I'm cutting it close for squeezing in our annual fall snapshot, but the week of Thanksgiving still counts as fall, right?
Without further ado, here is our 2013 snapshot in words (and a few pictures), capturing the here and now.
The most prominent change in our lives is Troy's work schedule. He transferred to Foreign Exchange (or FX) in September when his previous function was moved back to the New York office. The new role has subsequently resulted in drastically longer hours and more stress. For both of us. Troy used to be home for dinner in the evenings (after working 11 hour days), and now he works 13-14 hour days and is lucky to see the boys at all.
Add in being in the Bishopric at church and we really never see him.
While Troy peacefully sits on the stand at church each Sunday, the 70 minutes that I sit on the bench alone with three restless boys are the hardest of my week. The three year old is especially challenging. I had an older widow come up to me a few weeks ago and tell me, "You struggle with those boys every single week." I didn't quite know what to make of that observation. She was right, of course, but it made me feel worse that people were noticing the chaos.
I'm always relieved to send the boys off to Primary after the Sacrament meeting battle. I call it a success on the weeks that I don't bolt into the mother's room with tears streaming down my cheeks.
I am entering my fourth year as the Primary secretary.
I still really love my job. Working on designs and coding them for the web is what I love to do most in my spare time. But spare time is becoming less and less, which means I often stay up very late to work when the house is finally quiet. And I usually fall asleep on the couch with my laptop.
Troy was diagnosed with whooping cough a few weeks ago. He has literally had a cough for 6 weeks straight. We're thankful the rest of us are immunized.
Troy is addicted to buying Groupons. Sometimes this hobby lands us fun things like bounce houses or his jet pack trip, but a lot of times we end up with with restaurant Groupons that expire before we get to using them. I wish had a nickel for every time Troy shouted from the next room, "Hey, I found this Groupon..."
I procrastinate grocery shopping to no end. And the dinner hour. Especially now that Troy is rarely home, there's no point to make anything fancy.
Because of my total dismay for meal planning, Troy signed us up for an eMeals membership (thanks to a Groupon). We chose a meal plan based on our eating style and favorite grocery store. A new meal plan is emailed to us every week with seven dinner recipes. The coordinating app includes an itemized shopping list that I can check off when I go to the store. It has been working pretty well, except I usually omit anything that includes seafood or mayonnaise. Some meals have been great and some just so-so.
Troy often buys me flowers for no reason. It is very sweet.
Cuff links in dress shirts are Troy's kryptonite. He is acquiring quite the collection.
Troy also loves his Kindle. I have observed him turning the pages by tapping his nose to the screen on several occasions. This is hilarious to me.
Troy subscribes to two magazines; ESPN and Forbes. He says he will continue these subscriptions for the rest of his life.
Troy is a wealth of random information. For example:
Why are there two free throw lines on the basketball court? Ask Troy.
What was WWI all about again? Ask Troy.
When are the various hunting seasons? Ask Troy (who has never hunted in his life).
How much did we pay for a certain piece of furniture 5 years ago? Ask Troy. He never forgets how much we spent on things.
What is going on in politics? Ask Troy.
What is going on in sports? Ask Troy. He knows all about even the obscure sports.
Where did the term "knock on wood" come from? Ask Troy.
A highlight of each month for me is going to book club. The book discussion usually lasts about 10 minutes and the other 5 or 6 hours are spent laughing and discussing every topic imaginable. A friend of mine that recently hosted ended her invitation email by joking, "I'll have more details (such as time, food, wardrobe assignments, playlists to listen to on the drive over, synchronized parking, who will be performing which talent, etc.) as it gets closer." Oh man I love these gals.
Anytime I see something rustle or move out of the corner of my eye, I immediately assume it's a mouse. I spent an entire drive home from dropping off our sitter thinking there was a mouse on the passenger seat floor of my car. I was freaking out, curled up on my side of the car. It turned out to be a water bottle rolling around. I can't help it though. My default explanation for unusual movement is always; "mouse."
I only get the mail once a week. Or less. I can't stand the cluttered mess it brings in, so I prefer to leave it in our locked mailbox until it becomes absolutely necessary to sort through. The only exception is during the month of December, when I love walking to the mailbox every day to see what Christmas cards await.
Speaking of December approaching, I'm trying to figure out how to boycott the whole "Elf on the Shelf" craze. I don't know what I was thinking starting that up last year. Blake asked me if our elf was coming back this year and I responded, "No, I don't think so." The problem is, all of the boys' friends have elves that visit their houses. And they hear all about the funny and mischievous things those elves do.
