Friday, October 28, 2011

His Eye is on the Sparrow

I've been feeling bold lately.  This is my last week of maternity leave and I want to make the most of it.  Carpe diem my friends!  And in my current world, bold adventures usually come in the form of ... taking my kids on errands.  I know what you're thinking, "Whoa, Janine, might want to rein it in there!"  Dropping by the post office with an 18 month old and a 3 week old may not sound like a big deal, but you try standing in line, keeping your toddler within a 1 foot radius, while rocking an upset baby in her carseat with one foot, and shoving a package along the floor with the other.  After a few minutes of considering my situation, the man in front of me let me go ahead of him.  Nice guy!

And that was just with two kids.  Last night I did something I thought I'd never venture to do on my own for years - took all three kids out shopping by myself.  And not just any old shopping - Wal-Mart.  Man, I hate that store.  But I had a $5 gift card to burn, and Jon has been in sunny Florida enjoying his water-views from his king-sized bed where he can sleep without a baby waking him up every few hours while the rest of us have been in cold, rainy Maryland watching "Baby Signing Time" for the gazillionth time ... I just had to get out of the house!  So I strapped Julia to me in the carrier and put the boys in a two-seater cart - those huge carts that are almost impossible to maneuver under typical situations but made even more difficult by the fact that Wal-Mart is ALWAYS crowded.  (Okay, this was only my second trip there but it's been crowded both times!!).  Anyway, things were going well.  The boys were holding up, Julia was sleeping, no one was crying, and the crowds parted when they saw me pushing down the aisles.  Which was often, because I don't know this store and I kept having to perfect my 3-point turn in the middle of the aisle after I realized I forgot something in the other direction...  We had two items left on our list when big-brother Jack decided to give Jude a hand and unbuckle his seat belt, right about the same time I pushed the cart forward and *splat* poor little Jude fell out of the cart face-first on the cement floor.  When I helped him up there was blood gushing out of his lip and splattering on the floor.  Of course, he was screaming and just wanted to be held and I had the baby attached to me, and that just made him more upset.  We were quite a sight.

After he calmed down he was too scared to return to the cart (I don't blame him), so instead he opted to hold my left hand, while I steered the beast of a cart carrying my other son with my right, all with a baby hanging off my chest.  And we walked the entire way through the store like this.  Like I said, people cleared the aisles when they saw me coming.

So these past few days I've realized the power of my sympathetic situation. I've had more people open doors, help me with my bags, hold my child's hand across the parking lot, etc. this past week than I ever had before.

Of course, not everyone is sympathetic.  Some people just look at me like I'm crazy, or mumble something about my "hands being full", or growl when a small child is blocking their way down the aisle.  Oh, and then there was the funny incident at Goodwill this week.  I'm pushing a stroller with one hand, lugging my goodies with the other, and attempting to use my free leg and hip to keep Jude from escaping the check-out line, when I spot $2 lying on the floor.  I pick it up and ask the lady in front of me, who had just finished checking out, if it was her's.  "No," she says, "but I'll take it anyway."  And she took it out of my hand and shoved it in her wallet.  True story.  Apparently not everyone is moved by the "overwhelmed mama" appearance.

As awkward as being cheated out of $2 was, I could smile on the inside because occupying the hip that Jude wasn't was a Zojirushi bread machine, IN THE BOX, for $19.99.  This is my dream bread machine, the one that all my favorite bloggers use.  The one that I wanted to put on my Christmas list for the past 2 years but didn't feel right about asking for a $230 kitchen appliance.  And there it was, sitting on the shelf at Goodwill for less than $20.  I almost giggled out loud.  I scooped that thing up and guarded it with my life until we reached the car.

And I smiled for the rest of the day knowing that God is watching out for me.  He keeps my kids from running out into the street when I'm busy loading and unloading a carseat.  He protects my purse when I have to suddenly leave the cart and chase a toddler down the aisle.  He provides a parking spot right next to the cart return.  He ensures that there are big, tough kids in the Chick-Fil-A playplace so that I can nurse the baby without having to worry about chasing my 3 year old up the slide after he's pushed someone.  And He helps me realize all this by arranging for the bread-machine-I-never-though-I'd-own to happen to be on the shelf the one day I visit the thrift store.

