Saturday, January 28, 2012

Viley: 8 Months Old

Why has this month been soooo loooong? I really thought she was 9 months old by now. January is by far my least favorite month.

Luckily, Viley is by far my most favorite daughter. Here are her pictures. I could not choose just one, so I am putting up the entire series. She does love a photo shoot. Love a happy girl.This month, Miss Violet Cordelia has been quite active. She is learning to use her body to move around a bit more, though she is still not crawling or rolling. At the doctor's advice, we have lessened her formula intake in an attempt to make her a bit less rotund. She now drinks 4 six ounce bottles a day and eats 4-5 jars of baby food. A stomach bug went through her classroom and while she did not get it in full, she did go off food for a few days. It was interesting. I have never seen her not want to eat, and needless to say, she was not pleasant. All appears to be back to normal now, though her appetite is not quite as voracious as it once was; I think that is a good thing.

Vi is laughing, smiling, and talking all the time. Her favorite words are dada, mama, and baba. I still cannot believe she says things at 8 months that Jeremy did not say until 2 and a half. Perspective. Anyway, Violet is a good-natured kid still, she loves her laptop and remote control, her baby doll, her rings, and Jeremy's trains. She also loves music and dancing - that's my girl. We are working with her on being on her tummy and back more often (at her teacher's advice) to encourage more movement. She has begun picking up finger foods and can feed herself (sort of). She sleeps like a champ, and her bed is full of her favorite things (don't judge all you bare crib people out there) like a turtle star nightlight, a glowworm, her favorite purple sock monkey doll, and her two favorite blankies. 9 times out of 10, she goes to sleep with a smile on her face, and wakes up the same way.She is a pretty good kid - if only she would potty train. Maybe next month?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Weirdos

My kids are total weirdos. I love them and embrace their oddness.

First off, now that Christmas is so over that even the kids announce "Christmas is closed", I remembered we have a train gingerbread thing. So, we made it and it lasted approximately 4.5 minutes before we ate it. Every single crumb - gone.Jeremy has taken to stealing Violet's toys. Here he is reading her favorite book. You would think he is reading to her, but he kept pushing her over so that he could have alone time with her lift-a-flap baby book.My girl. Orange stained face from sweet potatoes, bare legs in winter, pretending a bathing suit cover-up I got on clearance is a real dress, playing with trains and a baby doll, oh and sweet potatoes on her socks and fake dress as well.We are classy here in the Hopper House. That's right, girlfriend, get comfy. This is her favorite position when eating.I got tons of advice when we began our train journey to super glue the tracks down, number them, screw them to the table, etc. Parents told me how much they hated having to fix the tracks for the kids, etc. Well, I gotta say I disagree. This is how we spend our weekends. We do a new track layout and act out new stories with the different destinations. This one was downstairs for two weeks before we created a new layout upstairs on the train table. And it is not that big of a problem because Jeremy does it himself. He set this one up on his own. Some of the tracks don't go anywhere and some turns are not possible and overpasses too low, but he loves it and was crazy proud of it.Jeremy has finally taken an interest in learning how to play baseball. I am signing him up to play on a team with William, coached by William's dad Ben! It should be fun, but I have from now until April to get him to step and throw off the correct foot, catch with two hands, stop swinging a bat like an axe, and refrain from falling on the ground in an attempt to emulate a diving catch every time a ball comes his direction. Wish me luck.We introduced Jeremy to Netflix this weekend. He got the movie Space Buddies (ugh) and watched it 45 times in one day. I got sick of it so I pretended the mailman needed it back on Sunday. I am that mom. He then picked Unstoppable online and after clicking the button he immediately ran to the mailbox to see if it was there. Obviously, it was not and Space Buddies was, so that took some explaining. He checked the mailbox no less than 20 times.He is obsessed with Unstoppable. My parents have it in Memphis, but I have refused to buy it since he is so obsessed. This will be the first time he watches it in our home. There is a train in every single shot of the movie. He started watching previews of it on youtube, so I decided we might as well give in. He thinks the characters, Frank, Will, and Connie, are his friends and he talks about 1206 and 777 (the trains) at school so much that his teachers have asked me what it means. Normal kids talk about cartoons or real friends. My son talks about Triple 7 careening down the tracks attempting to kill people. Jealous?And finally, yesterday Jeremy fell asleep on me at 4pm. I let him go to bed with the intention of getting him up for church around 5:15 (we usually attend mass at 6pm since it fits Vi's schedule better). He was so dead asleep that I stayed home while Brian and Viley did the church duty without us. I tried two more times to wake him up to no avail. Finally, after Brian was in bed and I was on my way, I hear a little monster running down the stairs -fully awake, full of energy, ready to play. "Sniff, sniff, Something smells tasty!" Jumps on the couch. "Oh, football!" Grabs his football and falls on the ground. "Mommy, I need some food. I want bacon." Runs around in circles like a maniac.

