Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Dead of Winter

It's been a quiet weekend.  Jon is beginning his second finals week.  I fled to Pennsylvania for the last one and would have done so again but it didn't work out this time around.  It's not horribly bad ... yet.  Jon is either studying or recovering from studying.  But he does take an occasional break to wash the dishes, sweep the floor or bathe the kiddos.  And these are the kind of study breaks I appreciate.  Since he spends most of his time either at school or in our office, I am the sole entertainment 'round here.  Well, me and the TV.  Ugh, I hate that I succomb to its powers on a daily basis.  But at 8am this girl can't hold a candle to "Micka Mouse".  *sigh*  How did Ma Ingalls do it??


We managed to squeeze a family outing in on Saturday.  Our first since the night our house was robbed.  Actually, I've been told the term is "burglarized."  But I think "robbed" sounds more dramatic.  And since it's my blog I can be as dramatic as I want.  So for the first time since we were ROBBED ... we met some Pennsylvania friends for dinner.  Geoff and Megan were doing some last minute shopping in DC before their fourth baby (and first boy!!!) arrives in a few weeks.  For 2 years now we've been listening to them sing the praises of Texas de Brazil, waiting quietly for our chance to sample it's goodness.  So when the opportunity arose we jumped at it.  You know we were desperate since it was an hour drive through the city and, without a babysitter, we elected to take the boys.  It was well worth it.  I could have thrived on the salad bar alone, but when unlimited steak is on the menu it's hard to turn down another round.  No pictures though since I was either busy keeping tiny hands away from the steak knives or quickly stuffing my face during a free moment.


Leaving our home for the evening takes a bit more effort these days, since we have to take extra secruity precautions.  And coming home is also a different experience.  Glancing down the street looking for shadows, checking to make sure no one is lurking behind your door, wondering if your laptop will still be there when you walk into the kitchen.  I'll stop talking about it though, otherwise I'll get angry and say something unbecoming.


And so, we're feeling all snug and cozy in our 'burb nest, especially thanks to Wednesday night's storm.  Our yard is a blanket of white.  The blinding kind that makes you squint when you peek outside, but which also radiates sun in through the windows and spreads a little more cheer around the house.  And I'll take it.  I'll take that extra dose of vitamin D streaming through my panes because it's been a long winter, and it's only just begun.


And I'll take that pile of cold, fluff piled outside the door because it compels me to think of home in terms of "cozy" and "inviting" rather than "trapped" and "cabin fever."  And I must say, it's quite nice living where it snows during the winter. 


It makes chilly short days and frigid long nights much more acceptable.  Not necessarily easier, although we do enjoy a few sled runs down the hill in the backyard for as long as our tiny little hands and toes can handle it, but at least acceptable.  Winter, I accept you.


I accept you because you come with a beginning and an end, albeit fuzzy ones.  I accept you because you force me to think creatively for ways to occupy Mr. Energetic and his apprentice in an effort to combat the evil silver screen. 


I accept you because you provide a time of rest and respite before the busy days of summer, days that I'm anxiously marking out on my calendar, days in which I'll look back on the dead of winter and wish for just one night of this.  A night of a bowl full of popcorn, the fireplace and a good book.  A night of nowhere to be, nothing to do, no one to clean the house for.  A night of winter.


A toast! A mug full of steaming hot cocoa with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  Here's to you Old Man Winter.  I don't wish you away.  I celebrate you.  I muffin bake, snow angel make, blue hue decorate, paper snowflake, carpe your diems


You didn't let me down this year.  My boy tasted fresh snow, romped in the drifts and had his first sled ride. 


All I ask is for a one more storm, of quality packable snow, so that he can get his own, real life "Frossy a 'no man."  Here, here!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pee Pee 'Gain Mama (Potty Training Part II)

"Pee pee 'gain, pee pee 'gain mama! ... mama, pee pee gain."  That's what I hear all. day. long.  And it truly is a good thing.  How exciting that my 2 year, 4 month old now recognizes when he needs to use the potty all on his own!  And how thrilled am I that my little boy, who had "some" people convinced wouldn't be potty trained for at least another year, is telling his mama it's time to race back to the toilet yet again.  Yes, it's going well.  But less than 2 weeks into this and I'm kinda getting tired of the whole "Pee pee 'gain" routine.  Maybe I could teach him how to say it in French?

But what can I say, Jack's gotten it!  He's figured it out!  All it took was that one tear-filled moment and then it CLICKED!  Someone get me an easy button because this wasn't at all what I was expecting.  To be completely honest, I wasn't expecting Jack to be potty trained at all at this point.  I gave it shot two weekends ago just because I had the chance.  And we weren't even trying that hard.  Oh me of little faith.  I should've known my kid would eventually catch on and run with it ... 'gain and 'gain.


Now that's not to say we don't have accidents.  But some days he is totally accident free.  And the other days he may have just one accident.  And more often than not, he's been waking up from naps and nighttime completely dry.  Which is definitely more than I had hoped a few weeks ago.  And so far, we've only accomplished "pee pee 'gain."  We're still waiting for the "poo poo 'gain", actually we're still waiting for just plain "poo poo" on the potty for the first time.  But we'll get there.  I promised a multi-part series so I gotta save something for Part III.

Still we have plenty to work on currently.  Such as, not crying wolf.  Jack is so much into "pee pee 'gain" that he kinda says it even when he doesn't mean it.  In fact, it didn't take long for him to realize that "pee pee 'gain" is a great way to leave the dinner table without finishing your food, or get out of bed when it's time to take a nap, or get mommy's undivided attention when you're feeling bored.  Which means I have to put down whatever I'm doing - nursing baby, folding laundry, mixing dough, typing emails - and run back to the bathroom to fulfill my duties as pants puller-downer, only to be told "uh oh pee pee bwoken" and then repeat it all over again a few minutes later. 


So recently I've just left him there in the bathroom and went back to what I was doing.  But this isn't really working out for us.  Jack definitely needs a moderator.  Someone to not only assist him with his pants and underwear, but also someone to ensure that "pee pee's pointed down."  Remember that thing I said last time about teaching Jack how to pee IN the potty and not ON it.  Well he's definitely taken that to the next level.  Picture a garden hose, lying unassuming in the backyard.  Now picture someone cranking up the water pressure full blast, the hose lifts off the ground, and water sprays everywhere.  On the walls, on the vanity, streaks across the door, paints lines across mommy's pants and puddles on the floor.  Yeah.  Picture that.  I've started keeping a mop and cleaning supplies in the bathroom, right next to the toilet, for instances like this.  Which generally occur ten times a day.

