Wednesday, August 19, 2015

End of summer beach trip

Since we have a baby coming in about eight weeks I can't really take off a whole bunch of time as I'm saving all of my leave for maternity leave, but we wanted to take the kids to the beach for an end-of-summer vacation. My cousin's engagement party happened to fall on a Saturday evening and was being held near a beach so we decided to extend the weekend into a mini-vacation. The kids were beyond excited about spending time away at the beach, but I was still a bit wary about how crowded the beach can get and keeping an eye on them all. Turns out it was easier than expected.

We took off early on Friday and arrived before lunch. Our room wasn't yet ready, so we made some sandwiches, packed up our lunch and stuff for the beach and walked over. The kids could barely contain their excitement and started digging in the sand the minute we dropped our stuff. We rented a beach cabana every day so we could have some shade and a place to stow away our stuff.

The first beach day we spent as much time on the beach as we could and left when the kids started to look tired. After checking in to our room, we got everyone showered and dressed and then headed over to The Beach Pub for dinner. I had a pound of crab, but I should have gotten the flounder again. Don't get me wrong, the crab was good and definitely satisfied a craving I was having, but the flounder was so delicious last time. Like melt in your mouth delicious. Tom got some sort of platter and shared a scallop with me and I almost took the rest of them from him. And the hush puppies that came with the meal? They should be served with every meal everywhere. Enough said.

After dinner we walked the boardwalk with the kids and saw the statue of Neptune and took a few boardwalk pics. 

On the walk back to the hotel we stopped at Dairy Queen and got ice cream. It was about that point that Lexi started falling apart in a major way. Sheer exhaustion got the better of her. So we went up to our room, got everyone ready and put them all to bed. We had initially planned to read or watch TV or something once the kids were asleep, but we both wound up falling asleep with them. Good thing, too, because Tommy was up at the butt crack of dawn. 

I swear he got up early every day just to see the tractor comb the beach for trash. He also loved watching the people running and biking on the boardwalk and the garbage trucks. Once the rest of the family woke up we headed down for a quick breakfast before getting ready for the beach for the day. 

Our set up on Saturday was similar to the day before, but in addition to renting a cabana we decided to also rent a lounge chair so we could have a clean space for the kids to sit off of the sand while they ate lunch. This was our set up for the day. We also put out another towel about 10 feet in front of this set up and dumped the rest of the sand toys with it. Kind of our way of extending our beach space and line-of-sight to the water. 

Tommy and Lexi spent most of their time playing in the sand and running back and forth to the water. Stasa alternated happily searched for shells and body surfing the waves. 

Eventually we were all in the water playing in the waves. Tommy reached up to be held and snuggled right into my body. The kid was done. I took him up to our spot, wrapped him in a towel and lay down with him. He quickly passed out and stayed asleep for a couple of hours in the cabana. 

This one was a beach bum, too.

Although that didn't last too long. She stayed still long enough to warm up and then was up and playing in the sand and water with Stasa. 

We only stayed until about 3:00 on Saturday since we had to get ready for the engagement party and wanted to give the kids some time to cool off and relax out of the sun. Even then we managed to get in a solid six or so hours on the beach. The girls passed out in the car on the way to the party - the sun and surf took a toll on them. I remember as a kid coming home from my grandmother's, Garu's, house having spent the whole day on the beach and riding the waves and just crashing on the sofa still in my swimsuit. Those summer days are still some of my favorite memories and seeing the kids play like that brings back all the good feelings from those days. 

The kids were okay at the party - now don't get me wrong the party was great, but the kids must have been bored. We stayed a couple of hours and left a little after bedtime for the kids. Unfortunately we had to wake them all up when we got back to the hotel so we could get them up to the room and ready for bed. Fortunately they fell back asleep pretty fast and Tom and I were able to hang out on the balcony to people watch and chat.

You'd think that taking a beach vacation would be relaxing, but when you're traveling with a 2 year old who enjoys waking up every day at the crack of dawn. 

