Saturday, November 30, 2013

NO kids...

This week, for the first time in TWO years and FIVE months, Jacob and I went on vacation without our children.  (I choose not to count our April 2012 Asheville trip as I was 8 months pregnant. That definitely doesn't count.)

That's a LONG time folks!

Happy that our children were now well, I just needed to get past the act of leaving them (you know when you actually leave and there is crying from both big and little eyes) and then I knew I would L.O.V.E. our trip!

The plan was to drive to Meemaw's house (Jacob's mom) on Sunday, acclimate them, and then leave on Monday morning.  Jack had been counting down to Meemaw Camp all week, so he helped ease the parting by saying to his aunt on Sunday night:
"Do you know what is REALLY exciting me?  (eyebrows raised, voice pitched high, eyes cut towards Jacob and me) "They're leaving."


Whatever!  I know he loves us and I was happy to see how excited he was to spend three days with his Meemaw, aunts, and his cousin Wyatt.  He was just as excited for his three day "camp" as we were about our trip!

I was more worried about Cora.  I figured she'd be fine, but she's always had either Jacob or me with her at night.  She did cry when we left (a momma's ego needs a little stroking) but quickly calmed down and also had a blast with Meemaw's toys, lots of extra love, and a new place to toddle around.

Day 1 (rainy) was craft day.

Day 2 (also rainy) was baking day.

Day 3 (sunny!) was adventure day.  Out to lunch, holding alligators, and a visit to the fire station!

I think they look like they are having fun.

Ok, maybe not here :)

Jacob will be quick to tell you that I was only willing to leave Cora for 3 days, but I thought that was quite enough for her first time apart.  So we decided on the unusual vacation choice of Houston, because it was only 3 hours of additional driving past Meemaw's house.  It was in the 40's and rainy most of the time, but we didn't care.  Highlights:

  • Holes on audiotape in the car
  • Trying out all the Houston Yelp recommendations, our favorite: Uchi for sushi
  • Not one, but TWO matinees!

Catching Fire and 12 Years a Slave - highly recommend both
  • A very nice, new hotel - got to love Priceline!  $76 for a 4*
  • Shopping
  • Gym visits before late dinner reservations - oh the DECADENCE of it all!
(Had to laugh remembering visiting the gym on our California Thanksgiving trip last November... we were there at 5:00 AM with two kids! since J & C were waking at 4 AM due to the time change)

  • Quiet time to do whatever I felt like
  • Time to talk (without 80 interruptions) and hang out with each other
We got home late Wednesday after J & C were asleep, but it was awesome to see Cora's sleepy smile in the middle of the night when she saw her Momma was back!

We have our hands full with these two right now (and will need to have monthly vacations to have any chance of staying refreshed for them...) but we are so thankful for their exuberant, healthy, opinionated selves!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When Daddy's away...


Jacob's first trip after Cora's birth: He departs for the airport at 4am, leaving me in the bathroom with Jack who is heaving over the toilet.  6 week old Cora wakes up soon thereafter, so we just go ahead and start the day.

October 2013 trip: Jack gets an intense and messy stomach bug.  It hits me next.  Jack, meanwhile, has recovered, leaving me alone and barely functioning with two high energy children on my hands.

Last week's trip: Cora's cold turns into a fever which turns into an ear infection, turning her into an unable to sleep, distraught mess.  I have the same cold, fever, and a splitting headache.

I'm sensing a trend.  Note to husband: You will never be allowed to leave again.

For my own confidence levels and for Jack's and Cora's sake, I'd like to prove to myself that I can rock the solo parenting gig.

There were some bright spots last week.  Since Cora was passing out by 6pm each night, Jack and I had some very sweet time together and worked on several art projects.  He really likes to fully take part and I'm seeing that he's actually more capable than I give him credit for.  He loves himself some scissors, so I traced shapes for him to cut out.
Memory game in the doll house
 I was also proud how I figured out how to accomplish most of my work to-do list on the day Cora needed to stay home from school.  I had a 20 step list and we accomplished it all before 11, with her visiting two of my schools.  But at naptime everything went downhill.  I tried for hours to get her to nap, but she just screamed in pain every time she lied down... which led to the LONG stretch between 4pm and 6pm with a grumpy, sick toddler, a cooped up little boy, and a grumpy mom who just wanted to lay down my aching head.

This was probably 5:00

SO HAPPY to see this guy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Power of a List

Most people who know me know organization is one of my strengths.  I'm Type A through and through (excepting my type O- blood).  So it's no secret I like lists. 

I have my weekly action plan/to-do list.  I sit down on Sunday afternoons and plan meals, check my work and Jacob's calendars, and figure out what I'll get done each day toward my non-work responsibilities/ projects.  I love this system because it focuses me during my small chunks of free time each day.

I use a Word document to plan my work time.  It's very low-tech.  In the word document is a simple two row, five column table for each week.  When I have a project, I backwards plan the steps dropping actions on days I work.  When I leave a meeting, I add in any action steps.  I work hard, but if I don't finish everything on Monday, I move it to the next day.  When I'm really on top of it, I go into the document (which is always open on my computer) at night and order the items on the next day so that I'm maximally efficient in my limited work time.

