Halloween 2015

This Halloween just needs to be documented on the dusty old blog. I don’t know how many years these kids will let me dress them in a “theme,” but man was I excited that they all went for it this year.

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We’ve heard numerous times while out in public with Ellie – especially when she still wore pigtails on the regular – “oh, she looks just like Boo!”

I decided a few months before Halloween that the kids simply must dress as the characters from Monsters Inc! The decision was obviously based around Ellie, so it’s funny that her “costume” was the easiest and most low-maintenance of all – just a pink shirt and purple leggings and pigtails! I did iron on the word “Boo” on the back, just for the heck of it. And put a little blush on her cheeks to make her look a little more cartoon-y. :)

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I’d gotten Ellie a zebra costume at our local consignment sale, for just in case the Monsters Inc. thing didn’t work out, so she had to don that for a few minutes, too. I cannot handle the cuteness.

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Halloween was on a Saturday this year, and we’ve had the most BEAUTIFUL fall, so it was a huge bummer that the ONE freezing, raining day we’ve had in months had to fall on Halloween! So trick or treating was semi-miserable, and the photos aren’t as sunny and cheerful as I would have hoped; but the boys are at the age where they will do pretty much anything for candy, so they didn’t care about the weather, and Ellie was still pretty oblivious about it all. And so easygoing anyway, so she was a trooper!

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We trick or treated in our neighborhood, and then went over to Amanda and Mark’s and trick or treated there, too, and stayed for dinner. The next day dawned warm and gorgeous, of course – oh well!

I sure love these little monsters of mine!!

Tis the season (of life) for all joy and no fun

Loud, busy, chaotic, exhausting, exciting, messy, joyful. That’s life right now, in fall of 2015 with three small kids ages 6, 3 3/4 and 14 months.

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I think I’ll look back on this time with incredible fondness and pride as well as with relief that we’re through it.

For the longest time I’d say to Dave “enjoy these days, we’re going to miss them so much.” He’d tell me “no, I really won’t miss this.” And I thought he was kind of a jerk for saying that, even though I do realize that moms tend to get more out of the whole baby and small child phase.

But lately, I’ve begun agreeing with him wholeheartedly.

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There’s truly nothing in the world like a little baby, and small children are adorable and snuggly and highly entertaining much of the time. But they are also hard work, man. And I’ve been really feeling that whole “all joy no fun” thing these days. The truly FUN times I have in life right now are the times when I’m away from my kids, if I’m being completely honest!

Family outings that are just Dave and me and the kids are a bit more fun, because we have no one around whose opinions we have to worry about. We tag-team the kids, we deal with the low points, and we mostly enjoy ourselves. But taking the kids anywhere where there are other people we know, especially to other people’s houses? Just not that much fun.

I think it’s because we’re surrounded by people who don’t have little kids, and we see them right in front of us enjoying themselves – eating, drinking, sitting down, having conversations – and we can’t for one second do those same things. We are chasing and correcting and feeding and entertaining. We’re changing diapers and breaking up fights and making sure they don’t break things or hurt themselves; we’re dealing with all the needs needs needs that small children have. We’re tired, and annoyed, and we find ourselves longing for the days when we could do those things. Or for the days when we’ll once again be able to do those things.

Doing things with people who also have small children is more fun, for sure, and also comforting, since we’re spending time with other people who are in the trenches just like we are. But still, the FUN factor goes way up once the kids are, you know, in bed. ;)

I also feel like our parenting is on constant display when we’re around others, and I’m on edge about whether my kids will behave, whether they’ll say please and thank you without being reminded, whether they’ll eat anything or throw a tantrum or walk on the carpet with their shoes on or climb on the back of someone’s couch.

And at home? Chaos 75% of the time. Ellie may be the craziest 1-year-old any of us has ever known. If she’s awake, she’s being a tornado – climbing, running, making messes, causing mischief anywhere she can. This makes it fairly impossible to do anything (like cook, in particular!) that involves not being on top of her every second.

If the boys are in the same room, they’re likely fighting with each other. Or asking for something. Dave and I joke that holy hell, once Ellie can talk, watch out, because we already feel like there are SO MANY PEOPLE talking at once most of the time. I think our tiny house just magnifies it all, too. We can’t wait for more space!!

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And I get it, it’s a season.

I also think that in a few years, I’ll probably look back and think oh, it wasn’t so bad. And oh, I miss having little babies so much! But at the same time? I’m so EXCITED for that next stage. We’re getting a taste of it with Henry, and it’s AWESOME. Self-sufficiency. A true interest in the world. Being able to DO things like go on bike rides and play ball and go down water slides. Fun stuff!

I thought perhaps once Ellie hit one, I might feel like hmm, maybe I do want one more baby! But nope. I’m 110% D-O-N-E having babies, and that feels good. I have the three kids I always dreamed of and I’m so VERY thankful for it every single day. And the idea of moving forward now as a family of five is just so cool.

The end of diapers is in sight. The end of waking up multiple times each night is in sight. (I hope.) The end of car seats and strollers and sippy cups is in sight. In a few years we’ll be able to start taking vacations as a family. Having game night and movie night as a family. I’m really excited for stuff like that.

