We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. - I Thessalonians 1:2

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Backyard Love

Apparently I've been so embarrassed about the state of our backyard that in the 6 years we've lived in our house, I can't seem to find a picture that showed our backyard in its entirety. Maybe embarrassed is the wrong word. For the first few years we lived here, we didn't use our backyard that much. We had the occasional bonfire and we grilled out, eating our hamburgers or chicken on lawn chairs.

Once Cate became big enough to use the backyard, my pictures seem to be selective in what they actually showed. In the pictures below, you can kind of see the old red brick patio. It was full of weeds that would pop through every spring. We'd spray weed killer and pull them up, but they'd come back. To truly rid ourselves of the weeds would've required pulling up the bricks to dig out the weed roots. We never felt the urge to do that. You can also see a lot of backyard overgrowth in this picture from Cate's first fourth of July: And when Cate turned two, we bought a cheap $150 metal swingset for her to enjoy:
It was a piece of junk though. Not terribly sturdy and not much for her to play on.

Anyway, we've always liked our backyard. We just haven't loved it. We never put much time into making it pretty because we weren't sure how long we'd be here to enjoy it. Remember, this was supposed to be a five year house. Or a forever house sans kids (because there was a period of time in our marriage where kids weren't on the agenda). But we ended up having kids before we were here five years, the real estate market went to $%@&, and here we are now-- almost six years (6 in August) into our house and more in love with it now than when we bought it. We refinanced, committed to at least 5 more years in this house (we'll re-evaluate then and decide if we're moving toward an addition or a new house), and we're doing a bit of sprucing up around here.

We started with the backyard. Since Eric will be home with our kiddos and I'm home with them every summer, it seemed the logical place to start. While we have parks and playgrounds close by, there are days where even loading up the stroller with some diapers and water bottles and then walking 4 blocks to the park seems to take too much effort. So we ditched the crappy swingset and put in one of these: Eric pulled up the old red bricks and put in a beautiful new patio. It's not quite done (we have a few paver stones he needs to cut in half to put on one side), but it's like 90% there and done enough to be able to enjoy it. We've been dining al fresco a lot lately. The furniture we now have on the patio was my parents' old set. They had it for 25 years (cushions are new though). It's iron and it's sturdy and we love it. Sidenote-- we didn't have cushions on two of the chairs when I took this photo, which is why the kids' pool floats are there. And the little playhouse and pool have been moved elsewhere. The bonfire pit is just out of the picture. If you "zoom out" in your mind, it's in the top right corner.
Eric and my dad also cut back a lot of the overgrowth in our backyard and enlarged our fire pit. We had our first bonfire last Friday with some friends. It was actually cool enough that night to justify a bonfire.
Cate was all about the bonfire and keeps asking when we'll build another. She pulled her kid-size lawn chair right up to it and sat and watched it for awhile. Brennan just got loved on by my awesome friend, Emily. Eric bought giant marshmallows at the store...
...and we made s'mores as big as our faces.
So with the new patio, the new swingset, plus our old favorites (the pool, the house, the bonfire pit, and the sand/water table), our backyard is now a place we really want to be. We don't have to load up diapers and water bottles just to go swing or slide (though we still walk to the park often). I love that I have the freedom to run inside and grab something if I need to do so. I also love that since our kitchen looks out over the backyard, Cate can play out there by herself while I make lunch or dinner. The other day I ran in to grab some water. Brennan was secure in his baby swing and Cate was playing on the swingset too. I came outside to find this sweet moment, which I managed to capture the first part of without Cate's knowledge.

I just love how Brennan is smiling at his big sis when she gives him a little push.

Welcome to our new outside space, friends. You're all invited anytime to cookout, hangout, and enjoy the sun (it's sunny back there from about 10am-2pm) or the shade (from sunrise until about 10am and again from 2pm until the sun goes down).

~Melody :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Half a Year

Someone turned 6 months old on Thursday!
Holy cow, where did half a year go already?

