Monday, December 22, 2014

Goggles, Dragons and a Cheerleader

The house is silent, I have a cup of tea next to me and nothing on the agenda today except a trip to the gym and to be home with the little ones.  Lilly's last day of school was Friday, so we're looking forward to 2 weeks of lazy mornings and lounging by the fire.  There's something special about having Lilly, Jack and Hannah all home during Lilly's normal school time.  Yes, we always get our late afternoons together but in our house, mornings are the best part of the day.  Everyone is well rested and happy.  Their little faces light up when they ask if they can play in the basement before breakfast and I don't have to hurry them along to eat and get dressed and get in the car for school.

More and more, I am able to step back and watch the three little ones playing together.  Yes, they ask me to help them with dress ups or run to me when a toy has been taken or someone isn't playing nicely, but as they get bigger, their favorite times are spent playing with each other, and that makes me smile.  I love overhearing little snippets of conversations; like last night, when Lilly put on her night gown (which was a gift from Gigi and Papa and is an all time favorite) and was so excited to be wearing it to bed after a few weeks hiatus.  She was twirling around in her bedroom and Jack said to her, "ooooh Lilly, you look like a princess!"  So genuine and so sweet.  Lilly's face lit up and she laughed.  "Jack, I'm not a princess, I'm just wearing a dress to bed!"

The three of them love playing pretend games.  There are lots of house and school games that go on.  Lilly is usually Mom, Jack is Dad, and Hannah is the baby.  When they play these games, they take them seriously.  I heard Jack trying to get Lilly to listen to him yesterday while they were playing, and when she wasn't responding to "Mom," he quickly switched to, "Amelia!"  To which Lilly responded, "Yes, Jim?"  And then they'll tell Hannah it's time to lie down and take a nap, at which point Hannah throws herself on the ground, head on a pillow as fast as she can and pretends to snore (with her eyes wide open).  They have a basement full of toys and games, and nine times out of ten, you will find them down there playing dress ups or house or setting up an elaborate tea party, complete with stuffed animals, dolls and trucks, so that all participating members are happy.

a very fierce dragon
The swing set, even in the middle of winter, is also a favorite.  Even if they can be out the back for half an hour, their days are better--as are mine after they they have played outside in the fresh air, running and jumping and singing and screaming to their little hearts' content.  Lilly keeps an eye on Hannah, helping her onto the swing, pushing her while reminding her to hold on, making sure that Hannah makes it up to the top of their lookout tower when the bus drops children home from school. Jack loves pretending that he's Jim, so his favorite game at the moment is to carry firewood up to the top of the playground to "build a fire."  He gets Lilly to help, and Lilly includes Hannah, letting her carry wood over to the swing set but taking it from her before she tries to climb up the rope ladder with it.  I have a few mini heart attacks each day watching these three while trying to let them play by themselves.

Hannah's favorite dress up: goggles.
Lilly has been coughing a lot the past few days, so we brought our friend The Nebby back out to help loosen up that cough.  This has quickly turned into a team activity.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Let our two week Christmas vacation begin!!

Good thing we have an extra nebby mask.  It's a dragon.
While Lilly is using the nebby, Hannah asks for her "goggles" so she can use the nebby too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Off to School

Yesterday morning, Jack and I went to visit "Lilly's school."  It's really only Lilly's school for one more week before it becomes Lilly & Jack's school, and I still can't believe it.  After Christmas, I'll be dropping them both off every day. No matter how many people tell me that "he's definitely ready" and "he's going to love school," it still makes my heart hurt that we've reached another big milestone.

When we went to visit yesterday, we walked around to all the different classrooms, and Kathleen, the director of the school who is absolutely amazing, gave Jack different Montessori work to do in each room.  He screwed and unscrewed screws into a wooden block, with a real screwdriver.  He put together the pieces of a flashlight, complete with batteries, and got to shine the finished product all over the classroom.  He unlocked padlocks with real keys that he had to match with the correct lock.  He used a little spoon to move marbles from one bowl to another.  He strung Christmas beads onto pipe cleaners.  He matched colored tiles and told Kathleen the names of all the colors.  At one point, Kathleen put one of each color tile on one table and the matching color on a table on the other side of the room.  She sat down with Jack at one table and asked him to walk over to the other table, find the orange tile and bring it back.  So, Jack wandered off and brought the orange tile back.  Kathleen then asked him to go and bring back the yellow one, which he did.  Then she asked him to get the pink one.  This one was taking a bit longer than the other two, and when we looked over, we saw why.  Jack had caught on that he was going to have to get these tiles one by one, so he put them in a big pile, brought them all back to the table and handed Kathleen the pink one.  We started laughing, and Kathleen said it's clear that he has inherited some of Lilly's organizing and planning traits!