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But my goodness, even just looking through photos right now for this post made my heart burst – I can only imagine how I’ll feel looking through them years from now when all of the hard parts have melted away in my memory. There are so, so, so many happy moments; these kids are SO damn cute and lovable; and I know these are precious days!

Even as they make me want to PULL MY HAIR OUT on a daily basis, too.

One thing I’ll really miss about this stage? I love that our kids are still all OURS. Their world is our world and that’s about it. We haven’t yet reached the stage of tons of activities and sports, and sleepovers and birthday parties, and all the emotions and turbulence that comes with getting older. I know that life will become harder in many ways, shuttling kids all over the place, dealing with tougher problems, and homework, and other parents, and the list goes on. And like I said – truly nothing compares to a baby!

But the day that we can go to someone’s house, and I can pour myself a glass of wine, sit down and have a conversation while my kids play in the other room? That’ll be a great day.

Day in the Life: Fall 2015

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The date is Friday, October 9, 2015

Dave and I are 33
Henry will be 6 in four days (Oct. 9 was my due date – he was four days late!)
Ben is 3 years, 8 months
Ellie is 13 months

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My last few DITLs have been work days, but today is a day “off.” I don’t work in an office anymore (!), but I do still have my nanny 3-4 days/week. Fridays she’s always off, and this week I’d given her Thursday off, too.

6 a.m. – My alarm goes off, and I get out of bed at 6:03 a.m. – I feel like it’s a good start to my day when I get out of bed at 6:03, since that’s the minute I was born. Weird, I know. I get in the shower and hope that the kids will sleep late today so I can get ready in peace, but alas, Ellie is up by 6:20 and the boys are up at 6:30.

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Dave showers and then takes the boys downstairs, and Ellie stays up with me and plays in the bathroom while I get ready. I let her play in the drawers and under the sink, and she’s actually pretty good – doesn’t do too many things that make me have to chase or redirect her.

I hear the boys fighting downstairs, per usual. I bring Ellie downstairs and go back upstairs for a few minutes to straighten my hair. I pick out clothes for all three kids, then come back down and Ellie’s at the table with Dave, Ben’s whining about not being able to find his new boxing guy, and Henry’s watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

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7:20 a.m. – Dave leaves for work and I’m on my own to finish the morning routine. Ellie cries and tries to get out of his arms when he hugs her good-bye – she’s in a real mama phase lately! It’s a chaotic morning, more so than usual, and I’m feeling pretty annoyed about everything. I can’t shake the nausea I’ve felt all week – I caught a stomach bug from my nephew the previous weekend and was down for the count Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The house is a disaster, the kids are all loud and needy, and I’m not in the best mood! I usually make eggs for breakfast but can’t stomach the thought of them today, so I make an English muffin with peanut butter and a banana instead. The kids have waffles and fruit.

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I go upstairs and Henry asks me to take his picture with Darth Vader for DITL. He had slept on the floor the night before, and Ben slept up on the top bunk. I let Henry sleep on our comforter, which has butterflies on it, and Henry asks me why I want bugs on my blanket.

I “count” Ben a few times, as we are reading and using 1-2-3 Magic with him and Henry as of this week, and it’s actually working pretty well. Ellie is too young to punish, obviously, and so I have to just keep chasing her between getting everyone ready – she gets into the bathroom and unrolls the toilet paper if we forget to shut the door (which happens this morning), and she now climbs onto our dining room chairs and up onto the table when we’re not looking, too.

8 a.m. – I do Henry’s hair and pack his lunch – which is especially lazy and unhealthy on this day – an Uncrustable, an oatmeal creme pie (which I impulse bought at Target the day before because my kids have never experienced this goodness that my brothers and I enjoyed as children), a yogurt, yogurt raisins and some Cheez-Its. He also asks for Greens and True Lemon in his water today, which he asks for probably twice a week or so instead of just plain water.

I can’t stand looking at the full garbage and bags of recycling anymore so I run them outside quickly.

8:20 a.m. – Henry hugs and kisses me good-bye and walks across the street to wait for the bus with the neighbors. On days Shelly has the two little kids, I join Henry and the neighbors out there, but on days when I have them home with me, we usually just watch from the window. The bus picks him up and off he goes to kindergarten.

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8:40 a.m. – I pack the three of us up and we get in the van. Ben goes to preschool from 9-11:15 one morning a week at a private preschool about 10 minutes from our house, and Friday’s the day! It’s so fun to watch him be independent from his brother and dip his toe in the water of school. And as much as I’m thankful every single day that I no longer work for anyone but myself, I am extra, extra thankful every Friday when I get to take him and pick him up from preschool. I love it.

9 a.m. – We walk Benny into his classroom and I overhear another parent saying “oh, I forgot the permission slip!” and I’m like um, what permission slip? I knew Ben was walking down to the fire station next week but I hadn’t seen a permission slip. Apparently I’d missed it on the back of the newsletter – oops. So they give me a new one to sign and bring back later.

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Ellie and I walk back out to the van, and I’ve brought a piece of licorice to keep Ellie occupied and awake on the 10 minute drive home so she doesn’t ruin her morning nap! I want her to nap so I can have the time to myself while Ben’s at school. It does the trick and she makes a big mess of herself on the way home. All Photos-592

9:15 a.m. – I nurse Ellie up in her room and she goes right down for her nap without a peep. I think about all the things I should do – clean the messy house, get some work done – but I feel nauseous and tired and decide to watch a half hour of Kelly and Michael (which I’ve DVRed today because I knew I might want to watch!) on the couch instead.

