Thursday, July 2, 2015

Blogging from my phone and not happy about it

Phone blogging is some sad clown business. So more than normal typos plz to be forgiven, yes?

My computer went wacky on me again so I have another appointment at the genius bar today. Blah, blah, blogging lite excuse #52.

I am reallllly hoping to launch the new blog early next week, just waiting on one last element. In the meantime I am reluctant to post things on this blog as I won't be able to transfer these newer posts & their embedded links over and comments will be lost. (Boring technical aside-I am switching to and have transferred all posts & links & comments already but there will be about 10 posts that are stuck in limbo-land, like this one. Those will be c&p manually.) so blogging lite excuse #1.

My cutie patootie turned four yesterday!! i want to write a separate post about him and his bday but here is a little collage of our day
Oh that worked to insert the pic! Ok, maybe phone blogging isn't THE WORST. 

Day in the life heads up!! Check out Julia's blog for full details:

I am working on sleep training myself now that Lily's sleep is finally decent. She still fusses here and there in the night but has been sleeping 7-5 more often than not!! However, umpteen months of waking 2-4 times a night has me in a bad sleep pattern and I am prone to reverting back to a pattern of pregnancy-style insomnia where I am awake from 2-5 am (this is why I am still managing to read so much). Anyway, to sleep train myself I am skipping all alcohol and getting in bed by 8:30 pm and reading for an hour - reading a REAL book - and also avoiding my phone/ipad right before bed. I am also taking a 1/2 a unisom in the short term (maybe for a week?) to really get a solid sleep pattern back. I am hoping this works and I can get some energy back. I have been feeling utterly zombified. I am also getting my thyroid and hemoglobin checked just to make sure it is not something beyond classic sleep deprivation. Oh-I am also getting my copper IUD (paraguard) removed next week. Gave it a year but the periods remain insane, like INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE insane, and it is not worth it. I can't imagine it is a healthy thing to have a week long period heavier than post childbirth bleeding each month. Sorry to share but true. Hopefully I am not anemic due to the blood loss but I wouldn't be surprised if I was. So no more IUDs now that I have tried both. No more pills or nuva rings or depo provera either as I have done all those in the past, too. Essure makes me nervous. But I want at least two forms of birth control so I think charting plus condoms plus soon-to-be-scheduled vasectomy? Blah. Why must this be so complex?? 

Ok, I have reached my phone typing quota so I must sign off! Here are a few more pics before I go.
Saw this on hforeste's IG and Max copied it for Ollie's bday party!

The family cake.

Party cupcakes. Idea from several pinterest examples but they all had broken links. Basically it is fruit by the foot and candy eyeballs. The mouths turned out all crazy and the cupcakes make me laugh but they are cute and recognizable and Ollie loved them so I am happy with my effort.

Bella passed a swimming test yesterday and this means she can swim in the pool without an adult in the water with her! She is so proud and so are we. She couldn't swim at all 6 months ago! But the pool with all 3 at very different levels is a handful even with two adults. Makes me sleepy!

Ruffly baby swimsuit!!

Baby pigtails!!

I do wonder if she was made extra super cute to help make the nearly nonstop whining more tolerable ;)

Ok, byeeeeeee friends!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Life Updates

  • Our summer days are slowly finding a rhythm. I am loving slower mornings and being outside all day and running through sprinklers and sipping chilled white wine while the kids play in the driveway after dinner. But the current mix of ages and stages make for challenging days. Lily needs constant monitoring, Ollie needs a careful eye to make sure he doesn't impulsively run into the street or something equally dangerous and Bella is self-sufficient but also very demanding of attention and wants to show off all her new skills (biking, hula-hooping, cartwheels, etc). Plus the older two are all over the place in terms of how they get along. They are either being super loving and having a blast or they are fighting and trying to hurt each other. I think it has been hard for both of them to adjust to the change from the school year. So I feel spread thin. Or spread more thin than usual! :) When all is said and done, however, I so prefer this summer's challenges to last summer's challenges with a tiny baby. I felt really off in terms of being postpartum last summer - so sweaty and my clothes weren't fitting yet and then needing to nurse a baby spontaneously while at parks or somewhere and also dealing with unpredictable naps - it was not my fave. So I will take this year over last year and will look forward to next year being a bit easier...maybe. In theory.
  • We have started our "summer school" series and the kids went nuts for our space unit last week. I am going to type up a specific post with all the activities and worksheets we did in case someone else wants to do something similar. We had been meaning to go to the Science Museum forever and finally did that on Father's Day as an end to the unit and also a present to Max. Fun fact: dads get in free to special exhibits on Father's Day! We decided to buy a year's membership since we get a nice discount through Max's employer so now we will tie in some other units into Science Museum field trips (the human body and also dinosaurs). This week we are doing zoo animals.
  • Lily is getting to be such a full-fledged toddler. She makes a beeline for stairs whenever she gets the chance and is getting into things and climbing on things all day long.  

