With Kids Like These, How Can Summer NOT Be Fun?

It’s only May (albeit late May). We still have another month before summer officially hits our house. Recently, I found myself in the midst of a crazy schedule of house duties – Dave was mowing the lawn (which, at our new house after a week+ of non-stop rain, is a monumental task) so I was playing with the kids, cooking, and throwing them in the tub for a quick early bath so that Dave could rinse off after his chores. Even amid this chaotic scene, I found myself full of joy and appreciation, and truly looking forward to the time ahead this summer with them.

These are crazy ages.

Harper’s officially a year and a half. She’s still a little peanut, but her personality (when she pushes the “stranger danger” shyness aside) is beyond unforgettable. When she runs, she puts both her hands behind her back (either she’s a superhero or it cuts down on friction, whatev). She’s STUBBORNNESS personified – ahem, like her mom – but I’m learning that if you give her a task she’s *sometimes* easily diverted. Just until recently, she hadn’t taken to drinking regular milk yet but recently seemed to give up her bottle of pumped milk a day (woohoo, although I’m somehow nervous not lugging my pump in and out of work!) but she still nurses a couple times a night. She pets and snuggles her kitties with a relatively gentle touch. She thinks she’s older and demands to be treated as such. She’s part fashion plate, part Punky Brewster; possibly a tomboy. She adores me (for some strange reason), sometimes throws Dave a bone with a rare hug, and always dotes on her big brother.

Her brother.

Hadley’s going to be 5 in less than 2 months, guys. Let me get my bearings on that one. *sniff, sniff* Watching the passage of time through his demeanor and growth – still with the occasional behavior slip or meltdown, but noticeably fewer for the most part – is humbling. He’s as kind as they come with a huge heart that gets hurt when kids, well, are kids. He uses big (like, big…adult big) words. He’s inquisitive and precocious – but not overtly annoying. He has a hard time controlling himself at times but is, at heart, a people-pleaser. When he’s about to get hurt, he’s already apologizing before he hits the ground. Poor kid comes by it honestly from both parents.

After teaching hundreds of kids over the years (the perks of teaching library – you meet ALL THE KIDS), I had reached a disciplinary style that, I felt, saw the uniqueness in all the children but tried to accept the fact that they should all still be held accountable for their actions and choices. Strict, I would say, which is something often lacking in the home, but with a touch of trust and humor. So, I took this home to Hadley.

Now that preschool teachers and the teachers who have met him for kindergarten have stated and reiterated that, yup, there’s something different about him, my thinking’s shifting a bit. There are some areas that still drive me crazy (“pinch the pencil, bud” and God help you if you hand him an ice cream cone to eat solo), but I’m starting to accept that he deserves more from me, particularly nurturing. I won’t say “us” here because my husband has always been the most sweet, supportive father on the planet.

Let’s just say that I’ve seen what kindness does to him. It opens him up like a flower. He’s more attentive and eager to please when he’s not going to be struck down (figuratively!!!) for doing something wrong. It’s amazing, and I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to find this willingness to pick only the important battles and give him more breathing room far sooner.

As far as he’s grown and developed, it’s clear that we ALL can find some growth and new awareness at any age. Even parents. (Okay, ESPECIALLY parents.)

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So, that’s where our kiddos are. Simply fun, simply goofballs, simply smart, simply amazing.

I’d like to be able to give them a summer that’s all those things: fun, goofy, brain-building, amazing…and, yes, simple (since, y’know, that whole “relaxation” thing sounds great to my pregnant mind). In the vein of simplicity, I’ve turned to general ideas that we can kind of “fill in the blanks” later to give us a guide of fun summer activities without the self-imposed “we have to do #allthethings” stress.

A science museum – Last year, we built our entire getaway on heading to a kid-friendly, interactive museum and while the museum itself was amazing, the rest of the trip kinda wasn’t. So, this year I’m eyeing a spot much more local to us and even got to scope it out on a recent field trip at school. I think Hadman will LOVE it and there are even some cool things for Harper to mess around with.

Zoos! – Any chance to fit in a trip to the zoo, whether it’s our favorite local spot or a larger one while traveling, is a great idea for our kiddos. They LOVE animals, so a day at a zoo is ideal, and now that Hadley’s much more into coloring and drawing, we can base some simple activities off of what he sees. We also want to start chatting with the kids (well, Hadman) about animal conservation and the environment more, so hopefully this will be a good jumping off point. Wild Kratts helps give a bit of a foundation, but seeing the animals brings it home.

Head outside – This could mean a bunch of things, from going on more walks to actually enjoying our backyard more to finding spots while vacationing that we can get some fresh air, going to the playground to eating in the backyard as a family. I like to keep things open – again, simple and less stress – so it all depends on schedule and weather.

Fresh, easy meals – Speaking of eating outside, our family has gotten into a rut. While we still don’t eat certain things (fast food comes to mind), we’ve been relying on restaurants and local pizza joints more than our fair share ever since the move (and if I’m honest, it’s been about for the past year or so). I’m hoping to push fruit and veggie snacks more this summer (on EVERYONE, not just the kiddos) and some real food meals. I’ve started this already, but with the summer farmers’ markets coming up, I’m excited to see what goodies they have to offer. * Our ultimate goal is to reach an 80/20 ratio of good, real-food choices to “real world/real life” options (ie a pizza or meal out from time to time).

Now, if only Harper wasn’t showing signs of a berry allergy. Grr.

Treats are OK! – Don’t get me wrong with my last point – we’ll still savor our ice cream and popsicles. I’m also hoping to avoid getting too hyped up about how messy they tend to be. 😉 We also have a new fire pit, so you KNOW s’mores are in the mix. (Now, if only we could find some organic marshmallows…)

Getting away. – This is a tough one to figure out for some reason. We were hoping to get away for a quiet, as-relaxing-as-possible-with-two-young-kids vacation but can’t settle on a where and when. We also make a trip to our “it’s tradition!” spots, like Western Mass and Old Forge, so I just don’t know. Gah. This may just be the year we fly by the seat of our pants.

