Monday, April 30, 2012

Stats And Graphs And A Mystery, Oh My!

A few days ago, I checked in with Blogger™ stats – which I do from time to time to do my due diligence that we haven't unwittingly become the hub of creepers. I edited not only the title of a post once but any traces of any similar phrasing I had used within the same post because I was uncomfortable with a search term that had brought some traffic to this blog. 

And just in case I sound like a creeper myself – or to reassure visitors to our blog that I can't see who you are – here is what I can tell when I look at our blog stats:

Audience: this tells me what part of the world you live in, by continent only.

Traffic Sources: traffic sources are anything that sends "traffic" our way which could include other blogs, links I've posted elsewhere or random things that are a bit of a mystery (things like real-estate sites that aren't really real-estate sites for example).

Posts: this one tells me which posts are most popular*. Our very first post is still #1 and probably so because if you haven't bookmarked our blog or don't have the URL dedicated to memory it's quite searchable through Google and the first thing that will show up in a Google search is that very page.

Keywords: This goes hand-in-hand with posts and it's where I found some keywords I wasn't comfortable having on this blog since there was a bit of a creeper factor and since we are public and I post pictures of my kids. That said, the number one keyword has always been "the oddest prime" and the next 10 or so are usually a variation of that. Occasionally I get a surprise that makes me laugh, and other times I scratch my head a little.

• "Hurt babies" shows up here on and off. It makes me a little uneasy since that's a pretty broad term to search for if you were looking for specific information about your hurt baby, but my babies' hurts are probably not the stuff that anyone looking for pics of "hurt babies" would get anything out of and we've gotten far more searches where it's clear that someone is looking for information regarding a hair tourniquet (AKA: hair wrapped around a body part) that I've let it alone for now.

• "Messy nursery" makes me laugh, since we do excel at this one. Hopefully our recent clean-up post is helpful.

• "Stinkeroo" – I don't think I ever said the word "stinkeroo" ever in my entire life until I quoted Nate for the first time here. I still don't say "stinkeroo" in real life. The boys know how to say "it's yucky!" quite well I suppose, but they have no clue what a stinkeroo is (although they should - it's a great all purpose word really). Still, it's another keyword search term that made me laugh when I saw it.

And that's it. That's what I can tell about you as a viewer, in case you were wondering.

• • • • • • •

Well OK, that's not entirely true. There is one last thing I can see when I look at our blog stats and it's how much you like us.

This is how much you've liked us since Blogger™ started providing stats, measured in "page views":

For a family and friends blog about my boys, getting over a thousand page views most months makes me feel a little less like I'm talking to dead air. To be fair, I would blog even if no one was reading since the people I do this for the most can't read yet.

Still, I got a little excited when I checked our stats yesterday and saw how close we were to the 2000 cut-off – and with 2 days left in the month to go no less! Also, I'm a graph nerd.

We hit 2000 page hits earlier today. New graph looks like this, in case you are also a graph nerd:

And in case you aren't a graph nerd, but are curious about some of those valleys I present the following:

Really, she was. Every single time.

My first thought was that I had less time to post and so it was a natural consequence that traffic would wane. Our biggest valley was our move late last summer and I think I posted 3 times in a 2 month span. Honestly, I'm surprised anyone even came back after that.

Of course, my first thought was quickly followed by my second thought: 

It's hard to maintain your stats when your biggest fan is staying with you and/or using your computer to view the blog since Blogger does not track my page views (or the page views of anyone who would be viewing this blog from my computer). 

Is it more likely that Gamma Rita has been the biggest source of traffic at the OP the entire time, or did our viewership wane as a natural consequence when Gamma Rita visited because I posted less? 


... or as my boys would say, "it's a mystery!"

Either way (and also as my boys would say) – thanks for reading along, everyone!

- L. 

*The fifth most popular post of all time on our blog is one I wrote less than a week ago, which means more than I can say. Really and truly – thanks again.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Getting Your Kids To Eat Their Veggies The Easy Way

Alternate post title: A Dozen For You And One For Me!

Step 1: Have at least 2 children who appreciate the fine art of shenanigans at your disposal.

Step 2: Seat them within easy reaching distance of each other. 

Step 3: Serve veggies.

You can thank me later. In the meantime, there is a video should you require further instruction.

- L.

PS. My guys really are outdoing themselves this week. 

"Mommy Is Little Bit Sad Right Now"

My boys are pretty quick with words lately – and while that's certainly been a lesson in watching what I say, more often than not it's been wonderful watching how fast they pick things up.

