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Monday, July 8, 2013

May 2013.

Other than our cruise and some visitors early in the month, we had a fairly laid back month.  

I sure took a lot of pictures of nothing then.  

But honestly, when you have subjects this cute, how can you not take photos of them?!

Brennan and Kiernan had a day of fun running through the sprinklers.  Mr Beckett wasn't a big fan of the sprinkler and had his own fun climbing and digging and eating gravel.  I didn't post any photos of Kiernan because he was naked the entire time.  Apparently he was in a nudie mood.  

Aunt Jen & Uncle Brian came to FL in early May.  Amid all of their visits to friends and family they stopped to say hello and took a trip to the park.  The boys enjoyed playing with Uncle Brian and had fun wading through the water with Aunt Jen and I when they got overly hot and sweaty.  Why their Daddy put the Brothers in long sleeve black shirts to go play at the park in the Florida sun (and why their Mommy didn't catch it before they walked out the door) remains to be seen.  

Early May weather is pretty awesome.  Hot, but not too hot, and the rainy season hasn't started to kick in too much yet.  Perfect weather for spending lots of time outside.  And so we did.  Baseball.  Sprinklers.  All of that good All-American stuff.  

We don't take advantage of living near the beach as much as we should.  Admittedly, it has been more of a production in the past.  But now that the boys are a bit older, stopping by to play in the sand or walk on the beach for a few minutes isn't too much trouble.  It's almost peaceful.  Almost.  

On Cinco de Mayo, we headed to Uncle Brian's Mom's house to spend the day with Jen & Brian while they were still in the state.  The boys loved running around the yard and playing all kinds of sports with Uncle Brian.  

They live on the water, so we were able to enjoy a semi-relaxing afternoon on the dock enjoying the scenery.  I mean, as relaxing as you can get while combining small children and a dock.  Brennan had a blast kayaking with Aunt Jen and Uncle Brian though!  We were sad to say goodbye to them, but they were heading to the Galapagos Islands.  Seriously.  They travel to the coolest places.  

Of course, the following weekend we headed out on our cruise.  We returned on Mother's Day and had a nice, laid back day.  Part of my Mother's Day gift was 3 picture frames with mats.  After I opened them, Brian explained that the boys were going to color them and then we'd take photos of their faces inside the mats to put inside the frames.  Super super super cute.  

Brian works on the weekends occasionally, and when he does, we sometimes go to visit him.  Actually, we often go to visit him during the week too.  His office is like little boy heaven ... cars everywhere.  One Sunday we went to visit and the guys were doing the majority of their work outside.  Brian's boss' fiance (my friend Meagan) had recently picked up their new puppy, so the boys got to run around in the trucks outside and play with the puppy.  It was like heaven on earth.  I love that my hubby's company is so family friendly.  

When Brian came home from work later that day, he and Brennan busted out their new Green Lantern kite.  Brennan was in heaven.  Life seems so wonderful and so .... simple when you see joy like this on a child's face.  And knowing that his Daddy made it happen melts my heart even more.  He may only want his Mommy to snuggle at bedtime, but his Daddy is a superhero in his eyes.  I love it.

This boy.  He is so full of excitement and love and happiness.  And my goodness, he is handsome.  I love him just a little bit.

And I love the Zilla too.  I sits quietly in the bushes, just making sure that everything is OK.  He's happiest when he's in the front yard with his Daddy.

Later that week, the boys decided to take the Camero for a drive.  Mr Beckett was elected the driver and holy bananas is he a natural.  He is a true car guy, cruising around the cul-de-sac with one hand on the wheel and big bro riding on the back.  Oh my heart.  I'm in trouble.  

Of course we do spend a little time indoors.  Brennan loves to paint, and the Brothers love to eat paint, so it works out.  Thank goodness for Crayola's non-toxic products.

Taking walks to the park near our house is always a fun thing for us to do.  It's good exercise for all of us and it sure does tire out the boys very well.  And now that they're getting older, it's not quite as stressful.  We can stand back a tiny bit and let them explore.  As always, Kiernan climbs everything in sight, Beckett sticks to the slides, and Brennan likes to try to play with the other kids.  

For the first time in a few months, Brian didn't have any business trips this month.  It was nice to have him home a little more.  The Brothers are starting to love to help him around the house as much as Brennan has loved it for awhile now, and being the super-dad that he is, Brian just takes it in stride.  He and Brennan camped out in their tent in our backyard for a night too.  We roasted marshmallows in our fire pit before bed and Brennan thought it was the coolest night ever.

