Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Top 10 of our 10th Wedding Anniversary Trip to Mexico!

At the beginning of November, Ryan and I went to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (which isn't until December 28th, but you go when the deals are good and the childcare is available!). 

It was heaven.  Can I please go back tomorrow?  Seriously a perfect trip from beginning to end, and I just love spending time with Ryan.  I am so glad I married him--best decision of my life.  Second best decision was going on this trip.  (Just kidding!  That would have to be becoming parents--or maybe buying a's a toss up!)

People were so shocked when we told them it was our tenth anniversary.  One lady asked if we got married when we were 12.  I told her, "Basically!" Ha! Even though we were young when we got married (21 and 23), it was the right decision, for sure.  And it was so fun to go away and celebrate, kid-free for a week!  We had never been on a relaxing, tropical vacation together, and I will be forever grateful to our parents for watching the kids so we could make it happen.  My dad came to Twin Falls and stayed with them for the first few days, and then my mother-in-law took over for the rest of the week.  We are truly indebted. 

So here are my Top 10 of our 10th Anniversary Trip, in no particular order:

1. The Sunsets

The sunsets over the ocean were completely incredible, and we made sure to watch them every night, whether it was from the beach near our hotel (swimming at sunset--could anything be more romantic?), the boardwalk in town (with my head on Ryan's shoulder), or the rooftop infinity pool at our hotel (with pina colada in hand--heaven!).


I have become sentimental about sunsets lately.  In the book Hands Free Mama, the author talks about "sunset moments," those simple but beautiful moments in life that are happening each and every day, but unless we are present and aware of them, we will miss them.  Did you know that the sun sets every night?  And many of those sunsets are awesome, no matter where you are in the world, and yet we are often so busy that we miss them.  I would like to make it a goal to watch more sunsets in my daily life.  Even though it's not over the ocean, we have some incredible sunsets in Idaho, with the big, open sky.  I think nature is a beautiful reminder of God's love for us.  He has given sunsets to all of us, everywhere.


This is what I thought about when I was in Mexico on vacation, with my head on Ryan's shoulder, my hand in his.  A little harder to do when I'm home at the "witching hour" of the evening when the kids are hungry and cranky and all hell is breaking loose.  But I want to remember!  Maybe I need to run outside and watch the sunset if things inside the house are getting too crazy!

The sunrises in Mexico were also awesome, and we caught a few of them (when we weren't sleeping in) and even ate room service breakfast on our balcony while watching the sun peak out through the clouds.  Nature is just so spectacular.



2. The Hotel

And speaking of spectacular, can we talk about this hotel for a second?  Oh my gosh, it was a destination in and of itself.  Truly we hardly had to leave the resort in order to have the trip of a lifetime.  A friend recommended the hotel and sent me the link to an incredible deal for it.  November is considered the "off season" in Mexico, so to stay at this five-star resort, we paid about what we would pay to stay in a La Quinta in the United States. Amazing!!


It had a lovely private beach with included snorkeling, paddle boards, and kayak tours to the nearby Los Arcos landmark.  There was also a guided hike to a waterfall in the nearby jungle, and we got to jump in and swim in the cool river water.  Ryan even did a little cliff jumping.


Our room was so beautiful that we could have just stayed in there all day and felt like we were in the lap of luxury.  Honestly, it was so chique that we felt a little awkward about it: we are not cool enough to be staying in such a hipster place with iPad controlled surround sound stereo and curtains and super modern decor. ;)  Although maybe I could get used to having a vanity fit for a Queen to get ready at each day.


And the view.  Oh the view!  We had a corner room with a panoramic view of the ocean and a huge balcony with a hammock and a hot tub.  I mean, just ridiculous.

And to top it all off (pun intended), the highest floor of the hotel was an infinity pool overlooking the ocean.   This was just a slightly beautiful and relaxing place to hang out.  Just slightly.


3. The Restaurants

In addition to the gorgeous setting and rooms, the hotel had several on-site restaurants that were truly delicious.  We had amazing steaks, seafood, fajitas, breakfast buffets, pina coladas (every single day), and desserts.  The chocolate volcano cake will linger in my dreams for months, I'm sure.




