Monday, December 29, 2014

Potty Training: Day 8

So how are things going?

First, I didn't really announce the whole start (because, do any of you really care?). I had plans to start the 3-Day PT method on Wednesday, Christmas Eve. The husband would be home and I would be able to somehow have extra hands when sister tries to crawl through the pee all over the floor. Yes, it's happened a few times.

Except, the toddler decided that after weeks of me telling him we were almost out of diapers and that soon we won't have anything other than big boy undies to wear that Monday, 12/22 was the day he would refuse a diaper. We were having friends over for a playdate just an hour later. And the next day we had dentist appointments that would require we be out of the house. Not ideal and not in the plans for the whole 3-Day method. Except, the method was written for kids primarily between 22-30 months. Anything after that (read: my kid at 34 months) would be harder and not ideal. Super. Starting things off on a positive note.

The benefit to having a kid this old to PT? They do know when they are peeing and can tell you all the signs. And if they are anything like Benjamin, they've been casually using the potty on their own for almost a year. Time to get the ball rolling.

First two days of PT were flying solo because Dad was working. We went all-in without pull-ups or diapers at night or naptime. Here's the summary without doing a day-to-day.

Naptime: Woke 6/7 times dry

Bedtime: Called for me 2/7 times after peeing in the middle of the night, slept through the wet or woke up and peed the bed (hard to tell) 3/7 times and woke completely dry 2/7 times. This doesn't bother me. He is not expected to all of a sudden know how to hold in a bladder full of liquid for 12 hours. I'll change sheets as necessary. I have washable pee pads and he's in a toddler bed, so the laundry is much smaller.

Accidents: 6 accidents over two days (day 1 and day 5-- of which I believe he was acting on purpose because his behavior was terrible that day). The other 5 days were completely dry.

Overall: He's been doing okay, but three days was definitely not the magic number. He goes in public toilets and is fine. Perhaps it's the novelty. He'll proudly tell you he goes in the "women's bathroom" because he's partial to Mommy these days (please send wine). I take him whenever we go somewhere (library, Costco, restaurants) to ensure he doesn't have an accident. He is fine wearing the underwear but is particular in selecting the pair. He also prefers the little potties in our house, but occasionally stands up to pee in the big potties. I don't care which he chooses, as long as he is comfortable using foreign toilets when we're out of the house.

The Bad (or should I say annoying): He doesn't tell me often when he has to go, so the whole premise about them owning it is not at all working with Benjamin. I usually get him to go by telling him I'm going potty and want him to come with me. It usually works. He refuses to go when he wakes up from nap or nighttime and had two consecutive accidents because of this. He also occasionally flat-out tells me NO when I ask him to go potty (because I know he has to be holding it in! Ah, life with a "spirited child").

On the 3-Day PT Method:
- I clearly don't have the poster child for this program. Three days (multiplied by 50?).
- The whole premise is to ditch all forms of a crutch and go head first. Fine. I'm cool with changing peed bedding (it's only pee).
- You are to be near your child and notice when they start to have an accident and run them to the bathroom, getting pee all over your house in the process. Also fine. I understand that it's teaching the kid that pee only goes in the potty and no where else, at the expense of your hardwood floors and carpeting and the baby who will absolutely crawl through it.
- Verbally congratulate them (at obnoxious levels) for using the potty, even if it started as an accident, congratulating for keeping their underwear dry and reminding them to tell you when they need to go (like 100x a day). No questions, only statements. Also fine, except I can count on one hand how many times Benjamin has told me he needed to go on his own. The rest were me convincing him he needed to go when I know he did (judging by liquid consumption).
- Lots of liquids. I find this the trickiest. Pump them with lots of favorite beverages and then halt them a couple hours before sleep time. That means he only gets liquids for two, 3-hr periods a day. It's really hard to manage that! And, I can't just force liquids upon him. He's nearly 3 and seriously gives me the back off, MOM look whenever I try. It's exhausting getting him to eat or drink anything.

We're in it. We're not wavering. It may take forever from here, but we're committed.

Things I'm nervous about:

School starts back up January 6. He's been fighting school (because it's not on his terms, not because he doesn't actually like it) and getting dropped off. He will have been diaperless for 15 days and seriously can hold his bladder like a champ, so I'm not too worried. However, it is 2.5 hours long and he does go early in the morning and there is a chance he could have an accident because he refuses to pee when he wakes. On the flipside, it is preschool and something tells me his school has seen their fair share of accidents (after all, where do you learn if not there?), but I'm nervous. I might try to walk him in myself and have him use the potty before dropping him in his classroom each morning. But ugh! Then I lose the luxury of the dropoff service and have to schlep Claire out of the car in the coldest month of the year. I really, really think putting him in pull-ups is a poor choice and won't do it. I'd honestly rather keep him home.

We will also be traveling to Whistler in two weeks with good friends and Benjamin will be sharing a room with their daughter who is also almost 3. I don't want him waking her in the night because he peed the bed, so despite all the encouragement to eliminate all diapers, I'm going to tell him that in other houses and special hotels that we must wear these pull-ups (using a decoy name) because the owners make us. I'll even generate a note and hang it on the wall so he knows. Just so it's situational and not a regression. Like most kids his age, he loves pointing out rules and think that will go over fine.

**I posted this at naptime. End of Day 8 went swimmingly. He actually told me twice today when he had to go and went on his own ("Turn the lights on and close the door, Mommy"-- been telling us this for months). Rewards are really working. Every positive thing I give him (TV, treats, computer time) is followed by "because you've been so great at going in the potty and keeping your underwear dry!" I make sure to reward him even when only a pee-- noticed that the first few days he was forcing out mini poops because he was somehow under the impression that poop is more impressive. I've been obnoxiously complimenting his pee-only times as well to curb this. Seems like he's really starting to own this. Also took all his clothes off tonight and took his own shower (just needed help turning on to get correct temperature). Yay?!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours. Wishing love and peace to you all.


Best of 6. Toddlers are impossible with photos. Heavily bribed to sit on my lap because a present was waiting (Buzz Lightyear!) and allowing him to press the self-timer before hopping on my lap. Green Christmas sweaters were a gift from family. Notice Andrew's print. I'm sure you already did. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Gap

I'm at my end this week. It's just one of those weeks that never seems to end and the toddler and baby have found every cord to strike within me.

I had to get out this morning. Most storytimes have taken a winter hiatus and so we went to my least favorite one in the local downtown. It's not very engaging and the room is enormous, so attention spans are minimal. After, we explored the computers, elevator, dirty toys, water fountain in which Benjamin was sticking his hands in and then sticking them in his mouth, omg omg omg, we went to the {once again} mediocre storytime.

After, I thought it would be fun to walk and check out the trains they place on the sidewalks for the winter. They're about the size of the ones you'd ride in front of a supermarket, but decorated with different sponsors and such. We got to the corner and there was a Gap store. I figured I'd check out their clearance for cute stuff for Claire.

Walking in was fine. And then it was all over.

Benjamin was a nightmare. He was hanging from the security things in front of the door. Climbing into the front display of the store. Grabbing display hanging metal things that the workers were assembling and running off with them. Climbing on top of full displays and sitting on them after he cleared all of the shirts that were being displayed. Running up and down the aisles and yelling MOM! as loud as he could. It's his latest thing to do. Finally, after he cleared another shelf and landed about 50 beautifully folded shirts on the floor, I put Claire on the floor (to then also crawl up and down aisles and attempt to get into the cashier's area) and purchased a single item. But of course, Claire can't walk, so I must carry her the 1.5 blocks to the car and the toddler refuses to not only put on his coat, but move a single inch on his own. He sat.

