Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back from vacation

I'm back from an 8 day girls' trip with my mom and sister.  This is by far the longest I have been away from my boys, and the first time I've been away from Charlotte for more than 2 nights. We had a great time, but it was hard for me to be away from my family for that long! I found that I don't sleep well when I'm away from my kids- this has been true ever since the boys were born.  Any time I'm gone for a night I think, here's my chance to rest and sleep in! and instead I'm up all night with anxiety.  Since I've been home I've slept just fine, no problem- nothing makes me happier than being home with my family around me.

We started by flying from Philadelphia to Seattle on Saturday the 11th.  Elana was taking the train up from DC after having returned from Angola the day before.  She texted me during the day to say she wasn't feeling well and thought she was coming down with something.  We hoped it was just a cold, but she deteriorated over the course of our flight and said, "I've never felt worse in my life!" Oh my goodness, we were just glad no one on the plane knew she had just returned from Africa, because all the fear of E B O L A would have led her getting quarantined and our trip ruined (I should add that there was NO question of whether she had it- there are no cases in Angola and she had no contact with anyone. We aren't irresponsible and would not have risked other people's lives!).

Saturday after we landed (at 9 Pacific time) we rented a car and I drove to Anacortes, WA, where we would get the ferry to Orcas Island in the morning.  Elana felt awful on Sunday, and we weighed our options- stay in Anacortes and try to find urgent care, or go to Orcas and try to find urgent care?  We decided to get on the ferry.
(all of the pictures on this post are un-edited and have no filter)
sunrise from the ferry
It was a fast ride to the island, and then we began looking for food and medical care.  Fortunately, people on the island are very nice, and the woman running the inn where we stayed gave Elana her doctor's number, and she immediately responded and saw Elana at 10 on a Sunday morning!  She was then diagnosed with strep throat and given antibiotics- thank goodness it was an easy cure.

Orcas was beautiful.  We stayed at an inn with farm animals, including chickens whose eggs we ate for breakfast.  The inn had a huge vegetable garden, and we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted from the garden.  Delicious!  In my next life, I will be a gardener.  

Everything I did, all I could think about was how much fun my kids would have- how much they would love the farm animals, picking their own vegetables, eating treats from the bakeries.
The view from our inn on Orcas
While Elana rested on Sunday, I went for a run- 4 miles.  There were some beautiful views, of course.
glimpse from my run
Sunday night we went to dinner at an inn in Doe Bay.  The food was delicious!  It was also the Orcas Island Film Festival, so there were many pretentious, arty types there, and a viewing of some film shorts.  Not really my scene.  In the bathroom at the restaurant, there was a box next to the toilet labeled "For Safety"- where they keep condoms!  It makes sense... a big bar, and next to the restaurant are clothing optional soaking tubs... and a good 10 miles from the nearest store... so we can draw our own conclusions.

Fortunately Elana was healed by Monday, and we went for a 4 mile hike on the bigger mountain on the island.  It was a pretty tough hike, but felt good- I haven't hiked in YEARS.
A hike in the forest
That night, we made dinner in our room at the inn- all food we found in the garden at our inn. What healthy living!

Tuesday we went for another hike before we took the ferry out of town.  This hike was much easier- my mom kept up with us.  
panoramic from Turtleback Mountain
After our hike, we got on the ferry back to the mainland, and started driving to Astoria, OR.  The ride felt like it took forever!  We were so impatient to get there.  We stayed in a house that my mom rented through Air BnB, and it was an adorable old house up the hill from the downtown of Astoria.  We went to dinner at a place called Baked Alaska, and it was also good.  A lot of very good food on the trip, no surprise.

Wednesday morning was rainy, and Elana was in a foul mood.  After breakfast in the pouring rain, the sky cleared and Elana and I ended up going for a jog in Astoria by the river.
Fishing boats on the river in Astoria
Then, back in the car to get to Oregon wine country.  
sun shower in wine country
 We started tasting wine as soon as we could.  We went to a winery near our inn in Dundee, OR, and this super cute guy was working there, and started flirting with us.  Elana was clueless about it!  I tried to kind of pave the way for her, but she didn't take the bait.  I was clearly far more invested in her having a vacation fling than she was!  We had yet another excellent dinner at the Dundee Bistro that night.

