Friday, May 27, 2016

Dear Ava - A Letter on your 3rd Birthday

Every year on the kids' birthday I write them a letter and post it here.  I'm a little behind on the posting part of that right now but I'm working on it.

Dear Ava,

How is it that you've already come to be three years old?  It's incredibly hard for me to imagine how that time has passed so quickly.  You are growing and learning every day and I feel privileged to have been a part of that process. 

When you were brand new!

Just look at all that personality bubbling out of those eyes!
The other day I was thinking about what to say to you here.  I feel like all of these letters get to be so repetitive and that I can't really come up with anything to say sometimes that I haven't already said in previous letters to you and Eli.  (I can't imagine how I'll begin to dream up new content for Mae in a few months).  Then I started thinking about trying to explain what it is you bring to our family that is uniquely you.  Well that was easy.... as I told you just the other day, you bring the "feisty" to our family! 

There is so much personality bundled into your tiny little self that most of the time it just bubbles over.  When you are happy all that bubbling personality can be such a fun part of our days.  You play with extreme abandon - running, flopping, and going with everything that is in you.  Even, sometimes, in spite of the fact that you are not the most coordinated child (yet).  This is evidenced in the fact that you have given us our first experience with a broken bone but within a couple hours were happy-go-lucky again.  Then within a few days you were acting like there was absolutely nothing wrong with your arm.  Everybody who tended to you during the process was just in awe of how you were handling it and just fell in love with all the personality happily bubbling out of those eyes. 

This girl don't care that she just broke her arm - it's selfie time!

Then there is the independent feisty.  This sometimes serves you well and sometimes makes my head want to explode.  You have a very definite idea of how things are supposed to be or go at times.  Lots of times you want to do things yourself.  That's great when it's something you can handle and not so great when it's something that is a little out of your capabilities at the moment.  We frequently have difficulties when you decide that you want to buckle yourself in the carseat.  You can do most of it but have a little trouble with parts (like lining up the pieces just right).  If we're not running late (which we almost always are) I'll let you fiddle with it for a few minutes.  But when we're 10 minutes late leaving before work/daycare and really just need to leave NOW me helping you doesn't always go over well. 

Then there is the bad feisty.... like you decide you're not going to do what Mama and Daddy say feisty.  This can result in a fall-in-the-floor kicking and screaming temper tantrum.  Those never go well.  I've seen them last for 30 minutes.  There is absolutely no reasoning with you or talking to you until you get calmed down.  It's ugly and one of my least favorite parts of parenting.  Fortunately, you're always ready to make up and cuddle afterward.

You are also our first experience with a good eater.  Goodness knows that Eli isn't going to touch any real food.  But you love food and love to eat everything.  Pizza is super high on the list.  When Daddy and I pick up pizza after work you start jumping up and down outside the car as soon as we open the doors.  You can smell it before we ever put you in and you get so excited about it.  We love pizza too but seeing your reaction to it makes having pizza for supper even more fun!  You like most other foods we give you but the other big standout favorite is sausage.  At times you even ask for sausage throughout the day as a snack.  We typically keep some pre-cooked in the freezer that we can just pop in the microwave at a moment's notice. 

Other things you like are your baby dolls and all their stuff (blankets, bottles, diaper bags, etc).  That is probably because you watch me take care of Mae.  You make such a good little Mama though.  Another big favorite is any kind of art supplies.  You love to color and draw.  the crayons are scattered everywhere.  And the last favorite thing I can think of is anything having to do with Frozen (which really translates to all princess stuff). 

You love your brother and sister very much and (thus far) have managed to avoid killing Mae with your very rough loving.  We sometimes have to fuss at you and tell you not to touch her but it's not because you are trying to do anything bad.  You are just being too rough at the moment and she is much much smaller than you.  Telling you to stay away from Mae ALWAYS hurts your feelings and results in tears.  

You also are quite the Daddy's girl and sleep with him every night.  Right now since we're living with Joey and Papa Rick while we build our new house you don't even have your own bed.  You sleep in the middle of mine and Daddy's bed and snuggle up so close to him that he has to hang off the edge of the bed to sleep.  And still I sometimes hear you call for him to cuddle you in your sleep.  Daddy absolutely LOVES that you do this even though it means that he almost never gets a good nights sleep.  I love that the two of you have this special relationship and that you feel so protected and safe when he's around.  When he goes away for a few nights for work you almost always have trouble going to sleep without him. 

