April 15, 2014

Yorkshire 2014

This weekend we went to visit some dear friends in Yorkshire.  We met this family when we moved to Germany in 2009.  Over the last five years we have spent time together in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.  Sadly, this was our last visit in Europe because our friends are moving back to America in the next month.  While we are sad to see them go, we enjoyed saying farewell with a great weekend in Yorkshire.

Did I mention that when we met in 2009 we had one child between us?  Yeah.  We did.  And now we have five.

The adults are officially outnumbered.

When you live in Europe, you get really really good at sightseeing.  A trip to Yorkshire to visit friends is also an opportunity to see some local sights.  First stop: Newby Hall.  This is a gorgeous home and garden combination.  I loved the way the tour was conducted — we saw all the public rooms and a few bedrooms without retracing our steps.  Even though we were early in the season for the garden to be at its best, it was still lovely with the dogwoods and daffodils in bloom.

Posing like the statue in the garden.

Family photo at Newby hall.

On the drive back to Harrogate we stopped for a quick peek at the Ripon Cathedral.  I knew absolutely nothing about this cathedral.  All I know is that occasionally Mrs Hughes of Downton Abbey goes to Ripon.  That's recommendation enough for me!

Ripon Cathedral.

The cathedral's side view.  So beautiful.

I love Yorkshire.  I adore the dales, I heart Harrogate, I admire the moors, I appreciate the abbeys.  But I've always wanted to see the home of the Brontes.  Ever since I stayed up until the wee hours to finish Jane Eyre during seventh grade, I've wanted to go to see where the three literary geniuses — Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte  grew up in isolation.  

On Sunday a lifelong dream came true when we stopped at the Bronte Parsonage Museum.  This was my favorite house tour I've done in England.  Hands down.  It was that great.  If you love the novels of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne as I do, this is a must-see.

Three girls in front of the parsonage.

Family portrait in front of the Bronte home.

Copper statue of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne in the parsonage gardens.

My bigs and myself, the moor at our backs.
This is the view Emily would have seen whist working in the kitchen.

My Heathcliff on the moors of Yorkshire.

It was a fantastic weekend in Yorkshire.  We paid our respects to the Bronte sisters and visited with friends. 

Of all our time spent together, this is our first ever group photo.
I know deep down inside that our paths will cross again!

April 9, 2014

EAP — Six Months

A very merry half birthday to my littlest girl!

The knowing look, the sweet little grin.
Classic Teensers.

The sixth month of Annie's life was full of firsts: first foods, first stamp in the passport, first kisses, first first taste of mobility, first haircut, and first attempts to mimic vocalizations.

Just after she reached the five month mark, Teense tried some sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes were quickly followed by butternut squash, peas, avocados, apples, bananas, pears, zucchini, spinach, and parsnips.  She loves it all.  Everything except avocados, that is.  (What is it with my kids and avocados?!)

Annie went to Italy and to meet her Aunt Bev and Uncle Don.  

She gave her first ever kiss by request to her mama on April 6th and gave kisses to the baby in the mirror on April 7th.  

Teensers started locomoting effectively via a unique combination of rolling, pivoting, and scooting backwards.  The child can get anywhere, I tell ya.  It's frightening.

I trimmed a tiny lock of Annie's crazy long old man hair this weekend.  I had to wheedle and cajole Nick for weeks.  (He always hates the first haircut.  He says it takes away their "baby powers.")  If her hair looks lighter, it's because the greasy, long, black lock of hair has been stashed in her baby book.  You will thank me later, Nicholas.  You always do.  ;)

Last but not least, Annie has officially found her voice.  Our sweet baby has heretofore been eerily quiet.  She's not a big crier (except during the sleep training month...yeesh) and she's not a big talker either.  She hasn't done all the lip smacking, tongue clicking, and consonant babbling that her big sisters did.  (Which obviously already had me concerned about language delays.  I'm a freak show, folks.)  But in the last week or two that has all changed.  She has started clicking her tongue, blowing raspberries, and doing the "nanana" and "lalala" and "mamama" consonant repetition.  One morning our little Karate Kid yelled what sounded exactly like "hi-YAH" right before she sneezed.  Nick and I laughed SO HARD.  It was awesome.

At six months of age Annie weighs 14 pounds (13th percentile) and measures 24.75 inches (10th percentile).  She has moved out of the single digit percentile ranking thanks to all those sweet potatoes.  

