25 Things

Another year, another round up list of all the ins and outs, the bigs and smalls of the past 12 months. Never easy to compile, but I always love the end result.

  1. Traveled to Washington D.C. on 36 hour notice to lobby for the first time ever as sexual assault survivor, fighting against the SCOTUS nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. It was one of the most intimidating roller coasters I have ever been on, but I am proud and honored to have done the work of speaking out and standing up for myself and all others impacted by sexual violence.
  2. Said “goodbye” to my two remaining grandparents, Cliff and Gert. Although 89 years makes for a remarkably long life, I still wasn’t prepared to see either of them go. Same for Ben’s grandma, Louise, who also passed this year.
  3. Made it to the One Year mark of breastfeeding with Baby No.5. All five made it at least twelve months and WA is still going!
  4. Did 30 minutes of yoga every day for five straight months, even with a mostly broken toe.
  5. Mostly broke one of my toes.
  6. Became the (mostly) sole source of holding of Wilson Ann for five months, too, who turned Velcro-lite mid-summer(she could be put down at home as long as extra people weren’t in the house and she’d also go to Ben). She’s better-ish now.
  7. Took the plunge and got my “mother’s tattoo” of five flowers for five babies on my left forearm. Love. It. 0F6D15AB-8867-456D-9140-C877720236E4
  8. Began teaching online for Bellevue University – one class in the fall term and two in the current, winter term.
  9. Taught a three-week (three credit hour) summer lecture for CCC.
  10. Took myself (and some of my best girls) to see Nahko in Nebraska – TWICE!
  11. Took my three oldest babies to their first ever “rock show” – OK Go doing their Live Video Tour at the gorgeous Holland Center in Omaha. I loved it as much as they did (and now my kids will forever have a warped perception of concerts because they all got to go on stage for the encore to dance/jump with the band!)
  12. Read 71+ books. One of them was just shy of 1,000 pages.
  13. Joined a THIRD book club (to read the 1,000 pagers)! LOL
  14. Wrote 47+ blog posts.
  15. Sent my fourth baby off to his first day of preschool.
  16. Kept Grounded Sky alive via Prenatal Yoga classes taught throughout the year.
  17. Survived a whole semester of the morning routine of in-out-in-out-in-out that is our to school, to speech, to preschool, to home run with just me and all five children.
  18. Committed to staying in this house by coming up with projects that could be done here instead of continuing the house hunt.
  19. CHOPPED OFF ALL MY HAIR. Funny that it took me this far in the list to remember it; I must finally be over the trauma of it all! LOL! Donating 9″ and 12″ chunks was amazing and while the general public loved the cut, I am much, much happier with the below the ear length style I’ve managed to reach since the initial cut in January.
  20. Learned how much I love Golden Milk Lattes. So much so that I had to learn how to make them myself!
  21. Picked up an almost (week)nightly routine of watching The Rachel Maddow Show with Ben. Rarely do we miss one.
  22. Started using blue light blocking glasses when I am on the computer/my phone for extended periods of time. I think they help my eyes (and brain) feel less frantic by the end of the day, and they seem more effective than just the “night” setting on my phone/dimming my screen.
  23. Started a house plant collection. I am ending 2018 with three. Here’s hoping I can say at least the same (or better) by the end of 2019!
  24. Made four trips to SoDak. Before children, that wouldn’t have been an impressive number, but in recent years, one or two trips a year was usually it. Two of those were to Yankton, one to Pierre, and one to the Black Hills. That’s big travel for us, and some of it included vacation moments, but it was all, unfortunately, funeral related.
  25. Learned to drink black coffee. JUST KIDDING. That may never happen, but I’m completely out of ideas, so we’ll chuck this one on here as a goal-ish for the future. 😉

Cheers and here’s to all the big and small in your lives as well!

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Be Here

Seven years ago this coming January, we moved in to our second home. Our current home. We have loved it in that time. Since the spring of 2017, however, when I found out I was pregnant with Baby No.5, we started flirting with the idea of a new-to-us house. Something with a different layout, perhaps, more kitchen space, and definitely an attached garage.

For over a year we looked, off and on, at homes and could not find anything in our price range that would outdo our current house. Oh, we put a few low ball offers in on larger homes around town but none of them panned out, and since that unicorn house that met all the requirements needed to go through the hassle of selling/moving/upping our mortgage never materialized, we decided to once again revisit the idea of what we could with do with some work in our current space.

The answer turned out to be: A LOT.

It took a couple tries and a few months of thinking time to land on the idea, but we eventually came to the conclusion that we could take the room that sold us on this house seven years ago and make it work for us in a whole new, multifaceted way.

