The Lasts

Last week, Ben had to set an alarm on his phone and when I heard it go off the first time, I almost jumped out of my skin.

To me, that was no regular sound, but rather THE sound that literally marked our time in the NICU, as it was his phone that kept track of just how long it had been since we last fed the baby or I last took my medicine. Day and night, those were the bells that we worked toward and through, not knowing how many more times we’d have to set them before our wish to come home was granted.

We did that for three weeks. And bless it, now Wilson is three months old and we’ve been home for well more than double of the time that we weren’t here. NICU parents: is it weird that I’m still counting that time or is that another NICU thing? Because I can literally look at the calendar and be thankful in an instant again that we’ve put that many dates between being there and being home. (Disclaimer: I don’t hate the NICU. Yes, I’m still shaking it off myself at times, but obviously if your baby needs to be there, you are hella grateful that it exists and can help you get to the point of shaking off and being home.)

At three months, Wilson continues to charm us all on a constant basis. She sleeps – in my arms, in her rock-n-play, in her bed – pretty much wherever and whenever. She eats – almost always in our favorite rocking chair where I can watch the little boys play Wrestle Mania on the bed that sits in that same room. She smiles – ALL the time at ALL of us and it literally the best thing ever, every single time. She talks – OK, coos and makes this little noise that sounds like “whoo whoo” just like her sister’s owl friend, and again, hearts melting left and right each time it happens.

At three months, Wilson also continues to surprise us with her growth. Unlike her sister (one of my two babies who stayed in the 8th percentile for.ev.er), Sister Wilson is gaining and stretching like crazy. She’s up to just shy of 13 lbs. and is so long that she’s already outgrown the 0-3 month clothes. So while it was just a wee month ago that I finally pulled out the baby girl stuff from the basement, I’ve already had to go digging again because she’s too long for all the stuff Raegan wore her first winter (and she was almost three weeks ahead of WA on the calendar). And because Big Sister stayed little for so long, I hit a bit of a season snafu in that next sized bin which lead me to make a quick Target order for some 3-6 sleepers to get us through the rest of this crazy-arse cold weather that I would very much like to see end and soon, thanks.

I mention all of this not to bore you with details about my online shopping habits, but to document that not all reminders of our time in Omaha are triggers in the negative way. img_9238Meaning? Well, these sleepers. They are the exact same set (but one size bigger) that we bought for her on one of those after-hospital Target runs in the first few days at Children’s. She wore them all the time there and since we’ve been home. They are beautiful and soft (and zip from the top down which I have never seen before but is incredibly smart and great for keeping tummies warm and covered) and I don’t feel like jumping out of my skin when I see them.

Actually, what I do feel like I’m doing with this new set is my darndest to hang on to those moments of being small and new because for the first time, I know that I am actually doing all of this for the last time.

The thought of tossing those 0-3 month sleepers in a tote and just moving on with it caught me off guard because the next time I dig through those clothes will be to sell or give away, not for one of my own babies, and that hit me harder than I expected it to. So I’m totally slapping a Band-Aid on the situation by putting her in the exact same outfits one size up, but I’ll take it because this is my version of enjoying what truly are the lasts.

I may not be able to pull off the “enjoy EVERY MOMENT” thing that every young mother has heard at some point in her young mamahood, but I certainly am soaking in as much as I can because I get it. Our family will not grow and stretch again, but you can bet these babies of mine are going to keep on doing just that.

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Little Ben

I don’t know if it is more of a physical or personality resemblance, but I have long thought that of all my kids, Lincoln is our Little Ben. There is just something about those two that makes them seem awfully similar to one another, so why not write about LT on B’s bday? 😉

One indicator that Linky is his Daddy’s boy? I can already see that Lincoln, should he one day decide to embark on such, is going to be a terrific daddy himself! For real, this kid loves babies, which I didn’t quite put together until after Wilson got home from Omaha.

It was clear that Lincoln loved Baby Truman, too, but I thought that was more of a toddler thing perhaps. LT was 2 and change when TJ was born, and whenever Lincoln was having a fit or was upset, his go-to way to self-soothe was to run to Truman and hug him. It was sweet but I didn’t know just how characteristic it was of Lincoln until this time around with a new baby when by far the things I hear him say the most are:

“Ooooo, I just can’t stop hugging her, Mama!”
“She is so adorable. She is so huggable!”

And, “Where’s Wilson? I need to give her a hug!” (not much guessing involved to determine his Love Language, eh?)

Take this morning, for example, when Ben and Lincoln were getting ready for school (and a longer than normal day for Lincoln away from the house). Lincoln could not head out the door until he’d figured out where Wilson was hanging out so he could, you guessed it, give her a big hug and snuggle.

Holding her, helping me get things for her, talking to her during Tummy Time…all of these are Lincoln’s super skills right now and it is so sweet to observe. As if this girl didn’t already have a bunch of Super Fans! Clearly she’s got a No.1 champion in her No.2 big brother.

There is a LOT to be said about the Effing Fours (which we are thankfully seeing less and less of now that we’ve crossed over the 4.5 mark), but some bits of four are absolutely fabulous, including how big, soft, and huggable their hearts make them.

 

The Slow Down

This morning, during Hour 4 of the day, but what felt like it could have, should have really been Hour 14, I found myself nursing the baby and watching the other two play* while wondering, how in the world have I done this in the past? How did the long days of feeding a newborn while entertaining, or at least sort of supervising a toddler or two actually happen?

*by play I clearly mean, parallel play, and by parallel play I clearly mean each one pulling out as many random toys as they can possibly find and dragging them all over the house in ways that instantly destroy any order or cleanliness that I managed to create in the previous 24 hours.

To be honest? I can’t remember. I’m sure if I combed back through blog posts, I’d find a story or two about it, but as for now, my brain seems to have blocked that (which makes sense if this time around feels like the “easiest” go of nursing/working our way through the long winter/newborn days). I think the ease comes from a massive letting go on my part to be not too concerned about what the others are doing, even if that means they are spreading mixed up toys from one end of the house to the other and tearing the bed apart for yet another fort/sleep spot. They are happy and the being-fed baby is happy, so subsequently, I am happy.

More honesty? I really am happy and not just for the chaos acceptance.

Even though we have very much entered what I call The Slow Down where every day is pretty much the same, just with a slightly different feeding schedule, I feel content. This is a time with a newborn where the clock/calendar are sort of fuzzy details that you try to hold on to, but don’t always do so well with, that just happens to coincide with TSD of the school year. Jan/Feb are notoriously odd months in the world of education, so just as teachers are in the mode of “Have we hit March and all the long-weekend breaks, yet?” so too am I constantly amazed not only by the time on the clock, but the date on the calendar, as well.

So why so happy? Because I’m in this beautiful, privileged bubble of something I haven’t had much of in the last seven years since I went back to part-time teaching/last year when I did that AND started a small business which is to say: time to “just” be a mom. Of course that is laughable because there is nothing small about the task/role of being a mama, but right now I am not trying to juggle it with anything else outside of the house and I love that.

That doesn’t mean that I no longer love my teacher hat, but after the intensity of last year, and last spring semester in particular, it’s super awesome to go through my days now and know that I have no lesson plans to update, papers to grade, sequences to write, FB posts to schedule, or any other commitments beyond the seven people in this house. Instead I can nurse the baby while the little boys “play” around the house and the Bigs are at school and my biggest “how am I going to pull that off” is going to the grocery store (no, really. that’s actually kind of a big question right now because I sure as sh!t am not dragging them along with me but hate going at night, so how is this ever going to happen?), and the constant mountain of laundry.

The Slow Down may be a bit of a mind game and time warp, but right now I have to say, it’s also a major blessing. From here, our family moves forward without renumbering, so these sweet endless numbered days are a little buffer, a little grace-filled existence in which we get to continue settling, to not be pulled by outside influences, and to just be. As long as I eventually get to the store so my coffee supply doesn’t run out, time can go as slowly as it darn well pleases right now.

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2(mo) on the 2-2

Within our family, there is a lot of overlap, a lot of synchronicity, and that trend has very much carried on with Wilson.

img_9010For example: her birth date. November 22 means she shares a birth month with her sister and day of the month with her oldest brother (HD has started calling the two of them the 2-2s which is super cute). 2-2 is also connected to the two grandpas who literally share the same birthday in February.

Speaking of grandparents, another example: Wilson’s middle name was beautifully simple to pick because one choice meant both grandmas got a namesake, as both of our moms share the same middle name, Ann. See? Lots of overlap!

And what’s also fun on the homefront is that now I get to go through all those bins of girls’ clothes that I’ve been hanging on to for six years for a second time. I told Ben last night that I almost have the boys’ bins memorized in terms of what is coming out of each tote, especially after cycling through them on back-to-back babies, much less for the third time. But going through the Girl 0-3 stuff last night, it was crazy to see things and remember RL wearing them, and so amazing to be pulling them out for WA now. [Side note: yes, the night before her two-month milestone and I’m finally getting to the baby girl clothes in the basement instead of just cycling through the outfits that came during Omaha because Life as Seven is a little nuts, you know?] img_9028

So here we are: two months in, wearing Sissy’s clothes and connected to family members in fun and funky ways, but still very much her own little person.

At two months, Wilson is sporting a clean bill of gut health. She has Awake Days and Sleepy Days where she is either up and squawk/talking to us and feeding every two hours, or has to be woken up every three to nurse. She finally broke out of the swaddle blanket and now has to be in one of those velcro sleep sack things at night. The noise machine we got, by the way, is magical! When she’s awake, Wilson loves to smile and seems to know when it’s me talking to her. Her siblings still adore her and ask to hold/pet/kiss her all the time. Lincoln is especially sweet with her.

And mostly, we just hang out. Hunker Down Mode is still very much in effect and not just because we happen to have a snow day today. Although the kids are still doing all their school/church things, she and I are not. We only do the bare minimum of running around because going places is hard and exposure to as little as possible is good when it comes to germs and cold.

And really, this is all good. It’s OK to recognize that we are in a particular season right now and just like this cold and snow, it’s going to change. For now we take each day for what it is, Awake or Sleepy (for both her and us), and appreciate every smile that is sprinkled throughout them, even if they are hard to capture on camera. 😉

 

Theory Testing

“It’s just hair.”
“It will grow back.”

These are statements I have said many times in my years of coloring, chopping, and growing back out my hair. And really, I’ve lived by them for darn near 35 years, but I had to laugh just now because instead of lived, my computer autocorrected whatever the heck I typed to “lied” which seems fitting since I am now very much rethinking my hair mottos.

Actually, that’s not true either.img_8954

The mottos hold. It really is just hair and it really will grow back (eventually anyway). But after chopping off 12″ last week, which equaled pretty much ALL of my length, to donate, I have found myself very much testing and tested by those comments that I have made many, many a time in the past. As with any test, a few lessons have been learned.

 

  1. I am apparently way more attached to my hair than I previously understood. The fact is, I don’t think this is a bad cut. I just don’t think it is my cut. As in, I don’t know whose hair I am currently sporting on my head, but it has yet to look like “mine” whenever I catch sight of it in a mirror (and we are five days in, so that’s weird). I find this ironic considering that we went full-on pixie straight away to get the length to donate so someone else can indeed wear my hair. And all this, despite the fact that my family and friends have been very sweet and kind in response to the cut even though I didn’t tell any of them about it in advance! RL adores it and Ben keeps complimenting it, and I agree – great cut. but not my cut! lol.
  2. When you want to preemptively strike against post-baby hair loss (oh man, it’s so bad, isn’t it, mamas?!), perhaps wait until some of it begins to fall out so you know what you are actually working with before cutting. Because we took off SO much length/weight and did so while I still have a TON of hair, I now have some very, very free locks/curls that basically just poof to the sky every time I touch them, which is often as I’m still trying to figure out this do (and how to do it). I think once it actually thins out, it will feel less bizarre on top of my head, but in the meantime, I am going to have to start sitting on my hands so I don’t turn the cut into a Chia pet every day.
  3. If you feel the need to do a pixie (an idea I’ve been flirting with for a couple years), aim for summer. It turns out that (duh) January in Nebraska is a terrible time to chop off all the hair that keeps the back of your head and neck warm in the midst of sub-zero winter weather!! While I haven’t yet slept in a hood, I have been curling the sheets up around my noggin at night because oh my gosh – I am sooooo extra cold!!

