Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Showers (of Gifts)

I turned 35 recently. It came and went without much fanfare or emotional reflection. It’s noteworthy mainly because of its proximity to the big 30 and the over-the-hill 40. But other than that, I didn’t pay it too much attention. 

But Scott and the girls, on the other hand, treated me like it was my 5th, 16th and 21st birthday all rolled into one. 

The first gifts came a few days before my birthday: a beautiful Easter lily and a bag of my favorite candy. I didn’t quite understand why they were giving me my present early, but I was appreciative nonetheless. 

The next day brought a much-desired new quilt for my bed and fuzzy socks (I love fuzzy socks).

The day after that came a very-much-desired new pot and pan set. We’re basically cooking on our “set” from college, which has seen better days. It was past time and I was more excited than a person should be about having new pots and pans. 

I thought that was the big finale, but Scott had one last trick up his sleeve. 

I was in the car when I got the email (at a stoplight, of course!) and the tears just started falling as soon as I read it. “One night (date TBD in April or May) just for you at the bed and breakfast West of town.”

I love candy and plants. I desperately needed and wanted the quilt and pots. But this, this was something completely unexpected. At the time, sleeping through the night wasn’t a thing at our house, and alone time is all but nonexistent. For a sometimes over-loaded, over-touched, over-worked introverted mother, the idea of a night to myself is something I desperately crave. 

April is turning out to be quite a spectacular month! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sleepless in Kansas

Sleep. Some have it. Some don’t. 

For the past year, I’ve been in the don’t camp. I mentioned in a “recent” post how we got to this sleepless state, so I won’t get into all the nitty gritty details here. But long story short, it has been the most painful year of my entire life. Which first off, says something about how fortunate I’ve been so far in life and second off, is strange because the very thing that made life painful also brought great joy — Henry the Hard. 

I’m a pretty empathetic person, so empathetic that I sometimes can feel pain that may or may not exist. Would Henry have felt abandoned if we did sleep training 6 or 9 months ago? Who knows. But the thought of it was too much for me to bear. Everyone told us that we had to be consistent and once we started the training, we couldn’t waffle. I was not confident that I could do that if I couldn’t explain to him what we were doing. So, I waited and suffered through long, sleepless, painful nights. Until recently when we made the decision to sleep train Henry. His language and comprehension skills were improving — I knew he understood what it meant when we said “Henry go nighty-night.” And I was very, very quickly reaching the end of my empathetic rope. 

So, we talked to some sleep consultants — yes, those are a thing. My boss referred us to them and I’m so grateful for their guidance. Together, we developed a strategy. I told them how hard it was going to be. Henry’s very temperamental. He’s not easy-going or flexible. He’s a screamer. He’s been throwing tantrums since the womb. I promise, this is going to be very, very difficult. 

I had a theory that Scott was going to be the key to all of this. He has a good relationship with Henry and Henry is more easy-going around him. So, we started there — with Scott putting Henry to bed at bedtime. The first two nights, I had to leave the house. I was a total nervous wreck. I knew it was going to be so awful. Hours of screaming, pleading to be rocked to sleep. 

Except it wasn’t. There was not a single tear. Not a single scream. 

That was a few weeks ago. Scott puts him to bed every night without issue and within the last few days, he’s been sleeping the whole night through. If he does wake in the night, most of the time it just takes Scott going in there for a few minutes to reassure him. 

The sleep consultants said to try bedtime and then overnights first before we worked on nap time. Last week, I was having a pretty rough time rocking him to sleep at nap time, so I put him in his crib and told him “Henry, nighty-night in Henry’s bed.” The first day it took about 30 minutes before he was out (no tears or screams) and the next three days were about 10 minutes each. 


Seriously, I’m pretty sure this kid’s sole purpose in life is to screw with me. Who knows if it would have been that easy 6 months ago or if it was that easy because we waited. But I’m just glad it hasn’t met my expectations. 

And I feel like a human again, y’all. I feel happy and light and like sunshine is radiating through me. I can’t convey in words just how huge that change is. This past year, I’ve been living inside a storm cloud. Always exhausted. Always grumpy. Trapped in a sleepless cycle. So, if you’re wondering why the sun is brighter or the butterflies are happier in Kansas, now you know. The storm cloud has lifted. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Girl Time

You heard how hard life is with Henry. A natural next question is how the heck have the girls been handling his domination. And what a good question that would be! 

