Saturday, November 26, 2011

I could get used to this.

Six years ago, I spent my first Thanksgiving as a newlywed baking with a girlfriend in the first tiny apartment that my husband and I rented. 
Pretty sure we didn't make a turkey, so I'm not sure what she's carving!

Then I spent my first Christmas as a newlywed back in Ohio with my parents, with only a brief phone call from my husband who was floating somewhere in the middle of the Caribbean.  I enjoyed an email on New Year's eve, but I made big plans to celebrate our first Valentine's day together when he finally returned.  It's been hit or miss, in the six years since that first Christmas, if he's home for any particular holiday or family celebration.  I knew, or at least I thought I understood, what I was getting myself into when I married a man in the Coast Guard.  I've shared holidays with friends, taken in stray non-rates for holidays, moved 600 miles on Christmas Eve, but thankfully I've never been alone.  It's been an adventure for sure!

This past summer, Ryan transferred to a land-based billet where he doesn't stand duty.  This is a first for us, a first for him, and quite a treat, after 10 years of boats and standing watch, sometimes every other day/night.  He's been home for birthdays and holidays, and barring some sort of national disaster, he should be home for all the holidays for the next thee years.  It's likely he'll be present when our third child is born, and even have some time off to help me recover and adjust to life with three boys.  While this is considered standard in the civilian world, it's a total luxury for active duty. 

So for our Thanksgiving, we decided to relax and celebrate, just the four of us.  The boys and I baked pies in the morning, and then they watched football with Ryan while I made a roasted chicken, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes.  I even made gravy from scratch, with no lumps.  I'm a veritable Suzy-homemaker.  

 I meant to take a picture BEFORE we started serving....

Pete decorated the pie- that's a gingerbread man and hearts on Daddy's cherry pie.

Please note: there aren't even cracks in my beautiful pumpkin pie.
I could get used to this, and what's even worse, I will get used to this, only to be left behind in three years when Ryan goes back to sea.  It is the Coast Guard, it is a sea-going service, and what's even worse (or maybe better) it's what Ryan loves to do.  He enjoy his time on the boat, out in the middle of the ocean.  While some Coasties try for a station or other land jobs, Ryan would spend all his tours on a boat if he could.  So I'll just enjoy my three year break, full-well knowing that I'll be left behind in three years to begin celebrating all our holidays a week, or a month or a few months late again. 

The first casualty of the Holiday Season

It's a good thing I have a sense of humor.  And a good thing we have good health insurance. 

On Black Friday, Ryan returned home early from work, and we set out on our holiday tradition to set up our Christmas Tree the day after Thanksgiving.  Nevermind that I've been celebrating Christmas for almost a month now, that's just a fluke of the snowstorm before Halloween and my desire to rush my due date.  We went to our local tree lot, picked a nice full tree and headed home to decorate.

After pulling the Christmas boxes out of the basement, Ryan hung the lights, then the boys helped with the garland and plastic ornaments.  On a side note, when I say that some of our ornaments are glass, let me suggest you not slam them together to test that theory.  (Ah-hem, Ryan!)  But we survived putting up the tree, and it looks great! 

Next we pulled out the decorations for the mantle, including a garland of pinecones and dried berries, and this is where the evening goes downhill.  Chester must have pulled a few berries off the garland, but I only noticed as he was pulling them back out of his nose.  He was also pointing to his nose, telling me "ouchie".  Because of a story my friend KH told last week at MOPS, my mind instantly jumped to the conclusion that he had a dried holly berrry up his nose.  We pulled out the flashlight and tried to look, but couldn't see anything and I was about to call it a night, but he again pointed to his nose and told me "ouchie."

Thanking God that we have good health insurance (read: no ER co-pay), I called our pediatrician and headed for the ER.  The pediatric ER at Salem Hospital got us in, through triage and registration and to a treatment room within 10 minutes of our arrival.  The pedicatrician arrived less than an hour later, confirmed a berry was still lodged up his nose, and used a little spray to numb his nose and shrink the nose tissue to give her a bigger path to remove the berry.  Then she used this really neat little glowing fiber-optic noose to get behind the berry and pull it back out of his nose.  About 90 minutes after our arrival, we were handed discharge papers and headed home.  Ater Chester's slip in the kitchen and subsequent stitches this spring, and his weekend ear infections last winter, I'm beginning to think that he's earning a gold level frequent flier card at the Salem Hospital ER. 

I should mention that the discharge papers did include tylenol for any discomfort and the instructions to "teach your child not to put things in his/her nose".  Thank you, Captain Obvious.  My firstborn managed to live to the ripe old age of 3.5 without shoving anything up his nose so far, so I'm not going to be guilted into feeling like a bad mother just because my 21 month old shoved a dried berry up his nose.  Some kids are just a little more.... adventuresome than others. 