Not to brag or anything, but my little guy can:
  • roll over both ways (he prefers to sleep on his tummy now)
  • play independently in his exersaucer
  • eat rice cereal, apples, bananas, pears, yellow squash, sweet potatoes, prunes, mangoes, and avocados (we tried peaches but their tang makes him gag)-- Mommy and Daddy make all of his food, which has made feeding him so much cheaper-- green veggies are up next, then meats
  • nurse like a champ (even in public when he's covered-- he doesn't get distracted)
  • reach for things and grab them
  • babble like there is no tomorrow
  • turns toward people when they call his name
  • sit assisted (with a Boppy or in the high chair or with anything else to help prop him up on the sides)
  • splash when we play at the pool
  • laugh when tickled
  • smile ALL the time
He is seriously one of the mellowest, happiest babies I've ever met. If he cries, it's because he's really hungry or something is really bothering him. He had his six-month checkup today and didn't even cry when they gave him his first shot. His second shot brought literally 4 seconds of crying and no tears.

As for six month stats, he weighs 18 pounds, 1 ounce (65th percentile) and is 27 inches long (75th percentile). Our pediatrician was incredibly pleased with how well he's doing and with his happy demeanor.

We are so blessed to have such a wonderful little boy in our lives! It's hard to believe that in just six more short months, we'll be celebrating his first birthday!

~Melody :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way(The Ohio River about to overflow it's banks-- May 1, 2011)
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
(rainbow-- April 28, 2011)

The words above are not mine, but from a favorite hymn of mine, penned in the 1870's. Charles Spafford wrote the words to It is Well with My Soul when he crossed over the spot in the Atlantic Ocean where all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. Part of the lyrics were also inspired by the great Chicago fire of 1871, which ruined Spafford's family financially (prior to his daughters' deaths).

I feel like it's my theme song lately. First there was Eric getting laid off from work. Right now it just feels like he's on vacation. I haven't slept well since Friday. You'd think a company that had to lay people off would hand a person their severance check on his way out the door. But there's paperwork. And more paperwork to cash out the small annuity. And things that have to be notarized. And faxed (which costs $2.50 at Kinko's because we don't have a fax machine). And then waiting. We could be waiting up to a month for this stuff. So I agonized over every thing I put in my cart at the grocery store last weekend because I didn't want to overspend. We may have 4 weeks to get through before we get some breathing room. And before I finally get some sleep.

Then there was today. My great aunt passed away. This is the second great aunt I've lost this year. The first, my great Aunt Barb (my dad's aunt) passed away in April. She was in her 60's and I really didn't get to know her until I was an adult because she lived in Tucson and didn't come back to Ohio often. But she was an amazing woman. Today, it was my great Aunt Mickey (not her real name, just what we've always called her-- my mom's aunt). She went in for surgery on her tongue, came out of the surgery okay but in pain, asked for pain medicine, and then coded. They couldn't get her stabilized again. She was 87. And because she only lived across the river in Kentucky, I saw her more often growing up.
I'm glad she got to meet both of my kids (with Cate above)-- meeting Brennan most recently when my mom, grandma, the kids, and Aunt Mickey trekked down to Stanton, Kentucky for the day to visit my grandma and aunt's oldest sister (they are all pictured below-- Aunt Mickey is on the right).
And all I can do today is echo the words that "it is well with my soul." I know my great aunt is in Heaven today. But I am sad that she is no longer here on Earth and that she'll miss our family reunion this summer.

I know that things will be okay with Eric and I and the whole work thing (seriously, he's fine about losing his job, it's just the whole getting his severance and annuity that are stressing me out). I know we'll make it through this and that next school year will be great with him at home taking care of our two precious treasures and that God will provide whatever we need in this weird in between time when I'm still on unpaid maternity leave. I'm happy to have Eric home and these next several weeks are a blessing for our family to have so much time together-- even if it wasn't exactly how we had planned for things to go.

And I love the last verse of the song:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Because in the end, God is good, and that's all I know. Even when the storms are raging and "sorrows like sea billows roll." Because whatever happens, it is well with my soul. I'll be in Heaven one day too and oh what rejoicing there will be!

The psalmist wrote, weeping may last for the night but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some joy around here.