In the past couple of days they learned "Mommy is little bit sad right now", which is not entirely a bad thing I suppose. I think it's OK and even healthy that kids don't always see us at our best, but this is the first time they've seen Mommy being a "little bit sad" and I worried a little nonetheless. Despite knowing that it's a perfectly normal thing, I still wanted to keep that from them as much as possible. I'm not ready for them to know sad beyond their own hurts over a car their brother won't share.

Still, they knew.

And even though I'd like to think that "Mommy a little bit sad right now" is the reason they've pulled out a few extra stops over the past couple of days to keep me entertained and/or distracted, I suspect they're actually just having a bit of a free-for-all in their usual fashion.

Tonight's efforts originated earlier today when I did not have a camera handy. Fortunately, my guys re-enacted pretty much the entire thing when I did have my camera in hand tonight at bedtime...

– Oh hi everyone! Is us.
– We looks a little serious, but we do our best to cheer Mommy up in 3, 2, 1... 

– New HATS!!!
– Or as we would really say, "'ATS!!!" 

– "There are cats in 'dis hat!" 

– "Is dark outside. Turn off the lights!"

I'm going to have to stop making up stuff the boys say since the last two pics are the things they actually did say at the time and they're much better at the funny than their Mommy as it turns out.

- L.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

99 Years, 3 Months, 7 Days

A full life lived. Veronica Manning passed away today at 6:45 AM PST.

On behalf of myself and my family, our deepest gratitude to everyone who prayed and kept her in your thoughts during what turned out to be, with great mercy, her last few days.

• • • • • • •

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear the load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying. 

– Henry van Dyke 

• • • • • • •

- L.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Before And After

I've had a few projects I've been meaning to get to for awhile now, and after the very sad news about Gram on Sunday I decided tackling at least one of them would be a welcome distraction.

Last December, I tackled a similar project following some nursery* shenanigans, and while it was a success at the time, the boys have found more than a few ways to get into mischief since then. Their ability to not only climb, but to find things to precariously stand on in order to do some especially precipitous climbing (something they pride themselves on by the way**) has led to their books (which they will still tear given the opportunity) migrating higher and higher up the nursery bookcase until the books were sitting on top of the bookshelves, rather than in them.

Even with bookends, it all seemed a bit wobbly and I realized that I've been reading less often to my boys as a result – getting the books down without causing a cascade of books to start sliding was starting to be something I would do reluctantly. I love reading to my guys and they love their stories, so yesterday seemed like a good day to finally do something about it.

And by something I mean making room in their closet for any books I don't let them have unlimited access to (which is most of them) and toys that can't be used without supervision.

Have I mentioned that we only have one closet in our 2 bedroom apartment? Because we do. I refer to it as the boys' closet because it's in their bedroom, but really it's an all-purpose closet, so making room for everything I needed to make room in there for was a serious undertaking.

And doing it all while two toddlers were "helping"? Well, that was just asking for trouble obviously.

Still, it made for terrific distraction.

Behold my helpers, moments before I relocated them:

Where they continued to "help" of course:

They eventually got curious about what I was up to however:

Around this point, I was having some serious misgivings about taking on this project since everything was in such a state of disaster it was kind of making me want to cry anyway. In the end I resorted to giving them some of the "forbidden books" to look at while I kept one eye on them and the other on the task at hand. 

The finished result(s): 

You'll note some red drawers privileges have returned – but not the super fun ones! – at least not until I get some latches that hopefully prevent climbing. The toys on the top of the bookshelf are all things they can stand on/make precipitous towers out of so that's why they've been reassigned. Things looked a little more balanced originally, but after supper last night, Nate and Seth actually managed to get a toy down from there while I was tidying up the kitchen. My only guess is that they stood on the bedrail since that's all they had available, but I'll admit it doesn't totally add up.

They're tall boys, but even with the bedrail, I just don't think they're that tall. Maybe they took turns standing on each other's shoulders until one of them managed it. To be honest, I wasn't in the room so I have no idea – but I did shore things up further after I saw they were still able to get up there somehow.

And last but not least, in case you were wondering... 

... Seth's favorite bucket is once again "OK".

- L.

PS. About the Vaseline... I ended up getting a great tip which turned out to be unnecessary for dealing with the boys' hair but was invaluable when it came to cleaning the bucket at least since soap and hot water were not getting the job done. The answer is baby oil. While it might sound counter-intuitive, baby oil cuts through the Vaseline grease and is easily removed with soap and hot water – in between, it sort of makes a bigger mess but it's short lived. Just wanted to pass that along in case you happen to have a Vaseline in the hair (or anywhere else) incident in your home.

