An Anniversary

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For our first date, he took me to a fancy Hawaiian fusion restaurant. We sat at the bar and ordered fancy drinks that only adults order; partly because we were both a bit nervous and awkward and partly because we wanted to own the title of adult all 20-somethings yearn to claim. We talked, we laughed, he drove me home afterward – to my parents house, where I was living at the time – you know, when you’re in-between here and there. I had just returned from life on the road with Janet and though my physical belongings sat in the room I grew up in, my spirit still felt fiery and restless. It’s the first time in life I felt complete ownership of and confidence in my self-awareness. It wasn’t lacking before, just still being molded.

He kissed me in the driveway, the oak tree hanging overhead. It sounds cliche to say I knew he was the one, but I knew he was the one. That night was only the beginning.
We have reservations tonight at a nice restaurant on the beach. A treat to one another. We laugh thinking back to that night, to that $100 dinner that was so out-of-form all those years back. And how I confided them the same confession that I confess tonight; that I’d be just as happy going to Denny’s.
Happy Anniversary to my one true love.

Breastfeeding Anxieties

There isn’t a lot many can say when it comes to having three children and drawing any sort of similarities out amongst them. I mean, leave it to being the mother of three to prove to you that each one, cut from the same cloth or not, is bound and determined to be their own being. And yet, there are just a few similarities I can say about all three of my boys: each of them came in the 41st week of gestation. In fact, I think damn near 41 weeks and 4 days if we’re being precise. All three waited until their 9th or 10th month to cut any teeth. All three were early walkers, Hooper and Van both in their 10th month, Sonny in his 9th. And breastfeeding; all three have followed the same path.

You would think that by the third time, I’d have it down. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. For starters, time has passed. Older people joke that they can’t remember their grown children as infants. I joke back that I can’t remember my 4 and 6 year olds as infants. And it’s only a partial joke because there is truth embedded in that statement as well. I’ve forgotten.

My experience with Sonny up until a month ago was seamless. Not without effort, but certainly without bumps in the road. He’d eat when I offered and I’d offer often. If it was before a nap or before putting him down for the night, it would put him to sleep.

I’m seeing things more clearly now from hindsight and I can pin our latest struggles down to the following: he’s far more aware of his surroundings than he once was. He’s easily distracted and half of the time I feel like I’m forcing him to eat which seems silly having always prided myself on ‘on demand’ feeding. Some days I feel like I need a basket filled to the brim with various toys and knick knacks that I can dangle in front of him to keep his attention. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I fed him without holding something on my chest. I suppose I wouldn’t care so much about him refusing feedings if I weren’t so worried about maintaining my supply.

You see what’s happening here? It’s a cocktail I’m mixing.

I wouldn’t even know about my supply if it weren’t for working so much lately. I worked three days in a row in the hospital (which is the only time I pump) and became growingly concerned seeing just how little I would get from the pump. Sure, it’s argued (and presumably true) that baby’s are more efficient than a pump but instinctively I cannot help but be concerned when I used to pump a combined 4 ounces and now, only 1, maybe 2. It’s also stressful to take time out of my day when I’m working as a nurse to only bag a mere ounce (leaving my patients, walking to another unit, pumping, cleaning, storing, walking back… Point being, it’s a process that takes time and takes me away from my patients).

And now, from the position of hindsight, it’s beginning to dawn on me that the same thing happened with both Hooper and Van, around the same age. While I’m blessed with good sleepers, the 9 or 10 hours of consecutive sleep at night causes my supply to plunge.

It’s also right around this time, with all three, that my body begins regulating itself once again and my period returns. I mean all three, at or damn near the 10 month mark. And I know menstruation has ill effects on milk supply. Or can, anyways.

Combine all this – working more and therefore pumping more, the return of my period, and a baby who is distracted by everything and loves solids (and is eating those like a champ) and who is sleeping through the night and then some – and it’s clear to see why my supply is suffering.

I was beginning to talk myself into the idea that maybe he’s just weaning and while, sure, he probably is to a certain extent (definitely transitioning into the world of solid foods) he’s not done with breastfeeding. And nor am I. It’s my goal to make it to a year and now that I’ve gotten over this hump, I know we will.

So how did I get over the hump, you ask?

Well, I reached out and heard back from so many of you via instagram. Sometimes you just have to talk yourself through something to be able to understand the issues.

The consensus was this: the distraction at the breast is normal for this age. Several suggested feeding in a low lit room. While I find this to be helpful during feedings he needs/wants, the reality is that we’ve simply had to cut out some of the feedings we once had… which is fine. I try to cram in as many daytime feedings as I can because I know not feeding at all throughout the night has had an effect on my supply. I’ve also given up on multitasking, gone are the days I could send a quick email or scroll through instagram while breastfeeding. And I’m fine with that, it’s nice to give him my full attention.

My next realization is that we all have limits. At least one person that responded mentioned getting up in the middle of the night to pump which, I agree, would be helpful in breaking the 10 hour hiatus I take from feedings while he sleeps. But, with working two (sometimes three) jobs and wrangling three kids, I need a full nights rest. And I feel very fortunate that I get it. I do, however, wake Sonny a couple hours after I put him down for the night, before I go bed myself (around 10pm or 11pm) and feed him one last time. And I will continue to do so to alleviate the long lapse in not feeding him. That particular session is my favorite; it’s the only one that doesn’t require the extra effort. Very rarely does he even open his eyes. It’s sweet, the kind of feed breastfeeding cliches are made of.

I’ve also increased my water intake. Or at least most days I try to. The amount of water we should all be getting each day is kind of baffling and I firmly believe so many of us – breastfeeding or not – are walking around partially dehydrated. On the days I work in the hospital, I make it a point to down two glasses of water every time I walk into the patient nourishment room. At home, it’s a little harder to come up with something similar because I’m distracted and multitasking with no organization about 90% of my day when I’m at home. I could probably stand to eat more greens too, but hey, we all have limits. I’m trying.

I’ve also started taking calcium + magnesium as well as fenugreek. I tried putting it off for as long as I could because I don’t necessarily care for walking around and smelling like a pancake house. Please tell me there are others who agree that fenugreek makes you smell like maple syrup? I was sitting in a class and thinking that someone near by smelled weird only to get home and have Willy point out that that somebody was, indeed, me.

I’m back to my regular work schedule for the most part and in the past few days I’ve had ‘off’, I’ve found comfort in the fact that he is still taking a significant number of feedings. And while it’s hard to ignore the pump, he does seem to be more efficient and able to draw out more than the pump.

And at the end of the day, he’s healthy. And there’s loads of comfort in that. I worried so much when Hooper was little and his weight percentile dropped all the way down to the 10th percentile. But not the case with Sonny. He’s chunky enough, with thighs that demand to be pinched. All in all, if it weren’t for pumping and attaching a number to the issue at hand, I wouldn’t even second guess anything. And the realization that I’m not alone, not in my worries or in my hatred of pumping, is something too (I’ve enjoyed reading some other breastfeeding stories, here, which have made for a nice late-at-night-oh-hey-look-at-that-I’m-not-alone time suck).

The breastfeeding relationship changes so much in the course of a year and it’s as if you’re constantly having to adjust and re-assess. From the early days where it felt like I was a slave to feeding him to the current days where the anguish derives from just how little time he’s willing to sacrifice to eat. It’s enough to make my head spin. In any event, wish me luck this week as I’m scheduled for a couple 12 hour shifts and will be returning to the dreaded pump to learn my fate as if the pump is some magic 8 ball determined to tear my confidence down. Trying not to let it.

