The Pre-Nap Steps

I don’t have to put Wilson down for her nap every day now that “summer” has started “early” (more on that in some other post) but there are still many days that I do and the process itself is so drawn out and ridiculous, and also sweet and cute, that I wanted to record it here. Please note, none of this takes into consideration all the steps that take place downstairs prior to Nap Time.

But for real, it is remarkable how true she is to this format each and every time:

Two books limit. Unless she insists on three. Or changes her mind five times mid-story as to which two are THE two. Try to commit titles to memory so you can later write them on 1,000 Books before Kindergarten sheet for Library.

Turn on noise machine and pick her up so she can turn off the light. Often this involves her identifying the hanging animals on the wall and/or the various baby cross stitches for three of the kids that live on the walls in her room. Confirmation must be given for each item identified.

Sing the “Family Goodnight Song” but only the versus for the girls and Mama and Daddy.

Sing one round of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Sing one round of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Place her in crib. Make sure she already has Margaret Tiger AND Margaret’s blanket (this step must be done before you go upstairs in the first place, but then must be double checked at this point in the dark).

Cover her with blanket.

Pause when she pops up to insist on giving you a kiss. “I kiss you, Mama!”

Cover her with blanket.

Pause when she pops up to insist on giving you a hug. “I hug you, Mama!!”

Cover her with blanket.

Tell her “night-night” and “I love you” 20ish times, back and forth as you attempt to cover her for good.

Walk out continuing to say, “Good night, Wilson. I love you!” until you are finally in the clear.

img_7822

And that’s it! Just thirty-odd simple steps and you’ve put the toddler down for her nap! Also, this is not her in her bed, but in mine yesterday where she kept crashing my mother’s day reading party by bringing books to throw in my face to be read to her instead. Cutest little book monster I’ve ever seen.

 

Me Do It

A lot of this blog is me recording and documenting our day-to-day so that even when these years of living in the The Tunnel are long gone, I can still look back on exactly what they were like.

And rest assured, the two that remain Tunnel-bound for the next few years give me plenty of post-worthy content.

In part, they are the cutest little things I’ve ever seen:

img_6627

In others, they cause me the “11” that now lives permanently between my eyebrows.

Perhaps it makes sense then that one of Wilson’s defining features these days is her own overly expressive forehead. Sister may only be two and change, but she has got the spirit and the face of a fiercely independent. Hasn’t she always?! I mean, from the day she was born, she’s driven the bus with even more control than any of the others and that is truly saying something!

Like many moms of school-age kids, my van is my bus and we’re in it every day to get kids here, there, and everywhere. Knock on wood, WA does a decent job, most of the time, getting in and going all the places with me. Good thing I start the process of getting out the door well before we need to leave, though, because Wilson’s favorite phrase as of late is a loud, emphatic, “ME DO IT!” In fact, the image here is of her mid-statement of those very words. img_6657

And she means it.

img_6496
Insisting she wear leggings with a sweater, a dress, AND a vest! 

 

She wants to feed herself. She wants to dress herself. She wants to get up on things and down from things solo. She wants to put her shoes on unassisted, and by golly, just about any task you can think of, she’d rather do it herself, thanks.

One thing we’ve discovered that she cannot do very well is say her name. I don’t suppose this is all that uncommon, but you take the fifth baby in a family that has always called the youngest the baby until the next baby comes along and now this time there’s no more babies coming, you get stuck being The Baby. Forever! I mean, she does know her name; she responds to it always and can say a version of it. But if you call her something wrong (like another child’s name, which, let’s face it – happens a lot) and she will again give you a frown or head shake as she reprimands you, saying, “Me no Truman! Me Baby!!”

Noted, Lady Baby. Noted.

Also noted is her obsession with talking about people we know but refusing to talk TO them. This mostly applies to adult males, like our pastor or my friend’s husband who is doing the construction on our last basement room. She looooooves to say their names and point out where they might be (the church and the basement, respectively) but bless it, she will not talk to them or say their names to their faces. That said, I think if we would let her go all the places she wants (namely weekly church activities like WNL and Sunday School, both of which she’s still too little to attend), she would do so in heartbeat. Because of course she thinks she should be doing what the Bigs are doing, which is a trend I don’t see fading any time soon.

Jokes about gray hairs aside, I adore this age with The Baby. I’ve never before been able img_6475 to be quite this present or physically able to play and be with my two-year-olds (because I’m always in the uber-pregnant of newborn stage by now and exhausted) and even though she’s mammoth and occasionally mouthy, I love bearing witness to her spunky personality and little pixie voice that is still obsessed with Margaret Tiger and insists on “Twinkle, Twinkle” before naps, and loves all her “WonnaWoman” gear.

