Monday, January 30, 2012

Mr Mom

Over the weekend Amelia abandoned me for the working world, as she taught two extra SAT sessions in addition to her usual Sunday morning class. Including shower and beautification time, it basically amounted to most of Saturday and Sunday. For good measure, Amelia went out to tutor tonight after I got home from work. Not to worry, Mr. Mom was up to the task. So now that Jack and Lilly are tucked soundly in their beds, and the dishes are drying and the laundry is folded, I thought I'd share a few highlights of my unassisted parenting time over the past 72 hours.

1. The Kitchen - If you were looking for me this weekend, odds are I was in Lilly's kitchen doing some 'baking.' We had an amazing time whisking everything from sugar and eggs to pasta and onions. Pretty much anything can be whisked if you ask Lilly. And once it's perfectly nice and fluffy, it can be spread with a spatula on some cookies and put in the oven for approximately 5 seconds before it's ready to be taken out and force fed to me or Jack. I learned something new, too. If you're a boy, don't try to use Lilly's pink spatula. Boys can only use the blue spatula. Attempting to deviate from that rule will earn you a stiff lecture every time. I love that Lilly loves her kitchen, and it's infinitely fun to be a guest chef and watch her develop a creative, if not outright bizarre, culinary aptitude. After a particularly interesting dish of orange juice, carrot and tuna stew had just been set to cook on her stove I cleverly tried to ask her if she was so happy Santa had brought her this amazing kitchen, to which she quickly replied without breaking her stare at the pot, "No Dad, Edward got me this kitchen." And so to that I say, Edward, you still owe us half the bill.

2. Tag Team - I'm not sure if Jack and Lilly planned it ahead of time, but somehow, whenever Jack was asleep Lilly was awake. And as soon as I'd get Lilly down for her nap, Jack knew to signal he was ready for action. I thought maybe it was just bad timing on Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon I was convinced it was collusive. It's not that it's impossible to have at least one of them awake at all times, in fact, I kind of prefer it to a quiet house, but suddenly all the little personal routines of life became a bit trickier and required advanced planning. I only went to the bathroom while it was my turn to hide in Hide and Go Seek. I stole a few fleeting seconds to read some Super Bowl analysis on while putting on Lilly's Disney playlist before I was called back to my kitchen duties. And that shower I had been hoping to work into the schedule? Moved to Monday.

3. Meal Time - I didn't know Jack had such a precise internal clock to determine feeding time. When that alarm went off, he sure let me know it. One minute - smiling, happy, rational baby. The next, irrational, sulking boy demanding milk that for some damn reason just would not heat up fast enough until, unbelievable!!! it was too hot and now had to cool! It was finally drinkable, but had the bottle company considered how annoying it might be to install their fancy air flow optimizer into the bottle with a squirming baby in your arms? And how was it that this was the moment Lilly was ready for me to make her english muffin pizzas?

4. Bed Time - The only thing more frenzied than feeding time was bed time. Jack somehow knew I was vulnerable because I needed to focus on reading to Lilly, brushing her teeth and getting her into the sheets. The thumb in his mouth that he had mastered he suddenly could no longer find. This presented Lilly with the perfect opportunity to break my concentration on Quiet Bunny, Noisy Puppy to let me know Jack was crying, as if I was oblivious to it. So I took a quick break to calm Jack down and even managed to get him to close his eyes for a bit. I took Lilly to the bathroom one last time. She didn't have to go. We sang a few songs and, as I was leaving, she suddenly had to go to the bathroom. I told her no, she had her chance. She announced, 'I'll pee in my bed." Not really a threat so much as a fact. If I took her to the bathroom, I'd lose. If I didn't take her and she wet the bed, I'd lose. Suddenly I realized who had really been in charge all weekend.

