Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Parenting two kids ages two and under | The good, the bad, the ugly

I've been a mom of two kids for just over a month now, and it's been a roller coaster ride of emotions, frustrations, adjustments, and abounding joy.

Having kids close in age is somewhat of a necessity for Victor and I: we got married when I was 28.5 years old, and at the time we thought we wanted four kids. I don't really want to be pregnant/giving birth after age 35, so that meant if we wanted our family of 6 within the next 7 years, we needed to get crack-a-lackin' on the baby making soon after getting hitched, and we'd have to pop them out every couple of years.

So far, our plan has worked. We were blessed with our two beautiful babies--first Max, and then exactly two years and two days later, Louisa joined our family. We're so elated that we have two healthy kids, and we consider ourselves lucky that we already have "one of each," although we'd of course be happy with two boys or two girls. I'd be lying if I said we're still on board with having four kids though; this season of life with two young kids is quite challenging, and we're pretty set on waiting until Louisa is two years old before deciding whether or not we want a third. We might decide that we're done at two, but I'm not ready to make that call yet.

Two kids two and under is, in a word, UNPREDICTABLE. There has not been one moment in the past 6 weeks that I haven't been "on." Even when I'm sleeping, I'm "on." I suppose this was true with just one kid, but at that time there was only one little human with the ability to throw a kink in the plans. Now we have two finicky little beings with way too much power.

Example: we were supposed to go to a friend's son's first birthday party a couple of weekends ago, but we couldn't leave until Max woke from his nap (Max + lousy nap/no nap = epic tantrums; I don't like to tempt fate by not letting him nap!), so we already got a late start. Then, every time we put Louisa in her car seat, she would scream bloody murder, which wasn't typical for her, so we thought something might be wrong. I nursed her, burped her, changed her diaper, all to no avail; she still wailed each time we strapped her in. By the time we were finally able to get her into her seat peacefully, it was already 2 hours after the party had started. Now, this was a Portuguese party (they last at least 4-5 hours, and that's being conservative), but with the 45 minute drive, we would've needed to leave fairly soon after getting there to be back in time to make an appearance at Victor's cousin's going-away party before bedtime. So, we never made it to the birthday party. We were so bummed.

Another example: Louisa slept for 5 hours straight overnight about a week ago, her longest night stretch EVER! But I couldn't even enjoy the uninterrupted sleep because Max has been waking up at least once a night lately, so I had to go in to him to settle him back down during that glorious stretch. Thankfully, we had another 5-hour stretch from Louisa last night AND Max slept through the night, so they both got extra kisses from a well-rested-ish mama this morning.

A third example: Max all of a sudden has some wicked separation anxiety when it comes to being away from Mama, which is likely why he's having a tough time sleeping lately. He wakes up for the day/from his nap/in the middle of the night crying for Mama. He's always keeping tabs on me, even when there are other people around to entertain/help him. I buttered some bread for him at dinner one night last weekend and left him at the table with Victor and his parents while I went to nurse Louisa. Max came to find me a few minutes later to ask for more bread, even though 3 other people were right next to him to help. He's also become too good at whining (which is like nails on a chalkboard for me). It's a tricky and at times exhausting phase that we're in. I'm hopeful it passes soon.

I'm sure that as Louisa gets a little older and more prone to a schedule, our day will be more predictable and less chaotic. Right now, the only consistent events we have in our schedule are wakefulness, hunger, noise, and sleepiness. I have to be very strategic to fit in a shower, chores, and errands each day. I haven't had much time to take care of me beyond a quick shower; my eyebrows need some serious maintenance and my toenail polish has been chipping for a week now. Forget working out and losing these last 8 pregnancy pounds!

At this point in my "parenting two young kids" journey, I don't think I could survive without having the TV on for at least a couple hours a day--not for me, but to entertain Max. I encourage/require playing with toys/looking at books as much as possible, but sometimes I need to turn on the tube in order to get 20 uninterrupted minutes to either shower or get something done around the house. He's just not independent enough yet. I have big goals to set a schedule for Max to get some educational activities in each day, but it's just not in the cards yet.

