I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mommy Cam

 I'm being spied on... by my own husband.

Gregory has been preparing for his move to Oklahoma City for ATC training. This training is going to last until December and we are not going with him. This is going to be hell. Along with figuring out all of his housing and travel details - he purchased a web cam so that we can talk and "see" each other. Ayla understands that she has to talk into the camera and she'll be able to see her Dada while he is away at school.

But with Gregory and technology, there is always a twist. He connected it to a program on his cell phone that he can remotely turn on and off. The camera light will turn on when he is doing this - but if you aren't paying attention, he could catch some of my crazy Mom antics.

  I yell. A lot. I'm yelling before I even think about what I am saying. Mostly the yelling is directed at the dog, because he always knows how to chew on the wrong toy or bother me when I'm trying to clean up, etc. He takes every situation from a 10 to an 11. But I also yell at Ayla and Jackson. "Sit down while you are eating dinner!" "Stop hitting each other!" "Stop touching the TV!" "JUST LISTEN TO ME!" My normal default mode is to yell and scream to get my point across, but I'm working on a calmer approach, I promise.

I've been warned a few times when Gregory has turned it on to take a peek at our family life while he is at work. But I know he's been watching us! Either I'm breastfeeding on the couch (so NOT the naked pictures anyone is hoping for) or the kids are jumping onto a pile of cushions or I'm screaming at them to help clean up the toys.

The new Mommy Cam has been keeping me on my best behavior. While I'm self conscious of being caught in a bad parenting moment - I totally see the point of watching the kids in their normal daily play. Who knows, maybe that's how Gregory will get to see them most. I envision fights over sitting in the computer chair and utter confusion on Jackson's part as to why he's talking to his father on a screen.

 And it also works as a puppy cam or puppy-sitter cam. Eve's boyfriend was kind enough to sleep over with our stupid, overly anxious dog while we went out of town. It was the perfect chance to try out the camera! Poor Matt was sitting, watching TV and we were just watching him. Eve sent him a text message that said, "It's rude to put your feet on the furniture". He looked confused for a minute, looked over at the camera and figured us out. He called us creepy, and he was right!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Stanton Family Wedding... what is that?

 Last weekend we drove to upper Michigan for my cousin Austin's wedding to his amazingly cool fiance/wife Khaylen. I've been so pumped about going all summer long, along with the anticipation of Elliot's birth. Austin was kind enough to let us tentatively accept our invitations with the option of backing out at the last second if we couldn't make it. My due date was August 13th and the wedding date was August 21st. That didn't leave much room for error or late babies!

 Not only was I excited to see my cousin get married, but attending this event felt even more important when you consider how many weddings I've attended on my side of the family recently. How many do you say? None. The last Stanton family event that I was either invited to or able to attend was in 1997. Nearly half of my life ago. Not cool.

 I've been to at least one wedding a year for Gregory's family. Granted they are more at the marrying age and a much closer knit family - but it was starting to get absurd that I've been married for six years, had three kids and Gregory still hadn't met some of my family. I'm not talking about distance relations like my grandparents' siblings' children (he's actually met those people!), but aunts, uncles and cousins that were a huge part of my life when I was growing up.

But the wedding-less streak is over. And we had a great time! My sister, Eve, made the roadtrip more exciting since I was sitting in the back seat on baby duty. My brother drove from Minnesota and we hit up the town of Traverse City for two nights. The night we arrived, Gregory had picked a random brewhouse for dinner - and it turned out to be the site of Austin and Khaylen's rehearsal dinner. So we lucked out with some extra time to see the groom and the chance to actually talk without the pressure of wedding etiquette.

The wedding itself was at Black Star Farms. Beautiful place! But I had known that for months because right after Austin had told us about choosing Black Star Farms, I read about it in my Food & Wine magazine - I felt really cool knowing that I was going to be enjoying some first class wines! If only we had shown up early enough to buy some bottles for later...

The ceremony was perfect (with Elliot remaining quiet in my arms and Austin crying like I knew he would!), dinner was delicious and the dance floor did not disappoint. I reconnected with family I sadly haven't seen in years or since my own wedding, which anyone knows is not the ideal situation for actually catching up. I've never seen a bride and groom so thoroughly master the dance floor and they are truly a perfect match for each other.