~Melody :-)

Pouring my heart out with Shell today.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Post That Shouldn't Have Come Until August

I know I said I was going to be less wordy and post less frequently in an attempt to bring balance to my life, but the balance was totally thrown off by today's events. Let me start at the beginning though.

Last fall, we really started thinking about childcare for Cate and Brennan after my maternity leave ended (which is with the start of the coming 2011-2012 school year). We lucked out with good care for Cate, and we really wanted her to go to preschool. But preschool registration happens early around here, so we started looking into various schools around here last fall. A half day program would require that a sitter do some of the driving. A full day program meant either finding a place that also did infant care or putting Brennan somewhere totally different. In the end, after a lot of prayer, we decided the best thing for our kids at this time is for one of us to stay home. It would be a one-year trial and we'd see where it would go from there. And after more prayer we discerned that the parent staying at home should be Eric. I won't go into all the details, but our salaries were fairly comparable as teacher and non-profit worker, though I make a little more. However, I had better hours (even if I have to bring work home and do it after the kids are in bed), better retirement, and a little more job security. His insurance is better, but there would've been compromise either way.
We share in a lot of the parenting and household duties. I'm being seriously honest when I say that because I know I'm lucky and I know we're not the norm. We each equally grocery shop and cook. He does more dishes while I do more laundry. We split other cleaning chores. He does mow the lawn though (being honest again, I don't even know how to work our lawnmower). And we both play games, play pretend, read books, dress kids, wipe bottoms, clean up spit-up, etc. equally as well (some days are more lopsided than others). We both felt like we could be the one to stay home, but when weighing the pros and cons of each of us leaving our jobs, it made more sense for him to leave.

So he was going to turn in his notice in August, work until the end of August, and then stay home. I was going to blog about it all in August. That was the plan. Until today. After being at work for a couple of hours, he was called in to see the boss. As the most recently hired (three-ish years ago) in his department, he was the first to be let go due to budget cuts. It had nothing to do with performance. He'd get a severance, some help with insurance, and could apply for unemployment. His work was happy to write a letter of recommendation.
At first I was TICKED (hence the WTF reaction on Twitter/Facebook). I cried. I about wrecked the car since Eric called me while I was driving to tell me he had just been let go. I still want to cry about it. Mostly because I am scared, but partly because he didn't get to leave on his terms. Hello! I'm on UNPAID maternity leave right now. I don't get benefits or a paycheck again until September. I prayed. I'm still praying. And once Eric and I both got home, my prayers were already being answered.

His severance and withdrawing the little bit he has in a retirement savings account will hold us off until I start getting paid again. His insurance is still effective until the end of the month. After that, we'll have Cobra, but the plan we'll stay the same and his company will help him pay for that for a couple of months. In fact, the timing can only be God's. The day Cobra would start costing us into the 4 digits per month is the day we are officially covered again on my insurance. We're going to be just fine.

Shocker? Yes. Will I sleep tonight? Probably not without the aid of a Unisom or Tylenol PM or something. But God is in control. We are praying for wisdom in regards to our finances. Thankfully we have an emergency fund too, but we shouldn't have to dip too far into it. Neither of us has any ill-will towards his now former employer. Hopefully we'll both get to return as participants to their fundraising program once the kids are a little older.

I'm trying to see this time as a gift. From now until school starts, my kids have the awesome privilege of having two parents at home with them. We can head north to visit my parents another time or two this summer if we want. We can start going back to Findlay Market on Saturday mornings (a tradition we stopped when Eric started having to staff workouts every Saturday morning). I don't have to stress about taking both kids to the pool on my own (which I've only done once, but just for Cate's swim lesson). We'll be able to enjoy time out on the new patio (pics to come later) together more.

And hopefully we won't want to kill each other.

I'm sure it's not the way my husband wanted to start his Father's Day weekend, but we're making the most of it and smiling again. Happy Father's Day to all of the dad's out there. Happy weekend to everyone.

~Melody :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Catalyst

Thanks for the kind responses on this post.

