We Have a Winner

Brian's company provides rewards for meeting certain sales goals, and this fall they were offering a long weekend for both of us at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.  In June, Brian had done the math after having an exceptional couple of weeks, and he was already halfway there.  He really wanted to go on this trip, and he vowed to make it happen for us.

At the time, I was pregnant.  I thought, hey, we'll have a very little baby then!  Won't that be a problem?  Brian assured me that the company would let us take a baby if I was nursing.  I knew Brian would work very hard to get there, but my thought was, let's worry about that when he meets the goal.

Brian kept selling all summer.  He was racking up the deals.  I was thrilled for him but waited to make any plans.

And then I went through labor and delivery and maternity leave, which was sort of distracting.  Just as I headed back to work, Brian hit the last week of the program and learned he had qualified.  We had a trip to the Dominican to book on the 4th weekend of October.

So, now it was time to worry about what to do.  I knew Helen would have a ball with her grandparents, but I went back and forth on what to do with Alice.  Four whole days away from an 11-week old baby is rough on both mom and baby.  I could take my breast pump with me, and Alice is used to getting bottles at daycare, but the connection is not the same.  She recognizes my voice now, and god, that smile!  She really is a happy baby, and I would just miss her.  I didn't want to ruin the progress we were making together, and I couldn't imagine leaving her behind.

And then I thought, Dominican Republic.  I don't know if you are catching the news on this place lately, but it's in a bit of political unrest right now, and that's putting it mildly.  Also, the middle of the Carribbean at the end of hurricane season could be dangerous.  On top of that, they tell you not to drink the water.  And it's hot and humid and there's sand everywhere.  So maybe not the best place to bring a new infant.  

So, in the end, I told Brian to book it for just the two of us, and we made plans for Helen and Alice to stay with her grandparents.  I spent weeks pumping and freezing extra milk for the baby.  And then the day finally came - we got up at the crack of dawn last Friday, drove to the airport in the pouring rain, boarded a plane and headed due south.

Of course, it was an incredible trip.  We never left the resort to do any sightseeing around town, but instead spent the entire time relaxing, sleeping, and enjoying the beautiful beach.  Oh, and eating and drinking.  The food was fantastic, and the drinks were amazing.  

Coming back home, we discovered the temperatures hit freezing.  Helen had so much fun with her grandparents, now she actually cries at night and tells me how much she misses them.  And the baby didn't seem any worse for the absence.   Alice spent her time hitting them up for more bottles, and when I took her to daycare, they mentioned she suddenly wanted to be held all the time.

Hmm.  I wonder why.

Below are some pictures of the resort.   Just plain awesome doesn't begin to describe it.

Our rooms were surrounded by gorgeous lush Carribbean landscaping - lots of flowers and palm trees everywhere.

Of course, the beach was a big favorite.  The sun was a bit strong, so I stayed under those huts all weekend.  It was either that or look for SPF 480.  
They had these beds by the pool area for lounging and snoozing. 
And here's the pool area.  Not too shabby.
Wait, how'd that get in there?!  That is a Mai Tai of extraordinary goodness.  In fact, they were so delicious, I ordered two at a time.

And there is Brian's favorite, the Bloody Mary.  Secret ingredient:  soy sauce. 

All in all, it was a fantastic four days.  Very relaxing to get a bunch of hours of sleep in a row and have a little bit of peaceful quiet and ocean waves to enjoy.  I'd recommend the place to anyone looking for a nice vacation spot, and I wouldn't mind going back there again.  

But it sure was nice to hug the girls when we got home.


The Solution

We all have those mornings where we wake up in the wrong mood, or we don't like any of our clothes, or breakfast just doesn't sit right. Everyone you see crosses you the wrong way or says the wrong thing to you, and life is just monumentally unfair from the moment your eyes open.

Brian is saying to himself, "This is what Jennie is like after 8:30 at night!"

Hmm. Anyway.

