Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Grab Bag

Jon and I have a little trip planned for next week.  Three words: I. Can’t.Wait.  So it’s been hard to focus on other things.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I decided I would need a good book for this brief getaway and was anxious to devour a fiction novel during the few days I’d be free from other "constraints".  I’ve mentioned before, Francine Rivers is probably my very favorite, modern day novelist.  Her “Mark of the Lion” series ranks right up there with my Jane Austen’s, Brontes, and L.M. Montgomery’s, some of the few books I’ll read over and over again.  Although I just haven’t had much time for reading lately.  Anyway, I’ve been wanting to read Rivers’ “Redeeming Love” for some time now.  I read it once before, but it was so long ago I hardly remember much. 

So I looked it up on our library’s webpage.  Apparently many, many others have been wanting to read it as well, because there was a waiting list 10 people long for the electronic version.  So I decided I’d download the sample on my Kindle just to make sure I wanted to read it again.  And then I sat down to nurse the baby and ended up dragging out our time together as long as possible just to finish the sample.  And then I decided, well I already know I like the book, might as well buy it.  (I mean, Kindle just makes it way too easy!)  So I did.  And then I figured, sinceI  already started the first chapter, might as well finish at least that much.  And then, well maybe just the next chapter too since I want to wrap up this historical background…

You know how it goes.  It was one of those, “I know I’m making a bad decision right now but I just can’t help it” moments.  Well, it’s been two days and I’ve just finished it.  I’ll confess it publicly, books are my weakness.  And that’s why I’ve been ignoring them lately, (well except for this non-fiction, child-raising book that I’ve been plodding through for months now, but those kind don’t count.)  So what I’m really trying to say here, is that I started a book I couldn't put down.  And meanwhile, the rest of my life has suffered neglect. 

I just grabbed my camera to see what new pictures I had on it to blog about, and apparently I never even bothered to take the SD card out of my computer when I did this several days ago.  I haven’t put much effort into meals – PBJ for lunch, fried eggs for dinner.  I’ve been working on next week’s grocery list and meal plan for 3 days now.  I did manage to fold laundry, with my Kindle propped up on an extra large stack of folded clothes so I could read at the same time.  And I’ve been staying up until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer (11pm *gasp*) just to read “one more chapter.”  Which means my mornings, which have been starting with 5am Little Miss squeals, are a bit sluggish. 

And so all I have to offer you on this lovely Friday is a few random pictures from last week, before I bought a book I couldn’t put down.

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This girl.  If only I could capture her real smile.  The one that is almost as big as her face.  She gives it to me every morning when I come to get her out of bed, and continues to doll it out anytime I look her way.  She's one happy baby.  I wish everyone could see it, but that's currently not the case.  Apparently, Julia now knows how to play shy.  We had a lady at our house today to sign our kitchen remodel contract.  Everytime she'd coo at Lia, my daughter would coyly cast her eyes down and turn her head into my shoulder.  Oh she's good.  How do not-yet-6-month-olds understand shyness?!

Other new developments: I think we've got a tooth coming in.  It will probably be a while yet, but I can see a teeny, tiny white bump under her gum.  And well, I felt it before I saw it if you know what I mean.  Girlfriend is a biter! 

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Julia also rolled over this week.  It was a big event, with her adoring fans clapping, jumping and rewarding her with kisses.  Of course, she doesn't enjoy being stuck on her belly (especially since she hasn't figured out how to move her arm out of the way).  So you know she's rolled when you start hearing her shrieks from the other room.  Julia doesn't really cry much.  She shrieks, whines and gurgles.  She's a big time gurgler.  Jack was practicing making animal noises the other day.  I'd say, "What does a cow say?" He'd say, "Moooo."  What does a dog say?" "Woof-woof."  Then I threw out, "What does Julia say?"  "[Insert gurgling noise that I can't figure out how to replicate in sound or words]"

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Speaking of the Big Brother.  There were a few days where we were without Monkey this week.  I knew he was around somewhere, I had just seen him that morning, but no matter how hard we looked Jon and I could not find him.  Jack was distraught as well.  Thankfully, he still went to bed without his "best favorite" but not without some reassurance that we'd look for him again in the morning ... and the next morning. It wasn't until the evening of day two, after which Jack had guaranteed his little brother would need a bath, and while assisting us with loading the tub up with toys.  Jack opened his toy boat and wouldn't-ya-know-it, there was Monkey, snug in the cabin. Needless to say, my son was elated. However, we did explain to Monkey that, in the future, he'll need to request time off before going on a cruise.