Here it is: img_2482

Pretty, right? 😉

But for real, this bonus space in the basement (that quickly became a playroom for our kids after we moved in) is what made our eyes pop the first time we looked at this house. It’s a representation of just how much space the basement does have (there is also a full-size family room down there, a store room, and an unfinished laundry room and a couple closets); we just needed to get creative after a plumbing roadblock presented itself last spring to make it all work. Instead of just finishing the basement laundry room, we discovered that we could turn this beige box into a full sized bathroom AND laundry room, and take the unfinished old laundry room and turn it into a non-conforming bedroom/play room. And yes, trust me – this was the cheaper alternative thanks to the old plumbing in our old house. 🙂

And so the dominoes are starting to line up for this one-after-another project series beginning THIS WEEK!

I realize that we are plunging headfirst into A Thing by taking this on right now, but the work (and money) that will be poured into this home are equal to how much character and love it holds, too. We couldn’t find a different house for us because this is the house for us. Now we just get to take some of the bones of it and make them a little more (read: a ton more) functional for our growing family.

No, I won’t end up with my garage attached to my house when we’re all said and done, but we ARE going to move heaven and earth (just windows and walls, actually) as best we can (not we; a contractor!) so we can continue to live and love and be HERE for years and years to come.

 

ONEderful Wilson

I have been fully anticipating this first birthday of the last baby to be surrounded by ALL the feels. It probably still will be. But here, on the eve of the eve of her turning one, that also happens to be just before Thanksgiving, I find that what I feel most right now is grateful.

The last year has flown by, as they seem to do faster and faster as we age. It has also been a flurry of activity with a house and heart (and van and calendar) full of beautiful children, so it is really no surprise that I blinked and now my baby is turning one. The time warp began, I suppose, during her first three weeks of life at the NICU, when it felt like we lived an entire lifetime on another planet in those 22 days, but now, all these months later, I have finally gained an ounce of perspective and can see it for the blip that so many friends reassured me it would eventually be.

Oh, I am still going to cry on Wilson’s first birthday. Don’t you worry about that. But instead of reliving the trauma and stress of those first, hard weeks, I think the waterworks will be based more in gratitude that we got to survive them and come home with a healthy baby who has made it to the year mark and now has glorious words like “typical” ascribed to her.

Of course to us, she is everything, and I can’t imagine our family without her. I think it is safe to say the rest of the children agree, as they all take such joy in being around her. I mean, she’s clearly been LT’s favorite person in the whole universe since the very beginning, and lately Truman has started calling her “my baby” in conversation, so good luck to those two in figuring out who is her No.1 fan (it’s Lincoln). Raegan loves on her baby sister all the time and has the best-ever baby-talking-to-voice that cracks me up when I hear it because that must be how we coo at WA all the time. And HD has a stellar theory that he’d love to share with you sometime about how babies make everyone happier (he’s not wrong), because Wilson does indeed brighten every day with her snuggles, smiles, and silly sounds.

Many of those snuggles still come directly on my right hip where she still mostly clings when out in public or around non-immediate family. But she also loves to crawl really fast all over our house and she super loves when I get down on the floor with her so she can crawl up, bump into me, spin around, and flop back against my torso in order to lounge belly-up and check out the world (no wonder we’ve started calling her “Puppy” – we totally need to stop doing that, though!). And just like she did in her first three weeks, Wilson has used this entire year to show us that we really don’t know all that much about babies because she has time and time and time again proved that she’s going to do her own thing, in her own way, in her own time.

So here is who Wilson is at One:

She is the baby of head butting and thumb sucking. She clears the entire shelf of board books in less than 10 seconds and then sits in the pile of books playing with them (apple, tree, *ahem*). She wears PJs pretty much 24/7 because she has to be in and out of the van eleventy-billion times each day to get the Bigs to their various schools and footies work better than socks to keep her feet warm. She pulls up next to furniture and is currently flirting with the idea of standing up from her little chair/the middle of nowhere (look out world!). She empties kitchen drawers like a boss and she speed crawls to be next to my speaker so she can sway and bounce and clap to the music I have playing throughout the day (yes, she loves Nahko. I mean, c’mon!). She tucks her head into my shoulder when people try to talk to her and when I sing her a lullaby before naps/bed. She has more hair/curls than any of our others at this age (even Baby HD). She pulls a head-tilt-and-smile charm move that you would swear we taught her but I swear we did not (unless Truman did; that seems plausible).

Even though I will probably spend the next few days reliving the early days of her life to some extent, I plan to stay grounded in the present as much as possible because to be at this incredible milestone with this incredible baby is such a blessing. I give thanks for her every time I get to snuggle her (so, a lot of time each day) and I will continue to do so for all our days.

She is (almost) one. She is full of wonder. She is wonderful. She is, forever, Wonder Wilson.

Longest Winter Ever??

