Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gabriel's Message.

The angel Gabriel from heaven came
His wings as drifted snow
His eyes as flame
"All hail" said he, "thou lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favoured lady,"

"For known a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee,
Thy Son shall be Emanuel,
By seers foretold
Most highly favoured lady,"

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said,
"My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name."
Most highly favoured lady 

Of her Emanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn
And Christian folk throughout the world forever will say:
Most highly favoured lady

Have a blessed, peaceful and wonder-filled Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Craziness.

I know, I know- everyone says that December is crazy, with the shopping and wrapping and decorating and card writing and calendar making and holiday baking and special food planning and classroom party volunteering. 

We've got all that and a little extra: Alec's speech therapy and special education services have begun.  They both come twice per week, sometimes on the same day, sometimes not, and I really love them both.  The speech therapist is working on teaching him some easy motions in sign language so he can communicate with us.  We've done pretty well integrating all done, more, open, and downstairs into his communcations with us; we are working on help, please, bubbles and blocks.  I also am proud to say that I can now tell you all the signs for common banyard animals and their sounds.

The idea is to have him look at us more when he asking for something, instead of just thrusting something into our line of vision and grunting.  He has to put more effort into the communication process.  And he's doing great- he has had almost three full weeks of therapy and I think I notice a change in his behavior and his vocalizations.  He seems a little more confident as well, probably because we are showering him with praise when he shows us a sign spontaneously or says a new word.

The special education teacher is working on speech type issues as well, and is also giving us some support and advice about how to best handle his behavior meltdowns.  We had a huge breakthrough this weekend when we kicked him out of our bed, where he had been sleeping for a month or two against our wishes.   We just couldn't come up with a better idea of how to handle his nighttime issues, which consisted of him wanting to be with me all night long.  And by "with me", I mean WITH ME- he loved to tuck his knees under my left armpit and lay across on top of my shoulders, neck and face. 

So last Friday night we shipped the girls out to a sleepovers and let Alec cry it out in his crib.  And overall, he did great because I didn't cave, like I did the last time we tried in October and he cried from 1:30am to 3:40am and I just couldn't take it anymore.  This time, I was ready: sick to my stomach and steely-eyed all at the same time.  We put him in at 10:30pm, he cried for a half hour, then puked (which I was expecting) but then after getting cleaned up only cried for another fifteen minutes before falling asleep.  He woke up at 1:30 and then again at 3:30am, but wasn't crying hard and settled himself back down after about 15 minutes.  Saturday night he did even better, falling asleep after 2 minutes of barely fussing and sleeping through the night.  THROUGH THE NIGHT.  We are like new people over here.

And to be honest, this was a victory that we all needed... the temper tantrums and poor sleeping habits were really getting us down, particularly me who is with him all day and bears the brunt of the meltdowns, who never is quite sure when he's going to be lovely and wonderful and when he's going to wrestle me in defiance.  The special ed teacher is helping me regain control and confidence about setting limits with him, and coaching me about following through.  She suggested we make a chart that shows pictures of the evening routine so he can learn what to expect next: first dinner, then bath or playtime, then pajamas, then teeth, then book reading, then crib.  Oooohhh! A craft project!!  I was all over that like white on rice.  And even Michaela likes to help show Alec what's next on his chart, which is a great reinforcer. 

This was also one of the first times I felt I could prepare him verbally for what was about to happen and he understood.  We talked all day on Friday about how he was going to sleep in his crib that night like a big boy, like Mimi sleeps in her room by herself and Nenna sleeps in her room by herself.  And he would smile sweetly at me when I said it.  And I felt like he really got it, which was weird for me because my internal default setting for Alec is that he's about 7 months old.  I feel like this marked a change in my own perception of him, that I finally can see what he can do and see that he's not just a baby anymore.

It has made me more mindful of how I am parenting him, how I talk to him, and what I am doing that is hurting and what I am doing that is helping.  And that, my friends, is not an easy process to go through.  Having people come into your house, even when you invite them in because you need help and your baby clearly needs help, and having them ask you questions and make (absolutely correct) pronouncements about how you can be a better parent is humbling and hard and deflating and uncomfortable.  I really strive hard each and every day to Do Things Right as a mom to my children and to hear from someone that it could be better really feels just plain sucky.  But then you think to yourself, "Well, what's more helpful? To get huffy and defensive and nasty?  Or to swallow and digest what they are saying,  really think about it, and put their recommendations into action?" And it becomes clear that everyone's goal here is to make Alec a happier, more engaged, communicative kid, and of course you do what is suggested, no matter how chastized you may feel.  And you grow and be better.