After doing each activity, Jack's face lit up.  Each time, he realized that he had accomplished something and he was proud, he made me so proud.  It is unusual for me to have time with Jack by himself, so to be able to see his determination and concentration and pure joy at the place where he will be going to school in January was really special.  I won't forget our morning there, and when I spend the drive home from his first morning drop off in tears, I am going to remember how happy he was yesterday.  It won't make me miss him any less, and it probably won't make the tears stop, but I will know deep down that it is time for my little boy to learn and discover and grow in this wonderful environment that has nurtured Lilly for the last two and a half years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Countdown to Christmas

I love December.  And I especially love December through the eyes of children.  December means Advent calendars and Christmas trees and snow globes.  It means Jingle Bells and Dominick the Donkey playing on repeat. The Fisher Price Nativity Scene becomes a toy that is played with daily while Santa hats and reindeer antlers joined our dress ups this month.  The cold weather is here to stay, and the little ones are eagerly anticipating the first real snow.  We had a coating the other morning, but just enough to cover the grass and make us wish there were a few more inches for snowmen and snow angels.  Everyone has practiced wearing all their snow gear around the house, so we are ready to go when the real thing arrives.

We cut down our Christmas tree a couple of weeks ago.  This is the third time we've piled into the car and driven up to Easton to the find the tree that is just right for us, and it has quickly become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  This year, Lilly had opinions regarding which trees we should or shouldn't cut down (imagine that!), Jack loved running between all the Christmas trees, jumping in the puddles of mud and hiding (while tripping over every tree stump in sight), and Hannah was Hannah.  She tried to balance on the tree stumps, she learned to say "tree stump" and she ran around chasing the other two, making sure she was a part of everything they were doing.

We have quickly learned that our new neighborhood loves holidays.  I thought everyone put out a lot of Halloween decorations, but those decorations paled in comparison to Christmas.  Lights on every house, every fence, every tree.  And not just a few lights.  Lights covering every square inch of available foliage.  And these lights were all up when we arrived back in Connecticut the Saturday after Thanksgiving!  Needless to say, Lilly and Jack wanted to know when we were going to decorate our house like "everyone else in the neighborhood."  We had every intention of decorating our house with some lights, but soon learned that we had to buy 10 times the number of lights we originally envisioned.  Jim spent hours one day putting up all the lights and wreaths and pine garland, making us officially ready for Christmas.  Although Jack and Lilly would still like a blow up Santa for the yard.  And all his reindeer.  And maybe a giant snow globe too.  Santa arrives by firetruck in the cul-de-sac tomorrow, followed by a neighborhood party.  Last week, I had my neighborhood ladies gift exchange, with some lovely moms who I know, and plenty that I didn't.  Next week, Jim and I have a neighborhood holiday party with all the couples.  Lots and lots of celebrating going on here at the moment, and we're excited to be a part of it.

It was Lilly's snack week at school this week.  We made a few Christmasy snacks, including a tree out of cheese cubes and grapes.  And then finished off the week with our grand finale: mozzarella snowmen.
I'm teaching a lot at the moment, and while I love teaching these classes, I'm ready for a break.  I'm ready to have my weekends back.  I miss our Saturday mornings full of coffee and music and lounging by the fire (although I still get to do plenty of that when I come home).  I miss starting off my weekend with a spinning class.  But I'm in the home stretch--in fact, this weekend is my last full weekend of teaching until the end of January.  I'll be ready for some time at home.  I will be spending the beginning of 2015 soaking up these three little ones (and Jim, of course) and appreciating how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love every day.

A family photo after we found our tree

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Littlest Two

Hannah and Jack spend a lot of time together, and watching the two of them grow up so close in age is really sweet.  People ask if they're twins all the time, especially when they're both pushing little shopping carts around Trader Joe's (please send strength my way for our grocery store trips) or when we're out for a walk and both of them sit in the stroller with their blankets, sucking their thumbs. Their mornings together are special.  Jack gets to be "in charge" while Lilly is at school, although Hannah may be slowly taking over that role.  Hannah has spent 20 months watching the other two, so she has learned everything that Jack knows about trucks and trains and will point out cement mixers to you on the highway, or a police car with its flashing lights that has pulled someone over.  From Lilly, she has developed a love of crayons and coloring, and setting up tea parties for all the stuffed animals in the basement.  She is fully her own little person now, and is right in the mix with the other two at all times.

