Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On handymen who are not, and baby's first [fill in the blank]

Owning an old home is frustrating. There have been lots of previous owners, I believe we have mentioned, who fancied themselves handymen, and we have spent a significant amount of money fixing their mistakes. The oil heat has been a source of frustration to us in particular. For the last two years we have stayed warm during winters mostly by wearing lots of thick socks and sweaters, and staying near the pellet stove that we had installed. Imagine our shock, then, when our chimney guy came by to do a routine chimney sweep and pointed out to us that our boiler (the one we purchased to replace the antique one when we bought the house) was improperly installed. Literally the pipes had just been slapped onto the chimney with large gaps sucking in extra air, and had never been optimized for efficiency. He took three minutes to do a temporary fix and then came back a week later to optimize it, and our oil consumption has plummeted. I mean that literally. Before we kept the oil heat off because using it drained the tank in under a month, and now we have gone weeks with the heat on and barely registered a dip in the oil tank's level.

I won't tell you the name of the company that so haphazardly installed our boiler the first time around (I will pretend that that is because I am not a vindictive person, but really it's because I forget who did it, and I don't feel like looking for the invoice from 2.5 years ago).

It does make me angry that something so simple could have made such a large difference in our life. Our house could have been warmer. We wouldn't have gone through so much oil so quickly. It wouldn't have sounded like a dragon was in the basement every time the boiler kicked on to heat more water (although a dragon for a boiler does seem appropriate). We wouldn't have wasted hundreds of dollars on oil that was inefficiently burned through.

This same chimney guy also noticed that our forced hot water radiators were installed on a peculiar system where, instead of forcing the heated water through the a radiator and on to the next one, a circuit of pipes was set up with offshoots where hot water could go through them but instead usually took the path of least resistance and circulated past the radiators. We had a very warm basement, and cool radiators.
Who decided this was a good idea? It's a terrible idea, and I'm not a plumping or heating expert and I can still figure this out. And it must have cost more in copper piping to set it up this way, too. Oh previous home owners, I have dreams of punching you in the face.
(And seriously, if anyone needs a chimney guy, I would love to give you a referral. Kevin at Integrity Chimney is amazing.)

Baby's first 3AM firetruck and smoke filled house.
It has been an eventful early winter for us. Calvin grows and experiences more and more firsts (Baby's first time sitting up unassisted! Baby's first Lapsit adventure at the Bookstore!). Of particular note is the first he experienced early Thanksgiving morning where, with the power flickering off and on during a major snowstorm (Baby's first snow storm! Baby's first power outage!) we awoke to the smoke alarms beeping and the first floor filled with smoke. We were out of the house within a minute of discovering the smoke, all the while thinking "This isn't happening. This only happens in movies. This only happens to other people." Exhausted fire fighters arrived (having been out all night, going from one call to the next, remind me to make them a plate of cookies for the station) and examined our house (Baby's first fire engine!) while we huddled in coats and boots and bathrobes in the driveway, fat snowflakes fluttering down to land on our heads (Calvin was delighted! Everyone was up at 3:00AM, just like he liked it!). It turned out that we were never in any danger, the power had momentarily kicked on and our pellet stove had turned on and then dutifully smothered the flame when we lost power again, the smoke being pushed back in through the exhaust pipe by the wind.
It was still terrifying.

In other news, Liam and I have tried to get out on a date at least once a month (we have managed this 3 times in the last 6 months, so we actually figure we're doing quite well). We had our first date for my birthday, going to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the movies and eating at Buffalo Wild Wings, which was, incidentally, the last place we went out to eat in the days before Calvin was born. It was not intentional, but it seems fitting that it was the first place we went out to eat afterwards. We had our second date on our wedding anniversary, spending an hour furtively eating pizza at C.C. Tomatoes. We had our third date this past Friday, attending Liam's company holiday party in Manchester (delicious hors d'oeuvres and a production of A Christmas Carol at the Palace Theater). While we knew intellectually how important dates were to a marriage, it was startling to realize how different it felt to be together at home vs together away from Calvin. While we have carved out time to spend together at home (difficult since we have opposite work schedules in order to provide care for Calvin), a part of one's brain is always spent listening for the child to call out or cry or need you. It is only when you are away from the baby that you realize that you have really been spending time coexisting in the same room but not truly being together or being present for the other.
It was nice to reconnect, to be Liam and Elisabeth again, together.

