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Degree of Difficulty

I am no longer sure of the context of this (Twitter conversation? Chat with a friend? A dream?), but I was thinking about the different forms of parenting I’ve done in the past 3.5 years.

  • Full time SAHM. For Xander’s first year (plus a few months), I was a home with him with no other job.  At around 6(ish) months I found a mom’s group to join and that really helped me to feel less lonely and floundering as a new parent. I think this would be one of my biggest pieces of advice to a soon to be mom (or dad) – find a group. Any group. It’s less about the kids in the early years and more about you, so make it people that YOU like.
  • SAHM and part time WAHM. After we moved to Vermont I started teaching some online classes. Classes ran (run) five weeks at a time, and initially it was about 15-18 hours a week, give or take. I would do the work during nap times and after Xander went to bed. I still do this occasionally, though not as often, because now I have another job. So far, this has been the hardest version of mom-ing I’ve done. It was hard to find enough time to get the work done; I stressed about his naps and how easily he’d go to sleep (or about going into labor with Luna). It always felt like a panic to get everything done and still be the “main” parent during the day.
  • Part time WOHM. This is where I am now. I work out of the home two days a week for about 6 hours each day. As the semester picks up I’ll have more at home work to do with grading. I am really loving this scenario. I like getting out of the house and being a professional and interacting with other grownups. I like using the skills I went to college and grad school for. I even like being a little nervous, and feeling like I want to perform my best. I also like that I’m able to do it part time, and still be home with the kids on the other days.

Now, obviously, this is just my experience. There is no judgement whatsoever about what any other parent chooses to do. Love staying home or hate it, there’s nothing WRONG with any of it.  I’m fortunate to be where I am now, that I can do both. In a few years I’ll likely look for full time teaching work, and (hopefully) the work I’m doing now will put me in a good position to do so.

I should also point out that John is also a college faculty member, so he is home much more than the typical working parent/partner. So I’ve always had a lot more support and time during the day than many SAHMs. We may never be rich, but we do have a lot more time to spend together and with the family, so for us, we’re happy with the choices we’ve made.

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Back!

Well.

That was an adventure.

We are finally back home in VT, where it is warmer than about 80% of the country (OK, probably not 80%, but I’m not listening to your math-y talk). I’m sure it’ll go back to normal in March, when I’ll still be bitching about blizzards while everyone else is posting those “legs by the poolside” selfies.

Anyway, I’m still a bit fried. We got in late Saturday, after several cancellations and a near stranding in Detroit, and I started this semester’s classes with an 8AM this morning. All things considered, it went well. For a Monday.

Christmas was fun, my brother’s wedding was wonderful, John and I are newborn level exhausted because Luna decided that the vacation was a good time to teeth and regress and be a general (but adorable) pain in the backside non sleeping baby.

But I’m glad to be home, and I’m glad that Downton is back on, and I’m glad that our heater decided NOT to be broken, after all (that was a fun little surprise to come home to).

I hope you all had a nice Christmas/Festivus. I’m pretty excited about starting 2014. I think it’ll be a good one.

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A Day in the Life

On her Disney Baby Blog, Jansen did a photo an hour of a “typical” day home with her kids. I thought this was a fun idea, so I decide to attempt the same. Now, the caveat being, John and I are both college teachers, so our hours vary day to day and there is no real “typical.” I chose a Thursday, because it was easiest for me; neither John nor I have classes on Thursdays, so I was able to keep up…for the most part. It falls apart at the end.

6:15AM – Luna wakes up for the day. It’s been a whole 3 hours since her last night waking (haa womp womb), so I’m dragging a bit. But she’s rather smiley and adorable, so I rally with a cup of coffee. We play on the living room floor until everyone else is up.

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7:15AM – Xander is awake. He watches a TiVo’d episode of WordWorld while eating his Kashi Cereal Bar for breakfast…the same breakfast he’s had for at least a year.

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8:15AM – I take Xander to preschool while John stays home with the baby. In a stark contrast to last year, Xander runs in the door without a single backwards glance at me. On the way home, I stop at a restaurant/bakery for some coffee and a treat to bring home and share with John.

