Chicken Little

I’ve lost my groove.  It’s been a seven-month funk.  Nothing like the winter blahs coupled with a dose of postpartum depression to make you feel awesome.

I know that this won’t last forever but when you’re in the thick of it you can’t help but feel stuck.  For me this doesn’t translate into days or weeks of doom.  More like intense moments of panic or anxiety.  Think Chicken Little.  The day is going smoothly and then bam!  The sky is falling.

There’s no doubt that being a mom is simultaneously the hardest, most wonderful, enlightening, terrifying, stressful, joyful thing I have ever done.  But right now there are days when I wake up racked with anxiety, because there are four little people I’m responsible for.  And Alex and I have the daunting task of molding them into decent, kind, good human beings while also letting them blossom into who God designed them to be.  Meanwhile I can’t seem to get the baby to take a nap, keep the three boys from fighting or convince them that the potty talk needs to stop.  I’m sure the sleep deprivation isn’t helping but I also think these struggles are a daily {hourly? minute by minute?} reminder of my own short-comings.  And lately I’ve never been so aware of my own shortcomings {there are many}.

I know that we will work through all of this.  I know that Caroline will someday take a bottle.  Or a sippy cup.  Or she will just be very thirsty.  And then I will have something new to worry about.  But in the meantime it does feel good to at least admit that yeah, this stage right now, it’s hard.

The New Year.

I just love a the beginning of a new year, to me there is nothing better than a fresh start.  And to be honest, 2013 just about did me in.  Of course there were plenty of highlights – hello Caroline – but the year was not without its challenges.  So for 2014 I’m carefully thinking through all the possibilities this new year might hold for myself and for our entire family.

I have this elusive dream that this year includes calmer days that are loosely planned, with lots of wiggle room.  {It’s ok to laugh but this is my goal, perhaps not my reality.}  Because let’s be honest, this ship {aka our family of six} doesn’t exactly shift gears on a dime.  Plus, I’m a gal who needs lots of margin and white space to function on all cylinders.  {I know, the irony, right?}

While dreaming about this next year words like simple, mundane, calm and peaceful keep floating up to the surface.  Probably not exactly words that describe this stage of life, but they seem to be what my soul is craving.  I’d like my focus to settle on creating a safe haven for our family to rest in the midst of the storms of this life.   Oh and not to be forgotten, there’s the elusive goal of balance.  We’re learning how to balance this very full life.  Life with two kids in elementary school.  A preschooler.  A baby.  It’s a fun and crazy mix that no doubt always keeps us on our toes.

Alex and I have also talked a bit about our big dreams and long-term goals and it’s exciting.  I think we both feel like we’re in such a great place right now as a family and we just can’t stop counting our lucky stars.    We have both big plans and little plans and lots of perspective.  {And while we may have lost a bit of momentum coming out of the new year gate, I have yet to find a rule that says you can’t start fresh on the 15th of January.}

All in all, I think it’s going to be a good one.  So Happy New Year to you.  On January 15th.

Oh and the word that comes to mind most often as I’m looking ahead?  Hopeful.  I’m feeling very hopeful and I can’t think of anything better.

P.S. Thank you Jimmy for snapping these pics.

Perspective

Leading up to our weekend away I’m certain that had my head not been attached to my body I probably would have forgotten to pack it.  Just days ago all I could see was where things were going wrong.  God seemed far off and while all I wanted to do was feel His peace, I was also wishing He would just cut me some slack already.  It’s sort of embarrassing to admit to such icky feelings now.

Which is probably why the timing was perfect for a getaway to one of my favorite places with some of my favorite gals – my mom, Caroline, and Aunts Maribeth and Kimberly – to help gather some perspective and get my wits about me.

It was such a blessing to just be.  To be taken care of and to be heard.  To listen to others and to offer support and encouragement.  To feel like your head is screwed on just a wee bit tighter.  Of course my mom spoiled us with her hospitality and ability to always have a meal ready and a bottle of wine open.

somebody got new cozy boots…somebody else got a cozy stripy sweatshirt…sue me, we’re predictable.

p.s. Coco you are a dream baby.