    Crawling and cruising are her go-tos for moving around and while I think walking wouldn't be a big stretch for her, she is very committed to holding on to one finger of ours while walking. We had a break between teeth and illness so I sleep trained her (wasn't too bad - at the root of things she is a good sleeper) but that 3:30-4 AM feeding is not budging. Whatever! If I get to sleep 9-3:30 AM then that is 1000% better than what I was getting before. Plus then she goes back to sleep until 7. I am pretty sure forcing a longer night stretch would earn me a 5 AM baby so status quo is good. Now I just need to get myself sleep trained as I remain a hot mess. So annoying!!
  • Left boob has been relieved of breastfeeding duty as of last month. Right boob continues. Right boob now double the size of left boob. Oops.
  • Max has had a busy two weeks. He had surgery on his parathyroid over a week ago and that went great and we are both so relieved (SO! RELIEVED!) that it is over. I think I talked about this on here? Can't remember. Anyway, he has had thyroid issues for a few years but even with meds he remained tired and unusually cold and just off. While it was easy to chalk it up to having, you know, 3 kids and a demanding job, he got a full work-up from an endocrinologist and what do you know - he has parathyroid issues in addition to the thyroid issues. For some reason some people get a benign mass on a parathyroid gland which needs to be removed surgically. So over the past few years while the mass kept growing, he kept having more symptoms and his bones were releasing calcium into his blood stream. If left untreated a person can have many serious complications. What's crazy about this surgery is that once the mass is removed, a person will feel so much better within a week or two. Max does seem more energetic. I am very excited for him to be back to full speed and then I will present him with 300 to-do lists. (WHEE! SO FUN FOR MAX!) And he will probably not be so delighted that I will share this but it was a teeny bit funny to watch him go through the massive hormonal shift that followed the parathyroid surgery. (Thyroids and parathyroids are part of the endocrine system and the endocrine system is what regulates your hormones. *The more you knowwwwww!*) Anyway, he was all, "I feel bloated. Do I look bloated?" and then later "I just feel off. Like my mood is weird."  I shouldn't laugh but LOLOLOLOL. Oh! Just to make things extra crispy and spicy, Max also transitioned jobs and started a new position a few days after his surgery. This is a promotion and while the new role might have a little more travel, it should be far more predictable and won't include him needing to be tied to his phone and doing stuff on nights/weekends/vacations. YAY! Go Max. We are very proud of you. And you don't look bloated at all, promise.
  • I'm rolling out my new blog design very soon and I am so excited about it. All glossy and shiny and full of organization. And the recipe part of it is particularly delightful! There will be printing options built-in to the recipe posts. That makes me feel fancy fancy. 
  • I have flopped back into being an exercise failure. I knew it would be a huge challenge to have all three with me all day while fitting in Mutu stuff and it is. Womp, womp. Walking is particularly tricky during the day. At this point I need to (1) accept and deal with doing Mutu workouts with kids bugging me and crawling on me and (2) prioritize getting to the gym or waking early and exercising while Max is still home (WHICH IS AN OPTION NOW HOORAY TIMES ONE MILLION!)
  • Bubby (Oliver) is having his birthday party next week (4!!) and it is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed. He has never actually seen TMNT but is still a big fan. Haha. We are keeping it super duper simple and it will be a short park playdate with TMNT-themed cupcakes. Oh - and costumes because dress-up is his favorite. I can't wait to see how excited he is going to be on the big day. I am beginning to see that the timing of Bella's and Oliver's birthday parties is going to be a little tricky each year since each kid has a birthday next to a holiday that is popular for traveling (Memorial Day and 4th of July). 
  • Speaking of turtles! This beauty laid her eggs in our front yard last week. We let her do her thing because, well, just look at her. (Remember friends, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!) It took her about six hours and I was all, "What is taking so long? It's like she digs in the ground and then just stops and sits there" and Max was the more compassionate one saying, "Well, she is probably exhausted and feels like she can't move well with all those eggs in her." Max: he gets it now. (Heeeeeee!)
  • We planted a tiny garden! My mom is quite the master gardener and every time we are at her house I am in awe of all the stuff she has planted all over her yard. But that skill set and interest skipped right over me. However, we eat so many veggies and herbs that I am determined to at least give it a go this year. We finally picked up some things at the garden center and got it all planted. Right now we have two tomato plants plus basil, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary, lemongrass, lavender and a small strawberry plant. We will visit my mom on Friday and she is going to give us several more things like kale and raspberries. I am really hoping that this is a success and we can keep it up each summer. We are also getting our deck set up to be a nicer space with some flowers and a new patio umbrella and nice lights. I will share pictures when it is done.
  • Time to make lunch. Today will feature curried egg salad on a bed of lettuce with a side of potato chips and a pickle. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Reviews

