Baby’s First Trip to California

My cousin got married last weekend!

My dad called me a few months ago and asked if I would like to fly to California with him to attend the wedding. My mom offered to stay here with Hula Girl and Monkey Man so Jonathan didn’t have to take any time off work. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see my cousins and to visit Jonathan’s parents. So, we booked our tickets and made our plans to stay in California for four days.

In order to achieve our goal of spending time with family, we left early in the morning (REALLY early- 4:45 am!) from my parents’ house on Thursday. I was super worried about Sugar Plum’s sleep. She is my third Babywise baby, and I have worked hard to give her a good, consistent schedule all her life. Of course, she has endured many more disruptions to her schedule than her siblings ever endured, so I really ought not to have worried so much! I woke her at 4:15 on Thursday morning, and she slept a tiny bit on the way to the airport. She stayed awake all through checking in and security, and through boarding the flight. I nursed her as we took off, and she fell asleep for about 30 minutes or so. Then I moved and woke her up… and she never went back to sleep. She didn’t cry, though, so it was fine.

Sugar Plum slept REALLY well while we were at Ama and Papa’s (Jonathan’s parents’) house. We stayed with them during our visit because Ama so kindly offered to babysit Sugar Plum while we went out to see family and attend the wedding. We had a pretty major problem, though: Sugar Plum won’t take a bottle. I tried for weeks in advance, and I had Jonathan and Auntie Nay Nay (Jonathan’s sister) try at various times in there. No dice. She doesn’t cry when offered a bottle, but she just kind of chews on the nipple and looks at you like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”So I couldn’t really LEAVE her with Ama and Papa for very long. Fortunately, she is a good night sleeper, and once I got her down for the night, I could leave her and be pretty sure she’d sleep just fine.

While we were there, Sugar Plum basked in the attention lavished upon her by Ama, Papa, Grampy, and me. She didn’t have to share the spotlight with anyone else, for once in her life! She worked hard on rolling and got *so close*. She lit up and smiled her giant gummy baby smile whenever she saw her Ama. I got to take a couple showers and dry my hair and put on makeup… it was quite the luxurious trip for all of us!

My dad and I made plans to see his brothers and my cousins on Friday afternoon. We drove about an hour away to visit and have a barbecue. I took Sugar Plum over there to meet everyone (she made special friends with my cousin’s eight-year-old daughter, who is just the sweetest thing ever and loves babies so much!), then I drove her back to Ama and Papa’s house for bedtime. I went back to my uncle’s house to visit with family some more  (another uncle and several more cousins showed up then–hooray!), and then we drove back to Ama and Papa’s house for the night. It was a lot of driving but it was SO worth it. Family is extremely important to me, and I am very glad we had the opportunity to reconnect, at least a little bit.

Saturday was the day of the wedding. I worked on getting Sugar Plum good sleep during the day so she’d sleep well during the evening, when I left her with Ama and Papa. Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t quite work out as I had planned, so when I left for the wedding, I was not sure how the evening would go. But I knew it was only one evening, and even if she stayed awake until midnight, at least she was with someone who knew how to care for my baby! (Jonathan’s parents are awesome grandparents! I couldn’t imagine better grandparents for my kiddos than the ones they have!) Lo and behold, Sugar Plum ended up waking up around 8:00 for part of the night. Ama gave her a small bottle, which she chewed, and rocked and snuggled her for a while before putting her back down. She went back down without a peep, and was out like a light for the rest of the night.

Now for the reason for our visit: the wedding. It was a superfun wedding. It was wonderful to catch up with (almost) all my cousins on my dad’s side– I haven’t seen any of them in over five years! The location was a small building in the middle of downtown LA. My cousins had decorated with tulle and lights and beautiful flowers, but it definitely was not overdone. It was a great mixture of hard and soft elements (thank you, Tim Gunn, for bringing awareness to this juxtaposition, haha). The food was AMAZING. They hired a street taco vendor, who doled out hundreds of delicious tacos during the evening. There was a small cake, but most guests satisfied their sweet tooth with a vanilla glazed donut instead. Yummo.

Even better than the decor and the food was the company. My cousins are just so cool. The last time I saw most of them was when I was still in high school. Getting to know a family member again as an adult is such a rewarding experience. It is really fascinating to get to know about each person’s unique interests and pursuits, and to witness the maturation of someone you’ve known since you were born. I would imagine it’s a similar situation as when siblings grow up and hang out for a while again. I am excited for and proud of my cousins and most, if not all, seem quite happy with where their lives have led them so far. There is NOTHING like family for comfort, entertainment, and encouragement. We had such a great trip and loved getting to know you better.

Our trip home was long but uneventful. Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making the trip happen. Thank you, Ama and Papa, for your hospitality and for the babysitting. Thank you, K&K, for getting married and providing a reason for us to get together. Love you all!