Somehow I strong-armed them both and after that block, I didn't have the strength to manage the full 50lbs of awkward weight, so I put him down on the sidewalk and told him he needed to walk. He refused. So I grabbed one arm and began to drag-walk him down the street. An older couple approached and asked if I needed help.

I'm not too proud. Yes. YES. I need help. And a stroller or a husband or a freaking nanny. She held his other arm as we dragged him that 1/2 block to the car.

And this, my friends, is why I refuse to shop anywhere with my toddler. How I see these moms walking in and out of stores with their children who happily wear coats and hats and stand by their side while shopping amazes me. They're like unicorn spottings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Conversations with Benjamin: Part I

My friend Brooke inspired me with her recent posts about her daughter, Zuzu, and the hilarity that is spoken in her house. You have to go over and read her posts... toddlers are a riot.

--

Scene: Early morning and the kids are rummaging around in our bedroom. Claire finds a plastic bag with an empty bottle inside.

Benjamin: {grabs bag and runs} No, thief!

(Apparently all the readings of his favorite Peter Rabbit book are adding to his vocabulary. He just loves that naughty bunny.)

--

Scene: Living room, climbing on top of the very unsafe and not to be climbed Ballapallooza toy.

Benjamin: {yelling to me as I'm in the kitchen} Mom! Take a picture. I being dangerous!

(He loves being dangerous. And naughty. Dangerous and naughty. He also was proud to tell me about his dangerous ways as he attempted to climb the luggage rack on the commuter train from the second level on Sunday.)

--

Scene: In his bedroom after nap. We were talking about going to the children's museum that morning and why we left the museum prematurely.

Mom: Didn't we have a fun morning? What did we do?

Benjamin: I go to children's museum. I kick off my shoes. I make a poor choice.

--

Scene: Afternoon, just hanging out in the kitchen.

Benjamin: Mommy, sing please mommy dod? Know dat song?

Mom: Yes, I know that one... "Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad..."

--

Scene: Benjamin finished art at the table (i.e. scissors, paper and glue stick, no rules)

Benjamin: I cut dis for you. Mommy, are you proud?

Mom: Yes, Benjamin. I'm so proud of you!

--

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Remember, 2014

This is our fifth Christmas since becoming pregnant with Andrew. All five of which he was not here to celebrate with us. Each year I struggle with decorations. Even though we have two children in our house (judging by the looks of the messes they make at the very least!), it's still difficult to hang the stockings (four or five? where? which location will make us the least sad?), buy the tree and find a location (same place as when we arrived home from the hospital in 2010? no thanks.), and go about the whole holiday cheer business. I'm still not there completely. I'm not sure I'll ever be. There will probably never be an Elf in our house and I'm pretty content with that.

Each year we attend a remembrance ceremony held about a block from the hospital all three of our children were born. It's put on by the hospital's SHARE program and is free, funded by the hospital and volunteers. There are cookies and punch at the end, baked by the staff in Labor & Delivery.

This is our "favorite" (odd to favorite a remembrance ceremony?) one to attend and one we like keeping as a tradition for our family, especially during the Christmas season. It is also nice that it's the same week of Andrew's birthday each year. It's specifically for families who have lost children, so it almost feels like a group of comrades coming together who fully understand the magnitude of this type of grief. It's really wonderful and really heartbreaking as the numbers continue to grow.

The sanctuary is full of hundreds of families. Some are childless. Some lost children days, weeks or months before, and some are like us and have lived through this for years now. There are babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, family members and friends all sitting in pews listening to the church choir sing and SHARE organizers speak the names of our children, hand us the lighter to ignite our candle and stand near the tree we hang our ornaments.

They open the mic and some people go up to share poems or speak about their experiences and love for their children. One woman spoke about approaching her daughter's first birthday on January 7th, just a week before Claire was born. I could probably tell you what I was doing that day (itching in the OB office, flipping out). In the end, I did birth a live child, and she did not.

One man spoke of this being a tradition for his family each year. In tears, he spoke about how other family members might forget, but it's important they keep their son's memory alive and attend these ceremonies with his people-- us-- other broken families. He thanked his wife publicly for making this important to their family, because he is important and being open about your grief and sadness is important.

Another woman spoke of this being her 14th year at this ceremony and it being a tradition for her family as well; how the grief is easier now, but that it still makes her sad.

Claire spent the majority of the time crawling up to the front of the sanctuary and trying to get her little hands on those shiny ornaments. I pulled her back each time, knowing there were people sitting there, hoping they would have a child accompanying them to future ceremonies. How they wish that were them right now. We've been that family. Claire found a toddler boy and spent her time entertaining him by handing him a Chapstick and then giggling, over and over again. That same mom and son were there the year prior and sat behind us-- they are missing their firstborn son that bears the same name as ours. It's really a comradery. It's not quite the same as my group of blogging friends that dragged me through that whole first year and still are there supporting, but it was nice to see familiar faces, shed similar tears, and nod with the understanding that only a family who has lost a child can really comprehend.
Wearing her rainbow hat, made by the grandma of a good BLM friend of ours who also lost her daughter..
Benjamin first wore this hat along with 14 other rainbows at our first babyloss get together here in Chicago.
Benjamin was practicing his terrible two stage of fun by tantruming in the car for the first 20 minutes of the ceremony. These can last upwards of 2-3 hours lately, so I didn't think they would be coming inside. But, miraculously there was an apology given and they arrived in the sanctuary just as the names were being read. We walked as a family of four to hang an ornament for our five. I lit the candle and Benjamin hung the ornament for Andrew on the tree. That moment was really special {except after he walked down the aisle saying, "I all done...we go now...get cookies."}
No photos from the ceremony of our middle child, but here he is all dressed dapper after nap in his collared shirt and sweater.
(because he refuses to wear any jackets at all and therefore I must dress him in the warmest clothes possible!)
I knew there were families there that saw our family of four (one boy! one girl! jackpot!) and thought to themselves that we were the lucky ones. We may have lost, but look what we have now. We have hope. And, we do. We truly feel thankful for the squealing little girl who was literally crawling through the pews under peoples' legs during the ceremony and the boy who was thrashing himself in his carseat because I don't even remember why (and neither did he). That first year after losing Andrew, we attended, quite pregnant with our rainbow baby. We saw the families around us with children and hoped that would be us. We even talked about the hope we had to bring our future children there each year to celebrate the life of our firstborn and keep his memory alive in the midst of the present-buying, cookie-exhanging, Santa-picture-taking madness.

Here we are. Hope has arrived. May there be many more (other peoples' rainbow children) in that sanctuary next year and years to come.
Made an apple pie yesterday with initials of December babies we miss, just because. Grief baking and eating + apples that needed to be eaten = humble pie for sure.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gobble Gobble

We headed east for Thanksgiving like we've done in the past. We have family in Pittsburgh, which is about a 7-hour drive from Chicago. We love Pittsburgh. It's big enough to get a city feel, has bridges and water and rolling hills and good food. It's a fun city. Did I mention I am a city girl? Yep.