So that's what's going on here, along with Christmas and Michaela getting glasses, which she desperately wanted and barely even needs (the eye doctor said "the glasses may make a subjective difference") , and Jenna being off the wall about Christmas coming up (she wrote a second letter to Santa this morning, asking if she is on the "good list or the bad list") and us getting new cellphones for our Christmas present  (I love me some iPhone and Siri) and switching over to Fios from regular cable (the verizon people have been here three times since Friday with various issues but I think we're all resolved now) and losing my earthlink email address that I've had for 15 years and establishing new email addresses.

We're listening to lots of Christmas music, enjoying our TWO pretty Christmas trees, enjoying Advent, and looking forward to a quiet, uncluttered, and calm January.  Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.

The Great Tree Fiasco of 2011: Part Two.

I am very, very happy to report that our previously banished real tree has wormed its way back into our hearts and our living room.
Turns out it's all about the base.
We secured a new base on loan and decided to give it one more chance.  Because it looked horribly forlorn laying out in our front yard.
We put up the tree, let it sit inside undecorated for a few days (like a tree purgatory), and last night relit/ regarland-ed/ re-ornamented it.

And it's beautiful again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Great Tree Fiasco of 2011.

The Libutti family has a fake Christmas tree that we bought years ago and just absolutely adore.  Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we drag this tree out, set up the center pole and arrange the branches one by one until it's full and pretty.  Then we add the lights, and the ornaments, and the angel we've had for our entire married life who blinks on the top.  It's sentimental and pretty and satisfying.
When we moved into our new house,  we both thought that maybe adding a second tree to go in the front living room window would be nice.  So for the whole year, we kept an eye on After Christmas sales, Christmas in July sales, and pre Christmas sales looking for a suitable mate for our beloved, trusty tree.  Sure, we found many possibilities, but we were never quite ready to make the commitmentt to buy another.
Then I had a brilliant idea- we could buy a REAL tree, get some basic ornaments for it, throw on some lights, and -viola!- problem solved for much less money.  Plus, we would get to experience the joy of a REAL tree- the smell, the shape, all those bushy branches, and the idea of doing Christmas in the Traditional Manner.   And you know how I'm all about tradition.
So on Saturday afternoon, we all piled into the family truckster and headed out to our local nursery.  We roamed around a little, weighing a few different trees, some too short, some too tall, some too thin, some with bad sides, when Dan showed me one and it hit me with a love force: I LOVED THIS TREE.  I wanted this tree and this tree would look perfect in our living room.   The dream was coming true.
We put the tree on the roof of our car, much to Dan's chagrin and my delight- because what's more Americana than throwing a pine tree on your car full of happy kids and bringing it home? It's as delightful as wearing red, white and blue to your town's Memorial Day parade.  I almost cried with happiness.
We came home, brought it inside, promptly realized the tree was about 6 inches too tall, trimmed the top, put on the lights and the garland and the beautiful gold and brown ornaments and the star on top.  We had on Christmas carols and were all full of cheer.  And this is what it looked like:

I was in love.  Our dream of a second tree came true, and it was magnificent.  I drank a glass of wine sitting in my living room, listening to music and cuddling with Jenna, who was interested in hearing how we chose the names Michaela, Jenna and Alec for them.  A little while later, I went outside with my camera to take a picture of our holiday lights.

The next day, Sunday, I had to take Jenna to a birthday party.  On my way home, I get a call from Dan.
"We have a big problem." he says.
"Are you having trouble with Alec?" I ask.
"No- I WISH that was the problem.  Our tree fell over."
I got home, and sure enough, the whole thing had toppled over to the right.  The water had spilled, there were pine needles everywhere, and it was a mess.  So I did what I always do in these kind of situations.
I called my father.
He came right away to investigate and solve our problem.  Dan and I had tried lifting the tree and repositioning it in the base but were not having any luck.  My dad brought twine and he and Dan worked to get it back up, secured to the window moldings, and all was back to rights.  Disaster averted.

