Friday, April 29, 2016

Day in the Life: Spring 2016

Today is Wednesday, April 27.
Tim: 41
Rachael: 36
Delaney: 8
Annie: 6
Timmy: 4
Joey: 4 months

6 a.m. My alarm goes off and I silence it in a hurry, lest it wakes up the little beast in the pack 'n play. He's continued a streak of about six or seven nights in a row of waking multiple times, after at least a couple months of smooth sailing sleep-wise. It's so hard being back to nights with a newborn. My under-eye circles are the biggest and darkest they've ever been, and I have been extra cranky.

I throw some clothes on, brush my teeth and my hair and go to wake up the other kids. They, like me, are super sluggish. It takes a couple tries to get the girls up and moving, but with Timmy it takes coaxing, cajoling, tickling, and sometimes even pulling (gently) off the bed. He asks me, "Is it a school day?" and I tell him yes. He doesn't understand the concept of days of the week. Lately he's been asking very morning he asks if it's a school day, and is disappointed when I tell him it is. Then he gets an unexpected reprieve on Saturdays and Sundays. Maybe I should put a chart in his room. I assume every night when we go through our routine that of course he knows what's going to be happening in the morning. But he's always shocked and sad that he has to get out of bed and get ready for school. Maybe a little more preparing him the night before would help?
6:20 or so. Once everybody's moving, I sit down and drink some coffee and observe my family as they begin their day. Tim comes back from his workout, sweaty and cheerful, and starts making his breakfast. Delaney comes out wearing a white Marine Corps t-shirt with her navy uniform scooter. It's Spirit Week at Delaney's school, in honor of Month of the Military Child, and today the kids are allowed to wear something that shows pride in their military branch of choice. She's in a good mood.

I've got no pictures to show for it (obviously, my hands were busy!), but this morning I spend a lot of time fixing the girls' hair. First I french braid Delaney's, and as usual it ends up clumsy-looking but secure after a lot of fumbling. Then at Annie's request, I make her a little braid that starts out as a french braid but then falls with the rest of her hair. There is some confusion on my part as to exactly what kind of braid she needs, and she gets frustrated with me. In the end she seems happy enough with the result, and I'm relieved. I think to myself, I don't know what I'd do if the second two kids had been girls too. I have no hair-fixing skills even with all the practice I've had.
6:55 a.m. We go out to the bus stop. I give them all a little hug before they leave, and I tell Delaney and Timmy I'll be seeing them in a few hours. Today I'll be picking Timmy up after his half day of pre-k, and we'll be having a picnic lunch with Delaney at her school.
7:15 a.m. Joey's up. He's doing his "toothless old man cry" where he sucks his lips in and cries. He stops when he sees me coming. That sweet little face looking up at me makes me so happy.
After I nurse him I lay him on a blanket while I do some other things. Tim comes in for a little while to play with him before he leaves for work.
I spend the next hour eating breakfast, cleaning up the kitchen, packing lunches for Timmy and me, watering the plants, and then I put Joey down for a nap. While he naps I make myself presentable and make the rounds of Facebook and my blogs. The time passes quickly and before I know it he's up and it's time to get our things together and get out the door.
9:50 a.m. I buckle Joey into his carseat and go through my little checklist. It takes a couple trips to get everything out to the car.
Baby in carseat: check.
Lunches: check.
Picnic blanket: check.
Ergo carrier: check.
Purse with wallet and phone: check.
My water bottle and Delaney's that she forgot this morning: check.
Mug of coffee: check.

9:55 a.m. We leave for school, and pick up Timmy at 10:30. We drive down the road to Delaney's school for lunch at 11. Joey's done #2 so I get ready to change him in the back of the car. For a very stressful minute I can't find the wipes. I keep a big grocery bag full of diapers/wipes/trash bags/changes of clothes in the car, and don't carry around a diaper bag.

Once inside the school we still have about 15 minutes to kill before lunch, so we sit in the cafeteria. Timmy tries to engage the little boy sitting at the other end of the table with his mother in some silly little games. I have to remind him that he can't run in the cafeteria and he can't stand on the bench. He has entirely too much energy.

11:00 a.m. Delaney comes in with her class and we all follow the crowd outside. 
There is not much shade to be found, but there are a few tables under a shelter, and that's where I lead them. But the two of them really, really want to sit on the picnic blanket and they ask if they can go sit by themselves. With a sigh, I say OK. I can't have Joey sitting out in the full sun. Delaney sees a small space in a row of picnickers along the side of a building. It's shaded. She and Timmy run for it. I roll my eyes, and then pick up the lunches and water bottles and follow.