But let's not be negative.  Let's celebrate the big accomplishments this week.  Like going pee pee away from home!!  On Wednesday I realized that the kids and I hadn't been out of the house since the day we got robbed.  Cabin fever was setting in and a snowstorm was in the forecast so I decided to be bold and take both boys to "Chickalay" for some playtime and lunch.  I rarely take the boys out of the house by myself these days, but Chick-Fil-A is the one place I dare venture on my own.  Simply because they are so sweet.  One time, when we first moved here, the manager took Jack's hand and walked him out to the car with me since I was carrying Jude's carseat during lunch rush.  They always offer to carry my food to the table.  And I love how they come around and offer to get refills.  Oh and everything is "My pleasure."  And a playplace!  What's a mom not to love?

So apparently those 9 month crazy hormones were raging that day because after I pulled into the CFL parking lot it dawned on me what I was attempting - taking two small boys to a restaurant by  myself, one an active little guy wearing big boy underwear in a public place, about 20 minutes after he had drank an entire cup of water.  Jack has his shoes off and was ready to play before I had even set our stuff down at a table.   I dragged him up to the counter to order.  The manager offered to carry our food to the table when it was ready and that's when Jack announced "pee pee 'gain."  This was it.  The big test.  I grabbed his hand and carted Jude and our things to the bathroom.  Thankfully CFL has one of those seats you can strap a baby into so your hands are free, so I didn't have to try and hold a baby while helping Jack.  We did the sit-backward-on-the-potty maneuver and that was it.  Worked beautifully.


Jack must have been pretty excited about the whole ordeal because he "pee pee'd 'gain" two more times in the next 20 minutes.  And each time I had to put our food down, get Jude out of the highchair, throw anything worth money into my purse, and "hoo-wy, hoo-wy" back to the restroom.  By the fourth trip back the manager took pity and offered to hold Jude for me.  She is the only person who has told me that my eldest looks younger than 2, and was so impressed with Jack's new talent (or "Jack skills" as his daddy has taught him to say) that she brought out a little stuffed cow for him to take home since "we like to celebrate things at Chick-Fil-A".  Man I love that place.  The chicken is good too.

And that's what I'm talking about!  I just can't get over the fact that my little boy is in underwear.  Think of all the money I'm going to save on diapers!  Now if I could only figure out a way to teach Jack he better mean it when he says "pee pee 'gain" ... and maybe teach him another way to specify his need to use the potty.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

9 months crazy

You know what else is signiciant about the 9 month mark? It's how old Jack was when we got pregnant with Jude.  Jon and I were discussing this over the weekend, trying to determine if we were indeed, totally crazy ... or if Jude is just such a different baby than Jack.  I think it's a little of both. 

Jude - 9 months
Jude still cuddles with me before naps, still fits in the crook of my arms, and he's still content to lie in my arms and peacefully nurse (well, at least at night).  But other than that he's not much different from his brother.  Neither of them were/are crawling at this point and both were/are giving me good nights of sleep.  But I'm pretty content with these two. 

Jack - 9 months
And I must admit, I'm rather looking forward to a summer of neither carrying nor nursing a baby.  A summer and fall where I can leave both my boys for an extended amount of time (but not too extended)!  A year or so where Jon and I might be able to plan a little getaway while the kids are away at Grandy Camp.  And maybe a few days here and there when I can stay in bed a few minutes longer and let someone get the kids their breakfast.  And how cool would it be if I could get BOTH boys diaper-free for a time before starting all over again!  We've got some big changes coming up in these next few months, changes that we're not even aware of yet.  Changes that we can't even prepare for.  I think I have enough to keep me busy for a little while.
Jude - 9 months
That's not to say that I don't miss being pregnant, that I don't look forward to having another baby.  Oh I do.  And I've already picked up a few cute new maternity clothes that were on mega-clearance just for the fun of it.  Already scoped out local birthing centers at some of the areas we "may" move to.  Already thought about what colors I want to do the nursery if we ever get blessed with a baby girl.  But whenever I get thinking about it too much, whenever I find myself looking at a calendar trying to determine what's going on 9 months later ... I just think about having 3 kids under 3 and that that stops me real quick.

Jack - 9 months
But still, there must be some crazy hormone that gets released around the 9 month mark.  Some super-power nutrient that soaks into your bloodstream and makes you think you can do things that you previously thought were crazy.  Because we're at it again - thinking about growing our family, thinking about adding another playmate for Jack and Jude.  We are seriously considering and actively seeking a future family member ... of the canine variety!

Oh imagine the blog posts to come!

Monday, January 24, 2011

On this day in 2011

To Jack when he is older.

On this day in 2011 you:

1.)  ... were found fishing in the toilet
2.) ... took your stool out of the bathroom, carried it to the office, set it next to Daddy's desk, grabbed a yellow and pink highlighter and drew all over the carpet, couch and walls
3.) ... found your way to the potty treats and rewarded yourself for a job well done
4.) ... sprayed down the walls, sink, and floor and accidentally tagged mom while attempting to pee IN the potty
5.) ... ran circles around the house naked then hid behind the curtain refusing to put your underwear on
6.) ... smeared half a bottle of lotion in your little brother's hair
7.) ... thoroughly enjoyed the bread crumbs on top of the casserole, told Mommy you "want some" and then dove face first into the dish

Sweet boy, on this day in 2011 your mama was very tired.

Friday, January 21, 2011

9 months in, 9 months out

Jude turned 9 months this week.  You know what that means!  Time to plan a birthday party ... haha, just kidding, I've already started that oh, over a year ago when I realized he was due near Pennsylvania's opening day of trout season. *hint, hint*

What it means is that he has officially been out of the womb as long as he's been in it!  I know first birthdays are significant and I'm all about celebrating the day I gave birth to each of my boys.  But I don't want to forget that space of time before they arrived.  Because long before I carried them in my arms, I carried them in my heart... and in my belly!


And just has there were some major changes during the first 9 months he was a part of our lives, there's been some big changes in the past 9 months as well.  It seems like Jude has grown up so much recently.  His personality is really starting to come through, and to be honest, it's making me a bit nervous.


First of all, he's very curious.  He wants to see and touch everything.  For instance, he's really into faces.  And the kid's got nails, despite the fact that I try to keep them trim.  The other day he put a gash above my lip and actually drew blood.  So now, in addition to not having the time to fix my hair or put on make-up, I also have red scratch marks all over my face.


Jude's a squirmy guy, couple that with his immense need to not miss a thing, and he's tough to keep a hold on.  He's always leaning around my shoulder, turning right and left, glancing front and back and reaching for anything that passes by.  His need-to-know policy has caused him to nearly be dropped on more than one occasion and has made diaper changes an immense challenge.

Food is one such object that demands his attention.  He's figured out that if he yells loud enough and keeps it up throughout the first 10 minutes of dinner, mommy will get him out of his chair and hold him on her lap for the duration of family mealtime.  Which means quick and easy access to whatever is on her plate, or even better an opportunity to just grab the entire plate and send it crashing to the floor.  It's amazing what the kid can eat though.  Especially considering he just got his first tooth around Christmas, and it's still not completely through yet.


