OK to Wake Clock: A Love Story

2016 April 18

I was hesitant to transition our daughter from the confines of her cage–oh, sorry.   I think the politically correct term for that is crib. Crib. Let me start over.

baby cage

I was hesitant to transition our daughter from the confines of her crib to her big girl bedroom.  I feared that my years of controlling bedtimes and wake-times would be over. Would she be roaming the halls drawing on the walls, playing with knives, and lighting matches in the middle of the night while the adults slept upstairs? Or way WAY worse: would she wake us up before 8am?

In efforts to quell those fears, I bought this AMAZING clock and put it to use the day she moved out of the crib and into her new room.  It has worked like a charm.  The light on the clock turns green when it is time for her to wake up—a time I decide and set.  Then, and only then, she calls us enthusiastically, “Mommy, Daddy, Baby Sister, my light turned green!”  And the day begins.   My studies have shown that, like dogs, young children have no real concept of time.  You have to be the one to guide them if you don’t want the bedtime/waketime situation to become a GD free-for-all.

Ok to wake image

 

A few tips for making the green light work:

  • The key to making this clock system work for you and your child is to set the rules and enforce them. Your house, your rules.  At our house, our daughter is not allowed to come out of her room on her own accord after we tuck her in for bedtime.  She knows she has to stay in her room until morning when her light turns green.  If she wakes up in the morning before the green light, then she is free to quietly read, play, and explore the recesses of her imagination in her room.  We euphemistically refer to whatever the heck goes on in there before her light turns green as “Independent Playtime.”
  • Consistency is key. Clearly set and enforced boundaries benefit the whole family.  A few times in the beginning Harper would call us in the morning before her light turned green. Knowing that she was safe and not being attacked by a tiger as she claimed, we waited until the green light to go get her. Then we lovingly reminded her of the rules and we did our best to follow them too.  Do not cave!  Kids Can Be Tricky Little Tyrants. (←working title of my forthcoming parenting book).
  • Both parents must be on the same page about the ultimate authority of The Green Light.  Even the softer, sweeter parent needs to be totally bought into the system. There is one in every parenting duo. I’m not going to name names, but if I were to translate the name of the somewhat softer member of our parenting partnership’s name into Spanish, it would be Juan.
  • Pro tip: I set the clock for one time on the weekdays and usually a different, slightly later time on the weekends. If it’s been a late and wild Saturday night for the adults, we tick that clock back so that we can get some extra sleep in the morning.  Say it with me now, independent playtime.  Big sis is nonethewiser and usually sleeps in a bit on the weekends anyway.
  • We keep the clock on the highest shelf in the room so that our daughter can’t tinker with it and mess with the buttons.  No touching the clock allowed.
  • When our children spend the night with my parents or when we go on vacation, the clock comes along. It is just part of the routine around here.

In conclusion, if our house was on fire and I could save one thing from my daughter’s room, it wouldn’t be the heirloom dresses hand-smocked by her great grandmother, or her woefully neglected baby book, it would be the OK to Wake Clock.  It is a tad more expensive than your typical alarm clock, but after seeing how well it has worked for our family, I would happily pay ten times what we paid for it—the peace of mind and sleep it provides are priceless.

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Wise Words

2016 March 21
by Jennifer

 

I wanted to thank you for your sweet response to my last post sharing about our loss.  Each and every note and email and comment you wrote meant so much. Thank you.

erin gregory flower painting

A wise friend encouraged me to be gentle with myself during this time while I heal emotionally and physically. Be gentle with yourself… what wonderful advice. I loved that and it really has been such a healthy mindset—and not a bad way to live period. Here is how I have been being gentle with myself and what I have been doing lately to help the fog lift:

  • Doing the things that make me happy. Long walks, takeout, crosswords, music, magazines, Netflix, and spending time with friends.
  • Doing things that make my children happy. I have been especially grateful for my little chickadees these past few weeks, and as a result I’ve been more indulgent (and more patient) than usual. Extra ice cream, park time, play dates and movies for everyone.
  • Feeling the feelings, talking, writing and sharing.  I was nervous to press publish on that last post. But it turns out that it was quite cathartic to put it all out there. So many of you have experienced the same sort of loss, and it has been so helpful to share my story and to hear yours.
  • Getting back into the flow. After a few days of weepy wallowing, it was time to rejoin society. Returning to regularly scheduled programming and a routine that includes showers, under-eye concealer, real clothes and leaving the sofa is a good thing.
  • Saying yes. So often in life we say no when someone offers to do something nice for us because we don’t want to be a burden or an imposition. But when I was recovering from the surgery and the physical portion of all of this, I just said yes. Can I pick up dinner on the way home? Yes. Need anything from Costco? Yes. Can Harper come play? Yes. Another brownie? Another episode?  Another glass? Yes. Yes. Yes.
  • Saying no. Sometimes no is the best answer. Spin class? No. Conference call? No. That thing you invited me to that I don’t feel like going to? No.
  • Buying things. Contrary to what a professional therapist may lead you to believe, retail therapy may actually be helping. I bought a couple dresses to spice up my spring wardrobe, among other things. Since there has been a sudden spike in spending, I was not at all surprised when SunTrust called to see if my credit card was stolen. But it turns out that my card number actually was compromised. Some crook Ubered all over Miami, went on a shopping spree at Zara and made a series of charges to an online dating site for single parents. The jig is up, my friend. SunTrust is coming for you.
  • Reading my reads. Currently reading and thoroughly enjoying this book and this book.
  • Watching my watches. A friend who knows me well and loves me well recently gave me her HBO Go login information. She knew just what I needed in my time of need. I have been catching up on Girls, Togetherness, Veep and Olive Kitteridge.
  • Going to church. We took the family to church the Sunday after everything. We’ve been trying to lean in and worship even though it aches a bit. It was good to be surrounded by friends and a community of people who are all trying to believe. It was like every song we sang that day was chosen especially for us and our situation. This song and this song really got me. I ugly cried pretty much the entire service. It was humbling but quite healing.
  • Not going to church. We made the obvious choice not to go to church on daylight savings Sunday. That day, being gentle with myself meant sleeping late and not rushing out the door. Instead we had a leisurely family breakfast and went for a stroll together on a nearby trail. The sun was out and my heart felt full of joy and peace and gratitude for the first time in recent days.

The fog is indeed lifting. I knew it would. There are still sad moments but the sting is gone. Time and distance from all of this is healing.  And I think I will continue to put things through the being gentle with myself filter. You should try it.

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Monday Mourning

2016 March 7
by Jennifer

 

“There is no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.”

The ultrasound technician left the room and went to get my doctor. I lay there alone in the dimly lit room and felt my heart sink through the floor. The tears came and wouldn’t stop.

*             *             *

I found that I was pregnant the day after Christmas. I was shocked when I saw the plus sign on the pregnancy test. I shared the news John by hiding the positive test for him to find among the ornaments as we undecorated our Christmas tree. He was even more surprised than I was.  Getting pregnant with Hallie and Harper took years and tears and a whole lot of trying. Now we were one of those “whoops, we’re pregnant” couples that I secretly envied.   We definitely weren’t trying for a third child just yet, but once the shock wore off, the joyful anticipation set in.

When I went in for the first ultrasound at six weeks all was well. Flickering heartbeat, due date set for September 7th. We began to dream about having three children, and envisioned what it would be like with the last two being so close in age. Whoa. Sixteen months apart. Crazy, sure, but also ripe with joyful and exhausting chaos.

I had a second ultrasound at around ten weeks and all was well. Growing baby, measuring on time, strong heartbeat. We were excited and shared the news that we were expecting #3 with friends and family. Together we were not-so-secretly hoping for a little boy to complete our family of five.

