Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pennsylvania

We've successfully completed another trip this summer, in spite of my uptight ways and obsession with normalcy.  This time it was the Brady family vacation, which typically takes place in New Hampshire, in the White Mountains.  But this time, to make it easier for me, it was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The idea was to meet halfway, but it wasn't really halfway -- more like three hours (ideally!) for me and about seven hours for them, coming from central Massachusetts.

Last Saturday, the 17th, Tim and I left in two cars, because he could only stay until Sunday afternoon.  We had just had a big lunch, and we anticipated a short ride during which the girls' naps would take place, and soon after, we would arrive at the resort.  Tim figured we would probably run into a little traffic along the way.  But 495.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  As the result of an accident that had happened hours ago, it took us two-and-a-half hours just to go TWENTY MILES.  It was so painful, just inching along, bored out of my mind.  Then I called Tim and said, "Um, I have a problem.  Annie's just woken up from her nap and we haven't gotten anywhere."  I had not come prepared for this long of a drive.  No more snacks and drinks.  Tim had issues of his own.  A few minutes after that conversation, Delaney needed to pee, and he texted me to tell me that he was pulling over, but I was too busy talking to my mom and complaining about my boredom to see it.  So he pulled over to the side of the road and she filled up the bag in her little potty-to-go.  Then a young man walked over from his nearby broken-down car, and said to Tim, "I don't have any money, but do you have any water?"  He and his parents had been broken-down for quite some time in the oppressive heat.  Tim gave them one of the three cases of Capri Sun he had in his truck.  When he told me that later, I was so glad he'd been able to help those poor people.  Anytime I saw someone at the side of the road with a broken-down car, I felt so bad.  When your car breaks down on a day like that, and traffic isn't moving for hours, you can't get any help, and then you're in danger of heat injury or dehydration.

We met up to regroup at a "Welcome to Maryland" rest area once traffic started moving again.  I refreshed my snack supply and changed Annie's diaper.  The rest of the drive went quickly.  At last we were in Lancaster, PA.  The resort was really nice, and our suite was surprisingly large.  There were two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, full kitchen and living/dining area.  The place was meant to sleep 10 people, I believe, but not necessarily if one or more of those people happen to be toddlers.  In our case, we had 12 people, two of whom were toddlers.  18-month-old Natalie and 14-month-old Annie roomed in with Sam, Kathy and myself in the bedroom that had two queen beds.
Grandpa and his dollbabies

That first night was interesting, to say the least.  Little Natalie woke up at around 10:45 and would not sleep after that.  I've never seen any small child with such a strong will to stay awake.  I kept figuring eventually she'd crash, but she just wouldn't.  At first she made some little noises, but wasn't upset -- just wanted to play.  She'd get quiet for a little while, then start up again.  When she got a little louder, Kathy took her out of the room to walk around with her.  She did that several more times over the next few hours. I lay awake the whole time feeling exhausted, but grateful that I could at least be exhausted while lying down, unlike poor Kathy pacing around with Natalie so she wouldn't disturb anyone.  Tim was sleeping downstairs on the couch, and at Sam's suggestion, I woke him up and asked him to come upstairs to sleep in the bed  with me so that Kathy could have the downstairs to herself.  I wish I'd done that sooner.   Later in the week, I too, would be glad I had the downstairs option for when Annie woke up one night at 3.  After that long first night, we even had an extra crib downstairs for the "delinquent baby" to use.  They're lucky they're cute, that's all I've got to say!

In the other bedroom, Tim's parents and the four other girls in sleeping bags on the floor slept just fine.  I'm happy to say that the remaining nights there went much better for all of us.  We figured out a routine that worked.  We needed our sleep because it was a busy week!

Sunday is when we celebrated Delaney's birthday again.  We love our Delaney!  Tim was there, and his younger sister Karen and her boyfriend Matt were also there just for the day.  It wasn't so hard seeing Karen go this time, knowing that in a few short weeks we'll be taking over her condo again for several days.
We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool, but there aren't too many pictures to show for it, because as any one who's ever taken a bunch of little kids to the pool knows, there isn't too much opportunity to grab a camera.  I don't have a single picture of Delaney jumping in the pool and going under the water with her eyes open, but it's good enough for me to know that it happened.
   