And here's a sample of Jude's week.

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Poor thing. He has a cold, they all do (AGAIN!), but of course Jude seems to be affected the most. I'm also starting to wonder if he's working on his two year molars. In addition to being a total mess during the day, he's had a hard go of naps this week. And let's not talk about nighttime. Things haven't improved much there. Just when I think we're back on track he's up again a few nights in a row. I thought maybe it was night terrors, but sometimes he doesn't even fall asleep before he starts up ... and doesn't stop. Nothing calms him except being near Mommy or Daddy. And even when we wait until he's out cold, stretched out on our mattress, with his ankles crossed and hands behind his head, and we gently pick him up to tranport him back to his own bed. He knows. He senses he's crossed the threshold into his own room without even being awake. And the chaos starts again. I'm at my wit's end. I don't know what the problem is. The only solution that works is killing Jon's and my sleep. So I just keep praying over him and hoping this phase will end soon.

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The rough nights carry over into the day though. Which is why we end up with an emotional mess in the afternoons. Poor Jude, his time as "the baby" was probably cut too short. But he doesn't seem to take it out on Julia. He's (generally) such a sweetie to her. I caught him reading her a book the other day. (Upside down at that.) In case you're wondering, this is how Jude's version of the story goes: "Choo-choo, be-be... See choo-choo... Choo-choo, be-be." 

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And that was our week with a distracted Mommy.  My book is finished.  Now I'll have to find something else to read during our little retreat.  But in the meantime, Mama has some work to catch up on!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Answered Unprayer

A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon fromur home church in PA.  It was on leadership but at one point the preacher was talking about prayer, about how God already knows your needs, that you don't need to spend all your time asking God for those things.  Instead prayer is spending time with God, giving him a portion of your day, and acknowledging that you need Him.  Then he said something that really stood out to me: "The only reason some people are more passionate about prayer is because they need God more than you do."

I find this to be true in my life, as evidenced by the fact that my prayers seem to increase with each child that we add to the family.  I've never felt more unqualified, inadequate and needy as I do now that I'm a parent.  But despite the influx in prayers, despite the hours I've lied awake at night praying for protection for my children that seem to always be getting into dangerous situations, for health for my babies when they're up coughing and snotting every 5 minutes, for wisdom on how to deal with  yet another tricky parenting situation ... yes despite these prayers, I still forget things.  And it's okay.  Because God knows anyway.  Often he knows of needs that I haven't even considered yet, much less thought to pray about.  I wrote once before about how God provided a cheap bread machine, something I had been wanting but hadn't seriously thought I'd get anytime soon.  (And now that I have it it's changing my life!)

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So anyway, the other day while taking my kids down the street to our favorite new hang-out, I realized another "unprayer" that had been answered - the woods.

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See, I love to take walks.  I'm not a runner, I don't work-out, but I do love a nice, scenic walk.  When we lived in Virginia Beach I'd walk the beach almost every evening, sometimes barely making it back to the house in one piece during the last few weeks of my Jack-pregnancy.  After my firstborn arrived we took morning walks through the neighborhood every day, greeting all the dogs and other moms out walking at the same time.  Jude arrived and we moved to Maryland and a new neighborhood with lots of walking paths.  Although I was now pushing a double-stroller, the paths were flat, quiet and meandered around a pond and parks.  And as I testified before, we've attempted a few walks since moving to our current house, but they didn't go so well.

Pushing both my boys in the double-stroller is work enough, doing it while pregnant was really, really tough!  And although our neighborhood is quiet and safe, it's not very big.  My boys and I could walk the whole thing and back in 15 minutes (and that would be at Jude's pace).  There's a bigger neighborhood next to ours, but it's hilly, there are no sidewalks and since the roads are so windy I spend most of the time worrying about being hit by a car.
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Of course, we now have Miss Lia.  I don't have a triple-stroller - Jack's old enough to walk himself.  But I also don't want him walking along the road while I need both hands to keep the stroller in line.  And don't think Jude would be a compliant rider while his brother was off exploring with his own two feet.  We needed a place to walk that was close, flat and free from traffic.  And that's when we found the woods.
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Jack, where's the path?" "To the right!"
We ditch the stroller, I wear Julia in the baby carrier and Jack and Jude hold hands the whole way to the "secret path." 
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And then I let 'em loose.  Because there are no sidewalks in the woods, but there are no cars either.  In fact, it's usually just us (or the nice lady that walks her dog there every evening).  And not only are we getting exercise but there's so much to explore!  Birds to hear, branches to break, holes to examine ...