Then another ultrasound at thirteen weeks.

Silence.

The days that followed have been the longest of my life. The news, the wondering, the waiting, the painful procedure, the emptiness. The moments in between  passed painfully slowly. And the nights were the worst. Darkness and sadness covered me, covered us. I tossed and turned, unable to get the image I saw in the ultrasound out of my mind. My precious, silent and still baby boy, a treasured life lost.

Known-III-•-9x12

My doctor said that, depending on who is counting, the odds of having a miscarriage are 1 in 3 or 1 in 5. As you and I sit here and do the math among ourselves and our friends, we know that statistic is tragically true. That is why I share something so private so publicly. Too many of us are members of this sad sorority. It is heartbreaking that something so painful is so common.

It doesn’t matter how far along you are when things go silent–three weeks, thirteen weeks, thirty-three weeks. The moment a woman sees that positive sign on the pregnancy test, we are already connected and in love with the child growing inside us.  Our heads and hearts are already a million miles down the road.  When things go wrong we grieve what could have been and mourn the loss of the family we imagined.

david arms painting

John has been amazing through this, comforting me while he walks through his own grief.  And our friends have been incredible—many of them have experienced this kind of loss, and some have tragically been through far, far worse.  Their unshakable faith and their encouraging words have been our comfort.  Over the past few days, friends and family have called and written, sent food and flowers, and taken our oldest out for adventures. We have been covered with love and prayer. We felt those prayers and believe in their power. God is still good.

And what if, what if this was God’s best for us? What if this was His best for our sweet son? I have to believe that He has the aerial view while we sit down here, trying to make sense of the blur with our noses smashed against the screen.

I am grieving but I am also grateful.  I have two precious girls. Two!  My healthy, happy, hilarious children are the greatest gift I have ever been given.  I have been squeezing them extra tight.  I know that I am beyond blessed.

But still, my heart hurts.

I know that time and distance from all of this will be healing.  So I sit here waiting for the fog to lift. I know it will.

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Mommy, I have a question

2016 February 29
by Jennifer

I love seeing my three-year-old daughter’s little wheels turn as she tries to figure out the world around her. Much of that churning comes in the form of a barrage of questions, aimed at me, over the course of the day. At home, in the car, wherever we are–I am peppered with questions asked by a curious girl with the sweetest little raspy voice.

magna master

Just to mark this moment in time, I wrote down a portion of the questions I had to answer yesterday. Between our house and Target.

  • Can cats swim?
  • Can dogs swim?
  • When can we get a cat?
  • Why can’t we have a cat?
  • Does everyone in our neighborhood like rainbows?
  • Can I have six brothers and six sisters?
  • Can I watch something before my nap?
  • Was I born in a stable?
  • Who is my fairy godmother?
  • Can I have a snack?
  • So what do you think daddy is doing right now?  How about right now?
  • What do seals eat?
  • Who eats penguins?
  • You don’t know much about polar bears, do you mom?
  • What is heaven like?
  • Do I have to take a bath today? And tomorrow?
  • Where is Cinderella’s real mommy?
  • What happened to Anna and Elsa’s mommy?
  • Today would be a perfect day for a picnic at the beach, right mommy?
  • Should we use some tape to make Hallie’s socks stay on her feet?
  • What are birds afraid of?
  • Does Jesus live in Winnie the Pooh’s heart?
  • Why did you honk?
  • Where is that car going?
  • Well do you have a guess?
  • Why are we going this way?
  • The Big Bad Wolf wont be able to blow down that brick house, will he mom?
  • Macaroni is healthy for you, right mommy?
  • What are we going to do after my nap?
  • Is tomorrow the weekend?
  • So what’s our plan?
  • When will I be 4?
  • Mommy, am I pretty special? (yes. definitely yes)

Know that this is just a tiny fraction of the questions I am asked daily. Sprinkle in a few dozen “what does that sign say,” “how do you spells,” “where is my,” why can’t I”…as well as some clearly erroneous statements followed by “right mommy?” and you get a more accurate picture of the sheer quantity.

…And if I answer, “I don’t know”  she ALWAYS follows up with, “Well, do you have a guess?”

Having little babies is obviously physically exhausting. The wrangling, carrying, dressing, schlepping and cajoling to get little ones from point A to point B is quite draining. But by three, the physical demands on the mother have been replaced with verbal demands. By the end of the day I am verbally exhausted–though completely and thoroughly and utterly entertained.

 

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The Question Game

2016 January 29
by Jennifer

Recently, My Man had a milestone birthday—the kind of birthday that called for mild consoling, a new level of intimacy with his primary care physician, celebration and chocolate cake. We hosted a casual dinner with some close friends to mark the big event. It was a wonderful night full of good food, good friends, and good conversation.  Our friends are all decent excellent conversationalists, but sometimes at a big table you end up only talking to the person seated beside you.  Ever advocates for the unified larger group conversation, we had our guests play The Question Game.  It is not a game really, but a surefire way to facilitate quality convo at dinner parties. This is great to do with new friends and old friends and strangers and family members and strange family members.

the question game image

Here is how it went down:  Before the party, I came up with a list of questions and wrote each one on a sealed post-it. I put all the post-its in a vase and placed the vase (and a few bottles of wine) at the center of the table. Each person took a turn picking a question to answer. There was depth, there was laughter, and I learned something new about even my oldest friends.

I have written my questions out below. You can use them as a jumping-off point to draft your own, or simply print these, cut them into strips, and pull them out at your next dinner party. Everyone can answer the same question or each person can answer their own. You are a grownup and you can make your own rules.

THE QUESTION GAME

  • What are you freakishly good at? What are you embarrassingly bad at?
  • What are two things you are looking forward to this year?
  • If you had an extra $200 a week to spend on yourself, what would you do with it?
  • What was the best book you read last year? What are you reading now?
  • Who is someone in your life that you wish you could spend more time with?
  • What was your proudest moment from the past year?
  • Name three people (dead or alive) that you would like to have dinner with and why.
  • Name something you would like to do, but are scared to try.
  • What is the best gift you’ve ever given? What is the best gift you’ve ever received?
  • What is your biggest fear? What was your biggest fear as a child, teenager, young adult?
  • If all of your friends and family members were asked to describe you, who would provide the most accurate description (excluding your spouse)?  What would they say that not many people know?
  • Describe your perfect day.
  • What advice would you give your 15-year-old self? Your 25-year-old self?
  • What was the worst date you’ve ever been on? Best date?
  • Is there something in your life you hope is different this time next year?
  • Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that has changed you or your outlook? Has a book or movie ever made you change a behavior?
  • What is one trait of yours you hope your children inherit? What is one trait of yours you hope they don’t inherit?
  • Have you ever totally changed your mind about something?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • Have you ever done something you said or thought you’d never do?

the question game

Go fourth and get talking.

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What the Children are Getting for Christmas (shhhhh)

2015 December 18
by Jennifer

It’s Christmastime in America.  That means it’s time to gather around family and friends, share traditions new and old, retell the incredible story of the Christ Child born in a lowly manger, count our many blessings…

AND BUY STUUUUFF!!!

I am caught somewhere between wanting to de-emphasize the materialistic overtones of the holiday—-and wanting to absolutely blow my little one’s mind on Christmas morning.  After all, she has been an angel this year.

my angel

‘Tis the season for giving, and I try to be thoughtful in selecting the gifts I give my children and the other children in my life.  I want to get toys that will actually be played with and hopefully enjoyed for years to come. Here is a snapshot of what the kids in my life are getting for Christmas.  These are the things we are giving our daughters, nieces, nephews, and godchildren, and the things we have requested when Santa and generous grandparents have asked.

