Thursday, January 31, 2013

Taking It Slow

Yesterday at work, two OR techs were talking about their children; one with a three year old, one with a two month old. 

"I just can't wait until she's older.  She's coming and getting in bed with me almost every night." 
"I know. I can't wait until my baby gets older and sleeps through the night."

Now I don't have a lot of parenting advice.  Most days, I feel like I'm flailing my way through this whole process of raising children. So many times, I struggle and often fail, spending many of my last conscious thoughts at the end of each day thinking about how I can do better tomorrow.  So I don't feel qualified to give anyone any advice about parenting.

Except this one thing. This one thing I have learned about parenting the hard way. 

Take it slow.

Don't wish away these moments. Yes, I know that you are tired and it would be lovely to get more than two hours of sleep a night. We are all tired.  Yes, I know that it's stressful to have nearly every grocery store trip end in a monumental melt down that only a two-year-old can do. We've all been there.

Go on and be excited about the future. Celebrate each new milestone, first steps, first words, first days of school.

But don't miss out of the beauty of your child, here and now, just as they are, for some longing for the next stage.

It look me clear until my third child to realize this lesson. Poor Bug really got the brunt of it. I was so stressed out by everything, by the not sleeping, the fights over baths and car seats. I wanted him to be amazing, the obvious extension of that being that I was amazing.  I pushed him to read, to excel, so I could have that pride that my kid walked earlier, learned to read faster, was smarter, somehow thinking that that was the sign of a successful parent and a happy child.

But really, all it takes to be happy is to hold your children and marvel at the unique creature they are today.

Because someday, your child is going to be staying out past curfew, wearing heavy eye make up and screaming at you that you just don't understand.

And yes, you will still love them, still be amazed that the creative, independent person they have become. But part of you will ache for that little one that wanted to crawl into bed and sleep next to you at 2 am.  The small hand that wanted to hold yours in public. The little newborn that you were the whole world for.

Here's the real irony in this whole thing.  Now that I have learned my lesson, now that I am doing every thing I can to savor each moment, it feels like they are flying by even faster. The days slip by fast enough on their own without my encouraging them along.

Childhood is such a magical, fleeting journey. Take it slow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

One Week Down

We have survived my first week back to work (along with all the comments about the apparent "vacation" I was on.)

We survived, but just barely.  This has been one of the longest, most exhausting weeks I can remember.  And it was only a four day week.

I knew it would be tough.

Hubster and the boys have to be up an hour earlier than they are used to, in order get three boys dressed and ready, get Duck to his daycare, Bug and Monkey to the before school program, and Hubster to class on time.  I have to wake up earlier, so that I have extra time to nurse Duck before I'm out the door.

At work, every moment I'm not working in the operating room, I'm pumping.  Pumping sucks.  I now have absolutely no free time, no down time. I had a friend who used to talk about pumping and breast feeding all the time.  Now I totally understand why: it's because other than work, that's all I do.

The evenings are more hectic. There seems to be even less time between 6 pm and 9 pm. Trying to get homework, dinner, baths, laundry, dishes, nursing, pajamas, story time, all crammed in there is exhausting.  Hubster and I knew that we would have to give up our evening television watching (we usually watch a show off the DVR together after the boys are in bed.).  Turns out, I really miss it.  I just want the down time, the unwinding time.  But I have to get to bed, so I can get enough sleep, since Duck still wakes up frequently.

Tuesday evening, I was stressed.  Wednesday evening, I yelled at the boys and then had a good cry. And that was only day 2. 

Despite the stress, there have been small graces, little miracles.

Duck is well taken care of at the wonderful in-home daycare.  Bug and Monkey are coping better than I have.

Duck went from waking up every 2 hours a week ago, to sleeping 6 hours last night.  It may be a fluke, but right now, I'll take it!

This week has been a reminder to be patient with myself, to allow myself to not be perfect. I know that sounds a little ridiculous.  But I have a tendency to be very hard on myself, to expect a lot from me. The fact that I'm not back to my pre-pregnancy body, that all our family dinners aren't homecooked and amazing, that I let the boys play extra video games so I could get extra sleep, that I can't find time to exercise, study, and clean, that the laundry and dishes and dustbunnies are piling up: I feel bad about myself for all those things.  But I'm working on it.  I'm going to be more patient with myself, to not freak out about the clothes that don't fit and the dinners served on paper plates.

