Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We Celebrated! We Painted! We Ate!

The little mister turned two on Sunday.

Two. Let's just take a moment to let that sink in.

We threw a party. Not an insane party for the family who has a not-even-six-week-old baby in the house, but a party to celebrate the little boy that brought us back to life. Back in October, I was researching Halloween costumes that were simple and unique. I came across a cute idea to write on a mustache, throw on a French beret, apron or t-shirt and hand the kid a paint palette. Voila. French artist.

I loved the idea so much that I just envisioned our neighborhood friends coming over and all walking around with cute little French mustaches and painting while wearing cute berets. Let's not confuse this whole daydream with me actually liking all things French. While France was nice, I had other European favorites. But little tiny mustached artists with cute hats? Sign me up!

Then I got a reality check. Is my kid actually going to let me draw on a mustache and wear a beret? Unlikely (spoiler alert: he DID!). But I had already bought the paint supplies and French berets because I was smitten with the theme. Most kids want to choose their theme, but he's still too young to articulate or really understand the whole hoopla over birthday parties and themes and such. So this one was my freebie. Lord knows if he was able to tell me, we'd have tigers and trolleys and a theme I didn't really want to embrace. I'm already swimming in all things DT. I sing those songs in my (little) sleep.
All the kids at the party... missing the two that couldn't make it and dreaming of their little mustached faces!
The party went off without a hitch. Aside from a few friends not being able to make it, we still had sixteen people in our house. Considering the 40+ from last year, this one was a breeze! The only thing that was not a breeze? Prepping for the party with a toddler and newborn. The toddler is about 4 inches behind me taking down all the party decor and the newborn needs to be fed what seems like every 18 minutes. Okay, not really... but you know. Feels like that. Friday night was a little hectic and the toddler was given two DT episodes to keep him in the living room while I ran around blowing up balloons and setting up a paint table for the kids.
Party decor, paint table with berets hanging on chairs, paper people and wooden cars to paint & random mashed potatoes in the KitchenAid! My friend recommended it and what a breeze!
Yes, this was all happening at exactly the same time! Unheard of for children this age!
Benjamin received a balance bike for his birthday. We live in Chicago. It's currently being used in the house. Wuh, Wuh.
The food was fun and relatively easy. Most of the it was store bought, but I really like to put an added personal twist to things, so I added Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes to the mix along with a Fresh Express Salad Bar. The salad was provided, as I am part of Green Moms Meet and try out fun, healthy and green products with my friends at playdates and parties. It fit so well with the party and theme and the salad bar was a hit by our friends! Fun little tidbit about Fresh Express salads: when Elliot and I were first starting to chat some eight years ago, he brought two bags of Fresh Express salad to a party we were both attending. I still remember what they were, and I'm not kidding-- the Asian and Southwest mixes. I've bought both many times ever since.

I purchased the pre-washed Fresh Express lettuce mixes at the store and consulted their free Salad Swap phone app that has recipes and food indulgences you like that can be used to swap out for a delicious salad instead-- but not just boring salads--salads with a kick. For example, if you're into grilled cheese sandwiches but want to cut the calories, they recommend (with recipe and calorie information) a spring mix and grilled cheese crouton salad. You're getting a hint of that indulgence food and adding in some greens to your diet to make it more balanced and healthy. There is a website dedicated to the 30-day salad swap challenge as well.
I opted for a salad bar with a number of their mixes. We used the Fresh Express Baby Spinach, Baby Kale Mix and Sweet & Crunchy mixes. I threw them in my big wooden bowl and offered a variety of full and low fat dressing options along with five toppings to make up a salad bar: honey ham, crushed butter crackers, sliced pepperoncini, raisins and Parmesan cheese. Tasty combinations were made and the salad mixes and options were an extra nice added touch that definitely lightened the heaviness of the rest.
To make up the rest of the (heavy) food, I wanted to feature a food my 2-year old scarfs down when we're shopping-- Ikea meatballs, gravy, mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce. I bought a few bags of the meatballs, oven baked them & stuck them in a crock pot. I made PW's mashed potatoes (incredible), whipped up the gravy and opened up a can of that lingonberry sauce. Surprisingly, among the group of 16 people, including six children ages 5 and under, it was all a huge hit!

