Monday, January 2, 2017

10 Months for Little Liam!

This post is a little late - but I'm actually a little impressed with myself that this is the ONLY late post in the last 10 months of his life!

We started this last month on a rough patch. November was a month of sickness for all 3 of us. It was discovered that Liam had a double ear infection at his 9 month appointment, so he got antibiotics. That explains why he's been so cranky! He finished out his meds but still wasn't acting like himself, and he was still pulling on his ear. He was a little feverish one morning, and then by the afternoon he was lethargic, and his temp had shot up - I'm not even joking here - to 105 degrees!!! I was in the middle of making dinner and I literally had to shut everything off and grab Ava from the table to take Liam to urgent care! I was kind of freaking out. It was dark outside and I couldn't see him in the car and I was terrified that he was going to have a febrile seizure and I wouldn't be able to see him! It took me 2 tries to find a place that was open. The nurse gave him Tylenol before the doctor even came in to see him. My poor Liam was so out of it and was covered in goosebumps. His ears were still infected, so the doctor gave us a new antibiotic.

The next 48 hours were no better. He had afternoon temp spikes of 104/105. It was misery - for us all! I called an advice nurse because, of course, it was Sunday, and I didn't know what to do for him! I was told he needed to be seen within 8 hours and I got in touch with his doctor and she recommended to take him to Children's Mercy for a 3-day series of an antibiotic shot. So we took off to get Liam fixed up and the poor guy had a slight reaction to the shot, so we had to hang out for a bit to make sure it wasn't a concern. PS - Children's Mercy Urgent Care is uh-MAZING...if your insurance covers it, it's worth the drive to one of their locations!! (still haven't gotten the statement...I'm hoping Tricare covers it!)

Within 24 hours, Liam was fine. We had a follow-up appointment with his doctor the next day, and she didn't think he needed any more shots.

Fricken scariest weekend of my life.

In the middle of ALL OF THAT, my family was making arrangements for my grandma's funeral. And so was Chris! I put in a Red Cross message to him and his Commander approved emergency leave for him, which is how he was able to come home BEFORE Christmas! So not under ideal cirucumstances, but I will say, it was pretty awesome to suddenly know that my husband was hopping on a series of flights to come back home to us!

I wasn't able to be in touch with Chris while Liam was so sick that weekend. I had to make a lot of decisions on my own. I'm so so so SO SO SO grateful for friends and family who were able to watch Ava for the trips to Urgent Care - it cut down on my stress level tremendously!!

Please, if you have the opportunity to help someone out, do it. Whether they have a deployed soldier or not. I can't tell you how helpless it feels to literally not be able to do things without someone else's help, and then to have someone who says "yeah, I can take care of that for you"...it literally means the world to me and it feels like a ton of bricks are taken off my shoulders! I can't wait until I can be that "person" for someone else. I want to pay it forward, because solo parenting SUCKS and it is SO HARD and I've only been doing it for a handful of months! Everybody needs help once in awhile!

Liam was quite happy to see his daddy again! And then he was a bit nervous. But mainly just really attached to mommy! But he had some pretty big smiles for daddy that I hadn't seen the whole time he's been gone!

The transition to daddy being home was a bit wild. The kids weren't themselves...and neither was napping. The predictable behaviors were gone so that made it frustrating to try and plan our days when the kids didn't cooperate as well. I can't say I blame them - these are big changes for these tiny humans, and we expected it to happen a bit. It was so great to see the kids with Chris - Ava was literally his shadow for the first few days - if she wasn't sitting with him, she was following him around the house!

We were planning on Chris being home for just 10 days, but then there was an issue with his military flight and he either had to pay like $$$$$$$$ for a flight within the next few days and risk being on standby for A WEEK in Texas, or pay a little less $$$$$ for a later flight and extend his leave, pending approval. So not ideal choices because we were really looking forward to another visit from him in the spring, and this overbooking took that away from us. But, there was no other way around it. So he was home for 3 weeks! We could have planned some more things to do had we known in the beginning it would turn into 3 weeks. So we just did things on the fly and got some date nights here and there and did a few things with the kids. Ava got to show daddy all of her skills at gymnastics and we went to go see Christmas lights at Deanna Rose. Ava was spoiled with lots of treats and screen time. It was nice to have mommy AND daddy home for playtime and bathtime and bedtimes. Ava was suddenly speaking in long sentences and talked almost non-stop for a lot of the time Chris was home!