Everyone gets fed every day.  We read every night.  There are clean clothes, even if they aren't put away. 

It's been a tough week.  But it's done. It will continue to get easier as we move towards a new normal. I'm just glad I don't ever to have to go through last week again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2 Months Old

A small attempt at craftiness - I really need to figure out how to use my photo-editing software a little bit better. Maybe by the time he is 3 months old, I will have learned some new tricks.

Monday, January 21, 2013

At The End of My Maternity Leave

I have been dreading this day for the last two months.  Actually, I have been dreading this day ever since Hubster and I decided to have another baby.  The last day of my maternity leave.

This day kind of makes me wish I was Canadian and I could have a year of maternity leave. Just kind of.  Canada is cold.

This has been the shortest two months of my life. I knew that it would be.  Every day since Duck was born, I have felt both of us hurtling towards the time when we would be separated. When there would be no more time to spend the entire day in bed, just snuggling my baby, staring at his perfect little features, doing everything I could to make him smile.

I ended up using the rest of my vacation to so I could have another week with my baby.

Finding child care has been a nightmare.  We interviewed day cares in August. Several of the places told us they would not have spots until May or June. We placed our names on waiting lists at four centers. We didn't get a spot. We looked for a nanny, and found most of them wildly outside of our budget. We did find an affordable nanny, but in the end, she was not a good fit for our family.  We looked at in home day cares.  Most were much to far away, and others left me with a sick feeling in my stomach.  I knew that I could never leave my precious baby in those environments. A week before I was scheduled to go back to work, I still did not have child care.  I developed near blind panic. Then, the wife of a friend offered to watch Duck, as she had been thinking of starting an in home daycare of her own.

It took everything I had to not hug her.

Duck is about to be two months old and I already have hundreds of pictures of him. I look at his rapidly growing file on my external hard drive and think that maybe I might be over doing it.

But I was thinking back on the baby versions of  Bug and Monkey, and was suddenly hit by the fact that I don't remember. I don't remember them being this small.  Yes, I remember their births, I remember them as babies, I remember playing with them.  But the day-to-day, the small little changes, the subtle differences from day to day, the precious little moments, those are gone. And I am heart broken.  We didn't have a camera when Bug was born. I didn't take as many pictures when Monkey was born. Now, with digit pictures and near unlimited storage, there is no reason not to. So I will continue to take multiple pictures every day, in an last ditch attempt to hang on to this fleeting time.

I've heard some women talk about how they are so ready to go back to work after their 6-8 weeks of maternity leave. Ready to be working, ready to have a schedule, ready to interact with adults again.  I am not ready.  I don't think I will ever be ready.  I look at Duck and realize he has no idea what is coming tomorrow morning. I will go back to work.  I have only 6 months left of residency. Of course I will finish. I'm only 6 months away from a great job. After nine years and over a hundred thousand dollars of debt, of course I will go back. But I'm not ready.

This is going to be hard. There will be tears on all fronts. But as Hubster and I keep reminding each other, we have done this before.  We have made this work before. We can do it again.  We look at Bug and Monkey and see how happy they are, how well adjusted they are, and realize we will get through this just fine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Big Brothers

With all the excitement and effort surrounding a new baby, it's easy for the addition to get all the attention and for older siblings to take a back seat. 

I know that has been true here on this blog. With Duck being so little and so cute and changing so much, of course I want to spend a lot of my time capturing all these changes.

But my two oldest boys really deserve honorable mentions.  Actually, forget that.  They deserve the spotlight.

I worried a great deal about how our family would handle the addition of a baby. We had our routines, life was approaching the "easy" stage: no one was in diapers, everyone went to school, everyone could feed and dress themselves. We were in that coveted sweet spot.

With Bug, I did everything I could to prepare him for Monkey's birth. We had long conversations. I took him with me to every single doctor's appointment. And Bug did beautifully.  We made the transition from a family of three to a family of four with barely a moment of regression.