I'm always happy to leave the Midwest for something more exciting and Pittsburgh is always more exciting. It especially helps that when we're there, we're with family who loves on our kids and gives us breaks. Three cheers for that!

We had a great time. We woke up at 3 a.m. on Wednesday and drove the entire 7 hours with just one 20-minute stop for gas and a stretch. We arrived at lunchtime and had lunch with Gramie, Grandpa, Aunt Mansa & Max. The rest of the day was pool time, relaxing, skipping naptime, and Primanti Brothers (though they're rated a 5/10 this time and I'm honestly not sure we'll return).
Thanksgiving morning we woke up and ditched left the kids with the grandparents and ran the Turkey Trot Downtown. I made some pretty fun costumes that Aunt Mansa and I wore, while the guys sported some Target turkey hats.
Thursday afternoon and evening was spent at Aunt Ceil's house. I love their house and love them even more. They made this vegetarian some delicious red lentils and rice that I could seriously eat for every meal. Thanksgiving dinner is always really underwhelming for me because it usually consists of mashed potatoes, a side of veggies and bread. But not there! Delicious all around. Benjamin disagreed, but he never really eats anything, so that's no surprise. Family was great and we had a great showing. {Great} Gramie & Papa were at Thanksgiving and it was so nice to see them, as well as Aunt Jan who spends most of her time in Portland (another one of my favorite cities!).
Friday was spent at Aunt Helen's house, about 45 minutes from Downtown. She has three horses and Benjamin sat on one. Maybe next year he'll actually ride! We spent the day with everyone just relaxing. I was exhausted because Claire seemed to think waking every two hours the night before was a good idea... so we made the decision to head home that evening and just leave around dinnertime because if she was going to be waking every 2 hours anyway, we might as well leave before bedtime rather than wait until 3 a.m. again. That way we'd make it home just past midnight and get at least 7 hours of sleep (and it worked!).
I drove the first 3.5 hours back home and the husband drove the last 3.5 hours. We literally stopped for 2 minutes just to fill a 1/2 tank of gas and were off again. We arrived home around 12:30 a.m. and Claire slept the majority of the time. Benjamin was awake for the majority (even at Midnight!), but was so tired from all the family and festivities that he was calm and cool just sitting in his carseat.
It was our first road trip with two in the backseat! This was our first one over 2 hours with both of them and we deemed it successful!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Letters to Andrew: 4th Birthday Edition

Just over a month before Andrew was born, we were sitting in a soccer stadium in downtown Chicago watching my cousin's game with my aunt and my cousin's girlfriend (now wife-- Benjamin went to the wedding in 2012). I remember telling her how nervous I was to give birth because it was scary and foreign and sounded, well, painful.

I vividly remember her telling me that no matter how much pain, in the end, we will get to take home the most wonderful gift ever when it's all over. Those words are burned in my memory, because that never happened. All the pain, none of the gain. {Well, the love during pregnancy and beyond is most assuredly a gain, but not without an immense amount of emotional pain that will never end.}

Not pain and then gain. How I wish that were so.

----

Dear Andrew,

You are absolutely missed. Every single day of my life, I miss you. There will never be a birthday that we don't celebrate you, or a holiday, first day of school, soccer practice, park visit, family vacation that you go unmissed.

On your fourth birthday, I miss the preschool-aged boy you would be. I miss the boy who would be starting to read and getting excited for selecting his birthday party theme and blowing out those four candles tonight. I miss every bit of it.

Always Loving,
Mom, Dad, Benjamin & Claire.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Abby: Stating the Bad

Despite this being our big grief month, we still have to carry on and parent our living children, sometimes lacking the correct way to handle the many adventures Benjamin throws at us. Here's my Dear Abby for you all... because kids don't come with handbooks. I'd seriously pay a pretty penny for one tailored just to this toddler.

Recently he has been verbally recounting all of the unfavorable things he does. Sometimes immediately, but mostly days and weeks and months after the fact.

I hit the TV.
I throw Mr. Potato Head on the floor.
I hit Gawbee at IKEA (which he says often and this happened in SEPTEMBER!).
I go pee in Buzz Lightyear underwear (yeah, those didn't work).
I bite Daddy.

Usually we respond with conversational language about the incident and attach feeling to the story so he learns that not only is the action unfavorable, but it hurts our feelings. He does need to know that the action disappoints us and why.

Yes, you did throw the toy on the ground and it made Mommy and Daddy very sad. Was that a good choice to make? If we throw our toys on the ground, that is not respecting our things we are lucky to have and it could break the toy. We would have to throw it in the trash if it breaks.

At this point, he usually agrees and repeats some of what we have said and says things like "bad choice" and "no throw in the trash" and whatnot.

Yet, he still continues to exude this toddler behavior (he is still a toddler and they are irrational, so obviously) and recount these behaviors almost like they are verbal trophies he is giving himself for poor behavior.

Should we be ignoring these statements of negativity he is trying to use? Is he doing this because he is getting a reaction or is it important to continue reacting and talking through his memory again? I know he's only two, but sometimes it feels like he's pulling the reverse psychology on us and almost mocking us. Maybe it isn't that at all and we are just beat down from the same repeat behavior.

Fairly certain at this point that our firstborn would've been much more agreeable.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Name Mix-up

There's this one mom who brings her son to storytime each week. He appears to be a bit younger than Benjamin, but not by much. She also totes along her daughter who is 7 months.

During storytime this morning, the kids were working with shapes of different materials and textures and then finding the location in the room to match the same color and material. As the storytime leader passed out the supplies, she came to this woman and her son and said, "Here you go, Benjamin-- err-- I mean, Andrew. I'm sorry. I get these kids mixed up sometimes."

And... that will never happen to me. I will never mix up Andrew for Benjamin or Benjamin for Andrew. Pretty hard to mix up two kids when one is alive and one has been literally reduced to carbon ashes.

You can also probably see why I have no interest in befriending this woman and her same-aged children, despite the potential connection and playdate opportunities. Can you just imagine me walking into her house to see monogrammed stuff and his name hanging up in his bedroom?

Me neither.

--

Sweet side story: Benjamin randomly sang the entire Happy Birthday song to Andrew yesterday morning while we were getting ready in our bathroom. We have not sung that song or even been telling him much about Andrew's birthday coming. He knew it was coming, but that was completely his idea. Heart explosion. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's the Most HAPPY & SAD Time of Year....

We're kind of going big for Christmas this year. It wasn't intentional, but I've stocked up on things throughout the year, visited a toy resale and scored big, and made a purchase that I hope to not regret as a shared gift that will only be unveiled Christmas morning on Instagram. I have to leave some secrets, as you all know I won't be busting out with anymore "I'm pregnant" announcements (which is why most people read blogs in my age group anyway, KWIM?).

Some ramblings of the happy...

  • We had a great Thanksgiving. I'll post about that on another day. 
  • Benjamin told me he had to use the (public) toilet at the children's museum and he did. We celebrated.
  • Claire is now pulling up to a stand, basically everywhere. 
  • She's also cruising a bit. We think she'll be walking before 14 months (when Benjamin started).
  • I signed up to bake loaves of bread for the local food pantry. Our church selects a local organization each year for an Advent Conspiracy to encourage us to spend less and give more. This year, it's that local food pantry. While I love giving, I've also volunteered there during my pregnancy with Andrew and yowza! Whole Foods hooks it up in there!
  • I'm planning to donate toys for Benjamin's school toy drive for Toys-for-Tots. We will also be donating mittens and other items to decorate the tree (and donate) at his school.
Some ramblings of the sad...

