Thursday, September 18, 2014

So long, Summer

Fall’s sudden appearance seems to be monopolizing the blog world this week, doesn’t it? I maybe laughed for longer than necessary at this:

Because, seriously…

I did not document our Summer sufficiently here, so I’m about to do the quickest recap possible in an attempt to fit this in before it snows. This is more for my benefit than anyone else's, so feel free to skip or skim.

The Summer kicked off in mid-June after an extra week of school {Thanks, polar vortex} when we jumped in the car and headed to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for my brother’s wedding. We spent 5 days celebrating with backyard parties, picnics, playing lakeside, watching movies with cousins, boat rides,  LOTS of food, and a beautiful wedding. My brother and sister-in-law planned such a fun weekend for all their guests and we found out we can share a relatively small space with my sisters’ families and still really like them {and I think they like us too}. I sort of loved every minute of it. This event probably deserves its own post...

^Milo really loves Aunt Jamie. He just could not handle the cameras any longer...

And the following lovely photos are by Helios Photography:

^They basically looked the happiest for the entire weekend. Love, man. It's the greatest.

^The other happy couple. Is this not the cutest thing you've ever seen?

The month of July was a complete whirlwind. I think we were home for maybe one weekend and about 10 days all together. It kicked off with a little kitchen reno project {new floors to replace our disgusting carpet and kitchen linoleum} and continued with several trips across state, tons of cousin time for the boys, the end of my summer class, our first-annual All Star Game party, a mud run, a surprise birthday party for my grandma, mom, & sister {80-60-40}, a camping trip, and a shower for my other new sister-in-law. July also brought sadness with the death of my sister’s father-in-law, so a lot of our focus was on supporting them and helping with my nephews any way we could. July had lots of ups, but was also pretty heavy on the down.

 ^I got home from my last day of class to find all these decorations the boys made. 
We do not take baseball lightly around here.

August didn’t offer much reprieve from the busy-ness as we traveled to Ohio again for my brother-in-law’s bachelor party/sister-in-law’s shower {which turned into a bust for Jason and I since Milo was sick and ended up in the ER with pneumonia. Going out of state for a night just to spend it in a hospital is really not ideal, but thankfully he didn’t have to be admitted and had a very quick turnaround to healthy!}. The next week we attended their wedding ceremony {an intimate ceremony in the backyard of a bar. Such fun!} and then went back across the state that weekend for a pig roast/barbecue/party to celebrate again. Whew.

I started fall classes the day after we returned and have since been acclimating to our new structured schedule. It’s actually been really nice to settle into some routine, even if it does mean missing my boys and saying farewell to beach days and late nights.

I’m so very thankful that Jason and I both have easy summer schedules that allow us to spend so much time together, traveling and seeing family. At the end of the school year, I always think I’ll cry when school starts back up again, but somehow the year’s patterns make me ready for it when the time comes. I know I’ll be cringing at the thought of this come May, but autumn really is great with its beautiful colors and comfort food. So, bring on the pumpkin spice, I guess. {But let it be known that I’m currently wearing jeans. NOT yoga pants}.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

100 Happy Days

Back in March, I began this challenge to post a picture of something that made me happy every day for 100 days. At the time, I was feeling especially unpleasant and like I was constantly passing my bad moods onto the people around me. It was becoming clear that I was taking for granted the moments that really do make me happy. I wanted to become a more joyful person and pass that on to my husband and kids as well.

Here's what the website says about the challenge:

People successfully completing the challenge claimed to: 

 - Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
 - Be in a better mood every day;
 - Start receiving more compliments from other people;
 - Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
 - Become more optimistic;
 - Fall in love during the challenge.

What I liked most about this is that I had to start looking for those things that make me happy and deliberately reflect on them throughout the day. I chose one moment to post each day, but I started noticing so many more that I could have posted. Keeping my eye out for them made me notice more of them. It's all about a shift in perspective, I guess, which is what I really needed at the time.

