Wednesday, December 24, 2008

EIGHT HOURS!!!!!

Drum roll, please... For the first time in his entire life, Ethan just slept for EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT. Since the night he was born almost 9 months ago, I haven't slept for more than 4 hours in a row...until tonight!!!!! (In case you're wondering, I'm writing this post at 4:30 am because he woke at 4:00 and I am so wired from so much uninterupted sleep that I can't go back to sleep.) I have no idea why he slept tonight. The only change in his routine was that Papa and Nanna (my parents) arrived yesterday and so Nanna rocked him to sleep at bedtime. He slept alone in his crib with his special blankie just like always. I know that one night is way too soon to hope that this is a new trend, but I guarantee we will be utilizing Nanna's superb rocking abilities for the next seven nights that she is here!

On another note...praise God for family visiting! It is so wonderful to have extra hands, voices and hearts to help with the kids. Last night, my dad and I did the dishes while Nanna read books with Caleb in his bed for about 30 minutes. Then Nanna put Ethan to bed while Marcus and I lounged around and visited with Dad. What a relaxing contrast to our usual kid-intensive (and then cleaning & study-intensive) evenings. As I shared in a post last year, there is something deep inside of me that is touched when I am priviliged to see other people loving my children. Watching my mom tickle and laugh and build with and praise the boys and watching my dad take them outside and carry on a dialogue while Caleb rides his bike in circles gives my soul a special kind of peace. I think part of it is that I do my best to actively love my children with at least part of my attention almost all of the time, and seeing someone else doing so gives me permission to take a mental break. Another part of it is just seeing my precious sons so happy basking in the extra attention. For the first two hours that my parents were here yesterday, Caleb couldn't wipe the huge smile off his face. He just kept running around the room saying "Nanna and Papa are here!" My mom gets as silly as can be with the kids, and they LOVE it. It is a rare person who can get on the level of a child and stay there for an extended period of time, and my mom is definitely one of those people. I can definitely see why Dad was always so impressed with her mothering when we were small. She seems to gain energy from the play rather than the opposite. Since her health has improved so much this year, the last 3 visits she has been much quicker to get on the floor and play physically as well as the usual reading and talking and holding interaction.

Another reason I love family visiting is because I truly love to play hostess. I have always loved this role, but so much more since I became a mother. Like most kids, my two do so much better in their own environment, particularly in their own beds, and when family comes to us we all experience the blessing of family time without having to sacrifice our own sleep and our kids sleep, which for the kids is really more than sleep...its more like their emotional stability and life equilibrium. Anyway, I actually enjoy the whole getting the house ready and thinking of everything that each guest enjoys and will appreciate. Call me crazy, but I even like cooking for a group, which I find much more satisfying than cooking for two people and dealing with leftovers. I enjoy the chaos of a lot of voices and a lot of laughter, and most of all I thrive on the ample adult conversation! My dad laughed his loud infectious belly-laugh last night when I started quoting a children's book (Silly Sally, for you other mommies) and was able to go quote most of the book. "Rachel, you are really in need of some intellectual stimulation, aren't you?" I laughed just as hard as him and readily acknowledged that my vocabulary and my conversational scope has declined considerable in the past few years.

On a final note, it is just good to be in the presence of those who love us, understand us and accept us where we are. I believe it is as God intended when he created the family unit. I just heard Ethan again, so I guess I'll sign off for now. I'll try to add some pictures later on :) Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Day In the Life Of...

The other day, someone asked me in a skeptical tone what exactly I do all day at home with the kids.  I mentally vowed to write a play-by-play of my day to burn off the ire produced in me by that question, and here it is :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

5:02 am Wake up to Ethan fussing in his crib; nurse Ethan and try to get him back to sleep .
5:25 am Bring Ethan down to dear hubby who is on my computer downstairs after tending to Caleb at 5 am as well, and then I go back to sleep for 20 minutes.
5:45 am Marcus brings Ethan back to me so he can take a shower and get ready for work.
5:55 am I take a quick shower while Marcus is getting dressed and Ethan is crawling around in our room.
6:05 am Marcus leaves for work. I put on some make-up and dry my hair since Ethan is happy on the floor in our room and Caleb is still sleeping (or so I think); I'm excited to be dressed with make-up on so soon after waking up and feel ready for the day.
6:15 am I hear Caleb coming down the hall toward our room. I poke my head out the door and smile "Good morning sweet boy!" Caleb says "Mama, come downstairs! I get food out." I think, "Oh no, I didn't even know he was up...what has he gotten out?" I grab Ethan and walk downstairs with Caleb and am relieved to see that there is no mess, but that Caleb has succesfully taken out of the fridge and pantry most of the ingredients needed for pancakes. "Mommy, please make some pancakes for me!" Even though pancakes are usually reserved for Saturday mornings, I decide to make an exception. I put Ethan in the high chair with some veggie puffs and small bites of banana, and then Caleb and I mix up the pancake batter and made pancakes together. While Caleb and Ethan are eating, I dash downstairs to feed the dogs and let them outside. Then I come upstairs, wolf down 2 pancakes, and start cleaning up Caleb and Ethan's food messes.
7:00 am The kitchen is reasonably tidy. We all go downstairs to play with toys. Caleb wants to color so I take out his coloring book and crayons and maintain a dialogue with him about his art while building towers for Ethan to knock down.

7:30 am I nurse Ethan down for morning nap while Caleb watches Sid the Science Guy on PBS. The dogs start barking just as I lay Ethan down in the crib, so I sprint downstairs, call them into the garage, give them a treat for coming, and close them in the garage.
7:45 am Ethan is asleep and I have 15 more minutes of Sid the Science Guy during which I do NOT have to rush through a shower because I already took one. Instead, I take the trash bin out to the curb, get the mail, pay three bills, move a bunch of stuff from the foyer closet into Marc's office to be later organized into the office closet, and load the car and pack the diaper bag for the morning's outings.
8:00 am Caleb sneaks an extra 10 minutes of TV (Super Wy, for you PBS lovers out there), while I am finishing my flurry of tasks.
8:10 am I creatively lull Caleb from the TV and successfully avoid a tantrum. Then Caleb and I take out the chilled sugar cookie dough we made the previous night (from scratch!) and start rolling, cutting and baking cookies. We each sample one from the first pan and agree that they need frosting. I take out a cook book and look for a good frosting recipe while Caleb asks "What are you doing, Mama? What does it say?" over and over again. I quickly select a recipe and we start measuring (me) and pouring (Caleb) ingredients.

9:05 am Ethan wakes up while we are mixing the frosting. While I am upstairs getting Ethan out of his crib, Caleb loses interest in cooking and goes down to the play room (with flour-covered hands, face and clothes). I come downstairs, put Ethan on the floor with a toy, and clean up Caleb (and spots of flour on the banister and the blocks he was playing with).
9:15 am I leave the sugar cookies cooling all over the kitchen and the freshly mixed batch of frosting, and pile the kids in the car for our morning errands. I let the dogs back outside just before pulling out of the garage.
9:30 am We arrive at Home Depot, get a cart, unload six long boards into cart, unload Ethan into cart, unbuckle Caleb and help him get out of the car. I awkwardly steer heavy cart with one hand while holding Caleb's hand with my other hand. We walk (at Caleb's pace) to the back of the store where the circular saw is located and wait while a kind young man saws my six boards in half for me.
10:05 am Back in car with kids and boards. Drive 3 minutes to the post office, unload kids, use Automated Postal Center to buy postage while Caleb runs in a circle and Ethan squirms and whines in my arms. Mail package and head back to car to drive 5 minutes to the library.

