Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eves

As we head into these final days of the year, it seems like every day is a Christmas Eve.  With 3 kids in the house there's no denying the anticipation and excitment that each new open "door" on the advent calendar brings.  There's also no denying the increase in energy and volume and sheer craziness that come with these days leading up to Christmas.  In short, I'm one exhausted mama.


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These are the kind of things that have been occuring lately.
Jon's vacation started on the 20th, his birthday (more on that later).  It was also the day of my first midwife appointment.  I had been looking forward to this day for weeks.  I know better now, that first appointments are usually very anticlimatic.  But nonetheless, it's just nice to have someone else to validate your condition, talk it over, make it seem more real.  And I was really hoping to get a glimpse of that little heartbeat before we started our holiday travels.



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Baby #4 at 6.5 weeks.
I'll admit, I was also looking forward to a little alone time.  I packed the book I'm currently reading into my bag and was just about to leave the house, a little bit early just to ensure some quiet reading time in the waiting room, when the midwive's office called and asked to reschedule.  So not only will I not be getting that elusive first appointment until well into the new year, but I also found out there won't be a first trimester ultrasound this time around either.  Major bummer.

I know they're not necessary, and for once I feel like my due date is probably pretty accurate.  But it would just be nice to catch a glimpse of the little one, and confirm that is indeed only one!  It seems like ages since the doctor sat down with my pregnancy test results, I'm looking forward to another pregnancy milestone - one that doesn't include falling asleep on the couch in the middle of the day or throwing up before I'd had a chance to eat breakast.

Oh well, it's Christmas and there are plenty other diversions going on for the next two weeks.  Not to mention the prospect of 10 days of neither having to plan or cook meals, or even shop for groceries.  I'm not sure who's more grateful about that right now, me or my family.

You can tell it's December around here because of all the times the UPS truck stops at our house.  I almost feel bad, but c'mon, as a mama of 3 little ones, I do the majority of my shopping online.  Jon's catching on too.  He's managed to find all sorts of treasures on Amazon this year - a mug that looks like a toilet for Uncle Micah, some sort of buzzer that you can stick to the bottom of the toilet seat, and a piece of fake poop to gross everyone out (can you tell he's a sucker for that feature on Amazon that makes recommendations based on your past purchases? 

Anyway, funny story about the poop.  It arrived in the mail just as we were about to heard out on our date night last week.  So Jon handed it off to Jared, who was babysitting with Miss Kylee that night, to have a little fun with that night.  So Jared put it on the toilet seat upstairs.  Miss Kylee took Jude up to go potty later in the evening and came back downstairs to a smirking Jared, but never said a word. Apparently Jared forgot until we asked him about it the following morning.  After a search of the bathroom the fake poop was no where to be found.  We eventually found out from Miss Kylee that she did indeed believe it was a real terd, but then efficiently wrapped it in toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet.  The take-away from this story is (a) Miss Kylee is going to make an excellent mother and (b) poop on the toilet in our boys' bathroom isn't really that unusual.

I guess we'll know better next time.  I've no doubt that a new piece of fake poop will be showing up on our doorstep soon since Jon has been lamenting his loss ever since the day it arrived.

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Jack got a Coast Guard tubby toy for Christmas, two hours later we had to drag him out of the tub with pruny hands.
Because of all the other festivities going on this coming week, we went ahead with our family's Christmas celebration on Friday.  Which meant that Jon's birthday was also our faux Christmas Eve.  We sat down to a dinner of Pickled Eggs and Beets, Deviled Eggs, Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts and Ham and Cream Cheese Pickle Bites, all of which Jon specifically requested for his meal.  Afterwards we bundled up, poured hot chocolate and packed up some Christmas-sy Rice Krispy Treats as we drove around and looked at Christmas lights.

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After we got back we settled down with egg nog and a (abridged) version of the Christmas story.  And then, as tradition permits, we were each allowed to open one present.

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Oh, and in other exciting holiday news, our baby is walking!

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I stood her up the morning Uncle Jared and Miss Kylee were visiting, said "Let's see you walk."  And she did.  Six steps for the very first time. 

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Now Jack has fun reaching for her and watching her walk into his open arms.

