It has been a hot minute since I’ve had a chance to share an update about our life at home in a blog post. I try to share little glimpses of our happenings in Instagram Stories, but I’ve barely had a spare moment of quiet time to sit and explain anything about our household. We’ve actually been quite busy lately and I’m excited to finally catch you up on the Gavin Family’s adventures. Here are five big things happening in our lives right now.
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1. Rob on Vacation
Everyone was extra happy last week because Rob took time off work and spent the week at home with us! He has been absolutely swamped at work for the past few months and honestly doing a great job of maintaining a work/family balance. The only problem was that he had so much work to squeeze into his daily schedule that his days at the office were filled with stress and a perpetual feeling of being overwhelmed. Rob was burning out pretty quickly, but he held on and cranked through a few last big projects so he could finally take a break from work at the office and join our crazy days at home. I really wish we had a budget for a family vacation right now and that there wasn’t a pandemic so we could enjoy a family getaway without any health concerns, but having Rob around the house was better than no time off at all.
Even though Rob wasn’t working at the office, “vacation” isn’t a very accurate word to describe the experience for our family. Dessa was in the midst of a daily swim refresher for her ISR lessons (more on that in a minute) and Harvey was keeping us all very short on sleep.
Despite the craziness, Rob and I created a crazy-long list of things we hoped to accomplish during his time off work. The list included a few fun things (like a trip to the zoo and a few “day dates” while the nanny was watching the kids after swim) but also a lot of home improvement projects. I have a habit of setting goals that are too lofty to realistically accomplish within a given time frame, and his week of vacation was no exception because everything seemed to take longer than we anticipated. But we knocked out a shocking amount of tasks from our to-do list, with just a few items left to carry over – if only we could find the time to finish them once and for all.
2. Dessa’s Swim Lessons
Dessa finally made it back in the pool for a three-week refresher on her ISR swim lessons. You might recall that I signed Dessa up for ISR lessons around this time last year. ISR (which stands for Infant Swim Resource) equips babies and young children with the ability to save themselves in the water if they ever find themselves in an unsupervised water accident. Child and infant drowning deaths are scary to think about, and ISR lessons aren’t exactly pleasant for the child when they get started, but the lessons are something we whole-heartedly believe in because they literally have the potential to save a child’s life.
Dessa’s time in the pool is structured differently than most swim classes. She doesn’t attend a once-a-week class with other children. Instead, she has one-on-one time in the pool with her ISR Instructor, Miss Anna, 5 days a week. A refresher course at a private pool near our house was available earlier this summer, but Rob and I have been extra careful about limiting our interactions with people and weren’t quite ready to sign up for swim at the time since Dessa would have such close contact with Miss Anna. But time went on, nobody in the first round of lessons got COVID, and Dessa’s confidence in the water declined rapidly over the summer. She desperately needed an opportunity to refresh her skill set, so Rob and I nervously made the decision to sign Dessa back up for swim and hoped for the best. We are still very careful about health precautions, so Dessa and I have a good little system to get in and out of the facility with minimal contact. She wears her bathing suit in the car to swim with a bathrobe on top for warmth. Once we arrive, we quickly use the bathroom, sanitize hands, and head to the pool. Then when Dessa is done swimming, she gets dressed in the car rather than risk picking something up from one of the dressing rooms. It’s not a great system, but it works for us and helps to minimize our risk of contact with the virus.
Swim itself went amazingly well. Dessa spent all 10 minutes of her first lesson clinging to Anna for dear life while Anna slowly convinced Dessa to try floating in the pool one time. Within a few days, Dessa stopped clinging to Anna, willingly worked on her float, and started to get her face wet in the water. I took these photos at the end of Dessa’s first week and even though she was very cooperative, you can see how much of a challenge it was for her to work on her skills.
After the first week, Anna tried singing Dessa’s favorite songs to Dessa while she floated and those songs were exactly what Dessa needed to shift her attitude and learn to love her time in the water. We just completed our last swim lesson of the series on Friday and Dessa floated, swam, reached for the wall, and turned over in the water with confidence, joy, and genuine enthusiasm. Dessa was filled with smiles while she did her work in the pool.
My big girl didn’t exactly walk away from her swim refresher fully equipped to save herself in an emergency, but her body relearned a lot of valuable skills and I’m happy to see the return of my little swimmer. (I can also breathe a little easier about her safety around the water.) We have two more weeks of swim scheduled in about a month (at a much closer location) and I’m hoping the extra time at the pool will truly solidify Dessa’s confidence and ability to save herself in an emergency.