He downs pancakes, crackers, bread, finger food, fruit chunks and even ham and bean soup!!  Yes, Jack has learned that the easiest way to get rid of food he doesn't want to eat is to simply slide his plate a little closer to Jude.  And while we're talking about his eating habits I should mention his appetite.  For being such a little guy he certainly has no trouble putting away food.  He's now eating the equivalent of four jars of baby food and two bowls of cereal a day, in addition to nursing.  That's as much as Jack ate at this age!  And nursing is still going well.  It's easiest in the morning and at night when he's most drowsy.  Daytime is a bit difficult, especially when Jack is around.  Jude's curiosity carries right over to his eating time, which means it's best to feed him in a dark, quiet place.  In other words, nursing whenever we're outside of the home is nil at this point. 


I mentioned he's gotten louder.  He's in the repetitive consonant sound stage right now.  You know, the "do do do ... bla bla bla" and then the yelling stage where he just keeps increasing his volume until somebody takes notice.  Oddly enough, he's also very loud when he's falling asleep.  For some reason Jude feels the need to groan himself to sleep.  I shouldn't complain, he's so very good about going down to bed.  I put him to bed awake, but I usually take a few minutes to make him drowsy before laying him down.  And if he wakes up early from a nap I'll try to rock him to sleep then as well. 


He's so well trained.  The moment I give him his blanky and binky he puts his head down on my shoulder and starts groaning.  Loudly.  He does this for the entire so-tired-but-not-quite-asleep-yet stage.  I think I've finally figured him out though.  If he's just going down for a nap he's fine.  But if he woke up early and I'm trying to rock him to sleep I have to wait through the entire groaning stage.  Once he stops and appears to be asleep I have to wait a little longer.  Then I stop rocking and don't move for a little.  If he still doesn't wake up, and he's no longer groaning it's usually safe to put him back in bed.  But if he starts groaning on the way to the bed I have to stop and start all over again.  He's got a very specific window and if I put him down too early he's up in an instant and wider awake than ever.  Thank goodness we don't go through this every day!


And while we're on the subject of sleeping, I'm a grateful mom with a little guy who does 7pm-7am straight through most nights.  Recently we had some trouble with him chirping around 5 or 6am, which is a killer for me since it's late enough that I can't fall back to sleep afterwards.  But we seem to be slowly moving out of that stage.  Often he'll wake up around 6:15 and happily talk to himself in bed for a good 30 minutes or so.  I think I remember Jack doing this around this age as well so I'm sure it's just a phase.  Naps continue to be so-so.  We joke that Jude will go down in family history as Mommy's worst napper, but I suppose that position is still up for grabs for future contenders.  It's a good day if he sleeps an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon with a 15 minute chat session in the middle.  If he gets a shorter afternoon nap I might as well clear my schedule for the evening and plan on entertaining baby all night.

Jude's a fun kid.  His little quirks keep us entertained.  Like the way he puts his hand on his hip and then rocks back and forth like he's giving a lecture.


Or that little hip-thrust move he does when he's lying on the floor, and which embarasses his Daddy terribly:

Or the way he doles out drool-dripping, open-mouthed kisses.


Or his fascination with the camera strap and lens, which leads to some seriously close-up pictures.


It's been an eventful and endearing 9 months.  It's hard to believe I only have 3 more months left in his first year.  And by then he'll likely be mobile and sending my world into a tailspin.  Where does the time go?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Surprised by Thankfulness

Hi Reader,
This post has been temporarily removed for security reasons. Hopefully it will be back soon... along with my stolen stuff! If you haven't had a chance to read it, feel free to email me for a copy!

Surprised by thankfulness

I'm sure we'll never forget Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011. 

Jon's been having some issues with his commuter car.  And although I hate the thought of giving up on our dear little Passat, it seems that it is giving up on us.  We think it's best to unload the car before the issues make it "unloadable" so we spontaneously decided to spend our holiday yesterday an hour away in Virginia, where Jon could test drive a potential new vehicle and then we could all take a stroll through IKEA and dream.

And by spontaneous I mean I stripped the bed, but never put the sheets in the wash, dumped the load of clean laundry in our room but never folded it, threw the clothes from the night before in a pile on the floor, and completely forgot to put away the huge bowl of peas I had just finished pureeing for Jude.  I packed dinner and snacks, bundled up babies and loaded everything in the car while Jon jotted down directions at the laptop on the dining room table.  I suddenly decided I wanted a picture of the boys in their new big boy car seats (Jack got a booster and Jude's growth is no longer being stunted by his infant seat straps!) so I ran in and grabbed my camera.  And I'm so thankful I did.



We had a good drive, the kiddos took a nap on the way there and while Jon checked out our potential new vehicle.  We drove through the IKEA parking lot, realized how crowded it was, and left.  Then changed our minds, decided to give it a shot and pulled back in.  We have some new dreams and came home with a few small goodies.

We pulled in the driveway around 6pm to a dark house.  Since we'd left in the daytime we'd forgotten to turn the porch lights on.  It was starting to sleet, and Jude had spent the last 5 minutes of the trip screaming, so I quickly pulled him out of his seat, covered him with a blanket and stood outside the door waiting for Jon to come unlock it.  It took Jon forever to get Jack out and finish doing whatever he was doing.  He let us in and then went back out to the car to unload.

The kids immediately went to work on the playroom.  They were playing so well and seemed happy to be on their own for a bit.  I thought it was strange that the pantry door was open and the light was on, but forgot about it as I started cleaning up the kitchen.  Then I remembered I was planning to make homemade ice cream that night.  I saved the recipe on my laptop but when I went to get it, I realized it wasn't on the table anymore.  Weird.  I assumed Jon must have taken it, but then I realized the power cord was missing too.  I had thought Jon was still outside, but maybe he had taken the laptop to the office when I wasn't paying attention so he could print something off.  But the laptop wasn't in the office either.  Then I realized the office TV was gone.  The DVD player was still there, and the cords that connected them, but no TV.  Also weird.  Maybe Jon had moved the TV earlier that day.

I went to the garage to ask.  "Hey Jon, where's the laptop?"  "I don't know."  "Well you were the last one to use it at the table, it's not there.  And where is the TV."  At this point, it suddenly dawned on us both - someone had broken in.  Jon immediately sent me upstairs to check my jewelry.  In hindsight, this might not have been the best idea, but we weren't thinking.  My jewelry was all there but he was right behind me and soon realized his watches were gone ... then I remembered my stack of Christmas cash - also gone, Jon's change jar, his iPod, and worst of all - his handgun.  All gone.  He told me to call 911 while he quickly searched the house.

I have never had to call 911 before in my life.  I was shaking and I had to ask the guy to repeat each question again before I could respond.  He kept asking me if I had been in every room in the house and I kept trying to explain that we had been robbed!  It never occured to me that the burglars could still be there hiding out.  Thankfully, they weren't.  We don't know when it all happened but they could have quite possibly fled when they heard us pull in.  They could have been leaving by the side door while I was anxiously standing out by the front.  Who knows.