So, let the regrowth of this “just” hair begin. I wonder how long (literally) it will be before it feels like mine again!

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The pic I sent some girlfriends after I got home from my appointment. That’s my “trying to hold shocked laughter back” face! 

Time Keeps On…

Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’…into the future….

Sorry if that means that song is stuck in your head the rest of the day, but I’m right there with ya, humming away and ruminating on all that was and is and will be. I guess the start of a new year (and a new family life) is a pretty mind- and time-bending season of life, so it really doesn’t feel that far off base to say that we are slip sliding our way into 2018 and time is a fluid, flukey thing. Is that really so bad? I think it’s more just what is.

As you may have noticed, in the weeks since we’ve been home from Omaha, I’ve had much less time to write. There was nothing terribly restful about our time at Children’s, but it did mean that we weren’t doing the all-day/all-night with five Littles to care for (and meals to feed and laundry to wash and so on and so on), so while we were very much on a newborn feeding/pumping schedule, I did have/take “down time” to write. I had to for survival.

And while nothing has changed in regards to the importance of writing for me, much has changed in regards to how much down time I have here at home – and this is even with Christmas break and Ben still having a few days to take off from school for parental leave.

Side notes about life as the spouse of a teacher: I love breaks. I love having my coparent home and a part of our bustling house. I love snow days for the same reason – they equal Family Time. But I do NOT love how many hours he has to pour into sub plans to be gone. The amount of time he spent prepping just to not teach while we were in Omaha was insane. And for every parental day “off” he gets, he spends almost all of the evening prior doing the same thing, with hours upon hours spent at school getting everything ready. Anyone with a connection to education knows that teachers often say it is easier to just be there than to try to get ready for a sub, and wow, have we felt the effect of that since Wilson’s birth. Please don’t mistake a teacher being gone as a vacation. I promise you they very much have paid the price in terms of time and stress and effort prior to (and after) that leave. *end rant*

Being home now means doing all the newborn things AND toddler AND preschooler AND school agers things, and then the grownup things. And you know the adulting kind of  grownup things have to come first, so as per usual, the self-care grownup things take a backseat, which might explain why we once got through all the Omaha/holiday/family obligations of the last six weeks, I got slammed on Sunday with germ bugs.

It was *just* a low-grade fever and a sinus headache, that on Monday morphed into a can’t-hardly-move headache, but are you kidding me? Being sick as a parent is tough enough, but you add in a nursing schedule where you are the one doing all the nursing, and sickness somehow manages to suck even more. And all those adulting things? They don’t just go away. In fact, when the primary “house person” goes down, that shit just gets worse (walking in to our laundry room today where the laundry chute sends all the dirty clothes that I have ignored the last few days was disheartening, to say the least).

You see, I thought I would get to use these last few days to catch up around the house before Ben goes back to work full-time. You know, be extra prepared for the chaos that will be living one-day-to-the-next as a SAHM of five Littles 8 and Under (not to mention business owner, but thankfully we’re just going to table that for a bit). But no, the fever and headache said “Nope” to those plans, and instead all I’ve really accomplished the last two days has been watching most of Season Three of Fuller House (bless it, I love it so). And feeding the baby because that is clearly Job No. 1 in terms of importance.

Such is life, this finding of balance between responsibility/obligation and nourishment. And survival. Because let’s face it, Survival Mode is going to be the name of the game for however much amount of slippery time we need it to be. There’s just no other choice. That doesn’t mean we can’t all continue to thrive, but clearly there is going to need to be a BOAT-load of grace dumped all over plans and expectations of exactly what that looks like. For now, it looks a lot like this:

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25 Things – 2017 Edition

The annual list!