Monday, August 11, 2014

In which the ceiling fan reigns supreme and the Mommy Wars have begun already

What's going on in the Jewell household?!
Liam has developed a new training program at work, and it is being well received. He's been at his training coordinator job for a year now, and loving it still!
Elisabeth has gone back to work in the evenings, leaving Grasshopper with Liam when he gets home from his own job. She loves getting out of the house and being "Elisabeth" for a few hours instead of "Mommy-Milk-Creature", and feels like she should feel guilty for not feeling guilty about being away from her child. Not being a full-time Stay At Home Mom is very necessary for her mental health. (Liam also kicks her out of the house without the baby periodically for her mental state. Empty errands to get strawberry milkshakes have never tasted so much like freedoooooom!)
Some part of our roof is leaking, probably some part around the chimney or the eaves, and dripping water in to our house. We noticed it when it dripped its way down in to first floor living room, soaking the horsehair plaster enough that it sagged and bowed and created new and sudden cracks in the wall. Hurrah. We are grateful that the cracks are not because a load bearing wall lost its foundation. A chimney sweep is coming to inspect our chimney and hopefully tell us where the problem is. (Also, we are delighted at the thought that we are hiring a honest-to-goodness chimney sweep. I imagine he will be wearing a cocky black tophat, have soot smudged across his face, and speak in a Cockney accent and call us "Gov'ner". In reality, his name is probably Bob, and he'll be wearing a Red Sox baseball cap.)
Liam is getting glasses. Partly because his job requires long hours at a computer and he is getting eye strain headaches, and partly because glasses give him a dignified appearance (yee gahds this man is aging well) that will help him greatly when he encounters people in professional circles who automatically discount his abilities because he appears very young. We spent a fun morning examining different frames to find ones that suited his face.
We went out mid-July to enjoy Market Days, making it one of our few family adventures this summer. We miss being able to tube down the river with our friends, or drop everything and go to dinner at someone's house. But we also watch all the little children running around at the street festival and imagine Calvin's delight at being allowed to ride the miniature train ride, or play with the bumper cars. Calvin did well for being taken out of his familiar home and wheeled around in the heat and humidity. He lasted nearly an hour before he decided he'd had enough. Well done, little man.

Parenthood has made the last year quite a journey of self-revelation. Our lives have changed so much!
You can always expect the relationships in your life to change when you go through a major life event. Some relationships will grow closer, some will fade. You will gain some friends, and some will fade away. Some of the people in your life will respond as expected, and some will respond in baffling ways, and some people will utterly surprise you by which category they place themselves in. Our old friends who have withdrawn we miss most terribly, and our newly strengthened relationships delight us. Movies and books and TV shows all seem very different now, a change similar to when we got married. Parent/child distress is more upsetting, we empathize more with the parents than we did with the children, news of war or terrible accidents make us think of the fear that the children went through, or the despair of the parents as they tried to save their children. We would do anything for this little man, and our hearts bleed for the parents who cannot save their children. Parenthood is wonderful and exciting. Parenthood is miserable and frustrating. The love is familiar and foreign all at once. I miss who I was before motherhood, and also look forward to adventures with our little man.

Baby news!
Uncle Henry holds Calvin for the first time.
I nipped Calvin's little finger when I was trying to trim his scratchy little claws. He screamed. He bled. He cried. I cried. I felt terrible. It healed quite quickly, but I still feel terrible, and afraid to try trimming them again.

Little man has learned how to smile socially, and expresses excitement sometimes (usually by kicking and panting in the bathtub, or reaching and vocalizing when he anticipates a feeding is imminent). No giggles yet. He is enamored with ceiling fans and shadows and bright lights, and has shown little interest in the toys we have for him. I feel like he is taking secret lessons from the cats and will soon start trying to play with the orange juice cap.

Our doctor's advice was to politely listen to everyone's advice, and then do what we were going to do anyway. It gets frustrating when someone circumvents this and says things like "Well, of course you're going to do such and such/would never dream of such and such/I hope you are going to blahblahblah," and then they clam up and pointedly stare at you with a hopeful expression, and you can't politely deflect their "suggestion". The Mommy Wars (where women passive-aggressively shame other women for their parenting decisions, who does she think she is, can you believe that she lets her school-age children run around with lemonade, it has got sugar in it, oh I hope you aren't going to use disposable diapers at all, or let him near a television before he's 12) have started early, apparently.
The number of people who assume that my baby is like their baby is truly frustrating, especially when they couch their advice in the guise of 'stories'. "Well, my baby used to like me to dance around with finger-cymbals while wearing sequins. That would make him stop crying. Also, he had a Chilean stomach worm so he screamed for hours," they say, while giving me an expectant look. I feel like I'm being pressured to try their advice right then and there, and next time I see them they repeat their same story, discretely trying to figure out if I tried their advice. No. No I did not. My baby does not have a Chilean stomach worm, he has a stubborn burp, and likes to be soothed by gentle bouncing in an upright position. He also likes listening to music with a thumping bass, since he spent a lot of time listening to Lady Gaga in-utero, or rousing classical music instead of lullabies (1812 Overture is a favorite, as one, at one point, The Marriage of Figaro).

