Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(even more) travel adventures

We are in Montana. Actually we have been here for a couple days now. But I am just now feeling rested and recuperated (enough to write) from all that traveling. 

Getting from Michigan to Minnesota was relatively uneventful (read: non-stop movies and snacks for the kids). We were able to see many friends including a couple brand new baby girls! Two extremely generous friends allowed me and my three ring circus to spend the night in their homes. They didn't even bat an eye at all our bizarre traveling antics (read: van loaded to the brim that spilled out on their driveway + vomit soaked car seat). That reminds me. Hannah chose this moment...

to gag herself to the point of vomiting. She really has a knack for choosing THE worst moments to throw up! Those ominous gray clouds released buckets of rain moments after I snapped this picture in stopped Chicago traffic. So there we sat in our very odiferous van. Not going anywhere. It was less than pleasant.

But we survived. And really the rest of the trip was fairly pleasant. I mean how can you stay crabby when you get to hold such a sweet little bundle?!?

My best friend had her baby the same day we arrived in Wisconsin! And she still let us come visit. Now THAT is a good friend. 

Because we definitely brought chaos with us! This picture may look not be fooled. 

The kids and I arrived in Minnesota with a little over 24 hours to get unloaded, unpacked, re-packed and loaded and on the road again. I was on a tight schedule. A schedule that did NOT have room to deal with incorrectly filed state taxes from 2011. Unfortunately the letter from the state waiting for me at my parents' house begged to differ! Talk about stress. Had we received this letter 3 months ago it would have been no big deal. However currently all of the pertinent paperwork is very safely filed away in an (unmarked!) box somewhere in the garage stall filled to the brim with all of our belongings. Essentially a needle in a hay stack. Long story short: Joe saved the day by hunting down all the necessary paperwork and re-filing my state taxes from 2011. He's the best!

So back on the road we went. 

All of me and my kidlets tucked safe and snug in the back of my parents' van! (I don't ever want to road trip solo again. So many grown up hands and minds make a trip a whole lot sane-er.) First stop was my sister's house. Kids played. Grown ups chatted (and cooked). Oh and I forced my sister to take this picture with me...for prosperity!

It's our only pregnancy picture together. As this is our first time being pregnant at the same time:) I was/am a bit reluctant to share this picture as I look HUGE for 16 weeks considering my sister is carrying TWO babies and is nearly twice as far along as me (30 weeks) but prosperity wins! It always does. 

After dinner we loaded back into the van and drove the remaining five hours to my brother's place in Montana. We UNWISELY arrived in middle of the night. 12:30am. Waking sleeping children and settling them into new surroundings is not a wise parenting move. Add in a creek that was flooding my brother's driveway and was a middle of the night adventure! 

This is the driveway:

Handy for fishing. Not so convenient for getting to the house. The solution? A suspended foot bridge. With a ladder on each end. 

Oh and a couple of pickup trucks on either side of the bridge to haul us and our luggage to our final destination. 

These pictures were taken the day after our arrival. Our first trek across was not documented. It was pitch black. And our footwear was less than ideal...silly city people:) The kids loved it. And admittedly, my adventure-loving self thought it was pretty fun too. And totally worth it!

My brother's new place is fabulous. So peaceful and beautiful. The kids and I are loving all the wide-open space and quality time with family on their home turf. 

Oh and the mud and dirt and bugs! My kids love those too. Me. Not so much. 

Friday we head out to family camp for the weekend (here in Montana). This time we will simply drive out as the creek has dried up. And then finally back to Minnesota (in time for the first day of school). Once I am settled into our new norm in Minnesota I will have many, many more pictures of cousins and travels to share. (Consider yourself warned.)

Charlotte keeps asking where we are going next (as well as which states we have visited/lived in). She's a tad confused. Rightfully so. Today her and I wrote out/drew this "map" of our travels. 

Clear as mud, eh? The red is the road & stop signs. The brown are all houses we have stayed at. Still confused? Me too. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

nothing but the truth

So much for a blogging hiatus...I just can't stay away:)

There are a few things that I feel the need to set the record straight about. Declarations that I have made and for one reason or another have not stayed true to those words.

For starters, Hannah is no longer in underwear. She is in diapers. Disposable diapers. She was doing good in underwear. Good. NOT great. I on the other hand was not doing well. Potty training and getting ready to move. It was too much! So I put away the underwear and gave myself permission to use diapers. Best decision I made all summer. Now I just hope I didn't set her and I up for failure for future potty training. Time will tell.