The website says the challenge doesn't "count" if you don't actually do 100 consecutive days, but I call an audible me. {And, yes, I think I just made a football reference, which felt weird and unnatural}. So, I just posted my 100th photo today when technically I should have finished in mid-July, but, que sera {there, that reference felt better}.

Clearly, it doesn't really matter how long it took me to post 100 happy things on Instagram. What does matter is that it genuinely helped me feel happier. I have felt more content with my job, more focused on my kids, more loving toward my husband, and just grateful for these tiny moments that make each day a little more special. Watching out for the good takes the focus away from the not-so-great.

More than anything, this was fun. It took me almost 6 months to do, but I'm so glad I kept up with it. I also love clicking on the hashtag and seeing all 100 things at once. Some of them are huge {Milo starting to walk, my thoughts on motherhood, welcoming new sisters}, some are trivial {Pinterest, coffee, kitchen floors}, a lot are dance parties, and some are just silly reminders of how awesome my kids are {Gehrig singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"? Every day forever please}. 

I'm so thankful I followed through with this challenge. This new perspective is refreshing. And, although I'm all done with my hundred, I hope this more positive outlook sticks around for a while because life's way more fun this way.

Cheers to happiness!

You can see all my 100happydays photos if you follow me here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reality TV Confession

It's 10pm, so I should be heading to bed, or at the very least getting some work done, but So You Think You Can Dance just ended and I'm still a little jazzed about it {pun most definitely intended}. It's my very favorite summertime show and I'm sad that my Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings will no longer be filled with texts discussing standout performances and the impact of that night's contemporary piece with one of my favorite ladies:

It's so nice to share fandom with others. Until our husbands weighed in tonight and it looked more like this:

These are the moments that really strengthen friendships.

If I had to pick a favorite dance from this season {too many!}, it would be this one. It makes me cry every time and I kind of can't get over the image of women just helping each other out, picking each other up and supporting one other. Beautiful, right? 

Also, this:

And, Twitch, obviously:

Anyway, those are my thoughts at the moment and now I think I will go do some work {which really means go to bed}.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Parent of the Year {Today}

I'll level with you. Three has been tough in the age department around here. A year ago, I always told people the terrible twos were a silly myth. Gehrig was a dream at two. Most nights Jason and I would look at each other and say, "We got the best kid. He's so awesome!"

Then he turned three. The tantrums became epic. He learned how to hit. He learned how to kick. The naughtiness showed signs of spite. Boundaries were pushed and pushed and shoved. We've gone through some tough days and long weeks where he seemed to be fighting us on everything. 

Lately, though, things have been simmering down. We're in a time of peace {this week}, so naturally I'm feeling like I've finally mastered parenting and life from here on out is going to be a breeze. Want to hear what I've learned? Here are my best moves for getting through the threenager days:

1. Defend his sleep. Gehrig is a kid that requires a lot of sleep. He will sleep 12 hours at night and he can still take a 2 hour nap if he has to. We've been lax with bedtime this summer and I'm pretty sure this is the number one culprit of meltdowns.

2. Keep him fed. That blood sugar drop is deadly. Give him snacks between meals and meals on time

3. Pee the evil out. Gehrig is the king of holding it. He doesn't have to go potty until HE HAS TO GO POTTY. That's kind of the worst feeling ever, right? So when he starts to act cranky, I try to usher him into the bathroom as quickly as possible to avoid a battle later.

4. Give him attention. I am big-time guilty of trying to get things done at home and getting annoyed when my kids make it difficult. But when I close my computer, ignore the laundry, and just play for a while, it makes such a huge difference in all of our moods. I don't get anxious about what I could be doing {well, I try not to anyway} and they get to have my undivided attention.