So Liam was a lucky boy and got his daddy for most of this month! Liam has moved up to 12 month clothes, although they are still a tad bit big for him. Mostly just the pants - he is a little short! Liam loves to crawl and climb and pull to stand and sit on his knees and bounce and wiggle! He can't sit still! He's side stepping and walks while holding onto your hands, but he usually drops to his knees pretty quick. I think once the interest is there, he will be walking soon!

Strangely enough, Liam is kind of a picky eater! He refuses to eat about half of the foods I give him, whereas Ava ate EVERYTHING in sight at his age! He loves casseroles and one-pot dishes  - things that have lots of flavor! It could be that he is just not an adventurous eater. I think he likes more food than he realizes!

My Liam is still quite the fussy guy. He is so happy and silly, but he will let you know when he is not happy with something - especially diaper changes!! He cries his eyes out about 75% of the time he's being changed. You'd think I pinched him or something!

Liam goes to bed around 7, and wakes up around 7 am, give or take 30 minutes.

BUT.

He still wakes up randomly multiple times a night. One night when Chris was home, he woke up every 30 minutes for 3 HOURS STRAIGHT. By this age, Ava had started sleeping through the night, so it's really hard not to compare and get impatient with Liam! He typically wakes around 12 and 4, but it's not always consistent. I can't wait to sleep again, whenever that might be!!

Big sister is doing pretty great. She's let up on trying to push Liam, so that's been a welcome change! Big girl was measured recently and she is 3 feet tall!! She's pretty tall and people always think she's older than she actually is, probably also because she has so much hair! She will be 2 and a half years old in a few days! She's wayyy into baby dolls and all of her stuffed animals and Elmo is a new favorite! She loves counting and is getting better at saying her ABC's. Her new favorite show is Frosty the Snowman and she enjoys looking for Christmas lights outside our back door and trying to find the moon. She loves to help "parent" Liam: "TOO LOUD, BUDDY!" when he cries and "EAT YOUR FOOD!" when he throws food on the floor! She wipes his chin and rubs bubbles on his back in the tub. She brings him toys and snacks and yanks things out of his hands that she thinks he shouldn't have. I think there are a lot of little tiny toys she'd like, but we just can't have those around until Liam is a bit older. She's interested in underwear but I'm not ready to start her on potty training yet...I'm just not ready for that adventure for another few months, I think! Ava is still happy and a GREAT sleeper in her crib, so there are no plans to bump her from there just yet! The last thing I need is 2 kids up at night!

I just love this little Liam. He cuddles once in awhile in between his busy moments of playing. I think he tries to give kisses - he leans into my face with an open mouth! He loves bathtime and squirms and giggles when I go to undress him at the tub's edge. He might drive me up the wall with his middle of the night crying and his sometimes constant desire to be held, but I sure am thankful for this little guy! He really completes our family! I've always loved Ava but I think I love her more as a big sister! I couldn't imagine life without my two minions!! These last few weeks were great having daddy home, and we can't wait for these next many months to fly by so he can be home again!!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Liam Turns 9 Months!

Holy cow, baby boy! Another month gone!!

Liam is crawling. Standing. Shifting weight on his legs.

Things have changed a lot this month!

Bath night has gotten complicated again. Liam is so squirmy in his bath sling so I've been working on a safer solution for him. We have a textured bathtub so unfortunately a bath mat doesn't stick to it, so I had to brainstorm a bit to keep Liam stable while sister sloshes in the tub next to him! When I get them out of the tub, they scatter! It's a race to get them dried off and diapered before they start peeing everywhere!

Ok, it's not as dramatic as it sounds but I always feel so rushed to get their tushies covered!

