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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Grandmas, Gravy Boats, and (another) Goodbye

The first time I met my would-be-husband’s family, I crashed their family reunion. We had been together about a month and it would only be five more until we were engaged, so maybe that sounds like a weird first encounter, but really, I think we just knew this was it and there was nothing odd at all about diving in headfirst.

I’d like to think Ben’s grandma, Louise, knew it, too, because she was the one who insisted I be in the group photo, front and center next to Ben (Cox/Welsch crew: if anyone has that photo, can you snap a copy and send it to us, please?). I wouldn’t put it past her to have had that kind of super power because she was indeed a wonder of a woman.

Unfortunately, my use of the past tense is not accidental. After a decline that began in March, that we all had thought/hoped was turning out to be a miraculous recovery, Louise passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning. So here we are, once again, faced with paying respects and giving our kids, and ourselves, one more lesson in life and loss and goodbyes.

What. A. Year.

I’ll be honest, this one hits hard for me. It’s way too soon after saying goodbye to both of my remaining grandparents (Ben still has two, now), but it is also that I feel this loss like it is my own. Geographically, Louise and her husband Eugene have been the closest ones to us in our married life which meant we saw them more, but really from Day One, Louise treated me like one of her own. Always caring, always asking after my work and my family, always wondering, in early days, when that first great grandbaby was going to come, and after early days, how each of those great grand babies was doing.

The weekend before last, Ben took the Big Four to see her and since I couldn’t go, I wroteIMG_9368 a card that he was able to share with her. In it, I teased her (gently, with love, in a way to hopefully bring about that kind flash smile/eye twinkle that she had) that in those early days she was always telling me that she was only going to live to 83, so would I kindly please get on it with the great grands. I told her I was so glad she didn’t call it quits then because, instead, she got to meet, hold, love on, and know all five of my babies, and for that we were all so lucky.

Technically that card turned out to be my goodbye to her but it is not the end of my memories of her. She will forever in my mind be the one who came to see four of my five babies when they were still hospital brand new and deemed each one “SUCH a nice baby” (& who always wanted to know if they had blue eyes in every subsequent phone call and/or card sent). The one who LOVED the color red and was thrilled to buy us the Fiestaware gravy boat from our wedding registry because it was one of the pieces I had picked in her favorite hue (plus super appropriate piece coming from the woman who hosted countless and delicious family dinners). img_0839The one who collected quilts and made sure to give us one for each baby. The one who helped make some of their blankets, too. The one who played Five Crowns and Play Nine (& other countless card games) with us and our children. The one who sent me a sympathy card when my grandpa Cliff died and told me how lucky I was to have a grandpa for so long.

She was right about that. But here is what I also know: I may have only been able to call her mine for 12 years and not 36 like my two 89-yr-olds we’ve lost this year (Louise would have been 89 next month), but I am by far a better person and a better mother because of her.

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.

Should We Stay or Should We Go (Now)?

I keep writing status updates and blog posts and song lyrics (just kidding) in my head, so after a month’s worth of not actually getting any of those words OUT of my head, it’s time to dive back in to the blog.

A month is the longest I’ve gone between posts possibly since I started doing this. Losing my Grandpa Cliff and then throwing myself into one of the biggest distractors ever – house hunting – the day after we got home from his funeral also hasn’t happened in my six and a half years of doing this, either, so you know – uncharted territory and whatnot.

And no, not looking at houses only because I haven’t found a better way to deal with grief (although I’d be fuzzing details if I said I had found a good and proper way to actually do that), but rather picking up a thought we started playing around with about this time last year, which would have been shortly after we found out Baby No.5 was on the way.

In case you don’t recall, we moved into this house when Baby No.2 was brand new. We had tried to sell our first house after I found out I was pregnant and it didn’t go well, so we took it off the market and decided to be patient. Then our realtor came to us about a month and half-ish (six-and-a-half-ish years ago is hard to remember such details, even when you do keep a blog to help with such remembering) after RL’s birth with a potential buyer for our home, so we went looking, and just like that we found our current house.

Make no mistake. We love our current house. It is a beautiful home with a ton of character and a surprising amount of space. But if you know us at all, you know we’ve done our darndest in our time here to FILL that space.

And so….the looking that started last year.

We visited a couple houses early last summer, got discouraged, and decided we’d just spend money in our house to make the space we do have work a little better for us. But then, as the year played out, those plans didn’t all come to fruition and so I still find myself checking Realtor.come on a fairly regular basis, which lead to the discovery of a house the day after we returned from SoDak that caught my interest. And then another. And another. However. The market here is tricky (not to mention expensive) and so the last three weeks have been a whirlwind of “What ifs” and “Maaaaaybe we should just stay puts” and “Do you like this ones” and all of those crazy making (for two Type A planners such as B and I) questions that go along with a search like this.