IMG_0372

((And please let me spare you from losing precious time to the AmazonReviewVortex.  I did the research so you don’t have to. These gifts all get stellar ratings and reviews from the dear souls who actually take the time to write them.))

Games. I love games and my oldest is juuust getting to the age to start playing. Gifting games to families with multiple kids is great because by nature, they have to be shared to be enjoyed. Give a game and boom! You have facilitated family fun. I have done some serious research, and these are some of the most highly recommended per age group.  Thinkfun Roll & Play Game  (age 2+) | The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game (age 3-7) |  Zingo (age 4-8)  |  Camelot Jr (age 4-9)  |  Qwirkle (age 5+)

games

Easel and Art Supplies. We bought an easel from Ikea, but if you or your marriage can’t withstand a trip to Ikea during the holidays, I hear great things about this Melissa & Doug easel. We purchased some paints and other supplies to go with it.  (Kid’s scissors will also be in the stocking because Harper got a P on her 3’s report card in the scissor department.  P=needs practice. No more 90210 until she gets that grade up.)

melissa and doug easel and art supplies

Magna-tiles. Yes. They are crazy expensive but any family who has them will tell you they are worth the investment. Looking to save a quick buck, I offered to buy used magna-tiles from my sister-in-law but she said her older kids still play with them.  I hear the similar (and slightly more affordable) Magformers are and Stick N Stack Shape Mags are also great.

magnatiles

Lego Chain Reactions Kit. This is what I am giving the little LEGO lovers in my life.  It helps turns ordinary LEGOS into a rube goldberg project (AKA mousetrap). According to the manufactures: “LEGO Chain Reactions is packed full of ideas, instructions, and inspiration for 10 LEGO machines that spin, swing, pivot, roll, lift, and drop. Each machine alone is awesome, but put them together and you get incredible chain reactions.” Sold.

lego chainreactions

Magnetic Pattern Board. Because this seems like the sort of toy future Harvard alumnae would play with. This one and this one get good reviews.

magnetic pattern board

Princess First Aid Kit. This is what Harper asked Santa for when she sat in his lap. Lucky for us him it costs $8 at our local drugstore. Basically it is a box of princess Band-Aids and Neosporin. A perfect gift for our household hypochondriac.

princess first aid kit

Story Cards. Harper is really into being told made-up stories right now. Awesome! But that is a lot of pressure on the adults in our family to be endlessly imaginative at a moments notice. These cute and inexpensive cards will help her start telling stories of her own and help us as we are forced to be creative in the wee hours of the morning.

eeboo-tell-me-a-story-creative-story-cards-

Ariel  Doll Water Toy Thing. Harper saw a commercial for this water-loving doll and can’t stop talking about it. I am usually not a fan of the one-note plastic toys, but it’s Christmas and I’m pretty sure Harper will freak the H out when she unwraps this on the big day.  (And three cheers for long baths!)

ariel water doll

PJs.  Because new pajamas are a time-honored Christmas tradition. Hannah Anderson PJs on little people make my heart sing and these Christmas pjs are precious too.  I am also loving these, and these too. Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

striped pajamas

 

Oh.  There was one more thing.

A Magnifying Glass.  Let me transcribe a recent exchange I had with the 3.5-year-old.

Me: “Harper, what do you want for Christmas?”

Harper: “A magnifying glass.”

Me: “Oh? What are you going to do with a magnifying glass?”

Harper: “Look for clues.”

Me: “Like what?”

Harper: “Clues like footprints.”

Mimi, Nana, Santa, SOMEONE get this child a magnifying glass.

She is going to find El Chapo and we’re all going to be rich.

 

It is going to be a very Merry Christmas.

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Toys that Get Played With

2015 December 14
by Jennifer

toys that get played with

Before having children, we all have grand ideas for them as far as playtime is concerned. “They will play outside and use their imaginations,” you say. “They will make up their own games and we will have no need for TV. The playroom will be filled with books and perhaps one wooden toy per child.”

Hilarious.  I blinked and ended up with one of these smack dab in the middle of our living room.

In my experience you can only defend your home from the toy invasion for so long. Little by little the plastic (and the princesses) creep in. Some of it is indeed crap, but some of it is solid gold—things that can entertain your children for hours.

Here are some of our favorite toys. These are the toys that actually get played with at our house. These are the toys that our oldest child and her playmates have loved and that won’t be outgrown anytime soon.

best toys for preschoolers

1.  Blocks and building toys. These are what our Montessori friends call manipulatives. Building toys are great for creative open-ended play for kids of all ages. We love these, these, and these.

2.   A to Z magnatab. Great for letter recognition and learning to write.

3.  Magic moves wand. This is exactly the kind of toy that you think you would never buy for your child. It’s plastic, lights up and makes noise. But! This is awesome and has provided our daughter hours of entertainment. She plays with it alone and it’s fun to pull out when she has friends over. It is like a Simon Says game with music and instructions–a big hit with boys and girls of different ages. Gold I tell you.

4.  Tunnel. Who knew that this would be such a hit?! We have one from Ikea but this one is similar. It scrunches up for easy compact storage.

5.  Art supplies. Especially washable ones.

6.  Magnadoodle. Awesome to play with at home and we always pack ours for road trips.

7.  Puzzles. Big floor puzzles are great for young puzzlers.  Here is a good one for younger kids and here is a good one for older kids.

8.  Doctor Kit and Dress-up Costume Aim high, little one.

9.  Wooden School Bus Set.  Wooden toys for the win.  This set is precious.

So there you have it.  Most of these toys foster creativity, are great for independent and collaborative play. I hope they bring your little ones hours of (unsupervised) fun.

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Our Favorite Children’s Books

2015 December 8

our favorite childrens books

Reading to my little ones is one of my favorite things. We have a great collection of books at home and we make a point of regularly going to the library to get a big stack to keep things fresh for the reader and the read to. Over the years I have read hundreds of children’s books, and as the reader, I definitely have developed an opinion on the subject.

To me children’s books fall into three categories:

  • Really. How did this get published? I’m not going to name names, it just wouldn’t be nice.  And I wouldn’t want the author of  Gulp! or Crocs! to beat me up in a back alley. These books make you want to quit whatever it is you are doing and start writing children’s books because anyone could do it better.
  • Um, okay. I guess. Average blahness is by far the most plentiful category of children’s lit. So many books just make you shrug your shoulders and say meh. Even some books hailed as “classics” make you go hummm.  The message may be odd or off, morally questionable, too wordy or just plain boring.  These are the books I am most likely to hide in a drawer or donate. (Our copy of Titanicat may be available at a Goodwill near you).
  • Treasures. Let’s read that again. Real gems with either great stories, classic characters, valuable lessons, beautiful illustrations, or all of the above.

The list below are treasures and represent some of our very favorites.  These books are proud members of our permanent collection that the children and adults in our family love to read and re-read.

most loved childrens books

Now the breakdown  (book titles are amazon links):

 

best childrens books 1

 If You Give a Mouse A Cookie  (and others from the series)

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

Fix-It Duck  (and others from the series)

Madeline

You are Special

best childrens books 2

I Had a Favorite Dress

The High Street

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Smile!

Amelia Bedelia

best childrens books 3

Miss Nelson is Missing

Fancy Nancy (and others from the series)

What Time is it, Mr. Crocodile

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Llama Llama Red Pajama (and others from the series)

best childrens books 4

Press Here

Big Words for Little People

The Gruffalo

Each Peach Pear Plum

Angelina Ballerina (and others from the series)

What are your favorites? We definitely want to add some new books to our collection so I am taking suggestions. I know I appreciate it when my children are gifted books just as much as they do.

