Sunday, August 24, 2014

January 2014--Month in Review, only 7 months late! :-/

I have been wracked with guilt ever since I stopped writing in April. I know that journaling will be important to our family, if it's not now. I take billions of pictures and our kids are at the age where they're constantly changing, so keeping up with blogger AND facebook AND instagram is just a bit overwhelming and repetitive! Not to mention once I get behind it feels so easy to just forget it all and put it out of my mind.
Here's a big review for document's sake; read on if you wish or skip it, it's all for us anyway :-)

I got an iPad mini in January, which made documenting everyday things so much easier! Not to mention how easy it is to share everything with everyone, which a lonely stay-at-home mama needs! (Thank heavens for my cousin Kim and other great friends...the dead of winter in Rexburg is not a fun time to be stuck alone with kids all day!!)

January 2014
 Babies love DVDs! When Eliza made this mess with DVD cases I knew it reminded me of's Nathan at 7 months old (June 2011) and Eliza at 8 months old (January 2014) doing the exact same thing :-)

As far as the kids go, exploring is all they did, day in and day out, at these ages. Eliza was 8 months old and into everything. She was semi-mobile, but not quite crawling. According to my facebook status updates (terrible that THAT'S my recording method, right!?) she started rolling to get places on January 8th. My babies have never been big into rolling all over, and she didn't roll like some babies I've met who will make it across a room in 5 seconds, but it sure helped her get where she wanted to be! Around January 30th she learned how to crawl backwards...I have a video on my computer that needs to be rotated, but at least it's documented somewhere! It was hilarious and she would get SO mad at being stuck under the table and chairs! She also decided she liked (some) solid food this month. This girl really took her time with solids, but I've learned not to rush the grow-up process, because it really just happens too fast. Food before one is just for fun!

I've been trying to document her size and growth, since she's so tiny for her age and probably will be for awhile. Here's a comparison photo: (wish I would have gotten out my light kit for the one on the right!)

Here are some more pictures of Eliza from January; they're pretty self-explanatory:

This was one of the first iPad pictures I took; I love this little onesie that my friend Betsy gave us as a baby gift! What a squishy, sweet little girl!

The rest are from my camera:

More from the iPad:
Solids! Yum!

Surprise! Mom, I can open wipes now!

Nathan started preschool on our university's campus in January. He LOVED it! It was his first time going to an actual preschool; he had done "toddler lab" before on campus and loved that as well. We love seeing him come out of his shell a bit more! Here he is with a fresh haircut and a new backpack before his first day. He loved it and came home only slightly covered in paint! :-)

Nathan loves Scotch tape, probably just like most toddlers. His favorite thing to make when he asks for a piece is a "mush-mash". I love him!!
 Even though Nathan loves to run away from the camera or iPad mini (he knows Eliza will take pictures, so why should he!?), I love catching him being a good big brother. It was a bit of a shock for him when she learned to move around and suddenly wanted his toys. She wanted one of his Thomas trains, so here he is showing her how to play with another train (so he could have all the Thomas engines to himself...natural 3 year-old logic!). I love it!

 We are huge into parallel play at our house (playing beside, not with, each other). Eliza is naturally much more social than Nathan and reaches out for his stuff much more often, but Nathan is just breaking into cooperative play and is trying to figure out how to respond to her. I love watching them do their thing and form their little relationship! I knew before she was born that we would love Eliza as much as Nathan, but the thing that (for some reason) slipped my mind is how much they would naturally love each other. It came as a surprise to me and I just love it. They are such sweet kids and they love each other so much!

Other things:
Mitch had been working a night job that required 20-25 hours per week, in addition to being in school full-time. He started a few weeks after Eliza was born. When she came a month early it really caught us off-guard, and since we weren't as prepared as we should have been, it ended up costing us more. We were so blessed to have medical bills taken care of and no NICU stay for Eliza. We started really feeling the cost of a second little one in the house (diapers, especially!), so my sweet Mitch found another job with more hours. After we flew home to KC for Christmas in December we came home to a new month's worth of bills and very little money (although some Christmas gifts from parents GREATLY helped with this!!). 

Right before Christmas, Mitch decided to look for yet another job that would help us out more, so in January he started working a full 5 nights per week at 8 hours per shift, while holding all As in school. At work he was a QA (Quality Assurance) Tech for a Potato Processing Plant (we ARE in Idaho, after all!), and the job had a very steep learning curve and was very strict about how things were done. It took a lot of mental energy, which was much different from the night stocking job he had at a grocery store before this change. I really don't know how he did it. He rarely complained and his body stayed strong and capable to roll with the punches and go to sleep when he needed to. His biggest struggle was not feeling a part of the family. He missed almost everything the kids did and he and I didn't get much couple time. We rarely did anything together and it just got harder on both of us.

