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5 Years ago today

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Five years ago today, extremely sleep-deprived versions of Josh and me checked into Vanderbilt for the 4th time in one week. I did not know the difference between real contractions and Braxton Hicks, and apparently I was a slow learner. Oops (and oops again, and again). I don’t remember much due to a drug-induced haze, but I know I slept, and a baby was born at 2:58 PM. I, off course, loved her immediately, I think I cried–I know she did–and I didn’t want to share her with anyone. I have vague memories of people coming to hold her (i.e. “Stealing my baby”)–people like her Daddy and her grandparents. I know Josh kept telling me to sleep, and I wouldn’t because I couldn’t stop staring at her. I kept interrupting her while she was eating because I was convinced I was doing it wrong. The one thing you should never tell a mother-to-be? “If you’re nursing your baby correctly, it shouldn’t hurt at all.” They should tell you, “Nursing feels WEIRD at first, but you’ll get used to it.” At some point during my hospital stay a nurse made me cry. I can’t remember about what. I hadn’t slept in about 5 days straight. On the day we were supposed to leave, they forgot to check us out, so we sat in our room for 2 hours packed and waiting…and waiting…and waiting. We took a very orange little carrot baby home. She ended up in the children’s hospital a couple of days later for what one of the nurses at our pediatrician’s office later told me were some of the highest jaundice levels she’d ever seen. While we were there we learned that good nurses make all the difference in the world, and if your child is being admitted to the hospital, you should remember to pack changes of clothes and a grownup sized blanket for yourself. We were there for two nights. At one point I remember Josh and I going on a “date” to the hospital cafeteria for Ben and Jerry’s.

Now Emmeline is five. She loves math, science, mud, bugs, princesses, all things pink and sparkly, and building lego cars. She is excited to meet her baby sister and help change her diapers. She wants to feed the baby cheese and bananas and was very upset when I told her that was a no-no. When I told Emmie she wasn’t allowed to play with bumblebees, she ran inside crying. If she’s mad, she’ll shut herself in the bathroom. Emmie loves stories, but prefers to look at the pictures and make up her own words. We’ll get books from the library and she’ll tell me, “You don’t have to read that to me, Mommy. I already read it to myself.” She could spend an hour sitting at the table with art supplies. She’s saving her birthday money for something, but she hasn’t decided what. She’s stubborn, intelligent, dramatic, and always thinks her way is the right way. She defends the ones she loves. She wants to stand out in crowds, and she usually succeeds. We’ll never have to worry about her giving into peer pressure because she won’t even give into parental pressure. She’s a difficult child to parent but an incredible child to watch grow up.  She’s full of personality, she’s never bored, and she’s never boring.

 

She has always been her Daddy’s girl.

My Day

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I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the kids screaming and fighting and Josh telling one child to stop doing something to the other child. I decide waking up can wait a little while. Repeat three times. Remind myself to be thankful Josh is home in the mornings. Once the kids are playing outside, I get up and fix myself breakfast. Now that I know they’re not inside to see me eating sausage and chocolate donettes, it’s safe to eat. I’m greedy with snack foods when I’m pregnant. Don’t ask me to share my breakfast meat or my processed mini chocolate frosted sugar cakes. Josh leaves for work around 10 am. Emmie is watching cartoons on Netflix, and Gareth is running back and forth from the computer to the printer, bringing me the coupons I’ve printed to go with my grocery list. For about 30 minutes things are fairly peaceful in our messy house. When the kids go outside to play in the backyard I can take a very fast shower without having to get out every other minute to break up a new fight. They’ll probably still be fighting in the backyard; I’m just oblivious to the screams while the water is running. I feel guilty for thinking that and get out of the shower, so I’ll know if something terrible happens to the kids. I wonder how far a kidnapper could get in five minutes. I decide I probably don’t want to know the answer to that, and I finish getting dressed. I’m wearing actual clothes before noon–better than yesterday’s time. I go outside and “read a book,” meaning I open a book, set it down, and go swing Gareth until it’s time for lunch.