Everyone has different ways of bringing balance to their lives. I was choosing to make blogging (and other social media) a burden-- putting unnecessary pressure on myself and not enjoying it. Posting less or posting shorter (or wordless posts) is my attempt to bring some balance back into my life and to be more present than I have been lately in the lives of my husband, daughter, and son. It's a temporary change as far as I can tell. But we'll see.

The catalyst that got me thinking about this? Well, April and May were quite rainy and gross. I spent a lot of time online, breaking my own self-imposed rule of no more than 15 minutes on the computer while the kids are awake and in my sole care. At lunch one day, Cate remarked that when she grew up, she wanted to work on a computer like Mommy. Ouch. To be fair, I was working on a lot of Power of the Pen and school stuff at the time (despite being on maternity leave), but still, ouch.
So with that, I turn off my computer, look forward to reading your blogs and tweets (love my iPhone and the many small moments during the day I can use it to read your blogs and tweets and stuff, like when B takes forever to nurse or the water for Cate's mac and cheese just doesn't want to seem to boil), and am off to enjoy a sunny day in our little corner of our state.

~Melody :-)

To Blog or Not to Blog...

...it's not really a question. My blog isn't going anywhere. But, I've been thinking a lot lately about the role it plays in my life.

When I first started this blog, my intent was simply to keep out-of-town family and friends up to date on my pregnancy with Cate, her birth, and all things "growing up" in the Riggs household. I averaged about one post a week at first-- more once Cate was born. I didn't know much about the blogging community at that time and only knew one other person in real life who kept a blog. As I discovered more and more of this online community and as more people I actually knew started blogging, I began to get really into it. At one point I thought I could be someone who was paid to blog. After all, I do enjoy writing and I am an English teacher. But I don't always have interesting things to say. And my intent is still to just allow family and friends glimpses into what we're up to around here.

The thing is, when Cate was a baby and napped a lot and went to bed early and was content to sit on my lap while I typed and stuff, I had more time to blog. Now? She rarely naps, goes to bed a little later, and I can't see over/around her to type a blog post. The weather outside is beautiful, we just put in a gorgeous new patio (well, it needs a few finishing touches, but it's pretty much done), we had a great swingset installed, Cate enjoys playing board games and pretend, and she's actually starting to get a little more involved in things-- like swim lessons and more frequent play dates. Not to mention caring for Brennan too. I've been trying really hard to post regularly, but at the end of the day when the kids are in bed, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer and try to think of something to say. I want to have a glass of wine on the patio with my husband or read a book or knit or something that nourishes me. And during the day I'm finding myself nourished by games of Don't Spill the Beans or coloring or swinging or playing peek-a-boo. Writing my blog is great nourishment for me sometimes (it was nourishment I needed and craved in the months following Cate's birth), but lately I feel like it's filling me up less and less as I'm being filled up more and more by things away from the screen.

That's not to say that I have anything against bloggers who do it for a living or people who like to blog a lot and connect with an online community. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's just me personally and the way I've been feeling lately. I'm bad at time management and was starting to feel addicted to blogging. My blog is here to stay though as we still have several family members and friends out of town. It's a great little record of day-to-day goings-on in our family. It's fun to share. It's great to reference when I'm putting together Shutterfly scrapbooks for my kids and need to remember all we've done in the past year.

But the posts may be a little less frequent as I spend a little more time outside on the swings or on the floor playing Candyland or reading some books or drinking wine with my husband. As my life as wife to an amazing man and mother to two wonderful kids evolves and grows, so does my blog and the way I view it/use it. At this season in my life, I may have weeks where I post a lot if I feel I need it/have a lot to share, and weeks where I rarely post or just post some pictures of the Riggs' kids cuteness (for the sake of those out-of-towners who need regular doses of chubby cheeks, curly hair, gummy grins, and bright blue eyes). And who knows how long this season will last?

But for now, I hope you'll keep reading when I do post. Your patience and grace are appreciated. And just because I'm not writing as frequently, doesn't mean I'm not reading. I do so enjoy reading blogs.

