Kids · Motherhood · Traditions

Happy First Birthday, Jonas!

Well, it happened. This handsome baby boy of mine turned ONE this week!

IMG_2717_edit

Honestly, it was a little bittersweet! With our first I was always looking forward to the next milestone — in part probably because her newborn phase was really, really hard. But with our sweet Jojo every moment (well, almost) has been so delightful and he’s been such an easy baby that I just don’t want to let go of these moments! We’ve started night-weaning (yeah… I’m a sucker on that and have a track record of letting these kiddos have their nursing as long as they want… how can I refuse them?! But I am so ready to get more sleep at night!) and surprisingly that hasn’t been too emotional, but him growing up and turning a whole year old on me? Not OK!

But we do love to look back on the beautiful times — and the challenges, too. I’m grateful our boy has such a sweet disposition because he’s been through a lot with clubfoot already. He needed to be a zen baby because he’s had other challenges in life. Bless him and the sweet spirit he brought into our home ❤

I know, I can be a little overly sentimental. I just can’t help it!

Anyway, his actual birthday went well: I knew this time around to have zero expectations ha ha! Plus we were snowed in (gotta love beautiful, wild Wyoming!) so we took it easy. Adelina helped me pick out a special snack to share with brother (goldfish, obviously — and he LOVED them) and cake “design” and a special candle. We had two balloons (because this whole someone-else-is-getting-attention thing was hard on our toddler…) ready in the morning and those provided plenty of fun, then during Jonas’ first nap Adelina helped me make his cake!

IMG_2766_edit

When Andrew came home that evening we had a perfect wintry day dinner (soup + grilled cheese + salad) and poor Adelina was way too excited about opening the presents she had helped me wrap so we let her help. There were some tears about the presents being for someone else than herself… but we got through it, poor thing! That is definitely a challenge, I know she’s at a “selfish age” but teaching her unselfishness is a new challenge entirely, and it feels daunting!

Anyway. Cake time!

IMG_2774_edit

Jonas eyed the candle with a great deal of curiosity… touched the cake — it was too hard for him to really grab at it so we decided to cut it up… and then… he dug right in!

IMG_2784_editIMG_2801_editIMG_2814_edit

And this time around, our kid was definitely interested in his cake!

IMG_2833_edit

Happy Birthday sweet Jonas!

IMG_2712_edit

Life · Motherhood · Parenting

Ain’t That a Kick In the Head

Hi guys! I’m still here, I promise. Things have just been a little wild lately. A project I joined early in the year has been essentially taking up all my spare computer time and my toddler decided she wants to make things super fun and stop napping. So things have been interesting around these parts… That, and I swear I’m tired all the time now, even though Jonas is sleeping really well these days (putting him in his own room a month ago was the best decision we’ve ever made! He immediately started sleeping almost through the night!)

4-27

::cough:: favorite child ::cough cough::

I jest! But our daughter is giving me a serious run for my money these days. To be honest, it’s hard right now. I am losing my mind. And I know I need to be better at regulating my own mood and behavior, but man… when there’s a tiny person permanently glued to your side who whines and cries at the drop of a hat and refuses to sleep so she NEVER EVER goes away… it’s rough. (I know, poor me. I’ll stop my complaining. Shortly.)

6-9_edit

A very rare moment of peace. The constant battles are exhausting.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “But didn’t you just write about getting over the no-nap slump?” hahahahahahaha. Bedtime was getting to be a nightmare and she wouldn’t fall asleep until 9pm or later because she wasn’t tired, so I finally had to bite the bullet and get rid of naps. I know, right? Life. And the folly of a still-learning mom who thought she’d figured something out.

Oh, and want to laugh? Potty training has gone completely down the toilet too. We couldn’t get past #2, and I was sick of literally washing human excrement out of everything, every day (remember, I have a baby too…), so we gave it a break. Whatever.

Let’s see, what else am I awesome at right now: Being nice to my toddler? Really struggling. We have our ups and downs. Responding to emails quickly? HA. Screen time under control?

6-25

Meh. It could be worse. My own media consumption has been pretty bad lately — whenever things get rough I tend to bury my head in my phone to escape. Time for another media fast… an acquaintance recently shared that she logs off all social media every other day these days, and I kind of like that idea. Or what I’ve done in the past, only looking at my phone when the kids are asleep (WHICH MEANS NEVER THANKS TO A CERTAIN SOMEONE). Ahem.

