Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Growing Up

Playing games, and wearing his gorgeous sweater from Gigi
The weeks continue to fly by and we're less than six weeks away from my due date.  I have lots to write about; Jack's expanding vocabulary and his swim lessons; Lilly and the amazing things she's doing at school and her ridiculously cute ballet class; and then there are the baby preparations.  I have to start somewhere so I thought I'd write about Jack today.  We have just phased out Jack's morning nap, so he and I have been spending lots of time together.  Whereas before, he used to sleep almost all morning until we picked Lilly up from school, these days, the world is our oyster.  Sometimes we play at home or at a friend's house.  We've met up with friends at Starbucks and as you can imagine, Jack is such a help with errands.  He loves Trader Joe's and even knows where the food samples are.  We can't pass by without trying something every time!

Jack is chatting more and more these days, saying hi and bye to everyone when we go out; cheese when he's playing with Lilly's toy camera; shoes, as he carries his shoes around and asks you to put them on his feet; there it is, although it comes out as "thereitis," when he finds something that we've been looking for.  Jack calls Lilly, Lala and when he can't find her, he stands at the bottom of the stairs yelling, "Lala...Lala..." over and over again at the top of his lungs.  He gets so excited when we pull up at school to pick Lilly up.  Today, when we drove up, he said, "thereitis" and waved at the school.  When Lilly's teacher put her in the car, Jack started babbling away and waving to her, and then chatted away to Lilly for the drive home.  He just loves her.  No one can make him smile or laugh like Lilly does.

He says clean up, "eeenup" when we're cleaning up toys or after he pulls everything out of a drawer.  He spends about half his days saying up, holding his hands up in the air just in case there's any confusion.  Jack knows a dog says, woof and a snake says ssssss and he opens and closes his mouth when you ask him what a fish does.  He thinks that all other animals, however, say woof, so when we read one of his favorite books about cats, I say meow at the end of every page and Jack laughs and says, woof.  Jack loves his little books, especially peek-a-boo ones.  He'll sit and look at them for ages, and they're great entertainment in the car.  Every time he opens a flap, he says, a-boof, with a big smile.  He's learning not to throw his food when he's finished eating, but instead, puts it up on the counter.  He goes over to the cabinets that he knows he's not supposed to go into and says, "uh, uh, uh" and shakes his head as he opens it and (usually) closes it again.  He's learned how to turn around and come down the stairs backwards, although sometimes he thinks of the stairs as a ride and just slides down them, three or four at a time.  I don't quite trust his going down abilities just yet.  I've been doing swim lessons with him once a week for the last five weeks, and they're adorable.  I have yet to get a picture of him in the pool because, as I'm sure you can imagine, getting both of us ready for swimming, into the pool, out of the pool and dressed again is quite the ordeal.  But I will get some in the upcoming weeks.  It's too cute to miss.

"Blowing" his own nose, which really entails making blowing noises with his mouth and then racing to the trash to throw his tissue out.
Jack will still eat or drink anything; Lilly and I often make smoothies in the afternoon and I gave Jack one the other day and he sucked it down.  This morning, he drank my green juice, full of kale, cucumbers and celery.  He loves it all; hence the reason most of his clothes even though he's 15 months old, are now 2T.  Lilly can fit into some of his clothes!  

It's funny to think that in about six weeks, Jack will be a 'big' brother, because I still think of him as so little.  One of the first times I cried after Jack was born was when Lilly came to visit us in the hospital.  Seeing her next to Jack, I realized how big she was.  It was like she grew up overnight.  I feel more prepared for that this time, but I don't think there's any way to be fully prepared for the emotions surrounding your little ones growing up.  

Lilly continues to come up with names for the baby, although she pragmatically tells us that she can't come up with too many names because we don't know whether it's a girl baby or a boy baby.  Lilly would like a little sister, because she already has a little brother.  Jack has no clue what is going on, except that my expanding stomach continues to get in the way of him sitting on my lap.  He'll throw his head back to lie on it, and then try and scoot himself back so that he fits on my lap.  When that doesn't work, Jack turns around and tries to push my stomach out of the way, until he realizes that it doesn't go anywhere, at which point he starts yelling at it.