The cops came, and a K9 unit checked out the area.  We found out the burglars kicked open our side garage door and clearly took only what they could carry.  They went through our closets and drawers.  They took specific keys off our key rack, dug our old, junky laptop out of the back of the closet, and handled Jon's rifle (which they ended up leaving behind).  By the nature of the "job" we're assuming they were teenage boys.  They stole Jon's cologne and watches but left behind all my handcrafted gold jewelry.  They took the small TV but didn't bother with the big one.  They took an iPod and weather station but left behind the Kindle sitting on the counter.  There's been some issues with crime in our neighborhood this past year and the cops seem to think it's just kids too.  And I take comfort in that.  I'd much rather think my house was randomly ransacked by a bunch of foolish, misguided, bored kids.  I feel a little better that way.

And life goes on.  In fact, it never stopped.  There were cops searching my house and a K9 team in the backyard, and I was still changing diapers, nursing babies and hushing little ones to sleep.  One policeman apologized for making it difficult to put the boys to bed.  A forensic team powdered our house for fingerprints and all Jack wanted to do was read some bedtime stories with his mom.   And that's so sacred to me - maintaining a child's innocence.  The boys have no idea of the evil in this world, that there are some people who want to do other's harm, that there are some people who will enter your house and go through your things without any regard to your thoughts or feelings.  My babies don't know this yet.  Someday they will, but for now I'm holding on to their innocence.  For now, I'm going to read Oh the Thinks You Can Think, for the quadrillionth time this month, and drown out all the footsteps, radio chatter, and muted, anxious conversations.  I'm so grateful my boys haven't tasted fear and can still sleep soundly in their beds at night, even if their parents are jerking awake at every creak and groan.  I'm grateful that their innocence is preserved, even just for one day longer.

The K9 team wasn't able to get any leads, nothing was found in the neighborhood, and although the forensic team was able to pick up two fingerprints, they could very well be ours.  Our next door neighbor said he saw two boys walk along the path (we have a network of paved paths in our neighborhood) and cut across his lawn towards our house, but beyond that he saw nothing else.

Monday night was a little rough.  Sure, there was a little bit of fear.  It's unnerving to know that you have an unsecured door in the house, and someone out there with a gun has keys to your car.  But we did manage to get a little sleep ... until the neighbor took what seemed like an hour to scrape ice off his windshield at 4am.  But what made it even more difficult to sleep were all the thoughts running through my head.  All the what-ifs.  All the unanswered questions.  And the knowledge that someone out there entered my house and touched my stuff.  Walked by the pictures of my smiling boys, stepped over the pile of clean, cloth diapers, glanced over Jon's list of healthy habits for the new year, skipped over the One Year Bible laying on my bedstand, and completely violated our privacy.  How could you?

Thankfully, other than the door, there was no damage done to the house. And, other than the engraved watch that Jon received as an award from the Coast Guard Academy, and all the documents and projects I failed (yet again!) to back up on my computer, everything else is replaceable.  It's just stuff, and truth be told we don't really miss it.  Well, except the laptop.  Work was a bit challenging today.  But we're just thankful to be safe.

I'm grateful Jon had off school the next day.  The past 36 hours have been a blur of insurance calls, changing passwords and attempting to deactivate my computer programs with someone in India.  (Note to self:  We'll be installing LoJack on our next laptop) and the constant pressure of trying to remember all we own, racking our brains to make sure we've listed every missing item. Jon went out and spent a small fortune on door and window alarms, a new safe, flourescent bulbs, shells for the gun that was left behind ... and a baseball bat.  The boys had fun playing with the empty boxes and we all slept great last night in our snug home, which is now lit up like a Christmas tree at night. 


Life is slowly returning to normal.  It feels like it's been 36 days, not 36 hours.  And soon it will just be a piece of our history.  The kind of story that starts out with, "This one time our house was robbed ..."  But you know what, despite the things they did take, there's plenty more they didn't steal, and a whole lot more they couldn't steal.  Those other things were just that, "things."  They can't steal our joy (Jude's 5am giggles are testament to that!), they can't destroy the intense love I feel for my family, and  I'm determined to hold onto my peace. 

Today I find myself surprised by thankfulness.  Thankful for what we do have. Thankful for what can never be taken from us.  And so thankful for everyone's messages, phone calls and most importantly prayers!  We feel them and we're overwhelmed with God's grace!

If you have a moment please pray.  Pray that the criminals are caught.  Pray that no one else experiences this kind of crime and that our neighborhood can once again be a safe place for families to raise their little ones.  Pray that the gun isn't used to bring anyone harm.  Pray that someone spills orange juice all over the laptop and the perps can't gain any access to my personal files (hey, why not?  I've been thining up some pretty creative prayers these past two days!)  And most of all, pray for the salvation and redemption of "our" thieves.  I hope God catches them in a big way and never lets go!  I hope their lives are changed forever for good.  And I hope they can't sleep at night in the meantime.

Thanks again for all your prayers.  I think 2011 is shaping up to be a good year. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Potty Training, Part I

Notice the Part I in this title.  That's because, in the past 36 hours, it has become apparent to me that there will likely be many, many more parts (and plenty more stories) to this whole potty training saga.  So let's just begin with the past two days.

Potty training is something we've been discussing off and on for a few months now.  Jack has shown a great deal of interest in sitting on the potty, mainly to read books or to avoid going to bed.  But we haven't got very far beyond the sitting.  And I realize that children will learn to use the potty when they are ready, but I also think there is an element of "training" in potty training.  So I thought we'd give it a try.

I decided it would be best to wait until after the holidays and until a time when we'd be at home without any major disruptions.  I also knew it would require a lot of my time and attention, which aren't plentiful when I'm also sharing my life with a 9 month old and a job during a heavy marketing month.  So when I realized last week that I not only had a long weekend for Martin Luther King, Jr. but that Jon did as well, I figured this weekend was as good as any to take the plunge.

I know there are dozens and dozens of potty training methods out there.  And to be honest I haven't really looked into them.  After talking to a few others and hearing about their experiences, I decided to skip straight to underwear.  I don't want to spend any money on Pull-Ups and I think it would be the quickest way for him to realize how yucky and uncomfortable it is to go potty in your pants.  Jack doesn't wake up from naps or nighttime dry, so we still use diapers, which is probably not the most effective decision but the last thing I want is an over-tired toddler who can't get his sleep.

So the plan was that Jack would wear underwear all day and either Jon or I would be with him constantly in order to "catch" him in the act.  We set out the kiddie potty and the toilet seat insert on Friday night and let Jack know he'd be testing them out the next day. And we pulled the big boy underwear out of the drawer to show him what he'd be wearing in the morning. Now the underwear he got pretty excited about. We opted to go with the "choo choo train" pair the following morning. And then we waited.

