Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Colorado Trip

This past weekend, we braved four airports (2 of them twice) and the big bad TSA with our three small children!  What inspired us to such madness?  A family wedding...what else?  Marcus's older sister, Wendi, tied the knot at the top of a mountain in Keystone, Colorado this past Sunday morning.  The whole family and quite a few friends made the trek to beautiful Colorado to celebrate with Wendi and Joel.  The weather was gorgeous, the mountains were spectacular, and the wedding was beautiful.  The trip really couldn't have gone much better than it did.  It was not stress-free by any means, and there were some moments (even hours) where we wondered why we had ever agreed to drag our kids across the country, but, all-in-all, it wasn't too bad.

A few low points:

(1) Waiting in line for over an hour to get our rental car, after having already traveled for about ten hours.  Caleb fell asleep on the floor of the (remote) Hertz rental building at the Denver airport.

(2) Trying to get the boys to bed each night in the loft of the 4-bed condo, where we were staying with sixteen members of the Wagner family.  The loft, as it sounds, was open to the living area on the floor below and in between the two upstairs bedrooms.  Any kind of quiet was impossible to achieve, and bedtime was a beating.

(3)  Getting caught in traffic while Lydia screamed (with barely a lull) in the carseat for almost an hour.    She is a very chill baby and this is the longest either of us had ever had to listen to her cry.  Poor baby.  She had woken up from a long nap and was hungry, but we were stuck in traffic and couldn't stop to feed her.

(4)  Running through the Denver airport, holding Lydia and our four carry-ons with the boys running right behind us, trying not to miss our homebound flight.  We stepped on the plane at 10:11 and the flight took off as scheduled 9 minutes later.

Despite these, we had a great time.  Some of the highlights:

(1)  Caleb & Ethan's first flight (that they remember, though Caleb flew once as a baby and once as a toddler).  They were as fascinated as any preschool boy with the idea and reality of flying, and they soaked in every bit of the experience.  Marcus did a great job of explaining everything to them, and they even enjoyed the extra treat of a private tour to the cockpit, thanks to a very kind Southwest pilot.

(2)  Riding the gondola.  It was about a 15-minute gondola ride from the Keystone Resort (where we were staying) to the summit where the wedding took place.  The whole ride, we could see gorgeous mountains and scenery for miles.

(3)  The mountains.  They were spectacular.  Whether we were in our condo, in the car, riding the gondola or at the summit wedding location, the mountains were everywhere.  It's been 10 years since I was in Colorado, and its beauty is just as breathtaking now as I remember it then.  I can understand why it is Joel & Wendi's dream to live there someday.

(4)  The wedding itself.  The mountain location was as beautiful as Wendi described it.  The wedding day weather was perfect, and as long as the sun was out, we weren't even cold at the 11,000 feet elevation.  Wendi looked gorgeous and happy, and the ceremony went off without a hitch.  Caleb and Ethan did a great job of walking down the aisle with their scroll that said "Here Comes the Bride."  They were not even slightly daunted by the situation, and walked calmly and confidently, just as they were told.

(5)  For Marcus, spending an afternoon mountain biking with his brother.  They had quite the adventure, and I was relieved to have them both back in one piece.

(6)  The kids.  All seven of the grandkids (and all the adults) were staying together in a 4-bedroom condo.  Surprisingly, they all got along very, very well the whole five days.  Caleb and Ethan were very obedient and cooperative the whole weekend, despite the sleep-deprivation and Caleb getting sick the last couple of days. Ethan only had to sit in time-out twice the whole weekend, which is some kind of record for him :)  Lydia took everything in stride, slept very well during the day in night, and hardly cried the whole time we were there (except for the afore-mentioned car ride).

(7)  The backpacks.  I bought Caleb and Ethan backpacks for the trip (used from ebay) and filled them up with four new activity books: a maze book, a sticker book, a superhero coloring book and an animal coloring book for each of them.  These books provided them with hours of entertainment on the trip and in the condo.  I ordered them all from amazon based on reviews, and wasn't sure what they would be like, but they were all excellent and more than worth the money.

All-in-all, it was a very good trip, though we do not plan to travel by air again until the kids are quite a bit older :)

Colorado: Getting There

 Lydia sleeping in her stroller at the airport.
 The boys enjoying their backpack goodies at the airport
 This is how we sat for the plane rides: Mommy, Caleb & Lydia on one side,
 and Ethan and Daddy on the other.  Can you tell which of our children needs the most attention?
 Caleb and Ethan got a huge treat on their first flight: the pilot called them up to the cockpit for a tour!