Jack is a real little person, with his own (strong) personality.  Even though he loves running and playing and chatting non-stop, he's also snuggly and sweet.  His cuddles make me melt.  When he puts his head on my shoulder before bed or when he's just woken up, it brings me back to his newborn days.  I hope those hugs never stop.  Whenever I look at him, I can't believe how quickly our little Jack is growing up.  But for the next six weeks, he's still the baby of the family.

Two of Jack's favorite "toys"--the television remote and the telephone

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Winter Months

Winter in Connecticut means less time at the beach and the playground and more time inside.  This is the first year that Jack and Lilly have really been able to play together.  Learning how to play together is definitely a work in progress as Lilly wants Jack to be her size and play all her games, and Jack has his own ideas about what he'd like to play.  But these two love each other and when they're both home and awake, all they want to do is play together.  Today, a huge box arrived which made the perfect toy to play in.  Jack ran over to it and dived head first into the box.  Lilly followed a few seconds later and the two of them stood dancing around in the box for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time!  When Jack isn't following Lilly around, Lilly is chasing Jack.  At times, it almost makes my life easier.

a little singing and dancing with milk cartons before dropping Lilly off at school
Who can resist knocking over such a tall tower?
Life with a big sister.  The poor guy had no idea this was on his head until it fell off half an hour later. 
The Clark 1950s Diner 

Jim is still the most fun to play with.  That's what dads are for, after all!  Lilly gets so excited every weekend because she knows that "Dad is home from UBS" and Jack follows Jim around whenever he's home saying, "Dada, dada...up" over and over again.  At dinner tonight, we were talking about how tomorrow is a school and work day, and Lilly said, "Oh sorry, Dad.  Have fun at UBS with Eric tomorrow.  It was nice seeing you this weekend." Jim works with Eric, and every single day, Lilly asks him if he had a fun day with Eric.  I think she pictures one big playground for grown ups; I'm pretty sure Jim would disagree.

Poor Jim needed a visit to the doctor.  Diagnosis: "Don't worry, need to have your tonsils out, like Miffy."
Caught.  Jack's favorite cabinet.  He goes up to it and shakes his head and says, "uh, uh, uh" because he knows he's not supposed to go into it!
Trying on her new ballet clothes, getting ready for the long awaited first ballet class
Jack loves lilly's horse.  Since it's too big for him to carry properly, the poor horse ends up being used as a broom .
making a fort
One of Jack's favorite games.  We say, "goodnight, Jack" and he drops to the floor with his blanket!
Getting ready for bed.  Our snuggly little Jack, with his thumb and favorite blanket.

Jim and I got new iPhones recently and I'm so impressed with all the photography options available on this phone.  It takes amazing pictures and there are so many photo editing programs that I'm having fun playing around with.  It's great when I want to get a picture quickly and don't have time to get out the big camera, or when we're out and about and I don't have the camera with me.  Plus, I got to get a cute new iPhone case, with my initials on the back.  Now I have to find something fun to do with all these Instagram pictures.

The snow is starting here, and the little ones are in bed.  Jim and I have a movie and the couch calling our name.  It was a great three-day weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Molars and Headphones

Teething is no fun.  Especially when you're getting four molars at once.
That pretty much sums up Jack's week.  He would like to be held at all times, but unfortunately my rather pregnant stomach can only take so much holding of a 27 pound toddler.  He seems to be improving--the two top molars are through and one of the bottom ones is on its way, so hopefully we'll get our happy little guy back soon.

Lilly has had her fill of teething as well.  This is how we found her the other night when we went in to their bedroom to check on them both before bed:

The headphones were her own addition.  They weren't connected to any music--just plain old headphones to block out Jack's "rolling around and coughing," according to Lilly the next morning.

Life is never boring with a three-year old and one-year old to keep you entertained.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

8 Weeks to go!

photo courtesy of Lilly :)
Here I am, 32 weeks into this pregnancy and I still can't believe how quickly time has flown.  This has been my "quickest" pregnancy by far.  Even if the amount of the time has been the same, I feel like I've blinked and have gone from 'a little bit' pregnant to 'really, really pregnant.' Two weeks ago, I felt almost normal and I couldn't believe that there were only 10 weeks until March 12th.  Today, I feel very pregnant indeed, and know that by the time my due date rolls around in 8 weeks, I'll be more than ready to have this baby.