At least him being up early helped us all take full advantage of the day. Bright side, right? So once again we went down to breakfast after everyone was up and had a chance to actually wake up. After that it was back to the room to pack our lunch and things for the day. Since this would be our last real day on the beach we wanted to spend as much time as possible in the sand and surf. And again we rented a cabana and beach lounge and the kids immediately dropped their stuff and started playing. We lucked out with the weather - it was absolutely gorgeous every day and this day was no exception.

We spent nearly eight hours on the beach that day. Tom and I were spent, but I bet the kids would have happily played for a few more hours. We packed up, got back to our room and got the kids cleaned up so we could head out for dinner. We debated driving someplace, but I really didn't want to get in the car with the kids for fear of them falling asleep and being grumps during dinner. We walked up and down Atlantic and settled on a Tex Mex place and then walked the boardwalk some more before calling it a night. As we were getting ready for bed we were on the fence about spending another day on the beach or just getting on the road early. 

Of course the llama was up and at 'em before the sunrise again. 

This morning though his incessant chatter woke everyone up early and after thinking about it we chose to get some breakfast, pack up and get on the road. I'm glad we made that choice because traffic wound up not being too bad and we got home early afternoon with enough time to rest and get everything cleaned up from our trip, including washing all of the sand and grit on the car. And hey, we even got a couple of hours of peace in the car on the ride home.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The days just keep passing by

I find myself wondering how it's already August (well, tomorrow it will be) and I have only 10 weeks left until my due date. Stasa has three more weeks of summer camp and then a week of gymnastics camp before first grade starts. FIRST GRADE. Which means I need to get organized and get her school supplies, the rest of her uniform and school shoes. I'm in partial denial that she's going into first grade because that seems SO OLD. I know I said that when she started kindergarten, but seriously, this is getting real. She's both excited and nervous about it and has been prepping all summer with her math workbook and practicing reading to herself, which, by the way, takes FOR-EV-ER. I mean I know I'm supposed to be all supportive and encourage her reading, but good lord, sometimes all I want to do is fall asleep. That could also partly be due to being pregnant, but I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same way even if I wasn't.

We've got a mini-vacation at the beach coming up, but other than that we've been laying low this summer and just enjoying time at the pool, splash pad and just being outside. Camp days have really been taking it out of Stasa and she often falls asleep on the drive home - and it's only like a 10 minute drive. She's also loving all the different things they do at camp - art, games, field trips - MY GOODNESS the field trips - the fact that she gets to ride on a legit school bus for trips makes her so happy. The little things. They spend as much time outside as possible and even with her applying sunscreen three or four times a day she's gotten such a dark tan. ::sigh:: I miss summer vacation.

We looked into putting Lexi at the same summer camp, but her age group only had half days and that just wouldn't work for any of us, so she's doing summer camp at daycare. They've upped the ante this year and are having fun things every day. Each night she asks me to check her calendar so she knows what to expect the next day. And I'm almost afraid to say it lest I jinx myself, but Lexi is like a different child. She listens more, is pleasant most of the time, kind and helpful without throwing a fit. We started a new behavior reward system at the start of the summer and weren't sure if it would make a difference, but I think the combination of that and maybe just her getting older has helped. I love watching her play with Tommy - they almost always get along only falls apart if he's being a stinker or if Stasa crashes their play time. I'm learning that two together is fine, but three is truly a crowd and causes chaos. That isn't to say that the three of them can never play nicely together because they can, but sometimes, just sometimes I think they go all apeshit just to drive me up the wall. It's like they want to see how far they can push poor mommy until she breaks and loses it.

So...lately we've just been enjoying family time while we're still a family of five.


Monday, June 8, 2015

State of the Uterus and Other Transitions

Well, I'm over halfway there now. It's odd because most days I almost forget that I'm pregnant until I look down and see the little bump. For awhile I was only feeling a few flutters here and there, but each day the kicks and movements get stronger and stronger. Tom can tell when it's the baby, but the girls still have a hard time feeling it. The girls are desperate to feel the baby move, so I know they'll be thrilled in a couple of weeks once that really ramps up.