Thankfully, I have been able to run errands with my two kids, so far without incident. I was incredibly nervous to make just a quick trip to the grocery store with both of them for the first time. I know people do errands with multiple kids all day every day and I shouldn't be so dramatic about it, but I have my reasons for my trepidation. For the last couple of months before Louisa was born, Max was super difficult on errands: he would fight getting into the grocery cart, he would try to climb out of the cart, he'd throw tantrums, and if there was no cart, he'd be a flight risk/wouldn't always hold my hand. It was difficult and nerve-racking when I only had him to worry about; I didn't even want to think about how it would be with a newborn in tow. So when it came time to hit the grocery store for some essentials, I was expecting the worst but hoping for the best. I am so incredibly grateful that Max has been the picture of perfection during all of our errands so far (and by "perfection," I mean he didn't do any of those things I mentioned earlier. He still exhibited some undesired behavior, but it was peanuts compared to the other stuff). My most proud moment was conquering Costco last week with both of them. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw this photo on Friday.

It probably seems like I'm doing a whole lot of complaining in this post, which isn't my intention. I'm just telling it like it is. Parenthood is challenging and busy and stressful and wonderful. With any kind of change comes uncertainty, adjustment, and the need to persevere. I know it will get easier...and then it will get hard again, but in a new way. I've overcome many challenges in the two years I've been a mom (sleep training was a HUGE one, as well as transitioning Max to his new room/bed). I've survived it all and have learned a lot in the process. This, too, shall pass.

Each season of life with these littles will come with its own set of obstacles that we will need to navigate and overcome. There's that old saying, "Nothing worth having ever came easily." Max and Louisa are the greatest blessings I've ever received. They are worth the sleepless nights, tantrums, spit-up-stained clothes, squishy belly, sticky floors, messy house, sacrificed experiences, and gray hairs. They are my world, and their mere existence enriches my life more than I ever could have imagined.

To quote an old favorite country song by Darryl Worley, "I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life."

It really is awfully beautiful. Maybe we will have that third kid...

Below are links to some articles I've read recently that really resonated with me, all applicable to this season of life I'm in:

What we mean when we say we need a break. "[Needing a break] means I need a moment to feel like a human being in the midst of a relentless life where I don't belong to myself anymore; where I give my love and energy away, every moment of my existence, and can't figure out how to keep any for myself."

20 things that sent me into parent burnout. Numbers 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, and 20. For realz.

How to help a parent in the midst of an epic public meltdown. "Parenting isn't easy. Parenting in public definitely isn't easy. It's not easy, but it is much more manageable when instead of seeing a stranger's look of disdain, you are met with a reassuring smile."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Week in Review | June 20-24, 2016

It's been a typical week in our house, more or less. Various things going on, some notable, others mundane. And now it's Friday, the weekend is imminent and this mama's looking forward to a relaxing and somewhat productive weekend with my little family.

On Monday, Louisa had her one month check-up. Girlfriend weighs 10 lbs, 2.5 ounces (76th percentile) and is 22.5 inches long (92nd percentile). I was somewhat shocked by her weight; I expected at least 9 pounds, but 10 was a surprise. She received one shot, and her "that hurts!" cry was so pitifully adorable! Made my mama heart break!

My Tuesday morning was chronicled in this post. Two kids ages two and under with a side of mom brain make for some interesting mornings. The rest of the day, especially once naptime hits, goes pretty smoothly, but the morning is always all over the place. We had some crazy storms Tuesday afternoon and my sister's dog wasn't the biggest fan. She kept coming over to me and resting her head on my lap or putting her paw on me. The thunder and hail freaked her out a bit.

