Saturday, August 16, 2014

LTHM (Leave The Home Mom)

I am a much, much better mom when we are out of the house. It's just the truth. 

A few weeks ago, the girls and I met Noni, Bop, and the boys at the Knoxville Zoo for 7 hours. It was basically from open to close, because that is how we do a zoo. 

Noni and Bop let them do the camel ride. I love their faces- Anderson all cool and nonchalant about "of course I am on a camel." Lily grinning.

Max knocked down the towers as fast as I could build them.

Reese thinks she is 5 years old, too.

There was a charade game, and Lily was FRANTIC for Anderson to win a prize after she won. She kept trying to push him to the front: "He's my cousin!"

Lily hitching a ride with Noni (after I said I wouldn't push her with Reesie). We drove an hour and a half home- sweaty, a little wet from the splash pad, covered in ice cream, sunblock, and sand. It was perfect. 

Our Children's Museum has a bank office. Reesie has a lot of work to do- no time for interruptions. When she is focused on something, she reminds me so much of baby Lily. 

When we are home, this is what Lily does- take these beautiful pictures on my phone. 

Selfie variety. 

Last Monday, we met Noni, Bop, and the boys at Dollywood with apparently the rest of East Tennessee. We got there at 9:30, before they even opened, and we had big plans.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. While we were waiting in line for the very first ride (the antique cars), every kid in the line was hanging on the bars, including our kids. Pops and I were completely preoccupied with trying to keep Reese and Max in our reach; I will be honest- I was barely paying any attention to the bigger cousins unless it was yell at one of them to grab an escaped baby. We waited for almost 40 minutes, because it was CROWDED. 

As we neared the front-ish of the line, we heard a thud, a collective gasp from everyone in the area, and Anderson screaming "It's broken!!!!!! It's broken!!!!" All in one second. It is terrifying how something can happen in an instant. I grabbed him immediately and tried to stop myself from hyperventilating.At some point while I was attempting to console him with 60 people staring at me in a really cramped line space, Lily brought Reese and Max back to us. Thank GOD for Lily saving them from their escape attempt, because I basically forgot the babies were even with us. I should never be in charge in any sort of emergency. Mom appeared at the end of the line somehow- could she hear him outside the building? Does she have Noni sonar that alerted her that something was wrong? She just appeared and took him. At first, we honestly thought everything was okay. He looked pitiful, but he barely cried for more than 3 minutes. I googled "broken wrist" and read the information from the Mayo Clinic outloud as we all stared at his wrist. It seemed like if it was really broken, he would be crying? Right? Melissa was at work, leading a faculty meeting, so we didn't want to call her. Unfortunately, google wasn't telling us specifically what to do next. 

Mom decided to take him to the First Aid clinic. They were precious and overly concerned, but the verdict was basically- it is either sprained, broken, or completely fine. Right. Thank you, Dollywood First Aid Clinic. 

Mom and Pops decided to leave, even though the poor boys didn't get to do a single ride. She called Melissa and they took him to the doctor. He broke both bones in his wrist! I have never seen this kind of pain tolerance. He barely cried, and he was back out playing basketball and soccer 12 hours later. 

My sister gives a sweet and entertaining version of the broken wrist on her blog

So...I feel a bit embarrassed posting these pictures next. I debated leaving, mainly out of solidarity and compassion for Anderson. But, we had just driven two hours and I wasn't going to Knoxville that night, so there was really no reason to leave. Well, except for the fact that I would be alone with my girls all day at Dollywood. All day people kept coming up and asking, "How is the little boy?" "Is your little guy okay?"

All in one breath, I would try to explain: "He is okay / His wrist is broken in two places, but he is amazing and such a trooper/ I am his aunt, and I love him so much, but he lives in Knoxville, and we live in Bristol, so it wasn't like I was going to be able to help / so, I stayed here with my girls and we are calling and checking in on him a lot / Thank you so much for asking." I said all of that in one breath, because I felt awful that I was just still at Dollywood while he was getting a cast. People were so sweet with their concern, though. Probably 5 different moms came up to ask me about him throughout the day. 

Dollywood alone (along with approximately 25,000 rednecks) was an experience. There were several rides that Lily could only do with an adult, and I obviously couldn't just leave Reese. I consoled Lily by letting her do the overpriced gem mining and get ice cream. The lines for rides and food required hour long waits- we didn't eat lunch until 3. But, thankfully I brought enough snacks for a week. Mainly, I was haunted by thoughts of what should I have done differently when we were waiting in line for the car ride. Clearly, I should have told Anderson and Lily to get off of the bars, but at the time I was just happy they were entertained. Sigh. #auntguilt

This was obviously the best part of the entire day. It lasted 30 glorious, beautiful minutes. My sweet, sleepy Asian girls. 

