Saturday, July 28, 2012

For the grandparents

I really need to remember to shoot videos in landscape on the iPhone.  I had a heck of a time figuring out how to rotate it and get Blogger video upload to accept the rotated version.  I still have no idea if it's going to work, and if it doesn't I will get it to you some other way, or have Tim fix it since he's better at this stuff.  *I just watched it after publishing, and now I should add that grandparents will need their glasses to watch this.  It's a lot smaller than I expected.*  I couldn't wait to share it because Delaney is coming so far with learning how to swim.

*I am now replacing my video with Tim's improved YouTube version.*

What you see below, she did at least 20 times in the two hours we spent there.  She made it all the way to the rope by herself a few times.  This was all her, Tim was just there to give her a break when she got tired.  She also practiced treading water today, and I'm so impressed with her confidence.  She's not doing anything like this with her swim instructor.  I think she was inspired while we were watching the Olympics this morning.

After two hours of doing this, you'd think she'd be exhausted, but she's spending naptime out shopping with her daddy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Happy birthday, Timmy

Tomorrow marks a year since our sweet Timmy came into the world.  The events of his birth day unfolded in an even more amazing way than I'd hoped and dreamed, culminating in the moment I lifted him out of the warm water and held him against my heart.  Our beautiful boy.  His peaceful birth was a blessing, and a balm to my soul in the midst of our difficult circumstances.  

Now he is one year old, and those tough times are behind us.  We might not be throwing a party, but I know I'll be smiling so hard my face hurts as he mushes that birthday cupcake into his face.  Our Timmy, "Wittle Mista", "Buddy" (the girls call him this all the time!) gets his own special day.

I look at him with his impish smile and sun-kissed hair, and it's hard to imagine when he wasn't part of our family.  We love him fiercely.
He was so pleased with himself for finding a new hiding place under the bathroom sink.
He gives us all kinds of trouble now, getting into everything he shouldn't be, whining to be picked up, then squirming to get down.  He hates to be contained.  He is obsessed with doors -- opening them, closing them, being on one side, and then the other.  He's always up to no good, and we ask each other all day long, "What's Timmy doing?"  Thank goodness he still takes two naps.  I lay him down, give him his Lovey, he pops his thumb in his mouth, and he's all set.

Not long ago, Tim was accusing me of having turned him into a mama's boy.  Suddenly that has changed.  When Tim gets home from work, anywhere between 5 and 6, Timmy practically dives out of my arms to get to him.  I try to take him back so Tim can eat, or get changed, or whatever.  But he clings fast to his daddy, sucking his thumb and making a little noise of protest.  He's been putting up with women all day, and he's done!  Just tonight, I said, "Why the cold shoulder, Timmy?  I thought we were best buddies."  Tim acts like, "Alright, Timmy, come here," but I know he's loving it.

What else is there?  A few of the things I might want to refer back to in the future:  he's 22 pounds, he still nurses a lot, and eats a little of what we eat at every meal.  Sometimes he eats more than his sisters do.  He is a good sleeper.  He crawls FAST, and cruises on the furniture.  No first steps yet.  His eyes are blue -- I think -- but they might be turning green.

Below is a video of Timmy just being his adorable self, and doing the "itsy bitsy spider."
He's about to start changing a whole lot on us, and I don't know if I'm ready for it.  I love him so much right now, just the way he is.  I am going to just keep soaking him in.  I look forward to morning, when I can say, "Happy birthday, Buddy!"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We might have to send her back

Tim and Delaney made a surprise trip for just a few days, to Massachusetts.  Tim hadn't been there in two years.  Delaney was so excited to go on this trip with her daddy, and I was thrilled for her.  Every day she asked, "How many more days..?"  until finally it was THE DAY!
Proud of her packing job the night before
At the airport bright and early
FaceTime with Annie during their layover in Charlotte
The first airplane trip she'll remember
Landing  in Providence, RI
The BEST photo
A wan smile because they're headed home
Highlights of their four-night stay included a big family cookout, another one with old friends of Tim's, a slumber party with her cousins, and a lot of swimming.

Throughout the day and especially in the evenings, I would wait eagerly for Tim's updates on how things were going, and how much fun Delaney was having.  She was certainly having a lot of fun, and at times, too much.  Sometimes Tim would tell me that she was "completely exhausted, done.. never seen her this way.."  Then after all that she wouldn't even sleep well.  I almost think they needed to stay longer, so it wouldn't be so much in such a short amount of time.

