Thursday, June 22, 2017

Our Dreamy Topsail Vacation

When you plan a vacation and you've got four littles, the youngest of whom is a toddler, you go into it cautiously hopeful. You hope for decent weather, but if it rains half the time it's not the end of the world. You hope the toddler sleeps, but you know he has a spotty record so you have to be ready to gut out some rough nights and focus on the fun days. When you read your cousin's harrowing story about a vacation bug, you hope and pray for no sicknesses. But if it happens it will last a day or two and everything will be great afterward. You hope the place you're staying in is at least nicer than this. The goal is to come out of it with enough good memories to outweigh any bad, and that's always been true in the end. Cautiously hopeful, that's how you need to be.

What you don't dare to hope for is that the stars will all align, the baby will sleep every night and nap every day, the sun will shine all the time, and everything will be perfect. But that's what happened on our trip to Topsail, NC last week. 

We sat out in the sun watching the kids play, and didn't sweat because it never got hotter than mid-80s, and there was a gentle breeze. I had to be really be on top of sunscreen application because it's too easy to burn when it feels that nice in the sun.
They spent hours catching little fish, digging little pools for them, and then moving the pools as the tide came in or out.
Can you tell Delaney and Jaden apart? I couldn't half the time.
We boogeyboarded.
We took walks at sunset and had drinks on the back deck looking out at the ocean. I had to wear a sweatshirt a lot of times in the evening because it got chilly, and I LOVED that. 
We had toddler dance parties in the living room.
The kids had lots of quality cousin time and sleepovers.
We flew kites.
My mom, sisters and sister-in-law got away for a ladies' lunch. So much fun. A new tradition is born! 
We had many family photo sessions at sunset. 
Not everyone was happy about it.

Go figure she wanted to be in the picture with the boys. LOL.
It's not a werefolf. It's Delaney with all her hair blowing in her face.
This was just the break from reality we needed before we had to start getting the house ready for movers (Okinawa!!!!!!). Every day we were there I would take a look around and thank God for the gift of another amazing day with this wonderful family of ours.

Massachusetts family, we're coming for you next!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Joey: 18 Months

A few days ago there was a dispute between Delaney and Timmy over a fidget spinner. Timmy had bought two from Amazon and had given one to her. Then he had lost the one he'd kept and tried to say that the one he'd given Delaney was also his because he'd paid for it. It was time for a lesson in what happens when you give something to somebody. After dadsplaining it all, Tim then said to Timmy, "Now I'm asking you, whose fidget spinner is this? There's only one answer." Without missing a beat, Joey called "Miiine!" and reached out his plump little hand to grab it. We all died. Then he threw back his head and laughed at all of us laughing, as if to say, "I know I'm hilarious."
He still says just one word at a time, and he's adding more to his vocabulary all the time: go, ball,  bah (bath), home, boat, Joe and no are a few that come off the top of my head. He tries to say his sisters' names too. He says "Annie" and "Nay-nee" for Delaney. I haven't heard him try "Timmy" or make the "t" sound at all. Sometimes if I ask him a question he'll say "know" instead of "don't know." He still likes to use his own made up sign I call gimme -- extending his arm from the elbow repeatedly in the direction of whatever he wants. By the end of our beach vacation, his 22-month-old cousin Elise starting doing gimme too! She saw it was working for him.
I know a great way to distract him from having a toddler meltdown: ask him to do something for me. He will literally be in the midst of crying and having a fit, but if I ask him to "throw this sock in the hamper" he will stop in his tracks, look confused for a second, then change gears and be at my service. It's amazing. Same goes for "put this back", "put it away", and "throw it away". He's better at it than the other kids!
It's been nice having the Big 3 done with school, because he was getting bored to death of hanging out with me. He just couldn't stand seeing me trying to get things done around the house. So sometimes I'd stop and get down to his level and do things with him, but I know it was never enough as far as he was concerned. One thing he likes is looking at books together. He doesn't have the attention span to listen to me read the whole way through, but he loves flipping through books and looking at the pictures and listening to me read or talk about what's going on. Our favorite is Little Blue Truck. He can't get enough of looking at the pictures of the truck stuck in mud and pointing at the animals and making their sounds. They like to read with him and entertain him in all kinds of ways.
He loves to point at all the different kinds of vehicles we see in books and in real life. No matter what we tell him they are, he calls them all "cah!" It's the Worcester in him.

He needs some outdoor time every day. He gets stir crazy inside. I would hate to spend a real winter with him, but we won't need to worry about that for the foreseeable future. By the time we do, he'll be old enough to bundle up and push out the door.
His horrible haircut is mostly grown out by now, thank goodness. There will be no more scissor haircuts from Mama.