10:30 am Arrive at the library for story time. Unload kids for the 3rd time, walk into library with a squirming, very grouchy Ethan who hasn't nursed since before his nap (3 hours ago). Make it into the story time room, greet a friend, find a chair, get Caleb settled and then finally nurse Ethan. Chat with friend in snatches with one eye on very wound-up and excited Caleb and one eye on Ethan, who is crawling around the room (after nursing).
11:00 am Storytime is over so we go into the toddler area of the library so Caleb can do puzzles, pick out books and play a game on the toddler computers. Ethan, while no longer hungry, is still squirmy and whiny because he hasn't had much crawling/exploring time since he got up from his nap (the floor in the toddler area of the library is too dirty for him to crawl on).
11:30 am I've had enough of keeping Ethan happy in my lap and I inform Caleb gently that its time to leave. He starts to throw a fit, so I warn him that I will not check out the books he has selected if he does not cooperate with me. He gets control of himself and we depart. On our way out, I attempt to find a book on CD that Marcus wanted but it is not easily located and both kids are at the end of their ropes, so I abort the effort and head to the car.

11:45 am Arrive home, put Ethan in high chair with finger food, make PB&J for Caleb's lunch, and start cleaning up the cookie mess that I left in the kitchen. Caleb loses interest in his lunch while watching me put away the cookies and starts to beg for one. I tell him that he can have some if he finishes his lunch. He finishes his lunch and I give him half of a cookie. I remember that I forgot to give both boys their antibiotics (from last week's ear infections) so I do that hurriedly. By now Ethan is bored with his high chair foods and very ready for his afternoon nap, so I take him upstairs and put him to sleep.
12:10 pm I come downstairs and find that Caleb has moved his cookie-munching operation downstairs and is watching TV, which I promptly turn off. Caleb and I go upstairs to read library books in his bed before his nap. He decides he would rather hear stories about Peter Pan than read books, so I tell him two Peter Pan stories and then give him his cup of milk and say goodnight.

12:30 pm Both kids are in their beds! I grab a frosted cookie and some leftover bean soup from the fridge and plop down at my computer chair. I eat in less than 10 minutes and spend 10 more minutes writing email and Christmas shopping online. I get up from my computer to walk upstairs and lay down for a few minutes when Caleb's door opens and he says "I'm all done sleeping, Mama!" I groan inwardly at his bright-eyed face and realize that today is going to be one of the days that he doesn't take a nap. (They are becoming more and more frequent.)
12:50 pm I resign myself to a breakless day and Caleb and I head outside so he can ride his bike in the driveway and I can sweep out the garage. After sweeping out the garage and rolling balls down our sloped driveway with Caleb for a while, I decide to go ahead and blow off the driveway as well since it is saturated with leaves.

1:45 pm Ethan wakes up from his afternoon nap. I make Caleb come inside while I get Ethan. When I come downstairs with Ethan, Caleb has decided he would rather color again than play outside. I nurse Ethan while Caleb colors, and then ask Caleb if he is ready to go outside. Caleb says "No." Ethan loves being outside and it is beautiful weather today, so I tell Caleb that Ethan and I are gonig to go outside and he can stay in the play room if he wants. So I put Ethan's hoodie on, grab the video camera and sit outside taping Ethan while he crawls around, perfectly happy to be outdoors. Caleb joins us within a minute a two and I tape the two of them for a few minutes. Less than ten minutes after we all got outside, I realize that Caleb has taken a dump in his Pull-up. I mentally debate whether I should drag Ethan back inside for Caleb's diaper change (which would certainly involve a lot of angry crying), or just change Caleb outside standing up. I elect to change Caleb outside, so I dart indoors to grab the supplies. After I open just one side of Caleb's Pull-up, I realize this is no ordinary poop. It is more like some pasty black explosion. I realize that a whole package of wipes would not make any headway with this mess, so I take a deep breath, strip Caleb naked, take his hand, pick up Ethan with the other hand, and head for the bathtub. Ethan is wailing before we even get inside and continues to cry throughout the entire ordeal. I get a surprisingly cooperative Caleb into the tub and begin the disgusting task of cleaning him up. While I am doing this, Ethan keeps pulling up on the tub and then keeling over because his crying throws off his balance, and then crying harder because he bumps his head each time. This cycle occurred at least four times while I was cleaning the poop off of Caleb. When Caleb's bottom and the bath tub are reasonably clean, I start to take Caleb out. Caleb asks me very sweetly if he can take a real bath with bubbles now. Once again, I sigh inwardly and decide to give up on Ethan's outside time. Besides, I reason, Ethan will be just as happy in the bath with Caleb as he would be outside. So I bathe the boys together, Ethan stops crying and order is restored for the moment. I look at my watch and am quite chagrined to realize that it is only 2:34 pm. Marcus won't be home for three or four more hours!!
2:35 pm I take the boys out of the bath, dry them off and dress them in fresh clothes. We all go back downstairs to the play room. I read several library books to Caleb while Ethan plays with toys. UPS stops by with two packages. One is a surprise gingerbread house from Nanna and Papa. Caleb is enamored with the gingerbread house and he spends the next 30 minutes staring at it, talking about it, and asking me over and over when he can eat it. When he gets to the point that he won't stop trying to pick it up, I finally take it upstairs and put it on top of the entertainment center in the living room. On my way back downstairs I check messages and remember that my Mom called the night before. I call my mom back and talk for about 15 minutes. During most of the conversation, Caleb is rushing around the play room doing as many things as he can think of to demand my attention (dumping toys, pulling books off shelves, driving his car as close as possible to Ethan's fingers and head on the floor, etc.). I finally give up on talking to my Mom, get off the phone, and take Caleb to his time out seat.

3:25 pm Caleb asks for a snack so I get him a bowl of Chex Mix and nurse Ethan while Caleb eats. Then Ethan and Caleb play ball on the stairs. Caleb takes a soft plastic ball and drops it down the five steps into our play room. Ethan retrieves it at the bottom and both boys squeal with glee. Caleb says, "Look, Mama, Ethan is getting be a BIG BOY! He catch my ball!" They do this over and over while I spend a few minutes on my computer (which is right next to the stairs) and call a friend about a Friday play date.
3:45 pm We play with blocks, Little People toys and read two more books. Caleb struggles with sharing anything with Ethan, and ends up sitting in time-out two more times. Marcus calls and we talk for a few minutes. While we are talking, Caleb darts into the living room, climbs up on the end table, and takes a bite out of the gingerbread house. He comes back in the room after I hang up the phone, obviously chewing something. I say, "Caleb, what are you eating?" He swallows and says "No eating, Mama, nothing eating." I ask him to open his mouth, to which he complies. I see pink gummy stuff in his molars and remember the gingerbread house. I go in the living room to assess the damage and have to keep from laughing out loud at his guilty face and the clearly tampered-with gingerbread house. I move the end table to avoid a repeat experience.
4:07 pm I look at my watch and start counting the minutes until Marcus might be home. I'm almost out of stamina for playing, but I muster together what I've got and initiate a game of small-scale soccer with Caleb. Ethan enjoys watching the ball go back and forth. This is the slowest hour of the day, and neither Caleb nor I have much attention span for anything. We go out into the garage to talk to the dogs; I load the dishwasher; I nurse Ethan. As 5:00 pm approaches, I do two puzzles with Caleb.

5:00 pm Caleb jumps up from the second puzzle and says "Mama I need some food real lots! I'm a real hungry boy!!!!" We all go into the kitchen and I give Ethan some canned corn to feed himself in the high chair. I make Caleb chicken nuggets and corn for dinner, and throw a frozen pizza in the oven for Marcus and me (I cook a real meal 6 nights out of 7, but tonight just happened to be frozen pizza night.)
5:30 pm Both boys are finished eating. I wipe off their faces and hands and leave the mess on the table and high chair. We go downstairs to wait for Daddy to come home, though he still hasn't called so I realize that it will be at least 30 more minutes. Caleb asks me to hold him in my big nursing recliner, so I comply. I enjoy several minutes of hugging my precious big boy before I realize that he has fallen asleep in my arms. (This is extremely unusual. Usually he goes to bed between 7:00 and 8:00, even if he doesn't nap.) I take Caleb upstairs and lay him in his bed. I come downstairs and play with Ethan for a little while.

