Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday Redux

Christmas happened! Days ago now, but I'm not sure it really happened until there's a blog post about it.

I love Christmas, a lot, and I love my family and I really love their new spacious lake house, so Christmas with my family at the new lake house should have been a few days of LagLiv perfection, but unfortunately I started getting sick the night before we were supposed to leave and I stayed sick until the day after we got back. The kids had a marvelous time and magical memories were still made, but oy I felt like crap for the majority of them.

But never fear, too many pictures are still about to be shared here:


My sister and her boyfriend got engaged the night before they drove to the lake (yay!), so we were all excited about that, and we celebrated by taking an updated family picture. The above version isn't actually the best one, but it is my favorite.

As tradition dictates, we drove back to the Kingwood house for church and Christmas Eve dinner- approximately two hours in the car for four hours in our childhood town, but it's important. I'm not sure Christmas Eve even happens if flank steak isn't consumed in our formal dining room.

fancy Christmas kids!

When we pulled up to the house, my beloved childhood home where we moved just before I started Kindergarten and my brother was born, my own children couldn't figure out what we were doing there. What was this house? When did Papa and Gigi come there? On holidays? And I realized- nowadays we only visit them at the lake house and Landon and Claire only see the Kingwood one for a few hours once a year on Christmas Eve. My home, and the house my parents still live at 90% of the time, meant nothing to them- "Papa and Gigi's house" was the one on the lake. Weird.

Cora thinks it's weird too (Beautiful dress from my law school friends!)

The kids got to open their first present before church- Christmas jammies! Three sets! We drove back to the lake after service in comfort and style.


In my family we open all the presents on Christmas Eve (Santa only on Christmas morning; I like breaking things up, and of course, as a kid, I loved opening presents a few hours earlier than most of my friends!), and Claire's first present was this treasure from Landon:


It was a beautiful art project he'd made in school and he wrapped it all by himself. He is a 6-year-old boy and occasionally frustrating as all hell, but he is also seriously the sweetest. We took our turns opening presents- with my mom, dad, sister, brother, soon-to-be-brother-in-law, me, JP, Landon, Claire, and Cora, it took a while, which is normally my favorite thing- drinking wine, snacking, listening to Christmas pandora stations, but on that particular night my throat was on fire and my sinuses were both clogged and draining and I really wanted to be in bed. But again, the kids, the kids had a marvelous time. (Except Cora, who was in bed, but I'm sure she was dreaming happy dreams.)


Claire was adorably diplomatic with her presents, with each one she opened she'd excitedly exclaim, "this was just what I always wanted for Christmas!" And then she opened this baby from my parents and I think it really was- she stood like this for minutes after opening her baby. A baby promptly named Cora.


Before they could go to sleep (at 10:30 pm! possibly the latest they've ever been up EVER), we had to sprinkle the reindeer food Claire made at school. They were careful to spread it out because, as everyone knows, the reindeer are hooked up on harnesses and it would be hard to share if it was just in a pile.


They didn't forget Santa. Apparently Landon felt he was a patriotic fellow.


Christmas morning came, as did Santa. Claire got an adorable diaper bag and some clothes for her baby dolls and Landon got a big marble run set. Cora got some squeezy blocks and a red bow on her head. She wasn't sure how she felt about either.


My brother wore the hand-knit (not by me) fish hat that we gave him for Christmas. He also wore it out partying last night and may wear it to work tomorrow. His was the first Christmas present I bought this year because as soon as I saw it, I knew it must go on his head.


Despite feeling crappy, it really was a lovely holiday. My parents were amazing hosts as always, and there was lots of fun, family (lots of extended family visited on the 23rd), and delicious food. We drove back on the 26th with a car filled to bursting with children, suitcases, snacks, baby gear, and presents. I love our Highlander, but we do stretch it to its limits. I started feeling better the day after we got back, of course, and we've spent the last few days going on various outings- park, zoo, gardens, etc.- around Fort Worth. I've discovered the best way to keep a peaceful home during a long winter break is to never actually be home.


