Monday, December 28, 2015
286. Evie, who has been sleeping for the past hour in such a way that has allowed me the time and space to update my blog!
287. Evie's first birthday is tomorrow, that means we made it through the difficult nights and all the feeding challenges! She's almost a year old and so spunky!!
288. This blog, a history of my toughest challenges from the past 8 years, a space to learn from my mistakes and smile at the good times we've had as a family
289. My children, each and everyone is a blessing. I could never say I love you enough to my lovely children.
290. My younger brother, who came over on Christmas day and played games with the kids ALL DAY LONG even though he only had 3 hours of sleep the night before AND made us homemade Apple Cider Donuts before coming!!!
Advice to myself for next year:
- Start earlier with a plan and stick to it!
- Husband and I have agreed to one big present for each child, it might be something we suggest family go in on but it will be one toy item that they can get excited about.
- All other items should be stocking stuffers or family presents. I had the idea to pack one box with family style gifts that could include board games, movies, family calendar from Shutterfly, etc.
This year we did plan early and made Peppermint bark and Apple Cinnamon Jelly for our extended family. It was an awesome way to quickly pack a box and ship to family who are not local. The part that put me way behind was photos. I love to pack and send out photos to my Texas family but it takes some serious planning to make sure every family gets the right photos, one of each child, etc. I spent extra time scanning photos and ordering them from Shutterfly. It was disappointing when the wallets never even showed up - still need to call Shuttefly about that. If I can plan this part earlier then I can ship earlier and avoid the more expensive fees that happened this year from shipping right on the deadline!
Thursday, December 24, 2015
My husband theorized there are two ways to look at this:
1. If it appears to be a toy that's going to sell out, then buy it early.
2. If it's a toy that's pretty common, such as the remote control car we bought, then wait until the week before Christmas and get the reduced rate.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
1. It doesn't seem to work on iPhones, which our kids have two old ones that I could not get to sync properly with their new profiles that I set up through Amazon.
2. I had to set my husband up as a user which we thought was a little odd since he always uses mine but because it's a "family" account, Amazon links both adults so we can both go in and share content with the kids.
There are several brilliant options such as:
1. We can set time limits on how long they can use the Kindle.
2. We can set reading goals.
3. They can only see the content we set up for them which is books, apps and videos.
4. We have up to 4 profiles to use for kids and that's great since we have 4 kids (although one's a baby and won't need this for quite some time)
I'm tentatively excited even though the set up time was almost an hour - it just took me that long to figure everything out, maybe a more adept person with technology can navigate faster or maybe it was persistence in trying to set it up on the iPhone that wasted so much time! At least I can save you that step!
Now I'm thinking I should get my own Kindle next year and designate this the "Kid Kindle" but after buying the house recently we're getting tough on expenses so I might just have to deal with reading kindle books on my iPhone.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Soooo, I'm on a mission to write more about Sam. I don't see how I can possible back date 150 posts so I'll just fill in the blanks with important milestones like birthday's, first day of school, etc. and I'll try to write about him more often.
The only reason Charlotte has so many posts is because she was an ONLY CHILD when I wrote the bulk of those and I was desperate for other parents advise on parenting issues so I blogged regularly and visited over 50 blogs while commenting regularly. It was my heyday in blogging and since having more kids I'm down to sporadic reading of other blogs, never commenting and rarely even blogging any more! Such is life when you are mom to 4 kids!
We happily removed the sell sign and entered the house to find it cold, drafty and very very damp. It's been raining quite a bit since we put a contract on the home on 10/22 with every rain storm making husband grit his teeth at the added water damage coming through the leaky roof. The 2nd floor looked worse then when we had last seen the house, more ceiling tiles have falling down in rooms that before didn't seem to have any damage so our guess is the house is very damp inside.
I desperately want to turn on electric and get some air movement in there. Maybe put a dehumidifier on every floor. Mold freaks me out, I have visions of the houses in New Orleans condemned because they were covered in black mold.
Husband says the first step is getting the roof fixed but I'm freaking out about the mold growing. He even found a mushroom growing on the floor! I think we're both freaking out about different things so I hope it doesn't lead to too many arguments.