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9:15AM – While the baby naps, John and I enjoy our second breakfast in SILENCE. Afterwards, I tackle the many (many) piles of laundry and finish off the kitchen, which John started while I was out.

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10:15AM – Luna is still sleeping. I fold diapers and catch up on Nashville.

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11:15AM – I nurse Luna after she wakes up from her nap, then it’s time to get Xander from preschool. We make a quick stop at the store on the way home, and he charms the checkout workers with his chatter.  John stays home with the baby again (sometimes he does the drop off/pick up while I stay home, but he hasn’t had much Luna time, so he wanted to hang with her some).

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12:15PM – Lunch time! PBJs all around (well, Luna has some puffs), and then Xander goes into quiet time while Luna has some more play time on the floor.

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1:30PM – Luna goes down for a nap and Xander comes out of quiet time and gets a snack (yogurt pretzels). John plays with Xander downstairs while I attempt to finish off folding the laundry.

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2:30PM – I join the boys in the basement for a dance party to Wheels on theBus.

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3:30 PM – I work on my blog post for the day and do some reading for a writing workshop I’m going to that night. Luna wakes up the second I get productive, so I go up to nurse her.

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4:30PM – Because I’m leaving for the evening, I start working on dinner early and try to fit in a few extra nursing sessions to tank the baby up. She’s more interested in playing with the Nose Frieda than eating.

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4:45PM – Everything goes to hell in a hand basket until 5:30 when I head out the door and crank up the Christmas music in the car to drown out the echoes of Xander’s tantrum over dinner.

9:30PM – I’m home from the writing class, and John and I watch some Covert Affairs before I collapse into bed.

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Some Quick Takes

(Note that I’m not saying how many quick takes, because I have no idea, yet.)

  • It occurs to me that I never updated/followed up/concluded Luna’s little…blip.  So, we ran some tests, all came back clear, except for one of the liver functions, which was only slightly, not terrifyingly alarmingly off.  We continued to check her weight regularly, gave her formula when we could (she started taking less and less of it, though), and kept the appointment with the GI Specialist to see about that liver test, check on reflux and/or allergies.

    At her last REGULAR pediatrician appointment, Luna weighed, well, I don’t remember the actual number, so let’s say 15 pounds. A month or so later we had this specialist appointment. A PA weighed Luna, but it was in kilograms, and hell if I know that stuff, so I asked her to convert it, and she said that Luna weighed  14 pounds. I was CRUSHED. She’d lost weight AGAIN. I sent out a panicked tweet and waited in the exam room, feeling like the world was falling from beneath my feet. The actual doctor came in and looked at the chart on the computer. “I think we need to recheck this,” he said.  So I followed him down the hall, back to the weigh room, saw the same numbers, went back to the room and….Luna weight 16 (or whatever) pounds. She’d GAINED weight. GAINED. She’d gained so much that the doctor thought it was wrong because, hello, why are you bringing this healthy baby in to see me?

    I laugh cried a little. Luna is now in the 33 percentile for weight, and she has fat rolls on her TOES. It’s wonderful. The specialist thinks she may have had some little infection that effected her liver, but cleared on its own and, well, pish posh we’re ALL DONE. Cleared to do away with formula unless we want to use it, no need to worry about solids, nothing.
    (OK, so this one wasn’t a quick take, SORRY.)