At my SAT class on Saturday, an older man who teaches the English portion of the SAT classes asked me when I was due.  When I told him I have eight weeks to go, he said, "well, I'm no doctor, but that doesn't look like a baby who still has two months to go!  If you make it eight more weeks, I'll be impressed."  Just like with Jack, my stomach is huge.  I actually think it's bigger.  And I agree with this teacher; I often look down at my stomach and wonder how much more growing this baby can do in the next 8 weeks.

I still love being pregnant.  I love all the little kicks and punches--although now they're not so little.  Jim and I have felt feet move across my stomach and seen my whole stomach change shape as the baby repositions itself.  I love the hiccups that seem to come at the end of every day; the constant reminders that we'll have a new little member of our family this March.  When Jack comes up to me and holds onto my legs, I can't see his little face looking up anymore.  Putting on and taking off my boots is difficult.  Painting my toe nails is close to impossible.  I remember all these milestones with Lilly and Jack, and know that it means the end of the pregnancy is quickly approaching.  I'm definitely in the home stretch.  Unlike with Lilly and Jack, I'm in no rush to have this baby!  Check back in with me in March, but for the moment, I'm very happy with this baby inside.

Jim and I are taking advantage of every quiet evening and every sleep in.  Lilly will say things like, "Today, I get to have creative movement at school, and then tomorrow, I have ballet, and then the next day, we'll have a new baby!!!!!"  Jim and I quickly reassure her that we've still got a little while to go.  After all, we haven't had a single name discussion.  I brought up names when we were out for a walk the other day, and Jim said, "I knew you were going to try and talk about names now!" Like it's completely out of the ordinary for me to want to have some idea what we're going to name this baby in two short months.  We always go right down to the wire with names anyway.  When Jack was born, we went into hospital with three boy names, and both of us looked at him and just knew he was our Jack.  I hope it's that easy this time around.

I haven't been as religious about going to the gym this time.  Between sicknesses and SAT classes and tutoring and being a Mum and wife, life has been busy.  I know I can make time in the morning, but I also know that quiet mornings are precious commodities and that I get quite a bit of exercise being on my feet for most of the day with Lilly and Jack.  I'm tired and my body is tired.  We still go for long walks most afternoons, but prenatal yoga, which I loved during my previous pregnancies, hasn't worked out so far this time.

So, for the next eight weeks, I'm going to enjoy being pregnant; enjoy quiet evenings with Jim, reading and watching movies; enjoy Lilly and Jack and our daily routines.  I'm going to enjoy life as a family of four.  I'm going to enjoy the kicks and punches and hiccups and know that when baby Clark #3 arrives, a whole new chapter of our life will begin.


Friday, January 11, 2013

The Flu

We expected to be sick this year.  It's Lilly's first year at school, and therefore our first real exposure to lots of little kid germs.  We've had colds that seem to come and go but two weeks before Christmas, were hit hard with the flu.  It's still debatable how we contracted it.  Mum and Dad were both sick when they were staying with us, so Dad blames Mum since she got sick first and says we have her to thank.  We didn't get sick until after they had been gone awhile so it could just as easily have been something that Lilly brought home from school; no one really knows.  At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how we all got sick.  But we sure did.  Lilly started us off, coming home from school early one Thursday with a sore throat.  She went downhill fast, falling asleep everywhere--even at the table--which is something she's never, ever done before.

That Saturday, I started to feel awful and by the time I was finished teaching my SAT class, my whole body ached and I just wanted to go to bed.  Jack and Jim were hit on Sunday.  Poor Jack was just miserable.  When they're so little, it's the worst as they can't talk and don't understand what's going on at all.  Thankfully, Jim had a milder case than the rest of us so we had someone who was semi-healthy able to take care of those of us that were not.   The only upside to sick children is the snuggles.  Jack just wanted to be held or sleep on one of us.  Lilly wanted cuddles and her bed, so slept for 7 hours a day and then 12 or 13 hours at night while she had it.  It took us all a good two weeks to feel almost normal again.  At one point, on that first Sunday when everyone was sick, we were all lying in Jim and my bedroom and Jim turned to me and said, "this has to be one of the low points of parenting..."  That couldn't have been more true.