I was left at home alone a lot because he went to bed at 4 pm and woke up at 11:45 pm to go to work, as well as being at school all day. I didn't want to make it obvious online that I was alone or that my husband was asleep, so I started blogging less and less. All the cooking, caretaking, and chores (including laundry, which had to be dragged through the snow to the complex laundry room while the kids slept or were bundled and dragged with me), were left to me. Mitch felt terrible about this, but it was our only choice. I was also still working, but just 6 hours per week. 

After a few months, his grades started to slip a bit and we were feeling less overwhelmed after receiving a large tax return. It was enough for us to live on for the rest of that semester until grants came again, so Mitch was able to quit his job! That didn't all happen in January, of course, but it kind of speaks to the atmosphere in our home for those few months. We were taught a lot, stretched a lot, blessed a lot, and had a lot expected of us, but we managed, somehow. We could not have done it without support from our parents and good friends (thanks for letting us vent when we were stressed and calling to check in on us!), and we know we couldn't have done it without the strength and blessings that came from working hard for our family.

In any case, we can already see how these times of intense struggle and heartache, as well as back- and mind-wrenching work have blessed us greatly. We had what we needed and everything lined up well: church and my work every week matched Mitch's "awake" hours and we were able to fulfill all our commitments without much problem. On our few nights out my sweet cousin (and one of my best friends) Kim and her husband Matt would watch our kids so we could go to the Temple or out on a date somewhere. It was wonderful!

Hopefully I'll catch up soon; life is fast-yet-slow right now, if that makes any sense, and I need to make time to document our family a bit more regularly!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Didn't we used to have a blog?...

Blogging is the most consistent form of journaling I've ever done. I love that our family has at least a basic record of what we've been up to these last few years. It turns out journaling involves more than "buying a journal" (setting up a blog) and putting it aside for 4 1/2 months. 

So...since December 2013...I'll just take this update one month at a time.

December 2013:
Mitch turned 27 and started feeling old. He also worked nights like he'd done for a few months and was preparing to go full-time at night and start classes in January. Ya know, because he loves us and I married a super hero! :o) if he'd only let me take more pictures of him, silly man!

We had weird Idaho winter weather in December, including lots of storms with freezing fog, leaving everything covered in the tiniest crystals we'd ever seen. So naturally, I couldn't resist the urge to put on my snowboots and trudge into a foot of snow with my macro lens:

The kids continued to grow like weeds and we had to work harder to keep them occupied inside. Nathan didn't want a ton to do with the snow at the beginning of winter. We hung out with my cousin Kim, her husband Matt, and their kids Owen and Ava. Kim quickly became one of my best friends and we have been able to be completely genuine with each other from the start, which is so refreshing!

Getting big enough to enjoy bath time!

I officially finished my Bachelor's Degree on December 20th, 2013. It felt AMAZING to submit my last assignment on the same night my graduation and convocation ceremonies were happening! I chose to walk in them in July, which worked out perfectly for Eliza's blessing, family traveling in warm weather, etc. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm done, but honestly, the satisfaction is just as sweet as everyone said it would be! 

After school was officially done, we could focus on Christmas. We were especially excited that it was Eliza's first Christmas.

We had a few days to quickly pack and get organized and then we flew to Kansas City for my first Christmas with my parents and sisters since 2009 when I came home from my first semester of college. Our trip was complete with winter weather, one delayed flight--that led to a FIVE MINUTE layover between that and our second flight, which of course wasn't delayed at all. In Kansas we were welcomed with lots of sister chaos, shopping trips, and fun at home, grandkids being spoiled, a Skype call on Christmas from my sister Camille (who is on a full-time, 18 month mission for our church and only calls home twice a year), a trip to my grandparents' house, and much more. :o) 

He was excited that his "friend" that he's adored since he was about 2 months old got to come with us and stay with him all day! Normally it stays in his bed, so this was a treat. :o) We were hoping it'd help him fall asleep on the plane, but of course that didn't happen...

Bad angle, tiny amount of space, point-and-shoot camera, and unflattering light all combined to create not-so-flattering pictures...
Yeah, they're not the same size. Bad angles, remember?
Eliza's first airplane ride! On our second flight (that we had to sprint to with 2 kids and all our crap in tow), Eliza managed to poop all over this outfit and all the way up to her neck. It was great...