  • Xander has been Very Three lately. He’s had a resurgence of hitting, primarily at home and/or around me and John because it gets a reaction out of us. It is so frustrating because I really don’t feel like it’s something we can ignore, but NOTHING we do is helping it. Time outs. Threats. Taking away TV time or iPad time. It’s HORRIBLE. Of course, what works BEST is being proactive and positive, keeping him busy and distracted so that he “forgets” to hit when he’s mad, or the dog takes a cracker, or it’s Sunday. He does really well when he has lots of outside time, and plenty of free play, and one-on-one time with both me and John throughout the day. But…life gets BUSY. It’s not like we just ignore him for days on end, but it honestly isn’t always easy to find a big chunk of dedicated Xander Only time. We’re trying, though.
  • I also got out the Melissa and Doug magnetic reward chart thing that I bought last year. So far he’s really into “earning” magnets, and I promised him a cupcake at the end of the week if he earns 20 in the week. His “chores” for the chart are: Saying please and thank you, Keeping hands to yourself (2 a day, so that we can break the day down into parts), brushing teeth (2 a day, because he likes brushing his teeth and I wanted some easy ones for him to earn), putting toys away, eating veggies.  Eating veggies and the not hitting are the ones we really want him to improve on. The others we want to encourage him to KEEP doing.  I figure at three it’s too much to give him a whole list of brand new things to expect of him each day.
  • I started teaching my onsite class last week. The very first session was a bit rough, I was SO nervous. But the ones since then have actually been fun! It’s an underclassmen required course, I’m sure not everyone LOVES being there, but the students are engaged and like discussing things and yeah, very different from online teaching.
  • To make this work, since John and I overlap, we hired a PT sitter/nanny. It was a near miss, too. The first ad I placed totally failed. I had two no-shows for interviews, and I was panicking.  But we found a college grad (in early childhood education, nonetheless) with flexible availability and Xander is in love with her. So. It’s quite nice. We are going to have her come in for some of my non-teaching days, too, so I can get some sense of a personal life back. I may read a book! Or go for a walk! OR SLEEP IN MY CAR. Who knows. Living wild, I am.
  • I am not going to The Blathering this year. I am sad about this. BUT, we are taking a nice long family trip to San Diego during the winter, which I will desperately need (don’t like winter. darkness everywhere.). It turns out my decision not to go to Charleston was the right one because now I’m ALSO taking a very fast trip to TN/AL because my BROTHER IS GETTING MARRIED, WHAT? This is so awesome that I can’t even tell you. The wedding is during our CA trip, of course, so only Luna and I will be going (Xander no longer flies free WAAAAAHHHH), but there is no WAY we could have swung all of this PLUS another trip for me. So, sad but happy.
  • Trader Joe’s was approved to come to the area. I have no idea when, but I’m considering pitching a tent at the site and monitoring the progress.
  • There is a big storm going outside, so I’m going to sign off and go watch the lightning. Everyone pray that the kids sleep, please.

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Favorite Non-Recipes

Man! Newborns are EXHAUSTING, amiright? I mean, last night Luna actually slept decently (I won’t give details, lest the universe have a twitchy jinxing finger), but even WITH a good sleeper, which one night does not make, they are exhausting. Very needy, yes?

Anyway, one of the big things that I’ve been struggling with since Luna was born was dinner. I am getting a few meals a week from our local MOMs Club, which is so totally awesome, but that still leaves us with other days that we still need to eat. (What’s the deal with dinner, anyway? Needing to be consumed daily.) And yes, John would be perfectly fine and supportive and whatever if I decided to do frozen pizza or Lunchables every night, because he’s awesome like that, but I’m not. I like good food. I like cooking, too, for the most part.

SO! I’ve been relying heavily on a few go-to meals that require little thought and little work. Win-win. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to post these, because they’re not even really recipes, but I’m going to just in case anyone else out there wants some yummy and (mostly) healthy go-to meals for crazy nights.

Lazy Pasta!

I’m sure just about everyone has a recipe like this in their repertoire, but this is mine. It’s even better in the summer when fresh veggies are more readily available, but honestly, even winter time tomatoes shipped from Mexico taste good when put in this, so..

  1. Boil some pasta. We’ve been fans of plain old spaghetti noodles of late. Drain and toss with a little bit of olive oil (to keep it from making one big lump if it finishes before other ingredients).
  2. In a small or medium saucepan, melt some butter and olive oil over low heat. Add a few cloves of chopped or pressed garlic. Heat, but don’t let the garlic burn (golden is OK, though).
  3. When almost ready to eat, add toppings of choice to the butter mixture. My favorites right now are: spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, and chicken from whatever meal I have it leftover from. I’ve also done it vegetarian with no meat, and maybe some pine nuts if I have them.
  4. Put the pasta back in the pot, if already drained, and pour butter mixture and toppings in. Stir. Serve with parmesan if wanted.  (Remove all vegetables for the picky toddler in your life, unless you LIKE scraping dried spinach off your walls.)