We’ve had hard months before, no doubt (April, I’m looking at you). There have been some periods in our parenting where everything felt like a lot, and maybe a bit too much. But I don’t know that we have ever had six+ weeks of one after another illnesses that have left us with little more than a 48 hour window in which maybe all seven of us were feeling OK-ish.

Friends, I don’t know how I am going to do it if this trend that started the first week of October continues all winter. Because as you may know, we aren’t even TO winter yet, so holy moly cow. Please, please, please don’t let our fall be any indication of what is to come when actual cold and flu season arrives.

Our baby is one week away from being a year old and yet Ben and I both still feel like we are in Newborn Sleep Dep Mode. Trying to sleep with coughing and feverish kids one after the next, but rarely at the same time sick, has been exhausting on a whole new level. I told my mom last night that I felt like I’d been run over by a bus (this was after surviving an illness-induced meltdown with the 5yo for 15 minutes in the waiting room at the orthodontist because I had no choice but to be there solo with all five children) which is before the same child then had us up in the middle of the night and then sleeping lightly (read: crapily – what that’s not a word?) the rest of the night wondering what would come next. So maybe today feels more like being hit by a train than a bus?

img_2256Of course this is the day (night) B has conferences at school and RL has visitation at dance which I now have to bag out on because I have to stay home with her sick brother, so clearly the feeling of being plowed over isn’t just the physical exertion, it’s also the mental strain of being constantly worried about if you are doing enough to take care of one child (or more) while knowing you are also letting down another one (or more).

Normally there’s a “so what” to my posts, so chalk it up to my tired brain or my tired spirit, but I’m not sure I have a point in writing this beyond saying: This is hard. Of course we can do hard things, but This. Is. HARD. And it feels forever-happening at this point. So maybe that part will change and everything will feel a little less intense? Goodness, that would be nice.

No Time for Time Frames

As all aspects of life do, my journey with body image struggles and body dysmorphia have had an ebb and flow feeling to them in the last year. At times I have been far too (read: entirely) consumed by the tasks of mothering and me-ing to be all too concerned about how my body looked and if I was “getting that post-baby” body back. At others I have been bogged down by the very fact that no, I am not getting that.

But honestly, after nine years of pregnancies (I found out just after Thanksgiving, 2008 about the first and delivered the fifth just before Thanksgiving 2017), what does that body even mean? What exactly would it even look like? Does any 36 yr old much resemble their 26 yr old self? With or without child bearing and birth?

I think what’s getting under my skin right now (beyond the fact that my three oldest children are of that age and we are of that stage where they’ve maybe been trained to start expecting a pregnancy announcement sometime soon [nope; never again] and keep making ridiculous statements about my belly) is that Wilson’s almost a year old. That means I’ve totally passed the sort-of accepted “40 weeks in/40 weeks out” time frame in which we give moms out to “bounce” back.

Yeah. Not much bouncing around here, folks.

I could give you a laundry list of reasons as to why (laundry could be one of them, come to think of it) this is so. The one that interests me most currently is that as much as I still feel societal and internal pressure to be as trim/fit/what-have-you as I have been before, I also am working really, really hard to just be OK with what IS.

And this is me:

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For the last month, I’ve hardly worn jeans or real pants. It’s been leggings and workout pants and sweats on constant repeat [Full disclosure: it’s probably going to stay like that for a while because my littlest two littles keep sharing germs with each other and me]. So I don’t really have my normal markers of knowing how things fit to gauge how I feel. (I haven’t been on a scale and actually seen the weight on it in five years. I can’t know those numbers and also know my sanity). I have still been doing my 30 minutes a day of yoga, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep the negative thought spiral from happening lately. Clearly, I have to keep working on that, and part of that acceptance and moving through it is honesty.

That pants in that picture (in which my shirt matches the wall AND my phone)? Those are maternity leggings and I LOVE them. I bought them last year to get me through the end of Wilson’s pregnancy. They were a size bigger than I normally wear in maternity clothes. And I’m still wearing them now, just shy of her first birthday. And they’re not all that loose. And you know what? That is what is. Am I thrilled about it? Not really. But does it define me? Hardly.

My weight at my six-week post-delivery appointment with Baby Lincoln is what sent me to counseling in the first place for body image concerns. I just knew I couldn’t keep living with that pressure. While the pressure and the thought spiral both still exist and get worse some times more than others for me, I can look at these leggings that I love, that I never thought I’d still be wearing and say: OK. Here is where I am in this body right now. Time frames and pressure to be different be damned.

I know I won’t feel quite this OK with what is every day, but any day that I can get a little bit of that peace? I’ll take it, leggings and all.

 

 

You Gotta Be

Recently I had to tell someone “no” to a request of my time. Full disclosure, I had already (many, many months ago) told them “yes,” so my “no” was totally a backing out which isn’t great to do, but sometimes it is just as necessary as it is shitty.