Andrew's birthday is on Friday. He'd be four. It's always like a ton of bricks when Thanksgiving ends and all of a sudden it's December 1st. Because December 1st means his birthday is in four days and it sort of just takes the wind out of me each year. Every single day it seems, I meet kids his age. Younger, actually. It shocks me to see their big and able bodies and to know his never grew past the 7lb6oz I birthed.

We will celebrate with dinner at our favorite local burger chain that our kids love. We figure he'd love it, too. I'll buy a special dessert and we'll light candles and especially his candle. My in-laws sent us home with a gift for Andrew's birthday and my mom sent over another ornament for him and decorated a tree special and in honor of him at their house. They will also be setting off four Japanese paper lanterns in his honor this weekend to represent his fourth birthday.

Next Tuesday, we will attend the annual remembrance ceremony at a local church, specifically for families who lost children. I will bring an ornament and hang it. I will then drive back to the hospital I birthed all three of my children and retrieve it in January... the week Claire was born last year.

We will wait, as we always do, to decorate for Christmas until after his birthday is over. It's part of respecting his birthday, and partly because we want to leave space for our grief. Our house was heavily decorated just hours before Andrew died. We will probably never put a tree in that spot again. The first five windows to the Advent House (calendar) we have will remain empty in his honor every year. No decorations will be hung or placed until after we celebrate our firstborn. It just doesn't seem right any other way.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Consistently Inconsistent

The journey in parenting a toddler continues to confuse the crap out of me.

He will go weeks without tantrums and psychotic behavior, and then turns a corner and goes almost nowhere and does almost nothing without throwing himself on the floor in rage.

He goes weeks and weeks using the potty at home and then goes weeks refusing to use it at all.

He eats all three meals like a champ and then the next day is given the exact same favorite foods and eats almost no bites.

He went years happily bathing at night and not wanting to get out of the tub to not wanting to take any form of bath or shower at all in the last few weeks. Don't come too close to this kid, he probably hasn't used soap in awhile.

There's just about nothing that makes sense with him. It's all about negotiation and bartering. The thing is, we weren't trained in lunatic mind-reading.

I don't get it.

Hashtag crazy toddler.

Hashtag exhausted parents.

Hashtag just potty train already because you are almost three. omg omg omg.

-         -          -          -          -

Question of the day: We will be bootcamping his little rump pretty soon here. What's the best thing to do at night and naptime? Go all-in and let him pee the bed until he can control it? Put a potty in his room in case he wakes and has to go (he's locked in for safety). Throw on a pull-up/diaper and let him use that, potentially making this whole night training thing last f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Sound off.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Egg Allergy

My children come from a family with very few allergies to food. Skin is a whole different story, but foods are generally a-ok in our world.

Benjamin has eaten everything under the sun (well, until he shunned food from 13-months until present). He's a peanut butter addict. He's tried everything that causes common allergies in kids and has never shown a single reaction.

Claire appeared to be following in his footsteps until about two weeks ago. She's had whole peanuts (!) that her brother stuck in her mouth. I fished them out, but the remnants were still there. Her bottles are washed in the same sink as peanut butter infested spoons and knives. The oil is on everything! I've concluded that if she has even a mild reaction to peanuts, it won't be severe. 

At her 9-month pediatrician appointment, the doctor encouraged us to give her peanut butter and all known allergens in small bits to help her body tolerate any foods she might later struggle to manage. He encouraged just about everything. It's interesting how different the doctors in one practice can be. Since we see just about all the doctors, they all provide different advice.

I decided to give her egg. It had nothing to do with what the doctor said and all because we happened to have some leftover eggs in the fridge that I wanted to use. Egg is soft, chewy, full of protein and something she can feed herself with little choking hazard. At her age, Benjamin was eating eggs often and loved them. Let's not talk about what he eats now... eggs aren't on the {very small} list.

Over the last month, I gave her scrambled eggs three times. The first two times, no reaction. She liked the eggs and they were easy to chew with her four teeth. The third time was an entirely different experience. This time, within two hours of eating the eggs from the exact same batch as the first two, she vomited profusely four times within a 45-minute period. And then done. No more reaction or lingering sickness. The egg was cleared from her system. I figured she had a reaction to whole egg, but could still eat eggs in baked goods as I'd assumed she'd eaten in pancakes and other muffins.

We went on a playdate last Friday morning and they had freshly baked pumpkin muffins. I gave Claire the equivalent of a teaspoon total of the muffin. She was fine and then two hours later, vomit everywhere. She vomited 3 different times over the course of the hour and had about the same reaction she did when I gave her scrambled egg the last time.

I thought she'd had a bunch of baked goods by now, and she has. Baked breads, croissants and pancakes I thought were made with egg. It turns out, none of those baked items she's eaten actually contained egg! These two times may be a fluke, but I'm not willing to risk it right now, having watched my daughter profusely vomit all over me many, many times over the last two weeks.

I've had two friends recently deal with some serious food allergy situations and Claire happened to also be dealing with her own (more minor) allergy over here. We thought we could slide under the radar on these food allergies because we don't have any ourselves, but nope.

Additional random tidbit: Claire has the Photic sneeze reflex just like me! It's hereditary and common among only 18-35% of the population. We learned about it through a Veggie Tales song Benjamin was watching on YouTube. Funny.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Having married a former Air Force guy myself, I know quite a few people who have served in active duty. Many of those people have risked their lives places faraway and sacrificed it all for the freedom of our great nation.

Today, we honor you all. Thank you.

We also have someone near and dear to our hearts that is celebrating another Veterans Day. Elliot's grandfather, Lyn Sturdevant. We call him Papa and to our kids, he's Great Papa.


My Dad's brother, Uncle Don, passed away this past year and he, too, was a veteran. We honor the late Donald Richardson here, too. And so many, many others.

In my attempt to take the cutest photo ever, I present you with the two most uncooperative children on the planet. They don't understand Veterans Day or why it's important to humble yourselves to honor someone else just yet. But, I hope that someday they will truly understand how noble these veterans are. Maybe they, too, will choose to defend their country someday.

two tantrums, 1.5 hours, 3 poses, Countless mom acrobatics to try and convince them to smile.
Let's just say... Mom: 0, Kids: 1

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thumb-Sucking & Nap-Dropping

Two kids with their own ideas.

Benjamin has been a thumb-sucker from about 6-months old. 
Claire dropped her morning nap a couple weeks ago at 9-months old. 

She appears to be faring decent without that morning nap, but I'm still in shock because Benjamin had a morning nap until he was 16-months old! And even then, we had to force him into dropping it. With her, she's never had a formal morning nap routine because mornings are dedicated to getting out of the house and engaging in activities like visiting the museum, storytime, preschool, playdates and parks. 

Poor girl never had a fighting chance. By and large, Benjamin sleeps better at night as well (maybe it's the thumb Claire never cared for!). Maybe time will change this, but the toddler loves to sleep. He almost always must be woken up from naps and night sleep. He's a cranky waker (like his mom!), so that's always fun. Claire, on the other hand, wakes on her own and is still waking after about 8 hours of sleep at night for one feed. I do recall Benjamin waking once at night when he was 9-months old, but she just seemed to need less sleep than he ever did. While a bit of a bummer for me not getting a break to get grocery shopping done without one of the kids creating a scene, it's not really an issue; just a difference. It also means I get zero time with Benjamin alone during the day. 