As soon as I sit down and take Joey out of the Ergo, Timmy gets up and tells me he "really has to go," complete with a little dance. Raise your hand if you have a four-year-old who always has to go to the bathroom at the most inopportune time. Never while we are sitting around in a cafeteria waiting with nothing to do and too much energy. At Delaney's school, lunchtime is a strict thirty minutes long, and I let Timmy know I'm not happy with him at all for making us have to take time out for the bathroom. Then I take him.
Back on the blanket we chat a bit with Delaney's classmate Clara and her mom and little brother on the blanket next to us. Clara's mom, it turns out, is pregnant with twins -- a boy and a girl. And that's not all. In addition to Clara and the little boy who's almost five, there are three older kids in the family. I say, "You'll have a lot of help!" Clara is a happy, laughing girl who seems very excited about the new babies.

Our conversation is halted in its tracks by a piercing whistle and a voice calling, "Third graders! Line up!" Delaney hesitates a moment before dropping her lunch trash on the picnic blanket, and then scampers off along with her friend. A few seconds later she turns around and comes back to give me a little hug. It warms my heart. With that the picnic is over for us and we begin to pack up. I say goodbye to Clara's mom, who now has a 5th grader on the blanket in Clara's place.

12:15 p.m. We're home after a quick stop at the dry cleaner's. Timmy decides it a good time to finish his letter B homework. For the last couple months his teacher has been giving him one worksheet a week to complete at home for a "special sticker." After some initial enthusiasm about the sticker, he stopped completing them. But this one is easy and fun enough for him, I guess. 
12:45 p.m. It's time for a story, and then naps for two boys (I hope!), and maybe a nap for myself. I sure could use one.
After saying goodbye to Timmy, I go into my room, nurse Joey and lay him down. But he's not going to make it easy for me. As I sit in the glider rocker and wait to see what he'll do, he rolls to his side and I see one of his eyes peering at me through the mesh. He stays like that for a couple more minutes, then rolls to his back and starts to fuss. Come on, buddy!
2 p.m. He's finally asleep and I've maybe gotten to doze for a few minutes. I go out into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea and sit down with a book. Timmy comes out and sits down next to me with the iPad.

I'm reading The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith. This is one of the few books that I've bought myself after searching for it in the library system in vain, and deciding I need it in my life anyway, after reading another blogger's recommendation. For years I've struggled with how to make a house into a home, especially as we've gone from one rental to the next, each one having its own set of quirks. My sister Anna, for whom I think many of the ideas in this book are intuitive, even tried to help me with putting together a Pinterest board with ideas for our current house. It was so huge and blank inside, I didn't know where to begin making it feel like a home! I've found myself paralyzed when it comes to choosing things for a house, because I don't know what it is I like, and what I like now may not be what I like a year or two from now. Paint is too big of a deal for me to even bother. I've also tried to make things work because I liked the way they look even though they don't function well for our family. All these things and more. And then just when I get comfortable and happy with what I've (we've) done in a given place, it's time to move. The author encourages people like me to take chances and make changes in order to make whatever home we're in ours. Because life goes by quickly while waiting for the perfect time or the forever home.
She also urges readers to see and appreciate the positives, to focus on what's there rather than what's not. That weird empty space on the other side of the living room (that's supposed to be the dining area but no way would that work for us)? Perfect for the kids' dance parties and wrestling matches with their dad. There is a wall in the entry that could use a little demilune table, but I've never gotten around to buying one. One less thing for me to worry about when Joey starts tearing around the laminate floors in his walker. 
That little bench in the upper right tries valiantly to be a drop zone for backpacks and shoes, but it is no match for these kids and their stuff. I really do have to embrace imperfection in this season of life.
3:15 p.m. The girls are home from school and Joey is up from his nap. It's a whirlwind of activity.
It occurs to me that we have no dinner plan. Normally, we make a menu and stick to it for the most part; but for some reason this week, we have no menu and Tim just grabbed things at the commissary. I could make white bean chicken chili, but oh no -- I've got five chicken breasts frozen in a bag together. I can't separate any of them. If I thaw one, I thaw them all. What else..? A pound of ground beef in the fridge. Mushrooms, onion.. We are running low on food, so I haven't had a good snack either, and I'm getting hungry. This is why we need a menu! I'm going to have to find a new recipe with the ingredients that I have on hand. Don't be like me, frantically inputting random ingredients into my phone at 4:00 while I'm hungry. Have a plan.