Would love to hear from others in regards to the changes in the breastfeeding relationship and how feeding your 9, 10, or 11 month old and so on is different than when they were younger.

Pumping & Building a Supply of Breastmilk

MattandTishPhotography-37MattandTishOh the dreaded pumping. I hate pumping, to be honest. I also hate worrying about my supply. And it’s because of the latter that I partake in the former.

I initially started pumping to build a small excess supply of milk for times I would be away from my babies, namely for return-to-work purposes. As my excess supply started pouring out of every crevice of the freezer and exceeded the amount I needed to return to work, I donated. I kept up with pumping for the purpose of keeping up my supply and donating was an added benefit. It felt great to be able to give to someone else who wanted to provide the same but was not able to. It also felt good to have a plentiful supply.

Because I had to return to work in the hospital, just after Sonny was a couple of weeks old, I started pumping once a day. I would pump just after his morning feed, when my supply was most abundant. On an average day, I froze anywhere between 3 and 5 ounces. And when our freezer started to swell, once again, I found someone to donate to. Win, win.

Looking to build a supply as well? Here’s what has worked for me:

-Start pumping early, when your supply is still calibrating to your needs. I started when Sonny was two weeks old. I vaguely recall reading advice from lactation consultants saying to wait longer. For me, starting earlier produced the best results. A reminder, I suppose, that any post I publish that may seem like it’s advice-giving is in actuality just a personal account of my own experiences.

-Use a double electric pump, as they’re most efficient. I use a hospital grade pump when I pump at work (Medela Symphony) and honestly notice no difference in the amount of milk I produce. It does, however, seem a little more efficient in terms of time, but not enough to justify the price tag of a hospital grade pump (it retails for nearly 2K — you would think for that price that it would be able to magically turn your breastmilk into straight cash. The kind you could fold.). At home I use the Medela In-Style double electric. It’s the same pump I’ve used since Hooper was born and I have no complaints.

-Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is key when breastfeeding, even more so if you’re pumping in addition to breastfeeding.

-Pump in the morning, as your supply diminishes throughout the day. Pumping after Sonny fed first thing in the morning worked best for me; as there was no need to feel guilty for ‘stealing’ milk when he already got what he wanted / needed, first. If I were to add another pumping session, I would do so one hour into his morning nap with the knowledge that I’d be able to make more by the time he awakens to feed again.

-Stimulate multiple let-downs. There are two settings on the pump, one that is quick and intended to bring on the let-down and one that is slower and pulls the milk from the breast. When my milk more-or-less stops flowing, I switch it back to the quick setting and try to stimulate another let-down. More times than not, it works, and I’m able to draw out another ounce or more.
-Bottle training. No sense in pumping milk you hope for your baby to one day drink if your baby is unable to take a bottle. Think it’s a matter of it-they’re-hungry-enough-they’ll eat? I thought so too and the fact it’s actually a learned skill for newborns caused a lot of stress and turmoil and tears when Hooper was a baby. I have Willy give just an ounce of pumped milk once a week or so to Sonny to keep up on his ability to take a bottle. We also found that giving him this ‘recreational feeding’ works best first thing in the morning, before he feeds and just after he wakes, as he’s not as aware of what’s going in his mouth.

I’m no longer pumping. Sonny is 5 months and sleeping through most of the night (on and off) and I’ve found that my milk has calibrated to such. Slowly I stopped having any excess. But I still have a freezer full of frozen milk, so the relief lives on.

What was your experience like with pumping? Did you pump in addition to breastfeed? Any tips or tricks others would like to share?

And if anyone in the LA / OC area has a plentiful supply of stored breastmilk they can donate, I have a local mom that I’ve given my excess to that I know would be grateful to have more.

Image by Tish Carlson

A letter to first time moms

San Clemente Family Photographer-4959 I’ve always felt that the benefits of hindsight were grossly unfair; probably even more so now, as a mother.

I remember feeling so handicapped when Hooper was a baby; like every outing was now some sort of huge undertaking. Even going to the grocery store felt like an ordeal. I had all (or most) of the gimmicky stuff — the diaper bag, the stroller that I’d whip out to wheel him into a restaurant from the parking lot, an assortment of pacifiers that I never ended up using (the list goes on).

It isn’t until the second, or better yet, the third, comes around that you see just how easy you had it with one. How nothing that you thought was a big deal was, well, a big deal. How all the things you said no to – “no, sorry, can’t go on that camping trip because we have the baby” – were as doable as they’d ever be.

I recently visited a friend who is a first time mom and those early days – and all the emotions surrounding that time — came flooding back. The drastic change of going from none to one, feeling like breastfeeding owned me, the resentment I felt toward Willy.

If you’re a first time mom, or even a mom for the third time around, these words are for you:

It’s okay if you don’t goo and gaa over your child immediately. Sometimes the best relationships are the ones that grow with time. Or better yet, over a few consecutive nights of good rest. Or even better yet, when personality comes into play.

It’s okay if you hate breastfeeding. It’s not as romantic as some make it. And it’s not that people lie or try to portray it as something more glamorous than it is, it probably has more to do with the fact they’re in a different time or place than you. And that’s okay, too. It wasn’t until Sonny that I can say I truly love breastfeeding and am not overwhelmed by the commitment it entails. It also wasn’t until I grew into my role as a mother that I learned it’s best not to judge. And freeing, too, to let said judgments go.

The distance you feel from your husband is normal. It most likely stems from resentment, which is normal too. After all, our lives, our bodies, our priorities as women change tremendously. The role of a mother is one you grow into. What once felt like a burden now feels like a privilege. So if you don’t love all your new responsibilities and you feel bitter about the unequalness of it all and the mere question from your husband of how the night with the baby went makes you quiver with disgust because you wish you could bite off a chunk of the bliss that comes from his ignorance, that’s okay.

And if the time it takes your husband on the toilet is the same amount of time you’ve been longing for to sneak in a shower or rub lotion on your dry legs and you’re resentful because of it, you’re not alone.

If you want to punch the little old lady who comes up to you in the grocery store and tells you to ‘enjoy every minute’ in the face, know you’re not alone. Also know that by the time you’re her age, you’ll have forgotten all the hardships and be telling new moms the same thing she’s telling you. There are seasons to motherhood and that sweet little lady is simply in a different season than you.

And perhaps the best advice ever given to me, from my own mom no less, is that it’s all temporary. All of it. Even life. So if what feels permanent today and never-ending, know there is an end and that a change will come. Our troubles today will be traded for different troubles tomorrow. Same with our joys. And so find some sort of peace in knowing that none of it – not the good or the bad – will last forever.

Hashtag: Normalize Breastfeeding

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I had a post written, ready to share, about the good that has come out of social media in terms of breastfeeding and the whole ‘normalize breastfeeding’ hashtag that may better be classified as a movement; because hot damn there’s a lot of moms out there sharing – what truthfully is – a significant part of any new breastfeeding moms life. Breastfeeding an infant is pretty damn close to a full-time job. But then I was talking to a friend who confided that she shared different feelings about all these moms sharing about their dedication to breastfeeding and flashing images left and right of them feeding their babies; an over-saturation of sorts with a message that may have gotten lost in the abundance, the point – possibly – distorted. Where perhaps an innocent message of comradery somehow started to translate into a ‘my way is the best way’ message of inferiority. Hard to say if seeing it in a context such as this is produced from the images themselves or through the eyes of the one viewing them. I thought it was an interesting debate so I figured I’d bring it here, so others could weigh in.