So yeah, we’re really winning around here. Lest anybody be under the illusion I have even a semblance of my crap together… I don’t. I know one-on-one time with her is what she craves and needs, and we do have good moments — she’s really into reading books now so I love doing that with her — but then her brother wakes up and I need to nurse him and she’s literally climbing on top of him to interpose herself… deep breaths. We’ll get there. This is what we call the trenches of motherhood, right? At least she makes us laugh plenty too!

6-22

On the plus side: there’s been a lot of exciting stuff this summer already, and we are going home to France in one month! My sister was married this month and it was insanity for the kids, but it was so fun to be a part of it all, to spend time with my family, to relive all the excitement of a wedding and a new life.

6-15

IMG_1552

Reminded me of these kids…

DSC_0010

Ha! We were such babies! So much has happened since then. Life is a lot more complicated, and a lot harder. (man, parenting! careers! home-ownership!) But it’s good to have this guy at my side to go through it all.

4-9

Motherhood

What I Would Tell My Pre-Second-Child Self

Maybe it’s that my daughter was a more difficult baby, maybe boys really are easier (it’s crazy how many people have told me that), or maybe it’s that I sort of know what I’m doing and what to expect this time around, but I am truly enjoying motherhood right now.

I mean, this sweet face sure doesn’t hurt!

2-25

Having my first child was a major reshaping of our world. Everything was suddenly different. I stopped getting decent sleep, for a long time. I dealt with all the hormones and ups and downs. Probably some level of undiagnosed postpartum depression. I remember dreading bedtime because I knew I’d be up all night anyway and it felt like it would never end. As happy as I was to have our sweet girl — and she was adorable and delightful in many ways — life was surprisingly difficult, and it took me a long time to adapt.

So many things were a surprise. I talk about sleep all the time because it really was a shock to the system, but there also other things, like breastfeeding for example. It went quite well for us in terms of technicalities, but what surprised me were the feelings of being trapped in a routine, trapped by nap time, trapped by this tiny human whose side I couldn’t leave for more than about two hours at a time. I had a certain acceptable radius that was inescapable, and sometimes it felt suffocating.

And there were joys, so many of them. But some of it was lost in the fog of postpartum adaptation and first-time motherhood. And so much stress. Learning the ropes is hard. I expected so much of myself — spending quality time with her, holding her or wearing her constantly (to be fair, she wasn’t exactly very tolerant of being left to her own devices, but I often wonder how much of it was of my own doing)…

Now? I do think my second child is easier — which is ironic because he was born with a congenital birth defect that required so much traveling and so much stress early on. And yet here we are, just enjoying life. He is delightful, and patient. He is happy to hang out on his play mat while my daughter and I buzz about with our activities, and he takes all the cuddles and love we’ll give him gladly.

3-5_edit

I remember being excited to expand our family, but also very nervous. I worried I could never handle it all, and do the whole newborn sleeplessness phase all over again. I worried I’d never leave the house again with TWO children to wrangle.

I can’t say it’s all roses and butterflies — turns out the second pregnancy was much more taxing for me, for example — but having that sweet boy in our family? It’s been amazing. There were certainly some rough nights early on, but nearly four months later, life feels like a breeze. If I could go back and talk to my pre-second-child self, this is what I’d tell her:

You’ll be fine. You are used to not getting enough sleep now, and somehow those sleepless nights will be more bearable. They’ll also go by and get easier a whole lot faster. And yes, there will be rough nights. But you won’t have time to dwell on them anyway when you’re running after a toddler!

You might even get lucky and have an easier baby! Let’s be real, that’s probably the biggest thing we have going for us right now, ha! Jonas is nowhere near sleeping through the night, but he is a better napper, consistently so. That’s a game-changer right there.

 Your whole life won’t be completely upended like it was the last time. You have routines and a certain pace that’s already in place, you’re already a master of efficiency by necessity (getting showered and ready for the day in 15 minutes!), and that second child somehow perfectly fits into it all. Aligning that middle-of-the-day nap is pretty blissful too!

