Advent Part 1

I switched host families a couple of weeks before Christmas when I was an exchange student in Germany. With my first family, I lost track of the date and forgot to leave a shoe outside my bedroom door for St Nicholas the night before his expected visit on December 8th. Thankfully, he left me some yummy chocolate anyway.

My second family celebrated Christmas all month long, opening a small gift each morning for Advent, and lighting a candle each week. It was magical. I came upstairs to a dimly lit, simple breakfast and a present each morning. It was like Christmas morning every day, and I loved it. Waking up before the sun (unless it's with a screaming toddler) always carries a kind of magic with it. I remember getting warm socks and a heart-shaped silver keychain that jingled like a unique kind of bell. I loved that Christmas.

It was really nice that they did it this way, because Germans' main celebration is on Christmas Eve, or 'Holy Evening' as they call it. As wonderful as that was, it was kinda stinky for this American kid to wake up to the sound of a vacuum cleaner on December 25th and spend the entire day stuck in the middle of the backseat of a station wagon as the whole family hauls their way to Switzerland. But then, Switzerland is also magical. I love that beautiful country!

Ever since that year, I've always wanted to celebrate Christmas the whole month long. Last year I made all these great plans and then we all got nailed with a nasty flu that wiped out a whole week of festivities and seemed to suck away way more time than it actually did. This year, we tried it again and... so far, so good!

There have been days when I've thought, "wow, this is anti-climactic. maybe we wait till the kids are older for this...?" And then there have been days where the girls' excitement has been so contagious, and I've been so grateful for the planning I put into it.

Some days we've had a small gift or a treat (hot chocolate, a piece of candy, chalk for drawing on their chalkboard wall), and most days we've had some kind of family activity. We've read the Christmas story in the book of Luke, as well as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. We've watched some Christmas classics: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch, Muppet Christmas Carol, and the LDS Church's Christmas devotional. We hung up mistletoe and smothered each other in kisses. We hosted a Christmas party for my husband's employees. We delivered gifts to a grieving family. We built a 4.5 ft tall Snoopy Doghouse for our ward Christmas Party. We made faux-gingerbread houses, or "inns" for Joseph and Mary NOT to birth their baby in, made and hung paper snowflakes on the windows... it's been really fun!

I think what's allowed it to be fun was having it all planned by Thanksgiving, so we haven't been worrying each day what we're going to do for Advent. For activities, I wrapped something related to it for the girls to tear open-- like graham crackers for the candy houses, a book, etc. I really like having things ready ahead of time. We've all been able to enjoy it without any stress, and only a few hours of planning, shopping, and wrapping. 

Here are a few photos of our Advent festivities!

The next couple of weeks include some other good things-- looking forward to go to see the Nutcracker Ballet with Verity, and making Christmas cookies. Seriously the most wonderful time of the year!


the first trimester

It's been different. That much I can say. 

And I am unbelievably thankful for that. Because pregnancy is like, my life's biggest enemy.

Husband has been phenomenal through all of it. He is such a great help and support to me, despite working a gzillion hours at a new job, and all the challenges that has brought.

Here's what this pregnancy has looked like so far:
-a month...? ...ish? of morning sickness. This is the sweetest deal ever.
-fatigue. Which has manifested itself more in terms of crazy mood swings than feeling like a sloth on ambien.
-pushing myself past my limits because I have a real issue with myself when I'm not productive, and then regretting it when later that day I either, 1: have a meltdown, or 2: zonk out on the couch well before the kids' bedtime.
-carpal tunnel flaring up and thwarting the most epic fair isle christmas blanket knitting project of my life. Booo!
-craving Italian food of all kinds. Lots of meatballs, pasta, pesto, chicken, pizza.. I keep telling Husband we're going to have to name the kid "Antonio" or something that will make him spend his whole life convincing his peers he's not in the mafia.
-lots of fainting. more so than in previous pregnancies (no worries, nothing dangerous).
-being unable to sleep comfortably on my stomach after only 10-11 weeks! maybe this baby's going to be real chunk-a-munk, I dunno. I've always been able to sleep on my stomach into my second trimester before.
-being a lame friend. spending lots of time at home. body weak from reduced caloric intake and minimal exercise... that's the hard, depressing part about pregnancy. Even as this one has been easier in a lot of ways, I still find myself somewhat knocked down to my knees by the first trimester.

I was nervous about this from the start, on account of not feeling so nauseated I want to die, from day one and continuing on till birth. The only pregnancy in which I had zero morning sickness was the one I lost. Every time I felt sick, I felt grateful. Every time I felt fine for a day or two, I worried. Such a roller coaster!

When we went in for our first checkup the other day, the midwife couldn't find a heartbeat on the doppler and left to go get the ultrasound machine. And while I knew there were many reasons small babies are elusive (Libby had been as well, on account of the position of the placenta), I still couldn't keep back the tears as I lay there waiting, squeezing Husband's hand. And even after we got a good strong heartbeat, well... once you lose one, it's hard not to worry about each one that follows. Know what I mean?

The risk of second trimester miscarriage is %0.5. That goes up a little if you've had a previous miscarriage and/or you're over 30. But it's still pretty small. And on Husband's side, all 5 of my sisters in law have miscarried sometime between 12-17 weeks.. which makes me wonder so many things, like, how accurate are those numbers? and, what on Earth causes these things? 

The thing I hold onto is the feeling of peace that I get when I pray. A reassurance that it's all going to be okay, and that whatever happens, it will be for the best. And I know it will be.

