Monday, August 14, 2017

When excitement and dread intersect

Ryan starts 2nd grade in ten days and I am both super excited and super dreading it.

Excited for the obvious reasons but dreading it because I'm not looking forward to the homework battles to come. And, there will be homework battles. There's just no way around it.

I live in Loudoun County, Virginia which is the wealthiest county is the entire country. Yet, with all this money & resources that come with money, they haven't managed to figure out that it's been proven over and over again that homework is counterproductive to learning.
*I don't mean reading which should be done by every child, every night, at every age. That's a given.

1st grade was hard on the whole family and we started taking Ryan to see a tutor. The tutor then assigned homework which added to our battles.

Over the summer the tutor has been sending home two workbooks a week to complete and it's been a fight. James told the tutor this week that once school starts, do not assign two a week. We can handle one TOPS. And, truthfully, that too will be tough.

Simply put, it's been overwhelming. Ryan isn't going to be able to do sports this Fall because we need to put all our efforts into the academics and seeing how he handles his new class.

I wish I had the guts to say his teacher "Sorry but, no. Ryan will not be doing homework". The emotional & intellectual impact of homework drains Ryan, drains me and impacts the mood of the family.

We want our son to succeed just like all parents. But, when we know that homework just isn't beneficial and this age, it's frustrating that we have to continue to do it with very little to be gained.

So we head into another school year. A new IEP attached (which is a good thing in our eyes) and hope, hope and hope some more that this year will be different. Ryan is not enjoying the school experience and that makes me sad.

Good luck to all parents sending their darlings back to school. May the wine be flowing and the homework warfare be minimal.

P.S. Battle, battle, battle. I've used that word a lot here today. But, it's the most accurate word I have for it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hannah turns 2

Tomorrow my baby girl turns 2.
Another year gone and, of course, she's changed so much.

As I've mentioned often here before, she's a strong willed, determined little girl and it fills my heart with pride beyond reason.

Even when she's diving me nuts, I think "good for you little one, hold on to that spirit always".
Her face is so sweet, you'd think butter wouldn't melt in that darling little mouth.

She's having an all-girl party tomorrow (with the exception of Ryan and his friend) and I've ordered the most gorgeous cupcakes I've ever seen. I can't wait to share the pictures!

Another post coming after the celebrations are over.




Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thank you. Seriously.

Today I felt surrounded by love & support from friends and family around the globe.
The calls, the texts, the messages, the social media "likes" and even the supportive Slurpee (Jen knows me so well).

You warm my heart. 

You make hard days easier. 

The best thing in the world is knowing you have people you can count on and who will be by your side when called upon. 



Sunday, July 2, 2017

An abnormal day in the life of my family

What I'm about to write definitely does not show you a typical day but, accentuates how, when things go wrong, they go very, very wrong.

Late Wednesday night James had a sudden and intense pain across the back of his head that was, momentarily, debilitating.

I called our friend Robin (thank goodness for her) to stay with the kids who had been asleep for hours, then we headed to the emergency room.

Long story short, James checked out AOK. It took five hours and some seriously invasive tests (lumbar puncture!) to rule out an aneurism.

We lumbered home with some serious pain meds and fell into bed about 4AM.

Thursday morning was, as expected, a shit show.

At 9AM Ryan came into our bedroom along with Hannah.

Allow me to set the scene:
Ryan and Hannah, as we later found out, had been awake for some time and had been playing downstairs while James and I were sleeping the morning away.

So, when they finally decide they should maybe wake up mom and dad, after having rearranged the living room downstairs, it was quite a view. Ryan was wearing only underwear and Hannah, who had been put to bed in pajamas, was wearing no pajama bottoms and her top was around her waist. To explain further, the neck hole was around her waist with the arms of the pajamas just flopping down by her legs.

With no time to ask questions I hurriedly got them dressed so we could get Ryan to camp before the field trip bus left without him.

Then I took Hannah to day care where I handed her over with the words "Please feed her, she hasn't eaten today" (they had served breakfast an hour earlier and lunch wasn't for another hour) and got back "She hasn't eaten at all... like, nothing?".

Instead of screaming "Stop judging me it was a bad night!*" I calmly (I hope) explained that my husband had been in the hospital and I had to hurry out door to get my son to camp and please just find her something to eat (they did).

*The judging was probably in my head to be honest. The day care workers are wonderful and love Hannah to bits.

The week proceeding this ER visit my in-laws were in town. If interested, you can read all about that on my husbands blog.

As for the kids...

Ryan is now a rising second grader. As discussed in other posts, first grade was tough for Ryan. He's continuing to see the tutor this summer and will be attending summer school starting later this month.

He's enjoying camp a lot and loves the field trips to the water park the best.

Hannah is talking full on sentences now and, a surprise to no one, is rather bossy. Example: "Hurry up daddy".
She LOVES singing! She can sing ABC's near perfectly. "Bah Bah Black Sheep" is a favorite. She sings herself to sleep most nights which was a delight for my in-laws to watch on the monitor.

Her 2nd birthday is less than a month away now! She's the most precocious 2 year told I've ever met.

I hope, so much, that this lasts throughout her life. The world needs more smart, sassy & take charge girls and I believe Hannah is up to the task.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention we bought a new house and I can't even tell you how much I love it. I walk around filled with pride every single day.
We bought it from our friends who moved to a bigger house and they took such pride in this home that it was a no-brainer decision to buy it. They added so many beautiful upgrades and updates and just took amazing care of it.

I'm having a great time decorating the kids rooms and then will eventually move on to the rest of the house.

Well, I'm off to take Hannah swimming with Harper. Until next time...



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The mom guilt is strong

I am so glad this school year is almost over.
It's been a rough, rough ride for Ryan and, by extension, James and I as well.

Ryan's speech IEP (Individualized Education Program) came to an end which was great. His speech is age appropriate and mostly on par with his peers.

However, he was still very much falling behind on reading and writing. So, the school did testing and determined Ryan has ADD.
The good news is that makes him eligible to extend his IEP on the grounds of OHI (other health impairment). The bad news is, of course, he has ADD.

The poor kid has been tested and tested, met with counselors, social workers, reading specialists, therapists of all kinds, tutors, etc etc etc.
Truly, the list goes on and on.

He's exhausted.
I'm exhausted.

And, throughout the midst of this, we decided to buy a new house. Timing couldn't have been more awful but, the opportunity was something we didn't want to pass up.

On top of dealing with the ADD and the schoolwork troubles, he's dealing with a ton of anxiety. And, that's been manifesting itself in ways that have taken us by surprise (and him, too, for that matter).

It takes us hours to get his homework done. Writing twelve words on a piece of paper could easily take 30 minutes.

