Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December Blues

Faking it.

Gotta be honest...while Christmas and all the happy cheer IS a lot easier to manage with two living kids, I'm still definitely faking my interest to participate in all the festivities. I'm ready for a turn of the calendar.

I don't want a tree with sparkling lights. Luckily our kids haven't taken much interest either, but it does sit in our foyer, basically dead and ready for tossing. We have a few more days before that's deemed acceptable, but I presume it will be gone before the weekend is over. We're literally the only house on our block that doesn't have a single Christmas decoration adorning our house. We usually have wreaths and garland, but with the kids breaking things left and right (do we have anything left?) and December always hitting me like bricks, we sit here on the 22nd having not quite gotten our acts together.

December still totally grates me. I think of myself in complete and utter despair 5 years ago and how other families are out there mourning losses right now. I open the inbox for Faces of Loss to see a mom who lost her daughter at full term just December 3rd of this year. That was like three weeks ago. And I remember when that was me. And it's still me, just 5 years later. It will be an honor to post her story, but still completely heartbreaking.

I know it's not about the presents and sweets and lights and decorated houses and it's really about family and the birth of baby Jesus, who five years ago, I was even jealous of. How can someone be jealous of the Virgin Mary and the Christ? Well I was. 

I sat wrapping presents last night after my kids were just horrible kids all day long. Made me really want to give them nothing and just put the rest on the curb. I wrapped in a fury, slapped on some cheap and metallic bows from a jumbo pack and called it good. Felt nice to get that over with. I do remember a time when wrapping presents was a joyous occasion.

My last innocent Christmas has all sorts of beautiful memories attached. We traveled all around Europe by car with both of our families and spent Christmas Eve night in Berlin, Germany. We didn't have a tree and we didn't give presents; we just traveled and took it all in. 

This year was a doozy. We had so many changes and more to come. Some were good, some were bad. I'm ready for you, 2016. But December, you're not invited to the party.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Benjamin Babble VI

Scene: Snack time with the kids. Tortilla chips are a favorite, especially with guacamole.

B: "Claire, you can get another chip because you're beautiful." (Good, only attractive people are allowed food. What am I teaching this kid!?)

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Scene: Claire is waking up from nap. I announce to Benjamin that I'm going to go get her.
B: "Get her down."
Me: (Walking upstairs, wishing my son willingly used polite words...)
B: "Do you want to run with me, Claire? Do you want to run or sweep with me? You pick."

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Scene: Breakfast time and Claire is not eating the meal she requested by name.
B: "Claire, you asked for a bagel, now eat the bagel. Claire, why are you drama today?"

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Scene: B looking at a book and sees a picture of Earth.
B: "Mommy, that's the Earth. I want to go there."
Me: "But you live there. Everyone lives on Earth."
B: "I need to go in an airplane to get there. I can take a kite, too."

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Scene: At children's museum exploring conductors and insulators. There are bars filled with either metal, plastic, rope or wood. The goal is to place the bars into the space and they will light up if a conductor is chosen.
Me: "Metal is a conductor. See inside these? These ones are metal and these are not. Only the metal ones will help the electricity travel and create light."
B: "Yeah, it's a conductor and it holds many passengers." (train brain)

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Scene: B is singing in the car. Claire is not amused.
B: "We love you, yes we do, oh we love you. (Thank you, PBS.)
C: "NO! NOOOO!"
B: "Claire, I don't like your apitude. Go to your room."

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Scene: Claire, holding my phone to her ear.
B: "Claire, are you talking to your peeps?"

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Scene: It's dark outside and we're driving. B appears to be trying to fall asleep, which is NOT ALLOWED because he's the worst at transitioning and he is super cranky when he wakes. It was almost bedtime and I wasn't letting that become interrupted.
Me: "No, you can't fall asleep! Keep your eyes open!"
B: "I'm just closing one eye." (We are so in trouble with this one. Always a negotiator.)

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Scene: B saying silly things.
B: "The Cat in the Hat is a table. He's a blue table. He's a crack up."

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Scene: Explaining to B the plan for the next morning as we're getting ready for bed.
Me: "We're going to wake up, eat breakfast and go to the museum tomorrow morning."
B: "You're correct."

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Scene: Random chit-chat among siblings.
Claire: "Cookie."
B: "Cookie? Are you serious, Claire? I don't have a cookie."

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Scene: Chatting in bed during the wee hours (because they wake toooooo early...).
Me: (talking to B) "Did Claire wear that sleepsack while she was sleeping?"
B: "Yeah, that annoys me."

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Some of the Sweetest

I don't feel obligated to thank you all, but sure do want you to know that your comments and continued love poured out for our boy means more than you'll know. Those small words just sharing that you care and continue to think about us in grieving the loss of our firstborn is priceless to us.

His birthday is always really uncomfortable for me, but this one was definitely more uncomfortable. It kind of feels like your own birthday, but with an uncomfortable pit in your stomach the whole day. Wishing it to end and wanting to hold on at the same time.

I'm mostly an extrovert, but I don't really like a big deal made of me in social settings. I am one to be with the party and perhaps planning it, but not so much the one being celebrated.

When your child dies, you become the one people celebrate and it feels so weird. My own birthday is weird enough (though as years go on, I could care less about my own birthday). But his is just an odd day.

I don't feel like I should grocery shop. Is that what you do for your birthday? What about on the anniversary of the worst day of your life? I feel like everything I do needs to in some way honor his life.

Elliot had a dental appointment that I scheduled. I took the kids to Target to pick up Q-Tips and these flosser things my dentist recommended because Friday's appointment yielded more dismal results in the history of Brandy's crap teeth. My regiment has been expanded even further. I might need to set up a checklist. Grumble.

Post Target, we went to the Arboretum and then spent a stupid amount of time preventing meltdowns when we left. We went to McDonald's for lunch, swimming at the Y after Benjamin watched Frozen and Claire had a nap. Then we went to Red Robin for dinner, lit candles, sang Happy Birthday and ate yellow golden cupcakes in honor of Andrew's Golden Birthday. Benjamin ate Andrew's cupcake along with his own and then threw a mini fit because he couldn't have another.

His birthday wasn't glamorous. I wish it were, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to celebrate my boy who isn't here to participate without making it seem forced and uncomfortable. We were together for a family day (for the most part) and we spent lots of time talking about Andrew with the kids. It wasn't much different than a normal Saturday, but there were tears and lots of beautiful messages and well, I'm happy it's over. He's five in heaven. I feel unfulfilled, but that's sort of how it goes in the land of babyloss.

We sure love him, and you, for caring so much. xoxoxo

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Day Before His Golden Birthday

It's the kind of birthday that comes only once in a lifetime...

Andrew will be 5 tomorrow. I know it's a bit dramatic to say, but can you just imagine for a moment (with me), what it would be like celebrating a 5-year-old? Some of you have children that age, so you already know. I don't know.

I can just imagine. Turning five and it being a golden birthday is really cool. Something about five means you're like, super big. Almost kindergarten status. In fact, I had already started kindergarten at his (would be) age.

