Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas in Ohio Part 2: Schwartz Was Getting His

Relieved of Joey and all his angst, I slumbered for as long as I was allowed to, until a little before 8. While I was asleep three excited kids ate donuts and waited to open their presents. Tim let them open their stocking stuffers. They got some good ones. Santa upped his stocking stuffer game this year. Delaney was obviously thrilled to receive the Land of Stories fairy tale collection. She has read almost the whole Land of Stories series, which are very entertaining books about the adventures of two kids who accidentally find themselves in the fairy tale world. This is a book of the original fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm, that the series is based on. All are retold by the Land of Stories author Chris Colfer. I think this is the first fairy tale book we've had in this family, and that seems strange to me now that I think about it.
The gift in the picture below was for the two of them. It was a set of walkie-talkies. The boys also got one. They all got books, Annie got a sewing kit, and they all got Marine t-shirts or a onesie, Joey got a bath toy, and that's all I can remember. Timmy probably had a little Lego set in there too. I can't remember what else Delaney got.
The joy on that face..
When he couldn't hold them off any longer, Tim went down to get me, stuck a coffee in my hand and plopped me on the couch so the kids could see what else Santa got them.
Delaney was overjoyed to unwrap the little Melissa & Doug stable full of horses. She told Grandy, "I gave one to Toys for Tots and now I get one!" Those horses were a really big deal to her for some reason. She wrote a name for each horse on the labels that were provided for each of the stalls. She named each one of them after some kind of food. She needs to never grow up. She also got Star Wars bed sheets and a big BB-8 pillow. An American Girl Wellie Wishers doll that was on her wishlist was her third big gift from Santa. 
Annie got an American Girl hairstyling caddy that was on her wishlist. Fixing hair -- be it her own, mine or her doll's -- is her favorite thing right now. Since she loves hair so much Santa also got her a personalized organizer for her own hair things. Her third gift was a weaving loom that comes with yarn and instructions for how to make a scarf, a purse, and who knows what else. She got that very same loom from Grandy the night before. I'm thinking Santa and Grandy were of the same mind: Annie needs to be busy.

Timmy's three big Santa gifts were a remote control truck, a big Lego Star Wars set, and a Razor scooter which Santa had to bring to our house in SC. Santa brought Joey a set of mops and brooms since he loves to use ours so much; one of those toys where you pull the lever and hear animal sounds; and a pull-along puppy.

That afternoon we went to the Christmas party for my dad's side of the family. I took a few pictures, mostly of kids draped over furniture, looking hung over from the night before. We stayed about a couple hours and then we were done for the day. It was a pretty laid back Christmas Day and that's the way we like it.
This little angel is always sleepy.
At some point that day, Tim and I talked it over and decided that we would cut our trip a day short. The day after Christmas would be our last day because by this point Joey had decided he was done sleeping at my parents' house. Bedtime was a long drawn-out hour-and-a-half of crying, with Tim and I taking turns trying to pat him and cajole him to sleep. He was up again and again throughout the night, with him or me desperately doing whatever it took short of a dose of Benadryl to get him back to sleep. It was really stressful. My mom likes to say in regard to that one baby who really gives his/her parents a run for their money, "Schwartz was getting his." (Remember the line from A Christmas Story? "Three blocks away, Schwartz was getting his." It had nothing to do with a baby, but it's still fitting. WE GOT OURS alright.) I was so glad to be there for Christmas but for the sake of our sanity we were going to need to be heading back soon. Tim got 95% of our stuff loaded into the car between that night and the next morning, again without my parents even being aware. Swift and silent.

We had a great last day. The high was in the 70s and we took a walk around the lake. Whodathunk we'd be outside with no coats on the day after Christmas? Crazy Cincinnati weather. All I know is it was so good for us all to get out of the house and get some exercise instead of staring at one another inside my parents' house (although that isn't so bad either). Tim stayed home and put Joey down for a nap.
Timmy's truck ran out of battery predictably during the first part of our mile-and-a-half walk. His cousin Miles said, "Maybe my mom has room in her stroller." Timmy told him, "But my dad said if anyone else carried it, we'd have to donate it when we get home." He really liked that truck and he carried it the whole way. Miles was very encouraging.
After we got back we congregated on the front porch in a way that must have looked very curious to the neighbors. Or maybe it's not so curious since they're probably used to my parents and the constant stream of kids and grandkids coming and going. But if I looked across my street and saw this, it would be hard not to stare, I have to admit.
At around 6 the next morning, our little alarm clock woke us up and it was time to go. I watched the robed figures of my parents standing in the doorway as we backed out, and as always I wished that we didn't have to live so far away. 

