Monday, January 23, 2012

New Job & Girls' Weekend

Marcus is nearing the end of nine years of post-graduate medical training.  This coming summer, on June 30th, he will complete his residency in radiation oncology.  This past summer and fall, Marcus spent a good amount of time researching job opportunities and interviewed for several positions.  From the very first interview in June of 2011, one oncology group stood out among the others.  He called me just hours after that interview and I could hear the big smile in his voice when he said, "Well, Rach, it looks like we are moving to ___________."  He had nothing but good to say about the group, his potential co-workers, and the town.  Through the rest of the summer and fall, he continued to explore positions here in Birmingham and in his hometown of Melbourne, but no matter how hard he tried to "make them work," he just kept coming back to this job.  Though I love our lives here in Birmingham, and I will miss our friends and church here tremendously, I knew Marcus needed to go for the job that he felt so drawn to.

So (drum roll time), in about six months, we will be opening a new chapter of our lives in Chattanooga, TN!!!  Marcus signed his contract just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and we have been busy getting this house ready to sell, as well as doing some looking around for a new place in Chattanooga.  In fact, Marcus gave me the most wonderful gift of a couple of days house-shopping with my BFF in Chattanooga.  We drove up on Saturday morning, looked at about five houses, ate dinner at the hopping Blue Water Grill, hung out in our hotel's hot tub, and then talked until we fell asleep!  Sunday morning, we visited Clear Creek Church together and spent a couple more hours driving around and exploring the northern Chattanooga area. Q discovered this great little neighborhood that I love.  I have a feeling we are going to end up living in one of those houses :)  We met up with our realtor one more time to look inside a few more houses, and then headed back to Birmingham to resume our lives as wives and mothers.  This was the first night that I have spent away from my kids in 2.5 years, and I was ready for it!  Thanks, honey, for a perfect gift!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Season of Sickness

This has been a rough month for Ethan & Lydia, healthwise, and therefore it's been a hard month for me as well. (Caleb has cruised through it all unscathed, like he usually does, though he did lose his second tooth in his sleep last Friday night!)

It seems like we've been to the pediatrician every week for more than a month!  Ethan has had bronchitis, pink eye and two ear infections, in addition to the general yuckiness of congestion.  On top of that, it took several weeks for the fluid to drain off his ears after his ear infection cleared up, so he was having a lot of trouble hearing for several weeks.  Ethan can be challenging enough when he is fully-functioning, but non-hearing Ethan has really reset the bar.  At school this past Monday, he threw a toy that collided with another boys' head and split the little boy's head open!  He didn't mean for that to happen, but it's just a result of him losing his temper.

After I got that delightful report, I piled all the kids back in the van and headed straight back to the pediatrician.  I'd been told 3 weeks in a row that we just needed to wait for the fluid to drain and then he would be able to hear again, but I needed something better than that.  After waiting in the little room with all three of my tired and hungry children for NINETY MINUTES, the doctor finally came in.  This week's diagnosis for Ethan was: yes, he has a lot of fluid on his ears, no he still can't hear very well, but, yes, we will try something else other than waiting now.  The doctor put him on another round of antibiotics and steroids, as well as setting us up for an ENT consult to see about getting tubes again.  I was very happy to have some answers, and even happier when, the next day, Ethan could finally hear normally again.  He has been a happy, cooperative little boy for the past two days.  (Now all I need to do is get him to write his apology note to his classmate, and make my own phone call of apology as well.)

During this same pediatrician visit, Lydia was diagnosed with another double ear infection, her second in 2 weeks.  (The only reason we're sure this one is a new infection is because we were in the previous Monday and her ears were pronounced clear.)  This is her 3rd ear infection in 3 months, so she may end up being a candidate for tubes as well.  I'm not as resistant to the idea as I was with Ethan, since they worked so well for him and it was so much better than having him on antibiotics every couple of weeks.

Lydia has also been dealing with a major eczema outbreak.  Just like the fluid in Ethan's ears, I kept showing the excema to the pediatrician whenever we were in (which was frequently), and I was told to use hypo-allergenic lotion twice a day.  I did that, but over a period of a couple of months, it has continued to get worse.  It finally got bad enough that the pediatrician prescribed Alclometasone Dipropionate Cream, which cleared all of it right up in just a few days.  One day, her back, bottom, elbows & thighs were covered in raw, patchy skin.  The next, it was smooth again and you could just see the outline of the eczema.