Not a whole lot has been happening pregnancy-wise and it feels like it's going by so fast. Probably because I'm chasing after three other kids all the time. Tommy doesn't quite understand what's going on, but if you ask him where the baby is he'll point to my tummy. He is getting quite attached to mommy and really doesn't like when his sisters come up to me if he's sitting on my lap or sitting next to me. "MY MOMMY! NO!" he'll yell. So territorial.

And since we know that about him, we moved him to his new room so he has plenty of time to get used to it and hopefully forget that he used to sleep in the nursery and crib. I love how his room turned out. Initially we were going with a rock-n-roll/industrial theme, but after realizing that we'd have to hang the guitars all the way up to the ceiling we gave up on that vision. I was pretty bummed because I really did love the idea of putting the guitars on display in his room. Plus it was a sneaky way of storing them. So we moved on. I spent a few hours over a weekend thinking about what we could do and finally settled on a farm/rustic theme. I had already ordered his quilt and thankfully it fit in with both themes. We used some old wood to create a couple of signs to personalize his room and hung up a piece of art that's been bouncing around our house with no home. I also painted an old bureau and made a nightstand out of cinderblocks.

The result is the perfect room for our little man.

tommy room
He loves it and the transition has been so easy...actually the easiest one yet. With the girls we would put them in their big girl beds, say goodnight (after the whole routine) and close their doors and not two seconds later they were out of bed and running around. This little cherub says "goodnight" and "I love you" and then ACTUALLY GOES TO SLEEP. He doesn't even get out of his bed until we come back in the following morning,..even when he's wide awake. Sometimes we come in and find him in some interesting positions, though thankfully he hasn't fallen out of bed yet. We tried a pool noodle guard rail, but he hasn't seemed to really need it (even though this picture says otherwise lol).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Preparing for the transition...a big boy room

Not surprisingly, the girls are excited about the new baby and we've had many discussions about how we won't know if it's a boy or girl until the baby is born. They were initially upset because they wanted another sister, but now will tell everyone that they'll be happy if it's a boy or a girl because they love the baby. Easy for them to say that now. We'll see how they really feel come October. Although I'm not too concerned seeing how much they loved Tommy. I mean, Stasa started crying at the hospital at the end of her visit with Tommy because she thought we were all going home and would leave him there forever. She wanted to keep him. What a love.

People ask all the time if all the kids are excited about the baby and we always respond that the girls are, but that Tommy doesn't really get what's going on. He's almost 2 and we'll tell him that there's a baby in there, but he doesn't really seem to care. What he DOES care about is his territory...his room...the nursery. He knows what's his and doesn't hesitate to tell you.

We have some time before the baby arrives to start moving him to a new room so he disassociates the nursery as his and I'm hoping we'll have him in it sometime next month. I feel like he's going to be the toughest to transition.

Now that the girls share a room, which, good lord, can sometimes be a nightmare, we have two other rooms we've been using as guest rooms and for storage. One of the rooms, Stasa's old one, has all of Tom's guitars and amps and stuff in it and is the room I'd like to move Tommy in to. Instead of finding yet another new home for the musical equipment I thought I'd use that as a starting point for inspiration for the room. We ordered plain hooks to hang the guitars on the wall, although I REALLY preferred these amazing ones, but didn't want to spend $40 a pop. From there I picked up some paint samples and put them up on the wall and at the same time ordered a quilt. I knew I wanted the room to be navy, burgundy and either grey or brown, so the quilt is a navy, burgundy and white plaid and we already had cotton burgundy curtains. Now we just need to clean and paint the walls, paint the bureau (and get new drawer pulls) and get a new curtain rod. I'm going with an industrial/music/rock n roll feel so I've decided to use galvanized pipe as the curtain rod and maybe something similar for DIY drawer pulls. I have some fun rock-n-roll type art to put up on the walls and now just need to figure out what I want to do with his initial for the wall.

Last night I put the quilt on the bed to see it with the curtains and wall samples. While the kids were playing in the playroom I pointed to the room and asked Tommy "is that your new room?" He yelled no and ran to the nursery. So I brought one of his regular blankies he sleeps with and put it on the twin bed and waited. He walked by, did a double take and ran in yelling MINE MINE! I thought he might grab the blanket and run back to the nursery, but instead he got a stool and climbed up on the bed to play. So I think I'll slowly move his stuff in the room and maybe even have him "help" move some things.