Jack and I have had lots of playtime together this weekend.  I've re-discovered my love for Legos, eaten numberous plastic food meals, and spent a good portion of the morning moving rocks with "digger trucks" and filling up Little People cars with gas.  All while constantly checking Jack for the first sign that he had to go "pee pee."  After a while I decided a nice tall glass of apple juice was in order.  Finally, at least an hour into our morning, I noticed Jack's pants were wet.  We rushed to the potty but it was too late.  No matter, that's the whole point anyway.  Jack was a little sad that he peed all over his "choo choo" undies but quickly recovered after donning a clean pair of dinaosaur ones.

Within ten minutes he had peed again.  New undies, new pants.  Ten minutes later, it happened again.  And repeat.  And repeat again.  Despite constantly hovering nearby, I couldn't catch him in the act.  And he was totally oblivious to the pee running down his leg.  I just kept directing him to the potty and changing his clothes.  At one point I just sat him on the potty with some books.  Technically, it worked.  He peed on the potty.  It was then I realized that the goal of potty training is not to pee ON the potty, but rather IN it.  I rewarded him anyway since it was the closest we got to success, plus it gave him a taste of what to strive for.

Since I'd been occupied with Jack all morning I hadn't had a chance to get a shower.  So Jon took the next shift.  Apparently it was a dry one.  As Jon was reporting to me that our son had been incident-free, Jack ran into our bedroom, said "Hi mom!" and then peed on the floor.

After going through 6 pair of underwear in less than 3 hours I was getting a little exasperated.  Plus it was now time to feed Jude.  So I cheated a bit and did this.


Ahhh, "Jack's Big Music Show" on the laptop.  Judging by Jack's countenance you would never know that they were singing a song about being happy and celebrating.  I began to feel bad that maybe potty training was taking a toll on his spirits.  So it was a good sign to see that some things haven't changed:


So Jack sat there through two episodes and didn't pee once.  Yes, that's right.  After 2 hours of going potty every 10 minutes, his tank was suddenly dry.  We fed him lunch, put him down for a nap and afterwards decided the whole family could use some fresh air before dinner.


It was a nice break from "pee pee" and "potties" and "underwear" ... and a good way to take advantage of the above-40 temperatures.


Monkey joined us.  Monkey's been joining us for a lot of activities lately.  And he's also been playing an active role in the whole potty training ordeal. 


Monkey even took a swim in the toilet today while Mommy was busy wiping pee up off the floor.  Poor Monkey.

The rest of the evening was uneventful.  And as excited as Jack was each time he got to put on a new, clean pair of underwear, I think he appreciated a diaper, Monkey and his soft pillow at the end of the day.

My wonderful hubby got up with the boys twice this weekend, and let me catch an extra hour of sleep for the first time in ... hmm, I can't even remember.  Definitely before Jude was born.  He fed Jack and started Jude off on his cereal and then I just nursed him when I came downstairs.  It was a refreshing change to not HAVE to be up in the morning.  But I'm content with my two days of sleeping in for a while now.  I don't really like missing out on a morning with all my boys.

So it was back to underwear again today.  Since I had enough dirty clothes for an entire load of laundry after yesterday's adventures, Jack once again got to don the "choo choo" underwear.  And it was the same old same old.  I'm beginning to understand my son's bodily habits a bit more better.  Like, he can go two hours completely dry but soon after having a drink of water he'll start peeing every 10 minutes.  After the third pair of pants I gave up on them entirely and let Jack run around in just his undies all day.  Jack spent the day saying, "Pants. On. Pants. On."  "No Jack, no pants."  "Pants. On." ... I also got rid of the little potty.  Jack was too big for it anyway and I figured it was best to just go straight to the toilet altogether.

I tried the timer technique.  The buzzer would go off, Jack would excitedly run to the bathroom, but before he even got his pants down he was already telling me "all done."  Five minutes later his pants were wet.  But finally, late this afternoon I had a small glimmer of hope.  Jack actually started noticing when he peed.  He'd tell me he had to go pee pee after he was already wet, and then wouldn't actually go once we go to the bathroom.  But it was at least something!  I also started to notice that after he realized he was wet, and after he would run to the bathroom and say "all done" without actually peeing, and after we'd put his undies back on and send him on his way, then he would pee again.  I'm guessing he was afraid to go on the potty.

So after 5 rounds of this, I caught him, held him still on the potty and waited.  And he whined and wiggled and after I finally got him to relax, I am so excited to say, he PEED ON THE POTTY!!  I cheered, I clapped, I called for his daddy!  And Jack smiled and laughed and was so excited to wash his hands and use soap!  And then there was one M&M and stickers and more cheering and clapping.  It was a big moment.

Five minutes later he peed his pants again.  He ran to me and said "Pee again, pee again."  So I, full of hope, ran to the bathroom with him for the millionth time that day.  He was more eager than ever to sit on the potty.  And with a smile on his face he sat there waiting ... then grunting.  And then, my most favorite moment of the weekend, he said, "Uh oh Mommy, pee pee broken."

It was the highlight of my weekend and the kind of thing that makes me ready to do it all again tomorrow.  And we will.  Until then ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The most difficult week of the whole year!

Okay, okay.  I realize we're only two weeks into the new year.  But man this week was rough!

First of all, Jon spent the first half of the week working on a big paper.  It had to be done at school, so he didn't get home until after bedtime on Monday and Tuesday this week.  That means I was on my own with the boys.  No problem, happens all the time.

Except on Sunday morning we all woke up with coughs and snotty noses.  By the next day I couldn't even talk, which made managing Jack an interesting endeavour.  By the time we went to bed, I was already completely worn out and feeling worse.  And it didn't help that Jude woke up everytime he coughed... and then couldn't get himself back to sleep. Around midnight I decided it was going to be a bad night no matter what, so I grabbed my pillow and tissue box and headed to the guest room for a little sleepover with Jude. He was still up every other hour, coughing and scratching my face, but at least I didn't have to put as much effort into getting him back to sleep. 

Jude's coughing face.

Enter Tuesday.  My head is pounding, my chest hurts, I'm sleep-deprived and so congested I can't even see clearly.  I'm also parenting solo all day again.  Let's just say Jack watched a lot of movies these past few days.  Ugh ... I gotta make it up to him as soon as the weather warms up!

To top it all off, my original plan this week was to make my own cloth diaper inserts and share my success with the blogosphere... but as of today the whole project is a major FAIL.  As in, I somehow picked fabric that actually repels water.  Not exactly key in the whole diaper-making process.  I'll guess I'll keep tweaking.

The good news is: tomorrow is Friday.  I've got new fabric coming in the mail.  Everyone slept through the night and we're all on the mend.  Today I got Jude back to sleep after he woke up in the middle of his nap and the whole experience has me feeling so successful right now that I just might go attempt a pie crust.

Jude says, "Mom, your post is so boring it could put me back to sleep after a short nap faster then you can. Maybe you should tell them about my new toy."


Ah yes, Jude's Nonnie and Poppie got him a walker for Christmas! 

Last week, he wasn't a fan.  This week he's starting to get the hang of it.  In fact, he's totally mastered moving backwards.  Now forwards is another matter.  Thankfully he's got his big brother to help him out with that.


