Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Things my kids do that I love them for

As all good parents know, we have to love our kids even when they're stinkers. And our kids have their share of stinkerish moments -- the kind that make us look at each other and say, 'What are we doing wrong?' 'Where do they learn this stuff?' There are a lot of discouraging moments in parenting. But we have to just keep at it and remind ourselves and each other that this too shall pass, and they can't be much worse than anyone else's kids.

Then there are times when they make us so proud, and it's easy to love them. These moments can be fleeting, and I'm sure there are plenty more than the ones that come off the top of my head. I want to write them down and make sure I don't forget them.

First, the one that gave me the idea to write this post: Delaney. For all her good characteristics, she has never been the kid we would call our most generous. Generosity is something we try to encourage in all the kids, but she would be the one least likely to share the bag of popcorn she brought home from school with her siblings, for example. It just wouldn't occur to her. We try to be patient about that, especially me, because I know I have plenty of selfish tendencies. When I'm browsing Pinterest, let's face it, 9 times out of 10 I'm looking at stuff that's for ME. Well, the other day, Tim took her and the other kids with him on a quick trip to the Exchange. When they got back, Annie was excitedly telling me that Delaney had gotten the baby a present. Sure enough, Delaney proudly presented me with a baby blanket that she'd used up all her spending money to get. This is not something I took lightly. I know how much easier it is for her to spend a few dollars on a toy for herself. I hugged her and told her what a good kid she is, and how much her baby brother and I appreciate it. (Tim told me as an aside that she had wanted to get this blanket for him last time they were at the Exchange, but hadn't had the money. This time she still hadn't had the money but was looking at it again, so he'd gone halvesies with her on it.)
Annie, our second-born, has for a long time been the one most likely to blow us away with generosity for her siblings. For example, she'll happily offer to buy something for Delaney or Timmy at the dollar store. She shares the bag of popcorn every time. We have always been sure to praise her whenever she does something nice for someone else that we would never ask her to do or expect her to do. Lately, however, I am seeing a new development, a new kind of generosity .. one that I take every opportunity to praise and encourage. It's little things, like a spontaneous offer to help Timmy clean his room or find his shoes, or read him a book. These little things are really a big deal. There was the time not long ago she went to my closet and picked out my outfit for church. It was a better choice than the one I had in mind, and it was kind of refreshing. She has good taste. Annie and I have not always seen eye to eye, and of course she and her siblings still have plenty of moments of strife. But to see this spirit of kindness and helpfulness in her fills me with gratitude and hope. It makes up for the rough times.
Timmy, still the reigning baby of the family, usually doesn't stand out as a big helper or sharer. In fact, he often poses as helpLESS in order to get us all to do things for him. I am especially susceptible to his babyish charms, and I rarely deny his request to pick him up or get him his lovey, or put on the shoes that I know he is perfectly capable of putting on himself. He's not a complete bum. He'll fetch me the water that I don't feel like getting off the couch to get myself, and do things like that. But his most winning characteristic is his sweetness. I watched from the porch one afternoon as he ran down the sidewalk to meet his sisters who had just gotten off the bus. His arms were outstretched. Annie dodged his hug (oh, Annie!) but Delaney bashfully hugged him back. He gives the best hugs. At bedtime he wraps his arms around my neck and squeezes as hard as he can, then asks, "Can you breathe?" He lets go only after he's sure that I can't. When Timmy does something for himself, especially without being asked (like last night when he changed his undies and put on his pajamas), I tell him, "I love it when you do big boy things like that." I want to encourage him to be a little more of a big kid, a little more independent, but keep the sweetness, keep the hugs

Our kids are such gifts to each other and to us. We can't claim much (if any) credit for when they do great things, nor should we shoulder the blame for when they do things that disappoint us. They are their own individuals, unique and full of surprises. Like us, they are imperfect. They drive us crazy sometimes, but they are good kids and we love them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

28 weeks

12 weeks to go! I am so glad to be entering the third trimester, the time when it starts to really sink in that soon we'll be seeing and holding this newest member of our family. I am eager for that, but reminding myself that this is also the time I really need to savor because for such a long time I waited to go through pregnancy again. And it's been great to me.