Taquitos!

Ok, this is so simple that I can’t believe I didn’t think to make this up myself. I adapt this from the Weelicous cookbook (which is totally great) based on what I have on hand. Oh, look! Here’s her official recipe.

  1.  Combine 2 cups of protein (meat, black beans, whatever) and 1 cup of shredded cheese in a bowl. Toss with a teaspoon (or so, to taste) of taco or Mexican seasoning (I often make my own with chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and salt). 
  2. Optional: If you have a non-picky child or are making this for grown ups, add bell peppers or spinach or onions or corn or whatever.
  3. Put a spoonful or two into a small flour tortilla and roll tightly.  Spray or brush tops with olive oil.
  4. Put taquitos into a 400 degree oven and bake until the tortillas are crisp and brown on the edges, around 20 minutes.
  5. I serve with “dip-dip” (plain yogurt or sour cream) and salad of avocados and tomatoes (and sometimes corn, if I remember).

That’s it. Lazy Pasta finds its way to our table at least once a week, honestly. Sometimes I can sneak peas into it and get Xander to eat those, but meh, I’m trying to be zen about him only eating simple carbohydrates for his toddler years.

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The Post Christmas Post

Christmas this year was so great. I mean, last year was fun, too, but honestly, Xander was still “too young” in some ways. And, look, 18 months is not necessarily my favorite stage – walking but not talking, still very much a baby but wanting to be independent. It was rather exhausting. BUT, still. We had fun with Christmas last year.

This year, though. This year was in a whole different ball park. At two and a half, he really GOT IT. He knew Santa was coming. He came into our room Christmas morning breathless with excitement, “Mewwy Ki-mass!” He got that the presents were for him. He opened some up. He wanted to play. It was just…fun. It was so fun. He had a bit of a cold, which made me worry, and he didn’t nap at all for a few days, but he’s already on the mend and, well, it’s just a cold, you know? It didn’t ruin our festivities at all (though I was rather cranky when he wouldn’t nap after I’d been up almost all night with insomnia).

My well-intentioned plan of Not Buying Too Much Stuff totally and completely failed, and he has more toys than we know what to do with, but I also spent some time a few weeks ago cleaning out old baby things and/or things that are broken/missing essential pieces. So hopefully the new haul won’t completely overtake the house.

His favorite gift, as I had hoped, is the train set (and a talking Percy!), followed closely by a tie between pretend food (that he’s been pretend feeding to the tree….?), and a Melissa and Doug water-pen and notebook for practicing his letters that cost me all of $4. I mean, cost SANTA. My parents sent him a set of those Tegu blocks, which he likes when I build it for him, but I have high hopes he’ll get more into them as he figures them out. I think they’re great, personally.

Anyway, that’s the lowdown on the gifts. It was just the three of us, and we had a simple meal for both breakfast and dinner, and it was quite lovely and yummy. I really appreciated staying simple this year instead of planning some elaborate feast, because it meant I could really enjoy the day and watch Xander have fun.

Then, of course, we had the Big Snow Storm last night and today, which was actually quite fun. No power loss, no need to travel. Just watching the snow pile up (and up and up), and some outdoor play (Xander mostly enjoyed eating the snow). I’m looking forward to pulling him around in this little sled a friend loaned us.

Pictures and a poorly edited and dimly lit video below, but his excitement was really too cute not to share.

I hope your holidays were merry and rejuvenating. Strange to think 2012 is almost over, isn’t it?

Christmas Crackers
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Instagram tree w gifts

Train and Tree

 

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Traditions

I keep saying the same thing, but Xander is at SUCH a fun age for Christmas! He’s just starting to get parts of it, like Santa bringing presents, snow, snowmen, lights, candy canes, etc…but he isn’t quite old enough to be scared of a strange man entering the house (I’m hoping we can skip that phase). What I am really enjoying is figuring out the traditions JS and I want to keep from our own childhoods, and which ones we want to create on our own. Last year we didn’t do a ton of “stuff,” because Xander was so young. I mean, we decorated and did presents and everything, but the pomp and circumstance was pretty minimal.