About the thumb-sucking. He's reaching 33-months and still sucking his thumb. That's 27 glorious months of him self-soothing with the magical thumb. As a baby, it was magical. We didn't have to worry about a pacifier falling out of his mouth or getting him to sleep at night. He just sucked his thumb and was a happy little camper. But, now that he's nearly three, we're becoming nervous that he'll turn into the third-grader at school that everyone sort of looks at with disgust. It's not sanitary and it's definitely not doing anything positive for his dental health. He will already need teeth extraction (two supernumerary teeth just like me as a kid) and braces, but I'd prefer he not worsen his overbite and cause his baby teeth to fall out. Our pediatrician at his 2-year appointment told us not to worry about the thumb-sucking until he's three. That's in three months and the thumb-sucking is not slowing down a bit.

We are considering thumb guards, but unless we convince him how cool they are, there's no way he'll keep it on. He will bite it, pull it off, or ruin it. They run from $13-$75 for pieces of latex and plastic that will probably be ripped to shreds by our fervent thumb lover. There's a slight chance we will be able to convince him to wear it, but that's unlikely. Then there's the horribly tasting stuff that gets great reviews but can also cause kids to stop eating (not something we need help with as he eats nothing already!) if the flavor gets on their food. It's supposed to last 2 days without a need for reapplying, so clearly it's powerful and works according to the 2,400+ reviews on the product and nearly 5 perfect stars.

Anyone out there with thumb-suckers? Or even better, former thumb-suckers? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Happiest Place on Earth

I grew up going to Disneyland throughout my entire childhood and into adulthood. I probably went more in high school and college than I did in my entire growing up even. I know the layout of the park quite well and even went on casual group dates to Disneyland. Most of my friends in Los Angeles have season passes and even go after work on Friday nights. We went on our first wedding anniversary with good friends just before we left California for our month long road trip to Illinois (then to Germany two weeks later). Here's a throwback blog post of that Disney trip. We even drove right by Disney Paris while living in Germany and on our road trip to Paris with my parents, but didn't go or even really have the desire. I might have had a different outlook if it wasn't winter in Paris when we visited.

We always swore that if we had kids, we wouldn't consider taking them to Disney World (hello expensive!) before they were about third grade because we wanted our expense and effort to pay off in memories they'd actually keep. But, when your husband has a work conference for five days in Orlando on the Disney property with a free shuttle to all the Disney parks and a hotel room all paid?

You buy two tickets to Disney World and make some of your own memories with kids who won't remember their first trip to the Happiest Place on Earth at all. Both kids were free and I know you might not believe it, but Benjamin lasted the entire 10 hours of the park exploring without tantrums or naps and totally rallied to the end. I swear they sprinkle magic fairy dust all over that joint.

It was my first trip to DW and while I definitely enjoyed it, I missed some obvious favorites that are part of DL. Though, I've never been to Epcot, Disney Studios or Animal Kingdom either, and I do believe some of those differences are evened out by visiting all of the parks... if you have that kind of time and money, of course.

Taking kids was a whole other experience. Even though it was technically a new park to me, they are very similar in layout and have the same overall rides or something equivalent to the Disney park I'm used to. It didn't feel like a very new experience. It was crazy passing by Space Mountain with less than a 10 minute wait in favor of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh instead. We went on none (except Pirates) of the rides we would normally hit up and favored the rides we would never go on before. It was actually quite fantastic seeing the park through the eyes of a small child, unlike the teenager and adult-without-child I had last been when visiting a Disney park.

We worked the Fastpass system to our full advantage while there and even used the child swap system a number of times that granted Benjamin back-to-back rides with each of us while the other hung out with Claire (which was perfect when the toddler immediately requested "again, again" after every ride... was nice to actually say, OKAY sometimes!). We used all three fastpasses early and continued to add another on immediately after, allowing us to wait no longer than about 5-10 minutes to get on any ride. When Elliot left to head back to the hotel for a the conference kickoff dinner, I stayed the final two hours with the kids and used both fastpasses (his and mine) to get on two rides immediately. I highly recommend selecting your first three fastpasses strategically and as early as you can to get rid of them so you can use more and more of them throughout the day. Plan this at home before you get there. I also recommend keeping all of the fastpasses separate so you have more flexibility to take different kids on different rides at different times. Being connected means all people 3yo+ are forced to be on the same schedule when Child 1 might want to go on Splash Mountain and Child 2 might prefer Big Thunder Mountain. If you play your cards on the fastpasses properly, you can get a lot more rides in with very little wait time.

We arrived at the park at 9:08 a.m. and left around 6:45 p.m. (open 9a-7p that day). We breaked shortly for lunch, but the rest of the time was spent walking about, riding rides and meeting characters. The entire first hour was basically devoted to meeting Mickey Mouse and making our way to the first fastpass ride. The character lines were the longest lines all day we waited for, thanks to the fastpasses and off-season!

We experienced the following rides/attractions/shows/character meetings:

Meeting Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (a must-do! Mickey talks to you personally!) - longest line of 35min.
Barnstormer (x2) "A little bit scary, SO fun"
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (fastpass #1)
Meeting Buzz Lightyear
Dumbo the Flying Elephant (x2)
It's a Small World (x2) - more info below, but such a crazy thing happened!
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (fastpass #2)
Meeting Winnie the Pooh and Tigger - second longest line of about 25min.
Mickey's PhilharMagic - Benjamin's first interactive 3D show. It's great!
Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor - super funny!
Peter Pan's Flight (x2) (fastpass #3)
Pirate's of the Caribbean - only has one drop at DW and two drops at DL! Better at DL and significantly longer.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Swiss Family Treehouse
Tomorrowland Speedway
Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover - "more escalators!"
Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid

The only rides Claire was not allowed on that we took Benjamin on were the Barnstormer and Tomorrowland Speedway. She was even allowed to ride in the Ergo on some of the rides and handled the drop on Pirates of the Caribbean just fine.

Now for the photos:

