Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Countdown to Christmas!

Well, I haven't posted in almost a month...again...because we've just been too darn busy.  Work, three kids, holiday fun...I can't keep up and I certainly can't get enough sleep to save my life, so the blog totally takes a back seat.  However, last night my saint of a mother kept Margot and Sylvia overnight, so I was able to wrap up all of my last minute to-do's AND go out to dinner with Sylvain and Albert AND watch a real, honest to goodness, start to finish MOVIE after Albert went to bed.  I know.  Miracles do happen. 

That means tonight is the calm before the storm!  The girls as so excited about Christmas.  Sylvia has asked me every night if Christmas is "the day after tomorrow," even though we have two advent calendars that clearly count down the days until Christmas.  Tonight I got to tell her...YES!  It IS the day after tomorrow and I don't know which one of us was more excited. 

Now, if I'm not careful, I could really overdo it on the holiday memory making.  It seems like every year there are more and more opportunities to go on outings and get good family photos.  When Sylvain and I look at the calendar each week, we make decisions based on two things: 1. How will the event impact our kids' sleep? and 2. Will we be sad we missed it a year from now?  We ended up with a few, very meaningful, fun and priceless events!  Here's our holiday countdown recap:

Cincinnati Zoo's Festival of Lights

We will do this every year and we'll do it as early as humanly possible!  This year we went the day before Thanksgiving and it was a good plan.  I like taking the kids to see Santa early to get that job out of the way!  Then Santa has plenty of time to shop for the big ticket items, and the kids can't change their minds because...."Hey!  You've already seen Santa and you told him you wanted ____!"  It's a win-win.  

This year we waited in line for about 20 minutes.  The suspense and buildup were a little too much for Sylvia to take and she got loopy by the end.  All she did was giggle and stare once she got there, but she managed to eke out a viable request.  Margot, however, shocked me.  I was holding her hand right before we stepped onto Santa's platform.  I looked down at her and said, "Here we go!" and she stopped dead in her tracks, looked me right in the eyes and said, as clearly as the day is short...."I'M NOT READY, MOMMY! I'M NOT READY!"  And to think I used to worry about her language skills.  I wanted to bend down, pick her up, and run away from there, just the two of us - Thelma and Louise style.  But instead, I told her, "It's okay, honey.  I'll go with you.  Let's go together!"  Once we got up there and she saw that Sylvia and Albert were okay with The Big Man, she was fine.  Still very skeptical and quite wary about the whole thing, but she was fine.  She told him she wanted a blanket.  Sigh.  I wanted to tell him, "Santa, listen.  We have blankets.  We just don't have commercials in our house, so that's all she can think of."  Poor Little Middle Margot. 

The rest of the evening was so nice...roasted almonds, fake snow, a visit with Santa's Reindeer.  Sylvia wasn't convinced that Santa really came to Cincinnati until she saw the reindeer.  She held firm to the idea that it wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, so how could Santa possibly be taking requests (good girl, right?!).  But then she saw the reindeer and she decided that our zoo was the best place for Santa to start his Christmas Tour because WE have a spot for his reindeer.  Oh, the mind of a four year old!

I was thrilled that my Mom could go with us again this year, since we decided to go at the last minute.  The same thing happened last year and that's when I dropped the "so....did you know I was pregnant?" question, which we laughed about as we held a sweet Albert in our arms.  What a difference a year makes!

The girls were SO disappointed that the gingerbread houses didn't open.  They knocked FOREVER.

"Da Nut-quacker Ba-way"

My girls are obsessed with The Nutcracker.  They've watched ten different versions on You Tube, in English and French, ballet and cartoon versions.  Mamie Brigitte came up during the first week of December to join us for The Nutcracker at the School For Creative and Performing Arts.  Nevermind the fact that I drove to the WRONG PLACE and we were 20 minutes late.  I was almost in tears as I drove around Cincy in the pouring down rain with a 2 year old in the back seat screaming, "Where's DA NUT QUACKER BA WAY?!!!"  Fortunately, a guy was STILL talking on stage when we walked in and found our seats!  Another Christmas Miracle!  I couldn't believe it.  The girls LOVED every second of it, especially this photo op at intermission!

Saint Nick Day!

St. Nick filled our stockings on December 6th.  The girls had fun finding stickers and crafts and puzzles and coloring books.

Great Wolf Lodge

Mom and Jay decided to gift all of us a night at GWL in Mason, Ohio this year.  Let me tell you - that was a good idea!  Aside from being a lodge with a gigantic waterpark, they also decked the halls for Christmas.  Since I'm A BRILLIANT MOTHER, I dressed my kids in their Christmas clothes in the hopes we could snap a good picture for the Christmas card as soon as we got there and before we changed into bathing suits.  That was also a really good idea.  Behold, the cutest kids on the planet:

After an afternoon of swimming and a pizza dinner, we all met at Grammy and Poppie's room for the big present surprise....matching pajamas!  Mom is also a genius (now you know where I get it) and she packed a second gift for each kid that they were allowed to open if they sat still and smiled for pictures.  Worked like a charm!  Look at these beauties:

We had to pull in a stranger from the hallway to take the whole group photo, but it was fun.  We missed Jordan, though - he couldn't make it.  Maybe next year!