Fall Camping

A couple weekends ago, Hula Girl and my parents were scheduled to go camping. Unfortunately, the first few weeks of October are really hard to predict around here and it ended up being below freezing and snowing. So, they stuck around my parents’ house.

My parents live on 5 acres in a forest. So camping there is basically like camping at any campground in the area anyway! Just nicer amenities- flush toilets, hot water, refrigerator, showers, etc.  And my dad is such a softy for Hula Girl that he set up their pop-up trailer and they all slept in there one night.

They also made s’mores. My dad lit a fire in their little outdoor fire pit and they went out in the freezing cold after Hula Girl’s nap one afternoon and she got to eat her favorite treat. Not just one, either. Like I said, my dad’s a softy for Hula Girl.

Then she got to go kayaking. My parents have a pond that is kind of an old well that overflowed. It has shrunk considerably in recent years due to our drought. However, it was huge when Hula Girl came over because we had a week of rain in September. It was about 90 feet across. My parents each have a kayak- my dad’s is hand-made (took him years) and my mom’s is just a smaller yellow kayak. They sent Hula Girl out onto the pond in my mom’s kayak. She was all bundled up, and she loved rocking it back and forth (she wore her life jacket). My parents would push her to the middle and then run with the rope as fast as they could and float her back to the edge of the pond. Over and over. She just adored it.

She also enjoyed playing with the pond “slime.” It has been growing there since I was a little girl. We always thought it was like some sort of algae, but up close it looked like blades of grass with hundreds of tiny green lentils attached. Hula Girl scooped it up by the handfuls and squished, squeezed, and smooshed it before throwing it back in. Yuck.

And do you know what else? My parents let her stay in the same clothes all weekend long, just like a real camping trip. In fact, she didn’t even bathe. I picked her up on Sunday afternoon and her hair was still in the braids I’d put in on Friday morning. She had such a good time. 🙂

Trashin’ the Camp

I love Phil Collins. Tarzan’s a pretty good flick, too.

Anyway.

When we were in California, Hula Girl slept on a foam mattress with some extra padding in the form of blankets and pillows. She had some sheets and blankets over the top of her, and of course she had her three very special blankets and Daisy. She slept in Ama and Papa’s office. We thought it’d be okay because Ama and Papa took out all the tempting items and hid several others in drawers. I didn’t think Hula Girl would go so far as to open drawers in Ama and Papa’s office.

Hula Girl also had a hard time falling asleep while we were there because she could turn on the light and she could open the door (she can’t do either of those things here at home). So we got into a bit of the bedtime mania that many families with toddlers/preschoolers face. We ended up taking away special blankies, and even Daisy one night, in order to drive in the point that she needs to be staying in bed and going to sleep at bedtime.

But one naptime she just didn’t feel like sleeping. She felt like exploring. This happened in about 30 minutes:

Hula Girl ingested about three boxes of these before deciding she'd hide some under her blankets for a bedtime snack.

Hula Girl ingested about three boxes of these before deciding she’d hide some under her blankets for a bedtime snack. (My father-in-law shops at Costco.) She also apologized to Ama for putting several of those “beans” in her mouth and then spitting them back into the box. 

Here's the view from the corner by the foot of her bed. Note various office supplies strewn all over the floor.

Here’s the view from the corner by the foot of her bed. Note various office supplies strewn all over the floor. This does not show the chapstick and glue sticks she smeared into the carpet and all over the sides of the desks and file cabinets. Did you also notice three pairs of scissors? Fortunately she didn’t cut her hair… this time. And note the pile of Tic Tacs by the potty. 

I guess we can just be relieved she decided to scribble on a part of the desk that won't be seen by anyone? Yes, and it's permanent.

I guess we can just be relieved she decided to scribble on a part of the desk that won’t be seen by anyone? Yes, and it’s permanent. She also chose to color the bindings of several photo albums on the bookshelf. My sister-in-law said they’re not the very special ones. Still.

 

It took three adults and one preschooler about 30 minutes to clean this all up. Ama and Papa’s desk things went into boxes to be stored in the garage until the Tornado had gone home.

Hardest part of this whole thing? Trying desperately not to laugh when Ama walked Hula Girl back into the room and said, “Now you need to sit down and take the pennies off the bottom of your socks.”

 

Top Ten Tips for Tearfree Tot Travel

We arrived home from our vacation about a week ago, and I am still amazed at how well my children did. I expected meltdowns and drama, especially from the 3-year-old. But we only got smiles, excitement, curiosity, and perhaps a fuss here and there at the end (from the 1-year-old). I think a lot of it has to do with our kids’ personalities.

Hula Girl, the 3-year-old, is the incessant questioner. She is always wondering about anything and everything. And when she’s done wondering about what’s in front of her face, she thinks back to yesterday, a week ago, or even last Christmas, and asks us random questions about past times. “Mommy, when we met Mr. Chris and he was showing us houses, why did he drive a white truck?” (Folks, Mr. Chris showed us houses in May. She went to three houses that he showed us.) Needless to say, her mind was abuzz and quite occupied with all the things to see and think about.