It's been a tough week.  My hands have been full, which is why there are no pictures.  (Not a one.  Apparently I didn't have a chance to pick up my camera since Sunday.)  And my stomach churns every time I think about managing my current load plus starting back to work on Monday.  But as I sit here enjoying my warm, fresh-baked bread I know that He's got my back.  If His eye is on the sparrow then I certainly know He's watching over this mama and her little ones.  I can't do it alone, but thankfully I don't have to.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

On My Own

Last week was Jon's first week back to work... and my first week on my own with the three kids.  To pump ourselves up for the big event, Julia and I watched "Les Miserables" on Sunday night.

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She was totally into the movie.

It wasn't until we were well into the movie that I remembered this wasn't the musical version, so there would be no "On My Own" duet.  But the song was stuck in my head regardless.  (And yes, we ladies watched the movie on the laptop because it was Sunday night and well, during football season Jon owns the TV on Sundays and Monday nights.)

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Not only is Jon back to work, but he's also back to long days.  Most of the time he doesn't get home until after 6pm.  The boys are always excited to see him pull up and usually run out the door to greet him before he's had a chance to reach our sidewalk.  Since he's gone most of the day and doesn't get much time with the kids during the week, Jon is really good about showering them with Daddy attention for the limited amount of time he does spend with them.  Usually Jack and Jude follow him into the guest room and they all have a little wrestling session on the bed.  And since my fuel tank is most certainly on E by the end of the day, Jon's been pulling the bedtime shift - getting the boys in their jammies and tucking them in. 

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As for the rest of the day, we're getting by.  Actually, this first week has gone much better than I imagined it would.  But Julia is also still sleeping a lot of the time right now.  I'm sure things will look much different in a few months when she's awake more and can't be schlepped (how do you spell schlepped??) around everywhere.

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But we're doing good.  And I know it's only by God's grace and everyone's prayers.  I can't tell you how many people have told me they were praying for us this week - thank you!  It makes a huge difference.

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I love this picture, can't wait to laugh over it when they're teenagers!

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Julia is a great baby... or maybe I'm just even more laid-back than I was for the past two, or better yet - numb to the whole process.  Jack was a "sleep all day, up all night" infant.  And Jude was the perfect "eat every 3 hours and sleep in between" infant (at least in the beginning).  But the most challenging thing with  Julia is that she's just not consistent.  Occasionally, she'll play the "6 hour stretch" card at night (woo woo!!).  But then she'll be awake every hour the following night.  Most days, she sleeps fairly well in between feedings.  But sometimes there will be several hours where she just won't let me put her down.  Sometimes she's happy to be with her Daddy, other times no one else will do but Mama.  Typically she eats every 3 hours.  But there was one day last week where I felt like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  So she's keeping me on my toes, I never know what to expect next. 

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The best part - babies are so still and easy to photograph.


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On the other hand, girlfriend's got a limited number of "looks" to photograph these days.

But really, it wouldn't matter if she was the worst baby on the planet.  Because she's ours and I just love her so stinkin' much.

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The good news is, for the most part, I feel fairly well rested.  Some days are better than others, and my brain is just not as quick as it usually is, but at least I'm able to function during the day.  Which is key when you've got two other kids to care for.  Currently, Julia is the least of my worries.  It's the other two that really make this "three three and under" thing a challenge.  I've done the newborn thing before, it's an old hat I'm happy to wear.

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In my element!

But the three year old thing?  That's new territory, and I'm having a hard time navigating those waters.  I didn't expect to be dealing with sass already.  But lately Jack's been talking back to us.  The funny thing is it's, well, funny:

"Mom, I not a child (silent d)!" (What on earth does that mean?)
"Don't call me!!" (I think this means "Don't scold me.")
"I not tired!" (usually accompanied by stomps, tears and total breakdowns that indicate yes, you indeed are tired.)

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Not to mention our eldest has suddenly taken to skipping out on naps several days out of the week.  *sigh*  I NEED that break. 

And then there's the 18 month old.  I've done that before but it doesn't make any difference because 18 month olds are a species all their own.  And I don't know if I'll ever get used to it.  Jude's curiosity is getting the better of him.  He's always in our stuff - taking apart the wallet, dismantling the autumn candle display, plugging and unplugging devices, pushing the ice/water dispenser until there's a small lake on the floor...

