Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Sweetest Cry

Ruby is crazy easy-going. She does not fuss often, unless she's absolutely exhausted, and she's only given really 'bad' cries a handful of times, most of which were when she got a scare. Tonight she was beyond exhausted, but gave me a few great laughs. We decided to push our luck and have Lehr hold her in a way that always makes her giggle so that I could get it on video. While that was not the footage I got, I still had to post this. Seriously...the lip at 0:22 is one we've seen just a few times, but it is adorable.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Roll, Ruby, Roll!

It's been a while since I've posted about Ruby's therapy. She is still rocking and rolling through one-on-one physical therapy once each week with the therapist from Babies Can't Wait, and we go to a group therapy at GiGi's Playhouse a few times each month. She has started to put lots of weight on her legs and feet through use of the exersaucer, and her favorite activity to do is to stand up when you're holding her. Ruby's core is crazy-strong; the therapist is always amazed at how she 'crunches' if/when she's on her back. And her head control is really improving constantly, especially with the increased amount of 'sitting' she's done in the bumbo in the last month.
Ruby has been rolling from her back to her stomach for a while now. She has always done better at that transition, rolling almost as soon as I put her down when I put her on her back. For a while it was almost like she got 'stuck' on her stomach, because she would fuss a little if she was on her stomach for too long sometimes. Just this week she started going back to her front-to-back motion though. The other night the kids and I watched her go back and forth no less than five times in the span of a few minutes. This girl is a rock star!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Gettin' Wiggy With It!

So I found an awesome hat for Ruby on etsy a few weeks ago.
This girl already looks like a real life doll, but this just makes it over the top.

Love that girl.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Operation Christmas child

We participate in Operation Christmas Child every year. Eli and Maddux have helped me fill shoebox sized totes every November for as long as they can remember. The past few years they have also helped me shop for the contents of the boxes. Unfortunately, with school and Ruby and, well, life taking up so much time, I had to shop on my own this year so that the time I had with the kids oculd be spent putting the boxes together. I had the kids divide up the contents of my Target bags and then pick the contents so that all boxes were even.

It should come as no surprise that Maddux wanted to add a personal touch to the boxes: she drew a picture and wrote 'I love you' for two of the boxes. But when I asked Eli if he could think of anything else a 5-10 year old boy would like in his box, he ran and found a handfull of brand new tennis balls. Then he disappeared upstairs and when he came back, he had for Lego action figures in his hands. He wanted to give each boy two figures so that they could play if they were by themselves. Be still my heart.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Food Drive

We are so glad that this has become at least an annual 'thing' for our family. This last weekend we held a food drive in our neighborhood for a local outreach program. Another family helped us with the manpower and we collected a LOT of bags of food.
The kids are always involved in this process with us, from stapling instructions on bags to passing bags out, door-to-door, to collecting the filled bags on the final day. Yes, there are always some groans along the way, but there are also some cool moments too.
This year was slightly more challenging because we had to figure Ruby's feeding schedule into our morning AND her location in the car. (The kids and Lehr always ride in the back of my Pilot and collect bags from there. We push the seats down so there is plenty of room; that would not leave a space for Ruby's seat.) She rode up front with me (in her seat) and she napped and ate perfectly. We collected the bags all morning and then drove them to our church where the program is setting up shop. The kids all unloaded the bags up the steps, up the elevator, and down a hall to the storage room. They were hard workers! We then came home for lunch and outside play (they earned it!) Another food drive success!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Best Buds

I mentioned before that we've had more family time this fall, in large part due to the lack of baseball. One thing that has developed in that time, related or not, is the relationship between Eli and Maddux. They get along, and they play well, and she adores him. But in the last few months, I've started to see him seek her company out more and more often. He asks her if she wants to play, instead of ALWAYS the other way around, and he has started to compliment and build her up while they are playing, which is a totally new thing for him.

Last week, the kids had Career Day at their school. One of the speakers in Eli's class worked for Home Depot and brought DIY boat kits for the kids to take home and make on their own, with nails and hammers and such. Eli asked the guy if he could have two so that he could bring one home for his sister to make also. Joy does not even begin to describe what I felt when I saw him asking her if she wanted to go outside and build a boat with him. He even got two hammers so they could work at the same time.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Gifts vs. Presents

It would be silly for me to recreate the wheel here for two reasons: #1 - I have no time (I still haven't blogged about things that happened almost a month ago!) and #2 - the mom/author of this post writes it way better than I ever could.