6:00 pm I nurse Ethan to sleep in the play room and deposit him in his bed. (He does usually go to sleep for the night between 6:00 and 7:00 pm.) Marcus calls right after I get downstairs to say that he is leaving work and will be home in 30 minutes. We talk for a few minutes and I explain how it came to be that both kids are asleep before he gets home. We hang up and I remember that the boys did not get their evening antibiotics. I shrug my shoulders, put my slices of the frozen pizza on a plate and enjoy 30 minutes of quiet, grateful that my 13-hour workday has come to a close. (Except of course I still have to load the dishwasher and pick up the playroom.)

If you've read this entire post, then I'm sure that you will never make the mistake of asking a stay-at-home mom, "So what do you do all day?"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving

After a series of changed plans, we ended up spending Thanksgiving here in Birmingham without any extended family. I still ended up cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and we had a very nice time together. We started a few family traditions for our little family, and actually enjoyed a very peaceful and relaxed holiday together. We raked and played in the leaves all morning. After baths and naps, Daddy took the boys on a bike ride so I could cook. Then we all sat down and feasted together. We carried on a tradition that Marcus loves of sharing five things that we are particularly thankful for from this year. Caleb was old enough to get in on it this year, and during his turns he was thankful for "bread," "Tabitha," "the party place," "cake" and "my big house." Marcus and I shared thanks for Ethan's birth, Marcus matching in radiation oncology, selling our house, finding such a great house here, 2-day weekends, a good commute for Marcus, God's gift of stamina for Ethan's sleeping, and for growing in love and understanding in our marriage. After dinner, we all went together to get our Christmas tree. We decorated in spurts through the rest of the weekend. Caleb is VERY excited that "Chis-mas is coming!"

Family Visits

Aunt Wendi did a P.A. rotation about 4 hours south of us, so she came up to visit us for a weekend in early November. We went hiking together and had a lot of fun. She and Marcus cooked up a plan for her to shadow him the following week. So she drove back to Florida on Monday morning and came back here Wednesday night to shadow Marcus Thursday and Friday. We had another fun weekend together, which included more hiking and even discovering a neat outdoor festival. I can't get over how gorgeous this place is in the fall. The trees, the colorful leaves, the air, the temperature...just everything! We can't get enough of being outside!

Then Uncle Josh and Aunt Traci and Mimi all decided they were coming to visit the following weekend, so Wendi laughed and agreed to make the drive one more time. It has sort of been a month of family visiting (a big part of my long lag in blog posts :)



Halloween

Sorry for the long lag...its such a busy time of year, and Ethan crawling makes sure that I have very little down time. Anyway, here are some Halloween pics, very, very late :) We went trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with several families from Marc's work, and then went to a Halloween party in our neighborhood afterwards. (Aunt Wendi was in town and she stayed at home with sleeping Ethan after the trick-or-treating.) Enjoy the pics!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Caleb Quotes

I have to say that I am LOVING so many things about Caleb at this age. He is starting to express his feelings, and he is coming to the funniest conclusions about things. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the last couple of weeks.

Quote #1
(while urinating and staring at the stream between his legs)
"Woah, dat a lot of pee pee, Momma!"

Quote #2
(after falling and scraping his knee)
Mommy: "Oh Caleb did that hurt? Do you feel sad?"
Caleb: (crying) "I feel sa-ad, but ice cream [would] make me hap-py!"

Quote #3
Mommy: "Caleb, can I have some of those raisins?"
Caleb: "No."
Mommy: "I thought that you liked to share!"
Caleb: "I do like to share. I like to share with ME."

Quote #4
(after impulsively knocking down a tower that we had spent 10 minutes building together)
Mommy: "Caleb, when you grow up, do you want to be a man who builds things or a man who breaks things?"
Caleb: "I wanna be a man who breaks things!"
Mommy: "Well, I hope you are a man who builds things."
Caleb: "Well, I want to break things, Mama, and DAT'S MY CHOICE." (emphasis his)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ethan Update

I am painfully aware that Ethan updates are much fewer and farther between than Caleb updates were, but I'm sure you all understand (I just hope Ethan does...) Anyway, here it is.
Ethan was sitting up well at 5-months. I measure sitting up well by when I can take the boppy pillow away and walk out of the room for a minute or two without being concerned that he will topple. He could still only sit for about 20 minutes at 5-months, but it was still a welcome relief from wanting to be held all the time. I could put toys in front of him and go to the bathroom or unload the dishwasher without him fussing. Although the toys were usually unnecessary if Caleb was up and about. (Caleb is a mobile entertainment system for Ethan.)

About a week ago, just shy of 6 1/2 months, Ethan achieved his own mobility. Now he is content for long periods of time on the floor, exploring the play room. He's not actually crawling, but he has mastered a fast army crawl that leaves no area safe. The first day he could move, I caught him with Marcus's cell phone charger in his hand, on the way to his mouth, and it was plugged in! That sent me into a baby-proofing frenzy. Now the play room is mainly secure, but I still don't dare walk out for more than a moment because he is constantly getting himself stuck somewhere or ending up on his back on top of some pointy toys and wailing for help. Today he figured out how to get to a sitting position from his army crawl stance, and he is loving that. Now he doesn't have to play with the toy he crawled to on his belly; he can simply arrive at the toy, get to a sitting position, and play away. And when he's done, he awkwardly lunges in another direction until he is belly-down again. All-in-all, we are all enjoying the mobility, as it makes him even happier and more independent.

Ethan is eating solids twice a day, mostly Earth's Best Organic baby food, as well as a lot of tidbits from our meals. He loves to eat whatever anyone else is eating. He twists and strains and reaches and grunts until we give him a little taste of what is on our plates. As a result, he has tasted a LOT more foods than Caleb had at this age, but he mainly eats fruits and vegetables from a jar, as well as 6-8 breastfeedings a day. He is a very well-fed baby :)

I can't remember his weight and height from the pediatric visit last week (I know that's horrible), but I do remember that he was around 75% for weight and in the upper 90's for height, which is exactly where Caleb at 6-months.

Ethan's disposition is very happy. He loves attention, and he is often very patient about obtaining someone's attention. He will stare at the side of someone's face in church for a minute or two without stopping, until they turn toward him, and then his face erupts into a huge smile. He LOVES it when we babble to him, though he is not babbling back yet. He also still loves us to sing, and he often chimes in with a monotone "Aaaaaaahhhhhh" of his own throughout our whole song. He is what many would describe as a "Mama's boy" in that wants me within sight most of the time, and will vocally protest if he sees me walk out of the room without taking him along. He also always wants Mama when he is tired, hungry or just wants some cuddling. Caleb was easier to distract from his "Mama" cries, but Ethan is very hard to deter once he's decided that only Mama will do. I've still only made it through church one time without being paged, and the story is always the same: "He was perfectly happy and then he just looked around and started screaming." And he is always still screaming when I arrive to get him. One book I read described this "Mommy radar" as a thermometer, he can take the separation until his meter reaches a certain temperature, and then the alarm goes off and he has to make sure that I'm still available. Caleb wasn't like that, so this is new territory for me.
For the sake of ending this blog post, I think I will pass on addressing the sleeping thing...other than to say that things have improved some. He has given us 3 nights this week with only 1-2 wakings, which is WONDERFUL. He is still not napping well during the day, but Caleb didn't nap well until he was consistenly sleeping well at night, so maybe that is still coming.