Gelato, the 13-month-old, is just plain happy-go-lucky. He let us know he wasn’t too excited about riding in his stroller and car seat all day long, as he has recently learned to walk and wanted to try out his new skillz, but he was fine as soon as we got moving. He had a steady stream of snacks and he fell asleep pretty quickly once we got in the air or on the road.

Obviously everyone’s kids are different, so there will be some things that worked well for my kids that wouldn’t be so hot for every family. But some things probably have mass appeal. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are some ideas that worked for us.

  1. Glow sticks. My friend Jaclyn recommended this one to me and she is RIGHT. You can get these things from the dollar section in many major stores. Cheap, self-contained fun. All you have to do is rip open the wrapper, crack the stick, and give it a little shake. The only note here is to avoid using the blue/purple ones in daylight- they do not show up at all in the sunlight. Green and yellow glow brightest overall. We got several varieties- fat sticks, small “bracelets,” and even several smaller rods that connect and bend into a ball. Kids loved these. LOVED.
  2. Snacks. The key with snacks is to not give your children junk you wouldn’t normally give them. You don’t want an upset tummy on top of traveling stress. We stuck with apples, crackers, rice cakes, and granola bars. All organic. I did two types of crackers- one sweet and one salty. Honestly, the rice cakes and crackers were a bit too messy for my liking, but the kids were happy with the offerings. It really helped Gelato to be able to munch an apple during takeoff.
  3. Routine. We have a pretty regular routine. My kids get up at the same time every morning, and they nap and go to bed at generally the same times every day. They eat meals at the same times. Everything in between sleep periods and meals is generally in the same order. Give me a time and I can probably tell you what my kids will be doing at that time next Tuesday, within about 15 minutes. THIS HELPS TREMENDOUSLY when traveling. I scheduled our flight times to coincide with Gelato’s nap times so that we’d have the best chance of him actually falling asleep on the plane. He did, and other passengers were appreciative. We also stuck to our routine pretty much the entire vacation. We had two nights that were later nights than we expected. But we did not have severe behavior problems, with one notable exception- wait ’til you see the pictures of THAT one!!! HA! We were not stressed out, we were able to relax, and everyone had an enjoyable time because we knew what to expect. **I’d also like to point out that my in-laws are AWESOME and they respect and utilize our routines and schedules while we are visiting them. It really helps add to our fun and relaxation because we know our kids are well taken care of and they’re on schedule so they’ll stay at their optimum the whole time, too. It’s absolutely fantastic to have such support!!!**
  4. Surprises. Hula Girl was so surprised and overjoyed to be tasting her very first lollipop on our plane ride. We have never let her have candy really, so this was something she had truly been longing for. She always walked past the displays of the “World’s Best Lollipops” in stores and asked me if she could have one. I always agreed that they were pretty and looked good, but turned down her request. What a delight for her to open her backpack and find a pink strawberry shortcake flavored lollipop just waiting for her!!! (We gave it for her to suck on so her ears would stay clear. Worked like a charm!) Other surprises were things like a portable DVD player and an Elmo video, the glow sticks, and for Gelato, some small cars and animals he could play with.
  5. Pieces of home. Hula Girl had her blankies and Daisy, her bear, to sleep with. We also brought her Gro-Clock and her sound machine. Gelato had his sound machine and we brought one of his sheets to put on the pack ‘n’ play so it would smell more like home. We brought some of the kids’ favorite books and toys.
  6. Organization. I had a list that showed me every piece of luggage and exactly what was in each bag or suitcase. We carried on two car seats, a suitcase, and three bags. We checked two larger suitcases. My bag held all of Gelato’s plane essentials- change of clothes, diapers and wipes, snacks, water, and small toys- along with my own plane gear- a light sweater, my glasses (I never check these; I’d be lost without them), and a book in case Gelato fell asleep- and all our travel documentation- IDs, birth certificates, boarding passes, etc. Jonathan’s backpack held random electronic stuff like cameras and phone chargers, Hula Girl’s DVD player, a book for him, etc. Hula Girl’s backpack held her travel snacks, toys, and crayons. The carry-on suitcase had all our kids’ sound machines, Gro-Clock, and random extra things. Our checked bags held Gelato and Hula Girl’s clothes and Mommy and Daddy’s clothes. I was GLAD things were organized well. Plus I like lists.
  7. Plan ahead. Sounds like organization. But it’s different. And I was fortunate enough to marry into a family with a mother-in-law who indulges my whims and has a few of her own. Therefore we knew what activities we’d likely be doing, what we’d need for them, and what we definitely would not need to pack. We knew we needed lots of swim gear since there was a splash park nearby, but since we didn’t want to pack our (very expensive) sunscreen, we just had my mother-in-law get some in advance. She also got coconut oil and baby wash to make sure our kids’ skin was pampered and our clean clothes stayed that way on the flight.
  8. Talk it up. We made sure Hula Girl was SO excited to travel. We made it sound like an adventure for sure. We read books about traveling on an airplane and watched videos about going to the beach. We acted out scenes during which Daddy and I got stopped by TSA and were searched while we were getting to our gate. We reassured her that if TSA stopped any of us, none of us would get left behind. She practiced how she’d greet her relatives, and we talked about what to do if she couldn’t find someone she knew. (In case you’re wondering, we told her to look for a MOMMY WITH KIDS and ask for help. She can spell her name and she knows Jonathan’s and my phone numbers by heart. So that helps me feel more comfortable. We even practice “getting lost” a lot at home, just so she knows what to do and is SURE of herself in the event it happens someday.)
  9. …But don’t talk it up too much in advance. My daughter is a worry wart. (I have no idea where she gets it…) She gets VERY excited about things and she can’t sleep for DAYS in advance when she knows something is coming up. Therefore we did not tell her the exact date, but just kept conversation focused on what we’d do when we get there, and how great it would be to see Ama and Papa. We finally told her on the morning of our flight that THAT was the day we were going to see Ama and Papa. It definitely worked out for us.
  10. Expect delays and rudeness. When you’re traveling with children, SO much work goes into planning, organizing, corralling, carrying, and keeping everything (and everyone) together. Any task, from checking in to going through security to using the restroom to actually boarding the plane, takes about five times longer than it would if you were alone. And when you consider the bundles of energy and excitement who squirm and hop along with the massive amounts of luggage and the GIANT CAR SEATS you have to haul around… well… just know it takes a long time to get from here to there. At least 2 hours longer than you’d imagined at first. And other people are generally helpful… but some flight attendants can be downright snarky and rude. Especially the ones we flew with. We were interrogated several times on each flight- “Did you purchase tickets for your children? Are they supposed to be sitting there? Are your car seats FAA approved? I’m sorry, but I just need to SEE the approval sticker. I’ve never seen people bring car seats on the plane before. Are you sure you don’t want to gate check the car seats? Do you want to make sure to sit near the back so that other passengers aren’t bothered by your children?” And on and on. And do you know what?! There was NO NEED for them to be rude to us. We got in, we got out, our children were SILENT the entire flight (except for the one time Hula Girl burst out in a song from ballet class). Again, other passengers were very pleasant, offering to help carry bags and watch items for us so we could manage. But the flight attendants… wowie wow wow.
  11. BONUS TIP!!! Purchase tickets for your children. Even if you don’t do the car seat thing (which I am vehemently AGAINST but whatever), at least it gives your child AND you a bit  of room to stretch out. The other passengers will appreciate it. 🙂