We stayed for 9 hours and left at closing time to drive 2 hours back home. Despite being exhausted, it was a really fulfilling day. (With the obvious exception of Anderson's broken wrist). We are all so much happier to be DOING something and to be out of the house. Lily was THRILLED to get to ride the kid rides with Reesie and kept a constant grip on her in case maybe the pig or bee was going to take off at any moment.  Sometimes Most of the time, I am yelling/begging/pleading with Lily to "PLEASE LEAVE HER ALONE". Lily is always driving Reese crazy, and then I have to intervene. BUT, Lily is an amazing big sister. I will take her obsession with Reese over indifference. 

Sunday we went to Chuck-E- Cheese with our 3 little boys! After, they ate ice cream and raced up and down the side walk. I love when I am witnessing my kids' childhoods taking place. It was such a perfect evening. 

Lily got $20 worth of tokens, and she and Daddy earned 656 tickets! She is now the proud owner of a bunch of plastic, overpriced bracelets and crap that I will throw away as soon as I think she won't notice. 

Reese got her own sample cup. Love her sweet face.  

August 18. It's so close. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Waiting on Kindergarten and/or I am a horrible mom.

I feel like a horrible mom. 

Here is what I have decided. One of the following must be true:
1. I am horrible.
2. Lily is more work/ more intense than the average 5 year old.
3. Other moms are lying.

Lily will be starting Kindergarten on Monday, August 18. This day happens to be my birthday, and I think this is not a coincidence. Thank you, God, for this most epic of all birthday gifts. 

Here is the truth. I am not even a tiny bit sad about Kindergarten. The other day, I TRIED, for almost 30 minutes, to find a thread of sadness deep down inside. None. I keep seeing Facebook and Instagram posts about how so many of my friends are crying thinking about Kindergarten. Tears of happiness? Relief?

Lily is an amazing kid. 
Lily is crafty beyond belief. Things she has made just this week*: a fabric backpack (stapled), a fabric purse, sleeping bags for her beanie babies, tiny books for Reese, a "lift the flap" book for Reese, a hanging mail system for Reese to use, 3 vases, more books than I can count, multiple "I love you" notes, and a wallet for me. This girl is going to change the world, stapler in hand.  *In addition to the multiple messes that come with using every type of craft supply sold at Michaels. I am practically wading through paper scraps, staples, googly eyes, sticker backs, and forgotten pieces of string. 

Lily is a devoted big sister. She is constantly looking out for Reese. She will chase* her- " I need my morning hug!", try to snuggle with her, make her crafts, let Reese destroy all of her craft supplies and not even get upset, genuinely accept that we can't do a lot of activities-swimming, movies- because of Reese, sneak Reese candy, bring Reese activities for when we are in the car, turn on Elmo for her. *Reese just wants 20 seconds without Lily up in her face.

Lily is very social.  Lily is definitely happiest when we are with family or friends. She thrives on having multiple* activities to do each day, and she glows when she is around her friends. *about 16

Lily has a huge heart. She is extremely aware and accepting of other people. She is the kid that will approach the new student and be friends. Her favorite thing to do in the entire world is "snuggle with Mama. Oh, and Reesie." I am extremely fortunate that she has never been even slightly resentful, jealous, or bitter of Reese. Lily was almost 4 when Reese was born, and there was potential for some major life changing pissed-off-ness to occur. But, it hasn't, ever. She wants to help* me cook, clean, fold clothes, make the grocery list, and clean the floors. *Every chore takes 5 times as long. Please just go watch TV.

Lily is a rule follower. During preschool, I never even had to read the emails or parent memos, because Lily would tell me EXACTLY what I needed to know: "Mom, next Tuesday, I need to bring a brown bag lunch with plastic silverware and two drinks. We are eating lunch at 11 instead of at 10:35 that day. It's P week so we are having a picnic. I can pack what I want.*" She has always been very aware of the world around her and what the rules/expectations are. *Packing usually means several varieties of cookies and chips, a drink, and a huge mess. 

She is more amazing than anything I could have ever dreamed I would have in a daughter. She is basically my best friend. I have honest discussions with her, and I talk with her like she is an adult. I truly think she loves Reese as much as I do. I am still in awe of Lily's selflessness toward Reese. 

I needed to make sure all of that was clear. Lily will always be my first baby girl, and I adore her. 