He got a peanut butter sandwich and was sent back to bed. He slept until 7am.


Thursday, January 12, 2012


Ok, so I have been flooded with questions about this whole Jeremy reading thing (how crazy that anyone reads this blog). Even his teachers at school are a bit flummoxed. Then, I got the Baby Center weekly email about Jeremy and it was called: "Your 4 Year Old: Reading". Basically, at 4, he should now BEGIN to recognize a few letters. After that, he will begin to learn their sounds, then by age 6 or 7 he should be reading sentences. Hmm. I suppose since Jeremy is our first I did not really realize how odd it was that he can read sentences now. So, here is a quick rundown of what got us to a just-turned 4 year old who can read:
  • We read to Jeremy every single night before he goes to bed. His entire life - that is not an exaggeration. At 2 weeks old, we read books to our kid. I think this is the single most important thing. He has to know that books are awesome, and the fact that we read an average of 5 books a day to him his whole life developed that love.
  • We let HIM pick the books. We read some of the same books every day for a year. It was so boring, but it is not about me - I already love to read - it is about him discovering what he wants. The fact that he had an opinion about what we read was great, so we did it.
  • We offered a variety of books and put them at kid level. I have seen some kid bedrooms where the books are neatly arranged on a high shelf collecting dust. They are all the same size and shape and look oh so pretty. That's called decorating, not reading. We have over-sized books, books that fit in the palm of your hand, cloth books, hardback books, board books, pop-up books, sticker books, magnet books, musical books...And Jeremy can reach them all, grab what he wants, and mix and match. It is not neat or tidy, but it is pretty fabulous to me.
  • We challenge him. Say Jeremy chose to read The Cat in the Hat and Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble. Ok, we would start bedtime by reading those two books. Then, when he would agree to anything to postpone going to sleep, I suggest we read Beowulf (the kid version we got from Aunt Cheri). Excellent. A whole new conversation about Grendel emerges, imagination ignites, and Jeremy will ace Senior Year literature class. Win, win, win (I miss Michael Scott). The next night, I guarantee he will choose Beowulf as one of his books.
  • This guy. My dad did it for me and all of my siblings - voices, dramatic reenactments, constant recommendations for new books. Our entire family reads voraciously and that began with my Dad who reads like 4 books a week. Find the idol of your kid's family and have that person read to him. Pop walks on water to Jeremy, so if Pop says reading is the bee's knees, then it is. Period.
  • It starts as a game. Young kids need it to be fun and engaging. These Melissa and Doug puzzles are amazing. We kept ours for Violet and it is hilarious - the pieces are chewed on, peeling, gross, and warped with slobber. He was around 18 months when Jeremy would empty it out and we would systematically put all of the pieces back with me saying, "A is for aaaapple." He loved it and we would do the entire puzzle four or five times in a row every day. Soon, I realized I could tell him to bring me the K and he would pick up the correct letter.
  • We surrounded ourselves with letters. The puzzle was only one of many. I made this border for their room from the RA supplies in my office at work, we had this ABC mat that he played on and we would jump from letter to letter. I also got this poster at the dollar store and it has been hanging in the room for at least 3 years, if not more. Not a day went by that we did not review letters, mostly as part of play time in the room. I once noticed him muttering after he went to bed, and realized he was staring at the letters on the wall and reciting them - the alternative to counting sheep!
  • Speech therapy. This was huge. As everyone knows, Jeremy had a severe speech disorder and did not begin speaking at all until he was 2.5 years old. In our early speech sessions, if we managed to get a single grunt or sound from him in an hour we considered it a successful session. Brian and I were given tons of "homework" to work with him on producing different one syllable sounds - anyone with kids with disabilities, it is so true that 90% of your success is dependent on what you do at home when there are no therapists or doctors around. Well, it seemed like the easiest way to do it was to use the alphabet. So, we drilled the alphabet daily as part of our speech routine. Once he mastered the letters, we worked on the sounds the letters made, which progressed perfectly with where he was in therapy at that time. We had us as parents, his speech therapist, his early interventionist, his classroom teachers, and for a while an occupational therapist all working on this. I do not think this is necessary for a kid to learn to read, but for Jeremy it helps to explain why he knows every letter (capital and lowercase), every sound, differing vowel sounds, etc as second nature. He knew that stuff back before he turned 3. This picture makes me miss Jennifer so much - best speech therapist in the world!
  • We listen to him. Once we noticed that he was beginning to sound out his letters to form words, we began to provide more opportunities. He would spell out and read words in the bathtub, read billboards while in the car, and then we began reading "together" at bedtime by offering for him to read the first word of every sentence and the subject words - like "train", "dog", whatever the book was about. Soon, he was asking to read more words and that progressed to full sentences.
  • We go at his pace. We never said, "Let's push Jeremy to read at an early age." We wanted him to love books and enjoy reading, but he set the pace himself. Now that we are reading chapter books (we are on Chapter 11 of Harry Potter - "Quidditch"), we only do about three pages a night. He wants to do the reading sometimes, we read sometimes while he lays down. Whatever. The other day he looked at me and said, "Mommy, you read fast and I read slow." And it was said with a smile; he was reprimanding me for reading too fast. We ask him if we wants to read a picture book instead, but he has so far always said no and cites the last part of the story (troll boogers, throwing the quaffle, wingardium leviosa, etc) and his need to see what happens next. I discussed it with his teacher, and she said it was great and he still gets plenty of variety since they read picture books at school.
  • He is awesome. He just is. We had nothing to do with that.