In other adventures, I went to the gym at our local YMCA yesterday, my first time in a gym since Claire was born. Since I was largely surrounded by octogenarians, I was feeling pretty good about my physical fitness, at least until I got on a treadmill and felt my heart rate get way too high while walking not very fast. But JP told me I looked cute in my new TJ Maxx workout gear and that's pretty much half the point of the attempt at exercise.

I hope you all had wonderful, cold and sinus-infection-free holiday!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Santa Babies and Other Holiday Fun

We purchased Cora a special newborn sized Santa suit just so we could complete this trio:


It's a tradition Cora was largely unimpressed with, but she wore her suit with style and mostly good humor (as long as she wasn't in the papasan for more than 30 seconds at a time, anyway). As you can see, we did finally decide to decorate a tree. I found this tiny fake one we used to use when we lived in Chicago, put it on a table, put the tree skirt underneath, turned on some Christmas tunes, and let the kids go to town. Landon and Claire were thrilled and given that we head out of town tomorrow, I think it worked out to be an excellent use of resources. Next year though, the tree is going to be Big.

this picture cracks me up; it was also the best out of five

In other holiday fun, Claire had her Christmas Program on Friday night and she did great! I was by myself with Landon and car-seat-hating Cora, but after some initial reluctance that gave me visions of last year's ballet recital, Claire allowed Landon to walk her to her classroom for warm-up and then marched on stage with her class just like the teachers always assure me she does in the rehearsals! She was a penguin for the recitation of a Christmas themed "Brown Bear Brown Bear" and then sang Jingle Bells with great gusto. Landon also ended up on stage as one Transition class member was stuck in traffic. He performed well, as always (Landon loves a stage), and just looked like the world's tallest 3-year-old.


After last week's Santa-debacle at Sundance Square, we decided we'd drive over to the Dallas Arboretum in frigid weather early in the morning to make use of their Santa and the membership we bought at Halloween. As it turns out, no one wants to go to a giant garden on a lake with high winds in 28 degree weather and we had the whole place- including Santa- all to ourselves!


Cora is such a third baby. I think it was only 25 degrees out when we arrived. Santa is totally judging us.


Santa's reindeer also flew in for the occasion and Vixen was probably the only one perfectly pleased with the day's weather.


It had poured rain all day yesterday and the kids had so much energy we nearly had to kill them (at one point JP made them lay down on the floor with their arms above their heads. I walked in and asked what was going on and he said, "Oh, it's a new punishment. I really just wanted their bodies to be still."), so even though it was freezing and windy, we headed deeper into the gardens to let them run. Cora, snug in her snow suit, with a blanket over the car seat, and fast asleep because we were able to drive fast on the highway, didn't seem to mind.


We found ourselves in the new Children's Adventure Garden and it was AMAZING. Amazing. If you go to the Arboretum, find it, pay the extra $1-2 (free for members; or the employees were just too cold to collect the extra buck, I'm not sure). Today we were the only people there, so for two hours, we go to pretend like we owned the place.


There was a giant log, waterfalls, a vegetable slide, vegetable gardens, a giant kaleidoscope, an area you could design your own garden, a path inscribed with the Fibonacci sequence (squee! math nerd), solar panels, a wind tunnel, a giant planetarium, and exhibits on every outdoor biological/ecosystem/planetary/meteorological type thing you can imagine.


And, my favorite part, a giant tree house with nets hanging off the side you could jump and lounge in.

inside the tree!


We went inside the "plant lab" so Cora could emerge from hibernation and drink a bottle.


And then we went back out to explore and run some more.

And then we came home and everyone ended up in timeouts much too soon. But now our bags are packed, the kids are in bed, our presents are wrapped, and our stockings that were hung by the chimney with care will travel with us to the lake.


Five stockings! I'm still getting used to that.

I hope everyone reading has a wonderful holiday week full of family, food, and fun, and a minimum of tantrums and timeouts. Merry Christmas you guys!

