Monday, January 31, 2011

Picky Eater

Parker used to eat anything we would give him. When he hit the age of two, this changed a little, but he would still eat his veggies, and usually anything that we made, and could talk him into eating. He's always been up and down with how much he ate (depending on growth spurts, his mood, health, etc). the past few months....his tastes have changed. We started noticing this when we gave him his favorite meal for lunch- chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and peas, and he gagged on the macaroni and cheese and literally lost his lunch! No more macaroni and cheese. At the next meal where we had peas, he refused to eat them and I had to bribe him with ice cream to take one bite...well, that one bite didn't stay down and he lost it again! No more peas. He used to love to help me make homemade pizza and eat tons of he just likes to help and refuses to eat it. He used to beg us for peanut butter and jelly he asks for plain bread. (Gross)! He used to love to go to the "Taco Store" (El Mezcal) and eat when we go, he asks for chicken nuggets and french fries. His favorite food used to be spaghetti...the other night I made it and he took two bites. He used to love pizza of all he'll only eat Tony's frozen party pizzas. (Bleck)! He won't even eat applesauce anymore! What is wrong with my child!!!??? I'm trying any new recipe I can find, but nothing seems to be a good fit with Parker's appetite!!! I need some ideas!!??

Sunday, January 23, 2011

On My Mind...

Recently, I've seen an abundance of posts on Facebook made by my stay at home mom friends that talk about being a stay at home mom and how hard it is. As a "working mom" these posts make me stop and think about my own world as a "working mom" and I started thinking about my opinions on these posts. While I DO NOT doubt that being a stay at home mom is hard work (I am kinda doing it right now and it is definitely a selfless job, where your world is devoted to your little people), I think these posts need to be changed to include being a parent in general as being the hardest job in the world! Whether you're a stay at home mom, a working mom, a stay at home dad, or a working is hard! And, while I am biased (because I am a mom, not a dad), I feel that being a mom in general is the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. It's not hard because I am a working mother and it's not hard because I am at home right now, it's hard because, as a mom, I am constantly trying to catch up with life and working as hard as I possibly can so that my kids can have the very best life!

I love being a mom, but I do know that it can be very overwhelming at times- like today, when I left the house with both boys in tow to run a few errands, by myself, for the first time! Life definitely threw me some curve balls today, but I've learned to either dodge the ball or get hit square in the head by the ball and laugh at myself! As mothers we are constantly trying to perfect our children's worlds and I'm not sure if this will ever happen, but I'm gonna keep on trying! Where we get caught is when we try to be "super mom" and we don't stop to soak up the moments in our lives that really matter with and for our children.

So...if you're one of those friends who has posted about the hardships of being a stay at home mom- please know that you are right- the purpose of this isn't to bring you down- the purpose of this post is just my thoughts on the hardships on being a parent...or a mom, in general. As a working mother, it's hard. It's hard when I'm at work (with constant thoughts of my children and hoping I've made the best decisions possible for them) and it's hard when I'm at home in keeping up with the housework and having quality time with my boys. But, I think that every decision that we make for our kids, whether it be as a mom who stays home with her kiddos or one that works, is making that decision with the best possible intentions for their family and their kids. For me, working is the best option for my family- I can provide a great income for my family and my kids are better for having me work...whereas, a lot of my good friends are staying home with their kids, because that is what works for their family.

This is just something that's been on my mind lately...I am thankful for my time at home with my boys and I know how much it means to my family and for me, emotionally, as a parent. Thank God for those of you who have the stamina to stay home with your kids (and those of you who watch other's kids), but, more importantly, thank God for every caring parent in this world!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy Birthday!

On January 20, 2011, we celebrated not one, but two moments in Birth Day history in our family- Andrew turned TWO MONTHS OLD and Parker turned FORTY MONTHS OLD! Realizing that Parker is 40 months old, made Brandon and I stop and think of just how fast time really does pass us by and that while we are super tired all the time with Andrew's sleeping habits, in just 38 short months, he'll be as big as Parker and we'll be wondering what happened to our two baby boys.

Here are some pictures of the boys on their "Birth Day"....which will always be the 20th of every month for the both of them (I love it that they were both born on the 20th of their birthday months). Nope...we didn't have a celebration, but Parker, Andrew, and I spent the day playing and when Brandon got home he took Parker (the big boy) sledding at the local city park.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Mommy Bling!