 I had a glimpse of what I hope our family can become in the future - more connected and so much fun with all of the new marriages and children to be had. :) Congratulations Austin and Khaylen for a fine event!

Even though Ethan and Eve look like they are posing for prom, this is a great picture.
Two guys just enjoying "simpler times, before those Bartles and James".
My cousin Melissa caught up in the baby fever!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"This is where you die"

 This post is dedicated to my sister, Eve. "This is where you die" are her exact words when we checked into our hotel room this past weekend in Traverse City, Michigan. We drove there for my cousin Austin's wedding (which deserves its' own post) and booked a room at the Traverse Bay Inn.

 Number one reason? The price: $64 a night. It turns out that Traverse City, MI is quite the boutique, touristy beach front, wine region hot spot. It was certainly a cool place to visit and we could see why every other search for an affordable hotel room had listed prices well over $150 a night. I suppose that isn't ridiculous when you consider staying in New York City or any family vacation spot during the summer time.

 But we're used to low and lower hotel rates. I used to work for Hyatt Hotels. That meant free hotel stays - including the Stanhope Hotel in NYC, where Gregory and I stayed before we got married. Gregory now works (freelance) for a Sheraton Hotel, so we are hooked into their $50 employee rates.

So when we were looking at hotels for my cousin's wedding, we were bummed to see that not only were there no Sheraton Hotels within four hours of Traverse City, but our other options were pretty pricey by our cheap-ass standards.

The Traverse Bay Inn looked very tantalizing with its' low price and the fine print on the website claiming "shared bathroom" didn't really concern me when I reserved two nights on my credit card. "Shared bathroom" could just mean that the two queen beds had to share a bathroom in the middle of the room, right?

 Ooohhh, turns out that a "shared bathroom" DID mean a shared bathroom - with one other room and any person venturing off of the lobby. Yes, Captain Obvious, I shouldn't have been surprised. We all had a moment of panic walking into our entrance around the back side of the hotel. (When everyone else at the motel gets a door in the front and you have to take a stone path around the back, it's a little disconcerting.)

 Our bathroom was at the bottom of a steep set of stairs and our room was at the top. The room was actually very nice - much how you would feel staying at either your Grandma's house or how I remember many of the hostels in Europe. You are just paying a lower price to stay in the extra space in someone's house. There was a sitting room with a pretty nice flatscreen tv and then a separate room with two beds, microwave, fridge and plenty of space for our Pack n Play.

 But it was still a little creepy - giving the feel of a sad situation in a lonely, extended stay hotel. Like someone who was kicked out by their family and just trying to make due with the cheapest place in town. And Eve put it best with her "This is where you die" summation.

 We never actually saw another person use our bathroom and didn't have any embarassing moments. But I owe Eve a new shampoo, since hers was thrown away when the hotel-keeper cleaned "our" bathroom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Week of Firsts

 Elliot has been experiencing a lot of new activities in the past couple of weeks - first of all, being out of the womb is something new! But he has taken trips to the park, rides in the minivan, had a first bath, worn his first cloth diapers and has shown quite an appetite.

 Tomorrow he will be three weeks old, and he's been kind to us so far (i.e. we are sleeping...somewhat.)  I can tell that he is gaining weight, although he doesn't have another doctor's appointment until next week. When Elliot cries - it is LOUD, but purposeful. He stops as soon as he gets whatever he is lacking at the moment.

 Hopefully he will follow Jackson's example and be a good sleeper. He is awake for short bursts during the day and other than a few burps and fussing, he goes back to sleep at night when we need him to.  So far, so good. (Knock on wood!)

 Ayla and Jackson are liking our "cute little baby" (as Ayla puts it) too. As can be seen in Gregory's Facebook video, Jackson expresses his love with serious lick-kisses and intense hugging. I have to watch closely or put Elliot out of reach because Jackson will not hesitate to pick up his little brother by his clothing and drag him around the house. (I've caught it at the early stages, so no need to call the authorities!) Ayla loves being involved with all of the baby-tending activities - even changing Elliot's diapers. She asks to see his poop EVERY time. If it keeps her entertained...