On Monday at about 3pm, I was playing in the basement with Alec right before his nap.  I heard some rustling upstairs but thought it was the cat getting into something- it was just a low level ambient noise we always have around the house.  When I came back up, the tree was down again, shifted to the right, with half of the base off the ground.  I picked it up and leaned it up against the window.
Last night I had to go out with Michaela for Girl Scouts but when I came home Dan and I worked on getting it into the base, tall and straight, for the third time.  We had it all set- a bit precarious, but set- and within minutes it was down again, again to the right side. 
Now, do me a favor- scroll back up and look at the picture of the upright tree.  My majestic, beautiful dream-maker tree.  See where the star on top is? See how straight the tree looks? And now see how far to the left the base is?
Our tree was doomed to fall and keep falling.  It's crooked.  A defective tree.
If it was just Dan and I, I would have stuck it out.  But with a senile cat and three kids whizzing around the house, and three more kids coming for Christmas Day, I was too nervous that the tree would fall down on someone or rip itself out of the twine, damage our walls or window, and generally wreak havoc on our life.
So we took it down. 
Off came the ornaments, the garland, the lights and the star.  Gone was the smell, the needles, the dream of a tree in the window.  We put everything away in a plastic bin, vacuumed up the mess, and generally felt sorry for ourselves.
And here's the tree now:

I'm sure our neighbors are wondering exactly what has happened over here.  We have decided to just buy another fake tree after this holiday and put it up next Christmas.

And I'm pretty sure that our trusty ol' fake tree in the family room is snickering at us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve, 2 pm.

This holiday baking gig is ALRIGHT.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

With Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

'Twas two days before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Dad was at the office but not so his spouse.
She was at home, scrubbing and cleaning,
making sure every inch was a -gleaming.
The shopping was done and the dinner was planned
Most cooked from scratch (but the yams would be canned).
Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and rolls,
stuffing and turkey and cran relish in bowls.
The cinnamon rolls were in the fridge waiting
as dreams of a low-calorie day started fading.
Hot coccoa was bought, extra marshmallows, too,
to sip while watching the parade and balloons.
The kids' outfits were ready, all red, brown and white,
to show off at church on Wednesday night.
All that was left was the cooking and baking-
the dishes Mommy looked so forward to making.
Pumpkin pie, apple crisp, sugar cookies galore
spiking blood sugars and kids shouting, "More!"
As Mommy unpacks her apron of toile,
the paperboy brings fliers of sales at the mall.
Later on there'll be football and plenty of naps
as kids tug on wishbones until they hear snaps.
Maybe a fire, some games or Playstation
and hopefully a screening of Christmas Vacation.
So much to look forward to! So much to savor!
The family- the fun- the smells and the flavors!
Thanksgiving is harvest, abundance, and autumn
a family holiday from its top to its bottom.
For no matter where people may ramble and roam
they always return for this celebration of home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Soccer 2011.

This fall was Michaela's 9th season playing soccer, and it was a tough season, weather wise- brutally hot and buggy (from all the rain we had over the summer) in the beginning of the season and frigid, wet and windy at the end.  Not good for players or loyal fans.  Michaela played on a girls' team of 4th and 5th graders, and I am embarrassed to say how few of them I knew by the end of the season.  I used to take pride in getting to know all the kids she played with, but since I've had Alec, whose behavior is pretty attention-dominating at games (we mostly just sat in the car and watched during the practices) I have dropped that ball.  And that's really okay.  Thankfully she was with two good friends from her old school and her favorite Coach Tim, so she had a good time.

Action shots

 Watch out, Sports Illustrated- there's a (very) young photographer coming onto the scene... once he figures out how to exactly look through the viewfinder.

After shooting a tough game, this photographer rewards himself with a Popsicle.

 Michaela and her friend Erin, who has been on her soccer team every season but one since they were four years old.  What a joy it is to watch them grow up together.

One of the team moms made these cookies for the girls to enjoy at the End of Season Party.  Super cute. 

Michaela's shoulders are up by her ears because it was about 35 degrees outside and we were celebrating in an unheated pavilion.  Brrr. 

Congrats to Michaela and her team on another great season!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween, One Week Late. Sorry.

Everyone was happy this Halloween:
1. I was happy that I didn't have to convince Michaela to NOT wear a Teenage Goth Vampire Hottie costume.
2. Dan was happy that the girls' costumes were warm and that they both took trick or treating seriously and really worked the neighborhood.
3. Michaela was happy that she got to troll two neighborhoods with her friend and gathered an impressive 210 pieces of candy.
4. Jenna was happy that she looked so adorable in her Jessie costume and that her aunt and uncle got her the super snazzy hat and boots.  "I want to wear them EVERY DAY!" (Thank you, Brian and Beth!)
5. Alec was happy that we did not force him to wear a costume at all, just a Halloween-themed t-shirt.  And that was good enough for Mommy.

Our neighborhood Halloween Parade and party was cancelled due to the freak snowstorm that came through Saturday night.  Luckily, we were mostly spared and only got about three inches of snow.
Sunday night we ventured out to the Halloween Barn Party we go to every year at a local family farm. 

Michaela helped with the face painting.