That is 6-month-old Ethan in a nutshell!

Two Boys

Dedicated to my sister-in-law Jennifer, who is expecting her second son.

What I love about having two boys...

(1) My boys were born in the same season, so I haven't had to buy any clothes for Ethan. Also, all of the blue stuff (blankets, pacifiers, bibs, crib bedding, etc.), didn't have to be replaced.

(2) Caleb and Ethan have all the stereotypical gender preferences in toys, so there will also be no new toys needed (dolls, kitchens, tea sets, etc). Just like Caleb, Ethan thinks that any kind of ball is the coolest thing in the world.

(3) They think that the same things are funny. Squealing, banging, and all the weird noises Marcus can make all make Caleb and Ethan laugh hysterically.

(4) Even at 2 1/2 and 6 months, the boys LOVE interacting with each other. Ethan idolizes Caleb, but I think that would be true regardless of gender. The special thing is that Caleb also adores Ethan. Nothing pulls Caleb out of a funk like Ethan's huge smile. Lots of times, Caleb tells me to go "Dat way, meez" and leave him and Ethan to play together. (At first, I thought he did that so he could be mischevious, but after several times of pretending to leave and watching from a distance, I know that he just really wants some one-on-one time making his baby laugh.)

(5) As they get older, the boys similar preference for "boy play" will keep them entertained and deepen their relationship. Running together, throwing balls, exploring, wrestling...I see all of these things on the horizon in a year or two. I'm sure there will also be competition and arguments and rivalry as well, but I'll gladly take on the task of helping them through all that for the fun they will have together.

(6) Because we both definitely want more children, we like the idea of two close-in-age big brothers for our later children, especially if we have girls later on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Cross to Bear

On Sunday, our minister reminded us that the call to follow Christ is characterized by taking up a cross and walking alongside him. We all have "crosses," and when compared to each other, some seem much harder to bear than others. But to each individual, one's own cross is hard to bear. At this stage in my life, one of my crosses is lack of sleep: the fact that it is constantly interrupted and that I get an overall insufficient amount. Over the past week, I've gotten an average of about 5 hours of sleep each night (keep in mind that is the average). The average stretch of sleep I enjoy without getting out of bed to tend to the baby is about 75 minutes. I'm not looking for sleep solutions...I've heard most of it already and we are still convicted that we are doing the right thing for Ethan. I'm just sharing the sleep details so that you will understand that I have every reason to be exhausted, and the rest of what I'm going to share will be more meaningful.

I think that perhaps fatigue is similar in some ways to physical pain or depression in that it permeates everything in life. I have come to understand on a deeper level what it means to rely on God hour by hour. In bearing this cross, the ways that I lean on the Lord have become more simple and also very personal. Sometimes when Ethan is crying for me for the fifth or sixth time and I literally doubt whether or not I can crawl out of bed, I have pleaded with the Lord to lay his hand on Ethan's little body and soothe him to sleep for me. And He has done that, many times. And sometimes he just gives me the strength to get out of bed and do it myself. In the morning, I beseech him for patience and energy. I used to pray for enough patience and energy to face the day. Now I am praying for enough patience and energy to embrace the day. And He is SO FAITHFUL. I am awed that he can take my exhausted body and infuse me with energy and even excitement for the day. Sometimes I start to lose patience with Caleb, and I feel God's peace descending over me, curbing my anger. Sometimes He even blesses me with extra understanding for Caleb's two-year-old mind, so that I can better minister to his frustrations and needs, avoiding the desire to lose patience entirely.

I have been awed by the truth that God draws near in times of struggle, and he shows me how much I can trust him by giving me "more than I ask or imagine." I understand more and more why all sin is rooted in an attempt to be independent of God. Independence leaves us so insecure, because it all depends on us. While immersing ourselves in our need for God and relying on him literally each day for our daily bread, our daily strength and everything else that we need leaves us as secure as we can ever hope to be. Either He will give it to us, or He will teach us to do without it. Praise God for reminding me of these truths through my darling sleepless little boy!

Monday, October 6, 2008

High School Reunion

This weekend, Marcus took Friday off and we made the 6-hour trek to Searcy and back for my high school reunion. I know most people don't go to their high school reunions, but I grew up in a very small school where Kindergarten through 12th grade all met in the same building, and many of the people I graduated with I had known since early elementary school. It was a lot of fun, even more than I expected, to see everyone and catch up on the last 10 years. 23 people from my graduating class of 56 came to reunion. Almost everyone looked the same, though quite a few were in professions that I would not have predicted. Also a lot more of my former classmates than I expected were still single. The others were married, some with one or two kids (one guy already has 4 kids!). Of course I loved showing off my two darlings, though the reunion meeting times did not coincide with little people schedules (the first from 7:00-10:00 on Friday night and the second from 12:00 to 3:00 on Saturday). At least it was evident that all of the other toddlers were also suffering from the lack of sleep as well.

Friday night was the Harding Academy homecoming game, and Caleb was fascinated with his first football game. He stared at ball flying across the field, the dozens of young men in (to him) elaborate costumes, the band's array of sounds and rhythms, and the dancing and shouting cheerleaders.

When we weren't participating in reunion activities, we were having fun with Nanna (my mom). Papa (my dad) was out of town this weekend, but Nanna was thrilled as could be to have her grandsons around. She bounced back and forth between rocking Ethan and reading to Caleb the whole weekend. Marcus and I enjoyed the down time that gave us. I have to say, there is nothing I love quite as much as watching someone love on and enjoy my sons. It warms my heart like nothing else. Nanna (who has MS), had more energy this weekend than I've seen her have in years, and the boys ate it all up. We went to Harding and walked around the front lawn both Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, it was warm in the afternoon, so we succumbed to Caleb's polite pleading and let him strip down to a Pull-up and play in the fountain in front of the Bible building. On Sunday, we went to church at Downtown and saw a few more old friends. Usually, Mom just stays home to rest when we go on outings, but this time she came along with us to everything. She admitted being exhausted by Sunday afternoon, but said there was no better reason to be exhausted!

Caleb is having Nanna withdrawal today. Every hour or so he says, "Mama, I go to Nanna's house 'gain?" I say, "Maybe later on sweetie, but not today," to which he replies "Not later, mama, TA'DAY!"

On the way home, we stopped in Memphis to hang out with Marcus's best friend from college, Brian Borgman (and his wife Gena). They took us to the Mud Island River Walk park in Memphis was really cool. Caleb had a blast playing in the water of the river walk, and we got some great pictures. Other than the drive (during which the kids did not sleep as planned and we listened to the music of Ethan wailing and Caleb whining for his bed at home by turns), it was a wonderful weekend. Enjoy the pics!



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fall Is Here!!!

Today was the first day that it really felt like fall here in Birmingham. I love fall. No really, I LOVE fall. It is by far my favorite season. I have missed it so so so much during the past five years that we've lived in Florida. (In Florida, fall comes in December and lasts less than a week.) This morning I walked out on the deck to uncover the sandbox for Caleb and I thrilled at the cool, crisp air. Riley and Shannon (our Irish setters) were frisky as could be. They were running and wrestling and playing tug-of-war like I haven't seen them do all summer long. Caleb got a big kick out of it...he's used to dogs lethargic from the heat and he was bit awed by their energy.