As I play catch-up on my past year and a half of book reviews, I have decided to break these posts down into 10 book reviews or so per post. I think I'll end up with six of these posts this summer as I will review ~60 of the 100+ I read (some were duds not worth mentioning). Hopefully that will be a more manageable way to do these book reviews going forward. I will be using Amazon Affiliate links, mostly because I was going to link to Amazon anyway and I wanted to include a picture of the book; judging books by their covers in an unfair manner is my favorite. You can click on the book if you want to read summaries or reviews of the books via Amazon.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This Gillian Flynn book by the Gone Girl author is a whole new level of dark and disturbing. There are some extremely brutal scenes. It is my least favorite of Flynn's three books and it left me feeling icky because I am a delicate fleur. However, Flynn is a very talented writer with a knack for leaving you wanting to race to the end to figure it out. Will still pick up future books by her in a heartbeat.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lesson in Food and Love by Ann Mah

I love the concept of this book and the foodie travel memoir is always a favorite genre but this one was a miss. Based on the title, cover and description I thought this would give me yet another chance to live vicariously through someone eating their way through France...that wasn't the case. This was less a tale of culinary adventure and more of a memoir of someone struggling with being apart from her husband for a year due to his job. I felt annoyed as she talked far more about not coping well with life than about eating French food. I wanted to be compassionate for her [entirely first world problem] situation but she is just so whiny! Eating toast for 3 months and ignoring everything France has to offer because of feeling sad and lonely is really hard to take in a food-based travel memoir. It made me feel so frustrated. Mah also managed to hit another nerve for me by making a point to mention things like how she doesn't often eat dessert at lunch or that her pants were going to be too tight after a larger meal. Blegh. These things are not what a true lover of food would say and again, completely inappropriate in a food memoir! Skip it.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

What a crazy little delight this book turned out to be. Almost like a thriller about middle-aged and elderly bibliophiles, which makes no sense until you dive into the book. It makes you think about the differences between real books and digital books and also brings the past and the future together in a unique and somewhat unexpected way. It's a thinker but I still blew through it in a day. Try'll like it!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I added this after Kate mentioned it and she was spot on. LOVED this weird and extremely nostalgic book and it keeps popping into my brain even well after finishing it. It's set in a depressing and stark future where everyone pretty much lives online as avatars in a virtual utopia. Such an interesting concept. Just as an example - consider the idea of getting teased in a virtual high school for not being able to afford to trick out your avatar - it's easily imaginable! When the creator of the utopia dies he initiates an elaborate virtual game, essentially a real-life video game, where the winner will inherit his fortune. Smart, clever, interesting, LOVE! This book may end up being my favorite read of the year. Trying to get Max to read it so we can talk about it.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Exactly the kind of mystery I like to read. A twisty, turny psychological thriller (Who to trust? What is the truth?) but not so dark and twisted that you are left feeling completely disturbed. Some might argue the ending is a tad too neatly wrapped up in a bow but vague endings are not my fave so give me prettily-wrapped-up presents any day. Bonus points for being set in Europe.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
A big hit for me. It was a fast and fun read. The story unfolded just slow enough to keep you wondering but fast enough to keep you hooked. Great characters and I loved the dark humor. Plus I loved the Seattle setting. Full recommend!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I found this during a middle of the night search for a new book and I'm glad I landed on it. A New Yorker goes to Singapore with her boyfriend to attend a wedding and meet his family. Turns out her boyfriend is from an extremely wealthy family and suddenly she is dealing with a slew of cultural differences - most notably the culture of high society. Fun, glamorous and full of interesting characters.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Morton has earned herself a place among my top authors - maybe even top 10. She combines historical fiction with excellent writing and mysteries and does it beautifully. Once again, Morton dances between the past and modern day and is an expert and keeping you fully hooked. It's the kind of book that you will want to read incessantly until the last page. Awesome twist at the end leaving you going, "Wait. WHAT!?" 

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman

Started this one as I was watching the first season so I could compare. This Piper seems both more and less sympathetic than the Piper on screen. Certainly there was less drama in the real life story, but there is still far more drama than most of us have in our lives. In the end, though, I found this memoir a tick boring. 

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This is the story of a brilliant woman who develops early-onset Alzheimer's. I was reluctant to read this for fear of it being too depressing, but my sitter who lent it to me assured me it was a manageably-sad story. I agree, although seeing the movie remains iffy, seems like it would be too vivid and depressing. The story is melancholy for sure but maintains levity in the face of the situation. Makes you think about end of life decisions and also how we should be living our lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kindergarten Thoughts

My little Bella just finished kindergarten.