We plead with friends and family every year to scale waaaaay back on the actual gifts given to our kids. Not only are they typical privileged American kids who really don't NEED anything, but we don't want them to associate Christmas with presents, nor do we want them to associate some of the key people in their lives with 'stuff'. Instead, we love the idea of a well thought out gift; bonus points if it was handmade or it is the gift of time.

As I started talking to the kids about the holidays this week, we discussed gifts for Ruby. Of course both kids have a list of things they want to get her. Gold star for them because they talked about her and never once talked about what they want AND they both mentioned using their own money. Then we moved on to what we thought would be good gifts for other people in our lives....some random ideas got thrown around by the kids, none of them bad. I stressed to them the importance of putting some real thought into it, and reminded them that the gifts they make or spend time on are the ones their grandparents, friends, etc. will like best. Eli agreed, saying his favorite birthday gift was tickets to the Braves game with his dad. While that obviously cost money, the ticket was not what made it stick out in Eli's mind: the quality time with Lehr was key.

Hoping to continue this trend in our house and have it spread more through our family this year :)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Open Calendar

Since Eli turned four years old, we have only skipped one baseball season (the fall that found us in the middle of a renovation and partly out of our house until Thanksgiving). And while we love baseball, and we do, it is taxing on our calendar.

Every season comes and we sign Eli up again though. He loves it; he seriously comes home from practices and games and asks us to pitch to him in the yard, or throw the ball with him. This is after a minimum of 90-minutes spent at the ball park. (Games are closer to 2 1/2 hours between pre-game practice and game time.) And we do, not because he has the potential to be a player in the MLB one day but because he absolutely loves the game. And we do too. Lehr and I both love watching baseball, and Maddux has grown up at the ball-park; she had just turned 2 when Eli started playing and I have chased her all around that place during games and practices. It's just part of who we are. Even though Eli is on the field, it is a family activity that we do together. He knows we are there supporting him, Maddux interacts with him through the fence, we get some individual time with Maddux, etc. Also, we love the confidence it gives Eli. He is not (nor will he likely ever be) the biggest, or the fastest, or the best. But he loves baseball and we see cool changes in his 'game' every season. And even though he knows he's not the star player, he has success on the field or at bat each and every game, and I know that helps him balance out being a small boy in a big-boy school and league.

Fast forward to this summer; we were busy. Having another baby will do that to you! Between the addition of Ruby and some behavior issues with Eli that started to pop up more often last spring, we started toying with the idea of a season away from baseball. I really didn't want to do it, but trying to imagine getting all three kids to the field (plus snacks or meals), half of the time on my own (during the week, Lehr has to meet us at the field) was stressing me out. Then I'd also have to feed Ruby at the field many times. And Eli's behavior stuff that we were struggling with definitely escalated when he was tired; weeknight baseball games start at 5:30 or 7:30. That means the earliest Eli is in bed is 8PM. Difficult for our sleep-needing boy.

So August came and we did not attend the baseball evaluation. The first few weeks of practices came and our friends all went to the fields and we did not. I definitely second guessed myself a few times; I already missed it even before the games started!

Then I started hearing the calendar adds of our friends, the two-practice, two-game weeks. The rescheduled-for-rain nights. At that point I felt a little better because I knew how hard it was some nights just to get dinner on the table for three kids and that was without that extra 'schedule conflict'. But that was just about me; I still had some reservations because I wasn't sure if taking ball away for the season was having a positive impact on Eli (and Maddux).
Then I started noticing something. We were playing more family games. We were having whiffle ball and badminton tournaments in the backyard. We were able to run last minute errands one-on-one with kids after dinner. The kids had books read to them at bedtime EVERY night. Eli and Maddux were spending time together willingly, and being creative with their time.
 We were doing some family workouts and therapy for Eli. The kids would disappear for 30 minutes here or there and come back with random kid art or a random project started. And (the biggest) Eli was having many less meltdowns. His anger was waaaay more self-managed. And when he did start to blow up, he was able to get it under control more quickly. I realize that does not mean Eli was the problem and taking away baseball 'fixed' him; it is very likely a combination of Lehr and I being less rushed and stressed AND Eli being less rushed and stressed.
As with many things in life, while we were in the middle of the season of no-ball, I didn't notice much difference. But once I looked back over the last week, the last month, the last few months, I realize how many weekend pockets of time we had together as a family. How many bonfires with friends we had in the backyard. How many crafts and holiday foods the kids and I got to make together. All small things, but all so big in the grand scheme of things.
So we will likely join back into baseball in the spring. And I'm excited for it - REALLY excited. But having a no-ball season was a really really great thing for our family. It created just enough margin for us to really stop and pay attention to each other, to play after school most days, to have NOTHING on the calendar some Saturdays.... Even though we knew we were busy with the baseball schedule in our life, I don't think we realized HOW busy until we took it away.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Pipe Down!