Little man is usually so easy going, but he's really starting to stand up for what's his which is why I think this transition needs to happen sooner rather than later.

He really is the sweetest little boy and loves his sisters so I'm sure he'll love the baby, too. Ahhhh, all in due time. Little llama turns two on Monday and for some reason it's bittersweet for me. I mean I'm having another baby, so it's not like he's my last and these are all of my last milestones (which I'm totally understanding now), but it's something about him not being a little baby anymore. Putting him down to bed all I want to do is hold him tightly and not let go. It makes it even harder to say goodnight when the sweet thing whispers "Iloveyouuuuuuu." Don't get me wrong, I feel the same way about the girls and after they're asleep I tip toe back in their room to tuck them in and whisper I love yous and give them goodnight kisses. But at bedtime? HA! This blog post sums up exactly what bedtime is like with those nut jobs. I reread that last night after dealing with the moles and was in TEARS from laughing so hard. I tried reading excerpts aloud to Tom and couldn't get through them without laughing because IT'S SO TRUE and is our life.

But I digress. Tommy will be two very soon and will be moving to his new big boy room. I can't wait to share pics once it's finally finished. Of course, since I'm relying on others ::cough::TOM::cough:: to help get it started it might take a bit longer than usual.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"It's not about the goodies..."

Stasa started telling us early last week how Easter isn't all about the goodies and eggs, that it's about Jesus. I'm glad she's realizing that holidays aren't all about presents and material goods. It's actually something we say for most things. Material things, while we have many, aren't that important. We talk about that when we go over our safety plan for fire or other emergencies. People are important. Not toys. Not things.

Unfortunately, it's a very hard thing to remember when your sister is getting birthday presents that you want for yourself. Even if you did have over 20 friends at your party (which equates to A LOT of presents). Always wanting what you don't have. Yet another lesson we're always trying to drive home - don't worry about what other people have, be happy with what you have. Share. Respect each other. Be kind.

This weekend we decided to brave the Easter vigil mass at 8:00 PM rather than face the crowds of people in the morning. We expected to have standing room only, so we got there a half an hour early to get a seat and were surprised to find the church mostly empty. Even as mass started there were still plenty of open seats. Even so, we opted to sit in the cry room, something we only do if the kids are misbehaving. But given the hour it was a crapshoot, so the cry room was our best bet...which would up being unnecessary. The girls were very interested in the holy fire and the lighting of the candles and held theirs very carefully. Tommy had a death grip on his (with my hand over it) and kept saying "light, mommy, light!" After about the second of five readings, the girls curled up on the chairs under our jackets and fell asleep. I thought Tommy would for sure fall asleep given the time, but nope. He was in it for the long haul and started getting a little goofy - quiet, but goofy. We've tried a vigil mass in the past when the girls were younger and I think we left right before the gospel reading (about an hour and a half in) because they had reached their limit. This year thanks to them sleeping we made it through the entire mass in peace.

Of course, that meant we got home on the late side and everyone went to bed later than normal. Tom even commented that maybe that meant the kids would sleep in for us. Yeah, right. Stasa was up and in my face first thing in the morning, sad because the Easter bunny hadn't come. (Remember how she lectured us about Easter not being about the goodies? Yeah, that was a lesson quickly forgotten.) I asked if she was sure, and she said she had looked out her window and didn't see any eggs, so she assumed that the bunny forgot about us. I suggested she go play and let us wake up a bit and not two minutes later she came sprinting back into our room yelling "THE BUNNY DID COME! HE DID!" She spied their Easter baskets from the top of the stairs. Holidays with kids will never get old.

Our bunny didn't bring a ton of candy this year and instead brought snacks like pop tarts (hey, it's breakfast food), pudding pouches and these chocolate milk straws. As they were plowing through their baskets, Tom asked Stasa to check if the mailman left anything by the door. She got up to check (not realizing that mail doesn't come on Sundays) and ran back shouting that there were eggs out there! So we got our shoes and jackets on over our jammies and ran out to search for eggs. Stasa's really quick and we had to remind her to let Lexi and Tommy a chance to get some of the eggs. Tommy happily wandered around and got really excited every time he found an egg on his own. Our eggs always contain money and the kids sorted their coins once we were back in. I think Stasa found all the eggs with dollar bills and wound up with a total of just over $5 in change while Lexi had just over $3 and Tommy got about $2.

