Friday, December 28, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events

If you teach your kids to love museums, they're going to want to visit museums.
If your kids want to visit museums, you may want to offer them a trip to a museum in semi-distant Mobile, AL (2 hour drive) as an incentive for cleaning the house during winter break.
If they clean the house, you'll be compelled to comply with the promised reward.
If you take them to the Exploreum in Mobile, the kids will have a really great time.
If they're having fun, you'll keep them past the girls' naptimes.
If you keep them past their naptimes, the baby will definitely want to eat.
When the baby wants to eat, you'll take the older two back to the Wharf of Wonder 5-and-under exhibit area so you can nurse in peace.
While you're peacefully nursing your baby, you might notice most of the parents suddenly looking concerned and glancing around curiously.
If you look around to see what they're so nervous about, you will see a pair of naked 2-year-old buns that you definitely recognize.
When you recognize the naked backside of a very quick 2-year-old, you will have to quickly detach your tired hungry baby, yell loudly at the crowd, "She's mine! I'm on it!" and chase down the older girl, stopping on the way to pick up various items of clothing.
Once you've redressed her, you will warn her that any repeat of earlier behavior will result in the immediate termination of the museum experience.
You will quietly return to your nursing bench, ignoring the looks of the bemused parents who are undoubtedly thinking, "That lady needs to get it together."
If you choose to continue feeding your baby, two minutes later a grumpy-sounding man will mumble in your direction, "She's doing it again."
You will once again detach baby, rush back to the ball pit, grab 2-year-old and redress.
Since you're the kind of parent who keeps promises (both the "I'll take you to a museum" and "I'll take you away from the museum" kind), you'll have to pack up all three kids, buckling two in your double stroller and coaxing a justifiably disappointed 5-year-old into walking away voluntarily.
If you have to remove them all while they were enjoying themselves, your kids will be sad. Maybe even angry. One of them (the one not in a stroller) might charge at you from behind on the sidewalk as you leave the museum.
If he charges you in his angry and tired state, he may miss you and instead flail dramatically in the air.
If he flails dramatically enough, he will smack his head on a fluted cement pillar and start spurting blood at an alarming rate.
When he starts bleeding profusely in the street in a strange city a hundred miles from home, you may feel slightly overwhelmed.
You will rely on your faith in museum staff and head back inside.
When you wheel back in to the museum and up to the front desk, the museum staff will react first with pity and then with a bit of revulsion when they see your very bloody son/stroller/sweatshirt-headwrap.
They will escort you to an office and call 911.
If your child injures himself in the near proximity of a museum, the staff might be nervous that you will sue them and shower your children with attention and swag from the gift shop.
When the EMTs arrive, they will assure you that your child will indeed need stitches and that you can't all fit in an ambulance.
If you don't want to send your scared and bloody 5-year-old in the ambulance all by himself, you will instead opt to take him to the ER yourself.
You will get all 3 kids loaded into the car, thank God for GPS on your phone and head for your nearest hospital.
If you are very unlucky, the ER will be very busy. They will only have 1 seat for all 4 of you and make you wait for 2 hours before they take you to triage.
If you are silly enough to stay and wait, you will eventually make your way to a room where a nurse will look at you with pity and point out the TV.
You will vow never to say anything bad about Spongebob Squarepants as long as you live.
If you are still there 2 and half hours after you arrived at the hospital, the nurse may come back and ask, "Are you sure there's no one else that can take your other 2 children?"
When you are done envisioning her head exploding in slow motion, you will calmly reply, "No ma'am, there's no one else."
Eventually you will hold your daughters tight and face them away as you watch the nurses put 3 staples in your son's head. You will be fairly certain that lidocaine shot didn't work.
If you make it through this, you will want to reward your children with something so awesome for being so patient for the last 3 hours.
You will think about offering to take them to your home museum on Monday. Then you will offer them McDonald's for dinner instead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

We have had a busy and very fun Christmas season. Christmas with kids is so much fun. We love watching each kid discover what she/he likes best and introducing new traditions. Here's a quick sample of some of our Christmas fun:

And finally, here's a look at what post-Christmas has been sounding like since we opened presents:
Merry Christmas From Rachelle from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Moment I Never Want To Forget

This just happened right now. And I want it to happen over and over in my head every day for the rest of my life.

My sweet Rachelle came running in to show me the picture she had "colored" (meaning she poked a million holes in a piece of paper with a pen). I told her it was beautiful and scooped her up and gave her a big hug. As she hugged me back, she started growling in her silly 2-year-old voice with her silly 2-year-old smile. I said, "Are you a monster? A scary hugging monster?" She pulled away and said, "I not a monster, mama. I just a happy girl." And then she laughed and smiled and melted my heart forever.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

How Could I Forget?

One last photo that is so precious it deserves its own post:

3 Kids, 3 Cute Photos

In no particular order:

Rachelle spent Stellan's last soccer practice pouring dirt on herself. That's what I call good clean fun.

 A friend gave me this cute bumblebee outfit before Annie was even born. Worth every second of the wait.

This is what happens when you let your five-year-old loose with a page of dinosaur stickers.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fair

We went to the fair today and was so fun! For our young kids, the fair is not about exhibits, 4-H, games or even funnel cakes. It's about rides. So we got Rachelle and Stellan wristbands and let them go on any and every ride they wanted to go on (and were allowed to go on). They were so cute; Stellan would take Rachelle by the hand and help her up the ramp and onto the ride. They would giggle and squeal with delight. And then do it all over again. I'm sorry that I'm so lousy at taking fair ride photos, but even the best professional photos couldn't do the moment justice. So you'll just have to use your imagination when you watch this slideshow.

Why Is This Baby So Happy?

Maybe it's because she cut her first two teeth last night. Or maybe it's because she's wearing a sweatshirt for the first time in her life. Don't worry, it won't last long; it'll be up to 80° by midday.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunset Walk

We enjoyed a lovely weekend full of General Conference, and then took a late afternoon stroll out to the bayou. The weather was perfect and the water was gorgeous, so when the kids wanted to get in, how could I stop them? (It's possible I anticipated that and brought a couple of towels in the wagon.) Anyway, Kevin, Annie and I watched the sunset and Stellan and Rachelle had a blast splashing in the water. There aren't very many perfect days in life, but sometimes you get close enough to blog it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Best Birthday...Ever?