Oh, and State Farm can't insure the house because the walls are plaster and there is no one in the area who is skilled to fix plaster walls and I guess the other damage was an issue as well. They gave us another number of someone who might be able to help with insurance. I'm not sure I care at this point. I'd rather get the house in more stable condition before spending money on insurance.
I did however manage to send in the "turn on mail" card and called trash service to get that set up but we need to turn on water before the trash service will start. So many things to do!
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
It's an American Foursquare house built in 1922 that needs a roof repaired and possibly the entire back wall rebuilt from water damage. It's going to take some time to fix it up before we can live in it.
We bought it really cheap for 40,000 after closing costs with the idea that we could take out a home improvement loan for another 20K and still have a house for considerably less than the going rate of 100K in our area. So far it seems like a great idea, except for the leaky roof and water damage.
Friday, December 11, 2015
So we sit, either husband or I, with our tiny one, day in and day out, until she's old enough to join the fray. Then my friends, we'll be in that basement cleaning and organizing it like it's our job!
Monday, November 30, 2015
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Her eating of solids has improved drastically over the past month and she's now enjoying:
- Pumpkin Pancakes - she ate 2 for breakfast! I know what she's getting for her birthday breakfast!!
- Gerber fruits - she can get through one container per day split between two meals. The doctor said most babies are eating 2 containers per meal but it's challenging enough to get her to consume this so we are trying to get her to 2 containers per day.
- Bread crusts - the other kids don't eat their bread crusts so Evie helpfully takes as many as she can cram in.
- Any breads seem to make her happy
- Cookies that are graham related make her happy
Friday, November 13, 2015
Time to grit my teeth and hope we don't repeat our experience from 2015 that lasted from January - June.
This plan has a higher deductible, I think 1,500 when we had $500 in 2015 but there doesn't seem anyway around that. From what I understand, deductibles went up along with increased use of insurance premiums in 2015. So we all pay more this year? I guess that's the answer to health coverage for all Americans.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Our 4th baby was born December 29, 2014 and we received a letter that month saying our 2014 plan did not meet The Affordable Care act qualifications so I quickly signed up for a family plan through eHealthInsurance.com. It was very expensive at $982.13 per month so I started researching cheaper options and learned that we could get subsidies through the Maryland Health Exchange.
I signed up for MD Exchange mid-January naively thinking it would go through instantly and I could cancel my expensive EHealth plan and not put the baby on that plan. I was so wrong. After filling out all paperwork for our family, the site locked me out and my application froze. I could not get back in. The following is my futile attempts to get someone to help resolve my case.
1/28 - called Maryland Health Connection and explained the problem, was told my issue could not be resolved that day as it was a technical issue but that they'd elevate my case.
The following are my attempts in February to resolve the MD Health coverage - the carrot was dangling at $658.02 for myself and my husband and $63 for all four kids = Total for family $721.02. Savings from EHealth plan $261.11
2/6 – called Maryland Health Connection, was told my case was escalated again.
2/11 – called Maryland Health Connection, 23 minute wait time before live person answered, total call time 53 minutes while person put me on hold repeatedly to check notes, take smoke break, consult management and finally say they could do nothing.
Realized that the plan I had signed up for at the beginning of January was an HMO and that would not work for my travel plans so now I wanted to change the plan and I was still locked out of the system!
2/12 – called Maryland Health Connection, 20 minute wait time before live person answered, total call time one hour and 16 minutes and I attempted to explain that I needed to change the plan I had originally signed up for. Was told my case was being escalated.
Realized that calling two days in a row might be excessive so waited until later in the month for next call.
2/18 - got frustrated with waiting and complained on Twitter. Someone actually wrote me back and asked if they could help resolve the problem. I figured I wasn't getting anywhere with the phone calls so why not!
2/20/15 - called Maryland Health Connection, 19 minutes 30 seconds wait time, nothing resolved.
2/26/15 - Twitter MD Exchange gave me the option to change plans after I expressed the need for a PPO.
2/26/15 - At this point we suddenly we got temporary cards in the mail for the 3 older kids but nothing for the baby!