So I think that about does it for now, sweet girl.  I love you and want you to know that you are a very special part of our family.  I honestly can't imagine what our lives would be like without your little bundle of personality bringing the feisty fun into our days.  I hope you had the happiest birthday ever and that all your birthday wishes came true. 

Love you bunches,

Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy 3rd Birthday Ava!

Last weekend we had Ava's 3rd Birthday party.  She had requested a "Hootie" (Owl) theme.  Amongst all the sickness we fought early in the month, I managed to throw together some invitations and get them mailed. 

Then I just had to try to fix up all the rest of the party stuff at the last minute in the week before the party.  (Because there was totally no getting it done when I was at home having to take care of sick kids and try to do a little work from time to time.)  In spite of the rush and lack of time it seemed to come together okay.  Thank goodness Joey and some of her buddies at school put together some extra decorations.  I was hoping for an outside party but we woke up to cloudy gray skies and a decent chance of rain.  So we had to move the party inside. 

That super huge "Hootie" was done by a couple of our teacher/EA friends at Unity School.  It was just at cute in real life as it looks in the picture.

Our Birthday girl!

Ava wanted bubbles for party favors.  I hate little goodie bags so I picked up several packs of these bubble wands and put a custom "Thank-You" sticker on them.  They were a real hit and provided some entertainment outside while I was running around inside trying to finish up the food.

More "Hooties" courtesy of Joey!

One of the things I did get thrown together were two rag garlands.  They added some softness to the windows. 

More Hooties from Joey.  I also had to call Granny Reba and ask to borrow some of her blue mason jars.  I have several including some that she gave us, but they are packed up somewhere right now and I can't find them.

The Hootie Tree again courtesy of Joey and her buddies.  It says "Whooo's 3?" and "AVA".  I'm so glad I had these little elves helping me pull it all together at the last minute.

Again, Hooties made by Joey.  I really wouldn't have pulled this off without her.

Yummy food!

The rag garland and Happy Birthday sign.

I also managed to get some water bottles labeled.

Hello Hootie!
Our Birthday girl while we sang to her.

Blowing out her candles.  Mom helped a little to avoid lots of spit on the cake.

Ava and Ashton are best buddies.  Ashton even wrote a very long cute message in Ava's birthday card.

Brady created a balloon dude!

Eli loves to eat the yummy cakes we get. 

Ms. Carla and Ms. Janie always make my kids' birthday cakes.  And in addition to looking as cute as can be, they are also incredibly yummy.  I could sit down and eat the whole thing. 

The other kiddos loved their food too.

Soon Ava was ready to start opening presents.

Harley picked out Ava's gift herself.  She knew Ava would love some working kitchen gear.

Ava also got a baby stroller from Pawpaw Frankie and Granny Debbie that she is in love with!

And Grammers and Papa Garro gave her a Vera Bradley diaper bag (or a purse that Mommy can borrow maybe?)!

Ava also got a Doc McStuffins dress up set.  While I was cleaning up I suddenly saw this pink blur running around.  Turns out it was Doc Mc-Ava.

The kiddos also got to play on the playground outside.  They had a blast!

A broken arm isn't going to slow this chick down.

Blowing bubbles!
I hope that Ava had a super fun time at her birthday party and I'm pretty sure she did.  She and Eli have asked several times lately if they can go back to the Community Center sometime soon.  My response is always "of course we can".  Thanks to everybody who can and a special thanks to Joey and all the EA's at Unity who helped throw those extra decorations together before and after school.  You all made our girl's day extra special.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Eli - 4 years, 15 weeks; Ava - 3 years; Mae - 27 weeks (6 months) - Celebrate!

After 3 weeks of sick and being stuck in the house no one was more ready to celebrate Ava's birthday and our return to the land of the living than I was.  On Sunday, while Eli was having his last day of recovery I managed to get the owl cookies for Ava's birthday party iced. 

