Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rambles

I am enjoying a quiet afternoon with Joey down for a nap and the kids at school, and still trying to caffeinate my perpetually tired brain .. so I thought now might be a good time for a 'this and that' kind of post.

Every year that I live in the south, which is six years and counting -- plenty long enough to get used to it -- I get to September and wonder why fall won't come. I bemoan the bugs still biting and the humidity still going strong. Living up north you look outside your window and go yay, fall is here! Here, Labor Day passes and the same way birds know when to migrate, we know it's time to pull out fall (and it's a little bit jumping the gun). Wreathes, lanterns, assorted goards from Pier 1, things to remind us of chilly nights and falling leaves. Front steps are sporting potted mums and pumpkins that will be rotten long before Halloween. I've heard of people going to extremes like turning their a/c down really low, getting out sweaters and burning pumpkin spice candles. I don't go that far, and I don't like pumpkin spice much anyway; but I do have my big bin of fall and do have a few ways of enjoying that beautiful season that we don't actually get. One of them is this maroon cardigan that I'm wearing now. This is one of the things I got from Stitch Fix before things went south between us, that I still use and enjoy. It drapes so nicely and is super lightweight since actual sweaters are out of the question. I throw it on over a tank top and push the sleeves back, and I am good to go.
I've also been using my Crockpot more because that makes it feel a little more like fall too. I found a new recipe for slow cooker Indian food and it actually turned out really good! I didn't have the cilantro or jalapeno on hand this time, but I can imagine how much that will add to the flavor. Joey and I enjoyed the leftovers for the next couple days for lunch. Nothing better than yummy dinner leftovers for lunch; and my family appreciates that I don't just serve up the same dinner two days in a row, although what's wrong with that?
It does seem silly the way we fake fall. Does everyone in the south do this or just those who grew up in the north and have fond memories of jumping in piles of leaves? (Piles of leaves, if they exist here, are NOT for jumping in; they're for harboring snakes.)  Why can't we just accept that that's not the climate we live in and that we're going to be really grateful for that come January? Why do I feel compelled to give Tim such a hard time when he complains about traveling to New England for work, because it might get a little cold at night and he has to pack more? I was like, "Don't act like you're not happy about going to where it's fall!"
***
Has anyone been watching Stranger Things? Tim and I devoured the whole season on Netflix in less than two weeks. It's really creepy and suspenseful, and a real treat for an '80s kid like me. There's the music, Trapper Keeper, scenes reminiscent of movies past (The Goonies, E.T., and Poultergeist, for example), kids riding their bikes after dark, the cold war, and much more. Tim thinks he had the same bike as one of the characters and even remembered the specific TV remote from one of the episodes. I was like, weren't you fancy with a remote? I'm pretty sure that back in 1983 I was the remote in our house! All the '80s nostalgia aside, it is a really good show and I'm looking forward to season 2. Also, in what might be more than a coincidence, Eggo waffles are now a freezer staple in our household.

We watch one show a night in that ever-shrinking space of kid-free time that we have from the time Delaney finally settles down to bed (and stops coming out of her room to ask us questions) to when we're ready to crash ourselves. So really that means between 9 and 10. As soon as we finished up Stranger Things, Season 6 of The Walking Dead became available on Netflix and that's what we've been watching together since. I love that show, but I hate it too. I say at least once every episode, "I can't handle watching this show anymore!" But I can't stop. I have to see what happens next. I never would have thought I'd get hooked on a show that is so scary and stressful to watch, almost without reprieve. The moments of triumph for the good guys are very fleeting, but the characters are what I love about the show and what keep me watching. (Sometimes I'm watching through the cracks between my fingers and saying, "It's just a show. It's just a show," and Tim's ridiculing me.)