5. Keep things in perspective. Three year olds are tough because they can reason with you to a point, so it seems like they should get your reasoning, too {like, "you have to brush your teeth because that's what we do every night."}. It can be easy to forget how little he still is because so much of the time he's talking like a big kid. One night, after a series of time outs and lots of frustration on our part, Gehrig went potty {see #3} and ran out of the bathroom as happy as a clam...with his underwear backward and inside-out. Jason turned to me and said, "And we're letting this person control our moods." Then we laughed, because, seriously...

Other random things that have been working lately: 

-Avoid "no." This sounds like I'm an annoying, "we just want to facilitate a positive environment" type of parent. I'm not. But if I change "No, we can't go to Grandma's today" into "Well, first we have to go to the grocery store" it holds off the argument and keeps him happy.
-Praise him when he's being good. It can be really easy for me to just point out his negative behavior rather than recognizing and rewarding the little things he does that are so great like, randomly kissing his brother or coming up with a new game for us to play.
-Give him a win. Everyone needs to feel like they're getting a win every now and then. If I'm fighting him on something that really doesn't matter to me, I try to just let it go. You really need to wear a baseball helmet into the grocery store? Fine. Gonna take that {probably-not-water-proof} toy into the bathtub? Knock yourself out.  
-Talk in an Australian accent. Seriously, if I use my "safari voice," the kid will do anything I tell him to. I think this has something to do with it:

So, there you have it. The magic answers you've been waiting for. You're welcome! I'm going to go enjoy my award and bask in the ease of parenting now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One of Those Nights

Little did I know Wednesday night would be the first of a series of ridiculous, sleepless nights. This just happens to be the only one I documented, hour-by-hour.

This is what he looks like when he's sleeping. But not much of this happened that night.

12:30am - Go to bed later than I probably should, but that soy latte's keeping me up.

2am - Wake up to Milo's cries over the monitor. Get him. Hear Gehrig fussing as I'm leaving their room, so he comes with us to my bed. Nurse Milo. He doesn't fall back asleep.

2:30am - Wake up Jason who fell asleep on the couch and ask him to go in our bed with Gehrig while I rock Milo in the living room {because this baby of ours knows not the concept of falling asleep in his own bed}.

2:30-3:30am - Rock a spoiled baby.

3:30am - Milo won't let me set him down even though he's clearly asleep. Lay on the couch with him since it's the only way he'll keep his eyes closed.

3:45am - Milo is crying again. Let him flail around on my lap while I rub his back. He lets out two very faint toots and is out within seconds.

4am - Set Milo in his crib. Decide to sleep on the couch, but first check on Gehrig in our bed only to find him soaking wet.

4:15am - After much struggle with a boneless, protesting child, finally get Gehrig in dry clothes. Zombie mom can't change sheets right now. Strip the bed, throw down a towel, and try to sleep.

4:17am - Open eyes to see Gehrig 2 inches from my face saying, "Mom, sing to me." Sing to him.

4:18am - Gehrig interrupts, asking, "Where's Milo?" {because he always needs to know} "In his crib," I say. "Can I go in my bed?" asks Gehrig.

4:19am - Relocate to toddler bed.

4:30am - Tell Gehrig to close his eyes and sleep. He resists.

4:32am - Try to get comfortable in a bed that was clearly not made for someone of my height or weight.

4:50am - Wake up from a brief doze and find Gehrig still wide awake. Mutter inappropriate things.

5:15am - Remind him that it is not morning yet {even though at this point it is}.

5:17am - Threaten that I am going back to my bed unless he falls asleep.

5:20am - Mom and Gehrig are back in the big bed.

5:21am - Mom is asleep. Doesn't care what everyone else is doing.

8am - Gehrig announces, "The sun is up!" Mom hears, "The son is up!"

Just a little night-in-the-life for ya. It's a crazy life we lead.

But they're cute, right??

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Working Mom?

