He Sings Too: Five Minute Friday

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He likes to sing along, this last baby of mine. He doesn’t have many words (except shoe, which is his favorite thing to say), but he likes to add his voice to the chorus of little people in my house. The son and daughter are always singing. Silly songs, Star Wars songs, anything they come up with. The baby just adds his own flair to their creations.

His voice is changing now, less baby, more toddler and I know that soon he will be filled with words rather than the tender vocalizations that melt my heart. A part of me is sad as I see the baby years begin to fade in the rear view mirror of my life. The sleepy night time cuddles and snuggles. He’s always been such a trooper, contented to go along wherever we had to be. Now he has stronger opinions and he vocalizes them loudly (if often wordlessly).

I know that I will blink and the diaper years will be gone and all the rest will follow close behind. (We’re already making plans for the crib to take it’s well deserved retirement from service.) Everyone said it would go fast, and I tried so hard to slow it down. As I tuck him in at night and hold him close and whisper “Please don’t grow up too fast. You’re the last one.”

(We call the picture, the Simon selfie. The only way to get a decent picture of him these days).

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Our First Family Amusement Park Trip: Edaville

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My children have never been to an amusement park. Due to the combination of high cost of tickets and difficulty going much of anywhere with my now four year old, we’ve never attempted this sort of outing. But at the end of September, we were going to be just outside Boston for my cousin’s wedding. When Edaville railroad first opened their Thomas Land exhibit two years ago, I was dying to take the kids. My older two have been huge train and Thomas the Train fans for the last three to four years. We took them to a Day Out with Thomas event about two hours from us as a Christmas gift two years ago and they both had a great time. This was going to be even more expensive and a bigger deal. Would they even ride the rides, would my four year old have a meltdown? Would it be worth it?

We ended up having a fantastic time. We decided to go to the park on a Friday during the day. We arrived very close to opening (around 10:30 AM). There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I kept expecting it to fill up as the day went along, but mostly it was like having the park half to ourselves.

Edaville is divided into a couple different areas. There is the original Edaville section. This has the feel of an old fashioned amusement park. Then there is Thomas Land, which was obviously of the biggest draw for us. There is also a Dinoland section with both stationary and animatronic dinosaurs.

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My kids loved Edaville proper. Their favorite rides were the simple old fashioned ones, like a ferris wheel, balloons that go up and down, things that go round and round. At the end of the day when we said they could have one last ride each, this is where they wanted to go.

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The Thomas train ride goes all the way around the Edaville property. It was a perfect day weather wise, not too hot and not too cold, so the open cars were wonderful. Even the baby loved this part.

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(There weren’t many rides I could take him on, but fortunately he was a trooper and mostly just happy to watch the spectacle from his stroller and even took a nap while we walked around for a while. But he did enjoy the indoor play area for a while.)

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While the weather wasn’t too hot, it was still nice to stop in the indoor play area, to get a break during the hottest part of the day. I can’t imagine this place (or any other amusement park for that matter) in the heat of summer. I think if we do this kind of thing again, it will always be in the fall.

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Thomas Land is wonderful. I loved to see so many different engines and other characters incorporated into the rides. Bertie, Toby, several of the Diesels (Mavis, Salty, Diesel and possibly others), Cranky the Crane, Bulstrode and so many others.

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Fiery Flynn had his own unique ride where the children get to ride up and down on a lift and use stationary water nozzles to put out pretend fires. Very innovative and a big hit with my kids.

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I also loved the Cranberry Express ride featuring a bunch of the narrow gauge engines. (I really appreciated the inclusion of Millie to better incorporate the female engines). Winston’s Skyride was also great because we were able to bring the baby with us.

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The big moment was meeting the engines and Sir Topham Hatt. My kids, being as observant as they are realized of course that Sir Topham Hatt was a man in a costume. I personally think it would have been better to hire an actor who looks and is built like Sir Topham Hatt. Instead he looked more like a cartoon character.

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The engines were great, it was nice to see some besides Thomas for a change. I do wish more than just Percy was very three dimensional. (You could climb up on and in Percy, but the other engines were just facades. ) Also, the kids were hoping the trains would talk, but they didn’t. But it was still fun.

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Again, I appreciated the inclusion of Emily as one of the few girl engines. I think that the Thomas franchise has yet to fully realize the untapped interest of little girls and trains. Not that they have to have to have girl trains to interest girls, I’ve just found that my daughter creates more long term interest when she becomes invested in the characters. Having more female trains has helped her to maintain interest in the Thomas franchise and trains in general, when she might have given it up in favor of something else.

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There were a few things I would have liked to see improved about Edaville. The restrooms weren’t marked on the map! There were several of them, but it would have been helpful to see at a glance so we could decide when or if we needed to stop and avoid unnecessary backtracking.