The school and all of the procedures and policies that were once overwhelming and confusing now seem routine and easy. We made it! So by reader request, here are my thoughts on kindergarten. I'm doing it bullet point style because that is how my brain is thinking right now.
  • In the days before school started last year, Bella seemed so old and big to me - especially when compared with her younger siblings. However, as she left me and headed into school and merged with a crowd of K-5 kids, I was struck by the image of my baby - my tiny, little baby - walking into school with a backpack that was much too big for her. So you might want to prepare your heart for that sight.
  • The first time the school nurse called me in the middle of the day was surprisingly panic-inducing. I think the nurse knew to expect this reaction as the first thing she said was,"Everything is okay! I just needed to tell you Bella bumped her head on the playground." I have since saved that number into my phone as "School Nurse" because any unknown number with our area code was having giving me palpitations.
  • I have filled an entire file box and then some with papers (art, worksheets, etc) that Bella has brought home. Most can be trashed (i.e. recycled) but right now they still feel very important to her so I will hang on to them for a bit.
  • The curriculum was very intense and surprisingly high level. This worked really well for a kid like Bella who thinks worksheets are the best. I am not sure Oliver or Lily will feel the same. I know some of Bella's friends struggled with the highly disciplined lesson plans. Thankfully there was a good bit of recess and running around built into the day along with free time to do art projects and creative play. There was also a rest time where kids would lay down for 20 minutes but somehow my very charming girl managed to get out of that and do quiet activities at a desk. Her tenacity to avoid napping or rest time remains strong as always and she was not a fan of rest time. "Mom. We can't talk! I don't like it." Color me not one bit surprised she managed to weasel out of laying on a towel quietly for 20 minutes each day :)
  • I would encourage parents to help their kids learn to open containers and do shoe laces and snaps and zippers before school starts. There are only so many adult hands to go around and you want your kid to feel confident and prepared as they go about their day, especially when it comes to using the bathroom.
  • The idea of Bella taking the bus FREAKED ME OUT and I initially wasn't going to have her ride it. But duh, I needed to calm down because was I really going to deal with the enormous hassle of lugging kids in and out of car seats twice a day every day when it could be avoided? Yeah - it took me only two weeks to change my tune. So I adjusted to the bus and it has been just fine. I will say that you might want to prep your little one to remember to pay attention to when to get off the bus. I am forever grateful to a neighbor dad who chased down the bus on the first day she rode. He thought much faster than I did when his son was the only kid to get off at our stop. Bella was still sitting on the bus waiting for someone to tell her to get off! That was never a problem again but I do continue to have to remind Bella about bus safety things such as not running to the bus when it approaches and looking both ways before she crosses the street to me after getting off the bus.
  • Packing lunches are a PITA but I do like these divided containers and these fun slim penguin ice packs and this thermos and this water bottle.  I set myself up for a lifetime of writing cute lunch notes for my children but I am okay with that. I used these half-size colored index cards and would stick a sticker on one side and write a note on the other side. I forgot a couple times and she most certainly did mention that later! Ha. Having the option for B to eat hot lunch at school was fairly awesome and I certainly took advantage of that at least weekly. (Side note: No, as a food asshole I'm not in love with the foods they offer but I am a fan of being practical and as a dietitian who did intern stints in school food service I understand that it can be very hard to make changes to what school lunch looks like. Bella will have a life of choosing her own foods so I am perfectly fine with her starting to practice that now by getting to have some fun school lunches each week.) As far as packing lunches - here are my standbys:
    • Sandwiches: turkey, ham, jelly & cream cheese. Try putting the sandwich on english muffins, tortillas, pancakes, making shapes on occasion with cookie cut outs...
    • Snacky lunch: little bits of cheese, meat, veggies, fruit, pretzels or crackers
    • Egg salad or tuna salad in a small separate container with the other usual suspects: fruit, veg, carb choice like crackers, pretzels or bread.
    • Leftovers, soups, or pastas in a thermos.
    • Our school allows peanut butter so I send that on Fridays when the cafeteria also serves PBJs.
  • I was worried that I would really miss Bella during the day and that I would feel her absence in a painful way. But as it turns out, the adjustment for both of us went smoothly. I don't feel like she is gone ALL day as we still have mornings together and late afternoons & evenings together and all weekend long. 
  • I am very glad that I scheduled no outside activities for the first half of the year and no activities during the weekdays during the second half. So this meant no dance classes, no sports, no music lessons - zippo. She did start swimming lessons on the weekend in February. Other kids might be more adaptable and could handle additional activities, but I feel it would have been too much for Bella. She does really really well at school but tends to fall apart a bit at home given that is where she feels more comfortable. I didn't want to have a rough experience (in terms of managing moods and tantrums) getting her to a class each week, even if she did enjoy the actual class. I believe I will do the same for the start of first grade in terms of no weekday activities. 
  • Things that have changed with how Bella talks. This was a bit alarming, really. Her tone has changed and became much older sounding and at times it's almost a sassy Valleygirl way of speaking. We will see if that disappears over the summer and possibly reappears as the next school year starts. I think I remember trying on different ways of speaking, too.