Friday, December 20, 2013

6-Week All Clear

I had my 6-week check-up today. It's actually 5.5 weeks, but I get to round up because 6 weeks falls on Christmas Eve and the office is closed (plus, we'll be at the lake). All is good and I got the all clear to do all the things, including exercise, which is a bummer because it means that now I have to exercise. I had already gone against doctor recommendations and done everything else I wanted to do- sex, lifting heavy objects, scalding hot bubble baths, etc. But exercise... I really felt like I needed to wait for the doctor's okay on that one. And now I have it, so I can ratchet up my feelings of guilt when I sit on the couch watching TV while my yoga mat and free weights sit just on the periphery of my vision. Sigh. But I do need to get into ski trip/work pants shape by February, and I have reached the point where the feelings of relief and joy at no longer being pregnant are fading and being replaced by a mental frowning at the jiggly state of my midsection.

(I also got a wry little lecture about birth control because unless it's mindless we are utterly irresponsible about these things and my doctor shared stories of how many "pull and pray" babies she delivers every year in addition to how many "born within 10-11 months" siblings she delivers every year and yeah, my IUD appointment is now scheduled for first thing next Friday morning, which is the first weekday we're back in town from Christmas. Yay for modern mindless birth control and insurance that covers it!)

Anyway, speaking of birth control, Cora has been much happier the last few days! But just for posterity I took this picture of her feeling super mad on Tuesday:


Chubby cheeks of fury right there.

On Thursday she went to lunch with me and my coworker friends and slept the whole time (probably because she exhausted herself screaming in the car on our 40 mph drive over to the restaurant) and then insisted that I hold her for the rest of the afternoon. I finally had to take a picture to document how we spend much of our days- with her plastered to my chest, one arm wrapped around me, and her other hand clenching some part of my clothing. Even on her totally happy days, she'll wake up a little early from each nap- she's not hungry yet, she just wants to cuddle. And cuddle we do.


The outfit I'm wearing above is part of my rotating fall/winter maternity leave stretchy pant wardrobe. Every day involves (1) stretchy pants (I have these leggings from Old Navy in dark red, grey, and black; they aren't the finest, but if you buy them with a discount code you really can't go wrong); (2) a tunic-y top (a denim shirt, a white button down men's style shirt, long sweaters, actual tunics, sweater dresses, loose slinky t-shirts, old college swimming gear, and zip up fleece sweatshirts all look great); and (3) flat boots. Somehow, no matter what you put on top, if you have the leggings and boots, you end up looking pretty put together and only you know how ridiculously comfy you are at the same time. It's awesome.

As for boots, after an exhaustive search and many online purchases and in-store returns, I finally found this flat pair. They're real leather and have truly narrow calves (not fake narrow calves like many a pair I tried) and I bought them with a $25 discount code and $20 in rewards coupons. I LOVE them and wear them everyday.


But back to Cora. Today has been a calm, happy day. Mostly because she hasn't had to sit in her carseat and go anywhere, but also because except for a few days earlier this week, she really is a pretty calm, happy baby. This was my view looking down into my arms an hour ago:

Then she switched to my legs.


And then she decided she was hungry. You should know that the time stamps on these two pictures are exactly 7 seconds apart.

But I understand because when I'm ready for lunch I am READY for lunch.

And now that Cora is back down for her next 4 hour nap (which I'll have to interrupt to put her in the hated car seat to pick up Landon and get to Claire's school in time to change her for her Christmas Program at 5), I think I'm going to go make cinnamon rolls in the kitchen. I need to get away from the judgey eyes of my yoga mat and I've decided homemade cinnamon rolls are going to be a new but vital part of our Christmas morning tradition!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


The post I would have written on Monday night if I hadn't decided to take a bath and go to bed at 7:58 p.m.

~ ~ ~

I'm trying to decide the worst thing about tonight and why I feel an unholy combination of annoyed at myself, annoyed at JP, annoyed at my kids, annoyed at myself for how I acted with my kids, and annoyed at both the higher powers of the universe and my basic kitchen plumbing. It's not even that things were so terrible, they weren't completely awful, but the level of sheer ANGER and annoyance I felt by the time JP walked in the door at 7:00 to the dinner we were halfway through was something that can't yet be measured by science. And then I was annoyed at myself for being so damn annoyed and mad and that is when I turned to the wine and an early bedtime. It was best for everyone.