Lunch is cold pizza, which I previously convinced the kids is much better and more exciting than warm pizza (“It doesn’t burn your mouth!”), so I don’t have to do any work to feed them lunch. I ask Emmeline a question. She tells me a lie. I wasn’t mad originally, but now I am, so I punish her. She tells me the same lie so many times she can’t even remember the truth anymore. I give up and send her and Gareth to their rooms for rest time. I burst into tears because my whole life revolves around my family and right now it feels like it bears no fruit. Gareth is worried because I’m sad. He is extra obedient and goes potty without fussing. He helps me pick his toys up, the whole time asking me, “Your baby giving you trouble Mommy? Why you sad, Mommy?” I leave the room to put something away, and when I come back I trip over the baby gate and land with all of my weight on my right knee. Ouch. More crying. Gareth is now too worried to move or ask questions, so he just sits there and waits for his story. I read to him, and he doesn’t protest at all when I close the door for naptime. I go to read the same story to Emmeline, but she’s chosen a page out of her Usborne Human Body book about lymph nodes. So I read that and show her where to feel her lymph nodes. She thinks it’s the coolest thing ever. Being her mom is a rollercoaster ride, but she’s a great kid.

I sit down to eat my (not cold) leftover pizza for lunch. It was a gesture of love and goodwill from Josh last night, along the lines of, “I love you. I’m sorry you’re sad. I’d offer to take you and the kids out to dinner, but that would probably make it worse. Would pizza help? At least you wouldn’t have to eat leftovers.” Josh calls to check on me, since I may have blown my fall out of proportion. He encourages me about the kids, tells me how he can see such a difference in them and that I’m doing a good job. He ends the phone call with, “Don’t forget, Emmeline is a very difficult child. She’s smart and spontaneous but she’s very stubborn and difficult to parent, and you get the brunt of that.” Sometimes the best encouragement is hearing someone else affirm that the thing you think is really hard actually is really hard.  

Mid-lunch I hear, “Mommy, I pooped!” from Gareth’s bedroom. He’s filled up two sticker charts now with all of the times he’s peed in the potty, but number two is still a no-go. I get him cleaned up and send him back to his room. Now that he’s convinced I’m feeling better, he gives me a little more trouble this time, so I bribe him with two jelly beans, I mean, “rewards for obedience.”  I finish cleaning his underpants, and I don’t know whether to be thankful that at least his poo is generally well-formed and easy to clean, or if I should feel sad that I’ve reached a point in my life where “well-formed poo” is something to be thankful for. 

After two hours of alone time, we’re all feeling better, so we take our afternoon snacks outside. Everything is going well for a few minutes, then Gareth sees a bumblebee and gets nervous, so he comes to sit with me. I reflect on the fact that I’m no longer the family member most scared of bugs. Even though he doesn’t have me beat by much, and I was just as thankful for the cuddle. Emmeline comes up and wants to hold the bumblebee. I tell her, “Bumblebees sting. Never pick up a bumblebee.”

She runs off crying, “Mommy told me I can’t hold the bumblebee! She’s so unfair!”

Gareth decides to be offended on Sissy’s behalf, shouts “Rude Mommy!” And stomps off after Emmie. I give up on outside time and tell them to come inside. I get Emmie started on some phonics worksheets. The more independence I can give her, the better it goes. So I go back and forth between her and the dirty dishes for about 15 minutes, until her attention span runs out. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for reading; she just really loves doing worksheets. She reminds me, “We haven’t done our science school about the stars and planets!” I go pull up the online sample of Apologia’s elementary Astronomy textbook. I’m trying to figure out how long I can drag out one sample lesson about the sun, because she loves this book so much, and we don’t have 60 dollars to spend on a science book and accompanying worksheets right now. (I’ve learned this about Emmeline: anytime something comes with worksheets, get her the worksheets.) I’m partly wishing I hadn’t shown it to her–I should’ve known this would happen. But she’s so cute when she’s learning something about science. I say, “Tell me what you learned about the sun today, Emmeline.” 

