My Baby is One!

A year ago right now, Sidney was already born, but just barely.  I was recovering from my third c-section, my dad was getting Riley and Adrian ready for school, and Shawn was in the nursery with our beautiful baby girl.

She still doesn’t have much hair, but she is even more beautiful now.

Now, in looking back on the past year, I am amazed by all that she has learned, all the many ways she melts my heart.  Now, at one, she is almost running, climbing up on couches, saying a few words like “diaper” and “bye, bye,” giving hugs and kisses, and trying, in so many ways, to be a big kid like her older brother and sister.

For me, maybe because she is the third, I feel like I have been able to just sit back and enjoy this year, watching her hit milestones, watching the three littles play and watch each other, watching her bright eyes take in the wide, wide world around her.  We’ve done a lot of cuddling, Sidney and I.  We’ve done a lot of roaring.  The girl doesn’t seem to know a food she doesn’t like, but she will be happy to scatter leftovers on the floor when she is done with dinner.  She’ll run away if she senses a clothing or diaper change on the horizon, and then come racing over to me as soon as I sit on the floor to crank out a sit-up or two.  She’s fiercely possessive of my lap at the moment.  She loves books and trucks and balls and blocks.  She’ll let you know when she wants more pretzels or when she wants to be held.  Sure, she still gets me up occasionally in the middle of the night, but honestly I don’t mind.  I like that time with her.  I like being around her, period.  She is lovable, playful, fierce, and brave.  Yes, of course, I am still in awe of her.  I think I will always be.

So today, we’ll have a Funfetti cake, we’ll sing happy birthday, and we’ll cover her in hugs and kisses.  Today is a good day.

Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet Sidney.

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How To Be an Aunt

I have wonderful aunts.  My kids have wonderful aunts.  And now I get the chance to be an aunt.  I am still reeling from this realization, especially after my trip to Virginia to meet my niece and nephew and spend time with the proud new parents.  It was nice for a change to take a back seat in terms of child care and newborn anxiety, to not be the one in the hospital bed recovering from a c-section and waiting for milk to come in.  This time around, I got to be the one changing diapers, tracking feedings, and holding the little ones, whispering promises to them of future shopping trips and spoiling and second and third helpings of sugary treats.  Caroline, I wonder where I got all those ideas from?


Unfortunately, I probably won’t see the twins again until Christmas, so my aunty duties are long-distance for now.  But I already have Christmas presents bought for them.  I’m already planning nicknames and future play dates when all of the cousins can get together.  I can’t wait to hold them again.

So in the meantime, here’s my stab at what I think being an aunt means, lessons I’ve learned from Aunt Barb, Aunt Lynne, Alli, Claire, and Caroline, as well as my experience thus far.

1.  Don’t buy “mom” gifts.  This might be hard for me, but I’m going to work at it.  Basically, this means not being quite so practical.

2.  Keep in touch and inquire often.  Right now, I am completely invested in the bowel movements of my niece and nephew.  I long for updates throughout the day.

3. Plan fun activities that involve shopping, sugar, and play-dough.  This is all from Caroline.  She’s got this step down and Riley and Adrian love her for it.

4.  Don’t worry about sugar intake or making messes or spoiling.  At the end of the day, the kids go home to their parents.  Hehehehe.  Yes.

5.  Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle.

6.  Find special ways to get involved.  Aunt Barb and Aunt Lynne used to take Allison and I school shopping in Ohio.  I remember those outings well.  Aunt Barb and I found my senior prom dress on a clearance rack for thirty dollars.  I loved the way it shimmered.

7.  Support the parents without parenting.  In other words, I get to be the good cop for once.  Okay, so maybe I am usually in good cop mode even with my own kids…

8.  Start traditions.

9.  Have fun.  It seems like aunting really is all about having fun with the kids.  No baths or bedtimes or vegetables to fuss about, for instance.  Get ’em dirty.  Stuff ’em with snacks.  Laugh ’em up.  C-squared (both of their names start with C), that’s what I’m talking about!

10.  Be there.  For the kids.  For the mom.  For the dad.  Help create a network of love and support.

Did I mention I’m excited about this aunt business?

Tell me about baby pictures…

I am doing a project for school that involves baby pictures, so I have been thinking a lot about them, the ones I’ve taken informally, the professional and semi-professional ones I have had taken, the ones I’ve seen on other blogs, on Pinterest, on Facebook.

First, let me say I love baby pictures.  They make me unbelievably happy.  But they are also a source of anxiety for me.  What clothes should the kids wear?  Will they look cute in the pictures?  Will they behave for the photographer?  How many prints should I order?  What do I do with all of these pictures?  You get the picture.

