Friday, May 31, 2013

Water Babies

Neighbor-friend and I have been discussing using the recent warm weather as an excuse to pull out her baby pool and get the kiddos wet (and, hopefully, worn-out).

Today, we finally set a date. In the process of preparing for our little shindig, I finally located the swimsuits from last summer and discovered, with some amazement, that they still fit, though just barely. I'm not sure whether I was more surprised that Abby's 3T size looked so incredibly small on her, or that Michael's 9 month size fit over his waist at all.

Mia doesn't have one, yet. I imagine I could have found something close enough in Abby's old clothes, but I haven't yet gotten around to sorting through them all. I'm starting to think that Mia may make it through her entire infancy without me getting to that step at this rate.

Two swimsuits, three kids. As it turns out, I only needed two swimsuits in the end, but not for the kids that I expected to need them for.

Michael was terrified of the water. He wouldn't put a toe, or even a finger, in.

Mia, on the other hand...

Even Abby's uncoordinated thrashing and splashing didn't scare her away. Nor did that watering "can" that Abby was so fond of pouring out perilously close to Mia's face.

Where was Michael through all of this? Perched in his daddy's lap, behind gaze of the camera. Far from the water.

And here I thought that Abby was an oddity for freaking out over snow. However, that makes a little more sense  to me than Michael's resistance to baby pools. How different are they, really, from bathtubs (temperature aside, which he never even got close enough to test)? To be fair, he hasn't had a bath in a long while, since we favor quick and efficient showers 'round here. But still...

What weirdos my babies be.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Counting Cars and Noshing Nectarines

I've discovered a new, fun activity for Mia: counting cars. After a long nap with me in late afternoon, she was getting edgy, and I thought she could do with a change of scenery. There were no crazy antics to witness in the playroom, as Tom had taken the older sibs with him on a Wegmans run, so I turned my attentions elsewhere.

I did something that I don't do nearly often enough; I went outside for the sake of being outside. The air was still heavy and humid, but there was enough of a breeze to keep it moving, and the temperature was held at bay by a quickly vacating sun. Lacking appropriate footwear and feeling insufficiently motivated to wander far, I stopped at the edge of the front steps with my littlest baby and sat down.

And counted cars.

Not literally, really. To say that I observed them would be more accurate. I pointed out the different colors and styles to Mia, and told her to be on the lookout for our own familiar van, which was surely on its way back home at any minute. In the midst of our lazy, time-wasting activity, a neighbor-friend walked by, and we chatted. She was delighted to see Mia awake and alert (and happy), which reminded me of how rare and wonderful such a state of being is for her, still.

All too soon, a friendly blue minivan backed in, and noise and silliness poured out, echoing through the hallways and rooms of the house straight through to bedtime.

Perhaps tomorrow morning, we can start our day with nectarines again, as I did with Abby today. She was very pleased with the new experience, announcing, "I like Nectarines. They are very yummy. Nectarines are so yummy because they make Abby's tummy feel good!"

Tomorrow evening? Maybe we'll be out there counting cars again. Maybe I'll bring the elder sibs along. And maybe, just maybe, we'll all nosh on nectarines while we're at it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nine Weeks, Chalk, and Driveway Hopscotch

Spring has been bounding through our lives with such abandon that it will be Summer before I finally register that we ever experienced it. Not that the fickle weather has been much help in that regard; blowing biting, aggressive winds one day, sobbing heavy raindrops the following, and pouring down hot, steamy sunshine the next.

Today turned out to be a sunshiney day, though it was not immediately clear in the damp, dewey hours of the morning when Nana and I wrangled up all three monkeys to rush out to Mia's two-month wellness assessment.

She's nine weeks. Nine. How it ever happened I still cannot say, but there it is. And she's growing without pause. Though the nurse marked her length at 23.5 inches, I'd wager it was closer to 24, since her squirmy little leg didn't achieve a perfect straightness for the measurement. Regardless, that puts her solidly in the 87th percentile. She's not quite as high-achieving for weight- though very nearly so- settling her 13 lbs and 1.2 oz squarely into the 85th percentile, instead.

Her unique newborn physicalities have largely faded: she no longer sports a fine fuzz across her back, though she's retained a stubborn lining on her ears; her baby acne has come and gone between her fifth and seventh weeks; her face has filled, eyes darkened, cry evolved, neck strengthened to support her expanding head. Though she was spared the inconveniences of cradle cap and blocked tear duct(s) (Praise God for the latter!), and had the mildest case of acne that I've seen among my three children, her stork bites remain, to fade away by some undetermined date within her first year. It's odd to me to see them linger still, when her siblings' seemingly evaporated in the first three weeks, but surprisingly endearing all the same. The sight of them allows me to support my stubborn denial, just a little, of her recent transition into Infancy. Those newborn days are behind us, now.