On Wednesday, Victor and I celebrated our 3-year wedding anniversary. We headed to dinner with Louisa (haven't started pumping/bottles yet and she's still unpredictable with her evening eating habits, so I thought it was best to have her with us in case she became insatiable) and left Max with my in-laws. Dinner was nice; we went to Sakura for the first time without the rest of Victor's family and had a lovely time. The only photo I took was of the food in the shape of "I {heart} U," courtesy of our chef. I also gave Max a haircut after naptime, and it went fairly well; however, I think it would be best for me to watch some tutorials on YouTube before the next trim.

On Thursday, Victor's cousin and aunt came by to officially meet Louisa (they saw her a bit at their family party last weekend but she slept the whole time we were there). They were so kind and brought lunch with enough to keep for leftovers! I truly realized, though, how difficult it is to carry on a coherent conversation with my two kiddos present. If it wasn't Louisa fussing, it was Max's constant jabbering and requests that interrupted my train of thought. I think I uttered several unfinished sentences/stories in the two hours they were here. After nap/before dinner, the kids and I went to Home Goods to get a picture frame. We came home with all of this.


That brings us to today, which is Friday...not Saturday (I spent the better part of yesterday thinking it was Friday). Today I'm planning to go through my closet to pack away my maternity clothes and pull out my "regular" clothes. I'm still about 8 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight and can't quite fit into my pants/shorts, but I don't need to wear maternity stuff at all so it's time to box it up. My closet could also use another good purge so I'll be filling my Goodwill bags, as well.

We have no real plans for the weekend, but I imagine we'll spend some time at my in-laws' pool at some point. Mama needs some color! We also need to convince Max that the pool is fun, even if it's a little bit cold. He didn't believe us last weekend.

Isn't he adorable in his swim gear?!

Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Morning "Routine" of a Mom with a Toddler and Newborn

**This post brought to you by self-diagnosed ADD and "Mom brain"--a dangerous, productively unproductive combination.**

7:00 AM || Wake to baby cries; nurse--half asleep--in bed because walking to glider requires too much energy/brain power.

7:30-8:24 AM || Catch extra zzz's since baby's 4.5 hour stretch of sleep was interrupted by toddler waking twice due to teething pain; elbow husband to inform him he slept almost an hour past his alarm.

8:30 AM || Attempt to wrangle toddler into tooth-brushing/diaper-changing/getting dressed routine and survive by the skin of your teeth; forego hair-brushing since there's no taming that overgrown, curly mane; make mental note to schedule haircut or plot to cut his hair yourself.

8:45 AM || Shower. Your legs need a shave but THERE'S NO TIME so there's no need to ponder over clothing options because yoga pants are a must.

9:00 AM || Medication alarm goes off on your phone but you're nowhere near your meds; make a mental note to take it once you get downstairs. Make another mental note to remember first mental note.

9:01 AM || Dress in aforementioned yoga pants and tank; throw wet hair into top knot; apply deodorant and only deodorant (you looked like a real human the past two days so you're due for at least one day of "clean frump").

9:05 AM || Change baby's diaper; empty Diaper Genie when you can't fit the diaper in it (you asked husband to empty it before he went downstairs but dads get "Dad brain" sometimes too); wipe baby's face; get baby dressed; head downstairs.

9:20 AM || Put baby in Rock 'n Play; realize baby's pacifier is covered in dog hair and other mystery fuzz; find another and gather all pacifiers not currently in kitchen drawer to be washed.

9:25 AM || Husband leaves for work after getting toddler breakfast; time to gather wits.

9:30 AM || Pour bowl of Cheerios (you wanted a protein smoothie but we're out of bananas and you learned the hard way that a banana-less protein smoothie is ICK); turn on coffee machine and refill water; realize that turbinado sugar dish needs to be refilled.

9:31 AM || On the way to the pantry, notice toddler is dumping cereal milk all over the table; intervene/clean up while lecturing about why such behavior is inappropriate (all while toddler is "painting" the table with said spilled milk).

