Saturday, August 31, 2013

Breastfeeding Month

I had read that August is "breastfeeding month," and since tomorrow begins a new month--Wait, did I pay the bills that are due on the first?  Yes, yes, I did.  OK...--I thought I'd reflect on my experiences lately.

I knew from the start that I wanted to make an effort to nurse for six months.  When I was pregnant with Eliot, I was terrified of breastfeeding for some reason.  There seemed to be so much involved.  Chris even bought me a book on breastfeeding to help when I was pregnant, and, really, it came so easy and naturally that I wondered why I ever even worried.

I nursed Eliot for six and a half months.  At six months, I had a week-long class, and though I pumped while away from Eliot, it just wasn't enough.  My supply diminished and it got to the point that I was only nursing at night.  Six months was my big goal anyway, so I weaned him.  I was afraid I'd be sad when it ended (because once it is done, it's over).  However, Eliot and I both were happy and I didn't feel sad at all.  Seriously, though, I am amazed by working mothers who are able to pump enough for their babies while they are away.  That's amazing.  Simply put, pumping sucks.

With Jack, nursing also came easy.  He loves to eat and eats frequently.  He gains weight just as he should.  Then Jack started doing something that Eliot never did--he started sleeping for long stretches at night.  He has slept for eight hours for two nights now.  It isn't uncommon for him to sleep for six hours before his first feeding.  And he usually sleeps for at least four hours before his first feeding.  I didn't want to start waking him to eat because, man, this is great!  I like to sleep!  Eliot woke up every hour and half for over seven months, so I was hanging onto this thing!  And, well, my pump wasn't working, so I didn't really think about that.

And then I got this fever and chills.  I thought it was just some little virus.  After three days, I realized that I had a clogged duct (?!) for the first time ever.  And suddenly my attitude of "Oh, I don't like the pump, so whatever" turned to "MY PUMP WON'T WORK AND I'M GOING TO DIE!"  I didn't die.  I ordered a part to fix it and made Jack eat more than he wanted to until it came in the mail.  And I was fine.

I guess that goes to show that Jack may be "baby number two," but there's still so much to learn!

I've been getting some pretty bad headache just about every other day lately too, which I attribute to the hormones from breastfeeding.  I seem to be pretty sensitive to hormone shifts, especially when estrogen is involved.  I don't remember if I got them with Eliot too (probably), but I'm just trying to push through them and hoping that my body will adjust eventually.  We're at two months of exclusive breastfeeding so far.  Four more to go before I meet my six-month goal.  And if it's going well, I might keep trying.  If I'm struggling, I might wean him.  I guess we'll see!  I'm so thankful that I have been able to nurse my boys and give them my best.  It isn't anything great I've done, though.  I've just gotten lucky.  So many people endure much more than me and go longer.  Then some people try so hard and don't go as long as they had hoped--but trying is what matters and any little bit makes a difference.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stepping on Dinosaurs in the Night

Before I had kids, I vowed that I wouldn't be one of those parents cursing over stepping on toys in the dark.  Oh no.  My kids wouldn't leave out toys--and if they did, I'd clean them up and keep a tidy home.

They say you know the most about parenting before you have kids, because once you have them, you realize how complicated kids are--there aren't clear answers to all situations.  However, I have kept true to that vow.  When I step on a dinosaur on the floor, I stop and, with all of my heart, I thank God for that little boy who left his dinosaurs out yet again.  When I step on a car, I thank God that I get to see my boy's eyes light up when he slides a car across the floor.
Eliot at 12 months
Eliot at two years

I don't always have the answers, but I try to keep my heart in the right place.  I see my boys as precious, fragile gifts that I have been entrusted with.  I aim to build them up and strengthen them.  I never want to be the one that tears them down because so many others in the world are too ready to do that.  My biggest fear is that I will hurt them or break their spirits.  (That isn't to say that I don't discipline them or correct them.  Discipline is important and I aim to be firm to build their character; consistency makes all the difference, but in a way that builds their confidence, not breaks them down)

When I watch Eliot playing or Jack kicking his legs, it is easy to let out a sigh and acknowledge how precious and sweet they are.  When Eliot is acting so extra energetic before bed and saying his usual, "I CAN'T go to bed in my room," and I am tired from a long, long day, I remind myself that it is my job to build him up and not lose my patience.  When Jack is screaming for some unknown reason and I am sore from feeding him on the hour, I remind myself that I am so very lucky to be able to nurse him.  I remind myself that I have been entrusted with these precious, sensitive boys with beautiful hearts, and it is my job to protect them and build them up.