So, there we are! I have a HUGE job to get inventory done and ALL of the books packed away for construction this summer, so I can’t wish the days away…but let’s just say I’ll be glad to have it all done and behind me to enjoy these munchkins (and my super cool husband, of course) this summer.

Anyone have some awesome plans they want to share? Or suggestions for a fun-yet-peaceful trip/vacation that won’t break the bank? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Welcome, Harper Quinn!

I haven’t written in over a month, and I’m trying not to feel too guilty about that fact. Between caring for a newborn, parenting a 3-year-old, getting myself moving, writing for my other gigs, and just the general holiday season, there are lots of reasons. Oh, and I don’t need to tell you guys…I’m tired, man.

But, I didn’t want to leave our new little bundle of joy out in the cold as far as a proper introduction to the world. For being bloggers, my husband and I are pretty private (him more than me), so we need to walk a fine line between over-sharing and maintaining some anonymity for our family’s safety.

I reason that we’ve shared a bit about our firstborn, so I’d like to record our secondborn’s arrival (at least to allow me to remember better). So, today, it’s all about our girl.

Yup, girl. In case you’re not in the loop, we were stunned and ecstatic to welcome an 8 lb. 2.5 oz. girl to our family the morning of Friday, November 13th via C-section.

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We agreed that she looked like a “Harper”, but took some time to land on a middle name. “Harper” means more than just “a harpist” (although my family’s musical side spoke to the name a bit); a minstrel actually was the news bringer, record keeper, and even genealogy expert of an area, which are all loosely tied to our interests and even careers.

We ended up choosing “Quinn” (rather than a family name, which I still feel guilty about – though I LOVE what we went with). It means “wisdom” and has a Gaelic/Irish history (as do I ;-)). It’s strong and special and sweet, and we hope she is, too. So far, we hit the nail on the head.

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Considering she’s 3 weeks old, her personality is starting to show itself more everyday. She’s been a sweetie from day one, but her lungs are a lot stronger (the nurses and doctor were actually concerned about her that she couldn’t get her vocals worked up and sounded rather weak). That said, we need to listen for her little chirps, squeaks and mouth noises to make sure she eats regularly.

Not to say she’s an awesome sleeper! She’s a newborn, so naps happen, but pretty sporadically, so I’m beat. She also finds it amusing to cluster feed, which I totally give into. Again, she’s a newborn; it’s what she needs. I’m just grateful that she has taken to nursing as quickly as her brother and, so far, there are no issues. Knock on all the wood, folks!!

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What about Hadley? I’m planning on writing a separate post about this, but as far as Harper’s concerned, he loves “his baby” very much. He gently pets her head, occasionally talks to her with a super sweet voice, and remembers to always include her when he talks about our family (which is often). Otherwise, we’re experiencing lots of 3-year-old, not-getting-attention-so-let’s-get-BAD-attention behavior. I feel his pain…but we’re experiencing our own pain and frustrations in the meantime.

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As with all things, it’s a work in progress and it’s a phase…just like this sleep deprived, mama cries about commercials stage. (With a history of depression, I know it’s not PPD or even baby blues; just exhaustion and hormones.) And the good outweighs the challenges, most days.

Oh, and as far as myself? I still get twinges of pain from overdoing it, but am pretty much back to normal physically. I had totally forgotten what the post-op pain was like and the first week home was rough. I have a high pain threshold, though, and made it through.

Sneezes and coughs be damned, though. Ouch.

If you’d like to know what else we’ve been up to, make sure you stop by the Thirsties blog to see how we’re changing our holiday traditions this year, among other things. And, I do hope to be sharing more here to get some normalcy back into our lives. 😉

Sesame Place Trip

We had a lot of fun this summer. Some relaxation with picnics and a local beach visit, plenty of work around the house (with still more to do, of course), and lots of learning with some simple workbooks and Kindermusik. Throw in trial-and-error attempts at potty-training, a few bouts of illness, simply being pregnant, and it’s been a pretty full summer!

In our pre-summer planning, we had wanted to take plenty of trips. While we took some local trips, one of our most-anticipated trips to visit friends in Massachusetts fell through, with Hadman coming down with a cough and fever. It ended up lasting quite awhile and turning into pneumonia, so we’re glad that the week prior we were able to take at least one kid-centric trip.

(And we fully plan on attempting a quick day trip back to Mass this fall…SOMETIME! Pre-baby, is my guess. *wink*)

Planned well in advance, we had decided on taking the little guy to Sesame Place. We had plenty of reasons for heading here, but the most important was to do something that we could all enjoy together before becoming a family of 4 (7, including cats…which we do). Goodness knows if/what we’ll be doing next year!

Dave took a 3-day weekend and we left for Pennsylvania. I’ll admit, the driving took longer than expected and both adults were rather beat by all the driving of the weekend. But, along our way, we saw what, to my guys, can only be described as a mirage on the road…


Wait, what?! Yup. The 1960s Batmobile. (Not THE original, but still…a perfect replica. Not kidding.) Sitting in front of a bar, in a field. Like, seriously.


Can you feel the excitement? I know I can. We already knew it would be a memorable weekend.

So, after numerous hours of driving, a Thomas DVD on a borrowed portable player (we’ve become those parents, apparently), and zero naps, we reached our hotel. This part of the trip worked perfectly: the hotel had a shuttle service that ran quite frequently to bring us back and forth to the park. So, since we had tickets for two days (BOGO, for the win!), we got ready for the dry rides and headed over.