I do like stories of commiseration, though. "Oh, he's projectile spitting up/refuses to quiet unless you're holding him/peeing on you as soon as you get a dirty diaper off/chomping down while he nurses? Ah, yeah, I remember those days. You'll get through it. Little Joey/Shanaynay used to be able to pee on his father from across the room!" It feels like we've joined the world's biggest secret club. There's the head-nod of membership, where you exchange tired glances with strangers across the aisle in the grocery store, and smile in delight at a stranger's baby who is happily "Baa baa baa baa baa!"ing in the cart and banging a toy in rhythm against the cart's bars. There is the watchful eye
Today in microfashion: puppies, perfect for morning naps.
of stranger parents who keep an eye on the swarm of children playing at the playground, not unlike the  watchful eye of a herding dog who makes sure that no sheep stray further than the invisible boundary line. Not unlike the secret code among women (where you will give even your worst enemy a feminine sanitary product if they ask for it, you just do), other parents are there to stretch out an arm or leg to prevent a toddler from walking out a door when Mom is distracted for a second, or to lend a diaper in the case of an empty diaper bag.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In which we suddenly realize it is almost August, and Liam's mother gets married.

It is in a sleep-deprived haze that I realize that the month of July is nearly over. Every day has turned into another adventure along the lines of "Keep our baby alive for another day, then get some sleep, possibly a shower." Our summer has slipped away, as we tread water keeping our heads afloat with Baby. Despite all of this, we have to admit that Calvin has been a delightful child for his first month. He maintained a fairly even 4-hour rotation of feeding, social interaction for about half an hour, and then 3 hours of sleep before beginning again. We had a few nights of 6-hour sleeps, and one beautiful 7-hour sleep. As he nears 6 weeks, though, that appears to be ending. The purple crying has begun, and he refuses to be soothed, and he's quite suddenly awake significantly more, and he's quite unhappy about it.

Liam's mother finally tied the knot with her loving boyfriend of several decades, Pat! The ceremony was held in Elizabeth Claire's beloved garden, and a garden party with all of their family and friends. It was a bright June day, with nary a cloud in the sky to threaten the 70+ guests.
Calvin was 2 weeks old at the time and we brought him to the wedding, spending most of the day hiding away in a bedroom to keep him away from the crowds in the garden (he's not old enough to receive vaccines, yet, and there have been whooping cough outbreaks this year). While we were glad to participate in the wedding festivities, bringing an infant turned out to be a huge mistake: he was so stressed out by the unfamiliar location and the people who snuck in to see him! We learned our lesson for sure.
First family photo!
We puppy-sat an 8 week Labrador puppy named Yarrow for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She was very sweet, and did a lot of what I call The Bumblebee Dance, where she is so excited and happy that her tail wagging pulls her bottom back and forth as she twists and winds her way around your feet.
"There's something over there! Can I eat it? I'm going to eat it."

Here is an picture of our adorable baby, being adorable.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

In which we have a baby.

This Father's Day was extra special because our son was born on it. Calvin Nikolai Jewell joined us at just a little past midnight. 8 lbs, 7 oz, 21 inches he is absolutely perfect and fills our hearts with love. Every time we lay him on our chests and he struggles to lift his little head to stare blearily at our faces, it feels like our hearts might burst. How is it possible to love such a little body so very much?

Today is his first Saturday. Every day this week has been a First weekday for him. He will have many Saturdays to come, filled with adventures, but today is the first.
Happy Saturday, Calvin.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In which we do our final preparations for Grasshopper's arrival

I have reached the "Waddling" stage of pregnancy. I have about three things that fit me, and my wedding rings are not included in that short list. I am very grateful that the swelling that plagues most pregnant women waited until the last weeks for me.