I really really really really want a boy this time.

One of the hardest things has been having a little Libby at the peak of her terrible twos. Keeping me from sleeping. Pregnancy fatigue is hard enough when you get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but when you get 4-6 hours? Everyone is miserable. Tired toddlers are miserable. Tired pregnant women are miserable. It's hard to fight the misery when you can barely keep your eyes open, have a constant headache, and a constantly screaming toddler with little control over her own emotions.

Opinion poll: Which would you rather have: a child in their terrible twos during pregnancy? Or a child in their terrible twos with a newborn? I'm trying to weigh this one out..

Because while friends who don't share our faith may easily think we're crazy, I'm pretty sure this isn't our last child. All I can think of is Jim Gaffigan saying, 

"After the third one people stop congratulating you," and 

"Four kids? Well, that's one way to live your life.."

But we're not there yet. Just thinking ahead. And for reals about that little opinion poll. I want to know, people.
To sum up: we're expecting. It's been easier on me and that is awesome. It's still hard, but that's just how parenting is. I want a boy this time. My husband is awesome. We are happy.

3 months down, 6 more to go.

Thanks to all of you for sharing in our excitement!


The Good Dinosaur

There's a lot of dinosaur lovin that goes down around our house. What child isn't fascinated by dinosaurs? Heck, I still like them..

I'm pretty sure I watched The Land Before Time every single time we visited my Nana's house for a really long time when I was small. And I knew all the names of every kind of dinosaur.

Fast foward 25 years, and my daughters love checking out dinosaur books from the library (and climbing aboard the two big triceratops they have there), eat dinosaur shaped vitamins, and before the dragon fever hit, Verity wanted to be a dinosaur for Halloween.

When we saw the preview for The Good Dinosaur, we knew it was perfect!
During the original potty training of our firstborn, she did fantastic! One night we simply didn't put a diaper on her, and she stayed dry all night long. So amazing! Toward the end of last summer we did a lot of traveling and things were crazy and accidents began to happen. She reverted and it's been a looooooong road getting back to where she was.

A couple months ago we decided to try offering some incentive: a date with Daddy. For some reason the word "date" was incredibly frightening and that idea kind of took a backseat for a while. Then she started to improve on her own. A week before The Good Dinosaur came out in theaters, we told her we'd take her to see it if she made it another week accident-free.

And she did! She did amazingly well. Nearly a month of no nighttime potty accidents, and a rare treat of going to the movies (this is kind of huge because we are a low-media family-- we allow the kids zero TV and electronic time except when traveling or together as a family). It was a lot of fun.

Verity invited her cousins Brylee and Sophie to come with us. Grandma packed bags of treats for the little girls, and Daddy got the biggest bucket of popcorn available. We misjudged how full the theater would be for this one-- and ended up in the nosebleed section. But Vera didn't care. For her, it was magical. And even with the millions of questions she asked throughout the film, it was magical for us, too, just to be there with her.

I wish we had gotten at least one good photo, but sometimes kids don't have the same priorities as adults. Or something like that.

Here's what we did get:
A few things I liked about this movie: 
-A new perspective. The first scene showed the asteroid which is thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs missing the earth entirely, allowing the dinosaurs to become somewhat civilized and to still be alive during the time of humans. Kinda neat.
-The first of the three dinosaurs to hatch jumps out of her egg, climbs up her mom, hides from her, and laughs. I leaned over to Husband and said, "Hey, it's Libby!" Directly after this, the dinosaur Momma names the baby "Libby." No joke! It was the funniest, most perfectly-timed movie comment. So fitting. Of course, then the next dinosaur hatches and immediately begins whacking his daddy repeatedly with a stick. Then Husband said, "No, that's more like Libby."
-It's okay to be afraid. Arlo learned this from a T-rex who had been bitten in the face by a crocodile. He taught him that being brave and strong doesn't mean being fearless-- it means overcoming your fears. I liked that.
-the adoption of an orphaned boy at the end of the story. I loved the non-verbal communication between Arlo and Spot, and especially the focus on families. The human family doesn't hesitate even for a moment to adopt Spot. They welcome him immediately with open arms. I may have shed a few tears in that scene...
-the Tetons. Arlo and his family live near "Clawtooth Mountain," whose 3 peaks strike a surprising resemblance to the Tetons. I have such great memories of those mountains. It kinda made the whole thing a little closer to the heart.
Verity now dislikes pterodactyls, however, being that the ones in the movie were mean. When I give her a pterodactyl vitamin, she bites off its wings first so it can't fly. Smart thinking!

It was so fun to get to enjoy the time with just Verity. So often, her sister's limitless energy takes up most of ours, and since Vera is so much better behaved these days, she sometimes doesn't get as much attention. I feel bad about it. But I'm glad we get to do things like this with her! She gets to do things that Libby doesn't, because she's older and doesn't get into trouble. I guess it all balances out in the end.
All older siblings, it seems, complain that the younger ones get all the attention, are spoiled, get everything they want, etc. I was the youngest. I heard it all my life. But you know what I've learned? The oldest gets Mom and Dad all to themselves for the first couple years of their life!! The further along a kid is in birth order, the more Mom and Dad's attention gets divided in those early years. The oldest child gets something no other child does, and there's something special about that. 

Verity loved it. We loved it. And the movie was cute and clean (no rude jokes intended for parents, name calling, or references to bodily functions). We certainly recommend it!