I've lamented this birthday for a long time now. Five is half a decade. And just plain big. It's a long time since I held that baby boy body and birthed my very first child. I would do anything to go back and hold him again. More now than ever. It feels like he's so distant, because he is. Five years is a long time since seeing your child.

Benjamin has been talking about Andrew a lot lately. Their grandparents sent the book, Someone Came Before You and Benjamin refers to it as Andrew's book and asks for it to be read all the time. At the end, it mentions lighting a candle for the baby. Benjamin chose a cookie candle and we've been lighting it the past two days because he wants it lit for Andrew. He knows Andrew's birthday is tomorrow. We discuss it all the time, especially on the way to the children's museum (like yesterday) when we drive by the cemetery. There is always lots of discussion surrounding the flowers and wreaths and "big things sticking out of the ground."

Five seemed big enough to have a really great thing planned. Initially I thought about planting a tree in a local park in his honor. I was SET on this idea and thought it would be perfect. But, I'm not sure Illinois is our forever home, and I don't want to leave the tree and miss seeing it frequently if we do move in the future.

As he grows older, I'm going to continue to long for things to memorialize him, because that's what parents do. They want to make their children happy, or at least honor their lives in some way.

I just couldn't think of anything else. Nothing would suffice, anyway. So, on his 5th tomorrow, we'll probably go grab him some cupcakes, have our traditional dinner out at a restaurant and be together as a family.

Tuesday, we'll attend the remembrance ceremony we attend every year.

He'll get his tree eventually and when he does, I know it will be perfect.

Missing you and loving you forever, Andrew. I always, always will.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pay it Forward: Wedding Dress

I've been married 7.5 incredible years. Well, some of those years weren't so incredible, but not based on my choice of husband. He was nothing short of amazing through all of our heartbreak and remains so to this day.

I kind of won the jackpot with that one.

When I picked out a wedding dress, everyone thought I'd choose a simple A-line because I've never been the frilly type. I didn't. I grabbed the pretty princess dress. It was the 4th dress off the rack and I was done trying them on in an hour. Probably to the dismay of my mother who loves all things lace and frills and girly. I've just never fit that category too well. That probably means Claire will love all that stuff and I'll have to embrace the pink. Grandma will be stoked.




It was off the rack, but still needed tailoring (which I'm convinced can be avoided, but alas). It was tailored and ended up being something like $700 when it was all said and done.

And then I wore it once. The best day of my life in a dress I still think is quite beautiful. And on July 26, 2008, I stuffed that dress and its accompanying petticoat in a comforter bag and stuffed it in the closet. And then I put it on a moving truck and brought it to Illinois where I stuffed it in a wooden chest. I told my mom I planned to throw it away and she wasn't keen on that idea.

I didn't sew it myself or pour hours and hours into it like my mom did making hers. Probably thousands of brides that same year had the same dress. It wasn't mine... just a "borrowed" style and one that I was grateful for that year, but won't ever use again. It hasn't been cleaned and is still dirty on the bottom from our outdoor reception. I never planned to have it professionally cleaned or have someone cut half of it off and stuff it in a display box (to be stuffed in another closet).

I could probably save it for Claire, but what if she never marries? And really, I don't know a single person who wore their mother's gown, especially a gown off the rack at David's Bridal. Maybe earrings or veil or another piece to check off the something old category of superstition, but never the dress.

I'm in a purging mood. But I didn't want to just throw it away. So I'm donating it. I have the amazing husband and the perfect set of rings and three beautiful children from a marriage I'm honored to have.

But the dress? It's just a thing that isn't contingent on having a happy marriage or fulfilling life. And it's taking up a lot of space.

A nice girl from the city is coming this afternoon to pick it up and hopefully wear it for her own wedding day. And I couldn't be more elated (and maybe a little nervous to hand it over). But really, it would be so nice to gift it to someone who can use it again for their happiest day ever.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Chit Chatty

I generally do my grocery shopping during weekday mornings when Benjamin is at school for a few reasons: 1. one fewer child, 2. grocery stores and Target are the only places open at 8:30 a.m. and we're already in the car and 3. somewhere to go! Claire particularly loves the car carts or even better, the mini ones she can ram into other unsuspecting shoppers' shins.

Leaving the first (of two) grocery stores this morning, one guy commented how Claire was "speaking a language only a mother could understand." And I suppose because I definitely understood her rattling off all the items in our cart that he was correct. But, I'd give her more credit than that. She's bold with speech. She talks a lot and has quite the impressive vocabulary.

Benjamin is at the nonstop talking and question-asking stage. If I dare talk to Elliot when he gets home from work, Benjamin will become frustrated and then say, "Mom, you're not letting me talk!" Our adult conversation time happens between the hours of 8-10 p.m. and that is all.

Claire is following suit and is definitely yapping all the livelong day. It's adorable and sort of exhausting, but I encourage those little dendrites in formation and talk to her all day. Poor husband doesn't get much conversation at night because I'm so tired from talking all day. Conversations about toys and books and not throwing food on the floor for the 683rd time, but still talking.

I don't recall Benjamin talking all day at her age. I know his speech was fine, but she's particularly chatty in comparison. I attribute much of that to having a big brother and listening to the sophisticated (for her age) conversation that takes place between us. I try not to dumb-down language, but it's so darn difficult when she refers to all treats as "paw-coles." And so I sometimes use that adorable language because she's my last baby and I can if I want to, okay?

She's also privy to knowing wonderful words like booger, of which she pronounces incredibly well. And then laughs. And if you're really lucky enough to have your face within reach, locates one and goes in for the dig. Thanks, Benjamin.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Room

A few months ago, my mom bought us a certificate for this place nearby called The Room. The whole premise is that six people (max) are locked in a room and have to puzzle, search, riddle and unlock their way out.

We booked a babysitter for 9 p.m. on a Sunday night thinking we'd totally be able to sneak away for 1.5 hours (including travel time) for this experience and the kids would have no clue we even left.

Not so. Like every seasoned parent knows, someone is going to be sick or inevitably scream your name because they lost a blanket or something. Sure enough, Benjamin woke in that little window of time and all the babysitter gave me was, "Well, let's just say I was not the person he wanted to see when the door opened."

He's an angry sick kid. Frankly, he spent the greater part of a year before this just being angry for no apparent reason. We're turning a corner, but sick Benjamin is not pleasant. This week has been pretty brutal. I'm certain there was kicking and screaming for that babysitter. Maybe even spitting. I just feel bad for the poor high-schooler neighbor girl who was in English class this morning thinking that she may never want children because of my punkass three-year-old. At least she had plenty of material for her Quick Write this morning.

But The Room.

We arrived and immediately saw the teammates who we'd be locked in a room with for an hour. Four total nerds. They were geeky. They reminded me of my LA rocket scientist friends, except those friends were also a bit wild and crazy in addition to being crazy smart. These four guys shared a compact car to the place (carpooling, how green!). For three of the four, this wasn't their first "room" experience. In fact, they referred to themselves as avid hobbyists. We even had to introduce ourselves to them before they wanted to get started. Their idea. Actually that guy in the blue shirt holding the sign. He was the ring leader.
Do you ever look at pictures and ask yourself WHY you do the stupid hand-on-hip thing? Just me? Probably.
We were given the rule spiel and then they locked us in with the geeks and set the alarm. We searched under everything, found hidden passages and locked boxes (to be unlocked), solved math problems and riddles and puzzle boxes. We used magnets and string and water and picked apart every bit in this bedroom-sized study room. I kind of felt like I was in the game Clue, in the library with Colonel Mustard. Except there were 5 of them, plus me.