Say what you want about the inconvenience of cloth diapers... but they're the only ones we've used that have NOT leaked yet! 
 Our transition to a family of five people is going as well as can be expected. We've done the newborn scene before, so I think our expectations are right where they need to be. Every day activities are just a little bit more complicated... but it's all relative when you are dealing with kids.
 Ayla has said it best, when Elliot is sleeping calmly in my arms that, "I like this little baby. We can keep him."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ayla, it's your birthday!

How could this day have already been four years ago?
A little baby girl is now a big sister to TWO brothers? 

Happy Birthday, Ayla!

To my sweet girl, always full of BIG emotions. I've been so lucky to have you as my daughter. We love you and obsess over you and can't wait to see how much you grow in the next year.

And on a side note, I'm sorry that you have to give up the babas (bottles) now. It breaks my heart to hear your sadness about giving them up and how "it's hard to be a big girl! I'll never have babas again!". 
I know it's hard to grow up - but you are so good at it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Buffalo? To Buffalo!

 Here is the official blog announcement: we are moving to Buffalo, New York.

Yes, Buffalo! To make a long story shorter - Gregory will soon be training to become an air traffic controller (ATC). He's been involved in this hiring process for, say, over two years now. I'm not exaggerating. He went for the "entrance exam" a few weeks after Jackson was born in 2008. Then we went to L.A. in January 2009 for the interview and other formalities. The job offer for the Pittsburgh airport came a few weeks after that. And then the waiting began. Waiting for either someone to retire or for the need for a new hire.

Anyone who has been through the Pittsburgh airport lately can see that it is sadly not what it used to be. With the move of the US Air hub to Philadelphia, our poor city has really declined in the amount of air traffic coming in and out. Hence, anyone waiting for a job opening in the airport tower was apparently going to wait forever!

Luckily, we've had a good contact through this entire process - a friend of the family who works in the Pittsburgh area as an ATC. He has been kind enough to follow Gregory's file through the never ending journey of government procedures and paperwork. This past March, our friend called to ask if we'd be willing to relocate to Buffalo. It was either relocate or sit and wait for a possible opening in 2012. So we said, basically, why not???

 And now it's really happening. When you sit on an idea for so long, it starts to become just that - an idea, not reality. But the day before Elliot was born - we get another call from the FAA. Gregory has a start date for his training (which by the way, is NOT in Buffalo but in Oklahoma City! We will not be going with him, which is an entirely different issue.)

  The training starts on September 20th, lasting for a little more than three months, and then it's straight to our new city. In the dead of winter! I explained the whole process because for those that don't know why we are leaving our pretty much perfect existence here in Leetsdale, we get a dumbfounded "What the hell are you thinking?" look when we mention Buffalo. 

 It's scary, it's intimidating, but it's what we are going to do! 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Leave my eyelashes alone!

 As if Viagra commercials weren't enough, there is a new prescription product being advertised that grosses me out on a whole new level.

 Latisse - "When your lashes grow, your lashes show."

 For more than $100, you can buy some "FDA Approved" (quotations for sarcasm, everyone!) gel that you brush on your eyelashes to make them grow longer. The world is moving beyond mascara. The bothersome part about this is not only the side effects (may darken eyelids, cause red, itchy eyes), but that a drug that was probably created to help patients going through chemotherapy is now another cosmetic, superficial way to mess with your face.

And the spokesperson is Claire Danes! My So Called Life would not approve.

Can't we just be content with our eyelashes? Honestly, just putting on mascara everyday is already pretty toxic. (Regular makeup is loaded with lead and tons of unapproved chemicals). But if you are an ordinary person who hasn't lost eyelashes to disease... what's so wrong with looking like... well, everyone else on the planet?

 Yuck, yuck, yuck. These new drugs are always introduced with a huge FDA APPROVAL stamped below the cleverly marketed name. That buys me no assurance. The same thing was said for antidepressants that had horrible side effects for teenagers, for Gardasil, for high blood pressure meds, etc. The approval lasts for a few months before enough people get sick or die for the drug to be thoroughly reviewed or taken off of the market entirely.