I have a serious sweet tooth. No meal is complete without a little treat at the end. I try to hide my treats so the boys won't find them, but they always do. Even when I hide them in the battery box on the very top shelf.
People ask me all. the. time. if we're going to try to have a girl. My response is, "We did. Three times."
My weekly chore routine consists of 5-6 loads of laundry on Monday, grocery shopping on Tuesday while the older boys are at school, and cleaning on Friday. It's actually harder to stick to than it sounds with everything else swirling around. But the weeks run much smoother when I stay on schedule.
I have to sweep the floor every single day. And I probably should sweep multiple times a day. For some reason, this really surprises me.
Blake is thriving in Kindergarten. Helping him learn to read is kind of magical.
I broke down and ordered school pictures this year. Yes, I take pictures of my children non-stop, and they are probably better quality. But when that order form surfaced from Blake's backpack, I went on autopilot and got out my checkbook and made an order. I love that the school picture freezes that exact moment in time: "Blake starting Kindergarten," instead of being mixed up in the bounteous files clogging my computer. That moment of "school life" is captured and someday I can line the pictures up and cry about how my babies have changed over the years.
Blake has two best buddies that he asked to be his friends from the beginning. We get together with the boys and their moms every few weeks. They both happen to have a three year old younger brother and were born the same week as Blake. Now those are some friendships that were meant to be. Except celebrating birthdays during the first week of December just got a little crazier.
Blake and I have "Mommy time" every day when Nash goes down for a nap. We usually read together, but sometimes we throw in other activities like building machines, playing board games, building with legos and playing "Don't Eat Pete" with sight words. Blake also discovered that if he offers to play with my hair (which usually includes an interesting assortment of headbands and hair clips), Mommy time can be very prolonged.
His first question on the ride home from school each day is, "What are we going to do for Mommy time today?" This child of mine sure craves one-on-one attention, and even though I usually have a thousand other things that need to get done, I'm really glad that he holds me to having Mommy time everyday.
Blake's favorite thing to do is still to build intricate machines out of anything and everything. He has recently added life-size maze building to his repertoire.
Blake also still wants to be an elf when he grows up. His reasoning is that elves build machines. Our Bishop asked him at tithing settlement if he was going to go on a mission when he grew up. He responded, "Yes. And then I'm going to move to the North Pole to be an elf."
Blake will not drink juice or soda. Nash, however, begs for Sprite everywhere we go.
When I go through the clothes from Blake's closet that are getting too small, I move them right into Nash's closet. There is no longer a need for packing the clothes away in an interim bin until Nash grows into them.
Nash started naming his beloved stuffed animals. He now lovingly refers to his nie-night as "Angwood," and his Pluto as "Woofie."
Nash is all boy. My vow to never have any sort of play weapons in the house backfired when he turned every toy imaginable into a gun or a sword. I finally gave in to his puppy-dog eyes at Disneyland when he wanted to spend his hard earned Disney Dollars on a toy gun. It is, by far, his favorite toy.
(Yes, his pants are on backwards.)
Nash literally runs through the house all day making shooting and fighting noises. "Pssshhh, pssshhh..." is all I hear from him. I really don't know what to do with boys, ha!
Nash tries to "fight" any big kid he comes across. It doesn't matter where we are - the school carnival, in line at Disneyland, Troy's Halloween work party... If he sees boys that are twice his size, he immediately assumes they want to fight and starts swinging his arms.
For how rough Nash is inclined to be, he is also my biggest cuddler.
Nash is a serious hoarder. I find random collections of things in every receptacle I come across. He must not have my minimalist genes.
We had our first run-in with a time out at preschool. Nash felt terrible about not listening to his teacher after the fact. He wrote her an apology note.
The boys have aversions to anything "girly." They won't come near dolls, barbies, fairies, or anything that is pink in general. Troy is happy that they came to this conclusion by themselves.
Recently, as I tucked Nash into bed, we talked about the friends he was going to play with in the upcoming days. He responded in a perplexed voice, "Mom, Bella's a girl but I don't want to marry her. I just want to marry you." Then, a minute later, he asked, "Wait, are you already married?"