I'm just going to come out and say it: this was my best birthday. Ever. (Best thus far, I rush to add. I'm not sayin' it couldn't ever get better.)
First, I was inundated with singing phone calls, non-singing phone calls, emails, video emails, cake pops, candy, sweet baby hugs and kisses, and a mountain of Facebook greetings. It's pretty awesome to feel the love like that all day long.
But it gets better. When I woke up that morning, I found two envelopes carefully decorated by my cute kids. That would have been birthday gift enough. But no - inside the first envelope was a gift card to our favorite used bookstore. The second envelope had a note from Kevin saying he'd be home at noon so I could go pick out some books and then go enjoy a massage(!). He had booked me an appointment for later that afternoon.
It was heavenly. And when I came home, Kev and kids were making me dinner. It was cuter than cute. And delicious. We ate quickly and went to Stellan's soccer practice, where I enjoyed the late afternoon breeze on the sidelines while tuning and learning to play my new ukulele (double !).
Oh, but that's not all. The next evening, our dear Emily (the one that Rachelle loves more than anyone in the world, including me) threw me a birthday party. A themed birthday party. A nerd themed birthday party. It was nothing short of amazing. She had completely decorated her house; imagine family portraits replaced with the cast of "The Big Bang Theory", pithy nerd quotes and jokes, astronomy posters all over the walls, math flash cards strung up as banners, tablecloths covered in complicated equations. And did I mention it was a costume party? Because it was.
We played nerdy games and had nerdy food. We chatted and joked, we reveled in our nerdiness. However, the highlight of the night was an unanticipated group of partycrashers. About an hour in to our get-together, someone knocked. When Emily went to the door, it was a couple of younger guys with snacks in their hands asking if this was the party. Although she didn't know them, she said it was, and invited them in. It took them about half a second looking around the room at the nerd decor and the nerds in it, they looked confused. Then Emily realized that her neighbors, also younger men, have regular weekend parties and she sent them on their way. But the looks on their faces were priceless. I guess they never knew nerds could party so hearty.
So thanks to everyone and anyone who sent birthday wishes, thought birthday thoughts, nerded it up, and made my birthday the best ever. Things really do get better with age.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Annie Is 6 Months Old

My sweet baby is six months old. It is hard to believe it's been six whole months since she was born, and it's equally hard to believe she hasn't always been a part of our family.

In case you don't see her often enough, here are some things to know about Annie at this age:

  • Still not a cuddler. Annie prefers to be held (though not always by Rachelle), but doesn't like to be snuggled or cuddled closely.
  • Definitely an introvert. When she's happy, she's the quietest happy baby I ever saw. I could count the number of times she has laughed even I were a t-rex, and it's been over a month since the last time. She does have a big cute precious grin that lights up my world, but she is no giggler. Not yet, anyway. I think she's saving it up. Annie watches everything closely, but doesn't seem to want to engage actively. She's probably afraid of being trampled by her brother and sister; she's probably right to be worried.
  • Knows the score. Though she doesn't say much, she tells me with her eyes that she gets everything going on around her. She still likes to hang back with me and appreciate the peaceful moments in life. She is pretty sure that she'll get everything she needs even if she never learns to crawl or even roll over (neither of which seem to interest her at all).
  • Loves her mommy. Loves her daddy more. Her whole being glows when Daddy pops into view. But there are still times when only Mama will be able to calm her. And I love her for that.

Here are some photos of my beloved Annie. Warning: overexposure to cuteness has been known to cause certain grandparent types to request prints from their nearest drugstore.


Dunkin Donuts has finally come to Fort Walton Beach. We braved the super long line to pick us up some donuts, and then headed to the Oak Tree Nature Park to enjoy them. After we indulged, we went for a hike along the trail. Here are some photos of us in action:

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Really Really Long Time

An actual conversation between Stellan and I:

Stellan: [proudly] I just had my third bowl of macaroni and cheese, Mom!
Me: Stellan, that's great. You are so cool. I want to be just like you when I grow up.
Stellan: [rolls eyes] You're already grown up.
Me: Dang it. I guess I've missed my chance to be like you.
Stellan: You can be like me when...when you grow up into a grandma.
Me: Oh, sounds good. When will that be?
Stellan: Not for a really, really, REALLY long time. [Pause.] Like 2 years or something.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

RaRa's Big Week

Rachelle is potty training. Should I even put this information onto the Intertubes? Someday a college admissions officer will find this and roll her eyes. Or maybe she'll be impressed that RaRa is a potty-training champion at only 2 years and 3 months old. (Note to admissions officer: even at this early age, Rachelle is remarkably bright with a keen sense of humor and a selfless nature that defies her developmental age bracket. She has a strong sense of adventure and an innate curiosity that has no doubt transformed her into the perfect candidate for your institution of higher learning in subsequent years.)
Anyway, it's going very well. I won't post photos, but she's having the time of her life running around naked and eating M&Ms as a reward for her accomplishments. Her grandmothers observed that she has a feral quality about her. They are right. She's gone wild, while I've gone a little crazy confined to our house until she's ready to face the wide world as a big no-diapers yes-underpants girl. Here's hoping it's soon; 8 loads of laundry in a week seems like overkill, but I shouldn't complain because, housebound as I am, what else do I have to do?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Annie Eats!