Let’s just say that Dave wins the award for the fact that I couldn’t go on a vast majority of the rides with a baby bump. So, he had to ride with the little guy. Did I mention that he has issues with certain rides? Like, with the height and spinning and…stuff. So, clearly he gets the “Best Dad” badge for not only hitting up numerous rides but for keeping his cool and smiling while doing it. *starts a slow clap*

 


Anyhoo, we stayed for a few hours and enjoyed the Sesame-ness of the place (it really is awesome), then headed back to the hotel. We used the hotel pool, which was a hit for a non-swimming kiddo like ours, then hit the hay.

The next day, we had our complimentary breakfast and struck out for the far longer lines of a Saturday. I highly suggest renting a locker in advance; it worked out great for our changes and general ease of movement.

Okay, this is totally my favorite picture ever. My beach bums (who both HATE the heat). I’m the embarrassing spouse/mom, clearly. 


So, we spent a long, very hot morning there doing water stuff, getting splashed, and generally enjoying the place. But, with how long the lunch lines were, we quickly decided to buy any souvenirs we wanted, then head back to the hotel. We actually ended up ordering a quick lunch and eating at the hotel, then ALL took naps (my first clue that our systems weren’t adjusting well to travel). When we finally came to, we got ready and went to Hadley’s favorite place – Barnes and Noble – to play with the Thomas train and look at books before going out to a crappy dinner then back to try the pool again.

Between the food that our systems weren’t used to, being rundown from the trip itself, and any kid germs we came in touch with, we were all feeling pretty blah and ready to come home Sunday. On our way, we happened upon a “Taste of New York” boutique at a rest stop and, I’ve gotta say, it was the best meal we had the whole weekend. Some of the fruit I brought along mixed with a bunch of local, fresh snacks from around the state (and super local grassfed Greek yogurt and cheese curds), and we were able to make it home feeling a little more like ourselves.

But, by the end of the week, 2/3 of us were sick. I’ve definitely learned that I need to try to up our immune system protection before we take trips. Big-time.

All in all, though, the trip was SO worth it. Hadman is way more into Sesame Street lately, so he LOVED “meeting” several of the characters (namely, Count, even if the Count’s splash area upset him, hee hee). It was fun to see the diversity of people visiting and thinking, “Wow, this is what Sesame Street has promoted from the beginning!” It was also interesting to hear people in one of our shuttle vans say that their daughter isn’t really a fan of Sesame and wondering, “Wait, why are you spending all this money to…nevermind.” 😉 Eh, no judging. Anyone could have a blast there.



Gotta say, we all had a great time. And Mama got a new “cookie mug” for my milk and organic cookies…win-win! Three guesses which character mug the Dorky Daddy got.

Hadley’s Third Birthday – Best Laid Plans

So, I was hoping to have a rundown of the decorative plans I had in mind for the little guy’s birthday, along with some pictures of the whole thing for you today. Well, I have some pictures, but they don’t show much of anything.

With all three of us under the weather and unsure of whether or not we’d be super contagious, we had originally decided to cancel the whole thing. Then, after talking with my mother a bit, we decided just to have the grandparents over. There are a couple of newborns in the family that we wouldn’t want to get what we’ve got, so we cut it back. Besides, I had already bought tons of food (which there was no way we could save another week or two for a party that we weren’t even sure others could attend), so it would be great to celebrate the day in a low-key way.

That said, I still worked hard (which, as a pregnant lady means that I worked until my belly ached — the belly knows when it’s time to slow down, y’know) to bake and chop and grate and assemble. As the time drew nearer and nearer, I realized I wouldn’t have the time I’d hoped to do the decorating I had planned on.

No baby blue streamers. No Peter Rabbit cake topper and wall hanging. No poufs. No Pinterestworthiness.

That’s not a word, but it’s definitely a thing.

But, we did have time to do a thorough cleaning job, and last night at 11pm I found myself sketching chalkboard drawings to bring a little festivity. Oh, in complete honesty, this stuff finally took the place of my spring chalkboard and *ahem* Easter baskets. Seriously. I’ve been slacking. 😉

So, from the things I grabbed at the local “dollar store”, I used some faux greenery on vines to give a little garden feeling. And, seriously, don’t fresh fruit and veggies do a great job at hitting both a) feeding partygoers and b) adding to the ‘garden’ theme?


 Sorry, beverages. Party was underway and, as usual, Dave took the pics while I did last-minute stuff.


So, we served a pared-down version of the original menu: loads of fruit, veggies and homemade herb dip (Ina Garten), cold cuts with fresh rolls, chips/cheese/crackers, “munchies” (Annie’s chocolate bunnies and bunny snack mix…get it? Peter Rabbit??), and our family’s favorite pasta salad (Mom brought). Water, lemonade and iced tea for the hot day’s beverages. Oh, and chocolate-covered strawberries (Ina, again), homemade carrot cake (good ol’ Good Housekeeping – very moist, but took FOREVER to grate the carrots) with cream cheese icing, and an untouched strawberry rhubarb crisp. Admittedly, everyone was stuffed, so that’ll be breakfast this week. 😉

I know it still sounds like a lot, but considering I cut the decorating down to next to nothing and we didn’t have tomato pie and sausage bread and stuff…it was far less crazy and more chill than it would’ve been. Oh, and for the record, it’s the only cold cuts I’ve had (I believe?!) the entire pregnancy. I cheated, but at least I didn’t have a beer…right??

Considering we only had three guests (my stepdad wasn’t feeling well) plus the three of us, this kid got GIFTS. Thomas stuff, clothes galore, books, a fishing game he’s loved at his cousin’s, some superhero stuff, a bubble mower and A SHAAAAARK! (We also saved some stuff for tomorrow since that’s his actual day, but MAN I’m thinking we should save some of it for Christmas!)


When it was time to nap and he melted down, you could hear how sick he still is. Super runny nose, incredibly raspy…not as croupy as when he sleeps, but not good, poor thing. I’m just glad that his daddy and I have gotten past that “I don’t feel goooooood” whiny crappy feeling so that we could focus on how awesome our special guy is.