She answers, “I learned that if I look directly at the sun it will burn a hole in my retina, and I’ll go blind and I won’t even feel it happening!” She said that with the excitement and enthusiasm of someone who will probably want to try it on her little brother later. For now, though, she just wants to find her magnifying glass so she can burn a hole in a leaf. I remind her not to be disappointed if it doesn’t work. When I’m in charge of science experiments, they basically never work. Unfortunately Gareth lost the magnifying glass. He also lost one of my workout DVDs. No one wants to help me look for these, so science is over. I look for my missing, case-less DVD and stew about the fact that I get no respect. I then remember Josh never answered a question I asked him earlier. I text him again, hoping he can feel my unspoken rage burning a hole in his phone. OK, so I’m not really mad at him, but it’s a good time to sulk and be angry about the great injustices of my lot in life. 

I think about how Josh told me he wishes he could read a summary of my day in three or four paragraphs. It’s that or do laundry, so I sit down to write. I get up once to break up a fight, once to make sure they’re actually playing not suffocating each other, and once to help Gareth get to the potty and sit there with him while he plays with himself. (Josh told me not to worry about it. Apparently it’s part of little boys’ potty training learning curve, and I’m not supposed to freak out about it. Here’s to self-discovery!) By the way, he did tinkle, so he got another sticker and a jelly bean. We sang his special song (the 20th century Fox theme) while we put his sticker on his chart. He’s now three stickers away from his second potty training prize, and still no number two. But on the bright side, even though Josh is working late tonight, I don’t have to fix dinner because we still have leftover pizza. Pizza twice in one day will have the kids declaring me, “The BEST MOMMY EVER!” Forget all that other stuff we did today. They’re just in this for the junk food. 

We ran away! (But we came back.)

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Gareth and Emmeline are playing at Bik-Bik’s house. They prefer going alone because they get spoiled more when I’m not around. Only their grandparents are truly capable of giving them the love and admiration they feel they deserve. Josh and I are just here to spoil their fun most of the time. Josh is working the evening shift tonight, so we decided at the last minute that I’d drive him in so we could go out for a quick lunch date. When you have small children, spontaneity is extremely rare and much appreciated. Nothing makes my day quite as much as, “Hey, the kids aren’t here. You want to go out to lunch/dinner/coffee?” 

Josh’s carefree nature was one of the first things I loved about him (you know, back before we were dating, when we were “just friends”). He broke me from my addiction to post-it notes. I had every list, calendar, dispenser, tape, and cutesy hot pink thought-bubble shaped sticky pad imaginable. I was a bit of a planner. Josh balanced me out with his attitude of, “So what if it’s not on your to-do list? Let’s go spend two hours browsing the bookstore. I’ll buy you coffee!” 

Of course, that all changed when we became parents. Thankfully Josh’s spontaneity wasn’t the only thing I loved about him because otherwise we would probably not still be married. I remember how hard that first year was. I spent a lot of time crying about how it seemed to take two weeks of planning just to make a quick run to Wal-mart. Sometimes I still feel like that: “So I’m going to go to Sam’s and Publix on Thursday, and Friday I’ll go to Aldi and Kroger. Can you make sure I wake up early so I have enough time to get there and back before you need to leave for work?” But five years and a couple kids later, I expect it, and I don’t cry about it (much). And as a side note, Josh was very thankful for my uber-planner side when his life was crazy with grad school. Unfortunately, by that point everything was on Google calendar so I never had any excuses to buy post-it notes. Sad.

It comes down to this: If you are about to become a parent, your dating life is about to be very. very. different. It’s OK if you want to cry about it. And for everyone else, here’s my helpful suggestion: If you really want to show love to young parents, call them up at the last minute and surprise them with free babysitting. They will love you forever. You will be their hero. They will talk about it for months. “Remember when so-and-so offered to babysit completely out of the blue? They’re so nice. We should bring them cupcakes/macaroons/whatever dessert is trendy right now.” 