I was sure it was going to be harder this time. After all, it had been six years.  Six years of Monkey being the "baby."  Six years of status quo (well, kind off - minus the whole getting new jobs, moving halfway across the country, Hubster going back to school thing.  But other than that, status quo.)

When we first told the boys, I was nervous. But they both seemed very excited. Especially Bug.  He was so excited. He remembered Monkey being born and everything associated with that, and seemed delighted to got through it all again. Monkey, not having any frame of reference, took a more moderate view. Bug always wanted to feel my belly and see if the baby was kicking. He talked to my belly.  He was very eager to help with everything in the nursery, from painting to artwork. Monkey would reluctantly put a hand against me, only to pull it away and say, "Yep, I felt him kick," even if he hadn't.  I worried that he wouldn't transition well. 

A month before Duck was born, we went to parent teacher conferences for Bug and Monkey. Monkey's teacher told me that all he talked about was that he was going to get a new baby brother at Thanksgiving. "He's very excited," his teacher said. And that same week, after practicing thank you cards at school, Monkey brought me a card.

"Thank you for teaching me how to make a baby room.  It was fun. Our baby will like it."

It brought me to tears.

And right from the get go, the boys have been amazing. All my worries about jealousy, and the resurgence of temper tantrums and bed wetting, all those worries have been for naught.

Monkey loves him.  Every smile and every coo Duck does, Monkey runs through the house, updating everyone. He asked for pictures of Duck to take to school, and showed them to everyone - teachers, students, the lunch ladies. He had appointment himself retriever of the nursing pillow and blanket.  Every time I sit down to nurse Duck, Monkey brings me the Bobby pillow, a blanket and a burp cloth.

Now that's a proud big brother

Bug has been equally amazing.  He is always asking to hold Duck and can even soothe him while I'm making dinner. He continues to be incredibly helpful and calm and patient.

Carefulness, love, and protection, all at once

Every once and a while, I see Monkey getting a little worked up, demanding a little more attention. When I want to get frustrated, I have to remember that he just needs a little extra hug, a little more listening.  Once, when Duck was having a rough evening and doing an extra bout of crying, Monkey did call out, "Mom, Duck's crying is making me feel frustrated!"  I thanked him for using his words, and asked him what we had talked about, what he could do when he felt that way. He choose to stick his fingers in his ears and sing loudly.


I feel blessed to have made such a smooth transition. I couldn't have dreamed of any better way to go from two boys to three boys.  This mother is so proud. Tired, sleep deprived, and still trying to figure out how to have enough hands at the grocery store.  But proud.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Story Time

It's 8:15 pm.

Dinner is done. The dishes are somewhat done.  Homework is done. The boys are in their pajamas. 

I sit on the couch, Monkey and Bug on either side of me, Duck on my lap.  I open a small pack of Twizzlers and hand them out. Then we open the book.

Every night we do this.  Every night, I read to my children. We read from our stack of library books. We read from books we own. We've read Shel Silverstein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, Robert Louis Stevenson, J.K. Rowling. Sometimes, Monkey isn't interested in the book I'm reading to Bug, and then Hubster reads him something of his choosing.  We sometimes read for 15 minutes, sometimes for an hour.

But every night, we eat Twizzlers and we read.

Growing up, my family read together every night. My mother read us Heidi, Kim, and Black Beauty. All of us blonde-headed children would sit on couch cushions and pillows, sometimes combing my mother's hair as she sat in her rocking chair and read to us. And if that sounds a little too Norman Rockwell for you, believe me, there was plenty of "shh-ing" and occasional arguing and not being able to hear the words. But my mother still did it every night. Even as a teenager, I would still come to listen.

I'm always looking for next book to read. When I was talking Hubster about rereading Harry Potter to the boys in several years, when Monkey and Duck are bigger, he mentioned that Bug might not want to do that any more.

It was another moment of parenting that I didn't see coming.  A time my little boy might not want to sit curled up next to me, eating his strawberry flavored candy, and wondering how Harry is going to get out of this situation, or when will Jim ever reach the island, or what silly thing is Pooh going to say next.