Ava has been experimenting with Liam a bit. I have caught her pushing him over when he's sitting. And it's not because she's upset with him, I think she is literally just exploring cause and effect. And then as soon as he falls over and cries, of course I come over to comfort him and pick him up, and then Ava asks to be held too. So she's definitely exploring that "what happens if..." scenario! It's a litte frustrating for me because now I feel like I can't leave them alone out of my sight for even just a minute because she might push him. I remind Ava to be gentle and she will eventually learn that she doens't get any attention when she pushes Liam. I am usually overly dramatic when I comfort Liam and I walk out of the room with him so she is literally getting NO attention and Liam gets it all.

She also will either bring him lots of toys, or she will take them all away. She'll say "NOOOO!" and yank it out of his hand and toss it across the room! Again, she is experimenting, and thankfully Liam doesn't care too much, but it's still frustrating! I spend half my time fetching Liam's toys again and telling Ava that he is still playing with that toy. I think she does get a little confused because there are some of her toys that Liam gets ahold of that aren't safe for him, so she sees me taking them away from him, so I think some of it is imitation (although I don't yell NO at him!). I mean she's not even 2.5 yet so she doesn't know! The struggle of having 2 kids close together!!

Liam goes to bed about 30 minutes before Ava, and it's working out really well. Liam is down to 2 naps per day now, so he is usually ready for bed by 630. Then I get quiet playtime with Ava! I just started putting her in underwear for those last 15 minutes before bed, just so she can get used to wearing them and talking about them. She's peed a few times while wearing them, and the first time I didn't realize it until I looked up at her and she was wiping her leg with a shirt on the floor, hahahah!!! I don't mind her little "accidents" because she is learning about bladder control and what happens! I don't know when we will both be ready to move forward with full-blown potty training, but I figured we could start bringing more awareness so she can tell ME when she's ready to wear "unnah weh uh" full time! We are reading lots of potty books too! She does so good at telling me right after she's pooped or if I smell it first, she willingly goes with me to be changed. Lots of good signs! But I am dreading starting it, so I'm waiting a bit more!

Liam finally found a sippy cup he likes! He's not great at tipping it up far enough to get water out, but if I hold it for him, he will chug it! He is still hit or miss with crunchy textures but is a BIG fan of baby puffs!

I feel like I was sick for most of this last month. The kids were sick too! I feel like it was a big setback because I did nothing but survive for most of the time. No meal planning, no cleaning, minimal laundry, no fun outings...so I have lots of catching up to do and I need to get back into my routines! But I am SO thankful to be feeling better. 24 hours worth of antibotics in my system and I feel like a whole new person!

I'm thankful that Chris and I have the opportunity to communicate daily. But the time difference (now 9 hours apart since the time change - Kuwait does not partake in Daylight Savings Time) makes it hard. I am going to bed as he is waking up and vice versa. The bulk of one person's awake time is the other person's sleeping time. And as you can imagine, when I'm out and about with the kids, I don't have 2 hands for texting whole conversations very much. So our communicating goes in spurts. Most of it is through snapchat or our shared photo album of the kids. I want to keep him up to speed with the kids as much as possible!

Ava and Liam are always playing together. Ava thinks he is the greatest! They've started crawling around together and laughing and sharing toys. Or Ava just decides what he will play with next!

Liam is SO into food now. He recognizes the puffs container and grunts for it when he sees it! He cried last week when Ava was next to him with her goldfish - he spotted them and then she left, and that was when he cried - he didn't get any! He literally burst into tears. SLOW YOUR ROLL, KID - you're barely 9 months old!! He has THIRDS sometimes at dinner. Ava was a crazy eater as an infant too - sometimes he eats more than she does now! The amount of poopy diapers I change during the day is kind of crazy...usually about 5 or 6 between the two kids!

I DO have something BIG to look forward to though - Chris is planning his leave to come home for a bit! Hopefully we will see him soon-ish!!! It feels like a dream come true. And then I'm sure it will feel like a nightmare because I will have to send him back again. But it will be enough of a break for both of us to feel at least a little recharged! All I am imagining is us, together, as a family of 4. Playing in the living room. It seems like an eternity since he has been gone!