Poor little #3 kid. Most of her major milestones will go undocumented. She is photographically underrepresented compared to her siblings. And she never gets a moment's peace to contemplate these injustices.
However, in honor of her first bite of solid food, I busted out the camera. Here's a still photo of the grand event, and I've included a video also. The video is mostly for the grandparents and other overly interested parties, but also to prove that I was right - I was so sure she was ready for solids that I started her a couple weeks before 6 months (a firm marker for the other two kids). As you can clearly see, she took her first bite as confidently as if she'd been doing it for months. That's my girl!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Greeting Isaac

I took the girls to the beach today to watch the storm move in. Don't worry, we left long before the real trouble started.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stellan's First Day of Kindergarten

My little boy is all grown up. OK, he's now in kindergarten. Nothing makes me think of him more as a little boy than watching him get on the bus full of big kids (the other kids at our stop are all middleschoolers). He was very excited for his first day and didn't let minor distractions like the bus missing him get him down. Yep, the bus missed his stop, so we had to drop him off at the school. I didn't even take him in to his class, because by the time we realized the bus wasn't just 25 minutes late, it was just flat-out never coming, we had to go straight there without having prepped the girls with semi-important things like shoes, strollers or an umbrella (it was pouring rain). As he was preparing to jump out of the car in front of the school, he said, "Mom, I don't know where my classroom is." I replied, "You can ask any grown-up you see for help. You know your teacher's name, and your room number is 307." As he exited, he muttered to himself over and over, "307, 307, 307, 307, 307..." And with that, he was gone. My sweet boy was swallowed up into a dozen+ years of formal education.

The school called in the afternoon to ask how he was getting home and then put in him on the bus, as requested. I waited for the bus very anxiously (as my mom, who was on the phone with me, can testify). It was late, but arrived - with Stellan on it. However, Stellan didn't know he was supposed to get off there, and didn't say anything. I had anticipated this and was walking from the car to the stop to intercept him when the bus pulled away. I chased the bus down, trying not to slip and die while wearing flip flops in the rain, banging on the side of the bus while the kids all pointed and laughed, until the driver noticed and stopped. I extracted Stellan, casually mentioned to the driver than I missed seeing him earlier that morning and that I hoped he would be there the next day, and gave my Stellan a big big hug.

He was very proud of himself, but a little dazed, and it became clear that the whole day was a little overwhelming for him. He got lost trying to find his classroom, but got some help from a grown-up. He didn't remember that I had packed him a lunch and then when lunch time came, told his teacher he didn't know what to do. He ended up getting a hot lunch, for which I'm sure the school will be sending me a bill, and possibly a scolding, at some point. As mentioned, he didn't remember the conversation we had in the car about how he was getting home. And he probably thought the bus driver was abducting him when he saw me chasing it down after school. Luckily, the next day was better. And by the third day, I think he has the system down. In fact, I'd say he's doing better than I am at home with the girls, who are having a harder time creating a new schedule. With 3 naps between them while Stellan's gone, the girls and I are struggling a bit to get anything productive done, but we'll get it worked out. We just need to follow Stellan's example.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I Could Have Told You That

Stellan has had a love-hate relationship with swimming, and especially swim lessons. He can swim perfectly fine when he wants to, but has still struggled to do it on command. With our upcoming trip to the Great Barrier Reef, it was time to get this taken care of. (Plus, Kevin wanted to try out his new underwater camera and needed a big target.)
Fortunately, Stellan's dad is Kevin. Kev decided to teach Stellan how to snorkle, in hopes that he would eventually be ready to snorkel relatively independently by November. Stellan exceeded all expectations. Once he had that mask on, he didn't want to take it off. Ever. Now he swims like he was born in the water and never left it. I guess it wasn't that he couldn't swim - it was just too boring to only be swimming. Now that swimming is a means to an end, problem solved. I suppose I should have known that any kid of Kevin's could be an expert snorkeler by age 5.
Since snorkeling is now on his top 5 things to do, we've gone several times. We've taken friends, we've gone to lakes as well as the ocean, we're all over this snorkeling thing. Rachelle is very happy to stick in the water with Stellan and keep him company. Annie is less excited, but will grow to like it, I hope.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hello From Annie

Poor Annie. She has grown and changed so much in the last couple of months, and it has gone largely ignored on the blog. Here is a post all her own. I know there's only one photo, but she is so stinking cute in this photo that is truly worth way more than a thousand words. Happy 5 months, Anniecakes!

Monday, July 9, 2012

There's A Body In The Bushes

If you want the Reader's Digest Condensed version of this story, just skip ahead to the movie. But you'll really get more out of it if you give me the time to paint a picture for you before viewing the dramatic reenactment of how Kevin found a dead body.

I want you to picture a windy foothill road with a lot between two houses. The lot looks like the jungle took it over years ago. Huge shrubs, a tangle of ivy and vines and oak and who knows what else. Then you notice a small opening. You approach and discover a path through the bushes, which you follow. 10 yards or so down the path, you encounter the Tiki Hut. The 15-feet-tall bird of paradise plants hang over a rickety wooden porch. If you go up all 4 steps of the stairs onto the porch and into the house you'll see windows on 3 walls, and bamboo on the ceiling and the 4th wall. This place gives a certainty that building codes were not consulted or even considered in its design.

If you spent any time there, you might come to love its quiet charms. Plenty of wild life, views of bushes, flowering vines and plants on all sides, the wind through a canopy of tall oak trees. I still long for the sound of the rare rain storm as the drops pound the windows and the thin ceiling. You might observe that the sinks and shower drain directly out the side of the house onto the ground, helping maintain this jungle-like environment, and also contributing to the sinking foundation that makes you feel a little seasick as you traverse the uneven wooden floors.

The Tiki Hut is just one of four units on the property. The elderly land lady, Virginia, lives in the big house out back. The other house is split into three "apartments". Virginia will probably tell you about her poetry the first time you meet her. She writes cat poetry; not poetry about cats, but poetry written from the perspective of the cats. She will recite it to you in a singsong voice if you ask. And maybe even if you don't ask.

Living in the adjacent "apartment" are Dave and his infirm mother. Contrary to the reenactment video, Dave is neither a fuzzy woodland creature nor an Indian chief. Instead, I want you to picture what Jesus would have been if he'd fallen in with the stoners during high school and never left. This is Dave. He has huge wild bushy hair and a full beard. He has a slightly crazed look on his face all the time and is easily excitable. He and Virginia do not get along, but their individual crazies seem to have found a coexistent balance.