And now, we have Pinterest with so much family photography inspiration.  We have props and over-sized hats and flowers.  There are iPhones and Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds.  Baby pictures and kid pictures seem so complicated and yet so simple.  What does all this mean for us as mothers, keepers of childhood, preservers of those precious smiles and wispy hair and gumdrop eyes?

 

But maybe this simultaneous stress and pleasure is mine alone.  I am curious how other mothers feel.

Dear mommy readers, 

What do baby pictures mean to you?  Do you have a favorite?  What is the picture-taking/memory-capturing process like for you?  Do you have a schedule?  Do you have albums full?  Do you wish you had more?

I would love to get your feedback and insights.  I would be really appreciative if you could leave me a comment with your thoughts about baby pictures.

I also would like to put together a collection of baby pictures to try to capture certain trends and themes.  If you are interested in emailing me some of your pictures, that would be great, too.

Thank you!

 

Mommy-wise

My twin sister has been telling me about a book called Babywise recently.  I haven’t read it.  I actually haven’t read any parenting books.  It’s funny.  My list of books to read seems impossibly long and I am always adding to it, but it never occurred to me to read a book before we started having kids.  I was on Babycenter a lot, though.  I consulted message boards online pretty frequently.  Then we had Riley in 2008, and we sort of just jumped right in.  I remember how Shawn and I used to check in with each other once we brought her home:

“Is that too much cream?”

“Is the bath water too warm?”

“Am I holding her right?”

“Is her poop supposed to be that color?”

On and on.

At least the night we had Riley was the same night that we had signed up for a baby care class, and Shawn was able to go since we were at the hospital anyway.  That night, he learned how to swaddle.  I’m pretty sure that’s his favorite baby skill: the un-ninja-able swaddle.  He’s good.  I’ll give him that.  Not quite nurse good, but he’s good.

So now fast forward: four and a half years and three kids later.

Now, I actually feel like a mom.  Like a real mom.  Sometimes I’m more confident.  Sometimes I still flounder.  But I like the feeling that being a mother feels integral to my identity now.  And so I thought I would take a moment to remember and note a few of the things I have learned along the way.  Here’s what I came up with this morning:

1. As soon as you figure something out as a parent, there’s five more things you need to know.

2. Hug and hold your babies as much as possible.

3.  Read regularly.

4. Never say no to fruits and veggies. (Riley likes to remind me, “Mommy, you said we could never have too much fruit.”

5. Invest in at least one soaking bin and quality stain-fighters (I like OxiClean) right from the get-go.

6. Smell your baby’s hair after every bath.

7. Parenting is fluid ground.  Kids ‘likes’ constantly change; their habits, their moods are fickle.  Be fluid.

8. Embrace redundancies.  (I once say ABC’s to Adrian for a solid 45 minutes without pause.  It was the only way to survive a solo car trip when he was just a few months old.)

9. Quiet moments are fickle.  Embrace them.

10.  Crying-filled, crazy moments are fleeting in the big picture.  Get through them and move on.

11. Ask for help.

12. Be ready to try new things until you find something that works.

13. Prep kids for major routine changes (We started moving up Riley’s bedtime to get her ready for the school year a couple of weeks before school started.  She eased into it really smoothly.)

14. Set boundaries for things and time.  (I still struggle with this, but I am getting better.)

Now, it’s time to get some writing done so I can meet Riley for lunch.

The First Day…

…could not have gone better!

 

 

Once she woke up, Riley was super chipper and excited.  She and Daddy packed up all of their stuff, and away they drove while Adrian and I waved from the door.

 

 

Back inside, I got Adrian his breakfast and put on his new favorite show, Monster Trucks.  Then Sidney woke up.  We all got ready and were out the door by 7:28.

I had from 8 until 4 to myself.  Just me, a couple syllabi, lesson plans, paper prompts, Spanish verbs, a couple pages of fiction, and some composition theory to read in the morning.  Then a couple of hours of straightening up and getting our house out of summer-play mode and into a more functional, more sustainable state of play and organization for the fall semester.  Then it was back to the books before Shawn and Riley came home and we left to pick up the littles and go out for pizza to celebrate the first day.

Yes, I missed the little ones.

And yes, I enjoyed the quiet.  The time to myself.  I had an hour or two to myself a couple of times over the summer –  a morning of writing at Panera, an hour at Target in Virginia, some time at night – but mostly the time was full of family and food requests and block-building and running and swimming.  Just full.  Wonderfully full.  But I am glad to have a couple of days before my semester starts to gather myself, get the house in order, and enjoy the quiet.