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9:45 a.m. – I straighten up a bit and then open my laptop and work from 10-11. I email and message with a handful of people, post to my team Facebook page, pay a bill and change my FB profile pic to pink and blue for the pregnancy loss campaign that’s happening on there this month. It was seven years ago this month that we lost our first baby at 8 weeks.

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11:15 a.m. – I’d grabbed Ellie a sweatshirt and I put it on her when we get out of the van at Ben’s school since it’s pretty chilly out. We pick Benny up and he’s had another fun day, painting and singing and playing. I turn in the permission slip and we head out. Today he’s made a very hungry caterpillar project with shapes that’s super cute. I take his picture with it when we get home.

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11:30 – 1 p.m. – We clean the messy sun room and I make the kids lunch – pb&j (Ellie’s first one! She’s not a huge fan), apples and pretzels (ham and cheese for me) – and then I let Ben play “the guy game” on the N64 and Ellie and I play together in the sun room for awhile.

Ben joins us to play tea party, and when he sets up his cakes at the table, I ask to take his picture because he looks handsome today and he proceeds to make a whole variety of weird faces for me. Sigh.

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1 p.m. – Nap time! Nurse Ellie upstairs again and let Ben play a few more minutes, then head downstairs to bring him up to nap. I tell Ben we can maybe do a craft later with the leaves we collected yesterday at the park, and he responds “are they going to do a craft, too?” since I’d said we’d do a craft WITH them. Hilarious.

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1-3 p.m. – The kids nap and I work again and send some emails. The mailman delivers an It Works box and I’m VERY excited that it’s the newest product, WOW (Wipe Out Wrinkles) which I ordered over a week ago when it first became available! I take an embarrassing number of selfies before picking the right one to put on Facebook and Instagram, offering up samples. I get a big response and decide I’ll wait til next week to start on that project. I can’t wait to try it tonight.

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The third person this week makes reference to my nausea and possibly being pregnant, and even though I know I just had a bug, I decide to take a test anyway just to be sure. Not pregnant – whew.

3 p.m.(ish) – The kids wake from their naps and we hang out. I nurse Ellie again after she asks for it by sticking her hands down my shirt. She’s quite the little demanding diva these days.

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3:45 p.m. – Henry’s home! I hear the bus come around the corner and I open the door to wave at the bus driver and greet Henry. He’s had a great day – he loves kindergarten. He’s very excited to show me the “star student” backpack he’s brought home since it’s his birthday next week. The bag includes Pete the Cat, a friend he gets to spend time with for a week and then record his adventures in a little journal the class passes around.

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4 p.m. – It’s a gorgeous day so we head out on a walk and go to the park in our neighborhood. Henry asks me to take his picture with Pete the Cat on his bike, on the slide and on the teeter totter. He tells me that a fire truck and firemen visited their school today and when he says “hey mom, guess what we’re supposed to do if our clothes are on fire?” and I blurt out “stop, drop and roll!” without thinking, and he cries because he wanted to tell me the answer. I hug and kiss him and apologize because I feel genuinely bad that I ruined that for him!

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Ben collects garbage and throws it away, which makes me proud. We toss around a football that someone’s left down there. Henry displays the leaves and pine cones we found yesterday that are still in a bread bag in the stroller.

5 p.m. – We’re back home and I preheat the oven – it’s pizza night! Love pizza night. I was going to let Henry play a little Minecraft, but he has a close call on the walk home riding his bike in the middle of the street and not seeing a car coming, so I don’t let him. He works on his All About Me poster that he’ll bring to school and present to his class on Monday. We decide we’ll get pictures printed of our family and of him and Pete the Cat at Walgreens this weekend, but he can draw pictures for the other parts.

I read “I want to visit” and he says “the fire house.” And I say Henry, you can pick anywhere in the whole world! So he says “the moon” and draws that. Then he draws an astronaut for what he wants to be when he grows up, even though I tell him that maybe by the time he’s grown up, you won’t even need to be an astronaut to travel to the moon! For his favorite things he lists Xbox, pizza and basketball. For what he’s good at, he draws him on a bike and him dribbling two basketballs at once. (Apparently he’s really good at this.)

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Ellie makes a mess of something in the pantry, per usual, and I pour myself a big glass of wine. The timer goes off for the pizzas, and then I’m suddenly getting Ellie off the table AND giving Ben a time-out and I forget about them for a couple minutes and almost burn them! But luckily they’re ok.

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5:45 p.m. – Dave comes home to the crazy town house just as I’m pulling the pizzas out, and he gets himself a beer and changes out of his work clothes. I cut the pizzas and dish everyone up some, and we put on Monsters University and have a picnic in the living room, which is our Friday evening tradition. We bought this movie last Friday and are now watching it for a second time.

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7:15 p.m. – A teammate of mine stops by to pick up the banner we pass around for events. We chat for a few minutes at my door while her family waits in the car. I take Ellie up to bath right after she leaves. She grabs the shampoo bottle and puts her mouth all over it – gross – and I give her a big mohawk just for DITL, ha. We make faces in the mirror after she’s out, and I brush her hair and get her in some jammies.