If someone were to ask me what I do for work, my first instinct would be to say that I'm a stay-at-home mom, which is strange because I also work outside the home. I teach English at a community college part time {which sometimes feels like I work full-time because...grading. And planning. And more grading.}

I'm an adjunct, which means my course load and schedule change each semester and I'm never guaranteed a class at all. In some ways I think this makes me feel like I don't have a steady job. Even though, thankfully, it has been pretty steady for the past 3 years.

I find myself in this weird place career-wise. I really connect with other SAHMs {see, I even use the acronym}, but I also feel some of the stresses that full-time working moms do {though definitely not all of them}. Not to brag, but I think it's kind of the greatest gig ever. Most days I get to be home with the boys, but I still get to work and use my degrees and non-mom brain for a bit each week. I get to tell my husband stories about the crazy things my kids do during the work day, but I also get to vent to him about work and some of the ridiculous things my students write {"Professors are teaching classes that we pay for, so they basically work for us and should do what we say." Yep, that really happened}. This opportunity to complain to each other has in a weird way been wonderful for our marriage since he's a teacher, too. I think it helps us understand each other's work and bond over some of the frustrations that come with that role. 

Aside from teaching, I also do some freelance writing and editing, which over the past couple of months has increased significantly. On top of that, my little invitation design business, Patterns Press, has been getting lots of new clients, which has been so fun and encouraging. I've learned so much and my brides have given me new challenges and trusted me to help create their perfect wedding, which I'm really proud of.

All of this extra work has to get done at home and I'm so thankful that Jason has the summer off to pick up the slack, of which there is quite a bit. I'm not used to my work time outweighing my mom time, so this summer has been a little crazy. I'm so thankful, but my head is still spinning from it all. The nature of all my "jobs" is that they will not always be this demanding. In fact, my only consistent and steady job is that of mother. I will always be in high demand at home.

So, what do I do for work? I'm a stay-at-home mom, who for the time being also works a lot

All this to say that I always intend to write so much more here because I love to write about these fleeting days when our family is young and somehow encapsulate the memories in blog-form. But I just haven't had the time. So I'm encapsulating instead these feelings of overwhelm and gratefulness for the chance to grow professionally, because that's my life at the moment. And these days could be fleeting, too.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Milo's Birth Story

Milo turned one last week and I had every intention of posting this on his birthday. Unfortunately it was the craziest week of the semester and that just didn't happen. This is mostly for my own benefit, since I had this saved in a Word document and have been a little paranoid that it would somehow get deleted off the computer and I wouldn't be able to recall any of the details. So, as a nod to one of the greatest days, here's the low-down on how Milo entered the world. Beware, there are birth-related terms used here. Read at your own risk.

My due date, April 20, came and went, unsurprisingly. Gehrig was 7 days late, so I sort of always expected to go past my due date this time around. I was feeling really uncomfortable for weeks, especially since baby was so LOW. I think he may have dropped two or three times over the last month. Every time my midwife checked me, she couldn’t believe how low the head was. At my final visits she couldn’t even check me because the head was in the way.

I had Braxton Hicks for weeks, too. Each night they would intensify and I would almost think it was time, but then I would lie down, hoping to wake up and go to the hospital in a couple hours, only to wake up the next morning feeling fine.

I stopped working around April 16th because I was so uncomfortable, tired, and just done. I had arranged sub plans early in the semester so I gladly handed my class over to her.

On Wednesday, the 24th, I had a few visitors since it was my birthday. Jason’s parents brought me Subway for lunch and we ate cupcakes and cookies. Later, my parents came over since my mom was in town visiting my dad, who was working in Grand Rapids for the week. We ate dinner {pizza} and chocolate tea bread and I opened some gifts. I was feeling really cranky and just a little off all evening, but I chalked it up to being 40 weeks preggo, huge, and, umm, how any pregnant woman feels when she's gone past that date she has solidified in her mind as the day she will hold her baby.