I took him to the doctor today and he weighs 23 pounds and is 30.7 inches tall. He's a peanut at only the 13th percentile for weight and 10th for height, but he's growing well. He is still wearing mostly size 12-18 in clothes and size 4 diapers. He's sleeping solidly (most of the time) from 7 p.m to 6 a.m. and taking one afternoon nap lasting a little longer now that the other kids are with us all day: about 1.5 to 2 hours. He slept well on the last two trips we've taken, first to my Mom and Dad's and then to a beach house in NC, and that gives me some hope and encouragement for the crazy summer ahead. He still wakes up from his nap in a terrible mood, but we can turn that around with a snack and an activity. We just dropped the morning nursing session, so now we nurse before his afternoon nap and before he goes to bed at night.

Toddlerhood really agrees with Joe; he is cuter than ever, and I am going to gobble him up one of these days.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Annie is 8!

Annie is getting to be such a big kid. It's hard to believe she was just the baby sister when I started this blog and look her now, big sister to two brothers -- one who is pretty much her nemesis and the other whom she dotes on constantly and pines for when they're apart. Any idea which is which? Haha. Tim likes to say to Joey, "One day she's gonna turn on you." I like to think that will never happen.

I haven't dedicated too much of this blog to Annie of late, but she's enjoying a heyday this month. So, what can I tell you about her?..
She's an outstanding student; her teachers have always raved about her. I have a story I'll try to tell quickly: The day we left for Cincinnati last week, Tim and I went to the kids' schools to pick them up. We wanted them to get at least a half day in because we'd had them miss more than a few days already this semester. Annie's teacher, Mrs. G, had texted me the night before to ask how long Annie would be in school that day. I told her until right after lunch because that was what Tim and I had discussed. Then Tim got antsy and wanted to get me to the airport sooner, and although I tried to hold him back we ended up getting them well before lunch was over. When Tim came out of the school with Annie and Timmy he also had a cupcake which he said was for Delaney. Mrs. G had brought them to school, planning to celebrate Annie's birthday with the class after lunch. When Tim told me this it made me sad that we had sabotaged Mrs. G's plan to sing happy birthday to Annie with the whole class. It also occurred to me that Annie hadn't told me to tell her she didn't want her birthday celebrated at school. For the first time since Pre-K, she might have been comfortable with it, and that would have been special. I just hadn't given the issue any thought at all as we got ready to take off on a trip that happened to coincide with her birthday. So I texted Mrs. G while I sat in the car, apologizing and thanking her for her thoughtfulness. This is in part what she replied: "She is so well worth the efforts made for her. I really do love her. She excels!!!!! And the class loves her too!" Then a little while later, "Let me clarify .. she really is the sweetest but it is so wonderful that she excels as well." We're very proud of her.
She finally has her front two bottom permanent teeth, but all the rest are still baby teeth.

She's growing her hair super long and takes pretty good care of it. She likes fixing it different ways, braids, buns and bows and head bands. Sometimes she asks me to straighten or curl it or do French braids. On Grace's wedding day she opted to spend the day with me, my sisters and Grace's kids while we had our hair and makeup done. It was nice having her around for a whole day of beautification, and I helped her fix her hair and painted her fingernails and toenails more than once since she can't seem to let them dry without damaging them somehow. Oh, and on the subject of nails: she quit biting them cold turkey several months ago. I was so impressed to see her nails growing and I asked her how she did it. I know how hard it is to break a nail-biting habit. She said, "I just didn't like it anymore."

She likes clothes and puts together really cute outfits, and I like seeing that since being put together is a good thing. I should try it more often.

She's very generous with her siblings, even Timmy. Just recently she bought them all books at the book fair. I love that it comes so naturally to her to share, and hope she always remains a generous giver. There have been times we've worried about her being too generous, like the time a friend messaged me asking if I was really OK with Annie giving her daughter a really nice bracelet. To this day I don't know what bracelet it was. It couldn't have been that expensive because not even I own a bracelet that costs more than $20! I still wondered, but if it was hers to give, it was hers to give.

Of all the kids, she conks out the fastest at bedtime and is up and at 'em in the morning with no prodding needed.

She remains our most dependable helper with Joe. She loves playing on the playground with him, and she even taught him how to go down the twisty slide feet first a few months ago. She likes playing music and dancing with him, chasing him around the house, and really anything. Most importantly to us, when we ask her to keep an eye on him for a few minutes, she has the attention span to do so.
Since reading The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art and Laraine Bennett, I've been into assigning temperaments to my kids. I've mentioned Timmy is a sanguine and Delaney is phlegmatic. I'm not sure about Joey yet, but I'm leaning toward choleric. I'd classify Annie as mainly melancholic, with a dash of choleric that she displays only inside her comfort zone (with us at home). The Bennetts say melancholics are "mysterious as a smooth stone on the sand -- impenetrable, dark, pressing into the ground -- concealing beneath its surface something precious. Melancholics are deep, serious and idealistic." (I like this description because I'm always thinking Annie is an enigma to me in many ways.) They like to observe more so than interact, and for this reason often appear aloof. They are slow to warm up in new situations and love routine. For example, Annie always sees the things written on my menu or the white board (agenda) in the kitchen as etched in stone, and doesn't like it when I change them on the fly. She also likes for snacks and meals to happen at a set time. Melancholics are serious and quiet, rarely speaking up in class. They are refreshed by activities like crafts, art or sewing, that allow them to focus and just be inside their own heads. That would definitely be Annie. She has mentioned she'd like a sewing machine, but I'd like her to be a little older when she gets one. Melancholics have a keen sense of fairness, like Annie who keeps score and expects 100% fairness and equality no matter how many times we tell her how unrealistic that expectation is. They are also known for their attention to detail, which Annie displayed in a picture she drew recently of her grandma that amazed me for its accuracy. Even though it was clearly a kid's drawing, the outfit she'd drawn for her grandmother was spot on. It was like seeing her through Annie's eyes.
She shows her choleric side when she bosses Timmy around and acts as the enforcer of rules. I am pretty sure this is a side of her never seen by people outside our family.