Decorating cookies is something I always start out looking forward to and then quickly realize that it is a tedious and exhausting task.  Royal icing is tough to get just right (I almost never do).  Then there are several different colors to make - mixing, testing, remixing. And you have to be patient and let one layer dry before you can do the next layer (which I'm especially terrible at). UGH!  If I didn't love my kids as much I'd totally swear off ever decorating sugar cookies again.  As it is though, I'll bake cookies a couple times a year and then decorate them a week or so before their birthday parties.

This time, I had an especially cute albeit handicapped helper. (Notice how swollen her arm still was here.) Really, all Ava wanted to do was lick the icing off anything that touched icing.  Fortunately for her, I used a new recipe for icing and ended up having to make two separate batches.  That meant 2 whisk beaters that she got to lick.

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 These cookies were by far the hardest I've ever tried to do... 7 total colors - SEVEN!  I typically try to make a rule to stick to 3 or 4 colors but no, I had to go and do something way complicated.  I didn't wait long enough between the first and second layers but by the time I got to the third thing I was doing okay.  Regardless of how time consuming or tedious these were they turned out pretty cute. 
Now I'm sure I could have bought some that would have looked better but I'm a cheapskate so that ain't happenin'.   The most important part is that Ava loved her "Hootie" cookies so that totally made it worth all the trouble.

By mid-week everyone was finally getting back into their normal routines.  I snapped these pictures one afternoon when the kids were waiting on supper to be ready.  Ava wanted to hold Mae for a minute so I decided it was group picture time.

Friday was Ava's actual birthday and she was all grins ready for daycare.  She has really been enjoying the extra attention she's been getting with the broken arm.  And she was extra excited that it was her birthday and she was going to see her friends at her party the next day. 

 Friday morning after I dropped Eli and Ava at daycare, I had to take Mae for her 6 month checkup.  She weighed in at 15 lb 11 oz (44th percentile) and measured 25 inches long (14th percentile).  She is meeting all her milestones just wonderfully and we were given the go-ahead to try some baby foods.  I had been waiting to get a little spit-up issue under control but it doesn't look like that spit-up problem is going away on its own.  So we'll see if some solids in her diet and less dairy helps to calm her tender tummy. 

Mae had a great checkup and we enjoyed getting to see our friends at the doctors office without being sick for a change.  Everyone made a fuss over Mae and she is kind of an attention hog too (takes after her big sissy I guess)! She got 2 shots and barely cried at all.  Everyone says that she is the best baby ever and I kinda think they might be right.

Birthday party post is up next!

Eli - 4 years, 14 weeks; Ava - 2 years, 51 weeks; Mae - 26 weeks: You're Freaking Kiddin' Me!

So you may remember from the previous post that at the end of last week Ava was over the flu, I was almost over the flu, and Mae had come down with the flu late in the week.  I shipped the older two kids off to Birmingham for the weekend hoping to get a little extra rest myself and keep them from getting sick (again). 

We made it through Saturday pretty uneventfully.  Brian had spent most of the day working on the farm planting trees, bush hogging, and doing just about anything he could to avoid being around me and Mae (he didn't want to get sick either).  After sleeping pretty well Friday and Saturday night, I was feeling much more human.  Mae, on the other hand, was still feeling pretty crummy.  She'd wake up for about 20 minutes at a time and play, eat, whatever and then she'd be asleep again.  I spent the whole day Saturday holding her and Sunday wasn't looking like it was going to be much different. 

Unfortunately, Sunday morning we got the call that Eli had gotten sick during the night as well.  I didn't even have to ask.  I knew what it was.  He was running a pretty good fever and had woke up around 4am screaming and inconsolable.  Yep - Flu: 4, Hamiltons: 0. 

Eli is always the worst kind of sick out of any of us.  He wants constant attention and affection, he feels terrible, his fever is higher, and it seems to last longer.  I knew with him in that kind of shape it wouldn't be possible for just one of us to go pick up the kids and the other to keep Mae at home.  So I enlisted some grandparent help.  I asked Joey to keep Mae at home so that Brian and I could both ride to pick up the kiddos half way between our house and Birmingham.  And that's what we did. 