 

P.S. Need a break from reading to your children? LeVar Burton is fully qualified to take over.  Reading Rainbow is now available for streaming on Netflix.

***

OH AND! My Man was proofreading this post (blame all grammatical errors on him heretofore) and we were revisiting the topic of favorite and least favorite children’s books.  Had to add a few more before pressing publish!

best childrens books 5

Ox-Cart Man

Give Me Grace

Falling for Rapunzel

Go, Dog. Go!

Do you see a Mouse?

 

 

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The Mighty Mighty Fireballs

2015 November 30
by Jennifer

This fall we signed our 3-year-old daughter up for soccer, her first organized team sport. Some friends put together Team Fireballs to play in the 3s and 4s co-ed league, and we all thought it was a grand idea to have our kids play together. “This is going to be SO MUCH FUN,” we assured our children. “They are going to LOVE this,” we told each other.

IMG_5157

Two dads dutifully volunteered to coach the team, a brave undertaking considering many of its members had never touched a soccer ball before–if they had, it was with their hands which are not allowed in the game of soccer.  That was Lesson 1, and we were starting from the very beginning.

coaches

I had big expectations for the Fireballs, but they were certainly tempered when I showed up to the field just before the start of the first game. The coach’s daughter had already completely removed her uniform; two girls were fighting over a hair bow; three children refused to set foot on the field, and only a handful actually made it to kickoff.  My Fireball made a few kicks but burst into tears every time the other team got the ball. Another Fireball, whose father played collegiate soccer, cried the entire game.  The other team scored their first of nine goals moments after the whistle blew.  Our team just looked emotionally distraught, disinterested, traumatized, or just plain confused by the whole soccer experience.

some confusion on the field

In their defense, the Fireballs had three things working against them this season:

  1. Our teammates were mostly 3-year-olds and the other teams were mostly 4-year-olds about to turn 5. BIG difference. Our opponents were clearly more physically dominate and emotionally stable. opposing giants
  2. Some games were played on a big field right by one of the very best playgrounds in town. The lure of the slide was a constant distraction to our team and certainly didn’t set us up for success. It was like having AA in a bar or Weight Watchers by a Waffle House. Each week we lost a handful of key players who simply weren’t strong enough to resist the temptation. stray fireballs stray ball
  3. Games took place at 2:30pm on Sunday afternoons. Smack-dab in the middle of nap time for members of our young crew. Clear disadvantage.

napping

Over the course of each game, my Fireball displayed the entire spectrum of human emotion. Sometimes she was all in, happily chasing the ball and defending the goal (our team was mostly on defense).

playing

Other times she was crying on the sidelines, moping in the middle of the field, or bolting towards the playground.

emotions on the field

In a single game, we had to utilize every tool in our parenting toolbox: We bribed*, threatened, praised, pep-talked, punished, manhandled, encouraged, and incentivized in an effort to get her to just keep it together out there. I had no idea that a simple Sunday soccer would require so much parenting. And I wasn’t alone. Most of the time there were at least as many parents on the field as players, each of us whispering some sort of something to our children.

pep talks

The first few games were just emotional games of dress-up for the Fireballs. Lots of tears were shed and not a single goal was scored. But boy did they look cute in those uniforms.

IMG_0811

Where our team consistently shined was during the pregame cheer and during post-game snacks.

IMG_0122(1)

The next couple games got rained out, and I think all the parents were relieved. Fortunately the rain-outs set the reset button for our team and from there the season seemed to take a turn.

IMG_0119

The Fireballs scored one goal during one game this season, but unfortunately we were still six goals short to pull-off the win that day. But BUT the final game was our very best. Most Fireballs played, many made contact with the ball, no one cried, and no goals were scored…by either team!

harper in the goal

We tied that last game zero-zero , but to us, that was a HUGE victory. I’m pretty sure the kids even had a little fun out there too.

team cheer

And as is custom with this generation, every single “player” got a trophy at the end of the season.  And a cupcake.*

trophys

The Fireballs will be back next year–and next year we will be the giant, emotionally stable 4-year-olds.  Watch out.

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Grateful

2015 November 29
by Jennifer

I had to pop in to let you know that we did it. We hosted our first family Thanksgiving and I think everyone left feeling full of gravy and gratitude.

Here is a quick rundown, by the numbers:

  • 2 turkeys, one smoked one roasted
  • 8 side dishes

the spread

  • 6 miles walked in circles around my own kitchen
  • 3 delicious desserts

desserts

  • 12 sticks of butter
  • 2 kinds of potatoes
  • 5 children, 3 with teeth eating at the kids table

kids table

  • 1(minor) head injury to one child (mine)
  • 2 bottles of bubbly and way more than 2 bottles of wine
  • 9 adults sitting around the dining room table

thanksgiving table

  • 18,263 hours spent doing dishes
  • Amillion things to be thankful for

As the last guest walked out the door, I closed it, exhaled…and started singing this.

 

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Recent Reads and Watches

2015 November 23

It’s officially snuggle season.  This time of year, there is nothing I love more than putting on my loungeabouts and my new slippers, turning on (I mean building) the fire, and cuddling up with some quality entertainment. Here are a few of my recent reads and watches that I think you’ll enjoy as you hibernate for the long winter ahead.

READ:

recent reads

  • Friday Night Lights. Did you know that our beloved TV show was based on a movie and that movie was based on a book and that book is a true story? Me neither. Author H.G. Bissinger spent a year profiling the town of Odessa, Texas and their heroic high school football team, The Permian Panthers (AKA Dillon Panthers).   The book won the Pulitzer the year it was published and it was a truly fascinating read. They just published a 25th anniversary edition that checks in on the Panther players and tells you what has come of them since the book came out.
  • For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a Word of Impossible Standards. Jen manages to be honest, vulnerable, and funny, while also hitting on deep spiritual truths and insights. Her theology is practical and her expression of faith is accessible and attractive. Each chapter stands alone making it easy to read in small snatches. I was laughing, learning and nodding in agreement saying “amen sister” along the way.
  • Why Not Me.  I love Mindy Kaling. She is one of the (many) celebrities that I feel like I would be friends with in real life. It was such a quick and delightful read and now I love her even more.

 

WATCH:

recent watches

  • 112 Weddings. Years after filming their weddings, a wedding videographer checks in on couples to see how it went since they said I do. In the words of the filmmaker, “this is a film about the mystery of marriage. What we enter marriage thinking it will be and what it turns out to be.”
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. This is a documentary about the history and mystery of Scientology. All I can say is that this sh*t is BANANAS. Such a fascinating watch and I’m still thinking about it. (Side note: Shortly after watching Going Clear I stumbled upon the doc There’s Something Wrong With Aunt Dianne . Whoa.  If you happen to catch them both, there are some striking similarities between the two seemingly unrelated films that we need to discuss.)
  • Tig. I first learned of comedian Tig Notoro when she was featured on This American Life. I loved her unique style of comedy and her candor and humor when confronted with cancer among other major life events. This a film about her life and comedy the year after her cancer diagnosis. It is so very watchable in the very best way.

Now it’s your turn. What’s worth reading and watching these days? Specifically, what should My Man and I watch together next? Ideally something that can be streamed on-demand on Netflix or Prime because who has the time or patience for anything else.  To give you an idea of our shared tastes, the past few series we watched together were Bloodline, Broadchurch, Narcos and The Killing. As I type those out, I’m noticing that we tend to mutually gravitate towards murderous serial dramas.  Whatcha got for us to watch next? Bonus points for British accents.  Go!