It started on Sunday night when JP made me mad. He very rarely makes me mad, like I can probably count all the times on my two hands, but he did and it was legitimate and he didn't fix it fast enough and the mad woke up with me on Monday. Also on Sunday, our kitchen sink broke. It stopped up and gross sewagey water spewed up from both basins. It was disgusting and smelly and brought the kitchen to a halt. I had no idea how central the kitchen sink was to our life until I walked over to it 1,000 times in the first 12 hours it was broken only to find a large amount of brownish water staring back at me. We called 3 plumbers and the earliest one could get it us was Wednesday morning.

So on Monday we used paper plates (no washing dishes) and I picked up two trays of Stouffers meals I wouldn't have to dirty anything to make. We cleaned bottles in the bathroom sink, wiped off serving utensils with damp paper towels, slowly loaded up a dishwasher we couldn't run, and waited for Wednesday. I'm proud to say we didn't eat out once. I'm less proud to say I burned the shit out of my hand pulling the 400 degree baking pan with the foil tray of baked ziti out of the oven Monday night. Both big kids were fighting non-stop -- NON-STOP -- and because they never do that I had no ready way of dealing with it on from a discipline or general sanity perspective. Cora also cried non-stop. NON-STOP. I think she might have reflux. She cried the whole time we were in the car picking up the kids, cried her way through her pre-dinner bottle that is supposed to put her to sleep so I can make dinner, and cried for the next 60 minutes after her bottle while I tried to hold/bounce her, keep the ice pack on my burnt palm, yell at lovingly parent the other children, pour/drink wine, and complete our baked ziti dinner with garlic bread and microwaved steamed vegetables. JP walked in the door right after I finally got everyone seated at the table with dinner and beverages served on disposable plates, my wine was poured in a clear plastic cup, Cora was whimpering but not screaming, and I was on my third ice pack because my burn kept making the other ones get warm too quickly.

The worse part was maybe that I couldn't hold my poor sad baby and keep the ice pack on my hand AND take a sip of my wine. The baby and ice took precedence (which shows how bad the burn was) so I just stared glumly at the wine 12 inches from my face while the kids ate silently under the gaze of my death stare. I passed Cora to JP, shot my wine, put the big kids in bed, and then took a nice bath with my much calmer baby and put myself in bed by 8.

Tuesday was better.

~ ~ ~

Today was excellent. I'm no longer mad at JP, my sink was fixed this morning, and one of my very best friends drove over from Austin with her girls to visit me! Sometimes all I need is a giant dose of outside-this-house human contact (and a functioning sink). Cora is much happier- she slept great the last two nights (6 hour stretches!) and has been back to her sweet snuggly CALM self. The big kids are coloring together in the playroom and I've only heard fighting words twice. I have a real meal cooking on the stovetop- a meal I made and will serve on real dishes that I (actually, probably JP) will wash. My burn is healed enough to open and close my hand like a normal non-lobstery person and I am sipping my wine slowly instead of guzzling it like a dying man in the dessert.

It is a much better day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sugary and Magical

We still haven't decorated a tree (or purchased a tree, which is what's really getting in the way of the decorating, but after the icepocalypse forced us to cancel our tree farm plans 10 days ago I've had a hard time putting it back on the schedule and at this point, we're only 7 days away from packing up our holiday spirit and driving to my parents' lake house for Christmas, so is it really worth spending $$ on a tree for it's few days of family room glory? Then again, when I can dress a baby in a Santa suit and the kids can hang homemade ornaments while we all sing to the Pandora holiday station, will I really miss those $$ in the long run? I honestly can't decide.), but we did do my most sacred of holiday traditions this past weekend- sugar cookies!

That's right- the many hour long marathon of cookie dough making, chilling, rolling, cutting, baking, and decorating. If it wasn't so damn important to me (and it is) or so damn fun and delicious for the kids (and it is that too), I'd probably talk myself in to skipping it most years. But the power of my own childhood memories of sugar cookie day combined with the powers of cookie dough and sugar frosting taste tests get me through.