After taking our childbirth class last month, we have been particularly paranoid about every twinge and tickle. Could this be a sign of oncoming labor? How about this? While I may rationally know that hiccups are not an indication of labor, it doesn't stop me from having to take a moment to remind myself that there is a specific list of symptoms to look for, and hiccups are not included on that list.

The crib is set up (thanks, Mark)! Also, Liam's work threw him a baby shower, which was incredibly sweet. Their generosity completely blindsided us, and we can safely say that our nursery and baby preparations are complete now. Car seat installed? Check. Bassinet set up? Check (and tears, I cry a lot these days). Hospital bag packed? Check. Panic and excitement? Check.

The only thing left uncertain are our cats' reactions to bringing Grasshopper home. Thus far we anticipate:
  • Tomoe will completely ignore the baby, and pretend that there is nothing new going on.
  • Butterscotch will go one of two ways. 1) complete and utter panic at this loud, noisy, sticky thing that has invaded her home. 2) deciding that the loud, noisy, sticky thing is a hairless kitten that needs a nursemaid, or at least to be guarded from a secure distance, like underneath the crib.
  • Sirius will decide that the baby is fascinating, and will become his best bud. They will get in lots of adventures together.
However, despite the kitties' good intentions, we have purchased cat nets to keep the kitties out of the crib and bassinet while we are not watching, because Sirius is 15 pounds of solid muscle, and Butterscotch is 13 pounds, and even if they would never intentionally hurt the baby, the baby's lungs will not be strong enough to lift a heavy cat off of his ribs, and Sirius has the disconcerting habit of affectionately lying across people's faces (Sirius is sweet, but hasn't got an awful lot going on in the brains department). No unsupervised kitties with the baby, thank you very much. At least not until the baby is at least as big as the cats, and is capable of turning his own head.

Monday, April 28, 2014

In which Spring has sprung, and Grasshopper is revealed to have a 'Y' chromosome.

One of these cats is bigger than the other.
What happened in April? Is it really almost gone? April was a month of snow, more snow, more cold, everyone wondering when the snow would finally leave us and let us get on with spring, and then it happened and the snow was gone and the birds are chirping (and the cats are jostling for position in the open windows, because BIRDS).

My mother-in-law threw a baby shower for me, which was duck-tastically delightful! We revealed the sex of our baby: it's a boy! Liam's Aunt Sharon proved to be deviously clever at baby shower games and trounced us all.

Baby things are so soft!
Quack quack!

Liam continues to excel in his job a Training Coordinator at the credit union. This month he coordinated an entire financial literacy fair (comprised of dozens of volunteers from several NH credit unions) at which hundreds of local high school students learned about financial planning and budgeting and why it is important. We all remember those days when we naively thought we were going to be millionaires early in our 20's because we were going to make it big... He gets most of them to pay attention right off by pointing out the statistics of the NFL (in that the average NFL career lasts 2 years, and that the average former-NFL player is bankrupt within 3 years, due to poor financial planning). This really drives home that their get-rich-quick schemes only really matter if they can stay rich.

Grasshopper is obviously the reincarnation of Emperor Palpatine. Oops.

That's better! Look at his little face!

Monday, March 17, 2014

In which we get our rear in gear and paint Grasshopper's nursery.

A little while back Liam and I sat down and looked at what we still needed to do to prepare for Grasshopper's arrival. "Okay," we said, "that's a lot, but it's doable." Then we looked at a calendar and did some counting and realized "Holy baby bump, Batman, we've only got 13 weekends left in which to fit in all of these projects. And that's if Grasshopper abides by the schedule!"

A fire appropriately lit underneath our behinds, we've set to work. We've filled in the rest of our baby registry, we rearranged our bedroom and moved book cases and piles and piles of books (where did they all come from? Why are there so many cookbooks?!), we repaired the attic pull-down stairs (Mike at Avery Construction is delightful, by the way, if you're looking for a handyman. He even vacuumed up his construction debris afterwards.) and started stuffing yet more stuff up there, and finally, this past weekend, we painted Grasshopper's nursery.

By "we" I mean "Liam", because I was chased out of the room by paint fumes. I was able, however, to scrub the walls down and help prepare them for painting.

The previous homeowner's dubious choice of overall wall paint color was revealed. Combined with their "handyman" inclinations which we keep discovering around the house, I have a very low opinion of their decision-making abilities.
Ew. No. Mustard/institutional school bus/No. 2 Pencil yellow. Incidentally, does anyone know if you can just lop a (TV) cable off and cover it with a solid wall plate?