For awhile, Hannah had figured out how to really get on Jack's nerves. She would run up to Jack and take his blanket or his Elmo, or close the basement door as soon as Jack went downstairs (which he had just worked up the courage to do by himself), causing immediate tears from Jack.  However, after a couple of weeks of doing this, and with quite a bit of encouragement on our part, Jack has reacted less and less to this taunting, causing Hannah to lose interest and go on her way.  She also went through a week of biting!  This was a first in our family--Lilly and Jack skipped right over a biting phase, but Hannah tried it out one day when Jack took a toy away from her, and it was effective.  Jack backed off and got upset and Hannah got her toy back.  She bit Lilly later that day for the same reason, and then the next day, when we asked Jack to help Hannah put a toy away, his response was, "No, I don't want to touch Hannah's toy...otherwise she'll bite me!"  Well, regardless of how effective the biting was, Hannah is smart enough to know that this is not acceptable behavior.  So now Hannah has her own quiet corner, where she sits (for about 30 seconds) when she's done something that she is not supposed to.  Hannah's misdemeanors include drawing on walls, pulling all the clothes out of her drawers, and other "helpful" toddler activities.

Jack has always been extremely patient with Hannah and even if she drives him crazy and runs circles around the house with his blanket, all he wants to do is play with her.  Jack will ask Hannah to come and play with him, and assign a truck or train or car or something to build out of lego to her.  The other day, Jack was finishing his snack at the table and called out, "Hannah, come and watch me finish my snack."  Joseph and I both started laughing at that appealing offer, and as we did, Hannah called back, "Okay, Jackie!" and went running off to watch him eat.

Hannah calls Jack, "Jackie," which made me cringe the first time I heard it.  But it's what she does, and now I can't help but smile when I hear this little voice calling for "Jackie" around the house.  Uncle Joef quickly became Joefy, so if you don't have a "y" at the end of your name, Hannah will add one.

These two are pretty good at "selfies".
Teasing Jack aside, 20 months old is a pretty great age.  I went back and was reading about Lilly at 20 months old, and I'd have to say that Hannah is a carbon copy of her.  The only difference is that Hannah talks more than Lilly did.  If that's even possible.  Hannah is full of energy and smiles.  She loves being outside, running around, playing on the swing and climbing up obstacles that she is far to little to be climbing up.  She loves listening to stories and singing songs and dancing and pouring pretend cups of tea from her singing tea pot.  Her favorite book at the moment is "Caps for Sale," and when I say favorite, I mean that she would like someone (usually Uncle Joef) to read this to her on repeat all day long.  Her song of choice is still "Happy Birthday", and when we had our jack o'lanterns outside this fall, Hannah's favorite place to sit was right next to the pumpkins, with lit candles, singing Happy Birthday to the pumpkins.

I bet this was the first time anybody sang "Happy Birthday" to this pumpkin!
I love watching Hannah and Jack's little relationship develop.  Hannah only knows life with an older brother and sister.  She misses Lilly when she's at school and says, "No, Wiwwy school" when we drop Lilly at school in the morning.  After I get Hannah up from her nap in the afternoon, she knows that we get to go and wake "Jackie" and runs into his room ready to play with trucks until Lilly comes home.

Jack takes on different roles depending on who he is playing with.  Lilly tends to organize all the games when she is home (imagine that!) and Jack mostly goes along with what she says.  With Hannah, Jack is content to play next to her, although he would prefer her to have a truck in her hand at all times too.  He doesn't understand why Hannah always wants to play with Daisy, her baby.  I can't wait to see who all these little people become in the years ahead.  But for now, I'd like them to stay little and cuddly.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Where Do the Days Go?

It gets harder and harder to document life in our busy little family.  Ironically, the harder it is for me to sit down and write, the more I want to do it.  I know these days are so special and fleeting, and there's so much that I want to remember about them.

Lilly is five and a half, and what a wonderful age that is.  She got to play soccer on a team for the first time this year.  She still loves going off to school and she has quickly adapted to life in a neighborhood.  Lilly knows everyone and everything that is going on in our neighborhood at all times.  If you're not sure where to find her, it's a safe bet that she's either sitting out the back on the swing set, where she can monitor what's going on all around us, or sitting on the front steps waiting for a school bus to pick up or drop off children.  Lilly is full of spunk--she's happy, energetic and will never turn down the opportunity to play outside.  More and more, she comes out with comments or statements that catch me off guard.  Many of her expressions make me realize she is growing up and is extremely aware of everything going on around her, and other ones remind me that she is only five.  I have been having Special K for breakfast a lot lately, and Lilly and Jack jumped on this as a new cereal they had to try.  Because I was eating it, they both instantly loved it.  After she finished her first bowl, Lilly proceeded to ask if she could please have some more "Magic K".  It sounds a little bit more like a narcotic than I would like, but yes, Lilly, you can have as much Magic K as you would like in our house.  