After a quick nap it was time to head over to have dinner with the family. Since we didn't have a family party for Lexi, she got some birthday gifts while we were there. Grandma got her two new Lalaloopsy dolls with long hair and Uncle Pat and Mimi got her some fun and fancy dress ups and boas. Now, as soon as Lexi opened the Lalaloopsy dolls (there were two) she immediately turned to Stasa and said "you can play with this one" and handed her a doll. So thoughtful and kind. But as the day wore on Lexi decided that she wanted to play with both of her Lalaloopsy dolls by herself. When she asked Stasa for it Stasa broke down crying because life just isn't fair. And this mini meltdown over these dolls went on throughout the evening and night as she begged to have one of them.

I find this so interesting since as the oldest child Stasa usually gets the newest of everything and Lexi as number two gets a lot of hand-me-downs. Nearly all of Lexi's closet is hand-me-downs from Stasa and yet she's THRILLED with them because they're new to her. Most of their toys are shared between the three of them and usually they're okay with that. As I stated earlier, almost all of Stasa's class came to her birthday party. Over 20 kids. That's a lot of gifts. And Lexi sat patiently and watched Stasa open each and every one and not once complained that she didn't have any nor did she cry. She just accepted that these were Stasa's gifts and was happy with whatever little things Stasa let her play with.

I often feel like a broken record when it comes to parenting.
"Please get your shoes on."
"Clean up your mess."
"Don't pick your nose and eat it."
"Brush your teeth."
"Be nice to each other."
"Wash your hands!"

And on and on. But reminding Stasa to be happy for her sister is a hard one. Stasa's had so much time in the spotlight this year with starting kindergarten, learning to read, performing in school plays, starting Girl Scouts, losing teeth...and Lexi has been watching all of this from the sidelines. It's Lexi's turn. She just started Pre-K a half a year early (which will be GREAT for her) and we're really playing that up. And she turned four and is now able to write her name by herself. All big things. So we find ourselves reminding Stasa that we need to let Lexi have her turn and to be happy when people gift her things and to be even more grateful when Lexi shares her things with her. And really, that material things aren't important. It's easy to preach to others that "it's not all about the goodies," but it's a hard pill to swallow when it's turned back on you. Stasa will get there eventually.

Life is hard when your parents play outside with you and bring out the kites on a windy day.

And it's even harder when your parents won't let you whack your sisters with your toy golf clubs.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My thoughts no particular order

Three, almost four, kids in and I can say with certainty that so far, four is the most difficult age in terms of defiance. I vaguely remember Stasa acting out and talking back at that age, but she also responded to discipline and really didn't like sitting in timeout. And I think I'm probably remembering wrong because Tom reminded me the other night how we used to have to constantly place her back in timeout just to get through a four minute period. It's funny how our brains hide away those memories. Even so, I do remember how Stasa could (and still can and does!) happily sit quietly and color or play and entertain herself.

Fast forward to the other night. Now, both girls share a room, not out of necessity, but out of our desire for them to share more and their desire to be together more often. To me this was a great win - I got back another closet for storage space (something we need more of in our house with no basement) and I got to redecorate a room for them, merging all of their things into one bright and colorful room. For the most part this arrangement has been great - the girls love being in the same room and almost always want to play together when they're at home. Where it falls apart is at bedtime. And really this is where the effing fours come in to play, too. Part of the problem starts with dinner. The girls take a LIFETIME to finish even a quarter of their plate of food and believe me, we're not giving them a whole hell of a lot to start with knowing that they're food wasters. The only food rule we have at the table is that they take at least two no thank you bites of everything before asking to be excused. And usually all three kids are great about trying everything (even if it means sitting there for several minutes repeating that they have to at least try it). Stasa must be going through a growth spurt because she has actually picked up the amount she's been eating, but Lexi? HA that kid will wait you out ALL FREAKING NIGHT. She's been on a food strike for what feels like forever. When she does eat it's a bite here and there and her mostly bothering everyone around her or taking breaks to go to the bathroom. And more often than I like Stasa feeds in to the insanity Lexi's whipping up and before we know it both girls are fooling around and it's creeping towards 7:00 PM, then 7:15 PM and they haven't even made a dent in their food. And just to be clear - I do not subscribe to the Clean Plate Club and don't encourage my kids to eat everything, only for them to eat their requested no thank you bites, which really is what? Six bites of food? A nothingburger.