While Dessa’s time in the pool went swimmingly (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun), the task of bringing Dessa to her swim lessons took a toll on all of us. Most public pools in Michigan had been closed all summer due to the governor’s executive orders for managing COVID. The pools Anna used for her lessons in the past were all closed so she scrambled and finally found a pool that was open. But it’s a 50-minute drive from our house each way. Not only that, but her lessons were scheduled a few minutes after our usual lunchtime, so Dessa’s extra hungry and ready to eat right after she gets out of the pool. The girl needs to eat so, Dessa and I shared a daily “picnic” in the van before driving back home after her lessons. When it just me and Dessa, the picnics were simple … she sat in the passenger seat and we just hung out and had a casual lunch.
But, a few days a week Harvey was with us, and our daily picnics became a whole new realm of exhausting. For a while, the three of us climbed into the back of the minivan. Harvey sat in his portable high chair while I awkwardly crouched and crawled around to feed and take care of the kids. And for some reason, there were always bees trying to sneak into the van every single time I opened the hatch to get the kids in or out. Towards the end of Dessa’s swim lessons, we enjoyed the sunshine while eating our picnics at a small local park. It was still a lot of work to lug so many things for two small children onto a patch of grass for lunch, but at least we weren’t crowded into the back of an unventilated minivan while we ate.
Just in case you’re doing the math … when you factor in the two-50 minute drives, Dessa’s time in the pool, bathroom breaks, lunch, and changing time; her 10-minute swim lesson occupied about 3 hours of our day. It was exhausting and it took a toll on all of us. Poor Harvey only got abbreviated versions of his afternoon nap on the car ride home and Dessa acted out more frequently throughout the day because she just wanted to play (those long car rides really cut into her daily playtime and I can’t blame her for getting frustrated about that.) Even though the past three weeks were incredibly frustrating, the lessons are important so I kept plugging along. Needless to say, I am so glad this round of lessons is finally behind us so we can get back on track with our regular daily schedule.
If you’re curious about ISR, you can visit the Infant Swim website to learn more about ISR and find an instructor in your area.
3. Sleep, Glorious Sleep
In other news, Dessa and Harvey have had us on a bit of a roller coaster ride in the nighttime sleeping department. Rob and I thought we were doing pretty good early this spring when we successfully transitioned Harvey into Dessa’s bedroom with her at night. We had a really great month of room sharing, but things slowly derailed as Dessa tried every trick in the book for avoiding sleep and disturbing her brother. Then, midway through the summer, we found ourselves back at square one with some serious sleep training for Dessa. We pulled out our copy of Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems (which is basically our bible for all things sleep-related), put the baby gate in Dessa’s bedroom door at night, and got Dessa set up with a brand new sticker chart to help her stay motivated. In the meantime, we moved Harvey back upstairs into his Pack N Play so he could sleep undisturbed as we worked to get a very disagreeable Dessa back on track with healthy sleep habits.
Fast forward to a few months later when Dessa had several sticker charts filled with stickers for good nighttime choices and minimal nighttime disturbances. We decided on a whim to try and move Harvey back into Dessa’s bedroom on Labor Day weekend, when she asked if he could come back into the crib at night. It went great for the few nights, but then Harvey started waking up earlier and earlier, which woke up Dessa earlier and earlier; and next thing we knew, we had a whole house of cranky people who were all short on sleep because we all woke up at 5:15 am.
Two weeks after Harvey moved into Dessa’s room at night, he went back upstairs, but this time we moved his Pack N Play into our walk-in-closet. Falling temperatures at night can make it pretty cold upstairs, and the closet has fewer exterior walls and its own vent, which helps it to stay much more comfortable while Harvey sleeps.
We were pretty excited that moving Harvey back upstairs helped both kids reset their sleep schedules and stay in bed a bit longer. At first, we rejoiced to see both kids sleep past 6 am, but things continued to improve. These days, they are both in bed by 8:00 at night and for the past four mornings, Harvey and Dessa have both stayed asleep until after 7 am! It’s the most sleep everyone in the house has gotten in a year and a half and we are rejoicing.
I have not given up on the dream of Dessa and Harvey sharing a room at night. (After all, we’ve done it successfully in the past.) Dessa had a few hiccups at night after Harvey moved out, but she seems to be getting back on track. The current plan is to give her a few more weeks to keep making good choices (so we can hopefully remove her gate at night for good) and then cross our fingers when we are ready to put Harvey back in the crib at night.
Harvey, meanwhile, gets the award for being the most flexible sleeper in the whole house.
The landscaping around our house has taken some big steps forward this summer and also given me a significant workout. Previous homeowners had planted ditch lilies (which are not actually lilies at all, but a very aggressive weed with blossoms that resemble lilies) in various landscaping beds around our property, and this was the year that I decided they had to go. It all started when Rob and I decided to remove the berm from the corner of our front yard, which was filled with ditch lilies and a few half-dead shrubs. From there, my attention shifted to the plants under the front windows of our house, to the side of our backyard outside of the fence, to the very back of our property near Dessa’s playhouse, back to the side of our yard inside the fence and finally finishing at the top of our driveway. Each time I ripped out a new section of plants, I swore I was done for the season and would let my body rest. Then, a few weeks later, I would find myself admiring our newly refreshed landscaping bed and want to remove even more of the overgrown mess.