  • Pulling out little treasures from Bella's backpack at the end of the day is a delight. Lots of love letters from classmates and she often makes little loving pictures for the family during her free time.
  • The long days of being "on" do take a toll (see the no outside activities bullet point above!) so I try to keep things really low key after school.  Time alone in her room after school is good when I can get her to do that (it is not her M.O to be alone - this might work better with the other kids). A long hug and a lot of affection can often help her transition. I feed her a snack and get her a drink STAT and avoid needing to run an errand at that time if possible. Getting us outside and moving is ideal. But expect more sibling fighting, talking back, tantrums, crying, etc after school. This went on all year for us but I expected that would probably happen. Other kids might internalize this more but it's good to be aware that the change from school to home isn't always easy...nor is it easy for adults either!
  • OMG the birthday parties. PREPARE YOURSELF. There are so many parties and often the entire class is invited and given the young age of kindergartners, many are still not drop off. Or if they are drop-off - your level of comfort might vary since you don't know the parents and the situation. Buy a bunch of generic gifts off Amazon to stash in the closet for when you inevitably forget to buy a present (think craft-type, building, puzzles, etc as those can appeal to a range of kids). Another mom gave me the tip of buying craft sets from Michael's whenever they have a 40% off coupon. The number of birthday parties was another reason I felt fine about not doing outside activities - the parties were enough!
  • Those character backpacks will fall apart in two weeks, as will the character shoes. I sewed up the backpack up with some dental floss (upholstery thread would be the normal choice) and it has held up but it is still pretty much trashed with holes at this point. Pretty sure I would buy Bella the same Frozen backpack again for her K year as she loved picking it out so much. However, next year I am going to splurge for something higher quality that will hopefully last for at least a few years!
  • The opportunities to volunteer in the classroom have been endless and I have found that a nice way to get to know the parents (along with all 3,000 birthday parties!). It has also let me feel very connected to what is going on in the classroom. I ate lunch with Bella on two occasions and read books to the class a couple times and also came to most of the class parties. I will note that it can be annoying to have to get a sitter for other kids in order to volunteer - I can see already that Lily will probably get the most mama-presence in her preschool and K classrooms!
  • It can be challenging to know just what to say when your kid mentions something about another kid that is different from them (such as a kid meeting with a special teacher each day) or perhaps even concerning (such as a kid missing many days of school). It's not easy talk to your kids about other kids and their personal needs or challenges in a way that respects the other childrens' privacy but encourages empathy and kindness in your own child. I try to emphasize kindness always and encourage her to remember that everyone is different and we all find different things easier or harder and maybe she will need to work one-on-one with a teacher another year (B felt quite jealous of the kids getting special one-on-one time with paras - this is probably the only reason she even took note in the first place). I didn't want to draw a lot of attention to these observations with a long conversation but I also didn't want to dismiss her comment. Would love feedback on this topic from other parents who have navigated similar conversations. Similarly, this year also brought a lot more comparisons about things like, "Well, X is getting to have a birthday party at fancy place and his parents said he can have 20 friends come!" or "Y gets to wear lip gloss sometimes!" so that brings up the conversation about how parents do things differently and we will just focus on our family, etc etc. Obviously this will get exponentially more challenging in future years. On the flip side, a lot of differences between B and her peers exist without thought or comment, which is refreshing. Bella has never once mentioned things like the fact that some kids sit in rocking chairs rather than the standard chairs in her classroom or that a friend wears a hijab. I only came to know these things when I visited her school myself.
  • As far as playdates with parents and kids we don't know - we are still getting used to it. I will confess to not having Bella do one on her own yet but this will probably come up this summer once there is more free time. I have exchanged numbers with several other moms and have done some playdates at parks, though we haven't done houses yet. This does make me nervous, especially the idea of other families having guns. I know gun ownership can be a very common thing in some parts of the country but to me it feels very strange and alarming. I don't want my kids in house where guns are not locked in a gun safe. I am also very uncomfortable with the idea of sleepovers. I imagine this will be a challenge for me again and again over the years but in the meantime I talk to Bella and Oliver regularly about trusting their gut and that it is okay to say no to a grown-up or to find another grown-up if something feels wrong or uncomfortable and I also talk about their bodies being their own. Hard and scary stuff. I would welcome any additional resources in this area if you have them!
  • Even with the experience of having one kindergartner go through an entire year, I think I will still feel nearly as torn about Oliver going (and eventually Lily) because he is a different kid and thus his experience will be different. How will he handle a full 7 hours away from me? What if he needs help with something like a button on his pants? What if he feels sick? Will he cry? Will the long day be too much for him? (I am the best at coming up with things to be anxious about, even a full year and a half in advance! A real skill set, I tell ya.) But the fact that I will already know the school, the bus system, how the cafeteria works, etc - that helps. Plus he will have his big sister around to help. It's simply a transition that he and I will have to go through together and eventually we will be on the other side of the newness of it all, just like what happened this past year with Bella. 