On our way to Orlando! The kids were basically perfect the first leg and the way back, decent. Just before I took that #familyselfie, Benjamin was saying, "I coming Mickey Mouse!" Benjamin caught in the act of hitting his sister on the hotel room bed. Sunset boat cruise at Downtown Disney.
We met Buzz Lightyear after our first ride (the Buzz Lightyear ride). Second longest line of the day: Meeting Pooh & Tigger. They took two "breaks" while we were in line. There was an awesome Make-a-Wish family in front of us in line and that was so wonderful. One thing is for sure: Disney does an incredible job making each child feel so special by not rushing families along and even using our cameras to take pictures with the characters.
A bit of a reverse order here, but our very first thing we did in the park was head to the Town Square Theater where we waited 35 minutes (longest line all day!) to meet Mickey Mouse. He talks, you guys! I didn't know this and Benjamin was thoroughly thrilled to meet his idol. Well worth the wait as we watched Mickey walk Benjamin around the room doing an elephant stomping dance, telling him he'd been waiting for him all day and that it was so nice getting to see him. A kid's dream! Minnie Mouse and Goofy were in Times Square as we left to the rides, also taking photos. That's a standard schedule for them.
Best family Mickey photo we managed & a washed-out photo of us on Main Street.
The first ride (Benjamin's game face!) & the only spotting of Benjamin wearing his Mickey hat. Basically ever. 
Benjamin went on the Barnstormer 2x in a row, thanks to child swap. He went on with Dad first and was apparently drinking a chocolate milk (!) when he took the photo of them going up on the roller coaster. Apparently he took the milk away right after. It was a pretty fast roller coaster and he was tall enough (35" required; he's 36ish). He did think it was a bit scary, but wanted to go on a second time. And yes, he totally has his hands up as Dad encouraged him to do! Also, Tomorrowland Speedway, which I'm pretty sure is called Autopia at Disneyland.
We all went on Dumbo twice. Once Claire was sleeping in the Ergo and they were in front of me, and a second time as a family in one elephant. Benjamin was a fan of the flying elephant. Shortly after, we had a Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich. Of course!
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh tends to have long waits (in addition to Peter Pan & Buzz Lightyear, hence the first three fastpasses), so we hit that up with our fastpass. Dad took him on the first time and then I took him on with my fastpass the second time. All children under 3 (free) tag along with the fastpass holder on the rides. They themselves don't count. We also managed some ridiculously delicious mac'n'cheese in Fantasyland and were approached by some random (?) characters. Benjamin absolutely loved It's a Small World and that's his cheesy little grin when on the first time with Dad and his fastpass. The second time, I managed both kids by myself (fastpass use #2 so B could go twice!). In line, the woman in front of me told me she thinks she recognizes me and asked if I had a friend named Laura ____. Um, yes I do! Turns out they are friends and both live in Toronto. She remembered my face from an Instagram post of Laura's from TWO YEARS AGO! We chatted and rode the long It's a Small World ride ... how's that for irony ... and said our goodbyes. And now we're Instagram friends. More Canadian friends, check!
We caught the tail end of a few parades, but didn't manage to sit through a full one ourselves. We did see fireworks, some favorite characters and lots of dancing.
Elliot had to head back to the hotel and start his work dinners and conference, so I stuck back with the kids for the two remaining hours of the park and hit up three more things in addition to treating ourselves to a Dole Whip. We went on Ariel's Under the Sea ride, saw Mickey's PhilharMagic, went on the Carrousel & eventually headed back on the boat (instead of Monorail this time) to our shuttle bus. Benjamin loved the 3D show and kept putting his hands out to grab things. He even grabbed my leg at one point and Claire was content playing on the floor. We felt the water spray and wind, but didn't smell whatever we were expected to smell? It's not nearly as cool as the Soarin' experiences, but it's 2003 technology and was still quite fun. It made me so excited to eventually take Benjamin to a 3D movie.
A few things to look at here from the boat ride back: The boat's captain waving and the progression of Benjamin's faces. Claire is overall unamused and rightfully exhausted.
Other things that happened: We rode the Monorail just for fun one of the days because my kid loves transportation (and elevators and escalators, but not seatbelts), one of the two double stroller naps because these kids don't nap in hotels, a sleeping Benjamin at the LEGO store in Downtown Disney, and a very cute little girl hanging out with Mama near the pool.
Most stupid thing I did while there? Spent $20 on an inflatable gator at the Hilton pool. You see how big that thing is resting on top of my Double BOB stroller? So big and underused that I insisted on bringing it home to get more use out of it. He did find a friend to play with at one point and enjoyed the alligator back in the hotel room. Seriously, you guys. I thought it was a good idea to buy this to go through the lazy river (that shoots water, so baby hated it), but it turns out it's impossible to be 5'3" and manage getting off an alligator in fast moving water with a toddler who cannot swim and a small baby without capsizing the stupid reptile. I had a complete stranger help get Benjamin off and pulled a muscle getting Claire and myself off that stupid thing. Scarred for life. In that last photo, Benjamin's reciting something we say at storytime and I just thought it was too cute that I needed to share. 

And there you have it, folks. Benjamin's second major theme park (Cedar Park first) and flight # we've lost count by now. Claire's first amusement park and fourth flight, ironically, both to/from Florida. Her next flight? Whistler, baby!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloweeeeeeen!

With cute kids like this, it makes me really wonder what our first boy would've been like at nearly 4 years old. I'm certain he would've picked an awesome costume and loved all the excitement. Andrew, you are missed, as big as this bumble bee mama can miss someone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Active October

We're busy bees over here!

In a nutshell, the last two weeks included the following:
  • California grandparents arrived for a few days.
  • New pumpkin patch exploring.
  • Visited the beautiful Cantigny Park.
  • Grandparents watched the kids so we could have a rare date night at our very favorite restaurant! Complete with cocktails! And no kids sitting on our laps!
  • Benjamin attended preschool a few times.
  • Claire had her first trip to the ER for a quick spike of 104.6 fever which yielded nothing... until a few days later when she developed the Roseola rash. She had a catheter and urine test and it was ruled viral and the rash confirmed it.
  • Claire turned 9 months on that very same high fever day.
  • She also sprouted her fourth tooth. 
  • I got one of the best massages of my life... Mother's Day gift finally used from my parents!
  • We flew to Orlando (and stayed 5 days) with two pretty good flights (round trip).
  • I was a sucker and paid $20 for a ridiculous inflatable alligator that was hardly used. #facepalm
  • 3/4 of us had our first trip to Disney World.
  • Benjamin was perfect and without a single tantrum during the entire 10 hours of Disney fun without a nap. That place is MAGIC!
  • Benjamin's WORLD was made when he met Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear (and Pooh & Tigger).
  • I successfully failed at getting the kids to sleep through the night or nap in the hotel room that was too small for my liking but successfully managed two double stroller naps!
  • We arrived home completely exhausted, with many loads of laundry and a couple cranky kids.

I'll post pictures and commentary from the Disney trip in another blog post, but until then...

Pictures!
Left photo taken October 12. Right photo taken 48 hours later at the ER during her temperature spike. Doesn't even look like the same girl!
Gawbee arrived (same day and time of Claire's fever hike. OF COURSE). Though, it proved rather convenient because she handled Benjamin at home while we both whisked Claire off to the doctor. Thank you, paid deductible because of the NICU cost in January. She took Benjamin to storytime, we had bagels in the local downtown and hit up some fun places and shops.
Dinner date with my hunky husband, some alone time with my beautiful daughter & a FABULOUS massage (and for those who remember my phone debacle, my parents came to my rescue with a phone for my birthday! New cover in use!)
That fever baby was back to normal and was delightful at her 9mo appointment. Clocking in at 18lb4oz, we're just about in size 3 diapers over here. She and Benjamin might be in the same size diaper soon if he doesn't get his butt in gear and potty train! My dad arrived and they took the kids to a local indoor bounce place and out to dinner while we had our date night.
Donuts for breakfast and off to explore beautiful Cantigny Park!
 We heart Cantigny.
We hit up a local pumpkin patch that was just okay... we'll be back to the far place next year. I seriously think experiences are often dependent on weather and the weather that day was drizzly and cool, hence our mediocre experience. We still managed bounce houses, train rides, a hayride, pony ride, animal feedings, cider and cider donuts, holding baby chickens and cute pumpkin pictures... so I'd say it was a success.
 Um, how cute are they? I seriously can't believe they are our kids.
 Benjamin is fearless. I love it.
 Family.
Pumpkin carving (Benjamin INSISTED he handle the knife for portions!).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Toddler and Baby Lifesavers

The only reason I'm a capable and relatively happy human being right now is because of Benjamin and Claire. Well, mostly Benjamin. He came after Andrew and saved me from a very dark place. Not that the dark place doesn't still exist, but him being alive and allowing me to perform the duties of a mother literally brought me out of a dark place into some light again.