I'll leave you with some of the awesome-est bubbles ever! I bought them at a toy shop when visiting my parents.
Yes, they smell like the flavors. Although sadly, we've spilled blown through the original scents and are just using generic bubble soap to refill. Because blowing out of ice cream cones is more fun.
And my little guy likes them too.
~Melody :-)

Pouring my heart out with Shell today.

They were

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, Nope-- It's Just a Bird

Last week we took a day trip over to Pittsburgh, a little under 2 hours from my parents' home. After lunch with one of my oldest (oldest in terms of how long we've known each other, not in terms of age) friends and her wonderful husband, we headed over to The National Aviary.

If you've been around this blog long enough, you know that my sweet girl has a thing for penguins. She loves them. Is obsessed with them. Would be one if she could. Ask her right now what she wants to be someday and she'll tell you, "a zookeeper that takes care of penguins." Some days it's just, "a penguin keeper." The Aviary has a great penguin display. We spent quite a bit of our time there. I like birds. To look at them. Or to decorate/accessorize with (not real ones, but bird accessories or birds on things). I don't want to own one. I'm not afraid of them either though. I think they're beautiful. My girl loves them though (she pretty much loves all animals-- I think she'd live at the zoo if she could). She was eager to help feed any bird that was scheduled to eat while we were there (they keep them on a schedule so the birds are actually hungry during feeding time and you can have a close encounter with them).
My budding Dr. Doolittle also made friends with an eagle. She'd put her hands up the glass and this guy would tap the glass right back at her.
It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon. We headed back to my parents' house after leaving the aviary, but we're hoping to go back. Eric didn't get to come, so we'd like to spend a day, or even an overnight, getting to know that city. My friend, Jenn, tells me they have a fabulous conservatory and children's museum, as well as plenty of green space to run around in with the kids. We're thinking either a fall or spring trip might be in order (Pittsburgh, like many Midwest cities, has horrible winters).

If you're ever in Pittsburgh, stop by the aviary. We really enjoyed it and our Cincinnati Zoo pass got us in for half price!

~Melody :-)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Naked Crib

*Using pics from Instagram today-- one of my favorite free apps for the iPhone.

These two kids are the apples of my eyes. I'd do just about anything for them. My goal as their mommy is to keep them safe and healthy, make sure they're educated and clean (most of the time), love them so much I want to burst, and hopefully one day, when they're adults, become their friend.
Right now, my sweet girl is putting some stickers in her sticker book (I found a Sandy Lion one-- the good kind-- on eBay and we put it in her Easter basket). She is so my daughter. I remember trading stickers with friends during indoor recess when the weather was too nasty to go outside. I remember the store at the mall that used to have rolls of stickers and you could buy them by the sheet for about 10 cents. I loved stickers as a kid and so does my sweet girl.
Right now, my winter wonder man is napping in his crib. He's still our roommate at night as his sleep patterns don't quite line up with his sister's. But we think they'll be happy roommates by the end of summer, if not by next month. He naps in his crib though. And we're trying to teach him to self-soothe and not swaddle him as much, especially now that he's rolling over (yup, both ways, did them both on our 11 day trip to the northeast corner of our state).
The other day he gave me quite a scare and put the whole "keeping safe" rule of mothering to the test. I put him down for a nap, but swaddled him because he was inconsolable any other way. He. Was. Tired. I went to check on him about an hour later because he's normally a cat-napper (three to four 30-45 minute naps/day as opposed to two 90-120 minute naps a day). Despite being swaddled, he had wiggled himself over to the edge of the mattress and had his face turned right in toward the crib bumper. I had a mini-panic attack seeing his face smushed up against the bumper like that. I moved him quickly and quietly away (thankfully he was breathing just fine). I couldn't take the bumper off while he was sleeping, so I let him sleep (he slept for another hour!). But I was peeking in on him every few minutes-- he didn't move or wiggle anywhere else, thankfully.

I didn't buy a video monitor with Cate. I was afraid it would make me paranoid. I wake up to every little noise on the monitor as it is. I'm not going to buy one now either. Instead, I removed his adorable crib bumper, and we now have a very naked crib. Once he's older and I don't feel like he's in danger of getting himself up against the bumper, I'll put it back on. It's not like he's moving to a big kid bed any time soon. For now, I'd rather a plain looking crib with a safe baby in it than a cute looking crib that's empty.