It certainly isn’t easy. They love their little brother, of course, but they have had to begrudgingly adapt to King Henry’s rule just like we have. Scott and I developed a divide and conquer approach after Henry was born and most of the time, he gets the girls. Now that Henry is older and done nursing, we’ve done a better job of balancing the time, but it’s certainly not ideal yet. 

The other day the girls had reached their limit. Grace told me, “Mom, all you ever do is spend time with Henry. We want Mommy time, too.” 

My heart sunk. He’s so demanding of me physically, mentally and emotionally that by the end of the day, there isn’t much left. I know I'm not being the Mom that I want to be for them. I feel like I’m giving and giving and giving all day, but I know they still aren't getting enough. 

So, we had a Mommy-daughter breakfast date. No screaming Henry. No worries about milk allergies. No “hurry up, your brother is terrorizing the restaurant.” No “hurry up, your brother needs to nap.” No “hurry up, your brother needs a diaper change.” 

It was a nice reminder of how relaxing life can be with just the girls and how much I’ve missed them, too. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Henry the Hard

So, I bet you thought this blog was dead. Well, do I have a surprise for you! Zombie blog!! 

I really, really want Henry to have some idea of what his childhood was like. “Oh, look, another blog about Claire burping and there’s one about Grace’s toenails, but I’ve got like 6 blogs, Mom.” 

Well, Henry, my dearest son, you are hard. So hard. Harder than I could have ever imagined. The root of your difficulty is your sleep troubles. Let’s start there. 

I didn’t have to sleep train the girls. I didn't even know sleep training was a thing. They were great night sleepers. We just laid them in their beds and they’d drift to sleep on their own and sleep for 12 hours most nights. I had no idea how lucky I was. I had no idea how important a solid chunk of sleep is to one’s sanity. 

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of Henry’s sleep disruption. Before last February, he slept fine. Not always through the night because he was nursing, but I never had to rock him to sleep. Cue an ear infection in February, which coincided with the newfound ability to stand in his crib, combined with four new teeth and starting solids and boom — my good sleeper was gone. 

We had three glorious months over the summer where he magically started sleeping through the night on his own. Then, in September, he got hand, foot and mouth and five teeth at the same time and boom — gone again. 

I rock him to sleep each night and then usually get up once or twice depending on whether he’s sick/doesn't feel good/whatever. It can be for 30 minutes or three hours. The cause of his night wakings vary. He’s had one virus after another this winter, so that’s the bulk of the recent problems. 

Things have improved this month, but most nights, he’s up at least once. I have always had a theory that if he could put himself to sleep at the beginning of the night, he’d do a better job of getting back to sleep on his own in the middle of the night. But I dreaded just dropping him in the crib and forcing him to do it himself without the understanding of why I wasn’t rocking him. Now that he gets the concept of “nighty night,” Scott and I have decided we are going to try to fix this problem. I’ll let you know how things go. Cross your fingers for me. And maybe your toes. Yeah, definitely your toes. 

Other than sleep, which occupies much of my headspace (but not much of my life!), Henry is hard in other ways, too. He is a very determined and strong-willed little guy. He knows what he wants, and almost always it’s something he isn’t supposed to have, and when he doesn’t get it, he screams. Like SCREAMS. He threw his first temper tantrum at the young age of 12 months and his temper hasn’t improved with age. I don’t give in to his screams, but that doesn’t seem to have any impact on him using them. Here are some of the things that Henry hates: 

1. Me being in a different room
2. Me being distracted even in the same room
3. Me not carrying him 
4. Me changing his diaper
5. Me not giving him something he wants 

Yep, Henry spends most of his day screaming at me. I cannot wait for those language skills. People joke “You say that now, but just wait until he won't stop talking.” And I’m like “no, seriously, you have no idea. I NEEED this kid to talk.” 

So, the first blog back in awhile and I spend the first 2/3 of it complaining. Ha. Well, at least you know why. I don’t sleep through the night and I spend my days being screamed at by a tyrannical toddler. 