9:34 AM || Toddler requests to watch TV; spend some time trying to convince him to play with toys instead, then finally give in because you'd like to eat your cereal/drink your coffee/make your grocery list in peace; turn on Paw Patrol.

9:35 AM || Return pacifier to baby's mouth.

9:35:30 AM || Return to bowl of Cheerios on kitchen counter, add almond milk and a sprinkle of white sugar (a childhood tradition); decide to create a smaller container of sugar for sprinkling instead of needing to take out entire sugar canister; realize big canister needs refilling; plan to add sugar to grocery list if we don't have more in pantry; retrieve white sugar and turbinado sugar from pantry and refill corresponding containers; make coffee; bring coffee and cereal bowl to table.

9:40 AM || Notice baby is in a cute pose; snap a pic; plan to post to Instagram later.

9:41 AM || Put basket of laundry you folded last night on dining room table so toddler doesn't decorate the floor with its contents.

9:42 AM || Commercial on TV allowed toddler to find your manicure kit; retrieve kit and play On-Demand episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to avoid future commercials/mischief.

9:43 AM || Realize you still haven't taken your meds.

9:44 AM || Return pacifier to baby's mouth.

9:45 AM || Swing by fridge and decide to go through and toss old food to prepare for grocery shopping.

9:50 AM || Sit down and eat soggy Cheerios; rewrite grocery list based on store layout; contemplate whether you also have the energy/bravery to attempt a trip to Target today (no...the answer is NO!!)

9:55 AM || Respond to group text with mom and sis; drink lukewarm coffee.

10:00 AM || Do dishes; put away all breakfast items you got out half an hour ago.

10:10 AM || Toddler demands that you join him in doing the "Hot Dog" dance, specifically Goofy's moves because one time weeks ago you said you liked his moves; start another episode of Mickey so you can strip your bed and get the sheets in the wash.

10:40 AM || Finally pull out of the garage to head to the grocery store after spending the last 30 minutes getting both kids ready for the adventure.

It's no wonder I never feel like I get anything done...but still get some stuff done. By the time naptime rolls around, I'm ready for a nap myself and plans for further productivity are thrown out the window! Any other mommies of two kids have days like this? I'm expecting it to get I crazy?

Friday, June 17, 2016

First road trip with two kids | June 2016

Happy Friday everyone! It's been quite a week here for us after returning from our first family-of-four road trip to Ohio. We got home on Monday and I've been meaning to get this recap post up, but a sick toddler has thwarted my plans up until now. Max still isn't back to 100% but he's happily eating dry Cheerios and watching Bubble Guppies right now, so I'm taking advantage of the freedom for a bit.

We traveled to my mom's house in Cincinnati, Ohio so we could attend my cousin Lauren's high school graduation party last weekend. I love being able to coordinate visits to my mom's with special events with the extended family. I used to be very involved with my younger cousins when I was growing up. As the oldest cousin, I babysat them all frequently and even gave swim lessons to two of them. I miss being a part of family get-togethers now that I live in Maryland, so I make an effort to get back home whenever I can if I have advance notice of an event. 

List makers gonna list. Max scribbled on this seconds after this photo was taken.

We headed to Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon after Victor finished with some court hearings. We got a much later start than we're used to when we left close to 3 PM, but for the most part, the drive went well. Max fell asleep before we even got on the highway and slept for over 2 hours, and Louisa slept a majority of the trip. Things got pretty hairy about an hour out from my mom's house. It was close to midnight. Max had been in a car seat for 9 hours and just wanted to sprawl out to sleep for the night, so he was pretty whiny and uncomfortable. By the time we arrived, got everything inside, and wound down for bed, it was after 2 AM. Victor and Max slept in one room and Louisa and I slept in another; with Louisa's frequent night wakings to nurse, I didn't want her to wake Max up, so we kept this sleeping arrangement for the entire 4-night visit. 

