Close Proximity

Crickets here on the blog lately as for the last couple weekends, Wilson and I have been sharing sniffles back and forth and back again. You see, she’s awfully darn cute, so when img_1071I got some head cold germies, it was hard to remember to keep my distance from her (plus we still nurse around the clock, so….) and then when I got better and she got them, it was hard to remember not to let her slobber-bobber-ness get too close to me, so….I’m starting off my second Monday in a row with a head fog.

Fitting as we’ve been in a fog these last couple weeks, anyway, awaiting Ben’s grandma’s funeral (happening this weekend) and trying to wrap our (foggy) brains around the fact that school is starting, well, next week! Ben actually went back today for his first round of meetings and dives in full force with those this Thursday with kids starting classes the following Thursday.

We will have two in elementary and two in preschool (after he officially turns 3, for Truman, but knock on wood, potty training is going well, so looks like it is a go), which means this mama has to wrap her (foggy) brain around all the drop off times and split locations and all that again, which is different this year as our kids’ school is doing a two-year remodel, so they have to be taken to a different location, which feels new and little nervous making for all of us, I suppose, even though I know it will go fine once we get the new system figured out.

But we’ve honestly had a strange summer and a strange year, so shifting into the new school year and all the change that comes with it is making me glad to have at least a few more days here with all my babies under one roof (even if we are sharing too many back-to-school germs before back-to-school has even begun). I like it better when Ben is here with us so we can divide and conquer and enjoy just a tad bit more, but that’s what Paw Patrol is for, right? Right.

It may not have been the summer (or spring) we had planned or wanted, but we have been able to be together just the seven of us a lot, and that is always, always a good thing in my book.

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Clueless

There are certain elements of parenting that I expect some people figure I have down pat considering the number of young children in my house. Actually, there are some elements of parenting that I think I should know forwards and backwards by now, but I’ll be real honest and say, “Nope. I am still (always?) running in Novice Mode.”

Take today’s Adventure in Parenting, for example: Day One of Potty Training Truman.

By the Fourth Kid you probably have a system for that, right? Or at the very least remember the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the highs and lows of at least some of the previous children’s experiences, right? RIGHT?!

Again, I’m here to tell you, “Nope. Apparently not.”

I legit remember next to nothing about how it went, much less how we did it for any of the other three. Maybe that’s because HD was just too blessed long ago (I do remember preschool was a motivator and it must have worked) and I think RL and LT really learned from watching their bigger sibling(s), but with Trumy, there’s been no training potty in our bathroom for two years, so what does he know about such things? So what if we’ve been hinting at putting pee in the potty for months? Toddlers have no concept of time or parenting goals, and until you actually fly by the seat of your Paw Patrol undies, what hope is there of accomplishing anything??

img_0952Because of all our South Dakota trips this summer, we’ve been putting off the task (and putting off the task) but apparently after breakfast this morning we decided to just go for it and put him in his big boy undies for the first time. And then we set an alarm on Ben’s phone so we’d remember to ask/have him try every dang 15 minutes in hopes of avoiding accidents. I may not remember much (anything?) from the other kids, but I do know this tactic is new and it semi-worked?

I question it because he definitely had a huge accident this morning 2 minutes prior to the alarm going off and by the end of the day he was flat out screaming at us that NO he did NOT want to GO TO THE POTTY anymore, sooooo. Maybe a good idea? Maybe not? Because really it was just a lot of false attempts, but he did actually do his business TWICE throughout the day and didn’t have any more accidents, so maybe we’re on to something?

Don’t you love how confident that sounds? lol

Like pretty much everything in parenting (life?), this feels like a crap shoot (sorry; couldn’t resist the pun) and only time will tell if we’re on to something. But once again, we have the hope of preschool ahead for him, plus he’s almost three, so it really is time to start at least trying this next big thing.

And if nothing else, thanks to the blog, I will at the very least remember this when it comes around to training the fifth.