But let’s get to the good stuff. This child. This baby boy of mine that drives me crazy all day and all night long. He has stolen my heart. In between the hard, my baby has wrapped himself around my heart and nestled into my soul. The one — emphasis on one — upside to all the time we spend together in the middle of the night is the bond we have formed. He is mine and I am his. A day will come when he blows me off. When I ask how school was and he doesn’t answer because he’s already in his room with the door shut. A day when he chooses friends over Mom. A day when I’m no longer his #1 gal. I know that day is coming and when it comes, I’ll be ready. I’ve taken these nine months of sleepless, Henry-filled nights and I’ve tucked them away. The hours he’s spent resting his head on my chest and clinging to my neck are being safely held in my memories. And when that day comes and I feel like crying at the sight of my baby growing up, I will close my eyes, open that lockbox and remember that I soaked up way more than my fair share of baby cuddles. How about that for glass half full, huh? 

So, just to sum things up: Henry is really hard, but totally worth it. Love you, baby boy. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Henry, My Henry: 16ish Months

Oh, Henry, my Henry. 

As I gaze out the window at the gold and orange leaves on the trees, I wonder how it’s possible that I haven’t written in so long. 

Life with you is full. Full to the brim. Overflowing sometimes. So full that I find little time to do important stuff like write down our memories, have deep conversations or just think and even less time for unimportant stuff like cleaning the house. 

From the moment you wake until the 1-2 minutes before you fall asleep, you are constantly moving. Climbing, walking, running, sliding, playing. And I’m just happy to keep up. 

You are very, very determined. You know precisely what you want and will demand loudly (and sometimes physically) if you don’t get it. It was a few weeks after your first birthday when you threw yourself on the floor in a fit of anger. I stood there, stunned. Can my sweet baby already be throwing fits?? You may not have red hair, but you have the fire of a ginger on the inside. 

Every week we start to communicate more and more. Your first word was “yeah.” 

Do you want a snack? 
Do you want to go outside? 
Do you want me to change your diaper? 

I’m hopeful that after we build that vocabulary more, life will be easier. Most of your frustration is the inability to understand. Most. Not all. Some of it is just plain anger that I won’t give you what you want. That’s a good life lesson though. Trust me. 

Around the middle of June you started sleeping through the night, which was amazing. A-MA-ZING. And you continued to sleep through the night until mid-September. Three whole months of sleeping like a normal person. The girls were such good sleepers, I was unprepared for the zombie that I would become with you. And when you finally snapped out of it, I was unprepared for how much better life would get. 

But then mid-September came along, and it started again. At first, it was just about every other night or so. You’d wake up screaming in pain. Around that time, you started cutting five teeth (FIVE TEETH!) and I think had a virus. It turned into an every-night thing, sometimes twice a night. And here’s the kicker. Most of the time it took at least an hour to get you back to sleep. One night it was three — three straight hours of rocking you. I turned back into Zombie Mom and went into survival mode. Clean only the dishes necessary. Wash/dry the laundry, but folding is outside of survival mode. 

Today was the fourth-straight night that you slept through the night. I’m crossing my fingers that we turned a corner, but keeping my expectations low. 

Other than sleep, life is pretty good with you. You’re a champ eater. You love noodles, spaghetti, peanut butter sandwiches and all fruit. I have to make sure that I’m eating milk-free food most of the time because you always want to share what I’m having, which is refreshing following those picky sisters of yours. They still turn their noses up at my food. 

You LOVE going outside. It’s, by far, your favorite thing to do. I’m dreading the winter days, but maybe climate change will have at least ONE benefit  … kidding, kidding, kind of. 

Ornery is a perfect word to describe you. You are already pushing buttons to see what happens. At bath time, you will at some point try to pour your toy cup full of water outside the bath. You’ll look me directly in the eye and dump the water out. I really have to watch how I respond to certain things. Most of the time, if I tell you no, it just makes you want to do it faster and harder. I don’t shy away from saying no if it’s a safety thing. But if you’re sticking your dirty finger in your mouth to see what I’ll do, sometimes I’ll just ignore you and look the other way. It’s soooo counter-intuitive for me, but I can tell you need a slightly different parenting style than the girls did. 

You also love reading books. For some kids, a new toy or snack is the trick to calming them down. For you, it’s books. In fact, you have two books memorized and will say the sounds at the exact right time in the book. If you’re losing it in the car, I’ll just start “reading” the book and you’ll join in with me. 