I really enjoyed May.  Of course, I had the normal challenges of dealing with a 3 year old, getting the Brothers transitioned out of their cribs, and trying to keep up around the house with ... barnacles on my back.  But it was a pretty refreshing month.  I took a painting class that my friend Lisa teaches and found it incredibly relaxing and fulfilling.  I'd love for it to be something that I can do more of!  And Bri and I were able to enjoy a date night while Jen & Brian were in town.  That was the first night that Kiernan actually climbed out of his crib and poor Jen just took it in stride all night until she got him to go to sleep and stay asleep so that Bri and I could enjoy a nice evening together.  It was refreshing to spend some time together outside of the house without kids!  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Baby let's cruise {Cruising with 3 kids under 4}.

.... awaaaaaaaaaay from heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre.  Huey Lewis?  Gwyneth Paltrow?  Anybody?  Nobody?  ::sigh:: 


I love that song.  


While Brian was on a business trip in April, he emailed to tell me that we were going on a cruise with his company in May.  I hit the Reply button, and then sat there staring blankly at the computer screen, a thousand thoughts running through my head.

Woo hoo!  Cruuuuuuuisin'!

Wait, 3 kids?  On a cruise?  

But it's a free vacation!  With our friends!

Buuuuuut ... 3 kids.  Under 4. On a ship.  

Matchbox room.  

Fancy-ish dinners.  

Thrown-off schedules.  

Vacation!  Bahamas!  No cooking!!  Or cleaning the kitchen!!

So much packing.  

But really, where are we all going to sleep?

Kelli.  F-R-E-E vacation.

So I decided to really just focus on the vacation aspect and roll with it.  I mean, we've never been on a family vacation other than to Michigan, so this could  will be fun.  

The HUGE plus is that we live 30 minutes from Port Canaveral, so there was no packing for a trip to get there.  All I had to pack for was the trip, which was a huge relief.  And really, packing for a 3 day cruise isn't really that hard.  We just threw the bags in the car and drove toward the giant boats.  

After the very smooth boarding process, we made our way to our cabin to get a plan together.  I was actually pleasantly surprised.  It was bigger than the other rooms we've stayed in and the bathroom was by far the biggest one I've seen.  Initially, our plan was to put Brennan up in the Pullman bed, put Beckett in the crib, and have Kiernan sleep in the big bed with us.  He had just begun climbing out of his crib at home and we were nervous that he'd do the same in these tiny little port-a-cribs.  Not to mention the fact that we weren't sure there would be enough room for 2 cribs.  

This plan failed miserably.  Miserably.  Our boys are used to getting into their beds and falling asleep in a dark room without us, so getting them to sleep was a challenge.  The first night, Beckett went to sleep after I rocked him back and forth on the edge of the bed, but Kiernan put up a fight.  He only wanted his Daddy (Mommy WIN!), so Brian was up and down with him most of the night.  The poor kid (and his poor Daddy) just couldn't get comfortable.  After another unsuccessful attempt at sleep during naptime the next day, we asked for another crib.  Our concierge looked at us like we were crazy, and we could no longer walk around the bed, but it was worth it.  

The room setup (on packing day).  Mr. Beckett loved playing on the big bed.  

Next challenge?  Meal time.  

Ohhhhh my heavens.  It was a relief not to have to prepare or clean up any of the meals, but holy bananas, we still did a lot of work.  Two of the three nights, we ate in the formal dining room.  They had high chairs for the boys and a great kids menu.  We just had to make sure to keep the 53434 glass objects out of wing span and be sure to watch the table cloth for major movements.  Of course, the 2ish hour process was a bit long for the boys, but they were troopers.

For the rest of the meals, we ate at the various buffets.  This, my friends, was chaos.  At the very first meal, I asked a crew member in the dining room for high chairs.  He replied that they didn't have any.  ::blink blink::  Ummmmm, OK.  So we made do.  Usually, Brian would sit at the table with the unrestrained munchkins and I would run and get food for the 3 of them.  I'd drop it off at the table while Brian started cutting and rationing, and then I'd head back for some food of my own.  When I returned, Brian would leave to get himself some food.  I'd gobble with one hand and run interference with the other.  By the time Brian got back to the table, the boys were usually done eating and getting rambunctious, so he usually gobbled just as fast as I had so we could get back to moving.  The nice thing though, was not having to worry about having too much or too little food for the bottomless pits!  

I didn't see a single person using a high chair anywhere but the formal dining room the entire trip.  On the last day, I was on my way to more chocolate milk for the boys when I saw a baby sitting in a high chair.  I think my jaw hit the floor and I asked the Mom about it.  She said that she asked someone the first day and they brought her one right away.  O.o  Apparently the person I spoke to didn't speak English very well.  Either that or he thought I didn't look crazy enough as it was.  