The dinners were really fancy, and it was fun to get dressed up on occasion.  And let me just say, for someone who truly detests all things cooking (from meal-planning, to grocery shopping, to actual food prep), I think one of my favorite parts of the trip was not having to give one thought to cooking for an entire week.  Three times a day, we would say, "Hmmm, we're hungry.  Let's order something delicious and have it brought to us."  Do I look happy in this photo, sitting by the pool after just finishing a romantic and delicious dinner with my hubby?  Because I was!

4. The Conversations

Our meals at the restaurants were long and leisurely, and I loved that Ryan and I found so much to talk about. He has been taking some online business classes and has been reading tons of interesting personal development books over the past few months, and I love the way that it has beefed up our date-night conversations.  He will tell me about the books he's been reading, and then we will discuss how the ideas apply to our life.  We will dream and plan together.  It is super fun--way more fun than talking about our kids' sleep schedules and behavior problems.  It's so easy to fall into the habit of only talking about our kids when we are together, but honestly, on this anniversary trip, we hardly talked about them at all. We missed them, of course (a little, and only by the last day--ha!), but we really reconnected as a couple, and it was perfect.

5. The Spa

Just when you think the hotel can't get any better, it does.  One of the top floors of the hotel was a spa with an insane view of the ocean.  When we booked a couples massage, we also got access to their hydrotherapy circuit which included the steam room, sauna, cold pressure shower, hot tub, ice plunge, and massage pool.  I've never done anything like the hydrotherapy before, and it was the coolest experience--a definite highlight of the trip for both of us, made even better by the fact that we had an open-air sweeping view of the bay the entire time.  Ridiculous.




6. The Zipline Tour

We actually did tear ourselves away from that amazing hotel for a few day trips, and a zipline tour in the Sierra Madre mountains was awesome.  The tour company drove us into the mountains in open-air trucks, and it was an experience to bounce through those bumpy, washed out back roads and watch the local people heading to school and work in their small towns.

Then we rode up the mountain on donkeys.  When the tour guide handed each of us our donkey, he said that he had chosen them for us based on our personalities, and we all laughed because clearly this man had known us for all of five minutes.  But I started to think that there was truth to the guide's joke when I saw how our burros performed on the mountain: mine crawled along at a snail's pace, literally huffing and puffing up the hill (is it normal for a donkey to huff??), and Ryan's raced to the front of the group and sped up the mountain with ease.  His got to the top of the mountain first, and mine nearly collapsed over the finish line several yards behind everyone else.  Ha! 


We started at the top of the mountain and did ten different ziplines down through the jungle canopy.  What a rush!  Even my quiet husband was hooting and hollering.


We rappelled down two waterfalls and went down a couple of water slides.  It was high-adventure for sure and super fun.




I loved being in the jungle and witnessing such astonishing beauty.  It was kind of mind-blowing and hard to take it all in, especially as we rushed from one thrill ride to the next.  It made me want to go for a nice slow hike with just Ryan and sit in the quiet and look around.  We were able to do that a few days later when we visited the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, but nothing compared to the beauty of that zipline tour through the jungle!

7. The Throwback to our Life Pre-Children

Going to the Botanical Gardens for a spur-of-the-moment daytrip made me feel like we were newlywed college students again, adventuring across Central America.  As we walked down the dirt road into the Botanical Gardens, I suddenly felt like we were walking down the dirt road leading to the orphanage in El Salvador.  The vegetation and climate seemed so similar to me, and it made me feel nostalgic and in-love with Ryan all over again. We had lunch at the museum overlooking the jungle, and then we went for a little hike.  It was just a really pleasant afternoon.

One aspect of this trip that I truly loved was reverting back to the freedom that we felt in our relationship  before we had children.  Want to throw our stuff in backpacks, hop in a cab, and go to the Botantical Gardens for lunch?  Sure, let's do it.  No diaper bag, no carseats, no nap schedules, and no whining children.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade our kiddos for anything in the world.  They have done so much to enrich our relationship and teach us about love, patience, God, and each other.  But it is a big responsibility to care for little people.  There's just a lot to think about and a lot to do, and we can't be as carefree and spontaneous in our marriage as we were before Noah and Sally entered our lives.  So it was a really refreshing break to have no responsibilities and no one to care for other than each other for a week.