I find a casserole recipe, and I'm inclined to reject it because we don't like casseroles. But I'm willing to take a chance on it because the ingredients are all things I like and more importantly, things that I have: beef, mushrooms, onions, rice, chicken bone broth, sour cream, milk, spices and shredded cheese. We have a winner! I get to work thawing the broth and cutting up the mushrooms and onions while Joey is still happy.
Delaney's planting the bee garden packet her teacher gave her today. Does she really want bees all over the back deck?
3:30 to 5:30 p.m. It's the busiest part of the day, so no pictures. Just trying to manage the chaos until Tim comes home from work and today's concoction comes out of the oven in time for dinner at 5:30. Being able to sit down to dinner all together at 5:30 is one of the biggest blessings of Tim's current billet and living on base. When he's not traveling we can almost always count on him being home at a decent time. I'm being spoiled by that, I know. 

I've got no pictures of dinner, either. I was too focused on eating it. It turned out well and it served its purpose today, but I won't be adding it into the regular rotation. We're not really casserole people.
6 to 7 p.m. We clean up from dinner, Tim makes a batch of superpower muffins and forgets the bananas, but they're still delicious. Lunches are packed, those who need to be bathed are bathed, somewhere in there a baby is fed.. At 7 everyone sits down to watch Wheel of Fortune.
Once that's over, all the kids go to bed. Once all is quiet in the bedrooms (and it hasn't taken long lately because they're exhausted from their long days), we turn on an episode of The Walking Dead. We're in bed with lights out by 9:30.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring Break Trip to Charlotte and Cincinnati

We did it! Our first big road trip with four kids. It wouldn't have been a huge deal to just add one more to our crew of seasoned travelers, except that this particular one more seemed to dislike car seats and car rides more than any of the older three ever had. As our departure date loomed on the calendar I braced myself for the worst while praying for it to maybe not be so bad.
We left after the girls got off the bus Friday afternoon before spring break. We drove to Charlotte, NC, four hours away. Tim had some recruiting event to do there the following day. That leg of the trip went really quickly. We spent two nights there and stayed at a hotel really close to the UNC Charlotte campus. I'd worried about how the kids and I were going to occupy ourselves all day Saturday while Tim was doing his recruiting thing; but fortunately the weather was decent if a little on the cool side, and we passed a chunk of time at a really nice nearby park that Lacey recommended. It had playgrounds and easy hiking trails that the kids loved.
On Sunday morning we packed up the car again and headed to Cincinnati, but first we had to drop off Tim in Lexington, KY, for the first part of his work portion of this trip. We continued on the final hour-and-a-half of the trip ourselves and got to my parents' house around 6 or 7, I think.  

We had the best week there. The best weather too, for the second year in a row visiting in April! It was not so back in Beaufort, I would hear when we got back. It was a cold, wet, dreary week in the Lowcountry, and the disgruntled families who stuck around for it called it "Spring Broken." So yay for escaping a yucky week here besides getting to spend time with family. 

In an effort to make this post not too long and boring, I'll just share my favorite photos and maybe there will be a story to go with one or two of them.
My beautiful sister Grace holding Joey and her eight-month-old daughter Elise
The second night we were there, my grandma, two of my three sisters, and sister-in-law came over for dinner. It was a lot of fun; too bad Tim had to miss it.
Joey was happy as could be on Grandma's (my dad's mom) lap.
Sophie's son Damien (3), Anna's son John Paul (4) and Timmy. It was so beautiful at the zoo. It was hard to narrow it down to my favorite pictures. My kids look forward so much to zoo trips.

Mom loved this rope course so much she wants one of her own.
Annie cracks us up.