How do you feel about moms sharing images of themselves breastfeeding their young? Do you feel that the message ever gets misconstrued; that perhaps some of the authors of these images have a pretentious air of inferiority? Does the author behind the images you see impact the meaning you derive from the image’s content? In other words, maybe it’s not the subject matter at all but perhaps the voice behind an image that may lend to a less-than-desirable translation?

Seeing so many images of moms openly breastfeeding has made me less shy about breastfeeding – especially in public – this third time around. I stressed much more about breastfeeding when Hooper, and then Van, were babies. Staying home felt most comfortable in terms of avoiding having to feed them in public. I remember wandering the flea market with Hooper as an infant and asking a vendor if I could use his car to feed him in. I was there the other month with Sonny and I fed him on the stairs in the middle of the bustling food court. It wasn’t that I yearned for anymore privacy when I chose to use the vendor’s car with Hooper, it’s more that it simply felt more socially acceptable; I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it to protect everyone else.
I can’t say for certain whether it’s different because Sonny is a third-born and my cares have gone with the wind or if the movement of normalizing breastfeeding has spread visually so abundantly that I feel, well, comfortable. I’m even comfortable with others feeling uncomfortable.
I used to think of breastfeeding as such a huge commitment and, sure, it is. But this third time around it doesn’t feel like such a ball and chain; it feels like a privilege. Maybe that’s because I know it may be the last baby I breastfeed. I’d like to think it has at least something to do with this “normalize breastfeeding” movement because, dammit, I need to feel there is some good coming from social media and not just one rolling instagram feed of picturesque kitchens, sponsored posts, and curated mumbo jumbo.

Anyway, curious to know your thoughts. And for those that don’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed or aren’t going to breastfeed – for whatever reason – do you feel like an image of a breastfeeding mother is a back handed judgement on you? Do you take images like that personal? I suppose ‘fed is best’ could be a separate post on its own, but worth a mention here anyway. Because, really, fed is best.

Images by Tish Carlson

Children, dogs, & perspective

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I remember a philosophy class in college where the professor presented the option of living as we are now; with all the realities that encompass life as a human, or trading it all for the simplicity of life as a dog. I mean it is tantalizing to think of being fed and cared for and loved unconditionally. I think one stoner kid in the back raised his hand, willing to make the switch. The professor proclaimed that he found it odd because typically when we have insight into what an evolved brain is capable of, you wouldn’t give it up. In other words, even with all the challenges and strife, it’s hard to trade the good, more complicated emotions, for the life of a dog, who could never truly experience such.

A while ago, I met up with my friend Cindy and we had a conversation during dinner about how ignorance, at a time, truly was bliss. She had her daughter very young and in-looking back in hindsight, she said the only way she got through it was ignorance; not knowing what she didn’t know.

It’s interesting to me that we spend so many years maturing and it’s looked upon as a good thing, an evolutionary thing. And yet by the time we’re more-or-less mature adults (am I mature adult — I dunno) we yearn for the ignorance, the simplicity, that filled our early years that so many waited for us to grow out of.

I was reminded of this just the other morning when Van was with me in the bathroom, shoving a q-tip deep into his ear. I asked him, “are you excited to go to school tomorrow?”, to-which-he-replied, “but first I need to clean my ear”.

Children know nothing more than the moment. And it’s something that they’re lack of brain cells allow for and ours kinda don’t. They’re kinda like dogs. It’s a struggle as an adult to know all we know and still stay present in the moment.

So I pose the question to you: would you trade brain cells for a life of simplicity, a life of living in the moment? Or do you chose the realities of adulthood, which includes the heavy, hard emotions and forethought into what needs to be done in the coming weeks, months, even years… but also includes the ability to watch a kid stick a q-tip in his ear and see the beauty in it?

Tricks of the trade

San Clemente Family Photographer-6656 San Clemente Family Photographer-6661I’m no expert on raising children and I’m far from having this newborn thing down because there have been tear-filled days and tired bickerments and all the other shit that comes along with adding a third child to an already chaotic household. While we are the first to admit that our children, in general and in varying degrees, are the biggest shits at the table, we’ve been rather blessed when it comes time to put them down for a nap or to sleep at night. And I’m sure it has nothing to do with what we’ve done or haven’t done; I’m sure it’s the luck of the draw more so than anything else.

With that said, there are things we have done that I think were helpful. And this third time, especially, (thus far, at least) has been rather seamless.

Here’s what’s worked during the night:

Breastfeeding in the side lying position. While I’m not comfortable falling fully back to sleep while Sonny is nursing, it’s nice to at least rest and keep my heart rate on the slow side. Each time I have to get up to nurse, and subsequently raise my heart rate, I’ve found it harder to get back to sleep.

Using a white noise maker. I’ve always felt that doing so signals when it’s time to sleep in addition to drowning out any excess noise. But drowning out the excess noise takes a backseat to signaling that it’s time to sleep. As a matter of fact, we do very little to create a quiet environment, other than the white noise maker. And thus far, when it comes to Sonny, we only use the white noise at night. During the day we’ve gotten him accustomed to napping whenever and wherever he is, whether it be in his carseat or on the floor and in spite of whatever it is going on around him (usually rough-housing).

Keeping the TV off. With Hooper and Van, I used to sit on the sofa in the wee hours of the night and watch TV while I nursed them back to sleep. I remember the Olympics were on the summer Van was born and served as the perfect midnight treat. But it’s also hard to flip the switch and fall back asleep so this go-around I’ve considered it off limits and prefer to maintain the sleep environment for both of us.

Co-sleeping. Totally an individual preference. What I will say is that it sure is easier in these early days to not have to get out of bed. There’s nothing like getting back into a bed that has since become cold. I much prefer to roll over, position Sonny in a side lying position, and feed him while I too drift just slightly off rather than to get up and leave the warmth of our bed only to return to cold sheets. As soon as he starts to sleep for longer stretches, however, we will move him to a crib. In fact, we’ve had intentions to do so already as he’s waking less and less during the night; but with an impending move later this summer, co-sleeping is just what works best for us. In other words, no need to break out the crib if we’ll have to break it down again in a matter of weeks.

The wombie. We’ve used one of these after spending months struggling to maintain a good swaddle with a blanket when Hooper was a baby. It was so frustrating. Enter, the wombie. It’s been a dream. I also think that once Sonny is zipped up and straight-jacketed that he knows it’s time to sleep. The more sleep signals this early in the game, in my opinion, the better.
What kinds of things have you done to help your infant into a sleep pattern?

Sonny @ 3 months

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Growth & Appearance:

You’re the size of most 9 month olds, the only thing giving away your age is your mannerisms; the newborn-like gang signs always a dead giveaway.

We had to buzz your random tuft of long hairs because you looked like Sloth from the Goonies.

I think your hair is turning blond. Your papa says it’s still brown. I agree it’s brown, but it seems to be transitioning to blond. In my opinion, anyway.

