Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Holidays 2016

This year, Hanukkah began on Christmas Eve. We were up in Maine to celebrate Christmas with Eric's family, as we always do, so we had our Hanukkah there and let traditions overlap. 
1st night of Hanukkah before Christmas Eve party
We arrived in Maine around 8 pm on Friday night the 23rd after a looooong ride. We had hoped the kids would nap, but only Asher did. Charlotte stayed awake except for 1 moment where she nodded off, but that was the exact moment that Eric pulled into a gas station and so she woke up. Charlotte kept us company by alternately saying, "Yay! We're almost there!" when we were just north of New York City, and saying, "how much longer? I don't like my car seat! I wanna get out of here!" She constantly asked for snacks. As the day wore on, Eric got increasingly exasperated with her, and his threats to her became increasingly ridiculous. At one point, he said, "If you talk one more time, I am giving a present of yours to charity." That bought him about 3 minutes of silence. At another point, when she asked for more food, he said, "You can't be hungry! If you ask for food, I am NEVER GOING TO FEED YOU AGAIN!" I am a helpful spouse and burst into laughter. In fact, I laughed most of the ride, since it was so over-the-top. I don't think Eric was pleased with me, but he didn't threaten to make me walk.

We went straight to Eric's brother, Ryan, and his wife, Kerisa's, house. They were hosting a party for Eric's mom's family, and there was a lot of food, cousins, and company. We stayed until 10 o'clock, knowing we had nothing to do the next day.

The next day we did just that- nothing. I used the treadmill at Ryan and Kerisa's house in preparation for all the holiday eating, and then the kids took naps and we just hung out until it was time for Hanukkah and then the holiday party. 

Every Christmas Eve we go to a party at Eric's grandparents. There is always too much food, and everyone is always excited to see the kids. We eat, and then we wait for Santa. This year we brought our good camera (ha! I remembered it!) and Asher took some very nice photos- he has a good eye!
The boys with their big cousin Marcus. He was the ringbearer at our wedding 10.5 years ago and every time we see him, someone in Eric's family makes a comment about it.
Charlotte eating her dinner- I think she ate nothing but crackers.

Photo by Asher: Benjamin and mommy

Photo by Asher: Charlotte with cupcake

Dessert #? All they did was sneak treats

This sweet-looking girl is holding a Santa that farts when you squeeze his hand. He was the hit of the evening.
Finally, Santa arrives. Charlotte was beyond excited, and the second he pulled a gift out of his bag, she screamed with glee and rushed up to him- but the gift wasn't for her. He always brings gifts for the kids, and gag gifts for the grown-ups. Santa has a great sense of humor.
Happy girl receives her gift. It was a set of 3 Disney princess dress-ups.

Nope, no chaos here.
Charlotte loved her princess dress-up, and put on all of the accessories at once. I don't think we even came home with all of them, because she lost them in the first 5 minutes. There were clip-on earrings she loved, which makes me think she'll be asking for pierced ears sooner than I had planned for.

The boys were perfectly polite and wonderful, and remembered to say thank you for all their gifts. Benjamin got a beanbag game and Asher got a box full of crafts. 

Even though it was late, Asher had to write a note to Santa before bed. 
"Dear Santa, I hope you like the gingerbread men!"
Waiting for Santa
On Christmas morning, we opened our stockings and then had breakfast together. The boys got a lot of Pokemon cards. We had a funny moment when I opened up a fancy wine bottle opener from Eric's mom. She said, "I bought it off your Amazon wishlist!" I said, "No... I never put this on my wishlist..." And she said, "yes, with a book about bird watching!" Now, most people who know me know that I am afraid of birds, so I started laughing. I said, "You must have chosen a different Rebecca!" And yes, she had purchased from someone else's wishlist.  