Liam is now entering my favorite age, at least it was my favorite with Ava: the "9-12 month" range! I think most people don't like this phase because that is typically when a child becomes mobile and is more of a challenge to keep safe and keep up with. But I just loved it so much with Ava. She was more expressive and interactive, and her personality really started to emerge. I'm already seeing that with Liam - the things he prefers and the things that make him cry or chuckle.

The holiday season is upon us!! While we are REALLY missing daddy, it will certainly help time move faster and, before we know it, he will be home for a visit!! I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Deployment "Blues"

My feelings on this topic were taking over Liam's 9 month post for tomorrow, and I wasn't liking the direction the post was going.

So I decided to give those thoughts their own space.

I had hopes of being uber organized and busy and distracted to keep my mind off of Chris being gone.

And those are still aspirations of mine, but it is SO MUCH HARDER than I thought it would be. I'm realizing the biggest struggle is NOT going to the grocery store alone all the time. It is NOT cleaning the house by myself. It is NOT figuring out who is going to help me with car maintenance or lawncare or baby gate installation or a broken closet door or toilet repair or smoke detector battery replacement on 9-foot ceilings.

The biggest struggle is my emotions. More specifically, my emotionl "tank", if you will. I feel so emotionally drained a lot of the time. Trying to keep my poker face with the kids when I'm feeling sad/overwhelemed/frustrated. Making sure the kids get what they need from me each day is more exhausting than I imagined.

Take today for instance - long story short, Ava was diagnosed with a bad case of strep throat today. So Liam was kind of forgotten about. Ok, maybe that's not the best word - his needs weren't made a priority today. Ava was very miserable today - I've never seen her like that. So I felt like she needed me more, and I felt resentful toward Liam when he woke from his nap and my ability to snuggle Ava was over. And then I felt bad for feeling that way. Thankfully Ava was happier after her nap and she had some medication flowing through her. Fast forward through the rest of the day (and the entire contents of Liam's dinner in his lap and one yogurt cup that went flying off the table onto the wall) and it was finally bedtime. I put Liam down first, like always. Then I started Ava's bedtime, and just as she and I were snuggling in the rocking chair, Liam starts screaming. Ava looked at me, and assumed I was going to put her down and go to him, because that's what I always have to do to her. UGH THE MOM GUILT. But I told her that he could wait and that this was my time with her. We rocked for a little while, with Liam screaming in the background. I finished up with Ava and then went in to Liam. The poor dude just wanted mama. I picked him up and he got another turn to be rocked. And within a minute, he was asleep on my chest. That's rare for little buddy to do that. It made me a little sad, like maybe he hadn't gotten enough snuggling in today. Another reminder of how much my kids need me. And I'm also filling in for daddy so I feel like they deserve more than I can give.

And THEN guess who started crying?!

The dang cats - right in Liam's doorway.

They know it's dinnertime after the babies go to bed.

I held on to Liam for a few minutes longer before I got up to feed the cats.

It is constant needs from everyone, ALL. DAY. LONG. Week after week. Month after month.

Tonight made me really stop and think about how spread thin I am, not just when my kids are sick, but every other day, too. Day after day after day.

It's no wonder I can't accomplish anything after the kids are in bed. I'm just spent. But it's not so much physically as it is mentally and emotionally. I don't care to clean up the messes. I'm pulled in so many directions during the day that I just want to zone out.

And on top of the needs that happen within these walls, there's also the rest of the world. My friends. My family. Finding the emotional energy for outside commitments when I'd almost rather sulk in my misery. Keeping up with the shopping lists and laundry. I'm so behind on organizing anything that I almost feel like I'm moving backwards a little bit. I cannot keep up with it all. I seriously need to start checking some things off my list. Heading into the holidays isn't helping either. I'm feeling a little swamped!

I need a magic wand to *tap* all of the millions of tasks around the house that need fixing or cleaning. My to-do list is relentless.

