Family Rules

For some time, I have wanted to add to our walls, and no, that doesn’t refer to the (failed/tabled) house hunt from earlier this year. I mean artwork, but artwork (not surprisingly) based on words more so than images.

Basically, I have been itching to create a Family Rules piece to display on our walls where each member of our not-so-little crew could see it as a daily reminder.

We already have the Be the Good sign and this little piece (no really; it’s 5×7) img_0394 I picked up at a friend’s home decor party that hangs in our bathroom, but the two messages I have been wanting to showcase come from Micah 6:8 and the lyrics to the chorus of a song by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Perhaps that seems like an odd pairing, but in my world and in my brain, the wishes I have for my family can’t be said any more beautifully or clearly.

This is not the first time I’ve written about Nahko, nor is it the first mention of Micah 6:8, either. Both have been featured in posts because both are, as best I can tell, TRUTH. And I finally got around to getting both up on the walls, but in slightly different ways.

img_0391The Micah 6:8 sign I found on Etsy after hearing another sermon preached on it at our church last weekend; it was a great reminder of how much I love the charge to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” so I set out that same afternoon to find a sign. And because the Internet is awesome in that just about anything you can imagine exists, my beautifully lettered sign arrived five sleeps later.

However, when your favorite musician is a little obscure, not even the Internet can always provide the product you seek, so I had to get far more creative with my “Manifesto” piece (warning: the song has an unfortunate, albeit true, f-bomb in it, so be careful playing that around sensitive ears). It helps to have very talented friends, though, and instead of just a plain canvas, I was able to get a piece of art from my dear friend Chelsie Wilson, and because she’s not only dear but also awesome, she didn’t mind the fact that I wanted to write all over it in paint.

Originally I thought I’d have someone else do the lettering because my penmanship isimg_0393 nothing special, but I quickly tossed that plan because eff it. What’s so bad about putting my family’s rules in my own writing? If I can write in my own hand with a Sharpie on my walls, I can do so on a canvas. So I got a paint pen, spaced out the piece to at least make the lines even-ish, and got after it. Minus the fact that Chels hasn’t signed it yet, it is perfect.

So now these two signs are ready to display and ready to be imprinted on the eyes, hearts, and minds of my Littles, and any Bigs who happen to wander through my home. I can’t think of any better words to live by, at any age.

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With Your Love on Your Arm

I have been trying, for almost nine years, to think of my “mother’s” tattoo. Now, I understand that not every mother requires one of those, but I’ve always wanted one, and as I’ve added baby after baby (after baby after baby after baby) to our crew, I’ve been at a complete loss for how to represent them in permanent ink.

For the longest time I assumed I’d do something with their given animals. But it’s pretty hard to think of something where a monkey, owl, frog, bear, and elephant all go together that isn’t a zoo (although, let’s be real – that might be pretty appropriate and funny) and something that isn’t culturally appropriating, so that never seemed quite right even though I searched and searched on Pinterest for ideas.

Then, in April, Pinterest did show me the way when I saw the prettiest lower arm flower tattoo and a dang light went off in my brain.

Flowers.

Five different flowers.

All familiar to me and with significance, too.

I picked the following:

Sunflower – because, how could the 90s girl in me not include one, and my kids have always planted those in our garden, so, perfect.

Lilac – because they grow on my family’s farm in SoDak and are one of my favorite smells ever in this world.

Peony – because they are big and beautiful and their blooming process fascinates me.

Ranunculus – because from the first time I saw them, I was crazy in love with their shape and their colors.

Rose – because, love. Wild, free, sometimes thorny. Love.

Now, I don’t have a flower associated with each kid yet and maybe I never will. Maybe each kid will embody a component of each flower at different time in their lives, or maybe not. That part doesn’t matter so much as the bouquet, because without all five of them, I wouldn’t be the mother that I am.

The other factor that sealed this deal for me was the song “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty – my favorite of his ever since I came across it two decades ago in the yearbook editing room of my high school in a sleeve of CDs left behind by some other random student. If you’re not familiar, here are the lyrics (and my wish for my own five wildflowers):

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free
Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worries
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

 

And, so. Here I am now with my love on my arm, for all of time. We weren’t able to get it all done today (gray tone fill will come in two weeks) but it is an amazing start (except wow, I hate how much line work hurts), and I can’t wait to see the final product.

Shout out to the always awesome Joel Anderson for another great piece!

 

Give Thanks

If you’ve been keeping up with the FB posts here lately, you’ll know that our Crazy May has indeed continued the last few days with RL taking another turn for the sickies Friday night (and then being totally OUT of it all day Saturday) and then Truman following suit (in the messiest way possible) late Saturday afternoon, resulting in more couch “sleeping” and So. MUCH. Laundry!