It was definitely an experience. We used one of the three clues allotted to us and finished with almost 10 minutes to spare, making our escape. It was fun. It was totally weird. It was the nerdiest thing I've done in years.

Friday, October 30, 2015

So Hip

Last week, my mom came into town to watch the kids so we could be downtown from Wednesday - Sunday for a big industry association event. If you're part of the industry, you are there. Someone in your company shows up. Your fellow manufacturers, distributors and colleagues are there. Typically, I travel to the location (because it's usually awesome) with the kids and explore while the husband is out until early morning hours "networking" with industry folks.

He's been attending for the majority of his time with the company, but this was his first as president. Even more exciting, last year he was asked by the president of the association to be the chair of the planning committee for this year's industry summit. Conveniently located in Chicago and being a young and innovative guy in the industry, he happily accepted. Not a bad resume builder.

And so he planned his tush off. He changed the format of the entire summit and introduced a 3-speaker Ted Talk style event that led to breakout sessions to take in two of your favorites for a deeper dive into their talks. He was one of the speakers to introduce his speakers and be the voice of the association for this summit. One of the guys was an actual Ted speaker and artist, but the others were more on the economist side of things that the industry is used to. Reviews of the event (he planned) have been nothing short of excellent.

I was there for the whole thing. It was so awesome. In addition to matching faces with names, having a load of delicious food and cocktails, being there to take in all his hard work, and sleeping in a comfortable hotel bed without kids waking me each morning, I also got to go on a food tour of the Gold Coast and Old Town with other industry wives. I also stayed up way too late each night "networking" as well and wore heels the majority of the time (that I consider are absolutely without a doubt little torture devices for women). I feel like I'm too feminist for those stupid things. But oh do they look so good.

And guess what? We took our first Uber ride. Seriously, I'm so hip. They even sent me a summary of my first ride with a map, exact (to the hundredth of a mile!) mileage, cost, and a picture of my driver in an email invoice/receipt after. If you want to take an Uber and wanna save yourself $20 on your first ride, I'll go ahead and shamelessly share my code for you all: brandyw508ue and if you use, I get $20 to my account for future rides, too. Not a bad deal. And really, I am sold on the service and will probably never take a standard cab again.

The whole post was really to just praise my incredible husband and how awesome he was in planning a hospitality event for his company that absolutely showcased their products in the best light and shared their impressive history with their distributors. It was just awesomely cool to see him kill it at the whole thing.

Four days away from the kids also meant their Gawbee spoiled them rotten and the littlest is now totally struggling with separation anxiety. Sleep has been rough. Naps have been tough. Leaving her at the gym for that hour a couple times a week has actually gone smoother than expected, despite her reminding me "Mama, [comes] back" every single day for at least a dozen times thereafter. She's clearly anxious. Sleep regression at 21 months totally sucks. Benjamin was just never that attached to me.

We're back in the mix of things (sort of) and next week, plane flight. Savannah adventures await!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Gym Dropoff

We joined the Y last week, primarily to keep Benjamin in the water over the winter. It had already been a month and he's pretty rusty (though still plenty daring).

It was the last day for a no joiner fee, so we figured we'd be saving a month's worth anyway since we planned to join in November. (...and now there's a no joiner fee from Oct. 23-25, go figure.)

I put on my Turkey Trot 5k shirt this morning and Benjamin noticed the big Y on the front. The Pittsburgh Turkey Trot is affiliated with their local YMCA, apparently. Benjamin told me he wanted to go back to "the Y place, that Y-M-C-day place again). Today, in fact. Perfect, because it turned out our plans were lining up quite nicely.

This morning, I dropped the husband off at work because his car is in the shop and we were on our way to the gym. I wanted to keep my streak of 5 days in a row workouts going. I usually run about 2 miles to Benjamin's school for pickup with Claire in the double stroller, but Benjamin doesn't have school on Fridays.

Claire is attached at the hip to me. I prefer she weren't, but she has other interests. Benjamin, on the other hand, probably wouldn't notice I left for about a week. When we approach places she's been left before briefly (i.e. friends' houses, church nursery), she clings to me like ferocious lions are at my feet.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about leaving her at in the free gym daycare dropoff. I chose a Friday so Benjamin, one of her safe people (never thought I'd use those words!), would be with her. I was nervous that without him there, she would be more likely to scream her lungs out for the whole hour I left her. I just didn't feel right leaving her in the arms of poor gym daycare workers, knowing how busy they were and knowing it's really not their job to engage with my kids so much as keep them safe.

Because baby, you know if I get "free" childcare that doesn't have to be re-payed in any way, I'm using it.

She cried at dropoff. I showed her the babies and she was thrilled, but that didn't stop her from looking at me with betrayal eyes as I skated out.

So guess what? I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. Sure, it was at zero incline, but I just kept running my buns off until I was left with little time for any more. I haven't run 5 miles ever in the state of Illinois. Seriously. I haven't ran that distance since living on the beach in LA about 6 years ago.

It felt good. It felt great. I could've kept going even. But alas, the clock was ticking.

When I clocked out and cleaned the machine, I went over and spied on Claire from the top railing (such a cool feature) and she and Benjamin were content playing with toys. I scooped them up, at which time Claire started her betrayal crying again, and we hit the pool, had nice warm showers and headed home for lunch.

That $79 a month is turning out to be well spent.

I'm now making tentative plans for spin classes on Saturday mornings with the hubs (I totally hate that nickname but it seems fitting for fancy moms with gym memberships) in our near future.

That kid play area just became my bee eff eff.

(After Andrew died, I would've never imagined being able to write this post. #feelinggrateful)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Claire's Dresser

Some months back, I visited my favorite local thrift shop and came out with a dresser for $45. It's solid wood and has tons of charm. And best of all, it was in really great condition. The only thing I hated about it was the huge oval and outdated, painted flowers that adorned the front. Easy, I could paint that, I thought.

I texted the picture to the husband and posted it on Instagram. Instagram response was a solid positive. The response from the husband wasn't negative. If you have been married awhile, you know any answer that isn't no is obviously yes. So I bought it. But, it didn't fit in my car. I called my friend (who has since moved to St. Louis!) and told her I needed to borrow her van. She asked if I was at that exact thrift store (she knows me...) and she told me she'd be by in 5 minutes because she was across the same street at the grocery store. She picks the dresser up and delivers it to my house. Boom.

It sat in the garage for a month or two. Gathering up the energy to get started took awhile, but I knew it had to be done before winter and no one likes working in a cold garage. So...

Before painting, there was sanding. If anyone who has ever refinished furniture knows, the prep is the worst part. It wasn't much different than the rest of my refinishing projects except NAPTIME. I did my major dresser project for our master bedroom when B was napping. Not just napping, but two times a day for 3-4 hours total. I had gobs of time. Now, I'm lucky to get a single hour to knock anything out because B doesn't nap at all (and therefore wants books and mom time) and C naps much shorter than B did at her age (1.5-2hrs a day total). By the time I would read a few books to B, set him up with a movie, drag out all my supplies, and get myself prepped and ready, I had almost no time to actually work.