His extensive testing determined no learning disability. He tested average to above average in every category. But, that damn ADD makes homework & reading such a stressful time for us all.
There are tears nearly every night. Not always just from him.

I thank my lucky stars we live in a community that cares to figure this out and put a plan in action to help him be successful.

Now he has a teacher in his class each day who is dedicated to him alone while he learns along with the other kids with the class teacher.
This teacher sits with Ryan to help him stay on task and help him when he doesn't understand what to do.

As his mother, I want to take the stress and anxiety out of his tiny little body and absorb it all so he doesn't have to suffer even for a second. But, it just doesn't work that way.

I want to throw the question out to the universe... why my son? He's a sweet kid. He's kind, he shares, he cares about others. He loves his sister.
But, if not him, then who? Would I wish this on another? At least we have the resources to help him.

So, not only do I feel guilty that Ryan is struggling so much, Hannah feels the brunt of some of this, too.

When I get home from work, it's almost always straight to helping Ryan with his homework, which, as mentioned above, can take hours some nights.

Which means less time with her. Sometimes all I can give her is fifteen minutes before she's off to bed.
So, of course, I worry that I'm neglecting her because Ryan needs so much of me.

The pictures I get from her daycare during the day are priceless. I feel like I see her more through pictures than in person some days, particularly weekdays.

I just hope that I'm not creating emotional problems for her while so much of my focus is on Ryan.

I will wake up at 3AM to use the bathroom and then spend the next hour worrying about him. Thinking about what resources we haven't yet tapped. What we can do better in his routine to make it easier for him.

All this while also trying to pack and move.

I absolutely cannot wait for summer. Just that little break. Which will be shorter for Ryan because he will be attending summer school.

A shout out now to other IEP parents finding it tough to keep it all together. I feel your pain and I send love to you in solidarity.
♥♥


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cautionary tales about congratulating yourself too much as a parent

Last week, I pick Ryan up from school and, as we enter the house, he goes straight to the bathroom. Then I hear "mommy, I'm wearing two pairs of underwear".

I think to myself "huh?", walk into the bathroom and sure enough, he's wearing two pairs of underwear. The conversation then proceeds something like this:

Me: Ryan, why are you wearing two pairs of underwear?
Ryan: I don't know.
Me: Did you realize at school you were wearing two pairs?
Ryan: No
Me: How did you not realize when you went to the toilet at school?!
Ryan: I didn't use the bathroom today.

Which brings me to another concern altogether. James drops him off at 7:30AM. He comes home about 5PM. So the child went over 9 hours without using the bathroom?! Suddenly him wearing two pairs of underwear is the most normal part of his day.

_____

When I discipline the kids I always say "It doesn't mean I don't love you" as part of my lecture.

Last night Hannah bit Ryan (I know, I know) so, I smacked her hand.
Ryan then gave her a hug and said "It doesn't mean I love you, Hannah".

Of course I can't help but laugh loudly and Ryan says "What? That's what you always say mommy".
Almost kid, almost.

_____

As mentioned before, Ryan is a good kid. He's sweet, he's polite and nearly always respectful.
I've always smugly thought to myself "Well of course! James and I are great parents!".

Then Hannah came along.

As I drove to work today, her screams still ringing in my ears, I realize something crucial...
Hannah has the exact same parents as Ryan and damn if that kid isn't going to drive me to nightly drinking.

Maybe kids are hard wired at birth and parenting isn't as huge of an impact as we'd like to think. Perhaps it's a good 60% but, the other 40%, I'm coming to believe, is a birth personality.

The neighbors are probably still in shock from her morning tantrum.

_____

Even Ryan has the capability of shocking us.

Saturday morning he's sitting at the breakfast table on that blasted iPad playing a Star Wars game. He gets frustrated with the game and begins to cry those frustrated tears parents know well.

I take the iPad away and say it's time for a break. If the game makes you that upset, you need a break.

He then begins to have a tantrum the likes I have never seen from him. James tells him to go to his room, he can come back when he's calmed down.

Ryan screamed NOOOOOO over and over again so loudly even Hannah stopped dead in her tracks. He balled up his little six year old fists and tensed his tiny body up; veins were even popping out. I won't lie, I was stunned.

He stomped upstairs screaming & wailing and James and I just looked at each other, our eyes the size of dinner plates no doubt, and said "Well, that's uuuhhhh... new".

Later, I walked upstairs and he said "I'm so sorry, mommy".

It was easy to forgive because it was so out of character.
But, I did tell him he was grounded from the iPad.

And, not because I don't love him.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Three months in one post

I never intended to go quite so long without an update here.

It's not even like I haven't had any down time. I don't usually have time at work to write and when I get home, I don't even want to look at a computer.

The family had a wonderful Christmas with lots of toys and clothes, candy and cookies. I took off the week between Christmas and New Years and spent quality time with Ryan putting Lego Star Wars creations together. By the end of the week my back hurt and I was cross-eyed from helping Ryan with tiny little Lego pieces.

Hannah's favorite present by a mile was a princess castle tent. Seriously, $20 has never been spent better. She plays in that castle every single night pretending to feed her stuffed animals then putting them down for a nap. She covers each up with their own blanket (a bib) and pats them on the back until she's decided they've fallen asleep.

Honestly, it's the cutest thing I've ever seen.

She went through a biting phase at school that had me in total despair. However, it's been nearly three weeks since she's bitten a friend (thank goodness). I honestly believe the tipping point was a talk I had with her teacher.

I was dropping her off one morning and decided that her teacher and I needed to come up with a plan to put an end to the biting. Ms. Jennifer (Feffer as Hannah calls her) and I were talking and Hannah was standing there watching us, taking in every single word. At the end we both looked down at Hannah and she burst into tears and reached for me.

She knew we were discussing biting and I guess the looks on our faces were quite stern. We both cuddled her and told her we loved her very much and weren't mad at her.

She hasn't bit another person since that day.

Which brings me to another point...
The girl is wicked smart my friends. I know I'm her mom so I would say that but, it's completely true. Her teachers tell me all the time that she's just so ahead of the curve.

She says well over 50 words now and, truth be told, we're easily approaching 100. She says simple sentences and will follow two step directions reasonably well.

We've started introducing her to the potty and have had one success. We're not trying to potty train her but, just sitting her on the potty and talking about what she's supposed to do there.

This really is thanks to her BFF Harper who started this. Hannah saw Harper on the potty and showed her own interest at school.

Yesterday she turned 18 months old!
It's so cliche but, damn, that year and a half flew by quickly.

She doesn't come down the steps like a baby anymore, she actually holds onto the railing and steps down. She likes to run and jump and absolutely loves to dance.