Not only has the book helped me identify our kids' temperaments and what their strengths and weaknesses tend to be; it also offers practical advice on how best to talk to them, discipline and motivate them. In the case of Annie, there are tips for helping her out of her shell and preparing her for changes. I'm finding it very helpful to flip through again and again. I'd also be interested to read The Temperament God Gave You, even though I have a good hunch that I'm a melancholic too.
It occurs to me that I've discussed how Annie gets along with Timmy and with Joey, but not with Delaney. She and Delaney get along well, rarely fighting or arguing. They've shared a room for years together without incident, and now they ride the bus together, playing with the stuffed animals they've filled their enormous LL Bean backpacks with. Since they're only 22 months apart, I've treated them like twins in many ways. I've bought clothes for them both to share since they've been the same size since they were 3 and 5, they nighttime potty trained together, and they tend to stick together wherever we go. It makes me happy that although making friends doesn't always come easily to either of them, they each have a lifelong friend in the other. I wasn't thinking about that at all back when I had one baby and was itching to have another before the first was even a year old, but I am very grateful for that.

We celebrated Annie's birthday twice -- once with her grandma and grandpa (Tim's parents) here, and again  in Cincinnati the day after Grace's wedding at Scotty and Faith's. I think she had a very happy birthday and I look forward to seeing everything age 8 holds for her.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Annie's First Communion

I've got a lot of catching up to do here. Lots of good things have happened this month.

Tim's parents came down one last time for a visit Mother's Day weekend for Annie's First Communion. It is always so nice to spend time with them, and I'm glad we had mostly good weather to do fun things.

I love this picture Tim Sr took of Joey while washing the rental car. Not sure why he wanted to wash the rental car..? Joey sure had fun though!
Delaney found a little lizard and was tormenting Grandma with it. Why wouldn't anyone want a lizard at the dinner table?
I hate asking strangers to take our pictures, especially when it's with my big clunky camera, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity since this would be the last time we all went downtown together. I watched and waited and finally chose another mom I'd noticed sitting on the rock wall where we were all kind of congregating. She apologetically said no because she had four kids she was keeping an eye on, and I felt so bad for asking. I was going to give up and go home but then she got someone else to watch the kids while she snapped a few pictures. I was grateful but still felt so awkward. Maybe I'll get a little tripod that folds up small one of these days, and use it with the timer so I don't have to harass anyone. 
Sunday morning was Annie's First Communion. Getting ready in the morning, I hit an unexpected snag in my plans when Annie first asked while I was curling her hair, "What's a veil?" When I told her, she said, "I don't want to wear that." I'm gonna go ahead and post this picture taken by Tim(?) that illustrates perfectly what Annie thought about that veil.
I was all, "But your sister wore it." "But it's so beautiful." "But that's what girls do on their First Communion, they wear veils." But! But! Tim and I had a whispered exchange after her hair was done and I'd cut her loose for the time being. He said, "I'll work on her," but something to the effect of 'let's not pick this battle, it's not that big of a deal.' I backed down. It wasn't as if the veil was made from my wedding dress or anything special. Besides, the veil was not what this day was about.

In the end I took the veil with us when we went to the chapel because Annie said she'd wear it if the other two girls in our little Catholic community on base were wearing them. I also thought maybe I could convince her to put it on for at least a couple pictures. When we walked into the chapel I was crestfallen to see that neither of the two other girls receiving First Communion had veils. What kind of conspiracy was this? But I got over it because they all looked beautiful anyway. I got some pictures of Annie without the veil, with the veil, and I accepted that she was just more comfortable without it.
To my surprise, I think I like the pictures of her without the veil better. At least I had learned my lesson from Delaney's First Communion, that I should set it back farther back on her head so it's not hiding her face. 

We had some cake in the rear of the chapel afterward, and then had a laid-back rest of the day and burgers and hot dogs for dinner. We celebrated Annie's birthday with leftover First Communion cake and candles. They left in the morning after the kids got on the bus, but we'll be seeing them again in July when Tim flies up with the Big 3 and leaves them there for a few weeks while we finish up moving, and then in August when we're all up there for a few days.