As for how Annie, Timmy and I did with them gone.. well, things were a little different.  Bedtimes were quiet.  No arguing and loud noises coming from the girls' room.  The morning after their first night gone, we all got up at 8.  The second morning it was around 8:10.  And the third, about 8:20. I would hear a little noise, look at the clock, go 'wow,' and then walk across the house to see what they were up to.  Annie would be just sitting on her bed with a goofy grin when I opened her door.  Timmy would be lying in his crib making little noises and sucking his thumb.  They might have been awake since 7 for all I knew; but without Tim and Delaney there to motivate them, they had no need to bound out of bed the minute the clock turned yellow.  So that was nice.

Annie was a little bit lost without her sidekick.  We went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner the first night, and Annie was excited to go into the playroom there, when she was done with her food.  When I told her she could go, she took off her sandals and stood there, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, unsure of what to do next.  I led her to the room, and she played, but only for about five minutes.

Annie was glad when it came time to pick them up this past Tuesday at around noon.  She chattered happily all the way to the airport.  I had been warned already by Tim that Delaney was sad to be coming home, but I still thought she'd be a little bit glad to see us.  I was not prepared for what I saw when I pulled up to the curb to pick them up.  There was Delaney, shoulders sagging, feet dragging, wearing the biggest frown.  She looked like a person resigned to prison for the rest of her life.  She wouldn't even look at me when I was buckling her into her carseat.

The rest of the afternoon was horrible, just horrible.  She whined, fought with her sister, and told us more than once that she just wanted to go back to Massachusetts.  I knew she would miss everybody there, but geez, I didn't think it was that bad here. 

Today was only a little better.  It's like a cloud is hanging over us.  I never dreamed when we were imagining how much fun their trip would be, how chaotic and stressful their first couple days back would be.  Bedtime is war again, worse than ever.  Delaney has had more time-outs today than in the last six months (two, I think).  Her offenses have been whining, being disobedient, and not using her manners.  I want to pout and whine too.

I guess it is impossible for a five-year-old to understand that you can enjoy going places and seeing other loved ones, but you have to be able to understand that home is home.  It is not easy for any of us to be deprived of our big families, but we make the most of it.  I think we do a really good job.  I really and truly see home as wherever we the five of us happen to be.  We are comfortable and happy and healthy, and we have each other.  We have a lot.  It is too much to expect for a little girl to have that perspective.  I know I shouldn't take it so personally how devastated she was to be coming back here, and how moody and difficult she's been since.  She is just a little girl.  

Maybe tomorrow will be a normal day, and she'll be her happy-go-lucky self.  I hope!  I wonder if I ever gave my mom grief after staying for a few days at Aunt Mary Lee's wonderful house with a pool, fancy perfume bottles, Cracklin' Oat Bran, cousins, and as many pretzels and pop in front of the TV as I wanted.  If so, I'm sorry for that.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

This and that

I am loving how laid-back this summer is -- no packing up and rushing off anywhere, no giving birth to anyone, and having Tim in the vicinity almost every day.  Add that to things I love about summer already, like not having to wear jeans or jackets, not being pasty white, and not having to adhere to a schedule.  I really think one day I will look back at this summer and it will be one of my favorites of all time.  There's the perfect balance of having things to do, but also having plenty of  time to be lazy.

I mentioned last month that I would start reading chapter books aloud to the kids.  I began with A Bear Called Paddington, not because I had ever read it, but because it was on a list of books to read with the kids that I got ideas from.  Come to think of it, I see it's not on that list and I don't know where I found Paddington after all.  But I do consult that list.  I quickly found out that Annie was not at all interested in listening, and would frequently interrupt; but Delaney listened patiently.  I did not like this book much at all, and sometimes I wondered if I were to read the White Pages to Delaney, would she like it just as much?  (She is a VERY polite listener!)
Then we began Little House on the Prairie.  I fell into the habit of reading it to her during naptime, after realizing that Annie's a little young to sit and listen to a chapter book (I'll try again from time to time.  They both love books like Madeline, and a dear friend was kind enough to give us three of the Madeline stories.)  After a little nap, I'd ask Delaney to go get Little House.  But sometimes I would skip the nap, and just read to her almost the whole two hours of naptime/quiet time.  We devoured it in just a few days.  She couldn't wait to hear more.  It meant a lot to me, her liking it so much.  The Little House series was one of my favorites as a little girl.  We've just started Little House in the Big Woods.  I now wish I'd started in chronological order, because now she's going back in time to 'the big woods', and she'll have to jump forward with On the Banks of Plum Creek.