Confession #2: Isaiah is enrolled in public school in Minnesota for this (quickly!) upcoming school year. I will NOT be homeschooling him this year. Mostly this decision was made based upon the way Joe's schedule came together for his year. He will be home with us more than he will be gone (or at least we think so at this time). And secondly it was a decision we made based on this fact...

So yeah. That puts me at sixteen weeks. Yikes. Sorry for the 12 weeks of deception. But until I had the chance to hear baby I just couldn't tell:) I am a worrier like that. And being a nomad isn't exactly conducive to regular prenatal OB clinic visits. But today I made into the clinic and heard the most lovely 145 beats/minute swooshing via Doppler. Seriously the BEST sound ever! Thus the delayed announcement.

That is also the reason I have not been making any full body appearances lately...

Yes, Isaiah is giving me the stink eye. Probably because of the terrible haircut I made him endure. The only fix for that one was a buzz cut. He refused. Hence the terrible hair pictured above. Sorry buddy. And yes you too are allowed to give me the stink eye. I deserve it for being so deceptive for so long!

So there it is. The truth. The whole truth. I feel better having shared. Feels good to come clean. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hitting the road...again.

Later today the kids and I will pack up and leave Michigan (for good? until residency starts next summer?? time will tell.) We are taking the scenic route home. And by scenic route I actually mean stopping to visit as many friends as possible in an attempt to keep me sane while traveling solo with kids...although my plan could very well backfire on me!

First stop will be Illinois. Next Wisconsin. Then we will spend a day in Minnesota before loading up and heading out west (with my parents - thank goodness!). We will stop and visit my sister and BIL's ranch in South Dakota for a day. And then we will drive the rest of the way to MONTANA! It has been far too long since I have made it out to my brother and SIL's place. It's time to remedy that:) 

It's going to be good. And stressful. And fun. And crazy. It might even be epic. This little trip will increase our states visited this summer up to a grand total of NINE. Not too shabby for me and my minivan full of kids. All this to say, I may be a little MIA over the next couple weeks. Either that or I will be here (via phone) over-sharing all the fun like crazy. We shall see. 

Wish me luck. That and a trip that is melt down free...

Child sized or adult sized. Equally ugly. Equally not welcome on our caravan-o-fun. 

Oh and Joe? He is staying in Michigan for another 4 weeks. He was supposed to be driving back to Minnesota with us so he could fly to Las Vegas. That fell through...unfortunately:(  Back up plan was to help teach a class at his school in Chicago. Back-up back-up plan was to find a different program that would accept him at the last minute. At the very last minute he found just such a program here in Michigan. Lucky ducky. 

That about sums it up (for now)!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Making Dinner

Don't even know why I do it...

Clearly I need to stop cooking for a crowd. My crowd isn't having it. But looking on the bright side, I enjoyed a hot meal without (too many) interruptions. And Joe is going to love all the leftovers. Seriously, he will! Tator tot casserole is one of his favorites. He's a Minnesota boy through and through. 

Tonight we are going to meet Joe at the hospital cafeteria. Before dinner I promised treats (at the hospital) to anyone who finished their meal. I have just a little more milk to go and then the cafeteria ice cream and cookies are mine! ALL MINE!

Updated to add...

Now I know why my dinner was so peaceful. Beauty shop was in full swing in the kids' room. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

On being nomads.

It's all fun and games until...

Until heads collide and ice packs are needed...

Ok. Those ^were completely unrelated. Just cute. Too cute not to share. 

One of the great things about living somewhere temporarily is the ability to be anonymous ALL THE TIME. Seriously I can go anywhere, anytime and not see a single person I know. Because I don't know ANYONE here. There's a freedom in that knowledge. Especially when my children are acting like...well...mischevious or defiant or rude children in public. It's just not that embarrassing. I mean I could go out in my pajamas with all my children in their pajamas in middle of the afternoon and who would care? NO ONE! I don't do that. I have some standards after all. But I could if I wanted to.

On the flip side, knowing no one can make life a little more challenging. For example, when my kids want to get together with friends to play who do we call? No one. We go to the park and hope there are some friendly kids there:) Yes we are that awkward stalker-ish family at the playground. Thankfully most of the time it works and we haven't scared anyone off yet:) Although I did overhear Isaiah explaining to a playground "friend" last night that he moves to a new state every month so his dad can become a doctor. I am sure that made NO sense to his little playmate. 

