Monday, December 30, 2019

Christmas 2019

It's 72 degrees today, the windows are open, I'm waiting for water to boil for my tea, and I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful Christmas we had in Cincinnati. We drove there last Saturday, and stayed with my parents till the following Saturday.
We got there with all of our Christmas preparations already finished, and nothing to do but relax and enjoy my parents' hospitality and one another's company. We enjoyed Anna and Robert's hospitality quite a bit too, with them being right around the corner. The weather was nice all the week, and the kids jumped on the trampoline. We sat on the front porch with tea and coffee, and no jackets. We all had dinner there once, and most nights we'd stay there till it was time for everyone to go to bed. We had so many laughs (and beers) in their living room.
A few months ago, Anna found this raggedy little dog on the street and took him home. She made a token effort to reunite him with his owners, but she and Monty Don (named after a famous British gardener) quickly became inseparable. I couldn't help but laugh the first time I saw him, with those wiry tufts of fur sticking out of his head and entirely absent from three quarters of his scrawny little body. Their best guess is he's a Chinese Crested mix. He was not treated well wherever he came from, so he was very skittish around us. He followed Anna everywhere and curled up next to her whenever she sat; but he also tolerated being carried around the house by three-year-old Lizzie. In spite of, or maybe because of his grizzled, threadbare appearance, along with those soulful eyes, I was so charmed by him. A sweeter and gentler creature I had never laid eyes on. I tried so hard to win him over! He would sometimes come to sniff my hands, but when I tried to pet him he'd back away. Better luck next time.
The babies are growing quickly. The reigning youngest is Sophie's little David, pictured above. He'll be a year in February. Sophie lives about 40 minutes away now, so nobody sees them as often as they'd like, but he and his two older brothers stayed at Mom and Dad's one day for a few hours.
Then there was this young lady, Anna's youngest, Evangeline or "Evvie", who turned one last week. She is the cutest, happiest little thing who would toddle out of the room and then back in, just to see our eyes light up at her.

Tim took the Big 3 to see the newest Star Wars movie the day before Christmas Eve. Delaney said it was the, but Tim, Timmy and Annie were kind of meh about it.

On Christmas Eve we went to Mass and then Scotty and Faith's. We ate delicious food, prayed a Rosary and sang Christmas carols by candlelight, opened presents, and took lots of pictures. 
We had a peaceful, slow start to Christmas Day, and then after everyone had gotten to enjoy their presents (iPads, among other things) for a little while, we took them to the lake trail down the street for fresh air and sunshine. Who needs a white Christmas?
The next day, we drove about an hour south to Falmouth, KY, to see Scotty and Faith's farm that they have been working hard to fix up since they bought it two years ago. It was a wasteland when they first saw it, an erstwhile tobacco farm with trash everywhere and a house inhabited by a tobacco juice-spewing old man who, to put it nicely, did not like to clean up after himself. But they had been searching for a couple years for a few acres of land on a river, and they had a vision. Now it is a getaway for hunting, fishing, canoeing, or four-wheeling; and they are generously sharing it with the whole family. It is a real curiosity to the neighbors who, not to disrespect, have couches on their porches and lots of lawn ornaments because in a place like that, it just doesn't matter. I'm sure they appreciate how much Scotty and Faith have cleaned up the property. It's been a labor of love for them, their kids, my dad, assorted siblings, and whoever else they could get to help--and they're not done with it yet. I love the farmhouse! When they get a fire going in there, it's going to be dreamy. It's so Chip and Joanna of them, the way they incorporated "junk" from the property into the finishing details. Stuff like old barn wood, temperature gauges, posted signs, and tobacco sticks all got a new lease on life here, and they give the place so much character. I might have been drooling at the sight of it all.
I was so sad to leave Saturday morning, but also a little relieved because it seemed like the longer we stayed, the less sleep we were getting. To make matters worse, Annie and Joey caught a crud that gave them runny noses sometimes, stuffy noses other times, and coughs all night long. Annie still has it, and Joey might too, although I think he just milks it so he can have another cough drop. Mom taught Annie to use a neti pot while we were there, and it gave her some relief, so now she's got her own on the way from Amazon.

I hope everyone had the best Christmas. I'm going to be peeking between my fingers to see what 2020 will be bringing us, with Tim's retirement this summer, moving away from my beloved North Carolina, and beginning a new life in Massachusetts. I've been the worst about documenting things these past several months, but I'll try to remember to share when I can if for no other reason, it will be a lot of fun to look back on one day.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Joey is 4!!

Behold, everyone, for I give you something rarely caught on camera: Joey's real smile, not the "Chandler Bing face" he gives anyone who aims a phone at him and says, "Say cheese!" Unfortunately he had some jelly next to his mouth when I took it, that I tried only somewhat successfully to fix with the Snapseed healing tool before deciding to give it to you in its unretouched glory. 