Being pregnant and sick and trying to take care of sick children is hard.  Jim had just taken his vacation from work so needed to be in the office for at least part of the next week, and that week was the hardest week I've had as a far.  I was worried about our little ones, and worried about the little one growing inside me.  I knew I was losing weight as I had no appetite and eating was exhausting but my doctor assured me that the baby would be fine, taking his or her nutrition first and that as long as I was drinking plenty of fluids, everything would be okay.  Gradually, everyone started to feel better--just in time for us to enjoy Christmas.

I hope that means we've had our sickness for the season, and that it's out of the way before there's a little newborn in our midst.  I'm keeping everyone pumped full of fruit and veggies and a few herbal remedies that Jim just shakes his head at but takes anyway.  We weren't sad to kiss the flu goodbye, and if we don't see it again for a couple of years, we won't be sorry.  And I have a newfound appreciation of our "normal" weeks now.  I can now officially bid farewell to the Clark Family Flu Epidemic of 2012.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


As I've fallen quite behind on posting a few things that I want to post, I thought I'd tackle them one at a time.  I couldn't let Jim and my trip to Newport that we enjoyed about a month ago now pass without mentioning it.  As I've said before, Jim and I have decided that once a year, no matter how we do it, we need to spend some time away together--without children.  When Lilly turned one, we went off to Italy for a week.  The next year, it was to London.  And this year, it was a quick little trip to Newport, RI.  While a beach in Mexico or a trip to Paris would have been a bit more exotic, I came back from our trip to Newport with the realization that it doesn't matter where we go.  It's amazing to get away, stroll around a new place together, holding hands (because there's no stroller to push or little ones running ahead wanting to play games) and talking.  We explored some of the Newport mansions and enjoyed the cliff walk along the waterfront.  We walked around the entire town for as many hours as we wanted.  We were out enjoying dinner at 9pm, sitting there laughing and chatting with no end in sight.  We had no bedtimes to get home for; no children needing to be fed.  It was just us, and it was wonderful.

The Breakers--The Vanderbilt Estate in Newport.  A really amazing place to visit!

The fireplace in our room.  Heaven.
Growing up in the Stephens family, we had many discussions (at the time, we may have called them lectures) at the dinner table.  As we've all grown up, whenever we get together, we sit around the table chatting for hours.  Sometimes it's over endless cups of coffee in the morning.  Other times, it's with never ending bottles of wine at dinner.  I find myself thinking of these discussions often.  So much of who I am and what I believe in today arose from dinner table conversations.  Over the past few years, relationships, in particular, have played an important role in our discussions.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it's easy to get caught up in chaos (even if it organized chaos). Between taking care of two children and being pregnant with a third, in addition to trying to take care of myself, it's easy to push my relationship with Jim off to the side.  It's easy to take each other for granted as we know what roles we play as parents.  Mum and Dad have always stressed the importance of our relationship.  After all, it all started with Jim and me 13 years ago in college.  And in another 15 years, we'll have kids heading off to college and sometime after that, it will be Jim and me, alone again.  While I can't deny that our children are important and we love them unconditionally, I remind myself often that Jim and my relationship has to come first.  I don't want to look at Jim in 15 years and wonder who this person is that I married back in 2007.  Hence our little trips away.  They're special and give us time to be us.  I'm surrounded by relationships--some that I admire, but many that I do not.  I see many couples who barely acknowledge each other when they're together.  Unless you knew them, you wouldn't even know they were married.  I'm by no means an expert and I don't pretend to know what works for other people, but I know that relationships take work, and unless you keep working at them, it's easy for them to fizzle out and die.  Before you know it, the love that was there when you got married however many years ago is gone.  In its place are houses and children and jobs and money.  It's easy to push love aside, and much harder to work to make sure that it's always there.  When I'm 80 years old, I want to be able to look back on my relationship with Jim with a smile on my face, and know that I love him more in 2061 than I did when we were 19 and fell in love.

I write these things down because I want to pass them onto our children.  I want them to know what's really important in life.  This is something that I believe in strongly, and something that I believe many people take for granted.  I know we'll have lots of discussions with Lilly, Jack and little Clark #3 down the road (and I'm glad we've got many years before the real relationship discussions start happening) but for now, I get to write it down so I know it's there.  It's what is truly important.