HOWEVER, I feel like I will be able to adore her much more between the hours of 3:15 and 9pm, as opposed to the hours of 6am to 9pm. It's just a really, painfully long time. Lily thinks everything is a debate. I do not participate, so it's pretty one sided. But, rarely is anything as simple as, "Lily will you please get dressed." She is desperate to leave the house but also does not want to leave the house. She protests and fights every single bath time-then, she doesn't want to get out. She gets angry very easily. She stomps away. She yells. She slams doors. She is very sensitive. Raising Lily feels like I am raising 5 kids. She  has always needed a LOT. Just in general. Her intensity is going to help her accomplish anything she wants in life. I have no doubt it will prove to be her greatest asset. BUT, for now, it is just exhausting. 

For several weeks now, when I am about to lose it multiple times an hour, I just whisper, scream, sing, state (it depends on what the situation calls for): August 18. August 18. August 18. I dream about it, I think about it, the promise of this day is the only thing saving my sanity. 

I recently listened to Orange is the New Black on Audible in the car (I have to constantly pause and rewind because my kids are yelling or throwing things). I really liked it (more in a later post), and I am embarrassed to say how much I identified with it. It's a true story based on a woman's year in a prison. During the book, she is obviously constantly counting down days until her release date. I have had similar feelings over the past month especially, and I am in constant countdown mode. When I finished the book, and she was released, I was a bit jealous to be honest. I am still waiting. At one point, she refers to "the treacherous anger that comes from having no control over my life." I keep thinking about that line- I feel that way at many points throughout the day, especially when it comes time to try to get into the car with all of our snacks, diapers, books, things to return to Target, etc... Why is getting into the car so difficult? 
Or, when I am trying to make dinner. Where does Reese keep finding MORE scissors? Lily, please, please leave Reese alone for 5 seconds. Reese, get off of my leg. Something is burning. I hate cooking. 

We are all ready to be back on a routine. Summer was nice for a few weeks to not worry about bedtime and schedules and all of that, but our family operates so much better on a schedule. I  need to get control back over my life. I cannot handle the disastrous state of my house any longer. 

I really have no pictures to support my claims, so I am going to try to make a few of these work.

Our days are really long. Lily has actually slept until 7 am a few days, and those days have been BLISS. Otherwise, the party (literally- Lily plans parties all day long) starts early here. Lily wants to be entertained 16 hours a day. This is possibly my fault, as I physically/emotionally/mentally cannot handle being home with my children for long periods of time, such as anything over 45 minutes. But, I also believe that this need for constant social interaction is innate. She is an extrovert, and I cannot change her to an introvert.  I realize I am supposed to train her to play alone or yada, yada, whatever-I-don't-believe-training-works. Lily has never been one to play with toys. She gets very lonely easily and hates being by herself. She even wants me to watch TV with her. Hell no. Lily was not meant to be the oldest child by almost 4 years. Reese is just not big enough to "play," and she isn't exactly fun to play with when she is just trying to eat the glue stick. Now is when I am really jealous of people who had their kids closer together. I do make her go to her room about 7:45 at night, and she is great about crafting alone for an hour or two. I will see little love notes and books fluttering over the rail to land at my feet.  And she will watch TV and play on my computer. But, she gets GRUMPY if she just sits and watches TV, so I have to limit her. Plus, to my horror, she is outgrowing her love affair with TV.

We went school supply shopping at Target last weekend, and I want to always have this memory of her: green tiara, two homemade necklaces, punk dress, overflowing with excitement, her supply list , and a pen to check off the items. This girl is really so precious.

Lily is ready for school. This has been the plan the entire time- we give birth to them, we try to teach them about life and how to be people, we attempt to feed them something besides Cheez-Its, and eventually they start trying to find their own path in the world. Kindergarten is EXCITING. What path will she be on when she graduates high school? Who will she be? What will she have learned? What experiences will she have had? This is the start of her education. It is THRILLING to me. The possibilities! The learning!!! The themed dress up days!

To be fair to Lily, a huge reason I am ready for Kindergarten probably has more to do with this adorable, hilarious, crazy, terrorist. Reese, per usual, was FREAKING OUT because I went upstairs for 12 seconds without her. Why are my kids so obsessed with me? Having a 15-17 month old during summer, along with a 5 year old is not ideal. Swimming with Reese is such a nightmare that we have done it a total of 3 times. Those fun $1 movies that all of the theaters do during the summer? I actually tried, like a naive idiot, to take Reese to one. Never. Again. Ever. 