You'd hardly know it from the way she sleeps. She's lost to the world, lightly drooling against the rise and fall of my chest, a good 90% of the day. That's starting to change, however, and she's finding the time to observe her world through wide, glittering eyes, in the comfort and safety of my arms, or just within my reach on the sofa cushion nearby. Though we're working on getting comfortable in her bouncy chair, physical discomforts still often send her, screaming and crying, back into my embrace. Therefore, with some reluctance, I've decided to treat her reflux with medication, and hope that perhaps her gas issues will go the way of her tummy troubles once we get things under control.

But back to the sunshine. It was quite the sight, once we broke free of the van like clowns from a clown car, to see the yard engulfed in brightness nearly untainted by cloud. Having managed, with Nana's valiant efforts from the back seat, to largely keep the elder children awake from the ride home, I had only to keep them occupied for one more hour before lunch, and then Nana and I hoped to find a space of time in which to rest while they engaged in synchronized napping on the floor above.

Though I tried to lead them to the climbing equipment in the back, they kept making their way out toward the driveway, where they'd spent so much time on our Memorial day cookout. After relocating them several times, it finally occurred to me how to keep them occupied- there was a large space of asphalt available that is usually covered by Tom's parked car. Perfect for chalk!

This was a splendid solution for Abby, but Michael was only marginally interested in coloring. He took a few swipes with a piece of chalk and moved on, straight toward the street. As Nana and I began to huff and puff from our efforts to corral him, I searched around for some kind of makeshift barrier and settled on the two strollers folded under the front overhang. They wouldn't stop him, but they might slow him down.

At the sight of the strollers, however, Michael wanted in. I acquiesced, though I wasn't sure how long he'd be willing to hang out in it sans an actual walk around the neighborhood, which wasn't really in the plan.

He was surprisingly patient from his newfound perch.

Of course, it helped that there was chalk to play with...

... and unceremoniously drop.

Also, Nana was around to provide the compulsory bit of motion, even if they didn't really go anywhere.

Nana also had the brilliant idea to draw a hopscotch grid.

She first showed Abby how to jump in numerical order, which Abby either didn't quite understand or found too uninteresting to try.

However, she took to the second jumping game that Nana showed her right away, spreading her tiny feet apart, then together, in the pattern of the scribbled pink squares below.

Up, down. Hop, skip. Haltingly, at first, she followed the chalk shapes like an amateur but eager student of dance might follow painted footprints across the floor.

But only to a point. Her joy and creativity were not to be contained; in the end her movements were her own- perhaps the product of some beautiful music deep within. I can almost hear it, when I search her expression. Almost.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Turning Heads at Two Months

It's late- too late- as usual, so I'll be heavy on photos and short on words.

Shouldn't be too great a loss, since tonight is all about the "month" pics, anyway. Here's our little Mia at two months (and one day).

I'm on my third round of this now, but I'm still left speechless at the rapid pace of these early changes. It's incredible the difference from one month to the next. She's definitely not a newborn anymore (even if she sleeps like one).

Still not a great fan of the camera, though.

She was blessedly patient through most of the snapping and flashing, but her expressions ranged from despondent...

... to bashful...

... to bored.

Somewhere in the middle, she got a little mutinous...

(and I got a little sloppy- went off auto without adjusting the white balance)

... but we quickly straightened things out.

This was the closest I got to a smile.

She's been smiling socially for over a week now, but nothing would coax one out of her this afternoon. In hindsight, I can't really blame her for her reluctance. She really had to poop, and was pretty uncomfortable by this point, a problem that she was finally able to solve (all over me and her) once the fun was over.

I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record on this point, but I also can't believe how many of her expressions channeled Abby's, particularly this one:

Though I have many personal memories of seeing "that face" on Abby, I could not for the life of me find any photographic evidence of it.

I did, however, find this picture of Abby from December 2010, when she was around the same age.

It's not the same expression, but it gives the same impression: my gals- they got attitude.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day, Mia, and other May Madness

May has flown by just as April did, and the tail-end seems to be full of lots of happenings, all at once.

I have a story of disastrous curiosity still to tell (here's a hint- it ended in a poopy mess), because it happened on a day in which other news dwarfed it in significance: my mother's birthday, my grandfather's passing. What has followed since has been unexpected travel and the resulting extra dose of exhaustion. As a result, not only is my poop story still simmering on the back burner, I never got a chance to make a note of Mia's eight-week milestone, or comment on her newest developments.

Now, here we are, on the second monthiversary of her birth, and once again I have too much content to share, and not enough time or space to do so. It's the last day of the long Memorial Day weekend, and Tom insisted on hosting a cook-out (since that's what people do on Memorial Day, after all). With such beautiful weather predicted, how could I argue? Besides, we'd yet to memorialize my mother's near-forgotten birthday, so I wanted to work that into the festivities.

As I got the children ready for the day, it occurred to me that today would be the perfect day to finally dress the girls in their near-matching polo dresses. In the spirit of continuity, I went ahead and found polo shirt for Michael, too (though he got his own, unique color to wear). It wasn't until I'd had my fun taking pictures of the bunch of them, and indeed, sat down to upload said photos that I noticed the date on my computer.