The Internet revealed to us that the method of painting that professionals use is not the "W" or "M" path that most people are taught. Instead, one is supposed to paint overlapping vertical sections with a long handled roller. Scrubbing/prepping the walls took an hour. Taping the details took another hour (there were a lot of edges). Painting the edges and the details took the longest at about an hour and a half. The actual painting of walls (using the method of the professionals) took about one hour in total.

Grasshopper Green for Grasshopper!

The paint shows up a little brighter than we expected, but we suspect that most of that stems from the bright blue Circus Tent effect of the painter's tape still up. It will be a much more soothing room once the blue comes down, and once we put in some dark green accents like a grass decal border on the bottom.
I'm trying to find a wall decal like this for the bottom edge of the wall. We could hide ferocious animals in the grass! Rawr!
Painting: check! Now to choose a crib.

Monday, March 10, 2014

In which Nashua proved too studly to be a stud dog, and we rearrange the bedroom because of REASONS (nesting)

Liam and I have felt very grown up lately, in ways which we did not before, because we do Grown Up Things like go to school board meetings and vote on budgets. It struck us, as we left the meeting last week at 12:15 (we were all very tired, and all very cranky with a small group of cantankerous residents who felt the need to argue every warrant article and who started getting belligerent when the votes weren't going their way. It was a shame, really, because they were bringing up some good points for discussion, but nobody wants to side with the Jerks when they start name-calling, and I think they shot themselves and their causes in the foot, so to speak.) that while neither of us particularly enjoyed going out to bars to socialize, or going to late night parties, or going out to see live music (note: Elisabeth finds live music particularly boring, except for classical concerts, or anything with violins), we were willing to stay out late to perform our civic duties.
Then we went home and ate some chocolate chips right from the bag, so I think that our adulthood is still a work in progress.
(In other news, in case you haven't been following the subject, Merrimack Valley School District will soon start offering full-day kindergarten, which is tremendous and fantastic.)

Liam's shoulder started a backwards slide in to pain again. We are grateful that spring is approaching, because that means no more snow to shovel. We're fairly certain that the 18" of snow that we got overnight in February was the cause of his shoulder reinjury. Spring can't come fast enough! We can barely see safely out of our driveway as we leave for work in the morning, and I've taken to throwing a few shovelfuls of softened snow from the tops of our snow banks (which were about 7'+ for a while there) out in to the road to melt every day, just hoping to help our line of sight clear better. I am forbidden by Liam to do anything more, anything heavier, although my doctor hasn't given me any technical restrictions beyond "What your body thinks it can handle". My abdomen muscles tell me when to quit, and Grasshopper makes many things quite uncomfortable. Grasshopper's newest trick is showing me how it can almost reach my ribs, and then jabbing me in two directions at once. Kicks and jabs are strong enough now that I am actually surprised and jump when I feel them. Two days ago I felt an elbow (or a knee, or a heel, I couldn't tell) drag across my belly. That was disconcerting.

Nesting has reached an all time high. We're still getting rid of multiple trash bags of Things each week, and even more gets donated constantly. We still haven't painted the nursery, but we've cleared the large bookshelves that live in that room in preparation for moving them out, and then yesterday I decided that we needed to rearrange our bedroom right now Because Reasons. Liam was very obliging, but I wonder how much of that is just his ability to recognize Crazy Eyes, and how much of it was actually the way he wanted it rearranged. It was his idea to lower the mattress in our bed such that I can actually easily get in and out of bed instead of heaving myself on to it ("tossing and turning" is more like "a slowly capsizing barge, with lots of grunting and huffing").

Nashua-the-dog was pulled from the Guiding Eyes stud service program because, after evaluation, they decided that he was too, uh, studly to be a stud (meaningful look). Fortunately, the ATF wants him, and he went happily off this past week to his new training where he gets to sniff things as his job! I always suspected that he would be happiest in a sniffing position, as his love of sniffing and scents surmounted even his love of food. For a dog, this translates in to a whole awful lot. Liam is happy that he is going on to be useful, and saddened that his beloved puppy won't be doing what we spent a year preparing him for. The ATF's training requirements will mean that Nashua will need to learn a new skill set that his Guiding Eyes for the Blind training did not include, but he has a good basic skill set down already that makes him valuable.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wherein we redub the baby "Grasshopper", and Liam finally wins on my sugar habit.