I love being the Mommy- I am the queen of our home...well, Bella might beg to differ...and my boys are all so sweet to the Mom of the house! When Parker was born, Brandon gave me a bracelet with Parker's name on it and a birthstone charm. I wore it everyday- I loved wearing it to work to look down and see the reasons why I work so hard, I always got compliments on it and I loved explaining who Parker is to complete strangers, and I loved the fact that Brandon picked it out just for me as a new Mommy! I have two little guys in my life and it is time for some new Mommy Bling! With Andrew's fast arrival into the world, Brandon did not have time to get me the "bling" that I wanted and he wasn't quite sure how I wanted to wear my "bling." To be honest, I wasn't sure if I should add to the Parker bracelet with another strand or if I should get a completely new piece of jewelry. So, after the hustle and bustle of Christmas, I got on Etsy and I made up my mind- it was time for something new, it was time to not only show the "addition" to our family, but show the "completion" of our new family.

My bracelet arrived the other day and I LOVE it! Although I haven't had very many opportunities to show it off and tell the story of my family to complete strangers (let's face's so cold outside and I have a 2 month old, I just haven't had a reason to wear it in my sweats while doing housework and caring for Andrew and Parker), I know there are many years that to come! I can't wait to wear it to work and look at my wrist to remember my reason for working so hard and I can't wait to tell others about my family!! I feel so special wearing my new Mommy Bling!

I love this new Mommy Bling!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Our Bella Girl

Lately our lives have been consumed by making sure both of our boys are fed, clothed, bathed, diapers changed, etc...and I've written a lot about these two little boys of ours and what they mean to our family. Today I am thinking about the one part of our family, that is always in the picture, always sweet to us, always ready to snuggle, never cries, never talks back, and never argues, and she always seems to know exactly what we need...our Bella Girl. Our families know Bella- she typically travels with us wherever we go- but, I've failed to talk much about her or tell her story on the blog.

Bella is our sweet black lab. She is perfect...sometimes moody and doesn't like strangers...but, she is the perfect dog for our family. Here is Bella's story...

Brandon and I got married on October 23, 2004, Brandon started a new job at the University in September and then on November 5th, I also started a new job at the University. We moved to Ottawa in November and started our lives together there. We were stressed....newlyweds, new jobs, a new home....and although we were totally, blissfully in love and excited about our lives together, we were stressed (repeated). I wanted a dog so bad....Brandon kept saying that we didn't have the yard for a dog (we were renting a duplex, until we found the perfect home), or the time to train a dog.

But, being the new, sweet husband that he was (and still is), Brandon surprised me in early December with a little black lab. She came from a farm in Wellsville and was covered in fleas...but, oh, was she the sweetest little thing I'd ever seen! I walked in the door that night after work and there she was, with a big red ribbon on her neck, waiting to be loved and cared for. I was so happy and so excited about this new addition to our family! The months that followed were almost like having a baby- we'd alternate getting up in the bitter cold to take her out to potty in the middle of the night (we didn't have a fenced in yard at the time), we would come home from lunch and immediately after work to find her in her kennel, with her tail wagging, ready to run and play! She was our baby and such a sweet girl!!

We trained her, fed her, snuggled, and loved on her- she is our baby girl! We would come home from work and say, "Where's my Bella Girl," and she would get so excited and run around like a crazy woman! Bella learned how to ring a bell on the door when she needed to go outside, and eventually, we moved into our house (that we say we bought just for Bella), where she had her very own yard. She is a special dog...even today she completes our home and our family.

When Parker was born, Bella wasn't so sure about the new addition to our family. Every time he cried, Bella would leave the room and whimper, when Parker learned how to crawl (and could chase Bella) you could tell she was mad, but she let him do it anyways! As Parker has gotten older, Bella has become his best buddy- his girl, as Parker calls her. They lay together on the bed and watch cartoons, they play together in the basement, Parker gives her kisses (and Bella gives Parker kisses). Parker takes care of Bella and she loves on him...she even sleeps in his bed with him every night (even if he isn't here, she will sleep in his bed).