On either Monday or Tuesday, we went to Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.  It was so crowded, and strollers were not allowed, so I was once again so happy to have my Ergo carrier.  Annie is one squirmy little girl, and my arms would have been so tired holding onto her all that time.  Chocolate World was a little overwhelming. If you love being shoulder to shoulder with strangers, and chocolate is your life, then this is the place for you.  If you have six kids 7 and under to keep track of, this is probably a place you should skip.  I know I was fighting panic the whole time, but that's because I'm weird about small enclosed spaces filled with lots of people.  (Just ask Tim how much fun I was at the New England Aquarium last year.)  The one nice thing was the ride that took you through the process of the making of milk chocolate.  It cracks me up that every day since then, Delaney randomly says, "The oven was hot."  She's referring to the part of the ride where we all go through the roasting process of the cacao beans.  That's her only take-away from the two hours we were there -- the oven was hot.  I call her "Delaney Bean" now, which should please my mom, since she called her her "Boston Baked Bean" when I brought her to Cincinnati for her first visit as a newborn.  


 L-R: Tim Sr., Juliana (7), Carolyn, Alexa (6), Delaney (3), Kathy holding Natalie (18 months), Sofia with her head turned (5), Sam

Our next outing was the train ride at the Strasburg Railroad.  I loved the train ride, and not just because it allowed me to sit on my behind.  I loved the scenery.  It was so peaceful and beautiful.  It felt like we'd gone back a couple centuries to a time that was simpler.  We saw some Amish people in and around the train, and they looked so serene.  I'm sure they were not actors!  Although the weather forecast called for rain almost every day we were there, that was the only day it rained.  Thankfully, it didn't rain until we were on our way back to our cars.  
Kathy and her girls, Natalie and Sofia
A picture with my Annie before I pawned her off on Grandpa.  She was squirming too much.
When Alexa showed me this loose tooth the first time, I made the fatal mistake of being grossed out.  Every single day from that point on, she made sure I saw the disgusting loose tooth several times.

On Wednesday evening, everybody but Annie and me went to Dutch Wonderland for the "preview" of the day pass.  I've never heard of such a thing, but apparently, if you buy a day pass at Dutch Wonderland, you can preview it the day before from 5:30 to 8:30.  The only thing I knew about Dutch Wonderland was the episode of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, where they all go there.  It sounds a little forlorn, the "everybody but Annie and me" part, but trust me, it was better that way.  It's best that we don't take her anywhere in late evening around bedtime.  She falls apart quick.  And then so do I.  Not fun.  Here's a picture taken of all the girls before they all left.  No, you will not see a single boy in the bunch.  Bradys don't make boys.  
On Thursday, we all went to Dutch Wonderland from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and I have to say that for me that day was the "crucible" of the entire week.  I understand that not everyone has spent a summer at Parris Island, and is not familiar with the term "crucible", but that's the only way I can put it.  I did not think I would make it past lunch, and we were talking about the possibility of me taking Annie home and putting her down for a nap; and then coming back.  The hotel was only a few miles down the road, and I had my own transportation.  It was very tempting.  It was so hot out, and and Annie was so unhappy, screeching every time I put her in the stroller.  And there was no way I was wearing her in that weather.  There's nothing like a miserable baby to bring me to my knees.  My attempts at helping her have a good time were met with failure.
"The Whip":  Am I a bad mother?  You be the judge.

I decided to have lunch with everybody, and make my decision after that.  After lunch, the plan was to go to the water park.  I opted to stay.  On my way to the water park, she fell asleep in the stroller, and I pushed her around the park while she napped.  After about 40 minutes, I encountered Tim Sr., who was doing the "baby walk" with a sleeping Natalie.  We both sat down at the amphitheater, and I mentioned how nice it was to finally sit down.  That's when Annie woke up, of course.  Then I took her to the water park, where she had a ball.  After that, I kind of figured I was hanging in until the end.  That was the turning point, because after that, it got more fun.  As the afternoon went on, it got cooler, and I was able to put her on more rides than I thought I would.  And she started to get it -- that it was supposed to be fun.  She giggled on the "froggy bouncer."  She was content on the train.  She was smiling and pointing at things on the boat.  By the end of the day, we all agreed that all the girls were so well-behaved and had such a great time.  




During the last two hours, we decided to put our charges on the ferris wheel.  I thought I was going to be allowed to ride it too, but at the last minute, found out that grownups were not allowed.  As with "The Whip" and the "froggy jumper" I had the moment of 'Should I or shouldn't I'?  In the end, I chose to put Annie in the little cage with Juliana, Sofia, Delaney and Natalie.  I said, "What's the worse that could happen, all of them locked in a little cage together?"  To our relief they just sat there as they went around and around and around, and .. wow, this is a long ride.  This was one of the funnier times of the day for us, because a nearby parent of another child on the ferris wheel got Kathy's attention and told her this: "If you don't tell that guy you want your kids to get off, he'll just keep letting them go around and around."  I, for one, was thrilled to not be chasing a toddler for the first time in a few hours, and thought maybe we should just leave them on there the rest of the night.  I believe we also tossed around the idea of just leaving.  In the end, I would say that that was the most intense day, but it was fun too.  It was a lot of work.  I slept better that night than any other night, and I'm sure I was not alone in that.