Mia's two-month "birthday!"

Despite my urge to drop everything and take more pictures, Mia looked far too cute to change, matching her sister as she did, into the outfit I had set aside for the Two-Month pics. Beyond that, I didn't really think it fair (or remotely likely to be successful) should I subject her to more picture-taking so soon after the morning's round, and I knew that I wouldn't have time in the evening.

Therefore, I'll be attempting Mia's "month" pictures another day, and working in a post about what she's up to now along with them. It's my hope that that day will be tomorrow, but I've learned not to make such grandiose plans anymore.

As for the other goings-on of today, I feel a bit strange working on a post now, before the fun has even begun, and guaranteeing myself even more of a backlog of stories that need telling. However, if there's one thing I've learned since Mia was born, it's that I need to take advantage of potential blogging time when and where I can, or it will end up happening far less often than I'd like.

So, to get to the real point of this post- the sharing of the hurriedly-taken, just barely-achieved pictures of the munchkins.

I couldn't even get them to look at me (well, Mia sort of did), as Abby was far too preoccupied with her sister, and Michael with the empty sippy cup that we handed him to halt his constant motion, playing into his predictable inclination to inspect the novel gift. With kids their age, if they're sitting still and not screaming, you've just got to shoot and hope for the best, so I did.

 In the end, I did at least get a smile out of Abby...

... and a grimace out of Michael.

That was it for Michael, but the girls were thankfully willing to play along just a bit more.

In fact, though Mia's interest gradually waned, Abby's excitement only increased over time. She loves her sister dearly, and truly cherished the one-on-one time with her, I'm sure.

I find it so amazing to watch them together, not least because the love that they share touches my heart so.

Perhaps I'm just seeing what I want to see, but the resemblance seems uncanny, as well. I feel as though I'm glimpsing Abby twice, in two very different stages at once.

Though Abby was a bit chubbier at the same age, and had much more impressively-sized cheeks, it still seems to me as though I've got a mini version of her on my hands. It will be interesting to see how much similarity is retained as they get older.

Regardless, I can't deny that they make quite a pair- my two girls- matching dresses or no.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sweet Home Virginia

I've been away from the blog for two days, but it feels like it's been forever.

As I've been mentioning all too often, life has gotten tough lately, trying to juggle three babies 24/7, but add to that illness and death in the family, and I suppose I really can't be too hard on myself for not staying in the game throughout.

I had every intention of posting last night, but half a day's travel yesterday on top of everything mentioned above really took the wind out of me. Once I laid myself down on a hotel bed, and got Mia snoring peacefully by my side, I could not be moved. And thus ended the first day of Mia's first trip outside of the DC/Metro area (to Pittsburgh, PA).

It was also her first long car ride. She did really, really well in the beginning, sleeping straight through from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm, but the next leg was tortuous. As we've been discovering on the way back, it seems that a lot of her complaint was likely due to the high elevations from that point forward, and her inability to pop her own ears. Since I can't nurse her in a moving car, and she won't take a pacifier, there was little that we could do for her. We did make a good effort, offering fingers, songs, and gentle stroking of her face and hair.

I knew that all of the difficulty was worth it, however, when I saw my grandmother and Mia meet for the first time this morning. Grandma found a reason to smile through her grief, and together we had a quiet moment to reflect on the beauty and wonderment of new life, even in the midst of such a sad ending. Part of me felt heartsick that I was not able to have the rest of my family with me as well (Tom and I decided it would be best for everyone involved if he stayed behind with Abby and Michael), but at the same time it seemed fitting that it should just be Mia this time around. Though she will never know my grandfather, nor will she ever even be able to claim having met him, she will have been the one great-grandchild in attendance at his final goodbye.

And a beautiful goodbye it was. A lovely Mass, in which my father delivered a eulogy with contributing words from his brother and himself, and my sister and I learned some amazing new things about the man we knew as Grandpa. He had participated in a Top Secret Project at the tail end of WWII, which was later revealed to be work on the development of sonar. Later in his life, he created a search code that helped enable NASA to get a man to the moon. Pretty noteworthy stuff.

Though WWII ended before my grandfather was ever called to combat, he was in active duty in the Navy during wartime, and reached the rank of Ensign before his honorable discharge. As a result, he was given full honors upon his death. His casket was draped with an American flag after it was carried from the church, and two uniformed seamen waited in the lobby to salute it while Taps was played. This gesture was followed by a careful folding of the flag, and its presentation, with thanks for valued service, to my grandmother. It was incredibly moving.

So, too, was the brief but treasured time spent with too-rarely-seen relatives at the luncheon afterwards. My aunt, uncle, first cousins. We focused not on what we had all just lost, but rather, what knowledge of each others' lives we had to gain, catching up on upcoming life changes, and exchanging personal stories. When Mia awoke from a catnap, I brought her by my grandmother's end of the table for a last bit of time with her. I never did get a chance to take a picture of them together, but I will store away forever the memory of my grandmother's face as she looked into my youngest daughter's. 