We got to him and the fever was still high.  Even though we had Tylenol we didn't make him take any until we got home.  It can be traumatic trying to get him to take it and sometimes he throws it right back up so that just makes things that much more stressful.  Then when we starts screaming and crying and getting upset the fever just gets that much higher and you have the possibility of more throwing up.  All of this combined with a 1 hour plus car ride is just a bad idea.  So we bought him a cold Sprite and tried to keep him drinking, turned on the AC, and called it sufficient until we could get home.  At times the best course of action is to keep everyone calm, cool and collected for a while. 

When we got home, Ava stayed upstairs playing and I took Eli and Mae to the basement.  The three of us spent the rest of the afternoon like this.  

Fortunately, Brian was able to stay home and help me take care of the sick kiddos.  When one kid is sick, I can totally handle it.  Even when two are a little sick, it's manageable.  But when two are really bad sick - it definitely requires multiple people.  Mae would scream any time you put her down and Eli wanted to be touching me at all times.  If I got more than 1 ft away he would start crying.  I tried telling him a couple times that I was right there on the other end of the couch.  He'd just look at me and say "But I can't feel you!"  So I sat where he could at least put his feet on me and touch me. 

Tuesday morning things got even more interesting.  I had just sent Brian to the grocery store to find more Sprite, baby formula, crackers, and tissues.  It hadn't been 10 minutes since he walked out the door when the phone rang.  It was our daycare telling me that Ava had fallen off the merry-go-round and was complaining with her arm.  They said that they had tried to calm her down but she was still acting like it was pretty badly hurt and it was swelling.  Something in me knew instantly that it was broken. 

I started trying to get Brian on the phone and couldn't for a while.  I had finally given up and was going to pack up the two sick kids in the car and go to daycare to get her myself when he finally called back and told me that he'd go right then.  He said that by the time he got to daycare she was acting fine but she wouldn't use her arm and that it was swollen pretty badly.  We called our regular doctor and they advised us to go on to the ER.  Brian ended up spending the whole afternoon in the ER with Ava.  Of course the ER was super crowded and they didn't have an empty bed or anything.  But they kept sending me pictures like this... partially to amuse Ava and partially to calm this panicked mom's nerves. 


Before long I got this picture of the x-ray and the news that her left arm was in fact broken. 


Our ER team put her in a splint and sling and set up an appointment for us to meet with a pediatric orthopedic specialist.  We were able to set up an appointment for the next day to figure out how bad this was going to be. 

I wasn't going to let Brian and Ava go to see this specialist without me so again, I called my mommy.  I still had a sick Eli and Mae at home but if we were going to be talking pins and surgery I wanted to be there to hear it and ask questions myself.  Fortunately, Joey was able to take the day off and keep the other two at home while we went to the doctor. 

The orthopedist took an additional x-ray and told us that it wasn't broken all the way through and that it should heal pretty quickly.  She also said that it seemed excessive to put Ava in a cast because the cast would have to go from her fingers to her shoulder and it would just be hot and uncomfortable and not necessary.  So we returned home in another splint and were told that within a week or so she would probably be acting like nothing had ever happened.  Our job was to keep her arm splinted and wrapped for 4 weeks to ensure that she doesn't re-injure it.  We can take of the splint and wrap for bedtime and baths and pretty well any time she is going to be pretty still.  At 4 weeks we go back for more x-rays and will likely be back to normal.

Ava was a champ through the whole thing.  She has smiled lots and after a day or so she managed to figure out how to use her arm a little and managed to get her feet working again.  By Thursday we were going to send her to daycare, but she woke up with a lot of swelling so we kept her home one more day to be sure she was comfortable. 

On Friday, Ava and Mae both went to daycare again and I managed to do a little work from home.  That did wonders for my sanity, but the cabin fever was getting to me something awful.  We had tickets for a Marvel Universe Live show for Saturday but Eli was still sick so we just didn't go.  By Saturday afternoon Eli was feeling a good bit better and by Sunday he was much better.

So just in case you're keeping score, so far the last 3 weeks have had

4 doctor visits
4 cases of flu
3 dentist visits
2 temporary fillings
1 Broken Arm
and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Oh, and, by the way, Ava's birthday and party is just 1 week away.  I did have the presence of mind to send out invitations earlier in the month so this is definitely happening.  Now I just have to figure out decorations, a menu, and find time to shop, cook, and decorate a few dozen owl cookies.  Yay!  Now what'll I do with my spare time?...(said no mom ever).  Deep breath and just keep going.