My basic advice is to listen to your kid, go at his or her pace, and surround them with the opportunity to read. Kids can't create opportunity from nothing, but they can and will seize the opportunity if you provide the environment for them. There were times when I never wanted to see that Alligator at Saw Grass Road book again, let alone read it for the millionth time. I have every single Dr. Seuss book memorized. I am sitting here reciting them in my head. I can perform Skippyjon Jones word for word without opening the book. Provide the opportunity, the tools, the fun, and most importantly, the time. They will thank you for it.

Hmm, speaking of: Thanks, Mom and Dad!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Glance Behind, A Look Ahead

I have done lists of resolutions, set goals, and made grand plans for new years. I have had good intentions, accountability partners, and color-coded charts. Some have been resounding successes. Others have failed miserably. Luckily, I tend to live on the positive side, and each new year I have an uncanny ability to only focus on the things I did well and not wallow in the missed opportunities, gained pounds, and unorganized closets. Either way, I have decided to take a different approach this year. I will take a look back at what made this past year the amazing one that it was (challenges included - they serve to make our successes that much more successful), and then I will look ahead to what lies in store for the new year. I think it will be interesting to see how my fortune telling pans out a year from now.

2011 - A Glance Behind
  • Jeremy met his idol. This has been a popularly revisited subject all year, and I am so glad we were able to do this. We almost didn't since I had a baby 1 week later, but we knew the little man needed his own celebration before becoming a brother. It also provided me with one of the most precious photos of my man - the moment we told him where he would be going later that day!
  • Chef Brian! It has been so much fun watching Brian turn into a culinary genius. I admit I am not always excited to try his new concoctions, but he has proven me wrong with every delicious bite. Also, I hate to cook, so this new hobby has been a dream come true!
  • Surgery. Turns out this was a year for surgeries in the Hopper house. There was one point I remember talking to my mom and I said that if I have to say the word surgery one more time I will kill someone. In total, we had 5 different surgeries this year. Two for Jeremy's mole, one for Violet's birth via c-section, one for my tongue, and one a week after the birth for the lovely complications that I so happily got to experience. And, with surgeries comes medical bills - a fun new development we will be bringing with us into the new year.
  • Travel! I was preggo for both of these trips, but a free trip is fabulous at any size. Since we can never afford a vacation, I love the little perk my job offers of conference travel. I attended professional conferences this year in both Mobile, AL and Philadelphia, PA. We even sprung for a treat and Brian was able to make the trip to Philly with me - one final adventure just the two of us before becoming parents of 2!
  • New car! We didn't really plan on this, but I cannot tell you how much of a relief it has been to have two working cars in our family. We have been married 5 years and lived 4.5 of those years with only one or one plus a broken one. We cannot actually afford it, even at the amazing price we got, but our twins are now part of the family!
  • Potty Training! Finally! At three and a half years old, Jeremy woke up one morning and asked to wear underwear. A request he had NEVER uttered before. I had decided to quit pushing it now that Vi was here and my hands were full enough, but I jumped all over that request. He has not worn a single diaper since that morning and he has had a grand total of three accidents since (why one had to be at Thanksgiving in front of family I will never know). In true Jeremy fashion, he waited until he was ready and took matters into his own hands without looking back.