Sudden Snuggler

Gelato at thirteen months plus a week and a half or so:

Oh my goodness, is Gelato a snuggly little guy these past two days!?!?! This is a HUGE exciting thing for me because that little boy does.not.stop.moving.or.hold.still. Ever. But the past two days he has been clinging to my leg and burying his face in my shoulder and giving my arms huge sloppy kisses and trying to bonk his head into my face at any spare moment. It’s SO cute. Yesterday it wasn’t so cute because he was also crying and whining a lot. He’s getting a couple of teeth. But today they weren’t bothering him so much, so I got a lot of goofy grins and happy squawks instead.

He has also been really cuddly with Hula Girl, which she EATS UP. Girlfriend is HUGE on touch (Pretty sure it’s her #1 love language), and it’s killed her that he doesn’t like to snuggle very much. She just wants to hold his hand and cuddle him like she did when he was little- but he doesn’t want anything to do with it. But the past two days, he will literally run into her and topple both of them over just so they can roll around and cuddle. He even came over to her bed at her naptime just to give her giant kisses on her eyes and nose. She about died out of sheer bliss.

Gelato’s second favorite activity is talking. Little Man talks all day, every day. He greets me with, “Mo-neen!” when I walk in his room. He wants to “wa! wa! wa!” everywhere we go. He grabs his “oos? oos?” and wants me to put them on his feet for him. He brings me “boo!” and wants me to “read-ee? read-ee?” He tells me when he’s “Hun-ee,” and wants to “EAT! EAT! EAT!” He hears a “doggy” saying, “Woof. woof. woof.” He tells me when he wants some water to “dink, dink, dink.” He can mimic anything we say and he spontaneously says new words every single day. Along with the words listed above, here’s what I can think of off the top of my head: [sister’s name], door, closed, open, ball, truck, car, toys, dance, happy (SO cute), night night, nurse, cup, spoon, rock, horse, phone, bye, banana, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cheese, apple, applesauce, did it!, help, Mommy, Daddy, Riley, gentle, tickle, peek-a-boo, Ama, Papa, fan, noise, shh, climb, up, down, swing, swim, inside, outside, potty, tub, teeth, stop, and go.