Would love for others to chime in on their own perspectives on any or all of these points!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hodge Podge

1. MacBook Pro Woes
My laptop has been going slower and slooooower and sloooooooooooooower for over a year and I have handled that by complaining about it to Max at night and/or by not using it at all because it was annoying. V. effective! So Genius bar, diagnosis for its maladies, etc etc. ANYHOODLES! I will be dropping it off tomorrow and it will get some fixing and wiping of the entire hard drive and a new battery and then I will have to bring back photos and documents and music et. al. one by one (versus letting Time machine or Carbonite do that automatically) to prevent the mystery glitch from returning. I see now I haven't arrived properly to my anyhoodles yet. ANYHOODLES AGAIN, I will be taking next week (this week? I am always so confused about how to phrase that on a Sunday) off blogging since I won't have my computer, not that such a thing is anything new. Just being official. I am looking forward to a computer that has more pep in its step and will allow me to work on the the kids' birthday videos without wanting to poke my eyes out with a spoon. 

2. Goodbye All Baby Things! Take 2.
Take 1 happened in the Spring of 2012. Lily was born in the Spring of 2014. Ahem.

Something about the daily blogging in April, along with getting my exercise going, along with spring happening, along with reading the oh-so-popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up when it popped up on my library e-book list (mini-est review: some interesting ideas! Except, whoa, this seems rather extreme and a little weird. I am hoping she prefers to live without pets or kids or is prepared to have to change quite a bit because I worry that wouldn't work out for her and her relentless tidying ways...) has me in a major organize-and-purge mode. I have been on a donating, consigning, and passing-on spree.

This means goodbye to all the baby things...again...but I am feeling good about that. (Consider that a spoiler alert for that "More babies?" future post.) For local Twin Cities readers - I have learned about a wonderful organization where you can donate baby and kid things that other donation locations often do not accept - things like car seats (less than 5 years old) and breastfeeding pillows. It's called Tapestry and it's a pregnancy & family resource center located in South Minneapolis. It was super easy to drop stuff off to them. Feels really good to think of other parents and babies using all those things rather than having them take up space in our basement.

3. More Organizing
I did take Marie Kondo's advice to pull out all my clothes and look at them and try to pare my wardrobe down to those items that fit well and make me happy. Since I am an anti-shopper and a regular donator/purger this was a fairly quick task and but I did finally take the plunge and donate things like old J Crew business suits that have been unworn for 6+ years and strapless dresses from my honeymoon and workout clothes that are ill-fitting or have holes. I did keep my first date gray pants from Express after consulting with Max. He is rather fond of those pants, era-2004 though they may be. However, the majority of the clothing that remains doesn't necessarily make me happy but I would be naked otherwise since I have so few things to wear. I'm going to need to go shopping at some point this summer. I do have some fall/winter items I bought before I got pregnant with Lily but those won't work for several months. (And no Stitchfix for me. I don't think they could handle my uber extra triple long torso. NO ONE CAN HANDLE MY TORSO. #dramaticTorsoTalk)

We are also doing a small remodeling project in our bedroom where we'll reconfigure the closet and move it to the opposite wall so that had us clearing out some other random things that had been living in my (not really used) closet. In the meantime, I tackled our arts & crafts closet last weekend on a rainy afternoon.

I labeled like crazy until I ran out of label tape (quelle horreur!) so it's bugging me a little but I will get that done once I place an order for new tapes. For the record this is my labeler. I previously owned a Brother P-Touch one but it broke and this one is much cheaper (both the machine and the labeling tape) and it also doesn't waste so much tape with enormous margins like the Brother one did. I have a major beef with Brother labelers and printers and I guess that company in general - they design so much waste in their products so you have to buy more (like our printer would simply stop working entirely if any ink ran out - there was never an option to print in blue when you ran out of black, for example). And actually, my Brother sewing machine has been acting a fool ever since I got in in 1996. NOT OKAY! (That certainly went down an unexpected road.)

My wonderful and extremely organized sitter is helping me out with a major toy organizing spree in the basement because that has gotten away from me with all the shuffling of playrooms when we got water in our basement in the spring of 2014. I have also cleared away everything but books from the kids rooms and relegated those toys and crafts back to where they belong in their various parts of the house. Once again my kids do so much better playing on their own when they only have a few toys available at any given time and/or when things are very tidy and organized. I knew this all along but it took me a year to undo all the chaos from last year. That's okay. See: Lily Jade, my lovely baby.