  • Speech and reading. Really? Really?! This kid never ceases to amaze me and surprise me in so many ways. It appears that Mr. Jeremy will be speech therapy free and not hampered by a disability label when he starts kindergarten. I simply cannot process that idea in my brain. So many tears, sweat, and time went into this and I am FOREVER grateful that all has apparently turned out okay. And while I am on the topic of amazingness, my barely 4 year-old can read. Legitimately read. Crazy. I have gotten so many questions and comments about this I will have an upcoming post about it- stay tuned.
  • 5 year wedding anniversary. I love my husband and I am pretty sure he loves me too. We have built a pretty great family in 5 years, and I am proud of every moment of it.
  • Baby Girl. Saving the best for last. This is what 2011 will always mean to me. She has only been a part of our lives for 7 months, but she has been a part of our lives forever. (That makes sense to the parents out there.) Our little ball of chub who loves watching her brother play trains, snuggling with her daddy, and dancing with her mommy has been a game changer for all of us and we couldn't be happier. Sure, I almost succumbed to the postpartum depression haze, but we survived. And just look at that face. Totally worth everything and more.
  • Holidays! We will be spending the 4th of July in Nashville with all the fun Hopper babies - it should be insane this summer with all 5 of the little ones walking and being crazy. Thanksgiving will be in Memphis with the Carr/Boldreghini clan, so a house crammed with 50-plus loud and hungry family members bursting with laughter and sarcasm awaits us. I simply cannot wait!
  • Big boy! I would never have predicted the huge strides my baby boy took this year, and I hope to be equally impressed this year. Let's see, what is left for him to accomplish?? I predict by the end of the year he will be solving complex math equations and proofing the first draft of his novel. Seriously, though, we will begin looking at kindergartens and beg the question: Catholic school or public?
  • Vi's first birthday! Oh, I cannot believe it. This year will be a big one as our little girl goes from baby to toddler. 2012 should see her crawl and take her first steps. I have a feeling I will barely recognize my Chunkster by the end of the year, and possibly I should stop referring to her as a chubby chunk. I just don't think I am ready to let go of the smooshy cheeks that simply beg to be smothered in mommy kisses. The roly-poly baby months are too short!
  • Dani's wedding. That's right, folks. My 8 year-old sister is getting hitched. I am told that by this summer she will actually be a 22 year-old college graduate, but I am not convinced. I had to do some fancy (ie horrible) editing to show this without spoiling the Dan in a Wedding Dress Surprise, but come on, is there anything better in life than sisters? (don't worry, none of these are THE dress, not even the bridesmaid ones - these are just us being ridiculous in the store)
  • Dr. Cheri! My older sister is earning her PhD in Philosophy this May. Dr. Carr. Sounds crazy. She has worked so hard and is the smartest person I have ever met, and I have met some pretty amazing people after working in higher education for the past 12 years. I am so proud of her and will not miss her walk across that stage for anything.
  • President...? I am not the most political person in the world, but any election year is a pretty significant year. I am not looking forward to the mudslinging, but I am looking forward to some progress for our country.
  • And what am I looking forward to most of all in 2012? Family time at home with my kids and the man I love. Because, really, is there anything better than curling up with your kids to watch PBS cartoons? Or spending an entire weekend building a new train track layout that takes up the entire living room floor while you watch the wheels spinning in his brain as he figures out the complicated puzzle to make it all fit? Or repeating the same fake burp sound 20 times in a row to hear her laugh just one more time? Absolutely nothing.

