Monday, August 31, 2015

Birthday Shenanigans!

JB's birthday is 8-8, mine is 8-20 which makes for a busy but fun month! This year we grilled pork chops for the grandparents and enjoyed a gorgeous day together! Rachel rocked some lovely leg warmers and the kids had many grandparent hugs and kisses!

Then it was the 5th annual BBBBBBBBB (Byrnes and Ben Birthday Beach Bash BBQ Brats Burgers and Beer). Something like that. We enjoyed a smaller group this year (as the kids are starting to outnumber the adults), a gorgeous beach day, thrilling rounds of spike ball and delicious smoked ribs.   Thank you to everyone for the cards and well-wishes for our birthdays. We are thankful for another year!

 Finally, it was such a treat to see my cousins, Chris and Stacie, Amanda and their kiddos at the zoo. They had a week in Sandbridge and we were finally able to see each other, which is very hard with the kids and the distance between us (PA and CT). Many of our kids met for the first time ever. Jackson loved leading them around the zoo and the Rachel and the older girls all had a mutual love for each other. Plus Kennedy and Zoe wanted to push the stroller for me. Win win! Hugs and kisses! 

happy baby

Here's a few favorites from July, August (where did THAT month go?) and our amazingly happy baby

I never take road trips. I don't like driving and it's stressful to plan to pack and be away from home. But, it's also rare that Val and I have schedules that actually line up now that they are no longer in Norfolk. So, Rachel and I headed out for a girl's overnight trip to NC. She was a great traveler for the first 3 hours of the trip, eating, drinking water, napping a little bit and reading books. The last 30 minutes were not great but in the big scheme of crying babies, I won the lottery. 

We had an AMAZING time with the girls. Sofi and Lilli are so grown up! They moved away when L was just weeks old and now she's 2! We hit the pool, talked, played, went for a long walk (Raleigh has amazing spots to run...I had runner envy!), ate delicious home-cooked meals by Val and thoroughly enjoyed each others' company. I'm so thankful for our time together in Norfolk when we were learning how to be mothers (we are still learning!) and the fact that we can easily pick up where we left off. Hugs to you girls. Thank you for your lovely hospitality and such a relaxing weekend!

This was Rachel, the first time she stood up on her own in the middle of the floor without anything to pull up on. And the first thing she did once she stood up was pick her nose. 
I went for my first 10 mile run in preparation for the Rock N Roll Half Marathon on September 6th. This will be my 7th 1/2 with Team Hoyt and I'm so privileged to run with this amazing team! If you would like to sponsor me in this race and give to the team, please see my link for donations
This girl loves to eat. She inhales food of all types. I still have not found a food she won't eat. Any ideas? She eats more than Jackson most days and then always acts hungry. In fact, this week she learned a new word, "Nak" (aka Snack). 
Speaking of being hungry all the time, she now even wants to lick what is on the dishes in the dishwasher. She and Link make a great pre-washing team! 

Favorite toys: anything that can be used as a phone. She talks All.The.Time.
"Oh My!"
There is something about these feet. She's like a little lady. Still chubby in all the best ways...ankle and wrist creases with a great belly. 
Grandmom and J before Rachel's baptism a few months ago. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

joyful moments with our almost 4-year old

Our almost 4 year old is very lively and leaves me craving sleep more than I ever have in my entire life until his point. He keeps us laughing, running and having long conversations. He has this incredible ear-to-ear grin that just makes me smile in return! J really loves going to Busch Gardens with Jonathan, and his recent favorite ride is the sky-flyer thing, like a ski lift over the whole park. 

He is having round 5 of 'separation anxiety'. At this point, it's totally manipulation on his part, hoping to keep me around longer. He was fine until I went back to work on July 6th. Now, he screams and throws a tantrum each day I leave, regardless of who is staying to take care of him. The other day, I asked what would help him to be brave when I leave for work. When he was scared to go to bed a year ago, we wrote out a Bible verse on the wall and prayed it each night. So, he told me that he wanted a piece of paper on the wall to say, "Be brave. Mommy will come back. Don't throw a tantrum".  I wrote out a verse to go with it and serve as encouragement and point him towards God:

"As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you". Isaiah 66:13. 

Reading is still a huge part of our day. We always read 2 stories before nap and 2 before bed. Our recent favorites are the whole Berenstein Bears series, How I Became a Pirate and Spiderman. We also discovered the Elephant and Pig books by Mo Willems....hysterical and great for early readers if you have one of those in your home!