4. Prepping for Summer
I will admit that I am feeling rather petrified about facing this summer ahead. Bella is wonderful and delightful but she is also very demanding (VERY! DEMANDING!) when it comes to interaction and also just requesting a lot of tasks and projects. School has been wonderful for her in this regard (and wonderful for me because it meant it wasn't mostly on me to provide 90% of her social and educational interaction) but summer is a rather wide expanse of time. I didn't sign up for any camps (yet) because it seemed like those would only be particularly handy if I could sign up both older kids and their ages right now make that problematic (it's all split by school age or preschool age for the most part). Plus "camps" (read: 2 hours once or twice a week) are awfully expensive for just one kid - our sitter is the cheaper and more effective option this summer. 7 hours/week booked: WHEEEEEEEE!!!! 

I'll schedule lots of playdates and plan for tons of outside time, but I need some structure built into the down times of the day that will occur while Lily is napping. I have no issues against TV for that time but Bella isn't really one to want to watch shows every day. She would rather be doing something or interacting with me. Anyway, I am taking the idea Kate of Kate Tells Stories presented and doing theme weeks. My sitter and I and the kids are coming up with theme weeks and then from there we will build activities, worksheets, art projects, field trips, etc around the theme. I will probably have my sitter do a little (paid) work from home to come up with a more fleshed out curriculum (mostly for Bella's sake but Oliver does like some of that type of work) and then I can easily pull out something novel each day. I am also going to work with my sitter to get some rest time activities for Bella and Oliver pre-prepped each week so I can hand those to the kids and send them off to their rooms for at least 30 minutes. (Kids who are willing to play quietly for hours on their own are like an exotic species to me, although Oliver is much better about it than Bella.) I love having a sitter who is basically like a bonus pre-school teacher. I am really dreading when our sitter will leave for grad school mid-August :( She is much more than a sitter for our family as she fills in where family would otherwise - like for the kids' birthdays and when schedules get crazy or when someone is sick. We got incredibly and enormously lucky with her and I know we will be in each others lives forever.

In fact, this post is all because she is with the kids right now. They are having a candle light dinner per the picture she sent us. Please note that the candlelight is via the iPad.
Bella apparently said "Happy candlelight day!"

5. Chatbooks
I don't think I have ever mentioned these but Chatbooks are delightful if you have an Instagram account.

I continue to never get around to printing up annual family photo books but Chatbooks are so manageable and really very inexpensive at $6/book. It's fun to get them in the mail and look at them together. They are bigger than you might expect at 6x6 inches. I am playing catch up and getting five books at a time until I am up to speed and then I will just get one each month. You can edit the captions, by the way (needed with my little reader!) Here is the Chatbooks website and here is a coupon code if you wanted to get your first book free (and I think I get $1 off if you use that code).

6.. Exercise Update
I was doing so so well with my diastasis repair/fitness program MuTu for about four weeks. I was getting the core stuff in each day plus the more heart-rate-raising intensives a few times a week. I was walking daily or at least for a few hours per week when it was all added up. My bum was heading up where it belonged and away from the back of my hamstrings where it had rested happily for many a moon. But then this past month has been ridiculous in terms of Max's travel & work hours plus Lily not sleeping/being grumptastic so off the wagon I did fall. Not totally, and I would say I have been at 50% of doing all the things I need to do, but my little engine has slowed way down. Also the daily check-in group I was finding super helpful on Facebook went off the rails a bit. I am starting up again tomorrow with another check-in group. I kind of feel like a check-in group floozy. Or maybe more like a player. Anyway, plugging away as always at fitness.