We spent the day doing nothing, much, as is tradition. The kids decorated gingerbread houses that Charlotte had received as birthday gifts. The boys slopped frosting and candy all over their house, and Charlotte painstakingly and neatly decorated hers.
Princess decorates a house
Later we got ready for Christmas dinner with Eric's brother's family- they have 6 kids, so no other company needed. Asher had a seriously loose tooth, and he finally let Eric pull it right before dinner.
"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

After dinner, we went to open gifts with all the cousins. It was a storm of wrapping paper and boxes, but Eric's mom had carefully chosen three thoughtful gifts for each one of her grandchildren. Eric got an Amazon Dot and I got a firepit for our back patio- nice stuff that was immediately put into use.  We had dessert and then... the children began to fall apart.  Of course with 9 kids in the house things were pretty wild no matter what else was happening.
Benjamin made up this saying and then wrote it out. We googled to see if he had plagiarized (proud parents don't believe their son could come up with this on his own...) but nope, it's his.
The day after Christmas Eric and I took the kids up to Portland to the children's museum there, and then out to lunch for Thai food.  We had a great day with our little family of 5, and the kids were acting sweet and kind and were great company.

The next day was another quiet day at Eric's parents' house, and then at night, we celebrated Charlotte's 4th birthday and her cousin Chandler's 3rd birthday. We had dinner and then cupcakes and singing Happy Birthday. Charlotte got more presents... and it seemed she began to expect presents everyday! What a disappointment these next few weeks have been.
Yet another birthday celebration
On Wednesday the 28th, we drove home from Maine. Our trip was originally supposed to be 6.5 hours, according to the GPS, but ended up closer to 8 hours. What a loooong day. The next day I offered to take the kids all kind of places- one of the museums where we have a membership, or to see Sing- and they refused all of it.  They stayed home and played with all their new toys and gifts, and then finally, around 2 pm, we went out to the library and took cookies to our librarians.
Quiet day at home
We hosted New Years Eve at our house, as we have for the past few years.  At noon we went to the "ball drop" at the library, where they spill candy on the street. 
Waiting for the ball to drop

Getting hugged by her school friend- the girls in her class are very into hugging
 Last year there was some trouble where not all the kids got candy and the big kids took too much. This year, Charlotte was prepared- she dashed in before almost anyone else and came away with about 10 pieces of candy! She is fearless. I was talking to a couple whose daughter is a couple of months younger than her, and they didn't even let their daughter stand on the ground, much less pile on for candy.  1st child vs 3rd child, I guess.

Our New Years party was fun, but I left my phone upstairs, so got no pictures. We had tons of food, lots of friends, plenty of alcohol, and a fire in our firepit and made smores.  Charlotte and our neighbor Blake danced to the Cha-Cha Slide in dresss-up clothes. Our friends stayed even later than they have in previous years, so we must be at least a little fun!

On New Years Day, we partook of our annual traditional trip to IKEA.  It was eat free if you spend $100, and we had no intention of spending it, but guess what- we ate for free.
I love this beautiful face.

Someone can't stand to be out of the spotlight
The kids were their wild and crazy selves. I think Eric was embarrassed (trying out all the beds? Piling on each other on the floor?) but I had to laugh. I love our wild and crazy family, and how much fun the kids always have with each other.

I know it's mid-January now, but Happy New Year to us, and to all our friends and family.  We have good health and good fortune, and so much more, to be thankful for.  I am dreading the events of this coming week (and the following 4 years), but our little family is thriving and well.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

20 Questions with Charlotte

Charlotte's age: 4 years old

1. What is your favorite color:
Pink. And purple and red.
2. What is your favorite toy?
Mousey. (the toy she had in her hand- a mouse in a tutu)
3. What is your favorite fruit?

4. What is your favorite TV show?
Maybe... UmiZoomi. Bubble Guppies.
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
Birthday cake yogurt. Raspberries
6. What is your favorite outfit?
A dress
7. What is your favorite game?
Jumping Eggs (a game on her new digital watch)
8. What is your favorite snack?
Edamame. Root beer! Grape soda! (she actually never has these things for snack, usually she has crackers, or hummus.
9. What is your favorite animal?
Cheetah. Cat. Snow leopard.
10. What is your favorite song?
Best Day of My Life by American Authors. Cha-Cha Slide.
11. What is your favorite book?
Goodnight Moon
12. What is your favorite subject at school?
13. What is your favorite sport?
14. What is your favorite thing to have for breakfast?
15. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Fly a kite
16. What is your favorite drink?
A smoothie and some root beer and grape soda and apple juice and orange juice and lemonade and water.
17. What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas and Hanukkah
18. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?
Gray Kitty, big Sophie Kitty, Skye, Black and White Kitty, and all my other stuffies. (she has more than 10 and doesn't keep track of them, which is an excellent bedtime delay tactic when she can't find 1 or more.)
19. What is your favorite thing to have for dinner?
Mac and cheese.
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charlotte Eve: 4 years old

Charlotte swinging with Gray Kitty
I am almost a week late in writing about Charlotte!  She turned 4 on the 21st, although she was telling people she was already 4 for a few weeks before it actually happened.