We lived in the Tiki Hut for 3 years and had many adventures, but this one takes the cake. This is a fairly accurate reenactment of that fateful night, as well as a follow-up phone call from Virginia the next day.

Body In The Bushes from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Half a Decade

Stellan is 5 years old. I am having a hard time processing this. I mean, when I think about where I was and what I was doing around the time he was born, that seems like a really long time ago. But he himself can't possibly have been here for that long!
In an effort to convince myself that it really has been 5 years, I made Stellan a little movie, tracking him through each and every one of those 5 years. I've posted it here in case you, devoted reader, might also be interested in watching 5 trips around the sun condensed into less than 2 minutes. It's a fast 100 seconds; in fact, it might fly by almost as fast as the last 5 years.

Happy 5th Birthday, Stellan! from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

5,256,000 Minutes

Let's do the math:

           3 coasts
           7 homes
           4 cars
           3 kids
           3 college degrees
           5 jobs (that pay money)
         23 states visited
           4 computers
           8 cell phones
           1 well-intentioned but ill-fated hot dog diet (we did save money, though!)
           5 hand-me-down couches, futons and recliners
           1 backyard fire
           2 crazy people invading during floods
           1 dead body in the bushes
           6 supportive parents
         15 fantastic siblings
+       10.96 cutest nieces and nephews in the world
10 years of marriage to my best friend

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Gift of Tongues

Living with a two-year-old is a unique time in life. Rachelle is an excellent communicator, letting us know what she needs and wants. To the untrained ear, her language seems like gibberish; to the fluent listener, however, her words are rich in meaning. Here is a sample of some of our recent exchanges:

Literal translation: hungry
Situational translation: It's 5:05 AM on a Saturday morning and I think it's high time you were out of bed, Dad. Please get up and fetch me Breakfast #1 and then snuggle on the couch with me until Stellan gets up and usurps my spot on your lap.

Deekeen Mulk
Literal translation: Annie is nursing
Situational translation: I'm going to sit here in your lap and try to snuggle Annie out of your arms. When my cutest tricks aren't successful, I will disappear to the other side of the house. Soon you won't hear me at all. And you will worry. Rightly so, Mom.

Literal translation: froggy potty (training toilet)
Situational translation: I am so excited to potty train, Mommy! I am pretty clear on the concept, but a little fuzzy on the chronology. I have already pooped in my diaper, and I stripped it off 3 rooms ago. It may or may not have dripped a bit on the carpet, you can probably follow a trail back to the diaper. I'm now going to sit on this potty and coat it in the worst kind of filthiness until you catch up with all the rest of the mess and finally clean me up. And fwoggy too. Just as soon as Baby Annie's done deekeen mulk.

Literal translation: come on
Situational translation: You are busy with something that doesn't involve me. Please stop it now; I am going to literally drag you away for something very specific that I urgently need. I'm not sure what it is, but I'll know it when I see it.

Butt Kee
Literal translation: butt cream (diaper rash ointment)
Situational translation: No, those aren't Mickey Mouse gloves. My hands are completely coated in butt cream. As are my legs, my arms and, inexplicably, my lips. Oh, and you may want to check for butt cream in big chunks on my bedroom carpet, a few doors, your dresser, and your bed. Maybe a few other spots, too. Basically everywhere but my butt.

Literal translation: mine
Situational translation: 1. Stellan just took something from me. 2. I just took something from Stellan. 3. I'm bored and neither of us is holding anything, but it sure is fun to fight about it.

Night Night
Literal translation: good night
Situational translation: Good night. Thanks for tucking me in, I'm actually going to stay here now. All night. On the first tuck in. Because I really am a very good girl almost all the time. I'll see you tomorrow when I'm hungee.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who's That Girl?

I want you to imagine a little wild child of a girl. Picture a bouncing head of wild blonde curls racing around on wobbly toddler legs; she looks around with excitement as she spots a new adventure or a bit of mischief and runs toward it, shooting you a grin over her shoulder. "Mahn, mahn!" She shouts. (This is the toddler version of "C'mon, c'mon!")

That is my Rachelle. She is two years old today. I like to say she's a precocious two-year-old, because she started acting 2 a couple months ahead of schedule. She's been previewing the giddy madness of the so-called terrible twos enough for me to know that the two of us are in for an adventure. She talks all the time, and now mostly with words, though not always intelligible. She mimics everything her brother does, and lights up when she sees her baby sister. She is very sweet and obedient, except when she's not. She will take full advantage of any opportunity for shenanigans presented to her. She has boundless energy and enthusiasm.
I love RaRa so much. I love how sweet and considerate she is, how eager to help she can be, how her soft chubby cheeks feel against mine, how she drags me into the living room for snuggles ("snuggos, Mommy!") and how she has become her own little person in these past 2 years.
Happy birthday, sweet girl!

Bonus addendum: In the past, Rachelle has borne a striking resemblance to her mother. But recently, she has started to take on the look of her aunt, Tia Steph. This is a double bonus for me, since Tia Steph is beautiful, and also because she is one of my favorite people on earth. I love that I get to see my dear sister reflected back at me every time I look at my daughter. Photos to follow in another post.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 Months Old

My beautiful Annie is 3 months old today. I have loved every one of the 93 days we have had together. She is quite an individual even at this tender age. You won't see many photos of her smiling, mostly because she's not a smiler. She's not a cuddler. She's not a cooer. She likes to be held but not snuggled; she wants to know you are there but she needs her space. She does not enjoy having her brother and sister up in face all the time (which they are, and I don't dissuade them - Annie could do worse than to be overloved by her older siblings) and prefers quiet time to most other times. She does well travelling in the car and has a nearly perfect track record in the Baby Bjorn, which suits her temperament perfectly.

She has piercing eyes that let me know she is watching and learning and saving it all up for a later date when we'll have a long thoughtful conversation about everything. She is a kind baby who generally lets her mama get a solid 5-6 hours of sleep at night (not including visits from other wakeful children) and takes great naps. As is her birthright as 3rd oldest, she has been sick almost every day of her life, and seems to tolerate it with as much dignity as baby can.