On Thursday we went to downtown McMinnville and looked around.  Then, to the Aerospace Museum (I forget what it's called!) in Evergreen, OR.  They have Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose in there, so we got to check it out, and look at all the other planes they have there- it was too early to taste wine!  After the museum, which also had a water park that I didn't get to use, we went to lunch at a market in Dundee.  This was memorable because while we were at lunch, I made fun of my mom and dad and got Elana to laugh so hard her water went up her nose- this is my special skill, which I honed as a teenager.  It was nice to know I still have that talent!

More wine tasting, then into the car to drive into Portland.  I wanted sushi for dinner, so we went out to sushi a few blocks from our rented house, and then went for a long walk.  On our walk, we stumbled upon a food truck hangout, with every type of food I could imagine! I was stunned- something like that is beyond my imagination.
Elana and Mom at food truck heaven
 Friday, Elana and I went for a run, and then we all went into Portland to explore.  Of course it started to rain, and we headed home.  Our cousins from California drove up through Eugene, OR to join us.  It was great having a rented house, because we had space to hang out, cook, and eat.
Wine and cheese before dinner
 We got to spend the day Saturday with our cousins.  Elana and I went on yet another run! We met our cousins in town and got Stumptown coffee and Blue Star donuts, then walked up to the farmers' market.  Too bad we weren't doing any more cooking, because the food looked amazing!
the city of Portland from one of its many bridges
with my very tall cousin, Kyle
We walked so much that my mom started to complain- too much walking.  We had dinner reservations on Saturday night (more food!), and we were all grumpy- so we came home and took a time out to have some quiet.
Mom chewing on a bone

We had a great time with our cousins- I managed to find a new pair of jeans and gifts for my boys and Eric.  It was a fun way to end the trip, especially since I think we were getting tired of each others' company.  We had many moments where we laughed so hard we couldn't stand up, and a few moments where we were ready to bite each others' heads off.  The trip was full of delicious food, amazing views, and good company.

On Sunday, I was ready to come home.  I missed everyone back home desperately, and couldn't wait to see them.  I didn't get home til 1 am Monday morning, but I came back to a clean house, happy and healthy children, and a handsome husband.  Nothing makes a husband more attractive than taking care of all the household chores!  I'm still happy to be home, and looking forward to spending the full weekend with my sweet angels.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Asher: 4.5 years old

Dressed as a knight for a birthday party
My Bear. I think that he might be my tough one.  He can be so wonderful- extremely loving and affectionate, helpful and thoughtful, sweet and caring.  But somewhere in there is a little devious streak... He thinks up ways to get in trouble, and mostly shows very little remorse for his wrongdoing.  Fortunately he seems to be about 95% sweet and 5% spice, but that 5% makes me nervous!
With a mouth full of cookie at Trader Joe's
Asher is currently interested in jewelry.  And money.  He continues his hoarding- he opened up a box of his "treasures" last night and I found 2 rusty tin can lids! He let me throw them out, but I can't believe that he picked up garbage and neither Eric nor I noticed.  Asher has such an eye for shiny things.  And for money.  At the zoo the other week, he found a $5 bill on the ground! I had not even noticed it. What an eye!

Asher is an excellent big brother to Charlotte. He plays with her, holds her hand when we walk somewhere, and checks up on her.  He'll read to her, and she loves being read to. He has a very cute baby-voice he uses when he talks to her, and I love to hear it. He also tries to parent Benjamin by parroting back to him whatever we've already said, which makes Benjamin say, "Asher! You're not a boss!"
Fruitaphobia at the Aquarium
He's continuing to get increasingly picky about food.  He has cut out many of his former favorite foods (go-gurts, string cheese, applesauce), and has reactions to foods he has decided he doesn't like.  He'll leave the table when someone is eating something he doesn't like, and once hid in the bathroom when Eric ate a banana.  We had our intake for occupational therapy for him, and I am hopeful that they will help him get back to eating a variety of foods.  Right now he mostly eats a variety of carbs, and vegetables.  I love that he loves vegetables, but lunches are pretty difficult to pack for him!  Everyday, his lunch box weighs half what Benjamin's does.
going to school in his Patriots shirt
Asher enjoys drawing, collecting "treasures," and is very social.  He makes a new friend wherever we go, and from the sounds of things, leaves people talking.  He is quick to warm up to new kids and is always ready to play and meet new people. He is very physically capable- strong and a fast runner.  He hasn't committed to a sport or joining a team of any kind, and I won't force him to, but I think he would be good at a sport if he chose to play!  At school, he got an award for hand washing, making his mommy and Papa Nick very proud.