Today she was about to throw something in the trash and I said "wait Hannah, there isn't a trash bag in there" and she said "oh okay". I swear I couldn't help but laugh!

She knows that after she eats, her plate goes into the dishwasher and if she can't follow that routine, she's annoyed.

Hannah eats and eats and eats! She doesn't say no to many foods at all. With Ryan being such a picky eater, this makes life easier. I know I can put anything in front of her and she'll eat most, if not all, of it.

She's a sassy little girl who doesn't hold back.

My gorgeous son...
Ryan is reluctantly expanding his food selection slowly but, surely. It's been a struggle since he was about a year old but, we're making progress.

He's happy in the 1st grade and likes his teacher. He's struggling with reading and is taking extra reading lessons but, does very, very well at math.

I was prepared for the exact opposite truth be told. I suppose because I have always loved to read and write and have never enjoyed math.

The extra tutoring is working, though. Hopefully we can get him caught up by the end of the school year. He's an excellent speller but, has trouble writing thoughtful sentences of his own creation.

He can read the words in a book but, struggles to retell the story he's just read. He's putting so much effort into reading each word correctly that he's lost out on the plot of the book.

Ryan is a sweet, loving and caring big brother. He is wonderful with Hannah and will tell her he loves her and gives her hugs and kisses every day.

I am so proud of the sweet and caring kid Ryan is. I admit to sometimes getting bogged down with concern over his academics that I worry about him to the point of stress.

But, the thing is, Ryan really is a good, good kid. The academics will come. We may have to spend extra time and money on it but, that's okay. That's what we'll do just like we did with speech therapy.

What is important is his character and we have no concerns there. His friends parents often tell us that Ryan is nice and polite and they love having him over.

He's a bit sensitive but, I'm learning to see the positive in that, too. The world needs more sensitive and compassionate people (men in particular), that's for sure.

All in all, I think we're doing okay in the parenting department. It's not always easy but, I have the best kids in the world and I wouldn't change a single thing.



Monday, November 7, 2016

A picture speaks a thousand words...

Because I don't have the time to put the past two months into words, I present you with pictures.
(Not even in chronological order. Who has that kind of time?!)

Fall School Pictures

Taking Harper for a little ride

Rainy Fall day

All smiles

Batter up!

First season at the machine pitch league

Pumpkin everything season!

Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two... (thanks Dr. Suess!)

A Storm Trooper at Trunk or Treat!

It would appear she's a righty

School fun run - Ryan did 36 laps!

And now he's a Cub Scout

Rocket launch

My FIL decorate these tiles that will spend the next 150 years on the roof of a Tudor Mansion

Class party

Trophy #4

So photogenic!

Big brother & little sister - melts my heart

We love Harper so got her in on the action, too!

Dear Santa...



Friday, September 9, 2016

I'm not saying it's over, but...

I am a mother of two small kids which means, I'm pretty busy.
Ryan plays baseball (no more t-ball!), does swimming, still gets speech therapy and might be joining cub scouts later this month.

Couple that with birthday parties and Hannah's growing social calendar, we're a pretty busy family.

I'm a working mom who also just volunteered to co-chair a big fundraising event (thanks Kelley for co-chairing with me - so awesome!) and I have many ideas about what I'd like to do next with the PTO after we get through this fund raiser. I am also the co-class mom (are you seeing a theme here? I'm pretty good at roping friends into helping out. Thanks Kim!).

The point of all this is to say, it's getting harder and harder to find the time (and energy, creativity...) to update the blog.

I'm not walking away from it completely. I just know that updates will have increasing time gaps.
I have a few posts in draft status that I've worked on here and there but never completed. My goal is to take the time to finish at least a couple of those before Halloween.

This blog has re-invented itself twice and, I hope to do so again after the holidays.

So... stay tuned and have a wonderful Fall!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Winding down summer

We're heading to the beach late next week for our first family vacation in a long time. I can't even tell you how giddy I am for this. It will be Ryan and Hannah's first trip to the beach!
(It's absurd to think Ryan has been to England but, has never set foot on a beach when we live on the East Coast)

It's hard to believe Ryan will be starting 1st grade in 2 1/2 weeks. It really feels like the summer flew by.

Ryan does summer camp at the same place Hannah is in day care. They've done weekly field trips to a local water park as well as weekly field trips to other locations like local farms, mini golf, etc.

I think my favorite thing about their day care/camp (besides the fact that my children are in safe hands, of course) is they have an app where they update you on the kids throughout the day with pictures.

I love getting pictures of my kids and what they're up to while there. It's like a little glimpse into their day.

The school is doing a spectacular job of teaching Hannah & Friends how to sign. The words are coming along but, in the mean time, it helps a ton when Hannah can use signs to tell us what she wants/needs.

So far she can sign for milk, eat, drink, more, thank you and again.

She will also do all the hand/arm movements for songs like Wheels on the Bus, Happy and you know it, Row, row your boat and other songs I don't actually know.

While I'd love to take the credit for how clever Hannah is, the truth is, it has so much more to do with her teachers. They work hard to teaching the kids all these things and preparing them for what they need to know/do in order to move up to the next class.

The first step was moving her out of the crib and onto a cot at school. I was extremely skeptical they'd get her to sit still without the bars but, they say she's doing great. Holy cow!

The second step was to take away the bottle and get her used to drinking her milk cold. Removing the bottle was okay. Cold milk is something we're still working on. She prefers it warm but, some days she'll accept it cold.

Hannah has one more swimming class left this summer and we'll be taking Fall off because Ryan will have swimming, baseball & speech.

I think we'll have Hannah pick swimming back up in the winter when Ryan's schedule is (usually) a little lighter.

I'm going to make at least one more post before vacation.

I've been reading blogs lately about how parents (moms in particular) only write the positive, sweet & cute things our kids do and how that can put pressure on moms who are reading it and maybe wondering why everyone has it easy but them.

And I will because, let me tell you, my kids are monsters as much as anyone's! I believe it's human nature to only post that one perfect picture on Instagram or to post on facebook about your kid saying something cute and funny.

No one wants to say "My kid lost her shit when I tried to put her in the car, wriggled away and ran into the parking lot" (true story).
We live those moments every day and they're exhausting. No, it's much better for the soul to remember when she came to me with a big smile and leaned in for a kiss and how Ryan still climbs onto my lap when he's tired.

But, I will share some of my most horrifying stories next week before I head out on vacation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hannah the party girl

Hannah's first birthday party was a big success!

It rained a bit before and a lot after but, during party time, it was dry and sunny - phew! The power of positive thinking!

