Friday, October 31, 2014


If you'd like a reminder of what pumpkin carving generally entails in this household refer to this post from 2012...

This year we put off carving so long that the beloved event actually happened last night...the night. Before. Halloween. And in case you're wondering why I'm in so many of the photos, it's because this year it went a little something like this...

We gathered pumpkins at the pumpkin patch early in October with the excitement and intent to carve them (excitement and intent totally mine... Joe hates pumpkin carving... refer to linked post from 2012.)

Left the pumpkins outside and nearly "forgot" about carving until the kids insisted we needed jack-o-lanterns.

Everyone picks out a pattern except Joe who insists that drawing with a pen/marker is way less messy and much, much easier (COP OUT!)

Joe turns on a movie to be festive which in turn sucks the kids' every ounce of attention, which means they are distracted and mommy gets angry because IF YOU DON'T START CARVING WE'LL BE HERE ALL NIGHT!!

Joe helps Aubrey quickly carve what is supposed to be Tinkerbell's profile into her pumpkin and brags that he is done.

I enjoy carving my pattern of choice for the year and then move on to "helping" Brendan who is both too engrossed in the movie and also insisting he do his carving (a cat's face) himself.

I persuade Brendan to let me "help" him and end up mostly taking over while Joe takes photos and smirks that "oh, by the way... did I mention I'm finished?"

Violet is upset that it seems like everyone is doing something she's not allowed to do and is not easily swayed by my attempt to make measuring cups look just as fun.

We finish... dear Lord we finally finish... and we later pose the pumpkins for the traditional photo-op, get the kids to bed and thank heaven we're done till next year.

It's no wonder the carving ritual got skipped last year as I was either on bed rest, having a baby, or taking care of a tiny newborn for the entire month of October!

And for your viewing pleasure.. the final results...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Birthday Baby

We celebrated this sweet baby girl with friends and family yesterday as everyone joined us for a Saturday brunch.  She enjoyed every minute of being the center of attention and even devoured a piece of quiche, a sausage link and fruit before diving into her lemon-filled vanilla cupcake with raspberry buttercream frosting! She wouldn't wear the birthday princess hat that Aubrey reluctantly wore for her first birthday (and has worn nearly every birthday thereafter.) But she smiled when we sang to her and knew exactly where that cupcake needed to go once we gave her the OK.

Violet: One Month at a Time













Friday, October 24, 2014

12 months

We've made it through the first year and I somehow didn't feel like celebrating.  I wanted to deny that it was happening.  That my baby wouldn't be a baby much longer.  I love this sweet girl.

She's got all 4 teeth on the top but still only two on the bottom.  That doesn't seem to stop her from eating anything she can get her hands on.  She loves grilled cheese sandwiches, green beans and peaches.  She'll eat bean and cheese quesadillas, avocados, sweet potatoes, pb&j sandwiches, smoothies, homemade muffins.  The girl will literally eat almost anything.  Her special birthday dinner was salmon cakes, quinoa/wild rice mix, and zucchini.  She ate almost as much as I did.

Her vocabulary hasn't grown much but she's finally taken to saying "mama" more often than "dada." The one time we got her to say "sissy," Aubrey was over the moon and when she waves and says "hi!" it's enough to put a smile on anyone's face.

She uses a brush to "brush" her own hair and holds her toy remote to her ear like a phone and says "hi-o!" She doesn't like to sit still for long because she knows her mobility can get her places.  This makes it tough when the last thing we want her to do in most places is get down and crawl around on the ground.  Keeping her entertained is a constant battle.

She weighs 19lbs 8oz and is almost 29 inches long.  This puts her right at average for weight but at 26th% for length.  She's otherwise developing at a normal pace and my prediction is that she'll follow in Brendan's footsteps and won't start walking till around 16 months.

We'll have a toddler before we know it.  Another year will fly by and I'll be wishing I could have this time back.  It's a bittersweet time of looking forward to her new developments and watching the baby phases come and go.