Gelato is ACTIVE. He is a huge climber, and I tend to let him climb. If he can get up, he can get down. It takes a lot more time and infinitely more coaching to get down. But I let him do it. Two days ago, he climbed up to the top of our inherited playset in the backyard. Just wait until I show you a picture of that one. The rock wall (?!?!?) he climbed is over six feet tall. Kid’s thirteen months old. And he climbed to the top of a sixish foot rock wall. Ridiculous. (I need to point out that even though I LET him do this, I was also holding my hands about 2 centimeters from his body the entire time. I didn’t touch him, but I was READY. He does not get to adventure out on his own… yet.)

We’re still nursing. Gelato actually skipped two nursings one day when we were in California because Jonathan and I had taken Hula Girl to the beach (another post) and we left Gelato with Ama for the day. He did really well with it. Didn’t drink any milk, drank a ton of water, but still took good naps. I am pretty sure he’s never going to really like milk that much. Fine by me. He LOVES yogurt and cheese. And there’s always ice cream….. ha!

Gelato is still not much of an eater. Although I say he has foods he LOVES, he only eats a small amount of them compared with the amounts his sister ate at his age. Some days he surprises me, like yesterday when he ate two whole adult-sized pancakes plus a cup of blueberries for breakfast. That’s like a week’s rations, folks. Even when he’s acting cranky and whiny and says he’s hungry and wants to eat, he usually eats about a 1/2 cup of food altogether and then he’s done. He’s a pretty small little guy, I guess, but to see how much he does and compare that to how much he eats makes me worried he’s not getting enough. But I don’t push it. I just offer whatever we’re having and if he doesn’t want a lot, he doesn’t eat a lot. He sits at the table with the family and we wait until everyone is done. He has good manners and doesn’t fuss to get down. Usually.

Everyone always comments on how happy he is. He truly is happy, and he has this little squint wrinkly nose thing that he does when he’s trying to get people to smile back. It makes him look like a total goofball, but it’s adorable. Everyone smiles then and comments on how cute he is. Even when we were traveling to California and we’d been up since 5:45 am and he had to sleep in his car seat on the airplane and in the car, he didn’t cry once all the way through the shuttles, trains, cars, airplanes, airports, rental car offices, or on the drive to Ama and Papa’s house. (He also met and wooed a Swedish girl who looked the part- white blond hair, slim, beautiful. She was about 25 years old and she let him play with some animal app on her iPad. It had music [his third love] and he thought that was GREAT. The only word she knew in English was “dance” and boy did that come in handy. Gelato danced to the music and she laughed and cooed away in Swedish. They kept each other company for an hour in the rental car office. Thank you, Swedish girl!)

Gelato in three words: energetic, opinionated, happy

I love having a son.

Kind of a Downer

As a general rule, I embrace fall and welcome any day that is not super hot and super sunny. But today just feels cold and yucky. Not even dreary. Dreary I could deal with. I suppose the weather is aided by our circumstances today-making me feel blah and discouraged is what the two of them have teamed up to do. Mission accomplished. Anyway, I am so ready for my in-laws’ visit in October, it’s ridiculous. I will have fully embraced fall by then and hopefully our circumstances will have changed a bit. Allow me to expand.

Hula Girl.

She went away and spent the weekend with my parents. She had a super good time.

But she’s getting her 2-year molars. I can see the one on the bottom right almost coming through the gum. Rumor in the mom group has it that the 2-year molars are awful. They ruin sleep, they ruin attitudes, they ruin routines. For instance, I just got up from the computer (literally, between these two sentences I took a break) and went to her room in the middle of her nap because she woke up crying about her nose being itchy. She’s been crying about this several times during sleep periods (yes, even in the middle of the night) and we’ve had to go in and remind her to use her handkerchief (tied to the crib rail so she can find it easily) to blow her nose. Yep, poor little girl has a runny nose constantly from those darn teeth.

Anyway, the short of the long of it is she’s building up a major sleep debt and it’s compounding significantly regardless of our best efforts to get her down for bed and naps early (or even on time!) these days. I just struggle to get her down when I am dealing with both kids at once. Which brings us to our next circumstantial issue:

Gelato.

He has not been on his normal schedule (substitute the word routine here if you so choose- I have a lot of friends who don’t think it’s wise to “schedule” a newborn-but they don’t exactly know how flexible my “schedule” can be) for the past twoish weeks. In fact, he’s been so off-schedule that I’m not even sure what a good schedule for him would look like. Especially because he’s so young and their optimal waketimes change so much in these early days.