In very typical Alec style, he refused to wear a coat the whole time. 
Did I mention there was there was three inches of snow on the ground?  And we were in a barn?

Here's the girls in their Halloween themed t-shirts they wore to school that day.

Here's a Halloween themed treat I made with chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough.

Here's my Eskimo girl.

Here's my Jessie from Toy Story.

Here's Alec eyeing that snazzy hat.

Here's Alec walking away, hat stolen.

Here's Alec sitting in the best seat in the house- inches away from the candy bowl.  He's no dummy.
He helped me greet all our trick or treaters: he would run to the door, open it, look at the people and wait for me to hand them the bowl. When we were done, he would close the door and then touch the door lock and the deadbolt, because that's what we do.  I can only imagine how bizarre the whole evening was for him: why are all these people coming to our house? Why aren't they coming in? Why do they look so funny?  Why are we giving them our CANDY? 


And here's the loot- Michaela had to count and sort it for a Math homework assignment, which led to a spirited discussion of whether Tootsie Rolls are a "bar candy" or an "other" and whether Whoppers are a "bagged candy" or an "other".

It was a great, safe, happy Halloween.  Now... on to Thanksgiving!!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday's Score Card.

Victory: (Sort of) Understood two new words said by Alec today: "burp" and "excuse me". Thanks to Michaela for teaching him how to fake burp at the end of tea parties.

Defeat: Endured three temper tantrums.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How I Spent My October.

 Michaela's friend party: October 22nd.

 Michaela's family party: October 2nd.

 Michaela's cupcakes for her class: October 6th.

 Michaela celebrates at my parents' house: October 5th.

Michaela requests an ice cream pie for her actual birthday: October 8th.

She can't say we don't love her and celebrate her.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Jenna Story to Make Your Day.

So my parents recently returned from visiting my brother and his family in Chicago.  A few years ago, my mom started bringing back gifts for the girls when they went away... a toy or book or Polly Pockets or a video game. 

As Dan and I were recently cleaning out our basement play area and put aside four buckets of toys that are no longer played with, we decided that at ages 6 and 10, the girls can tolerate a separation from their grandparents without a gift coming along with the reunion.

We explained to the girls that while we are of course thrilled when Gammie and PopPop return, they will  no longer be bringing gifts with them: we'll simply be happy that they got back to us safely.

Jenna's response: "Well, that SUCKS."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oooooohh, Alec.

One of the joys of being a parent for a medium amount of time (I'm not a rookie, but certainly have a long ways to go before being a veteran parent) is that you do begin to see patterns and truisms appear in the process of raising children. One truism that I figured out about three years in was this: all kids are tough at one time or another. If your kid seems like an "easy" kid, don't worry- your trying time will come.

Now, remember back when Alec was born, and then we sailed through his first year, and I kept saying how wonderful tempered, how easy and happy, how all-around-dreamy he was? And handsome to boot?

Yes. My trying time has officially come.

There are several factors at work here that are causing this change: he just turned two and is flexing his completely age-appropriate independent wings; he still doesn't talk much, which causes him great frustration and angst; and he has cut at least four teeth in the last three months.

These factors have affected his sleeping patterns, his eating patterns, his pooping patterns, his napping patterns, his bedtime routine, his daytime routine, his bathtime, his desire to wear (or not wear) certain clothing, his absolute refusal to get his diaper changed, his tolerance (and intolerance) for me doing things without him. They have also made his world substantially smaller as we can no longer take him out to dinner or to church any longer.

Several times per day, when he becomes displeased with the choices his parents are making and forcing upon him (WHAT? Changing my diaper AND putting pajamas on??? Are you CRAZY?) Alec completely melts down and screams and cries. He is unredirectable during these jags and we have learned to just ignore him the best we can. Sometimes, like when we HAVE to be somewhere, we have to impose our will upon him and boy, is that not fun. He will cry and scream and kick and wriggle and try as hard as he can to get away from us (thankfully we have escaped biting and hitting thus far) and generally be as unpleasant as a kid can be. After a while, he will settle down and then acts as if nothing has happened and he is sweet, happy Alec once again.

Today he flipped out because I threw out his soaking wet diaper and wouldn't let him play with it. I know- how unreasonable can a mommy be??