So Ruby likes to make noise. Just for the sake of making noise. This is familiar territory as Maddux was the same at Ruby's age. Ruby's is less loud though...more of an 'exploration of vowels'. Lehr caught a few moments of it while I was sleeping off my surgery last weekend. (Yes, she's on a hardwood floor; no babies were harmed in the filming of this video.)

Friday, November 01, 2013


In true present-day-Nicole fashion, we carved our pumpkins two days before Halloween. And we visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden's display of scarecrows (an annual tradition for the kids and I) on October 30. To say I'm running behind these days is an understatement.

Costumes, however, were done way in advance for once. Both kids had their entire costumes ready to go two weeks ago, in time for the Little 5 Points parade. So at least I wasn't running around this week doing THAT!

Eli and Maddux did a great job with their pumpkins this year. Yeah, we bought them at Publix less than a week before Halloween instead of visiting a pumpkin patch, but they didn't seem to mind. For several years now they've picked out the design for their own pumpkin, and last year Eli even helped carve his. This year I told them it was ALL them. They were pleasantly surprised that I'd let them cut their own jack-o-lantern, but the little 'carving knives' they sell around every corner are so kid-friendly it would be a crime to deprive them the joy of carving. Since I'm all about giving the kids the best possible experience, I also let them clean the seeds out of their pumpkins. They are LUCKY! The one thing I did was cut open the top with a real knife, but then it was all up to them. So they scraped and scooped and scraped some more. Maddux was a little hesitant to start, but she got over it really quickly. Eli ended up designing an 8-eyed spider face? and Maddux tried to duplicate a face she saw on a pre-made jack-o-lantern. Both kids did really well! Seriously way better than I expected and I'm so glad I had them do it all themselves because they turned out to be at least as capable as I am (if not more!). They gutted, cleaned, designed, drew, and cut everything on their own: NO help from me. Ruby hung out with us most of the time, just lying on the ground near the crime scene.

The scarecrow display was awesome, as usual. I'm always blown away by the creativity of some people!! The kids were extra excited to see the scarecrows this year because they helped create one. Some creative minds at church landed us a spot in the line-up, so Eli, Maddux and a handful of other kids got together for a Sunday afternoon about a month ago to construct Mr. Tumnus (Narnia). He turned out very cool and the kids were super psyched to see him at the gardens.

Halloween was on a Thursday this year, so the kids got to come home from school and pace around the house and yard for two hours before we could get started with our neighborhood festivities and trick-or-treating. Once Lehr got home, they were ready to go. We loaded Ruby up in the BOB and set off for the Halloween parade. Eli looked awesome in his Lincoln beard and top hat. Maddux looked, well, Maddux-like in her wings and pink tutu. And Ruby rocked the ladybug costume like no other. The kids meandered from friend to friend on the neighborhood walk down to the clubhouse. We all got a piece of pizza just before the costume contest started. Eli was eagerly anticipating this; he thought he had a real shot at winning. He ended up taking second place, which he was grinning ear to ear about (even though there was no prize).

And they're off: 6:15ish we left the pool to trick-or-treat home. Eli and Maddux did pretty well staying with us and using manners at each house. Our neighborhood has so many kids that the first dozen or so houses get absolutely mobbed once we all leave the clubhouse area. At one point Eli got really hot and wanted to take his beard off, but we convinced him to keep it on. He wasn't too focused on the candy this year, so he'd go to a few houses and then skip a few and walk with us. Maddux did the same, but it seemed like they never picked the same houses to skip. Ruby was a rockstar, watching, snoozing, and eating on our mile long walk back to the house. Never an upset peep came from her in the BOB or the bjorn.