I was concerned that so many people gathered around her would be overwhelming, particularly during the Happy Birthday song and the cake smash but, nope. She was perfectly happy and enjoyed the extra attention. She dug right into her cake and enjoyed every bite.

I really could not have done this so perfectly without my friends; so, huge amount of thanks are heaped onto Steven, Casey & Paul. I have so many talented friends who were happy to lend us their expertise to make her party the best.

Where I would have been happy to let little details slide, they were there to make it exactly right. They are all dedicated troopers and forever have my gratitude.

It was certainly crowded but, we all managed to be comfortable and have a good time. The kids were all really well behaved and the only tears that came down were from kids not wanting to leave.

More thanks to be given to those  who made donations to the Star Legacy Foundation in memory of Nathan who was also born in July.  And, of course, for the many gifts Hannah received.

I'm reminded of all the love and support that surrounds us everyday from friends and family.







As for Hannah's Birthday Celebration Giveaway - congratulations go to the winner Christy!

I couldn't have been happier when her name popped us as the winner. Christy is a fellow blogger who has been a tremendous support to me since before I even became pregnant with Hannah.

Please check out her wonderful blog full of pictures of her adorable daughter, Ellie.

I enjoyed doing a competition so, I'll do another one in a few months. I want to give away something that will be useful to those of you who have boys, too!

Happy August!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Hannah's 1st birthday party is this Saturday and I'm just not ready.

We have nearly 50 people coming to our home (what the hell was I thinking?!) and it's calling for rain. This is a pretty big deal because I was planning to utilize our large deck for the party.

The thought of having that many people in my townhouse makes me hyperventilate just a little.

To top it off, Hannah is supposed to have pictures taken Friday and the rain will make that impossible, too.

The best I can hope for now is a few hours of sunshine at the exact time we need it just like we had for Ryan's party.

Cross your fingers for me, friends!

P.S. There is still time to enter Hannah's birthday celebration giveaway!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Competition time!

In honor of Hannah's upcoming 1st birthday, I'm hosting a competition to win this Skip Hop zoo straw bottle!

Hannah's party is butterfly themed and this a perfect giveaway to celebrate her special day.

Good luck!



Click here to enter Hannah's birthday celebration giveaway!
(Open to US and Canada)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A tale of ten months

Ryan - 6 years, 1 month old
Just about ten months ago, Ryan started Kindergarten and today is his last day as a Kindergartner.

We met with his Kindergarten & speech teacher last week and they said so many great things. His standardized test (PALS) score was very high again which was a wonderful thing to hear.

We were given 1st grade materials for him to work on this summer so he'll start 1st grade ready to go.

They've been slowly sending assignments home that the kids worked on this year and a lot of the work is story telling. Most of Ryan's stories are about his family and it was so touching to read.

I admit, when we received his diagnosis of speech apraxia several years ago, I worried how that might affect his social skills and his education.

It turns out the worry was for nothing. Ryan has lots of friends, is a sweet boy and he's done incredibly well in school.

He's super excited about summer camp and I can't say I blame him. Those kids put in a lot of hard work this year and the break is well deserved!

Hannah - 10.5 months old
I started to list out her accomplishments over the last ten months, too.

Sat without support: 5 months
Stand while holding onto something: 5 months
Pulled self up to stand: 7 months
Crawled: 7 months
Stood without any support: 9 months
Walk with push toy: 9 months
First independent steps: 9 months
Fully independent walker: 10 months
Walking while holding items in her hand: Yesterday ;-)

Yesterday as we were giving her a bath, she was robustly applauding herself (for what accomplishment, only she knows) and James and I were laughing when it hit me; I can't remember when she first started to clap. It was a while ago but, I can't recall the first time we saw it happen.

It goes by so fast.

My first baby is going into the 1st grade and my last baby is a toddler.

In other words, I no longer have babies.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What I say vs. what I really mean

Has an adventurous appetite - will eat anything and everything that comes near her mouth (including cat food and whatever that was on the carpet) and God help you if you don't share your food with her.

Enjoys extreme sports - climbs up the stairs at lightning speed with no thoughts as to how she will get back down.

Is curious & spirited - will wreck the house faster than a Tasmanian Devil on speed.

Advanced debating skills - routinely counters directives by doing the exact opposite.

Sophisticated taste in toys - "If you give me another baby toy I will shove it down your throat. I want what my brother has and nothing less will do."

Excellent hand-eye coordination - practices hitting brother on head for extended periods.

Highly communicative - screams like a banshee when she doesn't get her way. Also, favors the word "no" over the word "yes".

Future Olympic hopeful - tries running when she's only just learned how to walk.

Keen sense of style - smashes bananas into her freshly washed hair and fights with you as you try to clean up the mess.

Brave - has no fear when climbing out of high chairs, launching herself down steps or off the bed.

Tenacious - She moves the box of wipes and James moves them back. She moves the box of wipes and James moves them back. She moves the box of wipes... (you get the point) until the day comes when James agrees the box of wipes are perfectly fine wherever the hell Hannah put them because we work 40+ hours a week and really, who cares?

Has gorgeous blue eyes that melt your heart - this one just speaks for itself.

I read this today; "One day your sweet baby will morph into a defiant mini-human with actual opinions". I feel you sister, we're there and... man-oh-man.


Don't let the sweet face fool you. No, really don't.
Seriously, you've been warned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

These boots are made for walking

According to Wikipedia, A toddler is a child between the ages of one and three. The word is derived from "to toddle", which means to walk unsteadily, like a child of this age.

So how about a child who toddles but hasn't yet reached one year old?

Well, I'm making the call for my kid... at nine months old, she's a toddler.


See? She toddles!
(Better quality videos to come soon)

This isn't new actually but, as everyone knows, if it's not captured on video (then posted to FB, IG & YT), it didn't happen.

If she wants to be somewhere quickly, crawling is still her preferred method. She crawls lightening fast, too so James calls her "Komodo" (as in dragon). 

We bought her first pair of walking shoes last week from Stride Rite and her teacher told me yesterday that she's much more steady on her feet now with the new shoes. No more crib shoes for this little girl!

Speaking of her teacher, she told me two cute stories about Hannah yesterday.
1. Hannah was pushing her bestie, Harper, around on the trike during playground time. Apparently Harper got a real kick out of being pushed around by Hannah. I so wish they had gotten video of this. They send me pictures and videos frequently but, this one they missed. Darn!

2. Hannah is a bit of a ring leader. I told Ms. Mayra (the girls teacher) how every time I come in, little Harper is sitting so quietly playing and Hannah seems to get into everything and be all over. Turns out, this is pretty much the case most of the time. Hannah is the one who pulls out the boxes of toys for her and Harper to play with.