We finished things off with a Costco sheetcake, ice cream, and some incredible mustache-themed cookies made by a friend we met at storytime who lives just blocks away. She's a super fantastic baker and kind of a big deal. She's a freelance writer for the Boston Globe even! Told you she was a big deal. She may have scoffed at the Costco sheetcake purchase when I told her, but the damage was already done. However, her cookies were nothing to scoff at. They were every bit gourmet and totally expert status like everything she creates. You should see the tea party she threw for her daughter's 2nd birthday last month. She's also suffered many struggles to grow her family as well and that has connected us in many ways. She's dealt with PCOS and infertility and is hoping to add another child to their family. She's been writing candidly about that and ways to improve fertility through diet as well, since she's knee deep in the process and has quite the expertise in all things food.
Family photo attempt (Andrew is behind us but that wasn't planned well) & the amazing mustache cookies made by my baker friend, Karoline!
Food pictures: sheetcake (tons of leftovers I may or may not be eating at every meal), ice cream, meatball plates, salad bar. Drinks: easy with milk boxes for kids & water bottles for adults
As for the rules and a schedule...we had none. I kindly requested no gifts because my child really does have everything under the sun and he has not been a very thoughtful recipient lately. So instead, people ate as they wanted, played with toys and balloons we had blown up and thrown around the place and all of the kids painted. It was like a little zen moment (that lasted at least 10 minutes!) where the kids all hopped up on chairs and embraced the theme. Every one of them painted the little people and some of them painted the wooden cars. It. was. awesome. They were quiet, concentrated, and totally into it. To say that we were all shocked because the majority of kids were two years old was an understatement.

Not too stressful and a house full of friends and cute little mustached kids. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

You can like Fresh Express on Facebook or follow them on Pinterest. There's even a a coupon available at if you'd like to try out the Fresh Express 30 Day Salad Swap for yourself and "indulge" in some of their delicious recipes and cut the calories at the same time.

Disclaimer: I received this product (Fresh Express Salads) free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC. or the manufacturer of this product.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Day He Became a Whole Lot More Expensive to Fly With

His birthday itself was a relaxed and fun day.

I decorated his door with streamers the night before so he'd wake up to that. Of course we lock him in his room, so it's not like he would walk out on his own, but anyway. He was pretty excited.

He helped make a smoothie (his favorite because he can press the blender buttons!) and his number 2 pancake with sprinkles. And as a result, sprinkles will be found all over my kitchen for the next 6 months.
For lunch, we went to the train restaurant. I don't know if they have these in other areas, but this suburb area of Chicago has a number of different restaurants that are train themed and bring your food to you on a train. They sing to you and ice cream or a cupcake with a candle is also delivered via train. It's overly stimulating, but we had to check it out. He had already been with both sets of grandparents, but this was our first time taking him. Surprisingly, the food was even good for adult standards! Something tells me we'll be back.

Both sets of grandparents took him to the train restaurant as well... here are their photos!
First expensive flight on the books for April. We're going to Florida to escape the never-ending winter we're having this year! Hello 75 degrees and sunny! And that extra plane ticket. Two wonderful years... can't believe it. Feel like I just wrote this post. But on days when the tantrums and menacing reach terrible heights, it feels like a million years ago.

*party post to come. It's just about done. :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Big Brother, Little Sister

When Benjamin was born, he was gifted with a little brother shirt. I took some photos and he wore it a few times and then it was over. It's not like I could have him wear it in public without the questionable stares and confused looks from strangers because I don't have the older sibling with me. Ever.