7. Lily's Sleep
Oh, so so not good. My eye twitching is better but I am still dangerously sleep deprived which generally means super klutzy. I got a second degree burn on my arm the other day taking a baking sheet out of the oven. I think I might have broken my toe or at least seriously strained something when I tripped in the garage. I am the haggard-est and I am having all sort of other inflammatory issues at the moment (joint pain, IBS issues) - which is probably mostly diet related. But major sleep deprivation makes keeping my FODMAP restricted diet that much harder and it's easier to be painfully bloated in some ways if it means I can just eat whatever. BLAHHHHH! I am at the point where I am dreading sleep because it's just never good. Or at least, even if Lily sleeps okay and only wakes once, I am just broken right now with how I am constantly anticipating her crying. Her sleep is so irregular and unpredictable and my 2-5 AM insomnia problem (that only became a thing during my first pregnancy but has stuck around since then when sleep troubles arise) is through the roof. I don't dare take anything to help me sleep (even if it is breastfeeding approved) since I feel like I would feel that much more groggy with the wake-ups + sleep medication. Some nights she goes several hours in a row and wakes only once and falls back to sleep quickly after nursing. Other nights she wakes up every two hours and is inconsolable and won't get back to to sleep. The wide range makes me feel like sleep training would be a major uphill battle and I have a gut feeling it won't work right now. I'm hoping she settles into a pattern somewhat and then I can get a game plan going. (Quick reminder: I have done sleep training with the other two and also with Lily last summer. I have read nearly every sleep book and even re-read some but after three kids I can see that the varying degrees of effectiveness has a lot to do with the kid. Lily did awesome when I trained her last summer - it was barely even a sleep training thing! - but then came teeth. So I am okay with sleep training because I get to a point where I am broken and parenting through extreme exhaustion and it's better for all of us. But I am also okay not sleep training when it seems like it would not be helpful for any one. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Defensive much, self? Moving on!) It's teething for sure right now (molars this time...yay) but it's also a sudden spree of milestones, both physical and verbal. I'm beat. Totally and completely beat. But Lily has been shifting away from insisting on me and only me to insisting on Max and only Max so that might work out reallllly well in my favor. Sorry Max. ENJOY! (And Max has been helping out at night. It's just there is a lot of wake-ups and not a lot of us.)

8. My Bottom
I ran into the house to get something before we left yesterday and Bella apparently said to Max, "Mom's bottom shimmies in those jeans." So there's that.

9. Key Fail
Our new minivan has remote key fobs and thus the ability to drive WITHOUT your keys as long as you started it with the keys. I shall explain. Last weekend we all drove to the park with Max driving. Max & the older two got out and I moved from the passenger seat to the driver seat and took Lily with me to grab some groceries for dinner. But as I went to lock the car and head inside the store, I realized that I did not have my keys. It's like magic! I drove without keys! Except now I had Lily at the grocery store and Max and the kids were at a park a few miles away and our house with my keys was over two miles away. THANKFULLY (!!) I was wearing comfortable-enough shoes and had the BOB stroller so Lily and I took an unplanned 4 mile round trip walk on a really pleasant day weather-wise.  I am also thankful I realized the situation before buying new groceries.
It was less ideal that I had already worked out for 1.5 hours that day and was not looking for any additional activity, but it really was just fine. Except for dinner. By the time I got back to the van and went to pick up the others I had declared it a Chipotle night. INDEEDY!

10. Magic Timer App
Have any of you guys tried this for your kids? It's a Crest tooth brushing app, although I don't think you need to actually purchase a Crest product to use it. Or maybe you do. But v. likely you have something Crest with a cartoon on it in your house if you have young children.  It has my kids happily and excitedly brushing their teeth for two minutes two times each day. They get to pick a character to go with their name and they earn "stickers" for a sticker book for each brushing and they get to watch a picture unfold over the two minutes while brushing. You can watch different character-themed pictures by scanning your Crest product that features whatever character: Rapunzel, Lightening McQueen, what have you. But MAYBE you can pull up a picture of, say, Frozen-themed toothpaste, on a second smart phone and then scan the picture using the app on the first smartphone or tablet and MAYBE that works really well and thus let's you skip trying to seek out Elsa or Yoda toothpaste. But even if you MAYBE did such a thing, you still fully support Crest with your 27 princess and Marvel comics and Cars toothbrushes and toothpastes. Anyway, give it a whirl for your little chomper-brushing children.

11. Kids
Bella is almost done with school. She just turned six and had a blast on her birthday and at her craft party (post to come).  I feel like it's been too busy for this but I want to watch all her birthday videos in a row one night starting from the very first one I made the week she was born and have a big old happy cry about the passage of time and about my girl. She is a handful for us (though apparently the most angelic of angels at school) but that strong personality will serve her so well in life.

Oliver is almost done with his 3-year-old year of preschool. He is really into Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles and Star Wars yet has never seen either of them outside of them being on his BFFs t-shirt. Haha! He is so sweet and his threenager behavior barely registered on the radar compared to other threenagers I have known and loved. Perhaps four will be the challenge year? Or maybe our Bubby is going to take it easy on us and just be a sweetheart for many a year to come.

Lily is popping out milestones left and right. Stairs, suddenly crawling instead of that scoot, cruising faster and faster, attempting to stand, walks quickly when holding one of our hands and she also keeps repeating new words every day. I find myself back in that stage where I do things like have a foot holding the toilet closed while I wash my hands to prevent her from attempting to have some splash pad fun. Of course, all this means she REALLY REALLY doesn't sleep but I was prepared for this kind of a (non-sleeping) kid all along so it's (mostly) all good. We will all sleep again in 2016. In the meantime, she has been cracking us all up with her antics lately.

They are pretty great, these three.

And that concludes this session of hodge podge-ing. Seacrest out!