Bathtime is a total nightmare. It has switched over the past 21 months with no rhyme or reason from something he hates so much he flips out when you put him in to something he loves so much that he flips out when you take him out and now BACK to hating it so much that he flips out and tries to climb out of the tub the whole time. Dan and I have to tag team him, Dan in the tub, standing up behind Alec and keeping him in the bathwater (Alec will throw his legs over the edge, arch his back and do anything to get out) with me kneeling outside the tub trying to get him bathed as quickly as possible. We all get soaked. Alec screams and cries the whole time, and the funniest part is that when it is over (pretty quickly- I'm a quick bather), we immediately take him out of the tub ... and then he tries to climb back in. He leans over the edge with his arms outstretched, just as mad that we took him out.

Another charming part to this whole matrix of behavior issues is that Alec is a puker. He has multiple times cried so hard that he has puked all over himself and us. We tried the Ferber Method on him a few nights ago to make him sleep through the night, something we did with Jenna with great success, and he cried for two hours and the whole time I was praying, Please don't puke, please don't puke, please don't puke. He didn't puke but at 3:40 am I caved in and botched the whole thing. I just couldn't take it anymore.

But... we are relearning the new rules Alec is presenting us with and forging ahead. We are getting smarter about some things and setting better boundaries where they need to be set. We are adapting. We have some very, very good days where he is meltdown-free and his usual lovely, grinning self. And the days that are not so good are another day closer to him growing out of this ridiculousness. He is being evaluated by the county on Tuesday for speech therapy and we are pretty certain he will qualify for services. He continues to be a loving little boy who gives the most delicious lip-smacking kisses when he's in the mood. He has all kinds of crazy quirks which make us laugh, like how he licks the DVD before he puts it in the DVD player because he has seen us clean his grubby fingerprints off of them before we play them. He loves to play and be with his sisters, loves his train and his Cars puzzle, loves to throw the football into the different rooms upstairs and then says, "Go?" with his palms upturned, asking where did the ball go. He would be very, very happy if I could lay with him on the couch until around 10am, watching SpongeBob, and then have him and I just sort of play all morning in his room and the basement, and maybe eat an apple or some pasta when he feels like it. And heck, I'd love to do that to, but I have a few other obligations I need to attend to, like showering myself (when Alec is not on board with that plan, he stands outside the shower the whole time I'm in there and cries and insists that one of the shower doors be open), and all the tasks involved in running our household.

So our boy is two and trying the best he can to grow and makes his needs known, usually through screaming.

As my mother and grandmother always said, "It's a good thing you're good looking, or you'd be dead by Tuesday."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Columbus Day Outing.

On Columbus Day, Dan had taken the day off and it was a perfect opportunity to do a fun, fall-type activity with our family. The weather was beautiful and we gave a few options to the girls, and the clear winner was going apple picking. So off we went.

The girls were great pickers and filled up our bag with apples, after we found the trees that hadn't been picked clean. (At one point, we were wandering around the orchard in the KENDALL APPLES section, looking at empty tree after empty tree as I pushed my strapping 30+ pound son in a stroller over uneven ground covered in fallen, rotting apples. And did I mention it was about 85 degrees outside? It gave me flashbacks to when Dan and I went to a pick your own pumpkin patch, which we thought was so cute and harvest-y and romantic, and what we actually found was a picked-over field of marginal pumpkins surrounded by thick dying vines and rotting gourds. Not quite as picture-perfect as it sounded.) But we did find trees laden with fruit in another section and everyone enjoyed helping. Well, Alec enjoyed eating and watching.

Dan and I also wanted to go to a state park near us that has a fantastic beautiful overlook.

I love this picture, especially Michaela's face as Jenna looks through the binoculars. Those binoculars have been there for at least 30 years, and if you go to the overlook, it's always required that you pop in a few quarters and have a look at the landscape below you.

I got some great pictures of the girls. Alec was less than willing to be photographed.

It was a lovely day and I got some great shots of the kids. But I have to admit that when we got home, I collapsed onto my bed face down, slept for an hour, and when I woke up I was aching from sleeping so hard.

Family fun sure can tire you out sometimes.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Michaela Hits Double Digits.

Dear Michaela,
It is beyond my comprehension that an entire decade has gone by since you arrived in this world.
You are a joy to behold: so pretty and athletic and energetic, full of life and laughter, bouncing your way through every encounter and activity.
This year we have witnessed the start of your real transformation into Being Grown Up, as you eschew t-shirts that are too cutesy, are much more interested in pop culture and technology and what your friends are into, and get more and more wrapped up in Standard Pre-Teenage Girl Drama. You broke my heart a few weeks ago by announcing that you will not, in any uncertain terms, match dresses with your sister this Christmas. I guess I knew that day was coming but I'm sad just the same.
You have enjoyed watching mom-approved Saturday Night Live skits with me, did your first loads of laundry, played softball for the first time, made lots of new friends, got in trouble in school for the first time, developed your first crush, started playing your first instrument, and finished your first stage of orthodontics this year. Your 10th year on earth was a biggie.
And through it all, you are always Trying To Follow The Rules, being the good first-born girl that you are, and at the same time trying to convince the world that Your Way is Always The Right Way. You are always full of suggestions, how about this?-es, and we really should...s.
And while you sometimes drive us crazy, the four people you live with, you are a delight to the public world. You have been in some stressful situations this year, grown up situations that demanded you know how to act, how to be mature, how to be other-directed, and how to be polite, and you more than lived up to the challenge: you made us unabashedly proud.
You are a great kid.