There will be a whole lot less stress and pressure, mainly because you won’t be the one putting it on yourself anymore.

The days won’t stretch on as endlessly as they did at first. The rote moments are still there, but they’re interspersed with all the toddler fun (and meltdowns too, let’s be real!) and the rest of life that still goes on. Yes you’ve doubled the amount of diapers and children, and it’s much busier, but amazingly you’ve gotten much more efficient at whipping out diaper changes and soothing upset children. There will still be long days, but more and more they tend to just zoom past you. (and this might be a harder thing to accept, by the way)

You might lower your standards a little bit. And that’s totally OK. Poor Jonas doesn’t get nearly as many baths as Adelina did when she was his age. But you know what? Babies don’t care.

Learn to take time for the things that make you, you. Join a book club. Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about. Make dates with your husband a priority. Wear lipstick even when you’re staying home all day long. Start a Power of Moms Learning Circle. Just make sure you take a few minutes to come up for air every once in a while.

You will be amazed at how much better life actually gets. Somehow, adding to your load also added much more joy: seeing that adorable sibling relationship develop, enjoying the delightful little babyhood moments you were too stressed out of your mind to enjoy the first time… and there’s also a little more of the bittersweet realization that this baby is growing, FAST.

The first time around felt like I was mostly focused on surviving, and grabbing moments when I could in between. Now, I’m finding it so much easier to just soak up both of these amazing little people, and to make the moments count.

IMG_3192_edit (2)

And I still have plenty to learn, and there’s a lot more ahead that is new and foreign, and I’m sure there will be a lot more that’s hard. But I can honestly say I feel happier, surprisingly, now that there is more of the work — and more of the love — to go around. As if, slowly but surely, I’m starting to find the sweet spot of motherhood.

Motherhood

Motherhood, not Martyrdom

I wanted to explain my tagline a little more.

img_1814_psedit-1

Before becoming a mother, I remember seeing friends and acquaintances become parents. Some shared a lot about their joys — and their struggles — and made me look forward to motherhood. Others still shared the joys, but also an overwhelming amount of frustration, gross stuff, and pity parties. There is a lot of this online and out in the blogosphere. Now don’t get me wrong: motherhood does involve a LOT of frustration, sleep deprivation, and gross stuff. And sometimes we need to vent, dang it! I enjoy some good sarcasm myself.

But pity parties bug me. I hate this culture of moms where we talk about how tough we have it (“oh, it’s just the hardest job in the world!”) and how useless husbands are and how mean society is to us for undervaluing us… you get the picture, you’ve seen plenty of it. And yes, there is truth to it. But I want very much to feel empowered and joyful as a mother, not dragged down by complaining. (Side note: I am not perfect on this front!) I want to be part of the solution, I want my marriage to be a true partnership of equals, and I certainly don’t have to accept martyrdom as a way of life.

Things like postpartum depression and sleep deprivation are real, and they are hard. But let’s empower each other by sharing those stories and finding help, not just taking it as a given. We don’t have to accept that motherhood is mostly just pain until we get a baby smile or a toddler hug here and there. I fully appreciate that motherhood is brutally difficult, and I believe in sharing the reality of it, but I don’t want to play into martyr culture. This is something I frequently need to remind myself of: I am going to take the hard days as they come, and enjoy the good moments as they come. I want to find the tools to make the hard things better, not just bemoan the way things are. I need more positivity.

img_9802

And I’m not going to complain about my husband. I am so incredibly lucky to have someone this great in my life, and yes, he’s not always perfect but — guess what — neither am I! I definitely have my grumpy moments, especially on little sleep… If I’m upset that he’s not participating in some way I expect him to, maybe it’s because I’m not giving him space to do it, or maybe I’m not communicating clearly enough. Sometimes, I think we moms especially tend to just step in and do it ourselves, and it’s so important to force ourselves to get out of the way and stop playing the martyr — it’s incredible what happens when we let go! Husbands make amazing dads, if we just let them and stop trying to control everything.

But really though: I can spend a lot of time complaining inside my head. I need to work on my inner voice. And changing the dialogue means being deliberate about how I approach the day-to-day of motherhood. It means realizing I can react in several different ways when I’ve come off a sleepless night, and choosing the one that doesn’t feed resentment. It means I realize the tone I set here — and in my home, and with those I interact with — matters profoundly.

