Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Joey's first field trip, and thoughts on being a SAHM

The weather kept us guessing right up until the last minute, but the rain held off just long enough for Joey to go on his first ever field trip: a bus ride to a farm. Joey would have been thrilled to go on a bus ride anywhere, and in fact when I first signed the permission slip and told him about it two weeks ago, he started looking out the window and asking when the bus was going to come.

So when the big day dawned gray and drizzly, I kept my lips zipped about it even though I couldn't hide my extra air of urgency about not being late.

Knowing that there would be limited space on the bus, I opted to drive separately. His teacher sent me this photo, along with several others. When I put her photos and mine together, I've got the makings for a nice little blog post.
He hasn't stopped talking about the big white bus with two doors.

We got to see ducks, geese, turkeys, cows, goats, sheep, potbelly pigs, peacocks, ostriches, an emu, horses, chickens, llamas and alpacas.
We took a hayride tour around the farm. Joey was fascinated by the tractor's huge wheels.
This is one of Joey's two teachers, Ms. Nikki. She is crazy about the kids, and so sweet to my Joe.
Once the hayride was over, our tour guide showed us the llamas and alpacas, helpfully pointing out which was which. She told us that these ones don't spit, and as if on cue, an alpaca spat on her. Joey laughed and laughed. Farm animals are fine to visit, but I wouldn't want to have one of these ornery things with matted, dirty fur and a penchant for spitting at people, around.
Once the tour was over, the kids played for a little while on the little playground until it was time to leave. Joey wasn't sure what to think about the way the girls fussed over him (look at his fake little smile!). One of their mothers told me that her little girl talks about Joey all the time. I can't blame them; he is kind of irresistible.
I would have just as soon taken Joey home with me after that, but I didn't want to deny him the bus ride back to school.

Looking through the pictures and thinking about what a fun morning we had, has me thinking as I do many times, about how glad I am to be a stay-at-home mom. Tim's career has afforded me the ability to be there for things like this and for a lot of other things, big and small. I can spend a morning seeing a farm through a three-year-old's eyes, or watching my oldest compete in the Battle of the Books. I can be there for the small, ordinary things like books at naptime, yet another game of Uno with a boy who's on an indefinite screen timeout, and running outside to see the baby turtle Joey found out on the driveway. It often feels like drudgery, with the messes, meals, and a never-ending to-do list. But I have all day for the messes, meals and to-do list instead of having to cram it all into a couple hours. To boot, I have a husband who's happy to do errands when he's home, and he'll take a kid or two with him. I can plan my days however I see fit, and in any given one I can allocate time for, in addition to the work, prayer, for rest, for school, for exercise, and for things that recharge my battery like chronicling our life in this little blog. This is a privilege.

I don't know what the future holds. With Tim retiring next summer and everything that comes with it -- getting established in a new place, buying our own house, and getting used to a new way of life (the civilian one😮) -- things are going to change. I may need to go back to work sooner than I might have planned. Maybe I'll even be ready to sooner than I thought. Maybe I'll be able to earn a supplemental income through freelance copyediting, or maybe I'll need to look for something else. But to have been home all these years, especially through the little years of my kids' lives, is something I wouldn't trade for the world, even though it's exhausting and frustrating, and I'm positive I'm doing things wrong. Making a home -- turning a space into a haven that reflects our personalities and is cozy and at least somewhat clean -- brings me its own satisfaction. This life is the one I always wanted most, and I am embracing it for the time being.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Scattered thoughts

These cherry blossoms were in full bloom a few weeks ago, but are now almost gone. We'd missed them when we moved here last April.
Well, hello there, blog. What has it been now, two months since I last checked in? I had to start scrolling through my photos to see just what have we been up to around here? It hasn't been much.