We had a zoo date planned with a friend this morning, and I was even more excited that we'd be enjoying this gorgeous fall day outdoors. I dressed the boys in their fall clothes, which was also extremely fun for me. I LOVE seasons changing for a lot of reasons, but one of them is definitely because of new clothes (which used to be for me and are now for my little ones, which I enjoy just as much). I got so tired of putting shorts on Caleb through November & December last year! Anyway, we met Cathy and her daughter Tabitha at the zoo at 9:30 and spent a thoroughly enjoyable 3 hours together roaming from habitat to habitat. The animals were excited about the fall weather as well. Almost every animal was up and moving, some that I haven't ever seen move in our 5-6 trips to the zoo this summer. The tiger was pacing and roaring (or whatever you call a loud, open-mouthed tiger noise) against the glass wall. The lioness was circling the "pride rock" that the lion was sitting on. The red panda was munching on lettuce and climbing through the branches. The kangaroos were playing chase, hopping lightning-fast across their long habitat. The flamingos were flapping and squawking and strutting their stuff. Even one of the huge constrictor snake was uncoiling and moving through his cage...quite an alarming site, but incredible at the same time. And to top it all off, both Caleb and Ethan took a 2+ hour nap after we got home, allowing me to clean the bathrooms and take a nap myself!

It was a beautiful fall day...I expect the first of many. People here say that fall lasts a good three months in Birmingham and doesn't get cold until late December. We are going to be outside as much as possible for every bit of it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating Solids & Rainy Days

We gave Ethan solids for the first time last Sunday. We gave him a mashed banana with rice cereal. He LOVED it! Some babies are a little hesitant when they taste something other than breastmilk or formula. Not Ethan...he kept sucking the spoon as hard as he could trying to get more out of it. Actually, the hard part was getting the spoon out of his mouth each time to put more food on it! He ate every drop of what I prepared, and would have eaten more, but I didn't want to give him too much at first. He hasn't had anything solid since that day because we've been dealing with the not-sleeping and didn't want to risk any intestinal factors keeping him up, but I think I'll start introducing solids again this week since he enjoyed it so much.


On another note, Caleb loves playing in the rain. It started a few weeks ago when we were loading up into the car to go to the Science Center (which Caleb LOVES), and I opened the garage door. Caleb noticed immediately that it was lightly raining, and he asked me very sweetly, "Mama, I play in da rain?" I reminded him that we were going to one of his favorite places, but he replied with carefully-controlled frustration. "No go to da party place. 'tay home and play in da rain!" I decided it was pointless to battle with him about going somewhere that was supposed to be for his enjoyment, especially since he was doing such a good job of using his words and controlling his emotions. So I said "Okay, Caleb" and took Ethan back out of the car seat. The weather was warm, so I stripped Caleb down to his T-shirt and flip-flops and dragged Ethan's exersaucer out into the garage, and Caleb and I went to town in the rain. We jumped in the puddles and danced & skipped up and down the driveway. Ethan loved watching our silly antics from his dry perch in the garage. From that day, anytime it is raining lightly, Caleb is out on the deck or in the driveway with one of us, playing in the rain.

Sunday Morning Pictures

We were really late for church this morning, so we just decided to delay longer by taking a bunch of pictures and just go to second service. (The kids are so rarely both dressed at the same time at home and we have a lot fewer pictures of Ethan, period.) Some of them turned out really cute. Enjoy :)

Sleeping Update

For those of you who are lying in bed at night worrying about the sleep I'm not getting, as well as those of you who are just mildly interested, I wanted to let you know that the sleeping situation has improved the past 2 nights. (For those of you out there who have been seriously sleep-deprived, isn't it amazing how a couple of nights of better sleep can improve your outlook?) Anyway, the past two nights, Ethan has only woken up 4 times, and he's gone back to sleep easily with minimal help. I'll admit, it didn't just happen magically. Marcus and I talked it over and decided that, since he's been rolling from back to front for almost a month now, we are both okay with laying him on his tummy to sleep. So now we lay him on his tummy and he sleeps SO much better. He's still sleeping in the pack-n-play beside our bed and will probably not move until he starts crawling or drops more night wakings, whichever comes first.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm so tired...

It's probably unwise to write a post in my current sleep-deprived state, particularly since I'm in the midst of two of the most difficult parenting days I've experienced to date, but here goes:

For the past couple of weeks, Ethan has decided that sleep is for the birds. He has been waking up 10+ times each night. I kept a sleep log last night because a sleep book suggested it, and here are the results:

In bed for the night: 7:00 pm
Up for the day: 6:00 am
Total number of awakenings: 11
Longest sleep span: 1 hr, 30 min
Total hours of sleep: 8½ hrs
Total hours of awake/soothing to sleep time: 2½ hours

Now Ethan has always woken up 3-5 times each night, since the very first night in the hospital, and that really wasn't a problem for me. Since we have been co-sleeping since he was born, 3-5 awakenings where I didn't have to get out of bed or even fully wake up has been quite manageable. Many days I didn't even feel tired. But this 10+ times a night is wearing me out. After about a week of these crazy nights, I moved Ethan out of our bed into the Pack-N-Play in our room, just in case the proximity to me was the problem. The situation has not improved, and I am even more tired because I have to get up to tend to him rather than just nurse him. I have also tried for the past 4 days to refrain entirely from nursing him to sleep during the day and as much as possible at night, in an effort to break his strong sucking-to-sleep association. So far, no luck there either, but I may need to give that more time. Marcus and I both have strong feelings against letting him cry himself to sleep, so that is not an option. With Caleb, I used a book called The No Cry Sleep Solution, and the strategies explained there were very helpful for getting Caleb to reduce his 3-4 night awakenings to just 1...but Caleb never got up 10 times a night! I started using the strategies that worked for Caleb with Ethan 2 days ago, but it is so much harder this time because I don't have unlimited time with Ethan. Before I started using the book techniques with Ethan, I would put Caleb in front of the TV, nurse Ethan down in 10 minutes, and come back to play with Caleb. These techniques that help teach babies to self-soothe (without crying for long periods of time) require longer periods of time. To wrap up this long explanation, I've felt completely pulled between the needs/wants of both boys for the past 2 days, with the full knowledge that I'm doing a lousy job on both ends. I'm not being consistent with Ethan's sleep, and Caleb is feeling neglected far more than I feel comfortable with. Throw into that mix that Caleb has a cold AND we are in the midst of potty training, and I think you'll have a very good picture of why things seem so difficult right now.

I was laying in bed nursing Ethan a couple of hours ago, and I was trying to nail down in my mind what exactly makes mothering little ones so much harder than any "job" I've ever done, and I think this is it: I care SO MUCH about doing it well. Don't misunderstand me, I have enjoyed doing my very best at every job I've ever had, from making sandwiches at Subway to teaching low-achieving 9th graders. But in other jobs, a day in which I performed at a sub-par level left me mildly grouchy. Now it leaves me lying in bed late at night wondering if Caleb is going to be in counseling for the rest of his life because I snapped at him. The caring so much really gets you when you have more than one child. When it was just Caleb, I rarely felt like I had failed to give him my best. (Of course, he slept 13-14 hours every 24 hours (including his nap), leaving me 6-7 hours to do housework, read, scrapbook, spend time with Marcus, etc. to refuel myself, in addition to getting a good night's sleep. Of course I had loads of energy and motivation when he was awake!) Now for 2½ days, I've felt like a failure as a mother, and I'm not sure how many more days my I-measure-how-much-I-love-myself-by-how-well-I-perform personality can take. I'm only partially joking. I just need to hang on to the knowledge that God (and Marcus) are not nearly as hard on me as I am on myself, and also that kids are extremely resilient. I also need to remember that there isn't a magic amount of "investment" in my kids that can guarantee their safety, their happiness, or even their faith in God. It really is out of my control. Well, thanks for being my sounding board...I think I've written myself out of my slump, at least for the moment :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Caleb's Big Boy Bed

So Caleb has finally voluntarily given up the crib. We decided we'd let him stay in as long as he wanted to, since we have enough battles to fight with our strong-willed 2-year-old, and didn't want to add bedtime to the list. We are very relieved that he has made the step on his own, since he is getting close to too long for the crib, and we are also hoping to be using it for Ethan very soon. Anyway, here is how it happened:

Caleb's room has been all set up for a couple of months now, but whenever we asked him if he wanted to sleep in his new bed, he always declined. Last Sunday night, Marcus asked him if he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed or his crib, and he said “Big boy bed.” Marcus and I looked at each other, excited that this might be the night. For the next 20 minutes or so, Caleb and Marcus read books in Caleb's big boy bed, like they have done many nights in the past. Then Caleb crawled out of bed and turned on the little bear night light and pressed play on his CD player to start his sleep music. Marcus tucked him in to the middle of the bed and then we both said goodnight and closed the door.

