oregon. The views were spectacular.

That afternoon we hiked to the peak of Larch Mountain (the hike itself was quite short, but because I had to carry Hallie on my hip, it felt much longer), where, from a lookout platform, you can see five mountains at the same time. Incredible.

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens

My parents; Sara, Jeff, & Lily; and Tom & Will in front of Mt. Hood.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of "Your Love is Lifting Me Hyer", when we finally attend Ben and Laura's wedding!