8. The Boat Ride under the Stars

One evening, we went on a boat ride out to a torch lit island to have dinner and watch a Cirque-du-Solei type of show.  I love riding on boats.  The dinner by torchlight on the beach and the beautiful dancing show were awesome, but I loved the boat ride even more.  There is just something so magical and calming to me about being out in the open water, the wind in my face, the boat swaying, the stars overhead.  There were about 100 people on our catamaran boat, but on the way home, we snagged the best spot right at the front of the boat, laid back to watch the stars, and sang our hearts out to the music that was playing on the speakers.  I'll never forget jamming with Ryan to "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran on a boat in the middle of the bay: "Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars, place your head on my beating heart...Darling, we found love right where we are." Perfect.

9. The Ocean

I love being in the ocean.  I loved snorkeling with Ryan, holding hands and letting the tides just carry us along as we floated, pointing things out to each other when we spotted something interesting.  We didn't have a super beautiful spot for snorkeling, and we never saw tons of colorful fish, but being in the ocean was such a treat.  The hotel was sheltered from big waves, and it was just so calming.

And of course being on the beach is as good as being in the water.  I loved lounging in the warm sun, reading a book or listening to a podcast.  One of my favorite memories from the whole trip happened when I was reading something aloud to Ryan on the beach.  It was a serious topic, and I mispronounced one of the words and then made fun of myself for it, and we both started laughing hysterically and couldn't stop.  I don't think I've laughed with him like that for months, maybe even years.  The best.

Here we are heading down to the beach from our hotel room, looking rather matchy and loving it.  And once we made it to the beach, we always ordered our twinner pina coladas.  The waiters thought our request for no alcohol was super bizarre, until I reminded them that we were 12-year-old newlyweds, and then they understood. ;)


10. The Company

My very favorite part of the trip was enjoying the company of my husband.  Ten years later, and I love and respect him even more than I did on the day I married him.  He has been by my side through all sorts of ups and downs over the past decade, and there is no question in my mind that he will stay by my side through anything, come what may.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I often have irrational worries about health, and Ryan is so patient to just calmly talk me through it.  I had a freak-out moment on the trip where I started worrying that I have MS (don't ask--I am a nutcase), so of course I did what any logical person does when diagnosing themselves with a disease: I started looking up stuff online.  This made me even more convinced that I had MS, and then I started worrying about some of our friends and loved ones that suffer from that debilitating disease, and I genuinely felt so sad for them and so worried for me.  I knew I was being crazy, but sometimes my mind just works like this.

Ryan lovingly teased me a little and got me laughing at myself, and then he said, "Rachel, if you have MS, we will figure it out and work through it.  Please don't worry about that right now."  I said, almost tearfully, "And you will help me?  You will help me if I have MS?"  And with us both laughing, he hugged me tight and said, "Of course I will!"

In that moment, I realized just how lucky I am.  I have a man who loves me in spite of all my weird quirks.  He thinks I'm cute and knows how to make me laugh when I am being irrational. And I do know that he would stay by my side and help me with anything that I face in life, which is a true, true comfort.

For the record, I don't have MS (since I know you were all just as concerned and convinced as I was, ha!), but I'm a little bit glad that I had that paranoid moment on the trip because it reminded me of how blessed I am to have Ryan.  And how blessed I am to have my health.  And how blessed I am to have so much abundance in my life.  

I am beyond grateful to have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with my true love, and so beyond grateful to have been able to return home to these two little urchins who had a great time with their grandparents while we were away--and who loved their Mexican souvenirs.  Truthfully, I don't think they even missed us.



It's been a beautiful ten years, and I can't wait to see what the next ten hold for us!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Noah the Negotiator and Other Adventures in Parenting

Noah makes me smile.  I love him.  He also makes me completely crazy, and this may not be the best week for me to write an update because parenting has been a beast lately, and you, dear blog readers, are about to get an earful.  Please leave advice or ideas in the comments.  This strong-willed little boy often reminds me that I have no idea what I am doing!

I'm so glad he's my firstborn, my buddy, my parenting guinea pig (poor kid).  We test each other's patience daily!  But we also have so much fun together daily, and I couldn't love him more.  Here's a little bit about our Noah these days:

He imitates everything that he hears adults say, and it is hilarious to hear such grown-up things come out of such a little person.  For example, in the midst of a loud family dinner recently, there was a momentary pause in the chaos and he said to my sister-in-law,  "So, Aunt Alli, how are things going with your new baby?" We all burst out laughing--he just sounded so grown up! 