Other than crying while being held down as we looked up his nose, Chester was totally chill through the entire process.  He played happily in the treatment room, climbing on the bed, jumping on the painted shapes on the floor and counting the numbers on the IV pole.  Chester is my polite little sweetheart, and he thanked the Doctor, even with tears still in his eyes after we had to hold him down and shove a fiber-optic noose up his nose.  He enjoyed his popsicle while we waited for his discharge papers, and then ran down the hall yelling "bye-bye, thank you".  He even pushed the door-assist button and turned around to wave as he waited patiently for the door to open before making a dash to the exit. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It was the best day, it was the best day.

If you've seen the Progressive insurance commercials recently, you might be humming along with me.  "It was the best day... it was the best day."  I looked around online a little, and I didn't come up with the title or composer or the rest of the lyrics, so I'm assuming it's just a jingle someone wrote for the commercial.  But it does make me smile, watching the guy dream of his perfect day with the Progressive insurance sales lady. 

I have to imagine that this morning was something like that perfect dream day for Pete and Chester.  Our Tuesday and Thursday mornings can be a bit hectic, but this morning we made it out the house on time, with no yelling, and everyone dressed (except for Chester's shoes- see yesterday's blog about the ocean...).  Any morning that Mom's not yelling by 7am is a good morning around here!

I looked up the train schedule last week and discovered that there's an 8:01am commuter train at Beverly Depot, which is just down the street from Pete's school.  The reward for leaving the house on time is to pull into the parking lot and watch the train.  It's a great vantage point to view the train because not only do we get to see the train, it's also makes the clang, clang sound as it pulls into the station, sits to wait for passengers getting on and off, then makes the clang, clang again as it pulls away.  This particular train is always going backwards since it's an inbound commuter train, and we get a great view of the engine as it leaves the station. 

Leaving on time, fully dressed, fully fed, with no yelling, and getting to see the train would normally be enough to declare today a success, but the day didn't stop there!  When we arrived at the pre-school parking lot, there was a firetruck in the parking lot.  A brand-new-sparkly red and black firetruck with its lights on.  What a treat.  Seriously.  I'm not sure, but I think there's something in the Y chromosome that makes little boys love firetrucks, because both of my boys are completely infatuated with firetrucks.  Chester's eyes lit up and he screamed in glee, "yuck, yuck, ed yuck".  Though we clearly have problems with T and R and any leading consonant, he got his point across, so we stayed a little longer to stare at the truck after dropping Pete off at school.  After all, my physical therapy appointment wasn't for another 30 minutes, so we had plenty of time. 

And our lolly gagging in the parking lot paid dividends I couldn't have planned!  The doggie day-care down the street must take the large dogs for their walk after the school-drop off to minimize potential dog-child conflict.  However, we had overstayed the drop off time by over 20 minutes, and low-and-behold here come 6 large dogs.  Not little dogs like Killer, but huge, fluffy dogs taller than Chester.  If there's anything more fun than a firetruck, it's a "ig oggie!"  And the squeals of glee moved from "Hi uck" to "Hi Oggie!"

All of these are such little tiny moments in the day, or even an annoyance to many adults, but when you're not even two years old, the innocent joy of seeing a train, firetruck, and big doggies all by 9am is so overwhelming... that you must fall asleep in the car, having fulfilled your excitement quota for the day. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mom of the year. Or not.

I had a great Mom of the year moment at our playdate this morning.  We explored a new playground in Nahant, and walked down the street to throw rocks in the ocean too.  Good times had by all. 

Pete managed to jump off the playground equipment from the very top while I was pushing Chester in the swing.  He's fine, but the other mother and I had just finished talking about older children being bad influences at our other local playgrounds. 

We walked down the street to the beach, where my children proceeded to pick up handfuls of sand to throw into the ocean while her children picked up the rocks to throw into the ocean.  Perhaps we need to visit the beach more often so they learn proper behavior with sand.

Chester managed to get swamped by a large wave, soaking his shoes and pants.  Did I mention today is November 14 and we're on a beach just North of Boston?  Thankfully it was 65 degrees outside today, so he wasn't in danger, and in fact, he wasn't even uncomfortable.  We walked back to the car and I stripped him down to a new diaper and sweatshirt, and he still wanted to play on the playground instead of going home.  Why didn't I have a change of clothes for him in the car?  Because I never replaced them after his poosplosion incident at Chase's birthday party a few months back. 