Dinner in the dining room and in the buffet dining room.  No, we didn't mistakenly grab a 4th kid.  That's our friend Liev.  

The ship had a pool, but Beckett and Brennan were not the least bit interested in swimming in it, so they headed to the splash pad in the front of the boat with Brian while Kiernan and I swam for a bit.  We eventually joined them and the boys had a BLAST.  

The one stop on the cruise was in Nassau, Bahamas.  We took a cab to a free beach near Atlantis and spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful scenery with our friends Roman & Lisa and their kiddos, Liev & Abby.  Of course, I hauled my nice camera the whole way there, only to realize that I left the battery on the charger on the ship.  Lisa was sweet enough to capture a few photos for us.  

Family shot.  --  The Dads and all 4 boys down at the shore.   

Brian and I were both able to spend some time with our friends during the cruise as well.  The first night, my nerves were raging and Kiernan only wanted Brian, so I headed out to have a beer or 3 with the company clan.  The next night, Brian headed out while I watched the boys.  On the third night, Roman & Lisa (whose cabin was right next to ours) watched the boys while we met people for a comedy show.  It was nice to be able to have a little "escape" time!

When we weren't eating, sleeping, splashing, or spending time off of the ship, we were exploring it.  I can't tell you how many laps we took around the track, but the boys loved running.  Running = tired boys = good sleep.  So we let them run wild.  Brennan spent a bit of time at the ship's Kids Camp.  He wasn't a fan at first and cried when Brian left, but he ended up having a good time for a couple of hours.

In the end, I would call it a successful trip.  Would I pay to take my kids on a cruise?  At this age, probably not.  Our boys are just a little bit too young to really appreciate it.  One of Brian's coworkers has preteen boys and that was an awesome age for a cruise. Nevertheless, we were so.incredibly.appreciative that Brian's company gave us the opportunity to make some great memories with not only our boys, but our friends as well.  We are so lucky to be a part of such a great company!

But in case I do get a case of the crazies and decide to do this again in the next year or three, here are a few tips I'd remember, some of which I did and they worked out, and others I didn't do and wish I would have:

  • Get the sleeping arrangements figured out as soon as possible.  Make it as much like home as you possibly can.  So you have to crawl over the bed to get to the other side of the room?  Who cares.  You don't spend much time in the cabin anyway.
  • Unpack, put suitcases away, and designate a dirty clothes suitcase "hamper".  Grind it into husband's head that dirty clothes do not belong on the 3x3 ft space of visible floor.  
  • Snacks.  Snacks, snacks, snacks.  Pack lots of them.  Non-perishable, heat-resistant snacks.  I am not afraid to say that I buy my kids happiness with animal crackers and fruit snacks.  It's better than screaming cruise babies.  
  • Buy a pack of Take'n'Toss sippies.  They take up a tiny bit of room in the suitcase, are easy to wash, and are easy to throw in the diaper bag on the way to dinner.  
  • Speaking of diaper bags, leave it at home.  Pack a small-ish bag into which you can throw a few things you may need while at meals.  Why take diapers all over the place?  The cabin is a pretty short walk away.  Pack another bigger bag for the pool.  
  • Take sunscreen everywhere.  Even better, just put it on in the morning and reapply with diaper changes.  Or something like that.  All too often we would get out wandering, end up in the sun, and wish we had sunscreen with us.  
  • Ask for high chairs.  If one person tells you no, ask again.  And again.  And again.  I would have had less diarrhea and gray hairs if I'd just asked more people.  
  • Check and double check the camera for a charged battery and memory card.
  • Or, forget the camera and just carry your phone with you more often.  I put mine in the safe for the majority of the trip, but I really wish I would've put it in airplane mode (to avoid roaming charges) and used it as a camera.  We didn't take many photos because it was usually a hassle to get out the camera and corral the crazies at the same time.
  • Plastic bags.  Kill all the plastic trees, forget your reusable shopping bags for a grocery trip or 2, and hoard those suckers like they're gold.  Then take them all with you.  And ziplocs.  Take lots of ziplocs.  Big ones, small ones, whatever.  Just bring some.  There are a bajillion different things I used them for and I could have used more. 
  • Pour whiskey into a wine bottle and recork.  Buy soft drink package (we always do anyway because Brian likes to drink his calories and I love the cancer juice) and add some Jack and save a few bucks on booze.  I mean, we took a few bottles of wine, but the whiskey would have lasted longer.
Last, but most definitely not least, try your hardest to get some adult time.  I was a raging madwoman the first day and getting the chance to go sit in a bar with other adults was amazingly helpful, even if Brian couldn't come with me.  Actually, he was probably thankful that he had to stay and deal with the over-tired, sleep-resistant Honey Badger instead of spending time with his crazy wife!  I know I was actually pretty stoked to get some peace and quiet alone time while he went out the next night and the boys slept.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ups, downs, ins, outs, & what-have-yous.