The Principal told me yesterday that Ms. Mayra has asked for another mirror to be installed in the classroom for Hannah because she gets such a kick out of standing in front of them. They just installed a mirror with a ballet bar last week. I suppose Hannah just can't get enough of looking at herself. 

I was also told by the principal how Hannah likes to get into the dress up play box which they keep for the older kids. She's already refining her sense of style it would seem. 

Her newest skill is shaking her head no when she doesn't want to do something. This is one I'd rather have waited a while longer to achieve. 

In other news...

There are roughly 12 days of Kindergarten left for Ryan and then he starts summer camp. He's so excited about camp and can't wait to be done with school. Every day he asks me if Kindergarten is done yet. 

It was a big year of changes for him and some of it he had a hard time with. 

However, I'm proud of hard far he has come. He can read me his books now with just a little help with big words, can count money, writes well and is understanding concepts I know I hadn't learned at such a young age. 

We have a pretty good idea who is first grade teacher will be simply because his speech teacher made a specific request. 
But, that's for the fall (though, we're already being asked to buy next years school supplies by the end of this month).

Today, we look forward to summer camp and all the fun that comes with that!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Birthday, birthday, birthday & a field trip.

James, Ryan & I are all Taureans with our collective birthdays all inside of 12 days.

James - April 25th
Being an adult and having your birthday on a Monday means you go to work and pretty much treat it like any other day. His parents and sister got him Amazon gift cards which he used to buy computer games.

The kids and I gave him 2 lbs of chocolate covered Brazil nuts (his favorite treat) that we have to order online since we can't find it in stores anywhere.
Dinner was his choice and he kept it simple with Chipotle.

Ryan - May 5th
His party was done on May 1st and a local playground park. This is the 5th year we've had the party there because the kids just love it. Until this year, we've never had even a threat of rain.
All week leading up to his party it was calling for rain and I was worried the rain would ruin the party plans.
When the day came, it did rain all morning but, it cleared up for a few hours in the afternoon and it happened to be the exact few hours we needed for his party which turned out to be a huge success with 36 kids attending. We still haven't opened all the presents and it's been over two weeks.

As for his actual birthday... In our county, Kindergarten is still half day with AM & PM. Ryan is in the AM class and was sent to school with little gifts for each friend. His class sang Happy Birthday to him and he got a present from his teacher.
After AM Kindergarten he goes to private academy (fancy word for day care) for "extended Kindergarten". Here he got another chorus of Happy Birthday and he shared ice cream with his classmates.

Jessica - May 7th
On Friday the 6th, my work friends took me out to lunch at our favorite Mongolian BBQ restaurant. As always, it was delicious!

A Saturday birthday meant I could stay in my PJ's all day long - hoorah!
Ryan was supposed to have a t-ball game* but, it got rained out. I honestly can't remember what I did other than relax and play with the kids.

James picked up my birthday cake from a local at home baker who did a wonderful job. I was super impressed and she'll be doing Hannah's smash cake this summer.

I also received Amazon gift cards which I ended up spending on the kids and some items for the house.

Jessica & Ryan - May 12th Field Trip
I was a chaperon on the trip and had a group of six kids. We went to a local farm where we went on a hay ride, ate strawberries, planted sunflower seeds, pet farm animals & had a load of muddy fun on the playgrounds.

It's been such a wet Spring that the farm was still extremely muddy. So. Much. Mud.
Some kids love it, some hate it and some have no opinion at all.

My group were wonderful children and were so much fun. I had the kid that was always running twenty yards ahead (three of those, actually), the kid who gets distracted by anything and everything so is always twenty yards behind, the kid who is so scared of being separated that she practically lived in my pocket the whole trip & then my own kid.

While it was very much like herding feral cats, I loved it. Not the mud but, the kids were cute and sweet and gosh, so smart! One little boy and one little girl in particular asked to sit with me on the trip back to school and I'm telling you, these two are going to rule the world in thirty years.


Hannah
9 months check up stats:
Weight: 18 lbs 5.5 oz - 42%
Height: 27" - 32%
Head: 17.25" - 46%
That was a couple weeks ago and now she's just over 19 lbs.

As for milestones.. you name them, she's smashed through them.
She's started walking on her own this past weekend which is pretty damn cool. If she wants to get somewhere fast, crawling is the preferred method. The walking is just baby steps and she's not good at it but, we're well on our way now.

She starts swim lessons with her bestie next month and I'm so excited to see the two in the pool together.

As mentioned before, she moved up to a new class at school and she's not entirely loving it. She likes her new teacher but, it hasn't been as smooth as I was expecting. She's okay once her bestie & their new teacher arrive but, she's usually there before both of them. The teacher that opens their class in the morning tries to soothe her but, she just won't have it.

I know she'll settle down once she is used to her new routine, these things just take time.

In the meant time, the guilt trip is strong in this one.


*More t-ball games have been cancelled than we've actually played. It's been a super wet Spring!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Time for a change

I originally started this blog (Then named This Girl In DC Says...) in November 2007 as a single woman who hadn't yet met the man who would father her children.

In November 2009 I wrote my last post as a married pregnant woman. Then, for some reason, I took a four year hiatus. I can't remember writing that last post in 2009. I certainly didn't make a conscious decision to stop writing. I guess being married & pregnant and then a mother just got in the way.

In January 2014 I decided I should start blogging again because I was struggling with the ups & downs of TTC.

So I changed the name of my blog to Four Years Later... I wanted to connect with other women going through the same obstacles. And, I did! I met so many woman who helped me through all that. Most of them have gone on to become pregnant and mothers themselves.

It's now been more than four years later and my family is complete so, it's time for another change.

Thus, And then there were four... is born.

Here we are with another name change, another life change.

It was hard to decide on that name because, as you all know, I have three children. I gave birth to three beautiful babies one of which never came home with us.

Was this new name dismissing him? Is the new picture of the two big trees surrounding the two little trees forgetting that Nathan was here, too?

In the end I decided that no, he's not forgotten... he's not with us physically but, he is with us. He's the air around our trees in that picture. He's everything to do with Hannah being our family of four out in the world. At home, in our house and in our hearts, we're five.

The family we present to the world is missing one but, we don't get to change that. So, we move on as a family of four.



Thursday, April 21, 2016

Moving on up

In my last post, I said Hannah won't be moving up until she's about a year or so old. Well, the teachers and Principal thinks she's ready so, I've agreed to let her go.

For the next couple weeks, she'll do an introductory transition where she spends some time in the other class but, returns for naps.

She's been with the same teachers since she started there at 8 weeks old. This is a big moment and I'm proud that she's ready for it so early. I think it's a good thing for her to be around the older kids. As it is now, the youngest baby in her current class is just two months old. The difference between Hannah and a baby that young is the difference between an orange and a banana. They're both fruits but, otherwise, completely different in every way.