As has been pretty clear on the sparse, random posts of this month, 95% of October has kicked our butts. After the baby got sick and everyone else either recovered or maintained health, I got a full-on seven day sore throat that wrecked the majority of last week for me. I am just now, on the 29th of the month, sort of coming out of the fog of travel and sickness and pure on exhaustion. So no, when I got the call to remind about the thing I said I’d do darn near a year ago, “yes” could no longer be my answer even though I knew that was going to be displeasing and problematic for the asker.

I get it. It sucks when people leave you hanging. But it also sucks when you run yourself ragged for the sake of others. And I was honest. It would have been easy to lie and say that I had an appointment and couldn’t be there. But instead I straight up said we’ve had a crazy, draining month and that I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Let me be real for a second….

I have no day time help (minus the fact that Ben can alternate preschool pickup with me most of the every-other days). I run a shuttle service. I am a professional waiter (not of food, but of time during speech and before/after preschool). I provide all the food, play, naps, bathroom duties, and the million other jobs of a daycare provider/SAH parent. I also own a business and work a separate job from home (which is bonkers hard, y’all, when your little people are still in that same home with you all the live-long days). I survive on coffee, social media, uplifting and also snarky GIFs and messages with my girlfriends, and books. And yoga. Always yoga. I don’t get to go out for lunch because I can’t afford a babysitter, much less find one, and my sweet 11 month old baby still won’t let anyone besides B hold her, so no. I don’t really have much effort or energy left for commitments outside the home because my home sucks every last drop out of me.

Clearly I feel guilty for backing out. You see that, right? But I’m writing this to remind myself of two things: 1) it is 110% OK to put my own air mask on first by saying “no” to something I don’t want to do. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it IS. And 2) when I am no longer in this stage of parenting, may I please forever remember that when I ask something of a mama who IS still in it, that I always, always lead with, “How can I help?”

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Dissent

In the two weeks since my trip to DC, which happened to be roughly two days in which I lived at least three lifetimes, we have had non-stop child sickness in our house which has made this October the longest of Octobers in the history of ever and not in a cute pumpkin and scarf/boot kind of way. Truman took 13 days to recover. Raegan is on Day 6, and Wilson is on Day 1.5.

It has been an intense month.

And, needless to say, the sleep deficit around here as of late has also been bonkers, which hasn’t helped how any of us are feeling about this October to end all Octobers.

Also cast to the wayside with my sleep, really, has been my time to recover and process all that went down in DC. In fact, I am still dealing with the intensity of emotions surrounding my experience both in DC and that which led me to be part of that trip. The 48 odd hours that I was actually gone were packed with so much effort, on so many levels, that I legit had nothing left to give when it came to anything outside of our lobby tasks.

No sight-seeing. No souvenir shopping (except for keychains for the children at the airport). No friend/family visiting on the East Coast. No protests or marches even because just to do our prep work and meetings was enough to take it out of this first time advocate.

And that’s OK.

It was a matter of self-care to give myself permission to set all else aside and just be there for what was asked of me for the trip. (Have I mentioned yet how incredible and trauma-aware the ACLU folks were before, during, and after our Senate staff meetings? I know that part of my empowerment and strength those two days came directly from them being so supportive of and sensitive to their audience. From the language they used in emails to the pre-Hill trainings and stress-management techniques they shared with us, they has us covered. And you know the yoga teacher in me loved the breathing techniques they shared with the group.)

Why I still don’t really feel recovered two weeks later, though, is because life carries on. Especially when you have little Littles still in the picture, you don’t get to go off and be an adult only and then come home and still be an individual, too. I dove head first into advocacy and then head first back into parenting, and the super exhausting kind of parenting, too, where you are worried about and tending too a million extra germ-induced tasks each day. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been fighting the good fight.

Contrary to what some folks seem to think, I did not go in to this experience under a false assumption that it would definitely yield the results I wanted. Not at all. I knew, based on my Senators’ voting records and tendencies that neither I nor the group I traveled with would be likely to change their minds. But that was no reason not to go and I am glad I did not let that likelihood keep me from saying “yes” to the offer.

Using your voice, even when it shakes, even when you know it is likely to fall on deaf ears (which are often quite synonymous with closed minds)? That is dissent, my friends, and it is good and right to still let your voice cry out even when you know the decision has already been made.

Semi-side note: In case you can’t tell, I have been obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsberg lately. As in, read a book, located a documentary, and ordered my very own version of her dissent necklace (half of the proceeds of each one sold go to some pretty rockin’ charities), all in the last two weeks. So this, along with a wall print of the shot of our lobby group that was taken on the steps of the Russell Senate Building after our meetings, is how I commemorate my trip and the use of my voice, even when it turned out ultimately to be one of dissent, not (yet) direct change.

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