I heard lots of good things about This is Us from people who loved Parenthood, and I just watched the pilot. It was cute, but a bit of a letdown as it didn't suck me in the way Parenthood did. It had some '80s history in it too, but leave it to me to get hung up on details that don't matter. For example, one of the main characters who are all celebrating their 36th birthday talked about how he was in second grade when the Challenger exploded, and thinks that's where it "all went wrong" for him. I was like nope, you were in kindergarten.

It got me thinking.. I know I watched the Challenger explosion live, and like the character on This is Us, I remember Christa McAuliffe in particular. The first teacher to go to space, that was a big deal. But I only have a vague memory of the whole thing, and I definitely don't look back on it as one of those events that shaped me into the person I am today. So yesterday I went to YouTube and watched CNN's live coverage of it, curious to see if anything would come back to me. My thoughts: watching the countdown and liftoff, knowing what was about to happen, was awful. My heart was beating in my throat and I actually felt a little queasy. Then I kept waiting for it, and it felt like at least five minutes went by even though it was actually far less. A lot of silence, a droning voice updating the progress of the shuttle, more silence, then the explosion.. then more silence and a voice continuing to update the progress. Did you not just see that? There was no reaction from the newspeople for the longest time as the camera followed trails of smoke going in different directions, and then finally the man commented on what appeared to be "a major malfunction." A major malfunction? You think? A little later something like 'There's a contingency plan in place.' A contingency plan -- did you not see the whole thing blow into smithereens? I couldn't help but think had this event happened now, it would have been reported a whole lot differently. I guess broadcasters back then were much more disciplined, and it was more important to stay calm and verify what was happening before alarming people. I never heard a change of tone in any of the voices of the people reporting, but they were probably freaking out on the inside and trying to be professional. Still, very weird to watch all these years later. It might also explain why it didn't have an emotional impact on me as a six-year-old.
***
My daughter is probably the only one following this far. My number one reader. Hi, Delaney!

What else can I ramble about?

The kids have been in school about eight weeks now, and they are all doing great. Timmy was the one I had reservations about because full day kindergarten seemed like a big leap for a boy who was having occasional tantrums when it came time to get on the bus for pre-k, and coming home exhausted and moody three hours later. Also, we were (and still are) having trouble getting him to sit still at the dinner table, so I wondered how on earth he was going to handle sitting at his desk or the lunch table, or anywhere for a full day of school? And since he was a younger five-year-old with a July 25 birthday, Tim and I talked about holding him back, maybe making him go to pre-k another year. We sat down with his pre-k teacher to get her input. She seemed positive he was ready, and warned us that he would be very bored if he had to repeat pre-k. Seeing everything that she'd been doing to prepare them for kindergarten, and knowing all the progress he'd made, made us realize that if we did decide to redshirt him, another year of pre-k would not be an option. She reminded us that he could repeat kindergarten if need be, and as a two-time kindergarten veteran myself, I was reassured by that. Even better, I knew if he did need that second year of kindergarten, it would be at a new duty station at a new school. A fresh start. I also happened upon this article, and as I can so easily be swayed by one person's opinion, this made a lot of sense to me.
As it turns out, he's doing even better than I'd hoped. He is so excited about learning to read, and he's already ahead in math, probably because of trying to catch up with his sisters. He loves numbers. He has a really hard time getting up in the morning, but so far has not thrown any tantrums when it comes time to get on the bus. For some reason I think that not being the youngest kid at the bus stop makes a difference. He feels like one of the big kids now, and acts more like it. I think he conks out regularly on the ride home, but when he gets here he sits right down and does his little bit of homework and tells me a little about what he's learned. He wants to write too, and enlists my help with writing little notes to girls in his class. ("What do you want to say?" "Uh.. 'Hi?'.. 'I love you?') The idea of him spending another year in pre-k seems ludicrous now. Looking back, I think Delaney was kind of an immature four-year-old as well, who ended up having an awesome kindergarten year. In fact, I remember when I'd take Annie to preschool, I'd see Delaney's pre-k teacher in the hallway and she'd say, "How's she doing?" She had not been too convincing when she'd recommended Delaney go to kindergarten, even though the school offered a separate class for the five-year-olds who needed another year. Strangely, we never considered holding her back. But anyway, I am amazed at how he's been doing. I just came back from seeing him and Annie at lunch, and he looked so happy. He's even behaving better here at home, even though he still has trouble keeping his butt in the seat at the dinner table. He really must need the structure that school provides.