The left side of you head is flatter than your right, as you favor lying with your head turned to the left. We’re working on correcting it. You’re welcome.

You’ve grown out of the 3-6 month onesies as well as size 1 diapers, which truthfully should have been swapped out for size 2 sometime ago but I was determined not to waste what we had left of size one. Technically speaking, I think you meet the weight requirements for size 3, so it’s possible you’ll skip size 2 all together except the fact I don’t want to waste the size 2 diapers either, so you’ll probably be a size 3 kid in a size 2 diaper just as you’re a size 2 kid in a size 1 diaper. Ho hum. Can’t win.

San Clemente Family Photographer-0133 Sleeping:

It’s as if you wake eager for someone to smile at. I can see you, out of the corner of my eye, just waiting to lock eyes; a smiling beaming from ear to ear after a nights rest.

In the beginning of your third month you were sleeping an average of 6 hour stretches; going down around 10pm and waking in the 4 o’clock hour before going down again until 7 or even 8. Just a few days before turning 3 months, you made it all the way to 6am. Nothing super consistent but movement in the right direction for sure.

Napping is hard because as the third born you’re just kind of thrown into the mix. You nap here and there but it’s never something official and it’s often interrupted by one of your brothers smooshing your checks together to make your lips flang out in such a way as to resemble a fish.

You’re still in your woombie at night and still seem comfortable with the whole straight-jacket concept.

You put yourself to bed quite easily, usually by sucking on your fingers. Then I bring you to bed when I’m ready, try my best to wake you for one last feed, and put you down next to me. As soon as we move, we’ll get your room or corner situated and you’ll be in the crib. San Clemente Family Photographer-0144

Eating:

I feed you on demand. I pump each morning after you feed and have been donating the milk I get during that time.

If I had to guess, I’d say you nurse between 9 – 11 times per day, with some of those being cluster feeds; meaning an hour or less will pass before you’re wanting to eat again.

We don’t give you a bottle as often as we should but you still have the hang of it more-or-less. We’ve found you’re more inclined to take it first thing in the morning, when you’re still sleepy and super hungry and less discriminative about what nipple gets put in your mouth. So we practice then.

You’re much quicker when it comes to your time at the breast. Gone are the days I’d take the time to find a show to watch… you’re practically done by the time I flip through the DVR and find something worth watching. Unless you’re nursing to sleep, then it’s worth sitting for a bit.

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Development:

You’ve started pushing with your legs. Sometimes I have to sit sideways in a chair because during feedings you’ll push against the arm rests with your legs and it’s hard to feed you. You’ll also put weight down on your feet when I stand you up.

You’re working on rolling and able to lift one hip and push, turning slightly to one side.

Tummy time isn’t your favorite, but there are times when you don’t fight it. You rolled over once, from your stomach to your back but it hasn’t happened again since.

You’re a bonafide cooing machine.

It seems as though you are starting to respond to your name. Or maybe persistence just pays off as we call your name until you glance in our direction.

Your brain still can’t tell what your hands are doing but if it could, you’d be grabbing everything. You like to tug on my shirt when you’re nursing, your sharp little nails digging into my skin. I’ve gotten my hair caught in your grip a few times and it never feels good.

You smile with your whole body.

You notice the TV when it’s on and turn your head in it’s direction.

You’ve found your feet.

You took your first flight to Seattle and handled it like a champ albeit reminding me that traveling with a champ on your lap is still hard.

On loving a third…

San Clemente Family Photographer-6708Years ago, when we welcomed Van into our world, I wrote this post about how loving a second was a different experience than loving a first. When I gave birth to Hooper, the love was instant and felt limitless. In true ignorance-is-bliss fashion, I had no idea just how much more my heart would grow, my love evolve. And so, when Van was born I was anxious for him to grow, too… Knowing what I knew after giving birth and raising Hooper, that whatever love I felt on day one would piddle in comparison to the love I’d feel on day 500, I had more of a hurry-up-and-grow-up-and-become-more-fun mentality.

Loving a third, it seems, lends itself to completing the full circle. Hooper and Van are all kinds of wild and have fully outgrown toddlerhood; they have minds of their own and actions, too… actions that land themselves in corners and send fumes bursting out of every orifice Willy and I have. They talk back. Just this morning Van spit at me because I told him he couldn’t have his damn vitamin (which the jury is still out on in terms of it not being just a gummy bear because, puh-lease, even I find it hard not to eat more than two) until after breakfast. Point being, they have every capability of being dick wods.

Then there’s Sonny… sweet Sonny. The only thing coming out of his mouth is the occasional milk he lets spill out as he falls asleep at the bar. No spit. Rarely even any spit up. And talking back? Nope, none of that either; only the accidental coo that slips out unintentionally. So innocent.

And so, loving him has been a natural transition; a change from hurry-up-and-grow to take-all-the-time-you-need. Because I know now what’s around the corner.

Soon enough, he’ll be spitting at me too.

Dear Sonny, take your time. And be kind.

My Boys

San Clemente Family Photographer-4621 San Clemente Family Photographer-4640“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding he is exactly the person he’s supposed to be. And, if you’re lucky, he might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.” -The Water Giver

On having kids…

San Clemente Family Photography-5717The other night our neighbor, who is an older man with no children of his own (by choice), gave the boys ice cream. As we sat together on our shared front yard he mentioned having not heard the boys all day, alluding to the fact that most days the chaos and ruckus that is our everyday filters it’s way over like the smoke from a BBQ.

The ice cream dripped down their cones and in true childhood fashion made for sticky hands and a rim of chocolate around their mouths. Our neighbor glanced over at his long-time girlfriend and said something along the lines of, “Now see, no need to remind me why I opted not to have children”. We made a few jokes about releasing the boys in his newly carpeted house and eventually we parted ways; they, presumably, to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening and, us, to clean the chocolate off our kids’ faces, fight them on brushing their teeth, and remind them for the umpteenth time that it’s not nice to say that they “hate” us or that we’re “not their friends”.

I know life as a parent only from the mother’s perspective. And having children, for me, was a very innate desire. I spent my childhood training for motherhood; taking my cabbage patches to pretend school, filling out forms I’d take from the drawers of my dad’s office, and loving and cuddling any baby that came within a ten foot radius of me.

That night, I glanced over at Willy – who was struggling to get pajamas on one of the boys – and asked him if he’d rather have had it another way. His answer was true and sincere, he said, “I think I would have been perfectly okay if you didn’t want to have kids. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world”.

It would be hard to argue that parenthood is where it’s at to a neighbor who realistically sees (and, errr, hears) you struggle nearly every day. I suppose it’s hard, in general, to make the argument for having kids to someone who clearly never wanted kids. And while the days are generally a struggle, all I can say is that the hard days, filled with relentless whining and tantrums, are all but forgotten in the second it takes for them to tell me that they love me.

I think any mother would agree; sticky hands, chocolate crusted mouths, booger filled noses n’ all.

Perspective

San Clemente Family Photographer-3808 San Clemente Family Photographer-3833Our days take a while to get started and I catch myself in fleeting moments of feeling unproductive; like I’m floating from one thing to the next as opposed to moving with intention, crossing things off the ol’ daily list of tasks. My inbox always seems flooded, dishes always piling, legos forever spilling across the floor; the days are moving faster than I am.

