Hello, it’s been a while! Like more than a full year without any meaningful updates. Turns out a lot happened in 2019!
Brian hosted 3 digital conferences that went very well and gave him some things to learn and improve upon. We’re gearing up for an even busier 2020 for WPSessions. He was also able to take some time away from work and start on a massive (mostly) DIY renovation in our basement that will ultimately give us 2 more bedrooms (Brian’s office and Ben’s bedroom), another bathroom, finished pantry and laundry spaces, and an additional common room (Ben calls it his video game room). We are all looking forward to enjoying those spaces! You can follow along with that process on Instagram.
I started working part-time as a community coordinator at Pantheon in late May. This took a lot of adjusting as a family (especially the times I’m traveling) but it has been 100% worth it. I’m a better mom when I’m not home with the kids all the time and have thoroughly enjoyed polishing up skills I haven’t used in a while (and learning loads of new ones as well). In more personal news, I set out in January 2019 to lose the weight my body insisted on keeping around since Link was born. I lost 25 lbs over 5 months and have (mostly) stayed at my goal size since June. I lost 2 pants sizes and feel much better in my own skin.
Ben is 7 now and in first grade. He’s a fantastic reader and excels at most things in school. We’re working on listening and obeying directions the first time he’s instructed. He is very creative and loves crafting and making all sorts of projects. He reads chapter books in a single sitting but still enjoys snuggling up at bedtime to have one of his parents read to him. He is an incredible helper around the house and is always up for reading to Lincoln.
Teddy is 5 and in his second year of preschool. He has figured out his letters and letter sounds and is very close to beginning to read. He is still into super heroes and cannot decide if Batman or Spider-Man is his favorite so our house is filled with clothes, toys and books featuring both. Teddy has an extraordinary attention span and can contentedly play with sets of toys for longer than any kid I know. He is very much the middle brother and likes to poke at Ben until he gets an explosive reaction. We are working on using kind words and actions in ALL circumstances. Teddy is a character but which character he is varies from hour to hour.
Lincoln is 19 months old and has probably seen the most change in the last year. Not surprising given his stage in life! Link spends his time at home with me or, when I’m working, our in-home nanny. He had the hardest transition when I went back to work because he has always been my special boy and there is no substitute for his mama. He took a while to start talking but new words have been popping up all over the place this past month. My favorite is “CA-doo” for avocado. Lincoln signs often and picks up new ones quickly. His receptive language skills are off the charts and often gets frustrated when he cannot communicate a response to something we’ve said. Lincoln LOVES to read and will take any opportunity to sit with a bigger person to read one of his favorites. He’s incredibly social and says hi to everyone he sees. A request for a fist-bump or high-five sends him in an endless loop of bumps and fives to all in the room.
No promises that I’ll share a ton this year but perhaps you can plan on more than one post in 2020!
This meaning the birth of our third boy, Lincoln Charles, back at the end of May. We’re all in love and he seems pretty smitten too.
This also happened.
Ben is now 6 and a total big kid. His birthday post is currently drafted so expect that to come soon or at least before his 18th birthday.
And then there was this.
Teddy is 4 and started preschool in the fall. There are two whole mornings each week that it’s just me and the baby. It’s weird but 100% ok. I also have a birthday post for him and have another 14 years before he turns 18. It might get posted soon.
So here’s to the end of 2018! I hope to blog more in 2019 but I’ve said that before. If you want to keep up with our circus, I’m way more active on Instagram.
One of my favorite parts of parenting is introducing our boys to family traditions that date back to when we were little and trick or treating on Halloween is one of my favorites (possibly because I’ve always loved dressing up).
We kicked off our Halloween celebrations by bringing Ben and Teddy to my dad’s office on Friday afternoon to go trick or treating around the office building. It’s a big company with lots of stops but it works great for the little monsters and superheroes with short legs because there isn’t too much walking.
I felt a little bit like we were herding cats! Every time I tried to direct Ben and Teddy one direction, one would split down another hall or even start going back where we came from!
Ben is an old pro at trick or treating but Teddy wasn’t too sure at first. It only took a few stops before he was grabbing treats with both hands while quietly chanting, “One, pick one.”