On Friday, we had plans to meet my friend from college and her little family (her son Ryan is 3 weeks younger than Max) at the Cincinnati Zoo for the morning, but a surprise deluge of rain thwarted our plans and we had to improvise. We decided to check out EnterTRAINment Junction nearby, which is a huge indoor model train exhibit. The boys loved running around and pushing all the buttons to power the trains. It was also quite difficult to get them away from the play area in the middle of the exhibit. We adults enjoyed learning about the history of railroading through the model displays and seeing our boys really play together for the first time.

Interesting way to hold hands, boys. But oh so sweet!

After a Chick-fil-a lunch, it was naptime for the whole family in preparation for the Reds game later that night. Max had a great time cheering for the Redlegs and watching the post-game fireworks. He also grew quite concerned when he saw the Mr. Redlegs mascot disappear on an elevator. This concern is ongoing; still today, everytime he sees a photo of Mr. Redlegs, the search resumes. In other news, Louisa and I got to try out the fancy nursing suite at Great American Ballpark. Never have I felt so pampered while feeding my baby!

Waiting for Louisa to sleep so I could sleep

On Saturday, Max stayed with my mom and sister while Victor, Louisa, and I enjoyed a leisurely coffee date at Starbucks. A sweet lady and her husband at the table next to us were quite emotional when they saw Louisa because they're waiting on the arrival of their first grandchild later this summer. Their son is in the Air Force and is stationed in Germany, so they will travel to meet the new babe in August. The grandma-to-be got teary-eyed when she learned more about Louisa and predicted how difficult it would be to leave her new grandson. So sweet--I just love genuine encounters with strangers! After Starbucks, we headed to Walmart for some various items, then we had lunch at Piada before heading home for naps and to get ready for my cousin's graduation party.

My aunts, uncles, and cousins loved meeting Louisa for the first time at the party. Max was shy at first but then enjoyed playing with anyone who would pay attention to him. We were also visited by two cardinals while we chatted on the back deck, which we believe were Grandma Ann (my mom's mom) and Lauren's Grandpa Joe (her dad's dad) stopping by to enjoy the party with us (they say cardinals are representative of a loved one who has passed away).

Lou and Daddy matched

Uncle Pat made Max's pool playing dreams come true

After the party, my sister, her friends, and two of my cousins headed to some bars downtown for some good ol' young adult fun. I sent them this picture and essentially told them to live it up while they could because after marriage and two kids, Saturday nights look a lot different (we watched Pitch Perfect 2--loved it!)

On Sunday, Victor, my mom, the kids, and I went to Washington Park in downtown Cincinnati so Max could play in the fountains. It was such a lovely park and Max had a blast! I wish I had worn my bathing suit so I could have just sat down on the water wall because it was HOT! Looking forward to taking him to more parks like this in our area, as well. 

After naps on Sunday, my sister and her friends came to my mom's for dinner, and Max once again got to have lots of playmates. He's really learning how to ham it up and he'll do pretty much anything if he realizes he can get a laugh out of people.

We actually were on the road by 8:30 AM on Monday to head home (I don't think we've ever been able to leave that early for a road trip since Max was born) and we made really good time. Both kids did great on the drive back, and we were home before dinner. We have begun to make a pit-stop at Cabela's in Wheeling, WV so we can all stretch our legs and walk around. Max never tires of seeing all the animals in the store.

Those animals aren't part of the mural. They're life-size taxidermied figures.

It was a great trip, and I'm looking forward to hopefully another trip back there before the summer is over. The visits are never long enough.

I hope you all had a great week! Hoping to post more in the coming weeks!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Our new family of four

As warned, I haven't been posting much lately. But I have a good reason!

We welcomed Louisa Maria to our family on Thursday, May 19, 2016! She was born at 9:26 PM, weighed 7 lbs 2.8 oz and measured 19 inches long. We had a smooth, uneventful delivery (thank goodness) and we've spent the past 2.5 weeks adjusting to life as a family of two dogs and a temporary live-in Auntie.