Benjamin and Claire were just gifted two new shirts-- one that says big brother and one that says little sister. These statements are in and of themselves, totally true. Benjamin is definitely Claire's big brother. And she is definitely the little sister. Everyone and anyone who sees my children would be able to identify with this reality.
First picture = marshmallow bribe. Second picture = uncertain. Third picture: Claire meltdown and brother holding her hand to calm her.
I love that there is a big brother/little sister relationship in our house. It's all I've ever known. I was a little sister and had a big brother. My husband is a big brother and had a little sister. And here we are representing the next generation with the same number count-- except not really.

It's obvious to anyone who knows me above a casual acquaintance level that I've had three children. That Benjamin is not just the big brother, but is also the little brother. And that Claire is not only the little sister but is a little sister to two big brothers. Obviously I mourn the loss of that extra t-shirt in so many ways. And yet I know that there probably wouldn't be a little sister at all if the big big brother were alive. But I can't get over that extra t-shirt and how it should be here. I was burned by seeing these shirts out in public after Andrew died and even after Benjamin was born. I wanted so badly to boast such numbers (two kids!), but I literally didn't have the number of carseats to show for it. It broke my heart. It was definitely a grief trigger.

I love that I can be proud of Benjamin and Claire and that they are both alive and able to wear their big brother and little sister shirts. These days are fleeting and they are both growing rapidly. How is Benjamin 24 months old? Preschool is seriously around the corner! The days left for them to proudly sport their love for one another in t-shirt form (even if they are totally unaware) will be long gone and they will soon be pestering one another like brothers and sisters do. But oh, to wonder... what our lives would be like if the four bedrooms upstairs were all filled and there were three t-shirts to hang in three closets representing my three kids.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

= Five

My mother-in-law was a math teacher. She's taught middle and high school math, but has spent most of her career as a guidance counselor. Though, she's never really lost her love of numbers. Once a (math) teacher, always a (math) teacher.

When my in-laws were visiting and meeting Claire over Valentine's weekend, she announced that our family number is five. I caught on that Andrew's birthday is the 5th immediately... but the others took some explaining.

My birthday is the 10th
My husband's birthday is the 13th

1+0+1+3 = 5

Andrew's birthday is the 5th

= 5

Benjamin's birthday is the 23rd


Claire's birthday is the 14th


Last week, I overheard my husband telling Benjamin that his favorite number is 6. In the 8 years of us being together, I never knew that. Then he asked what my favorite number is... I told him I don't have one.

While I think it's very cool that we have some mathematical connections as a family, I do struggle with five being my favorite number. A family number, okay. I can stand behind that because I love the connection of us all being weaved together in a web. My favorite number would've been four. If the doctors had the same intuition for Andrew as they did for Claire and pulled him out before it was too late.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bug & Bear

Nicknames for the littles that run this joint. We have many nicknames for Benjamin, but Bug has stayed because it's short for lovebug. And he's definitely our lovebug. Bear is Claire's nickname... because naturally. What Claire is not referred to as Claire Bear?

We had a doctor's appointment and I got those same sighs as I did with Benjamin because Claire is gaining 3/4 ounce a day instead of the fictitious rule that babies must gain 1 ounce a day. She's gaining steadily. SHE'S ALIVE. She already started off (once again) at a disadvantage being born so early. Cut the girl some slack! She gained 12 ounces in 16 days (latest tracking) and is over 7lbs now. I'm trying not to take things personally, but that's hard. As a babyloss mom who will always sort of feel inadequate, that's hard. I know I have enough milk for her, but I've started adding Fenugreek and feeding every 2 hours during the day and still every 3 at night. The girl is a fairly good sleeper, but I have no idea how long she can sleep because I've been waking her to force feed. It's exhausting and maddening. And I'll stop once she's gained a little bit more. I have to remember, as many of my friends and family have reminded me, that doctors use numbers and data. They don't see each child individually because they see you for 10 minutes every few months. She's my child and I should know best. And for goodness sakes. I have friends who were still pregnant with their kids at this gestation (41w). Girlfriend is 5 weeks and kicking butt.