Anyway, he had  a growth spurt at 4 weeks. Then he went through a wonder week at week 5, and then he hit a biiiiiiig growth spurt at 6 weeks. He nursed literally every 2 hours for several days straight. The 6-week growth spurt also ushered in an old enemy of mine: the 45-minute intruder. Hula Girl dealt with this for the first 20-21 weeks of her life. Short 45-minute naps. I could not get that girl back to sleep for the life of me… and that meant her feeding schedule was really wrong. So I am doing all the things I can possibly do to keep Gelato on an age-appropriate schedule while now dealing with the 45-minute intruder (at most naps, ugh) while juggling a toddler who can’t be left alone for 20-minute segments four times a day while I rock the baby back to sleep. Most moms suggest just moving the newborn to the swing and letting him finish his nap there. Sounds great, right!? Right. Gelato hates his swing. Other moms suggest using a pacifier and when he wakes, just briefly visit his room and pop it in so he can soothe back to sleep and finish the nap. Sounds great, right?! Right. Gelato hates his pacifier.

Ho-kay… what’s plan C? Working on it… I am not interested in leaving Gelato to cry it out mid-nap yet. BTDT, HATED every moment of it. My heart (and Hula Girl’s) can’t take the stress of listening to a crying baby for 45 minutes at a time, four times a day. Nope. Pretty much I’m just praying that God will allow Gelato to just stop having sleep transition issues altogether. If you would please also pray for us in this manner, I would really really appreciate it.

Car.

This weekend Jonathan and I decided to take a drive up into the mountains for our annual leaf-viewing adventure. The aspens are starting to turn, and the mountainsides look like they’re ablaze with beautiful yellows, oranges, and reds mixed in with the evergreens. Really, Colorado mountains in the fall are lovely. Since Hula Girl was with my parents, we only had Gelato and decided he’s little enough to have a day TOTALLY off his routine and we stuck him in his car seat and set off on our 3-hour adventure.

About two hours into our trip, on the descent, we heard a “ding!” We looked at the dash… and our engine temperature was all the way up in the “H” range- we were overheating. Jonathan found a place to pull over and we got out the manual and tried to get the car to cool down… it wouldn’t. And we had absolutely NO coolant in the…coolant holder thingie? (I’m kind of not up-to-snuff when it comes to my car knowledge, so terminology isn’t my thing… but I do know that no coolant=bad.) So we sat there. Then we got out and tried to use our cell phones. No luck. Finally Jonathan got through to our insurance company to call for roadside assistance. Apparently tow truck drivers aren’t allowed to carry coolant so they’d have had to tow us. Unfortunately, they’re also not allowed to carry car seats. So we would have to call family or friends to come pick us up. An hour and a half away from home. In the mountains. On Saturday afternoon.

Then these random folks pull over and let me tell you- I learned a lesson in humility. They were chain-smoking and had four children in the backseat of their Jeep, none of which was buckled in. But do you know what happened next? They booked it to the town that was a little over a mile away, bought coolant and water for our car, spent an hour and a half on the side of the road flushing our engine with coolant and water, and made sure our car was fine before they left. And we don’t even know their names. They would not tell us or even let us try to pay them back for the supplies. All they asked was that we pay it forward. Now that I think of it, that will be easier said than done. But we’ll make sure it happens.

Anyway, we get going again and the check engine light comes on so we pull over again. This time, we couldn’t even get hold of the insurance company and NO ONE stopped. We sat there for about 30 minutes trying to decide what to do. I finally got my phone to get enough signal to pull up a map and realized we were about 10 miles from the next town, and we knew we were going downhill. So we risked it and drove to where we could get a signal. We called my dad and he agreed with me when he thought the check engine light just needed to be reset after we were out of coolant. So we drove on to the next town, which was right by the highway. And we stopped for dinner. ‘Cuz we didn’t pack lunch OR dinner for our “3-hour adventure.” (Side note: thank goodness we only had Gelato with us. I can at least feed him anytime, anywhere. Hula Girl would have been hungry, my friends. And crabby.)

After dinner Jonathan noticed our car had a huge puddle under it… and no more coolant. G-reat. We contacted my parents’ across-the-street-neighbor, Dave, who knows everything about anything mechanical, and who kind of repairs cars for a living. He told us we could just keep adding water every 10 minutes and risk the drive home. We got to the auto shop, left the car in the lot and dropped off the key, and asked our across-the-street neighbor, Brett, to drive us home. We got home SEVEN hours after we left. That’s four more hours than we planned on. Ugh.