And then last Christmas, I asked for this wall calendar.  Jacob couldn't wrap his mind around why I needed a wall calendar when I had a weekly desk calendar and a Google calendar.  He, a big-picture, yellow/blue personality, should have at least appreciated how this gives me a visual, high-level look of everything going on, even if he doesn't share my "in the details", green nature.  This calendar is mainly just something I reference to get a sense of where we are at in the month, how I remember if I've sent our babysitter an electronic check, and where it's easy to combine Jacob's and my evening commitments.  Jack likes it because he erases it each month and helps me put the magnet letters at the top.

I write all of this to say that even as organized as I like to be, I hadn't realized how helpful one simple list could be to my parenting.

I picked up the habit of writing "daily pages" from The Artist's Way for Parents.  The author suggests filling three pages each morning as a way to connect with your inner creativity, organize your thoughts, as an outlet, etc.  Morning didn't work for me, but most nights now I open up a simple notebook and just deposit thoughts.  This has been really powerful for me not as a journal but as a way to identify if anything's bothering me and then to make a plan to do something about it.  For example, one night I was feeling like I wasn't spending quality time with Cora in the way that I've always done with Jack.  Obviously Jack had a lot of 1:1 time with me before Cora, but he's still getting more attention as he's the older child and has more specific needs. 

I wrote "CORA" in big letters.  I'd already been defaulting to making to-do lists in my pages, so I decided to make a plan for how I was going to spend time with Cora the next day.  It took me about 30 seconds to come up with a few things I knew Cora would like (walking around the block just the two of us, reading books, singing songs) and I immediately felt more at peace because I had a plan. 

I've done this countless times since.  If I'm overwhelmed by a busy day looming, I just map it out and I feel more relaxed seeing how it will go.  If I feel burnt out on how I'm spending my time with my kids, I brainstorm some ideas the night before and then I have fresh energy the next day.

A list can make you so much more intentional in how you use the precious time of each day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

She's 17 months!

I have so much to say about Cora!  From one month to the next, she continues to change so much.

What is really cute about Cora right now:
  • She has become really loving and gives Jacob and me frequent, unprompted leg hugs.  She'll also launch herself on your back for a hug if ever you are down on her level.
  • She makes the cutest "OH MY!" expressions.  Wide, round eyes, perfect "O" mouth, body stiffening
  • She compulsively turns on the radio before going into our playroom to play.  And if it's a good song, she'll dance.
  • She has learned to nod/shake her head and so now we feel like we can have conversations with Cora.
  • She strung her first phrases together with "Hi" and "Bye".  When Jacob and Jack leave in the morning, Cora stands at the top of the stairs saying "Bye-bye da-da, bye-bye dja-dja" over and over.  When they leave and stop responding to her, she gets more insistent and starts yelling :)
  • She learned the word no and says it with a definite coyness: eyebrows arched and drawn out "No.." as she leans away.
Why I heard my husband describe my beautiful daughter as a "brat" the other night:
How could this sweet girl have a rascal side?
  • She learned the word no and uses it liberally.
  • She SCREECHES anytime she doesn't like what's happening.
  • She pulls Jack's hair when she doesn't like what he's doing.  (He is actually very patient with her and generally not the guilty party.)
  • She's learned how to pitch a fit.
  • She's become a picky eater (most of the time).
In Jacob's defense, he was actually talking about how sweet it was to have a daughter, but then had to qualify that "she's a bit of a brat lately though."  She is a charming, loving, adorable little girl, so we need to make sure we don't just see her as being cute and make sure we're consistent.  It is hard to remember this when you're used to an older child; it's easy to just write off the younger child's behavior because "she's just a baby."

Other noteworthy things about Cora this month:
A great place to do some reading!
  • She's an amazing sleeper!  She goes down at 7pm and, about 75% of the time, she wakes between 5-6am, but then nurses and goes back to sleep until 7, 7:30, even 8 once!
  • She's down to one nap after lunch.  At home, it's 3 hours; at school, it's less, so she's WIPED by dinner on school days.
  • Jack and Cora play together more and more which I love!  My favorite is when they make each other laugh :)
  • Cora pays attention to routines and mimics what she sees the rest of us doing (in the bathroom, getting dressed, turning off lights, climbing stairs, closing gates, etc.)  Because of this we got our little potty out and she likes to sit on it, but nothing much has happened.
  • Nursing moved back up to the top of her favorite things list.  She loves "mih" and knows exactly where to find it.  To anyone who says that "when they are old enough to ask for it, they're too old for it," you've obviously never nursed a 12+ month baby!  It's a really beautiful connection. Nursing at this point is much less demanding on the mom, so comforting to the baby, and a two-way bonding experience.  To have Cora be upset and to ask her "will milk make it all better?" and to have her stop crying and nod her head.  PRICELESS!
17 months old!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

October in Pictures

Busy, busy!  I hope to write soon, but I didn't want another week to go by without some kind of post.  Luckily, we've captured a lot of great pictures in the past few weeks.  Here is what we've been up to:

College-era friends Allison, JP, and Erin visit and bring baby Lucas
Loving the cooler temps - lots of outside play
Fall Festival at church

Boo at the Zoo!
Cora loved it too!
Jacob goes out of town and leaves me with these two cuties.  This picture is BEFORE the stomach bug hit our house.  WHAT A ROUGH 24 HOURS!
Big Papa and Grammy visit!
Matching PJs!  Late October - first night cool enough to wear winter pjs.

Furman-LSU game in Tiger Stadium!
Happy Cora

Mommy-Jack breakfast date at Stein's
Happy Halloween from the fireman and his firehouse dog!

Halloween 2013