 

All the Feels

So it’s not news to me, with the fifth kid, that Year Two comes with big doses of alllll the emotions, but apparently this year that means not just for said child but also for this particular mama.

I mean, I’ve probably cried during at least half of our kiddo birthday celebrations throughout the years, but something feels a little different when it comes to Wilson’s second birthday. I think it’s safe to say that 1) Sweet Girl has always done things different from Day One, and 2) even at two years out, I’m still reliving those early, different, difficult NICU days that consumed us for the first three weeks of her earth-side journey.24819275_10103621685305583_55478072_o

At the start of the month when Baby Girl (y’all, honestly. How will I ever stop calling her The Baby?!) was sick, my mom kindly took TJ to preK for me and I sat for three hours with my butt in the rocking chair and Wilson in my arms. The house was much (MUCH) quieter than the hospital ever was, but for some reason, my brain hopped back there lickity split to the days of no other kids around and just a baby in my arms that we desperately wanted to be better so we could in fact go home. I didn’t get all teary-eyed that day, but today? On img_59162nd Birthday Eve (can you tell we’ve been practicing showing off her new age)? Oh, goodness. I got super weepy thinking about the shock and challenge of all that and the emotional roller coaster it took our whole family on post-delivery.

And now, in what literally feels like no time at all, we’re here, at the stage of so much personality and so much activity. And did I mention SO much talking? Wilson is the perfect little magpie which is super cute and entertaining until someone says something you wish they hadn’t and then you have to try to divert really quickly until she finds some other word or phrase to latch on to instead.

Two of her favorite phrases are: “Pick-a-up” and “Supa-high” which refers respectively to wanting to be in my arms/on my hip and wanting to be in her toddler swing where yes indeed, she does want you to push her freakishly high and quick (which scares her mother on the daily but she loves it and squawks at you if you don’t comply, so yeah. Good Luck.)

img_5887

I am guessing that as we roll through the actual birthday and the coming weeks, there are going to be plenty more moments of big feels. There’s not as much shift happening in our family as we’ve always had in the past when a kid turns two, but processing that she is our last to do so is a big change all on its own and worthy of some feels.

And even though, or maybe especially because, I know time will just keep flying by, I will make note to enjoy all those moments she wants to be held and all the new Toddlerisms she teaches us because no matter how much I sometimes flash back, we thankfully, blessedly keep moving forward as a family.

img_5906

 

 

Words on Words

Today was a first. Even though I’ve been writing the words upon words here for over eight years now, today was the first time that they resulted in me getting up in front a group and giving voice all by myself to the same experiences that I share with you all here.

Y’all, that is a great honor and a terrifying thing to have done! But I did it, so now I can – in true form – write to you about it.

To explain: it’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular at MOPS because of preK schedules and having new babies and just life. But it’s still a special group to my heart because when I started attending it, also over eight years ago, I met some amazing people, many of whom are still good, good friends. So when that same group (now called Moms of Hastings; check ’em out here if you are interested in joining a local mama group) reached out early this fall to ask if I’d like to come speak to them about body image and postpartum and the basic challenges of motherhood, I said (to myself): “that sounds scary and also right up my alley” and to them: “Yes!”

Today was that yes come to life and while I won’t share the whole transcript of my (sorry ladies, a little rambly) talk, I do want to share the gist as well as the experience with you.

After the initial ask, I made some notes and wrote out some ideas weeks and weeks ago and then promptly set it all aside until just last week when I picked up my notes and flushed it out into a longer piece. Then I realized I needed to make it way longer to be the correct amount of time, so I kept reworking and managed to practice it a couple times. img_5750But then yesterday (spoiler alert: you may not know this about me, but I have always been a stellar student who is also a giant procrastinator) when I should have been practicing all the live-long day, Wilson got sick and wanted nothing more than to be in my arms the entire three hours Trumy was at preK. Somewhere in that experience is an upcoming post about NICU flashbacks, I promise.