Chipped away slowly and it's done. It's not perfect and there are some things I'm disappointed about, but it's done and I'm mostly happy with the results. It will look a whole lot cuter with the picture frames of colorful, artsy cards I've been collecting above it in Claire's "big girl" room, but here's the before and after:

Notice: great big oval in the middle. Be gone, painted flowers and random oval!
Detailed projects are my favorite pieces and also the hardest to work with. So. much. sanding and cleaning in grooves.
Crystal knobs were purchased on Ebay for about $20 and sold the old ones on Ebay as well. I ordered two sizes: top small drawers and big bottom drawers
I also took a picture of the top piece unattached (and covered the bottom in adhesive felt in case Claire happens to dislike it--easy removal).
Total cost of the project = ~$100
Dresser: $45
Sanding/Painting Supplies: $20-$30 (overspent here, clearly)
Knobs: $20

Blast from the past, 2.5 years ago:
First dresser project
Second dresser project

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Empathy Brownie

Claire typically has storytime at our local library Wednesday mornings while Benjamin is in school. The session just ended, so I invited over a mom who lives in my neighborhood for a playdate this morning.

Just as she was leaving and I was grabbing my things for preschool pickup, the phone rang. The school nurse called to inform me Benjamin had fallen and scraped his forehead, been cleaned up, given a bandage and an ice pack. Paperwork was added to his backpack about his fall and signs to look for in case of a concussion.

As he walked out of the school, I could tell he wasn't himself. He definitely had a goose egg and a scratch along with that bandage and ice pack. His backpack had the routine paperwork. We go to the park in front of his school every single day after school. Today, he said he wanted to go home. He reluctantly allowed Claire a few minutes of swing time and we were off. He didn't appear to have a concussion and no spoilers here (he didn't!). I assume he was both feeling a headache from his small head injury and also in an uncomfortable funk because he just hurt himself for the first time without Mommy present, had another (likely stranger) adult console him and another stranger (nurse) caring for him. He also probably felt embarrassed for having hurt himself at all and needing this attention.

Instead of going home so early, I figured we'd head to one of our favorite pizza places for a few slices. They love this place, especially because they have lollipops for the kids that they always choose as a treat when the meal is over.

We ordered and sat outside like we always do. Claire began to throw a fit. She was crawling on the table and screaming. And at that point, the wind was so strong that it was blowing our cups down. I schlepped our pizza and cups and napkins and stuff and two kids inside the restaurant and plopped down in a booth. Phew.

Claire continues the battle with no end. She's pulling me this way and that, grabbing at things, knocking down other things and insisting we move tables again. I helped her carry over her slice of pizza to another table and put it down. Then she promptly swoops it up and chucks it on the floor, face down, obviously. Luckily the cheese wasn't super melty, as it had plenty of time to cool off and coagulate at this point. It remained fully intact and the seemingly clean floor showed no signs of the fall.

I try to maintain some peace while tables of other patrons are eating their lunches, assuming they might get a break from the noise of the day. It wasn't so. I threw up the white flag and started grabbing our things, stacking our pizza for a quick exit, throwing away our full water cups, putting back condiments, stuffing excess stuff into the crevices of my purse and schlepping kids outside.

Another mom with her two kids stops me and hands me something (I had seen her purchasing at the counter). It was wrapped in a bag and she said, "You're doing great. I know those days. This is for you."

She handed me an empathy brownie.


And so we went home with a screaming baby who continued to tantrum for another half hour and throw food all over the (home) kitchen multiple times. And what happened to that pizza that landed face down? I peeled off and discarded the cheese (that touched the ground) that revealed the (untouched and buried) sausage and saucy crust of which I cut it into tiny pieces and fed to that angry baby. It's cleaner than the majority of the world has for lunch, I guess. #judgeme #goahead

Terrible twos, we welcome you again. Please be kind.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Here and Now

It's been almost a month since I've come to this space. I haven't had much time to read blogs, let alone write them. My head has been in so many places and this post is barely scratching the surface.

We had some good friends move yesterday. They're only 4 hours away, but they were a family who totally rallied around us when Andrew died. They were good (new) friends before, but morphed into great friends after. It's rare that loss can bring friendships closer, especially with those who haven't experienced any child loss themselves. They defied the odds on that one and we're abundantly grateful. They stayed with us the final five nights here in Illinois and it was so nice.

I drove in the direction of their former house today while running errands and was saddened by it all. We've lived here almost exactly 5.5 years and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the itch to go. There's a lot in that statement, but mostly it's just being a nomad at heart and loving the adventure in life. Surely stability is immensely important for children and I get that. I married an adventurer and we love to explore. Having great friends move on to their new adventure doesn't help tame that spirit.

I've been working on a dresser for Claire's big girl room that's been painted white. I added crystal knobs and it's about 99% done. I just need to get a little sandpaper out for the drawers to fit just right. Blog reveal to come.

Benjamin's school is going incredibly well. We love his teacher and I attended his curriculum night a week ago. I had to fight back tears a number of times for so many reasons: Andrew, missing my career in the classroom and also because I was just so at ease that Benjamin was in the perfect place for him. We made the right choice.

We stay after school every day to play at the park in front of his school. It's convenient because I can bring a lunch, there are similar-aged school friends available to play, Claire can partake and I can get a little social time in with other adults. If we went straight home, we'd be isolated at home having lunch and there'd just be more crumbs in the dining room. One mom often shows up from across town to take her youngest just to the park because this particular park has a firetruck that he loves. (He even wears his firetruck shirt each time.) She's come enough times now that they starting packing a lunch just to eat with us. We either walk home with the stroller or drive home. If walking, we have a routine of stopping by at this disc swing on our way home that's hanging in one of my neighbor's side yard. And then it's off for home and nap and afternoon adventuring. This will all change when the cold weather sets in.

That's probably part of my interest to adventure and run; winter. I hate winter and I especially hate December. After August and the end of summer comes the -ber months of which start out nice and end cold and painful.

With this summer being so incredibly awesome having a perfect vacation, Benjamin growing out of his terrible-two-three-ness, Claire being big enough to walk and rally, Benjamin learning to swim, and taking advantage of the outdoors at every chance we can get, we're just not ready for it to end.

We decorated for Halloween a bit today and Benjamin ran around for a few hours in a costume I picked up this morning on a whim. At least October is looking promising.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Benjamin Babble V

Scene: Benjamin returning from the bathroom, appearing defeated.

B: "My body says no, I can't go poop. It's tricking me. It just says no."

-----

Scene: Benjamin is upset at Claire for breaking the baby wipe he was using to clean.

B: {scolding} "Zero shows for you, Claire. That means no shows for you, Claire. No more broking my wipes, Claire."

-----

B: {sniff} "You smell good. You smell fresh. I'm going to sit with you {pushes over chair}. When I want to sit with you, give me a little spot."
Me: {moves over a bit}
B: "Thank you for giving me a little space."

-----

Scene: Driving in the car, chatting.