We both expected himto get out of bed, since for the first time in his life, he wasn't in a crib, but he didn't. He drank his cup of milk quietly and then called out for “More milk, please, Mama!” So I refilled his milk and brought it back to him. He looked at me and said “I go to sleep, Mama,” and I said “Okay, baby, I love you so much.” Then I closed the door and he went to sleep, completely on his own. Marcus and I were ecstatic that it all went so smoothly. We'd heard horror stories of 2-hour bedtime battles once the crib was left behind. It's been three days now and it is still going extremely smoothly. Now I have moved all of Caleb's clothes and other things into his new bedroom, and put Ethan’s things in the crib room. Caleb looks adorable sleeping in his huge bed...I'll post pictures soon :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sixth Anniversary

Our sixth wedding anniversary is this Sunday, so I want to take a few minutes to write a tribute to my husband.

Five Reasons Why I Love Marcus (in no particular order)

(1) He is a Renassiance Man. He is talented and knowledgeable about such a wide variety of things. First there is sports: I have never, ever seen him perform badly in any sport. I know I am slightly biased, but in the many games I have watched him play, he is usually the best or one of the best in the game. (He always claims that he can't play basketball, but I've never seen him so I can't comment one way or the other.) Second, he is so knowledgeable about music. I especially appreciate this because I knew very little about any genre of music except Contemporary Christian before I met Marcus. He introduced me to a fascinating world of recorded song: classical, rock, oldies, pop. When a song comes on the radio, he can often name the title and artist within the first few notes. He taught himself to play guitar and I really enjoy listening to him play. On top of music & athletics, Marcus can figure out how to do just about anything around the house. In the past few years, he has successfully: installed a new dishwasher, replaced a thermostat, tiled a living & dining room, installed pet doors, built several fences, replaced a door (complete with door knob and lock), repaired a broken heater, painted our whole house, replaced rotted-out siding, built a wood kennel for the dogs, installed a a garbage disposal and done hours and hours of tilling, planting, watering & fertilizing in an effort to cultivate a new lawn from nothing. None of these things are amazing in and of themselves, but it is amazing to me that someone who is so "booksmart", also has the hands-on talent to do all of this. (Also impressive that he has had the time and motivation to get these things done in the midst of medical school and residency.)

(2) He gets excited about God. Dozens of things excite me: Pottery Barn Kids, a new shirt, our beautiful kitchen, a new project, a new recipe, a pedicure, and on and on the list goes. Marcus, can take or leave all the little stuff. He often says that Ecclesiastes is his favorite book of the Bible because he deeply connects with the truth that EVERYTHING in life is meaningless except as it relates to family & God. Nothing gets him pumped up like a great worship service with other believers who are passionate and excited about the Lord. He also gets very animated when he is dreaming/planning some new venture for the Kingdom (planning a series of Bible classes he is going to teach, sketching out the structure for an organization to aid evangelism, etc.) I'm very grateful that the spiritual leader of our family is a man who's treasures are stored up in heaven.

(3) He is a superb father. Superb is the perfect adjective for this. He is a better father than I ever imagined my children would have (and I have a pretty vivid imaginination...I had pretty much every aspect of my life thought through and planned by age 12). Marcus loves our boys more than anything, but I would expect that out of any good father. Beyond that, he is just plain great with them. He makes a conscious effort to give each of them loving attention immediately when he comes home from work. From the moment he walks in the door, he is talking to Caleb, asking about his day, and making funny faces at Ethan to make him laugh. He is a natural teacher, and is constantly telling Caleb how things work and showing him how to use various tools and complete various tasks. He always asks for a play-by-play of what the three of us did each day, and is very interested in every funny little story and every new accomplishment. He is also, and probably most importantly, very committed to requiring good behavior. Before he leaves for work in the morning, he and Caleb have a little talk about how important it is for Caleb to be obedient and helpful to Mama throughout the day, and how proud it makes Daddy to get a good report when he comes home. Marcus rarely lets bad behavior get by when he is around, and is completely supportive and involved in every aspect of how we are teaching Caleb to make good choices. Every night, he puts Caleb to bed on his own...they read books for thirty minutes or more and then often rock for another fifteen or twenty minutes. Lately, he often takes Ethan and rocks him down after Caleb is asleep so that I can get dinner cleaned up and housework done. He does his very best to use all of the time he has with the boys to bless them with his love and attention.

(4) He complements me. (He compliments me, too, but I'm talking about complements with an "e".) Part of my personality is that I consider relaxation and having fun something that only happens when everything else is done. Unfortunately, when you have small children, "everything" almost never gets done. That's where Marcus comes in. He thinks anytime is a good time to relax and have fun, regardless of what the house looks like or what commitments we have that evening. Marcus' easy-going pace, as much as it aggravates me sometimes, is actually the one thing that forces me to slow down. When I am stressed, he has the ability to take a couple of things off my plate and help me realize that I actually can get everything else done in the time allotted. When I get discouraged, he rubs my back and reminds me that I am loved and that whatever is discouraging me won't feel so intense in the near future. I am Wind: constantly in motion and sometimes unpredictable; he is Water: calm, consistent and only mildly effected by the changes in the wind.

(5) He dreams big and doesn't fear failure. I've seen this in so many ways and it stands out to me because I am the opposite. I am afraid of failure, and throughout my life I have backed down on certain ventures because the probability that I would not succeed seemed too great. Marcus is not daunted by statistics. In medicial school, he felt God's leading toward the specialty of radiation oncology. Radiation oncology is an extremely competitive specialty, and the majority of medical students who try to match in this field do not succeed. When he first shared his desire to pursue this specialty, many people close to him expressed concern about the level of competition and the specifics of the field and suggested alternative paths. Marcus was not to be detered, though. I am so proud of him for that. Because of his tenacity, he is now in a medical field that allows (and will continue to allow) him to prioritize his family over his job. And on top of that, he enjoys his work and is extremely good at it. I know now what I didn't realize then...that he would have been miserable in primary care because of the faster pace and longer hours. I thank the Lord that he had the courage and faith to do what he believed was right. There are other things that Marcus dreams of, some that seem difficult and even unreachable to me, but this experience has taught me that fear of failure is a foolish reason to resist pursuing a dream. I look forward to the coming years and the dreams that we will see come to fruition together.

I have learned so many things from my dear husband. Here are a few that come to mind:

(1) You actually can go on vacation and have fun without cleaning the house from top to bottom first.
(2) Home improvement projects must be done slowly and with attention to detail, even if that means that they take five times longer than expected.
(3) Attitude is everything (sorry for the cliche, but Marcus is so good at reminding us that its time to "reset")
(4) Music and dancing set the heart free.
(5) No matter how bad the house looks, it can be made presentable in under 30 minutes if that's all the time we have before our guests arrive.
(6) Sincere appreciation is a far better change-motivator than suggestion.