Not knowing where anything is in town is sort of a hassle. Think grocery stores and Walmart and such. But I can't really complain as my phone usually guides me in the right direction. Last week when I went out in search of a birthday cake for Hannah, I pulled up to a Meijer's. Which I assumed was a grocery store. So I was just a tad surprised when I walked in and saw this...

Not very grocery store-ish! Not what I was expecting at all. Which basically sums up much of my experience these past seven weeks. I have these expectations of our new town (even when I thought I was coming in without expectations!). Expectations of what our experience will be like. These expectations often leave me disappointed when the reality is doesn't match my hopes and dreams. 

However after a little exploration I discovered there is a grocery store within Meijer's! Not what I was expecting. Better than my expectations. Because who doesn't like browsing clearance clothing racks AND picking up a birthday cake all at one location?! And that's the thing, once I have allowed myself to truly be expectation-free I have enjoyed both of the new towns we have resided in. Why can't I just be expectation-free from the beginning? 

Monday, August 11, 2014

weekend happenings

Friday night after dinner we headed out (as a family) to scrounge up some new shoes for the seven and under crowd. Wild & crazy times I tell ya! Hannah has outgrown all of her shoes since we left home 9 weeks ago. Isaiah really needs new shoes for the quickly upcoming school year. And Charlotte...well...she doesn't really need anything...that girl has a million pairs of shoes but we may have promised her new shoes for her cooperation:)

Clearly we were setting ourselves up for a good time. 

Per our usual, we opened the van doors via automatic buttons on the key (we are fancy like that:) and allowed the children to scurry into their seats unassisted. When I went to buckle Charlotte in her seat I discovered (much to my horror) she was drinking milk from the restaurant from the night before. Milk that had been left in the van for 24 hours on an 80+ degree day.  Our conversation went down a little something like this:

Me: Charlotte! That's milk. Old mi...
C: No mom. It's CHOCOLATE milk! 
Me: True. But you still can't drink it!

(It was definitely curdled when I went to dispose of it.)

The rest of the outing was far less disgusting. Charlotte and Isaiah managed to dump three bins of shoes in the middle of the aisle at Once Upon a Child and Hannah loudly protested trying on any shoes remotely close to her size. But that stuff is pretty much par for the course. I wouldn't expect anything less from my crew. Fifteen minutes after the store closed (and about two seconds before the saleswomen lost all patience with our circus act) we managed to walk out with FOUR pairs of new (to us!) shoes. And we are only $22 poorer. All in all a whopping success. 

Since I am on such a roll with the (boring) weekend recap...

Saturday Joe was in the ER. So the kids and I ventured out to the beach ALL afternoon. Between hours 2 and 3 things dragged. But then the fun picked up and the rest of the afternoon flew by as the kids "motor-boated" around and I watched from the comfort of my chair:)

As we were loading into the van to leave Charlotte grabbed something from the coin tray (ash tray?) and informed me that I used to have a lot more of these when we lived in Illinois...

Touché Charlotte. Touché. 

Saturday night I had the pleasure of running some errands while Joe put the kids to bed!!!! In more non-exciting shoe news, I finally replaced my 12 year old black flip flops with these beauties...

Ok beauties might be a slight exaggeration. But they are really comfortable! And that's what counts right? :)

Sunday found Joe in the ER again. But we had a surprise visitor. Aunt Chelsea! So I am not sure the kids noticed or cared about their father's absence. (Sorry Joe). 

I think that about covers it. Unless of course you wanted to see the shirts the kids made. Or if you were dieing to know that I was able to return the Red Box movie ON TIME and by myself thanks to Aunt Chelsea visiting:)

Ok. Fine. Here's the shirts...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday Hannah!

My baby isn't a baby anymore! Seriously, how does that happen? And why does it happen SO FAST? I swear with every baby time moves faster.

But the good news is that I am re-discovering just how fun it is to have a two year old in the house! Seriously two year olds are incredibly entertaining and (relatively) easy to parent.

(I never would have believed that last statement with my first two year old. But now I know it is true. If I only had to parent babies and young toddlers that would be fine by me. It's the 4+ ages that are hard to parent. In my humble, still-a-novice opinion.)