And for all this grown up stuff, you are still that wide-cheeked two year old with the curly hair and tiny gapped front teeth that I see in pictures, though I mourn that I can't see that little girl in person anymore. That little girl is growing each day into a young lady whom I love more than I ever imagined, a good girl, a super fun girl, a happy girl, a chatty girl, a girl with lots of friends, a girl who still likes her mom to lay down with her at night.

Happy Birthday, my Mimio, and best wishes for a year of love and laughter and joy and growth.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday to Alec.

Dear Alec,

Two years ago from this very moment, I was in the throws of hard and fast labor, about to start pushing you and your seemingly enormous head out. At this moment two years ago, I had a vague idea about what it would be like to have you, our first son, what you might look like, how you would fit into our family, and how much we would love you.

And it turns out that we underestimated everything: because you, indeed, are better than I ever could have imagined.

You are more handsome, more loving, a better fit, more loving and snuggly, and better tempered than my wildest dreams. We love you more than seemed possible.

(I mean, come on... look at that face.)

Your second year has been a great one, watching you grow and grow and grow some more, even though you seem to not need to really eat any real food. I always say that you live on love and strawberries and goldfish crackers. You are tall and big, and people are always startled at how young you are when they stop me in the store. "Oh! Wow! I thought he was three!" is something I've heard over and over. You have slept through the night for most of the year, except when you were teething, and that certainly made me love you more each morning when I woke up well-rested.

You are growing a little more Jenna-esque in your personality, as for the last month or two you have only accepted me as a suitable person to get up with you in the morning, take you out of your crib, put in a DVD, or pour you a bottle. One morning a few weeks ago, Daddy got a bottle for you, and you fussed until I got up off the couch, poured the milk back into the jug, repoured it into the bottle and handed it to you. And that made your fussing stop. You have also shown the true colors of your impending two-ness by throwing, approximately every other day (sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes three in one day) a colossal fit in which you just stand there and scream the most ear-splitting high-pitched scream, over and over. You did it once because you didn't want to wear pajama pants. You did it today because you wanted to ride in your stroller at Michaela's soccer game. Being third time parents, we sigh and say, "Alec's having a fit" and try to figure out what has gotten you so upset in the first place.

Now, this would all be easier if you would talk to us, but that just hasn't happened yet. We have gotten better and better at deciphering your grunts and points, and your many uses of the syllable "ba". Time will fix this and soon you'll be bending our ear non-stop.

This year coming up is my last one with you all to myself: this time next year you will be in preschool two mornings a week, playing and laughing and learning with some new friends. I have not one worry about you going to preschool; you are lovely and not at all grabby or rough. Just a gentle, sweet, fun-loving kid.

I baked cupcakes for your birthday and made the mistake of leaving them on the counter where you could see them when you woke up. So, of course, you wanted one for breakfast.

And, being the third child, you got what you wanted.

We got you a GeoTrax train for your birthday and you are deeply in love. So are your sisters, by the way- they play with it as much as you do.

After lunch we sang "Happy Birthday" and lit a candle for you and Mimi helped you blow it out. You clapped, very appropriately, though I'm fairly certain you have no idea what this fuss is all about. But everyone around you is smiling, so you smile, too. That's just the way you are.

Happy birthday to my big, beautiful, happy boy Alec. You are loved and cherished and celebrated today and every day.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wait. What? What! Whaaaaat!

