Saturday, March 8, 2014

So...About that Schedule...

So...I haven't posted in quite a while!  My last post (from way back in November!) was documenting just how jam-packed our routine is these days.  And as you can see, I apparently didn't leave much time for blogging.  I admit that when we just had Ella, I use to scoff (just a bit) at those who said that they were "too busy" to write once they welcomed their baby.  Sure, life with Ella was a bit busy, but I always found time to blog at least once a week or so.  But now that we have Anna, I'm starting to feel the same way.  (looking back, I now remember that I used to blog while she was nursing...but switching to an iPad makes that more challenging, and I now have a three-year old who deserves some attention).

What I'm starting to realize is that I am very protective of my time.  I feel like I'm functioning just fine--as long as I am able to take the time that I need for myself.  This means cutting a lot of things out of my "outside personal life" in order to make room for my "inside personal life"...if that makes any sense.  I'm an introvert by nature, but for the most part, I usually try to put myself out there whenever I can.  But in order to feel like I'm "thriving" more than simply "surviving", I have had to cut some things and decline some others. 

Most of the time, I don't have any issues about living a rather "boring" life, by others' standards.  But I do feel bad about declining an invitation to join a new Bible study.  I still make my own personal prayer journal a priority each morning, but I'm afraid that stressing about meals and bedtimes once a week wouldn't do anything to strengthen my relationship with Christ.  Maybe I'll try to join when Anna's a little older, but for now, I just can't commit.

I know that our lifestyle will change, in time, as the girls become more independent and when they start to want to be involved with things.  I want to be able to encourage them to try sports and theater and youth groups and explore all kinds of other things when the time is right.  I know that I'll need to sacrifice a lot of "my" time in the future.  I choose to work, so that leaves only the evenings and weekends for "family time", so I'm hesitant, for now, to run off to sign us up for everything under the sun.  For now, I just want to enjoy my girls as much as I can in the time that we do have together.

Today's blessing is that the girls are both taking incredible naps this afternoon, which gives me the unique opportunity to write a blog post.  We went to the zoo this morning, and I must have tuckered them both out, because they are both going on three-hour naps.  I even snuck away for a quick run around the block (I hadn't run for two months because I got kicked by horse...but perhaps we'll save that story for another day). 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Routine

Earlier this spring, I brought Ella to the Festival of Books put on at my university, where she got a really cute (free!) book called Say Hello to Zorro in which a grumpy old dog has a very strict routine, but his life is a little disrupted when his owners bring home a new puppy.  It all turns out okay once they realize that both dogs have the same routine, and life is better--as long as everyone sticks to the routine.

I'm kind of feeling like Zorro these days.

I've been back to work for than a month now, and now that we have all beat the bug that we shared with each other, we have settled into a nice little routine.

On our "ideal" days, Anna sleeps until 5:30 am, which allows me to get up at 5:00 and do some crunches, take a quick shower, get dressed, comb my hair, do my makeup, and grab my breakfast.  I then simultaneously nurse her while eating my breakfast and doing my Bible study.  By the time I'm finishing up with Anna, Ella starts waking up. 

To save time, we started picking out Ella's clothes for the week every Sunday afternoon.  Initially, I had the clothes hanging on the mirror in her room, but they were too high for her to get herself.  So last weekend, we installed a little row of hooks at her height so that she can reach them.  Now, she picks out her outfits on Sunday, and then grabs what she wants to wear each morning when she wakes up.  And she has been so fabulous about it!  She has a SleepBuddy night light that goes off at 5:55 each morning, and she's free to get out of bed.  I've heard her moving around in the early mornings a couple of times before her light goes off, but sure enough, she waits in bed each time until she can come to our room and announce "My light went off!" with the same enthusiasm that she had the day before.  She still insists on having us help her get dressed--some days more than others--but she's starting to take more pride in doing it herself.

Once she's dressed, Ella plays the iPad while I finish getting myself ready, and then I do her hair.  She has pretty thin hair, and not a lot of it (we've only gotten it cut twice!), but it's pretty unruly and she's fairly sensitive about it.  I wish that I didn't have to rely on technology, but it works.  And for the most part, she's pretty good about turning it off when I tell her to do so.

Before I came back, I was really worried about how I was going to get out the door with two kids. I remember marveling at how long it took me to get out the door with one kid when Ella was a baby.  And then in the middle of my pregnancy with Anna, I was disappointed that we were habitually late, day after day--and that was with only one kid!  But that one kid was a very, very slow eater, and our breakfast time typically consisted of me begging her to eat faster.  I know that they say that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day"--but it was just taking us way too long.  I was spending a tense half an hour at the breakfast table, trying to get her to eat faster; followed by a tense half an hour in the car, trying to get to work on time.  So when I went back to work, I told Ella that things were going to change.  I gave up on that idea of quality time over breakfast, and instead, opted to feed Ella her breakfast in the car.  Now, every Sunday afternoon, I prepare five little baggies with fresh fruit, string cheese, and a homemade mini muffin; and every morning, after doing her hair, she knows to grab herself a little breakfast before we head out the door.  Part of me feels bad, but it's a sacrifice that needed to be made.