Charlotte at 4. As always, she is ahead of where her brothers were at her age. Whether this is because she lives by their example, or because that's who she is- who knows. She is now writing her name, and knows how to spell it both forwards and backwards.  She doesn't always tell me much about what she is learning at school, but then will come out with all kinds of information at other times (how to count in Hebrew, what God created on which day, the months of the year in order). She seems to remember almost everything she hears, for better or for worse.  Charlotte is still in a class with kids 6 months older than she is, and they will soon start getting ready to read. She has a real interest in letters and how to spell things, and I wouldn't be surprised if she picks up reading quickly.

She seems pretty athletic and is quite competitive. In the fall she competed in the Healthy Kids Running Series and took first place in her age group for the 50-yard dash. In the spring she will be in the 4 & 5 year old girl group, so might not win, but she sure enjoyed winning her trophy. She is currently taking swim lessons, and is continuing because she wants to get permission to slide down the big slides. She said she would like to take dance class again, but last year's dance ended terribly, so I am not too eager to sign her up again. (In case I never blogged about it, Charlotte's dance career ended in the spring when my mom took her to class and Charlotte was asked to do her "solo" for the dance recital. All the other girls did twirls or curtsies, but when it came to Charlotte, she got down on all fours and started meowing.)

Charlotte has turned into a real girly-girl. She only likes to wear things that are "beautiful," and prefers dresses. A couple of times she has put on leggings that she decided didn't feel right, and had to come home and change into a new outfit. Other days, she tries to wear tights as pants.  She has her own fashion sense.
Snuggling our foster kitten while the kitten eats her cheek
She is also newly interested in makeup.  She came with me to Bed Bath & Beyond and helped herself to numerous blushes.  I have a video of her as she sampled them saying, "ooh, I look GOOD!" and "Just one more..." and "I look like a ROCK STAR. Cool."  Did I mention she is also modest?
Makeup perfection
I let her wear the blush for the rest of the day. People commented on how beautiful she looked.  Later that day, she took some water color paints and painted her eyelids to give herself eyeshadow. And then I found her in our powder room, standing on the toilet, brushing her face with the little brushes we use to clean sippy cups.  She has begged me to wear makeup to school and I say "not yet."  If this is Charlotte at 4, I really don't know how I will make it through her teen years!

She is quite opinionated and vivacious in her arguing. At times she will say, "I'm going to ask you something. And you say 'no,' and I say 'yes.' Ready? Ok. Can I have cake for breakfast?" 

She has developed into a somewhat picky eater. She has given up almost all meat. Occasionally she will like something and eat more than a few bites, but mostly she has to be begged to try a bite of any meat. She loves carbs, high-fat dairy (fancy French cheese, yogurt, ice cream), and some fruit. She uses her good looks to get as many desserts as she can in any given day, and is quite successful.

Charlotte gets a lot of attention for being pretty. I have mixed feelings about it- on one hand, I take vicarious pleasure in it, as if somehow I am pretty by extension, and as if somehow this is an important trait that might even be indicative of the quality of her (and my) character. On the other hand, I consider myself a feminist, and don't want my daughter growing up to think that the most important part of life is to be pretty.  Earlier this month, she was given a box of 12 candy canes "because you're pretty." I told her that we should share the candy canes with other people and make them as happy as she was when she got them. She was ok with that and happily distributed candy canes, yelling a variation of "Happy Hanukkah!" or "Happy Holidays!" or "Happy Christmas!"  In any case, people seem to find her appealing, and her cute personality doesn't hurt, either.