The new class currently has 4 students and she'll be the youngest & smallest but, I'm not worried about her. She's going to do great in there.

And, the other great news is, her bestie is moving up with her! Sweet Harper is older than Hannah but, they two of them are good friends and I really like Harper's mom.

Going up to this new class means having to wear shoes everyday. (And, like proper besties, Hannah & Harper spent time trying on shoes together yesterday.)

I'm prepared!


Here's to all new adventures for Hannah & Co!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The art of the (not so) humble brag

Ryan is about to turn 6 and nearly every night, we still have our cuddle time. He'll curl into my lap and we just sit together. I love this so much that I ache for it on the evenings he doesn't want to cuddle.

On Sunday he was tired & cranky and hurt himself walking down the steps. This brought on the tears so I picked him up and held him for a bit. When I put him down I wondered if that was the last time I'll have picked him up. When I put him down, was that it? 

I doubt it, he's still young and small enough that I'm sure the occasion will arise again but, we're getting so close to the day where I will put him down for the last time. Will I remember it? And, how many more evening cuddles do I have left?

James and I met with his Kindergarten & Speech teachers yesterday and they had some wonderful things to tell us about him. They both say he's very sweet, smart and wonderful to be around. They both mentioned how much he likes to talk about and write about his little sister. He has some focus issues that we're all working on (he's a day dreamer and also chit chatter like me) and he's easily distracted. 

I'm hoping these little concentration lapses are something he will outgrow but, in the mean time, we have to reinforce at home how important it is to listen & focus. As they say, Kindergarten is the new 1st grade.

As for Hannah - whoa!
I've written many time about how close she is to walking. She's climbing steps and standing without holding on to anything. I don't know how long it will be before she decides to take those first steps but, I'm guessing it will be between 9 and 10 months. It could be tomorrow - it wouldn't surprise me - but, probably not quite that soon.

We got a sheet from her school letting us know that they're going to start preparing her for the next class up which means putting her on a bit stricter eating & sleeping schedule. She won't move until she's about a year old so, there is time to get her used to that class schedule. 

I love her teachers and I will miss them so much when Hannah moves up. Those ladies are wonderful with the babies and they adore Hannah. I love walking in to be told they were arguing (lightheartedly, of course) over whose favorite she is the most. The bond they form with the babies is incredibly sweet.

But, like in all things, her and her friends have to move upward and onward. 

I talk an awful lot about how amazing my kids are. I can go on forever about how damn smart Hannah is and my goodness, Ryan is the most photogenic kid. 

Perhaps I've perfected the humble brag (sometimes, I leave out the humble altogether) but, I'm a very, very proud mom. The newness of Hannah has brought out my demonstrative nature even more. 

And, I'm perfectly okay with that.
 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tell me something I don't know

Yesterday I took Hannah to the pediatrician to have a rash looked at (it turned out to be nothing).

While there, Hannah did a bit of showing off and was cruising around the waiting room.

In the patient room the doctor said "I believe she'll be walking at 9 months!".

I nodded and agreed but, was thinking how we're not even close to being baby proofed enough for a walking Hannah.

Time to get crackin'! 

PS: (17lbs 8oz)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How do you take a cloud and pin it down?

Hannah turned 8 months old yesterday and I thought a lot about her personality as it's developed so far. The words that come to mind include brave, curious, tenacious (but, impetuous), determined and incredibly clever.

In other words, she keeps us (Ryan included) on our toes. Always, always, always on the move!  It would not surprise anyone who knows her if she were walking everywhere this time next month.

Hannah weighs just shy of 17 lbs and her appetite shows no signs of slowing. She's completely off puree foods and eats whatever we eat along with her bottle/sippy cup.
At day care, she eats from the school menu with just a few substitutions.

As for her milestones, we looked through the list last night to see what she should be doing at 8 months. The fact is, everything on the list was achieved weeks, if not moths, ago. She's well ahead of the curve.

All of this is wonderful and the three of us are extremely proud of Hannah.

My in-laws visited over Spring break and they had a wonderful time with the kids. Just like us, they were smitten with our little whirlwind.

Happy Spring everyone!

8 months old!
Easter 2016 (Ryan would have nothing to do with the giant bunny)
Hannah & Ryan watching the geese

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hannah the daredevil

My husband alluded to it a bit in his most recent blog post "Running before you can walk".

Things Hannah thinks she can do that she can't (shouldn't!):
Climb on the ottoman
Stand up without holding onto anything
Tackle the cat
Pull the entire contents of daddy's end table down to the floor
Eat a porterhouse (and the bone)

Okay I exaggerated the last one... a little.

(I fully expect Hannah to climb Everest by 1)

How many times did my heart skip a beat this weekend?
Too many to count.

How many years did Hannah take away from my life with her antics this weekend?
At least ten.

I dropped her off at daycare this morning and practically yelled "good luck, suckers" as I ran out the door.

I forgot my keys in the rush so went back to the classroom where Hannah was standing there smiling mischievously.

"Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world".

Indeed.

Watch out world, Hannah is mobile!


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Airport kisses

A few years ago, Guiliana & Bill Rancic received some negative press over their decision to put marriage before children.

The offending statement:
"We put our marriage first because we want to be the best role models for Duke possible, because our relationship is the first relationship he's exposed to... so if we're kissing and dancing and loving each other, it can only benefit him."

The thing is... they're right.

Too often, the relationship between husband and wife becomes lost when you have kids. And, nearly every time, that causes the marriage to become dysfunctional.

I'm certain we all know a couple who brought kids into an already rocky marriage. It never works long term and that couple inevitably will become part of the "1 in 5" statistic.

We hear so much about work/life balance which is so important. It's necessary for a healthy mind, body and family.

But, what about marriage/kids balance? It's just as important.

I've been guilty of putting my kids first. They rely on us for, quite literally, everything. By the time I'm home from dealing with unreasonable demands on my time at work, it's time for us to take care of the kids.

I'm often (okay, almost always) ready for bed before Ryan.

So, yes, it's hard to find the left over energy to be an affectionate spouse.

And, having dealt with the death of a child and then the very long process of conceiving again, I'm also guilty of treating my children as near enough to Greek God(desses).

But, it's true, it doesn't serve them well to not put our marriage first.

I've started to see more and more how it's affecting James and I. Rushed mornings makes us forget to pause for a moment and give a real hug that says "I love & appreciate you and we're in this together".

I remember, before the kids, James and I were separated for months at a time while waiting for his Visa to come through so he could move here.