She is an absolute love. She knows my voice and follows me with her eyes all day long, whether we're cooking and salsa dancing together or we're sitting on a park bench together enjoying the view as Stellan and Rachelle play. I don't know which one of us enjoys our companionable silence more, but it's safe to say that there's not much more any mother could ask for.

Enjoy a few photos of Annie taken today at exactly 3 months old!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Honest To A Fault

All three of my kids are at an awkward age - the "almost" age. Annie is days away from the 3-month milestone, Rachelle is days away from turning 2 and Stellan will be 5 in a few weeks. So when people ask how old they are,* I dutifully tell them how old they aren't quite (see above description).

Don't worry, I know how annoying I sound as soon as I say it. These people just want to confirm that Rachelle is acting like a 2-year-old because she is a 2-year-old, and that they have no idea how old Annie is but she seems cute, and that they hope that Stellan is "older enough" that I am not crazy and irresponsible for have too many kids too close together. They don't actually care when my kids' birthdays are. So why do I feel compelled to be so lengthy in my age descriptors?

I realized that I feel disingenuous lying about their ages. Why? I'm only making it harder on myself and them. They don't want a long explanation and I know that even as I give it. So from now on (and really, only for the next few weeks until next year), I'm gonna lie. Because that what we all want, anyway.

*Side note: we have become a freak show, apparently. People seem not to be used to seeing a mom with 3 kids under the age of 5 in public locations other than parks and beaches. A recent trip to Pensacola that involved a specialty store, a ill-fated lunch at Chick-Fil-A and long afternoon at the mall confirms that people will literally stop and stare at us as we make our way around. And if we stand still long enough, they will ask very personal questions about their ages, my sanity, etc. When did I turn into that person? I mean, each of my individual children is certainly capable of stare-worthy acts, and I'm no stranger myself to thinly veiled eyeballing (especially during my bald phases), but I never thought that the simple act of my motherhood to these 3 beauties would be enough to bring mall traffic to a halt.

Here's a photo I took on my phone as I was leaving; it's taken from my point of view behind the double stroller wheel so you can sympathize with me and not the starers; please note the top of Annie's head as she is strapped to my chest via Baby Bjorn. Do we seem freakish to you? Please don't answer.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tales of Doom

Subtitled "If Only I Had Something To Report!"

You see, we should have had a super amazing past week and a half. Really, the calendar was full, the excitement level was high. But then...

Stellan finished preschool last week. Or did he? The afternoon before his last day, he started throwing up. So did virtually every other kid in 4 classes at his school. Apparently some sort of waterborne stomach bug affected everyone who participated in the big water slide on Wednesday's Water Day celebrations. So do I have photos of him and his teacher while he holds a certificate of completion? No. Do I have a video of him singing songs he spent weeks practicing? No. Instead, we spent 3 days cleaning vomit off way too many surfaces in our home.

The next week was also supposed to be amazing. I'm sure you can't have helped hearing about the transit of Venus, especially if you know me. I was all set to talk to thousands of Fort Walton Beachians as they oohed and aahed at the view through the telescope of Venus passing in front of the sun. That is not what happened. Here is what did happen: I spent the night inside the local science center showing about 50 people the transit of Venus via webcast from Hawai'i and doing some fun, but not as cool as a never-to-be-seen-again astronomical event, hands-on activities. So do I have photos of a Baby Bjorn-laden Momstronomer (it was Annie's first outreach) engaging excited throngs by a telescope? No.

I thought my luck had changed on my drive home, when I saw the sun peeking through the clouds as it was setting. There was even a rainbow to bring me hope and good luck. As I raced home, cursing the minivan in front of me for only going five miles above the speed limit, I knew I had to get my sun-filter adapted binoculars from the kitchen counter and then head for high ground in order to have any chance of seeing the transit. I hurried Stellan into the car (Rachelle was going to bed and Annie was already in the car, albeit out cold) and we raced away. I am sad to report we were not fast enough. By the time we got out of our forested neighborhood, the sun was too low to be seen even from the best spot I could think of. So do I have a photo I took of the transit which I saw with my very own eyes through an eyepiece? No.

But hope springs eternal. This week was also Girls Camp. And though I did not attend for the whole week (because I have a nursing baby, not for lack of desire), I had been invited up to teach the girls about astronomy on Wednesday night. Sadly, it was pouring rain on Wednesday. I called the director and we decided to hope things cleared up by Thursday. They didn't. Not on Friday, either. If you know me and my love of Girls Camp, you know how sad I was to have missed my free ticket to the funnest place in Northwest Florida. So do I have photos of 80 teen girls unplugged from their tech toys and enthused about the night sky? No.

At least my week was going to end well. Girls Night Out was all planned, an evening on the beach sipping mocktails and watching the sun set - sans kids. It's that last part that's the real kicker. But guess what? A huge storm hit on Friday night, and hasn't let up yet. Streets are flooded and power out in nearby Pensacola. I fear for our leaky roof and hope it doesn't collapse on any of my children in their sleep. Do I have photos of a relaxed and thirst-quenched mom taking a well earned break on the beach at sunset with 20 or so of her closest friends? No. We did have a Girls Night In at my house, which included tasty treats, Dr. Mario and Phase 10, so it wasn't a complete wash.

So if you were wondering why this post has no photos, and nothing exciting to report, now you know. Our summer vacation is doomed. I'm quitting now before it gets worse.

P.S. Did I mention I wanted to go to Pensacola on Monday? Oh wait, now I can't. See above for details on flooding and power outages.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I was walking down the greeting card aisle at the grocery store this evening all by myself. That's right, all kids at home, ostensibly sleeping. Then I look to my left and see Annie:

(In case you can't read it, the card says, "This too shall pass.")

About three cards over, I find Rachelle.

(The full text, including the inside of the card, reads: " have to pick your battles.")

Even when I get away from my kids, I can't get away from my kids.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bird By Any Other Name

This is the story of how Annie got her name. To really do the tale justice, it's going to take some time. So please invest a few minutes to enjoy.