2/26/15 – called Maryland Health Connection, 25 minute wait time,
was told there is nothing they can do for baby or parent cards but to try calling State Medicaid since they issue the health cards.
2/26/15 - called state Medicaid and they were able to issue a number for baby and give it to me by phone.
I realized I needed to continue coverage with EHealth for both adults since the Exchange was not forthcoming in when our application would be resolved but at least I could take the kids off the plan since they were obviously now covered by the Exchange. This would take another month for EHealth to accomplish so I had double coverage which could get us into a lot of trouble if we had any medical issues that month as both parties would fight over who's responsible. Fortunately we had nothing come up.
3/3 - Twitter MD Exchange asked what date I wanted PPO coverage to start. Considering I had already paid EHealth for March coverage I confirmed 4/1 start date.
Yeah for Twitter! I then proceeded to finally cancel our expensive EHealth plan because I finally had confirmation that a new plan would be starting on April 1st!
So all my efforts to save $261.11 per month had resulted in multiple plans, a $2,204.56 bill that no one could seem to void and I had already canceled our EHealth plan! Good think I'm not the suicidal type! At this point I needed a few days to calm down before calling anyone back.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I'm so thankful we were blessed to receive a health insurance plan through Maryland Health Connection this year that has not charged us for any of these extra visits! What a relief it has been to not have financial burden piled on top of 'failure to thrive' condition! I know many people are against the Affordable Care Act and I've written extensively about our issues with the adult plans but for kids it's been extremely helpful.
Friday, November 06, 2015
Usually my girls wear skirts, they prefer to look girly but today I told Charlotte she needed to wear jeans because we'd be jumping in leaves and sitting on hay bales and I didn't want her pretty skirts to get ruined. She actually doesn't even like jeans so it took some fussing to get her into them and find an appropriate belt because she's far to skinny to actually hold them up. I think she looks so cute in her farm girl outfit. She was a huge help with picking up the leaves.
Sam and Charlotte got really possessive over their sides of the yard so I had to really work with them to rake in just one area so we could work as a team and get through a decent portion of the lawn. Here's the team after we finished (Vi's in Texas visiting Mema):
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Going back in time 3 years to when I worked full time in an office, held a board position for Women in Toys and traveled to Asia once a year with 5-6 domestic trips - I was busy but I had this long term goal to move our family to Maryland so I was very focused on that goal and ignored all the signs of strain in my life. I just pushed it aside and said I can't slow down until all these boxes are packed and we are successfully moved!
In 2013 we moved to Maryland in July and for the next 6 months things were upside down as we got used to life and I continued to travel somewhere once a month. I put this stress aside and said things will calm down soon, I just need to get used to Maryland and working from home.
In 2014 things got even busier at work so I felt like I just needed to "try harder" and be "more productive" with my time. I tried ignoring house work for awhile but that made me crazy and caused my anxiety to spiral out of control. I hired a house keeper and that helped reduce some stress. Work was extremely challenging, not because I was "working remotely" but because of employee turnover and new hires that were not performing well so work was spilling over into my lap and I was suddenly working around the clock.
I had a breaking point in February of 2014 when I knew things had to change so I joined a Christian organization that offered mentorship to professional women - 4WordWomen. I seriously thought they would give me advise on how to do MORE with the time I had. I thought more professional women must have the secret on how to do even more then what I had been doing thus far. I was so wrong. My mentor basically told me to stop saying yes to everything. She even questioned if I really needed to be on the board of Women in Toys - that was a shocker because I was so sure that I was doing all the necessary steps to maintain valuable contacts in my field and how could I possibly let that go?
My mentor questioned everything that I was doing and just put it out there to evaluate if I really needed to be doing everything I thought was so important. She really helped me to reframe things and I'm so grateful for the experience as it really helped me to calm down, work less hours by insisting on changes at work and doing the things that were important first rather than trying to cram everything in. The mentorship ended in the summer and I spent the rest of the year reframing my priorities.
Now here I am one year later and I no longer get upset when I can't do something. Two people came to me recently to help with a surprise birthday party for a dear women in my life. I know they want me to do more but I simply cannot and I'm okay with that.