Mom: A cow says …
Henry: Moo
Mom: A sheep says … 
Henry: Baaa
Mom: Three singing pigs say … 
Henry: La, la, la 

Which probably explains why most of the words you can say are animal sounds. You can say “Mama,” “yeah,” and one time said “Dada.” You can also say/yell Claire, which sounds like “Clll” and “Gr” for Grace. “Zo” for Zoey. You know the sounds for these animals: Cow, sheep, pig, dog, cat and horse. 

That’s a pretty good round-up of all the observable parts of life. But there’s one more thing before I go. 

I absolutely, completely, unconditionally adore you. You and I are together almost all of the waking hours (and sometimes the non-waking hours) and have become best friends. We know what makes each other tick. We know what makes the other one laugh and love to make the other laugh. I know what makes you sad or frustrated. You know what makes me say “yuck.” I know the difference between your mad cry and your hurt cry. You know that if I kiss the hurt, it will feel better. That spot on my hip seems like a perfect spot for you. The other day, I mentioned that I thought you were becoming more attached — crying when I leave, clutching my shirt if you think I’m going to leave. But if I’m being honest, I’m becoming more attached, too. It’s hard to leave you. Sometimes I need to — for work or an appointment or to recoup some sanity. But when we’re apart, it’s like part of me is missing. The part that fits perfectly on my hip. 

I love you, Henry, my Henry. 



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Breastfeeding: My Story

So. Breastfeeding. Where do I even start??

I guess there’s no better place than the beginning. Many, many people have written about their personal experiences. I know this because I read them ALL during the first few months. So, why am I writing? Because if this reaches just one person who’s sitting at home quietly struggling then it’s worth it. 

So, back to the beginning. 

I tried to breastfeed the girls, but they were in the NICU for the first two weeks working on developing their sucking reflex and got used to the easy flow of the bottle. I also was stressed to the max about being a first-time mom with two babies in the hospital. I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. So, I ended up pumping and supplementing with formula. Then when I couldn’t pump any longer, we switched exclusively to formula. My girls turned out fine!! Well, fine enough. Ha! 

Let me stop here and say I am a firm, firm believer in “fed is best.” There are pros and cons to your health and your bond with baby EITHER way you do it. Love your baby, feed your baby and do your best — that’s my motto. 

That being said, when I couldn’t breastfeed the girls, I felt inadequate. What does it mean that I can’t feed my own babies?? I was hopped up on hormones and exhaustion, so no doubt that played a part. But this wasn’t a logical thinking process. It was pure, raw emotion. Some mix of societal pressure and natural instinct to keep our young alive allowed these feelings of guilt and shame to take up residence. Once I accepted the circumstances, it turned out fine. The feelings of guilt and shame went away. I saw the rainbow of not stressing about pumping and started enjoying their babyhood more. 

But when Henry came around, there was a fire deep in my belly — I burned with determination. I was going to prove to myself (because it really wasn’t about others) that I could do this. 

The first few weeks were awful. I cried at least once a day. He could have had a bad latch or I was sensitive or maybe everyone feels like that. I often asked Scott to go to the store to get formula and he’d hesitate at the door to see if I was serious and I’d say “No, not really. But maybe later. Don’t go far.” But things got better. 

Then they got worse. For the entire month of September, I struggled with a plugged milk duct. It consumed my thoughts. It was hard to focus on work or sometimes even hard to focus on Henry. All I could think about was getting rid of it before it turned into mastitis. I was terrified of mastitis. I searched the entire internet for advice. I worked with a lactation consultant and my local La Leche League group. I had lists upon lists of advice and tricks. 

By week four, the milk from that side was almost completely blocked. I can’t describe how heart wrenching it is to try to feed your baby in the middle of the night and just have him scream because nothing is coming out. Enter the guilt. Here I am starving my child, so that I can prove to myself that I can do something. 

After that night, I went in and demanded that someone help me. The lactation consultant referred me to the OB. When I called the OB, they told me to call the lactation consultant. That’s when I threw a huge fit. Someone was going to freaking fix me or I was going to go all Hulk-Mom. I finally got into the nurse practitioner at my OB’s office. She diagnosed it as a breast abscess. Don’t Google it, but just know it scared the crap out of me. 

So, I drove to Topeka and went to the breastfeeding clinic. They disagreed with the abscess diagnosis and said they thought it was mastitis. (By the way, if you have any breastfeeding issues or concerns — call Stormont Vail’s clinic. THEY ARE AMAZING women.) 

