Monday, March 28, 2016

A Very Happy (and Soggy) Easter

We had a very low-key Easter this year. We got dressed up, took the family photo, and went to Mass. After Mass there was coffee and donuts in the back and an Easter egg hunt. It took about five minutes for all the kids to snatch up the eggs left in piles on every non-muddy surface in the vicinity of the chapel. Just as I was about to force my family into posing for another photo, the sky opened up and we all dashed for our cars in the torrential rain. It poured the whole rest of the day. and we just lazed around the house, watched movies, and ate breakfast for dinner in lieu of the traditional ham and potatoes. Tim was going to be leaving the next day and didn't want to come home to all the leftovers still in the fridge. I didn't mind, though. In fact I love breakfast for dinner and would happily eat that over most traditional holiday meals. I couldn't have asked for a better day.

I needed one good family picture before we left for Mass. One good one and I would be happy. It would have to be an indoor one since it had rained all day and all night. We did it. We got one. This is the first good picture of us as a family of six and I looked at it again and again the whole rest of the day. Last night before we turned out the lights Tim and I looked at it together again. "It's one moment, frozen in time," I mused. "10 minutes later the girls' hair was already a mess, I had spit-up on my dress --"

"You already had spit-up on that dress. Then Timmy's clothes started coming off; by the time we left church his belt was gone, the tie was hanging off the second button, his shirt was untucked.. But we reined in the chaos for a few seconds."

"And for those few seconds we really look like we have it together, don't we?"
Tim knows how important these photos are to me so he set up the camera and tripod the night before for some practice shots.
Shout out to Massachusetts and Ohio!
This time last year, we knew we'd have baby number 4 with us by next Easter, but it was so hard to imagine.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Raided My 8-Year-Old's Book Collection

I guess it was just a matter of convenience, especially since having Joey, that lately instead of searching for grownup reading material for myself, I've found myself coming back to the bookshelf in the girls' room for something to read. There might also be a little sleep deprivation at play, and their books are a little easier to digest.:) There are several new goodies there since Christmas, thanks both to Santa and aunties who know what a bookworm Delaney is. Some of them I remember from my own childhood, and they make for a fun trip down memory lane; but there are a few new ones that were not around back in my day. I've been mostly enjoying all of them. I must have a special place in my heart for children's and young adult literature.

1. Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco. Oh, how I loved the sweet protagonist of this book. Bee is a 12-year-old (but seems much younger to me) orphan, growing up with a traveling carnival and being raised by a young woman not much older than herself. Having no home and no family already makes her a misfit in society, but on top of that, she has a huge diamond shaped birthmark on her face that she is mercilessly taunted for by almost everyone who comes to the stand where she sells hot dogs. In an effort to conceal the birthmark she keeps her head down so that the hair falls over her face. (This might have been what drew me to this book in the first place -- the image of a young girl on the cover with hair falling over most of her face, who bears a striking resemblance to Delaney.) I ache for the little girl who feels she must hide from everybody, and who never seems to grow a thick skin but feels every unkindness as salt on an open wound. Then I end up cheering for her as she picks herself up after huge setbacks and makes her own way in the world. She also makes some mistakes and does things wrong, which just makes her all the more believable as a character. I happily recommend this book for all kids, as it helps reinforce things we hope our kids are learning from us: Be kind. Be brave. Stand up for the ones who are being picked on.

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read this book ages ago, but I don't know if I read it all the way through or just flipped through it one day when I had nothing better to do. Because there is a LOT of serious stuff in this book that I feel like I should have remembered. This book explores, as a few others do that you can probably think of, the concept of a society that has achieved a lack of crime, lack of sickness, lack of any kind of insecurity or want; and what that would cost us as humans to attain. We see it all through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy who has been selected to a most important role in his community, and given the opportunity (as well as the unbearable burden) to see and understand what is lacking in their lives, and the sickening realities underpinning the predictable and safe life they're accustomed to. A lot of it would probably be over Delaney's head, but she hasn't read it yet. I would advise parents to use discretion with younger and more precocious readers because you know your child's personality and if they're especially sensitive, some things are difficult to read. But at the same time I want to say it's a must-read for all -- one that I look forward to discussing with her.

[I've also read Gathering Blue, which is part of the "Giver Quartet" even though it has nothing to do with The Giver that I can see, besides being dystopian. I notice a lot of Young Adult books come in quartets. I will have to check out the other two books in this quartet to see if either give me a clue about what happened after the ending of The Giver.]

3. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This was a sweet but not especially memorable story about a group of animals living in a shopping mall, from the perspective of a silverback gorilla named Ivan who was captured and brought to America while still a baby. In the wild he would have been in charge of protecting a whole group of gorillas, but here in his "domain" within the shopping mall, he just observes life passing by. He has no one to protect. He doesn't feel sorry for himself, but we kind of feel sorry for him. He tells of how a young boy once cried while watching him through the glass and said, "He must be the loneliest gorilla in the world." And Ivan had looked back at him thinking, 'It's actually not so bad. You can get used to just about anything.' But when a baby elephant comes along Ivan is forced out of his complacency, because he now has someone to protect. I had already been made aware of the abuses inflicted upon elephants in the course of learning all those stupid tricks; and already knew I never wanted to go to another circus. This book reinforces that for me -- beats me over the head with it, really. But I did enjoy the tale of friendship among the animals, and with the kind humans they encounter.

