Monday, December 29, 2008

... (sigh) ...

Well, I made it. I survived the Christmas break and at 4 am on Monday morning I'm anticipating going back to work. How many people would say that if they woke from their dreams right now? I love my job! It is a wonderful place to work, fun work for me to do, and a peaceful retreat to recharge from the insanity of home. Yes, even during catalog season!

I do love my boys - all 4 of them (James, Nathan, Evan & Niles)! But it sure is a crazy (and demanding) house these days. With New Years next week, I guess I'm feeling a little reflective and a lot of anticipation for a new year. If you know me well, you know I never make resolutions (I hate them as much as goals) but I am looking forward to the next year. It will be fun to do so many things but most of all I cannot wait to be done pumping! I will miss the early morning time on the computer - really. It's a pain to get up in the middle of the night and tiring but I get so much done and do get a quiet hour most days. I love the quiet and miss it sometimes. As quiet as the hum of my pump and occasional meowing cats will allow. Still, I am SO ready to be done pumping. It has been so very hard to do this time around. The yeast infection, struggle to make enough, technical problems with pumps, being so tired I ache inside, making the world stop every three hours to pump for 45 minutes, struggling to find privacy, pumping during almost every meal, having to tell Nathan & Evan - not now I'm pumping, eating and drinking as much as I physically can and stressing over how much milk do we have today, not to mention it just plain hurts. If you know a woman who is breast feeding, give her praise and encouragement - often! She needs it. I think this is the hardest thing I have ever done because it is so long term, all consuming and I feel like I am fighting my body! With pregnancy, my body did stuff whether I was "there" or not. Most of it was out of my control. With birth the doctors were in charge, my body was numb and it went pretty quick. With this, if I lose focus for just a moment - miss suppliments, eating, drinking, sleeping or a pump time I significantly lose my milk and have to fight to get it back. All that with a hungry baby crying. AHHHH!

But Evan turned 9 months old on Sunday! Such a blessing, and it means that I only have 3 more months to do this! (That's every day, every three hours for 3 months without fail...but I've come so far and I will do it! Good thing I'm stubborn and determined.) It's hard to believe Evan is 9 months old. That time has flown by in some ways. He's such a healthy, happy active little boy with a beautiful smile and big eyes that strangers comment on constantly. He can make me crazy when he refuses to nap, spins circles in your arms and cries like his heart is breaking but I love him lots! He's so sweet and funny.

Sits up with a perfectly straight back, crawls with a purpose and determination, is very busy and one serious player, loves the TV - don't get in his way!, and smiles/laughs with his mouth with his mouth open wide - teeth sparkling brightly.

He had a really nice Christmas and handled his first really well. He was a little overwhelmed by the number of presents and I think got a little tired of opening them. But he loved the wrapping paper and ripping it to shreds. Plus he got some great toys and really made out like a bandit - a car transporter with 4 cars, a musical walker, cool rolling ball that sings the abcs and songs, squirter toys a fire truck that is yummy to chew just to mention a few toys.

Nathan had a blast this Christmas too. In his mind everything came from Santa. He loved opening all the presents and there is never enough of them for him! He has spent two days playing with the new Thomas trains and track! There were lots of cars, trucks, lizards and a cool remote control spider!

He got a fun big wheel type tricycle called a Road Monster but he's a little too small for it right now so it is not as fun as it could be. Just wait, he'll be tearing up the sidewalks this summer!

He also got a really great scooter from Grandma & Grandpa Beebe which he is already an expert at!

A much loved stuffed Meerkat is being clutched right now as he sleeps in his big boy bed

and he's had enough candy and cookies to send anyone into a sugar comma!

All in all it was a good break. We had a few mornings to sleep late, an occasional nap, lots of good food and the house is a wreck but we couldn't ask for more. Except for the family we missed seeing. I wish we could travel more! One more reason to look forward to the end of pumping (it makes any activity a logistical nightmare when you have to pump at 7, 10, 1, and 4 around the clock). And a reason to save our pennies.

Well, time to scoot back into bed for an hour of sleep before getting up for work. I'm so out of my routine after a week off that I'm not sure I'll remember everything I need to do. Hopefully Evan is back to sleep enough that James will come back to bed too. Evan's been sleeping through the night most days during the break but will still have that occasional waking for a bottle and will often do that for a few nights in a row. It will be so nice when he is sleeping like Nathan who almost never wakes and when he does goes back to sleep on his own. But we're getting there...trying to savor every moment and anticipating easier days (and nights).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas To All!