Milk, To Go

It’s been a while since my last update on breastfeeding, and the good news is, the blebs seem to be, for now, at bay. It took waaaay longer than anticipated for them to fade which meant the pain lasted WAAAAAY longer than anticipated, too, but for over a month now, things have been (knock on wood) back to normal/good. Fingers (and toes) crossed that this trend continues.

To be fair, we gave the system a good test by taking it on the road for our SoDak trip. Nursing away from home is never easy with a baby this age (so distracted! so many extra-long stops along the way!), but all things considered, Wilson did a great job of rolling with it and not injuring me again as we traveled.

Although I am no stranger to nursing in very public places if need be (can you say Houston Children’s Museum, WHOA), I prefer to sneak away when I can, and fortunately on our trip, 90% of the time, I could do just that. I had one afternoon when we rode the 1880s train from Hill City to Keystone and back where I had to nurse both on the train (for soothing because she HATED it) and on a bench at the station (which was empty when I sat down but then soon filled with other bench sitters even though departure time was still 45 mins out, but hey – we saw a deer up close!), but otherwise we were either back at our cabin with my family or I had access to our van.

Ah, nursing in the minivan. Nowhere near as bad as nursing in a public bathroom (ew) but still strange. But also air conditioned and with the option to sort of hang blankets to block view of the passenger seat and still use my Boppy, so really pretty fantastic. Much of our feedings we looked like this, and yes, most of them also turned into little cat naps for Little Miss:

And really, on our big travel days, the extra long pit stops weren’t such a bad deal, either, because it gave the Bigs a chance to get out and stretch legs, etc. at parks along the way. Bless it, I am a BIG fan of Google Maps satellite view because all you have to do is zoom in and look for a baseball diamond in just about any small town and there ye shall also find a park and public restroom. Modern pioneering, I tell ya.

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Also very modern? Something I discovered (and am very excited about, very grateful for) upon returning home from our trip: a nursing swimsuit! I know, I know. I just bought a new suit this summer, but I am returning it because this is awesome and I had no idea until last week that such a thing even existed. It’s a two piece with extra high, extra comfy and flattering bottoms, and a top that unbuttons from the tops of the shoulders (but still with straps down the front so you still stay covered and everything stays in place) from Latched Mama. I get it that the Internet is a creepy place sometimes, and who knows how it decided to show me an ad for this suit, but bless it (again), I’ll take it!

This will get its official test run this weekend on a little family excursion, but I’m already totally thrilled by the fit and accessibility, not to mention the postpartum-friendly design (no matter how many months or years that’s been, actually). Even though the snaps will eventually be obsolete, I can see wearing this for a few summers for sure.

So, from here to there and there to here, I can nurse just anywhere! 😉

Road Weary

Yesterday we did a first ever (and let’s be real, unlikely to be repeated for many, many years) 9+ hour drive with the children in one go. Also a first ever? A six day trip with the children, and as any of you currently living with the 10&U crowd may know, a TRIP is very, very different from a VACATION.

Yes, we did touristy things, but no, I would not call our Black Hills Extravaganza a vacation because we had to do all the normal parenting things but with a bunch of extra hours in the car, sugar, loosey-goosey bedtimes, and not in our own house. While I know what I signed up for when having (this many) children, I also know that I look forward to the day when B and I can once again travel in such a way that does not involve working harder than we do when we’re at home.

Of course, the trip itself had a slightly heavy undercurrent as our real reason for venturing so far from home with so many young children (maybe by the end of this post, I’ll get mentioning that so much out of my system) was to pay final respects to my grandpa, Cliff, and attend his internment ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, SD. So yes, tourists over the weekend and once again mourning on Monday. But it was good that we could be there because I slipped up big time when we attended his funeral in March by not taking a moment to say my actual goodbyes to him, and on this trip I made darn sure to get the closure that I needed.