But I have this little tool in my arsenal that I arguably had before but it’s just a bit sharper now; the edges made more defined by the days behind me. If ever there was a l lingering theme in my life, let it be perspective.

Motherhood has taught me that there is a season for everything; a time to enjoy nights out away from the kids, a time to enjoy vacations as a family and adventures to foreign lands, a time to push bedtime back a few hours and go out for ice cream, a time to buckle down and lay out the law, and – well – a time to put the to-do list down, to slow down, to welcome help with a grace and gratitude; a time to celebrate new life… and nothing more.

Celebration is so often skipped these days; we’re so eager to make it to the next big thing, the next accomplishment, that we don’t take the proper time to celebrate all that can be celebrated in the moment we’re in.

It’s not easy to slow down, to get a late start, to make it to the end of the day having accomplished little more than three meals (and questionable ones at that), breastfeeding, changing of diapers, and maybe the start of a load of laundry that may very well end up sitting there until tomorrow, the smell of mildew a reminder that you simply didn’t move fast enough but your handy dandy tool of perspective reminding you that it’s okay.

My house is a mess. The boys have ate more Eggo waffles than I care to admit and snuck more candy, compliments of Easter, than I care to regulate. But the time will come when my attention will be, once again, more evenly divided. For now, it’s all about celebrating… taking in this new life, new gift… and letting everything else fall wherever it shall fall.

For tomorrow there will be time to sort out all the fallen pieces. Or at least some of them.

Post Birth Ramblings

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San Clemente Family Photographer-3749 Sonny San Clemente Family Photographer-3914Hooper came home from school with his belly button painted purple and red looking like a makeup artist got ahold of him and gave his belly button a good bruising. When questioned about it, he said he wanted his belly button to look like Sonny’s.

As Sonny laid curled up into me in the hospital bed, I couldn’t help but think how the kicks from him while inside me were so reminiscent of the kicks I felt with him lying next to me.

One of the nurses commented as I ate my meal over a breastfeeding Sonny that I must not be a first time mom. It sure is a lot easier the third time around.

I’ve always said that the newborn phase isn’t really for Willy and I, that we’d rather jump right into the toddler phase. But I guess with each child you gain a better sense of just how fleeting and unforgiving time is and for whatever reason, I’m really enjoying this newborn phase. Willy too.

Questions asked by the boys: Why doesn’t he open his eyes? Can we watch him suck your booby? Mama, when are you going to fill your belly up again? When will he be able to tell jokes?

Hooper broke out into full crocodile tears when he had to go home from the hospital without Sonny and I. Through choked up words and flowing tears, he said, “I want mama and Sonny to come home too”. Broke. My. Heart. He also cried heavily after Jimmie accidentally scratched Sonny.

Highlights from the hospital: lavender towels delivered by the sweetest of volunteers and home made chocolate chip cookies.

My first day home I watched Van pick a very large sized booger and was actually relieved when he put it in his mouth, allowing me to stay sitting on my injured lady parts.

Van, being to boob man that he is, shared the following observation: “Wow, mama, that is the biggest I have ever seen your booby”. Followed by, “Can I squeeze it?”.

Speaking of boobs, Hooper made one out of his legos. He used a long stick looking lego for the nipple and it resembled the fembots from Austin Powers.

Jimmie spent the first week of Sonny’s life rather out of sorts. He welcomed him home by peeing all over the hallway floor, the stairs, and the landing area.

I’ve rediscovered sleeping on my back, which never felt like something to write home about before but is nothing short of a privilege now.

My doctor’s response when I told him we’d like to save the placenta, “Um, okay. Gross”.

The following conversation took place:
Van: “How come your tummy is still big?”
Me: “Cuz there’s still gunk in there”.
Van: “But gunk only comes out of your ears”.

Willy, on having another boy: “It’s nice not having to wipe poop out of a vagina”…

My vagina itched in the worst way possible following the delivery. It’s one thing to be awoken by your newborn baby, but it’s an entirely different thing to be awoken by my own labia. In any event, desitin worked magically. Take notes.

I had made a list of things to do once I felt labor coming on on the back of a tear away calendar. When I came home from the hospital, I turned the list over only to discover that I had written it on March 17. Here I am visiting the magic eight ball’s website trying to figure out when this baby would come when all I had to do was look on the back of my pre-labor to-do list.

Van peed in his bed one night, followed by throwing up in his bed the night after that. Willy has been in charge of household duties so Van spent the next two nights sleeping on semi-barf sheets.

I texted my mom “shit just got real” the morning Van woke up with said throw up. I thought that day would be the day that would do me in but it was the next day, when Van was back to being healthy, that the first I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this tears started flowing. Luckily, they came and went.

I’m eating my placenta, which sounds better than the truth which is I had it encapsulated. I’ve never had post partum depression but as soon as I heard that it could* help with post partum hair loos, you better believe I was in.

Sonny’s belly button stump smells like an ape’s armpit. We ended up using alcohol on it to speed up the falling-off-process and I’m happy to report that the problem has been resolved.

Willy caught a video of me giving birth and I’ve only been able to watch it once or twice. In fact, every time Sonny cries that high-pitched newborn cry I am reminded of that video and equally troubled as the first time I saw it.

Sonny’s balls are the size of the rock of Gibraltar.

Van refers to the suction/bottle part of my breast pump as “water blasters” and has taken to carrying them around the house, one in each hand, shooting them like you would a gun.

Hooper asked if he could carry Sonny down the stairs, pointing out the fact he’s 5 and therefore totally trustworthy.

A Birth Story

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San Clemente Family Photographer-3517 San Clemente Family Photographer-3529 San Clemente Family Photographer-3534 San Clemente Family Photographer-3544 San Clemente Family Photographer-3545 San Clemente Family Photographer-3547 San Clemente Family Photographer-3549 San Clemente Family Photographer-3585 San Clemente Family Photographer-3604 San Clemente Family Photographer-3656 San Clemente Family Photographer-3670 San Clemente Family Photographer-3680There’s a mason jar that sits on the plywood concrete block shelf Willy built about a year ago that also houses a portion of our record collection, our record player, and a few other knick knacks and books and plants. Within that mason jar are several pieces of paper folded in such a way that the words remain hidden; guesses, if you will, as to when the baby would come, how big it would be, whether it would be a boy or a girl, and how long it would be. Everyone from friends, even one in Florida, to grandparents, great grandparents, and neighbors pitched in on the pot, hopeful to take home a portion of the pot of money. It seemed like a fun idea until it got near the end when, well, truthfully nothing is fun anymore. I unfolded those little bits of paper and staring back at me were dates from weeks before. Even my own guess, made in some sort of hopeful and delusional state, was far gone.

Sonny, the wait was nearly longer than your mama could bear but, as I suppose they say – and as I peek over my shoulder at you so perfectly asleep and content in your bouncer- you were worth it.

Everyone has a story, my dear Sonny, this is yours.

———-

As your induction date grew nearer, I became more obsessed with getting you out before eviction time. I started to get hung up on stupid shit – like whether you’d be an Aires or a Pisces – and even considered changing my induction date because, I’m telling you, I was going crazy. If only hindsight weren’t 20/20. If I could have the peace of mind that I do today, knowing what I know now, I would have waited with more grace, more patience; I would have waited a lifetime. But, alas, the end of my pregnancy with you felt like a lifetime with each day sucking whatever energy I had and whisking it away like a broom sweeping dust off a porch. I read once that cats runaway prior to giving birth; they find somewhere dark and birth their kittens in the loneliness and company of dark shadows. I can relate. I wanted to dig a hole and not come out until I had you in my arms.