I read the Little House books myself when I was about 10, but I have many fond memories of read-alouds with my mom long after I learned how to read.  We really enjoyed Cheaper by the Dozen, for example.  We would take turns reading to each other.  She was super busy with all of us kids who ranged in age from baby to middle school, but she would carve out the time here and there.  We would sit down on the front porch in the evening, just us.  I think it's so important to make time for stuff like that.  I was thinking to myself the other day (as I was finishing up a good grownup book,  What Alice Forgot), I don't ever want life to get so busy that there's no time for slowing down and enjoying a good book together.  Or a meal.  Or a conversation.  No matter how big, busy and independent these kids get, I hope we always have time to just be together.
The girls went to Vacation Bible School last week, from 8:45 to noon every day.  It was Annie's first experience of any kind of  "school," and I think she liked it, even though she had a strange way of showing it.  On the last day, all the parents came, and we had Mass and then lunch together.  When the kids all sang a song together, Delaney participated, but Annie hid behind the other kids.  A little while later, Annie was making goofy faces at Timmy in the stroller when one of the teachers came up and said, "Well, that's the first time I've ever seen her smile!"  Sure enough, I was given two photos of Annie taken there at different times, and she was pouting in both.  But she talked about it happily all the way there and all the way home every day.

One day earlier in the week, I came to get them, and Annie was holding a tray that had a chair on it that was constructed of graham crackers, Tootsie Rolls, frosting and sprinkles.  It was a pope's chair, and she'd saved it just to show me.  All the other kids, including Delaney, had eaten theirs.  That was their morning snack.  Annie was proud of her chair, and wanted to take it home, so I let her.  It sat in the front seat.  When we got home, I let her eat it right away because what was the point of withholding it until after lunch, when Delaney had already eaten hers?  I said to the girls, "I'm going to stop calling it 'bible school' and start calling it 'ruin your lunch school.'  Every snack they served involved frosting and sprinkles, nothing remotely nutritious.

On the plus side, I thought the volunteers who taught bible school were very sweet to the kids.  On the second morning when we arrived, Annie was feeling a little timid, and she gripped my hand tightly as we walked into the school library where everyone was congregating.  Her teacher said, "Hi, Annie, it's nice to see you again!" and put the green bandanna Annie had decorated herself the day before, around her shoulders.  I don't know if these kids learned anything at all about the Catholic faith, but they sang a lot of songs, played a lot of games, and ate a lot of sweets.  I think these people really tried to teach them, but at this age, the kids don't remember much.  I asked Delaney what she learned about St. Peter one morning, and she told me, "He was grumpy."  She didn't know why.
Waiting in line for Sno-cones on the last day of VBS.  Annie likes waiting in line about as much as I do, as evidenced by the scowl on her face.
Last month I made it a goal to conserve gas this summer, and so far I have succeeded.  I spent a total of $184.34 on gas for my car in June (I love Quicken!).  I nearly halved what I spent in March, which was $321.  I used March, because that was the last "typical" month I could use for comparison.  It helped that gas prices also fell between March and now, because I haven't stuck to my one-trip a day rule 100% of the time.  I said to Tim recently, "I would love to live within two minutes of everything like we did on Quantico!"  Everything we wanted or needed on a daily basis was literally two to five minutes away, including Tim's work.  He seems to think that way of living would only be a possibility for us on Quantico, and will not be our reality when he retires, finds work in the civilian sector, and we settle down.  He envisions the kids and me living close to school and other activities, but him having to commute to work at least a half hour.  He doesn't think anyone in the real world lives close to everything.  Something has to be sacrificed.  
I'd be driving these kids around all day if fuel wasn't a factor!
We talked ourselves out of buying the camper.  As I told my mom, it is sad when you take your dream, the pretty sunset picture you have in your mind, and keep putting holes in it until it no longer looks attractive, or even recognizable.  Trying to get three little kids to sleep in a camper.. walking little girls to the bathroom at night .. mosquitoes.. all the new gear we would need to buy to go in that camper.. trying to keep Timmy out of the woods or water..  But I think it's for the better.  I am not going to try to muster up any false bravado and take this family on a camping trip anytime soon.  Camping is too rugged for us with these little people.  When I told my mom this she said, "I did it, I've got the bragging rights!"  Yes she did, sometimes with babies as young as a few months old.  Those were some of my earliest and best memories from childhood.  In the next breath, she admitted that they didn't have the money to rent a cabin.  A cabin we can do, and have done in the past.  We can have air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, and rooms with doors.  When we want to be in nature, we can go outside.  Then we won't also have another thing that on wheels  that we will have to move when we move, as soon as next summer.  We like to travel light whenever possible.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Delaney's birthday party

Today was a fantastic day, and certainly the day that Delaney deserved.  I'm so happy.  I said as I was cleaning up wrapping paper at the end of the day, "What a great birthday party!  That was a lot of fun!  And Delaney seemed to like it too, snort, hee hee."  I'm a dork if you didn't already know.  
It is so much fun reliving the magic of childhood birthdays through Delaney.  She told me while looking in the mirror as I was fixing her hair, "I can't believe it's today, and I'm 5.  I haven't changed a bit!"  I remember feeling the same way on my birthdays when I was little.  I'm a whole year older, but I look exactly the same as yesterday.
We had her party at the Y, and invited mostly friends from preschool, along with a few others.  I worried it was too hot even for a pool party.  The heat index was 115 today, almost too hot for anything.  The day got off to an inauspicious start when I parked the car, opened the back, and splat! there went the pasta salad Tim had slaved over, right on the pavement.  We were able to salvage the two-thirds that didn't actually touch the pavement, not that it mattered because it was too hot for anyone to want to eat pasta salad.