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7:45 p.m. – We hear fireworks outside so we come downstairs and all five of us walk outside into the street to see where they’re coming from. We can see them through the trees and they’re, like major fireworks! They’re coming from the private college in our neighborhood, as it’s Homecoming weekend. We watch for a good five minutes and it’s a very sweet, spontaneous, special moment. Ellie snuggles close and isn’t so sure about the noises she’s hearing. After a few minutes I take her back inside and take her upstairs to bed. She nurses just for a minute or two and then starts to whine like “put me in my bed.” I hug and kiss her and put her down, give her her nuk and lambie and tell her to have sweet dreams. She goes down SO easily these days. Girl loves her sleep!

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8:10 p.m. – Dave brings the boys up and they brush teeth and he reads them books. We hug and kiss them good-night and they go to bed. While in their room I say to Dave “let’s watch a Kimmie Schmidt” (a Netflix series) and Henry says “who’s Kimmy Shit?” and I stifle a laugh and tell him he can’t say that word. SchMIDT! Ben also keeps saying “HallowEENER” is coming soon, since Dave said that earlier.

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8:30-10:30 p.m. – We go in the bathroom and try the WOW and wow, it works like crazy well. We watch our forehead lines literally disappear. We take each other’s pictures in the bathroom and Dave tells me I better not share his because he’s broken out. Ha. I tell him I won’t. We watch a Kimmie Schmidt and yada yada yada and I hit the bed pretty early for me, around 10:30. I check on my babies and take their picture and they don’t stir at all.

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I sleep almost eight hours straight and get up with the kids the next morning around 6:30. It’s Dave’s day to sleep in, which is fine since I got to bed pretty early and I know I get to sleep in tomorrow, after our date night that we have planned. We go to the farmer’s market in the morning and then have our date at Sanford that evening, which is fabulous. Sunday I sleep in til 8 and we have a plans-free day! Life is really good.

Our “F5 Daughter” – Ellie at one year old

There are so many things I want to remember about Ellie at one year old. These weeks and months pass by in a such a hazy, joyful, tiring fog, and one stage rapidly replaces another, and so soon we forget so many of the details of life with these kids of ours. I love looking back on what Henry and Ben were like at various stages, and so often I think wow, I would never have remembered that!

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One day last week Shelly brought Ben and Ellie home after having them at her house for the day, and as she handed Ellie to me she said “Here’s your F5 daughter!” As in, tornado. And sure, all kids are like that at one year old. When they’re newly mobile and curious about everything and have no concept yet of consequences or danger or punishment. But Ellie? Shelly, Dave and I are all convinced that she may truly be the wildest one-year-old we’ve ever had in our care. She does not stop!! It seems to be her mission in life to make messes and get into trouble faster than we could ever, ever keep up with. She’s in the garbage, she’s in the pantry, she’s in the fridge; she’s taking all the wipes out of the wipes box or unrolling the toilet paper roll or opening the toilet and sticking her hand in. She’s throwing her food and cup on the floor during every meal time and trying to grab her diaper when we’re changing it.

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She opens drawers and strews towels and kitchen utensils everywhere; she loves getting into Henry’s craft cabinet in the dining room; and anytime she’s upstairs in the bathroom, she’s going after the boys’ electric toothbrushes so she can “brush” her teeth, she’s in the top drawer grabbing the brush to brush her hair or the toothpaste to try and eat; and in the boys’ room, she’s always begging to be put up on the top bunk so she can roll around up there like a goof ball. If the bath is running, she thinks it’s quite funny to grab as many things as she can – my mascara, the toothpaste – and throw it in the water. If we leave anything too close to the edge of the kitchen table, off it goes – Ben’s cereal, yogurt, cups of water.

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Her favorite new game is to throw whatever she can get her hands on down the stairs and then clap for herself when she’s done. The other day every pair of Henry’s pants from his dresser was thrown down as I got ready in the morning, and when we visited Dave’s brother last weekend, she threw every shoes that was by the front door down their basement steps. It’s quite hilarious, and she’s so proud of herself.

Keeping up with her is truly a full-time job when she’s awake. She has a lot of toys and she likes a lot of them, but she doesn’t do so well with playing on her own just yet. Henry was never able to play on his own and still isn’t good at it, and Ben was playing on his own already at this age and is still good at it. So it looks like we have another Henry on our hands in that respect. She really likes attention and does not like to be left alone. If we have to put her in the pack n play for a few minutes to keep her safe while we get something done, she’s fine for about a minute or two and then starts crying til we pick her up again.

But she’s happy. So, so happy! The girl smiles more than anyone I know, and she loves to show off her teeth – her “cheesy face” – while breathing loudly in and out through her nose for dramatic effect. She’s just about running now, and she has zero fear of climbing up on things. She loves walks in her stroller and her pink car, and she loves going down the slide at the park. She’s not afraid of strangers and is very social, walking right up to people and sometimes waving and saying “hi! hi!”

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Hi is just about her only word still, but man is it a cute word. :) The boys were both talking up a storm by this age, but they were also slower in the mobility department, so it’s been interesting to have that all be reversed with Ellie. She’ll say mama and “mom! mom!” and something that sounds like “hiiiidaaad” to Dave. But ask her to say anything else? Nope. She won’t even try repeating us. “Say ba-bye!” – nope. Nothin. When she wants something and I tell her “say please!” she’ll bounce up and down as if to say “gimme, gimme!” If I say “say thank you” she’ll go “mmm!” It’ll be fun to hear her finally talk, whenever she decides to!