We bought paint for the baby's nursery. The paint color was called "Grasshopper" (a really light spring-y green), which made us laugh and now we are calling Player 3 "Grasshopper", especially because it likes to kick. The kicks are actually kicks now, instead of the swish-swish-thumps of two weeks ago. They're still gentle and cute (for now) but it's very disconcerting and uncomfortable to have your internal organs jabbed from internal directions.
There is new research out that is linking excessive sugar consumption to heart disease (excessive defined as more than 8 teaspoons a day for women, more than 10/day for men. There are about 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon. For reference, a cup of vanilla Greek yogurt has 26 grams of sugar, or 6.5 teaspoons of sugar) and Liam has finally backed me in to a research corner for my sweet tooth. He's been trying to get me to cut back on sugar for my health for years now, trying to link it to diabetes, but all of the research out there had only linked poor lifestyle and fat consumption/body weight to to diabetes and heart disease. Well he's got me now, the *@&#$*, and I've been trying really hard to cut back on sugar. It makes me very unhappy because I love sugar very very much, but, you know, science.

Liam's shoulder is getting better. His MRI in December found nothing. The good news is that it meant there was no need for surgery. The bad news is that the doctors had no idea what was causing him so much pain. They wanted to do a cortisone shot as a we-don't-know-what's-wrong-with-you treatment, but it would have been a painful procedure involving inserting a long needle into a delicate spot, x-raying it to check the placement (with the needle still in there), adjusting the needle, x-raying again, and then pushing the plunger on the needle. He chose instead to go to a chiropractor as a last-ditch effort before the needle, and it has been great. This chiropractor examined him and noticed the same displaced rib that the Physical Therapist noted but the doctors dismissed. Basically what she thinks is wrong with him is that something is out of alignment way over here on the other side of his body and it's pulling on this which is yanking on that and the end result is that the end of the line (his shoulder and bicep) have such pressure and pulling on them that they're under tremendous stress. She works on him for maybe 5 minutes a week and he's been seeing marked improvement. Nice lady. Walk-in-only practice, 3 days a week, doesn't even need to advertise and her waiting room is always full from returning clients and word of mouth advertising.
Nashua-the-dog has news: he's being removed from the program. His training is flawless and his intelligence is unmatched, but he likes to steal things off of counters for attention which is a big problem for a guide dog because you can't move things around on a blind person. It is not unexpected for a retriever breed to want to bring you things, but it is an automatic failure if he can't be broken of it. Even the top trainers in the organization can't break him of the habit, and they've progressed to outright punishment to try to deter him. The good news is that he is such a perfect specimen that they are 95% certain that he will be used as a Stud Dog, which is a huge honor since only about 2 male dogs every 4-5 years get chosen for breeding service.
I practiced making fondant (that smooth cake frosting edible sugar clay stuff that they use to make wedding cakes look fancy) for the baby shower cake. It was a delicious disaster. Candy-making is apparently very different from baking. I used way too much sugar, accidentally, and the stuff was too stiff and thick and unusable. Liam thought it tasted like fresh Circus Peanuts and ate quite a lot of it. You know it's too sweet when even I recoil when you offer me another piece.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Player 3 has entered the game

After three happy years of marriage, Liam and I have decided it is time to add to our little family. In June of 2014 our family will be growing by two feet, as we welcome Baby Jewell!

We've taken to calling the baby "Player 3", since we both enjoy video games.
This was the announcement picture that I wanted to take, but the extra game controllers were packed away in the attic.

We're currently in a frenzy of decluttering as we seek to make room for Player 3 in our house. The lack of a proper basement in our house makes storage particularly difficult, and we're making some hard choices about what we keep and what gets tossed. We're ignoring the problem of where we'll store the stroller when we're not using it.

My belly grows larger every day. We kept my pregnancy a secret for a long time as we were enjoying the privacy that it afforded us (unsolicited advice! overly personal questions!), and I'm sure my co-workers were quietly assuming that I was enjoying the holiday season's food a little too much. But my bump has finally popped out and it is a secret no longer. It's already so large, I feel like a whale when I try to get comfortable in bed! We're only halfway there, it's only going to get larger.
It's hard to stay fashionable in maternity clothes when it looks like you're accessorizing a beer belly.
Player 3 has been actively kicking for a few weeks now. The kicks are still in the soft and cute phase, and I've noticed that the favorite time for acrobatics is at about 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Liam has been able to feel the kicks only twice, each purely by chance. Every time I call him over to feel the kicks, they stop as soon as his hand is on my stomach. Player 3 is either shy, or quite the prankster.