When Andrew joined our family, we weren't sure how Bella would react...but, Bella loves Andrew just as much as she loves Parker! When Andrew cries in the middle of the night, Bella is the first one down to his room and sometimes she even runs back up to our room to make sure we heard him! When I get up with Andrew in the middle of the night, she comes down with me and lays on the floor in his room (sometimes she even goes in to Parker's room to check on him). Bella has tried to kiss Andrew (she's gotten him a couple times) and when she does, Andrew loves it...he kicks his legs and smiles! Bella loves these boys and they love her!

I can't imagine our lives without our Bella Girl and I am so happy that my family has a dog that cares for us- she is OUR best friend! I love my kids and I love my husband, but there's just something about Bella that makes me feel warm and complete. Maybe it's because she joined our family when Brandon and I needed something fun and different to bring us closer together as a married couple, maybe it's because she's been with us through so many highlights in our lives, or maybe it's just because she is always there- quietly making sure that everyone in our family is safe and happy.

Yep, Bella Girl is our girl and I am so happy that Brandon brought her home that day in early December- what a difference she makes in our lives.

The Love of a Little Boy

Nothing can compare to the love that we have for our children. They are our world, they are our reason for being, and they bring us so much joy (and a lot of laughter)! Parker is a funny boy...he's usually telling me I have a "squishy tushy, like a marsh mellow" or telling me to "stop singing!" because I'm too loud, or he's telling me a fact, such as, "Actually, Mom, this DS is for big boys not for moms," etc. Usually he is right about the things he is saying and you know it's just the innocence of a little kid that is coming out of his mouth. But, in between these (usually loud) comments, my little boy has learned how to show his love and kindness for others.

I first knew that Parker loved his parents, when he made a special "I love you" sign. When Parker was little, we were always teaching him signs- more, milk, etc. One of the signs we desperately wanted him to learn was "I love you." This is a hard one. We tried and tried and tried to teach him. One day, after showing him the "I love you" sign, Parker held his hand up with his middle finger behind his index finger, his thumb bent in slightly, and his pinky turned inward. We quickly caught on that this was Parker's way of saying "I love you." For as long as I can remember, we've been doing this with Parker, and no matter how much anyone else tries to replicate it, it's never quite right...except for Brandon and I. It's our special, "I love you" sign and we've even added in a little kiss in the tip of our fingers, when we're feeling extra loving.

And, while this sign is still our special way of showing love in our family, as a parent, you can't wait for your child to be able to tell you how much they love you. As Parker has grown up (from his sign language days), he learned how to say "I love you" and this is fun to hear, but often these three words get thrown around all day and they become something not quite as special as they should be. This is what this post is all about- hearing that one moment, when your child understands the meaning of love and uses it in a context that shows just how much they understand their love for you. And, this is where my story begins:

Parker and I were in the car, we were looking out the window and talking about the snow. Parker told me, "Mom, the snow means that it is Christmas."

Let me explain- In the weeks (and months) leading up to Andrew's birth and Christmas, we kept telling Parker that when it snows, that means it is Winter and Baby Andrew and Christmas will be here, so this is where he learned this.

I told Parker, "Actually, the snow came after Christmas...Christmas was when you got all of your new toys and opened all of your gifts." Parker replied, "Oh yeah, Mom, I am one lucky kid."

Another explanation- Before Christmas, we cleaned out our closets and the toys in the basement and we took it all to the Good Will. In doing this, we explained to Parker that some kids don't get very many toys for Christmas, so it is nice to share the toys we don't play with and the clothes we don't wear with them. When he asked me why, I told him that some boys just aren't as lucky as he is to have all of the new things that he has.

Back to the story- I told Parker, "Yep, you are a lucky boy." Parker then said something that I will never forget...Parker said, "Mom, do you know why I'm lucky?" I asked him why. Parker replied, "I'm lucky because I love you." Now sitting in the car, in the Wendy's drive thru, I start to get teary eyed because I know that Parker finally understands the meaning of the words "I love you."

