Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Grateful and Humble and Happy and all those other things

For several years, I've followed Glennon Melton's blog, Momastery.  I love most of her essays but every year my favorite thing to read is her "Holiday Hands" post.  Each November, she opens up the blog and asks readers to post needs/ requests they may have.  Other readers then reach out and offer to fill (or partially fill) the request.

Last week, I logged on and gave myself five minutes to read some of the requests.  Then, I proceeded to sit there for 45 minutes reading page after page of requests.  In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, "Anna's sleeping so..... I should shower, I should clean the kitchen, I should vacuum, I need to change the laundry, I should empty the dishwasher, etc. etc."  But instead, I read and read and read and read.  And then, I realized my eyes were brimming with tears and my throat was becoming tight and I had little uneven heart palpatations-- the things that happen to me when I get a little over-emotional.  But as much as I tried to tear myself away from the computer, I couldn't.  There were pages upon pages of listings for things like:

 *Cards for sick daughter
* Family of five can barely pay bills
*Car payment for my mom
*Stroller needed
*Safe bed for my son wanted
*Letters to lonely stay at home mom
*Groceries on the table
*Warm clothing for two teenagers needed
*Coats, hats, boots needed
*Penpal friends for 10 year old daughter
*Clothes---anything helps!
* Fresh fruits and vegetables
*Heat for our home
*Holiday dinner

And the list goes on and on and on.

Sometimes, life in Spahnville is tricky.  We have hard days.  There have been evenings when I look at Mason and consider our day a success simply because everyone in our family is alive and (relatively) healthy.  We have crazy days and busy days and logistical mess-ups.  (I thought YOU were taking Charlie that day!) Sometimes we eat cereal for supper and we have had a cookie or two for breakfast-- just to stop-the-whining.

But we have it ALL.  We have groceries.  We have heat.  Sometimes, we turn the heat up to 73-- just because it's cold and we don't want to wear thirty sweatshirts over our Underarmor.  We "waste" electricity on electric blankets and baby sound machines.  We have two vehicles-- and we can afford to maintain them and fill them up with gas.  We have every possible infant accessory, we have safe and warm places for our children to sleep, and we have plenty of warm clothing for our children to wear.  We have shelves overflowing with books and an entire basement filled with toys-- where our biggest problem is figuring out what we can get rid of.  We play and travel and indulge in luxuries like swimming pool passes, and college football games, and theme-park day trips.

It's easy for me to get caught up in the daily hum-drum of life, but reading these requests made me stop and really focus on what we have and how grateful I am.  Oh, and those penpal requests from people?  I was all over that-- and instantly fired off an email to the requester!  Can't wait to connect with my new pal.  :)

(Don't you love that crooked smile?)-- So thankful for what we have. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Charlie's Love: Anna Rose

When my sister and I used to get together for Christmas shopping in Chicago (was that in another lifetime?) my mom would gush about how much she loves that we enjoy spending time with each other.  Liz and I would roll our eyes and smirk at the comment, never really understanding her emotion.  But fast forward a few years (like ten) and suddenly that comment takes on a whole new meaning.

For us, deciding to have another child involved many factors, but chief among them was having a sibling for Charlie.  I understand that siblings argue and bicker and don't always end up being the best of friends.  Sometimes situations arise that create rifts between siblings that unfortunately can't be easily repaired.  But other times, siblings play and create together and form lasting friendships.  They care for and protect each other,  inspire and influence each other.  They share formative years and only siblings can commiserate about the disfunction of their particular family.

When people ask how Charlie is handling a new little sister, we always explain that he is the best big brother.  Ever.  He loves Anna more than anything and dotes on her constantly.  Usually, people will smile and say, "Just wait!  That will change once she starts getting into his things!" or "Well you better enjoy it while it lasts!"  And while there may be some truth to these comments,  I wouldn't be at all surprised if Charlie continues to enjoy having a little sister around.

Here's a glimpse of what he thinks of her:  

First thing in the morning, Charlie will come into our room and say good morning to me.  Then, he always follows with:
"Mommy, I need to see my baby sister this morning."

Often if Anna is crying and I can't get to her right away, I'll find Charlie right next to her, softly saying
"Don't worry Baby Sister, Don't cry.  Big Brother is here!  Big Brother loves you.  You don't need to cry honey."

Sometimes, if Anna isn't settled by Charlie's words, he'll stay right by her side and yell,
"Mommy!  Baby Sister is crying!  Mo-om, your DAUGHTER is CRYING!"

He wants to play with her often and doesn't quite understand that she's too little to play.  This doesn't deter him from trying.  Usually she's nursing and he'll often ask:
"Is Baby Sister done milking yet?" or "Do you have to milk Anna?"

And he's always concerned about her emotional health.  The other night, we were reading books before bed.  I had Anna in my lap and she was becoming a little fussy.  The books we were reading were all about 'prehistoric beasts' (surprise surprise) and contained phrases like, "The fierce predator rips into his prey with his razor sharp claws..."  The illustrations are equally graphic-- much to Charlie's enjoyment (Look at all the blood, Mom!).  But as we read these books, Anna became even more fussy.  I'm pretty sure it was due to the fact that it was 8:00 at night, Charlie had an entirely different idea.  So he leaned over and in the sweetest voice said,
"Don't worry Baby Sister.  They're not real!  These dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.  Don't be scared little sweetie." 

When he leaves for preschool or goes to bed, he will often say:
"Goodbye Baby Sister.  I love you so much!  I love you more than the whole Earth and all of Outer Space.     Mom?   How big is Outer Space?"