I often tell strangers about Andrew. At least a few times a week, his life comes up in conversation enough for me to explain things. I usually add the whole bit about being able to talk about him without crying because it's been a long time and I have two living children who carry on somewhat of a legacy for him. They carry some of his traits, features, and quirkiness, I'm assuming. I want to assume. I'm guessing I'd be bawling my eyes out while explaining his story if Benjamin and Claire were not in the picture after losing him, no matter if it had been 4 hours or 4 years like we're approaching in December.

With these kids, I feel like I gained some of my happiness and life back.

Without them? I would be in a very bleak place, I think. It's because of them and only because of them that living without Andrew is made manageable. It's a little scary to me that they carry so much of that healing burden for me. It's not fair to them, maybe. But honestly speaking, where on earth would I be without them?

Perhaps a dark post for a Monday, but honest. Something I've been thinking about a lot this week. I'll be back soon (after Halloween festivities and Benjamin's first school program!!) with pictures from pumpkin patch adventure and Disney World!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Letters to Andrew + Invitation

If you will join me, please unite in lighting candles to remember the babies at 7 p.m. this evening.

Small Bird Studio
Dear Andrew,

I almost wrote "sweet" Andrew, but really, who knows who you would have been. You might have been spunky, but I presume more circumspect than your younger brother. I think you would've been an intellect and someone who was easy to please. I guess I can't picture you being anything but wonderful because that's the dream I had for you as a baby growing for those nearly 39 weeks.

One thing is certain; the person you would have been has left a gaping hole in our family. I always said I wanted two children, but missing you makes me sure I want three. Except, I have three and you're not here. If I had one more, I would feel like I want four. I will always want you.

Missing and loving and lighting a candle that is not enough, because we love you.

Love,
Mom

Monday, October 13, 2014

NILMDTS Featured!

I wrote back in August about winning $1,000 for an organization near and dear to our hearts and the reason we have beautiful photos of our Andrew, NILMDTS.

Well, they're featured this week! It's Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day on Wednesday and it's timely to have them at the top of the website with a beautiful photo.

Check it out!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

No, Benjamin.

He's been hearing that a lot, lately. Followed by an explanation, of course, but I feel like a broken record.

  • No, don't spit on the floor. If we do that, we will have a messy house. 
  • No, don't (insert mean thing here) your sister. We are kind to one another.
  • No, you may not put your sandwich bites in the play cart. It's unsanitary. Food needs to stay in the kitchen and on the table.
  • No, hanging on the spice cabinet will cause it to break. You've already broken two drawers recently and we don't want anymore drawers we cannot use.
  • No, you are not allowed to throw Mommy's phone because it will break.
  • No, you may not take out four pieces of string cheese, chew on them through the wrapper and put them in the pantry because that's wasting food and then they will spoil in there.
  • No, you may not take off the cap to the vinegar and chew on it. We need a cap on the vinegar and chewing on it is unsanitary.
  • No, I can't read you that book right now because I am making breakfast/lunch/dinner. I will read it when I am done, but I must make it now because we are all hungry (to which he replies, "No Benjamin eat breakfast/lunch/dinner." and I reply, "But Mommy and Daddy and Sister are hungry and I need to make us food.")

I could go on. FOR DAYS. Not just that, but other explanations of how leaving his sandwich on the table without eating it for hours will result in flies eating it. So. just. please. eat. the. stupid. sandwich (as I stare at one next to me that he left there and did not eat during lunch with a fly on it).

I have had such a short fuse with him lately. Not-so-lucky for me, Dad has a business dinner tonight and I've had one of those mornings that involved everything going wrong: the neoprene handlebar on my BOB ripped because it was in the trunk and was scraped off somehow, the store was out of most of the things I had on my list, the next store was closed, there was no parking at the next place until I got all the way to the entrance carrying the sleeping baby in the baby carrier that now weighs 25lbs which then woke her up from her useless 10 minute morning nap, thus resulting in me getting little done while Benjamin was at school this morning and a cranky and clingy baby to contend with when we picked up brother. Phew, run-on sentence totally necessary there for effect. Correct use of affect/effect? Oh, I don't care. I'm exhausted and it's my only "free" time until bedtime.

He's jealous of Claire getting lots of attention. It's not that I want to give her more attention, it's just that she's at the stage where she must be held or she will lose her everloving mind and it's all I can do to keep myself from cracking open a beer before dinnertime. She can't crawl yet, so instead she just requires I hold her. I remember Benjamin at this stage and how exhausting that was toting him around all day, but I didn't have an older sibling (insert crying face emoticon here) to manage at the same time.

I've been hearing "put baby down" and "no feed baby" a whole lot lately. But I can't. I kind of have to feed her. She's better than most babies and knocks that business out in about 5 minutes, but asking him to wait that long and denying him the rights to "read airplane book" for the 17th time that day already because of sister's needs starts to wear on him. In that 5-minute time of feeding her, he usually finds me (as I hide lately bc she gets so distracted) and proceeds to pester me which then causes sister to turn away and spray milk everywhere, ruining her feed entirely.

I need to carve out some Benjamin and Mommy time, but I simply have no idea what to do with little sister. She's got minor separation anxiety and she's awake during almost every minute of his waking hours, too. There's that morning nap she takes that he doesn't, but we're usually gallivanting around the children's museum or at storytime or at preschool during that time as she naps on-the-go.

It will get easier as they get older, I'm sure. But right now, it takes everything in me to tolerate his toddler tantrums and nonsense when I know the root cause of some of those things are the very things I can't really fix right now.

#luckymomproblems, I know. But in the midst of this chaos, I will admit defeat. So then, #sendvodka.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Color 5k

I've been itching to get out and go for a family race since Claire was born. Of course, she was too little and born during the longest winter ever, so that couldn't happen right away. Now that we're on the verge of another long winter (snow flurries on Saturday, people!), we definitely needed to make it happen.

We signed up for a local 5k along with about 2,000 other people at the Arboretum in the suburbs. It's one of my favorite places in all of Illinois with so much for kids to explore and nature all around you. We went with friends to a concert night for kids there a couple months ago and it was just so great. Here's a little throwback to December 2012 with pudgy Benjamin at the Arboretum. He was just one month older than Claire there. You almost forget you're in the middle of a populated suburb when you're there. Benjamin loves the tree houses and children's garden and all the offerings for little ones. We don't have a membership, but plan to get one next year for Benjamin and Claire to run and play and explore.
The couple who took this photo ran with their Baby Jogger Citi Mini and kept pace with us the entire time weaving through walkers. Claire's snowsuit is a hand-me-down from Benjamin that was a gift... and it's awesome. And blue. :)
The runners with strollers were sandwiched between the runners and walkers. We were essentially behind the people who were determined to "run" and that often ran the first 1/4 mile and then walked. This is a relatively steep run (for Illinois), but the inclines felt good and made it interesting. Aside from the whining from the toddler to pick him up, it was enjoyable and over before we knew it. Not the fastest time (but we're such slow runners anyway), but considering we were dodging walkers left and right and pushing the kids in the double jogger, we were fine with our 34:00 time. It was for fun, after all. It was one of those days I could've just kept running because it felt so good with the 36-degree weather and was just so pretty. We plan to make this race a tradition for our family.
After our race, we had to get Benjamin all ready for his kid's dash! Check out the video on Instagram of Benjamin not in action. He was cranky all morning to begin with, so I expected nothing more, really. Finally Dad went in there and ran with him after all the other kids had dashed on by and then he melted in the middle of the dash. I then ran with him to the end with Claire in my arms. He wasn't the only crier, but anyway.
Much more content painting a pumpkin (for 2 minutes) than running that dash!
We are headed to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving this year and signed ourselves up for the Turkey Trot that runs us around PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates) and over the Robert Clemente Bridge. We'll be running that with "Aunt Mansa" and her boyfriend while the kiddos are back at the hotel with Gramie & Grandpa. Got to find some way to make up for the sizeable amount of Prantl's Bakery Burnt Almond Torte & Primanti Brothers I plan to eat while there!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Same Old {Grief} Story