Also, did I mention that we even showed our house a couple times already? I spent my 36th birthday (and the whole day after it) cleaning my entire house (with family here to help, even!) so potential buyers could see it, which was so much work it left me sore the next day as if I’d gone on an 8 mile run. But its hard to strike a deal for your own house if you don’t actually know which one will be yours next.

Because here’s the deal: in order to get a house big enough to even hold our crew, that is also nicer than our current house, in the Hastings market of today, we’d have to go over $100k for what we paid for this one. When we upgraded to this house, we had to go about $30k up (however it was 2012, soooo). And the real kicker is that many of the homes in our price range actually still need updating, or will in the very, very near future, and that is daunting for a family with this many small children (and one income).

Which leads me to my second deal: if we move, I’m most definitely going back to work full-time sooner than later. I mean, not until all the kids were in school, but still – there’s no way to make this fly on B alone forever.

While I’m OK with that concept (mostly), I also wonder how OK we could be here if we just did the work we wanted to last year and stuck it out in our cute little one-and-a-half story house that would be paid OFF before HD goes to college (& that’s without me working any more than I already am).

Do I have house envy? Do I need to have my head examined? Do I need to just have a big cry about everything that has been topsy turvy in the last month, curl up with a good book, and let it go?

I have no idea.

But here I am, sorting it out in words once again, as I do.

And, y’all…truth moment…if we move, I am really going to miss the room in which I wrote this (which was admittedly a couple days ago before we got more snow and it was too cold to sit out here):

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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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All Together Now

After all the hustle and bustle of landing home and then getting through Ben’s last week of school for the semester AND then the excitement/hubbub of Christmas, we have finally had the last few days to just be as a family of seven in our own space, without anything extra pressing or even on the calendar for that matter!

Take yesterday, for example.

It was a whopping, what – 5 degrees – outside? So really, the perfect day to stay warm and cozy indoors (and in pajamas), so that’s exactly what we did. No one went anywhere, not even outside to play in the snow because BRRRR!

Instead we napped (well, WA, TJ, and B and I did, anyway) and had screen time and played games and even managed to squeeze in Mama/Daddy Time with each of the Big 3 (not that Trumy doesn’t count; it’s just that he can’t count yet and therefore has no concept of time/taking turns with this stuff, plus he finds plenty of ways to have his own time with us).

Now, we’re not very good about doing this as often as we should, but much like a Mama or Daddy Date, M/D Time means each kid gets undivided attention individually with each parent for a set amount of time. I.E. 15 minutes to do whatever you want (minus screens) with one parent and no extra kids. That sounds incredibly minimal and simplistic (it is), but you’d be amazed at how hard it is to pull off because you have to have the other parent available to keep said wandering sibs away from your special time and it easily takes at least an hour+ to get the three 15-minute sessions accomplished. And then when you’re trying to do time with both parents in one day, well, there’s your afternoon, folks!

Although it felt like we dropped back into home life in a ding-dang whirlwind of mid-December chaos, I am so glad it’s the holiday break and we have the opportunity to be doing these “do nothing” days filled with whatever whims our kids or we can conjure. Of course it is not paradise and we are having as many kid squabbles as the next family cooped up in the same house day after day, hiding from the cold, but bless it, we needed this time together to acclimate, to regroup, to adjust back to our own “normal” after Wilson’s wild arrival.

As a friend pointed out to me last week, part of this normal is that we’re a Together Family. And it’s so true. We do the majority of our stuff together and the majority of it is close to home. That’s just how we roll (by not rolling much of anywhere sometimes). So the whole Omaha/Hastings split was extra hard because none of us are used to having one parent gone for any extended amount of time, much less both and for so long.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve noticed some residuals from our separation, mainly in the form of questions coming from The Middles about our (Ben and mine) whereabouts. Lincoln is terribly concerned, in the way of any good 4yo who can ask the same question 10 times a day, every day for a week straight, about our upcoming return trip to see Wilson’s surgeon in Omaha. He wants to know exactly how many sleeps we’ll be gone (none; it’s a day trip) and he’s got to ask at least four times to clarify that when we say zero sleeps we MEAN zero sleeps. And Raegan, too, had a moment during our newborn photos, when the baby and I weren’t quite done and ready to follow them home, where she turned to me, eyebrows raised and concern in her voice as she asked, “Mama, when are you coming home?”