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... leaves to roll in ...

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... treasures to bring home.
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I grew up living near a creek and woods and I'm happy my boys can have their own little suburban version of these forest adventures. 
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Poor Jude, he's about to get it.

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And there it is, Jack in action.

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Meanwhile I can step out of the house, away from my phone, the beeping email inbox and the pile of dinner dishes in the sink.  Away from the path my boys are wearing in my wood floors as they run circles around the kitchen/dining/living room.  Away from the baskets of laundry that need folding, the toilet that Jack has clogged again, and the piles of sand that have been brushed into corners.  And out into the fresh, open air where I can think and be and focus on my babies and how much they've changed in the past 3 hours...

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So yes, I'm feeling lots of love for the woods today.  And I'm especially thankfully for this little answer to my "unprayer".  Something I hadn't even thought to approach God with, a request I didn't even know how to form into words, a solution to a problem I thought was out of my control. 

What about you?  Have you had any answers to "unprayers" lately?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In Like a Lamb

I can compose these amazing blog posts in my head, usually while I'm rocking the baby to sleep, driving Jack to preschool, or prepping dinner.  And then at the end of the day, after I've made dinner, washed all the dishes, done a few loads of laundry, bathed the kids, put them to bed and cleaned up the house, I sit down at my laptop and ... nothing.  After expending all my energy doing the exciting day-to-day stuff that makes up mommyhood, I've got nothing left to offer the blogosphere.

In fact, I actually started to write a post several nights ago and it got so depressing I had to shut down the computer and go to bed, but not before putting away a few more loads of laundry of course.  But since then it's gotten quite beautiful out and we put an anniversary getaway on the books, so I feel like I can humor the blog just a bit.  Today I'm going to focus on happy, sunny times and forget that there is sand all over my living room floor and baskets and baskets of winter clothes that need boxed up and put away.  Because both are good signs of a sudden change around here - the arrival of spring!

First things first, Julia had her debut on the swing this week.  It was monumental.
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Actually, she was a little freaked out.  Everytime her swing would hit the down arc her little hands flew up next to her ears, the corners of her mouth turned down and she crunched over her belly.  A little tickle maybe? 
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So now everyone has their own swing.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to manage three swings with three different aged children on them?  Jack wants big pushes - "up the sky!"  Except last time he asked for that he ended up on his back, staring up at the sky.  He's on a "big boy" swing now and still forgets he can't let go.  Jude just wants to "swing mama, swing!" and Julia can't handle much more than a breeze.  And my poor, little caffeine-starved, thinking-about-all-the-other-things-I-should-be-doing brain has a hard time computing it all.  Julia - one little push, Jude - one big push, Jack - skip this turn, Julia - teeny, tiny bump, Jude - big push, Jack - "up to the sky."  I inevitably mess it up and Jack starts going sideways, his feet bump Jude which sends Jude helter-skelter and meanwhile I gave Julia the wrong-sized push and she is not happy.

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*sigh*

And swinging is supposed to be relaxing.
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Swings aside, I'm so grateful for spring this year.  We're only on our third day of 70 degree weather but it's made a huge impact on my quality of life.  For one, Jude LOVES the sandbox.  Yesterday while Jack was in school and Julia was napping he just sat there and played with sand for an hour.  And then I tore through my work inbox and was feeling quite accomplished by the time he walked back up to the house asking for a "'nack."  Usually, both boys will do pretty well out there.  I was on the phone with my mom yesterday afternoon telling her just how well they get along together outside.  And then I hung just as Jude came screaming into the house covered, head to toe (inner-diaper included) in sand and water.  JACK!!!!

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Not sure why he thought this was a good idea... it too ended in tears for Jude.
We're still getting used to a yard without a fence.  I kind of like the no fence look, especially since we have a lot of "natural" landscaping boundaries. But it didn't take the boys long to find the holes.  I'm constantly reminding them to stay in our yard, don't walk through the neighbors flowers, always stay in the back where I can see you.  I get sick of hearing myself yell, I'm sure my neighbors do too.  We did pull out some bushes behind our deck right after Julia was born so now I have a clear path of vision from the back door all the way to the end of the yard.  I usually sit in the doorway, nursing the baby while the boys play, hoping that the neighbors directly behind us aren't home.  Or at least that their boys don't keep a telescope in their treehouse.