You can see some of the tongue clicking and up-on-all-fours rocking in the video below.

While all these milestones are wonderful, so often I revel for hours in the minutia.  Like the perfection of her toes in the photo below.

Be still my heart.

The best part of this month has been having the bigs home for the last week and half.  Nothing on earth makes Teensa quite as happy has having Ella and Kate nearby.  She watches them nonstop and goes positively crazy when they make her the focus of their attention.  Even when it's brief, Annie is so happy to catch one of her sister's eyes.  And when they both dote on her, Teensers gets a little glimpse of heaven.

Mo-mo, Teense, and Bitzy.
A little glimpse of heaven for this mama.

When I look back at the last six months, I'm in awe of the little person our Lady Anne is becoming.  When I told Ella and Kate it was Annie's half birthday, they were crazy excited.  Kate declared her to be "zero and a half years old" and Ella said seriously, "Remember how sad we were when we didn't know Annie yet?"  Life is unequivocally better with a baby sister.

Annie is a part of the family and a constant source of joy.  

Little The Teense.
Zero and a half years old.

March 31, 2014

FB Said I Should Have One Child

Seriously.  It did.  I took the quiz twice   I changed all the soft answers.  Both times it said ONE CHILD.

Well guess what, Facebook?  I have THREE.  

Stupid Book of the Face.  It knows nothing, I tell you.

But I have to admit that maybe FB was on to something.  I rocked one kid.  I managed to hang on with two kids thanks to a clockwork schedule, lists (so many lists), and tons of color coding.  Organization is a strength, and I utilized my skills round the clock.  But three kids . . . well, it's all gone out the window.  My kids are literally running circles around me.  

That's not to say I don't love it.  I TOTALLY LOVE IT, friends.  I feel wrong-footed and dreadfully scatterbrained almost all the time.  But I love it.  I love that my inner mother-of-one is completely and utterly destroyed.  She was a rigid control freak.  Good riddance, I say.

But that list-making dictator sure was good at keeping up a family blog . . .

As a mother of three I take at least two dozen photos and/or videos per day.  But due to the random nature of said photos, I struggle to compile them into any sort of cohesive blog post.  My lazy solution is to throw out a photo dump (iPhone and regular camera) every now and again.  

It makes me a little sad that some of my favorite photos wind up lost in the crowd of so-so snapshots, but it sort of reflects the nature of life with three kids.  They move SO FAST, ya'll.  I snap a photo to capture the moment and they have already moved on before I even have time to take a look at the image I just snapped.  Seriously.  I do not have time to even review the photos until my kids are in bed for the night.

This whirlwind lifestyle has forced me to adjust my style as a parent.  If I took time to savor every minute the way I used to, I would get left behind.  I'm learning the ride the wave in the busy times and carve out time for contemplation and reflection during calmer moments.  (Which is to say after the kids are in bed or when I'm completing mindless tasks like dishes and laundry.)  Once again, I find myself jealous that Nick gets time to himself on his mammoth (10 minute bike ride) daily commute.  :)

The moral of this story: when you've got three kids, if you snooze, you lose.  If I stop to smell the flowers (I mean this literally, as in if I were to take a lungful of the delicious scent of hyacinth), my six-year-old is suddenly 100 yards ahead of me on her bicycle (looking back over her shoulder and waving...she's a blonde headed bike wreck waiting to happen), my four-year-old is screeching on the swings (and oh sweet lord, I'm 99% sure that child not wearing panties), and my five-month-old just put dirt in her mouth (if I don't remove it immediately she will vom...the gag reflex is strong with that one).  And in case you think I'm joking, that all actually happened today in the span of 30 minutes. That is my life with three kids.

In keeping with the beautiful chaos that fills my every single day, here is a rapid fire photo montage of life in the PJ household.

Teensers sitting pretty.
Lest it get lost in the shuffle, I put this one first because I love it.

Funny face!

Bathing beauty.  She loves to chew on a washcloth.
It's gross, but I cannot stop her.

Our copy of Frozen arrived in the post!
Dinner in front of the TV . . . a must.
Swimsuits and/or diaper attire . . . optional.

My hubs and my littlest babe.  Another favorite.

I'm so dang proud of this young lady I could just burst.

Mokie Fierce.  Be still my heart.
And be thankful she's actually wearing panties in this photo.