B: "I have long hair. I need to cut it. I need to comb it."
Me: "Does Claire have any hair?"
B: "Claire doesn't have any hair yet."
Me: "She doesn't?"
B: "I will get some more for her at the store."

-----

Scene: Reading Benjamin a National Geographic Kid's Magazine and telling him Panda Bears are born without fur.

Me: "That means they have no hair when they are born."
{Pause, turn to the next page.}
B: "Claire Mae Wilson doesn't have any hair."

-----

B: "You can sit in this chair, Mama. You are going to be a big boy soon."
Me: "Can I be a big girl instead?"
B: "You will be a big boy tomorrow. You will have a penis, okay?"

-----

B: "You are not allowed to have these (beads) Claire. You put them in your mouth and that's not okay. You were not coperating (cooperating)."

-----

Scene: Showing me a DVD that had a chewed up corner.

B: "Did Claire chewed on this?"
Me: "Probably."
B: {scolding} "Seriously, Claire? Don't chewed on this!"

-----

Scene: Chatting in the car.

B: "Mommy has the same house and Daddy has the same house and Claire has the same house. All of my people have the same house!"

-----

Scene: Driving to the park.

B: "You can't put skunscreen on us; it's a shaded park."

-----

Scene: Chatting about the rain outside. It went from nothing to bucketing.

B: "We better close our windows. It will rain on our head and we will not get hunky anymore and we will cry, cry, cry."

... {minutes later, stops raining}

B: "It's not raining anymore. It stopped raining. Maybe it went on vacation."

-----

Scene: Random chatting while driving somewhere.

B: "If you go in the street, a car will hit you and you will have to go to the dentist and you will have problems."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

He said it.

We had friends over this morning for a water table and outdoor flour paint playdate. My friend has a daughter Claire's age and her second daughter passed away nearly three weeks ago, an hour after she was born premature. We were on the deck and the kids were playing away.

There was a conversation about friends who continued to be pregnant at a similar gestation after our children died and how it's still hard seeing them, and for me, seeing their living child growing and learning. I said something along the lines of "When Andrew died..." because that's what happened and that's often the segway into a story about emotions and grief.

A minute or so later, Benjamin turns from what he was playing with and said, "Did Andrew die, Mommy?"

"Yes, Benjamin, Andrew died."

A couple hours later, Elliot came home for lunch with us (rare treat!). About 10 minutes into our casual lunch and lots of cuddles, Benjamin told Elliot, "Andrew died." It was totally out of the blue, but it's true and Benjamin now knows it.

We hadn't withheld this information before. I'm sure we've explained to him that he died, but we didn't explain what dying actually means, because that's too abstract for a child so young who hasn't personally experienced it with a close family member. He knows he has a brother and that his brother was born before him. He sees his pictures in our home regularly and even picked up his ashes the other day (cue the anxiety). He knows that he is in heaven, but what does that even mean for a child of three-and-a-half years old?

Well. He said it. I wonder what that really means to him and I wonder when more questions will come. Regardless, I'm proud to be a mom who shares love and heartbreak with her kids. After all, it's because of love that heartbreak exists and that itself is beautiful.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The New School Park Experience

Benjamin starts at a brand new preschool on Tuesday. Four days a week this time. I'm stoked. He's stoked. He's mostly stoked because he gets chocolate milk every day (and he'll tell you that). It's probably his favorite drink ever and when I noticed about three-quarters of the kids in his class also signed up for chocolate milk, I knew there was no chance I was getting away with signing him up for the white milk. He wouldn't drink it anyway. It's going to be great leverage for those rough mornings.

We went to preview day last week. After, the kids played at the park in front of his preschool. People slowly trickled out until there were about 4 kids left. I was nearby when a kid asked his mom to get on the other side of the see-saw. It was one of those newfangled ones that is on springs and didn't require leg work. Super chill. When she replied that she couldn't, I explained that I go on it frequently with my kids and it's so much nicer than most. She replied, "No, I just had a baby."

I rescinded my comment. Of course I wouldn't be getting on that thing either (and probably shouldn't have said anything). Through further conversation with the mom, I learned that she was a surrogate for a (stranger) family an hour away. She has two biological children and then carried another baby to term, all vaginally. She plans to have more kids of her own.

I found myself instantly uncomfortable. Jealous even. It was entirely directed at her innocence in birthing babies and understanding that there is an absolute living birth at the end. Maybe she doesn't entirely believe that, but I'm sure birthing a full term deceased baby wasn't in the forefront of her mind when she considered surrogacy. I told her about Andrew because I felt like leveling the playing field when she told me she birthed three babies. ME TOO. That, and I just talk about him because he's mine.

One thing we had in common: We both had breastmilk arrive a few days after birth. I asked her how that went. She told me it wasn't a big deal and just went away after a few days. She did mention that it felt weird because she breastfed her two boys, but was otherwise fine. That milk devastated me. In common, but NOT same-same.

I'm so grateful for surrogates and have friends who have used them to bring children into their families. I just never actually spent time talking with one. I didn't realize my emotions would be so involved and my grief would play any sort of role.

School is going to be an eye opener for the both of us, I presume. Kleenex ready.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mt. Whitney 2007

Eight years ago today, we started hiking just after midnight (when our permits were valid) with two friends to the top of Mt. Whitney. It's the tallest peak in the lower 48. We took 16 hours from start to finish, hiking 22 miles. We'd been engaged just two months at this point and were loving life.


I'm only bummed we didn't know there was a geocache up there when we hiked! We would've totally found it!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Date Night in NYC

When I graduated college with an undergraduate degree in journalism, my parents took me on a trip to New York. It was a wonderfully epic trip and we did just about everything a tourist would do in the city. It was all we wanted and we all had a great time. I hadn't been back (well, not to Manhattan) since.

When we planned our Cape May vacation, we immediately thought about leaving the kids with their grandparents and Aunt Mansa for a date night in the city! I'm a city girl through and through. Our suburb is populated, but it's not a big city. I love the energy and nightlife and activity.

We booked the Broadway tickets in advance to see The Book of Mormon. More on that in a moment. We booked the hotel in advance. Baby, we were getting out of town!

I'm just sad it's over now.

We drove up Tuesday morning, early. On the way, we stopped in Atlantic City to check out the hoopla. We'd never been there, but we knew a great deal about the financial strains they've been dealing with. We literally pulled right up to the sand next to the Revel Casino (closed in 2014) and parked. We walked on the boardwalk, saw the Steel Pier and grabbed a few geocaches. It probably helped that it was a Tuesday around 8:00 a.m.

Atlantic City, Revel Casino, Showboat (both closed), Times Square NYC
We pressed on to NYC and about 4 miles before we got to our hotel (still in New Jersey), we stopped off for E to call in to a work meeting. We grabbed some lunch after and headed into the city. We probably paid over $150 in tolls on this trip. Like woah.

Parked, explored, shopped, grabbed a geocache and checked into our hotel. We were 500 feet from Times Square. Awesome. We dressed up for dinner at Toloache and then off to Broadway.