Happy birthday sweet baby girl.  We love you more than words could say.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reliving It

I woke up that morning like nearly every other morning for the past 9 weeks.  Took a shower, dressed, dried my hair and took up residence on the couch with my growing belly.  After nearly 10 weeks on bed rest the end was in sight!  My c-section was scheduled in two days and everything was ready!  Our saint of a babysitter would be coming early Thursday morning to take the kids to school as we would need to be at the hospital at 5:30 am.  My parents would be arriving in the afternoon just in time to pick the kids up from school and bring them to the hospital to meet their baby sister.  I had gift bags prepared for the nurses, my overnight bag was only missing a few small items, I even had ingredients prepared to make muffins to take to the nurses Thursday morning (one batch for the night shift nurses getting ready to go home... one batch for the day shift nurses coming on... as their fellow friend and coworker I knew the way to their hearts.)

I figured I had come this far, my placenta was only a marginal previa (the fact that it had been completely covering my cervix weeks before, combined with my preterm contractions that I had been taking medication for were the reasons I was labeled high risk and put on bed rest.) I had been a good bed rest patient.  As good as can be when you are the mother of a preschooler and a second grader and the wife to a busy working husband.  You can only ask for so much help before feeling like a burden and taking on small tasks yourself. Joe took "Aubrey drop-off" duty, delivering her to preschool that morning before heading to work.  My friend and neighbor who had been taking Brendan to school with her daughter in the morning happened to be out of town that week so Brendan's drop off fell on me.  Then straight back home and back onto the couch.  

Until I started thinking about the few things I still needed for my overnight bag and the few items we needed from Costco.  I had stopped taking my contraction medication the previous weekend with the OK from my doctor since I had reached 37 weeks and would be "fine" if I went in to labor at that point (aside from the c-section that would still need to be done related to the placenta previa.) So I had started contracting fairly often again but nothing painful or labor-like.  I figured a quick trip to Fred Meyer to get my last few items and a trip to Costco would be fine.  I'd come right back and plant myself back into my spot on the couch that was beginning to bear a striking resemblance to a permanent mold of my backside.  No big deal.  I'd feel less stressed and everything would be ready to go.  So I made the two trips, came back home, packed up the few things I had purchased, put away items from Costco and made myself some lunch (a ham sandwich, snap peas and a peach... this is how specific my memory is of that day.) I heaved a sigh of relief, grabbed my laptop and plopped back down onto the couch to settle into an episode of Parenthood on Netflix.  But 5 minutes into my show, shortly after 1:00 in the afternoon, I felt a slight pop and a small rush of fluid between my legs.  Panic set in as I tossed the laptop aside and rushed to the bathroom thinking "please don't let it be blood, please don't let it be blood" knowing that, regardless, my next stop was going to be the hospital.  Thanking God with a silent prayer that my water had broken with no signs of bleeding, I lost all sense of mental control as a flood of thoughts overwhelmed me: 

"crap! what do I do first?!" 
"change my pants?"
"call the doctor's office?" 
"call Joe?"
"did I remember to pack underwear?" 
"are the baby clothes in my bag?" 
"crap! my bag isn't done being packed!" 
"who's going to pick up the kids?!" 
"this wasn't in the plan!!!"  

For a few short seconds I was seriously paralyzed without a clue of what to do next.  Eventually I got it together.  I called the hospital to let them know that I'd be coming in.  I called Joe and got no answer.  


Fortunately, being pregnant and on bed rest had given me a bit of priority as far as Joe and his work were concerned.  We developed a system wherein if I called and he didn't answer because he was busy that was fine.  But if I hung up and immediately called back it meant I needed him NOW (never mind that I accidentally forgot about this system and unknowingly abused it just a couple weeks prior when the plumber came out to fix an outdoor hose bib and I couldn't answer his questions... when Joe called back after the second call asking "honey?! is everything ok?! what's wrong?!" I remembered the system and immediately felt bad!) So here I was, using our "system" and immediately hitting redial.  

Still no answer... you've got to be KIDDING me! 

I stared at the phone in my hand and the paralyzing flood of thoughts started to return.  Fortunately for me, that only lasted a few seconds before the phone rang in my hands and I answered my husband's return call.  He had been getting ready to head out on an afternoon site visit by bike and planned on leaving his phone when his coworker heard it ringing (several times) and figured it must be serious.  My timing was impeccable. Instead of a bike ride, he was on his way home to take me to the hospital.  

