Sunday, April 27, 2014

Alec Calls it Can-COOOON!

We are now international travelers.

We went to Cancun- well, really Riviera Maya- on a wonderful vacation with Dan's family a few weeks ago.  

It was awesome. It was beautiful. It was warm.

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort called Marina El Cid, which is clearly the way to go if you are traveling with 13 people like we were.

We flew out of Newark, NJ, which is clearly the way to do it if you'd enjoy booking a hotel room near the airport that looked nothing like the pictures online and featured real, live prostitutes.  (We found another hotel.) Also clearly the way to go if you enjoy following nonsensical directions of how to get to the AirTrain while keeping track of 6 kids and traveling for almost 24 hours.

Marina El Cid was super family-friendly and filled with people from the Northeast who had suffered through a horrible winter and were now drunk on Vitamin D and sunshine.  No riff raff, no obnoxious drinkers, all families, all nice.  The staff was wonderful and couldn't have been friendlier.  The food was good and the place was spacious, well kept, and had an amazing beach and pool. So many activities we barely even scratched the surface of all you could do.  And lots of palm trees.  Y'all know how I love my palm trees.

We all had fun hanging out together and it was so nice to see the cousins all playing together.  There was lots of hand-holding which was so cute to see.

They had professional photographers walking around who would take your picture in the pool, on the beach, or holding one of the various species of wildlife- monkeys, toucans, iguanas.  You could hire a photographer to take family photos on the beach and of course we did that.  We teased Dan's brother Mikey, who had the idea before we left of everyone wearing black and white shirts for a family picture... and didn't pack a white or black shirt.  We lamented that of all the moments he could have chosen, Alec chose the walk down to the beach as his Super Freak Out Moment and refused to take part in the beach photographs.  We finally calmed him down enough and carried him out to the gazebo in the ocean, and in the picture he looks kind of squinty while in reality he was just on the verge of losing it again.  But we got beautiful pictures of the kids and our family... totally worth it.

It was five days of bliss.  We were so sad to come home.

A huge thank you to Paga for making this trip possible!!

Here are some (well, a lot of) pictures of our adventure.

 The Whole Gang

 The Grandchildren

 The Daniel Libuttis

 We all gasped when we saw this picture... perfection: Michaela, Olivia, Melina, Sophie, and Jenna.
They are all so pretty and what a joy it is to watch them all grow up.

 Our only family pic down at the beach.  See how Alec looks kind of squinty?

 Our girls

 If I have ever seen a picture capture Michaela and who she is... this is it.

 The Libutti Boys: Dan, Michael, Ron, and Jim
(Also known as Danny, Migs, Paga, and Jimbo)

 Me and my girls

 Michaela ponders the ocean

 Jenna plays in the sand

 Dan and Michael soak up some rays on the beach

 Hammocks on the beach

Palm trees! 

 Michaela, Olivia, Jenna poolside

 Michaela with some monkeys.

Jenna's turn with the monkeys.

 Part of the huge, huge pool

 Michaela and Olivia got their hair braided... Michaela said the Mexican ladies who did it were much gentler than the Bahamian women who did it last year.


 Alec drinking his fruit punch.  We were a little desperate to find a drink he would enjoy since he so recently gave up his bottles... and milk.  He drank three or four of these a day, and ate them with Fruit Loops in the little boxes we got at breakfast.  Yum... sugar bombs!!

 Love this picture of my baby boy.

 One of the places we ate lunch outside.  So relaxing and beautiful.

 Uncle Jimmy holding court with 4 out of 5 Little Libutti Ladies.

 Alec ready to head into the pool

My boy on the beach

 Jenna, ready for dinner.  Her sunburned face made her smiles look like a serial killer's grimace, so I told her to turn her face to the side and don't try to smile.

 Michaela and Olivia, thick as thieves

 The pool had a jumping area at the top, like cliff diving.  
Michaela, Olivia and Jenna were brave enough to try it!
Here's Michaela taking the plunge.

 Walking to breakfast... here's Sophie, Jenna, and Melina all holding hands.  Love it.

 Libutti Girls on the beach taking their own pictures.

Our last morning there... One last picture by the pool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alec Bids Farewell to His Trusty Bottle.

Let's get the elephant out of the room right away: I am FULLY aware how ridiculous it was that Alec is four and a half and still drinking all of his liquids from a bottle.  And by all his liquids, I mean the two gallons of milk he went through each week.

The bottle was his soother, his pacifier, his comfort, and I as a parent am a big believer in monitoring your child for signs that they are ready to let go of that comfort and then act accordingly.  Not on my schedule, but theirs.  I try really hard as a parent to honor the quirks my kids display- some have more quirks than others *cough ALEC cough*- and work with them.  My goal is to not leave my kids with gaping emotional holes that they then spend their entire adult lives trying to fill.  Because that ain't pretty.

But let me be clear- the last year or so has been very embarrassing to bring him out in public with his bottle, and many people made comments to me about how he's not a baby.  Yes, I understand how silly he looked and how I could have taken it away earlier.  And I can see how people judge, just like I did before I had kids.  I always said I was the best mom I ever knew before I had children.

I have walked a fine line here on the blog talking about Alec and his quirks and not oversharing details that he may someday find embarrassing.  The bottom line is that his brain is wired differently than neurotypical kids and I as his mom have to make dozens of judgement calls a day about how to handle him.  Sometimes that includes setting boundaries, and sometimes that includes letting things go.  Many times I question my own choices and think how I would have done something differently.  I did this with the girls, too, but there is some added complications with Alec. And this was an ongoing judgement call.