Back to the BIRTHDAY GIRL! She has a couple quirky habits that I want to remember and her birthday seems like a good time to record them...

If anyone tells her she is beautiful or funny or big or pretty much anything besides her name, she will correct them by saying "MO! Hannah" and point to herself. When asked her name she answers with first AND last name (which are probably only understandable to Joe & I). It's undeniably adorable. 

She is a daredevil! Seriously this girl is fearless. Climbs like a monkey. And jumps without looking. If/when she falls and injures herself she rarely cries. And when she does it lasts less than sixty seconds. And yet, if I put her up on a high surface (even one she is able to crawl onto herself) she freaks out! For example, Isaiah really wanted a picture with his sisters in this circle. So I lifted Hannah up and started snapping...

Hannah was less than two feet off the ground and terrified! Wouldn't look up for a picture. And yet if she had climbed up there herself she would have been having a grand time. 

I often ask Hannah if she loves mommy. She ALWAYS answers, "And Daddy!" If I ask if she loves one of her siblings she always answers yes and the other one too! It's very sweet. And 100% true. This girl loves everyone in her family and she is happiest when we are all together. 

Daily...sometimes hourly...she vacillates between being mommy's baby and a big girl. She can't quite decide which one she is. And I am ok with that.

How old are you birthday girl?

Two years today. Honestly some of the best years of my life. Thank you Hannah for being one of the best surprises! I didn't know there was someone missing from my life...until there was you. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Growing a Baby - The First Trimester

Just in case anyone wanted to know the nitty gritty on my first trimester of pregnancy I recorded the "highlights" for prosperity. This post was written in real time as it was all happening - posted now after surviving it all! 

The cliff notes version: Found out I was pregnant. Lots of giddiness ensued. Followed by seemingly never ending fatigue and nausea. No vomiting (thanks to a very handy prescription from my lovely OB). The end. 

For those that need more details read on...

May 28 -
The big kids woke up at 5:30 AM! Last night I had told Isaiah he was not allowed out of his bedroom until 7am which meant I spent the next 90 minutes trying to sleep while listening to what sounded like a herd of elephants in the next room. Joe was gone - sleeping snug as a bug in a rug in the basement of the psych hospital - so I barraged him with a gazillion complaint-laden texts. I am such a considerate wife like that:) The morning continued in the same entire bowl of Cheerios dumped & left on the playroom floor, hair bows torn apart for no apparent reason, and so on and so forth...

We had a play date scheduled for mid morning. But I was crabby and not wanting to be social so I did the logical mom thing...I locked myself in my bathroom. And took a pregnancy test. To hopefully cheer myself up. (Admittedly this was a bad plan as the previous four months the results had always been a downer AND it was technically too early to test, like 4 days early). But I figured if the test didn't cheer me up I would paint my nails....

No nail polish necessary. I was instantly in a better mood! But not sure how to tell Joe....

May 30 - Finally Friday! Meaning Joe came home for the weekend!! Somehow I managed to NOT tell Joe the news via text or phone conversation while he was gone. (A miracle!) I was planning on waiting until after the kids were in bed to tell but I just couldn't wait! During the tail-end of dinner I was washing dishes and chatting with Joe, who was still at the table supervising the kids dinner. We were talking about next year (his last school year!!!!) and specifically about his schedule next winter/spring. I couldn't contain my excitement any longer. So in code I announced this pregnancy to him. It took him a while to get it, but once he did he was all smiles. (I wish I had a picture)

This one will have to do. Us on a walk later that I was already trying to pester him about baby names. His least favorite activity:)

Later that evening after the kids were in bed I was still talking incessantly about THE BABY! I started a sentence with "I have never had a winter baby. I just know I am going to be worried because winter babies are more likely..." And Joe completed my sentence with "be psychzophrenic as adults"! Um no. No. No. No.  Not at all what I was going to say. And thank you for adding another item to my already mile-long baby related list of worries!

May 31 - Charlotte introduced me to her baby doll..."Mommy this is Leah. She's my baby. She is sleeping. In her jammies. She really likes sleep. She sleeps a lot. But not as much as you. I don't think anyone sleeps as much as you." Ha! I am SO SO SO tired these days. Growing a baby is exhausting. Seriously if you could hear my inner dialogue, 90% of the time it would sound like this, "I am tired." 

