Thursday, February 26, 2015

Jackson is Three!

Dear Jackson,

You've had an eventful few weeks.  A week before your birthday you took a fall down our outside stairs.  You busted your lip, bled and cried a lot, and ended up losing one of your two front teeth as a result.  You were fully recovered in less than 24 hours, but your father and I needed several more days to feel "normal."  You're such a careful and cautious child, so we were especially surprised that you were our first to incur such an injury.  While the incident was scary and sad, God's faithful provision for us was so evident. Our neighbor Kate (a former ER nurse) was at our house in under 5 minutes, and within 10 minutes we had a dentist and another nurse looking at your dangling tooth. We received all of that medical care, visited the dentist's office, and were back home in about 45 minutes. That night you went to your first sleepover with your Daddy, the Kean boys, and the Royal boys and had a blast. You were so thrilled to be going despite your injuries, and cabin was all you would say after your nap.

The word your Dad and I still use most often when talking about you is "joy."  You are so kind and loving, and the Lord is using you to teach me about what His love should look like.  Pretty incredible since you're only 3. For example, last night we went grocery shopping together. The bakery gives children free cookies, and your first question to the bakery lady was "Can I have a cookie for Ella Kate too?" (since she wasn't with us). When I put some broccoli in our cart you said "thank you for getting my broccoli mommy."  If I hand you a water when we're in the car, before you'll even take a sip you tell me that "Ella Kate needs a water too."  You almost always think of her before yourself.  You are also an encouragement to us saying things like "Ella Kate, I like your new dress;" "You're a good mama;" or "Great job" when I'm helping with a puzzle.
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You love people and notice every little thing. For example, if you see someone for the first time in 6 weeks, and they're not wearing their glasses or Livestrong bracelet, you want to know where the missing item is.  Animals are some of your favorite toys, and thanks to your Grandma, you probably have about 100 very well-made animals, a stable/barn, and lots of wooden fencing.  You often say that the horses are your favorite, and they all have names--Traveler, Sandy, Valentine, etc.

Your typical day begins between 6:45 and 7:15. You wake up and quietly stay in your bed until we come to get you. I rely on our video monitor to know when you've woken. You've only ever gotten out of your "big boy bed" one time after a nap or night time sleep. You're such an obedient child. Most mornings we watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (because it's Ella Kate's favorite) in my and daddy's bed for a little while as we wake up, and then we have breakfast.  You and Ella Kate usually play for a while, and a lot of days this winter we have just stuck around the house. You are content to just play at home and can be so imaginative with your toys, pretending blocks are cupcakes or necklaces are candy or water for your horses. Other days we may go to the gym, and you often don't want to leave the toys. You still love the Children's Museum and always looked forward to a class called Zumbini that we went to for a few months.  You like the library, Publix (free cookies:), and just about any other place we go.  You're just easy to please.

You like to know what to expect, and most days you eat broccoli, fruit (apple, cantaloupe, and strawberries are the regulars), and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  You nap from 1:30 until I wake you up around 3:30.  We eat an early dinner when your father gets home from work around 5:15, and you like to wrestle with him on the bed, play hide and go seek, and just play.  You also like watching television and get to watch a show before bedtime; you almost always choose Dora the Explorer.  Bedtime is at 8:30. Either your dad or I pray with you, sometimes read a book, and tuck you in with your blanket and puppy and octopus plus 3 books.  Yep, you insist on sleeping with your books.

You have an exciting year ahead.  We started potty training 6 days ago, and you're doing great. We are planning on swimming lessons this spring and maybe soccer too, and this weekend we are registering you for preschool for next fall! We are planning a beach trip for May, and you're going to be so excited. You love pretending to be at the beach and don't remember your first 2 trips since you weren't even 2 years old for either trip. I look forward to experiencing it all with you.

Much love,

Mommy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Old Blog Self :)

Over the last few weeks, I've had to look up several things on my blog. Yeah for an easily searchable journal! And tonight I ran across this gem in an old post about dating mishaps:

"And from what I have observed, once you have children, stories centering around bodily fluids and functions and sleeping habits become fascinating and appropriate to share with others, even large groups of acquaintances!"  