Riley had a great day.  Shawn, too.  She learned three playground rules, read a book called No David, ate all of her lunch except for her sandwich, took a tour of the school, and held a boy’s hand while walking through the halls.

This morning, she was tired.  I basically dressed a zombie.  But then she got up, gave hugs, and headed out the door full of smiles.

I know she won’t always be this excited to go to school, but I do hope to foster in her an intense passion for school and learning.  Sure, there are problems with the public education system and yes, technology is bringing about some big changes in how learning happens.  But I have to believe that as long as she is excited about school, she will develop an intense desire to engage in all of the opportunities that will unfold in the course of the school day, opportunities to connect with her peers and teachers, opportunities to grow and learn, opportunities to understand right and wrong, opportunities to express gratitude and good manners, and opportunities to dream, and dream big.

And when I go back to school on Monday, these are the opportunities that await me, too.  I couldn’t be more excited!

 

Summer @Home Highlights!

Shawn’s been back in school since last Tuesday.

The littles are back in daycare as of this morning.

Riley goes back on Wednesday.

I start teaching next Monday at 9:05am.

I start my classes on Tuesday.

Where, oh where, did the summer go?

I thought to celebrate the end of our family’s summer, I would compile some highlights and reflections.  Enjoy!

Best Family Meal:

Shawn: Lasagna and bread crumb pasta.  He can sure do Italian!

Me: Probably my meatball and pea pie.  I also got really good at making carrot fries.

Best Dessert: Banana Bread Cobbler.  Hands down.  Did I mention I am making it this week?  Again?  No way I am letting the kiddos eat all our bananas two weeks in a row!

Best Baked Good: Zucchini Brownies.

Best Lunch: Sweet potatoes with peanut sauce.

Best Outing: Atlanta’s Children Museum and Splash Park and Athen’s Botanical Gardens.

Favorite Adult Activity: Racquetball.  Nothing like whacking a little ball around an enclosed space with your significant other with whom you have spent the vast majority of weeks on end.

Best (Adult) Splurge: New racquetball rackets and my new outdoor firepit!  Instead of stocking up on coffee, I picked up a firepit at Bed, Bath, and Beyond yesterday.  I have really wanted one, and I cannot wait to enjoy it once the weather gets a little cooler.  Me, sipping some tea (or hot cocoa) and reading by the fire after the kids go to bed…  Or our family, roasting marshmallows on the weekend…  Can’t wait!  The kids have already volunteered to pick up sticks!

Proudest Moment: Riley picking up litter at the park the other day.  Adrian giving Sidney big hugs every day.

Cool New Tricks: Sidney standing up.  Adrian and his colors.  Me and my diaper cake (pictures coming!!) and Spanish.  Riley recognizing words.

Favorite Home Improvements: My new shutter message board and vintage key holder in the kitchen.  I’ll post pictures of these soon!

Favorite New Kid-Friendly and Affordable Restaurant: Dickey’s BBQ (and kids eat free on Sunday!)

Biggest Grocery Splurge: Beverages.  Coke Zero (for Shawn), other Coke products for me, coffee, and Chrystal Light lemonade and ice tea mixes.

Favorite Kid Activities:

Riley: Mets Bear Rescue.  Shawn would put my Mets Bear stuffed animal in precarious places, and Riley would have to rescue him.  She saved him from burning lava, floods, high peaks, and cages.

Adrian: Blocks, Trains, and Golf.

Sidney: Hanging out with her older siblings and putting things in her mouth.

Best Realizations: 

  • Enjoy and make the most of every moment with the kids but don’t get overly sentimental.  Time passes too quickly.
  • Recipes are good guides but experimentation can produce fun, tasty, and healthy dishes with on-hand ingredients.
  • Be firm and hug often.
  • Take turns with the Mood.  Don’t hog it but don’t refuse it either.  Everyone gets the Mood from time to time.
  • Days pass so freakin’ fast.  But don’t say freakin’ too much around a four-year-old unless you want her to start saying it, as in “I’m so freakin’ cold, Momma!”
  • I love being a mother AND I love writing, reading, studying, and teaching.  My days are full, and I am pretty freakin’ happy.

Stay tuned for my Summer Exit Interview with Riley and Adrian!  Should be fun.  I started compiling questions, and I cannot wait to hear their responses.