Those cocktails were ridiculous.
We left feeling... disappointed. Kind of disgusted. Wishing we'd chosen another show, honestly. It was just offensive. We know it was meant to push the envelope and what we saw on the Tony Awards was downright hilarious. Half of the show was funny. The other half was just too dirty. There was a reoccurring joke about raping babies. That's not funny. There was a joke about domestic abuse. Not funny. There was a song that literally said, "Eff you God" on repeat. You don't have to be a believer in God to find that offensive. It's just hateful.

We grabbed some cookies at a fun place called Schmakary's. It doesn't get more wholesome and innocent than cookies. The key lime and oatmeal scotchie cookies we ordered were delicious. On our way back, we noticed ABC News was right on the corner of our hotel street.

Caching around NYC and in Central Park + wishing we were at Jimmy Fallon.
GMA peeps.
We set our alarms for early (I know... no kids...why!) and headed out to watch Good Morning America. I don't watch the show, but my major in undergrad was journalism. I still have a love for all things broadcasting and get a little giddy when I get to see it all in action. At one point, that's exactly what I wanted. It's not where I belonged, but I do still find it exciting. On the other hand, MY MOM is literally Good Morning America's BIGGEST FAN. For serious, y'all. She calls me probably once a week to tell me something she "heard on Good Morning America." I knew it's what she would do if she were there, so I figured it would be fun to do it for her. And then call and tell her we might be in the audience!

We were. It was interesting. We've both been in audiences for quite a few shows before having lived so long in LA. This was unique because we were just standing around the entire time, coming and going as we pleased. Anyone could walk up at any time. The guests were Ed Helms and some Bachelorette contestants.

More Good Morning America, Philly Liberty Bell & dinner & mini date night back in Cape May at The Lobster House
Once over, we started our run into Central Park and found three more geocaches. We made our way back to the hotel and then got ready to head out. This time, we took ourselves south via Philadelphia. We had lunch at a really cute sandwich shop. I'd never been to Philly before and there was a work colleague of E's we were able to squeeze in a little visit with. After, we explored Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, found a couple geocaches, had a few beers and a great Thai dinner before eventually ending our super long date driving the 1.5 hours back to Cape May after the kids were happily in bed for the evening.

We continued the trend with mini date nights after the kids were in bed each night. We'd walk the little town, find geocaches in the dark, enjoy a beer... whatever we wanted. It was so luxurious. It's also reason enough to sing the praises of overpriced house rentals over hotels-- kids had their own rooms and spaces which meant we could move about without disturbing them.

Our 7th anniversary was celebrated the day after we arrived in Cape May. My SIL surprised us with the best cake, congratulating us on our 7 years and my awesome husband on his recent appointment to president of his company. What a great trip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mother of the Year Material. Alternate Title: This Week Sucks

I've had one heck of a parenting week.

Benjamin has never been agreeable or interested in following the rules. Claire is now turning terrible two and is therefore also uninterested in following the rules. It's not like she has a good example. The only difference is, when I scold her, she actually shows remorse. Benjamin ignores me entirely.

Monday was a rough day. Everything went wrong. I didn't have the week planned (my mistake), so we woke up sort of in a fog of boredom. I couldn't get my creativity flowing. I packed up the kids and some PBJ sandwiches and hit the road. We were having a park picnic. Except the first park had zero shade trees and Benjamin was protesting "skunscreen." The second park had an enormous lawnmower blowing bits of grass everywhere with no sign of ending soon. The third park was having their driveway re-paved (I'm serious). The fourth park was the ticket. Only a wee bit of shade at the elementary school playground and swarming bees around our lunches we gave up on eating halfway due to fear of stinging, but we played.

In the afternoon, we packed up to head to the pool. We arrived and applied sunscreen. Before our feet touched the water, the inclement weather alarm sounded. That means at least 30 minutes of pool closure. We had to exit immediately. I'm scrambling to get my kids out before the downpour, but so are the 150 other people. We make it in front of the pool area and it hadn't sprinkled yet, so the kids were playing at the park directly in front of the pool. It begins to downpour. I grab our things and Claire...

...but where's Benjamin? No where to be found. Have I mentioned he's a perpetual runner (away-er)?

Usually he heads back up the grass hill to the pool locker room because he's obsessed with urinals and those disgusting pink urinal cakes (thanks, husband for the terminology I went 32 years without knowing-- gross me out). He is gratified by pissing on pink, flushing, and then washing his hands in the BOYS LOCKER ROOM BECAUSE I HAS A PENIS. I want to encourage him using the potty and standing to pee because it's socially acceptable and easier on me, too. So I let him go in alone. There is a door near the entrance and a door near the pool. I never know which he will exit because no matter what I say, he does what he wants.

I digress. We were in a downpour with imminent lightning approaching and I can't find my 3-year-old. I put Claire in the car and a stranger comes over to watch her while I run up to the pool to hopefully catch him there. At this point, multiple moms are helping me look. I run in hysterics and as soon as I arrive at the pool entrance, a lifeguard says, "I have your son and I was just about to come looking for you." I start bawling. He had apparently wandered into the guard office (which is never open except this day, so his curiosity got the best of him). I explain to him how dangerous it was and give the whole child abduction speech. And then he looks at me, laughs in my face, and having apparently heard nothing I was saying, says, "It's raining outside." 

And now the lifeguards look at me like I'm a negligent mom.

Yesterday at the pool, Benjamin pulled his whole, jump in the deep end while making eye contact with Mom super far away because he knows he's being a punk routine, but luckily he can swim to the edge and does with great success. Still scares the daylights out of me though. As we were leaving, he faceplants and scratches his entire right side of his face.

Two days later (today), we're at the pool again. Benjamin has to use the urinal (he's making it his goal to eventually use all of them--also applies to water fountains. ICK). I stand in front of the locker room facing the pool. Wait 5 minutes. I decided to head to the other locker room entrance (WHY ARE THERE TWO???) and a lifeguard once again walks out as I'm about 15 feet from him to tell me she was just about to come looking for me because she, once again, had my son. Because he cannot, for the life of him, listen to me about returning exactly to where Mommy is standing in front of the door you entered. It sucked even more when she said, "I recognized him from the other day." He's lost all privileges of peeing in urinals at the pool. He's stuck peeing on wet toilet seats in the girls locker room like the rest of us (with vaginas or kids who don't listen to their mommies).

Ugh. I might buy a leash. Just call me #supermom. I'm feeling every bit of it this week.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

When Friends Lose

We have a bunch of local friends. Most are tied to the church we attend. It connected us to some great people who have been our friends ever since. Those people were there for us when Andrew died. They visited us in the hospital. They cooked us meals. They dropped off gifts on the doorstep and groceries and cards and celebrated his life with us. They practically pushed our door open to spend time with us. Some brought over board games to make us laugh and get us out of our grief funk. They were there to peel us off the couch. They send cards and speak his name.

I often told them, "No, it's okay. We're fine. We don't need anything."

I also remember telling all of our visitors who came to our actual delivery room during our state of shock that while I'm not the type to ask for help, I am going to need them to kick down the door and keep us company.

One of those friends (and her husband and daughter) said goodbye to their second daughter, Alexandra last night. She was born at 23 weeks and labor couldn't be stopped. She was born at just over a pound and lived for an hour.