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New Classic Thanksgiving Desserts

2015 November 16
by Jennifer

Buying a house, refinancing a mortgage, and having children were all small indications that I may be en route to becoming a real grownup.  But nothing has made me feel like more of an adult than hosting this year’s Thanksgiving festivities.

In a few short days, both sides of the family will be coming over to our house for turkey and all the fixings.  HELLOooo DRAMA!  Kidding. The in-laws get along swimmingly.  The only drama will be trying to pull off the highest-stakes meal of the year with a single oven and a smile.

retro thanksgiving

If there was ever a time to hire a caterer polish up Mema’s silver and unbox the fine china, this would be it.  Honestly I can’t quite remember what my china looks like since I added it to my wedding registry eight years ago, but I’m crossing my fingers that I had the good sense to register for something tasteful and timeless.

There’s a lot to do between now and then, and according to Pinterest I’m already way behind in making preparations for Thanksgiving 2018. Though I haven’t quite nailed down the entire menu, I have made two key decisions:

  1. I’ve outsourced the preparation of the turkey. (I’m extra thankful for you this year, Dad.)
  2. I’ve planned out which desserts to bake and serve on the big day…

Now this may be a tad scandalous for my first Thanksgiving, but I can tell you what won’t be on our Thanksgiving table: Pumpkin Pie. In its place, I’m serving THE BEST PUMPKIN DESSERT EVER, Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes. I posted this recipe years ago but it bears re-posting because it is so dang delicious. I brought a batch to a Friendsgiving celebration a few weeks ago and have received multiple requests for the recipe since. Be a holiday hero and make these for you and yours:

best pumpkin dessert

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1  box yellow cake mix
  • 1 egg
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar – equivalent to 3 3/4 cups (reserve 3 Tbsp for dusting)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine the bag of cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13x 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.  Check on them after about 35 or 40 minutes so you make sure not to overbake them. The center should be set but a little gooey.   Let the pan cool completely before you cut the squares. You could even pop the cooled pan in the fridge before cutting them to get extra clean cuts.  Dust them with powdered sugar to make them extra pretty before serving them. Enjoy and prepare to be praised.

gooey butter cakes

The other desserts that I’m making are the Fresh Apple Cake from my mom’s vintage copy of the Tea-Time at the Masters Cookbook and a Chocolate Chess Pie. It tastes like the best brownie ever but in pie form, and like most desserts, it is best served warm with ice cream.  That recipe hails from an old issue of Southern Living Magazine:

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Chocolate Chess Pie with Pecans

Ingredients

  • 1 packaged uncooked refrigerated pie crust (like this)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
  • 1 (5-oz.) can evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Roll pie crust into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.
  2. Microwave butter and chocolate squares in a large microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in evaporated milk, eggs, and 1 tsp. vanilla.
  3. Stir together granulated sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt. Add sugar mixture to chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared crust.
  4. Bake pie at 350° for 40 minutes. Stir together pecans, next 2 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla; sprinkle over pie. Bake 10 more minutes or until set. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). *Extra delicious served with ice cream.

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I figure as long as there is good wine, good music and good desserts, everything that happens in between will be forgotten or forgiven.

Gobble gobble.

 

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Second time’s a charm

2015 September 29
by Jennifer

Having my first child three years ago turned my world upside down. Suddenly I was responsible for this crying, screaming, not sleeping barnacle baby feeling like I must be crazy because strangers in the grocery store were telling me to love every minute. Of course I loved many of the minutes, but definitely not every single one. For me, those first few weeks and months were full of joy but not much fun. The sleepless nights and topless days made me miss our DINC pre-child life (what we lovingly call our “single” life) which at that point was not such a distant memory. I fantasized about the old days when we woke up in the 10s on a Saturday filled with possibility, discussing things like whether we should play tennis before or after brunch. I missed the luxury of untethered spontaneity and mourned the end of the getting to do what I want to do when I want to do it era. I craved having time alone or time just with my husband—something that was once in such steady supply that I hardly noticed it was there.

Thankfully it wasn’t long before I got my bearings and began to embrace and enjoy my new normal. I fell deeply in love with that baby and delighted in watching her discover her world. I lost track of time just staring at her and marveling at her squishy-ness and the tiny little dimple on the top of her cheek. Then I blinked and that baby grew into a hilarious adorable little person who makes me laugh every day and whose round little face I just want to squeeze because it is my absolute favorite face in the world.

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We were in such a great groove with only child Harper before Hallie was born and as much as we wanted #2, I worried that the birth of our second child would turn everything upside down again. This time strangers in the grocery store were warning me that two is waaaay more than twice the work and telling me to buckle up because going from one to two is when your life really changes. I feared I would experience the same whiplash that happened when I first became a parent and I braced myself for the impact…

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But you know what? Going from one to two has been really really good. Actually, it has been great. For starters, knowing what to do with a baby is a skill I already have so I got to skip most of the asinine Googling that went down round one. This time I am not constantly wondering if I am doing it right and giving myself heaps of grace when it comes to things like breastfeeding which certainly threw me for a loop as a brand new mother. Because this time I know a) what I’m doing(ish), and b) how fast it goes, I have been enjoying each day with the baby for what it is and soaking up these sweet days while my littlest is so so little.

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And my world hasn’t been turned upside down because that already happened three years ago. We are firmly planted in the world of naps, parks, playdates, diapers, Daniel Tiger, timeouts, chicken nuggets, car seats and sippy cups. And I am surprised and delighted by how much I love it here. So adding another little one to the mix isn’t as big of a lifestyle upheaval. Obviously going from one to two hasn’t made my life easier or given me more free time or improved the quality of my sleep or deepened the grooves between my abs, but it has been pretty dang awesome. Our family life is richer and I am already getting small glimpses of what it will be like for those sweet sisters to have a relationship. The more the merrier. Seriously.

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That being said…

The other night My Man was putting the finishing touches on Harper’s (12 step) bedtime routine and I was in the nursery bundling Hallie up and putting her down for bed. Lights off, sound machines on, doors closed. At the same time we walked out of their respective rooms, met in the hall, and high-fived as we walked downstairs together to begin the adults-only portion of the evening. Did you catch that? Instinctively we high-fived.

Bedtime with two children fees like crossing a finish line. No matter what we are doing, those divine hours between their bedtime and ours feel precious and sacred. Kicking our feet up and relaxing on parallel sofas is a well-earned luxurious indulgence. I treasure that unstructured time in the evening with just My Man when no one needs me. Ahhhh, to be single.

But sure enough I can’t turn it off.  Each night before I go to sleep I go peek in on my sweet sleeping children. I re-tuck Harper who has managed to fall asleep coverless and apparently in the middle of a game of Twister, her appendages strewn awkwardly between the wall, the bed, and the floor. I kiss her sweet dimple and simply stare at her.  Next I go in baby Hallie’s room, pick her up out of her crib and let her sleep in my arms for a few minutes before putting her back down.   I breathe in her smell and say a silent prayer of gratitude that she is mine.  Then I get into my own bed, my heart so unbelievably full it could burst.

Two is definitely better than one.

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The Sitz Bath Diaries

2015 July 10
by Jennifer

We have officially entered month two of life with a newborn, so allow me a moment to reflect on month one.  Let’s go back to the very beginning…

There was joy! There was love! But humm, how should I put this? …the first week home from the hospital was downright rough.

The miracle of childbirth did a number on my downbelow, so each trip to the ladies’ room took an entire CVS aisle of paraphernalia. My boobs grew two cup sizes overnight, which is not as sexy as it sounds since it comes with an immense amount of pain and a little leakage. And the night sweats. Why does nobody talk about the night sweats?

