Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hear ye, hear ye - we've got news.

As all of you have probably heard from word of mouth and various social medias, I am 12 weeks pregnant with number 3. We are thrilled. This will most likely be our last child, though I would totally consider a fourth I think it’d be pushing Mark’s limits of reason, and so I’m already thinking sadly of “my last pregnancy,” “my last baby” and how all very bittersweet each stage is going to be. I’m due March 9th but since the boys were born 2 and 3 weeks early I’ll be surprised to make it past the end of February.

The majority has spoken, meaning everyone but me, and they want a baby girl. I’m a bit worried about having a little girl – I’m not all that girly and also quite cautious about societal expectations of beauty and femininity, especially the way young girls are sexed up from such an early age – plus I have a basement full of boy clothes I’d love to put to use again. But on the other hand I’d like Mark to have the “Daddy’s Little Girl” experience and the boys are rallying hard for a “sister baby.” And in the end we get what we get and will adore him/her.

I’m feeling as well as could be expected. Luckily I’m not a puker. I get nauseated frequently, I’m sometimes put off by certain foods and I’m tired, especially mid-afternoon. But mostly I am doing very well.

The other big news? We are going to Guatemala for a week in November. Yes, I’ll be 6 months pregnant. No we haven’t been before. So why Guatemala? A few reasons. A close friend since childhood recommended it last winter. His father went to visit and loved it so much he bought a house on Lake Atitlan. My friend explained how amazing and inexpensive it was and how much I would love it. And as soon as I looked at pictures of Lake Atitlan I was sold. I would be going. The question was when. Once I had Guatemala on the brain I remembered that a neighbor had adopted her daughter from Guatemala so I sent her an email requesting information on her experience. She said “GO!” She sent me hotel recommendations for Atitlan and the city of Antigua, she was incredibly encouraging. I was so fired up about it Mark bought me a guide book. But then I got worried. Worried about not knowing enough Spanish. About it being a stressful trip to take with the kids, especially when all trips were stressful with 2 small kids. And so we set the idea aside and ended up in Williamsburg, VA.

But talk of a vacation arose again after we got pregnant. We want to take a last vacation as a foursome. There were little plans like the Poconos (not enough) and big plans like a resort in the Bahamas (easy but insanely expensive and not really who we are.) And then I picked up my Guatemala travel book again. And I read this:

“Traveling with Children
It can be exceptionally rewarding to travel with children in Guatemala. Most locals have children at an early age, and as families are much larger than in the West, your kids will always have some company. By bringing your children along to Guatemala, you’ll take a big step toward dismantling the culture barrier, plus families can expect an extra warm welcome. Hotels, well used to putting up big Guatemalan families, are usually extremely accommodating.”

That sold me. I started looking at airfare again and when I found our flights for $1000 less than the last time I looked, I snapped them up. And did I mention that it is extremely inexpensive to stay and eat in Guatemala? And so we are able to take a BIG vacation without spending BIG bucks. And we're now studying travel Spanish.

So Guatemala! Everyone has their worries and words of caution. As do we. Though I want to be a carefree world traveler I’ve always been far too cautious to go anywhere without a lot of study and consideration. We are doing our research and making sure we make the right choices for our family. We will spend most of our time enjoying the scenery and quiet of Lake Atitlan – an incredibly lake surrounded by 3 volcanoes. It’s not the right trip for treks to Mayan ruins and tours of the rain forest. We’ll spend 2 days doing light sightseeing in the city of Antigua, described as the most beautiful and well preserved colonial cities in our hemisphere. And we’re going to places that our friends have enjoyed and recommend heartily.

When we went to Morocco for our honeymoon, a Muslim country in 2002, we got a lot of grimaces from friends and family. And though the reading we did put our mind at ease and excited us for an other-worldly vacation, we still had our own concerns that we had to repeatedly reassure. Fears of being treated badly because we were American, and concerns about illness. But of course our trip was fantastic. It was one of those life and personality defining moments. And that is the main reason for Guatemala – we want our kids to be excited by the world, the differences in people, cultures, religions, foods. We want them to want to see everything and meet everyone. To hunger for new experiences and new understanding. And that starts with us. And it starts now.

It won’t be an easy trip. Our first day will probably be 12 hours of travel starting at 4am - a taxi, 2 flights, a 3 hour shuttle ride, and a 45 minute boat ride before arriving at our hotel. And then there is the management of wee people. That’s always the hard no matter what the locale. But when we get back – we will have been to Guatemala! Wait til you see the pictures!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School daze

This week the whole family went to an open house at Noah's new school. To bring you up to date: because of his November birthdate Noah does not start Kindergarten until next year, in Philadelphia Kindergarten is a mandatory fulltime program, up until this summer Noah went to school only for two 3 hour days a week. For the upcoming year we decided way back in December that we were going to send him to Young Children's Center for the Arts for three 6 hour days starting this Fall. This seemed to me a great interim step before a fulltime kindergarten program for next year and I have known people to rave about their program which is small and private with daily music and art as well as weekly dance and yoga. Noah will have a friend and neighbor in his class who we will be splitting carpool duties. The cost is a helluva lot more than the $60 a month we were paying, and will be coming out of savings but we feel it is a necessity for his happiness and growth. This week was the first time Noah saw the school. He also got to spend some quality time with his new teacher. And now he is absolutely breathless with anticipation. He is counting down days til he starts - 26 as of this moment.
Ray also enjoyed the open house. They had a teacher to play with kids in an adjoining room with a closed door and I wasn't quite sure if Ray would stay with me or not, but he happily went next door to play for an hour and a half - when most of the other small kids came back to their parents. This is a huge relief for me as Ray is so start the 2 year old program at Noah's old school in September. He'll be going to two 2 hour days and I am now pretty confident that he is ready and will enjoy it.
The result of the new school schedule will result in some quality time for me and Ray, 2 hours a week to grocery shop ALONE, and 2 hours for just Noah and I. Course it also means less time for just making plans to spend time with friends, hang at museums, to just enjoy my kids with less structured lives - but I guess this is the way it goes. I'm sure I will come up with something else to distract me. Ahem.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

On the stoop

Ray and Noah sit on the front steps with their friend Miss Maia.