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It’s fun to watch her start to “get” things, like stacking her Mega Blocks and feeding her baby doll and nodding her head when I ask her question and following little instructions. I’ll ask her to throw something in the garbage, and she will, and I think she knows how to clean up better than her brothers, taking such pride in picking up her toys and putting them where they belong. She claps and waves and blows kisses and plays peekaboo and points to the sky when she hears an airplane.

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Shelly has a dog named Ruby and when we ask “What does Ruby do? she’ll stick out her tongue and wag it back and forth like a dog. She’s learning what a bunny does and will crinkle her nose for us, and she knows where her belly is when we ask, sticking it out and patting it with a big grin on her face. She can also point to her hair and her nose!

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Her hair is still her most noteworthy physical feature – getting so long! We haven’t done too many pigtails lately since they look kind of cartoonish at this point. I like to do just a single ponytail off to one side of her head, and a few times I’ve done a ponytail farther back on her head with a barette/bow to hold her bangs to the side. She looks so grown-up and adorable! The past few nights I’ve put her hair in a loose ponytail on top of her head for when she sleeps, since otherwise it hangs past her nose and covers her face and I just can’t imagine that that’s comfortable when she’s trying to sleep!

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She’s still nursing a lot and I feel like she’ll probably go quite awhile longer. I know Ben would have nursed longer than the 13 months he did, but I was ready to be done and so I weaned him without much issue. But Ellie’s my last and just knowing I never get to do it again makes me want to go as long as she will want to! I’ve also never had a baby who’s been so OBSESSED with my boobs and with nursing. The boys never stuck their hands down my shirt or “asked” for it – but Ellie asks for it constantly! It’s both adorable and flattering and also a tad bit creepy at times, ha. She’s always sticking her hands down my shirt, and on several occasions now, I’ve be holding her and wearing just a nursing tank and before I really realized what was happening, she’d yanked down my shirt and latched on!

My supply had gone down a bit once I was done pumping and she was only nursing in the morning and at night. I didn’t really get “full” anymore, and I thought we were nearing the end. But then suddenly she was SO into it and nursing every coupe of hours on the days we were together, so my supply went way back up! I thought I’d ditched the pump for good a few weeks before she turned one, but then I went away for a night two weekends ago and had to pump twice while I was gone. So we’re still going strong, and I’m thankful she’s always been such a good nurser from day one.

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I mentioned this in her birthday post, but she is SUCH a mama’s girl. Mama’s girl and Shelly’s girl. It doesn’t phase her for me to be in another room or leaving the house when she’s with Shelly, or to be leaving me to go to Shelly’s, but when she’s with daddy or anyone else? She just wants mom! I feel bad for Dave, since I know she loves him – but he is a far, far third on her list of people she wants to be with at this stage in her life! It’s comical and a little heartbreaking to hear how she cries and squirms in his arms and then the second he hands her to me she’s just fine. The little stinker. He loves it when she does show him affection, though – voluntarily walking over to him for a hug or a big open-mouthed kiss like she likes to give.

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As for her stats… she has eight teeth now, four on top and four on the bottom, with a couple more visible just below her gums. Her teeth make her look so different, I think! Her top teeth have really wide gaps between them, which I know is good for her future smile and the room she’ll have in there for her grown-up teeth. Right now it just looks really cute and slightly goofy, too. She’s in 12-18 and 18-month clothes, though she has very few things to wear right now since all her 12-month stuff is too small, but the weather is still warm and most of her 18-month stuff is fall and winter stuff! Love this time of year but the transition between wardrobes for a growing-fast little kid is a challenge.

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I had her into the doctor a few weeks before she turned one since I thought she might have an ear infection (she didn’t) and she was 18 lbs, 5 oz. Her one-year check-up is at the end of this month. She’s a pretty good eater still, though she is already showing a preference for things that aren’t as good for her, and while she used to eat any veggie we put in front of her, she’s starting to spit things out and make faces at us now. Let the food battles begin, I guess. She doesn’t really like drinking cold milk from a sippy cup yet, instead preferring just water. She gets warmed-up cow’s milk from a bottle when she’s with Shelly or when I’m gone and Dave has to put her to bed. Otherwise she’s pretty much getting water and breast milk still to drink.

She loves to dance and will raise her hand above her head and bob up and down anytime she hears ANY music. She adores her big brothers, especially Henry, and the first day he came home after being in school all day, my heart about exploded when I saw how she reacted when he came in the door. She just lit up and ran right over to him, and when he sat on the floor she climbed on him like an excited puppy. Henry is equally obsessed with her, always wanting to see her and hug her and kiss her, and he likes to pick her up and carry her around the house, and for the most part, she just lets him. Ben loves her, too, and also wants the hugs and kisses, but he’s also kind of mean to her at times, too – stealing toys and even kicking her and pushing her at times now, which of course makes us freak out. Like how could you want to harm such a sweet thing?!