It all started when the Okaloosa Chamber Singers (of which I am a member) decided to perform Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzer, or "Love Song Waltzes" (link to YouTube videos of these pieces with the English translation in subtitles). There is a lot of nature imagery in the text, particularly about birds. And each week as I went to rehearsal, I would sing and think, "This baby needs a bird name." And then I'd go home and the feeling would wear off and I would simply chalk it up to irrational pregnancy craziness. But the next week, I'd be in rehearsal again and think to myself, "No, she really does need a bird name."

So Kevin and I started looking up bird names. We had to veto several from the start: Robin was out because of the prolific medical thriller author, Robin Cook; Wren was a name my brother and sister-in-law had considered but not chosen for their second child, and their third is on the way; Lark sounds goofy next to Cook; no Gail/Gale because she was due 2 days before The Hunger Games movie would be released; Ava is lovely but in the top 10 and the name of the daughter of a beloved friend. Looking at the rest of our list, we still didn't have any we really loved. It was time to take it to the experts.

Luckily, I know some experts. I contacted some of my former colleagues (and current friends) at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and explained the situation. Krista Fahy, Terri SheridanRebecca Fagan Coulter, and Elaine Gibson responded with almost alarming speed and unbridled enthusiasm. I will include the complete list of names they offered, but first let's have some fun with names they did not pick:

Anything with "double-breasted," "booby" or "tit" in the name
Loons of all varieties

After narrowing it down this far, the total list had some 75 or so entries. We studied them, pondered them, and then tentatively decided that Ani would be nice, as long as we changed it to Annie (too much Ani DiFranco angst association). However, since my middle name is Anne, and we both of buckets of relatives with the name Anne, we decided Anne would be her "real" name, and we would call her Annie.

The final test came in the delivery room. Kevin's family is full of red heads, and I wanted to make sure that our Annie wouldn't be one of them. I could just see her getting teased for be a little orphan through her entire childhood. Luckily, she does not have red hair. So Annie she is.

By the way, Annie was born 15 days before our performances (the conductor was a little nervous that I wouldn't make it), and loves the Liebeslieder. Every time I sing her #9, she calms right down. (Don't worry, I only sing the nice part.) She is also partial to #15, my personal favorite.

Here are all the bird entries, with duplicated removed and most of the original annotations from my expert crew (to whom my daughter and I are deeply indebted):

Merlin (perhaps better for a boy?)
And some descriptives that go along with bird names:
Blue Kona
And that’s just North America…

Carolina (Chickadee and Wren—this one has a bubbly song of “teakettle teakettle teakettle tea”)
Raven would be bold and wonderful

Lark Aderyn (welsh for bird)
Deryn (derivative of above)
Aleta (Spanish for winged)
Leta (derivative of above)
Mavis (old English name for song bird)
Merle (French for blackbird; Merla could work for a girl)
Tori (Japanese for bird)
Alala (Hawaiian crow)
Nydia (from nest)
Fowler (Ha!)
True bird name derivatives:
Linnet (European bird)
Ani (groove-billed or otherwise)
Booby (kidding..)
Cacique (in the Icterid group. Also a Mexican cheese. Maybe not…)
Corella (Australian cockatoo)
Grace is lovely (for Grace’s Warbler)
Sabine is a gorgeous little gull.

And then there is the Say’s Phoebe, scientific name Sayornis saya. Saya could make a nice name for a girl…
Colibri is the French for hummingbird.
I forgot about Paloma, which I think is lovely.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let Me Entertain You

Stellan and Rachelle are both consummate entertainers on their own, but with their powers combined, they are pretty unstoppable. Please witness this hidden-camera capture of Stellan teaching Rachelle he learned in preschool and Rachelle and Stellan telling knock knock jokes.

Stellan and Rachelle: Let Me Entertain You from Krissie Cook on Vimeo.

Mea Culpa

Annie wants you to know that she's sorry that she has been taking up so much of her mom's time and not letting her keep up with the blog as regularly as she should. But honestly, who can resist a smile like that? Not Annie's mom, that's for sure.


This is the Cookie Jar's 500th post. We've come a long way, baby.

*I know some people would have opted for a classier family photo. But, in case the preceding 499 posts didn't indicate it, that's just not who we are.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guess Who?

Who's got two thumbs and just as many ear infections?

This baby.

Special thanks to Jeannie for this awesome onesie!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Stellan's school prepared a lovely Mother's Day tea for all the moms. It was delightful - especially the awesome bonnet he made for me.
I'd like to echo the sentiment to all the many moms in my life - Happy Mother's Day! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reason #28,472 To Love Rachelle

Rachelle's fashion sense is really coming into its own. Exhibit A: she wore this bike helmet to the playground. I didn't mention it to her, but I couldn't help but see the resemblance to this classic SNL sketch:

Friday, May 11, 2012


What happens when you mix 4 grandparents, 3 children, 2 parents and 1 house? Lots of fun stuff. The Cooks' and Stewards' visits overlapped (because they were both here for Annie's blessing) for one extra awesome weekend. My kids never had it so good - the spoiling was rampant, bedtimes went unobserved, fun adventures were nonstop, and all children got all the attention they could  handle. Stellan had a huge cheering section at his t-ball game, Rachelle never lacked for someone to get her food (I dread hearing her little voice plead "hungee, hungee!" because I hear a hundred times a day), Annie almost never left loving arms. I guess what they say is true: the more, the merrier!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Cooks Came Back

Because they can't resist us, or the leftovers from the May Day Sundae Party, Grandma and Grandpa Cook came back to visit. They were also here for Annie's baby blessing, and it was very special to have them with us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Strawberry Picking Part Deux

It went so well with the grandmas, we decided to go strawberry picking again with Grandmaggie and Grandpa Steward. However, this time we went in the early afternoon (during what is usually nap time) after a big storm. We ended up with a big puddly mess. (And the fields were muddy too). The meltdowns kept coming until the frozen yogurt was served. Oh well, the strawberries still tasted delicious.