And finally, my favorite was this:  A few weeks ago, I was snuggling with Charlie before lights out.  He turned to me and said,
"Mommy, I don't want to say this but I have to tell you.  I'm really sorry, Mommy.  But I love Anna so so so much.  I love her more than you.  I'm so sorry, Mom."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy (belated) Halloween

Late is better than never, right?

The week before Halloween, Sister invited us over to her house for a little Halloween party.  We later realized that having a party with a four year old, three year old, and two infants might have been just a tad over-ambitious.  So rather than doing all the craftsy and party things we talked about, we let the kids play in their costumes and eat PB&J sandwiches in the shape of pumpkins.  The babies stared at the ceiling fan as it twirled paper bats & ghosts that Liz had creatively taped to the blades.  The whole thing was pure awesomeness.

We carved pumpkins the night before Halloween.  This year, Charlie was much more interested in getting his hands dirty-- major milestone for us, folks!

Anna wasn't too impressed with the pumpkin carving.

Unfortunately, it was too cold for Anna and me to Trick-or-Treat on Friday night so Mason took Charlie out for close to an hour.  Before they left, Charlie eagerly agreed to take pictures with Baby Sister.    

Charlie & Daddy came home with plenty of goodies but sadly, he only collected one Snickers bar-- Mommy's only request.  After counting his pieces and choosing five to keep, he handed over his loot in exchange for a new Imaginext Pterodactyl.  That night, we surveyed the scene:  Anna sleeping in my arms, Charlie snuggled into bed clutching his new dinosaur, and Mase & I indulging in bite sized Twix, Butterfingers, & Kit-Kats.   Yes, my friends, Halloween 2014 was sweet in Spahnville.  

Life Right Now

At random moments throughout the day, I'll think to myself, "I've got to remember this!  I should sit down and write a blog post about this!  Oh, I can't forget to write about this!"  But then, life always seems to demand something of me right at that exact moment and leaves me feeling like I am responsible for all-the-things-right-at-this-moment.  And yet somehow, I'm managing to not feel overwhelmed-- but rather mildly humored by this crazy/chaotic/messy/loud and ultimately beautiful phase I find myself drenched in right now.

Our days have little to no routine, yet are fairly predictable.  Miss Anna is the sweetest baby and has a very mild temperament.  She eats well and sleeps well and tends to enjoy being awake around 4:00 in the morning.  (Good thing she's so cute.)  Charlie continues to be the best big brother Anna and her parents could ever wish for.  He's doting and nurturing and caring and our biggest complaint is that he's "in her face" way too much.  Maternity leave is amazing this time around-- sleeping in, enjoying an easy & relaxed 'morning routine', playing ipad and board games, and sending Charlie off to preschool consume our morning hours.  Before this "polar vortex" slapped us with a crazy cold snap, Anna and I enjoyed a walk almost every day/ morning.  We'd stop at the grocery store for a last minute supper ingredient or at the locker to pick up milk and eggs.  We'd browse books at the library and window shop for trinkets downtown.  We'd entertain visitors who dropped by with a casserole and a new adorable outfit for Anna. And we cuddle and sleep and sleep and cuddle.

Life with a baby is so much different this time around.  I can't decide if it's because Anna is so different from Charlie or that Mason & I are so different from the way we were five years ago.  Or it might be because our attention is distracted by that dinosaur-loving little guy running laps in our kitchen every evening at 6:45.   Or perhaps it's my attitude of what I describe as "calm gratefulness" and not crazy-hyper-worry (like it was when Charlie was a baby).  I look at Anna and continue to be amazed that she's even here-- that my body nurtured her for 9 whole months (plus a few days--but who's counting anymore?) without any complications.   I realize that our positive experience is likely a combination of all of these things--but whatever the reason, things just seem so much more okay this time around.

Case in point:
A few nights ago, Mason was working late.  (Aka: Mase was enjoying a Loras Soccer game.  'Tis the season! Rah Rah!  Go Duhawks!)

Anyway, 'twas the witching hour and everyone in our home was crying.  (I'd like to brag that my personal crying was due to slicing onions and surprisingly not due to an emotional meltdown.)  I brought both kids onto my lap to try to console them and they only cried harder.  At that moment, I paused and started to laugh at the craziness of the scene.  Enter: camera phone.  Nothing better than candid shots of crying kids, right?  No sooner had I whipped out the camera and raised my arm for Crying Selfie Shot #1 than all-the-tears-stopped.  Instantly.  So now my adorable crying kids photos turned out like this:

Lesson learned:  Bring out the phone in the midst of the next tantrum.  Probably won't work next time but it's worth a shot.

Okay, back to what's been happening....

I know.  There is no family resemblance at all, is there?

 Anna was smitten by Amelia.  She couldn't take her eyes off her.

Brothers with their babies.  (Penny is just a tad older than Anna.  And lots furrier.)

This baby LOVES sleeping in bed with her mama.  Oh, the things I said I'd never do.  

And she loves sleeping ON her mama.  Again, eating my words stated in a previous life.  
Sleeping on Daddy is okay too.

And the stinker will sleep in her crib during the day.  Just not at nighttime. 

When she sleeps, I maybe practice french braiding.
(Because in ten years she might have hair!  I know, geek of the week award for sure.  I'm okay with that.)

She smiles!

He smiles!
She doesn't smile as much in the evening but walking around facing the world seems to help a tiny bit.
And every tiny bit counts, right?  

True loves.

Snow bunny.  

(By the way: I have decided that dressing Anna in adorable albeit impractical winter outfits is going to be my winter-blues therapy this year.  I mean, really... can you stay grumpy with Mother Nature when a baby wears jeggings and furry Uggs?  Didn't think so. )