Monday, January 30, 2012

Car Karaoke with Mommy and the Little Song Birds

Whenever the Levine family piles into my green Ford Escape hybrid to travel near or far, I always feel a little bit like a deejay. It's not because the girls are particularly interested in the running mix I have on my iPod but haven't used in roughly two years or want to hear my burned CD collection played in perfect rotation. They want me to sing. Loud and long.

Typically, they're most interested in singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm."

"Mommy, sing it!" exclaims Avery from the backseat on the way home from daycare. "Mommy, sing Old McDonald!" I respond, "Oh, I want to hear you sing it." Lexie chimes in, "Nooooo! Mommy sing it!"

At that point, am I going to do? Disappoint my biggest (and only) music fans? Not a chance.

"Ok, which animal is on the farm?" I ask. "Cow!" yells Avery. "Zebra!" shouts Lexie. I pick the cow, because it has an obvious and easy to imitate sound unlike our striped friend, the zebra. I sing most of the words in a slightly off key voice while attempting to cross three lanes of rush hour traffic on I-40 in Raleigh. The twins fill in the pauses.

I lead them: "With a...." "MOO! MOO!" they sing in unison. I jump back in: "here and a..." "MOO! MOO!" they sing again. My turn: "There. Here a..." "MOO!" You get the picture.

This goes on and on and on and on until we run out of normal sounding farm-ish type animals. I gladly embrace the lions, monkeys and dolphins, which I know don't likely live on Old Mickey D's farm, but at least they have good sounds that are easily repeatable. By Mommy. Who's driving.

When we run out of those, the girls always gravitate towards the animals that they see in our many books at home. The ones that don't really make any noise at all. Let me share an example.

"What other animals live on the farm?" I inquire. "Ladybugs!" shouts Lexie from her side of the backseat. "Uh, ladybugs?" I ask. "Yeah!" she yells emphatically. At this point, I've done enough singing to really rile up the girls. I can't shut down the singing now. So, I start the verse, drop in ladybug request and when it comes to the point when they say the sound, everyone is silent.

Crickets. (At least, that would've been a sound.)

I can't think of anything, so I suggest "crawl." "With a crawl, crawl here and a crawl, crawl there..." Not brilliant in the least. But, it's the best my brain could conjure while driving 70 mph past the I-440/I-40 split.

And, now, it's stuck. My kids think the sound a ladybug really makes is "crawl, crawl." Oh well. At least, it's not an explitive or something worse, right?

Thank heavens, interest in Old McDonald's farm generally wanes within about 5 miles of our home, and I can transition into the other twin favorite: "Alice the Camel."

"Mommy, sing camel," pleads Lexie. Avery follows with, "Mommy, FIVE humps. Camel have FIVE humps!"

Counting humps I can do. No problem. Even though I'm a journalism major, and I don't do math. But, if you ask me to imitate the sound a camel makes when it's on the farm, we're going to have issues. At least until I can park in the garage.

Check out this video of the girls singing in the bath tub and totally dissing my Old McDonald song:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bum-Bum-Que and Other Delicacies

When you have children in the south, there are certain things that you must expect as you raise them in this culture. Number one: They will say "y'all" at some point. Number two: They will like sweet tea. Number three: They will love barbeque. And, if you are part of our household, there is only one kind of this sweet, tangy meat treat - eastern North Carolina barbeque made with a vinegar base.

I mention this, because Geof brought some home the other night from our favorite local barbeque joint, Knightdale Seafood and Barbeque, and we served it up to the girls for dinner. Accompanied by a variety of other butter-laden sides like mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and hush puppies, we assumed that Avery and Lexie might poke at the barbeque a little but really chow down on everything else.

Not so.

They dug into the barbeque like it was their job. It was as if their southern roots were guiding their fork to pleasure their 2-year-old palates. Don't get me wrong. They also ate plenty of the other stuff. I'm pretty sure Avery had thirds ("more 'tatoes!") on the mashed spuds and gravy.

Because Geof thankfully thought with his stomach while ordering, he bought enough barbeque to last us for at least a week. Or through the zombie apocalypse. Whichever comes first.

Not wanting to waste any of the delicious delicacy, we served some up to the twins today for lunch. When we put their plates down in front of them, Avery said, "Bum-Bum-Que! Mommy, I have bum-bum-que!" Geof and I started laughing. Of course, Lexie immediately repeated her sister. She wanted in on the laughter, too, even though she didn't quite understand what was so funny.

You see, Geof and I call diaper cream "bum bum cream." So, when they called the barbeque "bum-bum-que," we couldn't help but chuckle.

We tried to correct them, but I'm not sure it sunk in. We fully expect more orders for "bum-bum-que" to come. Thankfully, Chef Mommy knows exactly how to serve that speciality!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heave! Ho! Ho! Ho! (How the Levines Disposed of the Family Christmas Tree)

When Geof and I started dating, we launched a tradition of always getting a live tree for Christmas. Since then, the only time we've ever deviated from hunting through tree farms or hardware store parking lots for our trusty tannenbaum was in 2010. We were concerned Avery and Lexie - who were barely one year old at that time - would eat the needles. Considering they put everything within grabbing/crawling/toddling distance in their mouths, that was a valid concern. So, we put a short, pre-lit fake tree on a table taller than they were and called it good.

In 2011, however, the possibility of the twins' dining on Douglas fir wasn't nearly as great. Therefore, we reinstated our tree tradition and bought a beautiful 7 footer from the farm down the road. We decked it out with our least prized ornaments (just in case a cat or kid sent them all crashing onto the hardwood floor). It was wonderful to see the twinkling lights on the tree's fresh boughs, and we enjoyed the delightful smell only a real tree can offer.