That's it for me today after a few wordy, disjointed paragraphs. I hardly ever post anymore because I feel like I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head and no way of organizing them. I'm always in awe of the ability of others to express themselves in words, and also to share really deep insights, teach lessons, and wrap it all up neatly in the end. But I should probably stop comparing myself to them because that's never going to be me. I do this for me and for the few of you who care, and I do it badly but that's good enough.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Joey: 9 Months

9 months in/ 9 months out. It's crazy what the postpartum hormones did to my hair, huh?;)

I remember how I felt taking that selfie at 40 weeks pregnant. 40 weeks. 40 whole weeks. My face says it all. None of my other kids had waited until 40 weeks to be born, but that was my first mistake -- expecting Joey to be like my other kids! I remember that in the final days/weeks of pregnancy, the hardest part of the day would be waking up in the morning, not feeling a single ache or twinge, and knowing I had another whole day of pregnancy to get through. All of my labors started in the wee hours of the morning. The best part of the day at that stage of pregnancy was when I laid my heavy, weary body down in my comfy bed at night knowing I had at least until the wee hours to get a good night's sleep. I remember the way I melted into the mattress, so grateful to have a break from carrying that belly around.
Now he's 9 months old, as long out as he's been in.

He's still crawling and cruising and in no hurry to walk, which is fine by me. He still doesn't like the walker that I thought would be so perfect for him on our hard floors. He sees it for what it really is, a trap with wheels. As long as he's in it he can't get into things he shouldn't. The walker earns its keep by containing him for a just a few minutes here or there, when I really need it. His favorite thing to do is open cabinets and pull out the contents one by one. He has cabinets that he's allowed to get into, that aren't locked, but he knows he's allowed and that takes the fun out of it. He wants the good stuff -- packages, bottles, trash cans, that kind of thing. It can be hard to keep him entertained because he either wants to be held by me or wants to look for trouble. I can back carry him in the Ergo while I'm working in the kitchen, but he gets bored and curious about what I'm doing, shifts his weight from one side to the other as he tries to see around me, and it makes me very uncomfortable. So again, just a few minutes here and there, as long as it takes to get the job done.
I *think* his eyes are brown. Still not sure..
He's turning into a a little comedian baby too, cracking us up by shaking his head no at us, making "lala" and tongue-clicking noises at us, and yelling at us just to get our attention and give us his mischievous crinkle-eyed grin. The other day Annie got him to laugh like I've never heard him laugh before. I was in the kitchen and heard this hysterical laughter and thought that can't be him in there laughing like that. I went out there and sure enough Annie was sending him into gales of belly laughs by putting the sunglasses between her lips and blowing them out noisily. I dashed for my phone and took video which I couldn't share to Instagram and Facebook quickly enough. (The kids and I laughed as we watched again and again for the rest of the evening and I reminisced about when Timmy was the same age and he died laughing every time Delaney slapped his face with a wet washcloth. Then there's our old favorite video of Delaney and baby Annie in the bath together, Annie laughing hard every time Delaney dropped a toy in the water. We could try all day to get a giggle out of these babies, and then it will be some random thing that sets them off. (The video of Annie and Joey is on Facebook and Instagram, and I wish I could figure out how to post it here, but I can't. It is sooooo cute!!)