So, I didn’t get to run through as many times as I maybe would have liked, but I felt pretty solid on my three main points which were as follows, and yes, I really did stand up and give an entire talk about words:

  1. Talk therapy saved me. I didn’t say those exact words this morning but that’s the gist of it, folks. Having access to a trained professional who listens to, guides, challenges, and helps me? Hands down the best form of self care I know. Plus she got me to the yoga and we all know what a role that’s played in my life.
  2. The words you use and surround yourself with matter. And yes, I did quote Daniel Tiger’s “Use your words” song because Wilson is obsessed with him and this blog is already named for a different PBS show, so how could I not?
  3. Challenge yourself (obscure reference here: Go Doane!) to quit belittling your body in passing conversations and don’t join in or feed the flame when others do the same. I’m not asking people to stuff their feelings or desires for change in their bodies, but I think if we could change the culture of shared body shaming, we’d all be a lot happier and healthier no matter what our metrics are.

img_5757

For the most part I think it went pretty well but gosh darn it, I thought for once I’d be able to get up in front of a group and speak about my life and NOT cry, but, nope. That streak continues.

But really, I know that’s OK because the part that got me was by far the hardest part to talk about which is that I have a condition that I will most likely always have to work against in my life/in my brain – body dysmorphia. And I don’t know how many speaking engagements I’d have to do before I’d be able to say “I have a mental condition that I work with and through every day of my life that impacts both me and my family depending on how I am managing it” and not cry. To quote Lizzo completely out of context, “that’s the human in me.” And that’s fine. I learned today, however, that when you are the only speaker instead of a member of a panel, and you get all sniffly, it’s a lot harder to stop and collect yourself/blow your dang nose while everyone in the room is watching you. You know, the important things you don’t think about until they are happening. In front of a group. 😉

Scary as it was to get up and do that this morning (and hard as it was to leave a sad, still img_5756sick Wilson at home to go do it), I’m glad I was asked and I’m glad I did, because the more we give voice to our struggles, the easier it gets to carry our individual loads because then they aren’t just ours to bear. To share one direct quote from this morning with you:

If sharing my stories has taught me anything, it is that real beauty in relationship with self, others, and spirit comes when we can speak truthfully to our imperfections and our successes and love our way through it all the same.

 

Deviation

When I was in college, I spent a semester in Africa traveling and logging many, many miles – from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. Along that journey, we encountered many literal roadblocks, but one memory that will always stick with me is of coming upon road construction in which the sign read “Deviation” instead of “Detour.” It felt like such an excellent word choice because sometimes when your path goes off the rails against your control, the whole experience does feel a bit deviant.

Case in point? Home reno. We’ve spent this entire summer on a deviation thanks to the driveway and the roof/exterior of the house. In fact, come Tuesday, the roof and metal wrapping and sealing and wood replacement and all that jazz  shit will hit the one month mark on all its own. Like most aspects of life, there are multiple reasons for this, which I’d be more than happy to explain in a private message or in-person conversation, but I’m pretty sure we can all agree that that is just too long, especially when for at least half of that time, a giant trailer has been parked in my driveway and big old machines and tools have been stored in my garage. This means we can’t clean up the yard and just let the kids out to play, must less the sanity-losing that goes into such a drawn out process.

img_5220I was so at the end of my rope with the not-finishing/not-moving of things yesterday that I loaded up the baby in the double jogger stroller and pushed her a mile to the YMCA to pick up Trumy from Prek and then pushed them both the mile back, in a mad dash attempt to walk it out, but even all that in the hot midday sun barely burned off my mad and crazy.

Then, miraculously, enough of the stuff got done by sundown last night that the trailer and the tools disappeared, leaving us with the possibility of starting Operation Garage Clean Up. ‘Cuz, did y’all know that when your structure has three layers of shingles on it, but no plywood under those layers, and all that gets scraped off, it leaves a giant freaking mess all over everything underneath it? Neither did I, but it might just be the worst mess to date of this reno and that is freaking saying something.

So this afternoon, after we survived (and even enjoyed) our first Soccer Saturday with img_5253three kids playing and us coaching two of the teams in a Triple Header Extravaganza, we set to work on getting everything out of the garage (so it all could be cleaned) so we could clean the actual garage (so we could then put everything back in it).

I got out there first and noticed pretty quickly that it wasn’t just shingle and tar-dust coating everything but also like real chunks of splintered wood and even old nails and staples and all kinds of crap. When Ben came out to join me, I warned him and told him I was trying to sweep it all up so we could get rid of it safely because popped tires and poked feet have been my biggest fears for the last four weeks.

And with good reason, because not ten minutes in to my husband helping me, he somehow flipped a nail up with his Keen that caught the back of his heal and, you guessed it, ended up sending him to get a tetanus shot instead of cleaning with me. Ironically, the last one he had was in 2008 when we traveled with a Doane alumni trip to Africa.

img_5257So yes, deviations in many forms continue to crop up in the process, and with one more room left to go in the basement, we’re still not back on the road of just living in our house in peace and quiet (y’all know that it’s rarely quiet here, right? That’s just a metaphor or pipe dream or something.) which after 10 months of this feels like a foreign concept indeed. I know we’ll get back to that path eventually, but after how much more deviation is a big old guessing game.

