Being a Happy Mom

Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution of blogging regularly! I do hope to get back in the swing of things, but when life demands me to be present, I don’t feel too bad about taking a blogging break. And life has been rather demanding lately. Something about three kids four and under and a newborn. :-) I’m sure you all understand! I have made some goals for the New Year, though, and I’m happy to say that I’ve stuck to them. (My hilarious friend Alyssa says she likes to start new things in February to avoid the pressure of Resolutions. Then it’s just a new thing you tried in February rather than a resolution that you might fail at.) My main goal for this year is sort of intangible, but it can make a world of difference in my home. My main goal is to be a happy mom.

20140128-123909.jpg

I’m not a naturally happy person (I wrote about that here), and I’ve found myself struggling more than ever in the past two years of motherhood. Being a stay at home mom can be a lonely, challenging, and frustrating experience. I’ve never been an angry person and yet I’ve scared myself at how angry I can be towards these little people who I supposedly love so much. I’ve dreaded the days and weeks that roll out before me, wishing them away and counting the days until the kids are old enough to be in school. I’ve wanted to have my own life back, but mostly I just wanted my kids to fit into my life the way I wanted them to. I didn’t want them to be themselves, but rather my idealized version of what kids should be. My unhappiness at home has affected everyone around me. My sweet husband has had to come home to a grumpy wife and hear her complain about her day. My eldest son has felt the brunt of my attitude. He’s the one who gets snapped at and shushed away. I’ve seen his eyes get sad and sometimes even scared when he knows I’m not in a good mood. Nolan is still young enough to have escaped most of my bad attitudes, but I can already see my shortness transferring to him now that he’s a whiny toddler most of the time. It’s even affected some friendships and other family relationships from a distance. Let’s just say it hasn’t been that much fun to be around me for a long time.

So this year? I’m going to be a happy mom. I don’t care if I’m naturally happy or particularly cut out to be a stay at home mom. It’s the life I’m in and I’m determined to enjoy it. I’m determined to sing away bad attitudes, take time outs for myself when I need them, bite my critical tongue, and remember that they are just kids. They aren’t trying to ruin my life or stress me out. They are just kids. They aren’t deliberately trying to frustrate me or get in the way. They are just kids. Kids who desperately need a mommy who is in control of her emotions. A mommy who can help them learn new things without sighing every time they make a mess. A mommy who patiently disciplines and lovingly corrects them. A mommy who lets them be who they are and doesn’t force them into a mold she has created. That’s the mommy I’m trying to be this year. It’s a hard task, but so incredibly worth it.

When I’m choosing to be happy, the days move more quickly, I laugh more easily, and the trials don’t seem so tough. I remember that this is a temporary stage of life and that I will most likely miss it later. I focus on the sweetness in each day rather than the hard parts. And amazingly, I find my attitude reflected in my kids. When I can laugh off spilt milk, they know that everything is ok and we can still have a good day together. They stop shrinking in fear and start blossoming, wanting to share each accomplishment with me and relishing in my smile. There are still plenty of hard days. I get to the end of the day and sigh a heavy sigh, worn out from the effort of the day. But it’s also a happy sigh. A content sigh. A sigh that shows that I’ve worked hard but with purpose and joy. And I start the next day, preparing for battle with myself and my attitudes, choosing to be a happy mom.

 

Share

Making Merry

In the midst of being in a newborn fog as well as working through some trying health problems, we’ve been trying to make the holiday season merry. For the boys, really. I love Christmas and my heart is thankful for it, but goodness I could use a season of quiet instead of a season of busy. But this is the season we are in and my boys need me to be present in it with them.

Anyone who comes over remarks on our decorations. Not because they are anything special, no, because they are up at all. “You have a newborn! I can’t believe you got all this up.” Well, for one thing, I’ve had a lot of help. And for another, life hasn’t stopped for the little guys. They are excited and all-a-glow for the magic of Christmas. How could I just skip it because I’m tired? I’ve cut way back this year on activities (we haven’t watched even one of my “have to watch every year” Christmas movies! I haven’t baked a single cookie!), but we are still making it special.

20131219-232729.jpgNew ornaments for each family member.
Can you guess who these belong to?

20131219-232549.jpg

New stocking for Avery (last one on the right)

20131219-232802.jpgHot chocolate and paper snowflakes.

20131219-232748.jpg

Decorations that celebrate our heritage (these plates were handpainted by my grandma 30 years ago!) and making music together (Charlie Brown’s Christmas is a favorite this year along with the Grinch).

Merry Christmas!