Yesterday I received a package from my dear friend and college roomie, Kristin.  Accompanying a sweet birthday card was a journal - The Happiness Project: A One-Sentence Journal for Mothers.  I have to say, it's one of the most thoughtful gifts I think I have ever received.

As a Mom, I try to grasp and savor sweet memories while trying to remember who's diaper I changed and which kid already got his milk.  And I'm often so busy recording things about the boys that I don't often have the chance to record my own thoughts and feelings.

A big part of my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety has been a loss of sense of self.  Over the past year and a half, I feel like I've come so far in my ability to recognize the importance of taking time for myself before I get to a breaking point.

But the reality of motherhood is that sometimes there just isn't time.  Going shopping alone takes time.  Having a night out with the hubby or the girls or alone takes time.  More sleep takes time!  So we have to turn to quicker things -- things that give us small outlets until we can feasibly take that time for ourselves.

That's what I love about the concept of this journal -- it's just one sentence.  To take the time to write just one sentence about the day is totally and completely doable.  And there is something so therapeutic about reading my own journals.  So I was quite excited to embark on this journey.  One sentence a day.  No problem.

Yesterday I was feeling really good.  Actually, lately I've been feeling really good, but yesterday I actually noticed it.

I felt like I actually accomplished some things.  Not just one thing, but several.  For once I felt like I was thismuchcloser to getting caught up around the house.

The boys played together pretty well.  There was minimal chaos, they played fairly independently, and I didn't have to break up too many death matches or stop more than a few death-defying acts.

Brian worked late and I handled bath and bed and cleaning up the house solo ... and smoothly.  When he came home I was happily crafting a little wall art for the kitchen and I happily proclaimed my successes for the day.

Last night, in my journal I wrote these words -- " Today I finally felt successful - as a mother, a wife, a housekeeper, a teacher, a friend."

Today was so.incredibly.different.

The Brothers woke up early.  And angry.  I packed the diaper bag for a planned play date while we waited for Brennan to wake up.  Of course, the ever-early-riser slept late, pushing us a bit behind schedule and making an already bumpy morning even bumpier.  Every step to get them dressed and into the car was quadrupled in time and difficulty.  Everything I did was met with resistance and anger.

Thankfully, my friend Lisa and I do "kiddo swaps" in which she watches the boys for a few hours for me and the next day I watch her kiddos for her.  So I was able to enjoy some time to myself, exploring a new grocery store and regrouping for the day.

When I returned to Lisa's house, Beckett clung to me.  Kiernan tried to push Beckett off of my lap while Lisa and I ate lunch.  Loading them into the car was even more challenging than it had been on the way to Lisa's.  They whined the whole way home, clung to my legs while I tried to unpack the groceries, threw tempter tantrums at nap time, and threw their sippy cups of milk at the wall/my face.

Brennan refused a nap and resisted quiet time.  The Brothers woke after only 1.5 hours of sleep with even more anger/clinginess.  By 4:30, my house was a disaster, the Brothers were only happy if I was holding them - both of them - while standing, Brennan had cut a hole in his shirt and "accidentally" colored his hands purple with a marker, and I had nothing planned for dinner.

I called Brian and requested that he make coming home a priority.  I finally got Brennan and Kiernan to sit and watch some Team UmiZoomi, strapped Beckett on my back in the Boba, and started to put laundry away in my bedroom so that I could feel just a tiny bit productive.

When Brian came home, I left.  I thank God every day for a sympathetic husband.  He jumped in and took over, no questions asked.

I wandered around Joann Fabrics and Target and sat at Starbucks to clear my head.  I started thinking about what I would write in my journal tonight, and the first thing that came to mind was -- "Today I just couldn't please anyone, including myself."

What struck me about this was the lack of hopelessness & the lack of feeling like a failure.  When I had this kind of a day a year ago, it would've taken me days, if not weeks to rebound.  But now, I know how to cope.  I know how to ask for "me" time.  I know that tomorrow is a new day and that it could be like yesterday, or it could be like today, but chances are, it will be somewhere in between.  And I'm cool with the in between.  

I think that's what is great about this journal.  The ability to see that my emotions are constantly changing and that no matter how bad it gets, it always gets better, is nothing short of miraculously calming.  And the opportunity to take a few moments in a day to reflect on the past, learn from the present, and focus on the future -- in one sentence -- is equally as calm