Slave labor: the true reason Nick and I had children.
Don't let those faces fool you for a minute.  They LOVED it!

Someone learned how to hold a bottle!

Sweet Teense.  I could just eat her up!

This kid is freakishly strong.

Our five-month-old in push up position while the rest of us sip our coffee.
I see a career in fitness . . .

Approximately 3 seconds after this photo was snapped I realized Kate was not wearing underpants.  I wish I were kidding.

Teensers and Bitzy on the slide.

Annie's working on the selfie.

These two littles.  So. Much. Love.

Cheeky monkey indeed!

Saturday morning shenanigans.
My four loves all in a heap.
Definitely a favorite.

Scroll fast now, ya'll.  If those pictures weren't flying up your screen, it wasn't realistic.  I am so incredibly thankful that my life is so very full, but I would love to push pause occasionally.  

I don't know what mamas did before cameras.  I truly don't.  My memory is like a leaky sieve lately, and without pictures and videos so much would be lost.  So often I bemoan the negative effects of technology upon our culture, but this time capsule capability is an unequivocal positive.

Three cheers for three kids and the chaos they create!

March 28, 2014

Florence in 2014

Earlier in the week Annie and I boarded a plane for an Italian getaway to Firenze.  What baby doesn't appreciate Florentine art, Italian food, and the world's finest gelato?!

The Duomo and its bell tower. Divine.

The first dome built in Italy since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Nick, Ella, and Kate held down the fort in England whist Annie and I met up with Aunt Bev and Uncle Don.  I have rendezvoused with AB and UD in France, Germany, Switzerland, England, and the Netherlands, but this was our first time to meet in Italia.  It was also the first time for Annie to meet her globetrotting great aunt and great uncle.

AB and UD in Florence.  Love these two with all my heart.

Aubrey and Annie at the Duomo.
(The Teense has not yet mastered the art of the selfie.)

She has, however, mastered the art of turning heads.
This girl had been in Italy for all of one hour and she had strange men all over her.

Italian men are okay, but she prefers her amazing Aunt Bev.

First thing on Tuesday morning we went on a walking tour of Florence.  This is the exact same Dark Rome tour we missed three years earlier, so it was a momentous occasion to finally see the interior of the Duomo and Michelangelo's David (instead of just a copy).

Super cool 24 hour clock inside the Duomo.
It was originally designed so that 24:00 (or 00:00) was sundown.
They adjusted it every single day.  True story.

At the Palazzo Vecchio.

A copy of the David in the spot where the original once stood.

UD and Annie discuss the finer points of the original David during our tour of the Accademia.

And after the tour there was gelato!

On Wednesday we spent the morning at the Palazzo Pitti.  Annie slept through the whole experience, but I thoroughly enjoyed the art, the architecture, and the gardens.

Looking out the window of the Palazzo Pitti into the Boboli Gardens.

Group photo (sleeping Teensers) featuring the skyline of Firenze.

Another group photo (Teense is still sleeping) in the Boboli Gardens.

After a quick lunch of pizza on the hoof, we joined an ArtViva tour of the Uffizi Gallery. Our tour guide was incredibly thorough and knowledgeable, but the audio was disappointing.  I probably heard about 75% of the commentary.

Teensers enjoys some tummy time before our tour.

Annie and AB discuss Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

Annie and I on the roof terrace at the Uffizi.

Priceless works of art?  Meh.
My baby girl is much more interested in potted plants.

Annie likes natural art.

Aunt Bev and Uncle Don joined us for breakfast on Thursday morning.  A few last minute photos were in order before the bambina bella and I said arrivederci!

Annie and her Great Uncle Don.

Elena Anne and Lena Beverly.
Aunt Bev has a THIRD PJ girl wrapped around her little finger.

So my baby has her first passport stamp.  She's five months old and she's been to Italy.  Even so, at her age Ella and Kate had experienced more of the world.  Ella took her first UK to US flight at 7 weeks of age while Kate went to Belgium at 3 months, France at 4 months, and England at 5 months.  Although she's a slow starter, Teense is going to top them all.  She is set to visit 9 countries (in addition to the UK) well before her first birthday.  

This girl has proven herself to be a top-notch traveller.  Airplanes...no biggie.  A strange pack'n'play...still slept 10 straight hours.  Guided tours, museums, restaurants, shopping...bring 'em on.  This girl is born to travel.  :)

Caio, Italia.