Grandmaggie and Grandpa Come To Town

Lucky for us, just as our kids were getting bored after two other sets of grandparents came and went, Grandmaggie and Grandpa Steward came to visit us. This is the first time that Grandpa Steward has come to visit since we moved to Florida 4 years ago, so I was especially happy to see him. They brought super fun toys with them, including stuffed animals that were spherical, that led to hours and hours of enjoyment. They were also here for Annie's baby blessing at church (which will get its own post). Now that they're gone, the kids keep asking for them and wondering when they're coming over again. Soon, I hope.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Annie's Baby Blessing

Annie's blessing (not unlike a christening in other churches) took place here at our LDS chapel with four adoring grandparents, two restless siblings and countless friends present. After church, we attempted a backyard photo shoot. (If you are wondering where Rachelle is, she crashed out on the car ride home from church and I knew better than to wake her and expect her to then cooperate nicely.) I know there are a lot of photos here, but please indulge me; a baby is only a new baby for so long.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day Sundae Party

As some of our faithful readers may be aware, May 1st marks a famous Steward family tradition - ice cream sundaes for dinner. It was so nice of Grandmaggie and Grandpa Steward to be here for it. I mean, flying all the way from Santa Barbara just to help us eat ice cream is really very nice. We invited a few other people to join us so we could spread the tradition. Will you be joining us next May 1st?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Strawberry Picking

We also went strawberry picking with the grandmas, which resulted in messy clothes for weeks to come. Oh, and tons of delicious berries found their way into our home. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. Sorry, gotta run; there are still a few left in the freezer.

My Kids, the Carnies

The fair came to town while Grandma and Granny were here, so of course we had to go. We weren't sure how Rachelle would do, but we shouldn't have worried. After a few apprehensive moments, she realized that she loves going on rides. LOVES IT. Stellan burned out way before Rachelle did. Uncle Dave, you've met your amusement park match. Just wait until she's 48 inches tall!

The Grandmas Are Coming! The Grandmas Are Coming!

Grandma Karen and Granny came from California for a visit. This is the first time they have been able to come visit us together since we moved away in 2008. Words can't describe how awesome it was to have them here and to watch my kids having so much fun with them. Also, they were tons of help around the house with the kids, and the cleaning, and the baby, and the napping, and everything else. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are 11,000 words about their time here. But before I post those, let me add that a pair of grandmas is worth, well, a lot. Let's go with priceless.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Prepare for Disappointment

We had the best of intentions to get a really great shot of all three kids in their adorable Easter outfits, especially the girls in their matching dresses. (Ever since I found out we would have another girl, it has been my greatest joy to imagine them in matching outfits. I plan on getting away with that as long as they can stand it.)
Tragically, the kids never really caught our vision for what "perfect" portraits might mean. They did, however, manage to look happy for the Easter egg hunt the next day. If only there were a way to combine Easter candy, Easter dresses and perfect portraits...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Another First

Annie got her first cold. And she's not happy about it. (I didn't want to rub it in, so I didn't tell her, but frankly I'm surprised it took her this long.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Our Own

Now that Grandma and Grandpa are gone, how are we faring? Here's a brief synopsis:

Day 1:
Yep. That's crayon. Everywhere. The floor, the fridge, the little table, the big table, the chairs, the cabinets, and so on. Oops. Guess I should be careful to not accidentally doze off while nursing, because Rachelle and Stellan have joined forces. And not always for good.

Day 2:
Kevin arrived home from work at about 8:45 AM. Because he threw out his back. Awesome. Now neither of us can lift the 2 older kids and Kev can't even hold Annie. We spend the rest of the day "convalescing" (laying like lumps on various couches while the kids watch way too much TV). Don't ask what we've been feeding the kids or what our house looks like.

Day 3:
Annie is not the best night sleeper yet, but last night has surely been one for the books. I am so tired I cry myself to sleep. For about 3 seconds. And then Stellan is up and in our bed. The mold in his room has returned with a vengeance and he now has a runny nose, a cough and a headache. I coax him back to sleep (on the couch in another room), stumble back to bed, and wake up about 7 seconds later when Annie wakes up again, starving and screaming. Once daylight is upon us, Rachelle has figured out that she can do whatever she wants because both her parents are physically incapable of stopping her. All I can say it, enjoy it while it lasts, little girl. I'll be back to normal very soon, and your little anarchy vacation will be over.

In case you're keeping score, that's Kids 3, Parents 0.

On the bright side, the kids still love Annie. Rachelle has been tailing her all day since she came home from the hospital, chanting "Baby, baby, baby!" That has recently been replaced with just calling her "Baby Mwah!" That's because she calls to baby, then kisses her - mwah! It's hard to stay mad at kids so cute.

Grandma and Grandpa Come To Town

We had this great plan for when Annie was born. (I know, fatal flaw #1.) Kevin's parents booked their tickets for my due date, because both of my other two kids had to be induced. I was scheduled to be induced at midnight, giving us an 8 hour buffer between arrival of grandparents and hospital admit.
Ha ha. Annie came early.
So Grandma and Grandpa got here when Annie was 5 days old. Trust me, we were glad to see them! All of us. It was so fantastic to have them around to help with kids, laundry, cleaning, shopping, everything. They stayed with us for 8 glorious days. We played, we slept (some of us more than others, and me more than usual thanks to Grandma and Grandpa), we laughed, we cried (some of us more than others). We spent a lot of time in the back yard because the weather was perfect, we went on limited excursions, we got our kids addicted to grandparents.
Now they are gone, and we miss them. The kids are in withdrawal. Rachelle came inside from the trampoline this afternoon, crying for Grandma to come jump with her. Luckily, they left us with some photos, which I will gladly share with you now.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Annie, Week 1

As your reward for putting up with the previous wordy post, here's one with photos from Annie's first week with us.

Just so you know, she was in perfect health at her check-up yesterday. In fact, the doctor made a point of telling me what a beautiful baby she was - not too skinny and not really chubby; clear and even skin; good color; just the right amount of hair; strong and responsive. What choice did I have except to agree?