 I guess this post reveals my distrust in the pharmaceutical world. We are so foolish to believe that just because a doctor writes us a prescription, that our medicine is always safe. Often times it is - and when you are facing an illness, a lot of medicine has been tried and true and can save your life. I would try an experimental drug for cancer... but for my eyelashes? No way. Especially if Claire Danes is involved.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I laughed, and Elliot was born...

 It's true: I kind of laughed Elliot out of the womb.

 For anyone that's had a difficult time in labor or an otherwise bad experience in the hospital, please know that I've been there. My labor with Jackson was one of the most exhausting, painful, terrible experiences I've had. There wasn't any time for medication and he was born all natural!

 This time, my third experience with labor, a mixture of good luck and the epidural made giving birth to Elliot (almost) easy.

 Last Thursday morning, I woke up around 5 am when my water broke. It wasn't dramatic at all, and I wasn't feeling any contractions. This is the exact same thing that happened with Ayla - I waited nearly twelve hours before going to the hospital with her because I was feeling great and pain-free. So, at 5 am when I knew that Elliot was on his way, I went back to sleep for a few more hours. Babies or not - if I can avoid getting up that early, I'm going to do just that.

 I finally woke Gregory up around 10 am to tell him it was "go time." Ayla and Jackson were both waking up just like any other ordinary day. We called Gregory's family - which was perfect timing - Rachel, Raul and Noella had just arrived the night before. They came down to our house to get our kids, and after packing up all of our sleepover bags, we were off to the hospital.

 Now, Gregory is going to be mad that I'm sharing this - but we made a few stops before getting to the hospital. What can I say? I felt absolutely great because my contractions hadn't kicked in yet and we were a lot less nervous about having our third baby than we had been with the other two. Gregory got his breakfast and we picked up some stuff at the drug store. Obviously, we had time to kill. :)

 Checking into the hospital was easy - we walked ourselves up to the maternity ward after going through the emergency room entrance. (Like I said, things have not always been this peaceful. With Jackson, my water broke full force in the emergency room and I threw up all over the place.) The nurses took us into the delivery room and confirmed that, in fact, my water was broken.

 Pitocin got my contractions consistent and I finally started to feel them. I had been unsure what I was going to do about the epidural up to this point. On one hand, I had felt groggy with medication during Ayla's birth but alternately had felt amazingly good right after giving birth to Jackson all natural, as hellish as that experience was. But once I started to feel the contractions again (imagine a charlie horse in your stomach), I knew I wanted the epidural.

 Honestly, getting the epidural was the worst part of the experience. I had three huge contractions while I had to sit completely still and listen to the doctor explain to his intern where and how far the needle was being pushed into my spine. But once the narcotics kicked in, I could just wait it out until Elliot was ready.

 (Stop reading now if you're grossed out by birth stories, it's only going to get more detailed.)

Often times, the effect of the epidural helps a woman to relax and makes the labor work faster. I went from 2 cm dilated to 7 cm and finally 10 cm - all in the course of two hours. At one point, the nurse checked and said, "Hello, baby!" because Elliot had moved so far down.

 My doctor came in the room (they don't often sit and wait for the "pushing phase" to start, the nurses call them at the last minute) and I got ready to push. I was all geared up for the hard work that I had had to do in the past. But seriously, I pushed for five minutes max. I pushed once, was told to stop, and then the doctor told us a joke. I laughed.... and next thing you know, I have a baby boy looking at me! Gregory had missed it because he had turned around to get the camera ready.

 Easiest birth EVER. I sat there, holding a baby that looked just as surprised as I did. We hadn't found out whether we were having a boy or girl... so we spent the next fifteen minutes stressing out about a boy's name.

 If there's a name that means easy entrance to the world or most laid-back baby, I didn't know it - so we chose Elliot because it fits him well!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Introducing Elliot Stanton Abell!

 Here's the short version for those who are squeamish or not interested in the full birth story. I'll be posting more details later.

  Elliot Stanton Abell

Born on July 29, 2010 (fifteen days ahead of schedule) at 3:08 pm

7 pounds, 4 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long

He's happy, healthy and very, very cuddly.