Share

On Advent

20131212-163648.jpg

I didn’t grow up doing Advent. I mean, of course we counted down the days until Christmas. We made those paper chains out of green and red paper, dutifully tearing off a chain each day with anticipation. Maybe we even had one of those chocolate filled calendars one year, I can’t quite remember. But we never did Advent in the religious sense — the lighting of weekly candles or reading of daily Scripture or devotionals. We always read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve and attended a special Christmas Eve service, but other than that I never found myself thinking about “the true meaning of Christmas” until the big day itself.

Over the years, I’ve never found myself longing for Jesus or wanting to enjoy him more during the Christmas season. In fact, I always kind of scoffed at people who felt closer or more spiritual during the holidays — it felt manufactured to me. And anyone who knows me knows that I hate doing what everyone else is doing, just because it’s the popular thing at the moment. Feelings and I have a strange relationship, I don’t trust my feelings and they have often betrayed me — being absent when they are supposed to be present and vice versa. So, “feeling” in the Christmas spirit or truly connecting with Jesus in a deeper way just because we are celebrating the day of his birth? Yeah, that’s just not me.

But this year? This year is different. I’ve spent almost the entirety of 2013 waiting for something. Waiting for my baby to grow in my belly. Waiting to figure out whether we’d move, or our house would sell, or where this third child would go in our 2 bedroom house. Waiting for health to find our family after 20 weeks of morning sickness, a slipped disc for Brian, surgery and therapy for Nolan, cold/flu/virus after virus affecting various family members, etc. Waiting for our hospital bills to even out so we could make progress with our financial goals. Waiting for this season to pass of hardships and being tired and struggling to enjoy parenting. Lots of waiting. And not waiting well, I might add. I’ve complained, fretted, cried, prayed (in desperation, not trust), been jealous, demanding, ungrateful, and hurt some who are closest to me.

Many of those things are now resolved, but a few of the trials are ongoing (Brian’s back, general sickness, random house/car expenses, etc.). For the most part I feel like my season of waiting is over. And then I started reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It’s a daily devotional for the Advent season. I realized that I am still waiting. In many ways, until the day I die I will be waiting. This world is very clearly not my home, as it has never fully satisfied me or given me the fulfillment I’ve longed for. And as long as I keep trying to find joy and happiness in the things around me, even good things like family or health, I’m going to feel dissatisfied in the waiting. But there is a kind of joy that can be found in waiting for the right things in the right way. The waiting doesn’t have to be an excruciating experience. It can be a waiting filled with hope. Hope for a day when all my needs will be met. Hope for a day in which I will be fully satisfied in the One who my soul has been longing for all along.

The word advent means “coming.” That’s why I can wait with anticipation and hope — Jesus is coming. It’s not some fanciful or whimsical hope. It’s rock solid hope. It will happen. He will come. We aren’t waiting for a made up character like Santa or a dream fantasy to come true. We are waiting for Someone who is ultimately trustworthy and incredibly faithful. And if I feel the ache and the emptiness of an unsatisfying world until then, may it just make me look all the harder towards Him. To the day when His love story with us will be consummated. That’s the kind of waiting I can get excited about!

Share

Family of Five

So now you know that Avery is here and you’ve heard about her arrival, but what has life actually been like as a family of five? Three words: crazy but good! We knew moving from man-to-man defense to zone defense would be a challenge, but whew! Some moments are just pure hilarity for the amount of chaos happening in our home. And that’s been with near constant help from family members the past two weeks. Three kids four and under are just a handful, not matter how many people are on hand to help!

20131126-221550.jpg(Forgive the picture of a picture, I only have a hard copy of this photo.
It’s the first of all five of us together while we were at the hospital.)

But Avery is the sweetest and has been a relatively easy baby so far. She’s still in that magical, sleepy newborn stage before we know what her personality is really like. She is a textbook baby — sleeps for 3 hour stretches at night, sleeps better swaddled even though she hates it, nurses frequently, poops constantly, and is generally happy if she’s held. She has a sweet little cry, it’s hard to imagine her competing with her loud brothers in a year or so.

20131126-221221.jpg

Everyone want to cuddle with Mommy.

Speaking of the brothers, they are also being very typical. They are sweet to their sister even though they don’t understand her fragility. They accidentally bump her or drop things on her even though they are just trying to get close and love on her. Nolan was a little mad at me to begin with, but we seem to be back to normal. Parker took it all in stride and seems to have forgotten life before his baby sister (who he says all the time is so cute and sweet). He has been a bit confused about the girl aspect. It’s quite hilarious how concerned he gets during diaper changes. He also doesn’t really comprehend the things that are just true of all babies (no teeth, umbilical cord, etc.) versus the things that are different about baby girls. For instance, he’ll say, “Oh, baby girls don’t have teeth.” It’s quite entertaining.