Once the sun was up I picked up my January book club book, Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, and to my delight I found it nearly impossible to put down. At the last meeting, the book club leader had asked us all to write a title on a piece of paper for her to draw one so that she wouldn't be the one picking something we'd all hate. I wrote down that title because it had been highly recommended, but thought it sounded so stupid. It reminded me of that song from the '90s, Truly Madly Deeply. Remember that nauseating song? So she picked it out of a basket and read it out loud, and then my neighbor who was sitting next to me said loudly enough for everyone to hear, "That was you, right?" Ugh. I'd been hoping to remain anonymous in case it really stunk. A few days later I went to order it from Amazon and saw that it was only available in hardcover. I alerted the book club leader to this, as she had told us she never wanted us to have to buy hardcover, but she said something like, "Yeah, sorry, I should have known that. Happy reading!" I was even willing to pick something else, but I can tell that for our book club leader, the choosing of the book is a very nerve-wracking thing for some reason, and she was unwilling to go through it again for this particular month.

I'm actually happy to be taking the credit for this one. It is SO. GOOD. I ate it up. I don't know if it was worth buying in hardcover even with the $5 coupon, as I am a huge cheapskate when it comes to books, but man, it is a good read.

And that's it. Another uneventful drive home, and now Tim's sister Karen and her fiance Matt will be here in a few hours. This Christmas break is flying by. Oh, and Joey's back to sleeping through the night. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas in Ohio Part 1: Florence Y'all!

Tim took the Big Three 45 minutes away to see Rogue 1 and have lunch out, and he is expecting that I'm going to get all kinds of things accomplished while he's gone: ornaments taken off of the deader than dead Christmas tree, new toys put away (or hidden away for later), suitcases unpacked, and clothes washed.. But when Joey is napping I can't seem to be bothered to do anything productive. Recording our family's memories -- that's productive, isn't it?

We drove up to Cincinnati last Wednesday to spend Christmas with my side of the family. It took us just a little over 12 hours with all our stops and an hour-long stop at Cracker Barrel for dinner included. It was an easy day and we were all in good spirits as our anticipation built. This was the first time we'd spent Christmas there in four years. The last couple times we've gone have been either spring or summer. In Florence, KY there's a water tower with "Florence Y'all" painted on it, and it is always a sight for sore eyes because it means only a half hour to go. I gleefully texted my mom and sister Grace, "Florence y'all!" as soon as I saw it. [That water tower is a landmark for everyone else in the family, greeting them at the end of a long day's journey back from a beach vacation. My sister Grace commented to me in a text that when she sees it she feels like she could just jump out the window and run the rest of the way.] Even better was when we came up over a hill and saw the downtown skyline all lit up and sparkling, and the kids were oohing and ahhing. Funny the things I used to take for granted but are so special to my kids and now me since I see it through their eyes now.
We stayed with my mom and dad in their beautiful little old house that is so cozy and welcoming, especially at Christmastime. Delaney, Annie and Timmy slept in the room upstairs, and Tim, Joey and I stayed in the finished basement. We were hoping to keep Joey and his nighttime noisiness isolated from everyone else this way, but we had to laugh because every step and every sneeze can be heard by everyone no matter where you are in that house. My parents still don't know how Tim managed to get three kids up and dressed and out of there at 6:30 in the morning without either of them hearing it. You almost need to be a ghost to accomplish such a feat. That was the first of many mornings for Tim's little breakfast club formed out of necessity because of Joey's restless nights and early mornings, resulting in my need for a little extra time for shuteye. Oh, Joe.

The day after we got there, my sister Grace had the honor of pulling out Annie's first baby tooth. We were all so excited. She is seven years and seven months old, and I was starting to wonder who'd lose a tooth first, Annie or Timmy. Annie's permanent tooth was already growing in behind it so it's a good thing that tooth is finally gone. 
I heart Christmas tree bokeh.
Later that day the plan was for a bunch of us to meet at The Christmas Ranch to walk around, look at all the lights, maybe have some hot chocolate and take a train ride.. But my brothers-in-law couldn't get out of work until at least 5:30, so we couldn't meet there until about 6:30 as it's about 45 minutes away. To our dismay we saw a very long line to get in -- like a long line of cars waiting on the road and it was not moving. Grace and Joey were the first to turn around and leave after a good half hour of waiting and not getting anywhere, with little Elise crying in the backseat. Tim and I hesitated because we didn't know what Mom and Dad and Damien were doing and they weren't returning my texts or calls. We kept inching along and wondering what do we do, what do we do. At last I saw a flurry of texts on my screen. Mom and Dad had turned around as well, and my sister Anna and her family had been warned away too. Mom urged us to "Save yourselves!" (lol) But we'd gone through the gate and there was no going back for us. We shrugged and said, "Well, we don't have anywhere else to be, do we?" So we decided to make the most of it.