I love these boys as individuals and them together.  I pray each morning that the words I say to them build them into loving, empathetic, caring, good people.  No, I don't have all the answers at all, but I'm learning and doing my best.  I'm intentional in how I parent them, and I am critical of myself.  And I know my best can never be "good enough," but with a little bit of grace, I think we'll get there together, the four of us, as a family.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dear Jack: Two Months

Dear Jack,

It's hard to believe that you are already two months old.  I'm sure I will say that every month (and have with your brother too), but time goes by so quickly.

Your appearance seems to change between almost every photo I take.  Your eyes are still blue and seem like they are getting lighter, so maybe they will stay.  Your hair looks thinner in photos, but you are not actually losing hair.  Instead, your hair is growing lighter, like a light brown, and you have light blond hairs growing in too.  Your eye lashes are long, like your brother's, and they are light as well.  At your two-month appointment, you weighed 11 pounds and 12 ounces (five pounds put on since birth!) and were 23 and a half inches long (making you 75th percentile for height).  This week, I officially packed up all of your newborn clothes and many of your 0-3 month clothes.  You are wearing 3 month outfits and some lingering 0-3 month onesies.  That went by so fast!

You are our little guy, but you are on the move!  You kick your legs and move your arms so much that you can scoot on your back a bit more than one would expect of a newborn.  You can move about a foot in around ten minutes or so.  You also rotate in a circle.  You are almost rolling over.  Almost.  You also love to bounce on someone's knee.  You can hold your head up on your own and look around.  The doctor was very impressed with your head support and by how alert you were at your well visit.

Since last month, you have changed in your schedule--in some ways for the better.  You still eat about every hour or hour and a half.  Then in the mornings, you spit up about half a dozen times, but seem to be doing better throughout the day and evening.  At night, you begin cluster feeding around 7:30 pm; however, I don't mind too much because then you generally sleep from 10:00 pm until around 2:00 am.  From there, you wake up every two hours until around 9:00 am.  You take a nap during the day at some point, usually mid-afternoon, but you don't mind napping in the car or while being carried in the sling if we are out and about.  You are pretty easy-going unless you are hungry.

One of my favorite tricks of yours is your ability to soothe yourself to sleep.  Magic, I say!  I can get you to sleep in my arms, but if I move you or lay you down, you wake up.  If I leave you in your bed, though, you put yourself back to sleep.

You are most happy in the mornings.  After your tummy feels better, you smile and talk to us.  You make so many funny faces full of character and expression.

Sometimes I just don't know what to do with you because I feel so guilty.  You love cuddling when we nurse, but you usually prefer laying on the floor and kicking your legs.  You love looking around and batting at your toys.  You stare up at lights or windows.  I feel bad that you aren't being held, so I pick you up.  And you cry!  You want to play!  So instead of disturbing you, I sit next to you and talk to you.  Your brother loves to lay with you on the ground too.  Your new-found ability to hold your head up has helped too, though, because you love to look around while we hold you in our laps.

Lately, you've showed that you enjoy baths.  You smile and open your mouth when I bathe you.  You kick your legs and swat your hands at the water, almost like you are trying to splash.  That's a relief because giving a newborn a bath can be kind of hard.

This month, you had your first visit to the beach.  We went once before for a short trip to see two rehabilitated sea turtles being released, but this time we just went to have a relaxing time at the beach.  We only stayed for about an hour and you mostly slept, but you seemed to have a fine enough time.  It was super windy and our umbrella broke, so I tried to protect you with my shadow.  Fortunately, I think you tan instead of burn.
I am so thankful that you and Eliot seem to have a special connection.  You "talk" for him more than anyone else.  When he cuddles with you and talks to you, you watch him in fascination.  He shares his cars with you.  He draws pictures for you.  Watching the two of you together is my favorite thing, something that I dreamed of all throughout my pregnancy and even before we learned of you.  I had hoped Eliot could someday have a little brother, and I prayed for another little boy to have Eliot as a big brother.  I am thankful that you have each other, even if you don't always get along as you grow older (and can start stealing one another's toys).

Jack, I love what you have brought to our family.  I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have you with us, but now I can't imagine us without you.  You bring so much joy (and cuteness).  When I bounced you on my knee while waiting for the doctor today, I felt a little sad that you were going to keep growing and changing, but I know it will keep getting more and more fun.  I am so thankful for you and I'm enjoying every minute of this special time with you as a newborn.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Growing Fast

I ordered some prints today of photos of the boys.  I never feel fully satisfied with the photos I take of Jack--they're never good enough for me.  They don't quite do him justice.  I can't capture the "essence" of Jack as a newborn the way I want to.  I remember feeling the same way about Eliot as a newborn, but now I just cherish each photo that I took.

As I picked out the pictures I wanted to frame, I couldn't believe how much he has changed.  I know this time goes fast.  I know he is growing and gaining weight.  He takes up more room in my lap these days.  He weighs heavier in my arms.  He is no longer a tiny, wrinkly newborn. In three days, he will be two months old, which means he has one month left of technically being a newborn.

I love watching him change, yet I try not to wish away his infanthood.  These past two months have been such a special, precious time.  And I can't wait to see who he will grow into. It's amazing how much he has changed from that tiny newborn we brought home from the hospital.  (And of course more thoughts and updates on his growing in a few days when I post his two-month letter).

I took a few portraits today of the boys in front of a white sheet.  I prefer photos that I take outside, honestly, but there is still something nice about a "studio"-looking picture.  I know I'll love this photo in the months and years to come.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Balancing Two

All throughout my pregnancy with Jack, I was terrified if I would be enough.  And it really has gone smoother than I thought, but I want to be honest and say that I don't always feel so confident in myself.  So if you ever have trouble balancing two (or more), here are my confessions:  I don't have it all together, so when you feel that you don't, you're not alone.  Maybe my shortcomings will make you feel better about yourself.  No one is perfect, no matter how pretty the pictures are.

I try very hard to be the best for both boys, but sometimes I find myself grumbling and raising my voice all day.  I get so sick of hearing myself talk.  Eliot responds to being re-directed better than being fussed and nagged at ("Hey, come over here and do x" instead of "HEY!  Stop doing y!"), yet when I'm nursing Jack (which also seems to be constant), I can't get up and encourage Eliot to stop climbing the shelves in the pantry to rip down all of the gummy snacks.  Sometimes, fussing is all I can do.  It's my only defense.  And I hate that.  I'm getting better at it, though.  I'm being more consistent with time-outs.  Just threatening a time out has become pretty effective as well.

Chris and I aim to do something fun every day.  We go to parks, the aquarium, the zoo, the plane museum, petting zoos, the beach, swimming in the backyard, and so much more.  Like all toddlers, Eliot is an active boy, and I try to keep him entertained.  It really is never enough, though.  Around 3:00 pm, Eliot is tireddd.  And how does Eliot react to being tired?  He gets really hyper.  I can sometimes get him to calm down and color or read books, but then 6:30 pm happens and he is nuts until bedtime at 9:00 pm.  He chases the dogs, has to bounce around, and makes a huge mess with every toy.  I've managed to get him to watch TV with me the past few nights at 8:00 pm, yet I feel like I can't keep up with all of the games he wants to play.  When he grows too hyper and can't be contained, I tell him to go in his room if he absolutely must jump or be loud.

I tend to have sensory overload issues that I work around.  I can't have things in my face.  I hate being tickled.  And poked.  When you have a toddler, though, these things happen.  A lot.  And I always make it a point not to grumble at Eliot for getting too close.  However, when I'm nursing, I cannot have someone else crawling all over me or poking me or putting toys on me or standing on my feet (seriously, why does he stand on my feet?!).  Sometimes I just close my eyes and wait for Eliot to get distracted so I can keep it together.  This sounds horrible, but it's something I try to work through!  And I feel so guilty that I have trouble playing with Eliot while nursing at the same time because Jack-Jack eats a LOT.

I post tons and tons of Instagram photos of Eliot cuddling with Jack.  It is adorable, and Eliot does not show any jealousy toward Jack.  I'm thankful for that.  But the truth is that I very often am squirming inside, hoping that Eliot isn't about to slam his heavy head into Jack's soft spot.  This has never happened and I remind Eliot "GENTLE" all the time (constantly).  I hate being such a NAG.

At the end of the day when both boys are asleep, sometimes I feel rotten inside.  I feel inadequate and like I have hurt Eliot's feelings throughout the day by not playing when he wants to or by raising my voice too much when I simply have run out.  I feel like I haven't paid enough attention to Jack.   All I can do is try to be better the next day, and I think I'm getting there.  I am so incredibly thankful for these boys and humbled that I have the privilege of being their mother.  I hope I can do well by them.