But first, we went on a family walk. Or tried to. Turns out, it was only 35 degrees outside and Cora looked at me like I was crazy.


Then Claire decided that riding her bike was making her sooo tired and we just need to go back home mommy. So we girls turned around after about 0.12 miles and the boys and Tex continued on an actual walk.

Cora still doesn't know what she's doing out there

Claire did help me with the rolling of the cookie dough. Sort of. Mostly she just really wanted to help and kept inserting her little body between me and the counter, so I kept having to let her.


After the cookies were baked we moved on to the decorating. I optimistically divided the naked cookies among the four of us, but I knew I'd end up icing 95% of them, no matter how many times Claire told me she was going to decorate SO MANY cookies Mommy.


Ten minutes later she'd eaten the one cookie she'd managed to fully ice, dunked another cookie directly into the icing, thoroughly licked two icing knives, and tried VERY hard to put sprinkles on a still-naked snowman. She was kicked off the table when she licked her third icing knife, but she remained part of the family fun by doing creative dances around the table to the Christmas tunes being piped through the speakers. She is a treasure, and I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever.


Landon, who was born with an extra dose of patience, stayed the course and decorated with great care. He actually finished 2.5x more cookies than his father who is terrible and makes no attempt to improve.


Cora woke up about halfway through and was very sad that she couldn't have a cookie. Next year Cora!

We finished the day with frozen pizzas eaten in the TV room while watching Home Alone and I discovered a crisp Sauvignon Blanc goes great with three sugar cookies. A perfect end to the day.

On Sunday we decided to take the kids to see the Santa in Sundance Square downtown. We never did Santa last year- my firm always held a kids' Christmas party with Santa, so we'd never had to seek one out on our own and I just forgot. We were all set to go after lunch with Cora dressed in a cute little holiday outfit involving leggings and a ruffled tunic when she threw up all over it as we walked out the door. Luckily, I had back-up options.

Kindly tolerating the papasan chair so we can clean up her mess

Much less luckily, everyone in Fort Worth decided to see Santa yesterday. The line was so long and after 20 minutes of waiting and not moving while the kids ran around the square we decided to pull the plug. Our dedication to Christmas magic really only goes so far when sugar isn't involved. We promised the kids we'd come back next weekend, much earlier in the day, and we treated them to Sonic Happy Hour on the way home to make up for it. But first, we put the kids' on a decoration right next to the Santa exhibit and took a picture, just in case we don't make it back.


Claire had insisted on wearing her snow boots, because Santa lives in the snow (duh), and she even let me do her hair for the occasion. Landon is excited about slushies and Cora has no idea what is going on, but she's pretty sure she's not being cuddled properly.

I love this month so much!

Friday, December 13, 2013

1 Month

Cora turned one-month old yesterday! We got dressed in our fanciest fleeces and headed out the door for our doctor appointment at 8:00 a.m.


Cora did great with her check-up. She tolerates being naked better than her big siblings did and though she kept a look of general suspicion on her face for the whole exam, she did not cry.


Until her HepB shot anyway. Then she screamed in an totally overly dramatic manner and continued to whimper long after she could possibly have remembered what made her upset. A bit of a drama queen, that one. But her stats are great! She's growing like crazy- up to 22.5" long (90th percentile; she grew 2.5" in 4 weeks, which I find pretty amazing) and she's broken into the double digits for weight- 10 lbs. 5 oz. (75th percentile; I'm very proud of her new double chin and chubby cheeks). Her head remains the smallest of my babies, falling in the 65th percentile. We drove through Starbucks on the way home so mommy could get her first chai tea latte since the icepocalypse and then went home for lots of post-shot cuddles (just because she was milking it didn't mean I wasn't happy to oblige :)).


We got our proofs from our newborn portraits earlier this week and I just love them. I'm so glad- this was my big Christmas present to myself and I wanted so much to capture the genuine enchantment we all felt for our "new baby Cora," especially in those early days. She was 6 days old when we took these pictures and I think it came through.