I woke up that morning looking forward to my appointment, eager for the doc to give me some crystal ball answer of when I would go into labor; which, truthfully, I knew was a lousy thing to rely on given the fact at the previous appointment he said I’d have you in my arms within the next 5 days. That appointment was over a week prior. I suppose it’s that very lack of control, the uncertainty, that makes pregnancy so troubling at times; so much to worry about and get hung up on.

He did a quick ultrasound and confirmed that my fluid levels were great, your heart beat perfect. He didn’t comment on your size, per his usual less-is-more conversational skills and at-that-point I was glad; I knew deep down you’d be big and going into labor without that seed of fear planted in my head helped to some degree. He stripped my membranes, for at least the third – maybe fourth – time and reminded me, once again, that he’s never put a women into labor by stripping her membranes. I was 4 cm and 80% effaced and though that came as a pleasant surprise, google was quick to remind me that others stayed at these measurements for weeks, some even having to be induced for ‘failure to progress’ beyond those measurements. No such reassurance with this pregnancy gig, I’m tellin’ ya. He hooked us up to the fetal monitor, checked your heart rate against some contractions during a non-stress-test, told me you look “too perfect”, asked that I not go into labor until after midnight – after his sushi date with his wife – and I left his office.

I met up with a friend of a friend later in the afternoon, who agreed to do some acupressure. By this point I had sworn off all natural induction tricks but given the fact she was referred by a friend who referred to her as “the big guns” and offered to help out of the kindness of her heart, it was hard to say no. I met her at her house and she worked on some areas on my feet, shoulders, neck, and back while her son played with legos and their new puppy pissed on the carpet.

I stopped on the way home to get a pedicure, which is something I’ve never gotten in the two years of living here. But, given the fact I’m unable to bend due to my fused spine and now even less able to bend because of, well, your ridiculous size, I figured someone who does not love me ought to trim my nails and scrape the dead skin off my feet. There was a women sitting with her feet in the tub when I got there. She glanced over as I was picking out a color and said, “you look like you deserve a pedicure, when are you due?”. I gave her the I-know-right look and told her my due date had come and gone sometime ago. I climbed up to the massage chair, flipped through some trashy magazines that I only seem to ever pick up while waiting in line at the grocery store or at a doctor’s appointment, and left the nail salon with cherry red toe nails feeling like now would be a good time to go into labor. As would yesterday, but – ya know – ships sail.

The rest of that day was spent like the days that preceded it — waiting. I waited all the way through dinner and got in bed that night dreading the passing of another day and feeling much like I did the evenings preceding it — defeated. I got up to the bathroom, noticed some blood tinged mucous, googled “bloody show”, compared pictures others had posted, told Willy it could mean we’d be on our way to the hospital soon OR it could mean several more days of waiting (thanks, again, google for all your wonderfully definitive information), and got in bed with just the slightest glimmer of hope to combat the usual feeling of defeat.

As if you had more respect for our OB than I, just a few minutes after midnight – per his request – I felt the first contraction that caught my attention and briefly made me exhale just a tad longer than usual. Not being the first time I was awoken by a contraction that seemed to be gaining in magnitude, I didn’t get too excited. I did consider timing it to see when the next one would come and sure enough, five minutes later, I had another. I stopped timing them, however, when ten more minutes went by and nothing much happened. Defeat, pouring back in.

Then, around 12:20am (keep track of the time here because it’s an important part of your story), I heard a “pop”. I turned to your Papa and said, “did you hear that?”. He wrote me off entirely, assumed I was dreaming and responded to me the same way you’d respond to a drunk person who you know isn’t in their right mind to be having a serious conversation. He blamed it on my back, “It was probably just your back cracking”. Only it felt very internal. To be honest, I thought you had broke your neck. I spent the next couple of minutes waiting for you to move, to be sure you were okay, and when you responded with some gentle kicks, I got up to go to the bathroom hoping to see some sign of impending labor. Alas, nothing. Defeat, pouring back in.

I climbed back in bed and succumbed to the fact it was going to be another sleepless night, waiting and wondering and anticipating. And then my underwear started to feel wet. My first inclination was to wait, to be sure. My second inclination was to get out of bed and avoid having to deal with a mattress soaked with amniotic fluid. I made my way to the bathroom, again, this time accompanied by a clear puddle of water beneath my feet. I called my doula, told her in a calm voice that my water broke and asked her what I’m supposed to do now. Given the time and lack of sleep, she suggested waiting just a bit and trying to get some more rest. I knew in my heart of hearts I would not be able to take her advice.

I made my way back to the bed and had a contraction that made me grab hold of the bedding for support. Your Papa called the OB. I went over to my desk and consulted the list I had made (I love lists) of tasks to complete in early labor; things like shower, put toiletry bag in backpack, turn off computer, etc, etc. I started moaning in such a way that your Papa said, “How ’bout you stop doing that stuff and we start to head over to the hospital”. I agreed because it was obvious shit was gonna go down. We got in the car about 12:30am.

My contractions seemed to be escalating quickly. It literally went from my water breaking to full-on labor land mode. I tried to watch the clock to time them but each time one came I was swept away in such a way that no thoughts registered, common logic had all but left. I was in survival mode and the drive to the hospital felt like the longest drive of my life. The commute to the hospital is about 20 minutes and your Papa must had been driving 95 mph in addition to running several red lights. I heard your Papa on the phone with the OB, “I’m no OB but I think things are moving pretty quickly…”.

When we got to the hospital your Papa wheeled me into the waiting room of the ER. For the brief second I could open my eyes I could see about 10 to 15 people sitting in chairs, waiting to be seen. I gave them quite the show and I’m sure any one of them would have offered to give up their place in line for the screams of the woman in dire need that just bursted through their doors. Luckily the OB, God bless him, showed up a few minutes later and he was actually the one to wheel me up to the delivery unit. Your Papa went to park the truck.

On the way to the elevator, the OB – the one I’ve called some not nice names and debated leaving several times – rubbed my shoulders and whispered in my ear, “you’re doing awesome”. He probably knew he’d be home soon enough. I’m such a cynical bitch (should I apologize to you for that now or later in life?). Before we even made it out of the elevator, I felt the urge to push. I didn’t fight it. Past experience told me that the nothing was coming out of me with any sort of ease, so with each contraction, I bore down.

There was a room full of people waiting for me and next thing I knew they were asking me to get out of the wheelchair and into the bed. I remember the transfer being so difficult. Your Papa came in from the parking lot. I was still in my dress when I got into bed. I heard one nurse mention something about putting an IV in me, the other nurse declaring that there wouldn’t be time. They made an attempt at putting the monitor around my belly, asked me to switch positions a few times, and urged me to breath in the oxygen they were giving me. The OB checked and everyone stopped moving so fast when they declared me to be 6 cm. My heart sunk. It was 1:10am. They inserted the aforementioned IV. I still felt the urge to push and I couldn’t fight it, so I continued to push with each contraction. Not but a few minutes later I heard the OB say, “we’re going to have a baby here within the next 20 seconds”… and the room full of nurses started cheering on my pushing efforts. About four contractions later, at 1:16am, you were on my chest… your fluid-filled ball sac catching my eye during the transfer. A boy! They could have handed me a monkey and in that instant I still would have felt nothing other than complete and utter relief.