I got a call today asking if I still want to be on the board of Women in Toys and I gratefully stepped down. I just don't have the time to put in that I used to and I'm confident that I can come back and be a productive member when I do have more time in the future. I think 3 years ago this would have felt like a professional failure but now I see it as just one less thing I have to do which means I can breath a little easier.
As I processed this decision to step down from the board, I realized my life in Maryland has become so different than I imagined it would be. I thought I'd maintain the same professional life that I had in Florida with the same level of travel, same board position, same everything and I realize now I was so determined to keep things status quo that I worked myself to the bone to make it happen until I realized I couldn't.
I am actually happier with this "less professional" life. I love eating lunch with my three year old and taking walks in the afternoon. My cuddly my nine month old is with me every three hours when she needs to eat. I get to spend a little time with the older kids when they come home from school. I still work long hours but it's with these wonderful little mommy breaks thrown in. My work has not suffered, in fact most days I'm very cheerful and happy due to being home and cozy with no stressful mornings of getting dressed for a commute to work.
The primary challenge has been finding balance when I thought I needed to be so much more. I still want to do it all but I have to be careful to NOT prioritize the rotten tomatoes in my life :)
Monday, October 19, 2015
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Saturday, October 10, 2015
First make sure floor has nothing small enough for baby to choke on. I work in the toy industry so here's a handy tip - nothing smaller than 1.25" in width or 2.25" in length and here's the chart we use:
product that's only $1.65 that you can drop toys into to see if they are too small for a baby.
Now for the fun ways to entertain baby:
This list is assuming you've already bored your baby to tears with his or her current basket of crinkly, teether baby approved toys and is now looking for other sources of entertainment. Don't be surprised if they are done with these toys in one week after crawling because this age is all about exploration and pushing the boundaries! Put all trash cans up or your trash will be sorted for you.
Play should involve discovery of new objects and lots of noise, these are my top go-to toys after having 4 kids and watching them play. You should be strategic about introducing new toys. After two weeks of crawling introduce a new toy. Then maybe a week later the next and so forth. The goal is to keep things interesting by introducing new objects each week and if you can't afford these more expensive toys do not worry because there are plenty of simple less than $10 items available.
- learning table - baby might not be ready to stand without falling so make sure table comes with removable legs, my kids have returned to this toy over and over from baby age through 5 years old! There is just something awesome about noisy toys that makes kids love it. I rate this high because it's been loved by all 4 kids and returned to over and over.
- cat piano - banging enjoyment will go on and on, actually this piano from Target is really well designed with pre-recorded music so when baby hits any random button it will play nice music for awhile. I don't even mind being in the same room as this toy.
- balls - babies love pushing balls around a room, preferably balls with holes that give them a grip, this ball with rain stick is really cool for noise and grip.
- Babies like to put things in and out of cups. You can buy sets of cups or save plastic sour cream containers and put objects inside that are big enough for baby to play. They will adore shaking the cup to hear the rattle sound and they will eventually figure out how to rip that lid off. Make it a challenge! I've looked for sets to buy but can't seem to find any to recommend that have lids however I can definitely attest to this being a fun challenge for a 9mo and throughout their 1 year old year.
- Toy phone that looks as much like yours as possible although it's really hard to fool a baby! They will do just about anything to get your phone and keys. I found this cute phone that looks like a smart phone so we're going to give it a try. It's adorable when they finally learn to put phone to ear like mom or dad.
- I've tried toy keys and they prefer the kind that makes noise like this style, teether keys are ignored.
- This Baby Einstein music player is less than $10 and has been loved by all my kids, it plays really nice music too so parents won't get tired of it. It might only last for a few minutes per play but I rate this high because of how often they come back to it.
- Plastic water pitcher left on floor, it's an odd shape and makes for great fun to bat around on kitchen floor, not everything a baby loves is a store bought toy. Just make sure the object is clean (no chemicals used in plant watering). This is really more of an example of how any random big plastic object can become fun when left on a tile floor.
- Soft blocks that make noise, I don't know what it is with these silly things but they've gotten good play from all my kids. They're easy to wash too!