 I tried to get a few good shots of individuals and families.

After pictures, the kids got their goodie bags.  Coloring books and stickers.  God's greatest bounty!

My mom created a Christmas Trivia game for the older kids (2 - 5 year olds!).  I've said it once and I'll say it again - that woman missed her calling.  She should have been a preschool teacher.

We played "Pin the Star on the Tree" which turned into - put all your stickers on the tree!

The kids were up super late, and the grown ups had a *really* good time celebrating the season, if you know what I mean.  My siblings and I *may* have gone to the hotel bar in our matching pajamas.  We stayed to swim the entire next day and it was a magical weekend.

The rest of the month has been spent fighting off illness, building up a dwindling milk supply, and getting ready for Christmas!  We've been baking and wrapping and caroling and practicing for tomorrow night's pageant.  I can't remember EVER being this excited for Christmas to come...not even when I was little myself.  Albert's going to be baby Jesus, okay?  He performed beautifully during practices, as did his sisters.  Margot's "Joy to the World" is sure to land her a starring role on Broadway any day now.  Tonight I just sat back and watched ALL THREE of my kids up front in church and I shook my head because HOLY COW, how did this happen to me?  Never in a million years would I have guessed that the holidays could be this awesome.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The last week has been filled with all kinds of fun, topped off with a large helping of mashed potatoes at tonight's big turkey dinner at my aunt's house! 

Sylvia's preschool held their annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which includes a little performance in the church before the meal.  If you've never watched 3-5 year olds try to take turns singing, you're really missing out!  Her preschool has almost doubled in size since last year, which made for an awesome performance at St. Pat's!  My videos of the performance are pretty good, but not nearly as cute as being there in person.  I haven't uploaded them to YouTube yet, so I'll just post this one, which is better anyway:

Here she is practicing a couple nights before the big show!

Here's the opening prayer:

I have so much to be thankful for tonight.  I will never forget how I felt when Evan was deployed to Afghanistan and I constantly remind myself that that feeling was true gratitude.  While he was fighting in a scary, far away place, I was loading a dishwasher and folding laundry and wiping baby butts.  I remember folding one tiny sock over another one to keep them both together and suddenly my breath was taken away by how beautiful it was.  Everything I have and everything I am is a gift that does not go unappreciated.  When my head hits the pillow at night, I thank God for another beautiful day with this sweet little family we've made.  Since we never know what's around the corner, I've learned to thank God for the peace and happiness I feel rightthisverysecond.  Because I can't ask for more than that. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Albert: 4 Months

Albert's room doesn't get nearly as much light as Margot's did for her monthly pics, so his 3 month pics turned out terribly and I decided to skip that update altogether.  For his 4 month pics I just laid him on his favorite blanket in the family room and I am much more pleased with these photos!  I wish I had done this from the beginning!

Anyway, My Main Man is four whole months old already!  Sometimes that seems so big and sometimes it seems like he's been here forever - much longer than four tiny months.  He's going through quite a growth spurt, but I only know that because he's acting like a college frat boy - eating a ton and partying all night long until the breaka-breaka dawn.  At  his four month check up I was really expecting him to post some big stats, but alas...he's every bit as tiny as his wee sisters.  The doctor reassured me that all is well, he's meeting all of his milestones (and then some), and you can't ask for more than a happy, healthy baby!  Here's what Albert's been up to lately.

Likes:  nursing, grabbing things that are within arm's reach, especially things hanging from his playmat, sitting on laps and looking at faces, nursing, cooing and smiling at you to see if you'll return the favor, nursing, his blue dou dou bear, sleeping in the car, nursing, kicking his feet in the tub or on the floor, nursing.

Warming up to: the jumperoo, the bumbo, the bottle, sitting up on the couch or propped up on pillows

Dislikes: being left alone to fall asleep at night, loud noises, the Ergo carrier (especially if we try to make him face us, belly to belly - sometimes he tolerates facing out, but not for long), when everyone in the family tries to sit down and eat at the same time.

Life with Albert: The girls are still completely smitten with Albert.  Sylvia can change his diaper (!!!) and she loves to sing to him when he's fussy.  She is my little helper and she almost knows what I'm going to ask her to do before I ask it, as far as the baby's concerned.  Margot wants to do everything Sylvia can do, but she just isn't big enough, which frustrates her to no end.  I keep trying to find smaller tasks that she can do: if Sylvia gets to change his diaper, Margot gets to take off his socks!  If Sylvia wants to sing to him, Margot gets to push the swing.  The name of the game is delegating and giving each girl something responsible to do!  Otherwise we have bedlam on our hands and royal meltdowns ensue.