Daddy gave Asher a loft bed- he was promised one 9 months ago when he potty trained, and now it is here.  The first morning he was in it, he leaned out and got his sweet face chopped by the ceiling fan!
a band-aid makes it better
That afternoon, Daddy sawed a foot off each leg of the bed to prevent any future fan injuries.

Asher is extremely helpful at home- he loves to help unload the dishwasher, put away laundry, empty the trash cans, and sometimes help with cooking.  He seems so grown up when he does things like that- and in the next minute, he will climb into my lap for a big, long snuggle. The other day he promised he would love me forever and never leave me.  I'm happy to hear that.  I promised I would love him everyday, no matter what he does.  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Benjamin: 4.5 years old

Ahhhh! My big babies will soon be turning 5!  The 26th was my boys' half birthday.  We began by celebrating with flu shots, which the boys handled with a minimum of crying, and as a treat we went to Panera to get cookies afterward (yes, at 9:30 in the morning).  Then the zoo.  For their half-birthday cake, I baked a small carrot cake and made each of them half.
So- my Benjamin at 4.5.  I have noticed that he sometimes doesn't feel comfortable in social situations.  He is very sweet- he will go up to someone and take their hand and begin disclosing irrelevant information, but around kids he has started either getting quiet, or roaring (like a lion).  Other kids don't seem to love the roaring (not a surprise, right?), and then his feelings are hurt that people don't want to talk to him.  Once he gets more comfortable, he's fine, but those social skills might need work.
Sick boy at the dr.'s office
On Monday, Benjamin got sick with his first ear infection.  Of course we had no idea what was wrong with him, because he kept complaining of an "ouchie" on his ear.  We thought it was a bug bite, but his level of hysteria indicated otherwise. By 11 when he was up for the 10th time, Eric was losing his mind and got impatient with him, as it was a lot of nonsense over a bug bite.  But in the morning he woke up with a fever and said his ear hurt on the inside- off to the doctor we went.  He was weighed and measured: 36.6 lbs and 41.5 inches.

Benjamin is surprisingly observant, and makes connections I don't even think about.  One night I showed the boys the picture I have of them as embryos- it's a photo of 6 embryos, and 2 are marked with an X.  I said, "You two are the ones with the X!" and Benjamin said, "What happened to the other ones?" which wasn't the follow-up question I had anticipated.

Diligently mastering the rocket launcher
He can be resourceful, and happy to play by himself without making trouble.  He can get involved in a task and stay involved for a long period of time.  He loves books, and "pooping" is often sitting on the potty and making his way through every book in the bathroom.  He's great with puzzles.  Of my 3 children, he is the least aggressive in his needs and with sharing.  Asher generally dictates what they'll watch on TV and who gets to use the special spoon at breakfast.  I try to look out for Benjamin and his desires, since he sometimes lets himself get bowled over.  In general, his behavior is good- until he gets overtired, at which point he becomes nonsensical and quite difficult.
Not serious for a second
Benjamin is a total goofball, too- as these pictures show.  He has a hard time being serious.  His speech is still not great; he leaves off the "s" and the "b" at the beginning of words, and the "r" in the middle of words.  He also speaks with his own inflection, which makes it sound kind of like he is speaking English as a second language.

Benjamin is an enthusiastic and adventurous eater.  I think he sometimes pretends he doesn't like, or doesn't want to try, foods because Asher doesn't, but he seems to like almost everything he eats.  He seems especially willing to try a food if Papa Nick recommends it.  He LOVES mustard and will dip any food in it.  Today I sent him to school with baby carrots to dip in mustard.  He likes every fruit there is, and eats vegetables, too.  He and I enjoy very similar diets, and will often share snacks.  At the table, his seat is next to mine, and he almost always crawls into my lap over the course of the meal.  It's pretty cute.

Benjamin likes music and likes to dance with me.  We dance to a lot of pop music- our current favorite is Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off."  He has beautiful, hazel, almond-shaped eyes with long dark lashes.  He has sweet little lips and perfect small white teeth.  Sometimes when he has trouble napping but needs the rest, I lie down with him until he falls asleep.  I love looking at his face when he is asleep- he couldn't be sweeter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Charlotte: 21 months old

apple picking
I am belated in writing this, but Charlotte turned 21 months old on the 21st.  My baby is speeding ahead to 2!  I suggested to Eric that we consider a fourth, but he said only if I want to be a single mom of 4 kids. 