In just an hour, the boys got more candy than they could carry. They were exhausted from all the running and Ben took his first nap in many months on the drive home!
Instead of carving pumpkins, which takes a whole lot more parental involvement at this age, we broke out my collection of acrylic paint and let the boys go to town on their tiny pumpkins. They are incredibly proud of their creations.
For the first time in five years, Halloween wasn’t cold, wet, and miserable! We joke that costumes in Michigan are designed to fit over a snow suit and since I remember many times having to wear a winter coat and hat under my costume, that is a real threat. Happily, we had dry weather in the mid 50s this year. After a quick dinner of pumpkin shaped pizza (Papa Murphy’s for the win!), we met up with friends and headed out into the neighborhood.
Ben wore his costume the whole time, everyone got treats they were excited about, and Teddy has a newfound, deep love of carrying things around in his Elmo “buckick.” I think we can call Halloween 2016 a success!
In the tradition we started last year, I asked Ben some birthday questions this morning. He did so much better focusing this year and had answers for almost everything. It is really fun to see how much he’s matured since his birthday last year (check out that post here).
What is your name?
How old are you?
I am 4!
What is your favorite color?
Green and blue
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What is your favorite food?
Who do you like to play with?
Mowgli [our cat]… and Daddy
What is your favorite book?
Woody and Buzz, my present
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite song?
Everything is Awesome!
What makes you laugh?
What do you like to do with your family?
Go play at the playground and give my family kisses
What does Daddy do for work?
Play. I don’t know what he does
What does Mommy do for work?
What is your favorite movie?
Everything is Awesome movie, the Lego Movie!
What is your favorite show?
What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Swim and play in the sprinkler
Where do you like to go on vacation?
To the pool and splash pad [Florida]
Today was Ben’s first day of school – ever – and he could hardly wait to leave the house. When we went to his open house last week, he was quiet, withdrawn, and told me that he didn’t want to make friends with the other kids. Today he marched into his class after greeting his teacher without any fear at all. He turned and gave me a hug at the last second to say, “I’ll miss you when you’re gone,” but happily went to play playdough. I think he’ll do just fine.
This is rather awkward. I’ve meant to post, honest, but we’ve been having too much fun summering hard to worry about new posts or formatting photos or eating healthy dinners. Suddenly its July and I’m convinced the last few months have gone by at twice the normal speed.
In May we road tripped to Disney (another full post coming about that!) and celebrated Brian’s 30th birthday while we were there. Brian and I celebrated our 8th anniversary, I took a trip to Savannah with some of my dearest friends, and Teddy ended up in the hospital with RSV. By the time he got out and we felt sufficiently recovered, it was Memorial Day weekend when we did lots of yard work and my sister got engaged!
In June I turned 30, we took a short beach vacation to Ludington (potentially a full post here too) so we could enjoy Lake Michigan and attend my cousin’s wedding, Ben had an amazing dentist appointment, we enjoyed our back yard oasis as much as possible, and Teddy went back to the hospital with RSV again. We have an action plan now so there’s less of a chance that Teddy will have to be admitted to the hospital again this summer. I’d really prefer it to be never!
July started with a bang (both literally and figuratively). We host my extended family for brunch on the 4th so we spent a few days cleaning and landscaping before going all-in on celebrating the US’s independence. Brian built a play house into the bottom of the boys’ swing set, we finally hung some pictures and projects inside the house, and we’ve made nearly weekly trips to the local farmer’s market.
What do you have going on for the rest of the summer? We have more short trips, wedding planning, house projects, and large road trips to look forward to in the rest of July and in August. Maybe we’ll catch up again in September?
It’s hard to believe it has been a month since I last posted.
Where did the time go?!
We’ve been working hard on lots of things around here, including keeping our sanity through the Michigan late winter. This year has been particularly mild though (as I write this, the sun is shining and it’s a balmy 50 degrees) so it is easier to endure.
I still owe you all a post on our trip to London at the end of January for the A Day of Rest conference and a few days of site seeing. I have some scanning to do before I have enough pictures to post so know for now that post is in the works.