Parker shows his love for his favorite people in many ways- with Andrew, he sneaks in kisses when he thinks no one is looking, with Brandon, it's when he asks him to play the "crazy game" with him, he shows his love for Bella when he snuggles her in his bed every night, he gets the biggest grin on his face when he sees his Aunts or his grandparents, and I know he loves me when his face lights up when I pick him up from Sherry's house or when we're playing a game and he is having fun, but when he said this to me the other night, my heart melted and I knew that the love of my little boy was special. I learned just how much the love of a little boy means to me....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let it Snow!

Yesterday was Brandon's first (official) day back at work, it was Parker's first day back at daycare, and it was our first BIG snow this winter! What a day! Parker and Brandon were happy to get out in the cold, snowy weather (because it meant that Parker got to wear his snow boots and tromp around the driveway). Brandon spent his day at work and Parker spent the day with his buddies at Sherry's house...meanwhile, Andrew and I got to stay warm indoors and have a very quiet day at home (with Bella, of course). I couldn't believe how much snow we got! It just kept falling and falling and falling.

Brandon told Parker he would pick him up early (around 4:00 pm), and when Brandon showed up to get him early, Parker said, "Dad, I wanted you to come sooner, you didn't come get me early enough!" He's too smart!! When Parker and Brandon came home, they got all bundled up (Parker even exclaiming, "Am I going to wear THOSE pants..those are funny pants?!") and they headed outside...well, Andrew was napping, so I followed them out with the camera and got a few shots of these silly boys. Of course, Parker's neighborhood buddies were outside enjoying the white powder, so it made the evening even more fun!

When we came inside we enjoyed bowls of chili, with some "indoor s'more's" and hot chocolate for dessert! What a fun way to spend this snow day!!

Getting ready to go outside....Parker is already at the age where he doesn't want to stop and let me take his picture. Geez, Mom, can't we go outside already!

Parker loves the snow...last year when we had ALL of that snow, we stayed out for hours!! Well...Brandon and Parker were out there for at least an hour and a half. It kept on falling!

Parker and his neighbor buddies LOVE to play outside together and this is the first time they've been able to play together in the snow! In the summer time, as soon as we pull in the driveway at 5:00 pm, all of the neighbor boys (10 little boys!) are out running from driveway to driveway playing and laughing. Well, today was the first time they got to play together in the snow and they had so much fun together! We love these neighborhood buddies!

Andrew had a good day indoors and he can't wait until the first snow of 2012, when he will be able to go out and play with his friend buddies! (Yes, there are more boys on our street that are Andrew's age!)

I'm sure we have many more years of getting bundled up and playing in the snow...and this year was extra exciting because Parker's little memory is in full swing and he is remembering everything that happens in his life...including the excitement of the first snow!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Quick Comparison

Although Andrew was born 4 weeks early and was considered premature, he is moving right along in developing his personality and his good looks! Tomorrow Andrew will be 7 weeks old and he is growing so fast and has a personality that is very stubborn, but also very predictable!! I don't like to do this, but I find myself comparing Andrew and Parker (I know everyone does this with their children) and I'm noticing a lot of similarities and a few differences. The most obvious difference- Andrew was 4 weeks early...Parker was late. Andrew is stubborn...Parker was very laid back!! Andrew is very predictable (with his schedule and his reactions)...Parker was hard to figure out. Andrew loves to sleep (all day if we let him) but also loves to eat- every 3 hours like clockwork...from birth, Parker has disliked sleeping and has always been way too busy to stop and eat- even as an infant. At 7 weeks, I remember Parker cooing and smiling at us frequently....Andrew has yet to smile while he's awake (although, I can see the smiles in his eyes when he gets excited) and his cooing is more of a grunt. At 7 weeks, Parker was sleeping more at night and hardly at all during the, Andrew slept for at least 9 hours and will probably be awake tonight for a couple of hours.

Despite their differences, these two boys are definitely brothers and they have a few things in common- they both love to be held and snuggled (something that we love), they both think the dog is the most amazing creature, they both love your undivided attention, and much, much more. The characteristic that I love the most that these two brothers have in common is that they are absolutely IN LOVE with each other. Andrew loves the sound of Parker's voice and whenever he hears it he instantly turns toward it and lights up...which is good because Parker loves to be next to Andrew, talking to him, kissing him, touching his hands and face, and trying to get Andrew to "play" with him. They have a brotherly bond that is amazing and so much fun to watch unfold.