 I am constantly telling her, " Sorry, Lily, I can't play right now, because I have to feed Reese/find out where Reese is hiding her secret scissor stash/ pick up the entire sippy cup of milk that Reese just dumped on the couch/ try to pry Reese off of my leg/ etc...

I know Reese isn't going to Kindergarten, but it will be nice to be able to tailor my day a bit more to her needs. Reesie gets dragged around a lot. She is a trooper, but I am looking forward to just going to the park for 30 minutes with Reese instead of for 3 hours with both of them. 

My feelings reaffirm my belief that I will not be that mom who looks back on "this time" with nostalgia. It isn't that I don't adore Lily (she is probably the most important part of my life since she made me a mom), it isn't that I won't miss her (um, except, actually I won't- I will still get over 9 waking hours with her). I am excited she is growing up. She needs more social and academic stimulation than I can provide. I desperately need to go to Target without her. 

August 18. August 18. August 18. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Getting spoiled by the Grandparents

We obviously did not take our kids with us to Atlantis. I am so thankful and lucky and happy that we have so many wonderful people to take care of our girls.

The night before we left, we had a party with people who work with Hughes. It was so much fun (and tiring). Lily had a BLAST with this group of girls running around! They were painting nails and doing makeup, and by the end of the night they looked positively terrifying. If Lily continues to apply makeup in a similar manner, I will not have to worry about her ever having a boyfriend. 

The best part was that Melissa came! So, I got to introduce her to some of my friends! And, these kids got to hang out and eat popsicles together. 

Melissa kept the girls on Sunday morning and drove them back to Knoxville. All 4 kids. This was probably one of the few moments where everyone was calm and sitting. 

My girls love them some Sissa.

Bop made Lily an Elsa balloon animal! 

Reesie ate some corn and grinned.

The next day MeeMaw and Granddaddy met Bop to get the girls and take them back to Huntsville. Whenever we Face Timed I wold get nervous that they would be sad and miss us. Not a chance. They barely even looked up to talk to us. They were obviously having an amazing time and not missing us at all. We had to beg them to talk to us for ten seconds each time. 

 Clearly loving her life. 

Meemaw and Granddaddy kept them busy, and I think they ate ice cream every day! Lily is already asking when she gets to go back. "But this time I want to stay for at least 7 days!"

Reese on the water slide, like a big girl!

You know the big sister was always looking out for her. ALWAYS.

I loved getting pictures like this of how much fun they were having. 

Lily loves Reese so much. Obsessed. Infatuated. Suffocating. That kind of love. Reese sometimes wants a break from her. This picture sums it up. 

Look at these places they went with MeeMaw and Granddaddy! How spoiled and loved are these girls? I don't even know what this awesome-ness is.

They even set up a really awesome inflatable pool in their backyard and basically let the girls take over their lives. 

Aunt Shannon and Jake came to visit!


We flew to Huntsville on Thursday night and were supposed to land at 5pm, but it was midnight instead. And, my luggage was on the wrong flight. I was so tired at 6am the next morning when the kids woke up. Putting on Hughes' clothes didn't help the situation. It was a rude awakening of being thrust back into reality. 

We went to the Huntsville Chuck-E-Cheese and got this flattering picture taken. The best part was that Lily didn't even notice anything wrong with it. "Mom, keep that and put it in my book I am making!" She is already a documenter. 

Granddaddy LOVED skeeball. 

It was fun getting to hang out with them one extra day and watching how much the girls love them. 

I love how many people love my girls! We are so lucky. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Hughes has always been a thoughtful gift giver. He gave me a Kindle the first year they came out, a vacuuming robot Roomba, books, calendar planners (perfect for me!), flowers and jewelry waiting on the table every Valentine's- even if has just worked a 24 hour shift in the hours leading up to it, a bluetooth player for my car, an iPhone years ago before I knew I even wanted one, a phone case that charges my phone, etc...When we had fist moved to Winston Salem, he found a babysitter and surprised me with Harry Potter movie tickets! He threw me a surprise get-together the first birthday after we got married, because I had just moved and didn't know anyone. The gifts are always very well thought out, purposeful, and perfectly wrapped. A few weeks ago, he topped them all! He gave me a card ( he is NOT a words person, so this was a big deal in itself), with a picture of Atlantis inside. For our 10th anniversary (July 24), we went to Atlantis in the Bahamas! Without kids for 4 nights and 5 days. I started crying and staring at me and crying some more. I just keep thinking, "whose life did I highjack?? This cannot be my actual life." I love him, because he did add, "Just so you know, this will be the only card you get- I am not getting you another card on our actual anniversary." Hahaha. 

It was insane. I mean, we could have gone to Walgreens without our kids and it would have been vacation, but SERIOUSLY, this was Paradise. 