Oops, guilty. Maybe not with large groups of acquaintances, but it's amazing what seems appropriate to talk about when you're living with sleep deprivation at the hands of an infant.  Or maybe it doesn't even seem appropriate, but you're so weary, you're not even thinking about what is coming out of your mouth.  As I read some of my old posts, it makes me want to write now.  I hope I'll have them mental space and desire to do so soon.

p.s. I'm thankful for the glorious sunshine this week.


Monday, September 29, 2014

A New Routine

The last time I can remember consistently working out was about the time I started dating my husband Blake.  I ran a 4 mile road race in May 2009 and about a month later I went to Nicaragua for two weeks and got some sort of intestinal bug that took at least a month or two to go away.  Since I got sick every time I ate, I finally quit exercising, and by the time the bug ended I was thinner than usual (lost muscle) and spending the time I'd previously spent at the gym or running with Blake.  I didn't mind the trade and loved spending my evenings with him.  Over the past few years I've walked a lot, gone to the gym some, but between two pregnancies, the related recovery, and a torn meniscus/surgery, I've not consistently really worked out--meaning the sweaty, fast heartbeat kind of workout that gives me the rush of energy I craved in the past.

Now that I'm most likely finished birthing babies I've decided it's time to attempt to develop an exercise routine of sorts.  So for step one we joined a gym with excellent childcare.  Step two is getting my daughter Ella Kate to stay with the strangers in the childcare.  Today I ran a mile in 9:40 on the treadmill, which is the furthest I've run since I had part of my meniscus removed in April. And Ella Kate made it 20 minutes with only a few minutes of crying.  We gotta start somewhere!

I'm super motivated by numbers and goals, so I think I'll work up to running a 5k and work on my one mile time.  I think a 9 minute mile is a good short term goal.  My weight is where I want it to be, and I can wear all of my clothes; but I'm guessing my body fat is not in a healthy range. And I could definitely use some toning.  So I've asked a trainer at the gym to test my body fat. Interestingly she said she didn't think numbers mattered and wanted to know why I needed to know my body fat percentage. I explained that I think body fat percentage is much more of a health indicator than weight and that numbers motivate me.  

p.s. I'm thankful for our new gym and the kind childcare workers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Esquire

Since the beginning of August I've been trying to get a written explanation of the PMI removal process from our current mortgage holder (I won't bore you with the details of why).  After speaking with several customer representatives with a poor command of the English language who clearly did not understand the basics of a mortgage, I sent several emails and made several more phone calls.

Over a month passes with no response to my requests.  So I send a final email and just happen to end my email with "Gratefully, Ally R., Esquire."  And BOOM! I receive a certified letter, signature required from an assistant vice president on card stock with a real blue ink signature.  It never ceases to amaze me how people treat me differently when they learn that I am/was an attorney.

Before we bought our home, I lived in a loft that had occasional maintenance issues.  If I sent an email from my gmail account, I often never received any response whatsoever.  I found that if I sent the exact same e-mail from my work email account (a law firm), I would received a response within minutes.  This was over the course of years with the same building manager; it's like he didn't remember I was an attorney unless I used the work account, and I guess only attorney tenants deserve responses?

Oh well, at least my continuing ed and paying dues has some upsides while I don't work.

p.s. I'm thankful Jackson and I will be able to see my oldest niece play softball tomorrow evening.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Official

I've lost my mind.  On Saturday we met our friends and their three boys at Touch A Truck, which is an annual event here at the Riverpark that includes an array of vehicles (dump trucks, ambulance, bus, street sweeper, etc.) that children are allowed to "drive" and touch.  I was holding Ella Kate and realized I didn't see Jackson anywhere.  I glanced around and got that anxious feeling I occasionally get at the park when I realize I can't quickly find him.  I asked my husband if he saw Jackson, and he and my friend Kate look at me in amazement...and inform me that I'm holding his hand.

p.s. I'm thankful for fun and relaxing weekends.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Friday Five

1. This week I had a quick (and rare) lunch at Panera alone.  As I placed my order I repeatedly thought I could hear Elmo giggling and talking.  As a parent of two young children, I'm familiar enough with Elmo and definitely familiar with phantom cries/sounds (like I imagine I hear a child crying over the fan in our room, but when I check the monitor Jackson is asleep), but I've never quite imagined cartoon sounds.  After a few minutes I finally realize a mother has her iPhone in a stand with what must be an Elmo video loudly playing for her child as he eats his lunch.  I guess I see how it can help keep your child quiet and to each their own, I suppose, but I was pretty surprised someone would think it was socially acceptable to play a cartoon so loudly that I could hear it across the restaurant.  