We felt awful that we couldn’t party it up with the whole family (namely, his super fun cousins, and I always love seeing my siblings), but I know we’ll see everyone throughout the summer, so we’re trying not to focus on it too much. Considering he’s only turning 3 and he doesn’t have a huge circle of friends yet, it was still a memorable, fun day meant to make him feel remembered. I’d say, snotty noses aside, it was a success!

Now, if he could just feel better. 🙁

On a positive ending, we didn’t realize how much Hadley has changed in the past year until Dave started putting together his annual video. Wow. A year ago, his words existed but were guttural and communication was highly emotionally-charged. A recent BabyCenter email updated me that he’s probably saying 3-word sentences now, but it’s sooo far from the truth. Aside from run-ons, he’s incredibly verbal, and his vocabulary surprises us with its complexity. We still have our toddler meltdowns, but he’s much better able to communicate his feelings.

He helps when we give him a task. He’s open and welcoming to the idea of a little sibling (he insists it’s a girl and today said her name is “Flamingo”). He’s sweet with a tiny mischievous side, prefers running to sitting still, and is dying for us to find him more friends. Somewhere along the way, he’s started coming to us with spontaneous moments of love and brief cuddles, which he was never a fan of before. Overall…the kid rocks.

Here are some of the answers to some questions I asked him:

Favorite Things – Age 3

Color – “Blue.” (funny, it’s usually orange)
Toy – “My firetruck.” (really?!)
Stuffed animal – “My lamby.”
Thing to take to bed – “My shark.”
Fruit – “I like all of them.”
Cereal – “Gorilla Munch.”
Breakfast – “Gorilla Munch.” (I blame the order of the questions on that answer)
Lunch – “Peanut butter and jelly.” (had to answer for him; this is his fave)
Dessert – “Ice cream.” (not really, he doesn’t eat the stuff)
Beverage – “Grape juice!”
Dinner – “Nothing, nothing, nothing.” (I think lunch and breakfast are his big meals; he’d prefer not eat dinner.)
Animal – “Uuummm…a lizard!”
Book – “Pajama Time.”
Song – “1-2-3 sing with me…(continues singing own lyrics)”
Game – “Matthew and me used to play golf. And Aunt Mary and Lizzie and Uncle John were there….”
TV Show – “Cartoon Batman” (the 1970s cartoon version, although we know he loves “60s Batman”, too.)
Movie – “The Muppets”
Thing to do outside – “Run around.”
Best friend – “Cooper.” (Actually, equal parts Cooper and Lizzie, so the answer varies.)
Job when he grows up – “Do Daddy’s job…Lego Batman exercise!” (He wants to use Dave’s old Lego Batman Wii game but knows he can’t until he’s big.)

One Recipe, Three Flavors

I was hoping to share my annual birthday planning post for the little guy, but we’ve all come down with what seems to be a summer cold. Wop, wop. So, I figure if I share the plans, that’ll pretty much guarantee that we’ll have to postpone the thing (which may happen, anyway). So, instead, I’m sharing a recipe we used last night that really worked for us. Hopefully we’ll all be felling super great by the weekend and you can hear our theme/plans after the big hurrah next week.
 
We’ve been up to our ears in lettuces thanks to the CSA, so I’ve wanted to try something, ANYTHING besides salad (which I currently have zero appetite for; maybe if I could make a dressing that appeals to my pregnant whims). Since I’m not brave enough to cook the stuff, I decided to try lettuce wraps.

I had doubts if they’d meet the “needs” of all three of our taste buds. The little guy likes salad but not chicken (weird, I know), so it would need a heavier sauce to mask the chicken – enter honey mustard. Mine was going to have an Asian style dressing. Because Dave’s not a fan of those flavors, I decided to treat him to a little buffalo sauce (made all the healthier by the fact that it was just a drizzle and the rest of the ingredients were super healthy).

And, against the usual odds, we all liked it. The most skeptical of all (Dave) loved it and requested it again…soon. When I do make it, I think I’ll do a peanut-based Asian sauce for mine, just for something a little different.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Three Ways
(or as Hadley calls them, “Lettuce Tacos”)
serves 3, but can be adjusted easily
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Romaine lettuce leaves, washed & dried (12+ leaves)
Two carrots, julienned
A few inches of cucumber, julienned
Mushrooms, chopped (I didn’t have any, but would improve it)
Various grape tomatoes, sliced
S&P

* Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grill on grill pan for 8-10 minutes (until cooked through) and shred/chop. Use dry lettuce leaves as a base and fill with ingredients. Drizzle with sauce of your choice. (Our lettuce was smaller than usual Romaine, so you could cut larger pieces in half to make easier to eat.)


Dressings (enough for one serving of 4 wraps):
Honey Mustard
– Equal parts local honey & yellow mustard
*Mix ingredients together. Bam.

Asian Drizzle
– 4-5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
– ~ 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
– dash sesame oil
– drizzle honey or sprinkle of brown sugar
– dash red pepper flakes
– splash of water (optional; was too wet this way)
*Mix all ingredients together. To create thicker sauce, cook down in saucepan for 5+ minutes.

Buffalo Sauce– 2-3 Tbsp. butter
– about 3-4 Tbsp. hot sauce
– dash cayenne pepper
– sprinkle of white vinegar
* Microwave butter until melted, then add the rest of ingredients. Mix.


See? Even fit for a toddler. Honey mustard is a savior around these parts.

BTW, everything except the chicken was organic (and that was natural and humanely raised, so whatchya gonna do?). I threw some berries (strawberries & two types of raspberries from the farmers’ market) on the side to round it out; I also grabbed some cottage cheese when I was done just to fill up a little more, but the boys were fine without. Pregnancy will do that to ya.