A couple of rounds of antibiotics and everything cleared up. The infection. The plug. The obsessive worrying. 

After that, things did settle into a bit of a routine. My milk supply returned, he was better at latching — everything seemed pretty good. 

Until it wasn’t. 

In March, he was teething and the little booger bit me - not on purpose, of course. But man it hurt. This might be a little TMI, but I figure if you’re still reading, you’re in it for the long haul. This puncture wound was extremely painful. Maybe worse than the pain at the beginning of breastfeeding? It was starting to look infected, so I called my OB right away and they hooked me up with some ointment. It was still extremely painful though and when I asked my OB what to do, he recommended i just not feed on that side for a couple of days. 

Ha. Ha. Ha. 

This was my mastitis side — that was NOT going to happen. I was not risking that torment again. So, I nursed through the pain. It took a month for it to finally heal. Oh the relief. For a couple of days. Before he bit me again. I’m not even kidding. He bit me again as soon as the first wound healed. 

Repeat this same process. One month later, that wound had healed and things were back to normal. Better than normal. We were like a breastfeeding machine. He knew what to do. I knew what to do. My milk supply was on point. I was doing backflips (in my mind … I can’t really do a backflip, y’all). 

It was about this same time that we found out he was allergic to milk, so I was cutting milk from my diet as well. No cheese. No sour cream. Please tell me how someone eats a taco in these conditions!! Compared to everything else though, removing milk was cake. But not really cake because cake has milk. You know what else has milk? Pie. I love pie. 

Then he turned a year and there was talk of weaning. 

So, let’s recap. Extreme pain, plugged ducts, mastitis, two bites and diet restrictions. I should be happy about the possibility of weaning. Right? Wrong. 

I was so sad about it. The first few sessions were easy to kick. I cut one out every week or two weeks if I thought it was necessary. The last two were so hard emotionally. And the last one? I couldn’t even talk about it. I didn’t tell anyone for days because it was too emotional. Scott asked me some general question about when I thought I’d be done and I said “I can’t talk about this.” 

I don’t know if it was hormones or the fact that it signaled the end of a chapter, but it was intense. 

It’s been almost a month now and things are fine. Henry adapted like a champ and the freedom is unreal! I can go to movies and out with my girls and not worry about needing to be back to feed Henry. I can eat whatever I want (I definitely have). In fact, a few days after I finally fessed up that I was finished breastfeeding, my sweet, sweet husband brought home two pieces of homemade pie. I literally started crying in my kitchen. 

So, having done it both ways, I am here to tell you — FED IS BEST! You can do formula and feel bad about it and you can breastfeed and feel bad about it! You can do formula and feel more mental healthy and you can breastfeed and enjoy the physical health benefits. You bond with them either way. All that matters is that you love them, feed them and do your best. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things: First Grade

Miss Claire

Favorite Color: Red

Least Favorite Color: Pink

Favorite Food: Spaghetti with butter

Least Favorite Food: Chicken

What do you want to be when you grow-up: Vet

Favorite Book: Pete the Cat

Favorite Game: Find the Gingerbread Man

Favorite Restaurant: Old Chicago

Favorite Animal: Dog

Favorite TV Show: Pokemon

Favorite thing to do: Go to the pound

Favorite thing about Dad: That he’s funny

Favorite thing about Mom: That she’s nice to me

Favorite thing about Grace: When she says sorry

Favorite thing about Claire: That she likes stuffed animals

Favorite thing about Henry: He’s cute

Miss Grace

Favorite Color: Pink

Least Favorite Color: Black, brown, gray, white, orange

Favorite Food: Donuts

Least Favorite Food: Green beans

What do you want to be when you grow-up: Farmer

Favorite Book: Barbie

Favorite Game: Crazy Eight

Favorite Restaurant: Varsity Donuts

Favorite Animal: Horse

Favorite TV Show: Barbie

Favorite thing to do: Swimming 

Favorite thing about Dad: He makes us laugh

Favorite thing about Mom: She’s nice to me and I have mommy time with her 

Favorite thing about Claire: She stays in the same room as me

Favorite thing about Grace: I love to be pretty

Favorite thing about Henry: He’s so cute and makes people laugh