I'm still feeling really good, with very little in the way of aches and pains. I have been trying to keep up the habit of walking and yoga a few times a week each. Even better would be to do both every single day, but I can never seem to get around to doing both every day. The best time for walking is in the morning right after the kids get on the bus and I eat my breakfast. So as long as I have nowhere else to be, that's when I do that. Yoga is wherever I can fit it in. I have plenty of  time, but I'm not always the best at managing it.

I saw my midwife last week and I weighed 131. My latest Babycenter update tells me that I'll gain a pound a week from here on out, and that sounds like a good estimate since I weighed 145 when I had Timmy, and 150 by the time I had each of the girls.

During her examination, she found that this little boy is head down, and that's good. I'm starting to feel his feet in my ribs since my torso is so short. His movements are now starting to make me uncomfortable at times, because now I'm feeling his bony body parts sticking out here and there. The worst is when I'm trying to go to sleep at night because that's his favorite time to start up.

We made our first large baby gear purchase a few weeks ago -- a travel system I found on Bookoo. For those who don't know, travel system refers to stroller, carseat and base for the carseat. That's a start! Delaney has practiced picking it up and moving around, telling me, "I just know you're going to tell me to pick the baby up and bring him over here.." And then she grunts as she hefts it around. I say, "You think it's heavy now? Just wait till there's a baby in it!" Lugging the carseat with the baby in it will not be one of the tasks I give to my 50-pound eight-year-old. But she shouldn't worry because there are plenty of other things I can still ask of her.

The temperatures are dipping ever so slightly now that we're over halfway through September. I've started making some use of my fall and winter wardrobe (including my Stitch Fix maternity leggings because they are the best!) even though that might be jumping the gun a little since it is still in the 80s most days. I don't care because the calendar says it's fall and I'm done trying to squeeze into shorts. As soon as I go back in my house, all my put-together fall attire goes flying off, and I'm back in my t-shirts and running shorts or yoga pants. A few mornings ago, it was in the 60s when the kids left for school, and it was such a festive atmosphere at the bus stop. People in the south long for fall the way people in the north long for spring.

That about does it for this update! I'll probably do this again in four weeks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In Which One Itty-Bitty Ant Ruined my Whole Labor Day Weekend

I quickly learned a few years ago in North Carolina that it is really best for us all if I do not allow myself to be stung by ants. For some people, like my husband and kids, it is a momentary annoyance. It's an "Ouch, stupid ants!" Then they brush them off and that's the end of it. For me it is days of misery; and the initial burning sting is so far from being the worst of it. So I resolved a long time ago to just not expose myself to the ants.

To this end, I am the one at the bus stop on a steamy 80 degree morning in running shoes and pants while everyone else is in flipflops and shorts. If I have to walk in grass, I watch every single step. But really, if I'm being honest, I avoid the outdoors as much as possible this time of year. It's not worth it to be out there with the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes in the air and the ants lurking down below. Best to just be in the air-conditioning where nothing will get me.

Then we were invited to a party for Tim's boss's promotion this past Friday. It was an outdoor party on their front lawn. I took a little bit of time deciding what to wear. I knew all the other ladies would be in their cute sundresses, skirts and sandals. Did I want to be the only one to show up in pants and sneakers? No, I did not. (Why, oh why do I have to care so much about the way I look?) So I wore a maxi skirt and flipflops. My nice metallic flipflops, not the rubber kind. Not that it matters at all. I looked nice, and I was dressed appropriately for the weather and the occasion.

I did pretty well almost the whole time we were there. I didn't have to move much after I'd gotten my food, and I stayed mostly in one spot at a table in front of a fan. I was the pregnant lady, no one expected me to move. Then it got late (like 8ish) and the kids started to fall apart quickly. I was in a hurry for us to get out of there, but first we had some trash left on the table that I wanted to throw away. I very carelessly traipsed across the yard in search of a trash can, and just before I reached one I felt it. The sharp stinging burn. I took a couple more steps and then stooped down to make sure there was nothing still there that needed to be brushed off. There wasn't. Whatever had stung me was gone. But ohmygosh, it hurt. I just wanted to get home and treat it with my AfterBite stick and ice, and try to minimize the damage. We live only not even a half-mile away from their house, and we drove, but we just couldn't get there fast enough for me. Tim just rolled his eyes.