Moments later, my mom came in — the look of complete and utter surprise across her face. And moments after her, our doula arrived. Both intended to be at the birth but turns out that while some hurry up and wait, you prefer to wait and hurry up.

You pooped while you were on my chest, in true Jennett fashion (Hooper pooped on the way out too) and we all laughed by just how much poo there was and just how many of us your poo touched (all over my dress, all over your Papa who went to grab you and came out with fingers caked in green meconium, all over the nurses that eventually bathed you, and even on the OB who left soon-thereafter with poo on his jacket).

You latched on and breastfed like a champ, everyone commenting on the perfection of your latch.

We all took guesses at what you would weigh, with the majority of us (and the nurses) guessing in the 8 pound ballpark, sprinkled with a few 9 pound guesses. All of our jaws dropped when the scale read 10 lbs 0 oz. TEN POUNDS? So much for keeping an eye on my weight in hopes of it affecting yours. Should we be blessed with another baby in the future, I will surely take up smoking.

Welcome to the world, our world anyway, hope you enjoy your time here my sweet Sonny.

Born on St. Patricks Day, as only luck would have it.

———-

Post Script

Your Papa and I laugh about the fact you were almost born in the car. It seems only fitting that we have two ‘failed’ home birth attempts under our belts only to plan a hospital birth that nearly misses the hospital all together. There has been construction on the freeways here and given the 20 minute commute to the hospital, had you decided to come in the daytime hours, you would most certainly have been delivered in the car.

One additional token of irony is the ease of which you came out… the biggest babe of mine yet and somehow the easiest to deliver and with the fewest repercussions.

All of it proof, I suppose, that life doesn’t always have to make sense.

Hooper @ 5 years, 4 months

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Appearance & Growth:

You are tall and thin and if I were to continue doing these updates for the remainder of your life, I’m pretty sure I’d just copy and paste that little known fact. In general, you’re whimsy like a bicycle. But strong. You can do push-ups with ease.

Your hair is still blond and when it’s clean, it curls just a bit at the ends. Your hair is currently down to your shoulders, but you don’t like wearing it up in a pony tail.

You’re in size 5T in pants and need a belt with just about every pair you own, with the exception – per usual – of the few vintage pairs you own that seem to have a smaller waist. We forget the belt often and you’re constantly tugging at your pants, pulling them back up. You can wear size 4 or 5 shirts and I think you’re in size 11 or 12 shoes, it’s hard to keep track. You weigh somewhere in the ballpark of 40 pounds, qualifying you for a simple booster seat now in-leiu of the big honky carseat, but you’re still in the big honky carseat for now.

The dentist found two cavities. We’re now flossing and rinsing with fluoride.

 
Eating:

We’ve turned some sort of corner and whatever difficulties we faced in the past have all but disappeared. Sure, it’s rare to get through an entire meal without reminding you, or your brother, to sit back down a thousand times, but all in all, the eating situation is much, much improved.

I make you a smoothie a few mornings a week. You need some motivation to get it all down, but most days you do pretty well. Ingredients include: OJ, chia seed, flax seed, spinach, pineapple, and strawberries.

You do well with rewards for good eating and encouragement.

Foods I never thought you’d eat but you do now: asparagus and green beans.

Favorite foods: Cheeseburgers (all day, everyday), grilled cheese, macaroni, bread / carbs in general, raspberries, american cheese.

You’ve told on yourself several times for “sneaking up on food”, which translates to you raiding the cabinets while we’re upstairs working and usually equates to missing candy corn or a rim of cheese from Doritos around your mouth as leftover evidence.

San Clemente Family Photographer-3294Sleeping:

If we’re in the car for a long period of time, you’ll usually take a nap. But not always. On average you sleep about 11 hours, from about 8:30pm to 7:30am.

Most nights we find you sleeping side by side your brother in his little twin bed. It’s just about the cutest thing we’ve ever seen and it’s becoming the norm.

You still sleep with your blanket every night, with various stuffed animals making their way in rotation and changing their levels of significance. But more nights than not you’re fine without any stuffed animals at all.

We no longer close your door at night and allow you the freedom to get up and take yourself to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s been fun to see you gain this independence and you’ve accepted this new freedom well. We’ve added night lights in your room as well as in the bathroom.

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Talking:

You asked me the other day if you could marry Jimmie.

You came home from school the other day, told me you kissed a girl in your class twice, and then proceeded to tell me, “Mama, I weally wyke (really like) gurls (girls)”.

You think it’s funny to say “I’m going to throw up”, followed soon after by “just kidding”.

Since our last trip to Arizona, you’ve been saying you want to work with cows when you grow up, like your grandpa Niles.

Not sure where you picked it up, but you’ve started counting to ten in Spanish, only it’s resemblance to actual Spanish is questionable, at best; “Cuatro” sounds more like “colossal”. In any event,  you’re showing interest in learning more and it’s been fun to hear you pick up on a few words: “excellente”, “vamanos”, “perfecto”… You know how to say “my name is Hooper” in Spanish and pick up on others in public speaking in Spanish.

You use the word “dude”. The other day you got upset at me for asking you to clean up and told me, with angst in your voice, “Knock it off, dude”.

There was a period of time where you responded to requests like, “Hooper, can you pick up your toys” with, “Five year olds aren’t good at picking up toys”.

You use the word “yesterday” to refer to anytime in the past… no matter how long ago whatever event you referencing occurred.

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Development:

You write with your left hand but are able to use scissors with your right. I keep intending to buy you left handed scissors to give a try but you seem pretty well adapted to the right handed ones. You’re left leg dominant as well and are able to hop better on your left foot than your right. You’ve attended a little golf class with your g’pa Jeffers and the coach there says you’re a right handed golfer.

You won’t let us take the training wheels off your bike. We pick our battles.

Rather suddenly you’re aware that there is some inherent degree of embarrassment associated with being naked and though you still like to strip off all your clothes and surprise everyone with a naked rampage, you also worry about people “laughing at you” and don’t like to step foot out the door in your underwear much anymore. But then, just the other day, you rode your bike in nothing other than your choines without giving it any thought. So you haven’t made the full transition.

You often refuse to blow your nose and are constantly sucking your boogers back up into your nose whenever you have a cold.

You’re really exercising your independence as of late; this includes climbing on top of the counter and fetching your own snack as well as pulling a chair into your closet to reach your shirts so you can fully dress yourself. You brush your teeth on your own but definitely benefit from a little assistance. You wipe your own butt. Things I can’t wait to check off the list: getting your shoes on by yourself and strapping yourself into and out of your carseat on your own.

You can do a poor excuse for a cartwheel, but it resembles a cartwheel none-the-less.

You ask lots of questions, good questions. Like today you inquired, “mama, when the baby cries in the middle of the night is it going to wake me up and aren’t you going to be tired having to get up all the time?”. You ask lots of questions that prove wheels to be spinning and point to good intuition. You’ve asked more than once how Papa “put his seed in me”.

You love school and have lots of friends. Your teacher describes you as impulsive as well as the class “reporter” (apparently you tell on people a lot). I describe her as a saint for putting up with the 20+ boys in your class.