20131126-221449.jpg

Playing with Baby Avery. Parker has pinkeye at the moment (as if we needed more turmoil in our household!), so he plays very carefully and tries not to spread his germs.

20131126-221232.jpg

Daddy is getting pretty good at multi-tasking. Such a pro!

The boys have definitely reverted to some bad behavior that we thought we were way past. Nolan has also catapulted into the terrible two’s just a month or two early. He pretty much says “No” to everything, all the time. Even things he wants. He just loves to shake his head and say no–followed by much tantrum throwing when he has to do whatever it was anyway. And Parker, well, his response to everything is “why?” or “I don’t want to”. So we’ve been cracking down on all kinds of bad behavior at the same time we are more sleep deprived and less patient than usual. It can be difficult combination! Nolan is definitely Parker’s little shadow right now and is doing EVERYTHING his big brother does. It’s good to see them entertaining each other but they also get into a lot of trouble (permanent marker on our carpet!?).

20131126-221355.jpg

Yep, they do EVERYTHING together these days.

A few days into shoving three kids into the back of our Explorer was enough to convince Brian it was time to have the minivan talk. We ended up buying a used Honda Odyssey when Avery was just 5 days old! It is amazingly challenging to get three little people out the door and into a car without losing your cool. The little amenities in this car might keep me on this side of sanity!

20131126-221312.jpg

Everyone squished together in the back of our Explorer.

20131126-221159.jpg

2005 Honda Odyssey Touring

We are so thankful for all the help from family these first weeks. It’s been especially helpful for me to get some alone time with Avery while family members watch and entertain the boys. I treasure each moment with her in a way I never knew how when I only had one baby. I love her snuggles, sounds, faces, and even nursing. I don’t mind it because it means I get to be holding her and no one can take her away. Plus, she’s really good at nursing so it’s never frustrating — after two years of nursing experience with the boys I’m happy it’s finally easy and enjoyable!

So, that’s a wrap of our first two weeks together. I’m sure life is going to be interesting and challenging for the next few months (years?), but we are so happy to be a family of five and so thankful for the addition of our little girl!

Share

Avery’s Birth Story

This post should surprise no one who regularly reads my blog. :-) I can’t resist reading other’s birth stories, so of course I am going to share my own! And compared to my last two births, this story is totally unique. I’ll keep it as PG as possible.

As you know from my previous post about pre-term labor, I’d been in labor on and off for about 6 weeks by the time my due date rolled around. On Wednesday, November 13 (5 days past my due date), the contractions finally seemed different enough to possibly be the real thing. But after so many false hopes over the last weeks, I didn’t put too much stock into it. My mom was here, so we just went around our business — taking Parker to preschool, doing some shopping (and a ton of walking) around WalMart, buying groceries, and taking care of the kiddos. By the late afternoon I really felt like I needed to be walking. The contractions I had were painful, but very infrequent (2-3 an hour).

I texted Brian around 4 and asked him to come home early so we could go walk somewhere. It was a really cold day and the neighborhood just wasn’t going to cut it. My mom took the kids for the evening and we went on a labor-inducing walk/last date. We walked all around the mall, had dinner at Five Guys (I tend to eat burgers before I go into labor!), walked around Target, and Home Depot. Anywhere that was warm and had things for us to look at to keep us distracted. I had a lot of contractions, but they died down every time we stopped walking.

This happened to be the same night that my dad was coming in from California. He came in around 9:30 and we all hung out together, catching up and chatting until about 11. When we went to bed I was fairly certain I was in early labor and put a waterproof pad on the bed, just in case. I slept until 1:30 when I realized, yes, this was labor. Contractions were painful but still far apart. Brian told me to take a bath and try to get more sleep. I slept fitfully until around 4:30 when I needed to be more intentional about making it through a contraction. At this point I told Brian, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this one naturally.” The contractions were already extremely painful.

717905780002_842649017002_9914061_0004

Breathing through a contraction with the help of my hubby.
Nothing really takes away the pain, but it’s doable with low deep breaths and lots of support.

We called our wonderful doula, Heather, and we got down to laboring. It was so weird to be in active labor without having my water break! I think it allowed me to stay in much better control of myself and in between contractions I still was talking and acting normally. This really threw us off as to where I was in the labor process. I still kept saying, “what if this isn’t it? what if they die down and this is all just silly?” but everyone reassured me that this was the real deal and there was no going back. I kept complaining that I always have the longest, slowest labors and wish we could just get to the more serious part and be done with it. Little did I know I was already in the most serious part!