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No matter how many times you say "NO" he just doesn't get it.  Or he'll just wave his finger and say "nah, nah" right back.  And just when I want to pull out my hair and scream "I hate this age!" he does something so darn cute I want to keep him 18 months old forever.

So Jack and Jude are kinda in tough stages.  And the two of them together really rocks my world, in a notsogood way.  And that's what makes this current stage of life so tough.  Because while I'm trying to nurse or calm the baby, Jack's giving Jude a bloody lip, or Jude is pulling the waffle maker around by the cord like it's a pet dog, or Jack is attempting to make a bridge up to the guest bed out of the full-length mirror (it shattered, in case you're wondering), or Jude is throwing seashells at his brother, or Jack is drawing on the bedsheets, or Jude is taking apart a dirty diaper...

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Exhibit A: Son 1


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Exhibit B: Son 2, taken at nearly the same time as his brother's

And if I'm not taking care of the baby, and attempting something simple like getting a glass of water or using the restroom, Julia is almost always in grave danger.  Twice I've caught Jack attempting to pick her up because she was crying.  And a gazillion times a day I find Jude trying to push her "around the world" on her swing.

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BUSTED!

But other than that, things are going well.  I'm learning that even though Jon's not home during the day, I'm not reallly on my own.  There are lots of people praying for us and cheering our family on.  And while some days feel like utter failrues, at least we have the basic needs covered.  Oh Maslow we are all over that hierarchy.  We've got shelter, everyone is getting some sleep at night (although some are getting more than others), we're well fed (with a huge, massive thanks to all our friends that have made us meals - you've saved my life these past three weeks!), there are ample opportunities for "creativity" and "problem solving" like I never though I'd be doing 5 years ago, at the end of the day both Jon and I are feeling majorly accomplished and, most importantly, we've got a whole lotta love to go around.  

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Because while three little kids is three times the work, it's three times the love.  And my heart is just bursting right now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Thursday

I'm big on anticipation.  Which must be why my favorite holiday is Christmas Eve, why I enjoy pregnancy so much, and why I love a good Thursday evening.  When I was in college my friends and would celebrate "Happy Thursdays" namely because it was the day before Friday, which was a celebration all its own.  It was also a good excuse to step away from the books and do something unconventional - like tie-dye t-shirts or bake cookies.

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Making cookies on Happy Thursday.



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Naturally, we didn't just keep Thursday's happiness to ourselves.  Sharing the cookie love with peers.

Thursdays are still a personal favorite.  They are still the day before Friday, which marks the start of the weekend which means no work and lots of family time.  They are also the only day during the week where the kids and I don't have anywhere to go.  It's a mandatory home day - with ponytails, sweatpants and easy meals.  And since Wednesday nights are church and we often don't get home until late, I can sometimes even score a late morning and a few extra minutes in bed.

Today was no exception.  Well, aside from the sleeping-in part.  Julia hasn't yet caught on, but she did lay in bed and look into my eyes for a good 30 minutes this morning while the boys still slept.  And since I don't get much eye contact from my little sweetheart yet, I opted out of a little more sleep just to take it all in before she drifted off again.

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It was beautiful here today, with just the right amount of wind to tossle the trees and send showers of leaves spiraling to the ground.  And chilly too.  I found a new reason to like the cooler weather - no more mosquitos!  It was so nice to be outside with the boys and not have to slap ourselves every 5 seconds.  Instead, we could just focus on having fun ... and sharing, and not pushing or shoving, and not throwing sticks ... ahhh, perfect fall days!

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Oh Jude, what's wrong now?

The boys have discovered (for all you Anne of Green Gables fans) our very own "Rainbow Valley." 

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Okay, so I doubt this is what L.M. Montgomery had in mind when she wrote her novels, but it's the best we've got around here.

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Basically, it's 10 feet of right-of-way at the end of our yard where the previous owners (and us as well) dumped all the yard debris.  Several years worth of dead leaves!  What's not to love?!

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We had a good time exploring "Rainbow Valley" this morning, although the boys kept getting tempted to venture too far and cross over into "The Forgotten Swamp."  i.e. the neighbor's yard.  What is it with us and our neighbors on the right?  Every house we have lived in so far has been located to the left of an abandoned or seriously neglected house. 