As a kid, I never grew up with elves or Santa’s helpers hanging around and reporting on me, so I have a hard time getting into the Elf on a Shelf thing. BUT, I did get an adorable stuffed snowman that I put out and told Xander he was Santa’s special friend, and if Xander had a message for Santa, he could whisper it to the snowman. This takes the pressure off of me from having to move it daily, and I also don’t want a snitch around, so…Also, though, this will allow me to give early gifts without ruining the Santa magic. For example, I have a few Christmas books I want to give Xander, but not all on Christmas morning (when all the fun is over!), so I figure I can put them in Snowman’s lap and say Santa sent something special for whatever made up reason I want.

JS and his family opened family gifts on Christmas Eve, and Santa presents Christmas morning. The family gifts were all under the tree, and could be put out at any time. Santa presents were always left by the stockings/fireplace and only put out the night before Christmas. I think this is fun and helps keep Christmas morning from being a complete overload. In my family, we were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and the rest the next morning (stockings were normally opened first, and tree presents after our puffed apple pancake breakfast). Santa gifts were put out on Christmas, but family presents and “helper” presents could be put out whenever. (Helpers were whatever creative gifter my mom could think of: Frosty would give us scarves, the elves would give us sweets, etc… sometimes she gave us “hints,” like one year I got a bunch of crafting scissors from “Edward.” Not a Christmassy person, but it made it so fun to try and figure out what was inside.)

So I think I’d like to do a combination of those two concepts: the big present from Santa goes out on Christmas night to be opened in the morning, family gifts and “helper” gifts can go out whenever. I don’t know how many/which ones to open Christmas Eve, though. I guess it depends on how many presents there are.

Which brings me to: last year we (I) went NUTS with presents. I was so excited and got almost all of them heavily marked down, but it was still way too much for Xander. He STILL hasn’t played with all of them. And some of them we had to take away because he was very toddler-y and threw all those nice wooden toys at our head. SO. I’m trying to reign it in. I love LOVE the idea of the four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. But I’ve already broken this, and I’m not sure where stockings fit in, or if Santa brings the “want” toy, does that mean that our gift to Xander is the boring stuff each year? Anyway, this year we are getting him one big gift (a train table that we got free from a neighbor, and a train set I got off of Zulily for cheap) and then a handful of smaller/necessary items for the stocking and whatnot. (Such as trains and accessories for the track, a book, new PJ’s, etc…)  Hopefully by saying “one big gift” I can tone it down several notches.  I also made an actual pen and paper list of all the stuff I wanted to buy/had already bought so I won’t be surprised by how much stuff I have for him.

This year I also want to get a gift for JS from Xander; we didn’t do anything like that last year, and I want to start that early and help teach him (soon to be them!) how to be thoughtful gifters.

As we have more and more Christmases as a family, I’m sure other traditions will just start to form on their own. Like traditional meals, or favorite holiday movies and stories, cookies left out for Santa, etc…What sorts of things do you do every year? Or want to do? Or wish you’d never started doing?

 

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Many Thanks

Thanksgiving happened! It did! I was there.

There being Alabama, visiting my parents and brothers since a Christmas visit just AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. Not that I don’t want it to, because I actually do love the craziness of big family parties and gatherings and meals at the holidays, despite my solidly Introverted nature. But, oh man, traveling while pregnant? It blows. And I’m so glad I’m done with it. Lugging as many carryons as we can through multiple airports, desperately searching for airport food that won’t make us all ill, trying to entertain a squirmy and overtired toddler, all while being HUGE and UNCOMFORTABLE…anyway, that’s the bad side.

The good side was being there. Seeing Xander hang with his grandparents and uncles. Having lovely weather that simply necessitated several trips to the park or the lake (both of which meant throwing leaves and pinecones, one at a time, into the “puddle! big puddle!”). Letting him decorate cookies, and then letting him lick the frosting off and start over again. Being ordered to sit down and rest while my mom made all the meals. There were children’s museums and botanical gardens and even a sushi date night with JS that was surprising delicious for a random strip mall restaurant that had only been open for a few months.