Last week, Helen had that morning. We got to daycare, and she just wasn't ready for it. She knew the drill with the transition - get out of the car, get Alice to her room, give her hugs & kisses, and then head to her room - but as soon as I was shutting the door to the infant room, Helen went into full-on whine mode. As in, I don't want to go to daycare, I don't want you to leave, I don't know what else I want but right now YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING RIGHT WHINE WHINE WHINE.

When you're three years old, life is hard. You think you can do it all by yourself, and you definitely want to, but you don't have any marketable skills to put on your resume except "makes messes" or "screws up a perfectly good schedule." If you can paddle your canoe upstream, just because you can, you do. Even if that's not what your parents want you to do.

From the moment she was able to speak, I have taught her Mommy's Rules, which are as follows:

1. No whining.
2. No crying.
3. Do what Mommy says.
4. See Rule #3.

These rules cover a wealth of mistakes and potential problems. If she's in timeout, she knows why. Not doing what Mommy said is usually the biggest offense. But the whining gets me mad in a hurry, and I've tried my best to get her to stop doing it. She's okay about it most days, depending on how much she wants to watch Little Mermaid.

Last week marked her second week in a new daycare, and she had been doing stellar up to that point. I wanted her to do well, and I wanted her to like the new place. But that morning she kept telling me she wanted to go back to the old daycare, that she didn't want to be in the new daycare. And she really didn't want me to leave. She just wanted to bury her head in my neck, wrap her arms around me and never let go. Oh yeah - and the whining.

And instead of being mad, for once I was really, really sorry for her. I understood. Everything was still so new for her. Having one day in the past two weeks as Whiny Kid at dropoff time - well, that earned a free pass. Sympathy kicked in. So instead of getting mad at her about missing my bus or needing to hurry or being late for work, I took a deep breath and tried to talk her through it. I gave her all the reasons why the new daycare was better (she gets to see her sister, she gets to make new friends, she gets to learn new things, her teachers love her, etc.). She wasn't buying any of it. Her grip kept getting tighter, and I could not put her down at all.

This is exactly why they tell you not to reason with toddlers. I mean, she understands it, but that doesn't mean she has to agree with it. "Because I said so" is a perfectly legitimate response from a mom. But today, I knew I couldn't use it. I wanted her to be happy when I left, so that the next day and the day after that and every day would be easier for her. Forcing the issue today would only make it harder for everyone tomorrow.

Finally, I called her teacher over and explained that we were having a hard time this morning, and that Helen really wanted to go to her old daycare. Her teacher was not the least bit offended, and in fact was very sweet and gentle with Helen. Telling her that she had a toy she wanted Helen to come over and play with didn't work. Tack #2 was the trick, though. She said, "Helen, you know what, let's go over here and play with this, and then, after snack, I'll let you go see your sister, and you can give her a bottle. Okay?"

Helen's head popped up immediately. She looked at me, smiled, kissed me goodbye, and leaned over to her teacher. I mean, she changed in a SNAP.

Bribery will get you everywhere with a three-year old.

Alice has nursed since the day she was born. For the entire maternity leave, I nursed her. I pump at work so she gets bottles at daycare. No one else has fed this baby except her daycare teachers. Not even Brian has given her a bottle. Helen hasn't even asked to feed the baby - I don't think it occurred to her to ask, since she knows Alice gets her milk from Mommy. So this was a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

The teacher took a picture of them together at that feeding.

She hasn't made a peep about going back to the old daycare.


Wait, WHAT did you say that was called?

So Alice is now the proud owner of one of the hottest baby items: a Bumbo seat.

I don't think they were selling these seats when Helen was a baby, and walking around Toys'R'Us last weekend, I decided Alice needed one. She's not quite holding her head up by herself, but she definitely lifts it for long periods of time, so I thought it would be good for her.

Turns out I was right.

Oh, and Helen likes it, too.


Wedding Day

One of Helen's daycare teachers and sometime babysitter got married, and invited us to the wedding.   Brian had to attend a football cookout at his boss's house, so it was just us.   A girls' night out! 