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Boys just need dirt and sticks to be happy.
And Baby Sister?  Well, at first we attempted to carry her in our pocket.

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We finally replaced the video monitor that was last seen in Jude's hand ... several months ago.
But she didn't like that.

So I decided the warmest, coziest place for her was in the carseat on the time-out stump.

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And for all you babywearing fans think the warmest, coziest place for her would be in a sling or wrap.  Well, I agree.  But it's awfully hard to enforce sharing, mediate stick-sword fights, rescue small boys from swamps, slow down slide-speeders, retrieve balls from under bushes and take pictures of it all, when you have a small one strapped to your chest.  And Julia didn't seem to mind one bit.

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Speaking of retrieving balls, this is the Ball-Eating Bush behind our swingset.  It's a beast.  Up until recently Jack's been afraid of it.  I mean, it eats balls.  Soccer balls, kick balls, tennis balls ... we're constantly losing one under its branches.  And then Jack announces it's "your turn" to get it out.  Funny thing is, clearly this isn't a problem with just our family.  Everytime I pull one of our balls out I end up finding a new one left behind by the previous owners.  Apparently their kids weren't fans of the Big Bad Bush either.  Well, today Jack mastered his fears.  We discovered The Bush makes an excellent tunnel that I'm sure will require further exploration.

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I love to see my kids' imaginations at work... even if they tend to repeat the same stories over and over again.  Jack always grabs the steering wheel at the top of the swingset and says, "Bye Mom, I go to grocery store ... gonna get milk and eggs."  And now Jude does his own little rendition accompanied by some sort of baby babble and a goodbye wave.

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Or the giants.  The giants are always stealing Jack's food.  And we always have to look for them through the telescope.  And if we're hungry?  Well, we just go through the Chick-a-lay drive-thru and order a tasty pile of sticks and leaves.

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"My pleasure!"
They certainly keep life interesting, and I can't wait to see what they come up with next. 

Happy Thursday!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Boys

Jon's counting on his sons to help keep Julia out of trouble in the coming years.  Poor gal, I already feel bad for her having to grow up with two older brothers, we really should think about getting her a sister someday... I do hope the kids grow up to be best friends and keep an eye out for each other.  But for now we're enforcing a "hands-off" approach.  As in, no poking Julia's eyes, attempting to pick her up, feeding her pretzels, or using her to demonstrate your "steamroller" move.  *sigh*

Actually, I've been pleasantly surprised at the boys' reaction these past two weeks.  As you may recall, we had a tough time with Jack when Jude first came home.  I didn't know if I should expect the same from Jack this time around, or expect something similar from Jude.  Thankfully things haven't reached that level.

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Kisses from Jack.

Jack adores Julia, whom he calls "Baby Sister" or "Baby Julia."  He always includes the "baby."  He loves to give her kisses, is most concerned when she's crying.  For someone who doesn't do very well with sharing, he's constantly giving her his toys.  I'm always finding trucks or Monkey nestled under her arms or stuffed in her carseat.  And he usually asks at least once a day, "I hold him?" (We're still working on our pronouns here.)  He's really at a great age to bring in a new baby.  I can see why the average person spaces their children out 2.5-3 years.  The difference between 3-year-old Jack and 18-month-old Jack is huge!

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Proud big brothers!

And then there is Jude.  We had a few jealously issues early on, as in the first morning we were home.  He wasn't so keen on Mama holding another baby.  Having Marmie and Poppa here the first 10 days helped distract him... maybe a little too much.  At one point he was so upset with me he wouldn't even let me hold him and preferred Poppa instead.  But we seem to have gotten past that.  He's still a little sensitive on occasion, it hurts his feelings if I'm preoccupied when he "needs" me.  But I think that's to be expected.  And thankfully he doesn't take it out on Julia.  At least not intentionally. 

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Going in for "the poke."

Jude is a very curious older brother.  He's reallly interested in the baby and all her appendages.  He likes to point to her eyes, rub her hair, touch her hand, pull off her socks.  He also likes to push her really high in the swing.  Or whisk off her blanket and point at her like he just did a magic trick.  He calls her "Baa-baa" (in a really loud voice) and just in case you don't know what he means he'll usually accompany this with the sign for "baby" - making a cradle with your arms. 