There's really nothing new to report. Life has been good; I only have blessedly petty gripes like 'the kids are so messy' and the 'dog is driving me crazy.' Speaking of the latter, at the moment she is curled up on her bed sleeping. Not that she needs any special reason to take a nap, but she is recovering from the procedure that ensures there will be no Willow Juniors. She has perked up considerably after a full evening and night of rest, and has been eating and drinking today; but is still not herself yet. I told Delaney this morning, "It's not that I want her to have more surgeries, but 'convalescent Willow' is really easy to have around." She chuckled knowingly. Willow is now eight months old, and a couple weeks ago -- after thinking we were in the clear (again) with housetraining -- we went through another rough patch. She sneaked off several times to pee on the laundry room floor or my bedroom closet, which was infuriating. She was also pushing our buttons in other ways, like getting into things she knows she shouldn't and tormenting Joey. What to blame it all on? Puppy adolescence? French bulldog stubbornness? The full moon? The dog hates me? Who knows. I really started to think that maybe she was not a good fit for our family, but I was outvoted in that regard. We tightened the reins on her and got her back under control (I think? So far she's made a liar of me every time I've said that.); and I've read that once dogs are altered, they are much less inclined to mark. Now if I could ever get her to mind me when I don't have a treat in my hand..
I have decided to give up Facebook for Lent. This is my first hiatus since setting up my account almost 10 years ago to the day (just caught myself about to log on so I could verify that!), so I'd say it's about time. It was getting to be a huge time suck; or maybe I was finally starting to acknowledge that it was. I kept going back because of all the funny memes, interesting articles, and pictures of friends and family and their growing kids. Not logging in means missing out on a cute pregnancy announcement or a great sale, both of which cause the pleasure centers of my brain to light up. But I was coming to find that in order to see the funny, heartwarming and useful things, I was scrolling through a whole lot of other stuff that at best was a big fat waste of time or at worst made me feel horrible. And I wasn't just scrolling. I was stopping to look at really stupid things like comments. I don't know what was wrong with me. So, right before going to bed on Tuesday night, I deleted the app from my phone. Having it so handy on my phone was the real problem for me, I think, because I rarely think to open it on the laptop, but I've caught myself a bunch of times looking for it on my phone. Pathetic.
Happiness is freshly-picked daffodils on my kitchen counter.
40 is coming at me fast. I was in Walmart a few weeks ago buying beer in the self-checkout because it seemed to be the only line that was moving. I will never do that again. Here's why. As I had anticipated, the checkout person had to come over and approve my purchase. I had my ID at the ready, not because there's any doubt I'm over 21, but because I figured they'd have to punch in my birthdate. But that is not what happened. She scanned her card and waved off my proffered driver's license. Then the screen said, "Is the customer over 40 or under 40?" When she picked "over 40", I was like dang. I know it's funny, and I can laugh. Walmart is not in the business of flattery. The loud buzz alerting me to the fact that my middle-aged features are being recorded as I'm perusing the makeup aisle, as well as the person checking receipts by the door, should have told me that. Furthermore, as Tim pointed out, if she'd selected "under 40", she probably would have then had to enter my birthdate, and what Walmart employee has time for that? Still, no more self-checkout for alcohol at Walmart. No need for me to see what's happening on that screen!

A few days later, after I'd told my mom the story, I said, "It's funny how I thought I was over myself until that moment." I really thought I was OK with being 40-ish, but it turns out I was kind of in denial about it. Well, once again, it's time to get over myself.

I've been trying to learn a new skill these past couple months: crochet. I have always wanted to learn, but I am a seriously slow at it. After finding out about the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's baby blanket workshop in December, I showed up the first three Fridays just to practice stitches again and again. About the fourth or fifth Friday, I decided I was ready to check out a skein of yarn and a needle, and get to work making my first blanket. NMCRS has a class called 'Budget for Baby', and they give all the new parents who attend a handmade blanket. I started it in late January, measured, measured again, and ended up unraveling it back to the beginning no fewer than three times. It needed to be about 36 inches by 36 inches. The rows kept getting longer and longer. It was out of control, and I was so frustrated. The instructor watched me and showed me a technique keep them all more or less the same length. Amazingly, I managed to complete all my rows a couple weeks ago (and yes, I measured just to be sure), and then the instructor showed me how to finish it up with a border. Guess what happened once the border was done? The blanket shrank. I'm telling you, this thing is straight out of Harry Potter. It makes no logical sense. I have to turn it in anyway, if for no other reason than the yarn belongs to NMCRS. I had imagined that I'd hold my finished blanket proudly for a picture, but the edges are still a little wonky and it's embarrassing. Instead I'll share a snap Tim took of me fretting over it once it was all done except for the border.
I've got nothing else for you -- or maybe I'm just losing my focus again and thinking of whatever else I'm hoping to accomplish before whatever version of Joey (clingy? grouchy? cheerful? angry?) wakes up from his afternoon nap. I'll leave you with a 12-second video that might make you swoon; and a random assortment of pictures. 