Sleep, sleep, my kingdom for some sleep

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I wasn’t planning on writing anything tonight. But when I sat down to watch TV, Gareth, the resident bedtime drama queen, started screaming bloody murder because “Your gro’mup show HURTS MY EARS!!” And I’ve learned that I can’t win that battle. So I’m sitting in a quiet room waiting for him to fall asleep. I’m also caffeinating, since Josh won’t be home until later tonight and I don’t like to fall asleep until he’s back. When he works nights I really miss having our German shepherd mix in the backyard.

Josh rolls my eyes when I refer to Gareth as a drama queen. Even though he totally is one, and “drama king” or a gender neutral “overly dramatic person” just don’t have the same ring. Boys can be just as overdramatic as girls can be. Everyone says Gareth will outgrow this before he goes to college, but I’m not so sure. His dorm applications might say “Can’t fall asleep without cuddles. Can’t sleep on dirty sheets. Will flip a lid if someone is watching TV while he’s trying to sleep. Has woken up at least once almost every night since he was born.” 

I read a blog post that was aimed at mothers of newborns, and in an effort to be encouraging it said something like, “Don’t worry, this period won’t last forever. Your baby is going to start sleeping through the night eventually.” My first thought was, “HA! That’s if you got one of the good ones.” But of course it’s not nice to scare off the parents-to-be. Best to just let them find out on their own that they may never get a good night’s sleep for the rest of their lives. OK, I’m sure that’s not true. But it might be a few years. 

Gareth is a very cute, charming child. He’s bubbly and affectionate. He loves smiling for his picture. He’s funny, silly, and ticklish. Since he’s the baby, I tend to fuss over him more than his big sister. It’s unintentional, and I do try to be fair with compliments and affection, but honestly it comes easier with Gareth because he seeks it out. (Emmeline is a super-cuddler, but you have to remember to initiate it.) All that to say, since Gareth is the baby he gets most of the “Oh he’s so cute and happy and charming!” But while he may be great at emotionally manipulating you into thinking he’s all kisses and giggles all the time, let me just say, that he. is. a. horrible. sleeper. 

When I write blog posts I ask myself, “Would I want my teenage kids coming back and reading this?” And that generally keeps me from complaining about them too much. But I just want to say, Teenage Gareth, if you are reading this, it has been almost three years and you have not gone a solid week without waking your poor mother and father up at night. You refuse to spend  the night at anyone else’s house, and your Aunt Alyssa is the only other person in the world who can get you to fall asleep quickly (be extra nice to her, because by the time you’re in your teens she has probably babysat you a lot for just that reason). We love you to the moon and back, but we are tired. And you owe us, Son. So get a good job, because when the early dementia sets in due to chronic sleep deprivation, we’re sending you the medical bills. Of course, by that point, your older sister will probably be running the world, so stay on her good side and maybe she’ll loan you the money to pay them. 

Gareth is asleep now, so I’m going to go scoot my recliner very close to the television and turn my “gro’mup show” on at a very low volume. 

12 Weeks

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Baby Size: A lime. We went to hear the heartbeat this week, and in addition to the heartbeat, the doctor pointed out noises that meant baby was kicking. It’s still too early to feel anything, but it’s nice to know there’s a healthy, growing baby in there.

Foods i’m loving: Carrots and ranch dip, pastries (I keep craving chocolate croissants and cheese danishes), Jeni’s ice cream. Jeni’s is so rich a little goes a long way. I can barely finish one 1/2 cup serving.

Foods i’m hating: Onions. Henceforth they shall be stricken from all recipes. I can do some leftovers now, but not too many.

Sleep: I’ve got a little bit more energy now, so I can make it through the day without having to nap. That’s encouraging.

Symptoms: Still nauseated but not as much as before. I have a lot of back pain when I’m pregnant (chronic back problems and pregnancy don’t mix), and that has already started to get worse. I’m used to managing it though, and I can usually find the right mix of rest, exercise, and heating pads.