Colorado: Hanging with Family

Marcus's cousin, Carsen Williams, watching a Disney movie with Caleb, Ethan & Maddie.
 Caleb with 4-month-old Lydia
 Uncle Josh and Cousin Madelyn (Maddie)
 Caleb doing his sticker book at the condo.
 Aunt Gigi holding Lydia
 Aunt Traci and 6-month-old Cousin Dallen
Uncle Mike with 3-year-old Cousin Kylie

Colorado: Fun on the Mountain

At Keystone, you can ride the gondola up the mountain for free in the summer, so we spent one evening enjoying the ride and exploring the mountain.

Mimi and our boys in the gondola, headed up the mountain for the first time.
 The view from the gondola was spectacular.

Caleb spent his time at the summit picking a bouquet of wildflowers for me.

Ethan spent his time pretending to be a superhero :)

Marcus and Mike went mountain biking one afternoon.  I heard it was quite the adventure.

Colorado: The Main Event

It's a little embarassing that I didn't get a picture of the bride and groom, but when you consider that Marcus was in the wedding and I was handling my three kids during the ceremony, you can understand :)

 Marcus and Mike, just before the wedding.
 Our family at the wedding...you can tell the kids had had enough with pictures :)
 Daddy and Lydia, in the gondola on the way down from the wedding.
Lydia sleeping in my arms at the reception.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


My mom has told me stories about what a deep-thinking child I was, and how I would bust out with the most startling perceptions/conclusions.  Caleb is like that, and he has blown me away a few times before with something he's come up with.  One of those times was last night.  I have absolutely no idea where this came from, but he just walked up to me and said this:

"Mommy, if someone ever takes me to a really sad place and then says, 'Now you've seen it, now let's go back to your home,' I'm going to tell them no, because I want to stay and help the sad people in the sad place."

I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly, so I asked him again, and he said exactly the same thing.  I asked him more questions about it, and he explained in his own words that he didn't just want to look at the sad things in the world, but he wanted to fix them.  The next morning (this morning), I asked him in front of Marcus if he remembered what he'd told me about going to a sad place.  He did remember, and immediately told Marcus the same thing that he'd told me, almost verbatim.

It scares me and makes me proud at the same time that God may be growing the heart of a missionary in my little son.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It Begins

Caleb's first day of kindergarten was today.  We are now officially a "school" family.  Mornings, daytime activities, vacations, and just about everything else will all be subject to the school calendar from here on out.  Since this had to come, at least we had a very successful kick-off:  Caleb had a great day and says he can't wait to go back tomorrow.  I asked him if he liked his classroom, his classmates, his teacher, the toys in his classroom, the playground, and everything else I could think of, and every reply was positive.  The only negative thing he had to say was that he hadn't found a new best friend yet (he had set his sites high for the first day of school :).

The whole family came in to walk Caleb to his classroom this morning.  Daddy got to meet his teacher and snap a few pictures while Mommy helped Caleb sort his supplies and corral little brother.  Caleb walked confidently into his classroom and hugged us all goodbye without a hint of separation anxiety.  He didn't seem nervous at all this morning, and jumped right in to what the other kids were doing.  Maybe it was his confidence, but for some reason, I didn't get emotional at any point.  Caleb has been ready for this for months, and I am very, very happy for the opportunities that kindergarten is going to offer him.  At home, Caleb's needs regularly take a backseat to Lydia's & Ethan's, and I am really glad that he will have these four hours of developmentally-appropriate activities every day.

After the family drop-off, Marcus suggested that I take Ethan to Krispy Kreme to offset all the fuss around Caleb.  I thought that was a great idea and headed straight there.  Then Marcus surprised us by showing up at Krispy Kreme and enjoying some donuts with us.  I was so glad that the first day of school fell on a day when he could go in an hour or so late, so that he could be a part of everything.  (And the Krispy Kreme surprise was an even bigger bonus!)

The only part about today that I was not pleased with was the carpool line.  Dropping Caleb off in the morning was smooth and hassle-free, but the pick-up process was kind of miserable.  Ethan and L ydia both took naps in the car while I waited 45 minutes in the carpool line!  I had no idea it would take that long.  I think it may get a little better in the future, since there was some confusion among the parent drivers about which way to go, but still!