Other than the usual your child is small speech, she's doing great. Eating, pooping, sleeping, and looking overall cute in the overload of clothing people have gifted her. I had no idea people would enjoy gifting girl clothes so much. We have not bought her a single piece of clothing. Not with friends and grandparents who have gone to town!
Chicken legs run in the family. And that bow is too big for her head. And holy crap. A bow.
Benjamin is doing fantastic. He's been majorly spoiled by his grandparents from both sides and I'm pretty sure he owns every single Daniel Tiger toy that Toys'r'Us sells. He's nearly two, you guys. Like, Sunday. We're throwing a party for him Saturday with just a few families who have kids his age. I am not planning a ton, but it's paint themed and the menu will be Ikea meatballs, gravy, lingonberry sauce, Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes, salad, ice cream and a big Costco sheetcake. I try to choose foods that Benjamin likes (at the time) for lunch, and he almost always powers down a plate of those meatballs (which is unheard of for him to eat meat!) when we're at Ikea. Watch. He won't eat a single bite at his party.

At two years old, he's both exhausting and fascinating. I love watching him learn.
  • Obsessed with pointing out his favorite letters and numbers on everything. In books, on my K-cups (saw the #2 this morning and insisted on carrying it around), on sweatshirts, etc. He has a particular favor toward the letters B, L, S and O. He loves the number 2 the best, but he can also point out 3, 6 and 8 (if he wants to).
  • When anyone walks in the door (or randomly at home), he says "chase", looks over his shoulder to see that you're following and moves his shoulders and legs rapidly and runs away. He looooves to be chased. 
  • Daniel Tiger is known as "DT" and is an obsession. He calls it DT because that was the code name we called it before he learned the code and started using it himself. Then we switched over to "the show" and he now has learned the word "show" as a result. 
  • He loves calling people on the phone and on Skype. But not really to talk. I think he just likes knowing there is a reaction when he does it. If I press this button, something will happen and people will talk to me and say my name and ask me questions! If you do answer, he will say "hello" and various words of things he sees in the room or in his general area-- "snow", "stool", etc. He also loves calling and hanging up promptly. Like this morning when he called a number of people on the west coast who may or may not have still been sleeping. He says "call call" (twice, always) and shows a look of genuine concern that it's the very most important thing you could be doing is "call call" at that moment in time. He doesn't understand why we don't sense his urgency. It's sometimes the first word out of his mouth when he wakes and the last word before he goes to bed.
  • When he wants music on, he says "dance" and shakes his head, shoulders and hips from side to side. He can accurately select the music option or Pandora on our phones and get his "dance" on.
  • He's learned to be resourceful with the stool I bought him for the bathroom sink. He doesn't wash his hands (hates it), but instead pushes that thing all around the downstairs to get things he wants (i.e. lightswitches, the Keurig, knives, pizza on the counter to pull off the pineapple pieces...). He is great at helping in the kitchen, too. We made a strawberry cake and brownies on Valentine's Day, and he often helps with dinner. By help, I mean creates more of a mess... but alas.
  • He loves to be tickled and will tell you when he wants it. He usually tells you "no", but then pulls up his shirt for more tickling. 
  • He has an obscure vocabulary. He says lots of words, but what really gets me is when he speaks a word that most 2-year olds wouldn't have any connection with. He has learned the word garlic. GARLIC. And he can tell you where it is. He also knows the word salt. Because he loves it. Just like his mama.
  • Perhaps a testament of my parenting skills lacking (two kids at home is hard work, yo!), but he is starting to sing the songs to his favorite PBS shows. It's mostly humming along and then picking up a word here and there. When the song for Super Why comes on, he sings "why" when it comes time. It's really cute. He also knows "EIEIO" for Old McDonald.
Helping himself with his stool & making sure sister has a hard hat on. Laying on a playmat can be dangerous business (when you have a toddler brother around anyway!).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

December 14, March 15, February 11

Those were my due dates. And now, all three of them have officially arrived. Claire is at her gestational due date today of 40 weeks. It's crazy that she has been with us for four weeks already. Valentine's Day officially marks one month. She definitely brings our family lots of love.