I also heard him playing with his toys the other day, making them interact and "talk" to each other, and one robot said to the other, "Dang, Brother!"  This is a total Nielson-ism, and apparently Noah has been listening to his daddy and his uncles interacting. ;)

He has also picked up some phraseology from the Westover side.  My sisters and I have a habit of
making a lot of words diminutive.  We put a "y" on words to show affection, and Noah does too.  I heard him playing with his Thomas trains the other day, and he said, "Oh sweet little Jamesy, did you fall off the tracks?" Jamesy! Ha!  He also says things to me like, "Let's take a shortcut-y, Mom!" when we are riding our bikes. 

And his imitation of me doesn't end there.  A few weeks ago he randomly went on a cleaning binge (this is SO unlike him) and started joyfully picking up his toys and straightening his room.  Perplexed by this sudden burst of helpfulness and cheer, I asked him what he was doing, and he said in a sing-songy voice, "Oh I'm just practicing being a parent; I'm getting totally organized." ;) I wish this organizational urge would strike his fancy more often!

He's still as dramatic as ever.  When I gave him a skeleton t-shirt at the beginning of October, he declared, "Oh Mom!  I've wanted one of these for years!"

He's equally dramatic when he's not pleased and throws himself on the ground in a shrieking fit when things don't go his way.  He often shouts, "You're a bully!" at kids who won't give him what he wants.  (Hey, I suppose he could call them worse things.)  I'm often declared a bully and a "mean mommy" too.  How dare I not let him watch four hours of TV a day? ;)

Tonight he was being so disobedient and got so many warnings that I finally just put him in bed without any stories.  I don't like using this punishment because story time is our special time every evening, but tonight this consequence was definitely merited.  "No scripture story either??" he cried in dismay as I put him in his bed. "But how will I learn about Jesus??" I stifled a laugh as I hugged him and said, "I love our story time too.  It makes me so sad when we don't get to do it together.  I'm sorry that you chose not to listen tonight." His response: "And I'm sorry that you chose not to teach me about Jesus tonight!" Oh my.  The master manipulator for sure!  How can a parent keep a straight face around this kid? 

He is a picky eater, and it stresses me out.  It makes me feel like I have failed him as a parent.  I am not an adventurous eater, and I have a huge sweet tooth, and it makes me sad to think that my bad habits have rubbed off on him.  Granted I certainly eat more than just PBJ and mac and cheese, but I'm not a huge fan of vegetables and I have too many sweets in our house for him to fall back on.  I know that my food habits aren't the sole reason he is picky--plenty of parents who are great eaters have picky kids--but I have also noticed that most of my friends who are adventurous eaters have kids who will eat anything.  Sorry, Noah--I guess we will learn together!

There is literally not one vegetable that he will eat.  Not one.  Over his four years of life, we have sometimes "forced" him to try foods, but it ends in huge battles that include multiple trips back and forth to his bedroom to put him in timeout or hours of him sitting and crying at the dinner table, and I've just decided it's not worth the fighting.  I want family dinner to be an enjoyable time for all of us, not a time for threats and tears.

I don't make him a separate meal if he doesn't like what I am serving, but I don't force him to eat it either.  I try to deconstruct the meal a little for him so he can eat what he does like from what is being offered (just the chicken from the soup but not the broth, etc).  At the suggestion of our pediatrician, I also try to make sure that there is one thing on the table that he will eat, even if it's just some fruit that I offer everyone as a side dish.  I encourage him to try all of the various dishes served, but it's not a mandate. Since he knows I won't force him to try foods anymore, he's often surprisingly willing to take a nibble.  Baby steps. 

He sometimes tells me that he is hungry before bed, and I say, "Boy I wish you would've eaten more dinner!" and he says, "Yeah, me too," and then we move on.  I don't make him a bedtime snack, and he doesn't die of starvation in the night.  I wish I could say that this has transformed his willingness to eat dinner, but it hasn't. Sigh.

One thing that I do insist upon is politeness.  Oh it makes my blood boil when he whines, "Eeeeeew, I don't like that!" when we all sit down to eat.  It's so rude and uncalled for, and I would die of embarrassment if he ever said that at someone else's home who made him dinner.  We are working on just saying, "No thank you!" when he doesn't want to eat something (he remembers to be polite about 60% of the time), and if he is respectful, I try to be respectful back by allowing him his preferences with food.  Who knows if I am doing any of this "right," but I prefer it to huge battles at dinner every night. 