Well, we're delving into the next 10 days of holiday madness with two feet (and some hefty doses of Vitamin C and Echinacea).  I'm sure we'll end up exhausted and ready for some quiet time at home, but for now we're feeding off all the excitement and anticipation that three children bring to this happiest of seasons!  Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Four Score

So remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned I was working through some sort of stomach bug? Yeah, not so much. My parents came to visit that week and the first thing my mom said when I mentioned it was, "You're not pregnant, are you?" I assured her I was not. Then I left my parents with all three kids and headed to the doctor for a follow-up appointment on my carpal tunnel problems. While there, my doctor reminded me yet again that I was not up to date on my tetanus shots. I'm always trying to avoid shots so I asked if it was okay since I'm still breastfeeding Julia. She said, "Breastfeeding is fine, just not if you're pregnant... And I doubt you're pregnant." She laughed, I laughed. Pregnant again? Hilarious.

Apparently there was some mix-up with the nurse because I ended up waiting a very long time for her to appear with my shot. Which gave me a lot of time to think. "I'm not pregnant, right? I can't be. But am I positive? ..." Finally I flagged the nurse down asked if I should still go forward with the shot if there was even a slight chance I could be pregnant. By now I had worked myself up into total inner turmoil and was hoping she'd just say, "Oh let's give you a test right here, right now and settle this once and for all." Instead she just said I shouldn't get the shot and sent me on my way.

And so, since I had free and willing babysitters at home I figured a trip to Target was in order to walk around and clear my head. I ordered a coffee, fully caffeinated, knowing that if I really was pregnant I could plead innocence up until that moment. The last time I bought a pregnancy test was over the summer when I had three hyper kids in my cart. It was a tad embarrassing to say the least. It was a relief to be all alone to pick one up this day. But I didn't want that to be my only item. So I kept wandering around until I came across a pair of yoga pants on clearance, size small. I checked out with my two items (I can't remember the last time I checked out at Target with only two items!) and decided to immediately detour to the bathroom. My kids never let me use the bathroom in peace, I needed to take full advantage of this opportunity. So right then and there I took a pregnancy test in Target. And of course, at only 3 weeks, 4 days (over 10 days earlier than I've ever found out with my other babies!) I knew we were expecting again.

I returned the size small yoga pants the next week and sheepishly called the doctor back that afternoon to schedule another appointment.

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Trial run before Daddy got home.
I decided to keep the news a secret from my parents since it was so fresh and Jon was still in California. I love planning fun ways to surprise my husband with pregnancy news. I totally dropped the ball last time and I was not going to let that happen again. The next time my parents watched the kids I ran to the grocery store to grab a few things, in addition to some ginger ale, and also picked up four balloons. Actually five because, knowing my kids, chances were one might not make it through until the next day.
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Jon didn't get home until after midnight. Jack had just thrown up 20 minutes before Jon came in the door, so he went to check on him before going to bed. Jack rolled over and sleeply mumbled, "Daddy, we have balloons for you. We have a party!" So Jon came into the room and asked me what Jack was talking about and I played it off as the half-asleep kid who had a little too much cough syrup. Little did he know ...

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Future big sister right there.
Since he got to bed so late Jon was the last one up in the morning. As soon as he started walking down the stairs, still rubbing his eyes, the kids started jumping and yelling "Balloons!!" And then Jack said something about it being Daddy's birthday and that he's turning 4, which is why there was a number 4 on the balloon. Eventually Jon sorted it all out when he realized each of his kids was holding a balloon, and then there was one extra one ... conveniently tied down with a pregnancy test. Surprise honey!!

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And so there you have it! We're due to expand our family sometime in late-July. I'm pretty thrilled about a summer baby, it will be something different. And 22 months after Julia's birthday, that's kind of a record for us! This is a very fun time of year to get pregnant. We had big plans to keep our secret until Christmas. We were going to wrap up something that went a little like this:

We don't have your gift yet
Oh, what a bummer
It's not slated to arrive
Until next mid-summer
We hope that you
Can wait until then
To help us welcome
Grandchild number 10!!

Great idea huh? Instead we went home over Thanksgiving, were all sitting around together with our extended family in Jon's uncle's living room and my husband opened his mouth and said, "Well since we have you all here..."

And then everyone gasped and knew exactly what was up.

