Sunday, April 22, 2018

My 1st Grade homework: a letter to Timmy

Timmy is "Croc of the Week" at school this week, and as part of that, I was given an assignment due Wednesday (and it's already done, yay me) to write a letter for his teacher to read to the class. She said it could be a short story, a poem, or even a series of photos and/or stories about him. I thought about what creative approach I could take, but in the end I just went with sappy. I ended up cutting my rambles down a bit, keeping in mind it was going to be read out loud to a classroom full of fidgety first graders.

Dear Timmy,

Since it's Month of the Military Child and you are Croc of the Week, I can't think of a better opportunity to let you know what a terrific kid your daddy and I think you are.

You were born here in New Bern, in the midst of a 10-month deployment. You were the easiest baby ever -- laid-back and along for the ride, full of smiles. What a special gift you were and are. You met your daddy the first time when you were six months old, and I was worried you'd be scared of him, but you acted like you'd always known him. He deployed again only a year later. You had to get used to lots of change in your life right from the very beginning.
Image by Melinda Pepper Photography
From the time you could walk, you've been the child who keeps us on our toes. Sometimes you get it in your head that there's a different, better way to do something; or a quicker or more interesting way to get where the rest of us are going. It can be exasperating, but I know that independent streak is going to serve you well one day. You can be super stubborn, too. We've butted heads plenty of times, but I know that stubbornness  -- let's call it tenacity -- is going to be very useful to you too, getting through life.

You are inquisitive, always wanting to know the how and why of everything. You like to share the interesting things you read in your books. Recently you were telling me about the world record for the longest nose and the longest beard. Books are the best food for your inquiring mind, so I'm glad you're a reader.

You have such a good heart. Today you offered your sister your sweatshirt when she was complaining about the cold, even though she hadn't been nice to you. To me, that was nicer than the prettiest bouquet of flowers you could have handed me. Always be kind to people, whether they deserve it or not. You will be so blessed for that. I know it's not easy, especially with a sibling. Now that Joey's not a baby anymore, you've got him to contend with too, always wanting whatever you have and shattering glass with his shrieks when he doesn't get it.
Your life is a revolving door of people and places, always another hello or goodbye. We can see that this latest move has been the hardest adjustment for you. This new neighborhood doesn't have as many kids, and it's harder for you to find someone to play with. There isn't much we can do about that, except to remind you of this: no matter where we go, the thing that never changes is that you've got us.

We are so proud of you, bub.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Joey: 2 1/4 (and thoughts on weaning the fourth time around)

It's time for an overdue quarterly update on Joe. I am amazed at how much he's changed even since he turned two. I just love this age on him. He is hilarious with the things he says and does, makes "duck lips" when he pouts, thinks Tim's truck is a "monser truck", and gives the best hugs.
For the record, he is still in diapers and still in a crib. He wears 2T clothing and size 7/8 shoes (cutest little feet ever!). He takes a nap every afternoon for two to three hours, and is in bed every night from about 7:30 to maybe 6 or 6:30. He is not asleep that whole time. He usually cries for me at least once to come cover him up again. (The weighted blanket is heavy, but it maybe, possibly helps him sleep as long as it's on.) Still, we're in a lot better place than we were around the time he turned two. Are we out of the woods yet? I dare not say.
He is getting to be quite the little chatterbox, and he's been starting to use phrases and sentences more. "What time is it?" is his latest favorite. He likes to assert his opinions loudly. This past Sunday in Mass he declared right at Communion time, "No Jesus. Not like-a Jesus."😬 Last night when he was in the bath, I was being silly and acting like I was about to get in with him fully clothed. He said, "No, Mama." I said, "Why not?" "Clothes off."

Bathtime is his favorite. Unlike the other kids who regularly skip a day or two, Joey doesn't miss a night of taking a bath, and sometimes he gets more than one a day if he's had a messy enough diaper (since he is intact and pulling back the foreskin to clean is a big no-no). He'll sit there till the water is ice cold if I let him, filling up the cup, dumping it out, putting the cars in the cup, lining the cars up on the edge of the tub, etc. He hates it when I wash his hair, so I only do that once every few days.
He was getting so fast on his Strider Bike before we moved. I can't wait till he gets it back. He was riding it to the playground and back, and coasting down the little hills.

In the midst of all the chaos of the last month or two, we've reached a big milestone: he is completely weaned as of March 18. And I was (am) OK with it! I didn't get depressed for days like last time, even though I was more apt to since I'm only becoming more sentimental the older I get, and that much less willing to let go of the babyhood of my littlest. I applied the lessons I'd learned from weaning Timmy and did it a lot differently this time. We were already down to just one session, the bedtime one, for several months. Dropping that last session was a big deal to me though, so I had to take it slow. First I started to mention to him frequently at bedtime, that he was getting too big to nurse and we'd be all done soon. I don't know if he understood that at all. This was January or February. In the back of my mind, a deadline was looming; we'll be leaving all the kids with Tim's parents while we go to Quantico for about a week at the end of this month and beginning of May. To say I found this daunting would be a huge understatement.
Then I tried testing the waters, omitting nursing from the bedtime routine. If I distracted him by maybe talking about something, or having someone else come into the room, he'd forget and go to sleep OK. But more often than not, he'd say, "Nurse!" if I tried taking him straight to bed after we'd looked out the window and said goodnight to the ferris wheel and the tree and whatnot. If he requested to nurse, I'd nurse him.
That went on for a couple weeks, and then I started to get more intentional. For two nights in a row, we'd skip nursing, and I'd either distract him and he'd forget or if he remembered, I'd say, "It's not a nursing night." He only got upset once, and between Tim and me, we managed to soothe him. Then the third night I'd nurse him. I worried that this would confuse him, but forged ahead anyway. Dropping it cold turkey like a bad habit the way I'd done with Timmy, hadn't worked out at all for me at all, emotionally or physically. It takes awhile before the milk factory gets the message to shut down, so this gradual approach was mostly for my benefit, I admit. Fortunately he adjusted to this schedule with minimal fuss.