Timmy was mad that Delaney had taken the animal he wanted, so he sat with his cousins on this thing instead and made that face the entire time. We laughed and laughed every time he went by looking like that. 
I have to tell you about the peacock. There is no picture of the story that goes with it, just a picture of a peacock standing in front of the door of the gift shop that Annie wanted to go into to buy a souvenir. He proudly displayed his feathers and calmly allowed my kids and one or two others to ooh and ahh over him while I took pictures from different angles. The woman next to me warned her kids away and said to me, "Just so you know, I've seen a peacock like that attack a kid." Of course my kids were all up in his face and I was being Clark Griswold about it like, "Alright, back up, you guys, he might peck your eyes out." I can be so obnoxious sometimes. I wasn't even trying to be but sometimes it's effortless, especially missing my nap for the fourth day in a row and walking three plus hours around the hilly zoo with an infant strapped to my chest. I thought the woman was just being a worrywart, but she was about to witness my comeuppance.
When my kids got tired of looking at the peacock and wanted to go into the gift shop, they walked around the side of the peacock, or was it the back, I can't remember -- to try the door. It was locked, but they really wanted a souvenir so they kept trying. And I guess the peacock didn't like them being at the door or being in the area where they were, or clustering around. I was not paying attention at that moment, probably looking at my phone in a daze, when suddenly the most awful hissing sound filled my ears, and a flurry of movement came my way. I didn't even think; I just bolted. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Timmy dive to the ground as his legs failed to keep up with his head trying to escape. I didn't see the girls but they got away. Once we were a safe distance away and the peacock's show of force was over, lots of relieved and embarrassed laughter followed. I will never again look at a peacock the same way.
Anna and Elise at the sand park
Sophie in her snapback
L-R: Scotty III (5), Roman (9), Jaden (7), Damien, Elise held by Aspen (10), and our kids
We walked about four miles along the riverfront the last night we were here. I wish we always walked so much.
Cincinnati has the best parks. Look at this playground with the ballpark right behind.
We left at about 7 last Saturday morning, and arrived here about 7 in the evening. Then on Monday, Tim left on another work trip. Ugh. 

There's my trip recap -- a lot of pictures and a story about a peacock. Now we just have to get through the next couple of months and we'll see them again in Florida in June. Can't wait!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Joey: 4 Months


Joey, a.k.a. "Joe-Joe Beans", "Josey", "Shnoogum" or just "Mister" has had a fun month. We continue to be in amazement at what a happy baby he is, and how much different he was just a couple months ago. Tim told me the other day I'd "loved him into submission." Ha! That's what I do.

I just took him to the doctor this morning, and he weighs 15 lbs 3 oz (55th percentile) and is 25.43 inches long (68th percentile). He's right about the same as Timmy was as a baby. And just like Timmy started to do around that time, he is turning into another little blondie. He's got cradle cap that I'm going to need to take care of, and once that's gone he'll have some shiny EVOO-infused blond locks. (Not so) fun fact: The pediatrician told me today that cradle cap is caused by yeast. Blech! I thought it was just dry scalp. We still can't really tell his eye color. Right now I'd say brown or hazel will be what they end up.
He loves to stand up any chance he gets and his legs are getting super strong. I finally took pity on him after watching him try to stand up in the rock 'n play so many times, so this week I'm selling it and getting him a walker instead. He'll be able to stand in the kitchen as much as he wants while I'm doing what I need to do. In a few months he'll learn to roll in it and he'll have a blast doing laps around the house on our hard floors.
His favorite toys are his feet, which he discovered at some point in the last month, and now he's always trying to catch them and stuff his toes in his mouth. He also entertains himself on his belly on a blanket with some toys. He likes to gnaw on his lovey too, or roll around in his little play gym. It's very nice that he can be occupied different ways while he's awake.
He loves to "talk" with us and since he has no words he says it with spit. "Joey's blowing happy bubbles!" his siblings say as he smiles at them and blows raspberries.

He's regressed a little bit as far as nighttime sleep goes. He still goes to bed around 7:30 or 8, but then he has been typically waking up twice before he gets up for the day between 7 and 8. Still no nap schedule, just laying him down when I think he's due for one. He's in such a good mood afterward, so playful and lovable.
He did really well traveling for the first time, and that was quite a relief considering how much he's always disliked his car seat. We drove from here to Charlotte, then Charlotte to Cincinnati. The following weekend we went straight from Cincinnati back here -- 10 hours worth of driving that took us 12. He slept for an hour or two at a time, fussed, then went back to sleep. When he woke up about the second time, we'd stop so I could feed him and let him stretch his little legs. Tim remembers it as being worse, but the sound of his crying bothers him a lot more than it does me, especially if it's just fussy crying and not the hysterical kind. Whenever I'd go to get him out of his chair, he'd be damp with sweat even though he was only wearing a onesie. He slept soundly in our hotel room for two nights in Charlotte, and with the exception of the first night he slept well at my mom's. We brought his pack 'n play and his white noise machine, so he had that familiarity. But when all is said and done, the kids in this family have to be good travelers; they don't have a choice!