She was born in the same hospital and Labor & Delivery ward as Andrew, Benjamin and Claire. I couldn't help but feel those feelings of angst and sadness and longing and grief with that deep pit in my stomach as soon as I heard she was in labor. I knew the odds were not on their side and I knew what it would be like to lose a baby in that very hospital. Possibly in that very room.

What compounds the loss even more is that they conceived all of their children via IVF. They tried for years and have struggled desperately to grow their family. Their first daughter came after years of trying and prior miscarriages. And their second daughter was conceived after several rounds again, only to lose again someone so desperately wanted. These expenses have been financially burdening. Knowing they will be receiving bills in the mail months from now for their 10+ day hospital stay in addition to caring for Alexandra and their living daughter hurts.

That little nugget is Claire's age. Alexandra's big sister. Conceived of IVF as well. 
We started a GoFundMe for them. Most people who read this blog don't know my friend Kim and her husband Eric. I would've shared their story anyway. I'm so deeply sad for them.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Cape May Vaca(tion)

Most of the time, we come home from a vacation saying, "Yeah, it was great but we're glad to be home in our own beds."

Not this one. I could've slept in the bed at that beach house for the duration of my life. Family, beach, great food, lots of dates (and an overnight!) with the husband, exploring, a lantern release for our loves, morning jogs with Aunt Mansa, geocaching, seeing my kids giddy with excitement each day...

We planned this trip for a number of reasons. Elliot's grandma from NY would be able to meet Claire for the first time and see Benjamin again (since she last saw him at 4 months old!), Elliot's uncle and aunt who live in Maine would come down to meet the kids as well, and the rest of the family would be able to make it for a portion of time. E's grandma who lives in Maryland, E's parents and his sister along with her boyfriend would all be able to make the 3-hour drive. And let's not forget beach house vacation for all!

We took the 1.5 hour flight from Chicago to New York and drove three hours to Cape May. The kids were perfect and it was all good as long as I kept handing over the snacks (aka the only foods Benjamin consistently eats). On the way home, Claire was graded a marginal C-, but Benjamin rocked it. The sweet age of flight is about 2.5, so little sister has a ways to go; just in time for us to shell out the cash for four seats. (We're squeezing in two more flights before that happens, thankfully.)

We had a date night out of town as well, but I'll save that for my next post. Without further adieu... let the photo bombardment begin!

It was a two-two seater, so B sat next to a stranger for the first time! 
We explored Wildwood one afternoon. Beach naps. Sand play.
Blanket forts with Gramie & Great Gramie, ocean play, Gramie rainbow ball love and some baby snuggles on the beach.
Aunt Mansa and Ben are besties.

Jumping to Grandpa from the ottoman never got old. Jumping into sand pits. Aunt Mansa reading up on marathon training (her first Savannah this November! Gramie and granddaughter.

Grandma Wilson with her son, grandson + me, great granddaughter and great grandson. Uncle Sam, Aunt Fran and her sister Mary + pool time!
Great Gramie play. First flowers gifted from Grandpa who bought them from a corner flower stand.
We visited Sunset Beach, the lighthouse and a WWII lookout (that was closed for the day). We collected these pebbles from the beach as part of a geocache.
Some precious moments between Ben and Grandpa. Grandpa turned 63, so Benjamin and Claire helped decorate a cake for him. Then Benajmin proceeded to scold Grandpa on his choice of  books, deeming the book on Japanese culture the "mean" book. He expressed great displeasure that Grandpa would read such a book (and later made me read SIX pages of it to him).
During one of Claire's naps, we took B on a trolley ride around the town. This was part of Claire's silly behavior on our plane ride back.
Great Gramie signed the guest book at our cottage. 
The week was divine and one we're not likely to stop daydreaming about for quite awhile.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sky Love Lanterns for Papa & Andrew

We'd been looking forward to our family vacation at Cape May, New Jersey beach for over half a year now. When we booked our flights and the beach cottage rental, we were on total countdown mode.

In the midst of this planning, we said goodbye to my husband's incredible, sensitive and amazing grandfather, Papa. We hoped he would be there to celebrate family and life with us in the flesh, but he was surely with us in spirit.

In order to remember him and hold him in our presence, I wanted to bring him there to the beach with us, just as we planned. Papa's favorite color is red (so much that he asked Gramie to wear a red dress when he returned home from the war!). I'd been wanting to send a Japanese lantern to the sky for Andrew for years now. My parents had sent one to him last year, but I had yet to experience it myself. Sending a red one up for Papa just seemed like the right thing for the occasion and the perfect opportunity to send one for Andrew. We were at the beach and the landscape would be beautiful.

On the evening of our lantern release, it began to rain during dinner. I had given up hope that we would be lighting them that evening, until the rain stopped as soon as it started. We made the effort to write a few notes to our beloveds and loaded them into the car. Benjamin and Claire had their hands traced on the thin paper while the rest of us (Samantha, Kay, Steve, Ray, Gramie, Benjamin, Claire and I) wrote notes of love.

As we were all piling into our cars to make the approximately 5 mile trip to the Cape May Lighthouse, we saw a full rainbow in the sky. It was present when we arrived, too.

Papa and Andrew were there with us. We could really feel it.

We walked halfway down the beach as Gramie and Kay waited and watched up on more even ground as we lit the lanterns. At first, they weren't catching fire quickly as we'd hoped... but eventually... a minute or so later... Papa's red lantern was ready to take flight. Andrew's lantern followed and there was a glimmer of red and blue in the sky on the beach at sunset on that Thursday evening, July 30, 2015.
Papa's lantern taking flight.
Family of five.
Andrew's lantern taking flight.
Both lanterns here are visible. Papa's is almost exactly center and Andrew's more visible to the right.
The lanterns were incredibly beautiful and so peaceful. We set them off not only near a lighthouse during sunset with a full rainbow in the sky, but about 500 feet from a World War II bunker on the beach. Papa served in WWII and it was just an added piece of warmth to tie into the moment. May Papa and Andrew always feel the love we have for them, deep in our hearts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Swimming Hole

The kids are pretty fond of the water. Benjamin much more than Claire, but both are decent fans of the pool. (But don't make sister take a bath. THE WRATH!) We've had a pool membership three years now and absolutely love it. This particular "pool" is actually a small waterpark with four waterslides, one small waterslide, a sand area, splash pad area, kiddie pool, swim lanes, zero-depth main pool and a smaller pool. There are free floats to use for the kids and passholders have additional perks.

I never have my phone on me to take photos at the pool (because water), but my mom shot these when she was in town last month.

A little extra mom love and some Claire bubble blowing action

It's all fun and games until there are swim lessons. Benjamin had two weeks of them (at the pool we go to), totaling 8 days. He reluctantly participated three days, happily participated three days, and refused the final two days. Of course, that meant his behavior chart (grumble, it's a must...) had a couple sad faces for those days and no treats following meals or any screen time. He'd gleefully tell his swim teacher, "I will see you tomorrow!!!" and then completely refuse the pool the next morning. There's no predicting his crazy.

As soon as the swim lessons ended, he practically sprinted into the pool and jumped into the deep end like it was HIS JOB. After sitting in the stroller, dry and bored and pouty for the previous 40 minutes.