2. I've had two girls nights (really just dinner) out in the last two weeks.  Tonight the discussion included homeschooling, breastfeeding, prayer requests, and similar topics.  Last week was a totally different group of women, and I drank hunch punch for the first time since college and ended up talking about sex.  A rare topic of conversation at my age and season of life.

3. My new goal is to have a date night every other week.  We have two dates in the last month under our belt now, so I hope this will become our routine.  I believe our marriage needs to be our priority (before our children), but practically I have a hard time actually doing that.

4. My children had sweet time with their grandparents this week.  Jackson would probably live with my mom if he could.

5. I'm on a real reading kick.  A lot of what I'm reading is easy fiction (the Divergent series, for example), but I've got some non-fiction in the line-up too.  One of my favorites of the summer was To The End of June by Cris Beam, a non-fiction book about the foster care system.  It read easily and opened my eyes to how poorly we're caring for so many children as a society.  

p.s. I'm thankful that I started my day with a walk with my friend Chasie. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

These Are The Days

With the exception of last week when we were in the throes of a very nasty case of Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease, in the last month I've often thought "these are the days."  Our children love and cherish their dad and me, and they love and enjoy each other so much.  They want to hold hands and make each other smile. They delight in the smallest things. I just can't imagine a sweeter time.  My son seriously believes that when I kiss his head (after he runs into the corner of the counter) it makes it all better.  My daughter lights up when she sees me.

I'm trying to soak up these moments and revel in them instead of some of the challenges of this season.  It's incredible how my days currently hold such high highs yet also include such exasperating moments.  At the end of the day I often find myself so weary yet reflecting on the goodness of our days together. I just can't imagine a more rewarding way to spend my time.

When I was in high school people often said "these are the best days of your life" and that prospect made me really sad.  And it certainly hasn't been true for me.  Falling in love with my husband and our year of dating was one of the happiest seasons of my life.  And seven years ago, I traveled alone in Europe for six weeks and lounged on beaches in Spain, Greece, Malta, and Portugal.  I visited places I had wanted to see for years (parts of Switzerland, Sevilla, Cadiz, Granada) and set my own leisurely pace each day. And now again, I'm somewhat setting my own pace each day, although a needy one year old often sets the tone too. On days like today (when no one is sick
and the sun is shining:) and we take a neighborhood stroll, read books, I teach Ella Kate to kiss Jackson's boo boo and he stops crying, she grins because I give her mandarin oranges, and he's ecstatic because he gets to wear his $5 Old Navy train tee shirt, I think surely these are some of the best days of my life.

p.s. I am so thankful Ella Kate's rash and blisters are healing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ella Kate: One Year

Dear Ella Kate,

You'll be a year old soon, and I wanted to write this to give you a snap shot of your life and personality at this age.  We often describe you as fearless and a live-wire. You have so much energy! You've busted your lip four times in the last few weeks as you run around like a bull in a china shop.  Speaking of running, you took your first steps on Mother's Day (when you were just 9 months old) and by the time you were 11 months old you were walking 95% of the time.  You also say "bird," "dada," "ball," and "bye bye."  Today you said "dirt" for the first time, which is fitting because you love playing in the dirt and outside in general.

When you were 9 months old you also began refusing to let us feed you with a spoon.  You like to do it yourself and enjoy almost every food, especially green beans and mandarin oranges.  Despite being a good eater, you're a peanut which makes your early walking even cuter.  You've consistently been 25% for weight and 75% for height at our well visits, and I'd guess you weigh about 18-19 pounds now.


You rarely sit still unless you're in your high chair or stroller or if we're reading you a book, giving you a bottle, or holding you while standing.  You really like being held and walked around and when you're fussy that is usually the solution.  You won't sit still for a television program or to cuddle.  You love balls and enjoy playing with cars and things you can put in your mouth.