So this is my goal: I want to be a mother, not a martyr. A mother has messy, frustrating, exhausting moments, and sometimes she needs to vent or rant. But she’s also part of the solution, and she realizes that sometimes, it’s only by going through those really difficult parts that she can truly enjoy the awesomeness of motherhood and the little moments that take your breath away.

#MotherhoodNotMartyrdom

Motherhood · Parenting

Breakthrough 

This right here means so much to me. Look at that drawing: those are faces!

img_3855

Some milestones just sort of take your breath away. And this one was especially important to me because of a fear I’ve kept tucked away in the corner of my mind…

I once saw a comparison between drawings made by a child who’s exposed to too much media vs one who gets less than an hour of screen time a day. The one looked like worthless scribbles, the other was a normal kid’s drawing. It’s a lot like that spiderweb comparison you’ve probably seen before:

caffeinenodrugs

Yikes, right?! My best intention was always to keep screen time to a minimum, but you know what they say about good intentions… an exhausting pregnancy, caring for a newborn… let’s just say my daughter has had a lot of iPad & TV time the past year.

img_9889

I know that times change and people adapt, and she’s probably just fine. In fact, objectively I truly believe we as a society are probably being a wee bit overdramatic about the whole thing.

And yet, I’ve been worried about rotting her brain. And every page full of senseless scribbles secretly scared me as I displayed it on our fridge.

I know, I know, it’s a fine motor skill that takes time to develop, but I couldn’t help but worry. Was she drawing scribbles all over the page because she just hasn’t developed this skill yet? Or was it because she was spending too much time consuming and not creating?

So these faces that I found her meticulously drawing last night are everything. I’ve never seen her do this before.

img_3855-2

We were doing the bedtime routine and she wasn’t really paying attention, quietly scribbling on her doodle pad. I figured she was trying to stall bedtime (shocker!) and was about to give her a hard time about not looking at the picture book papa was reading to her when my husband looked over at what she was doing. “She’s drawing faces!” Sure enough, there they were, no doubt about it! I asked her what she was drawing and she pointed to the middle one, explaining that it was a baby with a binky.

It’s hard to put into words how I felt right then. The cognitive leap she had made seemed enormous. My heart just burst with pride at this girl of mine! This is one moment where I realized, in an instantaneous flood of relief, that we’re doing OK.

Holidays · Motherhood · Traditions

Blessing Day

This story is not sweet or picture-perfect… but maybe there’s at least a lesson to learn, so bear with me.

IMG_9780

Since we were with all of Andrew’s family for Christmas, we thought it would be nice to bless Jonas with them there. We blessed Adelina in France two years ago so it was mostly my family then. And it is rather special to bless a baby boy on Christmas day when you think about it.

But as much as I’d like to say it was all lovely and wonderful, it was mostly just stressful. It’s a pretty wild rush to get ready and go to church on a Christmas Sunday, after the stockings and breakfast, and luckily we all made it in time. Jonas was actually perfect and slept throughout the whole meeting and his blessing, so that was a relief. Adelina was a little hyper but she did OK thanks to Omi. The meeting ended and I wanted to grab a photo with the whole family. Of course, it was suddenly uncharacteristically cold and blustery in St George, so everyone was freezing, and did I mention the presents were still waiting at home? So this is the cousin photo we got!

img_9279

It actually cracks me up looking back… real life right there! But at this point in the day I was getting really frustrated because Jonas was now screaming and Adelina was melting down because she didn’t want to take off her coat for the photo, and we have a very limited window of time to get this done… fine, let’s head home.

I really wanted to get a photo of our family because dang it, we’re dressed in our Christmas best and I’d like one stinking photo, right?! I’ve carried this baby for 9 1/2 months and looked exhausted and overloaded for months, so the one day I finally look nice, I’d like just one picture before everyone tears their clothes off! But no. This is the best we could do.

IMG_9295

Double chins all around, Adelina was crying because she didn’t want her socks off, Andrew had immediately undone his tie on the 2-minute drive home because he wanted to put on his BYU tie that day (bowl game week), and Jonas wouldn’t calm down. So that was fun (just writing about this makes my skin crawl all over again). I finally just gave up, so frustrated I could hardly speak, and it was time to do presents anyway.