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My major issues were with Dinoland. It’s premise is cool. The displays were interesting, quite realistic and educational. The problem was that we came at the end of September and they had heavily decorated Dinoland for Halloween. By decorated I don’t mean cute smiling pumpkins and scarecrows. We are talking gruesome skeletons and bleeding corpses. My kids are 4 and 7, and admittedly a little sensitive. (We actually don’t celebrate Halloween at all for religious reasons.) They were rather terrified of the spooky atmosphere. The mist surrounding the dinosaurs seemed far more creepy than primal when you added all the other Halloween gore. If we came again this time of year, I think I’d give Dinoland a miss.

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Our other minor disappointment was the size of clothing offered in the gift shop. I realize that Thomas is typically a favorite of the younger crowd. But my kids are still young. My daughter is 7 but the Thomas shirts featuring the girl engines (which is what she wanted most) didn’t come in her size. Even the boys clothes only go up to 6x/7, so she selected one of those. I think since this is a Thomas theme park after all, it would be nice if there was more availability of Thomas themed apparel rather than less. But that is a minor complaint.

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So, yes it is expensive, as all amusement parks are these days. But there were a few things to make it easier. Parking is free. (I kind of think this should be  given, but not so at many amusement parks now). If you purchase your tickets online in advance, that will save you a little bit of money. I also liked the Edaville Facebook page to keep an eye out for the latest deals. They ended up offering a coupon to purchase tickets just days before we left which ended up saving us $10 a ticket.

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We appreciated the ability to pack our own food. With a picky child, a child with food allergies and a baby, this was essential to making this work. Plus, again, it helped to save a bit of money. The picnic tables were in a shady area of trees just off the path between the rides. Nearby were water misters (though it wasn’t so hot that we needed them) and a bubble machine which the baby loved.

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If you can manage to go on a non-peak day, (not a weekend or school holiday) Edaville is totally worth it. Not sure if I would have the felt the same way if the park had been very crowded. This was by far one of the best days we’ve ever had as a family of five and I’m glad that Edaville was such a hit with our little kids.

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When the Baby is Finally Healthy Again

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My son is six months old. We’ve been fighting low weight gain and feeding issues almost since his first week of life. We’ve nursed, pumped and bottle fed with my milk and milk from generous mamas including my sister. (Some of you may remember, that we’ve been here before). For a while I pumped after every nursing around the clock, every three hours during the day and every four at night. He’s had his tongue and lip frenulem lasered by a pediatric dentist in Philadelphia who specializes in working with breastfed babies and mamas. (Who knew such amazing professionals existed? We drove over an hour to see him, but there were patients there who came even further. He saw us on his lunch break. That says a lot). I cater to this little one’s strange whims, like giving some milk by bottle, to prime the pump as it were, before nursing, guessing when he’s hungry because once he starts crying, it’s too late and so many more.

I take thrice daily herbal supplements. My hospital grade breast pump has been a constant presence in my living room since then and I rarely leave for an all day outing without my Medela backup pump. At least until recently.

Because he is six months olds now. He is finally on the charts at the 10th percentile. He rolls, vocalizes and, Lord have mercy, is trying to maneuver around and get ready to crawl. He eats solid food three times a day and loves it. He still wakes in the night to nurse sometimes, but when I do sleep, I don’t feel like I’m choosing my sleep (and in most cases, sanity) over his health. I only pump three times a day now, sometimes less if I really need the break. The hospital grade pump is going back this month. I don’t fear every stuffy nose and cold will result in lack of weight gain.

I know there is a still a long way and many sleepless nights to go. But I feel like I may be starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Where I can enjoy my son, this most likely to be final baby, and wonder at the way his little hand holds mine while we nurse. To let him nap in my arms, even when I know there is so much work to do. I’m really enjoying him.

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Because Friendship Always Matters

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My mom just celebrated her birthday. I won’t say which one, but it was a major milestone one. We wanted to do something special but my sister and I couldn’t come up with anything special enough. We knew she didn’t want a party. My husband, ever the introvert, said “If It was me, I’d want a visit from one of my oldest friends.”

So we set it up. Flurries of emails and text messages passed back and forth, making sure all the while that my mom didn’t accidentally find out. My mother believed my sister and I were taking her to breakfast. So I arrived first and we chatted. My sister waited for our surprise guest, my mom’s oldest friend and her husband. They rang the door bell, I let them in and my sister got the whole thing on video.

I’ve never seen my mom so surprised, but also so pleased. Of course their were tears of joy, from almost all of us. Because no matter how old we are, we always need friends. My mom has lived seven hours from her oldest friend for her entire married life. But they’ve always managed to pick up where they left off. Sometimes they see each other once a year, but in this case, it had been nearly five years.

I’m in a season of my life where friendship is hard. My days are filled with tiny people with big needs. A quick smile and wave on the way out of church, a conversation at MOPS, the occasional Facebook or text message; these are the ways I manage to connect in small ways. But it’s not the same as a girls night playing games or a long conversation over coffee. It’s hard to build the kind of friendship that will last through the years, but somehow my mom has managed that.

So what does this mean to me? That it’s worth preserving relationships that matter, even if it’s inconvenient or difficult. But it’s also worth pursuing new friendships as awkward as it can feel in the beginning, because you never know when you might create a connection that could last.