Thank you for all that you have taught me and all that you are!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blessed

The past few weeks, I've been acutely aware of how blessed I am to have my two boys. When I think back to the years of infertility and all of the uncertainty that haunted me during that time, I am awed by how God has blessed me. Even though many things about having two young children are challenging, frustrating and exhausting, I am somehow staying above that mentally and remaining much more aware of how incredibly precious the boys are. Most days, I feel at peace and content for the majority of the day. That is something that I could not have said very often in my adult life. Even when Caleb was an infant, I was often ridden with anxiety about doing everything "right", and that robbed me of fully enjoying him. Now, as I'm sure all first-time mothers do, I've learned that there is no ordained formula that is "right", and everything about parenting is trial and error, so I'm a lot more relaxed this second time around. I was also very burdened by the barrage of advice when Caleb was a baby, and now it just slips right off me because I have a lot more confidence in my mothering skills. In many ways, it is more fun to care for two than for one. (The exception to this is when they both really need me or really want to be held and I have to choose.) But other than that, Caleb enjoys Ethan so much, and Ethan loves watching Caleb. I enjoy watching their relationship blossom and encouraging the love they will have for each other. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times when I think I can not take another minute, but I am just awed by the many hours that go by where the three of us are in harmony and thoroughly enjoying being together. God has truly blessed our family in so many ways this year. We are thoroughly enjoying Marcus's much more relaxed schedule and have already gotten used to doing things as a family every weekend. We often joke about this being our first taste of "normal" life in the six years we've been married (work M-F from 8-5), and we are LOVING it!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Top 10 Things That Make Me Proud

(in no particular order)

(1) When I go grocery shopping and stay under my budget of $70 per week.

(2) When I get a good deal on...anything.

(3) When I complete a project, particularly a scrapbook project.

(4) When I do something really unselfish for Marcus and never tell him about it.

(5) When I check everything off my "To Do" list.

(6) When I look back on my day with Caleb and Ethan and realize that I was more focused on loving and teaching them than I was on getting things done.

(7) When Caleb behaves well in public.

(8) When Caleb does something kind or helpful without being told.

(9) When I plan something carefully and everything goes smoothly as planned.

(10) When I plan something carefully, it doesn't go as planned, and I don't let it stress me out too much.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sweet Ethan

Ethan is 3 1/2 months old and just such a precious little guy. He loves to be touched, talked to, cuddled, sung to, etc...anything that channels interactive attention his way, he soaks it all up. And not at all passively, either. If I lay in bed beside him to cuddle, he worms his little body as close as possible to take full advantage of the cuddling. If I talk to him, his entire face lights up with a HUGE Wagner smile and he talks right back with nonstop coos and gurgles. He is extremely touch-sensitive, and the lightest brush on his cheeks or thighs sends him into body-trembling laughter...he laughs so hard when tickled that it appears he is skipping breaths! When we're driving somewhere and he gets tired of his car seat and starts crying, all it takes is a couple of voices (usually mine and Caleb's) singing "Jesus Loves Me" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" or any other familiar song, and he stops crying and starts cooing along with the song. We've gotten in the habit of singing wherever we go in the car, and Caleb's repertoire of songs has grown incredibly. Ethan is not really interested in toys or books, as Caleb was at this age, but he LOVES people. He flirts with anyone he sees, and many people are very surprised to see how interactive he is at this young age. The part about all this that is the most heart-melting is that he has not yet learned to demand the attention he craves. He just waits for it patiently, and is just as happy to be talked to and tickled whether he's waited five minutes or thirty minutes. If his infant personality is an accurate indicator, this little boy is going to be a very loving, sensitive little guy who is way more interested in people than things. I'm very excited to watch him grow :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mimi's Visit


Today we took Caleb's Mimi (Marc's mother) to the airport to fly back to Florida after a wonderful six-day visit. Caleb loves having company, and the first thing he wanted to know every morning when he woke up was "Where's Mimi?" As Mimi has often explained to her four children, she is a visual-spacial learner and therefore loves to physically walk around in all of the places that her children frequent whenever they move to a new place. So we took her to Marc's office (had to break in on the weekend), our church, our rec center, the library, a nearby petting farm (it was closed so we just had to peak in), and best of all, an awesome kids' science museum called the McWane Center. Mimi was so impressed with this 3-story interactive center full of really amazing learning/play centers for all ages, that she bought us a family membership. I am VERY excited about this membership, because cause-and-effect (i.e. toddler science) is right up Caleb's alley, and he will have endless fun at this place. Plus, it is open all the time, is indoors (therefore, cold, hot and rain-proof), and is not very busy during the week. Me and boys will be going every week and probably sometimes on the weekend with Marcus as well. Thanks for the wonderful gift, Mimi! While Mimi was here, we also attended a welcoming reception at which she and I met the seven other radiation oncologists in Marc's program and their families. I was happy to see that there are six or seven other pre-school children in the group, which make for more potential friends, as well as a family-friendly work environment. Mimi also got to attend our Sunday core group (Sunday night small group of young families) and meet some of the church families who are becoming our friends. All in all, it was a very good week :)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Goodbye TV!

Title pretty much says it all, but here's how it happened...we had everything set up with AT&T to get have DishNetwork installed for $20 p/month for the family pack of channels. After multiple "miscommunications" with AT&T (we communicated and they did not), we gave up in frustration. Cable is ridiculously expensive here and even DirectTV is more than we are willing to pay, so we've gone the past three weeks with no TV of any kind. A couple of days ago, we were talking about it and we came to the radical conclusion that maybe we didn't have any use for TV. We are Netflix subscribers, and we can get any TV show we really want to watch (without commercials) through Netflix. We can also order any kids shows for Caleb that we'd like (Caillou, Sesame Street, VeggieTales, etc.)

It is very freeing to give up TV. We don't waste time flipping channels looking for something to watch, we never watch commercials, and we aren't even tempted to get frustrated because we're missing our show for one reason or another. We can read about any news that we want to know about online, so all in all we don't see any negatives about this new TV-free life. It feels so good, that we're thinking that we may just continue this way even in a few years when we can more easily afford to pay for TV!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nanna & Papa

Rachel's parents were our first official out-of-town guests in our new house. "Papa" travels a lot for his job, so he drove "Nanna" here on Tuesday (June 24th) on his way to Chatanooga and picked her back up on Friday on his way home. (He stayed several hours on both ends, mixing a little leisure into the business trip.)

We had a wonderful visit with Nanna. She hadn't seen Caleb since Christmas and this was her first time to see and hold Ethan. Her health has improved quite a bit during the past 6 months, and she was able to be much more active with Caleb than ever before. And of course, she LOVED holding and cuddling Ethan. She even did a morning of babysitting Caleb so Marcus and I could get Alabama licenses, which neither she nor we would have considered a good idea for her to try just six months ago. And she wasn't even worn out when we got home!

Caleb got really into reading Dr. Seuss books with Nanna during this trip. Both Marcus and I were impressed with her enthusiastic, animated reading of those classics, and we have tried to emulate it since she left. Caleb calls his small Dr. Seuss collection "Nanna's books", and now Marcus reads them with him every night.

Another exciting aspect of the visit was picking out a double stroller with Nanna. Papa and Nanna had already told us that their present for the new baby was going to be a double stroller, but I hadn't gotten around to picking one out until this past week. Mom and I sat next to each other on our respective computers, reading pages and pages of reviews until I finally decided on the a Combi side-by-side. We ordered it on Friday and it came in a few days later, and so far I absolutely love it. Thanks for the perfect gift, Nanna & Papa!