I know, you’re probably laughing at me right now… I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes we do this to ourselves — have high expectations (apparently, getting a single decent photo is a high expectation these days) and get frustrated when they don’t hold up. Another life lesson to store away. I was just glad to be done with the whole ordeal and finally just enjoy Christmas.

And once I took a breather and gave up on my dream of a picture-perfect moment, it was a lovely day. Everyone just hung out and relaxed, the kids played with presents, we all enjoyed sweet Jonas and ate delicious food… simple things. I tried to get some photos of Jonas but once again came up short, so you know what I did? I dressed him up again the other day and did a photo redo. And that’s how I got the photos I actually wanted!

IMG_9825

Moral of the story: don’t plan more than one “thing” in a day. It’s not worth it. Leave space for important things because it’s just too much to try to combine. Also, expectations… waaaaay lower. You’d think I would’ve learned that by now, but here we are again. In my defense, holiday expectations mixed with postpartum exhaustion are a little intense! So that’s the story of how poor Jonas’ blessing went down!

Motherhood

Jonas: A Birth Story

Captain Obvious Warning: if you are squirmish about birth, just stop reading now. Or just scroll through for cute baby photos!

Our sweet boy is finally here! And we are all smitten, Adelina included.

img_1722_psedit-1

img_1645_psedit-1

(She still gives him spontaneous kisses all the time, it is the sweetest thing. She’s really good at being gentle with him too, she continues to amaze me!)

They say every child is different, but it was still shocking to me how different Jonas’ birth was from Adelina’s. For one, he never came on his own! We waited as long as possible, but at 12 days overdue I had another follow-up with the doctor and I was SO DONE. So we checked me in to the hospital for induction on a Wednesday morning at 10AM. We ran back home to grab our stuff and set up Adelina with my in-laws who had come to stay and help (and had to wait for more than a week for nothing to happen…).

We walked calmly into the hospital and the doctor started me on Cervidil, a medicine that you apply directly to the cervix — it’s supposed to help dilate and ripen the cervix. I had been at about 2cm for about two weeks, and nothing had really changed, so his hope was this might kick things into gear before we started Pitocin. Well, I started having more regular contractions, but still nothing very strong, and after 12 hours of sitting in a hospital room, bored to death (I even sat in front of the mirror and did my hair…), nothing had changed other than slightly more effacement.

img_2226

I seriously wanted to cry at that point. This baby was NEVER coming! And the contractions weren’t too painful, but they were getting uncomfortable at that point. How much longer was this all going to last?! The doctor removed the Cervidil and told me to get some rest (Ha. What a joke!) overnight and we’d start Pitocin early in the morning.

I had a natural hospital birth with Adelina, so no epidural, but this time around and especially considering we were inducing, I was pretty much prepared to take the epidural. I was hoping for a slightly calmer and less harrowing experience this time around — but unfortunately, pretty much as soon as the doctor left for the night, my contractions kicked in hard. And they were PAINFUL.

IMG_8798.JPG

Keep in mind I’m still only slightly dilated, so that means no epidural, and my thought was “this is contractions for a 2, what is 8 going to be like?! And how long do I have to endure this?!” I was despairing, and absolutely miserable. Finally around 3AM — after offering Tylenol (Seriously?! who gives a laboring woman a Tylenol pill?!) and then Fentanyl (which didn’t do much other than make me drowsy), the nurse checked me and I was at about a 7. They quickly called the doctor and anesthesiologist after that, and turns out I was at an 8! Thank heavens those contractions had actually been doing their job!

img_8805

The anesthesiologist placed the epidural and seriously, it was just ridiculous how much it was NOT as big a deal as I had worried it would be! There was the slightest pinch when he injected the local anesthetic (flu-shot level “pain) and I “felt” the epidural placed, but it wasn’t pain, just the odd sensation of “there’s this thing being stuck in my spine.” A little disconcerting I suppose, but not at all painful. The unfortunate thing is… it only worked on my left side. I felt every contraction all the way up my back on the right side of my body, but very little on the left side. So that was.. not fun. And it felt like the epidural kept wearing off, FAST. So I kept asking the anesthesiologist for more and he seemed pretty surprised at how little it was really working. Luckily, it did help significantly to have at least have the contractions dulled. Oh, and the catheter… ugh. That thing was REALLY not fun. Crappy epidural aside, the pain did subside significantly and so did the contractions. For the next 2-3 hours they were much less strong and slowed down quite a bit, so we sort of just sat around and waited. Finally my body was pretty much ready to go, so the doctor suggested we just go for it: time to push! (Let me note that by this point, I was just a day shy of 42 weeks pregnant… not a minute too soon!)