So...both boys are proving that raising two boys will be different, but they are also proving that raising two boys will be fun! They truly are the best part of life and watching them develop and change is something that Brandon and I both treasure and look forward too (as long as it doesn't happen too fast)!

Andrew after a bath at 6 weeks old.

Parker after a bath at 6 weeks old.

Andrew is almost 7 weeks old!!

Parker is 7 weeks old!!

These Shoes Were Made for Running...

And that's just what they'll do! Not many people can say that they enjoy running...but, I can honestly say that before I had children, running was my passion. Running gives me a chance to clear my mind, forget about stress, be healthy and in (fairly good) shape, and it gives me something to do that is something that I want to be doing. After Parker was born, I got back in shape, but not like I used to be...and now that Andrew is here, I am finding it difficult to find time to squeeze in everything that comes along with raising two children, let alone time to exercise!! But, ever since Andrew's arrival, I find myself thinking about what it means to have a healthy mind and body and this is so important to me and to my family.

Turning this blog entry into a long story...the moment we found out we were expecting Andrew (another boy), Brandon and I knew that he would complete our family. So, our decision was made, then and there, that we would not be having any more children. This is something else that not many people can say they are excited more children. But, we are so excited about what our family has become- a family of four (five, with the dog), two boys and our Bella- that we are so happy and looking forward to what the future holds (this is a blog posting for another day). This brings me back to my "running" story...

Knowing that I will not be putting my body through another pregnancy, means that it is mine again. Having two pregnancies....having two c-sections....and now having two children in my life, means that my body has been through a lot. Most of this has been (somewhat) out of my control and I am excited to now have my body back to do what I need to do to be healthy again. So, on our date night, Brandon and I visited Gary Gribble Running Store in Lawrence (one of my favorites) and I was re-fitted (I never knew being pregnant could change my feet so much!) for running shoes and also purchased a Nike iPHone sensor to help track my running, calories burned, distance, etc. Next week Brandon and I are joining the local gym and I am going to get this body back into fighting shape!

So...these shoes were made for running and a new start for my body!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

These Little Hands...

Are now BIG hands. Tear drop. In the past 6 weeks, my little Parker has grown so much. He has grown a few inches in height and a couple more pounds, but measurements can't put into words how much my little boy has become a big boy just in the past 6 weeks. I had Andrew on November 20th- just a little over 6 weeks ago- for 3 (yes, THREE) weeks, I couldn't pick up Parker, but, rest assured, I held his hand every chance I got when walking through the hospital, out to the car, down the stairs, etc. those 3 weeks, I noticed a change in his hands...little did I know that when I got to pick him up he would be so BIG! His legs now dangle past my knees when I carry him, when he sprawls across the bed at night...he now stretches across the whole bed, when I look at his profile...his features have become more pronounced and he is the most handsome little boy I've ever seen, and the list goes on and on. But, by far, the change that makes me tear up every time I think about it, is that his little hands are no longer little. So, my friends, if you have children (little or big) make sure you hold their hand every chance you get!! I am thankful for my healthy BIG boy, Parker, and also thankful that I have another set of little hands to hold as Andrew grows up.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Since Brandon and I first started dating in 2000, we've spent almost every New Year's Eve at home, playing games with friends, spending time alone as a family, or spending time with our families. This year was no different and we stayed in (choosing to avoid the bars, parties, and craziness of New Year celebrations), my sister came over along with her friend Lee, and we ate Mexican food, played games on the Wii with Parker, drank some wine and champagne, and brought in 2011 with a quiet celebration together. Amazingly, Parker lasted well into the New Year, staying up until 12:08 am and had so much fun playing with all of us and laughing together.

Now...Parker is asleep, our guests are finishing up Despicable Me, Brandon is giving Andrew a bottle (he slept from 8:30 pm to 12:15 am and he woke up to the New Year with a hungry belly), and I'm waiting for Brandon to come upstairs so that we can talk before going to sleep...tonight, I'm sure our talk will be a brief (as we're both always so tired these days) reflection on 2010 and what we think 2011 holds for our family. This is always fun!

Earlier today I was reading a friend's blog and she talked about their Top Ten from 2010 and I thought that was a great idea and throughout tonight I've been thinking about what our "Top 10" moments were in 2010- this is fun to do and I encourage everyone to do this!! So, here it goes for our Top 10....