Note to self: Go find the functioning scanner
Teddy started walking while we were out of the country, of course, and just before our pediatrician’s 16 month deadline before we’d need to seek professional intervention. One day he took 5 steps on his own and the next day he was practically running around my parents’ house. Typical of Teddy, he was waiting until he was sure he was ready.
Just like most skills that Teddy has learned, his teeth are taking their sweet time. Ben always cut 3 or 4 teeth at a time but Teddy gets one slow tooth, has a week off, then gets one more slooooooow tooth. It looks like he is cutting both of his top one year molars right now so hopefully those will be in soon and Teddy will become less of a drama queen again. He learned to throw full toddler-sized tantrums too and exercises his right to throw one daily.
Teddy is talking much more too. His words include mama, dada, Nene (Benny), kkkkk (kitty), fffft (hot aka coffee), mo (more), baba (his burp cloth), da (down), bah (ball), chhhhh (cheese), and kawkaw (cracker). He has perfected the signs to accompany many of his words and also regularly signs please, drink, water, and milk. He adorably will wrap his arms around our legs and left one leg to indicate he wants to be picked up (never arms raised, for some reason).
Ben is so, so, so, so ready for school and it’s killing him that it is so far away still. It’s especially hard because I registered him for preschool (afternoons but first on the waitlist for mornings) at the beginning of February and he can see the kids playing at the school from our house. He tells me often, “I’m BIG so I can go to school now.” He craves more stimulation than what hanging out at home with mom can provide and often asks to go play at someone’s house or “go somewhere.” He never has any answers of with whom to play or where to go but he’s ready to have a big kid routine. I’ve started donating plasma and our local donation center has a locked, supervised kids play area and he’s already chomping at the bit to go play while I “give my blood to the sick people.”
Also of note is that he finally chewed a hole in his last pacifier and, with plenty of warning, that got thrown away and he’s now pacifier free! It was a rough few days and I don’t think he’s taken a nap since we took it away at the beginning of February but he still sleeps well at night.
To (hopefully) protect my lose grasp on sanity, we’ve been talking through days of the week and working on a preschool friendly way to mark the passage of time. He has a calendar that we write important events in and he helps count the number of sleeps we have until the next event. He is doing a great job at counting to 10 and number recognition but the alphabet is still rather mystifying to him. He’s got “B” down and we’re working on recognizing and writing “E” and “N” so he’ll be able to write his name soon. He’s made pretty good progress with our really casual approach to pre-pre-preschool. He has a super short attention span and seems to struggle with creative drawing so we’re slowly trying to make some progress on those skills too.
How is potty training going? Two REALLY BIG thumbs up! I can only recall one accident in the last month and that was because he got distracted by toys instead of heading straight to the potty chair to do his business. He’s self-initiating all trips to the chair (that we leave in his room), stays dry overnight, and takes himself to the potty chair without a parent in the morning. We ended up using pull ups for about 3 weeks before feeling comfortable going without. We are really proud of him!
Upcoming excitement for the Richards family includes a trip to Atlanta for Brian to speak at a WordCamp (and for the boys and I to spend lots of time playing with friends) and hopefully a long and slightly overdue family trip to Orlando and, of course, Disney World!
We started potty training Ben, our 3 year old, on New Year’s Day. I had avoided starting for longer than I should have because I had zero experience with potty training kids and was really overwhelmed by the whole process (plus I hated the idea of cleaning up pee). It wasn’t going to happen without our involvement, however, so we picked a book, picked a day, and took away the diapers.
I’ve collected a few random thoughts about the process thus far as a way of remembering how to do this the next time around
Both Brian and I read Oh Crap Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki to give ourselves a baseline idea of how to start the process and deal with any problems that might arise. The book is more of how small kids learn and what their physical limits are at the age when they train than a tried and true method.
Like most parenting philosophies, there’s no one way to potty train that will work for every child. Ben is incredibly stubborn and we’ve had to come up with a small handful of tactics to work around that.
The first week sucked because it is so dang exhausting to be that vigilant for that long. I mourned the sudden loss of my tiny bit of free time during the day because Ben was always right there.