Some of Charlotte's favorite things are: her stuffed animals (she has a growing collection of them that she carts around with her), her brothers, seeing her grandparents, seeing her friends, cats, desserts, and accessories. She loves her family.  She can be as sweet and charming as can be, but then can be a bit of a "mean girl."

For example, one day she watched me get dressed for work and said, "mommy, you cannot wear that to work." When I asked why not, she said, "Because it's not beautiful, and your clients will not like it."  I told her that my clients don't care what I look like and that it would be fine. Another day, I told her I wanted to go on a quick jog with her in the jog stroller (we still go for jogs together, which I love. I play pop music and she sings along). She said, "Mommy, our jogs are never quick because actually you are not a very fast runner." Mm hmm.

I baked and decorated her birthday cake
Charlotte celebrated her birthday numerous times over the previous week. First we had a big birthday party for her at the gym where she takes gymnastics. We had 25 kids attend, and Charlotte had a great time. 
Charlotte at her birthday party
She thinks this face is really funny
Our family at the party
She got a massive stack of presents- people were extremely thoughtful and generous.  She broke into the presents right away- Shopkins, crafts, an apron to wear when she keeps me company in the kitchen.  The following day we had a mommy-Charlotte day, and I took her for her first manicure and pedicure at the nail salon, and then for lunch with Meema at Panera.
4th birthday present: first manicure and pedicure
 Then, on her actual birthday, I made her sprinkle pancakes for breakfast, then she went to school and had cupcakes with her friends. Meema picked her up at noon and they had a fun day together, and that night she had Japanese noodles and chocolate cake!
Birthday breakfast with her brothers gooning around in the background
The birthday girl takes a rest with the ipad and her birthday crown
 On Thursday, we had her 4 year well visit. Charlotte is:
40.25" tall
37.5 lbs
The doctor seemed pleased with her growth, and agreed with me that she seems quite healthy and well. She is hitting all her milestones ahead of time. The only point of concern is that she doesn't eat enough protein, but I am hopeful she is making it up in cheese and hummus.
At the doctor's office, reciting the alphabet
 Then we went up to Maine, where she has been spoiled by grandparents and great-grandparents.  She has gotten endless gifts and desserts, and I think she may have even reached her limit- tonight she told me she wants VEGETABLES for dinner tomorrow.

My gorgeous girl
Another year where I have enjoyed her company, her hugs and her kisses.  She makes me crazy, but I miss her an hour after she goes to bed at night.  I love that she is growing into this funny little person, who is quick-witted and clever, even if it gets used to my disadvantage. She has always brought such joy to our lives, and is adored by everyone around her.  I get such pleasure out of doing the girly-girl things I had hoped I would get to do with a daughter some day, and I look forward to what the future will bring.  She is still so sweet and delicious, in that place between toddler and big kid, still soft and round, but also smart and strong.  My baby is four, and I am so proud of her.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

More than 2 weeks after Thanksgiving and I decided it must be time to write about our holiday.

This year, we had a big Thanksgiving, with lots of family. In addition to my mom and her sister (my aunt Jane) and their offspring, and their offspring's spouses and offspring, my uncle Richard, his daughter Hannah and her fiancé were there; my mom, aunt, and uncle's cousins Steven and Jim and their spouses, plus 2 of Jim's children. I think we were over 30 people, which meant 3 turkeys and a heaping table full of sides.  As usual, the food was delicious and the company warm and welcoming.
Charlotte at her swim lesson
I took Wednesday off from work, but managed to have so much to do that I didn't get to relax. My friend from high school came for a few hours and we tried to catch up, but I also had to take care of Charlotte and take her to swimming. We had dinner on Wednesday night with some of the out-of-town family, and then on Thursday morning I ran the 5 mile Turkey Trot with my sister, her boyfriend, and my cousin Jess.  It always feels good to do that and get my exercise out of the way so I can devote the rest of the day to consuming calories!  Elana and I ran a respectable (for me) 9:22/mile and her boyfriend ran it 2 minutes/mile faster and waited for us at the end.