March Madness

No, I'm not going to blog about how my bracket is leading the pool right now (though it is, truth be told).
Annie came on March 15th, the first day of the men's NCAA basketball tournament and the Ides of March. They are not kidding when they tell you to beware.
I was counting on a laid back day because Rachelle was under the weather and only wanted to snuggle. Me and her and a few good movies were going to hunker down for the day. Then my water broke. Well, I thought my water broke. Since I wasn't sure, I dropped Stellan of at school anyway. By the time I had walked from the car to the classroom and back to the car, I was very sure my water had broken.
I called the doctor's office, who told me to go straight to the hospital. Well, that didn't exactly happen. You see, neither Rachelle nor Stellan came on time, so I was counting on being induced with v 3.0 on the night of my due date. We didn't have the cradle assembled, the bags packed or a childcare plan in place. Oops. Further complicating that was sick RaRa.
I put in a call to a friend to see if she would be willing to watch Rachelle just until school got out at noon, at which point I was hoping a better plan would be in place. Nikki literally turned her car around and raced over. She was good enough to not only keep Rachelle all day and into the evening, but even took her to the doctor's office when her breathing became labored, did a tutorial on Rachelle's shiny new nebulizer, picked up Rachelle's meds from the pharmacy and then passed this all on to Kevin that night. All on Nikki's own birthday, and the day before her family of 7 was going to leave on a roadtrip to Ohio.
Other awesome people like Emily, Tracy and Heather juggled each other's kids while they ran to the hospital to get our signature allowing Nikki to seek treatment for RaRa and watched Stellan for us. I do not know what we would have done without our super amazing friends.
Oh, and did I forget to mention I was in labor during the whole thing? Well, I was. Everything went very smoothly and Annie was here by 5:01 PM. Kevin spent the next couple of days singlehandedly taking care of older two (his parents were coming to help out, but they were counting on our original plan of inducing on my due date and wouldn't arrive until then), getting the house ready and popping in to keep me and the baby company. It's tough to say who is more tired by now, me or him.
The moral of the story is, beware the Ides of March. Seriously. You might end up with a baby you weren't expecting (yet). Or at the least, someone else's super sick toddler.

Welcome, Baby Annie

She's here! Sweet baby Anne Elizabeth arrived on March 15th, earlier than her due date and smaller than either her brother or sister. At only 8 lbs. 12 oz. and 22 inches, she is absolutely perfect. We all love our Annie so much already.
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Sunday, March 11, 2012


Stellan is officially a t-baller. He loves it. He joined the Shalimar Little League and plays for the Gold Buyers team, which also goes by the common name "Pirates". Perfect for him, considering his pirate heritage.
He is pretty good at hitting and fielding, but not so great at paying attention. Which is par for the course. If you've ever watched 4-year-old t-ball, you know how hilarious it is; someone hits the ball and then may or may not realize he is supposed to run to a base (specifically 1st base, but let's not get to picky, right?), then about 7 players will rush from all corners of the field to catch the ball, the ball will be thrown to 1st base and the first baseman may or may not realize this has happened until the coach tell him. Watching Stellan's games has been very entertaining for us all. And he's just so darn cute in the uniform!

Catching Up

In an effort to pretend I haven't totally slacked on the blog for the last 3 months, I've just added some posts from Christmas time and will attempt to catch you all up to now in this post. In a nutshell, we're doing great.
  • Stellan loves school and has lots of fun there. I got to help out there on Space Day for all the classes, and now enjoy semi-celebrity status when I roam the halls. The kids call me the Space Lady and tell their parents lots of fun facts they learned. I wish it were Space Day every day. Stellan is also getting to be quite the helper around the house and takes pride in that. And finally, I must confess that he is getting really good at playing video games, which he would play all day if I let him. I don't. But he's gotten some extra game time in as I get closer to the end of this pregnancy.
  • Rachelle is talking up a storm and is hilarious as always. She does her level best to keep up with Stellan and has formed a strong attachment to friends, in the general sense as well as specific people. If I need her to stop squirming in her carseat, I just tell her we're on our way to see friends. Oh, and she loves to dance. She dances just about every time she hears music.
  • Kevin is also doing well. His intramural volleyball team just made the playoffs and is currently ranked second. (Not for long, though.) He loves that he gets off work by 4 every day and can spend time playing with the kids. He has also been doing some work on (and in) his Man Cave, the back section of our garage which has been retrofitted to embrace all things Kevin. Oh, and he's been busy sprucing up our patio, which now houses a fire pit, a table and 4 chairs, in addition to the kids' chairs, the garden plot, the bubble blowing station, and the dirt pit. (The hammock stand is still there, empty, because I'm too much of a chicken to risk getting a new hammock after the broken butt incident.)
  • And I'm still here. Pushing 39 weeks pregnant as I type this. This baby girl of ours will not be coming any time soon, at least not on her own, so don't get all excited yet. She is very big and very healthy, and I am assured that she will leave my body eventually.
Please enjoy these slideshows featuring some of our recent activities and, of course, plenty of cuteness on the part of my children.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Florida Caverns State Park

Kevin took about a week off work during the holidays and we spent one of those days at the Florida Caverns State Park, a couple of hours from here. We brought one of Stellan's friends, Brooke, along with us. She and Stellan had a great time exploring together, and cuddling in the darkened caverns. Did you know that the caverns (a series of interconnected caves) extend more than half a mile? I recommend trying it. Especially if it means you have to visit us to do so.

Holiday Happenings

We had a great Christmas here in our own home; this was the first year we didn't travel to spend the holidays with extended family. It was a very Florida Christmas, with a backyard cookout and lots of time to play outside. We did Skype lots of people and enjoy some family Christmas cheer thanks to the intertubes, and the kids have been having lots of fun with all their new toys. Stellan finally "got" the whole Santa thing this year, and knew exactly what he wanted - a set of dominoes so that he could stack them and knock them over. Santa got the job done; word on the street is that he was very happy that Stellan was so easy to please. Would that every Christmas wish were so easy to fulfill!