Well, 3 days to Christmas and there is still so much to be done! I know at this point a few details will get missed, we will do our best to get what we can done and the boys will have a good time and never know the difference! Still, I am grateful to be off for Christmas break. One of the great benefits of working at a college is the week off at Christmas. I will need it to get anything done! I'm feeling so behind in all areas of life and it's starting to show. Anyone notice that you haven't gotten our Christmas card & letter yet? Yeah, working on it right now. I'm babysitting the printer at home so the letter will print without taking the whole day and we are waiting for the package from Winkflash to arrive! I've never been so late on it. If all goes well, the package will arrive on Monday, we can stuff them all on Monday night and I can rush them off to the post office Tuesday morning. When's Christmas?!?

Oh well. The card and letter will arrive, be read and enjoyed, commented on and maybe create some smiles. The only thing we will really miss out on is a few days of display with the other cards that arrived. We will try to do better next year!

We worked a visit to Santa in last weekend that went better than expected. Nathan had a great time, he's much more savvy this year and was ready to ask Santa for what he wanted. He also brought along his "Christmas" lizard to show Santa.

When we went to Julie's party we finally got to meet her friend Summer who also has little boys. She saw Nathan's lizard (a favorite toy to bring on errands) and told James about a book called The Christmas Lizard. It's very good and lots of fun for little boys!

I was concerned about Evan and how he would do with Santa. I hate the photos of crying children on Santa's lap. James thinks it's funny, but I think it's sad. Santa should be fun and if it's not then it shouldn't be forced on children. Think about it, we teach our children to avoid strangers but then once a year we run them up to a strange man and plop them on his knee to take photos. To a young child that probably doesn't make a lot of sense.

We got there early, were third in line and Evan was fast asleep. Nathan and James ran off to the play area while I stayed in line to think through the logistics, ponder the day, avoid a sun beam that kept shining in my eyes and chat with an older Mom who was discussing why her son would not get a blackberry for Christmas! It was my hope to get a photo of Santa with Nathan (probably not a problem), one with Evan (questionable since he is starting to get seperation anxiety) and one with both the boys (highly unlikely if Evan wasn't on board with the whole event). The prices were outrageous for one 5x7 but I was paying for the opportunity to take as many photos as my little camera would snap while the sales lady bugs me to look at what she took - usually not as good as mine. Before we knew it, Santa arrived and we were next in line. I started my paparazzi act while James juggled the kids. Nathan first - looking good, smiling great and showing off the lizard. Then plop Evan on Santa's lap for a group shot. He did amazingly well. He was very curious, looked Santa over very intently and gave him a big smile and then even smiled for the camera. Then Nathan hoped down and we got some more really great smiles from Evan with Santa. (note the Christmas Lizard shoes!)

In the morning, I am off with the boys to Grandma's house and we are all going to the mall for a train exhibit. We took Nathan last year and he really loved it (in fact, he went twice) so we didn't want to miss it this year. I think Evan will be pretty fascinated by it too.

Then we just need to bake a few Christmas goodies, wrap all the packages, stuff the stockings and we'll be all ready for Christmas! I hope everyone else has as much fun as I think we all will. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and I had no idea how much more fun it would be with two little boys. Nathan's excitement increases each year and I look forward to the days when the boys run down to our room to wake us for stockings!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (hope you are sleeping more than I am!)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Family Traditions

I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday for so many reasons.

And with this holiday comes I think the most family traditions, at least with my family. Today I found that my children are going to be adding to those family traditions in a unique way.

There are traditions that have always been around - divinity and fudge made from Great Grandma Devore's recipe, making a human assembly line to get the decoration boxes from the closet upstairs to the artificial tree downstairs, mom's special strawberry drink, Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, the smell of turkey baking while we opened our stockings...the list is so long I don't have time to put them all down. But as soon as the giant wooden box is opened each year to reveal the tree at my parents house, a flood of traditions come together and to life to establish that familiar feeling of Christmas.

Some traditions have defining moments that create them and establish them into the old routine. I will always remember the year my sister and I named my mom's old fashioned stuffed Santa "The Ho-Ho" and then fought over who wanted him. And some traditions are just the way things are done.

