Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014!

This Thanksgiving we drove up to Kirksville, Missouri to spend the holiday (and a whole week too!) with my aunt and her family, my beautiful Grandma Imogene and my sister Briana and her fiance, Nick. My aunt and uncle were so sweet to have us and were the perfect hosts. Just to paint a picture: they have a chips and cookies closet, a cereal cupboard, a candy closet (not to mention Grandma's stash), two freezers full of ice cream, a drawer packed full of fruit snacks, and who knows what else. (There's probably Coke cans swimming in the back of the toilet.) 
I gained 5 lbs. Five glorious pounds. 
And aside from the totally acceptable binge eating + Thanksiving, we watched movies, ran an obstacle course in their basement, died laughing playing games late at night, and cried tears of sadness and joy sharing our fondest memories of our Grandpa Handley that had passed exactly a year ago, while eating his favorite ice cream and watching he and grandma's 50th wedding anniversary video. 
I have a great family and a week's worth of sucking in their awesomeness was just what this girl needed. 
They live right in the middle of my parents and siblings so we're all meeting up there for Christmas too! 


Couldn't keep these two apart if I wanted to :). 


Scout's first time meeting her Aunt Briana! 



Grandma Burwell's insanely good berry pie. 


Adam is meticulous about his bird every year. And I have to say, this year was probably the best one yet. I mean, he shoved an onion up a dead turkey's bum. That's dedication. 


Reliving my childhood over and over again with these two :).  

My cousin Kacy, Grandma Handley and Aunt Darlene. Seriously, you won't meet more loving or kind women. 


About half-way through dinner, Jude slid down his chair like so, looked up at me and said, "Mommy, baby sister beh-wee?" Sure thing, buddy. :) 



My cousin Matt doesn't like turkey, but when I passed the plate of that juicy dark meat he grabbed a leg and went. to. town. Adam considered it a major complement. 




I wish I could capture just how special their relationship is. Grandma is so in-tune with Scout and her needs. Whenever she smiles, laughs, or cries, that Grandma of mine seems to always know exactly why and helps her with whatever she needs. She is a mother to us all. 

See you all real soon! Stock up on the snacks! Just kidding. No I'm not. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Friendship Love Letters

As per usual this time of year, my mind can't help but be turned to thoughts and memories of things that I am most grateful for. It's sort of a sappy ritual, especially when it includes a gathering of people at a dinner table piled-high with high-calorie food, taking turns pulling out from underneath a year's worth of nonsense the most important things that truly make them grateful. And in my case, to keep the cheesy tradition alive, I'm so grateful for my family.
Of course.
But I mean it. And to dig a little deeper, I'm grateful for one specific time when it was just Jude and us. Don't get me wrong, we are all over-the-moon to have Scout in our lives, like, ridiculously so. But that summer that Jude was one-and-a-half and both Adam and I had the most uncomplicated jobs ever and we were the non-busiest I think we've ever been, not-to-mention having had an adorably chubby son in tote, and a beautiful city that really felt like our own at our finger-tips, I hold some of my fondest memories. The kind of memories that actually take you out of your body for a second and you're not sure how much time has lapsed when you finally snap back into reality. 
And I'm so gratitude that at that time in our lives our best friend Phil shot a video of us and all our favorite places, and went above-and-beyond to capture the love and warmth and joy we were experiencing at that time of being first-time parents gushing over our beautiful, little family. 
Phil and his wife, Jessica, are some of our greatest friends and not only did we have a blast shooting the video, but they always gave us their time and love as really honest friends. No matter what we were doing--dessert date night, going to the Saturday market, bbqing, fruit-picking, YouTube video watching, binge-eating--we always had the best time. And right before they moved away from us, looking back now, I see now how they really, inadvertently, sent us off with a video that culminated our mutual love of family, Portland and the many things we used to do together as friends. 
And I know I've posted this video before, but it means so much more to me even now than it did then, looking back on all we've all been through and done these last two years.
We love you Phil and Jessica! Thanks again! (and the offer to move in with us still stands. SLEEPOVER!)

Also, it's way better to view if you click the link below the video. Which also takes you to Phil's Vimeo site where you can view all of his stellar videos. 


Instagram In Love from Phillip Goodwin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Disney Land (Part I)

Last month we spent a week in California at Disney Land and California Adventure for a family reunion with Adam's family! It's been many, many years in the works and this was such a blast of a gathering for all of us Stevens', especially since it was my first time at the parks. (My summers were spent in the Adirondacks and knee deep "mowing" the lawn with these --ask me how many scars I have on my ankles. Ask me). 
Living in the relative middle of the country now definitely has its perks when it comes to flying from one coast to the next. It was usually a 12-hour day flying to go see whichever of our families we didn't live immediately next to and now it's a solid 6 hours tops. And it's beautiful. The kids were darling little champs--mostly sleeping the whole time--and I also realized that from now on when we're gifted with the opportunity to upgrade we will be without question offered a mini-van and NOT a Mazda-6. 
It's cool. 
I found that driving a brand new Dodge Caravan, with its sexy-smooth leather and automatic doors, actually tempted me to throw my next $20k into becoming even more of a 1980's-mom jeans-happy-family cliche. 
What made me feel that way in the first place?--Matching Disney t-shirts. 
*sigh*
But I digress...