Summer has been a great time for the pool, water table, ice cream, sprinkler, the beach and popsicles! We haven't made it to the pool as much as I would like to, but when we have a chance to go, Jackson loves the water! With a life jacket on, he can independently kick his way around the pool. He also loves to put my glasses on and hold his breath under water! We thought it would be an amazing summer to capitalize on his interest in the water and sign him up for swim lessons at ODU. However, the only week that worked was the same week he had camp at LUMP. I had to wake him up on Monday afternoon for the swim lesson. He got in the water, did two laps of kicking and then protested until I took him home. We did not go back :( Oh well, there are plenty of chances for me to teach him how to swim!
Water table fun with a friend down the street.

When J was a baby, i never went into his room after he was already asleep. Why mess with a good thing? Now,  however, he will often turn on his bedside lamp and read or play in bed after we tuck him in. When I head up to bed (not long after he does!), I'll creep in quietly to tuck him in and turn off the light. It's the most beautiful feeling to watch my son sleeping peacefully. 
J's best friends are  the compound kids and we continue to enjoy our group dinners together!

Hannah Anderson, author of Made for More, came to speak at a church event last May. She talked about how we all have value, simply because we are made by and in the image of God. Part of her talk was about work and caring for creation and how we can teach out kiddos about the beauty of creation. When asked how to practically do this for kids, she gave the example that each afternoon she instructs her children to "Cultivate the space you have been given (aka you bedroom) and be a good steward of what God has given you". I've been using that language with Jackson to assist with maintaining his bedroom in a state that looks less like a tornado of cars, books and stuffed animals hit! Last week, we were out walking to our car in a parking lot and Jackson bent down to pick up a (clean-looking) bag that was apparently trash. JB asked him what he was doing and J said, "Being a good steward".

Saturday of last week we had an amazing day. The green light was downstairs waiting to be fixed (hmmm, who could have broken it?) but J stayed quietly in his room until I came to get him at 6:10am. He ran a few early-morning errands with me for Jonathan's birthday and then played nicely with friends. Although he did not sleep during nap time, he played quietly, which is a perfectly fine alternative.  When I went to get him, he'd set out a picnic and camping on the floor of his room. So, we played make-believe for a while before I got super tired! Always a boy who loves rules and structure, he said, "Mom, when I am sleeping you are awake and when I am awake you can be sleeping. But, moms never sleep!" He has no idea how true he is.  We lay around having tickle wars and giggling until my face hurt from laughing. It was one of those moments of parenting that I hope I remember forever, especially in the hard time.

J is an outstanding brother. He looks out for Rachel's safety, helping me to keep her away from outlets and the stairs. He shares his food with her, gives her huge hugs and sings to her when she is fussy. He talks in this super high pitch voice and says, "Oh Rachie! Oh cutie! I love you! Oh sweetie."  We love you too, big guy. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Visit with Riley and Piper

We had a fabulous visit with Aunt Karen, Riley and Piper this past weekend in Springfield. We roughly split the distance between our homes and end up at mom and dad's, and they cook and care for us :) Win Win! J adores Riley and it was fun to get them together again. Plus this year Piper was old enough to keep up and the three of them played fairly well all weekend. 
 We set out for Frying Pan Park to see the animals and there was a 4H fair that day. Riley was ecstatic and I was a little nervous. I am a control-freak who likes to know exactly what is going to happen when my day starts out each morning. I was not ready for a fair, but we had 3 adults for our 4 kids, strollers and enough money for parking and ride tickets (JB had raided my wallet but no worries because Grandmom was there to pay of course!). 
 The kids had a blast on all the farm equipment, petting a horse and watching the pigs. Then, we rode a few rides and ate a sno cone (Jackson's first), which always makes it a great day! I was also able to practice some photography in a harsh mid-day sun setting. Rachel gets all of her hand-me-downs from Riley and Piper, so you can see why she's such a well-dressed gal! 
Look at Piper's curls. Aren't they just adorable??

my, how time flies (2015 vs 2013)

Jackson and I were bed buddies since it was such a full house. It was a rough 2 nights of sleep! This boy is like a helicopter blade all night, spinning in every possible direction. At one point I woke up to two feet about to kick me in the nose. A few hours later, his head was wedged in my armpit and I almost elbowed him in the face when I turned over. He pushed me so far out of the bed that I had to sleep laying on my side, arms up like I was diving into the pool :) But, it was fun to see my little guy sleeping and gave me a renewed joy for motherhood in this weary season. 
I don't have many pictures of Rachel with her grandparents because I'm usually either attending to Jackson, watching them interact or resting/sleeping/passed out with exhaustion somewhere. Sometimes it's just nice to sit back without a camera and watch the moment in real life, not from behind a lens. Rachel just adores all of her grandparents and truly recognizes them, which is so exciting!  
These two....I love watching them become buddies and hope that they can be friends in addition to brother and sister. 
By the end of the weekend, Riley and Jackson were like brother and sister. Loving on each other and stealing each other's toys. She was so good with him and was the one to compromise and be the bigger person. We're thankful for Aunt Karen and her sweet, funny, kind children.