Mar 22, 2015

Life is Good and That's the Way it Should Be

The good days, they make the hard days more bearable. Every door-slamming fit, every voice crying out about the unfairness of life, every reminder that dirty clothes belong in the hamper not the floor, every eye roll over homework, every tear shed over bedtime, every frustrated scream I hold in (and some I don't), they're all canceled out by the good: the snuggling up to read Laura Ingalls Wilder in the evening, the climbing and exploring in the backyard, the chalk drawings in the driveway, the giggles of the littlest one playing with her sisters, the hugs and the kisses and the "I love you"s.

When there's a particularly long stretch of good though, the hard takes me by surprise. I feel happy and free, like a child on a swing. Then, all-of-a-sudden the hard creeps up behind me and, like a bully, pushes me off mid-swoop, knocking the wind out of me. It takes me awhile to shake it off and catch my breath, to regain my equilibrium and get back up on the swing and start pumping again.

I am off balance right now, recovering from landing flat on my back. My breath is shaky and I'm trying to figure out where this slip off the swing came from. I was feeling pretty confident up so high, my tippytoes inches away from the trees, my head tilted back to the sky.

Yesterday I spent an extra several minutes in the bathroom, just for a breather. My middle one found me out pretty quickly, but answered her own question when she asked what I was doing, "You just need some time alone, Mommy?" (So, clearly not the first time I've used this hiding place.) Then bedtime, too, was a struggle, for me and everyone involved. A time that can be full of snuggles and whispered stories and last of the day memories made, instead was curt goodnights, frustrated sighs, and a quick and desperate trip out for cheesecake to console myself for the evening.

I was hopeful that chocolate and my cozy bed would give me renewed energy for the morning, the hand up I might need to plop back on the swing and fly through the sky again. But the morning was more of the same. Actually worse. Temper tantrums and tears and sighing and trying to breath through it all. When my husband returned from his run I warned him, "I would recommend not speaking to me right now." I was not angry or frustrated with him, but I knew that any wrong (in my mind) comment would cause an eruption equal to Vesuvius.

I guess I'm still reeling from the fall, perhaps no longer flat on my back, but definitely still butt to the ground, brushing off the grass and dirt. Not quite feeling well enough to pull myself up and enthusiastically pump my swing up to rainbows and clouds and happy fairies.

I know I'll get there. I always do. Every time I fall off the swing, or get pushed, somehow I make my way back. Even though there are plenty of bad days, there are also plenty of good. And if I pay attention, the good do outnumber the bad. So I know I'll find my rhythm again. I know that the frustration and short patience right now will soon turn around. It's just the in-between is annoying, crushing, and discouraging. I just want to snap my fingers and jump back on the swing instead of having to take the time to dig deep to figure out what's caused my fall. I don't want to feel all messy and dirty and work hard and listen to whatever discovery my life is asking of me.

But I will get there. And if I take this time in my current discomfort, the good and happy will last longer next time. This is what I'm slowly learning. If I allow myself to explore and try to understand the bad, the good comes on stronger and last longer. So I'm going to take a couple breathers (or as many as I might need), do some writing and reading and listening, and tentatively sit back on my swing, perhaps with a little help from my village, and start working my way back up to the clouds.

xoxo, christine

Mar 19, 2015

Ice Cream Before Bed

Ugh. I am pretty much feeling All The Feelings right now. Which means I am in need of eating some dessert. Preferably a big Dairy Queen blizzard. Because eating my feelings always makes me feel better -- at least for the five or ten minutes it takes me to eat, and then I just feel the same. But I'm willing to make the sacrifice of eating the ice cream in order to not feel All The Feelings for a few deliciously cool and milky minutes.

I'm not entirely sure what's going on. A lot of overwhelmedness and feelings of inadequacy...ness.  Even though I haven't been getting up to feed Nora all night long (hooray!), I am still somehow sleep deprived, and everything is harder to deal with and more overwhelming when there's lack of sleep involved.

Life just feels so much harder when you're looking at it through the glasses of fatigue. Every choice feels more difficult, and more urgent. And making the wrong choice seems more possible, and more life-ending than usual. Every whiny voice takes on more of an edge. Every tantrum makes me want to fall into bed and quit for the day. Every errand feels attached to a fifty pound weight that makes moving so incredibly hard. Every bedtime routine that takes fifty-gazillion hours makes me want to pull my hair out and go hide in the car.