We're seriously closing in on four years since Andrew died. The quick update?

I'm still sad and angry about him dying. I know sadness is the primary emotion, but anger comes out most often it seems. Acceptance doesn't appear to be near or even possible.

I don't mask anything well, so if you talk to me on a regular basis, you'll likely sense the anger and sadness when I talk about him. I'm just still so beside myself.

I'm mostly busy and super thankful to have his brother and sister to drive me nuts and amaze me everyday, but if you asked if I was happy or content, I would honestly never choose those words.

Someone asked me the other day if everything was going great with us, as if the alternative was something horrific or saddening. And really, things are going as great as can be with two kids. Except, the obvious knowledge of us really having three means that no, everything will never equal going great like, ever. There's always an addendum, it seems, to our happiness. I know we're not the only ones who've experienced tragic loss, and I'm aware that many people live with that similar addendum.

At nearly 4 years out, I'm still angry with God, even though I don't believe he saves us from harm or is the one who inflicts. I think he is supposed to be a comfort, simply put. I do believe God showed up in other people after Andrew died. The nurses who were doing a lot of the dirty work for us, the friends who showed up in such a horrible situation to offer their presence when they probably just wanted to flee the scene, the strangers who sent cards, and the list continues. I think I'm most angry with God because I don't know who else to be angry with.

I rarely cry. The tears are there occasionally and flood like a river. But mostly, they're absent.

Being at home with the kids can make things even harder, ironically. I have my hands full, but my brain is not full of anything but tasks. The intellectual stimulation is lacking because time does not allow for much of that, which then allows for sadness to creep in. This mom job can be really lonely in itself, and then even more lonely when you know you're missing 1/3 of your kids.

It's a cooler fall day here. The grief season is approaching.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Phone Took a Bath + Maryland Trip to Grandparent's House

We are back in action at the Wilson abode after a super fun weekend. The getaway started off a little rough, however, with me hurriedly stuffing a quick laundry load into the machine last Wednesday, only to realize 5 minutes into the FULL CYCLE that my phone was probably at the bottom of the washload. Yep, indeed. A morning of blowdryers and rice and filing down a bobbie pin to make a suitable Pentalobe screwdriver to open my phone and then leaving it for 4 days in the rice I prepped that did nothing for the cause.

I went along the entire trip and finally visited the people at the cell phone store to tell me my phone would be replaced for a mere $400. Ehm, nothankyou. What Benjamin doesn't know, is Mama is now using "his" phone. When I replaced my old iPhone3G with the iPhone4G, I loaded a bunch of educational apps on there for him like Hooked on Phonics.

But Mama needs to be able to communicate with the outside world. And my own mama is sending me her old phone to use that's better than the one I'm currently stuck with and all will be well again. That's the phone debacle in a nutshell.

Did you know there's a case called Lifeproof that is water resistant? Yeah, me neither. I'll be owning one of those bad boys when I upgrade to a new phone next year.

Last Thursday, Benjamin went to preschool and then we picked him up and headed straight for the airport. We found ridiculously low prices flying into Delaware (2hrs away), so hopped on those tickets. I packed minimally to avoid checked bag fees on the low-cost carrier and it turned out to be an excellent decision. We even came back with a few articles of clothing that weren't even used! It also helps that we ran a load of wash (minus the cell phone addition) during our short 3.5 day trip. We literally took on board 3 backpacks and a diaper bag. The carseats were checked and the BOB double stroller was gate checked. It survived, but a chunk of the handlebar foam was compromised.

We saw old friends that the husband has known since childhood, went to a county fair, a harvest festival, had delicious dinners and even more delicious desserts, went on a brewery tour, had an evening to hang out with friends, introduced Claire to her great-great grandparents, spent lots of great time with the grandparents and aunt "Mansa" and shared the husband's childhood home for the first time with our kids. Benjamin had never been to Maryland in his 31 months of life until this point! Well, except in utero. It's just so much easier when people travel to him, but he definitely found it beyond special to sleep in Aunt Mansa's bed, go on an airplane (despite having been on many before) and explore a new place.

Overall, they both were excellent travelers on the plane and in the car. There were a few moments, but to be expected. I think the ages they are now make for better travelers than crawlers or early walkers, no question. Benjamin did not try to escape his seat at all this trip and only really had an issue when he was instructed to keep his seatbelt on (of which he knows how to unbuckle himself).
#familyselfie and small airports in Delaware don't have jetways when only 2 flights come in a week.
He's now an airplane-obsessed kid (despite having been on tons already in his 31 months of life). I rented two books from the library on airplanes and when at the park playing with other kids the other day (yes, playing with!), he was telling them about the airplanes in the sky and pointing them out as they flew by us. He talks of how his blanket went on the airplane and how he went to see his grandparents and how he will go see "Mickey House" on the airplane next month and how Gawbee and Grandpa will come see him via airplane. Airplane luv in the house.


We spent a morning (and then an evening) with old friends. Jeff & Erin were in our wedding. Jeff came by Erin's house and Erin's two kids played with Claire & Benjamin while Erin baked up some delicious bread and whipped cream. And coffee. Most important when traveling with kids, especially an 8mo who does not care to sleep well on the road (yet). I sure hope she changes this habit! Benjamin, on the other hand, slept like a rock every single day.
I've never been to a county fair more worthy of the title. I saw (and smelled) more pigs than I could count. Was enough to keep me vegetarian for an afterlife!
Off to the rides... the grandparents may have purchased THREE sheets of ride tickets for Benjamin in advance, so we skipped a nap and went wild! You know your 2-year-old is exhausted when he requests "go home, tired" after an epic day at the fair. He was out within minutes of being in the car.

These are the best photos ever, so I will share ALL of them. This ride goes in an oval but whips you around each curve. He went on with a stranger girl who had the best expressions and hogged the entire handle bar. Her mom was standing next to me, yelling for her to give him some space. They both looked happy as can be.
Right photo: favorite photo of the day. Month even? The best.

Claire meeting Great Gramie & Great Papa for the first time ever. 
Aunt Mansa is always a favorite. 

Aunt Mansa got us into Flying Dog Brewery for a tour and we had a great time. Also, lots of delicious dinners with family, including a ridiculously good peanut butter brownie cake thing.
Funny progression of Claire. Looks at each person and then... SCOWL. Haha!