You can just imagine the fun Jack has pushing "Baby Jew" around the house.  We're trying to teach him that if he pushes Jude away, he needs to bring him back.  That way, Mommy and Daddy won't look up and wonder where Jude is and then find him at the end of a dark hall all by himself.


Another place to look for Jude is under a box. 


Yes, Jack's new favorite activity is to hide his baby brother under a box. Well, at least that's what I thought was going on.  Today I was in the middle of lecturing Jack on why we shouldn't cover babies with boxes when I looked over and saw Jude pulling the box over his head himself.  Maybe Jack's not always the culprit.

Oh, and do you notice anything different about "Baby Jew"?  Yeah, Jon gave him a haircut. 


After two weeks of hearing Jon comment on the length of his youngest's hair, and after one trip to the mall in which two ladies thought he was a girl, I knew the time was at hand.  I was, naturally, apprehensive.  Everytime Jon takes Jack for a haircut he ends up coming back with some shorter-than-desired hack job.  But Jon promised me he could do it himself and just take a little off.  And even I'll admit it was needed.  Jude's bangs kept getting in his eyes and you could tell it was bothering him.  Plus he still had a few of those random hairs hanging on from birth, inches longer than the rest.


Well, all fixed.  No pictures of the process since I was the one holding the baby still.  But I was pretty impressed with Jon's abilities. 

And that's where we find ourselves two weeks in 2011.  Now I must go get the littles ready for bed so I can relax on the couch with a decaf cup of tea, a seam ripper, and half a dozen diaper inserts. :(

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Wonder Weeks, and other reads

Photobucket In my last recommended reads post, you may remember I alluded to a book I've been longing to read.  Well it came just in just before the holidays.  And now I'm pleased to discuss, drumroll please ... The Wonder Weeks.  Phew, now that we have the fanfare and hoopla out of the way, I should probably just come out and admit ... I didn't really like this book.  At all.  In fact, I didn't even both finishing it.  But that was partly because I needed to get it back to the library before we left town.

What I do want to say is that I think the information in this book is invaluable and downright interesting.  But I think you can find everything you need to know right here on this handy chart the authors provided and by surfing around their website.

Basically, the books states that there are 10 developmental leaps in a baby's first 2 years, that these "leaps" are predictable based on your child's age (or due date) and that you can expect your baby to be very fussy or "off" during the days/weeks leading up to each leap.  The book (and the webpage) offers a short explanation for what occurs during each leap, and how you'll know when it's occured (i.e. what your baby will be able to do differently).  The book also offers suggestions on how to cope with these fussy periods, which I found to be repetitive after the first chapter or two.  And firsthand stories/quotes from parents going through these periods (which I thought were a bit scare tactic-esque, but that's just my personal opinion.)

All that to say, I think these people are legit!  This book has been recommended on several different blogs and message boards I read, and I know lots of other moms have found it to be true in their childs' lives.  So I was anxious to test out the whole Wonder Weeks theory on my own child.  And by "test" I mean "wait and see."  I didn't have long.  Jude turned 34 weeks 11 days before Christmas.  Which, according to the chart is right around when things get stormy (that's what the rainclouds mean) leading up to Mental Leap #6 (37 weeks):  The World of Categories.  Remember how I mentioned that he was being extra fussy recently?  Hmm, that might be an understatement.  Jude went through two weeks where he would cry/scream/yell/gag whenever I put him down.  Even if Jon was holding him and I was standing right there.  I not only had to stay within his sight, but also within his short little arm reach.  It was beyond frustrating.  Jon and I were starting to get a bit batty by the end of the day.  When things are going well it's easy to forget how much a crying baby can wear on your nerves.  Well, let me tell you, after last month WE REMEMBER!  The only time he wasn't fussing was during naps and nighttime sleep, which remained virtually the same and which I found quite surprising.  He was also excellent over Christmas, but I think it was because there was so much going on and someone always ready to entertain him. 

Now obviously I read the book and knew what to expect, and I'm sure there's some psychological term for that (like the placebo effect??), but it really did seem like he was dealing with uncertainty regarding new changes in his body (I know it probably sounds strange to talk about an 8 month old like that, if I could think of a better way to rephrase it I would!!).  He wasn't acting like he was in pain or physically bothered, and his crying was more of a "I just want to be near Mommy because I'm so unsure of things right now" kinda thing.  So I went with it.  I gave the theory a shot despite concerns over whether or not Jude was getting "spoiled" or if he was picking up whining as a skill.  And I think that's the big benefit of this book/chart/webpage - to prepare you for what's to come so you don't freak out when it happens.  Because, I'm happy to say, it's all over.  Just this past week (37 weeks, just like they said) he's back to his old self - happily playing on his own or, even more gutsy, with his big brother.  And for the most part, fine with being apart from Mommy. 

And also, just like they said, he's acting a bit more methodical.  One example the book mentions is that you may start noticing yor baby picking up specks off the floor and "examining them studiously."  This is very much Jude right now.  He seems to have grown up so much in the past few weeks, and just yesterday he devoured an entire pancake ... without any teeth!!  According to the chart we should be expecting another fussy period in about a month or so.  It will be interesting so see how this one pans out!

Photobucket I ran to the library quick before we left for our big Christmas trip to pick out some books for the drive.  I found 6 interesting reads ... and ended up only finishing one of them.  Yes, my eyes are bigger than ... my calendar?  The one book I read, and I'm so glad I did, was Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.  This is the one that got my healthy eating wheels spinning.  And not that it was a bad thing, because I really liked this book.  First of all, Pollan is a journalist.  I just love books written by journalists.  I think they're fast, witty and well-researched.  And lest you think he doesn't know what he's talking about, he does.  The dude has his own garden!

Anyway, his whole premise (and many of you have probably heard this before) is:  "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."  I also liked his suggestions for shopping, like stay to the edges of the store.  Don't buy anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.  Don't buy anything with more than 5 ingredients or with ingredients you can't pronounce.  This book not only got me thinking about pursuing a more whole-food, less-processed diet, but also about the whole "nutritionism" movement that has taken place in the last few decades, and which really hasn't made Americans any more healthy.  I've never been much interested in those kind of foods that brag about being low in fat or infused with extra calcium, simply because I've carried over the "healthy" = "bad tasting" equation from childhood.  But now, when I think about how the fat content in these foods is reduced or picture scientists in lab coats injecting calcium into my favorite condiment, it gives me the shudders. 

This book made me want to be a more thoughtful consumer.  Now begins the long road to get there.  Baby steps, remember?

Photobucket I would be remiss not to mention what's hot in Jack's personal library right now.  Mainly because he makes it so obvious.  We are going on one week now that he has asked me to read "Think" (Oh the Thinks You Can Think) for every naptime and bedtime.  This was a gift from a friend when Jude was born, but like I mentioned before, Jack assumes all of Jude's personal belongings.  And poor Jude is too young to realize it.  Surprisingly, despite reading this day in and day out, I'm not quite tired of it ... yet.  Thank you Dr. Seuss for somehow mastering a child's love for repetition with a little spontaneity and creativity.