We got a big old dose of winter that night. It was fun to wear hats and gloves even if it's maddening trying to keep track of it all. Joey was not enthused by the whole winter wonderland thing, but the other three liked it enough. I was appreciative of the flexibility of our kids, enduring that long wait in the car and the uncertainty about whether we'd end up going there or not. I was going to be so disappointed for them since we don't get opportunities to do things like this, living where we do.
The next day, we had another Brady kid reach a milestone. Joey stood on his own and took a couple steps! I do not have a picture. He'd do it, then we'd try to get him to do it again for a picture, and he'd refuse. What else would you expect? Since then he's been taking a few steps here and there, but he'd still rather crawl for the most part. He crawls fast.
We spent the day with this little guy too, Sophie's son Damien.
The girls went to Scotty and Faith's house to make cookies with their cousins Aspen and Jaden, while Mom took Timmy and Damien over to Anna's to play with her boys. That evening we had a fun kid-free dinner out with Scotty and Faith.
On Christmas Eve Annie suckered me into walking them to UDF (United Dairy Farmers - a gas station/convenience store/ ice cream chain in OH, KY and IN) to get milkshakes. As if we weren't going to have enough treats on Christmas Eve. My first job was at a UDF and I love taking my kids there now. It was also a nice, unseasonably warm day to get out into the fresh air and take a walk. So we checked the UDF box for this visit.

My mom and dad wanted me to look through some of the photo albums they'd acquired when my grandma (dad's mom) moved out of her house. There were some treasures in there. I love to look at old family photos and I snapped phone pictures of a few of my favorites. I had never seen most of these before.
Who is this apparent 15-year-old who was allowed to join the Navy? This is my dad's dad, Paul. He and my grandma (Betty) were something like childhood sweethearts. It's a cute story of how they got together. They had been neighbors all their lives, but he was several years older than her so it was a long time before he considered her as anything besides the little kid next door. She told me years ago that one day as a young girl she was doing dishes when she looked out the window and saw him in his family's yard, home on leave and wearing that uniform. She said, "That's the man I'm going to marry." It was a few more years before she grew up, he got home from the war and that dream came true. They had four kids and a great life together until he passed away from cancer in 1975.
She doesn't look like an Uncle Walter.
Dad and his sister Linda. I see Timmy in her dimpled smile.
We got to enjoy Christmas Eve Mass sans Joey because we left him with Mom and Dad. We got there in time for a seat too. It was amazing. After that we went to Scotty and Faith's. I took a lot of pictures there, and it's so hard to whittle it down to a few but I'll try.
Come on, Annie!
The newest addition, Anna and Robert's seven-week-old daughter Lizzy
My aunt Liz and nephew Roman
It started with the seven us: Sophie (the baby), Dad, Mom, Anna, Grace, me (the oldest) and Scotty 
Suddenly I looked at a clock and realized it was 9 p.m. 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a baby who was taking an hour and a half to fall asleep since we'd arrived at Mom and Dad's! Christmas Eve with still a few things to do to prepare for Santa! I alerted Tim and we gathered up our brood and all our presents and headed out.

Santa preparations took us almost until midnight when all was said and done. We had our roughest night yet with Joey unwilling to go to sleep, unwilling to stay asleep, and up for the day at the ridiculous hour of 4:30. We lay there in the dark listening to his cries that wouldn't stop no matter what we did and Tim said, "Where am I going to go this early on Christmas morning?" Thank goodness for Dunkin Donuts. Some would argue that no one ought to be open on Christmas morning, but for keeping the house quiet so everyone else could sleep, it was a godsend.

This is how Tim found Delaney Christmas morning. She had come down to see the presents and was too excited to go back upstairs, so she fell asleep while keeping vigil with Georgie.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Joey: 12 Months

Happy 1st birthday to our Joe! He is such a cute little rascal.

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday, and a couple days ago on his actual birthday, I was trying to get rid of leftovers in the fridge. One of them was one single piece of cake left in the big box it came in. Since it was just one last piece and four days old at that, I decided to throw away the whole thing. That way when Tim got home he wouldn't be giving me a hard time for never getting rid of anything in the fridge. The trash can was already mostly full so I squished the whole box in the top as best I could and left it with the lid open, intending to come back in a little bit and change out the trash bag. (I should have put the box in the recycling but truth be told I was too lazy to clean the cake off.)