Okay, so not really.  And you might ask what would possess a woman with a 3-year old and a 2-month old to pack up the kids and drive 45 minutes across town to a wedding that takes place an hour before dinner time.

You can ask. You won't get a response that makes any sense, other than "I hadn't worn my favorite little black dress in a *really* long time, okay?"

I spent the day thinking about timing and what I would need while I was away from the house.  When you nurse a baby, everything you do in a day comes down to a simple equation:  

Travel time (A) + last feeding time (B) = when is the next feeding? (C)  
where A = 45 and B = ...

oh, screw it, we all know C = NOW

So traveling that far with a baby who could be hungry upon arrival meant "BE PREPARED" or possibly "DANGER WILL ROBINSON."  Factoring in Helen's naptime prior to leaving and preparing everyone to get out of the house in wedding finery - well, I'm sure it didn't take this much work to get to troops to Iraq. 

The wedding itself was picture perfect. The bridesmaids were dressed in black satin strapless sheaths, with a fushia sash around their waists. They carried gorgeous white rose bouquets, and all of them looked like a million bucks. The bride wore a bright white strapless dress with plenty of tulle and sparkling sequins, and carried a bright pink bouquet of roses. The groom and his groomsmen wore black suits with black shirts. The groom's tie was white, and the groomsmen wore fuschia ties. Sort of a late 70's mafia look, which I'll admit is difficult for guys from the deep South to pull off with any degree of success.

The bride had not been over to babysit for us in quite some time, but Helen remembered her right away. She was the model child during the wedding - finding a pencil and something to write on, she busied herself with scribbling a few things for me. Fortunately, Alice took a short nap with a good pacifier, so we didn't have a single squawk out of either of them. And it was one of those quick Protestant ceremonies - no sermon, even - so we were out in about 12 minutes.

I should have known that would be the easy part.

The reception was at a nearby country club, which had a back patio set up on a hillside that overlooked a gorgeous mountain scene. The sun was about an 30 minutes away from setting when I got this great picture of Helen.

Shortly after this was taken, Alice decided to scream in agony about gas pains for nearly 30 minutes. This has happened before, and there's nothing I can do except give her a little bit of gas medicine and pat her back. Eventually she burps, but it can take a while. I felt horrible after about 2 minutes on the patio with all the wedding guests trying to enjoy the gorgeous view, and here was a screaming baby out there with them, so we ended up in the parking lot, with me in the car trying to soothe her and Helen running around picking flowers. I was inches away from giving up and going home when Alice finally burped. So we settled down, and I gave her a little dinner bottle, and that's when the bride & groom pulled up in their getaway vehicle.

Oh, how I wanted to get in behind the driver's seat and take off.  

Helen was all about the dancing at the reception. In fact, she was the only one who danced most of the evening. She also spent quite a bit of time chatting up the DJ.  I believe at one point she mentioned that her daddy knows all of the songs to the Lion King.  To his credit, he was the soul of patience and acted interested in everything she wanted to tell him.  He did, however, ask me to let him know when I was ready for the Chicken Dance.  I'm not sure if that was an insult or if he was serious, but I told him that I would NEVER be ready for the Chicken Dance.  Hopefully he got the message and sent it to other wedding DJs.  I'm here for you, people.  

Here, Helen shakes her groove thang.

I don't know where they got their cake, but it was amazing. Very heavy and moist.  Here, Helen contemplates the mystery of delicious, sugary frosting.

I didn't get any pictures of me in that little black dress, though.  Probably a good thing.



Six unremarkable things about me

My cousin tagged me, which I have figured out means I need to do a blog entry with this theme.  Since the purpose of this blog is to catalog many of the unremarkable things that happen to me every day, I'll just have to come up with some things you haven't heard before.  Wish me luck.

1.  My Wii fitness age is currently 75.  That Wii is just damn lucky to be alive right now.  

2.  I have a black cat named Max who turned 13 this week.  I can remember the day I got him so well.  He's been with me through some big changes in my adult life, and he's the biggest bundle of unconditional love.  I don't appreciate him nearly enough, and it's getting harder to pay attention to him with 2 kids running our lives these days.  Through it all, I know he's just secretly wishing he could live with my parents again, out on their screened-in porch.