1. The birth of Andrew Laine Riffel- On November 20, 2010, we added the fifth (including Bella) member to our family!! What an emotional and exciting day this was!!! So much love filled this day and so much anticipation was leading up to it that it is unquestionably our number one moment of 2010!! I remember the time and day that I found out we were expecting and it was so much fun to include Parker in on the surprise of telling Brandon that he was going to be a big brother!!

2. Parker's THIRD Birthday- Did I really just write THIRD Birthday?! Can anyone believe that it's been THREE years since my boy was born?! Parker's 3rd Birthday was a blast- we love birthdays at our house and we believe that they should always be a HUGE deal- what could be bigger than the celebration of our arrival into this world?!

3. Trip to Florida- Our trip to Florida was unbelievable! This trip held so many firsts for our family and Parker that is was amazing to experience Florida through his eyes, not to mention, we got to visit my best friend Jamie!!!

4. Trip to Colorado- We take an annual trip to Colorado in the summer and the 2010 trip to Colorado was by far the most fun we've had in Colorado with Parker!! We loved our cabin, we loved the weather, we loved the lazy days of being in the mountains, we loved watching Parker love all of the same elements of the mountains that we love, and we have fun as a family...we can't wait for 2011's trip!

5. Summer Days- Although this is not ONE moment from 2010- the Summer of 2010 was so much fun, I had to include the ENTIRE summer! From swimming lessons to Summer Camp at Grandma and Grandpa's farm to Aunt Dani taking care of Parker and his best buddy, it was by far the greatest summer I've ever experienced! It seems like every waking second was filled with fun things to do and we made the most of everyday of this perfect summer!

6. My 30th Birthday- This day was both a solemn day for me and the beginning of a new part of my life. I never thought that turning 30 would be a big deal, but it opened up my eyes and made me look at all of our accomplishments and I thought...I'm only 30 and I've done all of this!? It made me proud and excited about what the next 30 years hold for me and the boys!

7. Renewed Faith in our Jobs- 2010 was an inspiring year for both Brandon and I in our careers, both at the University and in other areas. Because of 2010, we are both extremely excited about where our careers and knowledge are going to take us in 2011 and we are happy about where we are at in our careers and how far we've come over the past few years. It is fun to be proud of what you do everyday and know the difference you are making in the lives of young people.

8. Contentment- Brandon and I both had a roller coaster year- first in trying to get pregnant with Andrew, second, we thought we really wanted to move to the country, third, we contemplated moves in other areas of our lives, etc. But, with many conversations between each other, we came to realize that we LOVE where our lives are at and we are very content with everything that is in the cards for us. In January of 2010, Andrew was only a twinkle in my eye and 11 months later, he was here! We've grown to love our modest home and everything that we've built within it, we love our jobs, and most importantly, we realized how happy we are with each other and what we've accomplished together.

9. Friendships- In 2010 I realized the importance of friendships. Both old friends and new friends are extremely important and in 2010 we were able to spend time with friends and watch Parker as his relationships with other kids grew and became friendships. I also learned how caring our friends are and how much their care and love for our family helps us through the good times and the bad times.

10. Learning that Everything is NOT Always Going to be Perfect- 2010 was a busy year for us. So busy that I didn't mark everything off of my lists, I didn't take all of the pictures I wanted to, I didn't update the blog as often as I would like, I didn't exercise as much as I should, I worked a little too much and didn't relax as often as I could have, etc. There are so many moments where I thought I wasn't doing things the "right" way or the way I pictured them as being "perfect." But, toward the end of 2010, I came to realize that the MOST IMPORTANT times in our lives are those moments when things aren't so perfect...those are the times when the most important memories are made, the best photos are taken, the biggest smiles are shining, and those are the times we need to remember. I learned that we don't need to stress out about trying to be "super mom" or making our families look like Gap models all of the time...what matters the most is what we make of every moment!

So, I hope that everyone takes some time in the first few days of this New Year to think about what made 2010 memorable for you and how it impacted your life...instead of making resolutions, think about what you did in 2010 that was GREAT and think about what you're going to make of 2011! Happy New Year!!!