Then I went on about my business in the fridge, and when I next happened to look out to the laundry room, guess who I saw standing on tiptoe at the trash can, reaching into the box and stuffing cake into his mouth? I took him away from the trash can, but not before getting a picture of course. I shouldn't let this picture see the light of day, but you know I can't help myself.
Then because I felt bad for the little guy scavenging birthday cake on his birthday, I rescued the last bit of cake from the box and put him in this chair and gave it to him even though we hadn't had lunch. He took a few halfhearted bites and shoved the rest off the tray. I guess it just didn't taste as sweet as the handfuls he filched from the trash. I sure know how to take the fun out of things, don't I?

What else is new with Joey?

He finally got a guy babysitter. I don't know if you recall, but Joey has not responded positively to the two female babysitters he's had, and both times he's preferred their husband/father. I said after that last time that I really should just hire a guy next time, but I hardly ever need babysitters and I mostly avoid having to go anywhere when Tim's not there to help.  Then last week I found myself staring down the specter of having to take all the kids, including a five-year-old with ants in his pants and a restless, squirmy baby to see Delaney's sign language performance in the school Christmas program. I texted my neighbor asking if any of her kids would be willing to babysit and she offered up her oldest boy. I spent the next few days trying to decide if I wanted him to to come with us and be an extra set of hands so that I could watch and record Delaney in peace; or if I wanted to leave him at home with them. My only worry about leaving them at home was the late evening timeframe, which is bedtime. I worried that he would get really tired and fussy without me there to nurse him and put him to bed, and he doesn't take a bottle well. I thought maybe I'd be punishing Joey and the babysitter by leaving them at home, and that would not be fair. I over-analyzed the situation for days, and there did not seem to be any acceptable solution but for the school to NOT have the concert at 6:30, and for my husband to not be out of town.
Tim said I'd be better off leaving them at home, and the funny thing is that after all my analyzing and tormenting myself, I always end up just listening to whatever he says and going, "OK, I'll do that." So I had Ben come over the day before to meet Joey because although we've said hi in passing, they've never gotten acquainted. While we were sitting there on the living room floor with Joey and his toys, Joey handed him one of his shapes which I take to mean, "Let's be friends". I told him that's what Joey likes best, to have you at his level and giving him attention. I also warned him that this house isn't babyproofed much at all, and he's just going to have to watch him. I didn't do much to hide that I thought Joey was going to be a big pain in the butt because I wanted him to be ready for the worst.

The next night went really well. By the time Ben arrived, Joey had nursed well and eaten a good bit of my white bean chili for dinner, so at least he wouldn't be getting hungry any time soon. As I was handing him off before going out the door, Joey leaned toward him, and that gave me so much peace of mind right there. It's so nice not to have to tell myself, It's OK, he'll probably be done crying by the time I back out of the driveway. The whole time I sat there in the school gym with Annie, I thought to myself how glad I was that they were all at home. I'd have been crazy to take them all with me. The program was a short and sweet 45 minutes long (Yes!), and when I got back he told me that the boys had both been really good. All that worrying I did was for nothing. And now I've got a babysitter he actually likes. Until this summer (*sniffle*).
That was a long story. On to 12 month stuff.

We have no major milestones to report. Joey remains a happy crawler, sometimes cruiser, and now sometimes clinging to the wall as he goes along the same way I used to do on the skating rink. He'll also hold one or both of my hands and walk around from time to time. He'll mosey his way around to walking at some point in the next few months, but he's in no hurry. Neither Delaney nor Timmy had taken first steps by their first birthdays either.

He's not saying any words yet, just a lot of adorable nonsensical chatter with lots of "g" sounds and clicking and "ch" sounds too. Sometimes I say "Uh-uh" in a firm voice instead of "no", and today he said the first part of that back to me with an impish grin. "Uh!"
He is starting to mimic the things we do. He gives us things, takes them back. He takes things out of a basket and puts them back. He picks up a brush and puts it up next to his head because he sees us brush our hair. He tries to draw with pens, pencils and crayons too, whenever he gets hold of one which is far too often.