Landon and Claire continue to adore her. The other night when I was putting them to bed Landon realized he hadn't gotten to hold baby Cora (like it was with Claire, it's always "babyCora," one word) all day and he was so sad that I let him get out of bed and snuggle with her for a few minutes. Claire holds her a little less- she's really not quite big enough to handle her as easily as Landon does, but she is still extremely attentive to her baby sister. Any time we talk about anything, Cora's name comes up- either because "Cora gets to go too, Mommy!" or "Cora will do [x] when she's bigger" or "will baby Cora get to come?!" She's very much a part of everything Claire thinks about and Claire is always there to show her a toy or pat her head or tell her that "everything is going to be alright babyCora" whenever she cries.


We're still largely in the getting to know you phase, but we've figured out a few of Cora's likes and dislikes. She likes (LOVES) to be held upright on your chest or shoulder so she can snuggle in like a little wombat and snore. She also likes to be sat in your lap and bent in half over your arm. This is the only other acceptable holding position, and she'll snuggle into your hand and fall asleep there as well.


She loves her bottles and attacks them like a baby piranha. She is a sloppy eater and she is FURIOUS when you move the bottle to wipe her mouth. She is still on regular formula, making her the first and only one of my babies to make it to one month without being switched to a super expensive hypoallergenic version. In gratitude, Santa picked her up an extra Christmas present at Target yesterday.


She sleeps pretty well at night, at least for a 4 week old. She's no Claire, terrifying us with an 8-hour nighttime sleeping marathon at 10 days old, but she gets up every 4 hours to eat and goes right back to sleep. We're hoping those intervals will start stretching out, but at least she seems to understand that nighttime is the sleep time and daytime is the party time.


She has a love/hate relationship with the car. She loves to drive fast on the highway and will fall into a dormant state for as long as you stay above 55 mph. Unfortunately, all the daily driving I do with her is just quick trips to school and daycare and the store, all of which are less than 3 miles away and involve a lot of stop signs and speed limits under 40. So basically she screams the whole time. This upsets her big siblings far more than it bothers me and both of them spend the whole ride trying to sing to her and shake her car seat and otherwise calm her down, which actually makes more noise than the yelling infant. But it is sweet.


Cora LOVES baths. She takes them with me, snuggled on my chest or resting on my legs with a big warm wash cloth draped over her. We both think this is delightful and often spend up to 20 minutes soaking and singing songs and relaxing in the watery warmth. She is a very sweet and slippery addition to my evening bath time routine.


For entertainment, Cora likes for you to sing to her 8 inches from her face, move her arms around slowly, and kiss her cheeks. That's her favorite. She will tolerate the play gym for about 10 minutes, which enables me to do individual steps of dinner. She hates the swing with a screamy passion and tolerated our neighbors' MamaRoo for a whole 5 minutes before yelling at that too. The papasan chair was acceptable for the first three weeks, but she doesn't like it much now unless someone is talking and singing to her while she sits in it. Landon and Claire are excellent at that little duty, and not just because the existence of dinner depends on it.


My favorite time of the day is when she wakes an hour early for her morning bottle so she can snuggle with me in bed. JP gets the big kids up, dressed, fed, and takes them to school, so I get to stay in bed, and every morning for the past two weeks Cora has woken up only 2 hours after her last bottle instead of 3 and I swear it's just because she knows that's the one time I'll pick her up out of the bassinet and put her in our bed. We snuggle under my covers, and I hover between sleep and awake, savoring the way she relaxes again as soon as she's on my skin.


All in all, Cora just fits right into our little family life and routine, with maybe a few dozen interruptions for snuggles, bottles, and some "you tried to put me in a warm, comfortable, specially made baby entertaining device" protest crying. As with Claire, it's not quite right to say we were missing something before she arrived, because that doesn't feel true, but she undoubtedly makes our family feel even more complete. A little bigger, a little crazier, and a lot more cuddle-filled.


When we were thinking about trying for #3 Becca told me that life with 3 was "beautiful chaos" and I think that's exactly right. And it's only going to get more beautiful and more chaotic as we move along. Happy 1 month Cora Linnae!