He loves preschool.  He was so confident starting again this year.  No tears, no trouble adjusting.  His first-day-of-preschool photo made me laugh because he looks "too-cool-for-school," like, "I did this last year, no big deal."  And that's kind of how he acted--didn't even want me to walk him up to the door on his first day.  He just hopped out of the van, ran up to school, tripped on the step while he was opening the door, and fell into the classroom.  Noah knows how to make an entrance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enrolled him in two different preschools this year, one that meets in the morning MWF and one that meets in the afternoon TR, and he loves both. This was such a good decision for both of us.  I love his teachers, and he learns a lot.  And it gives me a couple of hours every day with just Sally or, if she is napping, with my computer. ;)  It's so hard to get any computer work done with little ones underfoot, and I truly love to blog and write for Power of Moms.  So while Noah is at school doing his learning, I'm at home doing mine.

He adores his teachers (especially Mrs. Stevens from his TR class), his classmates, and the cute art projects that they do together.  I'm glad he has somewhere to do crafts--because it's not happening much at home with his mother!  We read lots of books and do other fun things, but crafts is just not my forte.

He is learning to be independent.  I wouldn't say this is natural for him.  I hear about some toddlers who insist, "I do it!"  Noah was never one of those.  He'd prefer that I do most things for him, and I've had to deliberately teach him to do things on his own.

In order to help him start buckling and unbuckling his own car seat, I put a sticky note on my dashboard, and anytime he got the buckle done or undone himself, he got a mark.  When he got fifteen marks, he got a treat. This system was so simple, and it worked like a charm.  On the days he couldn't get the buckle done or didn't want to try, I said, "That's okay," and I did it for him but he didn't get a mark.  He started really wanting those tallies, and within a week or two, he was totally independent on this task.  I worried that the treats would continue to be expected, but he doesn't ask for marks anymore--that interest faded almost as soon as he had his new skill mastered.

And can I just say, having a kid who no longer needs my assistance with his car seat is truly heaven.  Do you hear the angels singing the Hallelujah chorus?  Because I do--each and every time I no longer have to do this loathsome task!

He's also learned how to make his own PBJ sandwich recently.  This one took a bit of reverse psychology.  I started to ask him if he knew how to make a sandwich, and then I said, "Oh never mind, what am I saying? Four-year-olds can't make their own sandwiches.  Silly me!  When you're a big five-year-old, you will be able to do that, but you couldn't do that now."  Boy was he quick to hop up and prove me wrong.  Sneaky mommy.

I know I've mentioned this before, but it remains true: Noah is a negotiator.  Everyone who spends anytime around Noah mentions this to me.  He likes to debate, negotiate, discuss, and explain his point of view.  Maybe he will be a lawyer someday; he'd be a good one.

He has asked "Why?" for every rule I make since he was about two years old, and I don't mind explaining my reasoning; but when I do, he always has a retort.  He explains why my logic doesn't apply to him or to this particular situation, or he explains what he will do to avoid the problem I am describing. It is exhausting, hilarious, and infuriating all at once.  I've taken to just saying "Because, it's a rule" and refusing to dive into the discussion further.   He often says to me, "Mom, let's compromise" when he's not completely satisfied with my answer. Need I remind you that he is four years old?  Heaven help me.

I'm sad to admit it, but Noah is a whiner.  His default voice is whiny, even when it doesn't need to be.  "Please use a nice voice" is my constant refrain, and I wait until he rephrases his request politely, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. 

His favorite response whenever I ask him to make his bed or unload the dishwasher is, "But that's going to take forever!!!!" Then he goes into his room and pouts for 30 minutes until finally making his bed in 2 minutes.  Maybe that's why it feels like forever to him. ;)  I think I may pull the reverse on him one of these days: When he asks me to make him a snack or help him with something, perhaps I will wail, "But that's going to take forever!!" Ha!