Finally, on the walk back to the car, Pete decided to dash ahead to the end of the block.  Seeing as how it was a quiet street, and the end of the block was our car, I didn't even think twice about letting him run ahead.  Meanwhile her children walked quietly along with us.  He did stay on the sidewalk (as I expected!) and he did stop at the parked truck (as I instructed by yelling from 100 yards behind him) but I did feel a little bad for the example my child set in front of her obedient children. 

This is only our second playdate, and I really enjoy the Mom's company, so I'm hoping my boys' energetic behavior hasn't scared her off.  The kids did play well together, so as long as her children don't start jumping off the top of the slides, I'm hoping she'll give us another few chances.  I may not be Mom of the year if being Mom of the year means well-behaved angels, but like most of the Moms I know, I'm trying my best.

After all, this is just a normal day in our wild lives!  My boys are curious, adventurous and brilliant.  They are tiring, trying and stubborn.  I see myself in them, and I see my husband in them.  As far as I'm concerned, that makes them perfect and perfectly mine.  My children are somewhere on a spectrum between "spirited" to "total hooligans" but I love for who they are and I wouldn't trade them for well-behaved children.  Well, usually I wouldn't trade them in, but there are some days when I see obedient, docile children happily playing quietly...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Define: Vacation

We've just returned from what many people would call a vacation.  Ryan had a big presentation in Tampa this week, and I happened to find reasonably priced tickets to Tampa for the boys and I to join him for the week.  I was thrilled to cancel a class, pull Pete out of pre-school and fly to Florida for four days to spend some time with Ryan and see the big presentation of this project he's been working on for months.  After all, the hotel and car were paid for, and how often do you get a family vacation for four to Florida for just the price of the plane tickets for two? 

But that's where it's important to adjust expectations.  A trip to Florida with a 20 month old and a 3.5 year old is not a vacation.  It's an exciting trip for the boys.  It makes precious family memories.  But it is not, in any way, shape or form a relaxing vacation.

Part of the reason that we didn't book this trip right away when Ryan's presentation was first scheduled is that I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant.  Since, as everyone knows, I'm miserable while pregnant, I wasn't sure if I would feel up to this trip at 30 weeks.  I knew there would be challenges, but when I found the tickets on sale, I was feeling well enough to take the chance.  Many people asked me how I was going to manage through this trip, and to be honest, it was a breeze. Still not a relaxing vacation, but certainly an easy trip!  

First logistical detail, getting two small children to an airport, security lines, boarding lines, and onto the plane before 8:40am.  There are not many times I'm excited that my children wake naturally around 5:30am, but  on a travel day, it certainly helps!  A limo company that provides toddler car seats in the shared van to the airport was another big help.  Chester rides in the umbrella stroller, Pete walks pulling his own suitcase full of books and toys and I check our cothing bag, leaving only a carry-on bag with diapers, cash and snacks for me to carry. 

When we arrived at the airport, I initially sat the boys next to the window so we could watch the planes, but I quickly realized they were in no mood to sit at all, no matter what exciting planes and trucks were driving by he window.  The little girls sitting back in our gate happily colored in their coloring books, but there's just no chance that would keep my boys quiet.  So instead I moved them to an empty gate nearby and let them run up and down the ramp like airplanes.  Problem solved, even if everyone at our gate was probably wondering why I couldn't control my kids.    

The boys watched movies on the iPad for the first flight (Thank you Miss M for loading the movies on the iPad for me!), then we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Atlanta before walking around the terminal reading numbers and letters.  Sure, Chester pitched a fit at lunch because I insisted that he eat his pear before he could have a cupcake, but that happens at home too.  I'm sure it was the entertainment of the day for the restaurant staff and fellw travellers, watching Pete reason with Chester to "please eat your fruits so we can eat cupcakes" and Chester sitting in his high chair screaming "cupcake, cupcake" while Pete polished off ALL FOUR CUPCAKES (okay, just the frosting and sprinkles) because Pete ate all his pears and Chester took a bite of his pear and spit it back out.  The second flight was even better, and Pete put his head on my shoulder during taxi, and had his eyes closed by the time we took off.  Chester screamed from the time we sat down until we left the gate, then promptly passed out for the entire flight.  Those 7 minutes of howling must have scared the rest of the passengers, but I knew it was just naptime coming on.  I even got to read a magazine while they both slept.  Piece of cake.

Ryan expertly reserved a car with two car seats, had a co-worker pick us up from the airport and we relaxed at the hotel until he joined us for dinner at Maggiano's across the street from our hotel.  The rest of the week went similarly smoothly, with a visit to the zoo with an old friend, her husband and their two children, a date with the sitter arranged by the hotel and a trip to the convention center to see Ryan's booth. 
All in all, a great trip, and in no way, shape or form a vacation.  In fact, it took me over a week to have the time and energy to finish blogging about it.