And while all of this restorative and life-giving magic was taking place, back on the home front, Super Dad pretty much earned lifetime superhero status.  In between, loving, feeding, and shuttling them to and fro, he took the boys bowling, to the movies, to church and to a friend’s house for a game of apple baseball.  He navigated playdates and handled bedtime like an old pro.  And not only did the boys have an amazing weekend with their super dad, but my hubby who knows me oh so well and gave his wife the welcome home gift of a spotless house, a freshly mowed yard, a garage cleaned out and – for the win – all the laundry was done.  Amazing!

My only complaint* is that now mom is going to seem super lame.

But really, I’m OK with that.

*really I’m not complaining…remember I keep the bar set very low. Free suckers at the bank and the kiddos think I’m a rock-star.  And if I use that sucky, tube-y thing to make a deposit?  Well then I’m just too cool for words.

Anyhow.  Life is good.  Mama’s refreshed and I even have a handful of grainy pictures of me with my baby girl.  How could things get any better than that?

PS – Somehow I don’t have any close-up photos of mom or Kim…perhaps they planned it that way?  No matter I’m sneaky, see that pretty picture up there with two people walking in the distance?  There they are!

Smiley baby.

Someone was all smiles the other day so I dusted off the camera and snapped some photos of our sweet Caroline.

Sometimes she is so serious.

Her “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” stare.  She makes this face often.

Sometimes she just laughs and smiles when I walk into the room.  My heart melts every single time.

These early months with a new baby are nothing to joke about.

Here’s the truth of it, and probably a little more than you’d like to know about me.  I tend to go through some rough patches during that dreamy {ha} postpartum period.  It’s sooo fun.  Especially for Alex.  And my mom.  Add into the already hormonal mix a colicky baby and voila!  You have one fun mother.

During this particular postpartum ride I’ve felt especially vulnerable.  I simply couldn’t do it all by myself.  And so I had to rely on our amazing circle of family and friends to help shuttle kids to and from activities, bring over a meal, or take the boys for a playdate.  And sometimes at the end of the day instead of basking in the blessing of those helping our family, I felt guilty that I couldn’t pull it all together myself.

Writing this out probably makes me sound ridiculous.

So yes, it was an easy sell, this vulnerability.  And sometimes it all seems magnified because you have completely isolated yourself in your home because your baby cries all the time and you fear taking her anywhere.  {hypothetically of course.}  Which only then magnifies everything even more because you never get out and instead live in your own little bubble of worry and trials.  {again, purely hypothetical…}

And sometimes you just need a swift kick in the {stretchy} pants {and a good night sleep and a smiley baby and a date night} to remind yourself that this life is pretty darn good.

“…always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit.  You’d be amazed at how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two…”

source…oddly this quote struck a chord… ;)

Caroline – two months

Somewhere in the middle of our back to school week Caroline had her two-month check-up.

Caroline’s two-month stats are remarkably similar to Henry’s birth stats.  Basically she’s a peanut.

8 pounds 11 ounces

21 inches

Oh, that little face.  I can’t tell you how much I love this sweet little one.

I haven’t had as much quality one-on-one time with Caroline as I’ve had with the other kiddos {the fate of the fourth child}. But I’m already planning on sweet morning walks and time to just stare at each other and really get to know one another. I think it will be just what we need.

If you have been around me at all in the last two months then you have probably heard me bemoaning the fact that our sweet little Caroline tends to be rather fussy.  But these last few mornings?  They have been nothing short of delightful.  Peaceful and quiet.  And those sort of moments have been few and far between around here.  I think we’ll both benefit from our back to school schedule.

P.S.  Caroline I promise to start taking real pictures of you, not just snapping shots with my phone.  Pinky swear.

P.P.S.  The banners are from your Uncle Jimmy.  Aren’t they the best?