I don't want to raise an entitled, bratty child, and it's hard to know what to do when acts this way.  The other day I made him macaroni and cheese before preschool, and as I pulled out a plastic bowl from the cupboard, he screamed in the most awful, demanding, nails-on-chalkboard voice ever, "I DON'T WANT THAT ONE! GET ME A DIFFERENT ONE!" I wish I could say this was the first time that had happened, but I am hearing these reactions more and more often from him lately, and it honestly concerns me.  I said, "Noah, you cannot talk to me like that. I will be happy to get you a different bowl as soon as you ask me nicely." He proceeded to scream, howl, wail, and yell mean threats at me for 45 minutes.  45 minutes!  I texted his preschool teacher and told her that he would be late, and then I just waited it out while he raged.  He finally emerged from his room and said in a slightly whiny but at least controlled voice, "Mom, can I please have one of the white bowls for my macaroni?"  "Of course!" I responded, as if I was totally unphased by his huge tantrum. "Thanks for asking me nicely." And that was the end of it.

Does anyone have advice on how to deal with situations like this?  Is he going to grow out of this entitlement?  It's giving me gray hairs, and I'm only 31 years old, and he's only four years old!  We have a lot of years ahead of us, and I don't want our relationship to be combative.  I want to love being together, and it has been rough the last little while. 

In spite of his strong will and his whining, Noah really can be a sweetheart.  After episodes like the one described above, it gives me so much hope to witness the moments when he runs to hug his sister after she falls down or asks me about people whom he sees who homeless.  I love seeing his empathy and compassion developing.

Ryan and I recently went on an anniversary trip to Mexico (much more on this in another post!), and unfortunately my iPhone got stolen while we were down there.  When Noah heard about what happened, he said, "Oh, Mom--I feel so sad for you that someone took your phone and didn't give it back!"  Then he went into his room and got out his allowance envelope and came back to give me all of the money that he had: $3.23. He asked, "Is this enough to buy you a new phone?"  It completely melted my heart.  It was so unexpected.  He usually wants to use his very minimal allowance money to buy candy or toys at the store, yet he didn't think twice about giving all of it to me when he thought I needed it.  I took the money and told him how much better it made me feel to know that someone cared about me and wanted to help.  He beamed from ear-to-ear.  Sweet boy.

Finally, as always, Noah is a comedian.  He doesn't mean to be.  He's just so smart and so hilarious without even knowing it.  Here are a few of his classic lines from the past couple of months:

-He was playing Jenga with his little friend, Alanna, and I heard their conversation from the other room.  "Wow, you're really good at this game, Noah," she said.  "Thanks!" he responded, "I learned from the best: My daaaad!!!"

-And speaking of this particular friend: We often listen to Justin Beiber's Baby, and there's a line in the song where Ludacris says, "When I was thirteen, I had my first love."  Noah informed me the other day, "I had my first love when I was four.  Her name was Alanna."

-He had a stomach flu bug when were were driving home from Sun Valley a few months ago (kid vomiting in a car=no fun), and he said miserably while clutching his barf bag, "I know I'm not supposed to say hate, but I hate throwing up!!"(Oh I do too, Noah!  Go ahead and hate!)

-For his preschool "homework" the other day, he had to tell me five things he was thankful for.  He said, "Trees because they give us shade, fences so dogs don't run at us and get us" (I have no idea where that one came from) "parks to play at, friends, and Sally because she's so cute."

-Another preschool assignment was to talk about authors and illustrators and identify both in one of our favorite books.  We looked at Where The Wild Things Are, and when I told Noah that Maurice Sendak was the author and the illustrator, he got these wide eyes and said, "He wrote the book and drew all the pictures?? He must have been so tired! He must have been tired for over a week!" 

-I heard him calling from the garage one day, "Mom, come quick!  Two besties are riding a tricycle!"  I went out to see this sweet scene.  I'm so glad he considers his sister his "bestie."

-He loves Show-and-Tell at preschool because the kids give him a "roundible clause."  I think it's so cute that he calls it that, so I don't even try to correct him.  And when he gets home I always say, "Did you get a roundible clause after your show-and-tell today?" ;)

-Yesterday morning I was picking up the kitchen and singing loudly when Noah looked up from his library book and said, "Mom, please be silent.  I'm trying to feel the Holy Ghost over here."  Okay then.

-When we were playing the Game of Life for our daily "special time" recently, Noah ended up with six kids.  He named them John, John the Baptist, Icky, Icky the Second, Funny, and Baby Boy.  When I got my one baby toward the end of the game, Noah exclaimed, "Mom!  You're finally living the good life!"