I wasn't really looking forward to this date or anything, but now that it has arrived, it sort of feels like a relief. No more dates are on the calendar that send my nerves racing. Claire is still very much a newborn-- both her looks and eating/sleeping patterns. I stare at her during our mid-night feedings in awe. This is our last newborn. While exhausting, this is the last time I will be getting up to nurse at odd hours and having a baby at our bedside. It's the last time we'll get to hear these newborn cries in our home. She's it and we're cherishing all that it brings.

She's the size of most newborns still and quite smaller than many. I'm assuming she's nearing or at the 7 lb. mark at this point, which is still smaller than both of her brothers at birth. It would be interesting to wonder what she would be like if born at her due date, or close to it, but the reality is that she very well wouldn't be here. She wouldn't be bigger than she was when she was born. To think of that girl at her due date is assuming she would've thrived, and unfortunately that's unlikely. We're so glad the pint-sized Claire is here and such a fighter. She still eats like a champ and that's proven not only by the amount of time she wants to be attached to me, but by the amount of diapers she is producing. Goodness gracious, this girl has some gusto.

The dates that brought both great excitement and anxiety have come and gone. Just like my fetal doppler and all my maternity clothes, I'm ready to pass on that baton.

During the end of Claire's pregnancy, I was wearing (like all my pregnancies) some of my husband's shirts, especially at night and especially with the itching! He has one shirt that I would wear often that's back from his Air Force Academy lacrosse days. On the back, it says Whatever it Takes. It was sort of my mantra as I was changing my diet and doing all of these obscure things like drinking water/lemon to detox each morning before food. And so true, it is. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Storytime Stories

We live in a small town in the midst of a big suburb area. Our section of this town technically bears the name of the small town, but we are part of the tax-paying school district that is a much, much larger city. When we purchased our house, I was very adamant about being in a larger school district, specifically for amenities. I'm a big public school proponent, being a public school teacher myself. Our kids will have those opportunities and the benefits of a large school district. Unfortunately, our district does not translate to library privileges in the big city as well.

Our tiny town has a small library with its own storytime. While we do attend the other storytimes at other libraries in the area (no card carrying required), we attend our library storytime to get us in the door to check out books, etc. Speaking of other storytimes... I was so proud that I got Benjamin and Claire dressed and ready and to storytime on Monday. We showed up and they had changed the time! It had just ended. #facepalm

Benjamin started attending as a wee one at our small library. No one ever showed up. We were among like 2-3 little ones each time and the storytime leader just sort of gave up and stuck some toys in the center and told us to socialize. So we stopped going.

Then Benjamin got a bit older and they changed the storytime. The leader was young, had a son about Benjamin's age and was really great. And then it started to fill up and Benjamin became less and less interested in the little kid books, toys, and songs. Most of the kids were barely crawling and not walking-- whereas he was. While he was only 18 months or so, we moved him to the 2-3 year old storytime because the younger one was full, they asked me for our spot, and I felt he needed the influence of older kids.

We started attending on Thursdays with this incredible leader. She was young, hip, and shopped at J.Crew. Okay, so that's not a requirement, but I sure liked her style. She really engaged with the kids and got them involved. She's probably the best leader I'd ever seen in a storytime-- and I've been to my fair share. The next session rolled around and I couldn't sign up for her day because we had a conflicting gymnastics class. Back to the boring leader who is not engaging at all. Benjamin doesn't even sit in the little chairs. He sits on my lap in the back and sort of pays attention. What a drag. And to make matters worse, the cool leader left for another job (in probably a much bigger library). Good for her, huge bummer for us.

The last two weeks, we've attended again with the boring leader (even my parents thought she was boring when they visited and took B!) and saw another mom who used to attend the cool storytime with us. She engaged with me the first week and congratulated me on Claire's arrival. She has a daughter close to 3 and a son close to a year. We chatted details about Claire's birth and then said our goodbyes as our littles ran around. Then yesterday, she approached me again and told me that since I had a c-section and don't have family local, that she'd love to help out by helping with Benjamin or cooking us a meal or whatever. That she knows managing two kiddos under 2 isn't easy. I didn't even know the lady's name! Well, now I do, but seriously... how sweet!