We walked around the house a lot. Up and down the stairs. Pausing to cling to Brian or a piece of furniture during a contraction. Heather kept holding my hips and rotating them through contractions which was super painful but allowed Avery to move down with each contraction. They were about 2-3 minutes apart and I would occassionally have a longer pause only to get hit with a double contraction on the next one. It was very different to be laboring at home and so nice. I could go to the bathroom without restriction, eat and drink, not worry about beeping or monitors, and move freely. Around 6:30 my doula felt that I had hit transition due to becoming more shaky and weak. Brian and I looked at each other, and thought, “no way!” Compared to my other labors things were no where near intense enough to be that far along! We decided I should get in the tub for pain relief and see how I felt then.

After one contraction in the tub, things felt different. Like, I’m about to push out a baby different. I felt a ton of pressure and frantically said, “we need to get to the hospital now.” They quickly dressed me and got the car ready and we dashed out the door around 6:45. Half way to the hospital (it’s a ten minute drive) I said, “oh no. This is not good.” Brian asked, “did your water break?” “Nope, I need to push!” He talked me through breathing away the urge to push and we some how made it to the hospital just in time. They stuck me in a wheelchair got us into a room and before they could take my pants off I started pushing. My water broke and they got me on the bed to check me. 8 cm. I about died. I didn’t really care what they said, I knew I needed to push! With Nolan I went from 8 to having a baby in no time at all, so I didn’t put any stock into their assessment.

My doctor was on vacation and the backup hadn’t made it in yet, so they found some random OB on the hall and had her come in as quickly as possible. They checked me again after about 2 contractions. I was complete and her head was right there. Pushing is always so intense. I never feel the relief that some women feel and I was dreading that moment, when you can feel everything that’s happening and know that there’s no going back. I freaked out a bit, but with the help of my coaches I focused and got down to business. They guided me through two pushes and out came Avery at 7:05!

717905780002_842649032002_9914061_0017First looks at our baby girl. So perfect.
9′s on both her Apgars and sweet as can be.

She came out reaching up for me and once her torso was out the OB told me to reach down and grab her. So I did! I caught my own baby girl and brought her up to my chest with many “I’m done! It’s over! She’s here!” exclamations coming from my lips, and one, “She is a girl, right?” She was. And she was ready to nurse immediately. Since I had no time for an IV or any monitoring or even filling out paperwork they were really laid back with me. I got to nurse her for 20 min before they weighed her. During that time I delivered the placenta and the rest of the membranes, got a shot of pitocin in my leg to stop the bleeding, and found out I required no stitches — even with such a fast delivery!

717905780002_842656254002_9914061_0038

In love with our new family member.

Did you catch the time of her birth? 7:05. Twenty minutes after leaving our house with a ten minute ride in between. We got dangerously close to having a home or car birth! I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. I told Brian as I was laying in recovery, “I got everything I wanted.” Fast, natural, to labor at home for as long as possible, easy delivery, no stitches, no meds, healthy baby — wow! The wait was long and hard but in the end I had my best birth yet and so far an incredibly easy recovery. We were at the hospital a little more than 28 hrs and that included labor and delivery. We love our little girl and are so happy she’s here!

20131120-132023.jpg

We love our Avery Jean!

Share

Trick or Treat

kids2

That title is both appropriate as a description of our Halloween festivities as well as life lately. I feel like I’m living on a pendulum, one day overwhelmed with the sweetness (or the treat) in life. I find myself consumed with gratitude for my sweet boys and how much they mean to me. I look around our little house and can’t believe this is my life and how blessed we are. Then there are those days that feel like one big trick after another. Car heater breaks. Pipes overflow in our bathroom. Car brakes are making weird sounds and need to be replaced. Termite (or some other disgusting bug) infestation in the basement. Husband sick. Nolan sick. Parker fell off the top bunk. Door handle literally fell off in my hand. False labor every night for the past month. One thing after another that makes me feel batty.