I know I rave all the time about how wonderful Charlotte is, but it's true.  There is something about her that is magnetic- I can't go anywhere with her without having at least one person tell me how beautiful she is, or how sweet she is.  She is almost always happy, and interacts with people wherever we go.
Where's Charlotte?
She is talking more, and stringing words together.  She is definitely ahead of where her brothers were at this age, but she is not as advanced as some of her friends.  She adds new words every few days, and can certainly manage to express herself (her use of "yeah" and "no" ensures that).  If we ask her to say a new word, she just says, "Yeah," but then she'll come out with new words on her own.  She has started calling my dad "Boppy," which is very cute.  She adores him.

Charlotte continues to be a good eater.  She will try pretty much everything, and likes a lot of things.  She prefers processed meats (meatballs, hot dogs, sausage patties) to real meat, and other than that, she eats vegetarian.  She likes breakfast food, but tends to pick at lunch, and then eat again at dinner.  She likes American cheese, and will stand at the fridge and say, "I wan dat. I wan dat moh chiz." Which is, "I want that, more cheese."  She likes fruit, vegetables, cereal, bread, eggs, cheese (of course), and pastas.
Sesame Place
together at Sesame Place
I have no idea of her height and weight, but she is now solidly in a 2T.  I tried to buy her a pair of jeans, and couldn't jam her in them.  They were snug on her thighs and hard to button; she cried and pointed at her leggings and said, "I wan dat, wan dat!"  So no jeans for my girl.

We've added an extra half day of preschool for her, since we had already paid extra for school this year.  I am hoping the routine will help her with the drop-off, and help her increase her vocabulary.  Her teacher says she is a sweetheart at school and a joy to have, which means she must settle down quickly after I drop her off.
Taking Kitty for a stroll
Charlotte LOVES her brothers and wants to do everything they do.  She's pretty fearless, and strong.  Thank goodness there's only one of her!  Recently, she has become more maternal with her stuffed animals; often offering them tastes of her food and pushing them in her toy stroller. She is obsessed with TV and says, "TT on!" all the time.  She has also started to say iPad and phone.  Geez.  Fortunately she also likes to read books, and asks for those all the time, too.  She loves her stuffed animals, and plays favorites from day to day.  At night and nap it is always Kitty Cat, but during the day she has a hard time picking just one to love.
3 Kitties and a Monkey
She's a love- gives the best little hugs and kisses. She has a big heart, and loves her family most of all. I cannot believe that we managed to create such a wonderful little human being.  Next up- she'll be 2 in 3 months!

Friday, September 19, 2014

the "cool" kids

I cannot believe, at the age of 34, that I am dealing with cliques and mean kids.  Really?  And even worse, why am I letting myself get affected by it?

Over the past couple of months, it has become clear that we are on the outside of a neighborhood group.  The family next door to us is best friends with the family who lived on the other side of us (and who recently moved about 30 minutes away).  The guy next door, who we call The Mayor because he is a know-it-all busybody, has decided he doesn't like us.  He and his wife have one child, a son, who is about 4 months younger than my boys.  I invited him over one night, and he said the invitation was too "last minute" (it was a week in advance) and he wasn't going to come.  Instead, he had plans with his new best friends, who also dislike us.  Both families have had parties where they have invited every other family on the block, but not us.

The Mayor made up a special "come out to play" whistle that he uses on all of his neighbor-friends.  He'll go out in the alley that run behinds our houses and tweet at his friends.  To me this is strange.  Maybe if we were one of the cool kids who he whistled at, I wouldn't find it strange, but as it is... it's strange.

And it's strange to be discriminated against for something that I have no idea about- I guess that is why it all feels so high school.  In high school I wasn't a cool kid; there were people who weren't my friend or who would never have dated me simply because I wasn't in their social strata.  I'm not sure what defines us or separates us now; whether it is money, religion, or just who we are.

In addition to this situation, which I can somewhat dismiss because these neighbors aren't people who I would choose to be friends with if I met them somewhere other than my back yard, I have been kind of pushed out of a threesome with two of my other mommy friends (who are also neighbors).  These are two women whose company I truly enjoy, and who have been immensely helpful to me and my family over the past two years.  The two of them have gotten extremely close- they are together every single day; their girls are in school together, they exercise together, they are in a Moms' Club together, they babysit each other's children, and they go on vacation together.