What i miss: Meal planning, oddly enough. I’ve pretty much given up on that, since I don’t really know what food is going to sound good from one day to the next. I’ve tried a couple of times to just eat food anyway because it’s what I had planned for the evening or because I didn’t want to waste leftovers, but it leaves me sick every time, so I’d rather just take it one or two days at a time. Also, I miss advil. I have an awful sinus headache today, and I just want some Ibuprofen.

What i’m looking forward to: In a couple of weeks I’ll be in the second trimester which means I’ll start feeling better. Putting food aversions behind me will make life easier.

Emotions: Optimistic. I’m so thankful I’m not working full time. It has taken a lot of the emotional pressure off of me this pregnancy. It’s nice not to feel like I have to perform a job to someone else’s expectations. Being a stay-at-home-mom has its challenges, but since I’m my own boss I get to decide what I’m capable of accomplishing in a day. Sometimes I wake up feeling miserable and knowing that my productivity will be limited to keeping everyone fed and making sure we all nap. I’m at peace with that even if I do wish those days never happened. When I was pregnant and working, I couldn’t just decide, “This week I’m not going to do any work at all, but I am going to take long lunch breaks, nap for 2-hours each day, and go home early.” With the first two pregnancies I was in denial about how it would affect my productivity level–mostly because I had a full-time job to perform regardless–but my energy levels aren’t the same because everything I’m doing right now–even sleeping–I’m doing while I grow a human being. I can never stop multitasking. Admitting that to myself and adjusting my expectations accordingly has left me happier in my third pregnancy. Overall I haven’t been the depressed, anger-ball I was the first two times.

Family life: The impending arrival of another child has woken me up to how much I do for the kids each day. I baby Emmeline a good bit, and  that needs to stop. So I’m trying to do better about:
1. Teaching her to do chores and help with housework
2. Velcro her own sneakers (Yes. She can’t even do Velcro herself. Mom fail.)
3. Towel herself off after her baths.
I’m also trying to be more intentional about making her share her room with Gareth. The new baby will probably go in her room, so I want her to stop thinking of it as all hers. And don’t feel sorry for her, because she has two hours of alone play every day, so the child gets plenty of space and privacy.

We’re also easing into potty training Gareth. We haven’t taken away his diapers yet, but we need to soon because he’s taken to it pretty easily. I hope he’s easier to train than his sister was. It would be nice not to have two in diapers this September!

Valentine’s Day

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Josh started a new job, and he’s been working a lot of nights. I’m still getting used to his new schedule. The kids see him a lot more since he’s home in the mornings, but I’m usually a sleepy, sick, pregnant grouch in the mornings, so it’s not exactly lovey-dovey quality couple time. Although he’s always good about waking up first with the kids so I can get a little extra sleep. He’ll turn on cartoons and feed them and come back to snooze for an extra hour. I try not to kick him out of bed when he climbs back in next to me after I’ve already migrated to the middle of the mattress and no longer want to share. 

The kids are spending the afternoon having Valentine’s fun with their grandma (“Bik-Bik”), doing crafts and eating heart shaped pizza. I had the house to myself and thought I’d nap, but ended up spending two hours reading instead. Then I looked up, realized it had started raining at some point, and I was reading a book in a completely dark house with all the curtains shut. I find quiet and isolation relaxing, but every once in a while a little voice in my head will say, “Turn some lights on, and stop being creepy.” By the way, the book is Gone Girl, and it has sucked me in. It has more language than I’m comfortable with, but by the time the cussing got really bad, I was so hooked on the story it didn’t matter anymore. So far the twists in the story have all lived up to the book’s hype.  

For Christmas Josh asked for tank slippers, and it is a very long, complicated pattern that I started sometime in November and didn’t get finished for Christmas. So I thought I’d make them his Valentine’s Day present instead, but every time I work on them I get cross-eyed and nauseated, so they may end up being an Easter present instead. I told him I was determined to finish them even if they killed me, and they very well might. 