Joey has me several times, "I can't believe I'm four!" That makes two of us, Joe. I've told him time and time again that he's not allowed to get any bigger; he has to stay little forever. He just grins at me and of course does not listen.

His mouth has been growing faster than the rest of him. He is the king of witty retorts these days. Examples include:

Delaney: Can you pass the ketchup?
Joey: Yes, Your Highness.

Me: Did you toot?
Joey: That's what you paid for!

And this is the one that could get him in trouble: "That's not my problem." I think we all know who he gets that from -- his father. That is Tim's favorite comeback, and his response to pretty much anything he disagrees with.
I am so crazy about this little boy who just the other day, hugged me and said  "Woo-hoo!" when I picked him up from preschool, and who tells me I am his "best ultimate friend", that I can forgive him for almost entirely giving up his nap within the last couple months. I did not give up trying easily, but after a couple weeks of going through the song and dance of trying to get him to go down and stay down, I threw my hands up and said (no, just thought), "You win." But he has been such a bear without naps, the longer the day wears on. Sometimes if I lie down, he will get in bed with me and go to sleep. Other times he just jabbers in my ear incessantly or climbs all over me until I finally tell him naptime is over. On the days that he does nap, he sleeps quite heavily and then has a hard time settling at night. So we're kind of in an awkward phase of not-needing-but-still-needing the afternoon nap. I expect that will pass after another few months.

Most nights after initially going to sleep, he wakes up two to three hours later to go sleep with someone else, usually Annie. Then he started coming to our bed, and since he is so little and cute, we are loath to turn him away. He brings his own pillow, and tucks it right in the middle. For one of his birthday presents I gave him a Twilight Turtle like Delaney's, in hopes that it would help him like his own room better. It didn't. I enjoyed all the stars on my walls last night.
We have done absolutely nothing to move him in the direction of being nighttime potty trained. He continues to soak a pair of Paw Patrol training pants every night. I really need to get over my laziness and start training him the same way we did Delaney and Annie way back when. The thing is, I don't know if he'll be as compliant as the girls were with being woken up and brought to the toilet late at night. It took months of that, and then still having wet laundry in the morning, before it worked for the two of them. I think I might be a little afraid of the specter of a grumpy Joey being dragged out of bed. It is so much easier for us all to just sleep, and for our beds to all stay dry. Why couldn't he have made it easy for me like his brother did, and start spontaneously waking up on his own to go to the bathroom at night? Because he's not Timmy, and Timmy was an aberration, that's why. Before disposable diapers and "training pants" (a misnomer -- they've never helped train anyone) became so cheap, everyone had to do what it took to potty train their kids for day and night, the sooner the better. And as Joey might say, "That's not my problem."😆
I want to talk about something besides Joey's sleeping and toileting habits, so I had to start clicking through pictures to jog my memory. And, a-ha! This is one of my most recent and will be for all time, one of my favorite Joey stories. Tim and I ran the Turkey Trot this year, as we also did last year. The race takes place in our neighborhood, and the route takes us right by our house in the home stretch. Wouldn't it be something to see a kid or two outside cheering us on? Last year, nothing but crickets. So this time on Thanksgiving morning, we made sure they wouldn't forget. "Did I mention already that Daddy and I are going to be running right by this house?... Oh, I did just five minutes ago?" Well, someone was listening. At the end of the 5K, as we were running toward our house we saw a little figure in blue standing next to a race volunteer in our yard. It was our sweet Joey smiling and waving. Tim dashed over to give him a high five, then we ran through the finish line and turned back around right away to go squeeze that boy. And with that, he secured his place as our favorite child.

It makes me a little sad to say, after nine years in our family, the jig is up with Chippy, our Elf on the Shelf. What could I say in the face of his increasingly pointed questions that went something like: "Did you put him there?" "Can I touch him?" "Is he real?" He wasn't buying that it's "magic". So I gave him the truth.* "You're a smart boy, Joe. Chippy is just pretend. Yes, you can touch him." (Sigh) The Big 3 were very much into Chippy for years, but maybe that was because they were all so little? I don't suspect any of our other kids of spoiling Chippy for Joey, but I think that just being around them and all their talking and arguing over just about anything, has maybe made the logical part of his mind develop a little differently. I won't lie, though, I'm a little relieved. It was so hard to stay on top of moving that elf around every night, but I didn't want to stop if it was something Joey was still enjoying. If I were to offer any Elf advice to new parents, it would be, "Don't do it!!" That's what Tim tells all his Marines.
So far, he hasn't asked any pointed questions about Santa, and that's great. Santa is way more popular in our house than the Elf ever was, furthermore, he is real.