I'm glad to say everything went much better from that point on.  

She said, "Abracadabra, abracazam!  Make my family turn into frogs as fast as you can!"  Thanks a lot, Delaney!
I tried to take a few pictures of Delaney in the style of my sister Grace -- really up-close and usually out of focus.:)  I think I got a few good ones.
Delaney loved being the star of the day, and it was fun to watch her bask in it -- from the moment she woke up and saw her birthday chair at the table, to the end of the day when she opened all her presents.  
Delaney and Haley will be going to kindergarten together this year.
Delaney and Lily
Timmy, Annie and Claire
It all went off without a hitch, except for when Tim realized as we were leaving that he had forgotten to get the party favors out of the car.  Tim!  Oh well, since he did most of the work, I forgive him.


I'd been told it's common for first babies to come a week or more after their due dates, so I was prepared for a long wait, even though my body had reached and exceeded its maximum capacity.  At the July 4 cookout five years ago, I was 37 weeks pregnant, and fully expected to still be pregnant a month later.  My due date was July 24.  But my mother-in-law predicted "a baby by next weekend."  (It was Wednesday.)  I snorted at that.  I refused to even hope for that, even though my ankles and feet were blown up like balloons.   My belly strained against the fabric of my baggy windbreaker (yes, windbreaker.  It was New England after all.).
It turned out Grandma was right.  On the morning of the following Sunday, July 8, my water broke.  Delaney had decided she wasn't going to waste another day in my belly.  It was time to come out and join the world!  She was born early that afternoon, a little meatball with wild dark hair and a button nose.  We took her home on one of the hottest days of the year (like I said, New England).  I remember what a shock it was when, after 48 hours in a climate-controlled hospital, I was rolled out the door with a carseat on my lap, a tiny bundle inside. Our daughter, Delaney Grace..  Like all new parents, we were awed and mystified.  Who was she?  
I rode home in the backseat with her.  After watching countless episodes of 'Bringing Home Baby', it seemed like the thing to do.
We had no idea what a delight she would turn out to be.  If I had to name a chief personality trait, it would be her openness to everything in life, and her eagerness to try new things, meet new people, and learn new things.  In fact, she's insatiable.  Every day she asks, "What are we doing in the afternoon?"  or "What are we doing in the morning?"  While we sit here taking a break, there is life to be lived!  Fun to be had!  Carpe diem!  She tells us she never sleeps, and I think she actually believes that.  She lies in her bed every night thinking, 'Ugh, this is so boring.'  Next thing she knows it's morning.  That's not to say she's bouncing off walls.  She's just always looking for something interesting to do, and the company of someone she likes.
During the dead hours of midday, when most of us are napping, there's usually one creature stirring, and her name is Delaney.  She might be zoning out watching Nick, Jr, or playing with toys, or looking at books.  Once I'm back up and about, I figure it's a good time for a read-aloud from a chapter book, to try to make up for the boredom of naptime.  I look at her and wonder if she's really listening, since she's just playing with her toys and I can see no clue in her expression.  I think, 'Maybe it's a little too soon to be reading Little House on the Prairie.  Is she getting anything out of this?'  But at the end of the chapter about the construction of the "little house," a chapter that I worried was a little too detailed and tedious for her to follow, she says, "The house still needs a roof."  She's missed nothing!

She is an amazingly mild-mannered kid, and always has been. I don't think she's ever thrown a tantrum. Anyone who doesn't get along with Delaney is trying hard not to. (Ahem -- Annie.)  She is very even-tempered, and as someone who has a tendency to be moody, I appreciate that steadiness and predictability in a person.  She must get that from her dad.  We don't need to wonder from minute to minute which Delaney we are dealing with.  She can always be relied on to be her kind and sweet self. 

I know I should be getting teary-eyed and sentimental, saying, "Where did the time go?  I just had her yesterday."  Yes, there's some of that going through my mind, but mostly I'm just excited for her.  Turning 5 opens up a world of experiences that she can now have because she's no longer held back by just being a little kid, a preschooler, a toddler.  She'll start kindergarten this fall.  She'll ride a bus, and she'll get to try a sport or other activity.  She'll attend Faith Formation at church every week.  She'll meet new friends.  She'll be tired at the end of the day, and the only time I'll hear her ask, "What are we doing..?" will be during vacations.
I know she's ready.  I am looking forward to telling you all about Delaney's new adventures!