Here's to the new year! May it bring us all one step closer to our heart's desires, and keep us safe, healthy, and wise along the way!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

All Work and Some Play

We opened the residence halls on campus today for the spring semester - well, 3 of my 6 buildings never close since they house athletes and international students, but whatever - so we have been in full RA training mode the last week since returning from the holiday. The training committee came up with a super cute old school Nickelodeon theme, and it really made me miss cable TV for the first time in years. Each presentation had a fun tie-in, and the staff did a great job making their sessions fun and engaging for the students. I love seeing the staff in their element teaching and learning from the students they love so much.My main role was to smile, answer questions, show support, and talk about fainting goats. No Goats, No Glory!Today, I took the kids to campus to visit the 6 halls in my area so that I could be present on opening day should they need me. Luckily, no one really did since how much help could I really be with two kids in tow? I try, but life is life and this is how I roll. Anyway, the kids were amazing! We spent over 3 hours roaming campus saying hi to RAs and new students and taking pictures of the awesome RA bulletin boards and lobby decorations (for my afore-linked RA blog). Since I am a nerd, I also took a photo of Violet perched on each of the front desks. Luckily the RAs know I am crazy and were not phased by the random baby booty being unceremoniously plopped right on their work space in the middle of spring opening. I love how some of the RAs ran and hid and others posed with her. Violet looks rather grumpy in some, which is odd because she was actually in a great mood all day, and Jeremy appears to be doing his best drunk college student impression in several of them. Love it.
Laurel HallClement HallVolunteer HallMassey Hall Apartment Residence Hall (she is totally distracted by Daniel hiding in the corner)Gibbs HallAnd Jeremy is always fascinated with this bridge, so I snapped a photo on the pedestrian bridge between Clement and Massey.I am sure it sounds odd to others, but my kids have 7 homes. Our real one and their 6 residence halls. Not every kid gets a grand welcome every time they enter a college dormitory, with college students falling over themselves to hold them, give them candy, and let them play with their iPhones. I do love a good reminder of why I love my job so much! Happy Opening!