On the way I called my friends in desperation for help with the kids.  One agreed to pick Aubrey up and keep her overnight.  One would pick Brendan up and deliver him to another friend who would keep him overnight.  I have amazing friends.  

I was triaged and admitted and apparently in luck.  Not only was my good friend Melissa working that day (who I had already chosen to be my nurse for Thursday's c-section) but my doctor was on call too!! When I asked who would be assisting my doctor (yes, I had chosen my entire team... when you work in the field it comes as a privilege and I felt most comfortable in these two women's care) I was told that said doctor was seeing patients in the office but had been notified and given the option of heading over to assist anyway (let me kill the suspense and tell you that she came... and I was forever grateful and honored.)   

I walked to my room, settled in, signed all paperwork, IV and meds started.  All the necessary prep for a c-section.  The realization hit me that I had forgotten the camera (I felt lucky I had remembered putting on pants at that point) but our modern technology came through for us as we handed off our phones for the nurses to use instead. Then I was wheeled down the hall to the OR while Joe waited in the hall for me to be prepped before coming back to sit at my side.  The spinal anesthesia was taking its time to set in but the team continued with preparation anyway.  The doctors were scrubbed and ready and the test "pinch" was given to make sure I couldn't feel anything.  So I think it came as a surprise when I cried "ouch!" and was still able to lift my legs.  The doctors gave a frustrating look to the anesthesiologist and asked him to please make me numb even if it required an epidural instead of a spinal (another spinal would have dropped my blood pressure to dangerous levels and my doctors and I refused to allow him to put me to sleep as that would require Joe waiting outside the OR for the duration of the procedure.) So I sat back up for an epidural placement just as the spinal anesthesia began to take some effect.  Joe was brought in and the surgery started but I felt a nagging fear that the anesthesia just wasn't right.  Minutes later I heard my sweet baby cry and Joe left my side to be with her.  But it was during the "repair" parts of the surgery that I started to feel more than I should have been feeling.  Joe brought sweet Violet to the head of the bed as I kissed her sweet face and grimaced in pain simultaneously.  I could feel my insides being "man handled" and I was trying to just deal with the pain. My doctors apologized profusely as they continued their repair.  The anesthesiologist kept repeating "it's normal to feel a little queasy" and I wanted to scream "I don't feel queasy, I feel pain you IDIOT!" but refrained.  The fortunate part is that at least I was still superficially numb, so while my fears that I would feel them stitching me up left my heart rate racing, I felt nothing but relief that their hands were finally out of my abdomen.  I was wheeled back to my room with my baby in my arms and some good drugs on board and that was the moment I started falling in love.  

I couldn't believe she was finally here.  And all the pain in the world was worth every ounce of her.  

This was a year ago today and yet I'm able to recount the whole story like it was yesterday.  And I relived the whole thing in my memory today as I battled the tears from mourning the time passing so quickly. Happy birthday baby girl... if only I could keep you little forever... 

  Violet Alexis 
Born 10-22-13 at 3:56 pm
6 lbs 6 oz. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Family Game Night

We were on a roll with the quality time we were spending with the kids over the weekend so, as we finished dinner Sunday night, I said "hey! let's play Farkle! We'll have a family game night!"

Of course you can probably guess from the score sheet whose reaction was less than appealing.  We convinced her that being on Daddy's team would make it more fun, she could help him roll the dice, we wanted her to participate.  She obliged but not completely.  The few times that her rolls failed to result in a score (aka a "Farkle") she would be on the floor in a puddle of tantrum and tears.  We tried explaining "chance" and "luck" and told her there was nothing she could have done differently but it was no use.  Eventually she'd come back.  But as soon as she rolled another Farkle she was gone again.  The rest of us pressed on.  We laughed, we high-fived, we tried convincing each other to take risks we wouldn't take ourselves.  And though Brendan won with the high score (reaching 10k points before the rest of us), I still think there should be a prize for the person who rolls the most Farkles ;)

As far as Aubrey is concerned... we'll keep working on her.  She'll come around eventually.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Just the Two of Us

This boy.  He makes my heart happy.