To make things exciting, the baby had her AMs and PMs completely confused so each day felt absolutely endless. She would sleep all day and be wired, wide awake and absolutely starving all night, so there was not much sleeping for me. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Ha! Arguably worse than not sleeping at all is finally falling asleep once the baby is quiet, only to be woken mere minutes later by a screaming newborn. Over and over again.

And holy hormones. Man did they play some tricks on me and my mental stability. One minute I would be fine and the next I was a puddle of tears, dreading what would surely be an entire lifetime of sleepless nights and endless feedings. I remember walking by the dishwasher in a sleep-deprived hormonal stupor, wondering if I would ever EVER have enough time or energy or desire to empty it. True story.

That was week one. But week two…

Week two was better. Physically I was on the mend, so my “free time” wasn’t spent on the sitz bath. The baby sorted out her days and nights so everyone was sleeping more, and praisethelord and thankyoujesus the wacky hormones night sweated their way out of my system. The question “how are you doing?” no longer brought me to tears. Victory!

Week three was actually pretty great. We went out for dinner and saw friends and went to the pool and the park and out on a date. On multiple occasions I even managed to get everyone fed, clothed, cleaned and out the door and to our destination practically on time. And there were even days when both girls took long naps at the same time. Mission accomplished, right?

By week four I saw glimpses of something resembling solid sleep for me and something resembling a smile from Hallie.  Be still my heart. I even felt up for dipping my toe back into the working world, mostly just to prove to myself that I could do it. So what if I had to mute my conference line to ssh and soothe a SCREAMING baby.  The others on the call were nonethewiser. I totally got this thing. (Mostly)

this

Oh…am I making it look too easy breezy? You are catching me on a good day after a full night of sleep. So there’s that. Not to mention the illusion of the internet–hiding the cast of characters, conveniences and comforts that have helped me get to this point:

caffeine, my parents who live 10 minutes away, under-eye concealer, my awesome neighbor friends who make me laugh while our children entertain each other,  my hands-free breast pump bra, the MealTrain deliveries that make me so excited about not cooking dinner every night,  Harper’s bevy of summer camps that keep her out and about and entertained from 9am-1pm most days, occasional supplementation with Earth’s Best formula, Netflix streaming service, and especially My Man who is ALL IN.

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I feel like we are over the hump and doing more than just making it through the day. Things around here are actually pretty dang good. Tiring, but good. Maybe it is because this go round I know that this stage doesn’t last long– a perspective that helps me grin and bear it when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but also gives me the desire to appreciate and soak up this sweet newborness that will be gone so so fast.

jenns phone 213

 

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The Story of Her Birth

2015 May 31
by Jennifer

This is my birth story. It will not include the words dilated, cervix, placenta, perineum, mucus plug, sutures, or amniotic sac. You’re welcome. There are plenty of those on the world wide web, but I wanted to document the less graphic, family-friendly version for posterity. If you want more details, I’m happy to send you a copy of the video.*

*Aren’t I funny on four hours of sleep?

Off we go…

My contractions started on Saturday night, while attempting to do some semblance of dancing at a wedding. At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I was beyond ready to get the show on the road so I was delighted when they began. Weeks before, I had a few little moments where I asked myself, “was that a contraction?” I was reminded that night the answer was no. You KNOW when you are having a contraction, if you have to ask it doesn’t count. I spent the night tossing and turning in between painful contractions, excited and anxious knowing this could be it. I finally gave into not sleeping and got out of bed at 4am. I went downstairs and laid on the sofa, timing contractions and excavating treasures on the DVR as the sun came up and the rest of my family slept upstairs.

It is a crazy thing to be at the precipice of such a huge life change, to know and hope and pray that what you have waited for and wanted for so long is soooo close to happening you can taste it…but to not yet know the outcome, if all will be well and the baby will be healthy. My anxiety and excitement increased the closer I got to my due date, but that morning I felt a sense of peace.

I took those hours before the house woke up to write a letter to each of my daughters. I wrote one to Harper telling her all sorts of things about what I loved about her, prayed for her and hoped for her and what she meant to me. I also wrote one to baby #2– a letter telling her about how badly we wanted her and telling her how loved she already is. It was something I had wanted to do for a while, and that Mother’s Day morning, the morning after Harper’s third birthday and the day my youngest daughter would be born seemed like the right time.

I was happy to hear Harper call me in the morning when her light turned green, knowing it might be her last day of being my only one. I went into her room and told her today was the day she would become a big sister. She was SO excited, and bounced in her bed saying “today? Really? Today!?”

Harper ran down the hall and into our bedroom to wake up her daddy to tell him the news. When I told him my contractions continued all night, he slightly panicked and said we should go to the hospital.  I said we should go out for breakfast. Priorities.

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The three of us carb loaded for the day ahead, using a contraction ap between courses to see if my contractions were getting closer. They were. Yowza! Pancakes helped with the pain.

After breakfast we hurried home to pack our bags. My parents came to pick up Harper and take her back to their house and My Man and I headed to the hospital.

Once we were at the hospital, we settled in and it was confirmed that yes, I was in actual labor. This I knew, but the doctor had to check and see for herself.  The pain was getting intense.

((As I lay there trying to get a camel to go through the eye of the needle, My Man complained of a recent golf injury and buzzed the nurse for an icepack and some Advil. Hummm. ))

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Meanwhile, I outlined the intricate and extensive details of my birth plan to the nurse who recorded it on the whiteboard in our hospital room.

birth plan

It took what felt like fooorrreeevvveeerrr for the epidural to get administered and activate, but once it did, we could all breathe a little easier. Before the wondrous meds worked their magic, I felt like I had been flying cross country, bouncing around with the cargo. Getting the epidural upgraded my flight to coach, perhaps even business class. I was still very much a part of the flight and I arrived at the same destination, but I was able to enjoy the view and have polite conversation with my travel companion.

My travel companion (AKA my birthcoach AKA the baby’s father) got off WAY easier once I was medicated than he would have if he had to talk me through each contraction—getting his circulation cut off by hand squeezes and perhaps being the scapegoat for pain-induced verbal assault. Instead, we actually enjoyed the time together in that hospital room as we waited for things to progress. We listened to some great music, rested, read, prayed, and discussed some possible names for baby girl. It was actually pretty special.

It wasn’t long before I started feeling some moderate pressure and called the nurse to see where things stood. After a quick check the nurse immediately said, “freeze! Don’t laugh, don’t cough! Let me get the doctor.” Six minutes later, she was here!!

jdh phone 452Experiencing the LITERAL MIRACLE of life and holding our healthy warm baby on my chest is a feeling I will never forget. There were tears.

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Big Sister came to visit me in the hospital and meet her baby sister the next day. I had picked out a dress for her to wear and envisioned a magical moment when the two would meet for the first time. Things didn’t quite go as planned. Harper was like a bull in a china shop that day. She busted in, thrilled to meet her baby sister, but got really frustrated when we wouldn’t let her hold the baby allbyherself, or carry the baby allbyherself, or poke the baby’s eyes or take the baby’s clothes off. Her love, in those first moments, was slightly aggressive but entirely sincere. A good foundation for a best friendship, I think. This is the best we could do for a photo of the magic moment.

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The baby didn’t have a name till day three. This drove My Man and I both crazy and was not the least bit amusing to our family and the friends who kept asking. We weren’t trying to be dramatic, but naming a person is HARD. We had it down to four names going into the hospital, then down to two after she was born. Seeing that sweet angel face did not help make the decision for us. Brand-spankin-new babies, on the whole, look more like aliens / velociraptors / old men, and not quite like Julias and Mollys and Kates. In the eleventh hour, we finally we signed the official papers and named our little girl Hallie. We think it is precious and will serve her equally as well as the CEO of a fortune 500 company and as an Olympic athlete as it will as America’s Next Top Model.