• • • • • • •

*I've actually been very good about not calling the boys' room a nursery anymore, but it was still legitimately called that at the time.

**I mentioned cryptophasia in a previous post and since it ties in nicely with this one – and also since I haven't gotten around to a proper post about my boys and their "twin speak" yet (and at this rate, never will), "anasahnize" will serve for now. I've spelled that phonetically of course since the boys aren't big spellers yet. It took me awhile to figure out it's meaning, but quite specifically it is this:

Anasahnize (ah-NAH-sah-nize)

– verb
1. the act of standing upon something precipitous in a dangerous fashion. Best served with a side of giggles.

The after-effect of anasahnize sometimes look like this since anasahnize is often deployed for ill-gotten gains:

10:30 PM a few weeks ago, post-anasahnize.
And so proud of ourselves too!

The box that held those puzzles used to be located on top of their dresser where I assumed it was safely out of reach. This particular anasahnize incident involved stacking soft toys in their bed to make a tall enough tower to reach up there. When I walked in on the aftermath, both boys proudly declared "anasahnize!" and then had the temerity to try to reenact their crimes while I was still cleaning up the first one. Fortunately they are shameless that way because up until then I'd been scratching my head wondering how they'd managed it.

For whatever it's worth, anasahnize has worked it's way into the vernacular over here. Frankly it's easier to say, "No anasahnize!" than "Get off that wobbly tower because it's dangerous and also stop building dangerous wobbly towers so you can get at things that I don't want you getting at!".

Unfortunately we have enough words like this now that I'm pretty sure I won't even be speaking English by next year.

Monday, April 23, 2012


1952. Veronica is back row, center.
It would take a novel and then some to tell you about my Gram – about who she is and how very much she is loved and everything she means to our family and the legacy she has already left for everyone who has been honored enough to know her. The way I mother my boys is a testament to that. 

Despite a 3rd grade education and English as a fourth language after she immigrated to Canada 93 years ago, she accomplished more in her life than most. Sadly, the past 3 years of her life have mostly been spent in darkness since she can no longer see more than shadows and quiet since her hearing is all but entirely gone. Dementia has taken most of the rest in the past year.

And now she is dying – slowly. Her kidneys are failing and she has a respiratory infection. My Gram is in a lot of pain, despite sedation. She is 99 years old.

My mom called me in tears yesterday and asked me to pray that God would deliver her into His arms, which I did. My Gram has fought her way back a few times over the past decade and I never doubted she would, but now is... different. There is no recovery when your vital organs start shutting down.

She's frightened since she doesn't know who or where she is, and she's in a great deal of pain despite sedation. She's been combative, understandably. No one, least of all Gram, would want this for themselves – so today I am asking anyone reading this for prayers and peaceful thoughts that her passing is soon and as gentle as possible.

• • • • • • • 

Gram has lived an incredible life and with the exception of the past couple of years at least had her wits about her despite living in a dark and quiet world. And she's been happy and surprisingly mobile.

At 96 she was still living in her own apartment with an assistant that came by once a week for baths and light cleaning. She was 97 and living in a care facility when my boys were born and was still quite sentient. A few months later she started asking when her parents were coming to visit and after that things went steeply downhill.

Yesterday when my mom went to visit her, the staff asked for the first time if funeral arrangements were in order and said Gram could pass tomorrow or a month from now. When I spoke to my mom last night I said, "well, it's Gram so you know it's going to be at least 3 months" and we had a sigh and a little laugh, but also it's probably true and so it broke our hearts too.

Dementia stole her away nearly completely this past year. Coupled with her very limited hearing, if she was talking at all it was about events of the distant past. Of course, a great deal of what she had to say was also gibberish, mixed with paranoia and fear – each of these hallmarks of a cruel disease.

Two weeks ago out of the blue she asked about "the twins" which are, of course, my boys. This fairly recent memory somehow surfaced for her and I know how very much she loved knowing I was pregnant and was having twins. We were all surprised that she was able to recall any of it though, given everything. Perhaps it was because she'd about given up hope that I would ever have a child – much less two – when I became a mom. I know how much she always enjoyed stories about them when she still had a foothold in reality and was able to still hear at least a little.

• • • • • • • 

When I first heard the song "Veronica" years ago, I loved the tune but frankly, it didn't strike much of a chord otherwise despite the name. At the time, the woman in the song couldn't have been more different than my Gram.