Something he likes to do that always catches my attention because it's a little strange, is he turns his hand backward. He does it while he's nursing and while he's on his belly. Here are a couple examples of what I'm talking about. When I mentioned it to my mom she said he reminded her of a little turtle. I could see that.
What else, for future reference..? He wears mostly 3-6, some 6-9, and is in a size 2 diaper. I am back to using only disposables after my cloth diapers became mysteriously smelly even after multiple washes. I appreciate now, more than ever, what a luxury disposables are. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Tim's Super Healthy Superpower Muffins

I just had to share this awesome muffin recipe Tim perfected while trying to make a snack that satisfied his sweet tooth but was also filling and nutritious. There's nothing better than guilt-free snacking. These muffins make for a delicious snack or breakfast. I may have mentioned making "Super Power" muffins that I got from Pinterest, but these don't resemble those. They are original and I am proudly sharing them here, having just baked my first batch myself. They passed the 'Rachael test'!
For me this recipe made 24 muffins, and at exactly 14 minutes they came out looking brown at the edges. I was worried they were overcooked, but they weren't at all. Tim makes 18 and he says last time they came out perfect at 16 minutes.
These will be just the thing to toss to a hungry kid in the back of the car on the way to Ohio!

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup whey protein isolate, unflavored
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
3 raw bananas (we let them get really old and nasty)
2 eggs
1/4 cup Truvia Baking Blend
4 Tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter
2 Tbsp raw honey

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix all dry ingredients well and set aside.
3. Blend everything else and then sift in dry ingredients.
4. Spray muffin pans.
5. Bake 14-15 minutes.

Recipe makes 24 muffins.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Little Things

I just wanted to share some things that bring a smile to my face lately.

First of all, new pillow covers. How many times have I looked at the shelves of throw pillows at TJ Maxx and wished that someone would just sell covers. Nobody needs that many pillows taking up space in their house! Besides I am so fickle about fabric/colors/prints. Just ask Tim, he's been dealing with me for years. What I like today is in the Goodwill bag tomorrow. I had two pillow inserts hidden away in a closet because I hated the covers they had come with. Then I discovered pillow covers at H&M of all places. I got a set of these yellow diamond pattern ones for $6 each. They are like a breath of fresh air in my living room.
Then there's our kitchen table. Periodically for months, we've tossed around different ideas about what to do with it. We bought it used about a year-and-a-half ago, and it has not held up so well to the beating our kids gave it. It had been someone's special occasion dining room table, and it probably wasn't meant to be fully extended and used for eating, art projects and everything else the way is now. Tim hated the way the tabletop bowed in the middle. We both hated the cracks where the leaves are connected, that kept pulling apart and hiding all manner of food within. We talked about Tim building a new table. We came close to buying another complete set of tables and chairs used. We talked about Tim building a new table top and using the legs we had. We thought about hiring some guy in the mountains of North Carolina to build us one. Finally Tim flipped the table over and figured out a way to brace it really well and keep the bowing and cracks to just the tiniest minimum. After that we decided the only real change needed was fabric for the chairs. What was on there was some green microsuede that I never liked, but I found the idea of choosing new fabric to be pretty daunting. As time went on and we became less happy with the set, I didn't even want to bother. But once we were committed to the idea of making this set work for us for at least a few more years, I got serious about deciding on fabric. I picked something out on fabric.com, ran it by Tim, took a deep breath and ordered it. I hoped I wouldn't change my mind about it because remember, I'm fickle, and changing the upholstery on chairs isn't as easy as changing out pillow covers! This past weekend Tim recovered all the chairs with it and all I can keep saying again and again is, "We should have done this a long time ago!"

Here's a before shot of what was on the chairs. I had to take some last pictures of the awesome butt print that Tim always left on his.
And here's the after. No more butt prints.
Tim sprayed all of it with Scotch Guard so hopefully it will stay looking nice for a good long while. 
Lastly, here are some blooms that Annie brought me, sitting in the mason jars I painted last year in craft club. These little trees bloom around here for such a short time.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to making a house feel like a home, it is all about the little things.