As long as no one is forcing him, he's on board. The moment it becomes a requirement, he's backing out. Ah, the life of a mom with a stubborn fish. At least it's not because he's not afraid of the water and only because he's a total punk.

Insert exhausted mom emoji here. And maybe the beer one, too. But not the fish one. That's just cruel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thumb Sucking Bootcamp

It's probably no surprise that we had to bootcamp this process, too. (Remember potty training?) The good news is, this whole bootcamp business seems to be the hot ticket with this hot-tempered kid.

I blogged about this eight months ago and we really only committed to helping him quit in late June.

Benjamin was thumb sucking often, especially at sleep times. He was a champion sleeper and irregular napper at 3+ (from 0-3 was crazy stellar!), but if there was any nap happening at all, we had that thumb to thank.

After a visit with the dentist, she scared us with words of head gears and mouth surgery if this continues and affects his overbite drastically. Sure, she gave us worst-case scenarios, but that was enough for us to head straight to Target for a new water bottle (to attempt to ditch juice as well) and some nasty thumb polish.

Thum was purchased. For $3.04, I thought it was a steal because the stuff they were selling on Amazon was like $14. Still VERY cheap also considering mouth surgery and whatever.

Regardless, this wasn't about the money. It was about potentially putting him through all that later in life when we felt responsible for teaching him good habits (or overcoming bad ones).

He was sucking his thumb within the hour. Not because he wanted to, as he'd heard the dentist and actually seemed to want to follow her instructions, but because it was a habit. He didn't even know he was doing it most of the time!

I needed that Amazon stuff IMMEDIATELY. Our local Ulta carried it, so I headed over with Benjamin and we snagged a bottle for like $16.

Worked like a charm. Really, if you have thumb sucking or nail biting issues, this is the stuff. Look nowhere else. We've used about .0004% of the bottle and he's done. No thumb. He hasn't put his thumb in his mouth for 2.5 weeks.

The first few nights, I was sweating it. He was waking 3-5 times and I was certain my good sleeper had just turned into a bad sleeper. I was super bummed. He'd wake screaming because he'd accidentally put his disgusting thumb into his mouth. He'd been sleeping with the aide of his thumb since he was 6 months old, and now we're nearing the corner of 3.5 next month.

After three days, he was back to normal sleeping and hasn't looked back.

We stopped using the Mavala Stop stuff after 5 days. He'd even tell me he needed it occasionally or help me apply it (little goes a long way).


It's been a huge relief for us all. The only major casualty in all of this is knowing he is officially never going to nap again.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Benjamin Babble IV

Scene: In the garage and B is on his scooter (which always lasts about 4.7 seconds). Don't be impressed.

Me: "Where are you going?"

B: "I am going to storytime."

Me: "It's too far to go on a scooter (about 3.5 miles)."

B: "I can handle far away."

-----

Scene: Sitting on top of the playground equipment at a local park. Benjamin insists I play. He has just handed me the Bud Light blue football necklace we picked up as swag from a local geocache (that I didn't know was that when he asked if he could have it). I stick the necklace between two frisbees and start jiggling it around to make noise.

B: "This is not a time for play." (Anyone want to continue on from the Go Dog, Go! book? -- literature is powerful, hah!)

-----

Scene: B is in the backseat of the car playing with the old school GPS while I'm driving. I've recently started turning it on and sending us to destinations (I generally already know directions) to occupy him, because he loves the technology and maybe to teach him left and right

B: "Fix this, Mom. It's making me a crabby pattie." (I call Claire that when she's being crabby.)

-----

Scene: Sitting on the deck eating dinner together.

B: "What is Claire having for dinner?"

C: "Gobble, gobble."

B: "Are you a chicken, Claire?"

-----

Scene: Claire returns from the living room with a small bouncing ball. She attempts to balance it on her head and then let it fall (having seen me do this before).

B: "That's cute, Lady Bird."

-----

Scene: At the dining table finishing reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

B: "We will read that again tomorrow."

Me: "We like that book, don't we?"

B: "I want that book again."

[Claire hears the words I want and immediately assumes he's going to snatch it from her hands. This time he wasn't going for it.]

C: Growling, "Noooo!"

B: "Claire is being a crabby pattie because she is not sharing with me. She is not being kind. Claire, we need to be kind to each other." (Please see the latest Instagram video of Benjamin being "kind".)

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Scene: Claire spills blueberries out of the container and all over the floor.

B: "I will clean them up. I will go get my sweeper thing." (Cleaning is an extremely rare unicorn-like sighting in our home.)

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Scene: Benjamin is attempting to fork his mini penne pasta alone at the table.

B: "Oh, they are falling off. Mom, my bites are not playing fair. They fall off my fork."

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Visit From Gawbee

June brought Gawbee on an airplane, and also a date night for us! As always, it's so nice to have family in town to love on the kids and spend our time with.

Gawbee treated Benjamin to a movie date. He was thrilled. Especially since she actually put quarters in the arcade games.

Arboretum exploring and dinner in cute little chairs in the children's garden.
We even took Gawbee on a geocaching adventure in the woods and spotted 3 deer and hundreds of frogs. One of those frogs still lives under our deck.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Birth Order Baby Drama

We had friends staying at our house a couple weeks ago for about 5 days. They have two kids, 7 and 4 (...and they're going on a crazy road trip from California > Florida and back with those kids!).

They're pretty skilled at just about everything. They both swim proficiently and ride bikes and the older can read and is partially fluent in Spanish. They're awesome.

The oldest is also very cooperative and listens the first time. He's well-mannered and behaves and is typical of a firstborn.

Their youngest is a little wilder, tends to be more mischievous, must be asked many times to complete a task and often will answer with the naughty "no" instead of being agreeable. Typical second born.

We have local friends whose kids are identical and identical in ages, too. Sure wish they were in town to meet! Their family dynamics and similarities are off the charts (Marriotts!).

My friend (the mom) commented about Benjamin not being typical of a firstborn and more of a second born. And while he isn't a firstborn (and she knows), what does that say about birth order family dynamic when the firstborn died at birth? While Benjamin is not the firstborn, he very well should be assuming the role, right? He's never lived with an older sibling and it hasn't changed his daily dynamic. Is it in the gene makeup of the kid? Was he born with second-born traits because he actually is the second born?

The speculations and what-ifs of life with Andrew continue always. It makes me angry knowing that I'll never know what the family dynamic would be like if Andrew were here. What I do know is that if my second born had his firstborn brother here, things would be a whole lot sweeter (and the second born might be more mellow). Parenting after loss is all kinds of loaded. Among the many things I wish I had after losing Andrew, I wish I just knew what he would've been like and how he would have shaped our family. The ever gaping hole will always be present.

Can you guess their wild card? You easily know mine. ;)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Microblog: The Claire Tuck

Claire has this precious way of expressing she loves you and finds comfort in you. When holding her, she pulls both arms in and tucks them down, as to give up full control, in total trust. It also ensures you can't grasp her arms well to put her down. She's clever like that.

Then she plops her beautiful baby noggin right on your shoulder. She knows her people and exhibits this behavior often when in our arms.


Best feeling.