Here’s a quick look at how everything looked before we started the landscaping overhaul:
The significant improvement in our landscaping is definitely one of the silver linings of our COVID summer. I was stuck at home and desperately needed time away from the kids, so I took my angst and energy outside and put it to good use – shoveling and ripping out unwanted plants to make room for hydrangeas, peonies, and a little milkweed for monarch butterflies. It was a ton of work and I have quite the farmers tan from all my time outdoors. And (like my farmers tan) some parts of our yard are looking a little awkward right now. My goal for the summer was to keep the Annabelle hydrangeas that I planted in late spring under our front windows alive through the summer and I have succeeded! They aren’t exactly beautiful (yet), but I have a good feeling that they will look great next year.
One project Rob accomplished during his time off work was planting four Little Lime hydrangea bushes along the back of our yard and I am more than a little nervous about those plants. I ordered them online from The Tree Center after some very pathetic, overpriced plants at our local garden center. I didn’t really know what to think about having shrubs shipped to our house, but they had a great price and I figured it was worth the risk. The plants appeared to arrive in great condition and we promptly planted them along the back of our yard.
There was just one small problem: a few days after we got the plants in the ground, we were hit with frost two nights in a row. We took precautions and placed a thick layer of mulch in the bed to protect the roots, but the plants are now looking brown. Despite their sad appearance, all four plants still contain a patch of green leaves and/or blossoms, so I’m praying that it’s a good sign. Just like my Annabelles, I plan to keep watering the Little Lime hydrangeas every day and my only goal is for them to survive the winter. They don’t have to look beautiful – they just have to stay alive. If those hydrangeas can hold on til spring, we should have smooth sailing next year.
I also ordered peony roots for a truly gorgeous variety of coral peonies online from Eden Brothers and they should ship any day. I keep patiently checking my email inbox in anticipation of their delivery. We intend to plant the peonies along the side of the yard. Once I removed the ditch lilies, Rob narrowed the bed and prepped it for peonies. All we need to do is plant the roots when they finally arrive.
Our landscaping definitely took a huge step forward this year and I can’t wait to reap the rewards of our hard work by admiring next year’s spring blossoms. Just like any other area of home-ownership, other parts of our yard still need some serious work. Somehow our front lawn was overtaken by crabgrass this summer and big project next summer will be to get the lawn back on track so it is green, healthy, and (hopefully) weed-free.
5. Oats, Oats Everywhere
Both of my kids have a new favorite toy and it’s the most random source of entertainment – a giant shallow Sterilite bin filled with uncooked rolled oats and Cheerios. It may seem like a random toy for two young children to find entertaining, but it is highly effective for keeping both of them happy, busy, and engaged.
So why an oat bin? The answer mostly comes down to Harvey. He wants to be just like his big sister, but he puts everything into his mouth. You can imagine the dilemma when Dessa is outside playing in her sandbox. I’ve tried everything to distract Harvey, but he just won’t stay away, and when I let him join his big sister in the sandbox, he ends up with a mouth full of sand. Enter the oat bin. A giant bin filled with taste-safe oats that are perfect for digging. I took two shovels from the sandbox, ran them through the dishwater, then placed them in the bin along with a few bowls, spoons, and a few other rotating items from our kitchen.
The oat bin is Harvey’s favorite toy in the whole house, and he literally squeals with delight when he sees the box full of oats come out. He spends equal amounts of time eating and playing from the bin and I usually keep Cheerios mixed in with the oats for snacking purposes.
It’s not uncommon for Harvey to climb inside the oat bin and Dessa often joins in the fun. Sometimes she gives him rides or climbs in herself. Most recently, she started “washing” Harvey’s hair with the oats. Harvey has mixed feeling about the attention from his sister, but it drives me crazy. Somehow the oat flakes get trapped in his hair and are harder to remove than you would think.
The mess from our oat bin is not for the faint of heart and I often have oats sprawled all over the kitchen floor, which stick to our feet and slowly make their way through the rest of the house. Thankfully, the mess is easy to sweep or vacuum away (as long as it’s not trapped in anyone’s hair) and it’s a mess that I honestly prefer over a room with toys covering the floor. To me, it’s also a good trade-off for both of my kids playing so enthusiastically together.
Whew! It has been a long, crazy time in the Gavin house. Now that swim is done (and most of our landscaping projects are finally behind us) I’m looking forward to the promise of more time to take photos and share more with you on the blog. I just need my family to be more cooperative than this:
Happy Sunday everyone! I hope you’re hanging in there.