At home I looked at my foot and saw one little mark on my foot. Just one had gotten me. One of whatever it was was all it took. Hour by hour, it got worse and worse. That first night wasn't too bad, I think I got some broken sleep. But by the next day I had a massive histamine overreaction of my entire foot and ankle. Itch wasn't even the word. I had to restrain myself from clawing my skin bloody. I had exhausted my arsenal of conventional itch remedies and was Googling to find more -- a search that led me to the kitchen cabinets, the laundry room, under the kitchen sink, and I feared eventually would lead to the garage. Anything I had to rub on my foot was the worst because that just made me want to USE MY NAILS, USE MY NAILS! I was making ever more frequent trips to freezer to use the ice pack until it got warm, and then to fill another bag with our rapidly dwindling supply of ice. Then that wasn't enough and I was just bathing my foot in ice water for about a half hour at a time. It was the only relief I could find. After some hesitation (and checking with medical professionals closest to me) I tried Benadryl on Saturday night before bed, and to my disappointment, it didn't do a thing either to stop the itch or let me sleep.

On Sunday morning it let up enough for me to attend Mass without an ice pack. "You would have gone to Mass with an ice pack?" Tim asked me later. "Yes, I would have if I'd needed to! I would have been discreet with it, only letting it sit on my foot while standing or sitting in the pew. And I wouldn't have hobbled up to Communion with it, but yes, I would have brought it if I thought I needed it."

I was not a happy camper and not a pleasant person to be around, as you can imagine. Later that day, Tim finally stopped mocking me and as he looked at my foot, all ballooned up and a deep angry red, he said, "Maybe you should go to a doctor." We had all been preparing to go to a birthday party at the pool, and I realized that I would much rather be seeking help for my foot than attending a party. It was probably best for everyone in fact. I quickly researched my options and decided that urgent care was the way to go. "You need a doctor to give you a shot of something," he said. He urged me not to change or get ready, to just GO. It was already almost 6. I was wearing one of his old t-shirts, running shorts and Crocs, and I couldn't believe I was going to be out and about on a military installation looking like that. "I am such a dependapotamus right now," I said. Then I had a big snack and left, feeling hopeful that real relief was in sight.

I was the only soul at the urgent care clinic at the naval hospital. I was quickly seen by the doctor. She seemed a little concerned when I recited the litany of home remedies I'd tried, which included among many other things bleach (it was diluted--a lot!), ammonia (not with the bleach! And it was in the AfterBite stick that I dabbed on), and vinegar. "Were you trying to clean your floor?" she asked. (This is what happens when you go to Dr. Google.) Then she told me that she wished she could give me a shot of hydrocortisone, but she couldn't because I was pregnant. Then she told me that she'd gone down a list of things in her head she wanted to give me, but she could do none of them because I was pregnant. Noooooooo! She prescribed antibiotics, and suggested I buy apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and Caladryl. She cautioned me to be careful about what household products I exposed my skin to, because it was all being absorbed. Good point. I was so deflated, but off I went to buy these safer products before I headed home. I used the Caladryl in the parking lot of CVS, and it made my foot flare up something fierce.

At home I frantically threw ice cubes into a pot and filled it with water. When I plunged my foot in, it was like dousing flames. I tried the apple cider vinegar (the good kind, Bragg's organic) and the tea tree oil, and they didn't do anything. Tim came home with the kids at almost 8:30, and they were all talking to me at once about what a good time they'd had. I was so glad that for 2 1/2 hours of that whole weekend, it had stopped raining so the kids could have a fun pool party with their friends. That was an answer to someone's fervent prayers, no doubt.