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She is one tough chick, though, hardly ever crying when she bumps her head or falls down or, ahem, gets kicked by her big brother. And when he wants a toy of hers, she will hold her own, tightening her grip, running away, and/or squealing at him. Oh, the future fights I’m sure we have in store for us…

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I’ve been working on this post for days, and every day I feel like there’s more to add. Last night we had tiki torches set up in our backyard and once Dave lit them, Ellie walked around the yard, keeping her distance from the fire and putting her lips together and blowing, as if trying to blow out a birthday candle. It was SO CUTE. And this morning she watched me curl my eyelashes in the bathroom and when I put the curler back in the drawer, she promptly opened the drawer back up, picked up the eyelash curler and put it up to her own eye, scrunching up her face while trying it out. Again, just adorable. All these little moments that will be forgotten one day in the near future, because our minds can’t possibly hold so many little memories, as much as we wish they could!

So that’s an update on Ellie at one… almost 13 months now actually! She’s just a doll face and we take such freakin joy from her. I say often that I can’t believe she’s real and I can’t believe she’s mine. I know I’m biased, but I think she’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Kindergarten and 3k!

School days are here again, and just like that we have TWO kids in school now. It’s both exciting and a little jarring – like whoa, how am I suddenly old enough for this?!

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Benny is just dipping his toe in the water of school, going to a private preschool for 3k one morning a week. His first day was this past Friday (Sep. 11), and Dave had the day off so we were both able to take him. The first week was just an hour and the parents stayed the whole time, and it was fun to observe him play side-by-side with other kids his age and explore all the toys in his classroom. As trepidatious as he was in the weeks leading up to his first day, he was really excited on Friday morning and really enjoyed his time at school. He’s excited to go back!

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This week class will be just an hour again, but the parents leave this time – it’ll be interesting to see how Benny does. Ellie and I will probably stick close-by and go for a walk and to the playground down the street. Then the third week starts the normal schedule, which is 9-11:15 a.m. He gets to go on a few field trips during the school year – the firehouse, a nature center and the zoo; he’ll get to celebrate his birthday with his classmates on his special day since it’s a Friday this year; and the class has a hamster named Dit Dot that we can sign up to take home for a weekend if we’d like. We’ll see. ;)

Ben these days is … 3 1/2. Enough said, right? He’s emotional and naughty and hilarious and very sweet when he wants to be. He’s obsessed with boxing and plays with his “guys” constantly, bringing them to bed, to the dinner table and in the bath with him. He also loves watching videos on my phone, and he asks to watch them by asking “Mom, can I go on Dubsmash?” Ha. I have a few Dubsmash videos saved on there, and he’s memorized them, and he’ll just bust them out at random sometimes and it’s hysterical. “Daaaaamn girl, you so smelly! Ew, I have to take a shower.”

He gets a lot of time outs for yelling, for hitting his brother, and for not listening, and he doesn’t do well with being told no. But having been through this age before, we know it’ll get better so we’re just doing our best to weather it!

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He’s a smart and free-spirited little man, and I’m eager to see him even out a bit emotionally, since there are so many parts of him and his personality that I know I will enjoy so much. They’re just a bit overshadowed right now! He’s an “angel” for Shelly, though, and he does seem to do better when his brother isn’t around. I told him over the summer that once Henry started school, he and I would have a special day and go bowling and to lunch, and he asks me once or twice a week when we’re going to do that. So we’ll do that soon, and it’ll be nice to have a little one-on-one time with my middle dude.

Then there’s Henry man, who is now a bona fide school kid, going to kindergarten all day every day. His first day was Tues, Sep. 1. He rides the bus, takes a lunch, and has recess each day. I love packing his lunch each day; it just brings me a real sense of satisfaction for some reason. Actually today he’s getting hot lunch for the first time since he was told it would be pancakes, so I had to load up his account with some money and he had to practice his 5-digit student ID number til he memorized it!

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He has gym class twice a week and then music class day, art class day and library day. He likes his teacher, and I got a voicemail from her last night just to “check in” about how school is going so far. She said what a pleasure Henry is to have in class, that’s he’s “attentive and kind,” that he participates and that he seems really “eager to learn.” I played it on speaker for Dave and we were proud. :)

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He has new Nikes and Vans and skinny (“rocker”) jeans that he wants to wear every day, and we put product in his hair to keep it out of his eyes, and I often have to do a double-take when he’s all ready for school, because he’s suddenly so TALL and lanky and grown-up looking. Where oh where did by baby go?!

He’ll be six in less than a month, and we’ve definitely entered the “golden years” with him. He’s mature and sweet and self-sufficient and more even-keeled than the under-five set. (Thank God.) He still does his fair share of whining and crying, and he loves to push his brother’s buttons, but for the most part, life with Henry is really good. I get so excited when he gets off the bus each day at 3:40 – he greets me with a huge smile and then comes inside and plops down on the couch to tell me about his day. He’s tired but handling the new schedule really well. I asked him if kindergarten feels like a long day and he said “nope, it goes by like that” and he snapped his fingers. So that’s good!

On the days Shelly has the little kids, she brings them home around 4:30 or 5:00 so I have a little time with just Henry. We’ve taken a few bike rides together and it’s SO nice to have that time with him.