Every year we have put together the artificial Christmas tree at my parent's house. It started before I was born and they still have the same tree, with tattered instructions that we lost one year. Then we photocopied it when we finally found it so we would never lose it again. Now a copy of tree instructions can be found in various boxes filled with ornaments. You can count on that tree and every step that leads to bringing it to life. It happens the same way every year, no matter who is there to participate.

Dad drags the big wooden box into the house and unscrews the top.

We dive into the box stacking branches by size and colored ends. Once the piles are finished, Dad starts at the bottom of the tree and calls out for colors until the tree is complete. It has to almost fall over at least once and a few branches have to fall out before we are done.

Then Dad strings the lights with much fussing and fuming. These lights are the best. I have never known anyone to have this kind and they are part of the old-fashioned look of our tree that I love. First Dad strings the wires that have sockets for the lights to be screwed into. Then we all gather around a box of lights that are big round balls each a different color with almost candy like crystals glued to the outside. We used to have some that were bell shaped but I think those finally all burned out. We have also added the older fashioned styled bubbling lights - which Dad will call bubblelioushus over and over until we take the tree down. We struggle to screw in all the lights - which makes the sockets come unhooked from the branches, refuse to screw in straight, you can't have the same color next to each other even though there's only about 8 colors and after the lights are all in and we turn on the tree then we have to search for the ones that aren't lit to replace the burnt out ones with new - but not the same color that is near by. Then comes more fussing and fuming from Mom and Dad as the silver garland is added. Then all the ornaments you can pack on go on the tree. And finally my favorite part is the icicles that have enough static buildup to make them stand out straight from the tree and stick to everyone's feet and butts.

Last of all we crawl around under the tree putting together the village and then sit back to see how pretty and colorful it has all turned out.

And all of this happens each year on or near my Mom's birthday.

Today was no different except that I think Nathan added to our tradition. Take note, from this day forward, in my parent's house, those wonderful old fashioned lights will be known as dummies...

It started the same as every year - big wooden box, human assembly line, putting together the tree... Nathan had so much fun with every part and was anxious to put on the ornaments. He's very fun, animated and funny to watch on a normal day. What makes him really funny is the constant stream of consciousness babbling that starts from the moment he wakes up until he finally falls asleep and sometimes even in his dreams! Our boy never stops talking. Really, Never. Not at all. If he's not talking to you or asking questions, he's talking to himself or singing.

He was running around, in the middle of everything, I was pumping, Mom was giving Evan a bottle and getting him off to sleep, James was trying to help my Dad and Dad was stringing the lights on the tree...with much fussing and fuming. Mostly fussing because the tabs that are supposed to hold the lights to the branches don't work or have broken off, It's his own kind of stream of consciousness commentary about how much he hates the lights and how badly they were made. Finally, all strung he sat on the floor trying to get a bulb screwed into a socket and grumbling "...and now if these dummies would just go in..." My sweet little Nathan picks up a bulb, goes to the tree and says "I want to put a dummy in."

And so a tradition is born. The rest of the bulb screwing in portion of the tree was spent with Nathan saying "here's a dummy for this spot, I'm going to put in a dummy here, Daddy where can this dummy go, I've got another dummy..."

James and I are laughing, Dad's so tickled he can't get the lights in straight. What has always been mounting frustration that leads to the hanging of the garland, transformed into giggles and smiles. I finally ran and got paper and pen when Nathan said "When a light won't go in straight, you call it a dummy." It was just too Nathan and too hilarious to risk forgetting a word.

When the tree was done, Nathan got a big high-five from Dad and a lot of laughs from us all.

Little Evan is a little too small still to enjoy all the craziness of the tree and decorating and he missed most of it for a much needed nap. But I know he will enjoy the challenge of the next couple of weeks when he tries his best to get a hold of the village, an ornament, icicles and the tree!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feeling Very Thankful

Well, haven't posted in a while, guess I've just been overwhelmed. And now Chirstmas feels like it is racing towards me at break neck speed.

We had a good Thanksgiving weekend: Evan turned 8 months old and is teeting something fierce.

Nathan got to run around and have a lot of fun. The house seems to be well - Evan and James caught Nathan's cold last week. The Vicks trick worked well on Evan and I got him to the doctor for antibiotics before he started coughing so I think he recovered faster than Nathan. I have a lot of Christmas shopping to do and need to finish the Christmas cards/letter so I can get them in the mail before New Years! We ate a ton of food between James's Grandma's house and my Mom's house. And we got most of our Christmas decorations up.