I am writing this post in honor of my big girl, who at this moment has been whisked away from me by her school and brought to a neighboring state for four days. It's the Nature's Classroom program, and so good for them and they have so much fun and bonding and yeah, yeah, yeah... But this is my BABY! And it's FOUR DAYS! No phone calls, no visits, nothing.
I brought her to school early on Tuesday and she gets home tomorrow at about 1:45pm. She was thrilled to be going, spending the last few days before her departure pinging off the walls, while I packed and labeled and strategized and planned and folded and purchased the few missing things from the Suggested List. ("Mom, it says here I need a robe. You need to buy me one." Ah, no. You can do without the robe. But I will buy you waterproof boots, the disposable camera and a sleeping bag.) I was a nervous wreck but only showed excitement to Michaela. Now that she's been gone a few days, the lead-up to departure was definitely worse than actually having her gone. The hardest part of having her away is that it is the only place she has stayed overnight without me that I can't visualize: I have no idea what the place looks like, who she is bunking with, what their activities are, what they are eating, all that kind of stuff. I'm sure she will return with stories and pictures galore.
Her teacher (The Thoroughly Amazing Mrs. R.) gave us some words of advice at Open House last week, including making sure your child knows where things are packed. She had a student a few years ago not realize that the warmer clothes were at the bottom of the duffel bag, so the student was cold for days unneccesarily. So as a (typical) overcorrection, I barked orders and directions to Michaela for hours before she left: "This is where the ponchos are! This is where I put your boots! Short sleeved shirts are on this side, long sleeved shirts are on this side! I labeled the sleeping bag on the end, so look for your name here! This is a zipper- grasp this rectangle and pull to open the duffel bag!" Okay, I made that last one up, but you get my point. I was pretty ridiculous. Dan just smiled and shook his head at me.

Michaela expressed her excitement about going to Nature's Classroom by punctuating every sentence she said with, "What! WHAAAAT!" at the end, said very quickly and forcefully. She used to pound herself on the chest (thump, thump) with an open palm while saying it but I banned that action pretty quickly after declaring it horrifyingly unladylike. So this is what living with her was like last week:
"Goin' to Nature's Classroom Tuesday... What! Whaaaat!"
"I hope I'm bunking with Anna... we'd have SUCH a good time! What! Whaaat!"
"What's for dinner? Tacos? I LOVE tacos! What! Whaaat!"
"No homework tonight! What! Whaaaat!"

So you get the point. Thankfully, because I am her mother and gave birth to her, I can tolerate this longer than the average bear. Plus her energy and enthusiasm for life is so infectious and endearing, I can't help but laugh as it slowly drives me crazy.
The jury is still out on whether the What! Whaaat! is better or worse than the summer's catchphrase, which was "Wait. What?" Anytime you said anything to her, that was her response.
"You have a dentist appointment next Monday."
"Wait. What?"
"I said you have a dentist appointment on Monday."
It was like any time you gave her a piece of information, her brain had to stop and process it seperately from everything else that was going on around her. She said the "Wait." part much like pundits and politicians say, "Look." at the beginning of their answers when being interviewed. Authoritatively. In command.
Dan and I started answering her by saying "Wait." So we would say, "Would you like more green beans?" and she'd answer, "Wait. What?" and then we'd say back, "Wait. Do you want more green beans?" And then she'd realize she had said it again and smile.

I'm thinking it's better than what she'll be saying to us in a few years. If she's talking to us at all. Wait. What?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bits and Pieces from Libutti Land.

All systems are go at Eagle Elementary. The girls both seem to like their teachers and are happy to be reunited with their friends, despite having most of them at our house once or twice or a billion times over the summer break. I am pleasantly surprised by how smoothly we have slipped back into the school morning routine. Now its all about what the weather is going to be and how it will affect their outfit choices, what the special of the day is (library, music, P.E., art) and do I really, truly, HAVE TO brush my teeth before school? And is there ANY wiggle room in the whole "clearing your plate and cup from the table" routine? And my answers are always the same: yes to the first and no to the second. Just do it.

Bedtime continues to be a ridiculous struggle; so much so that I finally had an epiphany a few weeks ago while brushing Jenna's teeth and asking her for the 20th time to please stop looking in the mirror at herself and OPEN HER MOUTH SO I CAN MOVE THE TOOTHBRUSH.
"Jenna," I told her, "guess what?"
"What?" she asked.
"Tomorrow night, you are going to be me and I am going to be you and you are going to get me ready for bed. You are going to brush my teeth, and comb my hair and get my jammies on. And I'm going to be you and I'm going to stall and whine and do all the things you do that make Mommy crazy."
"Ohhhhh! I can't WAIT!" says Jenna, beaming.
So the next night we did just that: I played the part of Jenna and she was me. And I did all the things that she does: stalling, laying down on the bed when she should be getting her pajamas on, taking a ridiculous amount of time to pick out pajamas, dropping the dirty clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper, asking WHY DO I HAVE TO GO? when I was told to go potty, saying, I CAN'T DO IT! IT'S TOO DIFFICULT! when asked to brush my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror when Jenna was brushing my teeth, clamping down on the toothbrush, spitting and making a mess in the sink, wanting them to lay down with me before I go to sleep, complaining about bug bites itching, and then after they finally go me tucked into bed, a few moments later I got up and told them I wasn't really tired.
Michaela got such a kick out of watching me that she made Dan play her (minus the getting jammies on). And he played it to the hilt. It was brilliant.
After we were all done, I talked to both of them. "So, what do you think?" I asked them.
And they smiled.
"That was hard," they said. (AHA! Understanding! Victory is MINE!)
And then Michaela added:
"But we want to do it again tomorrow!"