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Henry’s obsessions include Minecraft, math and crafts. Minecraft beats out the other two big time, but the other two are still worth noting. Henry would eat, breathe and sleep Minecraft if he could. We set limits, but he does his fair share of playing the game on the XBox and – even more than actually playing – watching Minecraft videos on YouTube to learn new things. I feel like maybe I should have a problem with him being so obsessed with a video game, but I just don’t. He’s so GOOD at it, and it takes real thought and planning, and all the time I hear him using things he’s learned in Minecraft and then translating them to real-life scenarios.

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He also really seems to “get” math, and he’s really obsessed with time right now. Constantly he’s asking things like “how long will it take to get there?” “how many minutes til Shelly gets here?” “How many hours til I go back to school?” If I answer “two minutes,” he’ll say “oh, so 120 seconds.” If I say an hour and a half, he’ll say “so 90 minutes.” He asks “how old will I be when Ellie is 12?” and “how old will you be when I’m 50?” Then he asks things like “how many hours are in three days?” and “how many seconds are in five hours?” and “what’s 84 plus 84?” He keeps me on my toes!! The other day he asked “what’s 45 plus 45?” and I said “90.” He said “no, it’s 80… oh wait, but there’s an extra five and an extra five, so that’s an extra 10, so yeah, that’s 90!” I hope he’ll keep up that love of math.

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He asks me questions about God and Heaven and death, and I really appreciate that he’s so curious and will talk with me at length about these things. He’s also started to notice the color of people’s skin and the differences in appearances and abilities between kids in his class, and those types of comments and questions are harder for me to navigate. He went to his first friend birthday party on the weekend of Ellie’s party, a party where we dropped him off and came back for him a few hours later. He was really shy and scared at first, and leaving him there was very emotional for me! But I came back and he’d had a blast. It’s just a whole new world having a school-age kid.

So that’s that – my boys are in school and it’s such fun and a bit overwhelming to watch them grow so fast. I’m thankful as heck that I’m not working in an office anymore so I can experience it all so much more – the seeing Henry on and off the bus, the taking Benny to school, the volunteering and participating in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I have such fond memories of my school days, and I hope my kids love school, too. So far, so good!

Happy first birthday, Ellie!

Dear Ellie girl,

Nearly two weeks ago now, you turned one year old. Third child syndrome is in full force here, seeing as how I got Henry’s one-year post and Benny’s one-year post (plus a birthday party post, too!) done on their actual birthdays. Lucky for you, you face third-child syndrome very, very rarely. ;)

You came into this world fast and furious, and your first year of life matched that pace! How quickly this year passed, as we all got to know you and adore you, and as you grew from a teeny little baby with a head full of hair to a walking, jibber-jabbering, laughing little girl with a ponytail on top of her head.

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The theme for your birthday party was cherries since you are absolutely the cherry on top of the sundae that is our family of five. I always hoped and sort of just assumed I’d have a daughter as one of the three kids I longed to have, and once I had two boys first, that desire for a little girl was very strong, even as my belief that I would actually get a daughter dwindled.

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I was over the moon when we found out you were a girl, and even though you’re over a year old now, I still have many days when I can’t believe you’re actually real, and here, and my daughter. You are more beautiful and sweet and amazing than I could have hoped for or imagined. We’re all just smitten with you, and you seem to be quite a fan of all of us, too.

I told your dad the other day that I’m not sure anyone has ever loved me as much as you do. You are such a mama’s girl right now, and as much as it can be annoying when I want to get something done and you refuse to let me put you down, I just love it, too, and feel so lucky to be your mama.

I’m going to do another post very soon about who you are at one year old and what you’ve been up to lately. Here I just wanted to wish you an official, belated happy birthday on this old blog of mine, and recap your birthday and your party, too! Even if I’m late with your birthday post, I think I made up for it with your party. :)

On your actual birthday, you opened your presents from us first thing in the morning – pink Mega Blocks and a toy cell phone – and then later that day you and I met daddy for lunch by his new office. It was kind of a hike to get there and the restaurant we chose ended up being really disappointing, but we still enjoyed the one-on-one time with our girl! That evening I took you and Henry to a nearby soda shoppe for ice cream (Ben was being extra naughty and refused to eat his dinner, so he and daddy sadly didn’t get to come!) and we sat outside and you made a big mess of yourself with chocolate ice cream. Recently Added-960Recently Added-1034Recently Added-1053

Two days later we had your party. We’d been excited to have a summer baby and finally be able to have outdoor parties, and we had plans to put balloons along our fence and set up tables and chairs in the back yard – but alas, the day of your party ended up being the rainiest, grayest day of the whole summer. Such a bummer! So everyone was packed inside our tiny house yet again, but it still ended up being a wonderful party.

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The cherry theme was a big hit, and my favorite parts were your cherry dress and your cherry outfit with your name on the front; the cherry-themed chocolate cake with raspberry filling; and the Shirley Temple / Dirty Shirley bar complete with cute little cherry straws. :) The food was delicious, thanks to your dad; I got balloons and made a couple of photo banners for the dining room; and you got all kinds of awesome, girly gifts. You were totally in your element being surrounded by all the love and attention, and you made us proud when you devoured your cupcake like nobody’s business and hammed it up for the cameras in the process.