Now, if anyone has ideas for fennel (I am NOT a fan, but am willing to try new things…gulp), chard, salad turnips, and a ton more lettuce, I’m up for suggestions.

Just know that I’ve got some pickiness going on in the house. 😉

Catching Up and 21 Weeks

I inadvertently took last week off from blogging. Whoops. Sorry about that! Totally unintentional. It was my first week off from school for the summer and we had something planned (at times, several things) every. Damn. Day. Some of it was awesome; some of it was an emotional rollercoaster. Needless to say, I’m LOVING enjoying the fun and relative relaxation of the holiday weekend.

Seriously, I would love to post at least twice a week throughout the summer, depending on what’s happening. So, we’ll see how that goes down. 😉

Here are a few anecdotes from  what’s going on in our world, in general, to catch up:

* We didn’t really have set plans for Independence Day, and tend to like it that way, so we played it by ear. We met up with a close friend (and, randomly, tons of other friends and acquaintances! Love when that happens) at one of our favorite farmers’ markets. Since our CSA has us filled to the gills with veggies, I was ecstatic to find a berry vendor, so we stocked up on raspberries and strawberries, and even happened upon a rare late-season bundle of rhubarb. Looks like I’ll be making my grandmother’s recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie, if I can track it down. Hadman had his fill of berries – seriously, is there such thing as berry overdose? – and enjoyed socializing and counting dogs.

From there, we decided to hit up Barnes and Noble (a rare successful, no-meltdowns visit) for a few gifts for the little guy’s 3rd birthday, then a quick lunch at Panera’s, then still more shopping at Toys ‘R Us. The rest of the night was pretty chill, with nitrate-free hotdogs and corn on the cob for a super late dinner, some “Yankee Doodle Dandy” watching, and fireworks on TV. The little man stayed up way past 10 (and still had us up throughout the night, grr) and danced his arse off. 

My face looks like the mother of a newborn today. (And I’m not.)

‘Merica. 

* House-hunting front: We found a house that we loved…but it made us reevaluate our situation and realize that, nope, we can’t do it. At least, not under our current parameters and not that house. Big “wop, wop”s all around. But, as always, we appreciate what we’ve got and will figure it out. As Dave said, “We’re lucky to have a house at all, and wherever my family is, that’s home.” I truly feel the exact same way.

We learned long ago not to get emotionally attached to houses with what a heart-pounding experience house-hunting can be. So, we’ve actually gotten good at completely objective about any house. The more that I think about it, aside from the incredible location and just-right size (two things that are, admittedly, hard to come by) of this particular house, we could totally make a future place just as loveable.

Sings “the sun’ll come ooooouuuut…tomorrow!”

* Saying goodbye sucks. A quick story of friendship: Dave made a friend in high school who, as with many of his friends, became lifelong kindred spirits. Fast forward a bit and she moved back to town, along with her equally-awesome husband. We started having occasional girl time and even became pregnant just before we did with this second little bean. At the same time, she dropped the “reality bomb” that her family would be moving down south (to, admittedly, a much more comfortable situation, culturally and career-wise, for all). Prenatal yoga and an awesome Harry Potter themed baby shower, and the time has come to say goodbye.

Sad faces. Throw some tears in for good measure. I am SUPER bummed, not only that our littles won’t be raised closely, but that it’s so hard to make good friends. Luckily, they’ll visit during the holidays and it’s true that real friends never actually go away…but, yeah. Still bummed. 

* Blogging for realz, yo. During the super-late naptime yesterday, I was finally able to finish off my FIRST POST EVER for an awesome (seriously, never saw one bad review!) cloth diaper company. The fact that I can speak with my own voice, NOT just discuss cloth diapering (although, clearly, that’s a thing I plan to do) but also parenting toddlers/newborns and just our experiences, in general, is huge. I don’t have to speak commercially. And, yes, it’s paid.

Needless to say, super excited!    

* Birthday boy! So, we’re planning a low-key 3rd birthday for the little guy to take place…in a week. I know, I haven’t posted a recap of my plans or anything (which I hope to do this week!), but at least we’ve stocked up on gifts. Now, just comes the *simple* meal-planning, prep & cooking/baking and any decor we may use.

So, stay tuned for that this week!

* Oh, yeah, and I’m 21 weeks along. As of last week, the baby’s officially measuring from head to toe (rather than head to rump). After a spill down the stairs last week with Hadley (we’re fine), I was super happy to have a sonogram showing how awesome everything’s coming along last week. We did have an encounter with a usually-super-cool doctor when I asked about the impending (like, early August) blood glucose test. I had asked about the possibility of drinking or eating an alternative to the chemical- and artificial color-filled orange gunk and she became unexpectedly testy. It was actually the first time I’ve had blatant push-back about eating organically (not ALL the time) and naturally (again, not ALL the time, but a majority of it). Huh. So, yeah, that was weird and not the norm whatsoever for our usual visits.

***For the record, she said I COULD do the “pancake and the works meal” that morning (I had heard that are particular 100% juices that you could chug instead), but it’s “the same amount of sugar”…to which I said that the sugar’s not what I’m concerned about. I guess some people can’t get their minds out of “sugar and calories are the enemy” mode? We’re down on chemicals and general crappiness of food.***

Otherwise, everything’s going fine and I’m trying not to dwell on stupid crap like that. Which, of course, means that I’m subconsciously obsessing about it and dreading my next appointment and making me think “they’re forcing a C-section on me AND make me feel like crap about asking questions…okay, screw that.” Blah. 

For the record, I hardly feel pregnant most of the time and don’t feel like I’m gaining any weight at all lately. Like, I think my tummy was bigger a month ago than now, but they didn’t seem to see any issue and as long as that little heart was beating (and he/she was ACTIVE while they were trying to catch a profile view), I’m good. Like, really good. Like, “don’t take me down, doc” good. And Hadley totally, 100% thinks it’s a girl.