I'm losing control and I don't like it. I'm not used to this feeling!! I'm usually SO good at keeping up with life. And things. I feel like I can't do anything but get through the day. And that sounds really sad, but y'all...this is how deployments are!!

This is what a family goes through during a deployment. This is a tiny part of what our military families sacrifice.

I was messaging a friend a few weeks back, and she had mentioned to me that she reads my blog and enjoyed reading about what I've been up to. She thanked me for being so honest with everything, and that it made her so much more grateful for Chris's service, seeing what it's truly like for a military family and the struggles of a deployment. I'm not at all trying to be "woe is me...look at me...give me attention" because there are A LOT of families who struggle with separations in the civilian life. Not everyone works 9-5 in-town jobs! But I also know that, before I met Chris, I didn't personally know a single person in the military. It was only something I read about. And I think it is very true that you don't know a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes. So I'm just hoping to fill you in on a little corner of the military life, from a spouse's point of view. There are people out there (and maybe you are one of them) who don't understand why military families "get so much paid for" - the healthcare benefits, housing benefits, discounts at stores, and the like. It is for the sacrifice. Not only for deployments, but for signing a contract saying that they will do whatever is asked of them, including uprooting your family to move across the country (or the world) every few years. The sacrifice Chris makes to defend and protect this nation we live in. I remember when I worked at Maurices and we would have ladies who didn't want to accept our military discount, even though they had a valid spouse ID, because they didn't feel like they deserved it. But the discount is a THANK YOU to military families - the whole family unit makes a sacrifice when their soldier is serving. I'm getting a little off subject here, but it amazes me that people still don't understand this. I had an old coworker approach me about this subject - on the clock, when Chris had literally just come home from his last deployment - and she didn't get why people say "thank you" to soldiers. Wow. That one was rough.

I dunno guys...I'd love to be able to write that this deployment junk is getting easier, but it's really not. I have my good days, or good moments, and then it swings the other way. At times I feel like life is falling apart and all I want to do is go hide in bed. I try my best to make the most of things and keep a good attitude, but that can't be maintained at all times. It just can't. Ususally it is the whole "the straw that broke the camel's back" type thing. Everything is fine until I just can't. Ava has seen me cry so much lately and I think we are kind of helping each other through it, as much as her little 2 year-old self can. I tell her, "mommy is just really sad right now" or "mommy just really misses daddy"...and even "mommy is sorry for yelling at you" or "mommy just needs a break right now; you'll have to wait". I'm not proud of some of my parenting moments lately. This deployment really stresses every aspect of life and challenges your inner strength in so many ways. If I had to try and describe it, it feels kind of like a touch of depression in an otherwise happy life. The sadness kind of comes and goes unexpectedly and there are triggers as well. Sometimes I cope very well, and other times I know I just need to let myself be a grump or be sad in order to be able to move forward. And thats hard when I have 2 little sets of eyes watching me.

I'm trying hard to keep my chin up and not be disappointed when things don't go right or when I can't get to as many things as I was hoping. And I know that for this year Chris is gone that I'm going to have to settle for a lot of "well, that's good enough for now".

But every day is another day closer to when we will have our soldier home.

one.

day.

at.

a.

time.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Baby Boy is 8 Months!

How can this be??? 8 months seems so "old"! My tiny baby boy is growing fast!

I would like to start this post by saying

DEPLOYMENTS SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK

The distraction of learning to juggle life without Chris here has kind of worn off now that it's the new normal, and it has completely worn me down. Kind of like the feeling you get after the adrenaline has worn off - I'm pooped. My to-do list just gets longer and longer since it takes me so long to get things accomplished. Now I just feel lonely. It doesn't matter how many things I pack into my day, how many places we go, or how many people we see. It doesn't change the fact that he is gone. The house is really quiet at night. It's no fun to watch tv night after night after night after night without him. Eating all of my meals alone (or with messy children alone). We are approaching the holiday season and I'm already sad he's not going to be here for any of it. It makes me the most sad that he's not here to watch our babies grow, and that he's missing life events and milestones and firsts with our kids.