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And just like that, our family of three is now a family of four. Bringing home our second daughter and placing her all healthy and bundled in her crib made our joy complete.

 

 

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She’s Here!

2015 May 26
by Jennifer

It is with great joy that we announce the birth of our daughter Hallie. She made her grand entrance on Mother’s Day. What a gift!

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More details to come, but pictures will have to suffice for now. Putting letters together to make words and then form sentences is a high-wire-act when running on so little sleep…

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…but so much love.

 

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Currently…

2015 May 5
by Jennifer

Currently…

Wearing: Snoozies. These slippers are like putting your feet in butter (or…uh…so I’m told). And in my current condition, comfort is king. I am most comfortable whilst wearing my loosely fitting cuddle duds and my generously proportioned loungeabouts and these cozy slippers complete the look when one has no intentions of leaving the house.

Doing: Some SERIOUS Nesting. Something about compulsively cleaning carpets and washing things in hypoallergenic unscented detergent makes me feel more ready for baby girl. I suppose these little things are the only things that I really have control over in this whole baby making, baby baking project—so I am clinging onto them for dear life. No closet or junk drawer has escaped my magic manic touch and you could seriously eat a meal off the floor in our garage. The before & afters would blow your mind. Now I know people (Hi Mom! Hi Sis!) who live their lives constantly decluttered, sorted, stacked, sanitized and color coded, but I am not one of them. There’s certainly something to it–it feels good. Let’s see how long it lasts…

Endorsing: Folex Instant Carpet Stain Remover. Yep. I’m at an age and stage of life where I want to tell the world about a carpet cleaner. College Jennifer is rolling her eyes.  Anyway, the nursery rug was in a bad way and making it less scary looking was top of my nesting to-do list. I did a quick pole of some trusted friends and the internets and the resounding responses far as carpet cleaner was concerned was Folex. Y’all, this stuff works. Stains gone. Instant gratification.

Eating: Cereal. Crispex has snuck his way back in the rotation and I have a feeling it’s here to stay. And somehow a box of Golden Grahams ended up in my grocery cart.  It’s a real whodunit. Um, delicious.

Reading: The Girl on the Train (Suspenseful. Page turner. If you liked Gone Girl, read this.) The Opposite of Spoiled (Important.) Praying Through Your Pregnancy (One week left then onto the baby books). The Rosie Project (Just finished it. A true delight.).

books

Watching: Madmen, Meet the Press*, House of Cards, NewsHour**, Better Call Saul,  and Face the Nation***

*actually BRAVO hits like Real Housewives of New York City and Southern Charm

**translation: Newlyweds: The First Year

***more like the TLC classics 19 Kids and Counting and Brides by Design

harper faceLoving: Harper. That child cracks me up on the daily. A few recent exchanges:

Me: “Harper, will you help me make this bed?”

Harper: “Mommy, you are a big girl and I think you can do it alllllll by yourself.”    Then she clapped for me when I finished and said,  “See, I told you that you could do it.”(It seems that the student has become the teacher).

—-

Me: “Your daddy couldn’t meet us for lunch today because he had a meeting with clients.”

Harper (a few minutes later, after some deep thinking): “Mommy? Do you think the lions daddy is meeting with are nice lions?”

—-

Harper (said very matter-of-factly): “Boys need a little more booty.”

Me: Silent. Completely silent.

What a relief to know that she is learning these key life lessons from top-40 radio songs.

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Wondering: When will this baby come? Will I go a week past my due date like I did with Harper? What will it be like to juggle two children? Will she look like Harper? Will I remember how to do it? Will my heart really expand to fit all the love?

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Big Girl Bedroom

2015 April 22
by Jennifer

Parents learn quickly that our own excitement and enthusiasm are two of the most effective tools to deploy when we are trying to sell things to our children and/or get them to do what we want them to do. If I’m excited about it, Harper can much more easily get on board for whatever it is.  I can be quite convincing.  Recent examples include:

Big girl panties!

Naptime!

Your babysitter is here!

Broccoli!

Most recently, I did the whole excitement and enthusiasm song and dance (literally) to prep Harper to make the move from the crib in her nursery to her New! Big Girl! Bedroom! I hyped up her new big girl room and I wanted to make her first night in there a grand event. My plan was for a recent Saturday night to be night one in her new room. You see, I didn’t want to start mid-week in case there were issues that disturbed our precious sleep and I didn’t want to start Friday night because we had a babysitter coming.

Around 11:30 that Friday night we were wrapping up a super fun dinner with friends and I happened to look at my phone. I had a missed call, voicemail and text message, each left four hours earlier, from our sweet babysitter asking me which bedroom Harper slept in. Apparently Harper had duped the sitter into believing that she had already made the move out of the crib and into her new room. Lies! I came home to find her sound asleep in her brand new big bed like she’d been doing it all along.

I hardly slept a wink that first night because I was worried that she would wake up at 4am wondering where she was, fall out of bed, splash in the toilet, take a swig of Clorox, open the door to the porch, and jump off the balcony. In that order.  Fortunately, my worrying and worst-case-scenarioizing was for naught.  Harper slept like a rock and woke up the next morning at her usual time, truly delighted by her independence and maturity.  Needless to say, I did what any modern mother would do when things seem to be going too well, and put some eyes on the situation.  I deployed the Super Secret Spy Cam to see what really goes on in there.

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It’s been a few weeks now, and so far the transition has been pretty dang seamless…though not entirely uneventful.

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It took her one week to figure out that she could get out of bed by herself (darn) and it took another week for her to realize that once she got out of bed, she could open her door and walk down the hall (daaaamn). That move demanded a serious conversation threatening major loss of privileges if she left her room again. She hasn’t pulled that stunt since. Overall, so far, so good. Now she just screams, “Mommy and Daaahhdy, it’s time to wake up now” until one of us comes and gets her in the morning. I’ll take it.

Here are a few pictures of her New! Big Girl! Bedroom! It’s a work in progress, but it is such a sweet happy place that I hope will be filled with joyful memories and lots and lots of peaceful slumber.

room 1

 

room 2

 

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Parenting with Minimal Effort for Maximum Credit

2015 March 24
by Jennifer

The first trimester of my first pregnancy took me down. The exhaustion and constant nausea wrecked me so I did the best that I could to take care of myself. I rested and relaxed with my feet up and my Sea-bands on until I started to feel like myself again around week 12. The first trimester of this pregnancy was way worse and the ickiness lasted at least a month longer. I was more exhausted, more nauseous, and instead of getting to focus on taking care of myself, I had a two-year-old to deal with to lovingly parent.

In the throes of my morning sickness, I had to find ways to just get through the day. Would you believe me if I told you that I discovered great ways to keep the little one entertained while also managing to sneak in snippets of rest and relaxation for myself? Trust me. There are ways to receive full credit for amazing mothering while totally phoning it in. If you find yourself in a family way for the second go round, please put the methods outlined below to use:

Hide…and Seek

Tell your child to hide and take your sweeeeeeeeeet time finding her.

When it’s your turn to hide, really hide.

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Eye Spy Fetch

Here’s how it works: Mother sits comfortably on the porch and eye spies an object way far away in the backyard. Child then has to find the object, go physically touch it, and then run back to mother resting on the porch. High five. Rinse and repeat.

Party Bath

When I felt like crud, there were days when those hours between the end of naptime and the beginning of bedtime felt like they would never pass. On those days when we needed a little afternoon entertainment and weren’t fit to leave the house, we would have a party bath. I would set Harper up in our big bathtub with toys! and bubbles! and cups! and play the Frozen soundtrack. We would sing summer songs and pretend she was swimming in the pool. She would happily entertain herself in there until she was pruned from head to toe. This gave me at least an hour to lie on the surprisingly comforting cold bathroom floor. Win win.