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We told my family at breakfast the next morning.  Jon offered to pray and at the end slipped in something about being thankful for "new life and an extra stocking by the fireplace."  It took a little while for it to sink in, longer for some than others.  In fact, I think my parents are still trying to sort it all out.  And then the next morning at our home church one of the pastors started praying for new and expectant parents and casually mentioned our names and well... the rest is history.  Because when something like that gets announced at church there's no way you're keeping it a secret any longer.
 
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Which is fine.  Yes, there are risks with pregnancy, concerns I think about every day.  And sure it would have been a kickin' Christmas announcement.  But I am, and always will be, an early newsbreaker.  I love babies, I celebrate pregnancy, and I cherish new life.  I don't know what tomorrow brings, but in this very moment I am thankful for this precious new baby. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This holiday season has gotten a little sweeter ...

... because we found out some big news right before Thanksgiving!

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Yup, that's right. Four under 5 next summer. How's that for a new adventure?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lights Parade

On Saturday we met up with some Coastie friends to attend the 30th Annual Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade in downtown Annapolis.  Since this happens right on the water by the Naval Academy, and we can get on there and park for FREE, that is just what we did.  And it was perfect!

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So a word about my photos: My camera flash broke, which isn't a big deal because I never use it and I have an external flash.  But I've also never used that and clearly have no idea what I'm doing.  I'm going to need some lessons from people who know over the holidays, until then here are *the best* of what I could capture, and that is not saying much!
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The hot cocoa bar.

We arrived an hour early, found a great spot complete with bench and trees for the boys to climb, and set up our spread.  Yup, a Christmas tailgate of sorts (and I though those two words would never work together).  There was pizza, of course.  And veggies and dip (there should have been apples and caramel but someone left the apples in the fridge and only brought the caramel, doh!).  And special gingerbread cookies that the boys and I had been working on.  Oh, and hot chocolate to keep us toasty warm.

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A word about hot chocolate.  In my family, it was always a tradition on Christmas morning to drink homemade hot cocoa out of our personal Santa mugs.  Except, no offense mom, but her homemade hot cocoa recipe was the pits.  And we couldn't start opening presents until the cocoa was drained.  As we kids got older we finally convinced our parents that it was one tradition that needed to go.  And from then on I was convinced store bought hot chocolate packets were the way to go.  Well, no longer my friends!  I will freely admit I've been wrong, so wrong.  There are many, many great homemade recipes out there that I've tried over the years.  But I think this weekend's has been my favorite.  And if you're curious, check it out here.  Oh my heavens my heart just lurched in my chest thinking about it...

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Anyway, back to the parade.  It was a beautiful evening, this was our first time attending the lights parade but I've heard that previous parade evenings have included snow, sleet, rain and wind.  We had none of that.  Chilly enough to see your breath, but not too warm to take away from the winter festivities.

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One downfall to living in this area: Ravens territory.
The event lasted two hours, during which the boats would circle the harbor several times, so you had plenty of opportunities to yell, wave, snap pictures and see all the lights.  About halfway through new boats were added.  Apparently it was a contest, and winners were announced, but since they are only listed by the name of the boat (and not their decor) I have no idea who won.

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An Irish theme.

I do have a few of my personal picks though.

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For my brothers, who force us to watch "A Christmas Story" every year.
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What Jack calls "an angel with a tail."
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I loved Rudolph out in front of this one.
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But the best part was the man dressed in light-up Santa suit!
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This one was playing Frank Sinatra music and had people dancing on the boat!
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My top pick, a lighthouse complete with flashing light, fog horn and wave noises!
Parade aside, the highlight of the evening was when I asked if Jon would take Julia, since I had been holding her most of the night and wanted to take some pictures.  Just as I handed her off I looked up to see Jude, silhouetted against the Naval Academy, back arched, shirt pulled up to his armpits and the street lights reflecting off an arc of yellow urine.  I yelled, "Jon, he's peeing!" To which my hubby replied, "Sorry, I'm holding Julia."  And by then all 300 people around us were well aware of what was going on as well.  By the time I reached Jude he had fully emptied his bladder and was enjoying the laughter he'd garnered from the crowd.  Our little showman.