It has been quite an adjustment bringing baby #2 home...but not in the way I imagined. Incorporating a newborn into our life again has actually been way easier and more seamless than it was the first time around, likely because we know what we're doing this time and pretty much have everything we need. 

Everything with regard to Louisa is going swimmingly; she's nursing well, sleeping a ton during the day and some at night, and she's a fairly even-tempered little gal. It's her big brother who's been throwing things for a loop. He loves his baby sister. But he also misses being the center of our universe, so the first week home was quite rough. He was acting out by throwing things, hitting/kicking, throwing tantrums, etc. He stopped sleeping through the night. He had a hard time being gentle with his baby sister. It was quite overwhelming and concerned me a little, if I'm being completely honest. I mean, the kid just turned two, so the "Terrible Twos" could be partially responsible for his negative behavior. But we also brought a new attention hog into the house, he had to spend two days and nights without mom and dad, Mommy couldn't pick him up/snuggle him/dote on him like before, and we had lots of extra people here helping (my mom came to stay with us/help for a week, and my in-laws made frequent visits, as well). He's not getting the same attention he's used to, so I guess negative attention was the next best thing. I was worried that this undesired behavior was going to turn into the new normal for us.

Thankfully, Max's behavior is steadily getting better as the days go by and he adjust to this new season of life. His tantrums/hitting/kicking/defiant episodes are dwindling. He's sleeping better again. He gets excited and announces "Awake!" whenever Louisa opens her eyes. He kisses her goodnight and asks to hold her frequently. As time goes on, things are looking up, thank goodness.

As for me, I'm recovering quite well and I'm feeling fantastic. I think recovery has been much swifter this time around, perhaps because it's not my first rodeo, but also because the postpartum lounging/ days of ease are non-existent with a 2-year-old running around; I have no choice but to get up and power through! If I could change one thing about our current situation, it would be to get more sleep, but I'm getting by with naps during Max's naps. I also had some painful engorgement last week, worse than I ever experienced with Max. I was incredibly uncomfortable (I cried a lot over the course of a couple days), so I visited the lactation consultant at our pediatrician's office. She told me I was pretty close to developing mastitis, so I followed her advice to the letter, and thankfully it all got better within a couple of days (the magic "cure" was warm compresses before each feeding, mamas. It didn't fix it immediately, but I felt some relief quickly and after a day or two, I was 100% better.)

We just love our little Louisa and feel so blessed to have her here with us finally. It's a whole new ballgame, having a baby girl, but it's so much fun! She's already grown so much over the past 2.5 weeks, and I know she's going to change daily as time goes on. Everyone says she's the spitting image of Max when he was a bitty, but she has her own special features too, Her hair is more of a strawberry blonde/light brown (Max's hair was red like a brand new penny), and she has more of it than Max did at birth. Her cheeks are chubbier than Max's were at this age, as well. We're intrigued to see how much they'll resemble each other as they both get older!

I'm slowly trying to get into the groove of doing things on my own with two little ones. We've survived a couple of days at the house alone, and this morning I ran my first errand alone with both the grocery store! It went great, surprisingly. Max was a champ and sat in the cart without protest (which I don't think has happened on any errand in the past 3 months), and Louisa slept in the Solly Baby Wrap (I can't sing the praises of this wrap loud enough. I LOVE it and highly recommend it!). The worst part of it all was getting everyone into/out of/back into the car, mainly because it takes way more planning than you would anticipate! We might brave Target this week, as well. But Costco will not happen for quite some time, I think!

Thank you to everyone who has already offered their well-wishes to us regarding the arrival of Louisa! In the coming weeks, I plan to share my thoughts and observations regarding being a new mommy of two, the story behind choosing Louisa's name, and Louisa's birth story. I should probably also share a 2-year update on Max (he turned 2 two days before Louisa was born). Be sure to check back, or enter your email on the right to receive a notification when I publish new posts!