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Favorites:

Legos are your latest obsession. The swords and guns have been put away in the closet and we are now dealing with stepping on little itty bitty pieces of legos all day long.

You have a fascination with Star Wars despite never seeing the actual show / movie. It’s amazing what marketing and influence from friends at school can do…

Jimmie, hands down, is high on your list of favorites. You play with him all the time, love to cuddle him and give him treats, and point out how cute he is constantly. You really enjoy his presence and company.

You love doing what you refer to as your “science experiments” which really just involves filling test tubes with whatever you can find: soda, juice, or my favorite from this morning, granola.

Acupuncture

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San Clemente Family Photographer-3066 San Clemente Family Photographer-3077 San Clemente Family Photographer-3103 San Clemente Family Photographer-3104The office walls were practically covered in pictures sent in by previous patients; women and their baby bumps posing with him as well as images of newborns accompanied by the sweetest of thank you cards. Cards that read things like, “Thank you for helping us bring baby X into the world” or “You worked magic on my fertility issues so-much-so that I’m now pregnant again, thank you” and so on and so forth.

Little sentiments of gratitude from women that at one time lacked hope and then, BAM, got pregnant and seemingly owed all the good cheer to this unassuming, gentle doctor.

It’s not the first time I’ve done acupuncture. I gave it a try when I was pregnant with Hooper as well. It wasn’t a great experience for a lot of reasons. There was the one session that very nearly made me pass out. I seem to be prone to passing out, especially while pregnant. But the more annoying thing was when the girl who ran the place started texting me on a regular basis to see if I was in labor. She just became one more person to answer to and one more person to have to give the defeated “nope, not in labor yet” news to.

When he – the man in all the pictures that covered the walls like wallpaper – walked in the room I said, “I see you have good results with getting the babies in, do you also have good results with getting them out?”. “Oh yes, we do that too”, he said. I couldn’t seem to find one thank you note that spoke to the exit of said babies… but I wanted to believe him.

I was given the option to sit or lay down and I opted to sit. As he punctured my skin ever-so-slightly with the needles, I could feel my nerves twinge. My index finger started jerking. He told me this was normal. I sat there, the lights off, my fingers twitching, and my palms beginning to get clammy. I know what this means. Next thing I know everything is getting a bit fuzzy. I know I need to lay down but I’m not sure how to maneuver the contraption that is hooked up to the needles that are making my fingers do the jerky dance. I call out for someone to come help.

They unhook me and set me up once again, this time lying down. My vision clears, my hands dry, and my fingers continue with their herky jerky dance. A few minutes later, I’m unhooked, told to call “if” I need another appointment (which truthfully made me giggle internally — I felt like setting up at least five more appointments right then and there), paid $85 (insert big eyes here) and went home to sit on the toilet because beyond a few stomach cramps, I felt nothing.

The desperate part of me wanted to call first thing the next morning and schedule another appointment. But truthfully, I didn’t enjoy it, it wasn’t cheap, and I’m not having any issues with constipation.

And so, as I’m checking things off the ol’ natural induction list, I’m getting more and more comfortable with just waiting and trusting that sometime soon this baby will come. Because, well, it will.

Herky jerky fingers or not.

And so, I figure my days are better spent with my boys, savoring the last of the days where I have a one to one ratio in terms of hands to kids. Hoping that having a third grants me some monkey status, where my feet become equally useful as my hands. That’s a thing, right? Monkey status?

The reality of announcing a third…

AshleyWilly-130mattandtish AshleyWilly-126mattandtishThere’s a definite let down that comes with telling those closest to you that you’re having another child, a third child.

While the presumably hormonally me wants to hide in a corner and cry, the logical me gets it; I mean everyone jumps for joy when you tell them you’re pregnant with your first. And then when the second comes around, nobody is really too shocked because most people do go on to have more than one child. And I think people place a weird hope that you’ll have one of the opposite sex than what you already have because for whatever reason people think one of each is best. But by the time number three comes along, and presumably any after three, it feels like everyone thinks you’re a bit crazy, a bit over-your-head, or careless in the preventing pregnancy department. People get so excited when you’re pregnant for the first time. No one seems to care when you’re pregnant for the third time.

I think my parents immediately felt the sense that there’d be implications for them. Like when we got Jimmie and their first response was not “what are going to name him” but instead “we’re not going to watch him”. They watch the boys once a week for part of the day and I’m sure they’re trying to wrap their heads around how the scene is going to look (or work, for that matter) with an infant thrown into the mix.

If I could document the faces of both Willy and I’s parent’s faces from finding out about each of our pregnancies, they’d look something like this:

-Hooper: Big eyes, big smiles, lots of confetti
-Van: Big eyes, hands over the mouth as if to say “so soon?!”
-This baby: Straight line to symbolize the mouth, as if to say “I’m too nervous to smile”

For those that have more than two children, was your experience similar? I think as we get closer to the end of this pregnancy and everyone has been given several months of anticipation that excitement, too, has build… but I definitely felt more judgement and less excitement in the beginning. I suppose you can never rule out hormones either… Anyway, curious what other have experienced in this department.

*Images taken back in November by the lovely Tish Carlson

38 Years…

dad mom

It’s always so interesting to look at old photos of my parents… as I’m sure it is for anyone. The idea of them existing in a similar point in time as I am now… parents to my sister and I… struggling in perhaps the same ways Willy and I struggle with parenthood. In any event, my parents just celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary and when I asked my mom what it’s like to be married for nearly four decades, she simply said, “makes me wonder where the time has gone and who those old people in the mirror are”. Hoping Willy and I can make 38 years look as good as they do.

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad, love you guys.

 

 

Rainy day lessons

San Clemente Family Photographer-44

San Clemente Family Photographer-35 San Clemente Family Photographer-36 San Clemente Family Photographer-38 San Clemente Family Photographer-40 San Clemente Family Photographer-46I’m coming to terms with the fact I’m not the craftiest of moms, nor am I anywhere near efficient in working with them at home on school-type stuff. Just today I felt like it’d be easier to french braid my own hair with one hand and my eyes closed than it would be to get Hooper to learn the numbers I was trying to teach him. My own mother would equate helping me during my school years to dragging a horse through mud. And, as the saying goes, payback is a bitch.

I’m learning as I go, as we all are. Some of the days that I sit down with Hoop are effortless and dare-I-say enjoyable. Other days, not so much. I feel like I’m at constant odds with myself: do you force a 5 year old to sit down and pay attention to a lesson or do you leave that for their teacher at school and encourage them to play instead? I can argue both sides. Like I said, I’m learning as I go.

Regardless of what the answer is, the other day I had one of those proud moments of motherhood. It was raining out and we were all cooped up in the house when Willy came in from the patio proclaiming that he had caught a lizard (catching lizards is a sport in this family, I swear). Hooper held it, examined it, and said, “hey, it’s a brown skink just like the one in my book”. And so, we got out his reptile book, found the skinks and talked some about what makes a skink a skink and, well, I felt like a winner.

It’s not like that everyday, but when all falls into place – especially on the cabin fever filled rainy days – it feels like you’ve hit the jackpot.

We released the lizard back to it’s home on the patio and watched it wiggle it’s way into it’s succulent oblivion.

Do you take the time to teach your kids at home or do you leave the learning for the school environment? And if you do sit down with them, do you ever want to punch yourself in the face too?