So, at the moment, Lydia and Ethan are ear-infection, virus & eczema free, and Caleb is healthy.  But it has been a ride!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Magic Kingdom

One of the best parts of our week in Florida at Christmas time was getting to go to Disney as a family for the first time.  Marcus & Mike have taken Caleb & Chase a couple of times before, but I had never been with any of the kids and Ethan & Lydia haven't been at all.  

One of the coolest parts is that the whole day was completely free (except food) for the five of us!  My parents had four park hopper passes from back in 1988 when our whole family went to Disney for a week, and we only used 3 of the 4 days on the pass. Mom kept those tickets in an envelope for 23 years, and they got our whole family into the Magic Kingdom for a day.  I don't know the exact cost, but I'm pretty sure that saved us more than $400 in admission.  Thanks so much, Mom & Dad!  

Another really cool thing about this trip to Disney is that Marcus used an iPhone app to help us pick which rides to do next (it gave us up-to-date wait times on all the rides).  Because of this, even though it was December 26th and a very crowded day at Disney, Marcus said that we were able to ride more rides in one day than he ever had before.  And I thought it was really cool that we had such a smooth, enjoyable day, despite the crowds and the fact that our own group numbered 13, with more children than adults.  Everyone agreed the day was a huge success, and we look forward to doing it again soon!

 First glimpse of the Disney Castle from the ferry.
 Marcus was laughing at how intent I looked on this Buzz Lightyear Shoot-em-up Ride
 Mimi kindly lent us her double-stroller for the day, and it turned out to be very useful.
Lydia enjoying the tunnel on Tom Sawyer island (one of the only times she got the get out of the stroller the whole day!)
 Ethan & Daddy love :)
 Mimi and her newest grandbabies, Lydia & Dallen
 The whole Wagner clan, except Gigi, Wendi & Joel was able to be there. We missed you three!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Enjoying Melbourne

We packed a lot into our 5 1/2 days in town, including a day at Disney (another post coming), a morning at the Zoo, an afternoon at Gemini park, and plenty of time hanging out at Mike & Gigi's house and at Mimi's house.  The weather was beautiful all week and we spent enough time outside to satisfy even me :)
 Lydia & Ethan hanging out with Uncle Mike.  Lydia wasn't too sure about Uncle Mike at first, but it didn't take him more than a couple of days to charm her.
 Lydia hanging out with her Mimi :)  Mimi was kind enough to pull babysitting duties two of the nights that we were in town so that the adults could enjoy some hanging out time.  Thanks, Mimi!
 We spent Thursday afternoon at the park by Gemini Elementary (where Chase goes to school).  We brought the bikes and Chase & Kylie's new wheeled-toys (a Razor and a skateboard).  Marcus and Mike came up with the idea to let the kids lie belly-down on the skate board and push them back and forth across the empty parking lot.  I kept Lydia out of the way :). The kids and the men had a blast, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them.

Group Pictures

It wouldn't be much of a traditional Wagner gathering without multiple group pictures.  This gets harder and harder to accomplish the more kids we add to the mix, but here's a few of the better ones:
 The grandkids in matching pajamas, one of our Christmas gifts to Mimi :)

Present Time!

We opened presents at Mike & Gigi's house on the afternoon of Christmas Day.  We had agreed that this year, the kids would be getting a day at The Magic Kingdom for Christmas, so we did not exchange gifts across families for the kids.  Each kid had a couple of presents to open from their parents and then the gifts from Mimi, as well.  Lydia loved the wrapping paper, and the boys were happy with and thankful for their gifts.  The adults had drawn names, and it was funny to see quite a few wall canvas prints appear for several different people.  I guess everyone had canvas on the brain this year.  

Christmas Eve & Christmas Morning

We arrived in town at dinner time on Christmas Eve.  Aunt Gigi's mother had prepared a huge Christmas meal for all of the Wagner's, and we all thoroughly enjoyed her feast.  After dinner, we heard from Uncle Mike that Santa Claus was scheduled to make a drive-by appearance in a fire truck, something he described as a perk of living in Melbourne Beach.  We all headed outside at the appointed time to see this exciting spectacle.  