When I was younger, my mom told me that threesomes are hard; there is always someone who isn't as close as the other two.  Over the course of the past year, I feel I've been pushed further and further away.  Neither one has invited me or my family over to their home for any kind of play date or meal, nor have they initiated a play date outside the home.  It upsets me, because I like these women, and value their friendship.  They are like-minded in the way they raise their children and share similar interests with me.  I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to handle things- do I keep reaching out to them in the hopes that we can grow closer again?  Or do I just let it go and put my effort into my other friendships?

In a way I've done both things recently; I've reached out to them to initiate plans and they've responded, and I've also put the majority of my social efforts into other relationships.  Spending time with them is difficult, because they are up-to-date on every detail of each other's lives, and I am completely out of the loop.  The feelings of exclusion are so reminiscent of middle school, of wondering what they say about me behind my back, why, despite my best efforts to be friendly, they don't think of me when making plans.

This post has been hard for me to write, because every time I start it or work on it, it brings me down.  But this has been going on for a few months now, and it does have an effect on me.  It's on my mind, not all the time, but periodically, and I wanted to just get it out.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Charlotte's 1st Day of School

Charlotte and Kitty go to school
Charlotte had her first day at school today, in Miss Karen's 2's class.  She is with some of her old classmates from last year, and some other slightly older kids.  She was fine at first, because she has been in the school every other morning with us as we dropped off the boys.  But when she realized I was going to leave, she started to cry.

I had to work a little late today, so Eric picked her up.  He said she was perfectly happy when he got there, and wouldn't take off her (hand-me-down, used-to-be-Benajmin's) backpack.  She was in great spirits tonight, so clearly unruffled by the change.

Her teacher left a voicemail on our home phone, which I thought was really sweet.  She said that Charlotte had cried at drop-off and then again when they left the playground, but that she ate well and napped well and fit in great with her classmates.  Hurray!  The boys told Eric they had seen her crying as she left the playground, and they made sure to give her big hugs.  Such kind big brothers.

I'm very happy with the way the school year is beginning.  There is a price difference between the toddler class Charlotte had initially been assigned (and which we are paying for) and the 2 year old class.  I am going to decide whether I want to get some money back, or whether Charlotte should go a 2nd day each week to get into the routine.

Tonight, I have such mixed emotions.  I feel proud that my little girl is mature enough to fit in with kids 4-6 months older than she is, and I feel sad that my baby has grown up so fast.  She's always been in a hurry to be a big girl- some days I just want it to slow down.

Monday, September 8, 2014

First Day of School

The boys had their first day of school today.  This year, they are going a half day in addition to their 3 full days, and today was their first half day.

As usual, I attempted to get the boys to pose in a cute way prior to their first day.  This is what I got:

They went into their classroom with no hesitation.  Before I could even unload their forms and school supplies, they were settled in with puzzles with their friends.  There class this year is a mix of friends from last year and people they don't yet know, which is great.
Puzzles with their friend Valerie
I used my 3 hours to take Charlotte to Gymboree, grocery shop, and start dinner.  I have to pat myself on the back here, but I made a delicious pork loin in the crock pot, roasted broccoli, and risotto and got it all on the table by 6, even after taking the kids to the playground until about 5:15.  This extra half day could be amazing!

While we were at school, we dropped off some of Charlotte's supply.  She was placed in the Toddler Room again because she's not yet 2.  We walked into the Toddler Room, which was her class last year (and she was the youngest), and it was full of BABIES.  Like, a boy in a onesie wobbling around and banging 2 blocks together.  It didn't sit well with me, but I didn't have a chance to talk to Eric about it. When I picked the boys up, the mom of one of their classmates was there with her son, who is 1 month older than Charlotte.  She told me her son is in the 2 year old classroom!  I came home and called the director, who agreed with me that Charlotte is a little big for the toddler room, so they'll move her up to the young 2's class.  I am partly excited for Charlotte to play and socialize, and partly nervous- I want her to be on her best behavior and act like a 2 year old!  I figure, since she thinks she is 4, acting 2 should be no problem.  I'll post about her 1st day on Thursday after she goes.

Another good start to what will hopefully be another good year. And one year from now, my boys will be in kindergarten!