The boys have both gotten 'daddy haircuts.' Finally! No more Dumb & Dumber.
Delaney loves all things Patriots; here she is reading the magazine that Grandma sent her, published by the Boston Globe after their latest Superbowl win.
Pre-haircut Joey

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Joey: 3 Years Old

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: someone needs to figure out a way to stop time, because my baby is growing up way too fast, and he is just the cutest right now. Just last night at bedtime, Joey was trying to put back together one of his little cars, and he was fending off Timmy's and my offers of help. He said to me, "Would you please stop saying that and let me fix it?" I cracked up and said to Timmy, "This is three."
We love reading books together. We read about four to six books a day, at naptime and bedtime, and anytime on request. It's supposed to be two at naptime, two at bedtime, but he can often sucker me into one more. He's gotten a lot of nice new books of late, and his current favorite is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is another one he chooses often, and he has it memorized, so he can "read" it to me. It's the best! I have to find a way to record him without him knowing. He really enjoys his Clifford books too. He asks the same questions on the same pages, and in response to the same answers I give him, he says, "Why?" 

Joey is signed up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and he gets a new book free every month. I don't know who's more excited about a surprise book in the mailbox -- him or me. From them we've gotten The Snowy Day and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as The Little Engine that Could, and a couple of others so far. 
He and I have this little game we play right before I leave the room after putting him to bed. He opens his arms wide and says, "Come here." I kneel down by the bed and he either wraps his arms around me or holds my face in his hands. Then he says, "That's not my Mama! Her face is too ... " he searches for a description that he thinks will sound funny. "... bumpy!" I laugh and say, "That's not my Joe. His earlobes are too stretchy." Then we go back and forth for a couple minutes until I say "enough" and extract myself. For awhile he was into a series of Usborne touchy-feely books called That's Not My Truck, That's Not My Tractor, and so on. Each page would say something like, "That's not my truck. Its hubcaps are too shiny." I thought it was the silliest thing, but he was mesmerized. Now it's like our little inside joke. He does it with Annie too. Annie is like a little mama to him, when he allows her to be.
For the past couple months, after it was suggested by Timmy's CCD teacher, we've been going around the table at dinnertime and having everyone share their "roses and thorns." It's intended to be a little exercise in examining our consciences -- to think back on situations we wish we could have handled better, or things we said that we wished we hadn't. In theory it's a nice, small way to help prepare Timmy for his first confession, but in practice it's been an occasion to air our petty gripes (as well as the thing that made us happy). At least it ensures about five minutes of conversation. Joey always wants to go first, and he almost always says, "My rose is fire trucks and my thorn is ambulances." 

Just like the other kids did, Joey is going through a "backseat driver" phase. He tells us to watch out for this or that person or car, and lately he's been asking Tim or me if we have both hands on the wheel. I don't even know where he gets that. Just today, while I was waiting at a light, he said, "Mama, could you back up a little? You're gonna hit that car." What?!? He also regularly asks us to turn the music up or down, or the heat. It's funny, as well as a little annoying.
We've had no more lapses in potty training, and he stays dry all day and through his two-hour nap, as long as he's gone to the bathroom beforehand. I finally got rid of the yucky little potty, and he uses the big toilet with a stool. If I'm there when he needs to poop, he says, "Would you go away and shut the door?" He wears a pull-up at night for now, but I'll try to see if I can't get him nighttime trained by the time he's 3.5. I recently read that once a kid reaches 3.5 and is not nighttime trained, it becomes a lot harder from that point on. Their bladder is trained to NOT hold it. I hadn't looked at it that way before -- that their bladders are being trained one way or the other, even if I'm neglecting to try training them at all. When I think back on my experience with the other kids, I believe that's true. We nighttime trained the girls together at the ages of 3 and 5, and Delaney was the longest to need a pull-up at night simply because we thought she'd eventually figure it out. We lucked out with Timmy waking himself up to use the bathroom at night soon after he turned 3. So if Joey hasn't figured it out by himself in the next few months, I'll have to take action. These darn disposable diapers and pull-ups make it too easy to be lazy.

And now we're off to take him to his first day back at preschool after the break. I'm hoping he takes a good nap afterward.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A December to Remember

We didn't do any traveling, but I feel like this was our busiest December yet. 