A video posted by Rachael Brady (@rachaelb3) on




Last month we transitioned him out of our room and into the guest room, where he'll stay until he's sleeping through the night reliably, and then we'll move him in with Timmy. I got a chuckle thinking about the progression from Delaney as a baby with a decked out nursery and nice crib, to Joe stashed in a corner of the guest room in a pack 'n play. #4thchildproblems. I can't even say at this point when he'll be ready to move in with Timmy. We'll have a few days of him sleeping through the night just fine, and I think I'm in the clear, and then he starts resisting again. Sometimes he has trouble going down for the night. Sometimes he has trouble staying down. Sometimes he thinks it's time to get up when it's only 4:30. He is super stubborn and my tried and true sleep training tactics have not been working. But I'm wearing him down, I think. We're going to get him out of that guest room by December, and Tim's parents are going to have a place to sleep when they come visit!
What happens when I try to get anything done in the kitchen with Joe
There was a time I thought I was an expert in babies. That was nine months ago. Joey's the first one that I've ever tried supplementing with formula. He's the FIRST of my four hungry monsters to shake my heretofore unwavering confidence in the sufficiency of breastfeeding and only breastfeeding (along with introduction of solids after six months). But about a month ago I kept feeling like he wasn't getting enough milk and he wasn't wanting solid foods so I dug out the free formula samples from the back of a closet where I'd been hiding them in case of an apocalypse. He drank a bottle heartily one day and the very next he wanted nothing to do with it and hasn't since. I keep pushing food at him, but he's the pickiest eater of them all. He only likes Tim's muffins soaked in milk, guacamole, and my homemade chicken noodle soup. Just little bits of things here and there, and I know that's appropriate at his age when solid foods are supposed to be experimental anyway. Mostly he just wants to nurse. My supply seems to have rallied in the past few days, so maybe he was just going through a growth spurt. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure being his main source of calories, you know? But it's working after all so we're going to keep at it. Still, I do not see myself nursing Joey for as long as I nursed Timmy (2+ years). Not if I'm already struggling. But we'll see, I guess.
He wanted in the bathtub with Timmy the other night, so I put him in and started snapping pictures like crazy. They had a lot of fun together splashing around. Timmy messed Joey's hair up and made him look like a little Einstein, and they were so silly together. But then Timmy sort of climbed up the incline at the back of the tub, and let himself slide down noisily to the other side. That was too much for Joey and he wanted out, so I got him out and put him in his pajamas. Then he became obsessed with going back into the bathroom. I didn't want him in there anymore because he was dry and the bathroom floor was wet. Also, it's a bathroom. I shut the door, he cried really hard, and I tried to redirect him somewhere else. He headed for the door again and was really bent out of shape about it being shut. Again, I tried to distract him and take him somewhere else. A little while later Delaney was having her bath and she decided to open the door a little bit for whatever reason. Joey was lurking in the hallway, and soon she heard his hands going slap-slap-slap on the floor as he made his way in. When I went in there he was standing at the side of the tub lifting one leg, then the other, trying to climb in. Delaney said, "Pleeeaaase can he come in?" How could I say no when he was being so adorable trying to get in that tub? So he became the first child in this family to get two consecutive baths in a night, the second one being after he'd already been dried off and dressed. I guess being the baby of the family has its privileges sometimes.
He cut two new teeth on Sunday. He's getting to be a very toothy Joe. I see the top lateral incisors are getting ready to come in any day.

I'll take him to the doctor later this month, but I'm guessing he's around 20 pounds. He now wears size 6-12 or 12 in most clothes, and size 3 in diapers.

I got Joey yet another new babysitter, one of the girls who just moved in down the street. The other kids and I were out for exactly two hours, and when I got back I was anxious to see how he'd done. The babysitter seemed a little unnerved, and fled our house so fast she almost forgot her flipflops. I thanked her and thought to myself, she really earned her money today. A few days later her dad came over and introduced himself while I was waiting at the bus stop. Joey smiled at him and he told me that they'd gotten along well when Shelby had babysat him on Sunday. He said Joey kept wanting to go to him and got upset any time she had tried to take him back. I laughed and said, "That's what he does." It's a little funny that I keep asking women to babysit him and then it's the men who have to do the work. It's clear that Joey has spoken on the matter, and I need to just ask a guy next time.