School Shopping and Preparation: T-Minus One Week

I cannot believe we are at the point that we are taking Riley school shopping.  Her elementary school sent her a letter and a list of items she needs for her Pre-K class.  We got all but one and then some.  This weekend, I took Riley and Adrian out to pick up Riley’s supplies and then go grocery shopping.  We snuck in a stop at Panera to pick up bagels as a special treat to commemorate the occasion.  Yeah, I can pretty much find any reason to stop at Panera these days.  I have been craving it recently.  I went once when I was home in Virginia, twice last week (once to write for three hours and then with the kiddos), and I am already looking forward to heading back there…and hopefully for dinner one day so I can get their French onion soup in a bread bowl!

So what did we buy and how did we do?  Here ya go…

1.  A pink-striped crib sheet from Target for nap-time (10 dollars).

2.  A Princess lunch box from Target (10 dollars)

3.  A sandwich container from Walmart (1.50)

4.  Snack containers from Walmart (3 dollars).  I wanted to get a bunch of cheap ones in case Riley accidentally throws them away.  So now we are starting the school year with 14 little containers.  We’ll see how many last until Christmas!

5.  Markers, glue, gluesticks, dry-erase markers, construction paper, paper towels, wet wipes, and Kleenex all for her class from Walmart (about 10 dollars).  We still need to get play-dough, and we have computer paper at home already.

6. A pink hairbrush from Walmart (3 dollars).  I told Riley the only way she was keeping her hair long and wearing it down was if she took really good care of it.  Now she has her own brush to take with her to school to help manage her crazy long locks!

7.  Hand-sanitizer for her backpack from Walmart (1.50).

8.  Two cold packs for her lunch box from Walmart (2 dollars).

And we have already started stocking up on lunch-making supplies…peanut butter, jelly, snack packs, mandarin oranges, and apple sauce.  Plus, Jif 40oz jars are going BOGO at Publix this week!  Hopefully, that will get us to September, peanut-butter-wise.

At home and as gifts, Riley already had a bunch of things she needed, too:

  • Winnie-the-Poo backpack from Caroline
  • Three awesome pairs of flats and sandals from Alli
  • A pair of sneakers I got on clearance from Target the other week
  • A pair of rain boots from Grandma 
  • A blanket and pillow from daycare days
  • Two or three water bottles.  The plan is to use these instead of juice boxes.
  • Plenty of clothes from my spring consignment sales hunts (And yes, I am so excited about two upcoming fall ones!)

And  we also started preparing our schedules and routines at home, especially for bedtime, so we are good to go next week.  We pushed the bedtime up to 8 this week with a simplified and very direct routine that begins at 7:30: one 24-minute show and dessert, teeth and potty, stories, hugs, bed.  We may need to move this up a bit more, as Riley will have to start getting up at 6am to leave for school with Shawn.  For dinner time, I think we are also going to get into a more solid routine.  Since Shawn is going to be getting home with Riley before I will get home with the little kids, he will do dinners most nights while I will handle clean-up.  This is a win-win since I don’t really like coming home from work to cook and I do like cleaning the kitchen.  Crazy, right?  I also decided that I am going to start using Sundays for laundry again and adding veggie prep and baking to the day’s activities. That way, we’ll be able to throw together a salad or put in a pan of cauliflower popcorn without the fuss of cutting and cleaning and peeling.  I decided already that I am asking for a mandalin slicer for Christmas.  I really like this one from William Sonoma

A week to go.  I cannot believe so few days remain for summer vacation.  I will be posting a best-of recap of our summer soon so I can relive the many, many wonderful family memories we created.  At the same time, I am really excited for the start of a new semester.  New books (just ordered 7 from Amazon!), new classes, hopefully some new friends, new students, new syllabi, new lessons, new office, new papers, new projects…so much to look forward to.

And of course, I cannot wait for what is in store for the kids in their classes.  Adrian now knows his colors and counting up to five, but he will probably start to pick up on a lot more once he is back in a classroom setting, learning with others kids.  Sidney is pulling up on furniture left and right.  Walking might not be too far off.  Especially if she sees a toy or a cute boy on the other side of the room!  And Riley.  I cannot wait to see what she will learn this year and to hear her stories about her adventures at school.  I am sad, unbelievably sad, that I won’t have my mornings with her anymore.  I know this is just Pre-K, but still it feels like the beginning of an end.  All of a sudden, she doesn’t seem so little because she’ll be going to an elementary school with Meet the Teacher Night, PTO, school performances, and recess.

One more week.  I’ll be ready.  We’ll be ready.  Of course we’ll be ready.

And then again, I don’t think I will ever be completely ready.  But that’s just how it goes.