These aren’t concerns we’ve had to field in the past because prior to November 22, the question of “When will Mama and Daddy be home?” was a nonissue. We were just always, more or less, together.

And thankfully, that is now the case once again, so much so that even in the multi-levels of our house, we can end up all in the exact same corner of the living room as a total coincidence of Family Time.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. img_8831

Re-Entry

Bless it, my friends, we are finally home! I apologize if we were a little mum and sneaky during our last 24 hours at the hospital, but things started coming at us quickly, and we were just happy to comply and get the heck out of there as quickly as we could once that ball started rolling!

img_8569It began Wednesday afternoon with the Charge Nurse coming to tell us we could move into the Transition Room that afternoon. This is the before-home room that has its own door and bathroom (um! Hello and thank you!!) and a place for two people to sleep (due to other rules on the Unit, the other two nights we slept at the hospital with Willa actually meant me sleeping on a pull-out chairbed (that was acquired only by giving up my rocking chair) and Ben sleeping on the bench/couch thing in the waiting room. Nooooot exactly ideal). So we booked it over to the Rainbow House were we quickly packed up our stuff and checked out of there so we could spend the final two nights in the TR instead. The Rainbow House has a waiting list right now, so we were very happy to give up our spot for some other family in need of close lodging, and a couple nights early, to boot.

It surprised us how different the new room felt and we spent the rest of Wednesday evening getting semi-settled and ready to get Wilson through another night of feeds because we REALLY needed her to show a weight gain by 7:00a Thursday morning as this was the one thing the doc was really looking for after letting her go ad lib on nursing Wednesday. For our sanity’s sake, we kept up with the before/after weights on each feeding because the last thing we wanted was a surprise (in a bad way) Thursday morning!

True to #WonderWilson form, Baby Girl rocked it and even added an extra feeding in there, making her 7-7 total for her first day with no NG supplementation a whopping 94% intake via the breast. Amazing (& as a friend pointed out, good dang thing I have a lot of dang milk!)!!

We saw her doctor in the hall Thursday morning and gave him the good news (she did indeed gain by her official weigh time Wednesday night) and then while we were eating breakfast in the waiting room, our nurse came by to tell us that she’d heard a rumor we might be going home that day instead of Friday.

As you might imagine, our hearts leapt at this and we got

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right to it with sending out all the hopes and wishes and prayers that that might actually happen, which we found out less than two hours later was very much indeed the case!

Because Willa showed so much progress and aptitude for feeding these last few days, and everything else had been cleared and done, they saw no need to keep her for one more day/night just to prove she could go home. So pack we did and by noon Thursday we were officially in our van, driving away from Children’s for Wilson’s very first car ride. HOME.

We could not wait to surprise the Bigs after school! And we couldn’t wait to surprise all of you with this fun and fantastic news, too!

From here, we know we enter a new period of chaos. Of course it is a much better, more familiar kind of chaos, but we still have a lot of adjustment to do as a not-so-little family. Not only do we have to recover and regroup after three weeks of crazy separation, we have to do the typical “Hi! There’s a new person in our house!” stuff which can be interesting even without such a wild, disjointed start.

To be perfectly honest, we’re probably going to hunker down a bit, and we hope you’ll understand if we’re not really out and about or big on visits right now. It’s not that we don’t want you to meet our Sweet Wonder Girl – we very much do – but we also want to stay mindful of many things right now including Cold & Flu season (our doctor flat out told us to avoid crowds and playing “pass the baby” anywhere) as well as the fact that we’re probably going to need about as many weeks as we had at the hospital here at home before we really feel settled. And while we’re flying high on adrenaline and love right now, I’ll warn you that there may be days when I flat out can’t talk about it because the whole thing has been surreal and it is going to take time to process before I can maybe have normal conversations about it all. Please don’t take it personally if I 1) burst into tears and/or 2) change the subject on you the next time I see you!

Please also know that I will continue to post updates and pictures for you and that we appreciate so very much all of your continued support up to and beyond this point in Willa’s story. You all stepped up to help and provide and love on us when we needed it the most and even though it took longer to get home than we hoped, we know you all helped us get here as smoothly and quickly as possible.

And a huge shout out and thank you for understanding as we give Wilson and all the Bigs (and ourselves) time, space, and grace on this much-anticipated, much-appreciated time of re-entry. Besides trying to acclimate back to our own house, we’re trying to do as much of this (line-free snuggles) as possible: img_8641