Sometimes meeting new friends is like dating. It's so awkward. I asked her name and forgot to exchange phone numbers. So now I will wait until next week and hope she comes back to boring storytime so I can add another local friend to my list. And did I mention her daughter is super cute? She dresses her in the cutest clothes and she's always so expressive in storytime. She answers all the questions and is 100% involved. What a good influence for B.

We're about to head out the door to another storytime at the library we don't have a membership at. If I can get B to put on a jacket and shoes. Because it's -2 outside. This weather is starting to make me angry.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Benjamin, Meet Claire.

It feels wild to be able to say I have "kids" without people looking at me funny since I really do have multiple kids in tow. 

When we first brought her home, we told him this was baby Claire that mommy was growing in her belly. He immediately went into our kitchen, opened the junk drawer and pulled out the doppler that I used to listen to her during my pregnancy. It was his association of what a baby was at the time.

Benjamin has, for the most part, been really amazing with the transition. Or at least, he hasn't appeared to take the craziness out on Claire. He was also sick with his first real fever ever the first week she was home and his sleep was very interrupted, so that could've caused some of the craziness. His naps have suffered a little this week (transition or coincidence?) and I feel like he's been throwing more tantrums, but that could be just because I can't lift him and dominate like normally and that I've been feeling sick. Tantrums seem louder and more annoying when you're sick. That I know to be true. This week he has been protesting pants. And socks. And jackets. And shirts. And shoes. Basically, clothes. Does it have anything to do with Claire? I don't think so. But maybe.

He has had a small issue with hitting her on the head. This happened about 5 times and each time earned him calm-down time and an explanation that sister needs to be treated gently. I chalk that up to a toddler testing his boundaries. Benjamin is most definitely a very good boundary tester.

He calls her "baybee" the majority of the time, especially when he hears her cry. He insists on giving her kisses at night before we put him in bed, just like we kiss him before bed. 

He loves the baby items. She sleeps in a co-sleeper attached to our bed and he insists on "jumping", which is his way of telling us he wants in the bed. He doesn't necessarily jump. Attached to the co-sleeper is a little nightlight/lullaby maker and he just loves pressing those buttons. During the day I'll hear him upstairs pressing the buttons. He also loves the baby swing-- which drives me crazy. I'm thinking of getting rid of the thing. We bought it for Andrew. Benjamin hated it. Now baby #3 and I have yet to even put her in the thing because the lullabies Benjamin turns on about 432 times each day haunt me. It's one of those baby items that although I've now carried and birthed two living children after losing Andrew, still mocks me. He's also obsessed with pressing the buttons on my breastpump. I was using it 3x/day for the first two weeks and now I'm back on the lazy train. Luckily, little sister seems to have an affinity toward eating every 2-3 hours, so that seems to be doing the job.

Our first outing as a family (and with my parents) was to our favorite Mexican restaurant. We've been avoiding eating there for sometime since I was on a restricted diet and not eating much dairy or fat. Oh, and did I mention I couldn't have a margarita either? Well, now I was free and we were celebrating! Five days after Claire was born, we were dining and enjoying. Benjamin decided sister needed to have a chip. 

If she won't take it in her hand, I guess I'll just have to feed her.
Sharing books and an iPhone with Sister.
Taking a pacifier captive (hasn't used one since he was 6 months old), picture with grandparents & touching baby Claire for the first time.
Holding Sister.

Meeting Sister for the first time.

Giving sister a (fist) bump. He says "bump" when he does it. Totally unprompted.

And because it's funny. We call Benjamin "hunky" and he repeats us. We all find it hilarious. He won't let us tape him if he knows we're doing it, hence the video of him not looking... take what you can get! And you're welcome for sharing my post-baby gut. Keepin' it real.