I can't seem to get Delaney to tell me what she thinks about any of the books so far. I've asked her a few questions about a book or two, and she answers them in a short way and doesn't want to discuss. It's funny because I always like to talk about a book I've read with someone else who's read it. Delaney just devours the books and then keeps her thoughts to herself. But then at some other point in time she'll mention something she's learned from a book and explain it in detail. She's a funny little thing.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Joey: 3 Months

Here we are at the end of the fourth trimester, and this baby boy is continuing to amaze and delight us all every day. I can't believe what a difference a few weeks make. He's just a plump, squeezable, slobbery, smiley bundle of love. He's got hands on him all the time and faces right up in his because nobody can get enough. Timmy remarked to me the other day, completely unprompted: "When we first had Joey I didn't like him, but now I really like him." I guess he's easier to like when he doesn't spend so much time crying. Of course as his mama, I've loved him from the beginning, but it's fun to see his siblings enjoying him so much.
There was a morning not long ago that was just one of those mornings: kids not listening to me, sniping at one another, me getting annoyed. That hour of getting everyone ready and out the door for school can be such a crucible. Then I heard Joey calling from my bedroom and was like here's one more thing. But when I brought him out everybody surrounded him and started cooing to him, loving on him and laughing. I marveled at how this baby had managed to turn our morning around all by himself. He is such a gift.

I realized just how much more he had changed in another month the other day when Annie came into my bedroom and asked, "Where is Joey?" Joey was sitting in the rock 'n play in the kitchen, the room Annie had just been in when she came in from outside. This scenario would never have happened a few weeks ago. If Joey was awake everyone knew exactly where he was. But nowadays you might walk right past him as he sits there playing with his hands and looking at the ceiling.
This past month has seen him becoming a lot more interested in what's going on around him. He is Mr. Rubberneck, always turning his head this way and that at all the different things that catch his eye: the slats of the blinds, the blades of the ceiling fan, the branches on the trees. He is easily distracted from nursing too, just by the sight of my face. He looks up at me even in the darkness with his big open-mouthed slobbery grin, and coos to me with is sweet little voice. It is charming and endearing, but also a little frustrating at those times when I just need him to eat! We spend a lot of time just staring at each other, he and I. I've also figured out how to make him laugh by nuzzling him with my chin right where his double-chin meets his chest. It's the best!
Sleep is going great. He goes down for his naps a lot more easily during the day. I just watch for when his head gets extra wobbly and he rubs his eyes. He just needs me to lay him down and pat his bum a few times, and he's off to dreamland. Sometimes I just put him down and walk away, and he's asleep when I come back to check on him. He has been consistently in bed at least an hour before we are every night -- all the celebration emojis! We have been able to watch at least one episode of The Walking Dead every night and it has been awesome! He usually wakes up once in the wee hours to eat, and sometimes a second time. He's typically up for the day at 7 and down for his first nap at 8, give or take an hour.
Joey's favorite way to ride is in this vintage Ergo from 2009 -- back when you could have any color Ergo you wanted as long as that color was black, camel or cranberry.
He still doesn't like being in his carseat. There's been some improvement -- he tolerates it for a while without crying, and he falls asleep if we go a ways without stopping at any lights. So there's a glimmer of hope for our trip to Charlotte, NC and then Ohio next month. But we need to just be prepared for a lot of crying. I'm going to bring bottles and my pump too, because I don't think he'll nurse well on the road either. Too much noise and distraction. I need to start preparing myself for the worst and just keep reminding myself that it's temporary. Another thing I just remembered is whenever we finally get him out of the seat, say after the 30-minute ride back from school, he's very sweaty. I removed that padded insert that it came with, and I always just have him dressed in a light cotton outfit, and I wish there was more I could do to keep him from getting so hot in that baby bucket. He'll be soaking through his outfits on long car rides, and that's not even an exaggeration.

He rolled over belly to back about a week ago, the earliest of all of mine to roll.

He's wearing mostly 3-6 along with his stretchier 0-3 clothes. I'm still squeezing him into the Up & Up size 1 diapers because I still have plenty left. I've also started using cloth diapers whenever we're at home during the day -- good old-fashioned prefolds and covers left over from my brief cloth diaper experiment with Timmy as a toddler. I hadn't planned on using them this time around, but at one point I was running out of disposables and expecting a delivery from Target any day, and I did not want to go out and buy more. Then I thought, well there is that bin full of cloth diapers in the closet that will work in a pinch. Once I'd used a few I decided why not use them all the time? It's easy enough to do, and it saves on disposables. He's wearing one in the picture with the plaid shorts, but they're not a good fit with those. They do work well with the snap-up rompers and pajamas he wears when we're bumming around the house. 
squishy thighs
People are always telling me, "He looks just like Timmy!" Maybe one or two people have said he looks like Delaney. I think he has the same nose and mouth has Delaney, and maybe sort of the same eyes. But mostly I think he has his own look. I put together this collage of all of them at three months, the age when they stop looking like newborns and start looking like themselves. It's fascinating to me how different they all are. If I hadn't given birth to them myself, I wouldn't even know any of them are related.
Another month has flown by. I can't believe how lucky we are to have this boy in our life.