On my nightly perch right before my parents left.
My parents left for their hotel around 9pm, after which I lay on the couch, experiencing my usual Braxton Hicks. I watched TV {The Rachel Zoe Project, I think? I wasn’t really paying much attention} and ended up on the floor, assuming different yoga positions to alleviate the tightness in my back and sharp pains shooting down my legs. Around 10:30pm I realized a lot of my discomfort was coming from my contractions, which were coming every 8 minutes or so. After calling my mom to give her a heads up that it was feeling a little different this time, I decided to lay down, like so many times before, and try to sleep. I kept dozing off, but waking up with each contraction. So at 11:30 {?? The times are a little foggy} I got up and told Jason that I really felt like this was it. The contractions were about every 5 minutes at this point and I was definitely breathing through each. I called Brenda, my midwife, and told her what was going on. She said to head to the hospital when I was ready.

This would have been thrilling to me, except I was so worried about false labor {I had been sent home twice with Gehrig} that I decided to take a shower and give things one last chance to slow down. The shower felt good, but things only got more intense once I was out. I called my mom and told her to come over. When she got there at about 1am, I was having really hard contractions every 4 minutes. Putting my shoes on seemed to take forever because I kept pausing to breathe. We finally got packed and ready to go, kissed a sleeping Gehrig goodbye, and headed out the door, but not before my mom snapped these pictures, mid-contraction. I think I was really annoyed at the time, but I'm kind of glad to have them now.

The half-hour drive to the hospital is a bit of a blur. The contractions were so intense and I was starting to feel anxious to get there and get my epidural, a sure sign that this was the real thing. What I remember most clearly about the drive is that we were low on gas. I had filled up the week before since this drive was imminent, but I hadn’t realized Jason took the car a few times and the tank was nearing empty. Luckily {as you’ll see later}, the gas station on our way was closed so we decided to just power through and get to the hospital on E. Thinking back, this should have made me a lot more anxious than it did, but the contractions were consuming my every thought at that point. Apparently Jason was talking to me on the way and was trying to have a normal conversation. He told me some stories about school, but I honestly was not listening even a little bit. At one point he pointed out how bright the moon was. I do have a clear memory of how brightly lit the highway was for 2 in the morning. Looking back, we realized it was a full moon, which explains a lot {apparently going into labor on a full moon is pretty typical. Crazy universe.} As we pulled off onto the exit, the gas light came on. Thank God the hospital was only a block away!

My mom took this picture of the moon on her drive to the hospital.
We pulled into emergency around 3am and went through the process of getting to Labor & Delivery triage. Oh, Labor & Delivery triage…you are always an adventure. And always the worst part of a birth story. When we got to triage, there was one other woman there who we noted sounding similar to a dying cow. That sounds awful. She was having a rough time, ok? Anyway, we got into our room {cell? booth?} and I stressed a little about getting checked. One thing I was never told about labor...Getting your cervix checked is the WORST. Anyway, they checked me and I was dilated to 6 {!!!}, so it was time to get me admitted. My elation about the 6cm was quickly dashed by the general demeanor of our nurse. Homegirl was STRESSED, mostly about the fact that I needed antibiotics for being Group B Strep positive and I was progressing really quickly. {Here's the part where I was really happy that gas station was closed and at least we were at the hospital and not still driving.} Her anxiety quickly transferred to me, but I was more concerned that I wouldn’t have time to get the epidural. And I really really wanted the epidural. Every two minutes, I had to close my eyes and turn inward, breathing as best I could through the contraction. When I asked Nurse Sunshine about my epidural, she scoffed and said, “You''l never get it at all if we can't get you up to labor and delivery!” and she rushed out of the room. I remember sharing a look with Jason like, “What is going on? Isn’t she supposed to be the calm one?”

When they finally got my IV going, they quickly rushed us off to L&D. Poor Jason was told to pull the foot of my bed while Nurse What’s-Her-Deal shouted at him, “Go through the door, dad! No, not that door! Go right! No, left!” Keep in mind, there were about 8 other nurses just lounging by the desk in triage. Why they couldn’t help out, I’ll never know. Cow lady was gone at that point and triage was empty. 