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The first birthday is sort of the unofficial end of the baby stage, which makes me a little sad, but I also think that the second year of life is one of the very best. Babies develop SO much in that second year, learning to talk and follow instructions and recognize people and colors and animals and body parts – it’s all so fun! And even in just the two weeks since your birthday, you already seem bigger and more grown-up to me – walking and nearly running now with such confidence and ease; growing out of your clothes at lightning speed; and just being more and more engaged with the world around you.

You are a dream come true, Ellie, and I thank God every single day for you. You’ve completed our family and brought us all such joy. Happy, happy birthday, sweet girl.

Love, Mom

What a difference a year makes.

Today’s a pretty big day for me. It was one year ago today that I decided to take the leap and join It Works. I was very pregnant, totally clueless, and incredibly excited to start something new. I didn’t know what was in store for me, but I just had a feeling, deep down, like this was going to be something big.

Fast-forward one quick year later and I am healthier, wealthier, happier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been before. What started as a way to make a few hundred extra bucks a month to help pay for our nanny quickly turned into something that changed my life forever.

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Today was my last Monday at my job. This is my last week working for someone else – maybe forever. This feeling of being on the cusp of owning my own time and having total freedom over my life is indescribable. I thought I’d probably be 60 years old before I owned my own time! To have that at 33 is nothing short of amazing.

I didn’t think I had any intention of leaving my career. I didn’t think I had even let that thought enter my brain. And yet, I looked back on this post from almost a year ago, and I said this:

My BIG dream, though? If I really let myself ‘go there’ in my head? (I mean, I’m so not there in my head yet, and it seems ridiculous to even voice it out loud – or on my blog – but what the heck.) My big dream would be to make the kind of income that many of these people are making, the kind that far surpasses their day-job income and allows them to do this full-time. I would do It Works, join a yoga studio and finally be able to commit to becoming a super awesome yogi, and best of all, spend more time with my kids as they grow up. I’d donate much more to charity, and I’d be able to do things like take my family on vacation and save a nice chunk for each child’s college education.

It looks like it was my big dream from the beginning to make this happen – to own my time and to secure my family’s financial future. And now here I am! It’s just absolutely mind-blowing to me. We’ve paid off our credit card debt, we’re now able to save in a month what before we couldn’t even save in a year; Dave’s about to get a new car (the only thing he’s really ever wanted!) and we’re saving to buy our forever home hopefully by next summer. We can pay our bills more easily and treat ourselves once in awhile to things we never would have before.

I honestly think that one of the biggest keys to my success so far (besides consistent work, of course!) is the fact that I BELIEVED from the beginning that I’d succeed. I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know how long it would take, but I just believed I would do it.

There are so many things I couldn’t have anticipated, though, and I know that my teammates and sidelines all feel this way, too. Financial freedom aside, the entire experience has enhanced my life in countless ways. A jolt of electricity and excitement has been infused into my life and into my household. I feel healthier than ever before. I’ve developed as a person in virtually every aspect of my life – as a wife and mom, as an employee, as a friend, as a leader to my team. I’ve met so many wonderful people who I never would have met otherwise. I’ve gotten to do crazy fun things like go to Florida in January for conference and speak at a big event here in Milwaukee in March and go to St. Louis just last month for a leadership retreat. I feel like I’m a part of something BIG. Like there’s somewhere I belong and it’s right here – with these people, with this company.

And truly, I feel like I’m making a difference with what I’m doing. I’m leading a team that’s grown to almost 550 people in nearly 30 states and Canada, and it’s growing every day. It’s this incredible ripple effect that just keeps going – just because I decided to say yes a year ago! All of those people are getting healthier, setting and reaching goals, developing and improving themselves, getting out of debt, and helping others do the same. I truly thank God every single day for this opportunity. For giving me the courage to say yes and the motivation to work hard and to make these big things happen.

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I also think Ellie being on the way had something to do with the pull I was feeling to try this. I couldn’t have understood til she was here what it would be like to be the full-time working mom of three kids. To have my girl, my last baby, and to know how much faster it all goes when there’s another; and how a few hours in the evening just would not be enough with all of them. It was never enough, even before her, but since I didn’t think I had any other option, I made the most of it. I stayed positive, I cherished the time spent with my boys when I wasn’t at work. But now? To be at the point where Henry is starting kindergarten, for us to be officially entering the “school years,” and for me to be able to greet him off the bus each day, attend day events and field trips, and take him to his activities? It’s priceless.

I enrolled Ben in a 3k preschool program one morning a week for this year, and I’m SO excited for him to get out and make some friends and be away from home all on his own, without his big bro by his side. I feel so fortunate that it’s even an option now, since I’ll be able to take him and pick him up each Friday morning.

And Ellie. I’ve worked hard and sacrificed some time with her during this precious first year, but the result is being able to be with her so much more from here on out. Her little life is SO different than the life Henry and Ben had as babes. They’ll never know the difference, but I sure will. This is just the most fleeting, special time, when our kids are little, and I’m just so thankful that I can be around more for them now.

I’m eager to see what this journey will bring in year two. It’s exciting to not know what’s to come – who I’ll meet, what kind of experiences I’ll have, what the income will mean for our family, where this journey will lead. I do know, though, that I will never, ever take this for granted, and I will never stop working hard to make a better life for my family (and future generations of my family!) and to help my teammates do the same for their families. This opportunity is just one of the biggest blessings I have ever received.

Cheers to year two and all that lies ahead.