We hung out at the resort all day Friday, and then Saturday morning it was time to go.  Knowing that we were going to be seeing them all again in August made goodbye easier.  We made it home in three hours this time, even with the traffic jam on 95 for the last 10 miles.  95 is the devil.

Now, back to our boring, predictable life for three more weeks until we move to North Carolina.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Annalise at fourteen months

The number one thing that stands out about this month is how much happier a month it has been for Annie (and therefore all of us) than last month.  Last month was a very moody month, with lots of crying and hugging on Lovey.  She got through her rough patch and now I have to say she has crossed a threshold into a new level of cuteness.  Now, instead of hearing whining, we hear shrieks and giggles as she toddles around chasing her big sis, or being chased.  She loves our adoring attention, and sometimes she'll say something that sounds like "hey."  When we look at her and respond, she grins really big and says it again.  "Hey."  I told Tim that when we went to Cincinnati, she was a big grump.  She came back from Cincinnati a changed baby.  Maybe all she needed was a change of scenery.  Let's hope that the change of scenery this week in Pennsylvania is good for her too.

She's gotten another new tooth, and that might also help explain her improvement in disposition.

Her appetite, which was down a little last month, is back in full force.  She gets frustrated with the small bits of food we give her at a time.  I've been getting a little braver about what I give her.  After my mom gave her a yogurt-covered raisin while we were visiting, and she did OK with that, I've been giving her raisins from time to time.  Tim is still very leery of giving her very much food.  He tosses her a crumb, and I'm like, "Oh come on, you've got to do better than that."  He worries a lot more about choking than I do.  When one of them is coughing, he says, "Are you OK?  Are you OK?"  I just say, "She's coughing, she's OK."  I'd love to just set a whole plate of food down in front of her, but I know she'd just shove it all in at once.  She has no self control.

She points almost constantly, at everyone and everything.  Tim says, "What are you pointing at?  Stop pointing."  I just say, "Oh, I love that cute little finger."  She points, she babbles, and I'm sure she has all kinds of things to say, if only I could understand.  A few more months, and I probably will.

She's getting smarter, and I don't know how much I like that.  Every afternoon after their naps, I give them both cups of milk.  As Delaney's been accustomed to getting a squirt of Hershey's syrup in hers, I give it to her.  But I am trying not to put the Hershey's in Annie's, thinking she won't know what she's missing, and she'll appreciate the milk by itself.  She does drink her milk, and she appears to like it.  But the second she sees Delaney's cup on the floor unattended, she grabs it up and drinks it.  She knows there's something better in Delaney's cup.  And now she's getting a taste for chocolate milk too.  Oh well.

She's still nursing, just right after she gets up in the morning, and right before going to bed at night.  I think she'll probably wean in the next month or two.

She is getting to be so playful.  She'll grab my hands so I'll play 'ring around the rosy.'  She tries to fall down right away.  When I sing 'itsy bitsy spider', she puts her fingers together to make a spider.  She pushes Delaney around on her tricycle.  She loves balloons.  Every morning when I take her downstairs and Delaney's birthday balloon is still hanging there, she points and tries to say the word.  "Boo."  She dances around in circles and laughs when Delaney and I sing the ABCs.  She plays more and more with her daddy too.  She stands at the door just as excited as Delaney is, when he gets home.  "We wore Mama out a long time ago, now it's Daddy's turn!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy birthday Delaney!

3 years

It's amazing to think it was three years ago today when I woke Tim up at 2:30 on a Sunday morning and told him my water had broken.  Half asleep, he said, "Huh?  So should I go or not?"  He had been packed up and ready to drive that morning from our home in Grafton, Massachusetts to Quantico, Virginia to see some of the candidates he'd recruited get inducted into Officer Candidates School (OCS).  I was still 16 days away from my due date.  But it looked like Delaney had other plans.  I told him, "I don't think so!"