I know that time is coming. When it does, I just hope that there will be a time in the future, my boys will see a pack of Twizzlers at the checkout of the grocery store and remember our evenings together.  That they will see the familiar title in a bookstore and take it home to read to their children. 

And even if that doesn't happen, tonight, we will still read.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Interviews with Boys

I saw this interview over at Jessie's blog and I loved it so much I thought I would do it with my boys.  I think is a great way to catch a glimpse of this age, from their point of view.  And hopefully, I will remember to do it each year. So here you are, an interview with Bug, age 10, and Monkey, age 6.

My favorite food - Bug: Pizza 
                               Monkey: Hot Dogs
Foods I'd rather avoid - Bug: Peas  
                                       Monkey: Mushrooms and pickles
My favorite thing to learn - Bug: Math  
                                              Monkey: making creepy stuff (yes, that was his real answer.)
My favorite color - Bug: Red   
                                 Monkey: Green
My best friends are - Bug: Franz    
                                   Monkey: Max and James
My favorite games to play - Bug: Foursquare 
                                              Monkey: Tag and snowball fight
When I have free time, I like to - Bug: Read  
                                                      Monkey: Play Wii
My favorite books - Bug: Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson 
                                  Monkey: The Giving Tree, no, no, Star Wars
My favorite movie/TV show - Bug: Um, um, um... 
                                                  Monkey: Planet Earth and Harry Potter, the first one.
My favorite holiday - Bug: Christmas! 
                                    Monkey: Halloween!
Things I do well - Bug: I can't think of anything
                              Monkey: Probably drawing
Things I need to practice more - Bug: Making decisions  
                                                     Monkey: Math
My favorite place to go - Bug: Minnesota
                                          Monkey: Yeah, Minnesota
My favorite family activity - Bug: Mario Kart 
                                               Monkey: Mario Kart
My favorite thing about home - Bug: That it's not school, relaxing.
                                                    Monkey: I like it!
My favorite thing to do outside - Bug: If it's summer, ride bikes, if it's winter, snowball fight. 
                                                       Monkey: Tag
My favorite chore - Bug: Making my bed
                                Monkey: Setting the table
My least favorite chore - Bug: Clear the table
                                         Monkey: Cleaning the family room
My favorite song - Bug: I don't listen to music!
                               Monkey: Let Me Be Myself (Yes, my 6 year old likes 3 Doors Down)
What I want to be when I grow up - Bug: An astronaut
                                                           Monkey: A zookeeper- because I love animals!
A place I want to visit - Bug: Florida, no, Hawaii
                                       Monkey: Hawaii
My favorite part of last year - Bug: Duck being born
                                                 Monkey: Jumping in our leaf pile
Something sad that happened last year - Bug: I don't know, there wasn't any big deal last year
                                                                  Monkey: I can't think of anything
When I get up in the morning, I like to - Bug: Do my chores, so I don't have to do them later. 
                                                                  Monkey: Play Mario Kart (the kid might be obsessed.)
My favorite part of each day - Bug: Dinner 
                                                 Monkey: Snow! Ball!  Fight! (Said just like that! and making it sound like we have one each day)
My favorite drink - Bug: Capri Sun 
                                Monkey: Root beer
My favorite sport/activity - Bug: Baseball, I guess
                                             Monkey: Football
Something new I'd like to learn/do this year - Bug: I don't know.
                                                                           Monkey: Touch fish, because we've never gone fishing before.

Doing these questions was so much fun, even though getting answers from Bug was almost like pulling teeth. He kept asking why I was asking these questions, who came up with these questions, that he was having second thoughts about doing them. Monkey was very excited to answer all the questions.

I'm excited to see how the answers change over the years, assuming that I can even get them to answer at all next year.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My First Letter to Duck

Dear Duck,

It's my first official letter to you. In actuality, I feel like the last 11 months have been an ongoing letter to you. I spent the good part of a year wishing for you, talking to my belly, and now, telling you how much I love you and have looked forward to you.

I feel so privileged to get to do this whole thing again, every bit of it. Singing lullabies, comforting you, feeding you, even waking up at 2 am (and 4 am, and 4 :30 am).  After such a long time, it's just so fun, and amazing, and just joyous to have my little baby.