Jude took a little bit to get used to the masses of people, loud rides and larger-than-life characters, but once he sunk his teeth into some chocolate and nearly choked me to death more than once in little-man terror, he got relatively used to it. 

Look at this kid! Talmadge wasn't even afraid at all to go on Splash Mountain. His aunt, on the other hand, was screaming like a little girl and asking to be let out next to the dancing rabbits. 
He then put her to further shame by going on Tower of Terror and LOVING it. 

mmm..that's a good looking group.


Scout definitely enjoys being outside and was such a good little girl sleeping in the stroller and joining me to meet up with Mother Goose every two hours. (explained below) 


And THIS is when all of their wildest dreams came true. 





Is sleeping babes not the best site ever??

Can I just say, aside from the most delicious corn dogs ever (I don't even like hot dogs), hot beignets, Ghirardelli milkshakes, or the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, my absolute favorite part of the whole parks experience was the Child Care Center. Every time I needed to nurse Scout I would walk in and be greeted by wonderful elderly ladies dressed as Mother Goose guiding me into an adorable room with wooden rocking chairs to feed my precious babe. It was a beautiful, beautiful experience. And I spent more time there than I should have.
It was magical. 




Jude wasn't so sure about the parade at first, but once he realized that the floats weren't actually coming after him and were just rounding the corner very slowly, he was cool with it all. 



And that's Part I! We were exhausted after just one full day at Disney Land and took a day in between to hang out at the house and swim. 
My idea of the perfect vacation is a careful balance of play and doing absolutely nothing but lying on a couch with re-runs and takeout. 
And I was perfectly careful. 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Newcomers

Well, we're here in Austin!
My mom drove down with me and the kids at the end of September, and we had such a great time. My mom is the kind of lady that will 100% judge me for ordering a large diet coke, but will totally support me for letting my son create a flowing river of pee on the pavement of a deli parking lot. We get along just fine. 
It took us 4 full days of driving and a nice, sweet visit with our dear family in Missouri, and the kids were total champs. And let me just say, having driven from one coast to the next and also from north to south, this country is pretty freakin' spectacular. 

Adam and I have certainly been adjusting to our roles completely reversing once again, with him now working out of the home exclusively and me being home all day, every day, but I must admit--it's pretty fantastic. I've never been very enthusiastic about the whole career-mom thing because, personally, I'm just not that energetic. Or organized. Or optimistic. 
Hats off to all you full-time moms with full-time careers that are pulling it off because you are magical, mystical, majestic creatures that deserve an award. Or a metal. Or at least a cuddle from someone. I volunteer my services. 
So, aside from this weekend, every weekend since moving in has been busy with either having family in town or us being out of town, and we decided to take advantage and explore downtown Austin Friday night as an adorably clueless family of four. What we discovered is Austin is a rockin' town. I mean, we ate at a bar last night and the food was fantastic and there were also other families there with young children. Everyone was well-behaved, restaurants played live music, and the streets were dazzling with hanging string lights. 



This week we also took a trip to the Thinkery childrens museum and have otherwise been hanging out at home and enjoying the cooler weather.
Fall really is the best. 





And having daddy outside of the home makes for some pretty sweet and enthusiastic nightly reunions. "DA-DA!!!!!!"

Thanks for the warm welcome, Austin. I think we're going to be really great friends. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our new little lady

Welp, I have a daughter.
A beautiful, beautiful daughter.
And it's been wonderful. And it's also quite terrifying. 
When Jude was born I looked at the little man in my arms and pictured him as just that: a little man. A boy. Peter Pan. Dirt, rocks, bikes, bugs..mischief. 
When I look at our little Scout I see a 16-year-old woman. 
And it terrifies me. 

But enough of that. 
Guys, we welcomed a little sister into our family a little over a month ago.
Being a mother all over again has filled me with even greater purpose and love. 
She's just perfect, and she fits right in.
And we feel so very blessed. 

Photo credit to the amazing Casey McDaniel!








Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking it all in strides

In our little cul-de-sac there are houses, just like ours, that are considered multi-family homes. And in them live the best of all kids, who range from ages 0-15. And wow, are they an impressive group. Every time the sun goes down and they inevitably come out to play a game of kickball in rollerblades or race their bikes up and down our street, Jude gasps when he hears their fun, runs to the window and squeals, “Hey, girls! What ‘r you doin’?!” And they sweetly yell up, “Hey Jude!” 
Last night, the air had cooled significantly and we decided to take out our scooter and join them. 
Yeah, I take pictures of Jude on his scooter and it might look like he knows what he’s doing, but most of the time just he and I go out and he weakly pushes off for a couple yards and then finds something else to do, or he puts both feet up and expects me to push him the whole way. I’ve been dying to have him really use it and challenge himself and gain some gosh-darn balance. But, each time we try we ultimately leave without developing any new skills on the freaking thing. 