3.  I have several seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD, and I watch the musical episode from Season 6 about once a month.   I treated myself to a viewing before heading back to work.  Now I can't get Xander & Anya's tune out of my head.  

4.  I love love love the "In Memorium" segments on the Oscars and the Emmys, as they recall who died the previous year.  Yes, I'm a morbid award show watcher.  It always strikes me as a little wierd when people clap for the more famous people, like "Oh, he died!"  (clap, clap, clap)  Anyway, sometimes I get a little choked up and teary at the loss of so many talented people.  I'm already a little sad just thinking about seeing Paul Newman's name up there next spring.  

5.  I do not know how to use a lawn mower.  Or, as my husband would put it, I have refused to learn how to use a lawn mower.  Yard work is not something I have tried to learn.  I'm much more of a laundry person.  This might explain why our bushes are completely overgrown, but right now the kids' clothes are clean, folded, and put away.

6.  I got new contacts last week.  Helen immediately noticed the glasses were gone, and she asked me if I had my contacts.  She even said it correctly!

General News

Item 1
I tried 2 crockpot recipes last week, and both were a big hit. The meatloaf was especially tasty - very moist & juicy, not the least bit dry. The other meal was a chicken cooked in wine that was so tender, it fell off the bone when I tried to take it out. I think it was a bit tipsy. Even the carrots were singing Irish drinking songs. 

Thanks to everyone for all the recipes!  I look forward to trying them all as the weather gets chilly.  (And I should have known my aunts would have plenty of them to share.)

Item 2
Both girls are at a new daycare this week. I was sad to leave the old one, where Helen was such a Big Girl on Campus. Sometimes it feels like I'm raising the popular kid, because when we arrive, all the kids rush to her yelling "Helen!" And the teachers give her big hugs when she leaves each day. 

It's taken 3 years for me to finally notice that not every kid gets this kind of treatment. So taking her out of her element that she's known for her whole life - well, understandably I was nervous. Helen started with the 3-year olds in May, and had a great teacher for exactly one month. And then, that teacher moved to a different room. Instead of hiring someone permanent, they shoved a new floater into it every month. After 3 months, I knew I had to find something else.

And I was lucky enough to find a great spot. It's a smaller daycare, where the owner teaches Helen's class. I visited with Helen about a week before she started, so we could ease into The Big Change, and it would give us something to talk about at home when I mentioned "new daycare" to her.   

The teacher was very high energy and held those kids' attention extremely well. It reminded me how much I was not called to teach young kids.  Being "on" that many hours a day?  EXHAUSTING!!  But they're clearly focused on learning good stuff. The room also has 4-year olds in it, so Helen will be challenged - which is good.  She's eager for it. 

Alice's class has 2 teachers that are there for the long haul, and they really love the babies. Consistency and reliability at daycare is important to me, so I knew I'd found a great place when I saw it.

On Friday, when I picked up Helen, Alice's teacher remarked that Helen seemed to have made a lot of friends in her class already. She said that when Helen came by to peek at her sister, some of her classmates were heading for the playground, and they all said, "Come on, Helen! Let's go play!" The teacher said it normally takes a while for new kids to adjust, and for the others to reach out and be friendly. And here she was seeing that kind of behavior already. She was telling me this little story, I think, to reassure me that Helen is settling in nicely and I didn't need to worry about her.

The high school geek in me is cringing. I probably would have taken WEEKS to make one friend.

Item 3
There was an anonymous commenter in the last post who kindly suggested that I turn this blog into a book. I will point that person to THIS ENTRY where my sister did just that for me almost 2 years ago, as one very special Christmas present that made me weepy.  In that entry is a link to buy the book online. If you want to buy the book, I can assure you no one (me or my sister) makes any profits whatsoever - just watching the sales counter tick in an upward direction is reward aplenty.