We went straight from school to get haircuts with our favorite Mr. Mickey, and I'll close with a conversation Caleb and I had while there:

Mr. Mickey:  So Caleb, what did you have for a snack in kindergarten today?
Caleb:  Just apples (in a droll tone of voice).  That's all Mommy gave me (droller still).
Mommy:  Well, didn't the other kids have fruit for a snack, as well?  (the teacher's note had requested that we send healthy snacks)
Caleb:  NO!  They had really super yummy snacks!
Mommy:  Oh yeah?  Like what?
Caleb:  Cookies, and popsicles.  A LOT of people had popsicles!
Mommy:  Really, Caleb?  So, if I call Mrs. Ketchum on my phone right here, she is going to tell me that a lot of the kids in your class ate popsicles for a snack today at school, right?
Caleb:  Ummm, I don't think so.
Mommy:  What will she tell me?
Caleb:  She will probably tell you that everyone had fruit for a snack, just like me.  'cept one kid at table four, and I know he had a popsicle.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer 2011

I can't believe that the years of having all of my children at home with me all of the time are coming to a end. Caleb starts kindergarten next week, and, though I'm not feeling sentimental about it yet, I know our lives will never be the same. (But, then again, since when has my life ever been the same from one day to the next?)

Before I let too much time go by and start to feel all nostalgic about life as it is now, I wanted to take a few minutes to write out the good, the bad & the ugly of this stage of parenting (this summer):

The Bad
  • They all still need help wiping their bottoms.
  • They all still need help, to varying degrees, in the bath (C & E just need their hair washed).
  • Ethan is in a ROUGH stage, and there are very few days that go by without him being a persistent menace to Caleb and regularly disobedient to me.
  • It is a BEATING to get the boys to pick up their toys.
  • Lydia is not sleeping well at night anymore (thanks to the breastfeeding issues).
  • Lydia can't sit up yet, so she has to be held in order to see what is going on and interact.
  • Pumping is miserable.
  • The boys have so much energy and it is too hot to do anything but swim outside (at least in July & August).
  • There is very little downtime for me...the boys don't nap, and I'm usually ping-ponging between getting stuff done and doing stuff for the boys when Lydia is asleep.  I tend to go without pause most of the day, and wind up totally exhausted by the kids' 7:00 pm bedtime.
The Good
  • I am with my kids all the time, and I see firsthand everything that influences them
  • The boys can buckle themselves in the car completely independently, and all I have to do is say "Load up in the van!"
  • The boys can (and do) dress themselves without help every day.
  • Sibling relationships are relatively simple: offenses are quickly forgiven, and it rarely takes more than a minute to settle a dispute.
  • Lydia isn't old enough to realize that she isn't big enough to do what the boys are doing.
  • Lydia isn't mobile.
  • Both boys are independent in the pool, and Lydia doesn't mind sitting on the side with me.
  • We have very few "schedule" restraints.  Most days, we figure out what we are going to do that day after we get up in the morning.
  • Lydia takes good naps during the day.
  • All the kids are asleep for the night between 7:00 and 7:30 pm
  • Lydia is so, so sweet and smiley and cuddly. We are all in love with her.
  • Caleb is in an incredibly sweet and encouraging stage...always trying to think of ways to be good and to do the right thing, very gracious and forgiving towards others, and an excellent big brother in every way to both of his siblings.


    The last couple of days, I've been shopping quite a bit on www.etsy.com for just the right dress for Lydia's upcoming portraits. Apparently I've been spending a little too much time on it, because this is the conversation I had with Caleb earlier today. He was painting in the kitchen (a daily activity for him lately), and he called me up from the playroom so he could show me his most recent masterpiece:

    Mommy: So what did you make this time, Caleb?
    Caleb: (gesturing appropriately) Well, this is our house, and this is the playroom, and there you are sitting in your chair. This little box is your computer screen and that flowery thing in the box is Lydia's dress that you are looking for.

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Swim Lessons Mommy-Style

    After paying for group swim lessons at the rec center for two years in a row for Caleb, I decided to try teaching them myself this year. Caleb learned how to "swim" (dog-paddle) just before his fourth birthday, but for the past year-and-a-half of being in the water without any flotation help, he still just dog-paddled around the pool with his face out of the water. We've offered him various rewards if he would swim with his face in the water and his body horizontal, but he wasn't willing to go for that until a few weeks ago.