My last delivery was frustrating in that I had labored naturally but when it came time to push, the OB delivered a pudendal nerve block (two not-fun shots straight up… there.) and immediately snipped, then basically pulled the baby out. I did a few pushes but felt kind of like a bystander at that point, it sort of surprised me how soon she was out. This time, I actually got the chance to really actively push the baby and it was strangely empowering. Finally, I could do something. And it was so exciting to feel the progress and get that energy to make it happen. The pushing was relatively short — probably 15 minutes — but this time around I was there for the whole thing. My doctor was great too, he was prepping and massaging the whole time and really helping guide pushing. Once I figured out how I was supposed to be pushing (it took a few pushes to realize I wasn’t being terribly effective ha!) we were in business — baby was on his way! Wait for a contraction, push, rest, repeat. I felt the “ring of fire” people talk about, I knew there was maybe one serious push left, and so I gave it everything, and suddenly there he was! It was so amazing to see him there finally, and to feel the relief of delivery. It was perfect, and so was our son!

img_1582_psedit-1

I couldn’t take my eyes off him — with his dark hair (Adelina had strawberry-blond hair!) and his sweet face. He was a little purple but everybody rubbed him and got him right up to speed. Those first little cries are so sweet and pitiful at the same time, and I couldn’t wait to hold him. Of course, one of the first things we immediately looked at were his feet, and I felt like they didn’t look too severely deformed: they certainly could have been worse! And twisted or not, those feet are just so precious…

img_1783_psedit-1

He didn’t immediately want to nurse but once he got poked and prodded and cleaned up a bit he was ready to go and latched right on — thank goodness! He even let us get some good stretches of sleep that first night (well, technically it was day…), so we were in heaven. He was good and healthy –almost a full pound more than his sister — so we were good to go home the next day, and just like that we were a family of four!

img_1617_psedit-1

That is pretty hard to believe. I am so grateful once again to have had my husband’s parents around to help, entertain Adelina, hold the baby, cook, clean… my goodness. How do people survive without family?! Not to mention all the amazing people who brought us meals and provided emotional support since then (shout-out to my Power of Moms Learning Circle!).

And I’m so happy that despite some frustrations with labor, the actual delivery went quite well with minimal tearing — it kind of provided some closure too that my doctor said he would have done an episiotomy the first time as well; at least it wasn’t all in vain — and recovery this time around has been SO MUCH easier. It also doesn’t hurt that Andrew is a rockstar partner. He’s working insane hours so he can drive down with us for treatment in Salt Lake City every Thursday, still comes home for lunch frequently to do dishes and help run damage control, after going through the same sleepless nights as me… he’s incredible.

img_1730_psedit-1img_1826_psedit-1

About the name:

We figured we had started a bit of a tradition by writing Adelina’s middle name with the French spelling, so Jonas’ middle name is Alexandre, which is a name I love. Jonas is a name my husband has loved since reading The Giver (if you haven’t read it, it’s really a beautiful children’s book), and not only is it a good name but I love the lessons the character in the book learns and how he faces challenges in his young life. (If you’ve only seen the recent movie adaptation of the book, it’s a poor substitute — go read it!) It’s also sort of a derivative of the name John, which is my husband’s father’s name. Meanwhile Alexandre is a classical name that I find beautiful, and it’s sort of a family name derivative: my father’s name is Alexis (yes, outside of the US it’s always a man’s name) and my first middle name is Alexandrine, so we’re just keeping the theme going!

Welcome to the world, Jonas Alexandre!

img_1546_psedit-1

Photography by Catherine Grandy Photography — I love how she captured our family!
(photos at the hospital are by my husband)