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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