Then bedtime is finally finished and everyone's sleeping. (And by everyone I mean our children.) And all-of-a-sudden I'm still dog-tired yet life doesn't seem quite so hard. We chuckle as I retell stories from the day. My heart misses them, even though just a few minutes before I was D-O-N-E, Done. And I peek at them, cozy in their beds and I can't wait until morning to see their big smiles and hear their goofy giggles again.

I am pretty much in need of a Dairy Queen blizzard every night lately. There's something about the evening that wears me down right now -- perhaps it is the two little darlings that get tucked in at eight thirty but don't end up asleep until ten o'clock. Or perhaps it's the mama who goes to bed after eleven o'clock even though every morning she tells herself TODAY is the day she is going to bed at nine. Perhaps it is a combination of both.

Pretty much all I know is, the more I write right now, the more rambly I am getting, which means it's time for bed. After my ice cream, of course.

xoxo, christine

Mar 9, 2015

Eight Months and a Day


Today my baby is eight months and one day old. In some ways it feels like it was just a blink or two ago when we were welcoming her into the world, and yet at the same time I can hardly remember what our life looked like before her. It feels like she has always been here, been a part of our family.

I suppose, in a way, she has always been here, just waiting until it was her time. Waiting and waiting until her presence could be recognized, a physical part of our family. It is as if everything before has been leading up to this exact moment. Which it has. Which it always does.

Everything before Hope led up to Hope. Everything before Paige led up to Paige. Everything before Nora led up to Nora. Everything before this moment, led up to right now, these eight months and one day.

It all led up to now. To two proud big sisters who can capture her attention like no one else. To the way she giggles when I nuzzle my nose in her neck. To the way she smiles when her daddy comes home, kicking her legs and squinting her eyes right at him. To her fuzzy brown hair, her rolly thighs, her big blue eyes that don't want to miss a thing.

She has been with our family before we even knew we were a family. When Adam and I were sitting at a restaurant in Ireland, nervously picking at our dinner, giddy with the anticipation of a date and another date and then another. When we had a brisk pre-birthday dinner walk on the Stone Arch Bridge and Adam got down on his knee to propose. She has been with our family when the two of us said our vows in the church I was confirmed in. When we moved into our first house. She has been with us since we welcomed Hope into the world, and two years later when we welcomed Paige. When we found out we were pregnant with Calvin, and then when we found out we would lose him.

She has been with us the whole time, patiently waiting. A glimmer in my heart. A spark. A butterfly. A secret that only my heart could feel. Only my heart knew.

We are an odd number in our house now, the five of us. And I worry sometimes about the three girls growing up and someone always feeling left out, of it always being two against one. Yes, I worry and we are an odd number, yet there is nothing odd about it.

She is the magical golden thread weaving into our family's pattern. Her thread was always there, intricately tied into all of our designs, waiting for its time to be noticed, to be seen, and now we do. Now we can see what a beautiful part her piece is adding to the whole. How is it possible that we ever existed without her?

Eight months and a day. Nine months before that. Years before that. A lifetime.

It all leads up to today.

xoxo, christine

Mar 6, 2015

Today's Jackpot

I know that it's not always this way. There is frustration and annoyance and overwhelming feelings of hair-pulling-out -- especially if you've had 192838 snow days like those in the middle of Snowpalooza 2015 east of here. But today was the first day off of a long weekend for my kids, which means all three girls were home today, and for me, who had plenty of time to mentally prepare and lineup moral support and not be stuck in our house because of more snow, well, it felt really good.

I was hoping to spend a little extra time sleeping this morning since there was no need to get my first-grader out and on the bus, but my almost-eight-month-old had other plans. Instead of falling back to sleep after nursing this morning she spent an hour babbling and poking my face and giggling and pulling my hair. There was a moment or two, as my body protested with waking, that I felt a little put off, but as I slowly adjusted to the idea of consciousness, I realized our "early" morning could be put to good use. A trip to the donut shop for breakfast.

On our way to meet friends (that prescheduled play date I mentioned), we stopped at a new-to-us bakery where Hope devoured nine donut holes, Paige nibbled at the frosting on her cake donut, and both girls drank a juice that had zero percent fruit juice, one hundred percent artificial dye, and one thousand percent of the daily serving recommendation for sugar.