Now, as I reflect on recent events, and enjoy my last bits of time in the (relative) calm and quiet that have come from temporarily taking on the role of mom-of-one, I'm realizing just how much I miss the rest of my brood. Abby, with her quirky sense of humor; contagious laugh; and budding attitude, Michael, with his boundless energy; nose for trouble; and radiant smile. I'm counting on the depletion of my final stores of energy as I cross through the front door to stop me from bounding up to their rooms to watch them sleep (they'll likely be in bed before I get home), but I hope to find comfort in the very nearness of them, and the knowledge that I will see their cherished faces before me again at the rising of the sun.

With a worn-out baby in hand and a blog post already neatly under my belt (mobile hotspot + laptop + more than enough adults to go around to handle the driving, for the win), I am eager to be home now, in the company of my dear husband, in the comfort of my very own bed.

Sweet Virginia, here we come.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Happy Birthdays and Sad Goodbyes

Today is my mother's birthday (and the culmination of Mia's eighth week- but more on that, tomorrow). With the craziness that is my life now, we both knew that we wouldn't be able to speak for long on the day of, or actually plan anything together, but I'd hoped to make a quick phone call and celebrate in a small but special way with her over the weekend.

Through the usual fog that surrounds me in the first several hours of the morning/early afternoon, I didn't even register what day it was. When I saw my mother's number show up on my cell phone, I remembered, but her tone and voice were not at all as I expected to hear them. She sounded tired, haggard. Like she'd been crying.

It turned out that my paternal grandfather passed away this morning, and she was calling to pass the sad news on to me. I have fond memories of the joyful, playful, giant of a man that he was in his younger days, back when visits were often and eagerly-anticipated. Having seen very little of him in my teenage and adult life, and finding it hard to relate the reality of the changed man that he was in his older age to the way that I saw him as a child, I am still struggling with the emotions that his death has set in flux within me.

I last saw him just shy of a year ago, an unexpected visit in tragic circumstances: the death of his son, my uncle, my father's brother. My family was blessed to enjoy a couple of lucid hours with him before our departure, in which he got a chance to see his great-grandchildren, Abby and Michael. Mia will sadly never have the same opportunity, now.

As we ended our brief phone call, my mother and I, I hesitated before finally pushing forward in my decision to wish her a happy birthday. It felt forced, and sounded foreign in the midst of our shared grief, but I didn't want to let it go unsaid. Having left things the way I did, though, it still feels like it was.

Tom and I wanted to do something special to make up for it, but we needed Abby's cooperation. She's a great little singer, but not so keen to do it on command. Over dinner, we talked her up on the notion of making a little video for Mima, and she seemed intrigued, but I knew it would be no easy task. Smart as she is, Abby still has a hard time understanding that videos must be made before they can be watched.

There were four attempts in all. The highlight of the first was Abby's amused expression and coy little murmur that, "Mommy can sing it," as I tried to whisper-sing/encourage in the background. In the second, she was more aggressive. "No! I don't want to sing it!" In the third, I tried to pique her interest with the forward-facing camera. She was definitely more involved that time, but only in the making of silly faces, while I did all of the singing.

I'd given up at that point, and begun to nurse Mia, when Abby declared that she was going to sing, after all. Of course, my one-handed, fumbling attempt at getting the camera out quickly interrupted Mia and set her crying, and it was at this point that Abby began. I still couldn't reach the record button right away, so getting a perfect video was an impossibility from the start, but I figured I'd go with it and see what happened.

The result was- well- amusing, at least. Here's to you, Mima. I hope that your birthday was as happy as it could have been.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Grandpa. May you find eternal peace in the loving arms of God.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Breaking Mad

My sweet Abigail is precocious, crazy-intelligent, creative, adorable, amazing...

... and so, so difficult, at times.

I find myself struggling daily, not only with the ways in which her stubbornness and headstrong resistance to my attempts at discipline are blocked at every turn, but also with the poor way in which I handle it, emotionally.

It's worst on the days when I'm feeling down, because a low mood always equals virtually no patience, and an overabundance of anger. The anger makes me so ashamed; it bursts out at often unexpected times, causing me to feel guilty, and just self-hating enough to further feed the hidden flame for the next round.

The terrible cycle has always left me feeling like the very worst of myself, but no more so than now, when it affects the way that I interact with my children. I start to shut myself down, perhaps in some misguided attempt to stem the flow of rage, and I can't seem to connect at all for a time. Sadly, this disconnect happens most often with Abigail, because her level of self-awareness makes it harder for me not to chalk her behavior up to "just being a baby," though I really do need to cut her much more slack than I'm inclined to.

It kills me inside, especially lately, when there have been so many trying days in a row that I have hardly any time to recover from my internal limbo.

Beautiful genius that she is, however, Abigail has found just the cure.