Joey loves school. His favorite things to do there include running around the playground with his friends Noah and Ethan. He can recognize his name and spell it. He does not like girls, and shies away from their friendly advances. He's getting better at counting all the time, counts things every chance he gets. Once a month, I pack him a lunch and he stays an extra hour for "lunch bunch". He really looks forward to that. He also asks me all the time when he's going to be the "snack helper" again, because the snack helper also gets bring something for show and tell. His turn for that comes once every month, he does not grasp the concept of time. As with everything else he looks forward to, he keeps asking me when is it going to happen, but doesn't understand my answers.
We celebrated his birthday a few days early because of this upcoming weekend being a busy one with half of us going out of town. He was one excited little man as we sang "Happy birthday" and he got ready to open his presents. Then Tim played a mean little joke on him that started with, "Smell this spot on the cake."😦 Poor Joe was in tears with cake all over his mouth and nose. I didn't take a picture, which would have added to his humiliation. A few moments later, all was well as he was opening all his presents. He even said something about it like, "Yeah, that was great!"
I know that everyone thinks their own child is the most unique, amazing, and intelligent creature to walk the planet, especially in these little years when they change so quickly. Even though he's our fourth four-year-old, I still feel this way about Joe. He makes us all laugh, melts our hearts on a daily basis, and completely wears this 40-year-old mama out.🤣 I am excited to see everything that age 4 holds for him.

*After all, we're bringing them up in the Catholic faith, which requires belief in things we can not see, and things that don't make logical sense, such as bread becoming the body of Jesus. In light of that, many would say it's never a good idea for us to tell our kids that Santa comes down the chimney and the Elf flies to our house every night from the North Pole. I would disagree. I think that pretending things is OK when they're little, and I cherish my own memories of looking out the window trying to see Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. But when they ask questions, they are ready to hear the truth, and we owe it to them. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween through the Years

2007 - Grafton, MA
2008 - Grafton, MA
2009 - Quantico, VA
2010 - New Bern, NC
2011 - New Bern, NC
2012 - New Bern, NC
2013 - New Bern, NC
2014 - Parris Island, SC
2015 - Parris Island, SC
2016 - Parris Island, SC
2017 - Okinawa, Japan
2018 - New Bern, NC
2019 - New Bern, NC

Friday, September 13, 2019

September Snapshots

It's looking like a nap is out of the question for both Joey and me, since we are having a new dishwasher installed, so I thought I'd jump on here for a bit.
A touch of fall for my mantel. I aim for cozy minimalism.

It's official -- Tim is retiring.
I think it will be good for all of us eventually, but right now it feels very strange and unsettling. We look at real estate listings every day in Tim's parents' town, and we spend about 90 percent of the time sighing about how slim the pickings are; and the other 10 percent obsessing about the perfect house that pops up on the market when it's still too early to put in an offer. We see it come, we click through the slideshow again and again, have his parents walk through it, talk about it some more, watch it get snapped up by someone else, and there it goes... It can be a little maddening. Just for fun, last night Tim showed me this gem that was built in 1972 and remains completely unchanged since that year. Why do the crappy little houses have the best backyards? Because they got there first, and they staked out the best spots. Now people are crowding big, new houses in wherever they will fit. That's my theory. In a few months we will get a realtor, and they are going to love us and our wishlist.
In the meantime, I am just savoring these last months of normalcy before life turns upside down again. It's a recurring theme in my life, I know, but there's something different about this time. I'm really struggling with it, to be honest. I have made myself too much at home here. I love my surroundings and I love the familiarity of it all. I know that ultimately, staying here is not what's best for our family; we'll all be happier closer to extended family. I also know that change would be on the horizon, even if Tim weren't retiring. We'd be getting orders this summer, so staying put would not be an option. It just feels like there's a stubborn little kid who lives inside me who can't accept this. So I try not to think about it, and then Tim gets annoyed at me for not wanting to talk about it because it's all he can think about. Can't I live in denial for a little while longer? Can I just read a book and ignore reality? 😂 Keep me in your prayers.

The kids are settled into school, with only the minor disruption of Hurricane Dorian. Delaney's in 7th grade, Annie's in 5th and Timmy's in 3rd. Joey's doing Tuesday and Thursday morning preschool again. 
Joey has a lot to say when we pick him up from school. Tim picked him up the first day. He's had some leave to burn this month, so he gets to do nice things like that. He told me that Joey told him that Charlotte was the snack helper. Tim then asked him if she was his friend and he said, "No, I don't like girls." Tim reminded him that his sisters are girls, to which he replied, "But she was hugging me and I didn't want her to!"

That's all I have to say for now. I think of stuff to blog about all the time, but when I sit down to do it, the words won't come. The dishwasher installer left a little bit ago, so I'll see what I can get done around the house before the kids come home. I'll leave you with some random snapshots of every day life. Have a great weekend, everyone.