 

No Mom Alone: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: Arsh_86 via Compfight cc

For a long time I thought I was the only one. The only one who lived for nap and bedtime. The only one who cringed at the pounding sound of little feet running through the house and the inevitable crashes that followed. I would look at them at as they slept at night and wonder how children so beautiful could produce such anger, frustration and resentment during their waking hours.

Now child three is on the way. Another boy, and likely, I fear, to be as wild and crazy as his older brother. As I share my body daily with this little one, I long for the occasional moment of solitude. Because the truth is I haven’t been alone for the last eight months, (though I’ve probably only been aware of that fact for the last three or four).  After this little one joins the world, he’ll be attached to be almost as often as when he was in utero so I can’t anticipate too much time alone, except for the occasional shower.

But since my first child, I’ve discovered the truth. I am not the only one. Lots of moms feel the way I do and we are not bad moms. We can debate how the pioneer women survived or why moms in the fifties seemed to have it all together. (Personally, I think it was a combination of cocktails and sending kids out to play all day long from the time they could walk). We can only figure out how to help each other now, in the world we live in. Whether it means encouraging healthy use and attitude toward social media (especially Pinterest and Facebook) or looking for ways to get each other out of the house without the kids whenever possible. Rejecting comparison in favorite of connection. We don’t have to do this alone.

 

I want to take this moment to encourage you to find a support group of moms near you. If you haven’t heard of MOPS, check it out and see if there is a chapter near you. I’ve been involved with my local MOPS group for six years, from the time my daughter was three months old. I’ve been a leader at times and right now I’m just an attendee. But the group has been a source of support for me in my years as a mom and I can’t imagine continuing on without it and the relationships I’ve built through it. 

Want to join us? Find out more here.

 

Reflections on my Final Weeks of Pregnancy: Five Minute Friday

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They couldn’t find a heartbeat, where one had been just a few weeks before and everything changed overnight. Instead of eating crackers and making plans I was arranging for a hospital procedure and care for my daughter during the recovery.

Then four years later, I sat in a different exam room, thinking that this was all happening all over again. Except it wasn’t. It was just too early, the tech said. She didn’t give us any guarantees but told us that she couldn’t tell us for sure either way.

Two weeks later we heard the most beautiful sound, the heartbeat of our baby. Now, all these months later as I’m trudging through the final weeks of what has been a difficult pregnancy I find myself remembering those fearful days of uncertainty. The other night he didn’t move for a while (at a time of day when he is usually most active) and nothing seemed to motivate him to do so; all those feelings came rushing back and I saw myself losing yet another child. But fortunately he finally woke up and wiggled around enough to let me know he was OK and the following day’s scheduled ultrasound confirmed that all is well.

I just can’t wait to finally hold him on the outside. (Or let someone else take a turn holding him, as the case may be). I see what his face looks like beyond the 3D ultrasound. (So far he seems to resemble his brother and sister a great deal). I wonder if he has hair and if he’ll be a better sleeper than his siblings. I worry that he’ll get this brother’s food allergies and both their tempers. But mostly I just want to be able to look into his face and tell him that he is loved, and special and that being third doesn’t mean he is any less. He is wanted, yearned for and found.

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The Challenge of These Gifts: Five Minute Friday

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Photo courtesy of Twinkle Photo

So often a gift comes with a challenge. How I wish it didn’t. Pregnancy comes with its pains (and of course the inevitable labor at the end). But that is the least of the challenges before us as parents. For each one of these little souls entrusted to our care, is also a source of some of life’s greatest frustrations and biggest difficulties. (At least in my parenting experience) My daughter is articulate, and creative with a phenomenal memory. But she remembers EVERYTHING and her logic is still a bit lacking. She also has a will that would put most CEO’s to shame. (Her nickname as a toddler was the littlest despot).

My son can be charming and sweet, which he tries to use to manipulate out of trouble he is often in because he is three and chaos is his middle name. I look at these creatures, these little gifts and I try to be grateful. I prayed and cried for these ones. I bled for them, I still work and fear for them. Yet, it’s easy to miss the blessing within the challenge.  Sometimes I want to pray “God why did you give me ones like this?” especially when I see little children walking calmly though stores holding a parent’s hand or siblings playing contentedly together without destroying the house or maiming each other.

This third (and likely final) pregnancy has been an unexpected challenge this time around. From severe morning sickness that lasted all day to fatigue that I still can’t seem to shake midway through the second trimester. I try to remind myself of those moments in the first trimester when we thought we might lose this pregnancy and the feelings of desperation and fear.  On the days when I have barely enough energy to keep the two I have alive (something which for some reason, people feel the need to point out to me. As in “Wow, why would you want another one when you are having so much trouble with the ones you have?” Because I don’t have enough doubts of my own, thank you for your support) I feel the questions of how this one will be. But I know. He will be a challenge. He may have a different personality, but all children present challenges in one way or another. It’s just the nature of family and parenting.

There is nothing easy about guiding and shaping hearts and lives and I don’t think it was meant to be. I can lament the ones I’ve been given and wish for something different. Or I can embrace the beauty and wonder of who they are, amid the chaos and challenge.

 

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