When he would pick me up at the airport, we had movie scene worthy kisses. We were so happy to be together again.

Its led to me to ensure we exchange "airport kisses" as often as possible. It helps us connect again. It helps us remember we are more than parents... we are partners.

Guiliana and Bill weren't saying they love each other more than their son. The love is entirely equal. But, it's okay to steal a few minutes for just the two of you. In fact, it's okay to steal an entire afternoon (or weekend!) to keep the marriage strong.

Because, if the marriage isn't strong and you're worshiping your children more than your partner, it's doomed.
Maybe not today or tomorrow - but, without a doubt, someday.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Half a year already!

Hannah at 6 months old:
Weight: 15 lbs (28%)
Down from 32% at 4 months
Height: 25 3/4" (48%)
Down from 61% at 4 months
Head: 16 1/2" (32%)
Down from 41% at 4 months

Still tall and slim but, the margin is evening out more now.

She's eating solids and, I do mean solids. I haven't removed the puree's yet but, I'm feeding her more and more regular food (just keep it soft).

I guess you could say I'm working on modified baby led weaning. I'm over puree's and I want Hannah to have real food. She has a tooth (another is about to pop) and she's ready for it. She's been absolutely brilliant so far with eating what I've given her.

I'm well into the planning of her first birthday party. It won't be a huge affair but, it will be special.
Ryan's birthday is before Hannah's but, we have his birthday down to a science, it practically runs itself now because we do it at the same place every year.

I'm having a lot of fun planning a girly birthday party. After five years of boy parties, I'm in heaven!

Ryan is still being a wonderful big brother. Last night he got down on the floor during tummy time and shared his iPad with her. She was captivated by the game he was playing.

This morning she woke up in a grump but, when Ryan came around, she got a huge smile on her face. The sibling love is mutual. I hope it stays this way and we don't have to deal with too much rivalry in the future!

We had planned to let them stay with their aunt this weekend but, the forecasted weather has made us have to postpone. It's a shame because our house needs a deep clean and it's so hard to do with the kids around.

Like I told my aunt; no biggie, it might be fun to be featured on Hoarders - I mean, they bring in a cleaning crew - score!

Happy Valentines Day my friends!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ryan & Hannah

I'm certainly not above tooting my own horn - or Hannah's & Ryan's for that matter - but, I try not to be too obnoxious with the boasting.

With that, I am about to fail miserably.

Toot, toot because here I go!

Hannah
She's been battling RSV this week which is not fun. However, she's been a champ and has never lost her smile (or appetite). She's taking the nebulizer really, really well and she is taking the amoxicillin with no trouble at all thanks to a special medicine pacifier I found (it looks like the worlds tiniest bottle).

I'm warning you now world, our little girl is a feisty one, she will not be stopped.

Her teachers are routinely telling us that she's advanced for her age. They do new things with her and say to each other "look, she can do it!" or "look at what Hannah is doing" when she tries something new on her own.

It's one thing for a parent to suspect her kid is a little above the curve but when the teachers tell you, well then, you know you were right.

One of the mommy's told me she calls Hannah "super baby" because of the stuff Hannah can do.

All this and a beauty, too?

Well, yes as a matter of fact.

Carter's has asked to use at least ten pictures of her already. One they used on Instagram and stayed tuned to your email because Hannah will be appearing in your inbox sometime soon (assuming you get Carter's emails that is)!

I bought her tons of bows and such before she was born thinking I'd have her in a new one everyday but, the truth is, she doesn't need all the adornments. She's so pretty all the fluff just isn't necessary.

I still pull them out for special days and special outfits, of course.


Ryan
We once worried that he would never talk and now we can't get him to not talk for even a moment. His vocabulary has exploded since starting Kindergarten. He read a sign to James in the car yesterday completely on his own.

His favorite activity is building Lego sets. He can now work on sets for ages 8+ with minimal help. He's asked for some more advanced sets that's for 10+ & 14+ but, he's not ready for those yet. Not to mention, we're not ready to pay those prices.

He's a budding artist and I'm seriously impressed with what he can draw. James' dad and sister are quite good artists and that's clearly where Ryan gets the talent from (I draw a square with a triangle on top and call it a house).

He's always been the smallest in his group of peers but, I've noticed that gap is closing. He's still incredibly slim but, James was too as a child. It's a matter of time, I think, until his weight starts to fill out a bit, too.

He's an excellent (and so proud) big brother and he is crazy about his little sister. He's so sweet and wants to play with her all the time. He asks to hold her and asks me to take pictures.

We're so proud of Ryan's tenacity and creativity. He's a great role model for Hannah and I'm confident their bond will last into adulthood.




Until next time, stay safe and warm if you're in the path of the big snow storm coming (as we are)!

Friday, January 15, 2016

About Time

Before I get into this post, I want to say that I am in no way disparaging women who have gotten pregnant via IUI, IVF or any other way that required medical assistance. 

In the end, I don't believe it matters how your baby came (or comes) to you, as long as you get the baby.

I tried 5 IUI's myself and was starting the process of IVF when I fell pregnant with Hannah. 

I'm not speaking on behalf of the infertility community, TTC over 40 community or any other group. Though, I suspect that infertility unicorns will definitely feel where I'm coming from.

So here goes...

I started to write here because I needed a place to document my frustrations with month after month of failed attempts to get pregnant.

I documented all my failed fertility treatments and the sorrow that came with every miscarriage (three in 2014). I wrote about how we were starting to have the conversation with Ryan about the virtues of being an only child.

I was losing hope.

We switched doctors because we wanted to use the best in the area when it came to IVF. Even that doctor told us that we probably didn't have high chances of a successful IVF.
That. Was. Crushing.

I remember crying in the office feeling so full of despair.

The next month I was pregnant. I was pregnant and it happened 100% naturally. On our own, no medical intervention.

Now, looking back, it happened when it was supposed to. Hannah was the one all along. We didn't know it but, she was going to come in her own good time.

A doctor didn't sort through my eggs to find the best ones and then sort through James' sperm to find the best ones and force them together in a dish under a microscope.

Hannah is here because, despite huge odds, I released a good egg and one of James' "boys" were able to break into it at exactly the right time.

This is nothing short of miraculous.

It was supposed to be Hannah and that's why all the other attempts failed.

Of course, had I known, I could have saved us a lot of money, tears and medications that treated my hormones like a roller coaster ride.

But, I had no way of knowing that Hannah was there, waiting for the timing to be right.

I'll never know what made that month the right month. But, I do know that I'm so damn happy that it happened the way it did; naturally and at a time when I was convinced I was a fertility failure.

Hannah didn't need us to create her in a lab - she just needed time and for us to be patient. Because, she was always going be our daughter... we just didn't know it.





Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Likes and dislikes

Hannah is five months old and is becoming more and more independent (!). In some ways it's heartbreaking because it's going by so damn fast.

However, she's smashing through milestones so quickly and we can't help but be amazed.

I threw out the What to Expect the First Year long ago so, I don't really remember when certain milestones are supposed to happen. We pretty much rely on the doctor to tell us if she's on target or, we'll go back and look at when Ryan hit milestones to see if Hannah is on the same trajectory.

Her teachers are a good barometer, too. Recently when I picked her up, they told me how she's the youngest baby but, can do everything the bigger babies can do and even some things they haven't done yet.

Basically, that's her compared to four other babies in her age range but, it's still nice to know that she can hang.

As I said, her independence is really showing. Her teachers have a hard time feeding her because she wants to feed herself (bottle and spoon). Bottle, okay sure. Spoon... well, slow your roll kid. That's just a giant mess that mommy's not ready for. She grabs the spoon out of my hand and what I get back is a sticky spoon with pears and slobber all over it. Not at all delightful.

She took to puree's fantastically. Her very first taste was sweet potatoes and she made a face that said "what's this crap?". The second spoon full was "alright, I admit, it's pretty good" and by the third she was grabbing the spoon like a fiend who couldn't get enough of those wonderful sweet potatoes.

With that being said, it's obvious she prefers pears to sweet potatoes. We're sticking with those two for the time being.

Moving on to what she likes and what she really doesn't like...

Likes:
Sucking on her toes
Sucking on everything that comes remotely close to her mouth
Her new teething lion - she bites into that like it's a battle... only one can come out alive
Laughing
Grabbing mommy's hair (and refusing to let go - seriously, she has a death grip on my hair)
Feeding herself, thank you very much
Music

Dislikes:
Socks
Carseats
Having her face wiped (who can blame her?)
Having her nose suctioned (again, who can blamer her?)
Being alone for more than ten seconds (hey, where did everyone go?!)

I love seeing her personality blossom and her experiences shape her understanding of things around her.

She's got fantastic and loving caregivers at school and it warms my heart (and my mind) so much to see how good they are with her, and all the babies. The women are so sweet and patient and even noticed (before we did) when she was ready to move up a nipple size on her bottles.

I could post an entire book on how wonderful Christmas was for both of my kids. Suffice it to say Santa and family (and friends) were generous to them both and, above all, they were (and are) surrounded by a tremendous amount of love.

We don't have a huge family, but, it's a tight and loving family - on both sides of the Atlantic.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, too.

I'm already composing the next post but, I'm waiting on events to unfold before I hit publish.
The truth is, I hope that post comes later than sooner but, it's not in my hands.

For now I'll just say I'm wishing you all a happy and safe New Years!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A December day in London that changed my life

A couple days ago, my husband wrote a blog post about the day we met. He did this in his usual British sense of humor using colorful words and phrases that make me cringe.

But, the bottom line message was so sweet and loving that it really touched me.

The thing is, I have been composing a post about my husband in my head for a couple months. Never really putting a solid theme or construction behind it.

In celebration of having met him 8 years ago, today is the day I put thoughts into words and words onto paper (well, blog).

Our first face-to-face meeting was in London in 2007. I was there with a couple friends on vacation because there is nothing more wonderful than London at Christmas time (and, umm... Spice Girls. But, I'll get to that).

However, our story starts about 18 months before that meeting.

We initially "met" online. No, not a hook-up website or dating website. Nothing like that. We had a shared love of soccer. I was one of the few Americans on this forum and I used the word "soccer" so, James put two-and-two together and thought "American". So, it was my Americanism that made him PM me.

We talked as friends for the next 18 months before we met. We were both in the dating game and would talk about dates, friends, soccer... just chitchat you'd have with any friend.

Sometimes we'd go long stretches without talking at all. Sometimes we'd talk well into the early morning and he'd get up and go to work without having slept because he was chatting to me.

He talked me off a few relationship ledges, too. He was there for me when I needed him. I knew he was a good guy but, I never thought of him as anything beyond a long distance friendship.

And then, the Spice Girls announced a reunion tour.

Hell. Yes.

Sure, I could see them in the United States (and did). But, what better way to experience an epic event (I mean, Ginger was back!) than right in London?!

So, I convinced Paul and Jen that we should head to London.

I sent James a message that I'd be in London in December - want to meet up?

Well, he tells that part of the story best (and, err... graphically) so, go check out his link.

After we met in person, I liked him right away. I started to think of him differently. We met up a few more times after that initial date.

Then Paul and I headed off to Belgium for a few days. While I was in Belgium (LOVE Belgium, will definitely take the kids there some day) I was texting James the whole time. I was falling for him.

From Belgium it was back to London but, only long enough to catch a plane back to the US.

When I returned home, I invited him to come visit. And, he did. Five months later we were engaged. We discussed where we'd live. USA or England? It had been my dream for quite some time to live in England and James was happy in England. He lived very close to his parents, owned a house, managed a soccer team and had friends he'd had since he was a toddler.

But, moving so far away scared me more than it scared him. So, he agreed to come here.

The next 18 months was filled with immigration paperwork, invasive interviews, thousands of dollars, a ton of trips to England and, finally, a trip to the United States embassy where James was approved to move to the USA.

He sold his house, nearly all of his belongings, walked away from a job where he was well paid and had a company car, said goodbye to family & friends and boarded a plane to a new country that he had only visited twice before.

He did something huge that I hadn't been brave enough to do and, he did it for me.

I suppose many would wonder if, had he insisted on staying in England, I would have moved there?

Yes, I would have. England feels like home to me and James' parents and sister had given me a wonderful welcome to the family. His friends were funny and also very welcoming so, I would have been fine, even happy, in England.

But, again, I wasn't brave and he was. Which is funny because, between the two of us, I'm definitely the more adventurous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, carpe diem type of person.

Eight years, three kids, four cats, four addresses & some devastating events later... here we are.

James is a loyal husband who loves his kids and his wife. He works hard for his family and is ambitious in a way I've never been. He excels at his job, is well respected and his future is pretty well mapped out at his company.

I can't tell you how proud I am of him.

He moved to the United States on a wing and a prayer with no job lined up and had to work at Target for about two years just so he'd be able to contribute. It mattered to him.

He was a stay at home dad during the day, a Target supervisor at night and he did it all extremely well.

Even now, he still does the family laundry, nearly all the cooking, school drop off's... you name it. He's a hands on dad and I love him for it.

My life took a direction I never even had considered that day 8 years ago.

Now, I can't imagine it being any other way.
And, I'm pretty sure I really do have the best husband ever.