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Cardigans, headbands and bows!

Speaking of loud voices, neither Jack nor Jude has figured out their "inside voice" yet, especially around the baby.  Thankfully she's still at an age where she'll sleep through anything, but we're really going to have to work on this "use your quiet voice when baby is sleeping" thing.  Especially since Jude's finger-to-his-lips "shushing" sounds a lot more like a tornado re-enactment.

Both boys love to hold Julia.  Their eyes light up, they get a big smile on their face and their chests about burst with pride.  Of course, neither can hold her on their own yet.  Jack practically dumps her on the floor if something new catches his eye, and Jude can hardly wrap his arms around her.  But we let them practice with a "spotter" ... and lots of pillows.

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Spotter!

Everyone says your littlest will seem so much bigger when you bring the baby home.  It was true before and its true again.  Jude is huge these days.  Everything about him seems bigger and older.  Which is why I went through all his clothes and switched the 12 month stuff out with the 18 month things... and then realized he doesn't yet fit into a lot of his 18 month clothes.  Apparently the big changes are all my imagination. 

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Girly socks are so much sweeter!

So we're all learning our new roles and adjusting to the status of family of five.  I, for one, am completely enjoying this whole baby girl thing.  We had to develop a new organization system in the nursery this week just for accessories (stockings, headbands, hair clips, etc.).  Now we just need to get her some jewelery!  Other than one belt and a pair of shin guards, our boys don't have any of those "extras", so this was a fun change from the norm.  I think this is just the beginning of my efforts to preserve her femininity in a house full of manly men!  She is one lucky lady though with two such fine young fellas to pave the way before her.  I can only imagine the fun they'll have in the coming years!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week of Life 1

Jon and I have been looking forward to our maternity/paternity leaves for quite some time now.  I couldn't wait to relax, enjoy my new baby, and spend some time with the boys without being interrupted by the phone or without having to divide my attention between the laptop and the trucks driving across my legs.  And Jon had an ever-growing list of house projects he was just waiting to find time for.  And we both were looking forward to Marmie and Poppa's visit that would make all this possible!

Ironically, our little girl's first week of life ended up being one of the most productive and eventful weeks of our year!  Marmie made all the meals, Jon kept the house clean and Poppa kept the little guys occupied with bike rides, the playground and soccer games.  So I had ample time to rest and hold my precious baby girl. 

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The first few days we laid low since I was still recovering.  Uncle Jared came down after work for Marmie's good cooking and some Julia snuggles.  And Uncle Micah came the next night to lend a hand as well. 

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The weather has been just beautiful.  Cool enough to keep the windows open and to dress the boys in jeans.  And ideal for bonfires and ooey-gooey s'mores.

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And perfect for teaching little boys how to ride their bikes.  Marmie was all excited about Jack's new skill and wanted me to take a video.  Naturally, he suddenly loses interest once the camera comes out.  His seriousness is overwhelming.



On Friday, Marmie and I took Julia on her first girls' shopping trip.  After being cooped up in the house for a few days I was more than ready to get out and walk around.  And the mall was calling our name!  Except for the time I nursed her in the Sears dressing room, Julia slept the whole time.  Sometimes I forget how easy newborns are ... at least, compared to older babies and toddlers.  You can lug 'em anywhere and they barely flutter an eyelash.  Like any woman who has spent the last 9 months confined to a limited wardrobe, I really wanted to buy some new clothes.  Because that always makes me happy.  But this isn't exactly a good time for me to be adding to my wardrobe.  So I settled for two forgiving tops from the clearance rack and lots of tasty mall treats to keep my caloric intake up.  By the time we got home the men had both boys fed and down for a nap and were busy painting the back deck.  Well done Daddy and Poppa!

I think my favorite event of the week was the Fall Festival at a local farm.  I slipped the little lady into the Moby and, again, other than some lunch under a shady tree, she peacefully slept the entire time.  These Moby wraps are confusing and hot, but I do love them for newborns.  It reminds me of being pregnant again, so I can only imagine what it feels like for the baby. 

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We had fun visiting all the craft stands and picking up a few local wares.  There were plenty of animals to see and pet, and lots of games to test out.