- Anything a parent wears is fair game. I recently had a quart size ziplock bag with warm compress inside my bra to alleviate a clogged milk duct. My baby was relentless in trying to pull it out and nom on the bag! So you might considering doing silly things like putting a toy in a pocket for them to find. Just make sure the toy is big enough to not fit in the choke tube.
- Piles of paper, junk mail and a toy thrown in for baby to crawl threw are loads of fun but keep watch that they don't eat the paper.
- Put baby on a blanket, wrap him or her like a burrito and slide them around on the floor - it's hilarious!!
- Clear a shelf on a bookcase and put items there that baby can have but doesn't know it's "theirs" because the more it seems like it's the parent's the higher the value. Cups are fun with small plastic plates that can be thrown. Magazines are fun to toss about so I save catalogs that are nicely stacked so she can throw them around. Again make sure to keep watch that baby does not eat the paper and most importantly make sure the bookcase is mounted to the wall because strong babies have been known to pull down an untethered bookcase and that can be tragic.
- Books are very fun to nom on so make sure they are suitably sturdy.
- Blocks are great! Parents can build a tower and let baby knock it down.
- Play "bank robber" by holding baby so that he/she dangles just above a toy and let them pick it up and throw it down. This game is great fun and can go on as long as parent is willing to play.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
At our September 30th doctor's visit, Evie was 9 months old and weighed in at 13.6lbs which means she's put on 2lbs since 6 months old. Still tiny but she's putting on enough weight that the doctor's are no longer in a panic. Now their issue is that she must learn to eat with a spoon and come back in 6 weeks to talk about how that is going. I'm a little bewildered over this because our Florida pediatrician never pushed eating with a spoon this early. They want to send us to a specialist if we can't get her to eat with a spoon in 6 weeks.
Unfortunately for us, our baby is now extremely addicted to cookies! Remember when we were told to do anything to get her to gain weight and take in calories? We gave her the highest calorie shortbread cookies we could find. Now she only wants cookies.
She's still a baby who wants to be in full control meaning if you present her with a spoon, she will grab it and the food will go flying. So we're trying a variety of finger foods and some of them have surprised us:
* Sprouts - she enjoyed these during a visit to Noodles & Co
* Bananas - she occasionally will eat 1-2 small pieces
* Steamed Carrots - she ate a few pieces with the sprouts
Well that's about it! Our next visit is on 11/11 so we'll keep trying until then.
Monday, September 28, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The main ingredients are very flexible in that it tastes very similar regardless of what combination you use but my mother in law hates sweet potato so for her taste we make sure it has only squash. Here are some of the combo's we've done:
- Butternut and Acorn Squash
- OR just Butternut Squash!
- 2 cups pureed Butternut
- 2 cups pureed Acorn Squash
- 1/2 cup butter melted (1 stick)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup evaporated milk (8 ounces)
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces so it blends better
Pour the main ingredients into a 9 x 13" baking dish and drop the topping by small spoonful's over the top. Bake for 30 minutes covered, 15 uncovered at 350.
Single recipe (serves 4-5)
- 1 cups pureed Butternut
- 1 cups pureed Acorn Squash
- 1/4 cup butter melted (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk (4 ounces)
Pour the main ingredients into an 8.5 x 8.5" baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes uncovered at 350.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
At 7:10am this morning I was woken by the middle children who whispered to me "Mama! Wake up, it's PIRATE DAY"!
This year we invited friends and upon arrival our little friend announced "I'm ready for the epic play date to begin"!
The first adventure began with a treasure hunt and this way cool map that my husband made.
The mountains are the house and the ships are setting sail from our back porch. First my husband had all the kids sit at a table and review the map. One little friend suggested we take a shortcut to get to the X but they discussed how that line in front of the X was a bottomless pit so we could not possibly go that way!
Next we tried to get everyone to walk the plank into the kiddie pool of water. One little friend did not want to walk the plank so we made it optional but later she was doing it with the big kids.
"ARG! I shall make my sisters walk the plank", said pirate Sam!
Next we had lunch and calmed everyone down with a pirate movie. This was semi-successful. One child was too hyper to sit still so we took her for a walk, everyone else seemed happy to watch the movie but when we got back they were climbing everything in sight so we ended the movie and moved onto the treasure chest piñata.