At two weeks in, we’ve got a handle on his rhythms and I can trust him to have quiet play time or a nap in his room after lunch without fear of accident
Our kid just doesn’t get that there are times that one has to try to pee, even if one doesn’t think one needs to (such as before leaving the house or getting ready for bed)
Even though the author strongly encouraged skipping pull ups entirely, we learned that it was worth the drop in stress level and not having to wash bedding 2 or more times per night to give him a pull up. We called them “nighttime undies” and he doesn’t consider them as diapers so it works for us.
At two weeks, night time success is only about 30% but he’s about 90% during the day, especially if I’m able to pay enough attention. The weather has been cold and snowy for the last week so we haven’t experienced having to use a public bathroom yet. Ben has always been terrified of them (they’re too loud!) so will be a challenge, especially with a not-yet-walking 1 year old tagging along
A bunch of my friends have been writing blog posts or business updates that focused on what they accomplished in 2015. I didn’t get a chance to write a “year in review” for our family Christmas cards this year so you all are the luck recipients!
When I asked Brian what we did last January, his response was, “Survived!” I couldn’t agree more! Teddy turned 3 months at the beginning of the year and we were still a sleep-deprived state, learning to juggle the very different needs of our small infant and toddler. Brian attended PressNomics 2015 in Phoenix at the end of the month. I accidentally gave my computer a bath, lost a bunch of data, but had help from wonderful friends replacing the dead laptop with the one I am using to this day.
We were able to fill our empty rental house at the beginning of the year with fantastic tenants who have treated the house well over the year. The house had been vacant for a few months and our family and the renters were happy to have found each other.
Of note, I learned to make roasted chickpeas to trick our 2 year old into eating something healthy. He randomly stopped eating anything at dinner so I upped my healthy snack game in attempts to give him something with nutritional value.
We went to a wedding, the boys got bigger (Teddy started adoring Ben, which was so much fun to watch), stripped wallpaper in our kitchen, dining room, and hallway in preparation for painting, which was completed during our Florida trip, and we left for our annual Disney trip. This was Teddy’s first trip and even though it took him a day of travel to get used to being in the car, he adapted very well and we really enjoyed ourselves.
We met up with the spring break group from His House Christian Fellowship from Grand Valley in Fort Myers after our Disney vacation. Brian helped lead the trip while the boys and I helped cook for everyone. The boys enjoyed the attention from all their “Grand Valley friends” and we all enjoyed the extended Florida weather with our students, even if it was colder than normal.
Our big painting project was completed while we were gone, thanks to the work of the talented Becky. It was such a blessing to not have to worry about Ben ruining all her work by running his hands through wet paint.
Brian and I experienced a “first” by attending WordCamp San Diego together at the very end of March. Teddy was too young to be left behind but Ben spent a week with Grammy and Papa. WPSessions sponsored and Teddy was the youngest and quietest attendee. We squeezed in a day trip to Disneyland, which only made us want to go again soon!
We returned home and readjusted to being responsible for chores again. The weather got warm enough that I was able to start spring clean up a bit earlier than I have in years past. Teddy started eating solid foods and we geared up to have lots of fun around our house during the summer. We also took what is possibly the best set of photos of our boys together.
We got a new water heater, so exciting, but since we haven’t had any issues with out hot water since, I think it was a significant event!
Brian had his 29th birthday, we celebrated our 7th anniversary, and Brian attended LoopConf in Vegas during the first few weeks of May. The whole family participated in the Civil War reenactment at Greenfield Village in Dearborn over Memorial Day weekend.
May is the beginning of the months that, for me, redeem living through winter in Michigan. It is so beautiful and we spent as much time enjoying our new neighborhood as possible. We have an established asparagus patch in our garden and ate asparagus every two days all month long. It was great!
One day in June I woke up and didn’t feel completely overwhelmed by being outnumbered by my two tiny tornado children. It took almost 8 months to feel like I could take on anything and, naturally, to celebrate, I went out and got a job. I started working for poststatus.com at the beginning of the June and even seven months later am still surprised how much I enjoy doing something that exercises a completely different set of skills than raising children.