Later that night I tried to position a bag of ice on my foot and ankle in such a way as to numb it all and let me sleep. But there was always a spot that wasn't covered, that would start up. Then I'd move it to that spot, and then the same thing would happen somewhere else. I kept chasing it around. And now I was keeping Tim up because he could hear the ice cubes all knocking together in the bag while I turned this way and that. At around 4 or so in the morning, I decided to move to the couch so that he could at least have some rest. I sat on the couch and cried a little because I was so exhausted and didn't know what to do. Then I gave my foot one more ice bath at around 5:30, elevated it on a pillow, and fell asleep before the feeling could return.

When I finally woke up that Monday, the house was silent and I had no idea what time it was. It was pouring rain outside and could have been any time of day. I was afraid to even get up and check the time, but I finally did and it was 11:30. When I looked at my phone I saw a picture Tim had posted on Instagram and Facebook of the kids at IHOP. The caption read, "A little IHOP while Mama recuperates from the great ant bite of 2015." I smiled, glad that they had had a fun outing with their dad on this rainy day. Going out for breakfast is a very rare occurrence around here. I think the last time we did that the power was out and there was no other way to get coffee. I knew that IHOP only takes up so much time, and figured he must have taken them to stores in Bluffton too. There's only so much you can do around here to take up a whole morning. Later he told me that he had gone to the gym around 7, and had left them on our bed with the iPad and strict instructions not to go into the living room or to bother Mama. To his surprise, when he'd returned, they hadn't moved and I was still asleep. That's the power of the iPad!
I wish I could say that when I woke up that day, my foot was all better. Far from it. I would fill up many more bags of ice over the next 36 hours, and I'd try an Epsom salt soak that would help for a little while, and then have one more night of sleeping in short spurts. (Pretty much how it's going to go in about 13 more weeks anyway.) It is now Wednesday, and last night was my first night of decent sleep. The swelling is still there, but the itch is gone, thank goodness. I'd like to go back in time to Friday evening, grab myself by the shoulders, shake till my teeth rattle, and say, "No flipflops! It is not worth the risk!"

And that's finally the end of my tale of woe.

20 questions for Timmy at Age 4

1. Who is your favorite person in the world? Somebody on my soccer team named Jackson.
Timmy recently had his yearly checkup. He is 40.75 inches tall and weighs 35.8 pounds, right around average as always, for his age. He wears size 4 in clothes and size 9 in shoes.
2. What is your favorite color? Black.

3. What's your favorite TV show? Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

4. What's your favorite outfit? One of my school shirts.. [He gets up to look in his closet and points to a navy blue polo shirt]. This one. [I ask him what he likes to wear it with and he goes to the drawer where his pants and shorts are kept.] I like wearing it with these pants [navy blue shorts] because it matches the color.
He has a pesky habit of always needing to "adjust"himself.
5. What sport do you like best? Can I choose any sport? [I nod yes.] I choose soccer because I always play soccer. And it's [his team is] called the Bulldogs.

6. What song do you love? Jake and the Neverland Pirates. [theme song, I guess]

7. What's your favorite cereal? The cookie one.
He loves taking selfies.
8. Who is your best friend? Um... it's 'Other Timmy'. [the little boy down the street]

9. What do you want to be when you grow up? Like a nature guy.
His latest thing is he likes to make me cards. He gets Annie to help him.
10. What is your favorite book? I'll show you it. [He goes to his bookshelf, selects Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and holds it up for me.]
He still looks like a baby when he's asleep.
11. What are you really good at? Um.. soccer.

12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Disney World.

13. What is your best memory? [This completely stumps him and he shrugs with a smile, his hands up next to his face.] I don't know.
He's playing soccer for the first time and loves it. He just needs to work on listening to his coach a little better, and horsing around with his teammates a little less.
14. What would you buy if you had $1000? I'd buy a box of cars.

15. What is your favorite vegetable? Um.. apples. [That's not a vegetable, that's a fruit! I tell him.] No, it's not. [I won't argue anymore. Let's not make a liar of him anyway, since we all know he doesn't eat any vegetables.]

16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? [Shrugs again. "Anything you wanted, what would it be?" I prompt.] I don't know.
He sort of drives his dad nuts, but he also does really cute things that melt him, and so he says that's why we keep him around.
17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? The green one.