But alas! Last night—OH, last night—Jude, seeing the other kids with their scooters and their bikes, decided he wanted to keep up with them, and just took off. Like, don’t-scare-your-mother-or-anything-going-down-that-hill, took off. He weaved, he soared, he CONQUERED. 
Guys, it was amazing. 


Scooter! from Britney Stevens on Vimeo.

And then, when it inevitably got dark and the street lights came on, it nearly broke his heart, but we had to say goodnight. 
And as I sat him on the potty, and positioned myself square with his filthy face and his matted and sweaty helmet hair, he looked up at me and said, in young toddler grief, “The girls.” I told him I know he misses them and that we’ll go out again tomorrow. And then he looked me in the eyes again and rambled something about falling down and rocks and that he’s okay. 
And then my heart swelled. 

Listen guys, I try not to talk too much about our journey trying to get Jude to talk and communicate on the level he “should” be at his age, because it’s tiresome and difficult. But what I will say is that the past two years have been agonizing. You moms and dads of kids with speech and communication delays know the sadness and longing you feel for your little one to talk to you, to look at you and to even initiate play with you. You know the frustration of people and parents looking at your kid, looking at their own, and then looking at you and thinking (or even asking), “What’s wrong with him?” Or having little kids not like him, or even pick on him, or bully him, because he isn’t talking as much as them, and praying he doesn’t know that the kids are being mean, as your heart breaks when he half smiles and goes off and does something else, all-the-while you knowing full-well there’s nothing wrong with this darling, sweet, mischievous, smart, affectionate little child, he’s just not talking yet. 
He’s JUST not talking yet. 
And clinging to those people who can look at him and say, wow, Jude is so smart, or so sweet, or so handsome, or any of the other millions of wonderful things that he is. 

I’ve had people say, “Have you had him checked?”, “Did you check his ears?”, “You know, he might have autism”, “Oh, have you heard of speech therapy?”, and I smile and say “Thank you for your advice and concern” because I really do mean it, but at the same time thinking, “I live with this daily, you really think I haven’t considered all of this? And not just considered it once, but it actually occupies my mind constantly, every day, every moment and every time I try to get him to say 'apple' or 'mama' or 'please' or even just respond to his name for the millionth time?"
I’ve had people say, “You know, you’ve been off working, maybe that’s why he’s not talking,” as if me being gone two times a week for the last 4 hours he's awake is the reason my son has major communication delays (and gosh, that’s not harsh or anything)—and can we please talk about something else that doesn’t involve your completely speculative, uneducated, and self-proclaimed-brilliant opinions about my son who you barely know, and not pull them back out until I ask for them? I appreciate that you’re newly concerned for the welfare of my son, and that you have about a million golden nuggets of advice to throw in my face about why your child talks so beautifully, clearly and early, that I promise are due purely to your child’s personality and probably have absolutely nothing to do with anything you did, but no please: Tell me that I should talk to him more, read to him more, set up more playdates, play more music, turn off the TV, take him to a speech therapist, pray, or have his hearing checked (please, tell me one more time to have his hearing checked, because I might forget), because I swear, I just sit here thinking in a dull stupor, “Someone please help me, I think my son might not be talking.” 

But recently, over the past 6-9 months, things have become easier, and he’s become a different kid. He is still my same darling, smart, sweet, mischievous and handsome little man, but he has decided it’s time. Time to open his mouth and eyes and embrace his speech and the world around him. 

And it has made me realize what I realized all along, but what I regrettably questioned at times with all the negativity and doubt around me: He really was everything I knew he was, he just wasn’t ready. And now, each and every day I practice the speech tactics we learned from a wonderful, patient, loving speech therapist who reassured me over and over again, “He’ll talk when he’s ready, but for now, these are things you can do”, he learns something new, says something new, and loves something new. 

And it makes my heart swell over and over again. 

We still have a long way to go, but every time he says, “Mama, may I have juice?,” or “Mama, this is for baby sister,” or sings “I love you,” I think back to a year ago or two years ago and wish I had been less worried and just allowed myself to completely embrace him for who he was at that moment. 




Because, guys, every day with him really is the best day of my life. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jude and Meema

All last week we were up in upstate New York enjoying the beautiful Adirondacks at Lake George! This year was extra-special because our near-90-year-old Grandma Handley came all the way from Missouri to spend the week with us, along with one of my aunts and cousins. It was a total blast and well-deserved, especially for our poor, neglected Jude who is constantly trying to peel this mama off of the couch. Hey, I made you lunch, didn't I? 

While I sort through photos, here's my favorite video of the trip:
Jude and Great Grandma (Meema) really bonded over the week and he gets so excited to see her now and give her kisses :).


Meema and Jude from Britney Stevens on Vimeo.

Tears, people. Tears. 
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