He is super playful and affectionate, especially in that last hour before I put him to bed. It makes it really hard to want to put him to bed because I'd rather just sit on the floor and tickle him while he rolls around; or let him stand there holding my back and look at me over one shoulder and then the other. Then when I pick him up and say it's time for "night-night" he is quiet and calm while I go through the ritual of waving "night-night" to everyone. He still doesn't usually wave back until we're down the hallway out of sight, and it's his palm facing himself.
Our naps and bedtime routine are unchanged from last month. Morning nap happens sometime around 8 a.m. and can last an hour-and-a-half to two hours usually; as long as three hours after a bad night. Afternoon nap starts around 1 and lasts not nearly long enough in my opinion, but around 1.5 hours. Bedtime is 7:30. We wave "night-night," we go to his room (he's still in the guest room), I nurse him in the glider rocker and then I say a prayer and lay him down. I got him a new lovey after we lost the one on our trip to NC, but he hasn't bonded with it. He didn't bond with the old one either. Annie and Timmy loved their loveys (Timmy still loves his), and they are helpful for bedtime. But they are also kind of a pain when they get misplaced. Delaney was a baby who slept well with no lovey, thumb or pacifier, and Joey is the same way most of the time. I still dream feed him before I go to bed around 10 or 10:30, and he's usually good until 6. When he wakes up he cries right away for me to come get him.

He nurses about six to seven times a day now, and depending on his mood, he eats some of whatever meal I'm having. I don't want to try to name his favorite foods because if I do he'll hate them tomorrow.

Just like the others did around this age, Joey's decided Daddy is the favorite. He lunges toward him when he walks in and clings when he tries to give him back to me. When I mentioned to Tim that I was the favorite only when they were babies he teased me saying I should try harder to keep myself relevant. Hmmph.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Visit, a Birthday Celebration and an Early Christmas Present :)

Tim's parents flew down from Massachusetts for a quick visit last Thursday, and left Monday morning. I think they were hoping for a break from New England winter, but instead they took it with them. It went from being in the 70s to being in the 40s and 50s right after they got here. Then yesterday after they drove away, right back up to the 70s. They probably hated that, but I for one LOVED getting out the jackets and the hats. It felt like real December and Christmastime.

We went downtown for ice cream after dinner on Friday, and since the ice cream place is also a coffee house we were able to stay warm.
Photo by Tim Sr. Why is that important to know? I don't know, it just is.
Photo by Tim Sr

I believe it was while I was taking the picture below I uttered something like, "Someday I'm going to have a real camera that can take awesome pictures." Foreshadowing.. 

But the iPhone pictures aren't even too bad.
I found this next picture while looking through my phone. Tim must have taken it later that night. Me lying on the floor next to the Christmas tree reading a book and breathing fraser fir-scented air while Annie plays with my hair. That is the essence of contentment for me right there.
The next morning brought a little surprise for me that the kids couldn't wait to tell me about. Chippy had brought me a note and a big present.
I finally got the upgrade I've been wishing for. Oh my! Elation and joy gave way to bewilderment as I opened the box and got a look at all that gear. I have a lot to learn. I was also given my present from Tim Sr to open. It's a book called "Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs." It is basically a dummy's guide to photography. Whenever I have a few minutes I've been reading the lessons and trying to practice them. My two biggest takeaways to begin with are: 1) The only settings you need to take good pictures are P, aperture priority and shutter priority. 2) Forget you have Auto and scene selections. There's a start! The pressure is on to learn everything I can before our Christmas trip to Ohio. For a long time now, I've felt so limited in my ability to capture our memories the way I SEE THEM. Now, if I can really apply myself to learning this hobby, that will change.

Here are some of the first pictures ever taken with my very first DSLR camera. The quality of the photos drops off pretty sharply as the daylight went away.
I had my hair done that morning too. More brunette than ever and grays thoroughly camouflaged. Saturday was a good day!
That evening we celebrated Joey's birthday a few days early since neither his daddy nor his grandparents would be in town for the actual day. 
photo credit: Tim Sr
Quickly posing him while the special hat and bib are in place and visible..
Tim gave him his cake and ice cream with a spoon, and at first he just stared at it and poked it with the spoon. Then one of the girls gave him a taste on her finger to motivate him. He tried harder to get the food on the spoon, but had no success. Then he dropped the spoon and then just dove in to the delight of us all. Pardon the terrible pictures. A good camera does not a good photographer make.
Here he was looking all civilized, giving the spoon the old college try.
Fast forward about 10 minutes -- who needs a spoon when you've got your hands and face?
After birthday cake we gave Joey his birthday presents and then the rest of us exchanged Christmas presents. Joey was so happy to have new things. He's used to the same old hand-me-downs from big brother.
The cutest American Girl doll outfits!
And those are the highlights.

I just want to leave you with a few more of my new camera shots if you've hung in there with me to this point. Uploading pictures to Blogger is now a way more time-consuming process.
The Wheely Bee was a win for Joey. He pushed and pulled that thing around for two days straight, although he's not comfortable using it as a scooter yet. Timmy also loves it and rides it all around the house.