~Melody :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Short Version of a Long Story

Told ya it'd be quiet around here. I'll post more specifically later, but here's the short version:

Thursday, May 26th, we loaded up about half of our house a lot of stuff and headed northeast to my parents' house (3.5 hours away if you don't hit traffic or make stops; so usually 4 hours for us).

Friday, May 27th, I spent the day with Eric and Brennan (since I'm kinda his main food supply) at the College of Wooster for the Power of the Pen State tournament. Four of my twelve writers made it to this elite level. Impressive! Cate enjoyed hanging out with her Nanny, Poppy, Aunt C, and Uncle Jeff for the day.

It was Memorial Day weekend, so we just stayed in town, enjoyed a date night (free food b/c they lost our order in the kitchen or something and we waited almost an hour to get it), and just visited.

Tuesday morning, May 31st, I kissed my husband goodbye. He drove back down here with my dad since they both had to work (my dad works in Cincinnati Monday-Thursday usually). I stayed in Hudson for reasons that will later be disclosed. The kids an I had an uneventful day.

Wednesday we celebrated the beginning of June with a day trip to Pittsburgh to see one of my best friends. We visited the National Aviary where my animal-lovin' girl did this:While my friend, Jenn, protected my little man:
Thursday we went to the Cleveland Zoo with another high school friend and her son (a couple weeks older than Cate) and daughter (a few months older than Brennan). Cate and Logan took a couple of train rides together.
By Friday, the kids (and Mommy) were exhausted, so we just decided to lie low. We walked to the park some, hung around my parents' house, and ran a few errands. Eric left for Lake Tahoe (for work, poor guy I know) Friday morning. And that's why I stayed. I figured I could be home alone with two kids or stay a few extra days at my parents with lots of hands to help. It was easy to get Cate to bed when there were willing arms to hold Brennan (and even bathe him and get him ready for bed) while I did so. My sister has twin beds in her room, is home from college, and like a champ got up in the middle of the night if Cate needed her and helped her out. I actually got 8 straight, uninterrupted hours on a couple of occasions.

We returned home yesterday (Monday) afternoon. Eric got home last night. We're all a happy family again. Incidentally, that was the longest time span Eric and I have spent apart since before we got married. And this was installed in our yard today:
I'll write more specific posts about different aspects of our stay in NE Ohio as I have time (our weeks are filling up fast with all kinds of random fun and goodness). We're busy enjoying our new playset (so worth it to get it installed-- it took 3 guys with all kinds of tools and who do this every day 4 hours to do it-- it probably would've taken Eric and I all summer), getting Cate to swim lessons, and just plain kickin' off summer.

I stayed relatively unplugged (only doing a few things from my iPhone and getting on the computer every few days) while gone and I kind of liked it. But I did manage to win a giveaway from Mama Marchand's blog and read a couple of blogs (though not always getting a chance to comment).

Anyway, welcome back. That's the short version of my long stay and I'm stickin' to it.

~Melody :-)

P.S. We're busy this week. I'll probably be taking a week off from a couple of my favorite linky parties. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day

I'm skipping Pour Your Heart out today as I'm heading with the kiddos on a short day trip to visit one of my best friends. She's known me since middle school, was the maid of honor (I was the matron of honors in hers) in my wedding, and even though we can go months without a conversation, we always seem to pick up where we left off. I'm excited to spend some time in her city, introduce her to the newest man in my life (I was still pregnant the last time she saw me), and just spend the day picking up where we last left off.

And when I get back to Cincinnati, another dear friend will be in town, staying for almost two months with her family while her husband is deployed with the Air Force. I'm thankful for all who serve, and their awesome families. So...check out how cute my kiddos were as we watched the Memorial Day parade in my hometown. Thank you to my mom for the awesomely cute red, white, and blue outfits.

Anyway...off we go. My longest solo day trip with two kiddos is about to commence.