But today I’m focusing on the treats. The upside to each of those tricks. The generous friends who have helped with my kids or brought meals or just been there to distract me. The car that miraculously was available for us to borrow this week while ours gets looked at. For the bills that get paid one way or another and the generous people in our lives that help us when we are feeling the financial pinch. For the baby to not be here yet while Brian is fighting a cold. For a good friend who is a plumber and will come over even on a Sunday night to make sure we have a bathroom to use. The boys being strong and able to bounce back from sickness and injury. Today I am thankful for the presence of Jesus every day, in hardship and in joy.

monster1

Oh, and the actual trick or treating was a lot of fun too! It was a rainy night so we didn’t stay out long, but Parker especially enjoyed it. He LOVED being a monster and got to wear the costume several times between our church activities, preschool, and the big day itself. Nolan was being a bit of stinker, but I think he finally caught on towards the end. He was a fox, though he didn’t really keep his hood on at all. The day after, he wanted to wear his jacket again so I guess he finally got into the Halloween spirit after all!

_MG_0039 copy

We were joined by my dear friend and her baby boy (who you’ve heard all about). He wore the same costume Parker wore for his first Halloween. It was incredibly special to share in all the fun with this sweet boy and his mama. Even if he was Mr. Serious when we tried to take a picture! Hope you all had a nice Halloween!

Share

Boy’s Room –growing up!

20131026-095702.jpg

So, the boys are getting bigger.
Oh my goodness, so much BIGGER!
Parker is 4 and Nolan is 21.5 months.

With the addition of a baby girl, Nolan is getting promoted to big brother status. That means bunk beds! I’m still wary of putting Nolan in a big boy bed (since he’s not even 2 yet), mostly because he still wakes up almost every night and has a party for about an hour or two. Right now that’s alone in his crib, which is much less invasive to my sleep than him coming in to our room all night long. Hoping he grows out of this habit soon and then we’ll give it a go. So for now, it’s bunk beds in the room and Nolan in the pack-n-play while the crib is set up in little sister’s new room.

20131026-095619.jpg

Land of Nod bunk beds, sports sheets, and sport-inspired quilts.
The boys cannot get enough of the beds!
They love to read on the bottom bunk, all snuggled up together.

We’ve also rearranged the drawer arrangement since the changing table is no longer needed in the boy’s room. Well, Nolan still wears diapers but it is more necessary to have in his sister’s room so there you go. There is so much more room with a real dresser — I’m loving all the space!

20131026-095631.jpg
We used to have these pieces of furniture in our bedroom, but they fit surprisingly well in the space. We’d still like to do a more built-in look eventually, but these work for now.

I also picked up this great organization shelf from Home Depot. Way cheaper than the ikea version! It’s perfect for all their toys and fits in the closet like a glove. Moving all the extra baby stuff out of this closet has given me more space than I ever thought possible. Storage is at a premium in a little house and I’m happy with the results.

20131026-095641.jpg

 

It might look a little crowded in the picture, but it’s really a great fit!
Now if everyone would just put their toys and clothes away unprompted…

Share

PTL

20131025-214423.jpg(Photo by my hubby, Brian Gee)

And no, I don’t mean “Praise the Lord.”

And I didn’t misspell “PSL” (Pumpkin Spice Latte).

Nope, today I am talking about Pre-Term Labor. It’s a place I’ve been living for the last several weeks (or I was until I reached full term last weekend).

I didn’t have a severe case of pre term labor that required hospitalization, full-time bedrest, medication, steroid shots, etc.

Nope, I was just in that in between where I had to be careful all the time. I had frequent, consistent, and strong contractions and there was nothing I could do about it. I was living in a constant state of limbo, wondering if I needed to pack my bag in the car when I went to my normal check-ups or if I needed to organize childcare at a moment’s notice.

At 34 weeks my contractions were 6-7 minutes apart all night and all morning. No dilation so not a huge worry, but also no guarantee that labor wasn’t imminent due to a positive fetal fibronectin test.

35 weeks? 2-3 minutes apart, lasting over a minute and very strong. Went in to my OB’s office and started to think that this might be it. Was checked again and still very little dilation. A few hours later, we were home again and everything settled down again.

The next two weeks? More strong and consistent contractions but nothing much going on. For my girl’s sake I’m happy that she has made it to full term and is still inside, not in the NICU due to being a preemie. But it’s been a hard stretch for me emotionally. Now that I am full term the days are much the same. Some days a lot of strong contractions along with other labor signs and then nothing. It’s very emotionally trying. Days full of anticipation followed by nights with a baby growing happily in my tummy but my arms empty.

Now it’s considered prodromal labor since I’m full term. False labor that is supposedly prepping my body for the big day but doesn’t actually go anywhere. So I’m doing what I can to get things going – acupuncture, evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea, and exercise. Nothing unsafe, I do want her to be fully ready before she makes her entrance, but apparently my body needs some help actually getting things going. Hopefully we’ll be meeting our daughter soon!

Share