(And two other exciting things today: my parents celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary, and our nephew Jude had his first birthday party! We love you!)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Vacation Fun

We don't really take "vacations" in this family, so the past 10 days have been a real treat. I have been home with the kids since UT is closed for the holiday - and since it is administrative closing, I don't even have to take annual time! Brian has been lucky enough to be home with us for much of the time as well, so we have been totally spoiled with family fun time. Here is a sort of photo journal of what we have been up to, having a grand ole time staying quietly at home:

Camp Out!
Jeremy loves his new tent from Santa, and combined with his new sleeping bag from Nana and Granddaddy and the Thomas pillow pet from Aunt Dani, it is no wonder he has been sleeping downstairs in the tent for the last few nights. The first one, I was worried he would be scared so I slept downstairs with him. Turns out, not scared. So, I have returned to my bed while he remains happily curled up in the tent. He plays in there all day, and has even deigned to allow a visit from his little sister on occasion.Snotty Nose!
Violet has had a minor cold for ages now, and it is simply one of those annoyingly long-lasting colds that does no real damage except for turning her nose into a leaky faucet. In an interesting turn of events, young Vi has taken a liking to the aspirator. I have to use it at least once a day to clear her out, and when she sees it she smiles, leans her head back, and flares her nostrils for me. No whining, only love for the nose suction monster. Odd child.Musicals!
Somehow, people have gotten wind of the fact that I show the kids musicals (not sure how). I got a few new ones for Christmas, and we have had a blast exploring some new classics. How odd that my kids have never seen The Wizard of Oz or Mary Poppins! Well, now they have, and both were big successes. Violet sings all the time, no joke, she really does, and all it takes is a hummed tune to bring on a big smile.Play Dates!
William got a new house (!), so we have gone over there a few times to play in the last week, and new house is even more fun than old house. We have also had play dates with Mr. Joel and my friend Melissa (who Vi adored). Below, you can see the cutest look on Violet's face. She is being held by Elizabeth, William's mom, who says her hair looked bad (it did not) so I cropped her out. I am lucky that I have friends who love my kids - and vice versa.Crawling...Almost!
We are not actually crawling yet, but in a huge step, Vi is now holding herself up and rocking back and forth. Yay! For a kid who has never spent more than 30 seconds on her tummy, this is great news!New Furniture AND Granddaddy!
Granddaddy and Uncle Dave stopped by to bring us a new dining room table and chairs and a desk from their old house. It was a very brief visit, but any time with Granddaddy is a blessing, and we were so happy to see them. And we love the new furniture. Good luck to Dave who is now the 3rd Hopper son to use the old table!New Toys!
As always, these last few days have been all about exploring and testing out our new toys. Jeremy, of course, is obsessed with his new trackmasters, and Violet loves her peek-a-boo bear. It plays peek-a-boo when you press its foot - so cute. Also, I got a new gift that I love as well. Nana contacted my mom to send her recipe cards filled out by members of my family that she had framed. It is beautiful and perfect. And I now have some of my favorite family recipes written out personally by my mom, my Aunt Judy, and my Nona preserved forever. What a lovely idea!Sorting Hat!
As we continue through Harry Potter, we have been getting very excited and hands-on. Jeremy was so intrigued with the Sorting, that he took it upon himself to sort everyone in the family by placing Mr. Moo on our heads, yelling out a house, and exploding in laughter. He put himself in Hufflepuff (because he is a nutter), me in Gryffindor (because I am awesome), Brian in Ravenclaw (because he is super smarty pants), and despite my protestations, he put Violet in Slytherin three different times. Oh well. Hopefully she will not turn out totally evil.Hugs and Kisses!
I was so looking forward to this break and spending some quality time with the kids. I get some flack for not wanting to travel during the holiday, but we travel for every single other holiday and all of my birthdays. I am so excited that we are forming our own family traditions and I do not get to spend full days with my kids very often when laundry and dishes and grocery shopping do not take up 3/4 of our time together. So, I took advantage of every opportunity to squeeze a squishy thigh, ruffle a head of hair, kiss a yummy tummy, tickle a monster until he gasped for breath, and nibble tiny toes to squeals of laughter.And yet, is it bad that I am super excited about going back to work tomorrow? I must say, as cute as they are, those kids are way more exhausting than a full-time job. Kudos to all the stay-at-home moms out there, I take my hat off to you! Here, Violet wants to give you a hug...