Then I stretched it to every third or fourth night, with him sometimes remembering to ask but most of the time not. I told Tim that I was sure we'd be done for good once we moved out of the house and into the hotel, and we were in new surroundings; and I was right. He forgot all about it and that was that. I feel relieved and a bit wistful whenever I think about it, but all the distractions and busyness of the past several weeks have been good for my coping. Nothing else has changed -- he's still my baby. Whenever he wants to be held or to snuggle up to me, I just drink him in, more grateful than ever for those moments.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Catching up

So where were we?  Right.. We descended out of the clouds and our sleepy kids perked up at the sight of Boston looking like a frosted cookie. I know that for northerners this has been the never-ending winter of hell, but for these kids to just get a taste of actual winter, was such a treat.

I don't know where they got the energy for it, but they played outside for a long time. I also don't know where they get the tolerance for the cold, having lived in subtropical climates for at least half their lives. Joey was wearing Crocs and not complaining. I couldn't be bothered to dig out a real pair of shoes for him -- I was trying to stay awake until it was an appropriate time of day for a nap. They are definitely made out of something different than me; either that or I just don't understand what a big deal snow is.
Annie was wearing Timmy's sneakers which were by then open toe because they were the brakes for his bike which we left on the curb in Okinawa. What a motley crew we are! Also, I never knew Tim's parents' front yard was a hill.
L-R: Natalie (9), Delaney, Alexa (14), Annie and Joey
Thanks again to our niece Sofia, for the great pictures!
Again, crossing so many time zones affected us all to varying degrees. I might have been hit hardest. For three days, every time I found myself in a moving vehicle I wanted to catch flies. Good thing I wasn't driving! The first time I did drive, four days after arrival, I might have almost made a left turn the Okinawa way (a.k.a. the British way) out of a shopping plaza in Framingham. I was like, Would someone please take my head off and screw it back on correctly? Every night I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling asleep -- right up until Thursday or Friday. Tim had that problem too. Strangely, Joey slept better than ever. Of course he did, because he has to be different. Delaney adjusted to east coast time the quickest, from what I observed. I think her internal clock reset at the sight of snow.
Alexa got a birthday surprise the first night when we all sat down to dinner. I love the way this family does surprises! Sam, her mother, handed her a box. The first thing she saw inside was the sled dog team and the humans being pulled. I wonder if she had any idea where this was going.
Next, she found a folded sheet of paper on which was written, "To be read by Delaney". 
Delaney's double-take was priceless. We all laughed so hard. 

There was also fun with the drone that Delaney had gotten with Christmas Amazon credit and had shipped there. 
Tim took the boys for haircuts, and the barber took way too much off Timmy. Haircuts are so hit or miss anymore. He sure looked handsome with it combed to the side, but that's not typically the way he wears it.
We had such a nice visit for almost a week. We had at least a couple big family dinners. Tim and I went out to eat by ourselves one night, and another night we went to the new house of some old friends. The few days we spent there were so fun and relaxing, that I was utterly dejected to have to pack bags again the following Friday. We really tested the cargo capacity of the old Traverse, too. Tim would think he was done fitting things in and I'd be like, "Oh yeah, and there's this." Haha. He kept saying to me, "We need a Suburban." I had to admit that at least for that day (and no other), a Suburban would have been nice. It was kind of stressful wondering if we'd have to sacrifice a stroller or a pack 'n play or something. In the end everything fit but it wasn't pretty.

We left at 5 Saturday morning and it took us 16 mostly uneventful hours to make our way down the coast, where a dinner at 5 Guys and rooms at the Cherry Point Inn awaited us. 95 was not especially bad, but when you take it through so many states, it's bound to be bad in at least a few places. I might have hated my life the entire way, and frequently let Tim know as much. I'm was so done with traveling! So sick of being in a plane or a car, and having all our stuff in bags. I don't want to go anywhere again!

We didn't get to our rooms until 9 or so that night, but we still had to make sure the Easter Bunny would find us. He did! We didn't have our baskets, but he made do with boxes. And we all managed to clean up nice for Easter Sunday Mass. A side-by-side Moe's and Duncan Donuts made for a brunch that could please everybody.
Then we got the keys to our 'home sweet home' for the next two years. It's been a whirlwind, and I am ready for things to slow down for a while.