So we have a lot to be thankful for. Most of all, I was able to keep my job. They had to have a layoff at my work because the economy problems have hit us hard, giving is down and so is enrollment. It was a pretty scarey couple of weeks while we waited to see how much could be done with just budget cuts and how many people would have to be let go. It was also a very sad couple of weeks as we watched people we love leave the office for the last time. I am surprised to still have my job and more grateful than words can say. I have loved this job so much since the very first day I started. That's saying a lot. Graphic Design is a fun job. Getting paid to be creative and play with photos all day is amazing to me. But to be able to do it in a good, healthy, not stressful, Christian environment is almost unheard of. I've worked for some real doozies since I graduated college in 1994. An "ad agency" where I was the only designer and the owner was a little bit crazy, new yorker type hippie with big dreams; part-time in a real agency with long hours, no hope for full-time, little money, employees cursed at each other and I got no respect; a printshop where the owner wanted me to do every job in 15 minutes or less cause he charged by the hour, everything was my fault even if it was physically impossible for me to have messed it up, real sweatshop environment where I was expected to be there all the time; a magazine company where the sales manager stood at the time clock and bullied the other departments, the other employees were petty and back biting and I gaged on my first taste html; a crazy publishing company where most employees were stealing from the company in some way, I was doing an insane amount of work, juggling up to 4 200 page magazines at once, management was a joke and any problem with an ad was my fault until the company went bankrupt; and finally a telemarketing company with a crazy gay art director who yelled at everyone, work was slow and they went bankrupt too. It's been a wild ride that ended (for now) at the college - a wonderful place that still seems like a dream. I work with great people who have become more like family than even just friends, I get to do the most creative work I have ever done, people really like me and are so nice to me, it's the least amount of stress I've ever had, I have a nice large office, we get lots of time off, I've been there five years today, and I just plain love being there. I've never had a job where I look forward to going to work and enjoy being there. It has been a wonderful place to be pregnant and have to pump twice. It's often my resting place from our crazy home life now that we have the boys. I can't say enough good stuff about this job and best of all, I get to work for God in a way that really is touching the world. I feel so blessed to be there and now even more blessed to still have my job. Things will be a little sad around the office for a while - lots of good friends will be missed. But we are hopeful that these cuts will make enough of a difference that we won't have to face any more job losses. If we do, I'm really afraid I won't get to stay this time. But it's all in God's hands and I know He's in control. Where ever he wants me to go, I'll be there. But enough about me.

Thanksgiving day was as crazy as always. 19 people packed into James's Grandma's house for lots of food and an insane amout of pies - I think maybe I heard 13 at the last count but I'm not sure. Nathan had a blast and enjoyed everyone. His Great Uncle Tim brought him a slinky (the old fashioned metal kind) and he has loved playing with it all weekend! There was also a crazy mixture of tinker toys in Grandma's back room that become a goldmine of rocket ships.

Nathan also loved the ham. Evan went into the event with a 20 minute nap and got overstimulated way too fast. I wasn't surprised but was disappointed because I wanted him to be able to spend some time with everyone and to get some good photos.

As it was, I spent probably an hour in the back bedroom trying to calm him down. From there we went to the quieter dinner at my parent's house where the boys could run around and play with their toys while we got dinner ready and sat down with Mom and Dad. It was a nice calm end to a busy day.

The rest of the weekend, I struggled with my pumping. Not sure what the problem is but I will be so glad when Evan turns a year old so I can stop!

We pulled out all the Christmas decorations and got the tree up, nativity scene out and a few other items around the house.

It was nice to hear Christams music as Bing Crosby filled the house.

I look forward to years when I can also make Christmas goodies but we were just too busy again this year. Evan wasn't too interested in the tree, which was good. I am hoping he won't try to eat it.

Nathan was very excited and got to put the star on top this year - he was a little too afraid of heights to make it last year.

The cats have started sleeping under the tree too. Hopefully we will be able to get our new lawn decorations up this year - we got some really cute Charlie Brown lighted decorations last year but never put them out.

Now I just have to finish Christmas shopping, get the cards done, ordered and in the mail and maybe clean house a little during my week off. I'm tired already!

This year will be really tight and we've decided we will only buy for the boys and their cousins. I'm sad about that, but it's been a hard year on the savings account - even without the high gas prices that affected us more deeply than I expected it to.

Here's a typical meal scene at our house these days...everyone focused on the TV: