Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Liam is 4 Months!

Liam is starting to show his little personality! He loves to sit and look at you and chat and smile and giggle! He giggles when you tickle his sides or kiss on his cheeks and neck! I've seen him smile and coo at his toys, and sometimes he just giggles for no reason! He is liking to chew on his fingers and he's starting to hold onto toys and bring them to his mouth. He spends a little time in the jumperoo and he likes his bumbo seat and always enjoys time in the swing. Ava was not a swing baby so this is a nice change! Liam is drooling everywhere and thankfully spitting up doesn't happen nearly as much anymore! The amount of laundry I'm doing has greatly decreased now that there are less blow outs and spit-up rivers! He likes baths and hates tummy time! He is still in 6 month clothes and size 2 diapers, but I'm sure 9 month clothes will be needed soon! He is already 15+ pounds! Strangers who ask how old he is are always shocked when I tell them because he looks so big!

He has been really talkative this last week or so and is getting the hang of playing with a toy in his hands. I love the way he looks at Ava! He could be crying and then she walks into the room and he just stops and stares at her! I love catching the moments where Ava plays with him and leans in to kiss him and pats his hair.

This month, we did the dreaded SLEEP TRAINING.

I was hoping it wouldn't be necessary for Liam, but I found myself with a baby who consistently cried every time I rocked him to sleep. Sometimes it was more like screaming. Even at bedtime when I would nurse him right before laying him down, he was fussing and crying. I would get him to sleep, and then he would wake up as soon as I laid him down. We would have to try multiple times to get him back to sleep. And this had been going on for a good 6-8 weeks, so it's not like it was just a growth spurt or mental leap. This was just my Liam!

The thought of sleep training kept popping up, but I didn't really want to do it. But it was exhausting to deal with a fussy baby all the time. I had dull headaches a lot of the time from the shrill screams in my ear throughout the day. And he was so fussy during awake time too -  not content with playing alone for more than a few minutes at a time. I dreaded leaving the house because he always cried for at least half of our trip out. And let's be real - I also have a toddler who demands my attention, so I was feeling like I was spread too thin. I felt Liam could really benefit from some self-soothing skills. The kid has zero! He won't take a pacifier and doesn't have reliable coordination for thumb sucking yet. And we weaned the swaddle and he was clueless as to what to do with his arms.

So once again, I thought, what could be the harm in trying to sleep train? He already screams his head off anyway!

I was scared though, because Liam already cries so much I was afraid sleep training would send him over the edge!

As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised!

Ok well the first nap was just completely horrible. I didn't know if his crying was ever going to end. I just waited and hoped. He was never hysterical or breathless or coughing or sputtering. If that happened, I knew to just end it.

It took him 70 minutes to fall asleep.

70 minutes of thinking:
"what am I doing?!"
"I don't know if I can do this"
"please, Liam, just fall asleep, it gets better!"

Since sleep training Ava, I knew that the first nap is so hard but then it drastically improves from there.

Liam's second nap only took him 15 minutes to fall asleep, as well as the rest of his naps for that day! I was so excited and relieved and proud of little boy! He was a very quick learner!

I also noticed a change in his behavior that day. He was much more content to play with his toys without me right next to him or holding him. I assumed it was just because he was exhausted.

The next day, he could fall asleep in less than 10 minutes by the end of the day, and he was still playing happily! And he was waking up happy and smiling after his nap. He normally cried immediately upon waking.

And the next day was even better! All naps under 10 minutes to fall asleep and happy baby!

I really wasn't expecting sleep training to affect his mood in such a positive way. I feel like I have a new baby! His naps are still mostly only 30 minutes each, but I know from Ava that there is nothing I can do to lengthen them.

So that was the beginning of this past 4 weeks or so! I'm glad it's over!! Liam still cries before falling asleep, but now its literally just for a minute. He is much happier overall and I'm SO GLAD I sleep trained little guy! With a move coming up that takes us halfway across the country, I knew I needed to do it! There's too many other things to stress about right now!

We had been told that Career Course was a "relaxing time" in an Army officer's career.

I don't think I've felt relaxed yet!

I suppose maybe from the soldier's perspective since the daily structure is different, but it has just been a busy time for us!

We arrived here and then I had a baby. Then I had recovery. Then we had a newborn. With a toddler. Then we find out Chris's orders are taking him out of the country. Then we have to plan E V E R Y T H I N G that goes along with a PCS, which is a huge pain. I think its more annoying this time because we just went through this 7 months ago! There are so many things going on. We were house shopping, and now we are in the process of closing.

That in itself is very stressful.

We are thinking about what needs to be done to clear this house we currently live in.

We needed to schedule packer and movers and have our inspection and work on dates and how to manage moving days while Chris is still in class.

We are planning our itinerary for the 2-day drive with the babies and the cats.

We need to plan what needs to happen before Chris leaves the country.

He needs to book his flights and think about what he still needs to buy and what to pack.

All of this is stressful! I feel like we are planning and organizing like 5 major life events and we are up to our ears in it!

I also feel like I blinked at it is time to move again!

We only have 4 more weeks left in Georgia.

We hope to squeeze in some more day trips before we go!

I'm done with gymnastics for Ava. All she wants to do is bounce around and throw massive fits when I try to get her to do anything else. We had to leave after 5 minutes in class today because I just couldn't do it for another 25 minutes.

Ava is talking more and more! She can identify the colors green (gree!) and blue (bwoo!) and today she counted one (uhn!) two (tchoo!) unprompted! She knows a few shapes - heart (har!) and star (sar!) and moon (moooo!). She's trying really hard to put sentences together with her increasing vocabulary, so its getting easier and easier to understand what she wants! Her latest interests are dumping out all of her buckets of toys (mainly just her play food and cars), carrying around her play ice cream, playing on her slide, and hopping and singing and dancing everywhere! And of course her iPad. And her brother - "wee um!", she says! Most of the time she just calls him "baby"!



I'm so ready to come home. To be around people we know, to have something to do, somewhere to go...it's going to feel great to be there! It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to make a friend or two while we were here, but that's about what I expected to happen since I was busy having a baby and all that.

I hope these next 4 weeks FLY by with minimal stress!!

In the meantime, I'm really trying to stay positive. These kids wear me out. And I know its just for a few short years. I can't tell you how many strangers smile and tell us "Enjoy them! They don't stay that little forever - it goes by so fast!". I think it's because they see how young the kids are and probably immediately remember the struggles of being a new parent with young kids, and they remember needing to be reassured that it's not this hard for forever. It's like they can just see it; exhausted parents who need a reminder from someone who's been there. They're saying "You can do it!". It is kind of nice to hear it because, for that moment, it does make me stop for a second and look at my kids and I'm reminded of how much they fill up my heart, and the struggles of today really aren't that significant. The days are long, but the years are short! And I can just see it in their eyes that they miss their tiny babies. So I shall *try* to embrace these tiring months!!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sometimes I Just Need To Remember

The color yellow.

Citrus.

Honeysuckle.

Picking out rocks from the front yard.

Planting a vegetable garden.

Playing volleyball, croquet, and tetherball in the backyard.

Sun tea on a hot day.

Riding in the back of the car with the windows down on the way to a tree nursery.

Saturday nights of popcorn, oranges, apple slices, and cheese.

Playing outside from sun up to sun down all summer long.

Family walks on the Mill Creek trails.

Watching Star Trek on a Saturday night.

Reading books.

Listening to 90's country and Oldies in the car. And later, Blues and Classical.

Being told not to sing at the table.

Shopping at the old downtown Olathe Walmart and Food 4 Less and Schnuck's.

Minsky's Pizza.

Backyard Burgers.

Fried chicken, burgers, or tuna salad sandwiches on Sundays after church.

Track meets.

Orchestra.

Saturday Night Live.



More Cowbell.



Sometimes I just need to remember my childhood.

Sometimes I just need to remember my momma.



Some of these things are beautiful, painful memories. Things that pop up out of nowhere and pull me back to when she was here.



We went to the hospital to see her.

"Chris has asked me to marry him!" I told her.

She was on heavy painkillers.

I showed her my engagement ring.

"Does it snag on anything?" she asked me.

I smiled. "I don't know yet - I haven't had it on for very long!"

I could see in her eyes that she was very happy for me.

"Chrissy-Bob", she always called him, short for Christopher Robert.



It was time to go.

I kissed her on her cheek and whispered in her ear, "I love you, and I'll see you tomorrow".

I left the nursing home, completely unaware that I wouldn't.



The moment I learned of my mom's passing will forever be engrained in my mind. I'll keep that memory in my heart.

These are some of the few memories during that time that remain very vivid to me. The rest is mostly a blur.

It interesting what the human brain can do to protect itself. Are some memories hard for me to access because they were so painful? Or because I do not want to access them? Is this how the brain processes grieving?

I came to a realization a few weeks ago.

What if my mother was called to heaven for a more important reason? What if she knew she needed to be a guardian angel for our family? There have been several things that have happened that have been sort of miraculous since her passing.

It makes me wonder sometimes.



It's been over 8 years since she's been gone. But I think of her daily!

But sometimes I have a hard time imagining her. It was still very much a parent-child relationship. I was just becoming an independent adult, about to graduate college.

What would we talk about today? What would she have worn to my wedding? How would she have reacted at the birth of my children? What mothering advice would she be giving to me? How many times a day would I call her?

And that's where my mind goes blank. I really don't know.

My childhood memories are very precious to me. I think of all the silly things she did and said.

She was quite goofy, as am I.

I see it in Ava too.



We are buying a house.

And you can bet I will be planting some daylillies!

I think coming home to Kansas is going to be good for my soul.






Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A 7th Wedding Anniversary

Chris and I have been together for 11 years now, and married for 7 years.

There's been so much change in all these years!

Let's see...we've moved 5 times in 7 years, lived in 3 states, bought 2 cars, been through 4 surgeries, been through 1 long military-related separation and a few short ones, had 2 children, and now we are in the process of buying our first house!

Along the way, we've had so many adventures, good and bad! We've done some traveling, which I've discovered is my favorite thing to spend money on! You can't put a price tag on the memories and experiences you get from taking trips together!

We lean very heavily on each other. That's something that the military brings to the forefront in a marriage - you have to have each others' backs. There are lots of long hours and things that pop up and separations and commitments. They say when you marry a soldier that you are actually "married to the military". We have to have strong communication skills and extra understanding and patience. The adventures of not knowing where you will move next can be very exciting, but also very trying and stressful and sometimes it just plain sucks! You learn to rely on each other when you suddenly find yourself in a new town with no friends. You have to dig deep to find ways to make the best of every situation. 

I've learned so much about my husband, our marriage, and myself in these last 7 years!

So how did we celebrate our 7th year of marital bliss?

Haha well let me tell you!

First, we both realized we forgot.

Then, we decided "oh well!".

After Chris got home from work, we decided we would go out to dinner with the babies!

I changed out of my spit-up clothes and fixed my second-day mom hair. 

We went to Olive Garden and thankfully both kids were very well behaved!
The best family selfie we could manage!

He was content in the car seat for a little while!
Being silly, as usual.
And that was about it. No gifts. No big deal! We don't need gifts to define the love we have for each other. And we've always kind of felt that way. 

And it really takes the pressure off of "needing" to buy something because we are "supposed" to! Words and actions are more meaningful to me than any gift.

While we would have loved an elaborate date night, it was still special to us - the evidence of our love for each other was right at the table with us - Ava girl and little Liam!

And those two gifts are pretty special!

A little rumpus time before bed!

And this is for all you ladies out there...the dress I wore to dinner didn't hide my post-partum belly very well.

Guess what - I decided not to care!

So here I am, proudly showing off my belly in my new favorite dress! 


I mean, I spent 18 months growing babies in there! I certainly didn't just snap back to my pre-pregnancy body, and I don't think I should have to hide it! I'm still about 7 pounds away from pre-pregnancy weight with Liam, and then I'll need to drop an additional 10 pounds to get to my weight before Ava. But I'm not putting pressure on myself! And you (yes YOU) shouldn't put pressure on yourself, either!

Just keeping it real over here, as always! ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

What I've Learned (already!) as a Second-Time Mom

The learning curve to becoming a new parent is steep. It was like a shock to my system, if I had to describe it concisely! My first baby is now almost 2 years old, and our newest little bundle just turned 3 months. Yep...I have 2 kids under the age of 2. Fun stuff!! So if you're reading this for some advice, you've come to the right place!


1. Your Parenting "Standards" Will Lower

Take the current bar of expectations and standards in your world of parenting with one child and drop it down. 

Now drop it down much lower than what you just did in your mind. 

There. Just right!!

I quickly learned that survival mode goes on a whole lot longer than just that initial 6 week recovery period after your second baby is born! My parenting style is full of structure and routine. But once you have 2 tiny humans who need you nearly constantly, something's gotta give! 

Ava gets oh-so-much screen time, both the iPad and the tv. I've struggled with this now for 3 months and I'm DONE stressing about it. She's learned a few shapes and lots of animal names and sounds and songs and even improved her fine motor skills. I kinda now see it as a plus!!

Sometimes Avas snacks or lunch or nap can be up to an hour late because I simply can't get to her because of whatever chaos is going on with my needy Liam. Most of the time she doesn't care or notice, which brings me to my next standard: food in the living room. THIS IS A HUGE NO-NO FOR ME. I don't want my couches/carpets ruined due to a messy child that could be eating at the table. I have enough to do and clean already; I'd much rather the mess be contained in the kitchen. We had a "Cheerios only" rule for the living room - a simple snack that wouldn't leave sticky residue in the wake of Ava eating. 

But along came Liam. 

Sometimes I just needed to sit on the couch and zone out. I didn't want to get up. Or sometimes I was feeding Liam or he was sleeping in my arms and getting her in and out of her chair at the table wasn't really a good option. So now she gets a little bowl of a low-mess snack and she knows to stay near us with it. 

Am I ever going to give my kids yogurt on the couch? Heck no!! Maybe when they are older. I was raised with a "food only in the kitchen" rule and I like it. So this is a good compromise for me. 

And sometimes I regret my snack choice for her and I have to vacuum that night. (Who knew Frosted Mini Wheats would be so incredibly crumbly and messy?!)

Also, I'm not picking battles with food. Ava can eat what she is served or not eat at that meal. I'm not a short order cook and I don't have time to fuss over what she is or isn't eating. With that being said, Ava had a ton of mac and cheese and pb&j's because we were so exhausted and just needed food on the table for her.

Remember, survival mode!

It doesn't really matter what your oldest eats - just feed them something! It will be okay.


2. Solo Errands Are A LOT HARDER

Liam maintained his "I can fall asleep anywhere, anytime" ability for about 4 or 5 weeks. 

And then it was just gone. 

I tried to wait for the window of time when Liam had just woken up so I could feed him and then we could load up in the car. We'd have time to get to 1 store and then I'd need to come right back home so he could sleep again, or else he'd wake up the next time we got out of the car and couldn't fall back asleep. Or Ava would throw some kind of fit and her yelling would wake him. I didn't count on tantrums from big sister being a reason Liam wouldn't sleep!! But then I realized I was kind of becoming a prisoner in my own home. I couldn't do much of anything! So now I make sure he's rested and fed like before, but if he's tired and can't stay asleep, well...we just try to hurry through the rest of our errands and get home. Sometimes both kids are screaming by the end of the trip. That's just how it is sometimes. Until Liam can handle staying awake longer, some days one of his naps is the sacrifice for the greater good of getting groceries and toilet paper!! I hate for him to cry and be upset, but there's not a whole lot I can do when I'm in the checkout lane or driving home.


3. You Can't Keep Both Kids Happy All The Time 

This one is hard. Having a new sibling is an adjustment. At 2 months in, Ava finally understood that when mommy is rocking Liam in his room with the lights out that we need to whisper. Until she leaned that, it was the most frustrating thing when Ava would bang on the door or come in dancing and singing or yelling and wake up Liam. 

Ava had frustrations along they way. She just wanted me to play with her! Getting down on the floor was hard for me because of my csection. I had to be careful for awhile. So I'd manage to get on the floor and a few minutes later Liam would cry for whatever reason. I still feel bad when Ava and I are just getting started on something together and I have to walk away to go help Liam.


4. MOM GUILT

OHMYGOSH the mom guilt. This one was (is) a doozy. And one I didn't really see coming until it all came crashing down on me. It's gotten a lot better as now I've had 3 months to adjust.

But oh. my. goodness.

I felt so bad for Ava. Like I was neglecting her. I was afraid she'd thought I had forgotten about her. I had spent all my previous life of being a mommy focusing entirely on Ava, and now she wasn't the [only one who was the] center of my world anymore.

And it was really, really hard on me!

I missed her, even though I saw her every day. I wasn't allowed to lift her for 6 weeks (I think I made it to week 5 before I said screw it and I'd gently scoop her up for a giant bear hug), so I couldn't even hold her like I used to.

I needed my girl, but Liam occupied so much of my time! It was also hard for me to let go and let other people help take care of her. As a SAHM who doesn't live near family, I have never been away from Ava for more than a few hours at a time. I'm attached to her, for better or for worse!! So knowing that I had to leave her at home for 2 DAYS was so, so hard for me. I almost couldn't tell her goodbye at the hospital the morning of my csection because I was afraid I would burst into tears in front of her and freak her out. But she did great at home with my mother-in-law; she only had a few sad moments on the second day, which is pretty impressive for a young child who has never been in anyone else's care!

I still have frustrations when I want to do something with just Ava. I try my best to prioritize one-on-one time with her. Some days we fit a lot of time in, and sometimes we don't. Sometimes it ends up being me just letting her play in the bathroom with me while I get ready in the mornings, and sometimes we get down and play on the floor for awhile with whatever she wants to play with.

5. Adjusting to the Personalities of 2 Children

It's amazing to me how different my two kids are already! At only 3 months I see very different preferences in Liam than I saw with Ava at this age. I continue to learn things about Liam every day. You never know what you will get! And this can drastically change how your day-to-day life goes. Ava was a laid back baby but she took chronically short naps. Liam is more needy and he could take a 30 minute nap or a 2.5 hour nap - but I never know how long a nap will be! A lot of the things we did with Ava as a baby would not work for Liam and vice versa. So even though I know how to raise a baby, it is still hard this time around because Liam is a different baby, so I still don't always feel so confident in what I'm doing!


6. The Exhaustion

Having a newborn again puts you back at square one - minimal sleep (or on a bad night, maybe that's closer to no sleep!). And this time, you can't "sleep when baby sleeps" because, oh yeah, you have another child running around the house! I can count on one hand the number of times Ava and Liam's naps have aligned and I've managed to sneak a nap in - even if it was only 10 minutes! I'll get a nap on the weekends if I'm really needing it. I'm busy all day long with these two, so it kind of hides the sleepiness (and I take Plexus products too!) until they go to bed and then I just melt into the couch!


7. Tune Out All the Parenting Advice - ALL OF IT

Yeah I was already pretty good at this the first time around, except I was plagued by fear of doing something to make my life harder with a baby. I think my post-partum depression in those early months compounded the issue. Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start and I had read somewhere that things like changing your body wash or wearing perfume can make your baby reject you. Or that keeping baby awake even one minute longer than what their ideal awake time is can make them overtired and impossible to put to sleep. Ava was a tricky napper so I followed nap routines religiously. I was TERRIFIED of "messing up".

This time I know that most of that "research" I came across was complete bologna, but I suppose there can be ultra-sensitive babies who might be thrown off by a new scent on mommy or confused at naptime by minute changes.

And in this day in age, you can't go one day on the internet without somebody saying what you should and shouldn't do while raising a child. OHHHHHH MY GOSH it's getting so old!! Why?? What is the big deal with it all? Child-rearing is not a competition! Consider that there are endless combinations of parenting styles/parenting personalities/child personalities/family lifestyles/family situations/age gaps between kids/coping strategies. No two children are EVER going to be raised the same, not even siblings!

I just don't care! I'll browse things on Pinterest to get some new ideas for a tricky toddler or google a new approach for how to wean from a swaddle, but I'm not going to get all bent out of shape if I see that someone is recommending something I personally would never want to try.

But seriously - you know your child and the situation your family is in. Browse for tips and ideas, but don't worry about the random things strangers say! I had a lady the other day tell me to not let Liam look in one direction all the time because it wasn't good for his eyes (I was wearing him and he was fixated on a ceiling light while we were talking). Just be prepared to smile and nod and walk away and forget it! Especially now when I'm trying to quickly do errands with the two babies - I really don't want to be bothered by strangers and their desire to stand and talk for forever about what they feel I should know. I'm tired. I just want to get in and out before one or both of my kids has a meltdown! I'm rarely in the mood to listen to it!


I've probably made it sound like having a second baby is awful, but that's not how I mean it! In between the hard times are amazingly wonderful times!! The smiles and giggles and snuggles I get from my babies always makes up for the daily struggles! And I love seeing the two of them interact. Ava has become such a helper - she's usually eager to go get Liam from his room after his nap, she wipes drool off his chin with a burp cloth, she brings him toys, and she is genuinely concerned when he's really worked up and crying about something. She likes to kiss him goodnight and cover him with a washcloth in the bath! Liam watches her any chance he gets!

I know these months of struggling won't be forever. I'm just in that phase where just about every minute of my life is dedicated to wiping bottoms, wiping tables, and wiping tears. I am glad Ava and Liam will have each other as playmates as we continue through this life of being an Active Duty Military family. Sometimes it can be very isolating and lonely! And that's a BIG reason why I have this blog!!