(And the truth is that sometimes you take pictures and get cute portraits, and sometimes you get silly pictures like this, but that's what real life is like) 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Life Lately

I've been rather quiet on here lately.  I've kept a blog for 15 years, but these days I have barely cracked my laptop open unless it is for work or to maybe edit a couple of photos quickly.

We've kept rather busy, though.

We've had a few projects going on.  One day, after letting Eliot sleep on his mattress on our floor for six months (after co-sleeping for two years), I asked him if he wanted to sleep in his own room.  He said he would.  That was two weeks ago, I think, and he has spent every night since in his room.  It went smooth, then rough, and now OK again.  He asks to sleep in our bed most every night, but we've been consistent.  We let him come get in our bed in the morning, though, which I think is a nice compromise.

Having Jack has only served to affirm my beliefs that Eliot is and has always been a particularly bad sleeper.  Jack already sleeps better than Eliot does.  Jack has the ability to soothe himself to sleep.  He usually sleeps for four hours, nurses, and then sleeps for two hours twice.  Eliot, on the other hand, still wakes up every two hours.  I try to let him put himself back to sleep, but I usually have to go in and lay him down.

I've been trying to hold onto our dwindling summer.  "Summer" for me seems to have just started since Jack is seven weeks old and I newly received my "pass" from the doctor to swim and exercise again.  However, I still have only gone swimming once....  Our pool doesn't get that warm since our backyard is so shaded, and I always feel the need to be hanging out with Jack instead, especially since he eats about on the hour still.

Jack and Eliot are still doing great together.  Jack is really fascinated by Eliot and just stares at him.  The "newness" of Jack hasn't worn off for Eliot, and he likes to try to play with Jack, which usually ends in me squirming and holding myself back from telling Eliot to back up.  I worry about Eliot piling too many cars on Jack, yet I don't want to discourage him from loving his brother.

Sometimes I really, really worry that I am not paying Jack the right or same amount of attention that I gave Eliot.  With Eliot, I would hold him and stare at him all day.  All of my energy and attention was on him.  However, with Jack, I find myself needing to multitask more.  I would love to just cuddle him all day, but I have a toddler now too, so I have to keep moving.  Here's the thing with Jack....  He would rather lay down and kick his legs than be held all the time.  Sure, he likes to cuddle too, but he likes to look around, explore, and move move move.  So if I need to throw lunch together, I feel guilty, but he is happy laying down by himself.  In about a week, he will be two months old, and he has grown, changed, and stepped into an individual so much already.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dear Eliot: Two Years, Seven Months

Dear Eliot,

I think you are the handsomest, cutest, smartest little guy.  You love to draw (and I'm convinced that you could draw all day), so I recently began working on teaching you to write your name.  I write your name a few times in a light-color crayon and then you trace the letters with another color.  You're not perfect at it, of course, but you get the concept and are doing great at it!

Over the past week and a half, we've been working to transition you to sleeping in your big boy bed in your room.  You did great up until the last couple of days.  Something has been off, and I thought it'd just get easier after a week, but you regressed some and say you don't want to sleep in your room.  However, we're remaining consistent and it just takes longer to get you to bed.  I think I might have been pushing you to go to bed too early (at 8:30 pm).  You've slept in your room every night, though, and then creep in our room in the early morning.  We rewarded you with a Cars comforter.  I had never bought you a blanket for your bed, not even as a baby, since you had been using one of our old quilts.

You're so helpful and want to be involved in everything we do.  Whether it is cooking, cleaning, going to the gym, or doing work, you want to be a part of it all.  In fact, your dad was packing up his laptop to go do work and you grabbed your play laptop and said that you were coming to work too.  It was so cute.

Things are still going great with Jack.  You make the best big brother.  You love to cuddle with him and rubbing your nose on him.  You talk to him and tell everyone that he is your baby.  You also love to match your brother.  If Jack is wearing stripes, you have to as well.  If Jack is wearing a dinosaur shirt, you have to as well.

You're so busy and like cuddling a little less since you must always be going, going, going, but I know I'm still in your heart.  Whenever a sentimental scene comes on tv with a mother and child, you run up to me and hug me.

Although we didn't get to go to the beach much since Jack was born at the end of June, we've had a great summer in our own backyard.  I'm not looking forward to summer ending, but we'll have a great fall.

I'm so proud of you, Eliot.  You're really no baby anymore.  You keep growing bigger and doing bigger things.