Double Digits (and A DAY)

I really, really meant for this post to be all about Harrison and hitting the incredible, amazing, how the heck did we get here so fast, huge milestone of turning Double Digits, but then today happened and my brain is too tired to write two posts, so here I am, combining the tale of my two Bookends into one rambly offering. img_4548

So, the brain fog.

We’re on Day Four of being on the road with our kids and my family and sleeping hasn’t been great while we’ve been away, so even before the craziness of last night came, I was tired and a little foggy. We’ve been making the rounds to different locations and family times in SoDak, which has been good, but you know travel and kids is just hard and trying to keep some semblance of normalcy is hard, too. When you add in sickness, though, everything gets instantly more insane.

Honestly, in our ten years of being parents, I don’t know that we’ve ever encountered a kid sick like this while away from home. And by this, I mean a vomiting baby (who is also celebrating a milestone of 20 months TODAY) who woke us* up at 3AM and kept us hopping until noon when we decided to take a leap and get her checked at local convenient care because her inability to keep down fluids was starting to concern all of us.

*Harrison was one of her roommates last night and he is totally the one who took charge and came to tell Ben and I that the baby was sick, so there’s one point about him in his birthday post: he is a kick ass big brother.

Some Zofran and fever meds, a nap, and a couple hours later and we had a totally different baby on our hands; thank goodness, too,  because she was in rough shape up until that point.

But poor Harrison. We just did not get to spend the same time, energy, or focus on his birthday like we would have had we not had such a nasty distraction for the day.

img_4568Fortunately we still got to do some of the stuff he loves like have Pizza Hut (fact number two about our ten-yr-old) for lunch and two servings of ice cream cake for dessert. He also got to watch a bit extra Zebra Gamer (fact N.3) while we dealt with stuff, and I definitely didn’t hear him complaining about that.

Tacos for supper (#4) and a bit more TV before bed (#5 which is truly a rarity) helped, too. So did getting to go get some lake time and play time (#6) img_4564with his healthy sibs (Dear Lord, please let the rest of the them ALL stay healthy!) and extended family, even though the biting flies were out of their ever-lovin’ minds both times we got near the lake.

Although we haven’t had much read time today, that’s still a highlight in his world (#7) and on this trip, and he’s also had some quality Lego building (#8) as of late, too.

Above all else, he’s still my super smart, super clever, super amazing first born (#9) who is always there to catch a gaffe or insert an observation or a question, and I remain in awe of his big brain on the daily.

And now, just like that, he’s 10. 10! For a whole decade, we’ve been lucky enough to call him ours, and I cannot wait to see where his big brain and his equally big heart (fact #10 about him) take him in the next ten years. If he has any say about it, the answer will be Finland, to work for Angry Birds Land, but that’s Fact No.11, so clearly I’m getting ahead of myself. 😉

Happy Birthday, HD! It may not have been the day we had planned, but you’ve taught us from the very beginning to just roll with it, and we’re so glad you were able to do the same today.

img_4525

 

End of an Era

All the signs have been there for some time now, but oh my goodness, it appears that the actual END has arrived.

After 9.5 years of nursing babies around the clock (there are less than a handful of months in that time span when I wasn’t pregnant, nursing, or both), I’m done. Wilson is apparently, officially over it and my Boppy (OK, Boppies) are ready for retirement.

img_3161

In some ways, this breaks my heart.

I weened some of my others because I knew I wanted to get pregnant again, but I would have gladly let Wilson go the distance for as long as she wanted; so even though this is pretty average for a nursing stint for one of my babies, it still feels too soon. How we are already to this point?

In other ways, I know this is perfectly fine.

She’s walking, she’s eating, she’s following her growth charts, and she’s totally typical in all the best ways possible when you consider where we started those 15.5 months ago. These are all amazing, normal things, and this no-more-boob bit is just a natural step in the process of her getting bigger and more independent, which, you know – is the ultimate goal of this parenting gig.

But you guys. A decade is a long time to go between being a solo person in charge of and responsible for only their own body. And while I’m sure I’ll figure it out quickly enough, I legit don’t even know how to be a mom who is not growing or feeding another human being at the same time as the mom-ing and the adulting and the existing.

I guess a lot of it will feel like freedom but enjoying that is going to take some time, as I’m already missing the sweet, sequestered moments with just me and the baby in a rocking chair, doing our thing.