I didn’t take many pictures, which is so lame. I was just enjoying being there, and relaxing and hanging out and whatever, that I didn’t document it. And with family that lives so far away, I’m sad that I didn’t. I want to show Xander pictures of the fun things he did with the family he so rarely gets to see.

Now we’re back, and diving back into our “routine,” which always seemed somewhat not real to me, somehow, since we don’t actually do the same things all the time, but man, it’s made a huge difference in my desire to sell my child on eBay and move to Mexico. I think the sugar detox is helping, too. We don’t forgo all sweets, but we try to limit them, and we certainly try to avoid food coloring. But when it’s a holiday and such a special time of visiting, I try to relax and not worry about it. I think that the healthier eating combined with the routine is turning Xander back into his normal self, and that’s a good thing. (Seriously, he has no behavioral issues that we’re aware of or concerned about, but give that kid artificially red foods and some corn syrup, and he’s a total nightmare. NIGHTMARE.)

I started this last night and am now finding the urge to write about five other unrelated topics, so I’m cutting myself off. Please to enjoy the few random Instragram pics from our trip that I did manage to snap.

 

My mom sent him that wee little suitcase, doesn’t it just kill you?

 

 

BIIIIG tree at the local outdoor mall (where it was almost hot in the sun!)

 

 

Carousel ride at the mall. He had to say goodbye to all the animals when we were done.

 

 

This baby piano was in my room as a little girl, and Xander just loved playing it.

 

 

Baking with Gram. We lost track of out how many he licked. Sorry, family, if you now have his cold.

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Up To

Xander started preschool today. SCHOOL! Sure, at two it’s probably more similar to daycare than “real” school; I’m not expecting him to come home reciting the periodic table, but still. School!!  My little kiddo. It floors me. I burst into tears in the parking lot after the orientation, so I was incredibly proud of myself for not getting at all weepy at the actual drop off today.

(It was early, and he was distracted by a crack in the sidewalk, so excuse the squint.)

And just like that, it seems, summer is over. It’s been a pretty low key summer, for the most part, but a great one. JS taught the summer semester, but was still home more than a “normal” job would have allowed him. The three of us hiked and visited farms and stayed in a cabin in the woods. Xander and I have gone on play dates, had cupcakes for brunch, poked ant hills, side walk chalked the hell out of our driveway. We’ve ended nearly every day with a family dog-pile/tickle fest and man, it’s been just so wonderful.

I love age two.

Here are some other snapshots of our lives the past few months.

                   
 
   

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Return

I can’t help but notice that my posting frequency has decreased quite noticeably since the weather turned nice. Guess I’ll have to find something else to whine about, eh?

Anyway, Xander and I just got back from a week in Florida. Well, more like 10 days. JS joined us for the first weekend and we visited his mom in her retirement community, and then he came back to go to work (BORING) and Xander and I joined my parents for a week at the beach.

It was so great.

We didn’t do anything major. We went down to the beach in the morning and played in the gulf for a few hours. Then we’d stop at the pool to de-sand the toddler. Then back inside for lunch and naps (typically at least half of us went down at this point), and, if time allowed before dinner, outside again for some shell walking and throwing stuff into the surf. Rinse and repeat. Xander LOVED the water. I was nervous that it might scare him for some reason. But he just waded right in without any hesitation.  We got him one of those little floatie rings/seats that he could hang out in, thus saving our arms from having to hold him the entire time.

I also have to brag at how well he did when visiting Gamma Jean at the retirement home. It was a prime-time to showcase his impressive lung capacity, and he did have a few small-ish meltdowns, but overall he did so great! He was sweet and charming and smiled and held hands and gave hugs (to anyone, really, he was quite happy to share the love).

And now we’re home and I’m catching up on laundry and getting excited for our CSA boxes to start up and prepping for Paula’s visit in a few weeks.

This is going to be such a great summer!

Loving the “woodi”from Day 1.

PopPop was by far the favorite person.

Vacation means snacks on the patio! As much as I can eat!

Giving a kisskiss.

Pre-dusk

Lots of sand, lots of sky. Lots of dive bombing birds we couldn’t scare off because they were “protected.” Jerkfaces.

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