Potty training continues to be a touchy subject in our home. We finally took Blake to a urologist after 3+ years of multiple accidents a day. He started a medication that will help his bladder regulate. I also have to remind him to use the bathroom every hour and a half for twelve months. Yes, that's right. I have an alarm that is set to go off on my phone all day, every day, for the next year. Since Nash is now in the dreaded potty training phase too - we all take a bathroom break every hour and a half. Oh, the joys.
And then there's our sweet baby Crew. I finally started leaving him with sitters now that he is more on a schedule. It is fun for Troy and I to go on dates alone, but not as fun for me to have to sit in the car and pump while we're out.
Blake and Nash just adore Crew. They are his biggest cheerleaders when he learns new skills.
My challenge with Crew, if I can even consider this a challenge, is keeping him awake in the car while I'm driving the older boys back and forth from school. If he catnaps in the car instead of deep sleeping in his crib, our whole day is thrown off. My attempts to put Crew on a regimented schedule like I did with the other two are constantly thwarted. Such is life with school aged children and a baby.
Crew has three favorite things. First is his binky. He'll only take the type they give newborns at the hospital. The pacifier thing is a whole new ballgame for us since we're accustomed to thumb suckers.
Next is cords. He has an obsession with and radar for any type of cord. I'm convinced he learned to scoot around just so he could acquire cords.
And finally, Crew loves his exersaucer. I don't know how many times he's been in there for extended periods of time while we eat, cook, clean, do homework, clean some more, etc. He remains happy as can be in his confined corner of the kitchen while the chaos of the rest of us swirls around him.
And that is life in 2013 in a nutshell. We certainly have our challenges, but we are reminded of how blessed we are. As we head into Thanksgiving and the end of 2013, we are grateful most of all for our health, stability and family. And for all the little moments that bring us joy each and every day.
This month has shown me once again that moments with Crew are so fleeting. A part of me is really sad because he isn't an itty bitty newborn anymore. He doesn’t just lay there staring at me with those big blue eyes.
Now, he is constantly on the go. Crew rolls and scoots everywhere, trying to get ahold of anything and everything within his reach. This month was a big one as far as milestones go. His biggest accomplishment was getting up onto all fours and rocking back and forth. He isn't crawling just yet but I have a feeling it is just around the corner. He compensates for crawling by rocking, launching, rolling and inchworming himself where he wants to go.
He started sitting up as well but is still a little wobbly.
Crew replaced his wide grins with a flat, pursed lip smile. It cracks us up to see this constant expression on his face.
I finally started introducing solids this month and he wanted nothing to do with it. I don't really blame him - I wouldn't eat ground up squash either. I tried every few days and he made the worst faces, cried, clenched his lips and turned his head away. He is just now starting to take purees a little better. Spoonfeeding is hands down my least favorite part of having a baby.
It's a good thing I adore everything else about having a baby around. I love his screeches, giggles and nonstop awe at figuring out his body and his new world. Now if he would just stop growing.
A question I often get asked now that I have three children is, "How is it having three?"
I always respond that the transition from two to three has by far been the easiest.
Maybe it's because Crew is the most low-maintenance baby on the planet. Or maybe I'm more relaxed as a parent. Or just accustomed to the chaos.
But mostly, it's because once Crew was born, I finally felt human again.
I remember vividly a fall day just over a year ago. I had mustered up the energy to meet up with friends at a park. One of my friends, who is the sweetest person in the world, was ranting about how difficult it was to cram in dinner and homework and extracurricular activities with her four children each night.
I remember thinking in that moment that I would give anything, anything to trade places with her. Because even though her life was admittedly crazy, she felt good. She could actually make dinner for her family and drive them where they needed to be without keeling over.
That took place, of course, when I was basically bedridden and wondering how I was going to survive each day. I made a mental note that even when the inevitable craziness started swirling around in my life, I would not take for granted the ability to feel well and focus on things other than survival.
Now, whenever I start to feel overwhelmed with commuting to and from school, filling bellies, helping with homework, folding mounds of laundry, nursing a baby all day long, cranking out design work, and manning three active boys all by myself on the church bench every Sunday, I remember how I felt last year at this time and remind myself that nothing, nothing could be worse.
Many events this fall triggered flashbacks to being pregnant again. I have some serious aversions associated with many autumn activities. The start of school and the events associated with that literally made feel nauseous at times. I can't ever look at a rake again and even going to the pumpkin patch was a stretch.
Coming from where I was a year ago, I have a whole new perspective on having three children. In fact, it's a breeze in comparison.
I'm feeling especially grateful this fall to feel like myself again. Even if it means I had to resume cooking dinner for my family.