Over the past few years, however, it's become fairly poignant and never more so than right now.

- L.

PS. There's a story in the picture that I can't quite recall other than that it had to do with some chickens that went south on her eldest daughter's wedding day and that when the photo was taken she was busy thinking about those chickens. Maybe Gamma Rita can fill in the details in comments.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

That's A Machine, Alright!

Long before "That's a tse-tse, alright!" appeared on the scene, the phrase "That's a machine, alright!" came into being. I'm guessing it's something I must have said once in response to a query about whether something in particular was, in fact, a machine.

Truth be told, it's hard sometimes when you're outnumbered and I needed a way to indicate to my boys that things like a VCR or the washing machine are not toys, despite all the fun buttons. Pointing out that these items are a "machine" has actually worked for the most part.

Of course, I've never claimed this strategy is foolproof.

Every time I hear "that's a machine, alright" it always cracks me up a little – partly because it's a funny thing to hear a toddler saying, but mostly because my toddlers actually enunciate it as: 

"'Dat's a MAH-sheen, awright!".

It's typically a one-time comment so I never imagined I'd get them saying it on video. In fact, the day I did manage to capture one of my favorite phrases for posterity I nearly missed the boat since I had to do a mad dash for the camera and by the time I got back Nate was mostly interested in pushing the buttons on the dishwasher (a popular MAH-sheen around here) and not much into talking anymore, which was really a shame since "that's an XYZ alright" is very much a Nate-ism. Fortunately Seth picked up the slack that particular day. I didn't dare turn the focus of the camera around though lest Michigan J. Frog appear.

- L.

PS. Even without one of my favorite catch-phrases, I'd still be laughing. Watching Nate press the dishwasher buttons with as much effort as he's putting into it is so very Nate and his expression whenever he's concentrating that much on a task always makes me giggle at least a little.


There are times when I really wish I had a camera pointed at myself to capture my own dumbfoundedness/shock/horror at the spectacles I sometimes walk in on. This morning was especially one of those times and probably would have involved a series of shots to convey it entirely. I bet the look I had on my face when I realized just what it was I was seeing would have been the best part though.

What I was seeing was this: 

Except that it was in someone's hand, of course – lid off and missing about half the contents it had held the night before.

And you know, it's really pretty amazing how far a little Vaseline will go.  

It's even more impressive how far a LOT of Vaseline will take you, and despite what the bucket says, it is most definitely not OK. Seth's old friend has been put aside for now, along with miscellaneous toys and puzzle pieces to be dealt with... later. 

I had more pressing matters to deal with this morning after all since a great deal of the missing Vaseline had taken up residence in my boys' hair. 

"Greasy!" is the refrain du jour today, in case you were wondering. 

And it's hilarious. Apparently. 

Not so hilarious? What everyone's hair still looked like after a very thorough washing this morning. 

No, it's not still wet... 

... but it sure is "greasy", everyone! 

I have no idea how I'm going to get their hair clean at this point since Johnson's baby shampoo barely put a dent in it.


- L.

PS. I haven't gotten around to posting about the Great Tse-Tse Capers as of yet, but when I do you can add this morning's efforts to the pile. It was, without a doubt, their most impressive "tse-tse" to date – or as Nate would say, "that's a tse-tse, alright!".*

*For quick reference, Nate's infamous line can be found at the 1:37 mark or thereabouts.

Fingerpaints: The OP Gets Artsy Again

Artsy VS. brave – it's all about perspective, everyone!

On a whim – and by "whim" I mean I have no idea what possessed me to attempt this particular activity today – I decided fingerpaints would be both a fun and necessary activity. And by necessary I mean it just sounded like such a good idea (to me) I didn't want to wait until we had proper materials in the house. Also, the boys were taking their sweet time with breakfast and I was a little bored, which is often a recipe for times like these. 

And speaking of recipes... it turns out it's fairly easy to make passable fingerpaints out of common kitchen ingredients if you're like me and decide that fingerpainting sounds super-fun when you don't own any fingerpainting supplies (and also your boys are taking an especially long time with breakfast and you've already done everything you can think of to do in the kitchen). I went with the cornstarch version.

Suitable paper for fingerpaints was also not an item I had on hand – 8.5 x 11 bond is not up to the challenge in case you were wondering – but I did have some extra sheets of coated cardstock laying about from Easter since I was undecided about whether to go with blue and red or a more Easter themed blue and green when I printed up the bunny feet and such. Given it's smooth surface and heavy weight, it seemed suitable enough.