Lily Pads.

One of Hughes' partners surprised us with champagne and cheese. Again, whose life did I highjack?

My inner poor person (it will always be a huge part of me) kept trying to sneak out, and I let it. This meant that I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of fancy sinks, monogramed butter, the man who folded my napkin into my lap at dinner one night, etc... One time they were passing out free lemonade, and I practically tripped over myself trying to get a glass. I was constantly gasping and pointing out all of the fanciness. 

They have a big aquarium inside one of the hotels. 

It was gorgeous, and we walked around it almost every day.

Loved the jellyfish. 

Hughes originally booked the "budget" hotel, but they bumped us up to one of the nicest hotels. This was outside of our door. 

Meanwhile...some girls were with Sissa and then Noni and then MeeMaw and Granddaddy! (more on that in a later post)

I have never seen a breakfast buffet like this one. True to form, I took a million pictures and talked about how much my dad would love this buffet restaurant.

Sitting down? On vacation?!?! I didn't know that was possible.

The resort had a Ben & Jerry's, so that became a priority. #forgetthefancyplaces

We went to downtown Nassau a few times, which was fun, entertaining, and only a tiny bit scary.

The food at one of the local places. It was delicious. I talked to our cab driver about life in the Bahamas, and it was fascinating. He said the staple food of the Bahamas is conch. I thought it was a touristy thing, but he said people who live there eat it every day. Gross.

Also, I asked about the education system, and he was SHOCKED when I told him that a lot of people in America don't go to college. His quote was, "I thought every single person in America went to college and was rich." It was an interesting conversation. 

 I knew nothing about Atlantis before we went, but apparently it is a really famous resort. The resort includes several hotels, lots of restaurants, an aquarium, a casino, expensive shopping, and an AWESOME water park. We just walked to it from our room!  This is one of the slides- a challenger one. Hughes beat me every single time. I was pissed. 

This is another slide- I stole the pic from Atlantis site. There are two slides that end up in a shark aquarium! 

Seahorse from the aquarium. It was so much tinier than I expected.

My suitcase- we got them as a wedding gift ten years ago, and it has been on a lot of trips (I am a lucky girl!!). I thought it was pretty funny that I got to visit one of the top Caribbean resorts and my falling apart, stained suitcase has random pieces of fabric that I cut off from a pair of pants 10 years ago as a marker for me to locate it on the baggage claim. I always mean to change the marker to something that looks...well, less like fabric from a pair of pants. But, I always forget until we are about to leave. Plus, I feel like this is insurance against my suitcase getting stolen. Nobody is going to want this gem.

Shark in the aquarium surrounding the slide!

Hughes took this from the top of one of the slides! The water park was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It had a mile long lazy river...that wasn't exactly lazy. It was more of a rapids type river. Hughes and I sat in a 2 person float (this was a HUGE sacrifice for my hubby. He instinctively frowns upon anything that could be perceived as romantic, unpractical, and/or made for 16 year olds) and floated along the rapids. The river took us, in our float, up a conveyer belt, and to the tube slides! Very efficient. We also realized how strong our type A-ness is, because for the part of the lazy river that is truly "lazy," we would float for about 20 seconds and then we would both start paddling. We can't just sit. 

About to go down a slide. It was scary, and I was procrastinating. 

Everyone was taking pictures of themselves on this Ben & Jerry's bench. It was mainly Asian people, as I have noticed they get overly excited when taking pictures of random things.  Of course, I made Hughes take one.

Part of the rapids. 

Pre-double float. It was harder to keep up with each other, which is why Hughes gave in and let us use the double. #practical

He would take videos as I came down the slides, because I usually came out cussing, sputtering, hanging onto my swimsuit, and trying not to drown. The slides were fast, high, deep drops, and a bit terrifying. 

One of the hotels. We stayed in The Reef Tower. 

The water was clear as far out as I dared to go- I was holding the camera at my shoulder level, and I could see perfectly to the bottom. There are water drops on the camera, but it was crystal clear. 

We are not really "sitting" kind of people, but we did hang out on the beach after hitting up the water park every day.

Infinity Pool. There were pools everywhere! 

On our way back to get the kids, we were on a plane for 7 hours (2 of which was our flight and 5 while we waited on a runway in Augusta for weather to clear in Atlanta). We were all ravenous, and Delta brought pizza while we waited. We each got one slice, and it was the best meal I had the entire week!

We are really complete opposites in so many ways, but somehow it works perfectly. I love him, and I still can't believe he is mine. I am excited about our next ten years!

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