18. Who is your biggest hero? Well, it's one of my friends.. It's .. I forget.

19. What do you like to do with your friends? Play.
He never eats the crusts of his sandwiches. Come to think of it, he doesn't eat the bread anymore either. Or what goes on the bread.. I don't know what to feed him anymore. He eats snacks for lunch, basically. He fits right in with his picky sisters. I'm pinning my hopes on his baby brother to be the kid in this family who eats.
20. What do you hope you'll get to do before your next birthday? [Shrugs.]

Inspired by my Delaney collage, I will leave you with this one of Timmy at ages 0, 2, and now a big boy of 4. It's been an amazing four years with our little buddy. Just writing this post makes my heart swell with love, pride and gratitude for the gift he is in our lives.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

20 Questions for Delaney at Age 8

I was just reading a birthday update/interview on another blog and realized that I had not done a birthday interview for either Delaney or Timmy yet this year. They just fell the cracks of our busy July. I decided I'd better catch up on that right away, so here is Delaney's, better late than never.
In the two months since this photo was taken, her two top front teeth have grown in -- finally! She spent about 10 months looking just like this, and we wondered if those teeth were ever going to grow in.
1. Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Daddy.

2. What's your favorite color? Blue.

3. What's your favorite TV show? Annedroids. 
4. What's your favorite outfit? I'll wear anything. [Upon further thought] Let me think.. my favorite pajama outfit is my flipflop ones.

5. What sport do you like best? Soccer. [I ask her if she's sure because it so happens that she is playing soccer currently, and does not have much enthusiasm for it. I tell her that it doesn't have to be a sport she actually plays.] Football.
I don't know who took this picture, but apparently here she is showing off her new front teeth and whatever else she's got in her mouth -- yuck.
6. What song do you love? Mean.

7. What's your favorite cereal? The Star Wars kind.

8. Who is your best friend? Norah.

9. What do you want to be when you grow up? A vet.

10. What is your favorite book? Max [the Marine dog].
Here she is looking characteristically bashful when asked by a neighbor about that day's reading material for the bus. It's one of her old go-to's, her dog encyclopedia. These days it's the Star Wars trilogy, and judging by the thickness of that one, it's going to keep her occupied for the whole rest of the year and maybe even the next.
11. What are you really good at? Putting my tongue on my nose. [This I did not know. I ask her to do it for me and she does. She laughs at me when I attempt to do the same.]

12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Massachusetts.

13. What is your best memory? The picture of me and my funny face when I was a baby. [I ask her if she means the one where she's pouting and ready to cry.] No, the one where I'm sitting in the chair.. [Well, that narrows it down to about a 1000 pictures we have of Delaney sitting in a chair as a baby and making a funny face.] Let me go try to find it.. [She runs off to her room and I wait. She comes back unsuccessful and then I say to her, "You know you can't actually remember that anyway, right?" She gives me a funny look. I think she has a different idea of what a "memory" is. She doesn't think it's something you remember, but more like a keepsake.]
Here you go, Delaney.
14. What would you buy if you had $1000? Doggies.

15. What is your favorite vegetable? Corn.

16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? To have a doggy.
She's an elf-sized 3'10.5" and 50 lbs. She's at the 4th percentile for height and 21st for weight. She wears size 7/8 in clothing and size 13 or 1 in shoes, depending on the brand.
17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate.

18. Who is your biggest hero? Daddy.

19. What do you like to do with your friends? Play with Fenway. [This answer makes me sad for her because she is referring to Norah who lived next door until this past summer, who has a dog named Fenway. I hope that next time I ask her these questions she'll talk about things she does with kids who are in her own zipcode.]

20. What do you hope you'll get to do before your next birthday? Get a doggy. [I give her a look and say, "Really, before your next birthday?" She has already been promised a dog when she turns 10. But a girl can dream!]

I'm going to wrap this up with the little collage I posted on Facebook the day of her birthday -- Delaney at ages 0, 4, and now, 8. She is one special little little girl and we love her to pieces.