The last few years I’ve started working on this in the fall because thinking back over the entire year is hard, but not this time! Oh, no. I waited until the 28th to start. Think I can use “procrastinated on making my list” on my list? I guess we’ll see what happens….

  1. Had the happiest labor and birth for sweet Wilson Ann, born at 1:04 a.m. on her due date, November 22nd (8lbs. 11 oz; 21 inches). Drug-free, two contractions of actual “pushing,” and once again, totally floored by the baby’s gender!
  2. Got tossed in head first to (and SURVIVED) NICU life after Willa was born with an unknown omphalocele which resulted in surgery on Day Two of her life (which also included a bowel resection that was also previously unknown) and then three long weeks of living in Omaha away from the rest of the kids while she recovered at Children’s Hospital.
  3. Started Grounded Sky, my very own yoga for service (15% goes back to the community) business!
  4. Hosted classes, a workshop, a retreat, and four community-based events through Grounded Sky, the last of which raised over $700 for a local backpack/food program for elementary kids.
  5. Became a Presbyterian! After almost two years of attending, we officially joined FPC in June.
  6. First concert at Red Rocks! Nahko and Medicine for the People. Bestill my music loving heart!
  7. First MLB game! #ForeverRoyal (I married into this, but whatever; it’s fun!)
  8. Built my very own website from scratch (OK, template) for GS.
  9. Spoke about Body Dysmorphia in front of an entire room full of people.
  10. Got hit by a deer while driving to book club. The (old) car was technically totaled, but by golly, I still went to book club!
  11. Read 52 books!
  12. Wrote 75 blog posts! Writing was one of the main factors that kept me sane during our Omaha stay.
  13. Taught, for the first time, a five-week summer course for CCC (and this was directly after teaching two nights a week in the spring – and fall – semester).
  14. Attended two full training weekends with SreeDevi Bringi for Yoga Nidra certification. And then wrote several of my very own Nidra scripts!
  15. Visited, for the first time – which is actually embarrassing considering how close I live to it, the Cather Memorial Prairie south of Red Cloud, NE.
  16. Became a kombucha fiend. No one ever loved fermented tea as much as meeee in the weeks following Wilson’s birth. Kept my system functioning and healthy, for sure! Now home, I still have to have it on the daily.
  17. Did eleventy-billion loads of laundry. Just kidding. Probably closer to 500, but since I can barely remember to put the clothes in the dryer, much less count loads, I may never know just how shocking the real number is.
  18. Experienced food poisoning while pregnant. Clearly not something I’d recommend.
  19. Finally earned enough views on Her View from Home posts to actually EARN payment! Whoohooo!
  20. Potted succulents in June. Kept them alive rest of year. Yay, me!
  21. Donated approximately 800 hundred ounces of breast milk to local mamas because Milky Mama + NICU pumping for three weeks (plus ten more days after getting home trying to even out my system) meant I WAY over produced. Waaaaay over.
  22. Started reading The Little House series for the umpteenth time but this round has been aloud to my 8yo (we made it to the first few chapters of The Long Winter, and this is with many other books read aloud inbetween them).
  23. Gave up coffee. Started drinking coffee again a couple-few months later. Probably the last time I try that craziness, at least while small children share my living space.
  24. Made actual phone calls to actual politicians (although nowhere near as many as I should have) because, Resistance.
  25. Got to be on the local news with my hubs and sweet little presidents, less than a week before Wilson’s arrival, talking about our POTUS-named crew. It was sweat-inducing but paired well with my nesting desire to clean the house, and the piece turned out to be a great little “keepsake” of this stage of life for us.

So that was actually easier than I anticipated, until it wasn’t. I got all the way to 22 without much stumbling, but the last couple took me a while to determine. If you’ve never tried a list of your own, do consider giving it a shot. It’s a really great way to look back at the last 12 months as you celebrate the ups/downs/forwards/backwards/all arounds/and inbetweens that have made up your year. #measureyourlife

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