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We did have one incident this weekend.  The boys were under Jon's watch I was in the kitchen and kept getting whiffs of gasoline. I thought maybe Jon was getting the yard gear primed for spring or something ... and then I realized Jon was on the side of the house ... and Jack was in the garage.  Rather than check things out myself I just informed Jon he should go check on Jack since I wasn't wearing shoes.  Yes, Jack dumped a gallon of gasoline out onto the floor of our garage.  Then he and Jude stepped in it, got it all over their clothes, and came inside and spread their scent all over the house.  I also got gasoline smell in my washer after I washed their clothes, which then made the next load stink.  Not to mention Jack hasn't bleen able to wear his shoes all week as they have been airing out on the deck.  Boys!
Back to nature.  We had one brave daffodil make an appearance this week.  I pointed out the pretty yellow flower to Jack.
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Ten minutes later he ripped it from the earth, brought it in the house and asked me to wear it in my hair.  I suppose I shouldn't be sad, flowers are meant to be enjoyed.  And my boy thoroughly enjoyed our first yellow flower.

In other warm-weather-related news ... I guess I'll soon be letting Jude go pantless.
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I've been putting off any attempts at potty-training until a.) the weather is warmer and I can let him run around naked and b.) I'm not so busy (ha!) but he's started saying "pee pee" and "poop" and he's been pretending to go potty so yeah, maybe I should get on that.

Right now it's just a game.  He says pee-pee, I take off his diaper, he sits down for all of 5 seconds, says "all done", I put diaper and pants back on, he says he has to go "pee pee" again.  This is fun now little buddy, but soon the hard work will begin.  I think we'll start the week Marmie and Poppa come to visit...

And you know one other thing that's great about warmer weather and kiddos playing outside?  They take great naps. 

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Sure they've got dirt under their nails.  And they get sand in the bed after a long morning in the backyard (I had the hardest time falling asleep last night since Jack took a nap in my bed!).  But they sure sleep hard!
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Which is exactly what all three are doing now and why I'm able to procrastinate on all other chores and give you a quick update on our life.  Back to the real world, but first, I must find those chocolate coins that the leprechaun sent home with Jack from school yesterday, and which I hid in a "safe" place for later...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Extend-A-Day Parenting

Last week Jon was out of town ... again.  That makes four trips in five weeks... or four trips too many in my book.  Thankfully, he doesn't have any more travel on the calendar because last week just about did me in.
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Photo Credit: Nonnie
For most of my latest pregnancy, I was very worried about caring for three small children.  And I remember the first week after Julia's birth, when I had both my parents, my husband, and for two days both my brothers staying with us, and I was still overwhelmed with the amount that had to be accomplished each day.  If you had told me then that I would be solely responsible for my children for several days at a time, I would have never believed it possible.  But God's grace is sufficient and not only have we been "getting through" these long weeks, but the kids and I have actually been doing well.
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Photo Credit: Nonnie
That is, until last week.  Last week was one of those times where everything just seemed to go wrong.  But it wasn't without it's bright moments either.  Like Wacky Wednesday for starters.

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Jack's preschool was celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday and everyone was supposed to dress "wacky."  I was a little unsure of how this would go over with my regimented son, but I'm learning that he's quick to adopt anything as long as you dole it out with an extra amount of enthusiasm.  He didn't even question the unmatched socks.  We didn't really have anything "wacky" for him to wear, but I did my best.  I just kept giggling and exclaiming how crazy he looked and he was all too eager to comply.  I'm surprised he hasn't asked to wear his pajama pants to school more often!

Note "Monkey" in his left hand.  His affection for Monkey has really renewed in vigor over the past week.  Suddenly Monkey has feelings and physical needs.  For some reason he's always "cold" (and therefore needs Jack to hold him tight) or "tired" and needs to be put down for a nap.  Lately Jack's been sneaking him to school too, by stuffing him in his coat.  We arrive to his class, he runs up to his teacher and starts yelling, "I have Monkey in my coat, Monkey's in my coat!!" and of course she has no idea what he's talking about. 