Every once in a while I'll take both boys to the thrift store to check out the bookshelves there.  It's probably the only time I venture out with both kids by myself anymore.  And it's a super cheap way to grow our book collection.  We've found some real treasures there, including this little number that Jack calls "Gigga Baby" (Baby Giggles).  This is a simple board book that, in my opinion, might be a tad young for Jack but for some reason he loves it, especially the page where it talks about picking your nose.  He always looks at me and smiles when we get to that one.  I like this book for the photography, I love looking at baby photos and these are really well done! 

Well that's all we've got to in the past month and a half.  The holidays obviously stole some time.  But considering the long, cold winter we have ahead of us, I'm envisioning many snug nights poring over new books!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Be still my heart

I've been thinking, lately, about New Year's resolutions or what goals I'd like to set for myself this year.  I've been thinking about changes I want to make in our diet, ways I can make things easier on my husband, activities I'd like to do with Jack, when and how we're going to start potty training, stuff that needs to get put into a yard sale box and changes I want to make to the family budget.  I've been stacking up books I need to read, dreaming up crafts I want to make, checking out new recipes to try, and exploring anniversary and summer vacation options.  And at the same time ruminating over the fact that we still haven't found out where we're going to be transferred to in 6 months and so just to be safe I've already started researching housing, neighborhoods, churches, schools, local activities, grocery stores, farmer's markets, etc. in the areas I think we'll most likely end up in.

Meanwhile I've been spending too much time on the phone and computer with students still trying to start school this semester (late!!) while my 2 year old, already tired of being cooped up in the house this winter, is busy turning the couch into a trampoline and my 8 month old is testing out new octaves and volumes whenever I try to put him down (more on this in another post).  Jon is working on paper 2 of 3 this week and usually has just enough time between coming home and (literally) locking himself in the office, to wrestle with Jack and become annoyed with Jude's newly acquired temperament. 

It's days like this that I realize I could really use some fresh air.  It was slightly above freezing on Wednesday so I bundled up the boys and pushed them out the door.  Jack cruised around the cul de sac on his quad, Jude cozied up with the stroller, afraid even the slightest move would create a draft, and I took a few deep breaths to clean out just the smallest corners of my mind.



I read once in one of our marriage books (I can't remember which one) that women's minds are like the Windows on a computer.  We're multi-taskers, and while one idea is up and running in the forefront there are always several more going on in the background.  So true.  And I think, if you want to get a good idea of what is going on in my life at any given time, you can just take a glance at my computer. 

First of all, I spend too much time with my laptop, since that's where most of my job takes place.  It's almost always within 5 feet of me (at least before I got my stinkin' awesome new phone!).  I'm afraid my kids are going to grow up with a laptop complex because they always had to compete with it for mommy's attention.  If I happen to glance at something that interests me during the day, I usually click the link, minimize the page, and keep it there until evening.  Then, after the boys are in bed, the dishes are washed, the house is clean, and the hubby is busy doing homework.  I snuggle down on the couch with my laptop and go through all the open windows on my screen.

This is what my computer screen said about me one evening this week: instructions on how to make your own gDiaper cloth inserts, tips for coth diapering, explanation of "Zorb" fabric, what's the difference between fleece and microfleece, why use coconut oil, why soaking grains is better for your health, how to make your own yogurt (because after doing this countless time, I still need to look at the recipe), three different beach house realtor agencies, where/how you can buy grass-fed beef, what is it about having a 36 week old that makes me want to bang my head against the wall by the end of the day, what did The Krazy Koupon Lady do with the $300-some dollars worth of stuff she bought for $2 on TLC's Extreme Couponing, and what did we spend our money on this week ... in bar graph form.

It's like I'm suddenly realizing the weight of responsibility a mother carries.  I don't know why it hasn't hit me before.  When we first found out we were pregnant with Jack I was overwhelmed with the thought of being a mom, carrying and then caring for a little human life.  Now that he's older it makes me smile to think about how fun it is to be a mommy, and when I hear my boys says "Mama" it never gets old.  But mother, that is something new.  I'm the matriarch of this family, the gateway to our home.  And I'd like to think that, for the most part, nothing gets in our house without going through me first.  But I also have to think about what I do let into our house - food, movies, music, books, toys ... and how those things affect my growing family. 

And to be pefectly honest, the thought of it all keeps me up at night.  Or at least it did this week.  I feel like I've lived an entire year's worth of thoughts just in the span of these last few days.  Rather than setting some clear goals for the new year, I just became more confused and frustrated with myself than ever.  Certainly not the way I was intending to begin 2011. 

I was lying in bed the other night, staring at the ceiling (okay, actually staring at the time and temperature that is now projected on our ceiling since my husband bought me a new alarm clock for Christmas) thinking about Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  I said a quick prayer for peace, for God to calm my anxious heart, and for wisdom for mothering my family.  But really, at that point, I just wanted to go to sleep.  Instead, I slowly began to realize a few things.  Like:

I may not feed my kids all organic, unprocessed food.  But they're certainly healthy and thriving on what I do serve them.  At 27 months Jack still hasn't been sick (other than colds) and Jude seems to be following in his footsteps.  And while I'm certainly going to try to make improvements in our eating habits and move to a more whole-foods diet, I don't need to do it all at once and nor do I need to do it all tomorrow.  I deem this "the year of baby steps."

I don't have a huge Krazy Koupon Lady-like stockpile, nor do I have the time to really clip coupons and be a savvy sale shopper.  But one of the reasons I don't have time for this is because I have another job.  And although the thought has crossed my mind that I could do and be lots of other things if I wasn't working, the truth is even if couponing gave us entirely free groceries for a year, it still wouldn't compare with what I make working.  I think I'll just stick with our current system and do what I can.

Jack isn't potty-trained, not even close.  In fact, he much prefers to pee on the floor, in corners and into the tub rather than the toilet.  But at least he finds the potty a relaxing place to read books.  And even though things don't seem to be going so well right now, I'm 99% certain he'll be potty-trained before he moves out of the house.

Helpful Jack-speak translation:  /sor/ = 'saur = dinosaur

Jude is surely a fussy boy these days.  But he's proven over and over in the past that he really is a sweet kid.  And if my sources are correct, we should be back to our old ways in no time.  He's not going to beg me to hold him everyday for the rest of his life.  My one-handed task days are numbered, I know it.  And no doubt I'll miss them the day they are gone.

Jon is not available as much as I'd like him to be.  But he's the most perfect, hand-picked Daddy for our two boys and does a swell job balancing it all during this temporary season of our lives.  He's definitely busy, but I'd much rather have him busy securing the homeland than busy at some of those "other places". Can I get an amen?