It's quite a task to stay on top of a nearly three year old and a three month old for all their entertainment needs, bodily functions and questions, questions and more questions for an extended period of time. I explored the limits of my creativity, patience and ability to multi-task. But mostly I just had a ton of fun and was reminded of all the hard work and effort that goes into raising kids every day. I have nothing but absolute respect for Amelia and for the fantastic way in which she's raising our children while I am at work. It is not easy. And I have a renewed appreciation for all mothers and fathers who take the time to be a parent and just enjoy being with their kids. And I will appreciate all this even more at the office tomorrow as I get to sit for more than five minutes at my desk, go to the bathroom uninterrupted by visitors, and maybe even read a little

Friday, January 27, 2012

So Much to Say...

Edward said it perfectly here.  No matter how hard I try, I will not be able to recreate Florida and the time we spent there as a family.  I've spent days putting together this blog.  Choosing the words I want to say and the pictures I want to keep.  No amount of pictures or words will do it justice, although Dad's blog comes close.  However, I cannot let it pass without documenting some of what made the two weeks that we spent there so special.

We've been home for a little over a week now and it feels more like a month.  I miss falling asleep to the sound of the waves.  I miss waking up and having everyone that I love most in the world in the same room as me, doing what we all do best; drinking endless cups of coffee and tea, having toast and eggs, listening to our Christmas playlist on repeat (yes, even the ridiculous Captain Spaulding song which Lilly now asks to hear at home...thank you Papa).  I miss walking on the beach, holding Jim's hand, Jack sleeping in the sling, watching Lilly's little footprints try and step in Jim's not so little footprints.  I miss going for runs in 70 degree weather during nap time, and then coming back and sitting in the hot tub and reading.  I miss the lunchtime beers and the never ending happy hours.  I miss the dinners that everyone made.  We had an amazing vacation.  I'm already excited for our next one.

Yes, even Edward and Dad were seen cooking in the kitchen!

How many people does it take to make a gluten free pizza crust?

The flights were great.  Well, as great as flights can be when there's a 2-3 hour layover between flights.  Jim, Lilly, Jack and I all flew down together and then Ells flew back with us because Jim had to come back earlier for work.  At a first glance, we're everyone's worst nightmare getting on the plane.  However, Lilly and Jack were both at wonderful flying ages.  Lilly was so excited to be on a plane.  She had her own music to listen to on my old shuffle and she even had her own pink headphones.  She had things to color, games to play on the iPad, books to read, and snacks to eat. Oh, and we found out that Lilly loves turbulence!  She kept asking Ellie for "more bumps," while Ellie was trying to keep a straight face and not throw up.  Good thing Joseph wasn't flying with us...  Jack was little enough to eat, sleep, and make his baby noises.  After our flight there, an older couple who was sitting in front of us turned to us as they were getting off the plane and said, "You have two very well behaved children.  What a credit to you both!"  Jim and I smiled proudly, and laughed about how after the flight down to Florida last year, a lady turned to us and said (in regards to Lilly), "Well, she's certainly very verbal for her age, isn't she?" What she may as well have said was, "Your daughter didn't stop talking for the entire flight, and has limited volume control!" You never know what kind of behavior a flight is going to bring, so we were very fortunate.   

We all "shared" this smoothie in Baltimore, although Lilly seemed to drink the majority of it.

Once there, relaxation mode set in.  With lots of extra hands to play with the little ones, I got to sit back quite a bit and observe.  I love watching my brothers and sister with Lilly and Jack.  They're so genuine with them.  Ellie became a natural with Jack.  She knew how he liked to be held, what his different cries meant, why he was squirming, when he needed to sleep or have a kick on the ground.  She was spit up on probably a few more times than she would have liked.  Actually, come to think of it, everyone was spit up on a bit more than they preferred.  As Mum kept saying, thank goodness for washing machines.  Ellie and Lilly come dangerously close to being the same person.  They're extremely sweet when they play together as long as they are both happy.  The table can turn quickly though, and it was not uncommon to hear Lilly and Ellie arguing as if they were equals.  In the end, Ellie would always come out on top.  After a sharpie incident during rest time one day, Ells sat with Lilly and scrubbed off all the marker.  They talked about how little girls don't need tattoos...they're best left to their uncles.  Lilly had colored in her toes nails because all the girls went and got pedicures, so they talked about how Lilly can paint her nails one day when she's a bit bigger.  (The pictures below are a bit grainy...they were taken with my phone).   