It really is the good life. What would my life be without these crazy kids of mine? 

One thing is certain: There's never a dull moment with Noah around.  He keeps me laughing, learning, and lecturing.  I wouldn't trade him for any kid in the world. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sally Grace, Almost 16 Months

This girl got spunk. She's as busy as ever, climbing on everything and falling off of everything.  I have to move the kitchen table chairs into the living room between meals because she can't resist scaling them (which has resulted in more than a few bonks).

Changing her diaper should be an Olympic sport.  Ryan says it's like wrestling a Tasmanian Devil.  And grocery shopping with her is just downright impossible.  She is like Houdini and somehow wiggles her way out of the seatbelt and stands up in the front of the cart. 

She still loves the slapstick humor.  In fact, moments before that precious photo above was taken on the pumpkins, she was wiggling away and crying and refusing to sit for a picture, so I said, "Noah come over here and whack me in the head!"  Worked like a charm!

It's hard to get her to sit still for anything, and only recently has she started being willing to listen to one quick book before bed.  When Noah was her age, I could read to him forever and he would sit calmly in my lap.  Not our rascal Sal!

She has no interest in TV, and I know this should make me grateful, but honestly, I need her occupied for a few minutes every once in a while!  Just this week she started watching Baby Einstein for a couple of minutes, and I am thrilled.  Noah has been a boob-toober from day one, and he willingly watches Baby Einstein with his little sister.  How do those weird movies continue to hold the interest of children, from age 0-4? 

She is a whiner.  She has this insistent grunt,"Uh uh uh!," when she wants something.  This is all I hear all day long.  She grabs at my shirt and wedges herself between my legs and the counter, begging me to pick her up. The thing is, she doesn't want to be held; she just wants to be picked up so she can reach more mischief.  The moment I put her on my hip, she lunges toward the light switch she wants to play with (light switches are her favorite) or she grabs a plate and knocks it off the counter.  She is busy and curious!  It can get exhausting, but I know it's just a stage, and I'm glad she is interested in learning and experiencing the world around her.

She's not really a cuddler because she's so busy, but she gets very sweet at bedtime and lays her head on my shoulder and pats my back while I rock and sing to her.  Melts my heart and makes all the madness of the day worth it.

Sally loves her daddy.  When he comes home from work, she lights up and runs to him with her arms open.  She adores me too but totally takes me for granted.  When I come home from being away, even if I've been away for several days for a girls weekend, she hardly looks up. "Oh hey, Mom. You're back. No big deal."

She willingly goes to all babysitters and waves goodbye when I leave her. It surprises me every time because Noah was more clingy.  It is crazy how children have such different personalities. (Now Noah is certainly not that way, and they both adore their regular babysitters, as evidenced by this photo with our neighbor Ashlyn.)

She is an awesome sleeper, and, as long as she has her beloved paci, she never protests when I lay her down in her crib.  This is my saving grace on her especially whiny days.  She watches me go and sometimes says, "Bye!" She isn't sure what she is doing with naps: one nap or two? It depends on the day, which makes life a little hard to schedule. But her nightime sleep couldn't be better: she goes to bed early, about 7 p.m., and sleeps a solid 12-13 hours.

She is still a teensy little lady.  She is 19 lbs, about 10th percentile and only recently moved up to 12-18 month clothes.  I'm glad she's so light--makes it easier to keep her on my hip while I'm cooking.

Her right foot turns in when she walks.  It's quite pronounced and trips her up a little when she tries to run. The pediatrician isn't remotely concerned about it, and every time I mention it, he says it will correct itself and the bones don't fuse for several more years.  My aunt is a pediatric physical therapist, and she's going to check her out at Christmas and see if she needs a brace.  Right now she's our cute little klutz.

She is getting smart.  I feel like this is magic month when things start "clicking" for babies.  I remember that with Noah too.  Around 15-16 months, they start really understanding what people are saying to them.  She likes to help me warm her milk in the microwave--she knows just which buttons to push and how to open the door.  She points to my nose when I say the word, and she has started folding her hands when it's time for prayers.