Monday, June 23, 2008

At Home In Alabama

Well, we have finally moved. After talking and planning and packing and spending way too much money ($1,250 just to rent the Penske and buy gas), the four of us, our dogs, and all of our worldly belongings are all settled into our new home. We left on Sunday, June 15th in three shifts... Ethan and I left around 2:30 pm in Marcus's car before the Penske was finished being loaded, since I knew that Ethan would have the least carseat tolerance. After the truck was loaded, Marcus set off around 4:00 pm. Finally, Traci (Marc's sister who saved our lives by helping us move) took Caleb to McDonalds to burn off some energy. Then she went back to the house and picked up the dogs, and they all got on the road around 5:00 or 5:30 pm in my car. Ethan and I had a very smooth trip for the first 4 hours...he slept until around 6:30 pm. Then we stopped at a large gas station with a Subway and just hung out there for two hours to give him a solid block of no-carseat time. Even so, he wailed for 45 minutes after we got back in the car. That was very hard for me. I feel so bad when he cries in the car seat because I know that he has no idea why no one will pick him up. After 45 minutes of that, I stopped at a Walmart and walked around for another hour, hoping he would fall asleep. He did not. I put him back in the seat and he wailed for another 20 minutes or so...and then finally, blissful silence. After that rough patch, he slept for the remaining 2 hours of the trip. In spite of so many stops, I still arrived at the house before Marcus and Traci, around midnight (11:00 pm Alabama time).

Now, as you may remember from a previous post, the house we bought is one that I did not get to see prior to closing because I was too far along in my pregnancy with Ethan to travel. So the last bit of the drive, I was getting more excited every minute about seeing the house that would be my home for the next four years.

When I pulled in the driveway, I jumped out of the car, searched hurriedly for the hidden key, and let myself in the house. From the first moment, I knew I was going to LOVE this house. The bay window in the den/playroom is HUGE and you can see nothing outside but our backyard and the woods behind it. The den/playroom itself is much bigger than I thought from the pictures, and there is plenty of room for my computer desk, my recliner, and all of the toys, with tons of open space left over for playing.

Five steps up from the den is the most beautiful kitchen I've ever seen in my life! The all-wood cabinets and granite countertops are less than 2 years old. I've never lived in a house with a nice kitchen, not even as a child or a renter, and I was absolutely giddy as I explored this one. It has a built-in pantry with slide-out shelves, an offset extra-deep sink, large drawers and cabinets, an island with a small bar, and so much cabinet space that I actually don't have enough stuff to fill it up! I really could have stopped right in the kitchen and been perfectly happy with the house, but it still gets better. The dining room has gorgeous french doors that open up to a large deck (also less than 2 years old). Right now, we have some of Caleb's toys out there, but someday we'll probably get patio furniture. The living room is just the right size and shape for our furniture and TV and is very well lit and comfy-feeling.

Next, I went upstairs to the bedrooms...I immediately noticed that all four bedrooms are larger than they seemed in the pictures. The two master closets, which I had been told were rather small, are actually very adequate for us. The bathrooms have not been updated, but all the carpet upstairs was recently replaced and is in great shape, so I was still extremely pleased on all fronts. Another perk that I didn't fully appreciate until we'd been here for a few days is the garage...I've never had garage to park in before, and it is REALLY nice. You just step out the door and there is your car...its not too hot or too cold, and its definitely not raining, which makes loading and unloading SO much easier. After I was done exploring, Ethan was asleep and Marcus was still about 20 minutes away, so I just skipped around the house in excitement, hardly able to believe that I had been blessed with such a wonderful house. Marcus got loads and loads of kudos for making such a great selection AND for not telling me how wonderful it was so that I would be surprised. Now we've been in the house for 2 weeks, and I am just as in love with it as I was that first hour. Our stuff is all moved in and the kids' rooms are even decorated. The kudos for that goes entirely to Marcus' sister, Traci, who drove with us from Florida and gave us a week of her time off work to take care of our kids and help us move in. We would definitely still be in boxes and WAY more stressed out if she hadn't been so giving. THANKS AUNT TRACI!!!!!!

Marcus starts his job here at UAB tomorrow, and tomorrow is also my debut as a mother of two in a new town. We're both a little nervous, and I'm sure there will be many updates to follow. By the way, I greatly miss my girlfriends in Gainesville, and if you're reading this, please feel free to call me! On a final note, there is no picture of the fourth bedroom, which is doubling as a guest room and Marc's office. The reason it's not pictured is (you guessed it), it's a mess :)


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Brothers

In the two months that I have been a mother of two, I have enjoyed comparing and contrasting my boys. So far, the boys seem to be very alike physically: they both hover around the 75th percentile for weight and the 90% percentile for heighth. Both were exceptionally strong as newborns...they were consistently holding their heads up by 2-weeks-old. Caleb started rolling over at 11 weeks and Ethan started at 7 weeks. Caleb was able to bear weight on his legs at 2 weeks and Ethan at 4 weeks. Of course the biggest physical similarity is that they look alike! Caleb's 2-month-old pictures look exactly like Ethan looks right now. They share many features and have the same head/face shape. Marcus says he can't even tell which one is which in pictures! The only significant physical difference we can see so far is that Ethan has darker coloring. The both have big blue eyes, but Ethan's little tuft of hair on the back if his neck is dark brown, and Ethan's skin is a little darker as well.

In many other non-physical ways, Caleb and Ethan seem to be quite different. Like his dad, Ethan really enjoys touch and physical closeness...he loves to sleep next to a warm body. He sleeps in bed with me and every night he manages to wiggle his way out of his sleep positioner and 12-24 inches across the bed so that he can sleep directly against my body. When Ethan is sleeping and he stirs, many times all it takes is laying a hand on his chest or softly brushing his silky check to resettle him. Caleb was more like me and not much of a cuddler. Caleb preferred to be laid down right after falling asleep because he couldn't get comfortable in arms. Ethan loves being swaddled, but Caleb didn't like the constriction of a swaddling blanket and preferred to have his legs and arms free.

Another difference is that Ethan is more flexible with how he falls asleep than Caleb was. For the first 6+ months, Caleb would ONLY fall asleep by nursing... rocking, bouncing, swinging, carseat...these were not for him (sometimes he would eventually conk out during one of these activities, but it was because Mommy wasn't around and he wore himself out crying). Ethan, on the other hand, enjoys all of those sleep-promoting activities and easily falls asleep in a variety of ways. Sometimes, if I get the timing right, I can just swaddle him, pop in a pacifier, and lay him down in bed fully awake and he falls asleep without fussing.

This could be a nature vs. nurture thing; as a new mom, I was afraid of Caleb crying and so I nursed him every time he made an unhappy peep. Both because Ethan naturally cries more than Caleb did and because Ethan's needs aren't responded to as promptly (because I have Caleb), I have more perseverence to try new things, even if Ethan resists at first.

There are a lot more differences, and I may add to this post later on, but as it is I've been writing it one sentence at a time for five days, so I better just put it online and be done with it. We are moving to Alabama in six days and I have GOT to pack!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Acid Reflux ???

The first three weeks of Ethan's life, he was a very fussy little guy. He had very few quiet alert periods and was usually fussing when he was awake (and not feeding).


After observing his behavior carefully for a few days, we concluded that he was probably hurting from acid reflux. I had been eating a lot of tomato-based foods those first few weeks because we were blessed with gift meals from other church families, and the majority of those meals included some type of tomato sauce. I also drank orange juice every day during those first weeks, just as I always have. After we zeroed in on reflux as a possible reason for Ethan's fussiness, I cut all acidic foods like this out of my diet. We also started keeping Ethan upright as much as possible, and putting him to sleep on his side at a slight incline.


Either these changes, or just his increasing strength, or a combination of both, caused a significant change in a matter of days. His fussiness continued to decrease during that fourth week of life, and he has been a reasonably happy little guy for the past 10 days or so. He is still needs more holding and help getting to sleep than Caleb did, but now we are blessed with many hours of quiet alert time and even several smiley periods each day. At this point, we're not entirely sure whether or not he has/had reflux, but we are very happy that he is feeling so much better, and I am continuing to stay away from acidic foods as much as possible. (I tried eating something with marinara sauce four days ago, and he was very fussy the next morning.)