Most mornings you wake up around 6:30 or 7:00 (if I'm very lucky:) and after a bottle, you and I (or the whole family) often go on a walk to beat the heat.  You enjoy our walks, and I love your company.  You're so pleasant early in the morning.  We eat breakfast around 8:00, and you usually have fruit and eggs/waffles/zucchini bread/Organic Os.  Then you and Jackson play until your nap around 9:30.  You usually sleep really deeply, and I wake you at 11:00.  After nap we either play, read, sing songs, have a play date, or go to the Discovery Museum or zoo.  You love the Discovery Museum, especially all of the climbing things.  Your next nap is around 2:30 and lasts until almost 4:00.  Sometimes we fit in a quick trip to the museum after nap, run errands, or just play around here. Today we went to the pool, and you liked every minute of it.  

You adore our plastic kiddie pool and will almost dive into it.  You love the bath tub too but refuse to sit still because you like to plop down repeatedly and make splashes.  Needless to say you regularly have bruises on your bottom, and we generally bathe you in the kitchen sink.  Bedtime is at 7:30 or 8:00 depending on how you've napped, and you always go down easily.  You sleep with a paci and would probably keep a paci in your mouth most of the time if I would let you.

You and your brother enjoy each other so much. This morning when you and I got home from our walk Jackson met us at the door, squealing with excitement and you practically jumped out of the stroller to be with him.  Like Jackson, you have the best smile and are often so happy and grinning, especially when your dad, brother, or I come in the room or pay attention to you.  Your grin when when we tap your finger with ours and say "ding" is priceless.  And you immediately start clapping when I begin singing "If You're Happy and You Know It."  Jackson often tries to tickle you, and you giggle the entire time.  You're so full of life little girl!

Oh, how I love having you as my daughter.  I've wanted a daughter for so long, and you're an answer to many prayers.  I look forward to seeing who you become and doing life with you; our family feels so much more complete with you in it.  We're excited to celebrate you & your first year of life next month.

Love,
your mommy

p.s. I'm thankful you're mine.






Thursday, June 19, 2014

Introversion


My sophomore year of college I shared an apartment with three girls.  It was a hard year for lots of reasons, but after I took the Myers Briggs test during my spring semester I discovered one of the reasons I was pretty unhappy.  The test said I was an INTP with pretty strong introversion.  My immediate reaction was that I couldn't be an introvert because I was so outgoing and social. Then I learned that introversion was more about how you get energy and that I was likely drained (rather than energized) by social interaction.  And it totally clicked why living with three girls was exhausting me.  After that year I mainly lived alone (until I got married) and absolutely loved it.

My husband Blake and I are both energized by alone time, which is definitely challenging now that we have children.  As I've reflected on parenting choices over the last two and a half years, I've thought a lot about what I want to teach my children.  One thing I emphasized a lot with Jackson was learning to enjoy his own company.  While I could care less if he's an introvert (and actually think life is easier in some ways an extrovert), I want him to be able to entertain himself and not need constant companionship--plus I knew we'd have another child, and he would need to be able to function without my constant attention.  And wow, whether it's what I've emphasized, genetic, or just by chance, Jackson loves being alone.  After two hours at the Discovery Museum yesterday, Jackson played outside by himself for almost 30 minutes--mainly sitting in a chair and surveying our yard.  He loves to "read" alone and work on his projects (moving dirt, cutting the grass, organizing various things, etc.).  This picture is what I saw when I looked out the window yesterday; Jackson just sitting in a chair.

With a second child, it's been much more challenging to give her opportunities to be alone.  I've started putting her in her crib with toys for 5-15 minutes stretches, but her brother usually ends up wanting to be with her or giving her toys and interacting with her.  When her brother isn't home she'll play alone for a few minutes but is definitely accustomed to having him around to help entertain her.  Now that she's walking 99% of  the time she's seeming more independent and exploring more on her own.  Of course, different personalities are what makes the world go round, and we love seeing their individual personalities emerge.

p.s. I'm thankful for our new family routine of taking walks in the morning.