Elana giving the turkey its pre-roasting massage
The women of our family
After dinner we moved into the living room and sat by the fire and talked. My kids tore apart the 3rd floor of Jane and Ed's house, and Charlotte misplaced her stuffed animals and we spent 30 minutes looking for them at 9 pm at night, which annoyed me. On the way home I lectured the kids about bringing their toys places and then misplacing them, and we then instituted a "no toys outside the house" policy, which has only partly been respected and enforced.

I woke up on Friday morning to no milk in the house for coffee, so Charlotte and I went to CVS at 7:15 to buy milk. She asked me to carry her, so I did, and while I was kissing her cheek I noticed she smelled like vomit. And then I noticed she was in different pajamas than she had been at bedtime... I asked, "Charlotte, did you throw up overnight?" and she said, "Yes!"  I had moved to the couch in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep, but apparently she had gotten sick in bed and Eric dealt with it! She seemed totally fine and wanted food and water, so I assumed it was from eating only a plate of whipped cream for dessert.

After brunch at my mom's, we took Asher and Charlotte home to nap, and Benjamin went hiking with my sister, her boyfriend, and my cousin Kyle. He promised me he would walk and no complaining, but apparently he lied to me, because he complained the whole time, made the guys carry him, and then facetimed me in a panic because he wanted to come home.  Another situation I was glad to miss.

Post panic-attack
When they got back after their hike, my cousin Kyle showed Asher a very important skill- making fart noises with your armpit.  Asher thought this was the most amazing and hysterically funny thing he had ever seen- he asked Kyle to do it the rest of the weekend, and laughed til he cried each time.  He wasn't able to perfect the skill himself, though.

Friday afternoon I did my obligatory Black Friday shopping, and then some wrapping.  Later I did MORE shopping, and then we had a Friday night dinner at Jane and Ed's. While I was on my second round of shopping, Eric texted that Charlotte had thrown up again! So we decided she should stay at home at dinner time, and I went with the boys.  She didn't get sick again, and no one else did, either, so if it was a bug, it was not a bad one.  Thank goodness! I couldn't have handled a stomach bug and Eric gone for the week.

On Saturday, Eric and I took the kids to a 10 am showing of the movie Trolls, and then Eric had to get ready for his trip to Germany.  He was gone for a week!  He did that 3 years ago, and this time was a hundred times easier for me.  Saturday night was more time with the family, but a smaller crowd- it was relaxing and pleasant.  I don't know if I am an oblivious idiot, but I really enjoy my extended family and I think they like me, too.  There is a great deal of fun and laughter, and the kids all play well together. I always look forward to seeing family and love that we are welcome at all of their homes.

On Sunday I took my 3 to the zoo. It was a little cold and the zoo was very quiet, but the kids played in the Treehouse, which is unchanged from when it opened 30 years ago.
In the Treehouse, on the dinosaur 
I will post my emails to Eric in another entry- I tried to detail the fun and excitement that went on in his absence. It was a memorable weekend with family we don't see often.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and this one certainly lived up to my expectations!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Half Marathon #5

Pre-race- fresh and full of energy. We hope.
On Saturday I ran my 5th half marathon.  Why? I don't know. But here is how it goes in my brain:

  • Run a race of any distance.  Feel triumphant and inspired, so sign up for a race of increased distance, preferably a half marathon.
  • Calculate how long I have to up my mileage. Immediately reconsider whether I want to do this.
  • Contemplate selling my bib and dropping out of the race altogether.
  • Begin training, adding a mile on to my long runs each weekend.  6 miles? Ok. 7 miles? Fine. 11 miles? WHAT WAS I THINKING?
  • Enter depression and negative self-talk. I can't do this, I am too slow, why can't I just feel good? Is that my knee hurting???
  • Week of the race: begin checking weather obsessively. Begin listing possible outs: bad weather, illness, fatigue. Also begin incessant complaining to all friends and family about what a bad idea it is to sign up for a race like this.
  • Night before: try to sleep. 
  • Day of: wake up early, in fear that I won't hear the alarm. I have my morning ritual of coffee and an English muffin with peanut butter, then I go pee about 6 times because I don't want to use a port-a-potty. 
  • Get to the race and still need to use the port-a-potty.
  • Start running. Run for 2+ hours, counting every mile and wondering why I paid money for this.
  • Finally cross the finish line.  There are then two possibilities:
    • I feel a sense of elation at a job well done, which leads to a desire to sign up for my next race, hopefully also a half marathon.
    • I feel disappointed at my performance, and decide I need to sign up for another race and seek retribution. 
  • Sign up for another race and start all over again.
Post-race glow. I am crusted over with salt from my sweat.
That said, I really had a good race.  The weather was unseasonably perfect. I drove in and out of town with two friends/running buddies, even though we didn't end up running together.  I ran 5 miles with my friend Lori before her foot started to hurt (she had a broken toe, she is amazing that she did it anyway!) and then ran by myself until around Mile 11, I noticed a man who looked quite similar to my OB, who had delivered all 3 kids... and so I decided I would say hello, and it was him!  We ran together for a little over half a mile and talked a little- he was encouraging and supportive (probably more than he was when I delivered my kids!) and it gave me the boost I needed to get through the end of the race.  He said I look like I am in great shape- not hard to accomplish when I probably weighed close to 200 lbs the last time he saw me! Then when I crossed the finish line, he was waiting for me to high-five me! It was really exciting. And then I checked my results and found out I had run my fastest half marathon yet!
With my OB- who is in better shape than I am
My friends finished after me and we sat and stretched and enjoyed the sunshine before heading out of town to our families.
Lori didn't like my taking her picture
When I got home, we had brunch with Eric's college friend from Maine and her husband, who had also run the half marathon. We spent a couple of hours out on our patio talking in the sun and relaxing. Now I have the long Thanksgiving weekend to look forward to, with family and lots of food!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Goodbye, Grandma Tenny

My Grandma Tenny- my last living grandparent- passed away Thursday two weeks ago.  I haven't written much about her in my blog because she wasn't a regular presence in my life, or my children's lives. But she gave birth to my dad, and she raised him, and for that I am grateful.

It is hard to write about Tenny.  I try to only say nice things about people in here, and it's hard for me to have many nice things to say.  Tenny showed her love through criticism- or at least that is how I have chosen to understand her criticism of me.  Although I cannot imagine that she didn't love me, it was hard to feel loved by her. My relationship with her, while not complicated, was distant.  She had a hard time showing love or sometimes even being kind.  If you know my dad, you would have a hard time believing that someone so demonstrative and affectionate came from Tenny.

Here are the good things I can say: She was fiercely independent. She was never bound by other people's expectations or rules. In a time where many women married, stayed home, and had children, she got a college degree, married, had children, and worked.  I think she tried to stay home and be a "wife" to my grandpa, but she never felt fulfilled by that. She traveled the world, sometimes for work and sometimes for pleasure. She raised 3 children to be productive members of society, and they went on to marry and have children of their own. She never thought of herself as "old," and up until the end she found ways to get out and keep busy. She liked to shop, and would buy my kids little treats when she could- we have a huge collection of crazy hats that mean I don't have to do any planning or shopping when "crazy hat day" comes at camp.
Charlotte talking to Alexandra. My grandparents' wedding picture is next to them.
Today, on what would have been her 96th birthday, I took Charlotte and Asher to DC for her memorial (originally planned as her birthday party). Asher got a kick out of exploring the cupboards, finding unopened packages of paper plates and napkins, trinkets, and birthday candles.  My cousin Alexandra brought out some of Tenny's costume jewelry, and Charlotte channeled Tenny and beautified. Asher would have loved exploring my grandparents' house the way it was when I was a kid- he loves a good treasure hunt and is always able to find something.
Charlotte channeling her inner Tenny. She later sashayed across the room making the jewelry rattle.
Gray Kitty got in on the action
We reminisced about Tenny- unfortunately it seemed like the most fond memories were held by the people she knew in the final years of her life, who saw her as an eccentric and amusing grandmother-type. For those who knew her longer, relationships weren't nearly so easy.  Unlike when I lost my mom's parents. I haven't experienced sadness or grief.  My only sense of sadness is that we could never be close, that she kept me at such a distance that I can't feel her loss.  She lived a good and full life, always on her terms, and that is what I will focus on now that she has passed.  Happy Birthday, Grandma Tenny.