For the next two or three hours we hung out at home, timing the contractions, which were two minutes apart but not uncomfortable (strange, I know!), eating my cereal, and becoming more excited and hopeful that soon we would meet our little one.  When we finally left the house, Tim asked me if it was OK for him to stop at Dunkin Donuts.  I told him it was, and I remember sitting in the car thinking, 'What's taking so long in there?'  I was just at the point where the contractions were being felt as more than just minor cramps.  But when we checked in at the hospital I was still feeling good, Tim was still making jokes and we were both still laughing.  I declined the wheelchair ride to L&D.  I remember the Asian woman who was being wheeled to L&D along with me.  She had a scheduled cesarean for a baby who was expected to be very large, but had gone into labor.  She was moaning and her eyes were closed.
The OB on duty (the same one who would one day catch Annalise) was poised to send us home.  "You can't be in labor and be smiling," he said.  But I was three centimeters dilated,  the swab test confirmed my water had broken, and the monitor showed the contractions were indeed two minutes apart.  I'd love to tell you that the next eight hours were all fun and laughter, but of course that was not the case.  When transition came, it hit me like a truck.  I worked hard.  But I had an angel for a nurse, and I had Tim who never left my side, even though he had to pee almost the entire time.

I pushed so hard to get her out that I burst capillaries in my eyeballs, back, shoulders and chest.  I was a bloodshot mess by the time I was done.   A nurse later told me that I would be better at pushing the next time; I wouldn't push with my face so much.  Can you believe we were already talking about a next time?  Tim kept popping ice chips in my mouth and that gave me so much relief.   After 45 minutes of pushing, Delaney Grace came out at 1:02 p.m.  Tim cut the cord, and she was laid on my chest.

I remember how strong and sturdy her little body seemed to me.  I'd always thought of babies as such delicate little things.  She was crying her heart out and her eyebrows looked knitted with worry.  I guess that 45 minutes of pushing hadn't been fun for her either.  She felt clammy and warm to me.  She had a shock of very dark hair that stood straight up all over her head.  A nurse asked me  if I'd had heartburn during my pregnancy.  I said, "Yes."  Not only that, I had eaten spicy Indian food once a week, sometimes more, even into my third trimester.  I craved it.  It felt so surreal to be finally holding this baby girl that I'd been trying to imagine for months.  I also recall becoming very cold.  I shivered and shook until someone covered us with a warm blanket.
I'd waited and dreamed for this day for so long, and it was finally here.  Finally we were meeting the little one whose feet had been in my ribs for weeks.  I was so full of joy, and so very, very tired too.  Tim beamed.  I remember how proud and happy he looked holding her for the first time.  I always knew he'd make such a great daddy.
Delaney was a good size for being early: seven pounds eight ounces.  That way it's easy to remember -- she was born on 7/8 and weighed 7/8.  She was only 18 inches long, on the petite side, and still is.  I remember the sight of her next to the baby boy born to the woman who checked in with us.  He was over 10 pounds, and the hospital blankets weren't even big enough to swaddle him.  His body sprawled, and his feet stuck out at the bottom of his bassinet.  By contrast, Delaney was this neat little bundle in the center of her bassinet.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of that kid next to her.
Some friends of ours had told us that the first baby would turn our world upside down.  Holy cow, did she ever!  I was so lost those first several weeks.  I bumbled through it in a sleep-deprived haze.  I sought advice from anyone I knew, and clung to each bit I received like a lifeline.  I felt so inadequate.  When she cried, I felt like a failure.  Having a newborn baby for the first time was one of the biggest tests of my life.  I was determined to breastfeed, but I had so much trouble getting her to latch on.  She would cry and cry, her arms and legs churning, her whole body beet red.  How on earth was she ever going to latch on with her mouth open in a scream?  Then when she finally did latch, my relief was short-lived.  She was asleep within five minutes, and then she'd wake up and we'd do it all over again.  I felt so lonely sitting with her on the glider in her room in the wee hours watching music videos, because I didn't know what else to watch at that hour.  I must have watched Fergie sing "Big Girls Don't Cry" a thousand times.  Well, I can tell Fergie, big girls do cry.  I know I did.

Delaney made it in spite of my bumblings.  And here she is, three years old!  She makes us so happy.  Watching her grow and learn is amazing.  She may be small, but I see her limbs lengthening, and she's losing the pudge of babyhood.  She is thoughtful, curious, bright, and full of laughter and boundless energy.   She drinks in everything and everyone around her with those big brown eyes and increasingly sharp ears.  She loves to talk about her cousins and friends.  She sees pretty much everyone as a friend, although when faced with these friends, she becomes very shy.  She loves hide-and-seek and 'ring around the rosy.'  She loves balloons, movies, books, and taking pictures.  She loves sweets.  She loves anything that goes -- trucks, trains, planes, it doesn't matter.  She loves learning new words.  (Unfortunately, they are not always the words we want her to learn.)    She loves to talk about her birthday, and I think I've been anticipating "Ju-yy eight" just as much as she has.