 Right before Christmas, Grandma decided to beat the rush at the mall and take Nathan to Build-A-Bear. He was excited! I really try hard not to be that mom following her kid around with a giant camera all the time, so the point-and-shoot came. Now that everyone takes pictures on their phones 24/7, a pocket-sized camera is nothing to be embarrassed about!
I was trying to explain everything to him. He was pretty confused.
He soon decided on a cute monkey :o)
First you have to give them a personality, apparently. Nathan chose ALL the characteristics because the giant screen was fun :o)

He wasn't sure about this part, but the lady was really nice.

aww! Now he's huggable :o)

I promise he was way more excited than he looks in all these pictures, but he is still his apprehensive little self! :o)
Giving him a wash and a fluff...more screens! This place has gotten cooler for sure!

Nathan loved the car; of course it didn't come home with us, but it was fun for a minute :o)

We started looking at clothes and Nathan immediately found an outfit with Dusty Crophopper from Planes on it; he wouldn't look at anything else after that.

aww :o)
His monkey was soon dubbed "Dusty Monkey". Grandma got him sunglasses, which Eliza wears pretty regularly, and we were about done!

Eliza slept in her cozy carseat almost the whole time and woke up very happy at the end :o)
This was the first year that Nathan really understood opening presents and he understood the Nativity story pretty well by the end of the season. It was also Eliza's first Christmas, not that she did much except make messes! :o) The Skype call was a definite highlight because Camille left a month before Eliza was born, so she had only seen pictures of her. We can't send videos to Camille so this was the first time she saw and heard Eliza doing things. It was really fun! We decided to pay tribute to the Camille we were missing so much by putting all of her ornaments on the tree. We all grew up getting one Hallmark ornament every year (KC = Hallmark headquarters, so they're everywhere!), and we just stopped when Camille's box was empty. She appreciated it when we talked to her on Skype :o)

This was somehow the only picture I got of Nathan opening presents; it doesn't even show 1/8th of what he got and he was SO busy all day trying to play with everything!

Eliza and Grandpa napping in the basement. We have a picture of Nathan napping with him too from his first visit to Grandma and Grandpa's house. My dad is always incredibly warm (and tired, lol) so he's a good one for grandbabies to cuddle with :o)
As always, it was incredibly hard to say goodbye to my parents. We never know when the next time we're going to see them will be, and it's even harder for them because the kids change so much between visits. Our flights home went perfectly and the kids were really good the whole time. 

Our hotel in Salt Lake City was very nice (thank you, Priceline!) and we felt pretty rested when we got up to drive the next morning. Mitch had to share a bed with Nathan and I shared one with Eliza because they didn't have a crib for her, so that was interesting, but we got through it. 

We feel like we had the ultimate Christmas this year because we got to visit my family and then drove from SLC to Gillette, WY to visit Mitch's parents. It was an 8 hour drive from SLC to Gillette and we were very blessed with great weather the whole way. Our old car did very well, too! We did miss Apollo, our dog, on these trips, but he was having a blast at a "dog sitter" that we found online and who we would absolutely recommend and/or use again! It was even cheaper than the kennels in town! We didn't want to make him sit in a metal cage for 2 weeks and have him come back completely untrained, so this was definitely the way to go.

When we got to the Dooleys' house (I'd call it home, but that'd be confusing in writing) we got to spend a precious day and a half (or so) with Mitch's sister, Dani and her husband Danny (the Dannies!). They lived in Rexburg and we all have quite the history (longer than Mitch and I have known each other), and we miss them terribly since they graduated and moved to Washington. Sure, they have great jobs, an awesome new house and they're totally happy, but we still wish they were just down the block. Nathan knows who they are (we talk about them a lot so he'll recognize their faces, at least), and he remembered Aunt Dani from her surprise visit this summer while we were in Gillette, but he didn't remember Danny much. He worked hard to get to know Nathan during the 48 hours they had together and even gave him all his Christmas candy before he left! Hopefully it'll be easier when we're all together this Thanksgiving.

We opened presents almost immediately and our second Christmas was awesome! Nathan and Eliza got great stuff, we got fun and useful gifts that we loved (we won the lottery with our parents and in-laws; they never disappoint their poor college-student son and daughter!), and we all had a great time. It was awesome to just spend time together and to head back home knowing that we'd spent time with the whole family. 
Eliza and Dani playing with E's new table; she LOVES this thing and still plays with it a few times a day. We also all got matching pajamas; even the onesie matched everyone else's shirts! (Thank you, internet and custom orders!)

her little hands couldn't move fast enough!
 Well, I think that's about it! We came home and for the first time in almost 5 years, we weren't BOTH on-track in January (remember the three-semester schedule? Mitch and I usually both go from January to April. I got summer off every year while Mitch went again and he got fall off every year while I went). It was a little bit of a culture shock for our house, but it was definitely a good one :o)

I will keep writing updates, hopefully month-by-month or so. I also know I have pictures to download/upload from other places, so I'll try to get everything squared away.