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"Mom, look at me, I wacky!!"
Speaking of school, Jack has had 4 good days in a row.  It's a record!  Things are actually getting a little easier with my firstborn.  He's growing up, able to rationalize a wee bit more than a few months ago, and he has a better understanding of right and wrong.  So much so that he will sometimes willingly take punishment when he knows he's done something inappropriate.  But I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere.

His brother though, is a different story.  Anything after 18 months is considered a difficult age to me, and Jude is no exception.  He's waking up at night for no reason, he's waking up early from naps, he's waking up early in the morning.  He's purposely doing things that I just told him not to do.  He's impossible to have a conversation with because his response is always some form of "no."  He whines at every little thing his brother does, or his mom doesn't do.  He never seems to want to play, only sit on my lap or hang out by my side.  And when he's not by my side or under my watch, he's getting in to something he shouldn't.  It's exhausting.  But he's just so darn cute.

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And the way he says, "Maaaaaa - muh" just grips my heart.  And when he asks for a "kih" (kiss) or "huh" (hug), or when Jack steals a toy and he just responds with "no, no Dack", or when Julia coughs and he says "Al-righ bee-bee? Al-righ?"  As frustrating as 24 months-old can be, its worth it watching him grow and learn new things on a daily basis.  Even if he keeps me on my toes 24 hours a day.

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The funny thing is, our latest addition doesn't really add that much work.  She's so good-natured, so easy-going.  She sleeps, eats, and contentedly watches the world around her.  She only gets upset when she's off her routine, and that only happens when I push things too hard or try to do too much with three kids.  Like the day I decided to hit up the Amish market, and two other grocery stores all before naptime.  I missed my goal by about 5 minutes.  Jude fell asleep in the car and wouldn't go back to bed when we got home.  And Julia wouldn't go to sleep at all after all that excitement.  I'd get her eyes to shut and the moment I'd lay her down she was up again.  After a few rounds of this I heard the car horn beeping, looked out the nursery window, and saw the trunk opening and closing and the stroller (that was in the back of the car) now lying in the middle of the driveway.  Just the boys playing with my car remote again.

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
And it was in this moment that I realized the difficulty was not caring for a new baby, but rather how much free time caring for a baby gave my little boys.  I don't mind nursing, soothing a baby to sleep, or changing extra diapers.  ... And Jack and Jude don't mind me doing it either.  It's amazing how much damage two boys can do in the 5 minutes it takes me to change a diaper.  And while I can keep an eye on them as I'm feeding the baby, I can't necessarily stop them from following through with their "rash" decisions.  And it doesn't help that Julia is more and more easily distracted while eating.  I feel like it's a constant battle between trying to be still and not interrupt the baby, and trying to be loud and clear with a boy that's about to test out his couch cushion suspension bridge to the coffee table (in case you were wondering, he sent Jude across first to make sure it held. It did ... for Jude.). 

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But anyway, back to this particular day.  Julia was overtired and not going to sleep, Jude was all wound up from his 10 minute car nap, and Jack was encouraging his little brother to keep pushing buttons on the car remote.  Enough!  I dropped Julia in the Ergo, ushered the boys out the door, and declared a walk was in order.  By the time I reached the end of our driveway Julia was sound asleep. 

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Whenever my dad comes to visit he takes the boys out for a walk in the woods near our house.  He kept telling me about this path at the edge of our neighborhood, so I figured now was a good time to check it out.  It was the perfect spot for two energetic little boys and their just-need-some-fresh-air mama.  We found a huge "snake" (a.k.a. black hose)

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Sorry for the cell pics, it's all I had on me!
a rhino

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and more imporantly, a little peace and tranquility (okay, not exactly the case with two toddlers, but close).

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We enjoyed our time in the woods so much we decided we needed to share our secret with Daddy.  He came home on Saturday, followed by a much-needed visit from Nonnie and Poppie!
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"When Nonnie comes I gonna give her a BIG hug!!"

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Now that's a big hug.
I guess if you're going to have a rough week on your own with the kids, the best way to end it is with a visit from the grandparents!  It was a short 24 hours, but still enough time for catching up over dinner, a spirited game of Canasta, and a family walk in our new favorite woods.
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Photo Credit: Nonnie

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Photo Credit: Nonnie

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
"Before..."

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Photo Credit: Nonnie
"After ... closely followed by tubby time!"
And now it's back to our routine and having the Handsome Coastie home for dinner every night, despite the fact that, whenever Jon walks out the front door, Jack says "Daddy go to California!"  No buddy, not this time.  And hopefully not for a long, long while!
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