We bought our Chrysler minivan with cash at the beginning of June. This was one of the goals we set at the beginning of 2015 and I’m still pleased and proud we accomplished it. Our van, Van-essa, has taken us on many trips in the last 7 months, the first of which was to a retirement celebration in Iowa for my uncle at the end of June.
The two most significant home improvement tasks we took on were cleaning and rearranging our breezeway to be a quasi-outdoor play and hangout space for our family when the weather wasn’t quite nice enough to be outside and hiring a landscaper to remove the remnants of a spruce tree (and about a million weeds) out of the north side of our lawn.
We spent Father’s Day with friends from out of town and took the boys to play on the playground behind our house. Everyone had a lot of fun!
We kicked off July by hosting my extended family for brunch on the 4th. Our city’s 4th of July parade is spectacular and goes right past the end of our street so back when my grandparents lived here, it became a family tradition to have brunch and walk to the parade together. Now it is our turn to host!
Most of our photos from July are of our boys at the playground. We live very close to two elementary schools and within walking or biking distance from one of our city’s biggest parks and playgrounds so our spare minutes were spent feeding ducks, eating ice cream outside, and playing on all the play equipment.
In the last week of July, our family left on a 2 week camping road trip to Colorado. The boys were really excited to play in our popup camper!
We spent the last few days of July and the first 10 days of August on vacation in Colorado. We camped in Moraine Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park for 5 nights before driving to Breckenridge, Colorado for the rest of our trip. We hiked, played on almost every playground we found, and didn’t sleep a whole lot.
During the rest of the month we had one day trip to a reenactment and a trip to the zoo but mostly spent time near home. We love to travel but being able to recharge at home is really important to us.
September was abnormally busy for us. We took the boys camping near Ludington for a long weekend. Our family celebrated Ben’s 3rd birthday on the 19th (sniff!). Brian had a great time at CaboPress, a business mastermind event put on by our friend Chris. I started running using a couch to 5k app but ended up with terrible pain in my knees from unsupportive shoes and had to bench myself for the remainder of the nice weather last fall. I’m hoping to take it up again (with new shoes) in the spring.
Teddy turned one year old at the beginning of October. I still have so many feels about my baby being older than a year old but we have no immediate plans to force him into being a middle child. He’s so good at being the baby that we’ll let him keep the title for a while.
We explored ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and had a blast trick or treating at both my dad’s office and in our neighborhood. This was the first year that Ben knew what was going on and wanted to be part of every minute of such a fun day.
The month of November is a giant blurry spot in my mental calendar. The boys and I all got our first colds of the winter, I finished up 5 weeks of doing yoga at church on Monday nights, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents, siblings, grandma, cousins, and aunt and uncle.
I purged several trash bags worth of clothes, toys, and household items before Thanksgiving so we could enter the Christmas season without feeling bogged down in stuff. Ben and Brian made a large snowman from our first snowfall and Ben is still asking when it’s going to snow enough for him to do it again.
Brian and I experienced a first at the beginning of December: Traveling without kids! We flew to Philadelphia to participate in the inaugural WordCamp US. Brian has been working with WordPress for longer than we’ve been married so I finally got to meet so many people face-to-face I’ve heard of and chatted with online. We also took the opportunity to spend a day exploring Philadelphia together and were able to see lots of the notable historic sites.I’ve meant to do a post devoted to that trip but face it, at this point, it’s probably not going to happen. Suffice it to say that I think I’ve found my people.
You can’t talk about December without also talking about Christmas. We spread out festivities as much as we could this year so the boys didn’t completely fall apart. We had a ton of fun with extended family and were thrilled that Brian was able to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off of work. We played, watched lots of movies, ate lots of junk, and had fun being together as a family.
Other small notable events from December: Ben had his first dental cleaning (and did great!), unseasonably warm weather prompted us to spend extra time outside,, Ben really got into decorating the house for Christmas, Brian and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we discovered and eliminated a mouse in the basement.
So heres to 2016! May it be full of as many memorable moments!