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He held on to her the rest of the night and left me to handle the boys.
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Keeping Jude close.
Lawn watering incident aside, we had such a great time!  Two of my favorites - Christmas lights and boats - in one evening!  It's always fun finding new ways to ring in the holiday season, especially when you're fairly new to an area.  And Annapolis always delivers, I can see why the Navy folks call this their "dream tour!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waldkindergarten

I recently finished a fantastic book on raising boys - "Boys Adrift" by Leonard Sax.  In it, the author addresses "five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underwachieving men" which are: (1) changes at school, (2) video games, (3) medications for ADHD, (4) endocrine disruptors and, (5) revenge of the sacred gods (what he really means is a culture that neglects the passage into manhood).  He makes some excellent arguments and, unlike some other "parenting" books I've read, actually has suggestions for how to overcome these obstacles (although I doubt most of his audience could afford to send their sons to a private, all-boys school like he advocates).  Anyway, it was a great read and one I'd recommend to fellow mamas of boys. 

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In addtion to reading, I've also been thinking about Germany a lot lately, especially after finishing "Bonhoeffer" a few months ago and hearing of our friends Brian and Janine's plans to move there next spring.  It's the land of my roots and the older I get the more intrigued I become with my ancestry.  So my ears perked up when, in the book, Sax started talking about early education in Germany and something called "waldkindergarten," translation: forest kindergarten. 

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It's where children spend their entire day outdoors, regardless of the weather, and learn by experiencing - touching, smelling, moving, seeing ... Which brings us to two other German words Kenntnis, knowledge by experience and Wissenschaft, knowledge learned from books.  Sax mentions that real learning takes place when Kenntnis and Wissenschaft are balanced.  In other words, reading about the leaves isn't enough.  I want my boys to touch them, smell them, run through them, hear the sound they make underfoot ...

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And so I've been inspired this week, and it certainly helped that we've had weather in the upper 60s for the past few days.  It bothers me that it's only early-December and we've already fallen into a "hang around he house" rut.  And since my children are all on Day 5 of some sort of intestinal bug, I was more than willing to skip cleaning the bathroom this week (more than once) in favor of some outdoor activities.

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And so we ran and jumped, slid and hid, swung and scavengered in the fresh air all week.  Lia is 14 months and still not walking, although I'm guessing it'll happen any day now.  I don't mind at all, until we get outside.  And then I feel like I either have to hold her the whole time or let her crawl around in the dirt, and I just hate to see brown, worn knees on all her cute pants.  She is able to stand in the toy castle/ship/whatever-the-boys-imagine-it-is-these-days, which is slightly less dirty than the ground.  And she's so excited.  You can tell she feels like one of the big kids, hanging out all by her big bad self.  Until one of the older brothers pushes by and knocks her to the ground.

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Then there's Jude, still trying to keep up with Jack despite that fact that he is younger and considerably smaller.  And Jack's always willing to invite Jude in to some new game, partly because he doesn't want to play alone and partly because he uses Jude to "test out" his ideas before attempting them himself.

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He still refuses to wear a coat, but will gladly don a sweatshirt. And then insists on keeping the hood up all day ... and chewing on the front until there's a wet spot all the way down to his chest.
Oh Jack.  This week he drew us a map to the woods (twice).  We had to stop and check directions with him several times on our walk (the walk that we do all the time).  Eventually he got tired of carrying a map around and asked me to take it for him.  He's also picked up on the game of "Hide and Seek."  Since I'm the only other person who understands the concept he asks me to play all the time.  He just hasn't yet figured out that you shouldn't hide in the same spot each and every time.  Or giggle when someone is looking for you.  I must admit, the whole hiding under the wood pile tarp was genius.

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My kids don't always want to go outside.  Sometimes I have to force/bribe them.  And of course, once we get out there they never want to come back in.  I'm learning that, like so many other areas of life, I have to set the example.  And so we'll go on with our own version of waldkindergarten.  We won't go out in any weather and we certainly don't go out all day, but I'll try to make time for fresh air a priority.  And since my 4 year old and I haven't had much success with letters and flashcards lately, I'm more than happy to carry our learning time outdoors.  In the years to come there will be plenty of time for books ... and probably not enough time for following treasure maps and hiding under wood piles.
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