Lilly knows where the boundaries lie and yet she constantly tests them.  For example, last week, we had little Grace who lives in our neighborhood over to play.  When Grace's sister Lauren came to pick her up, the first thing that Grace told her was "We had so much fun, Lauren...we peed in the yard!!" I almost died.  Lilly first denied it, as did Jack.  Clearly, they both knew it was wrong.  But Grace continued on to tell us that all of them did it.  Lauren followed this up by saying, "Well, Grace's pants are wet, so I think they really did."  I sent Lilly and Jack up to their bedrooms, and sent Grace's mom an apologetic, embarrassed message telling her what happened.  Grace is the youngest in her family, so her mom just laughed and said not to worry--she's seen it all.  But I was still mortified!  I talked to Lilly and Jack and made it clear that this was unacceptable (which they already knew) and didn't let them have dessert that night (which brought Jack to tears but barely phased Lilly).  Since that day, every night after dinner, Jack says, "Can I have dessert, Mom?  I didn't pee in the yard today."  Lilly has mentioned it a few times as well and has asked to have Grace over again so she can have another chance.  I thought coming inside to go to the bathroom was a pretty clear boundary, but clearly it was one that Lilly felt the need to push up against (and then go flying backwards).

One of my favorites. 

Jack is three--a newly turned three year old who couldn't love trucks any more than he does.  His best days involve garbage pick up in the neighborhood, watching the children get on the school bus, a UPS delivery and a trip on the highway.  Throw in any kind of siren or flashing lights and I would call it Jack's dream come true.  He still sucks his thumb diligently and has a ridiculously long nap every day--that he has to be woken up from, so he still seems so little to me.  Jack will be starting school with Lilly in January, and as much as I know he is ready, it still gives me a lump in my throat when I think about dropping him off every day.  A few weeks ago, he came up to me wearing a (fairy) backpack and asked me if it was after Christmas yet because he was ready to go to school.  I told him just a couple more months, and then reminded myself to soak up these mornings with this sensitive little guy, who can't get enough cuddles.

Amazingly decorated cake by Auntie Ells! 

We moved Jack into his own room about a month ago.  It is a room full of trucks and cars and everything boy, and Jack adores it.  This came about because Hannah was spending hours in the middle of the night calling everyone's names.  Jim and I tried everything.  We ignored it, but she was persistent, so the end result was that we were lying in bed awake for two hours listening to her call out, asking for all of us.  We tried going in and reasoning with her.  You can guess how well that worked.  It was bad for a little while though.  I knew just how bad it was when Ellie, who was staying with us, was googling things like, "why does my toddler wake up and yell at night?" and after doing some research, advised me to keep a sleep journal so we could start tracking what was going on.  Ellie was doing this.  Ellie.  So then we decided that Hannah needed a roommate, and what better roommate than her equally chatty big sister.  The same day that we made our decision, we spent the evening disassembling beds and cribs and rearranging everyone to put our plan into action.  The first night, when Hannah woke up, she quickly switched from calling "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy...." to "WIWWY!!!"  Lilly rolled over, told her that it was nighttime and that everyone was asleep, to which Hannah responded with a sad, "okay" and went back to sleep.  It has taken a few weeks of this new arrangement but I think that finally, Hannah understands that no one is going to talk to her or play with her in the night, no matter how much she yells.    

Hannah is 19 months old and as Mum as correctly guessed from all the stories that make their way across the ocean, Hannah is indeed a little dynamo.  She wants to do everything that the older two do, and she usually succeeds at it.  She swings on the big-kid swings.  She goes up and down the stairs comfortably.  She climbs on whatever playground ropes or balance beams she sees Jack and Lilly use.  She talks a mile a minute--at her most recent doctor's appointment, her pediatrician said she has the verbal skills of a three year old.  And really, she does.  For months, she has been walking around the house saying, "Come on, Mom" when she wants me to do something with her.  When Lilly or Jack send her on a mission to get a toy from the basement or their slippers from upstairs (you know, the really fun jobs that a third child gets to do...) Hannah's little voice can be heard saying a happy, "sure" which sounds more like "shaw!" She has a cheeky, toothy smile which makes me laugh every time.  Hannah has loved playing with Uncle Joef while he's staying with us, as he will sprint circles or hop like a bunny or skip with her around the house.  Sometimes he will hide from her and jump out when she comes around the corner, producing shrieks of delight.  She has taken to calling him Uncle Joefy, which makes us all laugh.

So that is a snapshot of our life at the moment.  We tucked three very excited children into bed tonight.  Halloween in this neighborhood is a big deal, so we're gearing up for a pizza party, parade and trick or treating tomorrow night.  They all love their costumes so tomorrow, despite my usual disdain for Halloween, should be a lot of fun.  Here are a few more photos of the past few weeks.  There certainly is never a dull moment with these three.

In heaven...driving the bus at Touch-A-Truck
One fierce looking bicycle gang.
Lilly went to visit Jack on their first night sleeping in different bedrooms

Time to wash Jack's trucks

Hannah has some serious hair in the morning! 
Hanging out at Lilly's soccer game...waiting for the post-game snack!