We'll have been at the dinner table for what feels like forever and we're creeping in to bedtime territory, so we set a timer and tell them they have until the timer goes off to finish up. That usually works and we're able to clear the table and dishes and move upstairs to start bedtime. Only more often than not the playroom and their bedrooms look like a tornado has passed through, so before we can even begin bedtime we have to pause to have them clean up the giant mess. I'm sure we could leave it or just throw things to the side, but I want them to be responsible for the messes they make because this mama already picks up enough and if I have to clean my messes, they have to do the same.

Bedtime has been the same routine since they've been very little. Most nights they'll get a bath or quick hose down, get in pajamas, brush teeth and climb into bed for a story. We were letting them each choose a book, would read them both and then it was lights out.

And then all hell would break loose. The minute I sat down on the couch - literally the minute I sat down - one or both of the girls would come out for water or to announce that they had to go potty (as they passed their bathroom to make said announcement) or to ask for another hug. Or they'd be playing around and running around their room. Now, Stasa's always been what we call a bedtime rebel, but has gotten better with age. We have told them that we're okay with them talking while in bed, but that we don't want them running all around, but they do it anyway and find themselves sitting in timeout.

Listen, in our house you only wind up in timeout for three reasons: yelling, hitting (or any physical harm) and not listening. For yelling and hitting it's an automatic timeout. But with listening we give three warnings. Three chances to get your shit straight and do what we've asked. Stasa almost always gets it together by the second warning, but has found herself sitting in timeout for yelling or not listening - almost never for hitting (actually that's mostly a Tommy timeout).

Lexi though. Oof. This kid. I tease that I call her Lexifer because she's the second coming of Lucifer. She's a good kid, don't get me wrong - loving and sweet and kind. But she's also...aloof? I liken her to a cat. She doles out affection, but it's on her terms and when she's done, she's done. And try telling her to do X, Y or Z. She's NOT having it unless she feels like it. Which means she winds up sitting in timeout for quite a long time since she refuses to actually SIT in timeout. How do you make a child sit in timeout if they refuse? For us it means breathing deeply and picking her up and placing her back in timeout.

Every bedtime was getting to be exhausting. To the point where I was going to bed unhappy with my own behavior. See, I'm instinctively a yeller. But I don't want to be - neither of us do, because we certainly don't want our kids growing up in a yelling house or have them be so immune to it that they yell all the time, too. I decided to try something different. We've kept the same bedtime routine only now even if I get upset or the kids are acting up (like they were the other night when they lost their skirts, dresses, and leggings to a week-long timeout), I reset my attitude for each part of the routine. So the kids splashed me from head to toe in the bath and refused to get out? Okay, talk to them, give them a warning and move on. The moving on part is always the hardest for me, but it's been the most freeing. Now we end each night with everyone curled up in their own beds listening to a couple of chapters of a book before lights out. Right now we're reading The Wizard of Oz - an old old copy of the book where Dorothy wears silver slippers instead of ruby ones. Stasa listens quietly while Lexi tosses around a bit, but both remember everything we've read and wait patiently for a picture page.

When I walk downstairs after bedtime now I feel happy and at peace with our day, even if it was one where the kids dumped out all of the art supplies and threw their pillows and stuffed animals everywhere. At least we ended on a happy note as a family.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

There's a new kid in town

Or at least there will be a new kid in town. Coming October 2015, the fourth installment of the Merkel family. Merklet #4 is due October 10th, just one day before Tom's birthday. The girls have already suggested that we name it Ariel or Stasa or Lexi. All solid suggestions.