Sitting with little Jack, who learned how to suck his thumb in Florida!

Taking over the toothbrush dance after Uncle Joef had gone home!

Joseph plays with Lilly the same way he used to play with Henry.  They'd be running circles around the condo, chasing each other and wearing each other out.  You'd hear shrieks of delight when Joef jumped out and scared Lilly, or when one of them caught the other one.  He had Lilly convinced that one of the parrot decorations (yes, you heard me right.  There was more than one parrot floating around the unit) belonged to Gigi, so poor Gigi would end up having this parrot brought to her multiple times a day, accompanied by a little voice saying,"Here you go, Gigi. Here's your parrot." This was always followed by chuckles from whoever was around and full blown laughter from Joseph.  Joseph is a wonderfully thoughtful uncle.  He broke the "no Christmas present" rule and gave everyone presents this year.  And not just any presents...really meaningful presents.  He gave Jim and me a cooking class, which he and Liana always have fun with when they go out together.  Joseph gave Jack, "the hardest gift he's ever had to buy."  A Phillies jersey.  As a Mets fan, this was an extremely difficult purchase for Joseph.  And then, to top it all off, he got Lilly a bike.  He went well and truly above and beyond.  When we arrived in Florida, Joseph was wearing a Santa hat and pulled out a matching one for Lilly (to which Lilly responded, "Oh, thank you Joef, but Christmas is over.  Maybe I can wear it next year...")  She warmed up to the Santa hat, and to the matching Elmo shirts that Joseph showed up with.

Gigi's parrot, amidst its sailor friends.

Convincing Lilly to put lots of jewels on her picture of Uncle Joef.  See the finished product further down...

The most hideous of all Joseph's shirts.

Putting together the bike that Joef brought for Lilly!  It's going to be so much fun to watch her learn how to balance on it when warmer weather returns!!

She even has her own little helmet!

Waiting to see her new present...

Edward was Lilly's go to person for playing games.  You'd often overhear her (or one of us selling Edward out), asking Edward if he could help her find a baby penguin, or treasure.  So off they'd go, looking for treasure or heading off to rescue an imaginary baby penguin.  Again and again and again.  When Lilly went to bed at night, she'd ask if she could play with Edward in the morning.  I'm pretty sure she thinks that Edward is a giant two and a half year old.

 I'm not sure who was having more fun here!

Seeing Joseph and Edward with Jack reminded me of when they first held Lilly.  He's so tiny in their arms, and when they're holding him, it's the only thing they can do.  I think by the end of the trip, they'd mastered holding Jack in one hand and a beer in the other.  Jack asked Joef something while we were all together...

Joef said he'd love to and Jack looks pretty excited about it!

I love seeing Mum and Dad shine in their new role as grandparents.  They haven't even been grandparents for three years, yet they are both so naturally good at it that you'd think they'd been grandparents for their whole lives.  Of course, they did have little ones around for a long time before Lilly and Jack came along.

Mum just knows.  She understands everything I'm feeling at the moment.  She knows when I'm getting frustrated and without my asking, will come in and give Jack a cuddle or sit down and read Lilly a book, or put one of them to bed.  Mum is there for advice when I ask for it, but never intrudes or offers opinions on my parenting.  She makes me feel like I'm doing everything perfectly, which is the way every new mother wants to feel.  Mum knows when I want to talk, or when I just want a hug.  And she's always there for both.    