Yesterday, after a time-out chock-full of screeching, screaming, and angry tears, she rushed forward upon her release, arms outstretched, to wrap herself around me. I was shocked, and humbled. However, as I forced a physical response- a receiving arm, the soft stroke of my hand- that self-hatred began grow again within me when I realized that I was having difficulty fighting through my residual annoyance to cherish the moment.

Today, we had one last time-out in the evening, even more dramatic than the day before, and once again all she wanted when it was over was to be wrapped up in my arms. Immediately, my own tears broke through, at first of sheer mortification at my failure as a person and mother in continuing to nurse my negative feelings. However, as I pressed her body against me, folded her legs into my lap, twirled her silky-fine hair in my fingers, I could almost see the barrier that I so stubbornly created rend apart before my eyes. Then she said, "I love you, Mommy. So much."

I threw my heart back open, and laid her within it. And as I held her there, my senseless anger dissolved into peace, and overwhelming love.

She broke me, in the best of ways.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Egg-cellence and Abigail

Tom has been on an omelette-making kick for the last few weeks, in an attempt to get more protein into all of our diets. I don't know how he manages, but every morning he's been whipping one up for Abby and Michael, for me, and finally, for himself.

Abby, however, has been becoming rather disinterested with the selection (unless it's in the form of stolen bites off of someone else's plate. She did seem to enjoy the boiled egg that Tom made for her yesterday, though, so he offered it again this morning.

Despite having requested egg when asked what she wanted, her answer to his offer was a resounding "no." They went back and forth a bit, until Tom finally brought two eggs out and placed them in front of her, and she wolfed them down with gusto.

Fast-forward to this afternoon, when Tom came in from outside with the delicate pieces of a broken Robin's egg spread across his palm. Excitedly, he said to Abby, "Look! What do you think this is?" She didn't recognize it, so he explained that it had been an egg, and a baby bird had hatched from it. Then he asked, "What should we do with it?"

"We have to put it together," she said.

As Tom and I chuckled, she added. "I want to eat those eggs."


If that wasn't enough Abby fun for you...

Overheard yesterday as she was baby-talking to her little sis: "You came home from the hospital and you were so naked. You're a tiny little baby."

As Tom was leaving the room this evening after putting her to bed: "Where are you going Daddy?"

"Daddy is going to bed," he answered.

"Daddy has to take out the trash," she corrected.

Realizing that it was, indeed, trash night (I suppose she must have overheard us talking about it earlier) he said, "Yes. And then, Daddy is going to bed."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Blogging Burdens and Playdate Pictures

This blogging thing is getting tough- I can't deny it. Though I've managed to weather it through power outages, most illnesses, pregnancy, and poorly-to-barely sleeping babies, I've been facing my greatest challenges of late. I have a laptop that's glitchy about its internet connectivity, a terrible WiFi connection half the time, and a newborn whose new norm is to require approximately two hours to work down to sleep in the exact block of time that I've traditionally set aside for working on blog posts.

There have been a few nights now that I've come through the ordeal too exhausted to do anything but sleep, and each night that comes brings that same temptation to just skip it. Even if I'm not up for dozing right away, there is plenty of cleaning to do (ha!- like I'd ever have the energy), there are TV shows to catch up on with Tom, other ways to waste time on the computer, or (and here's a concept) some time available for adult conversation sans the usual daytime intrusions and interruptions.

I press on all the same, carried by the momentum that I've so carefully nurtured (and spent many a night worried that the omission of just one blog post might destroy), and by the pride in what I've built here and wish to continue to build. Though I can't promise much quality or consistency until I can have my evenings back again, I can promise determination. I'll manage whatever I am able, whenever I am able.

As for tonight, it's a good thing I've got pictures, because this unfortunate, out-of-season cold that I'm now battling has got me feeling too foggy-headed to do much more than write around them.

In fact, I've been sitting on these since Thursday, since I've been hard-pressed to find the time or energy to edit them until now. I took all three children to the last playdate, for which many water activities were planned. Fun as it sounded, the water element added a whole new layer of complexity to the normally arduous process of carting multiple children around. Extra clothing was required; special diapers; outfit changes.

Ultimately, Abby only really had eyes for the sandbox.

Michael seemed intrigued by the water table at first, but- sadly- was quickly scared away by the excited splashing of his older playmates.

 Poor little guy. I've really got to get him out more.

He wasn't particularly drawn to the sandbox or climbing equipment, either, perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the large presence of older children in both places.

Abby, however, kept herself quite occupied (and well-coated) amidst the sand.

 Eventually, Michael found a pastime of his own: seeking out unclaimed food around the patio.

I know that kids and dirt are supposed to be well-acquainted, but I do like to see my kids get most of their food from places other than the ground, so I collected some snacks for him in a new, clean cup, gave him a sippy of water and placed him on a comfy lawn chair to munch away.

He looked like a little prince on his throne.

In the end, the outfit changes proved worthwhile, since Abby discovered the water table at the last minute, and her clothes had to be removed to shake the sand out, anyway.