And we learned today that our car will cost about $450 to fix… as long as the only thing that’s wrong with it is what they think is wrong with it. See, they can’t keep coolant in it long enough to drive it and see what could be the issue. Nice. So, there’s another prayer request- pray that our car will be fixed with only $450… we can’t really afford that, let alone anything else. Which brings my to my next circumstance:

Money

We’ve always lived on less than most people. In fact, Jonathan makes just enough to put our family over the poverty line for a family of four. But we’ve learned to live small. Think about this- before Jonathan was out of grad school, we lived on my measly teacher’s salary for three years. Yowza. We don’t have a TV, so we don’t pay for service. We keep our house relatively warm in the summer and cool in the winter. We don’t have anything new or fancy. Our wedding/engagement rings are the most valuable things we own. So basically, we can’t afford anything that’s not budgeted.*

Jonathan has a wonderful chance to receive a scholarship repayment through the state of Colorado. He has to commit to 3 years of service in an underserved area or working with an underserved population. His current job qualifies him. If he gets the award, his student loans will be paid off in December… by the state! Considering Jonathan’s student loans are our second largest budget area (second only to rent), we could sure use that money elsewhere. Say, oh, to pay for Gelato’s delivery. Or for our car to get fixed. We also desperately need a new car since both of ours are not in the greatest condition and neither are really large enough for a family of four (when you factor in car seats, what sedan really IS large enough?).

So please pray with us that the Lord will provide a way for us to pay for the things we need to pay for, whether it be through this scholarship repayment program or some other means (hey, Jonathan’s boss, if you ever read this, we sure could do with a raise! 😉 ) .

*I want to clarify a few things before I start sounding like we’re destitute or foolish. First of all, we have no debt aside from Jonathan’s student loans. Secondly, we make very informed decisions before purchasing anything… including a new child (so to speak). So before anyone gets all “if-you-can’t-afford-stuff-why-did-you-have-another-kid?!”  on me, let me kindly remind you that we are aware that children cost a lot of money. We are also aware that we made a choice to have a child. On purpose. We asked God to give us the blessing of another child.** Because guess what. Our children are worth far more than any sum you could ever offer or imagine. And not just to us. To God. So when God chose to give us another sweet baby, we were overjoyed (and a heckuvalotta nervous). We can hack it financially, especially with the knowledge that Jonathan has nowhere to go but up in his career and I can always always always find a way to earn money if we really need it. Who has ever heard of a tutor? Yeah, okay. Like I said, we are not destitute or foolish. Just blessed beyond reason to have reaped an abundance of love.

**I also want to clarify that we are done having kids. We’re not going Duggar on ya.

 

 

 

Where We’ve Been

Helloooooooo out there!

My days have been very full lately, and I haven’t had even a spare moment to browse around on Pinterest, let alone read any of the blogs I follow or check in with my Babywise group. Today I have been fortunate to find some downtime. Whew!

Just after my most recent post, Jonathan got a new job in a different city. This job has more to offer Jonathan as he pursues his career: higher salary, better benefits, and more advancement opportunities. Needless to say, we are thanking the Lord for blessing us with this adventure. It came at just the right time, and it’s really nice (for me) to see Jonathan getting affirmation in his career decisions. I think he does a fantastic job, and I am glad to see that others recognize that potential as well!

Once we were 100% positive that Jonathan had the job, I turned to craigslist and newspaper classified ads to find a new home for us in a new (bigger) city. It took me four days to find “the one,” and I had to fight for it. It was listed with a “no pets” policy, but I have found that if I talk to landlords, the majority of them are willing to accept pets with a few extra stipulations or a higher deposit or something to that effect. After several attempts to speak with the landlord of this property, I finally learned that he was at the home and that I could go talk to him there. I jumped in the car, drove the 40 minutes, and spent an hour speaking with him and convincing him that we were the family for him! He still isn’t certain that he’s happy about us having our little kitty-cat, Riley,  but we offered a pet deposit and we’ll steam clean the carpets before we go. If we ever go.

Seriously, I love this house. I am sure that in a few months’ time, I’ll be able to provide a list of things that I’m not fond of. But for now, this house is the best one we’ve ever lived in (as a married couple- the ones we grew up in were pretty great, too!).

We’ll be moving in three weeks with the help of my parents (whose main assistance will come in the form of babysitting) and our best friends. Even though moving is no fun, we’re looking forward to seeing them. They’re great.

The day after I was able to secure our new home, Jonathan’s little sister, affectionately known as “Nay-Nay” in our house, came to visit. I had been keeping her visit a surprise for Jonathan. We’d been planning it since May! That is a long time for me to keep something a secret from him! I am pretty terrible at keeping things a surprise for Jonathan. I almost slipped up and spoiled it several times in the weeks leading up to her visit. Fortunately, he believed we were going camping with my parents, and had taken time off work.

During Nay-Nay’s visit, we did a lot of fun summery things. We went camping for 2 nights, visited a dinosaur museum, watched the entire Free Willy series, ate a lot of *really* unhealthy food, and had a good time. Jonathan and Nay-Nay even went down to see a hokey home-made castle an hour away from our house. They said it was super scary going 160 feet into the air on some steel beams a guy screwed together all by himself, without the limits of building codes and permits! I can’t imagine why…

Nay-Nay went back home to California today and we’ll miss her!

I feel like this was a very concise overview of everything that has happened with us recently. Add in some cooking, cleaning, baby-minding, game-playing, and maybe catching a few zzzs, and you’ve got the whole picture.