Update 9/27: I just took Joey in for his checkup, and he didn't grow much since last time. He's a little shrimpy at 18.96 pounds (20th percentile) and 27.76 inches (25th percentile). Those are like Delaney stats. In fact those were almost exactly her measurements at 9 months, I just looked them up.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

My Sunday Best Episode 6

Tim had to leave on a work trip Saturday morning, and I really hate his weekend departures. He tells me that he's only done that twice in six months, but both of those times have been this month. It puts me in such a bad mood when he leaves and it's supposed to be our family time.

Yesterday I decided I was done feeling sorry for myself, and that we were going to do something really fun, something that I ordinarily would not attempt as the only adult: I was going to take them to the beach. I made a pizza, sliced it up and put it in a cooler along with a few water bottles. I brought nothing else besides the Ergo carrier and a big bag of towels and changes of clothing. We would get there around 5, so no need to worry about sunblock. I instructed them that since their daddy wasn't there and there is no lifeguard at this beach, they could not go in any further than waist deep.

Then I loaded everyone up, said a prayer for it all to go OK, and drove us 40 minutes to the beach. And I was so glad I did. It might have been a lot of work, mostly keeping Joey out of the water. He was fearless and kept crawling toward the waves like a little sea turtle, completely unfazed by facefuls of salt water. But the Big 3 abided by the no-farther-that-waist-deep rule so I didn't have to worry about them. Then gave me a break when he sat for a long time on the sand just splashing in the water when it lapped up past him. It was such a beautiful time to be there, just before the sun set. Everybody ate the pizza. It was as good as it gets. I even managed to take a few pictures.
Around 7 I decided it was time to leave, and a while back when I wrote about the reasons why I didn't want to try going it alone, the changing and rinsing off process was a biggie. Here's how that went: We walked up to the changing and rinsing area, which is in the densely wooded area just behind the beach. This beach has way more vegetation than a beach ought to have -- you drive through a jungle to get to it. I had stayed dry and had already changed Joey on the beach and strapped him into the Ergo. The other kids attempted to rinse off their feet and ankles, then headed to the changing stalls. Then I realized we were being swarmed by mosquitoes and I said, "Everybody just get in the car!" We ran for it, me barking at them like a drill instructor the whole way. "Hurryup, hurryup, hurryup! Shutthedoor, shutthedoor, shutthedoor!!" I literally just opened the driver's door and got in with Joey still strapped to me. I would sort it all out once the doors were shut, the car was started and the fans were blowing hard to keep those skeeters off us. It was wet towels and bathing suits all over the place as everyone did whatever drying off and changing they still needed to do. There may still be just a leeeetle bit of sand on the carpets.

The next morning when I got Joey out of bed I saw that in addition to two brand new teeth, he was sporting huge red welts all over his face. Apparently the mosquitoes had been feasting on him the night before while he was right under my nose in the carrier. Poor guy.

CCD started today and we had to be there at 9:15. We snapped a few pictures in the parking lot. Lucky for me, my kids really enjoy the pictures. Nothing makes them happier than seeing photos and videos of themselves.
My outfit details: Skirt is J.Crew via ThredUp; shirt is a maternity tank from Target (still works!); scarf and sandals are from Kohl's. I love this scarf. Finally an infinity scarf that doesn't look weird on me, and it's light enough to be tolerable in the heat and humidity.
We got through CCD and Mass OK. The rest of the day was busy but went by quickly. I left Joey with a new babysitter, a teenage girl who just moved in down the street, while the rest of us went to see Pete's Dragon. I made fajitas, rice and beans for dinner, but didn't bother putting much on their plates since we'd already ruined their dinner with treats at the movie theater. It's going to be leftovers for me for days! Then it was hanging around the house and preparing for Monday as usual.

For more My Sunday Best, visit Rosie at A Blog For My Mom.