So, what’s new with you guys?? I know, tons of boring information comin’ atchya. I just couldn’t seem to write anything else without doing a brain-dump first. You lucky readers, you. 😉

Driving

The first time I tried driving, my mother took me to the same spots she had taken my three siblings. We started in our church parking lot, which went quite well. She was so confident in my ability that she let me hit the mean streets of Mohawk. Everything was going fine until it started raining, hard, at which point I fiddled switches until I had my lights and wipers going. By the time we got home, we were getting angry beeps and shouts. My high-beams were on. (In retrospect, I’ve seen people do this and while people might get irritated, it seems like all these people were having a REALLY bad day, excessively freaking out.)

My mother was at the end of her rope. It wasn’t a huge deal, but she angrily slammed the door and muttered throughout the kitchen that she “couldn’t do this one more time; three was enough.” I understood. She had already diligently taught my brothers and sister how to drive; her wits were shot. But, it still saddened me. 

But, then appeared a beacon. My normally quiet stepfather chimed in. “I can teach her to drive. I’m sure she’ll do great.” 

It was the first time that I found myself excited to spend time with him. For the previous two years, I had made life for Jerry a veritable hell under our roof. He was one of the kindest people I had ever met, yet the simple idea of him and his entrance into our family, I took like an immature brat. There was a lot of hurt in my heart and I thrust it all upon him in heaps of the silence treatment and corrections (I’ve always been the grammar police, but his intelligence has always been of a technical/mechanical ilk; thus, I attacked). 

So, we hit the road a few times. 

That summer, I signed up for driver’s ed classes. The instructor had warned us not to do “too many lessons” since he’d have to fix incorrect driving methods. Unfortunately, I was stuck with a different fellow and had next to no skills aside from the occasional drive. He took to taunting me in other classes (a friend relayed to me) and cut my confidence down. Far. I learned next to nothing from the man but to fear driving and hold the wheel. I improved, much to his chagrin, but only from Jerry’s efforts.

The only bright spot that summer were the rides I took with Jerry. Getting behind the wheel with him was a joy rather than a lesson in humility. We would listen to the oldies station (which we both enjoyed) and he would simply tell me to drive. He would sometimes lean back in the seat and pretend to take a nap; he was actually quite awake, keeping an eye on me, but silently reminding me that he trusted my driving. I only got us lost once, and he immediately knew what strange back road I had happened upon, getting us back on track without a single scold. We would often end up at a local ice cream joint before heading home. 

Any time we had an errand to run, I drove, learning how to park in the busiest of situations. He took me a couple of times to try 3-point and parallel parking; with him, it was easy and simple compared to the high-stress situation at summer school. When I suddenly returned knowing how to park, the instructor was palpably frustrated. It felt great.

I “passed” my class, but continued driving with Jerry. He brought me to my driving test and happened to know the gentleman overseeing the thing; distracted, the man signed off on my sheet before I had clicked my buckle. Luckily, I did fine (well, my parallel park was kind of crappy; I’ve since mastered it) and earned my license.

That winter, as a good-sized squall started outside, he called out to my mother that we needed to go pick up some ice cream. Why on Earth he wanted to get ice cream was beyond me, especially with an impending blizzard, but I went. He hopped in the driver’s seat. After driving a block, he pulled over and told me to get out. We switched seats and headed to the next town, back tires shifting and sliding in the building slush. On the way home, the snow had become white-out conditions. I was at the front of a row of drivers, but he kept me calm. He explained that I should follow the ruts of the driver before me and how braking is an entirely different beast in the snow. Every time I’m caught in snow (which, in Central New York, is about half the year), I remember that experience. 

I have since learned countless other lessons from this man. He couldn’t wait for me to get my first house and help me fix it up; turns out, he also ended up teaching my husband (who has been such an eager learner, I couldn’t be prouder) about plumbing, electrical, and hundreds of other home improvement things. Now that Jerry’s older, we find ourselves sad to think that he won’t be as hands-on with any future home we finally hunt down.

But, beyond those practical lessons, he has become a guide. Time changes minds and hearts, and through his quietness, occasional common sense opinions, and dry but hilarious sense of humor, he has made himself an essential cog in our family. There was a time that I insisted that any child of mine wouldn’t call him “Grandpa”, but today I welcome the name (although Hadley actually refers to him as “Papa”, which is just fine). There was a time I wanted Mom or maybe my dear grandfather to walk me down the aisle; on the special day, I instead asked Mom and Jerry, both, to be at my side. 

There was also a time that I could picture him outlasting all of us, with a youthful energy and endurance to undertake more puttering and heavy-duty outdoor tasks in a day than a man a quarter of his age. Unfortunately, while he’s still as virile as any of us, he has been forced to slow down by some health complications. We are reminded that we will not always have our practical guide to turn to, and it brings me tears to think we’ll lose another father. When I hear people younger than him complain about getting older and “not being around forever”, I find myself angered that they don’t do more with their youth while they have it. Jerry is no self-pitier, nor should anyone be.

So, with Father’s Day upon us, I hope this year to salute not only the father of my children, whom I am grateful for on a daily basis, and all the fatherly figures who have touched our lives and hearts in so many ways, but specifically Jerry, who gets little credit for the huge job he has happily taken on. For those fathers who may not be related by blood, but have quietly fought their ways into our rude little hearts. For those fathers who had a choice, and regardless of the mountainous task ahead, took that choice to be someone’s father and to fill the role.

And for teaching me how to check my oil, I thank him. 

Same and Different

Since I shared some insight to our pregnancy last week and how things are going, I’ve been excited to chat about some of the things that we hope to do raising Baby #2. Some are repeats that worked well (and we hope, with crossed fingers, that they do the second time around); some are things that either didn’t work the first time or that we simply didn’t try.