The girls really loved the tree. Every morning, they would come downstairs and say "Light on. Mommy, tree on!" Same drill after coming home from daycare in the evenings. If we didn't hop to it and flip the switch to turn on the dancing white lights, tantrums would surely ensue. Trust me. No degree of Christmas caroling can effectively drown out my kids yelling in stereo.

Despite the tree's beauty and the girls' fascination with all its decor, there is only so much Christmas clutter that I can take in my house after the happy holiday has passed. My need for organization forces me to instate serious Christmas clean up before the New Year arrives. And, that's exactly what we did.

We took off all the ornaments, unwound strand after strand of lights and put them all in our big (now overflowing) storage boxes. Avery and Lexie "helped," which really means that they took more stuff out of the boxes than they put it them, but they were so proud of themselves in their Santa's helper hats that I couldn't possibly be mad. See!

Don't let their cuteness fool you. I did have to break up one near fight when Lexie tried to wrap up her sister in tissue paper and put her in the box just like "Jesus and his family" from our manger scene. Of all the things I thought I might have to reprimand them for during the packing process, this was not one of them. Oh well... Now I know for next year!

Because the girls had loved the tree so much, we didn't want to tell them, "Yeah, sweeties, we're just gonna chuck it with the trash." The screams would've been deafening. Instead, Geof came up with a brilliant idea: "Let's tell them we're going to take the tree back to its family." Perfect.

Before the sun set on 2011, we bundled up Avery and Lexie in their warmest coats (think Ralphie) and convinced them to wear their new winter hats for a great journey into the woods behind our house. Avery will not keep anything on her head - except maybe a blanket when she's pretending to be a ghost at Halloween and inevitably runs into something - for more than 3 seconds. The fact that she wore the purple hat with the pom pom for the entire outing shows that she would abide by any rules to send the tree off on a high note.

Appropriately dressed for the chill outside, the girls and I watched as Geof heaved our now crunchy Christmas tree through the surprisingly narrow sliding glass door onto the deck. There, the girls paused for a picture with their beloved tree and told it to "go see fa-mah-wee."

The next sight had to be the funniest. Geof was in front carrying our tree like a lumberjack under his arm through the backyard and into the woods. Avery was tottering behind him, but her little legs couldn't quite keep pace with him even though he was toting a very large tree. Lexie was trying to keep up with Avery but managed to find every small hole and trip on it during the pursuit. I was bringing up the rear laughing at everyone and trying to capture the moment on video. I can only imagine what our neighbors were thinking...

Once we finally made it into the thicker tree line of the woods, Geof put down the tree, so the twins could give it nice "pat pats," shower it with kisses and tell it good-bye. At this point, the girls' hats had wiggled down almost over their eyes, and they had to tilt their heads back to see me to yell "Cheese!"

With a final farewell, Geof heaved the tree like a giant javelin into the woods. As luck would have it, the tree landed at an angle against another tree. Geof told the girls, "See, it missed its family, and they're so happy our tree is back home that they're hugging." Well played, Daddy.

The good thing about permanently disposing of your dead Christmas tree in your backyard is that if you're really bored with your kids and can't think of anything else to do to entertain them, you can always go visit the tree and its family. You just have to bundle up first!

Friday, January 13, 2012

My New Year's Resolution: The Blog Anti-Diet

I hate New Year's resolutions. Mine are always the same: eat better, exercise more (lifting 25-pound twins doesn't count) and declutter the house. At the end of the year, I never seem any closer to my goals than I was at the beginning. So, for 2012, I'm taking all those traditional items off the list and focusing on one singular, tangible target - to write at least once a week in this blog.

It seems a little sad that the last time I shared a story about my wonderful little girls was in 2010. (Sidebar: At first, when I saw the date on my last post, I thought, "That's not so bad. That was just last year!" Then, I realized, "Oh, wait. That was MORE than a year ago." Math was never my strong suit.)

There are lots of reasons why it's hard to find time to write. Doing nine loads of laundry in a weekend is a good one. Another is when your kitchen floor is so gross that your slipper sticks to it, and you have to use a sandblaster to get the dried apple juice off the floor under your kid's high chair.

The unexpected interruptions never stop. There's never a perfect time to sit down and religiously document my adventures with Avery and Lexie. But, I decided that's what lunch breaks, laptops and wifi are for! People in downtown Raleigh restaurants are definitely quieter than the people dining at my house, and chances are they aren't going to constantly ask me to refill their sippy cups with "nana toot punch." (Translation: Banana fruit punch.)

Plus, if I don't make time to record all of our amazing moments, I'm not going to remember them. It appears that since the girls were born my brain's power to retain anything more than what I need to know for the next 8-10 hours has sizeably shrunk.

I don't want my toddler brain drain to prevent me from telling my future grandchildren funny, embarassing stories about their mommies someday down the road. I mean, really, it would truly be a shame not to remember the time that Avery tried to bumrush the manger scene during the Christmas Eve service at church, because she was obsessed with seeing Joseph, or when Lexie enthusiastically ran from tree to tree in the backyard, hunting for make-believe Oskeebugs from the Yo Gabba Gabba TV show.

Through this blog, I can make sure that I document these stories and many, many others that make us laugh, cry or nearly rip out our hair. So, with that, I do solemnly swear to abide by my New Year's resolution and dedicate time each week for blogging our Wonder Twins story.