In the midst of all this chaos I realized I dropped the ball last week on Teacher Appreciation gifts (and also Mother’s Day cards, because adulting is hard), so the kids are taking them this week instead.

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Now I know in the past I’ve done “crafty” TA gifts because I’ve written posts about them (as if someone might pin them – *snort*) but clearly that’s just not happening in our world right now, so instead, a little truth for you. This year I went the “support local businesses” route instead, buying gift cards for teacher gifts (for coffee/alcohol, depending on their preferences – lol) and, a first, store bought (but still local!) cookies to share after LT’s preschool program.

Do I feel bad about this? Not at all. It’s what we could do and no one wants anything coming directly out of my house right now, anyway, so it’s all for the greater good.

img_0100Also for the greater good? Actually expressing gratitude (that gets hard when you’re low on sleep and immune systems), and by this I mean: writing thank yous.

Now. Writing thank yous is something my mom made us do always when we were growing up. I know I sometimes drug my feet a bit on it, but I’m pretty sure I always did them and the habit has stuck with me. I continue to send thank yous because I think they matter and I think they help us focus on the good in our life (and I don’t believe thank yous are just for responses to gifts, an idea that is supported by this book which is a great read), and I want my kids to do the same.

Writing thank yous is clearly nothing new in this house, but this weekend you would have thought I threw the biggest curve ball EVER when I asked the boys to do theirs to accompany their Teacher Appreciation gifts (RL was still convalescing and she wrote a thank you note of her own volition on Friday for a friend, so she’s clearly not part of this).

For the record, I was age-appropriate in my asking. HD was asked to write his in entirety and LT was asked just to sign his.

To protect the not-so-innocent, I won’t go into detail about what ensued, but it was ridiculous and long-lasting enough to frustrate even the utmost of patient parents (which I doubt we were given the lack of sleep and abundance of sickies in our house this week).

Eventualllllllllllly, they got their acts together and completed the tasks (and yes, HD wrote the perfectly lovely note I knew he was capable of doing). It’s not that they don’t appreciate and like their teachers; they just didn’t like and appreciate me telling them to tell them. And I get it. Forcing them to do thank yous creates one more power struggle here at home, but dang if it isn’t one that I’m going to keep after because I do want them to give thanks (preferably with a more grateful heart, but we’ll get there). I want them to know how to look around and see all that is being provided for them and to be able to express gratitude for it because those are valuable tools (and gifts).

Eventually we will find a way to remove the struggle from our thanks giving, which as you can see, RL has down in the best new-writer fashion:img_0128img_0126

 

 

Crazy May

If you’re reading this (i.e., if you’re human), I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how bonkers May is. It is truth. And you already know the hubbub well. If I took a picture of our calendar, it would say much the same (and my anxiety levels feel it, too). But our May is off to a cray-cray start not (just) because of the schedule, but the oddities my children are throwing at us.

860fd21b-d3bb-4cc6-b5e4-f9721a00134dMost current is an at-home with a tummy-bug that started last night RL. She is slowly doing better but she’s super sad to be missing tonight’s Student Success night at school and I haven’t even had the heart to tell her that she’s going to have to stay home and miss her first-ever Field Day tomorrow. For my little Kindergartner who LOVES school, this is like a double whammy of feeling crappy because both her body and her spirit are suffering.

But stomach bugs aren’t all that weird, even this time of year. They seem to suck more when the weather is nice, but they happen, so although not ideal (and definitely still contributing to the crazy), not that unknown.

However, Raegan is not the only girl in our house throwing curve balls this month. On Saturday I walked in to see Wilson on her tummy in her crib which was a HUGE shock because she’s been sleeping the last month-ish in a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit (worth the look if you’ve never seen them as they are a great swaddle transition) and the whole point beyond keeping them from punching themselves in the face during the night is to KEEP THEM ON THEIR BACKS.

Not my Wonder Baby/She-woman. She is too strong for mere mortals and also for magic baby gear, apparently. So bye-bye Merlin and Hello, Halos, instead! Of course this means she has way more freedom in her crib and as you might remember from previous mentions, she’s in this phase where she often forgets that she can in fact roll from her belly to her back, so now when she should be sleeping or napping, she’s often yelling because she’s “stuck” belly surfing. Heaven help our tired souls (which did not benefit from poor RL being up alllll night with the urps last night, either. Also. Whatever.).