There's nothing I can do to speed up our transfer results.  We put in our list of choices and now we wait.  We may not know where we're living in a few months, but God does and I believe He's already prepared the perfect home for us.  Sometimes it's nice letting someone else carry the load.
So with allll that said, here are my goals for the new year:

1.)  Read the entire Bible in one year (Day 7 and going strong!!)
2.)  Drink more water.

Oh yeah, keepin' it simple.  Such a nice change from earlier this week.  Here's to a happy, and peaceful, new year!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas in retrospect

The decorations are all put away, the tree is down and chopped up into tiny bits to fit in the yard waste can, and every errant pine needle has been swept away.  And if you're like me, you could probably go at least 9 months without hearing the word "Christmas" again.  But we had such a wonderful time with family and friends last week I didn't feel like I could skip this post entirely.  So I'll try to cut out all the jingle jangle and stick to cute and funny stories about the boys.

We celebrated Christmas at our house the week before the big day.  Originally we were going to open presents on the 23rd, before we left for Pennsylvania.  But if you know our history you know we tend to decided to "just go ahead" and celebrate early.  But it was totally justified this time!  We though it would be too much to open gifts, pack up and drive to PA all in one morning.  And I'm sure we were right.  Saturday the 18th was free and clear on the calendar so we deemed it our faux family Christmas, jammies, messy morning hair and all! 


Not only can Jack say the word "presents" now but he clearly knows what it means and all it entails.  He's an entertaining unwrapper ... and his excitement was everything we were hoping for.


Jude was pretty impressive too.  He must have been watching his brother because he was whipping off paper in no time.  I wasn't expecting him to be able to celebrate much so we didn't really bother getting him many gifts.  I ended up stealing a few from Jack's pile and sliding them over Jude's way halfway into the morning.  Not that it matters, Jack thinks every child-like item in this house is his anyway.

Jon and I got more of a kick out of Jack's horse costume than Jack did.
The morning started with Christmas tree shaped pancakes and ended with a walk through National Zoo in DC to see all the Christmas lights.  It was, sadly, my first time into the city since we moved here.  And although the Zoo Lights were fun and pretty ... they can't hold an (electric) candle to Virginia Beach's boardwalk and Norfolk's botanical garden displays.

Whenever we're home for the holidays our calendar is abuzz with celebrations, dinners, breakfast with friends, and shopping trips.  We were fortunate not to have to travel to New Jersey or New York this year, which was a big help, especially with the kiddos.  Jack and Jude are really great travelers for the most part, but I like to avoid extended hours in the car with them if at all possible.


Our first day in town, the boys spent an evening with Marmie and Poppa so Jon and I could celebrate his birthday with his parents, sister and brother-in-law.  Can I just say how lovely it is to go out for an adults-only dinner every once in a while?  It's such a luxury to get to eat my food with both hands ... and while it's still hot. 


We spent Christmas Eve with Jon's family too.  By this point the anticipation was starting to get to Jack.  And I can't blame him, Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year too!  We had a special candlelight service with Christmas songs and scripture readings.  After Jack realized his candle wasn't real, he was ready to move on to something else.  So we spent the better part of the ceremony munching on cookies in the kitchen.


Of course, Jack isn't alone.  He just feeds off his older cousins' energy.  When the 5 of them get together it can be a touch overwhelming (don't even want to think about adding Jude to the mix next year!). 


But they all love each other. 


Jack just took a swipe at Alex a second before I snapped this picture.
And despite spending months practicing all the family names using pictures on the fridge ... Jack still can't keep the boys straight.

Ryley, Tyler, Ethan and Alex in their new Redskins jerseys!
And that was our Christmas with Nonnie and Poppie and the rest of the family.  If you ask Jack about his time there he'll probably mention two things:  "applesaw" and " 'gerines".  It's all about the food with this kid.  Nonnie let him sit at the counter (on a big boy stool no less) to eat a tangerine one day and he insisted on eating them in the very same spot the rest of our visit.  And thanks to his grandparents he's been asking for "applesaw" and " 'gerines" several times a day since we got back.


Christmas Day we spent with my folks.  Thankfully the kids were up neither early nor late.  Although Jack has got the hang of presents, he hasn't quite figured out the benefit of waking up the house.  We kept the kids in their jammies until well after naptime.  As for the adults, well let's just say the year I started caring about how I looked in Christmas pictures for years to come was the year I stopped racing down to the tree in my jammies and bed head.  You only live in a moment once ... but those pictures last forever.


What they say about kids and the packaging is all true.  Jack had more fun trying to open a present with a plastic tab from a different gift than he had with the present itself.  Or the hand trowel that Uncle Micah had in his stocking.  Jack whisked it away and immediately started fishing for shark.


It's really hard to open gifts when your 2 year old keeps stealing the show.


Of course, all that faded away when Uncle Jared brought out the big gift.


Jack is all seriousness when it comes to riding his new Handy Manny quad.   So far, he's only managed to figure out how to push the button.  But those steering skills will come.


One of Jack's favorite things to do at Marmie and Poppa's house is jump on the trampoline with Poppa.  They can jump for at least an hour at a time, in the cold!   One particular afternoon Poppa decided to combine two Jack-loves:  the trampoline and the quad.  And in case you're wondering why my son is wearing a robe, his coat was dirty and in the wash.  It was the next best thing.

Another exciting moment was when G'Ma and Great Uncle Carl rolled in this beast, built by the Amish and with plenty of room for future offspring!  We all took turns rolling Jack around the house in it, and it certainly made packing up the Christmas presents a bit easier ... now getting it back to Maryland was another story!


Jack got a lot of big boy underwear for Christmas ... I think our family is trying to tell us something.
It was a good thing we made two trips!  Jon is yet again in the throes of paper writing for his grad program.  Our original plan was to come back after Christmas so he could get back to the grind, but I started to get a little depressed thinking about my parents being off of work and me being off of work and hanging out with just the kids while the hubster wrote papers all day, and not having anyone to ring in the new year with...  So we decided that the boys and I would stay up in PA while Jon came home to work in peace and quiet for a few days.
Jon was back in time to kiss me into 2011.  Plus we got to enjoy sauer kraut at Uncle Micah's.  Speaking of whom, for some reason Jack started referring to him as "Micahjer" - a combination of Micah and Jared.  Oddly enough, Uncle Jared is simply "Jer."  I'm not sure why or where this has come from, but it has been confirmed on several occasions, such as when Jack said "Micahjer's house" even though only Micah lives there.  It's kind of like the way we kids used to call my dad's mom "Grandma Benji" because she was our grandma and had a dog named Benji.  It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.


So we had a lovely Christmas and happy New Year, along with 10 fabulous days in our favorite state, and now we're back home and recovering well.  I'm hoping to have my life in order, and the house all cleaned up, by the end of the week. :)  And now, I'll leave you with this.  All I wanted was a picture of Jack in one of his new, utterly adorable Christmas outfits.  I ended up with this treasure, to add to my growing collection.


To all a goodnight!
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