Alec has had some steady gains in the language development department. His receptive vocab is pretty impressive, he has started to say an approximation of his own name (which sounds like a open-mouthed version of the word AWK), and is babbling a lot. His articulation is not great and he really seems to struggle in that area. He has learned to say "Aw, man!" from Dora and will put up his little hand and garble something to the effect of "Swiper, no swiping!" (Michaela said, "Shep, no shep!" for years and we still say it to her every once in a while.) He loves pointing to the trucks and airplanes and motorcycles in one of his books and has consistent sounds for each that are single syllables.

Alec has learned the connection between DVDs and the DVD player and now constantly hands me DVDs to put in. He then watches the first 10-15 minutes of a movie and then gets another one for me to put in. In heavy rotation are Yogi Bear, Tangled, The Backyardigans' Surf's Up, and Diego's Animal Rescue. When he watches Diego, and the camera in the show asks, "Is THIS the pygmy marmoset?" Alec always answers, "Noooooo!" He says that to no matter what question Click asks. It's very cute if you're his mom.

Michaela started another soccer season this past Saturday. She picked out awesome new cleats that are neon yellow and bright purple and look very professional. They look great. She's excited to play again after a break last season and is playing for her usual coach, The Incomparable Coach Tim, who has coached her every season but one since she was 4 years old. Her team color is lime green and looks great with her cleats.

I signed up to be Alec's Toddler Sunday School class teacher, and we were the only ones in the class on Sunday. Made for an easy lesson! My Girl Scout Troop is on it's way and we'll maybe have our first meeting at the end of this month. Half of the girls in the troop are named Emma. I'm not kidding.

I went grocery shopping with only one child this morning for the first time since June. It was heavenly.

I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday with my mom and let me tell you, they have THREE SHELVES OF PILGRIM FIGURINES. And that's all I have to say about that.

Dan is slammed at work with claims from Hurricane Irene. He was supposed to take last week off but had to cancel his vacation because of the amount of work to be done. Now he gets to take a week off almost every month from now until January. He is VERY happy that it is fall and that means he soon will not have to mow the lawn every week. We don't have any leaves to rake, either, so once the grass stops growing, he's done for the season. I am making a long Fall/ Winter Honey-Do list for around the house- things we've lived with for the past year but would like to remedy.

I bought apple crisp topping at the store today. Cant wait to make my first batch.

Speaking of Walmart, let me wrap up with this story:
I shopped for the week and had about $175 in groceries. I bring my own bags, because I love my earth and all that, and I piled them on top of my stuff. About 3/4 of the way through the check out, I realize that my checker has not put any of my items in my bags, instead choosing to stack all of my items (in categories that made sense in her head but not mine) on the carousel where the plastic bags lay. When she was done ringing me up, she applied hand sanitizer and then told me, "I hate reusable bags! I sliced my hand right open on one because someone left a RAZOR BLADE in there!" and then proceeds to tell me that sentence again exactly as she just had. I said very lightly, "Well, my bags are empty! No razor blades in there!" and smiled helpfully. She went on to tell me, as she struggled to pack my bags, that she hates to bag things because "it has to be perfect" and she dislikes "stacking groceries on top of one another." And I again say lightly, "Oh, that's okay, I'm just going right home from here..." and while I'm saying that, she shows me the bag she's packed and says, "See? Everything's STANDING UP!" And I see that my bag is indeed filled on the bottom but only about 20% full with all canned items that are standing up, and while it fit her OCD proclivities, it would have taken about 40 more bags to carry all of my items out of the store. So I took matters into my own hands (after complimenting her for her lovely packing job) and just threw the rest of her piles into my bags. Enough's enough.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Day of School: First and Fifth Grade Edition.

Happy First Day of School!

Everything went smooth as silk this morning

and I am thrilled to report that both of our nervously excited girls are

back in their classrooms.

Alec wanted to be in the Back to School Photo Shoot...

and that evil-looking grimace is his "posing for the camera" smile.

New clothes, new sneaks, and a new messenger bag for Michaela.

Here's to an adventure-filled year!