And while this conundrum at this age is new to us, it’s also not that strange. Babies get bigger and they outgrow fixes. In fact, that’s still the best baby advice I ever received from a friend after HD was born: as soon as you think you know what the kid is doing, said kid is going to change. FOREVER.

What is both new AND strange to us, and to others I’m willing to guess, happened Friday night to one of our boys. Not naming because I’m trying to protect anonymity and privacy here, but the gist of the story is that a certain body part on a boy got horribly and inexplicably swollen Friday evening, resulting in a trip to Convenient Care which then lead to the ER (!!!) for an ultrasound to make sure that surgery was not needed on (un)said body part that same night.

Yep. Not even kidding.

The whole thing was a whirlwind and scary but thankfully did NOT result in surgery (for real, I’m cool if #WonderWilson is the only one who ever needs that in our family’s story), and the child in question has been doing pretty OK since. He is on meds and will do a follow up with our family doctor and then later in May a specialist, so I might have more to share then, but for now I’m just starting at the calendar and thinking: good gravy, that’s a lot for a five-day time span.

But that’s motherhood, isn’t it? Lots of plates spinning with unknown new plates getting tossed in to the mix when we least expect it. And so we just keep spinning. Thankful to be doing so for another day, even if it’s a day that requires a lot (a LOT) of coffee to keep it all going.

This Too Shall Pass

Seeing as it has been the fastest-but-longest month (winter) E.V.E.R., it’s both impossible and totally reasonable that we are now in the final days of April. Oh, April. You’ve challenged me before and you’ve challenged me once again. I don’t know why we have this beef, but it seems that every couple years, you come with…..lessons. I really can’t believe how quickly the month has gone but looking back it was also a pretty damn hard month, so I’m not exactly sad to see it go.

It started with the stomach bug that knocked me out at Easter, the very first of the month, and it’s continuing here, four weeks later in the form of continued boob drama. What started as a bleb in one breast and then shifted to a clogged duct in the other then turned into a bleb in the super sore boob and now remains as two just generally cranky boobs. You’d think we just started nursing instead of being five months in based on how I feel and I have zero explanations for it.

I’ve had Wilson’s mouth checked and there’s no sign of a tongue tie or teeth or thrush (thank goodness to all three of those things) but there’s also no clear indicator as to why her latch is what it is (kinda crappy, kinda leaky at times) or why my nipples are so sore. It just is and I just am.

So we wait it out. Give her time to grow and maybe time for me to heal, and we see what happens. 12 months remains the goal and Lord in Heaven, I may have to be VERY stubborn to make that happen based on how things are right now, but I worked hard enough to get her going in the first place to be able to come home 100% breastfed, so I suppose I can somehow get there. Right? Right.

The other “this” that needs to/shall also pass is a different kind of stuckness (nope, not a word), and it has to do with my physical routines.

I don’t have a set time post-baby where I suddenly start working out again,10452ba4-24b1-4483-ad23-6d8a3fe746c0 but around this time the baby tends to get big enough to start straining my back as I carry the car seat (or just the baby in general), which prompts me to start doing more yoga, etc. to strengthen my body. This go-round I had not only the desire to yoga again but also to RUN which I haven’t done seriously since before children; but I couldn’t get it out of my head, so instead I just went for it. And by it, I mean a run – with Raegain and then Lincoln – and it was great. I logged less than a mile total and there was definitely some walking in the midst of that running, but I was excited to baby step my way back in to what once was a big part of my life.

However, right when my legs stopped being crampy from the yoga + running, my boob/side exploded in soreness from the clogged duct and alllllllllll the nursing resources out there say rest, take it easy, go slow when you’re having these problems, and so. Here I am. Taking it slow which looks and feels a lot like still doing nothing. But that’s not really true, is it? Because if you’re anything like me, you know that sitting in stillness is very much not nothing, nor is it easy.

img_9914So no big physical practice for me right now. On the mat or on the streets. Instead I’m committing to Legs up the Wall and a meditation/mantra of being healthy and whole and that’s it. It’s not exactly what I wanted to be doing right now but it is what my system is clearly, loudly, painfully telling me I need.

It won’t always be like this. In a year’s time, in a month’s time, everything will be different, and I’m much closer to having my body be entirely my own again than I have been in almost a decade, so there’s that to consider, too. Time will pass. Circumstances will change. Focus will shift. For now I’ve got to stay the quiet course and that’s just going to have to be OK for as long as time says it needs.

The Struggle Bus(t)

OK. If the title and the picture didn’t give it away, we’re getting all up in the boob talk with this one, so consider yourself warned….