Duh.

And what’s the best way to entertain a child—the way that requires minimal effort on your part and guarantees maximum enjoyment on theirs? Television OF COURSE! I know in some circles television may be frowned upon in the same way as formula feeding and high fructose corn syrup are, but ya gotta do what you gotta do.

To my immense credit as a fully devoted and wholly attentive mother, Harper didn’t watch much TV until she turned two. She didn’t have the attention span for it and it just wasn’t a part of her world. These days, she would probably watch six straight hours of infomercials en Española if that’s what was on. She loves to watch damn near anything so it is important to me that when she does watch something, it is quality programing. And I’m here to say, there is legitimately good stuff out there.

During my first trimester, I was phoning it in. And you know who stepped up and did most of the heavy duty parenting in my place? My husband. Daniel Tiger.   Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is hands down, my favorite show for little ones. Daniel is a sweet and wholesome little cartoon tiger who, when confronted with the trials and challenges of being a little tiger in a big world, learns a catchy song and the appropriate way to behave. If you are having an issue with your child, I’m willing to bet that there is a Daniel Tiger episode to address it.

2012 Summer TCA Tour - Day 2

Does your child have trouble sharing? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Does your child loose it when it’s time to leave the playground? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Does your child act like a barbarian at restaurants? There’s a Daniel Tiger for that. Picky eater? Afraid of the dark? Afraid of green vegetables? Irrationally impatient? Freak out when left with a babysitter? Only want to wear a tutu? There’s a Daniel Tiger for ALL of that. I literally look at the episode descriptions, find one addressing our most pertinent issue at the time, press play, and let Daniel do the talking. The show’s songs are short and snappy and outline the appropriate way to act. My Man and I often sing them when Harper needs a gentle reminder to “think about how someone else is feeling” or that “that was fun but now it’s done.” Classics like “if you need to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way” and “you can take a turn and then I’ll get it back” replay on a constant loop around our house.

The show Super Why is a great intro to learning letters and reading, and Peg + Cat provides a fun look at numbers and basic math—but Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has my heart as far as teaching children about character and how to act like a decent human 101. So turn on the telly and let Daniel do the parenting while you take a nap. You deserve it.

And since necessity is the mother of invention, I know this list will grow as our family expands in the next few months. In fact, I have a feeling it’s going to get downright desperate up in here when I am trying to keep both children alive and entertained.  So please let me know what you do to entertain your little ones on an energy budget. Any games or toys that really go the distance? What TV shows do your kids watch that you love?  I know I will need all the help I can get.

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Hello Again

2015 March 13

Tap tap. Is this thing on?

Life is whizzing by so I figure now is as good a time as any to revisit this little cobwebbed corner of the internet with a post about what has been going on lately in my world.

One big thing comes to mind. We are expecting baby #2 in early May. That is less than two months away! Whoa Nelly.

Onto some FAQs:

Girl or boy?

The week before Christmas, we took our sealed ultrasound envelope to an adorable baby store and picked out a girl and boy outfit. While we ran some errands around town, they opened the envelope and wrapped up the appropriate outfit. The box sat under the Christmas tree giving me a mixture of excitement and mild anxiety until we opened it Christmas morning.

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I was nervous! You know why? Because I wanted this little baby to be a girl SO bad.   Before we found out, I skipped the “all I want is a healthy baby” pleasantries and cut right to the fact that “all I want is a healthy baby…girl.” I was literally shaking like a leaf when we opened the box containing a little PINK dress on Christmas.

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It’s a girl!! Harper will have a little sister and I am absolutely over the moon. My sister and I are BFFs and I pray that Harper and this little chickadee will follow suit. Sisters are the very best.

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Do you have a name picked out?

No. Naming a human person is not easy. We have a list of five or so that we like, but there is no clear frontrunner. There is no name that feels quite like The One just yet. No inspiration to be found in the names of our ancestors. Maternal and paternal grandmothers were named Beatrice, Roberta and Betty, none of which have made the short list. Suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

What are you most excited about?

Meeting this little baby girl. Seeing Harper become a big sister. Holding a sleepy newborn. Smelling a newborn. Those tiny little feet. Newborn sneezes. Sleeping on my stomach again. Sushi. Wine (full glasses in public without judgment).  Matching sisters.

What are you most afraid of?

I confess that I am a tad anxious about the transition from one child to two. Going from zero to one rocked my world, so I don’t think adding another to the mix could be more jarring—but time will tell. We have it pretty dang good at the moment and I hardly remember what it’s like to be the round-the-clock physical embodiment of a bed & breakfast. I admit that those early days of sleepless nights are not my favorite. (Oh, and Harper told me the other day that was “so excited to feed the baby snacks.” Now I am envisioning Harper trying to force-feed the toothless infant child goldfish when I’m not around. Um, mildly concerning and representative of a whole new world of potential danger that I didn’t initially consider.)

What are you doing to get ready for this baby?

Harper doesn’t know it yet, but she is about to be evicted from her crib and the comforts of her nursery so that the baby can move in. She loves her crib and I love the fact that it acts as a cage of sorts that CPS and DFCS approve of. If I had my way, Harper would probably stay in a crib for at least another 5 years year if there wasn’t another tenant in line to take her spot. And she maaaaay be outgrowing it…

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The clock is ticking, but I’m waiting on a few final pieces to arrive for Harper’s big girl room before it will be ready for her to move in. What kind mother would I be if I moved my precious child into a room without custom made blackout shades and coordinating lamps? See what I did there…I think they call it procrastinating. I’m of the ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ mentality so this change is not one I’m looking forward to. Hopefully it won’t totally mess up her textbook sleep routine and hopefully I won’t wake to find her attempting to use the Ginsu knives in the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning. I bought this clock and this child-proof door lock juuust in case.

Any cravings?

An all-expense-paid trip to somewhere tropical. A foot massage, new episodes of Mad Men, pineapple and popcorn.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I read a lot of these “’I’m Pregnant” (and the undoubtedly more annoying “We’re Pregnant”) announcements online and assume that everyone in the world gets pregnant on their first try. From the outside looking in, it all seems so easy and effortless for most people, so I want to pull back the curtain a bit on our road to baby #2. The honest truth is that we started “trying” when Harper turned one—so it took us a whole heck of a lot of “trying” before I finally got the plus sign on the ClearBlueEasy.

After a few months of ya-know-whatting on the reg with no news, we doubled our efforts and with each cycle that passed I added something to the mix to hopefully aid my fertility. You name it, I tried it. Acupuncture, hippie herbal supplements, a big bitter cup of apple cider vinegar each morning, legs in the air, raspberry tea, more exercise, less exercise, pure queen bee pollen, ovulation predictor kits, and charting my temperature, just to name a few.

Making Babies Game

After all that homeopathic S, I turned to modern medicine. I tried a few rounds of the fertility med Letrozole and one round of Clomid and still nothing.   The final straw was an $800 consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist (AKA a fertility doc) to scare my ovaries into ovulating. I found out I was pregnant a week before I was scheduled to begin her recommended (AKA OMG $$$) course of treatment.   My Man and I couldn’t believe the good news. And we were in disbelief that it happened on its own, without any help from the hippies or the medical professionals.

There are a lot of lessons in there about waiting for something, and wanting something, and desiring control and releasing control, but the moral of our story is that God is good.   We know we are the lucky ones. We have close friends whose road to conceive their first child has been a hundred times longer, more emotional, invasive, exhausting and expensive.  ALL babies are miracles.  We can’t wait to meet ours in May.

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