We noticed that he was not quiiiiiite as fixated on the bottle a few months ago and I started formulating a plan to ditch it entirely.  Knowing that we had a big trip to Mexico coming up, I thought it would be perfect timing to be bottle-free before our departure.

Alec got a calendar for Christmas and I told him to pick a day in April that he wanted to set as Getting Rid of the Bottle Day.  "I want to do it on the five!" he told me.  Perfect.

We were down to only one acceptable nipple that he would drink from (after determining one day the other two we had were unacceptable...quirkmeister) and only three actual bottles left.  I tried buying replacements but 1) the Walmart brand of nipples was deemed not okay by my bottle expert and 2) I bought the first bottles 5 YEARS AGO.  They don't even sell that kind or shape anymore.

We talked about boxing up the bottles and sending them to Baby Luke, who in actuality is almost two years old and as far as I know, has never ever drank from a bottle.  (Sorry, Older Alec reading this.  You were blatantly deceived for the greater good.)  Alec was way on board with this plan.

And then we had the key component: bribery.  I bought him a Skylander to play with on April 5th.

Alec was thrilled.  I was nauseous.

Here is the very last bottle sitting next to the Bribe.  Meet FreezeBlade.

And here's my happy boy with FreezeBlade.

So, I packed them all up...

 ... and "mailed" them at the post office, also known as the garbage can in front of the Central Avenue Home Depot.

Alec decided that he was going to drink out of the cups he uses at preschool, which I shopped all over for but they only sell at Sam's Club.  God bless the girl working at the counter there who did not make me buy a $48 membership to purchase Dixie cups.  I bought 900 cups, not knowing how long we would use them for.

Turned out that was about one afternoon.  So now I have about 892 dixie cups at my house.  Looks like one package will be returned and that the preschool will be getting a donation soon.

Alec did really well! Not one tear was shed about the whole thing and he was rewarded for his good efforts with another Skylander.  We went to Mexico bottle-free and it was heavenly.  It took a few days for him to regulate his eating and drinking, but I think we've seen steady improvement in his food intake and drinking.  He drinks some 100% fruit juice, some water, and iced tea.  He really likes drinking from a straw, so we do that quite a bit.

The only difficulty we've had is some nights he has trouble settling down and falling asleep without his trusty bottle by his side. We are working through that and trying various strategies.  Also when he is really upset, I sometimes wistfully wish I had a quick bottle to pop in his mouth that would help get him through.  But we are working our way through that as well.  Thankfully he has never asked for a bottle or cried about missing it- signs to me that he was really ready.

I was shocked that it went so well, to be honest.  It is a huge relief that we are done.  On the evening of April 5th, Dan removed the bottle basket from our dishwasher and stomped on it.  Many times.  Freedom!!

Now, if only potty training could be so easy...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I Learned While Visiting Colonial Williamsburg.

Last weekend I was blessed to the gills to fly down to Williamsburg, VA with my mom and spend a wonderful weekend with our former Pastor and his wife Linda, whom we love to pieces.  On Saturday, my friend Carrie, who is their daughter in law, drove up to join us.  The whole thing was lovely and full of love and talking and some wine and history.

After spending many hours at the Colonial Williamsburg site and museums, as well as the surrounding Williamsburg area, I have learned several things.

1. Colonial Williamsburg is AMAZING.

 Here's the church George Washington attended.  He had his own little cubicle. 
(That is not the technical, historical term for it.)

The Governor's Palace

2.  Williamsburg has a very different point of view than Plymouth Plantation, where my people are from.  (Really.  My ancestor Francis Kendall helped to found Woburn, MA in the 1640's.) Williamsburg people have no love lost for their Northern counterparts.

3.  Patrick Henry was apparently a real loudmouth.

4.  John D. Rockefeller paid for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg starting in the late 1920's.  He and his wife lived in The Bassett House for several weeks out of the year when it was being restored and loved being there.

5. If you'd like to have your heart ripped out of your chest, go see the Colonial Williamsburg museum exhibit about the London Foundling Hospital. The exhibit has the records from the late 1700s when women were not able to care for their babies and would hand them over to nurses.  A scrap of fabric, ribbon, metal token or paper would be filed with the information about the baby and was used as a marker should that parent ever return to retrieve the child.  The notes and tokens were absolutely gut wrenching.  System-wide, only 2% of the children were ever reclaimed.  These scraps of fabric also make up an astounding collection of lower-class textiles in England: there are over 5000 and not one is a repeat of another.  See how this exhibit touches me as a mom, history buff and fabric fanatic??

6.  Mrs. John D Rockefeller was a cooky, wonderful soul with a great sense of humor and a great eye for art collecting.
 Pictures of Bassett House

7.  You can rent period costumes at Williamsburg.  Sign me up.

8.  In March in Virginia, you can walk around without a jacket on.  This was a novel experience for me.  And if other Virginians find out that you are from NY, they apologize that the weather isn't warmer.

9.  If you are a dad staying home for three full days with three kids, you do pretty well until the afternoon of the third day, and then you hit the wall and text your wife asking when, exactly, is she planning on coming home.

10.  If you are on a tour of the Bassett House, and you stumble into quite possibly the most beautiful 1940's era butlers pantry you have ever seen, and you have a well-documented THING for butlers pantries, and if you ask the tour guide if there is any possibility that you could take a bite of said butlers pantry, just a small one, so you could chew it and taste it and swallow it and have it become part of you, the tour guide will look at you strangely and answer, "Ummm.... no. No you may not."

11.  The best financial decision Dan Libutti ever made was to have his family settle in an area many, many miles away from a Janie and Jack outlet store.  I went to my first one in Williamsburg and quite literally hyperventilated when I entered its doors.

12.  If the same Dan Libutti could find a job in or near to Williamsburg, I would move there lickety-split.