After the last post about The Bleb (surely it should be a proper noun, no?), a friend who experienced one on her last baby told me to keep an eye out for repeat occurrences, as apparently once you get one, it is common for it to come back. At first I was dismayed/horrified/disbelieving, but it makes sense, especially in my case where I had to create an open wound ON my nipple. Trying to heal something like that can be tricky because breaking open can cause bleeding which can lead to scab/scar which could totally become blocked again, even with lanolin (which I have been applying after every feed on that side ever since).

So that’s part of this story: the paranoia. I am watching those pores like a hawk because I do NOT want another Bleb, but when your sweet, sweet, baby nurses like a, like a what? a Tasmanian Devil? good luck being gentle with a recovering boob.

All of my babies have been movers and shakers while nursing (I credited RL’s and LT’s pint-sized-ness to the fact that they never stopped moving, even to eat), but Wilson is a puller-back which sucks. Or rather, doesn’t suck as nicely as I would like her to (it’s funny how many puns there are around breastfeeding once you get going). Mainly she is forever pulling her head back away from me, with my nipple still in her mouth, so ouch, AND she comes off a ton of times, too, in any given feeding. Part of this is her age and distractability, but part of it is also just her. (Any suggestions for how to curb this and still get her fed would be great, thanks!)

Even though I sometimes think The Return of the Bleb might be upon me, that’s not actually the point here. The point, or rather the pain, is now in my other boob which apparently got left in one particular nursing tank for waaaay too long (confession: a solid 40 hours, tyvm) and is now incredibly, miserably, sore. So, note to self: even if not showering, CHANGE THE TANK/BRA/WHAT-HAVE-YOU every day/night! Duh. And OOF. (Again, any tips here would be great. Trying to massage the breast during feedings and considered using a warm compress on it. Can’t always start on that side, though, because I’m a one-side per feeding kind of girl.)

Once again, in the span of just a few weeks, I find myself doing everything I can think of to clear this what I assume is a clogged duct in hopes of avoiding mastitis. For the love of all things holy, please let me avoid mastitis!

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And really, all of this is to say that even though I take these #brelfies, it really isn’t to (just) show off. It’s motivation. It’s documentation. It’s mother-effing determination to keep going because breastfeeding is STILL the hardest thing even though it seems like it should be the most natural. I take these pictures and I write these posts because I want other mamas to know they are not the only ones struggling. I really want all this boob drama to just go away so I can snuggle up and enjoy nursing my last little one for as long as possible, but honestly, the last few weeks have been rough and have left me wondering just how we’re going to get as far in the months nursed as I did with all the others.

If you know a currently breastfeeding mama, give her some love, even if she’s not (over)sharing about her efforts and her struggles, because the struggle is indeed real and encouragement helps.

 

Oh, Bleb.

*all things breastfeeding in this post. consider yourself warned.*

If the phrase “Milk Bleb” is unknown to you, that’s a good thing. It’s something, like omphalocele, that one doesn’t really have any reason to know unless you are 1) a specialist and/or 2) a, um, recipient.

So a milk bleb is like a little milk blister. On the nipple. It means that one of pores on the nipple is plugged/blogged/stuck with milk, turning that pore into what looks a lot like a little white pimple. On the nipple. It doesn’t look normal, it doesn’t feel normal, its name doesn’t sound like a normal word, and basically It. Is. NOT. Normal.

In the haze of the stomach flu recovery last week, I somehow developed a bleb. I’m pretty sure I’ve had one with some other baby but I don’t remember having to actually do much about it (so it just went away? I don’t know). But after a several/few days of noticing during feedings and showers that yep, weird little white dot was still there, I realized I needed to do something about the darn thing. Although it wasn’t causing a great deal of pain or discomfort, the last thing I wanted it to do was lead to a problem deeper within the breast tissue like an actual plugged duct or mastitis.

Enter Internet searches. I realize you can fall down a rabbit hole pretty quick when it comes to researching medical inquires online, but at the same time, how did people (parents in particular) get by without it? I didn’t even know what to call my condition until I started Googling it but then sure enough, I got a name, information, and tips for how to cure it, all in go. I also had a second set of tips and such that a friend found for me when I asked her if she’d ever had a milk blister, so you know, more info, more help.

After being able to clear the pore, I’ve been on constant rotation with lanolin and double (not triple, specifically, which it turns out is hard to find) antibiotic ointment and it appears that my bleb is thankfully on the mend. I am hoping that I didn’t wait too long with any of this so that I can indeed avoid any other developments because a bleb has been more than enough excitement (nope, not exciting at all) for one boob for all the rest of my nursing days. img_9781