Then they ran it all out of their systems at the indoor park where we met our friends. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did -- Hope running off to climb and explore but keeping me (mostly) in sight, Paige bopping back and forth between the closest play structure and the seat next to me, and Nora who was happy to rotate between my lap, the ground, and the arms of my friend.

Our play date was extended to a late lunch, and then (apparently I'm a high rolling gambler) I decided that after a full day out I might as well roll the dice one more time and run a quick errand before going home. While I didn't quite hit the jackpot, I also didn't have to fold either. We squeaked out of the store just in time to avoid a meltdown by two of the three. (The oldest and the youngest, in fact.)

By the time we got home I decided that I wanted to simultaneously crawl into bed at six o'clock for the night and get out of the house by myself and do something. Oddly enough (but not really) I did neither, which worked out okay too because I got to tuck all three of my girls in for bed.

Sometimes these days fall together just so, not because of anything I'm doing or not doing, but because they just do. I am fully aware that this day could've gone a completely different way. But I'm going to be thankful for the fun we had, the memories we made, and hope with all my might that my kids don't expect something equally ambitious on Monday, when they don't have school, again. I'll also send up a little prayer that I still have energy (and patience) left in my tank by then.

I joke about it, but really I know, today was a good day. We hit the jackpot with everyone cooperating and getting along and no major meltdowns or diaper explosions. It was as close to the perfect start to the weekend as it can get.

Now all I need to round out the perfection is to sleep in tomorrow.... (Nora, I'm looking at you.)

xoxo, christine

Mar 4, 2015

It Does a Body Good

Have I told you Wednesday I'm taking an Aqua Zumba class? (Silly question. I know that I haven't told you.) So yes, Aqua Zumba. Because, I've never done water aerobics or Zumba, so might as well put them together and give it a go, right?

Actually, a friend signed up and asked me if I was interested in joining her. After a lot of back and forth and hemming and hawing and "it's outside of my comfort zone but it's good to do stuff outside of one's comfort zone but do I want to do something like that outside of my comfort zone", I (obviously) decided to do it.

There's a little Columbian woman who stands outside of the pool waving her arms and kicking her high tops and bouncing and dancing to the loud thump of the bass, while the rest of us bobble up and down in the water pretending to keep up. I spend a lot of time laughing at myself and thinking how relieved I am this isn't a typical aerobic class with a mirror in front of us, a definite perk to doing something like this in a pool. No one can see how or what anyone else is doing.

After the first class I discovered my cute little summer pool swimsuit was not going to be able to handle all the jumping and bouncing, especially with the chest I have while nursing a baby, so I invested in a serious suit that cold reign those babies in.

It's been fun, though. And I've found that I enjoy having that one hour (and the time to and from) all to myself. Even the few times I wasn't exactly looking forward to the workout part of it (because, believe it or not, it is a workout), knowing that I have that time just for me has felt really good.

As fun as it's been, I haven't quite decided if I'm going to sign up again for the next session. Now that I survived doing this out of my comfort zone I'm all jazzed up to try other new things. Also, I've got a baby and me yoga class with my name on it. I want to do it before Nora gets too old.

In the meantime, I've got my suit in the wash so that it's ready to go next Wednesday. I'll be ready to swim/dance. Or swance. Swance on, people. Swance on.

xoxo, christine

Feb 28, 2015

How to Sleep Train Your Baby

I feel like, the third baby around, I should be a complete baby-sleeping expert, with not an ounce of doubt or anxiety within. Of course, there is nothing further from the truth. I am a mess. When the question: How to Sleep Train Your Baby? comes to mind, my answer is: Don't.

It is so difficult at night when she is half awake and fussing. I know that the fastest and easiest way to get her back to sleep is to nurse her, so I do, because it's the fastest way for me to get back to sleep. And then of course, the bad habit is reinforced. So I know that it's my own fault we have a terrible middle-of-the-night routine. And now that she's waking pretty much every two hours and my uninterrupted sleep is becoming a distant memory and my fatigue is affecting my quality of parenting, I know that something needs to change. Unfortunately, it's not going to change on it's own, which means that I have to do something. I have to figure out a way to help Nora sleep without needing to wake up and nurse all night long.