1. We hosted a Christmas party for Tim's officers and their families, and it was a success! This was something I found daunting, as my hostessing skills are kind of untried, to tell the truth. It didn't help that for months, Tim would keep reminding me it was coming up and I'd better be making lists..🙄Well, it came together beautifully. I had souvenir ornaments made for everyone as a parting gift, and I tried to up my game when it came to decorating. Tim put those meatballs that Annie and I had worked so hard on, into a big pot, along with sausage, to simmer all day in his delicious sauce. We put on some Christmas music, and right before everyone was due to start arriving, I had a glass of wine, which did wonders for my nerves.

When I stopped to think about what we're trying to accomplish when we invite everyone to our home for a Christmas party -- to make everyone feel welcome and at home, for us to get to know each other, to celebrate the season -- it became pretty simple. Then there's the fact that Tim has been throwing his heart and soul into leading this battalion, and I want to be able to support him in that. When I thought about that, I stopped trying to get everything perfect, and stressing because I couldn't. 

We'll definitely do this again next year.
2. A few days later, Tim's parents flew into town and we got glammed up and went to the Ball in Greenville, NC. We stayed overnight, what a luxury. We had a great time.
3. We watched Delaney play clarinet in her first band concert. Unfortunately, we were too far away to take a good picture.

Later, Tim emailed her this:

Hi Delaney!

I know I said this last night but your mother and I are SO-SO-SO very proud of you!! You did such an amazing job at your concert. We watched you over the last couple months work so hard at learning how to play and it was so great to see. I know I give you a hard time about not picking up your room or making your bed, but you are a great kid growing into such an amazing person.

Keep up your hard work, and keep being YOU!!

Daddy and Mama
4. We celebrated the third birthday of a very special little boy. Joseph Daniel, we love you so.

5. We made Italian Christmas cookies -- a half batch one day; and when we realized that wouldn't be enough, another half batch the next.

6. Joey had his first preschool Christmas program (there are no good pictures of him gaggling around with the other two- and three-year-olds and not singing). The highlight turned out to be when Ms. Susan called Delaney onstage with other alumni of that preschool, to sing a song. Imagine her delight!
7. The boys got horrible haircuts again. After Tim brought Timmy home again, looking like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, I ranted and raved. I said, "Please make it stop! I'd rather see a messy mop on their heads than to see them get HACKED again and again. There's nothing worse than seeing handsome boys with bad haircuts. Next time give me the $10, and I'll light it on fire! Just buzz him, I'm serious. Buzz him!" At least the bad haircuts our mothers gave us were free. Why is it so impossible to get these boys a decent haircut? The barbers around here are plentiful, but really only know how to do one kind of haircut, and they're guaranteed lots of business. Tim doesn't want them to look like little Marines, but I'd like that a whole lot better than this! (I can't seem to find a picture of Joey's hair.)
8. We had a peaceful and happy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, just us.
Aunt Jayne's Rice Krispy wreath arrived while we were at Mass. Impeccable timing!

Joey put the star on the Jesse Tree on Christmas morning. Happy birthday to Jesus!
Joey's biggest present was a hit with everyone.

Mom and Grace gave Tim this world map that has hearts on Cincinnati, Grafton, MA, New Bern, NC and Parris Island, SC. There are pins for all the other places that he or we have gone.
Christmas morning: a whirlwind of activity and me collecting trash.
Tim and the kids were Skyping with Tim Sr. and Carolyn later in the morning, and I was walking around the house trying to clean up, when I heard them discussing boxes they'd sent, and presents that the kids should have gotten. I was like, "Wait a minute.." and I dashed off to our bathroom closet, where two boxes of their presents were still sitting there! Oops, haha. I'm pretty sure I assured them both before they left that I would remember to get out all the presents. Well, I did, eventually. Among them was the most lovely surprise -- this Willow Tree nativity! I love it. I've been wanting one of these for awhile. I kept trying to take the perfect picture of it.
I'm not sure which of Delaney's presents is HER favorite, but I can tell you which one of hers is my favorite, and that's this bean bag chair. Inside it are all her stuffed animals, and now she's got a comfy place to read her Warriors books.
Annie put together this 'knot-a-quilt' in record time. She said it was easier than other ones she's tried, because of slits that were cut into the fringes.
Willow is six months old. Still kind of crazy, but very sweet when she's tired.
There's so much more I could say, and so many more pictures I could include. I should do this more often. I love going back through the old posts and counting my many blessings.