Of course, I didn't take into account how derailed things might get if anyone thought to look at the underside of their paper before we even got started.

– Is like art already make itself, everyone! Also look strangely familiar for some reason...

After we recovered, the artists got down to work: 

Both boys instinctively went with their usual paint-flinging technique, and while that works very well with a thinner paint, it's not so good with a thick paint. Seth eventually adapted his Jackson Pollock spatters into Jackson Pollock type dabs, but Nate remained firmly in the paint flinging camp until the very last sheet of paper (and even then it was pretty clumpy). No one really got into the messy paint-smearing aspect this time around – not even from the boy who prides himself on being messy

• • • • • • •

Overall rating: Fun to make and is the appropriate consistency for fingerpaint, although heavy paint areas will crack when dried. Since I haven't personally used proper fingerpaints in over 35 years, perhaps the same is true with the real deal as well. The recipe yields roughly 2 cups of paint which is more than plenty for two artsy boys and left-over paint can be stored for later use. Bonus points: thick paint means you can easily spoon off any color cross-contamination. I ended up putting our leftover paints in a mini-muffin pan which fit nicely into a large freezer bag (which is the picture at top minus the freezer bag).

And just in case you're perpetually unprepared like me and don't have actual fingerpaints handy when inspiration strikes, the recipe is below.

Click to embiggen (although you'll also now need to right-click/CMD click image and select "open in new window" if you'd like to read it proper). As always, I've formatted the end result for printing should you manage to navigate your way there.

- L.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

2 Years + 2 Months + 2 Weeks + 2 Days Old Today

The last time I made a post like this one was, well... 2 years ago and since the next occasion following won't occur for another 20 years I couldn't let it slip by unacknowledged. 

No silly face pictures from today, but it seemed like the right time to finally post the video where Nate discovered a baby in the camera – which unfortunately led to weeks of not being able to take much in the way of videos (or photos for that matter) since everyone wanted to get behind the camera to see the "baby". Mercifully, everyone has moved on since then and things are (mostly) back to normal (just in case you were wondering why all the posts with pics lately have been mainly centered around the kitchen table).

- L.

*In a previous post, I made reference to Nate's discovery of a "boy" in the camera, but after viewing the video I was surprised to discover he actually said "baby". Of course, I shouldn't have been since they will always be my babies after all.

PS. In case you're wondering what the "chewnits" are all about, these would be it:

Specifically, these would be "chewnit number 6" and "chewnit number 7". When the boys are counting using the numbers from this particular puzzle, they will actually sequence them as, "one, two, three, four, five, chewnit number six, chewnit number seven, eight", etc. In the video, they are clearly working on some new chewnits however.

Also chewnits:

Nate is the main perpetrator, but Seth has been known to enjoy a "chew" here and there. Mercifully, neither of my boys has ever been one to try to ingest non-food items. That said, if it can be chewed on, odds are good it's been "chewnits'd" around here.

Potty Learning: The Try, Try Again Edition (Part I)

We abandoned potty time six odd weeks ago or so when out of the blue Nate flatly refused to use the potty and truth be told, we weren't exactly going gangbusters even at the best of times. The boys liked sitting on the potty well enough until one day one of them didn't, but either way no one ever did much on it – the break seemed like a good time to regroup and maybe re-approach potty learning with a strategy in place.

Six weeks later, Part I of having a strategy involved trying out pull-ups. If there's anything Nate and Seth like – aside from cars – it's anything "new" and pull-ups fit the bill. In fact, the pull-ups I bought back in December even have (Disney) Cars™ on them, the merchandising of which is moot to my boys, but still... cars!

As it turned out, they were neither here nor there about cartoon cars, but they sure have enjoyed both the new diaper/underpants hybrid and running about yelling "Pull-Ups! Pull-Ups!".

And whether Part I of the "Potty Learning: The Try, Try Again Edition" ends up taking shape or not, the pics I took this morning of my boys having a blast in their new not-quite-a-diaper-not-quite-underpants made it all worthwhile.


• • • • • • •

Things started off over here: 

But quickly moved to over here: 

Where hijinks ensued: 

Including some amateur wrestling moves: 

Until everyone was tuckered out: 

But not so tuckered out Nate couldn't giggle himself silly about it after the fact:

- L.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Also For Gamma Rita

– I gets a haircut today and pose over here with new look.

– Then I picks you a fine stick.

• • • • • • •

– I not get haircut today, so I just pose like cool dude as usual.

– And then I picks you a flower. 'Dis mean I win, right?
- L.