I plan to update on Hula Girl soon. She said her first sentence today: “Hi, Riley!” It came out more like, “Ha, Waaah-woohh!” It was followed by a very gentle head-pat and then a slobbery kiss on the nose. I was beyond thrilled. Needless to say, Riley was not. 🙂

4, 7, and 9!

The winning eggs were numbers 4, 7, and 9! Take a look!

Eggs 4, 5, and 6 (left to right)

Eggs 7, 8, and 9 (left to right)

And Guess Who made all three? That’s right. ME.

This gives "Triple Crown" a whole new meaning...

Ahh, sweet victory. Churchill would be so proud.

On a side note, we had Hula Girl’s first real tantrum today. Wowza, was it a doozie. I get where she was coming from. I mean, I very rudely interrupted her game of “Put the plastic fishie on the rocking chair and take it off again and look at Mama for a smile!” I scooped her up, put her on my lap, and started snipping away at the only weapon she has available- an effective weapon at that. She.screamed.bloody.murder.for.ten.straight.minutes. I just kept on clipping. I got three nails done. Then I put her down in front of the glass door so she could calm down, and once she did, I had her watch me clip her thumbnail. She seemed fine, but then burst out screaming again. Of course, the only nail she’s calm for is the one I cut too short. I HATE that feeling, so I get her screams. Ay, yi, yi. Neosporin to the rescue. Then naptime came (a short 10 minutes later) and she cried all the way through her diaper change, song, and story. Finally when I put her in her crib, she stuck her (other) thumb in her mouth, closed her eyes, and stayed silent. Weird. I feel proud of myself for living through it.

And…we’re back!

Yes, we’re back. We had a great trip!

Today, however, I am going to focus on one aspect of our trip. Yes, the COMPETITION. I have quite a few pictures to share. So, without further ado, allow me to lead you through a visual Easter Egg Competition, from (almost) start to finish:

First, you have to know that we had 4 dozen eggs to work with. That was 1 dozen per person. Then, we chose our best 2 out of 12 and entered those in the competition in a randomly selected order. Then, my father-in-law judged the eggs. I put in an extra egg to see if his judging was biased.

The prizes: Easter Crowns. Third place-Daisy Head. Second Place- Butterfly. First Place- Easter Bunny.

The supplies: Silk scarves and ties; twist ties and cotton squares; regular egg-dying kit. Plus 48 eggs.

Here are my eggs all tied up to go in the pot:

Here are my eggs in the pot:

Here are my eggs out of the pot:

Here we are pouring vinegar to mix up the traditional dyes:

Here are our dye cups:

Here are my sister-in-law’s eggs:

Here are Jonathan’s eggs:

Here are my mother-in-law/aunt-in-law’s eggs:

Here are the eggs in the competition :

Eggs 1, 2, and 3 (left to right)

Eggs 4, 5, and 6 (left to right)

Eggs 7, 8, and 9 (left to right)

I’ll announce the winner(s) tomorrow. Which do you think won?

MIA

I apologize to those of you who were, like me, unaware I was going to be MIA for the weekend. I blame my mom. (Don’t we all?)

Hula Girl and I took a short weekend trip to my parents’ house just to do a sort of trial run for our vacation coming up on Thursday. We worked through a few kinks in the packing/scheduling. I am really glad we went, because I learned three things about Hula Girl’s sleep that were quite surprising:

  1. She can sleep in her new car seat!
  2. She sleeps when it’s time for her naps, no problem. Perfect naps.
  3. She has a hard time falling asleep at night when she’s not in her crib at home.

OK- the car seat sleeping and perfect napping are a total relief. The difficulty falling asleep at night was really hard to handle for me, since she always falls asleep with no difficulty whatsoever here at home. It really threw me for a loop. However, now I know what to expect on our trip. No problem.

My mom and I had a great time playing with Hula Girl. My mom spoils her rotten. She got so many new toys and new (new to her- yay consignment!) clothes. We even drove to Babies ‘R’ Us just so we could pick up a rubber travel placemat with a food catcher for messy baby hands.  That trip also afforded Hula Girl some cute shoes and slippers for next winter. They had a great BOGO sale for all clearance footwear! We are definitely bargain hunters.

Anyway, Hula Girl turned 10 months old yesterday. She is official 5/6 of the way done nursing. I am super happy about that. But I am also growing slightly nostalgic. Maybe I don’t want her to be done that soon? We’ll see how things go. I just really enjoy our snuggle time together four times a day. It’s really precious time for me. She has such a beautiful soft blond head, and her eyelashes are so dark against her cherub cheeks. She usually has some kind of goobers coming out of her eyes or nose, but those are easily wiped away. Oh, my precious girl. She’s growing up too fast.

That is enough for now. I will be posting again tomorrow at the regularly scheduled time.

Did you miss me?

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