Joe decided to take Aubrey on a date Saturday afternoon after realizing she was starving for his attention and needed some one-on-one time.  She's a daddy's girl for sure.  So off they went, Aubrey boasting about her special time with Daddy. Of course Brendan was slightly devastated.  "What about me?" he asked sadly.

I told him we could have our own special date.  Just the two of us.  Me and my boy.

So we woke up early Sunday morning in order to make it to early church and I sat pondering what we could do that would make our day feel special.  Joe suggested a picnic so I presented the idea to Brendan and he was thrilled. I packed up some PB&J, carrots and snap peas, peaches and juice boxes. We grabbed a blanket, hopped in the van and headed to the park.  It was one of those unseasonably warm October days.  A little breezy but perfect for a picnic.  I asked him if he wanted to sit at a table or on a blanket in the grass.

"On a blanket!" he exclaimed, "it'll be more fun that way!"

So we spread out our picnic and began one of the best dates I've probably ever been on in my life.  We chatted about life.  He told me about school, his friends, his fears, his achievements, his projects, his dreams.  I listened.  I mean I REALLY listened.  My eyes were not glued to my phone (although sadly it was close, next time I vow to leave it behind... but then I wouldn't have captured this sweet "selfie.") I gave him my undivided attention and he thrived on it.  He finished his lunch before me but continued to chat as he showed me how he makes leaf necklaces when he can't find anyone to play with at recess.  My heart broke a little but he smiled as he linked them together and placed it around my neck.

I watched him play on the playground as I picked up our gear.  His pride at accomplishing the monkey bars is so incredibly sweet to see.  I helped him create an obstacle course which he completed with joy several times over.  We swung on the swings and I laughed harder than I have in as long as I can remember.  We joked, we played, we giggled, we bonded.  And as our date came to an end and we walked back to the van, I hugged him tightly and said "thanks for our date sweetheart... I had such a good time."

"I did too Mommy," he said. "Let's do it again soon..."

I planned this for him never realizing how much I needed it too.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Salty Cornbread

My son is a pleaser.  He always has been and always will be.  He loves to make people happy, especially, without a doubt, his mommy (he's 8 years old and still calls me mommy... I'm trying to hold on to it as long as I can before gently requiring him to give it up for his own personal social reasons.) So it shouldn't come as a surprise to me that he praises my cooking every chance he gets ("salmon?! I LOVE salmon!!" "what are you making mommy? it smells so good it makes me want to dance!") Maybe a little over the top at times but he's only trying to make me happy.  Who wouldn't be proud of that?

He has also developed a love for the kitchen and a desire to bake and cook.  And as he gets older, his desire for independence has increased immensely.  One day not too long ago we awoke one Sunday morning, took our time getting out of bed and came downstairs to realize Brendan had "made" us all breakfast.  He took the liberty of pouring the cereals he thought we each would like, setting the table, and even pouring the milk.  When Joe came down and began to chastise him for pouring the milk when he didn't know how long it would take us to come downstairs, starting in on an explanation about soggy cereal, I interrupted when I saw B fighting back tears.  "He had just poured it when we walked down" I said, "he was just trying to be nice..." And when he got up from the table to pour us all a glass of milk Joe said "oh no thanks Buddy, I'm good." (cue another disappointed look from the boy.) So even though I wouldn't normally have a glass of milk with breakfast I said "I'll have one sweetheart, and I'll even drink Daddy's." He smiled.