After tears and hugs and goodbyes post-ceremony, it was time to hit the road home because two kids had camp starting this (Tuesday) morning and we knew were looking at 7hrs, 45mins even without kid stops and a time zone change to boot, so on we rolled.

img_0819Truth be told, the kids did well. Ben did amazing (he drove the whole way). And I did my best to be a solid co-pilot, spotter, DJ, snack and water provider, fight-breaker-upper, and food source (breastfeeding while traveling post coming soon, friends). While I thought it would be the tireds that got the best of us, it was really the discomfort of being in the car that long that did us in.

We spent many, many hours driving last Wednesday and Thursday to get there, and many more each day of our trip to see the sights scattered around the Hills, but yesterday took the cake. Or rather, it ran over the cake and smashed it good and flat. I think Harrison and I felt it the most as he was the poor kid stuck in the middle of the back seat bench with no proper place to get comfy for sleep and my back was just PISSED by the time we were halfway home. And unfortunately it’s still not very happy with me, even though I can’t fault it one bit because of all the work it did all trip long of schlepping Wilson in the Ergo darn near everywhere (including 250 ft. below ground in Wonderland Cave).

The hope with the night-trip home was that the kids would sleep, we’d transfer them to their beds when we got home, and that would be “it.” The problem with a plan like that is that the children must actually sleep, which 3/5 of them barely did (and 1/5 of them I don’t think did AT ALL). And, again, I get it. Discomfort, lights (sun and then headlights), the sillies — all of these things make it hard to sleep. In the case of RL, the stars (which apparently she’s seen very little of in her life thanks to her sleep strict parents) were justimg_0823 too beautiful to watch to bother with sleep, and so. On we continued, through was sounded like all the bugs in Nebraska until just after midnight when we got back to Hastings where we promptly got all the kids in their own beds and then collapsed in ours until the whopping time of 7:13 when the first kid got up for the day. Keep ’em up so they sleep longer in the morning? No such luck.

So, in case you see us stumbling (no, really – Trumy fell at least three times more today than an average toddler clumsy allows) or gimping around in the days to come, just know that we are in post-travel fallout, doing our best to realign bodies and sleep patterns while also being very grateful to have been there and back on our trip.

On This Day

I’m not sure what possessed me to make my first new swimsuit since RL was the baby girl in our house be a bikini (except that one pieces are a pain in the ***) but sure enough, that’s what I did. Ordering any clothing item online is a crap shoot, but the introvert in me + lack of stores in my town made a guessed-at size and purchase seem like the path of least resistance. Because, as you may have noticed, it is summer and it is hot and I have small children, and all of those things mean being outside and near water this time of year.

Full disclosure, I am a big proponent of the Wear the Swimsuit camp. Just fly your freak flag and Wear. The. Suit. Lumps and bumps be damned. Pastiness, too.

Also full disclosure? I find it incredibly hard to actually put that mantra into real life action because swim suits are HARD. Hard to find. Hard to wear. Hard to like. At least, that’s the case in my world.

But true to my other forward/backward motion with body dysmorphia, I’m pushing against the hard and doing it anyway. And I’m forcing it to be documented because this is part of the process, too. Essentially, I’m in full-on fake-it-til-you-make-it + be-in-the-pictures-anyway modes here because I can’t hide from summer and I can’t hide from life.

It would be easy to look at this and call it a Before Picture. Before I lose the baby weight. Before I revamp my diet and exercise. But really, it’s already an After Picture. After having five kids in under nine years. After going from 26 (age when I got pregnant with HD) to 36 (current). After getting straight with the notion that I’ve got some warped perceptions of self and body image. After learning that the way I talk about my body matters and recognizing that even when I know better, my self-talk can still spiral out of control for the negative.

Because, ultimately, I know this is neither a before nor is it really an after, either. It’s just what was on this particular day. And on this day (damn it), I wore the suit and I took the picture.  36249474_10160766912935651_5116656649246867456_n

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!