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Jude loved petting the llama...


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... until it head-butted him.


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Our crazy man.  I think he was trying to walk like Poppa.


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Fearless.


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Shooting corn cobs.  Check out that intense focus!


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The kind of games where everyone's a winner!


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Trying his hand at milking a cow.

Oh, here's another big event - Julia's first bath.  I will not tell you how old she is in this picture.  But according to the nurse "it's not like she's been crawling around in dirt or anything."  So yeah, "several days" after arriving in this world, Julia had her first tubby.  And other than an initial squawk, she really enjoyed it.  Don't let the disgruntled look fool you, I believe she takes after her oldest brother and his "serious face."

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Sunday was church.  I was determined to get there early so we could get the boys settled into Sunday School and I could maybe nurse the baby right away.  Surely with 4 adults in the house we could do it!  Nope.  Instead Julia got hungry before I could even finish getting ready.  And then after she ate she spit up all down my dress and hair.  After a quick change I ended up doing my make-up in the car at each stoplight, and we rolled in to church 5 minutes late.  Better luck next time.

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As you can guess, Baby Girl slept through the entire service.  Since she's such a tiny little thing, she doesn't fit in any of her 0-3 clothes yet and I hardly have any newborn clothes.  Thankfully, Marmie just happened to have one dressy/non-sleeper newborn outfit in her latest yard sale goody box, so I made it a point to pull Julia out of her carseat for the second half of the church service just so people could see how cute she was.  And then the pastor announced from the pulpit that we were there with our new baby and that the story of her arrival was "very interesting" and that you "have to hear it."  So she got a little more attention after the service.  And I feel a little better that at least a few people saw her in her cute clothes since they probably won't fit her by next week.

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Ugh newborn pictures.  She's always either sleeping, looking out of the corner of her eyes, or yawning.

We have a tradition in this family that involves taking our newborns out to waterfront restaurants during their first week of life.  Okay, not really.  But it has worked out that way in the past.  And we didn't want our daughter to feel left out.  So I did some digging on Tripadvisor and found a place that reminded me of our favorite restaurant in Virginia Beach. 
 
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So many options, what do I choose?!

 
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We have another tradition, it's called "Jon grows his beard out during paternity leave because he can."

Jon and I rarely take our kids to nice restaurants anymore.  The mess and noise is one thing, but we spend so much time trying to feed and settle the small fry that we don't really get to enjoy our own meals.  But Marmie and Poppa were along to assist in that area, so we just made sure we chose a casual setting with outdoor seating.  It ended up being perfect.  We ate along the water and, while waiting for food, took turns walking the boys around the docks and showing them the boats, fish, moon, etc. 
 
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We also had a great server who, when she saw that we were teaching Jude sign language, started "talking" to him with her hands.  She was way more advanced than we are, but Jude was thoroughly impressed.

Like most parents, we like to feed our kids lemons and then take pictures of the process:

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He took that too well.

Oh, and Julia slept.

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Next stop, the BO Train Museum.  Tuesday was our last day together when Jack didn't have preschool, so I wanted to do something fun as a family.  We decided over breakfast to check out the BO museum and didn't know until after we got there that it was Fall Free Day.  Score!  It's a great museum and very kid-friendly, but I probably wouldn't have wanted to pay full-price for it myself.  Then again, I'm not that much in to trains.

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And Julia, well you know ...

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Wednesday was our final day with the grandparents. Jack's preschool had a field trip to the local pumpkin patch so Marmie and Poppa took both boys with strict instructions from Mama to find some nice pumpkins for our front stoop.  Besides pumpkins there were animals, tractors and a hay ride!  Meanwhile I enjoyed some quiet time with my daughter. 

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After the field trip, and after emptying the dishwasher, scrubbing the rug and doing all the ironing ... Marmie and Poppa left. It was a sad goodbye, one that left Jack chanting over and over, "They come back, Marmie and Poppa come back."  Oh yes, I'm sure they will.  But in the meantime we need to get through the school of hard knocks, the parenting 3 kids 3 and under bootcamp.  And I'm just a little nervous about that whole experience.  But for now, we're just thankful for Marmie and Poppa getting us off to a good start ... and leaving us with a freezer full of meals!
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