And Josh is working again tonight, so it’ll probably be butter noodles for dinner and an early bedtime for the kids and more quiet, quiet, quiet for me until Josh gets home. I don’t mind the quiet most of the time. Sometimes it gets to me after dark, and I wish I wasn’t allergic to dogs so we could keep a nice, semi-threatening German Shepherd mix lurking around (like the one we had to give up who was loving and loyal and smart but could also kill a possum and come out of the fight completely unscathed). I’ll just have to content myself with the neighbor’s cat who wanders over into our backyard and kills the mice for us. 

So nothing super exciting or romantic to report for Valentine’s Day over here, just a big helping of real life. But I suppose someone who will still stay married to you even though you nag him, hog the bed, compulsively over-dramatize the benign details of daily life, and change your mind about what your love language might be almost as often as you change your socks is better than some drug store chocolates. And actually, we are going out tomorrow night. Josh promised he’d take me out to dinner and be chatty. 

9 Weeks Pregnant

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Baby Size: A Grape. I wanted to plan ahead and have something to show Emmeline each week, so she could see how big the baby was, but I’ve been so sick and tired it hasn’t happened yet. 

 
Foods i’m loving: Strawberries, sometimes pickles, Lipton Nooble Soup, hummus (but only the blandest flavors) and pita chips, and Girl Scout cookies (except not the actual Girl Scout cookies but the cheap Keebler knock-offs), also whatever might appeal to me at a random moment when a food whim strikes. 

Foods i’m hating: Leftovers, the right food at the wrong time, the wrong food at the right time, anything too salty, sugary, garlicky, spicy, dairy-ey, anything too anything. 

Sleep: All the naps! This is completely unscientific (you’re shocked), but I figure since I’m sleeping for two, and a normal adult needs 8 hours, I’ll just double that number. But yes, if I can get a tight 12-16 hours then I can function like a normal, non-pregnant person.  

Symptoms: I don’t have a sensitive gag reflex, so I rarely throw up–even when I get the stomach flu. Nausea for me is this constant, pressing, dizzying feeling that never goes away. Although I am taking medicine for it now that has taken the edge off some.  

What i miss: Pregnancy hormones make me feel like someone has flipped on a crazy switch in my brain, and they won’t flip it back off for 9 months. I miss having normal emotional reactions to daily life. It’s a full-time job (for which I don’t have the energy) just trying not to be the crazy pregnant lady who cries and screams at the drop of a pin and is convinced no one loves her and she’s horrible and greasy and mean and alone.    

What i’m looking forward to: It’s going to be so much fun to share this pregnancy with Emmeline and Gareth. Emmeline is old enough now to have some understanding of what’s going on, so even though this is my 3rd go round, everything is new and exciting again through Emmeline’s eyes. She likes finding out how big the baby is getting, she’ll get to come to the 20-week ultrasound for the first time, and she can’t wait to see Mommy’s belly get big. Gareth is just his usual funny, little brother self. I told him I had a baby in my tummy, and he shone a flashlight down my throat and called, “Baby? Baby!” then he told someone I was having a baby monster because, “Mommy ate ‘da baby.” Now he’s over the whole thing and when I talk about the baby he’ll either remind me that HE is the baby, or he’ll just tell me, “Stop talkin’ ’bout your baby, Mommy.” Josh and I are taking bets on how long the new baby will be home before Gareth tries to bite it.  

Emotions: It’s very Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in my head at the moment. Emotions range from, “I’m so excited and thankful to meet this new little blessing! Children are wonderful and this is a special, exciting, hopeful time” to “What were we thinking?! Why on earth did I want to do this AGAIN?! Josh, this is all your fault!” But overall I’m excited and content. I’m trying to focus on the second trimester, when I know I’ll feel better, and we’ll get to experience all the fun firsts of pregnancy, such as finding out the sex and feeling baby kick and move. (It’s cute when they weight about 2 ounces. When you have a 7-8 lb watermelon karate chopping your ribs it’s not so fun.)   

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