    When we re-joined the rec center, I determined to take the boys swimming twice a week for four weeks in a row (which is the equivalent of the eight swim lessons I have paid for in the past) and give them swim lessons myself. I've sat through enough swim lessons to have a good idea of how it works, and I was ready to give it a try. I made my appointments to leave Lydia in the childcare room, packed up a (huge) bag with all of our swim stuff and changes of clothes, and set out.

    It went well from the start: I took turns taking each boy out on little skill-specific drills, just like I had seen the swim instructor do. In the beginning, Ethan couldn't keep himself up in the water at all. Just one week before I started lessons, he had jumped in a friend's pool before I got his swim vest on and I had to, once again, fish him out of the water. During our lessons, he made tremendous progress right from the start. By the third lesson, he could swim about six feet from the side of the pool to me. Since he does not share Caleb's aversion for putting his face in, he was swimming horizontal, head underwater from the beginning. I think seeing Ethan do so well that third lesson lit a fire under Caleb. The next time, he, too, put his face in the water and swam horizontally like his younger brother. Since he is older, stronger & more coordinated, he was quickly able to swim quite far.

    The next step for both of them was learning how to come up for air and then go back under and continue swimming. They both wanted to stop once their first breath was gone. We tackled that in the fifth and sixth lessons, and soon they were both popping up for air and going back under. By now, I was able to set up short races to motivate them to better-coordinate their arm and leg movements for more efficient speed. I also played a game with them where I threw plastic rings in the water and they had to retrieve them before they floated to the bottom. This got them doing a little swimming down and up.

    The latest step forward was this last time we went (this time with Daddy) and that is jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side unassisted. They both did this multiple times at the pool this past weekend. I got some good video of it, but I have no idea how to upload video to a blog post, so it'll just have to stay on my iPhone :) I can't believe how much they've learned this past month, and I am really proud of my little swimmers!

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    And So It Goes...

    Poor Lydia has gotten the short end of the stick in so many ways when compared to the boys, but this last development is just too much: this week I've had to supplement her diet with formula! The boys never had any formula and I would have been slightly horrified if someone had given them some. I had an over-abundance of milk with both of them, and never dreamed that I would have a supply issue this third time around. But I have.

    It started with Lydia increasing her night wakings from one to three to five, all within a week or two. I also noticed that I never felt "full", nor did I feel the letdown sensation nearly as often while I was nursing. Finally, the morning came when she latched on, sucked hard, and then let go and wailed. At this point, after almost a week of wondering and worrying, I finally accepted that, somehow, my milk had dried up and she was hungry. I immediately started pumping and drinking water to increase my supply, and was shocked to see that I could pump less than 1/4 of an ounce from each side. My milk really was almost gone, and my poor little girl had probably been getting hungrier and hungrier for more than a week.

    There were several factors that could have contributed to this unexpected event, and my culprit-of-choice is the progesterone-only birth control pill that I had started taking 12 days before. Other possible contributors are Lydia's less-than-ideal (and very noisy) latch, which may have been providing insufficient suction for milk production (though she managed to get enough milk with that latch for the first 3.5 months), or maybe it was the 1-day overnight trip we took to Chattanooga 4 weeks ago that caused a dip in supply that I never fully recovered from (though I pumped 22 oz. while we were gone).

    Regardless of why it happened, I've been in overdrive trying to correct the problem for the past four days. I've been pumping twenty minutes on each side every 2-3 hours during the day and once each night. I've also been choking down six fenugreek supplements, two cups of Mother's Milk tea, about a gallon of water and at least two bowls of oatmeal every day. The first day, I couldn't get more than 1/2 an ounce from both sides combined each time I pumped. I used what was left in the freezer and the little I had pumped to feed her that day. I made it until her last bottle of the day, just before bed, which I had to add some formula to to make it a full bottle. She took it fine and didn't even seem to notice that it was different. She had been in a great mood and full of smiles and coos all day, which only made me feel more guilty for not realizing that she was hungry before. It just didn't occur to me because I always had more milk than I needed with the boys.

    After the first day, I quit taking the pill and continued all of the other "home remedies." I was able to pump a little bit more the second day, but still had to give her half-formula in each bottle all day. By the third day, I could get 2-3 oz. combined each time I pumped...still not quite enough to keep up with what she was eating, but getting closer. Today is the fourth day, and I think I may be almost back to normal. I am pumping 4-5 oz. combined each time I pump (5-6 oz. was normal in the past), and that is slightly more than enough to satiate her right now. Hopefully we are done with formula, and I will be storing up as much milk as I can fit in the freezer just in case something like this happens again!