But, oh the emotions! During the day I am full of resolve, confident in the necessity of putting her to bed, letting her scream (because she will) for a few minutes, going in to reassure her that we're still there, and then repeating over and over until she falls asleep. Then doing the same in the middle of the night when she wakes up. But when bedtime rolls around my resolve melts like snow on an unusually warm January day. I am a puddle of despair and uncertainty, convinced that she's still much too little and my heart is much too fragile.

I'm not ready for her to be in her own room in the crib. Having her in our room all night gives me peace and comfort. It feels so far away to have her in her own room. And, even though it makes little sense, I feel like if she's physically in our room I can better protect her. (From what I'm not entirely sure.) Which I realize is pretty irrational, but as my husband pointed out makes a lot of sense considering we lost our last baby.

Having her sleep in her own room would be a logical first step if we're going to be letting her cry (within minor back rubs for reassurance) at night. It's much easier to block out noise when there's a door and a hallway separating us. Plus it makes it easier for only the one "night-time-duty" parent to be disturbed by the commotion and racket. But last night, when it came time to put her down I couldn't. I just could not put her down so far away from me.

My husband lovingly suggested that if I wasn't ready, we could keep her in our room, which is what we ended up doing. Although we still did try to enforce a different sleep habit.

It was terrible, with a lot of crying, and hand wringing and heart breaking. We each took turns trying to soothe her and after two hours I couldn't stand it anymore. I broke down and nursed her (I know. I know!) and once she finally fell asleep she didn't wake again for another six hours.

I am completely surprised by how difficult this whole idea has felt (not to mention now that we're getting down and dirty in the actual process). In so many ways I am a more laid back parent than I ever was, but then something like "sleep training" comes along and knocks the wind right out of me.

My answer of how to sleep train being "don't"? It isn't because I can't. I know that physically I am capable. And she is capable. And we will all survive and sleep better for it. It's just that I don't want to. It's heartbreaking and much too hard. I feel like when she cries she is wondering why I'm neglecting her when all she wants is for me to pick her up, and maybe even a little milk. Why is that too much to ask?

No baby! No! It's not too much to ask. Here I am! I won't leave you! You can have my snuggles and even milk!

And here we are again. Where six hours ago I was ready to take on night-time with determination and confidence (because we all need sleep), now that it is here I am so upset and torn and wishing my baby somehow figured out how to sleep through the night all on her own because I don't have the stomach for all the tears.

(And speaking of stomach, it's possible I'm giving myself an ulcer over all of this. At least, if it's possible to get an ulcer from stress. I mean, c'mon, Christine. It will be okay. Let's get back to this third-time-around-is-a-breeze-laid-back-to-the-nth-degree mama you felt like not too long ago.)

With wishes of tearless nights and sweet non-traumatized dreams,

xoxo, christine

Feb 17, 2015

Battling Up a Mountain of Ill

I have been climbing up a mountain this week, with about twelve layers wrapped around me and big heavy boots weighing me down. I am struggling with each step, holding on as tight as I can, making extremely slow progress toward the top. There is a backpack stuffed full on my back and I'm dragging a sled behind me in the hopes that once I get to the top there will be an opportunity for at least a little bit of coasting.

This past week I have been sick, hit with something that slowly and progressively grows each day. I was hopeful that today was the day I would reach the peak, but there's an inkling of what might be a sinus infection teasing me, which means I'm probably not going to get to ride on my sled soon after all.

It is 'only' a cold, which makes me feel like I should be able to stay on top of things and do it all, which is pretty funny because even when I'm feeing well I don't try to do it all. In fact, I'm pretty much eight months behind on everything, and I'm refusing to care because I have a baby that I am enjoying. Plus, I know that as she gets older I will eventually be able to do a little bit more and keep up a little bit better.

It stinks being sick and having kids to take care of, though. I just want to baby myself and stay in bed and watch silly movies and drift in and out of sleep. I slugged out of bed this morning when we were supposed to be leaving to get Hope to the bus stop. And Paige played games on my phone all morning while Nora and I slept. (Thank goodness she slept.)

My body is worn down and my mind is exhausted. At least we have no where to be, so there's no need to change out of our pajama's any time soon, if at all. That is one good thing about being a sick Mama, today anyway. Nora and I will (hopefully) take another nap, Paige will watch a movie this afternoon, and no one will care that we aren't going anywhere or doing anything. And maybe all that napping will help me feel ready by the time tomorrow rolls around.

xoxo, christine