Mia slept through all of the commotion in the wrap, but woke up just in time to demand my attention as I attempted to dress and feed her siblings. It's a good thing that we went back inside to do so about midway through the playdate, since juggling all of the various needs of my children made the task of readying them to go home take about 45 minutes of constant work.

I think I'll be spending the next three days mentally preparing myself for next week's outing. That is, if I have any mental energy to spare...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Still Soda

On Friday night, Tom and I opted to do the lazy thing and get Chick-Fil-A for dinner. As we settled Abby in her booster with a bowl of leftover rice and mixed veggies and some chicken nuggets, she began to eagerly talk about dessert, and how she was looking forward to having some.

I thought it a bit odd, since we hardly ever have dessert, and when we do it's usually in the presence of company after she's gone to bed. I wondered what made her think of it, but brushed it off as the product of her wandering toddler mind.

Some minutes later, however, she mentioned it again, this time to ask for it. "Want to taste some of your dessert," she said. Suddenly, it hit me. The last two times we'd gotten CFA, Tom and I had ordered shakes, from which we'd shared sips with Abby, clarifying that it was dessert, and therefore she must eat some of her dinner beforehand and have only a little bit (we try to avoid crazy toddler sugar rushes if at all possible, especially late in the day).

This time, though, we'd each ordered a soda, which unfortunately comes in a virtually identical cup, because I've cut out dairy and Tom felt bad getting something that I couldn't have. As Abby looked at me expectantly, I found myself feeling terrible for unintentionally getting her hopes up. Sheepishly, I had to admit to her, "Abby, it's not a milkshake. It's just soda."

"Soda?" she repeated, rather unbelieving.

I nudged Tom. "Show her," I said. He lifted the top of his cup and tilted it towards her. "See, Abby? Soda. And soda is for grown-ups."

She looked to me, and I did the same, internally flinching for a possible outcry. Abby took it all in quite calmly and returned to her meal.

About a minute later, looking quite determined, she ordered Tom, "Want to see the soda again."

Tom and I exchanged amused, and slightly frightened, looks, and repeated our show-and-tell session.

"See, Abby?" I said. "Still soda."

"Still soda," she confirmed, quite professionally, with the slightest nod of her cute little chin.

Blessedly, dinner went on rather peacefully after that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Free Time? What's That?

I feel like I could start every day with the description, "long and exhausting," but today really was particularly so. The two oldest were up early, and I dragged all three out to a playdate which shifted our schedule around to such a degree that we had no organized lunch, only one nap for Michael, and no real naps for Abby.

Add to that a potty training success in the afternoon (we timed her sitting session just right to catch some pee) followed by a total meltdown with the realization that candy treats didn't come automatically from asking to sit back down on the potty right after getting up off of it. Then I found myself having to gauge the sincerity of the requests that followed: actual need vs. misguided grab for sweets. In the end, I sat her down twice more in the space of thirty minutes, leaving her poor sister screaming and subject to her brother's flailing arms and intrusive hands in my attempts to work quickly, and (as I had suspected would be the case) got nothing for my efforts. Nor did Abby.

That whole ordeal left me feeling like I must be doing it all wrong. Heck, I probably am. But I can't give treats for every attempt, right? I'd end up with a chocolate-covered toddler virtually glued to her potty seat all day...

Dinnertime was fraught with overtired toddler and cranky newborn fussing, crying, and screaming, and I was chomping at the bit to get bedtime started by the time it was all done. But it's not over 'til it's over. And it still ain't over.

I started Mia's routine before 8:00. Diaper change, swaddle, nursing, low lights in the bedroom. I've tried twice since then to get her situated in her sleeper after finally getting her to sleep. No dice. Tom tried twice more. Just before the fourth transfer from bed to sleeper, we both took a moment to admire her peaceful form. So sweet. So beautiful.

So cutting into the precious "me" time that I have left.

As she began screaming in her sleeper for the fourth time, Tom finally scooped her up, tired as he is after his late-night grocery run, to walk her around so that I could manage a post tonight.

It's not like I'm not used to it at this point. I am. And it's not like I didn't expect it when I became a mom. I did. But the funny thing about sacrifice is that, while you'd think it would get easier to handle over time, it sometimes gets harder instead.

As the sun begins to set (ever later) in the sky each night, my dreams are few: to get the dishes done, to blog, to decompress for just a few moments before drifting off into what passes for sleep these days. However, add a stubborn newborn to the mix and even those meager hopes are dashed more times than not.

She's so worth it- she really is.

It's so difficult, all the same.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

All Kinds of Moon

Ever since I replaced my old Windows 7 phone, I've been giving it to the kids to play with. This has been mostly effective at keeping their tiny paws off of my Kindle Fire and current phone. Mostly, Abby has been using it to scroll through the variety of pictures stored within, so I didn't give much thought to what it might still be capable of doing. Never having had a smartphone prior to that one, I was used to seeing my old phones convert into little more than a paperweight after deactivation.

Not so with this one. It still allows access to all features but phone calls; still accesses the internet. Once I realized that, I turned off the WiFi, but Tom turned it back on this afternoon to show Abby a neat new trick.