We are slowly adjusting to life with Mama back at work.  I can't begin to describe how wonderful it is to have a stay-at-home dad who takes care of all of their needs day in and day out.  Albert's nap schedule is starting to fall into place and because of that, Sylvain is able to plan his days around naps, feedings, preschool drop-off and pick-up, snacks, meals, tummy time, play time, clean up time....when I think about how much he does in a day I get exhausted!  On the flip side, when I get home from work, I try to nurse Albert (to avoid an evening pump session, if at all possible), play with the girls, help out with dinner, and orchestrate baths, snacks and bedtime.  Just like when the other two kids were this age, I feel like I'm rushing from the minute I wake up until the minute my head hits the pillow.

On a good day, this grind is satisfying and almost blissful - the kisses and questions and combing wet hair and pulling tight jammies over tired little heads and "Good night, Syl-veee-ya" and "I love you, Margot!" and songs and snuggles.....it's usually enough to make my heart burst.  But not all days are good days, and we have our fair share of whining and crying and sibling fights and wiping butts and crayons on the wall and "OH MY GOD YOU GAVE ME TOAST INSTEAD OF PLAIN BREAD, MY LIFE IS RUINED" meltdowns!  Those days are not fun.  But those days have an end and when I lay down at night I know that I have three healthy, happy kids upstairs and we all get another chance to love each other in the morning.

And on my worst days, I just spend a little extra time nursing Albert in the middle of the night.  If I'm brazen enough to make eye contact with him, he will smile and coo and remind me that, at our core, we are LOVE.  Eventually we have opinions and preferences, but as infants and starter-people....we are nothing but LOVE.  That boy is amazing.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Halloween Weekend!

This year's trick-or-treating was as exciting as we all expected.  Like last year, we invited the Reynolds' to come with us because it's more fun to run from house to house with your best friend.  However, we had so much fun with them last year that we thought it would be fun to invite more friends to join us this year, especially since it fell on a FRIIIDAAAYYYY!!!!  Unfortunately, three of the other families we invited had other plans, but FORTUNATELY our best Stella girl could make it!  Having friends over for Halloween is THE BEST because we all ate dinner before the kids left, we filled up our solo cups with adult beverages for the long trick-or-treat haul around the neighborhood, then by night fall we were all back in the house, watching Curious George, eating candy, and finishing our adult beverages!  It was a win-win for everybody.

 I didn't get many good pictures at all, but I did get a great one of all the kids and Mamie before we left!  Albert was the cutest little pumpkin you ever did see, but he was sleeping when we started trick-or-treating.  Oh well!

 We did run into our buddies, Leah and Nate!  By this point, Margot had lost the caterpillar costume.

It was cold out, but at least it wasn't raining!  By the time it was dark, all the kiddos were back inside, which meant they really only trick-or-treated for about an hour.  They wanted to watch the Curious George Halloween special, so we fired up Netflix and let the good times roll!  Margot looks quite suspicious in the picture above.  No one dared to touch her candy.

Mamie and Albert had a dandy time!  She stayed all weekend to watch the kids for us on Saturday night while I sang with my old a capella group in Lexington, then we all went to Disney on Ice on Sunday! 

I also don't have many pics at all from the wonderful 20 year reunion concert in Lexington.  I should write a separate blog post about it, but Laura did a darn good job of saying everything I would have said.  It all boils down to this: the UK Women's Choir was my first and only experience with choral music.  I was thrilled to be a part of it 15 years ago.  Standing in the middle of 100 beautiful voices, under the steadfast direction of Dr. Hetzel, is one of my life's greatest memories.  Consequently, singing with Paws and Listen, a select group of 16 girls, was the icing on the cake.  That's where I met one of my very best friends and we've spent the last 12 years navigating life together, through boyfriends, husbands, careers and kids.  We discovered last weekend that no matter how long we've been away from our alma matter, there will always be a space in our hearts for that group of amazing women.  I cried a lot.  I closed my eyes and desperately tried to soak up the sound around me and imprint the vibrations onto my very bones.  There's nothing like it.  I was honored to be a part of it, and I was so excited to sing on stage in front of Sylvain and Sylvia!  They came down for the show, and while I have NO pictures of myself on stage, I'm not sure they would be very good ones anyway because all I did was smile and snap.  Here are some pictures of our girls waiting for the show.  Sylvia has since declared that Ellie is her best friend.

One more great story from that night: After the alum sang with the current Paws members, the old ladies left the stage so the current group could sing three new songs.  One of them was Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."  Sylvia LOVES that song, so I tiptoed up to the curtain back stage and looked out at her in her seat.  She and Ellie were sitting on the very, very edge of their seats and Sylvia was bouncing along and singing every word.  That was the highlight of her night.  I don't mind one bit!

Finally, our awesome weekend ended with a trip to Disney On Ice with Mamie.  The girls had so much fun and I did, too!  I had Margot on my lap the whole time.  It was her first show and she was totally enthralled with the whole experience.  She kept shouting, "Mommy, look!" and pointing at every new character that arrived.  And, I'm telling you, I know every word to every Disney song, and I've seen Frozen 4 gazillion times, but when Elsa and Anna started singing together I totally cried. 

And that's our whirlwind Halloween weekend in a nutshell.  Next up, Albert's 4 month checkup!  Spoiler alert: he's the tiniest Fasciotto by far.  Womp womp.....