Back to school week

This has been our back to school week.  Yes week.  Henry’s first day was Tuesday.  William’s was on Wednesday.  Charlie goes Friday.  Part of me wants to shout-out, Alleluia!  The other part of me sort of wants to cry.  My boys are so ready to be with their friends and have some structure in their day.  I know that Caroline will appreciate the quieter house.  I’m still gearing up for all of the driving – getting from one drop-off and pick-up to the next.  But don’t get me wrong, we’re ready.

I just know that Henry is going to have the best year.  His teacher is fantastic and he seems ready to plunge into third grade.  William is back at Montessori with his buddies and familiar classroom.  That drop-off was easy.  Charlie is the kiddo with the big milestone year.  Kindergarten.  In a mainstream classroom.  Wow.  In so many ways he seems so ready.  Of course that doesn’t keep me from worrying.  Yesterday we met with his teacher who is amazing.  The classroom was the picture-perfect kindergarten setting and Charlie didn’t hesitate to make himself comfortable, bouncing like a ping-pong ball from one activity to the next.  We also met with the team of people who will help to make his school experience the best it can be.  And while I have lots to say on the whole IEP process, transitioning schools, why we decided to mainstream, etc., you’ll just have to take my word for it – this was a well-thought out process – however I just don’t have the brain-power to write it all out.  But we will discuss.  Later.  I promise.

Henry and Charlie will be at the same school this year.

The good news is that we made it through the summer.  I probably wasn’t the most patient mom.  I’m pretty sure I was in survival mode most of the time.  But we did it.  We had fun.  There were plenty of smiles and adventures and popsicles and swimming.  And we’re all happy and adjusting to life with baby.  That seems pretty good in my opinion.

Caroline’s birth story

We were all so ready to meet Coco.  We had been ready for weeks.  Looking back I probably set myself up for disappointment focusing on the fact that William was three weeks early and this was our fourth baby, so you do the math…she was obviously going to come out early.  Right?

Sort of.

I’ll admit that the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Caroline were humbling.  Of course my doctor {who I think the world of} also convinced me that baby would come early.  So for weeks I walked around ready to go, 4 cm dilated with baby at a +2 station.  {+4 = baby’s head is out.}  With each appointment my doctor would remind me not to stay at home once labor had started because this was going to go fast.  I felt like a ticking time bomb.  So yes, I had my game face on.  Contractions came and went.  So did days and weeks.  All of the signs and symptoms were there.  And yes, we even went to the hospital once.  It was a false alarm.  With our fourth baby.  Cue the walk of shame.

two days before baby…photo credit, Henry

No matter, I perservered and kept all my ducks in a row, day after day after day. But really, a girl can only shave her legs for so many days in a row before the novelty wears off.  And it was getting to be exhausting making sure that everyday my house was in order, the laundry was done and my hair was somewhat presentable.  So it was tempting when at my last appointment my doctor discussed inducing me.  But I had a plan, and it involved doing things going naturally, without any interventions or meds.  Amazingly enough even the hormones couldn’t sway me.  So I said no.

Wednesday evening, ready for bed I went for one more potty break.  Low and behold I was bleeding and was pretty sure that my water had broken.  I was officially in labor despite the fact I had yet to feel any contractions.  {I never seem to have regular contractions until transition.  Hate me.}  Shortly after giving Alex a head’s up and calling my mom I realized that I not only had three-day hair, but greasy massage hair from my prenatal massage earlier that day.  Ack!  I let myself go for a couple of days and wouldn’t you know it…

At 3:30 am I woke Alex up, called the sitter and told my mom that we would meet her at the hospital.  We arrived at the triage room by 4:00 am where they checked me and found that I was a good 6.  Whew.  I’ll admit I was slightly worried that they would send us back home – again.

By 4:30 we were settled into our labor and delivery room and my doctor {who bless his heart was already there} checked me and said I was at 7.  He asked me one last time if I wanted any pain relief before he broke my water.  Nope.  You’ll be relieved to know that once my water was officially broken the contractions came on strong and before I knew it I was ready to push.