To our surprise, Santa not only drove by, but stopped and got out of the fire truck, right on the corner of Uncle Mike's property.  And, to our complete amazement, he took a present out of his bag and said, "Is there a little boy named Caleb, here?"  At first, I was thinking that there must be some other Caleb in the group of neighbors gathered there, and that my Caleb was going to be so disappointed.  But I should have had more faith in Uncle Mike and Aunt Gigi :)  Santa (via Mike & Gigi), had brought gifts for each of the Wagner cousins and handed them all out by name (even to Lydia!).  I was very impressed, and the kids were elated.  "Santa" gave Caleb a Nerf gun and Ethan a Captain America shield that shoots discs.  I think it would be safe to say that these gifts were the hit of the season.  I'm sad that we didn't get any pictures, but we were completely taken off guard and didn't even have the camera outside.

Christmas morning (Sunday), we all got up early so we could get ourselves and the kids dressed up in the finery they wore in Aunt Wendi's wedding four months earlier.  Apparently, a picture of the seven grand kids in their wedding clothes never got taken then, so we did our best to recreate the moment for Mimi's photo op.  After church, the clan headed over to Aunt Traci's house for lunch.  Everybody split up for naps and the guys went to watch a movie.  Next thing on the agenda was presents at Uncle Mike & Aunt Gigi's house.

 Marcus, Caleb and Ethan outside Melbourne C of C
The best way to take a group picture of kids is in steps :)
 Maddie, Josh, Traci & Dallen McGough (Marcus's younger sister and her family)
Everyone hanging out at Aunt Traci's house after church.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trip To Florida

We broke the trip from Alabama to Florida at a hotel in Georgia.  On the second day of driving, we stopped (as we have before) at the Castillo de San Marcos in Saint Augustine, Florida, only this time we actually paid the admission fee to go into the castle.  You can see a great deal of the castle from the external grounds, and we've stopped other times to let the kids stretch their legs on the huge grassy fields.  The decision to go inside this time was made over much laughter when Caleb politely asked, "Mommy, this year, can we please go inside the castle instead of just looking over the walls?"   The trip went extremely well, and Lydia only cried for about 15 minutes during the whole two days of driving.  We also broke out the head phones that came with our minivan, so Marcus and I were able to listen to a book on tape (Dave Ramsey) while the kids watched Disney movies with the head phones.  All-in-all, it was the best road trip we have ever had with kids on board.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No More Showers With Superman

For more than half of our time living in this house, we have used only one of our two bathrooms (at least the shower part).  Our master shower sprung a leak back in 2010, and after three estimates of over $4K to fix it, we decided we could be a one-bathroom family.  It really hasn't been that big of a deal most of the time to shower in the kids bathroom, but there are the little annoyances: walking between bathrooms to get towels, stepping around or cleaning up bath toys, having NO privacy (since little boys pay no attention to the closed door when nature calls).  It has been a challenge when we all come in from camping or swimming and everyone needs a bath/shower at once.  And, of course, there is Superman.  For many months, Ethan's favorite toy was this little plastic Superman that he toted with him everywhere, including the bath.  I can't tell you how many times my shower has been interrupted by stepping on Superman, fishing him out of the tub, or doing a Superman hand-off in the middle of my shower when Ethan suddenly realized where he'd left his favorite toy.

For the past few weeks, we have had a contractor at our house renovating both of our very dated bathrooms.  As of three days ago, we now have not one but two fully-functioning showers, as well as two beautiful, easy-to-clean bathrooms.  To say I'm excited is an understatement.  The bathrooms are GORGEOUS and I love them.  Ethan is just as excited as me: he loves the new counter tops, the additional sink in his bathroom ("his" sink), and, most of all, the built-in child seat on the toilet (an idea we got from Mimi's new toilets).  Caleb is just happy not to have to look for a contractor-free bathroom in order to use the toilet, but Ethan exclaimed over every shiny, new thing, right along with me.  Enjoy the pictures!

BEFORE, Master Bath 
(I never got a picture of the inside of the old shower, but it was those little white square tiles and had a low shower head and low ceiling.  Marcus had to bend over to get under the water.)
AFTER, Master Bath 
(Mirror still needs to be mounted, but other than that, it is finished :)
The contractor removed the shower ceiling and raised the shower head.

BEFORE, Kids' Bath
(The counter tops in both bathrooms were this strange surface of tile-ish leaf shapes embedded in concrete.  They were very hard to clean and never looked good, even when clean.)
 AFTER, Kids' Bath