So, we got to our labor and delivery room and my nurse, Erin, was standing outside with my chart. As we pulled up, Nurse Horrid said, “This is…actually, I don’t even know their names!” Angel Erin quickly replied, “This is Brenna and her husband Jason. Come on in.” I loved her immediately.

The room was dimly lit and extremely calm except for the stressed out nurse who, for some reason, stayed in the room to fill out her chart. She kept sighing and scoffing about something on her computer. I asked Jason to play some music {Alexi Murdoch} so that I could stay calm. Erin picked up on my annoyance and ushered her out of the room saying, “You can just text me later.” Peace at last. Well, as much peace as you can have when entering transition…I found that sitting up was much better than laying down. I took to rocking side-to-side and kind of moaning through each contraction. I was doing ok mentally, but was still very focused on getting some relief through the epidural. When Brenda got there at 4:30ish, she checked me and I was dilated to 9. Whoa. I asked tentatively if I could still get the epidural, fully expecting them to tell me it was too late. Brenda said it was totally up to me. “You’re doing great on your own, but if you feel like you need it, we can get them in here right now.” Get them in here right now! The anesthesia team was on standby when we got there, so the nurse went over everything with me and I was finally getting the needle in my back. More than anything, it was a welcome distraction from the seemingly never-ending wave of contractions. Even though the thought of that needle makes me want to vomit, I was happy to have something else to focus on. I’m pretty sure I broke Jason’s hand at some point, though I’m not sure if it was because of the pain of the contractions or the fear of the epidural. Either way, I’m glad he was able to just grin and bear it. Or just bear it. I'm not sure he was grinning.

The epidural worked right away on my right side, which was beautifully relieving. My left side was still feeling everything, so they tipped me to one side and told me to push the button to get more medicine to that side. Push I did. My left side never fully felt the effects of the medicine, but it was enough to take that horrible edge off of the contractions, which were right on top of each other. The nurse tried to empty my bladder, but the babe's head was so far down, she couldn't get the foley cath to my bladder. Knowing how far down he was and how quickly I was progressing, Brenda said to try to rest for a bit, though it wouldn't be long. I had closed my eyes for maybe 15 minutes {it was about 5am now} when I started to feel some pressure. {Full disclosure: I was starting to feel a little pressure before they even gave me the epidural, but I wasn’t about to tell them that}. Brenda came back and I was fully dilated. Time to push! 

Side note: Jason’s parents had come to our house to relieve my mom around 2:30 and when we were in triage Jason told my mom she could head to the hospital since I was being admitted. Things in the L&D room went so quickly though, he hadn’t told her that we were close to meeting baby.

I pushed for about 5 minutes when we heard a knock on the door. It was my mom, totally unaware that it was go-time. I said, “Hi, mom. I’m pushing!” We hadn’t planned on her being in the room, but when the nurse asked if we wanted her to stay, I said yes.

Pushing this time around was so different. With Gehrig, it took about an hour and a half and I had to change positions with almost every contraction. This time, everyone was very quiet, to the point that I had to ask if I was doing ok. They said I was doing great and the baby would be out in a couple more pushes. I just remember the room being so calm and peaceful. You know, aside from the whole pushing and laboring part. Brenda spent most of the time kind of stretching me so I wouldn’t tear {which I’m grateful for, but ugh, that was not comfortable} and then, with another push, all of a sudden he was out and Jason said, “we have 2 boys!” and then they set him on me and wiped him off, all while I stared in disbelief at how quickly it all went and how beautiful he was. 

With my midwife, Brenda.
I hate seeing myself in post-birth pictures, but this one is pretty sweet.
He was born at 5:25am. I love that we know this was almost exactly an hour later. 

So tired, but so happy.
Happy 1st Birthday, Bugs. That was a wonderful day, but you bring even more joy to our lives now.