Dad has developed a special relationship with Lilly--one that she will always remember.  He can usually be found trying to steal her one, calling the "nuny nuny police" or eating her food.  Although on paper, it doesn't sound too grandfatherish, it's actually very sweet (and hopefully not scarring).  Lilly squeals with laughter and runs and hides all her ones when Dad asks for one of them. It makes my job as a mother easier too.  You want Lilly to finish a meal?  Just tell her that Papa's going to eat it.  You want Lilly to get dressed after having a bath?  Just tell her that Papa's going to call the "nuny nuny police." Yes, I'm sure these things will have some psychological repercussions, but we'll have to wait to see exactly what these are.  Watching Dad with Jack over this holiday gave me insight into what Dad must have been like as a father to Joseph and Edward when they were babies.  Dad said there was something about Jack that reminded him of us when we were all little, and seeing the two of them together always made me stop and smile.

Amidst being with all of my family, we had some time together as our little family of four.  One day, Lilly, Jim and I went for a walk on the beach while Jack was having his nap.  We had a great time but we were well aware that something, actually, someone, was missing.  The three of us hadn't been alone since before Jack was born and it felt strange.  As little as Jack is, he's quickly become an important part of our family.

Enjoying a nap on GigiPapa's bed, listening to the waves.

Watching Jim and Lilly from our balcony!

Starting to get red hair, like his Dad :)

I got to spend time with Liana, Joseph's girlfriend, who is so inspiring to talk to.  Liana brought some workout dvd's with her (that required much more coordination than I currently have) and Ellie, Mum and I all had fun joining in on them while we were there.  After the first one, I'm pretty sure every muscle in my body hurt so I had to take a few days break, but being with Liana inspired me to get back into shape.  I enjoy sitting back and watching Liana with Lilly.  They love each other!  Liana gave Lilly an amazing Christmas present--some paints and canvases, and with Liana's help, Lilly made her first mural.  While all of us were trying to get Lilly to use different colors or brighter colors (she started off with dark blue, and then chose an even darker one...), Liana was happy to let Lilly choose the colors she wanted to use.  Liana and Lilly also did some pilates on the beach!

The finished product!  Lilly will tell you who everyone is, even if you ask her today.  The big dark patch in the middle is Liana.  Lilly is the smaller purple patch to the left. The little white is a mouse.  The yellow is Joseph. He's been bragging about how he's the only one with jewels.  And arms.  The light blue is Blue, the parrot from Rio.  The green is Ellie, who also got given a jewel.  Baby Jack is orange, and Edward is pink.  

Kristin, Edward's girlfriend, came down for a few days as well.  Like Liana, she constantly puts up with Joseph and Edward's nonsense.  She was a lot of fun to be around, so sweet with Jack and Lilly, and she makes Edward happy.  All things that big sisters like to see!  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of them.  By that point, my camera was back in Connecticut with Jim, so it was one less carry on for the plane ride home.

Uncle Brogan (as Lilly has deemed him), stopped by as well...on his way to Spain!  He's been with us for some pretty special times and so having him there just felt normal.  He brought Lilly his favorite childhood book, Going on a Bear Hunt which whenever she reads, Lilly announces that this is her book from Brogan.

One afternoon, Joseph, Ellie, Edward and I ventured out a few miles down the road.  Jim was back in Connecticut, Liana back in Austin, and Kristin hadn't arrived yet.  Lilly and Jack stayed back at the condo with Gigi and Papa.  While it definitely felt like people were missing, we couldn't remember the last time that the four of us had gone out together.  After a trip to Marshalls (which the boys were alarmingly excited about), we found a bar serving two-for-one margaritas.  Ellie and I enjoyed 21oz margaritas while the boys threw back a few pitchers of beer.  The music playing at the bar brought back so many high school memories.  We heard Green Day, Will Smith, Shakira, No Doubt, 'N Sync, Warren name it, we heard it.  It was fantastic!  We chatted, laughed and had fun together and once again, realized how special our relationship is.  We're going to try and get together at least once a year and do something similar.  Getting together with everyone is becoming harder with work schedules and traveling with little ones, but somehow I know we'll always make it work.

And so ends another amazing family holiday.