That is hands down the hardest part for me so far.

It's been 2 months. That's it. And I feel like it's already been an eternity. And I really don't know how in the heck I'm supposed to do this for another 10 months.

I can't even imagine what this is going to be like when the kids are older and can ask questions and share with me their feelings about daddy being gone for so long.

UGHHHHHHHHHHHHH sorry, Liam, for hijacking your post with sadness and complaining!!

On a more positive note, Liam is loving life!! Except when he's tired or mommy moves more than 2 feet away from him! He is going through separation anxiety BIG TIME right now! He cries whenever I leave the room, or if a stranger looks at him often times that will set him off too.

Liam's favorite foods are everything squishy, mainly. He's had all sorts of things, from bananas, green beans, and sweet potatoes to beef stew, baked potato soup, and peanut butter toast! While he is incredibly messy, he's getting better at putting food directly in his mouth! Sometimes there is so much food in his lap when he's done, but sometimes he surprises me and it all ended up IN his tummy! He still just chews on a sippy cup, so no real progess there.

Liam likes to sit and reach for lots of toys, and often times Ava will lay her head in his lap and they play. And by "play", I mean Liam grabs Ava's face and pulls her hair and she laughs and kisses his belly and feet and legs! She just loves her baby! She's very concerned with him at mealtimes and when his tray is empty, she is sure to notice! "More green bean, Bia?" Seriously, it's so cute!! When I put him in his chair for a meal, Ava climbs his chair (we have a counter-height table) and hangs out with him until food is ready. Most of the time she brings him toys and puts them on his chair, too! I'll ask her to come and get the cups out of the fridge and she will take Liam's cup to him. She also likes to help wash him in the tub! She is becoming a really good mommy's helper! I cherish that personality trait she has - she is pretty caring for a 2 year old! She takes a lot of interest in what mommy does all day and it's coming out in her pretend play. She loves to change her baby doll's diapers, wash her babies in her play sink, clean the floors, do laundry, and her newest imitation is putting on makeup, lotion, and taking pictures of her baby dolls using a toy phone! I could sit and watch her play all day; it's so adorable!

Liam has just started figuring out how to get to the floor from a sitting position! He just casually reaches out for a toy, and then just keeps leaning...and leaning...until he leans to the side a bit and wiggles his legs out from underneath him! He thinks he's pretty smooth!

He can pull to stand by himself now, too! He is on the move - crawling is just around the corner, I'm sure!

He leans forward in the car seat to anticipate getting picked up. He's beginning to raise his arms to me when he sees me coming! We are working on some sign language - "more" and "all done" at mealtimes! I sign "more" to him, and he smiles really big and kicks his legs! I help him do the sign and he gets more food. I think he's catching on!

The kids have giggle fits in the car sometimes! Ava will call out to Liam and I see him looking at her and a huge smile spreads across his face, and then Ava laughs, and then Liam laughs!! It's so fun to see them make each other so happy! It certainly brightens my day. I've even seen them passing a toy back and forth to eachother! There's a gap between them, but I saw yesterday that Ava had a pillow, then Liam had it, and then Ava had it again a bit later! I'm getting to experience them entertaining each other, which provides a few moments of being able to mentally check out from mommy duty. But not for long - I have to continually watch to make sure Ava doesn't bring Liam something he shouldn't have or that she isn't being too rough with him.