June 1 - Speaking of being tired. Today in church there was a brand new baby a couple rows ahead of us. Typically when I see a baby I am instantly smitten. Today however all I could think about was how exhausting birthing and taking care of a baby is. Instead of oohing and aahing, all I could think was how I was too tired to do that again. 

[INSERT weeks of packing, moving, traveling, unpacking HERE.]

June 26 - I have entered the less-than-delightful stage of pregnancy in which I constantly feel nauseous. Thankfully I have not thrown up...yet. But opening the fridge, chewing & swallowing, or looking into the garbage can all bring me to the brink of losing my lunch. At least now I am not obsessively worried that something is wrong because I feel too good for early pregnancy!

July 6 - I am absolutely worthless these days. I am either nauseous or tired. Many times both. I constantly have a grimace on my face because that's just how I feel. We went for a walk tonight as a family. I made it a few blocks and then I stopped. I just couldn't go any further. I layed down on the grass and told Joe and the kids to loop back and get me when it was time to head home. On our walk home Joe informed me that I need to start talking pictures. Lots of pictures. Otherwise I won't remember these days with my kids. He's probably right. But that sounds like a lot of work and energy I don't have! This pregnancy is kicking my butt...not sure if it's because I am in my thirties now or the fact that I have three children to take care of...either way I am grimacing my way through it and hoping we all make it to the other end mostly unscathed. 

My morning cocktail...keeps me somewhat functional:)

July 11 - Apparently I woke up looking like this today...

Eek! I will be 10 weeks tomorrow. Way to early to be popping. I think it's just bloating and constipation (sorry TMI) or the shirt. But I guess time will tell. 

July 17 - Poor baby #4. This is what I am sustaining us on each day...

Pepsi, tomato soup and rice. Plus a bagel in the morning and yogurt + granola before bed. It's amazing that babies can grow and develop on so little. Thanks to my ZOFRAN I am able to keep my prenatal vitamin down. So that's a bonus. Things I absolutely can not eat these days include: meat (especially if I cooked it), bread, tortilla shells, cheese, peanut butter, nuts and sadly pasta. 

July 20 - My sweet cousin asked me (via text) the other day how I was feeling. So I sent her this picture...

Because this about sums it up. All day, every day. And due to my pathetic state my children spend far too much time doing this...

Snacking and watching movies. Much to their delight and my dismay. In fact that is what they are currently doing as their dad is in ER today. I am contemplating making just-add-water-pancakes for dinner again. How many times per week are pancakes an acceptable dinner?!?

July 30 - Major breakthrough on the nausea front! Tonight I was craving steak. So much so I cooked steak and ate it! It has been many weeks since I have wanted to eat meat and it has been the rarest of times I have been able to cook meat during this trimester and most of the time after I cooked the meat I could NOT eat it. But tonight I ate steak. Steak that I cooked! However later in the night the sound of Joe eating grapes had me running to the bathroom gagging. One step forward, two steps back. Such is the pregnant life. 

July 31 - I wore a bikini to the beach. Never before have I worn a bikini while pregnant. Joe said I looked nice. Joe also said they wouldn't need a lighthouse because they could just use my glowing white abdomen instead...

He had a point. But really, that skin hasn't seen sun in a loooong time. I don't think it can ever catch up again. 

August 3 - We finally FINALLY told the kids about this pregnancy! It was getting kind of obvious (see picture above) plus I am 13 weeks. So it only seemed logical to clue them in. (I had been very hesitant before this point because I really didn't want to have to explain a miscarriage. Plus despite everything seeming to be going along normally pregnancy-wise, I haven't been to the OB since I was a mere 5 weeks so it's hard to feel confident that everything is good.) In my mind I had all these grand plans for how we would tell the kids. Scavenger hunts and secret messages. In reality it was just is sitting around the dinner table. Joe told the kids we had a surprise for them. Charlotte guessed candy. Isaiah guessed a new toy. Hannah guessed bubbles. They all seemed pretty excited by the news that the surprise is a new baby. Although they unanimously voted for a boy baby:)

August 6 - I sent my sister this text last night as I was writhing in bed with a migraine trying NOT to vomit (despite having taken my anti-nausea medication)...

And on that lovely note. Goodbye first trimester! I hope to NEVER make your acquaintance again. It's been a trip. I will not miss you constant nausea and fatigue.

Hello second trimester (and hopefully the return of my energy)! It's gonna be good. I just know it.