Babywearing (Different) – It could’ve been our baby’s large size. It could’ve been because he wasn’t really into it. It could’ve been the fact that I simply didn’t stick with it very well. Whatever it was, I want to give it another go.
Considering we’re still in “NO, Hadley! Don’t go near the road!!” chasing-a-kid-around mode, it feels like babywearing will be a big benefit to our family in so many ways. It’ll leave me/Dave hands-free to hold the little man’s hand or tend to him however he needs while getting some uber-important bonding time with the little one. I already have an Ergo carrier and a Moby wrap (unless my sister’s using them, in which case I’ll try new ones!), so I just have to get used to the actual carrying of a baby. 😉
Breastfeeding (Same) – While we had some definite low points, I can proudly say that we successfully breastfed Hadman for about a year and a half, maybe longer (it got down to one feeding at the end, so my memory’s foggy). I’m determined to make it work again with this next child. (Watch them have a tongue tie or not be as willing to help. ;-))
I think that the two biggest reasons for our success in this area are: 1) a super big, super hungry baby (he latched immediately in the hospital, after a bottle in the nursery(!), ‘cuz he was *Chris Farley voice* STAAARVIIIING!!!; even if we had a few issues later on, it gave me the confidence to continue) and 2) a super awesomely supportive husband (who actually called the lactation specialist, who intimidated the crap out of me, several times and would advocate for me to people who weren’t very understanding at times). 
Possible C-Section (Same, Maybe) – *sigh* This is one that has me scared to talk about publicly because it’s pretty emotional for me and there are LOTS of opinions floating around…that I don’t need/want to hear. Anyway, here it goes.

We LOVE our group of doctors. LOVE THEM. But, their policy, due to insurance, is “once you have a C-section, that’s whatchya get.” (Paraphrased.) In our area, there are few to no options (aside from a home birth, which we’re just not made for) for a VBAC. We recently heard that there IS at least one practitioner who attempts them, but I’m gun-shy about changing our doctors, especially if Hadley was a 10+ pound kid. If I’m destined for another huge kid and another C-section, I’d like to be with doctors I’m already comfortable with.

I’m getting my head wrapped around this, and I know one day I’ll be able to write a post entitled “Why I’m Okay with My Scheduled C-Section” (since that’s the way I’m leaning). I’m just not there yet. Just let me sit and eat my mint chocolate chip ice cream and think. And think. And mull. And think some more.

Cloth Diapers (Different) – This is one area that I failed miserably at the first time around. I bought a bunch of BumGenius all-in-one diapers (which you can simply toss into your diaper container/bag and wash within 2-3 days, no stuffing/unstuffing/pinning/folding) for Hadley since I’d seen awesome reviews for them. I’m not sure if they need more cleaning or a full-on stripping, but they were a bit leaky when we tried them and bulky.

So, this time, this is the one area I MUST DO. I hope to include the BGs in my stash (maybe sell a handful) but also to grab some trimmer pocket dipes while I’m at it. The AIOs had snaps rather than Velcro, so I’m wondering if I should try some with the sticky stuff to compare more with the disposables. Given that I’m active in the “green community”, I’ve felt horribly that this didn’t work (and not to mention that I feel guilty that I may have another non-natural birth, blah), but it was overwhelming with his colic/gas/newness. I think the second time around, I’m already worrying less, but also optimistic that *maybe, just maybe* this’ll go a bit better.  

Bassinet-to-Crib (Same) – The first month or two, we’re planning on keeping the little one as close as possible to our bedside at night. However, we will eventually switch him over to the same crib Hadley’s been using. (If we’re in a new house, that’ll be time for the big boy bed!!! If we’re not, we’ll be rearranging rooms!!! All very exciting and terrifying.)

Stuff Glut (Same…and Different?) – So, yeah. Since we don’t find out our little ones’ genders before their arrivals, we’ve got plenty of gender neutral clothes to work with. Plus, we’ve got boy clothes from Hadman and girl clothes to borrow from my sister, so we’re set on clothes. As far as all the other “stuff”, we’ve either got it or realized…we never needed it.

We live by the Pack ‘n Play, given that we’re in a two-level home, so we’re glad to have that. I’d like to try a swing out, but by that point we may have one “floating around” within the family (if not, it’ll probably be one of our only purchases — aside from the cloth dipes, which are a beast all their own). Can I just say what a relief it is that I don’t have to have a shower and glut of more stuff?? (The generosity was so sweet the first time around, but it’s just a huge “aaahhhh” moment.)

Our House (???) – This is one area we’re working on. If we can find and move into a new house during this pregnancy, awesome! If not…we’ll deal. We’d rather have more space in an area that’s more conducive to our familial needs, but we don’t want to rush into something we don’t love. So this may be a same…may be a different. Who knows?

What about you? Any huge changes from one child to another? 😉 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

This year was possibly the most fun and exciting Mother’s Day weekend we’ll probably ever have. Friday, my sister had a baby — little Timothy Conner. Saturday, there was our sister-in-law’s baby shower (she’s due in July with her first, a little boy named Parker!) and my brother surprised us with a visit from Ohio to meet the new little one. Sunday, well, we celebrated Mother’s Day.

Dave gave us a super-early breakfast (because lately we’ve been super-early risers) that he cooked completely on the grill (toast, eggs, bacon, and sweet potatoes) and we got to enjoy peacefully on our deck. A gift of an azalea, new gardening gloves from Hadman and a gift card to “The Tailor and the Cook” (to say nothing of my two adorable, tear-jerking cards) topped off my day. Then, I played and ran around with Hadley while Dave did dishes and got ready before we bolted off to bring a second breakfast to his parents. While there, Dave made one last call to his brother – whom we’d been keeping a secret from until post-shower – to cover (most of) our bases.

When we got home and as Hadley fought a nap (we were heading to my mother’s house later in the day), we synchronized a Facebook status update, counting down 3…2…1….

We were anxious about the announcement, not because of the actual news but because the announcement might be confusing to some of our friends. We’re fans of “The Onion”, which is very much our strange sense of humor, and Dave had come up with this idea months ago. So, we plopped down at our dining room table, told Hadley to “think”, and set the auto-shoot on the camera. The little guy just happened to put his finger up saying, “Me have an idea!” as it went off and there we were. After weeks of writing and editing, we were happy with the final result. 
I figured it’d be nice to do a “normal” announcement here along with our quirky one. (Click and double-click on the above image to read it closer and better, BTW.)

Baby Bunny/Bulldog/#2 is due sometime in November. I say “sometime” because at our first sonogram we were told that our original date was off and we were further ahead than expected (by about a week). So, mid-November works right now. For the most part, things are very calm and peaceful and healthy, just like we like it. I’ll be posting later this week to discuss how things are going and how/when we found out (yup, I’ve got lots of blog posts in my head that I haven’t been able to talk about before now!), so if you have any questions, feel free to ask away. Otherwise, I’ll just over-share on my own. 😉

So, yeah. It was probably the best Mother’s Day I’ll ever have. I hope any moms out there had one just as wonderful!

Ithaca – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Before I get into the semi-regularly-scheduled post, I just want to say SQUEEEEEAAAAL and best wishes to my sister, Mary, and her family on the birth of their second little one today! I’m so happy that we’ll get to be there to meet him or her. 🙂 Lots of joy in this family right now!

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I’ve been around the block enough times to know that E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is unpredictable when a toddler/preschooler is involved. As a family, we have learned to plan excessively, adapt accordingly, and remain flexible at all times. Also, as with all things in life, it’s important to take the good with the bad (and be grateful for it all).

So, when we planned our recent day trip to Ithaca, NY (a little over two hours away), I went into it with the usual well-planned day with a hint of “this could change at any moment” thrown in.

Dave was there for a day-long comic book convention to chat with folks and sell issues of his hilarious comic book series, Holidaze. So, after we dropped him off at the college, Hadman and I were on our own. I was totally ready for the day.

Only, I wasn’t. After the long-ish drive, a coffee and tons of water, I was in dire need of a bathroom. Like, crying in the parking lot, not knowing where I even was, with a toddler insisting that we go some place (ANY place!). Finally, as my teeth floated and my eyes watered, I looked up the closest grocery store – less than 5 minutes away. Whew. Upon pulling into the parking lot, I spotted a nearby Barnes and Noble. Even better! Hadley’s favorite place on Earth.

After the potty break, we hit up the Thomas train set and grabbed a book for Hadley’s soon-to-be-born cousin with only two very loud meltdowns before leaving. Score.

Finally! Off to the main event for the day. The Sciencenter was everything we had hoped for and more. We spent the entire morning exploring animals, shadows, lights, mirrors, our senses, sand (one of the sand tables actually displayed a contour map on top, which took me right back to Mr. Buckley’s Earth Science class), and an awesome toddler toy area with a water table. Outside was a discovery jungle gym-type thing with more sand and water tables, a music center…seriously, the list goes on and on.

He was a VERY good boy and got a rubber snake for his troubles. I wonder where we put that thing…

For lunch, we fought the traffic outside and sat together at Ithaca Bakery. I had brought a PBJ sandwich and snacks for him but grabbed a turkey wrap for myself. This marked the first time he has sat in a restaurant without a high chair (or booster, which we don’t normally use anyway) with no wiggling or walking around. We talked and enjoyed our meals, and it was one of the best lunch dates ever.

Here’s where things get a little ugh. I had planned to take the little guy over to a parking garage then push him around the Commons in his stroller in hopes of getting a nap out of him and getting some writing done, myself. Welp, construction. The whole thing was torn up. We visited a couple of stores, but the whole point of the thing was killed. Back to the car we went.

I decided to drive back up to the college to find a spot to park (and hopefully let the little guy sleep). I was able to get a little writing done, but he kept waking (noisy college kids, of course), so while he did nap a bit, it made for a grouchy afternoon.

Yeah. That’s my finger. Oops. Added dose of embarrassment? He drooled SO MUCH. Hee hee.

Before picking up Dave, I took the little guy back down the hill a bit to a playground I had spotted, which worked wonderfully…until it was time to head back up to campus. Meltdown #3 (or 4 or 5…I’ve lost count).

This is where the “ugly” comes in. Back at Ithaca College, I knew the parking lot we were supposed to use as “visitors” to the convention (I had dropped Dave in a closer lot used just by vendors and probably should’ve tried to park there again). Instead, I followed the rules and buckled Had back into a stroller. After trying to cross through the inside of a building (as advised by Ithacon’s website), I discovered just how stroller (and handicapped) inaccessible the campus is. Oh. My. God. After exiting the building and meandering around the sidewalks, I reached our destination completely beat, looking like a mess, and feeling like a raging bull.

When Dave asked if I wanted to walk around (and, namely, meet one of our favorite authors, Bruce Coville), he knew immediately that I wasn’t moving from the chair I had claimed. I was a wreck, but after some water and time to cool down, we were able to retrieve the car, pack up, and head out.

Given my state, we decided to break our “take-out” rule (kind of…this wasn’t REALLY fast food) with a trip to A&W. We got to order, wait, and eat in our car just like the 1950s, which was pretty darn cool. And better control over the little guy is always a plus.

So, there we have it. Ultimately, the trip was actually a really fun, memorable one. I’m already able to laugh at the ridiculous things that threw the plans out the window, and am kind of relieved that most of the issues weren’t caused by a raucous little guy, but by the unknown situations that were thrown at us.

It already has my brain darting around planning our summertime getaway(s).