Not that ya asked.

Hot damn! Time is flying by. Buckle up and watch me repeat the same damn stuff AGAIN.

Ray turned 2! We had a little party at the house with family and a few of our closest friends. It had a fish theme since Ray’s been enjoying the Aquarium so much. The decorations, cake and gift bags were fishy. I even had out a tray of assorted Goldfish crackers. And of course we had to make a disc. For Noah’s birthdays every year we have made a disc of some of his favorite songs of the year but we can’t really do that for Ray too as there would be far too much overlap. But I like the tradition of the discs and friends seem to enjoy getting them as favors so I decided to extend the theme to the disc and therefore we had a “Sea” themed selection of songs. Ray’s favorites are “Rock The Boat” and “Under The Boardwalk” while I tend to favor “Ocean Size,” “I Come From the Water” and “Barracuda.” And of course my Mom can’t be topped so she got the boys two goldfish for Ray’s birthday including a whole aquarium, filter, food, stones and décor. I was sure they’d be dead within a week but they are still going strong and still holding the kids interest.

Ray LOVED his party. For Noah’s first two birthday parties I wasn’t’ too sure he could enjoy that the parties were for him and not be too overwhelmed by all the people. But Ray KNEW the party was for him and he was loving it. He loved the cake, the balloons, and all his friends and family being here. It’s a month later and he’s still talking about it.

And Ray talks about everything. EVERYTHING! Ray is talking in full sentences and will comment on anything. He also loves to repeat himself and ask questions. People think I am exaggerating until they spend enough time for his reserve to melt away – and then they are like MY GOD! And I can’t adequately express how funny and sweet and adorable he is right now. He’s so joyous and courteous and thoughtful. He astounds me. I want to keep him like this forever.

He’s also gotten a lot better recently with me going out for a few hours. The date nights when we take the boys to my friends Wendy’s house and the girls nights when I meet friends for dinner for a few hours once a month have paid off. Now I can tell him I’m going out to dinner and I will be home soon and he says “Have fun, Mama!” I do believe he will be equipped to tackle his two hours, twice a week school days that start in September with very little transition.

Ray is also sleeping like a champ at night. He rarely wakes up during the night these days. He’s still in his crib by our bed but in the coming months we plan to move him to a twin bed in Noah’s room. We’ll then move a bunch of the toy shelves in Noah’s room into the room we had been calling Ray’s room. So far Noah is on board with this plan, I hope that doesn’t change. Of course the biggest hurdle is getting Ray to go to sleep without nursing at night. Very often this is the only time he nurses all day. Well, that is when he doesn’t nap which is all too frequently. I can’t believe he’s about to drop his nap. (Weeping.) But he really only seems to be at a sleep deficit without it every three days – and it is so much harder to get him to bed at night on days when he has one. I fear napping will soon go the way of the dinosaur.

Noah is a giant among four year olds. He’s so long and lean, and with my Mom’s dark skin. He’s a tan string bean. And the boy has become a social butterfly. I would never have predicted this from the boy who hung at my knee for every play group for a year. But there he is – just running off to play with neighborhood kids he knows marginally. He seems so confident right now. I know he’s actually excited to start going to more school in September.

He does seem to be going through an emotional phase. One in which a mere shift in his plan can result in hardcore defeated sadness. Like one second he’s having a great time and all smiles and then an unforeseen dilemma arises and he falls into a puddle of ick. But aside from the occasional emotional outburst he remains a really good kid at heart. I get a frustrated with him on a daily basis when he and his brother squabble over every little thing from which lunch plate they get to who gets to turn on the TV, and I expect him to let up a bit since he's not the two year old, but then I remind myself that this is what siblings do. They fight. They compete. And when it comes down to it he really is a good big brother, with the occasional foible.

He remains ever faithful to his spy fixation. I forsee a lifetime of this and a diehard Bond fan in the making. I’m thrilled that he really loves books. Mark reads chapter books with him every night while I am putting Ray to sleep. And not just preschool stuff. I’m really amazed at how he listens to Peter Pan & Wendy with such rapt attention when some of the subject matter and language is so adult. But he loves it. Sadly his own reading has still not progressed. He got frustrated that it wasn’t effortless to learn and now when you even ask him to sound out a word he refuses to try. And yet he keeps telling me he wants to learn. This week I got him some new workbooks and hopefully a new approach will work.

We went to the beach with my Mom, her husband and his kids and grandkids in July. We could not have asked for a nicer week. The weather was near perfect and the kids all got along so well. Noah and his step-cousin Chase were inseparable. Both boys continued to love the water and Noah learned to boogie board. Of course the biggest part of the week to them was the amusement piers. My boys are ride obsessed. Even Ray, who has gotten motion sickness on a few rides and therefore will only ride the most timid ones, is still obsessing about the roller coasters. As always it’s all about recreation at our house so there was been all manner of roller coaster constructions to act out a zillion rides. The boys are asking to go back to the boardwalk regularly. We’ll probably take another day trip before the summer ends.

And that’s all the boring, catch up type stuff I have for the moment. Trying to remember important things once a month bites. I really need to get back to doing this more often or at least keep better notes so the posts aren’t so scattered and boring. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. I have been reading a lot more lately - really happy about that. And…. fade to grey.