Even though this is is my third time around, I am still finding myself confronted with my misconceptions, my misguided ideas, and my shortcomings.

Mistakenly, I thought that I would have a productive maternity leave.  In each 24 hour day, I pictured myself finding time for at least an hour of exercise and an hour of study each day.  I pictured you, laying serenely next to me as I worked on forgotten projects and cooked amazing meals. Instead, my daily accomplishments have been making the bed, getting dressed (not every day) and making sure that no one goes hungry. It's not just that I underestimated the fatigue of never sleeping longer than 3 hours in a row.  I had failed to account for the fact that I wouldn't ever want to put you down. I don't want to miss a single smile, coo, or funny expression. I want to spend each moment I can, you snuggled against my chest where I can take in the sweet baby fragrance of your hair.

Mistakenly, I thought I would be so much better, so much more experienced this go around. While I may know a little bit more what to expect, I still find that I struggle trying to get you to sleep just as much as I did your brothers.  I still worry about that possible rash or each funny noise that you make. I still wake up even more frequently that you do, just to place my hand on your belly and feel you breathing. I still can't always decipher all your cries and comfort you instantly.  Mistakenly, I thought that experience would decrease the worry.  It doesn't.

By far, the biggest misguided idea that I had was that things would be different this time. That if I didn't rush you, if I focused on just enjoying each moment, if I savored how precious this time was, not wishing away the difficulties of  the newborn period - the unending feedings, the frequent diaper and wardrobe changes, the fatigue - if I just took it slow, that you would too.  But this isn't true. No matter how much I try to hang on to each day, you are still growing just as fast as your brothers did before you. You are still changing so quickly that day to day, you are almost a different little person. And I know that, despite how darling each thing you do is, from your funny little baby crocodile call and cough when you are hungry, to your excited little grunts when we change your clothes; despite how acute and vivid these are to me right now, that eventually, they will fade.  There will be a time that you will grow and these memories will be just a dull ache in the background.

I realize all that now.  I realize I can't make this time last any longer just by wishing it. So, I will continue to snuggle you every moment I can, take an overabundance of pictures, and cheer on each new milestone. And above all, I will continue to feel privileged to be your mother.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

January To-Do List

I know that 2013 is now well on its way.  I'm a little behind the curve here with my goal writing - I've already set some goals, I just haven't gotten around to writing them down until now (and even now, a dimply little someone is getting fussy and distracting me.)

Last year, I participated in Project 52, the brain child of Karen of A Peek at Karen's World and Jennee at Jennee Thompson. I've done that for the last couple of years, and have really enjoyed it. It can be a little challenging, though, trying to keep track of a 52 item list.  It can feel overwhelming, even if some of the goals were things I was going to do anyway (turn 30, for instance.)

This year, Karen and Jennee have joined with Angie at My So-Called Chaos, and changed to monthly goals.  This is great, because now there is no pressure to write something once a week (not that I was doing that anyways.)

I know that a lot of people don't like New Year Resolutions, viewing them as empty promises, sure failures. But I love the idea of goals, re-evaluating what I want to accomplish, physically, socially, and within my family.

Not all of my goals work under the monthly format, requiring months of preparation or are too big to be done in one month. These are my big, year goals.  But I have monthly goals that will help me prepare for them.

My Big 2013 Goals:

- Train for and run a 5K
- One way or another, take my boys to see the ocean
- Pass my licensing boards
- Finish our basement

But we know that all journeys start with a single step, so there must be small goals as well.

So for January, here we go...

January Goals:

- Exercise for 30 minutes at least 4 times a week
- Only have dessert once a week
- Lose 5 pounds
- Find childcare for Duck, return to work, and NOT have a major breakdown while doing so
- Attend church twice
- Clean out my closet
- Schedule a dentist appointment
- Start my board study
- Finish the book I am reading
- Clean up this blog (take care of the tabs that lead to nothing, write my About Me page, etc.)

That might be a little bit much for a single month, but I figured I should start big, while I still have the energy.  In fact, I may just try to get them all done today.