Looking back pushing was pretty funny.  The contractions weren’t nearly as intense as the transition contractions.  No more deep breathing and low-moaning.  My OB was great about telling me where the baby was and what I needed to do during each contraction.  Now there is pushing and there is PUSHING.  And while I know that a lot of women say they have the urge to push, I didn’t.  Nope.  I even sat through a few contractions.  But once I had my glasses back on {seriously, I was so focused that I just thought things were that fuzzy} I PUSHED.  I may have been relatively quiet through this last stage but on the last push when baby came out Alex claims that it’s very possible I woke up the entire fourth floor.

No matter, at 5:36 am, baby girl was here.

Immediately they placed Caroline on my chest and we just stared at one another.  Sizing each other up.  Falling in love.  Memorizing faces.  Of course Alex and I both nervously asked the questions neither one of us wanted to ask but must.  Does she look ok?  Is she ok?

She was and is perfect.

Baby girl.  6 pounds 6 ounces.  With the longest fingers and slender feet.  The most delicate features.  The sweetest little cry.

Alex was and continues to be amazing.  I know that the baby stage is not his favorite but he is such a good dad and husband.  And I love that we both love this family we are growing together and the adventures that we share together.

We were both so thankful that my mom was there.

I couldn’t have dreamt up a better labor and delivery.  It was a beautiful ending to the pregnancy/labor and delivery phase of this mama’s life.  It was amazing.

The rest of the day was a flurry of visitors coming to meet our sweet baby.

But the obvious highlight was when the boys met their sister for the first time.

Already it’s been three weeks and we can’t imagine our lives without sweet baby Caroline.  Sure we’re exhausted.  There have been meltdowns.  Some of us are more weepy than others, but we’re doing it.

It’s official, we’re all smitten.

It’s almost summer and 37 weeks.

amen.  

We’re getting awfully close to the end.  The end of the school year and the end of this pregnancy.

Both prospects seem a little scary if you ask me.

I’m doing my best to savor each little nuance of this last pregnancy but at the same time I’m done.  I’ve entered into the last stage of pregnancy when all you think about all day long is that you are PREGNANT.  And that you could have a baby TODAY or you could have a baby in WEEKS.  That alone could make anyone crazy, nevermind all the hormones.

I’ll be honest, the last few days I’ve been crabby.  The irony is that physically I’m feeling pretty darn good for a water buffalo, but I’ve lost control of the filter between my brain and mouth.  This is not particularly helpful when we’re trying to insist on some basic rules with the littles.  Rules like no talking back, no tattling, and please, please, treat each other with some respect.  And let’s practice some self-control and patience while we’re at it.  Funny thing is, “do as I say not as I do” training doesn’t seem to work particularly well with little ones.  Ahem.  Yes, I’m taking notes.  Because even mama needs to practice some self-control and patience.

Thursday is our first full day of summer vacation and I’m a little nervous.  I feel like the stakes are higher than usual and that we need to do something big and fun and exciting before baby.  I also have to be careful not to set the bar too high though, because the last thing I need is the kiddos expecting super-mom all summer long.  Because let’s be honest, this summer is going to be all about keeping things simple.  Think lots of popsicles, turning on the backyard sprinklers and filling up the wading pool again and again.  Maybe adding a slip ‘n slide into the mix to shake things up a bit.  And don’t forget everyone’s summertime favorite; lots of quiet time.  Ha.

Meanwhile I’m spending my time both making plans and trying not to make a single plan.  And I debate important things like, should I make *just one more* big trip to Costco to stock up?  What about all those photo albums I was going to finish?  Or maybe I should just sit at home and enjoy this last little bit of quiet?

I know, I know, all of this might seem crazy because yes, we have done this three times already, but the thing is each new baby is life-changing.  Soon we are going to meet a sweet baby girl who is going to steal our hearts.  And I know it will be beautiful and overwhelming and peaceful and chaotic all at once.