He opened up the Bing browser, pressed on the voice function, and said, "Moon." Then he scrolled over to Images and brought up lots of pictures. Abby looked over with awe. "All kinds of moon!" she exclaimed.

After they had browsed for a bit, Tom tried a different entry. "Birthday cake."

Creepily, despite making two separate efforts to say it clearly, both times his attempts brought back search results for "naked."

Moving on, he tried "monkey" next, which provided tons of entertainment while he was around, and endless frustration for Abby once she was left on her own, because she kept hitting the back button and exiting out of the search results screen, thus losing her precious monkey pictures.

Eventually, she tired of it, and Michael had a turn of pushing random buttons and taking pictures of nothing.

Before I knew it, I started getting updates on my new phone that people were "liking" my new Facebook profile picture (which I never changed). It seems that Michael had managed to "Facebook-hack" me again. I still have no clue how to alter my account profile on that phone, myself (whatever he did changed my picture not only for Facebook, but for the phone, and Windows Live, as well), but Michael's now done it twice. As a result, I've even got a new picture up for the login screen on my laptop, since it runs on Windows 8.

Needless to say, I'll be making sure to leave the WiFi switched off on my old phone in the future. Of course, that tactic will only work for so long as it takes my genius children to figure out how to turn it back on...


No potty progress today, since Abby switched up her schedule, and I was unable to plan a good time to sit her on it and ensure success. It didn't bother her one whit- she never even asked about her candy treat. As I predicted, she doesn't really understand what happened the last two times, so we have a ways to go before she can really tell me how to help her get it done. I guess those new Hello Kitty panties that her Nana bought her will be neatly folded away for awhile longer.

Michael had a second tough day of teething, complete with a low-grade fever, but he is almost done with his lower two molars and has had partial breakthrough on both of his upper. If we can just make it through the canines, hopefully we can get at least a year of peace before the last, awful round.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ups and Downs

Michael was having a bit of a rough time today; teething being the logical culprit. Thankfully, not only was Nana around to visit through most of it, she came bearing friends: Aunt Marcia joined in on the fun. With so many extra people to cuddle, Michael couldn't help but liven up here and there, though he clearly wasn't himself for much of the time.

Mia, on the other hand, appears to finally be getting all of the yuckiness that I inadvertently introduced to her system out. She was far less fussy today than she has been for the past two, and though we're still working on getting her to stay down for the night (Tom is walking around with her as I type to soothe her into a nice, deep slumber), she initially fell asleep quite easily, which is always a good sign.

Abby was her usual, spunky self, full of chatter and excited to have visitors. In the end, she had the best day of all, having had an opportunity to not only play in the backyard before lunch...

... but also to accompany Aunt Marcia to the park down the street after naptime (Michael stayed home to take his second nap at that time, but he got in an extra walk with Aunt Marcia before dinner).

* I've got to come clean here and admit that these pictures aren't actually from today (though they may as well have been). I took them with my phone over the past two days and hadn't had a chance to incorporate them yet. Since I was kindly and vigorously encouraged by my two lovely guests to take it easy rather than chase the children around (I elected to get some long-overdue cleaning and chores done instead), I wasn't present to take new ones, but I think these tell the story just fine.

And what miraculous event did occur after dinner this evening?

I sat Abby down on the potty, and she pooed in it again!

I still don't think that she really understands how the process works, but it is my hope that if we keep having such good luck in getting her using the potty at just the right time, everything will click in her head eventually.

Here's to that eventuality, and to a better day for Michael tomorrow (and and even better one for Mia than she had today).

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Accidental Triumph

... aaand, I'm back, after a brief hiatus. Much as it pained me to skip out on last night, I couldn't bring myself to move after struggling for nearly two hours to get Mia to fall asleep, and ultimately failing (I passed her off to Tom and cried myself to sleep for a bit before waking for long enough to decide I just wanted to be asleep again). After two days of tremendous improvement, she seems to have relapsed a bit, due in no small part (I suspect) to my dietary misadventures on Saturday. I got a little too lax about my attempts to steer clear of dairy and acidic foods while grazing on goodies at a party, and poor Mia has paid the price.

Shame on me, again. But all I can do now is try to be better, and to help her work through the discomfort until it is gone again.

We had another long night tonight, and I found myself in a similar predicament afterwards, loathe to move from the spot on my bed where I'd finally nursed her to sleep. However, Abby had a bit of success today that I couldn't let go unrecorded.

She finally pooed on the potty.

She's been having her new potty training-themed books read to her at bedtime for a week, and as a result has once again begun talking quite a bit about the process. She has even taken to reciting pages from her books at random. Therefore, I've made an effort to respond to her interest by letting her take some time to sit on the potty at various times over the last few days. It's never amounted to anything, but it's been my hope that she'll get the message that I'm eager to help her try her hand at it if she feels ready.