Ava has been different this month. Last month she was really difficult, and this month she's been really sweet and kind of...fragile. Ava is not really a cuddly child. She didn't like to be cuddled as a baby, like at all. As she became a toddler, she eventually came around to the idea of giving and receiving hugs, and then eventually she'd ask to sit with you just to hang out - but not for more than a handful of seconds. But lately she has been asking for me to hold her all the time. It could be after she trips and falls, when she's tired, or just because. I'm not sure if it's due to her seeing how needy Liam has been lately, or if she's just going through a phase, or if she's missing daddy and this is how it's surfacing. So it kind of makes me sad because I really wonder if it's the latter of the three. We talk about daddy a lot and I tell her I love daddy and that I miss him, and I ask her if she loves daddy and if she misses him too. I tell her it's okay to miss him and I make sure she has her daddy doll to hug. She never really responds when we talk about missing daddy, but I know she's listening and internalizes it in her little mind. She knows the sound of the FaceTime ring and the alert for a text message from him. She always gasps and says "daddy!" and if I'm not in the room to hear it, she brings my phone to me if she can reach it! What a little sweetheart. She's started paying more attention to our family photos on the walls. "Daddy, mommy, baby, girl". She calls herself "girl" - but I've finally gotten her to say her name!!!!! She calls herself "Ah-bah". I love it. We are working on saying "My name is Ava". Her vocabulary continues to explode and I'm hearing more 3- and 4-word sentences! She likes to look for "big trucks" when we are out and about in the car, she stops in her tracks when she hears an airplane or a train, and motorcycles always catch her eye.

I have to say, I'm really missing one-on-one time with my girl. And sometimes I feel bad because Liam doesn't get one-on-one time with me, either. I feel like they both deserve undivided attention from me. That is my latest mommy guilt issue. Liam's napping isn't very regular yet - he's still teetering between 2 and 3 naps each day. But I think I'm going to work towards staggering their bedtimes a little so Ava can have some quiet time at the end of the day with just mommy. The last several nights have ended up that way, and Ava really enjoyed some playtime in her room with me. Plus she has started picking out longer books to read at bedtime, and Liam just can't appreciate stories before bed. When that boy is tired, he lets the world know! And if Liam is going to be a crank, Ava shouldn't have to let that ruin her bedtime story and be rushed through hugs and kisses just so I can go nurse Liam and put him to bed. I liked the idea of simultaneous bedtime for the kids, but I think their needs have changed. Maybe we can go back to simultaneous bedtimes once Liam is weaned and/or Chris is home again!

There needs to be more hours in the day - I can't keep up with everything! I'm hoping this next month I can get better organized, or my kids can work through their intense neediness! There have been many times they have both been crying messes because they need to be held. I can't count how many times I have hauled 50 pounds of crying children up and down the stairs!

Overall I'm keeping a pretty good attitude about everything, which is pretty important for surviving this separation. I definitely hit my limits and I get cabin fever (and so do the kids!) if we spend too many days in a row in the house. For this reason, we all enjoy our weekly trip to the grocery store! We all get out and get to do something different, and we all love food! Ava is starting to reject sitting in the cart, so that battle has begun. But the only way she will learn is if we continue to practice the expectations for her! So sometimes I end up being that lady in the store with 2 screaming children. Sorry not sorry! Find something else to gawk at!

I've learned to pick my battles a bit. Sometimes I look the other way when Ava jumps on the couch. It has really helped that Ava has picked up on the new routines since daddy is gone. We upgraded Liam to a convertible seat awhile ago so it's been a bit challenging without the infant carrier - I have nowhere to set him down! She knows we put brother in the car first and she puts her hand on the tire (and idea from my sister!) and waits until it's her turn, and then we go to her door. My biggest fear is that in the 15 seconds my head is in the car buckling Liam in, that Ava would leave my side in the parking lot. But she does so well! She knows that as soon as we get in the house to sit down and we all take off our shoes. And she'll carry a bag in and she knows I put them all right by the pantry. She does really well about 98% of the time at going upstairs for naptime or bedtime or stinky diaper changes, and then sometimes I have to chase her and carry her upstairs! She's always thrived on a routine, so it's helpful to us all if we stick to it. And then if we deviate, she knows it's something special! Like a little roadtrip to grandma and grandpa's house! Occasionally we stay up late, sometimes just her and I, and maybe I'll put on a show for her in mommy and daddy's bed, or we have a late night snack, or just some quiet playtime in her room.

I'm finding new ways of parenting, and I'm realizing what's truly important. The whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is so cliche, but it is so, so true! I'm ready for next summer to be here already!!