She does the sign for "All done!" in her high chair, and it kills me every time.  She looks right at me and starts turning her little wrists so deliberately with these big eyes, like, "Mom, I'm talking to you here.  Can you understand what I'm saying?"  I don't do Baby Sign Language with my kids, but I have done the "All done" sign with her for a while, and it's fun to see her catch on.

 She doesn't talk much, but she can certainly shout Noah's name.  It's hilarious.  She shouts this shrill "Na-ah!" whenever she is looking for him or wants his attention. She says that word more than any other.  Just yesterday she said her first two-word sentence as we were leaving Noah's room: "Bye, Brother!" Could a tiny baby voice be any more precious?? 

She sometimes attacks Noah, and I'm not sure what to do about it.  Most often, she goes for his hair.  and grabs huge fistfuls and yanks.  His screaming only increases her glee and makes her want to do it more.  I always move her hands away and say "No!" very forcefully and seriously, but she just laughs.  Little stinker.  Maybe I need to put her in time-outs?  I just feel like that doesn't really work for a 15-month-old.


She is a laugher.  She laughs at everything--sometimes it's a fake chuckle and sometimes it is real.  But she is a happy baby, especially when someone is interacting with her.  She is super friendly and tries to catch people's eye in the grocery store or hall at church so she can tell them hi.  She loves to charm and wave at passersby.

We spend a lot of time walking around the halls at church because she cannot be contained and won't stay on a lap for even two minutes.  Church is completely miserable with her, and Noah follows her lead and misbehaves and slithers around on the floor, and it makes me crazy!  Ours kids are definitely the worst behaved in the entire congregation.  It's just a phase of life, right??

She got her top two front teeth this month, and they are coming in all wonky.  I don't think Ryan is pleased.  Ha!  She has another top tooth breaking through right now, and I love seeing her crooked, crazy smile.

Her favorite thing in all the world is pushing the buttons on my keys.  I often come out of the house to find all of the automatic doors to the van wide open, and there must be some magic combination of buttons that you can push to roll down all the electronic windows.  I have not figured out this trick, but Sally has!  The van doors and windows are often open, thanks to Sal.

She's still a really good eater, and I am just hoping and praying that it continues.  One of her favorite foods is broccoli, and she will eat pretty much anything I put in front of her.  Keep it up, Baby Girl!  When for some reason she's not in the mood for a certain food, she pitches it to the floor with gusto and starts waving her hands around in front of her face like a crazy person, as if she's trying to get the distasteful remnants away from her.  It's pretty comical to watch. 

She still has really good fine motor skills.  She is so interested in buckles.  The only time I can get her to sit still is when I let her play with the buckle on her high chair or toy swing--she carefully focuses on putting the buckle together and snapping it closed.  I use this trick when I need to pull her hair back into a little ponytail or pigtails.  The only way I can do her hair is if I strap her down in the highchair.

She loves slides and, not surprisingly, she is fearless on them.  She can do all of the slides at the park by herself.  Unfortunately, she also tries to walk down the slides, so I have to be vigilant about forcing her onto her bottom.

She is obsessed with her linen blankies.  She absolutely must have one in order to go to sleep, and she loves to drag them around the house as well.  I should probably stop this habit and keep the blankie in the crib, but hey, they make her happy, so maybe I will fight that battle after we are done traveling for the holidays.  I've noticed recently that she loves to hold onto the very corner of the blanket--it seems to soothe her, maybe it feels extra soft.  She loves soft things.  She holds the blanket up to her cheek and rests it against her shoulder.  It's nice that the linen blankets came in a pack of three, and she is equally attached to all three, so it doesn't matter which one I grab at bedtime.

About a month ago, every time Ryan or I would get Sally out of her crib, she would point emphatically at the tiny photo of my mom on her shelf.  It was across the room and barely visible, yet she would point at it as soon as we entered the room.  She wanted to hold it, look at it, and carry it around.  It made me happy.  I believe that heaven must be very close for these pure, sweet babies, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if she has seen my mom.  It was like she was saying, "Mom, this lady comes to me in my sleep!"  I hope that's true, and I hope my mom will always be a guardian angel for Sally and Noah.

We love our Sally Wally so much.  The entire family is smitten, even Noah.  He came around a corner yesterday and saw her perched on a step stool inside his closet, and he exclaimed in delight, "Oh Sally! What are you doing in here, my cute little menace?"

She certainly is the cutest menace of them all.