When I decided to offer her the opportunity one last time tonight, just after dinner, I had a little hope at success, but not too much. I had noticed she hadn't yet gone today, (and she hardly ever misses a day) so I figured that if I gave her enough time, we had a pretty good chance. However, I have a track record of not being patient enough. To avoid hitting barriers with my own impatience, I brought her froggy potty into the playroom, where she could sit on it to her heart's content while business otherwise went on as usual around her.

Tom wrestled on the floor with Michael, and I nursed Mia on the loveseat across the room. Abby contentedly played with her Leapfrog Laptop. After some time, after not hearing or smelling anything, I started to think things would end like they usually do- with an empty potty. However, it was at that point that Abby started getting a little too curious about what was going on beneath her, so Tom had her stand for a moment to check things out.


I'm not sure whether she really realized what had happened- she didn't make any kind of announcement or even say anything until Tom and I began to shower her with praise. Even then, she seemed unsure, as though she wasn't certain of how to feel about the whole thing. She covered up her legs with her shirt, and looked around warily as Tom rushed to collect the things he'd need for clean-up and bounced ideas off of me as to how best to proceed.

Whatever she was feeling, however, I wanted part of it to entail excitement, so I promised her a treat for her good work.

"A candy treat?" she asked, eyes widening.

"Yes!" I said, madly trying to think of what I would offer her.

As Tom cleaned up, I rushed upstairs to throw a few semi-sweet chocolate morsels into a cup for her.

Thankfully, they were a hit.

"More candy treats?" she asked, when they were gone.

"Not tonight," I said. "But you can have more tomorrow, if you go on the potty again." She seemed rather satisfied with that answer.

Perhaps potty training has finally begun?

Nah, I won't jump to that conclusion just yet. Not with such an adorably stubborn toddler as this one. But it was a step in the right direction, that's for sure.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Screaming Trio

What happens when you combine two nap-less toddlers and a prone-to-overheating newborn with an ill-timed poopy diaper, and a long drive with three delays due to accidents?

Screaming chaos, that's what.

Mia started up first, before we even hit any significant traffic, and so I was already in high-stress mode when Michael awoke and joined in, followed by Abby. I wondered how I would survive the rest of the trip home. But then, we passed the scene of the second accident. As I held my head in my hands, immersed in my own personal misery, I got a brief glimpse of one of the affected drivers, who was clearly badly injured, and my perspective changed drastically.

I said a silent prayer for her recovery, and then took a moment to meditate upon my own blessings, even in the midst of the agonizing wailing. Miserable though they might be, my children were healthy and safe in the backseat of our van, and my family and I, though inconvenienced by the accidents that seemed to surround us, had not gotten into one ourselves.

And suddenly, I was able to see a little humor in our once seemingly-desperate situation. So, I took a video.

I'm pretty sure that we'll all get a laugh out of it, together, one day.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Color of Abby, Radiance of Mia, and Softer Side of Michael

I've been eligible for a new phone for some time now, and though Tom made his choice over a month ago, I've been stalling and deliberating about what to get for myself this time around. I love my old Windows Phone 7, but hate its pitiful camera, and have grown weary of waiting for it to catch up to Android devices in terms of App availability, so I finally took the plunge and switched. I went for the same phone that Tom got: the Droid DNA.

It came after dinner last night, but Mia was having such a rough night that I didn't get much chance to play around with it until today. I more than made up for lost time, though, arranging my contacts the way I wanted them and setting up shortcuts and ringtones. Around the time that Mei Mei arrived to spend the late afternoon and evening with us, I had finally gotten around to trying out the camera, and the various effects.

The first one I applied was Posterize, which I'd never heard of, and it came out like this:

Amused, I showed it to Abby, who said, "Abby is colorful and green."

Eager to get more of her input (and more fun, new pictures), I selected a new effect- this time, Negative- and turned the phone towards her once more.

Her response? "Abby is colorful and blue."

Next, I tried Solarize.

"Abby is colorful with a cupcake book." (See it there, on the floor, in the background?)

After that was Distortion.

Abby didn't seem to notice anything odd about it. She simply remarked, "Abby is climbing the sofa."

As for Dots, Abby had this to say...

... "Abby is colorful in polka-dots."

I guess Abby's just a colorful gal, all around.

But let's not forget her siblings. It's a good thing that Mei Mei and I both had our phones around, because she managed to capture a rare but brilliant smile from Amelia.

It's only the second really committed one she's given, though I'm still uncertain if I can call it a social smile. Nana received one on Tuesday, but I hadn't seen any since until today. I'm keeping a close watch, though, because I think she's primed to start smiling socially any day now.

And Michael? Well, he hadn't yet gone down for his second nap when Mei Mei arrived, and refused it once he knew whose company he'd be missing out on. He was a miserable wreck for the next 90 minutes, however, and after whining, crying, wandering aimlessly, and climbing on and off of Mei Mei's lap over and over again, he finally succumbed to his exhaustion.

He looks so giant now, compared to Mia. But especially in such vulnerable moments as these, I am starkly reminded of how much a baby he still is.

My baby. My beautiful little boy.