It was after this incident that I started thinking I should involve him in food prep more often.  It's a passion of mine and it warms my heart that it's something he longs to enjoy alongside me.  I was planning my ham and navy bean soup for Wednesday night and I traditionally make a batch of homemade cornbread to go with it.  How hard could that be? He's 8, he can measure, I'll supervise, it's the perfect first solo baking attempt.  So I suggested it and he was thrilled.  I typed up the recipe (here several of you are wondering why I didn't just use a boxed mix... I have a tried and true recipe from my mama, it's easy, it's amazing... I don't do boxes.) I sat at the counter and let him go to work.  I gave him gentle direction but, per his insistence, I didn't touch a thing. It was when we got to the cornmeal that we hit a minor roadblock.  He poured what was left of the box in the pantry and it measured 1/4 of the entire 1 cup that he needed.  I texted frantically, no neighbors had it on hand either.  I decided to take Violet next door to continue the hunt.  We had come this far, most of the ingredients had been measured, I couldn't back out on him now! So I left him to continue (minus the cornmeal for now) after showing him the salt and explaining teaspoons vs tablespoons (little t... big T.) But the hunt turned up nothing (come on people! who doesn't have cornmeal as a staple in their pantry?!) so we packed up all three kids and headed to Albertson's for a quick in-and-out stop for cornmeal.  We headed back home, he finished up the recipe, stirred like a champ (when I stepped forward saying "here buddy, let me show you how to-" and he cut me off with a sharp "NO! Don't show me, just tell me!") It was his work, he wanted to be proud.  He poured it into the prepared pan, put it in the oven and set the timer.  It baked up puffy and golden brown along the edges, it looked perfect.

We sat down to dinner.  We all ate half a bowl of ham and beans and our salad before cutting into the bread.  It felt like a christening of sorts.  It smelled heavenly.  I served my family.  A piece for Brendan, a piece for Aubrey, a piece for Daddy, even a piece cut up for Violet.  I heard Joe say "mmm... pretty good buddy" as I cut my own piece.  He sat at the table with eager anticipation.  He wanted so bad to hear me sing his praises.  So I can't tell you why I said what I did other than that I was shocked and I spoke before I could think.

I sunk my teeth in, wrinkled up my nose, nearly spit the piece out, chewed it slowly instead and said "oh... oh no..." as I looked at Joe who was reprimanding me with his eyes.

"Salt?" Joe asked so calmly and nicely.

"Um... yeah... oh wow... way too much salt... I think maybe he mixed up teaspoons for tablespoons" (in which case he put three times the amount of salt that was called for.) Joe put his piece down, I gently pushed mine away and discreetly reached over and swiped Violet's piece from her tray. And then came the tears (his... not mine.)  I looked over and he was devastated.  Full.  On.  Tears. I tried everything I could to take back what I had done.

"Buddy, I've made mistakes too.  It happens all the time! One time Daddy made a cake without baking powder and it didn't even rise! Think about how awesome the cornbread looks... it wasn't a bad mistake. Aubrey's eating it!" (yes we let her finish her piece... I figured if the taste didn't throw her off, I owed it to her brother to let her finish her piece and be the one to exclaim "I think it tastes good!")

But he was clearly hurt by my words and I couldn't take it back.  We put the kids to bed and I moped into the kitchen.  As soon as Joe came down I started in on him.

"You could have warned me! You took a bite and told him it was good!"

"I was trying to be nice" he scolded, "YOU were mean!"

I had to make things right.  I texted my friends and told them what had happened and one texted back with a suggestion "just go cuddle up to him in bed and whisper in his ear 'you didn't mean to.. Mommy was just a bit surprised.'" So that's exactly what I did.

He was lying in the dark with his arms wrapped around his teddy.  I laid down next to him.  "Can I snuggle you?" I whispered.  I wrapped my arms around him and he started to cry.  "I'm sorry for what I said sweetheart.  I'm so proud of you for trying and you did such an amazing job.  It's easy to make a mistake like that.  Not everything I make turns out perfect."

"Yes it does!" he countered, "your food is ALWAYS good!"

Well OK then... we will not argue.

"It hasn't always been that way buddy.  I learned from my mom too and it took years and years of practice.  I love that you want to cook and it makes me proud that you love something that I enjoy too. It made me so happy to see you trying your best.  And I hope you'll try again."

I could see him smiling in the dark.

"Can you forgive me?" I asked "I love you so much."

He nodded his affirmation. "I love you too Mommy."

My heart was full, his hurt was healed. "I fixed it" I told Joe as I sunk into the couch.

Our kitchen adventures commence!