Being the competitive child that she is (I wonder where she got that trait!), Ella insists on getting into her carseat first.  So most days, she hurries herself to get into the car before I get Anna into her seat.  She can get her arms into the straps and click it across her chest, but I need to help her with the bottom latch.  Once she's in, she gets to eat her breakfast as we hit the road--on a good day, we're pulling out of the driveway at 6:35.

We absolutely love Ella's school...but they don't have an infant room.  So I'm stuck doing a two-kid two-school drop off for this year, and I'm already counting down the days until Anna can go to Ella's school.  Anna's school is right on the way to Ella's, so we drop her off first.  Ella has embraced her role as my "helper", and holds the fob key to unlock the doors.  She is very kind to the teachers and loves giving Anna a hug and a kiss goodbye.  It's a little frustrating to have to get Ella in and out of her carseat, but she's usually pretty good about being cooperative.  Then we're off to Ella's school, which is less than a mile away, and on my way to work.  Before she moved to the three year old room, we really struggled with drop-offs.  But there was something about transitioning to the big kid room that really resonated with Ella, and now she's phenomenal about saying "Goodbye Mommy!  I love you!" and giving me a hug and a kiss and jumping right into things.

When I was nursing Ella, I always felt like I had just barely enough milk to get by.  I was typically pumping four times at work--twice in the morning, nursing her during lunch, and twice more in the afternoon.  With Anna, I have plenty of milk (Praise God!).  It has been such a blessing to pump once in the morning, nurse her during my lunch, and one more time in the afternoon.  Sure, pumping still sucks.  But it is so much more manageable this time around!  Anna's skills is pretty much 10 minutes from my work, so I have just enough time to rush over there, nurse her on both sides, and rush back.  I do miss the fun break room discussions that we had over lunch with my colleagues, but it's a sacrifice that I'm willing to make to have this special time with Anna.

At the end of the day, I pick up Ella and head over to get Anna, with Ella once again being my "helper".  Once I have both girls in the car, Ella gets a "surprise".  I'm not proud that I am essentially bribing my child to behave--rather, I try to justify in my mind that I am "rewarding" her for her good behavior and being so helpful.

We get home around 5:30 pm every day, which gives me just enough time to nurse Anna one more time while my husband makes dinner.  He wasn't too excited about taking over the cooking responsibilities, but he does the best he can, and I try to make a big crockpot recipe on the weekends to give us at least one leftover meal for the week.  I'm trying to be a good wife and hold my tongue when he does things differently than I would have not putting nearly enough seasoning in the tacos.  But I don't want to discourage his efforts, and I can tolerate some taste-less meals from time to time.

After dinner, it's bath time.  I've been getting in the bath with both girls lately for some quality bonding time.  Ella is a good helper, for the most part, and holds Anna on her lap with her arms under her sister's arms so that I can get out and dried off.  After baths I nurse Anna while reading bedtime stories to Ella.  It's quite the multitasking feat--especially on days when Ella is a little on the wild side and Anna is distracted at the breast.  Then it's time for bed--and Ella has even started going to bed all by herself on nights when my husband is not home and I'm still nursing Anna--though she would definitely prefer to have me tell her stories. 

I then have just enough time to clean the bottles and stuff the cloth diapers for the next day, before crawling into bed to get the rest I need so I can be ready for the next day.  My students laugh when I tell them that I'm asleep by 9:00 each night, but I need my eight hours of sleep! 

Part of me wonders if it's all worth it.  When I type it all out, and truly calculate that I and the girls are out of the house for eleven hours every day, I can't help but wince.  But it wouldn't necessarily be "easier" to be a stay-at-home mom either.  I would be just as busy--but in different ways.  When it comes down to it, I love my family, but I also love my job (though not nearly as much).  I love helping others--I really do.  And I still remember the feeling when I returned to work after Ella--sure, I was sad to leave my baby, but I told myself that my job was to be as good as I could to my students, and I had to trust that her teachers' job was to be as good as they could to her.  I still try to remind myself of this everyday.

Today's blessing was the chance to run in the rain.  You'll notice that I don't really have any time to go for a run during the work week anymore, but I'm trying to be good about running on the weekends.  It's supposed to rain all weekend, on and off, and I happened to have the chance to run when it was raining.  There is something so incredibly refreshing about running in the rain (and so incredibly comforting about taking a nice, warm shower afterwards!).

Sunday, November 10, 2013

I Think I Can

Remember the story of The Little Engine Who Could?  He kept reminding himself "I think I can, I think I can"...

I'm feeling like that little engine these days.

It's taken a full three weeks, but I feel like I'm finally getting over this cold!  It was a nasty one!  And I still don't feel like I'm quite 100%, but I'm getting there, slowly but surely. The girls--yes, poor little Anna caught it too--are starting to heal as well, which helps me start to believe the mantra.

There was one day, towards the beginning of the illness, when I told my husband that I was seriously reconsidering his offer for me to be a stay-at-home mom.  The wise man that he is, he refused to have the conversation with me until I was feeling healthy again.  I now feel like it's a moot point.

This weekend was Homecoming, and I had the chance to reconnect with a couple of my favorite former students.  Seeing them and hearing about their successes is always a great reminder about why I do what I do, but it was an especially strong motivator to keep on telling myself "I think I can, I think I can" at this early stage of returning to my role.

But I know, despite my efforts, that I couldn't do it on my own.  My husband has really stepped it up with his household contributions, and Ella has really embraced her role of being my "helper".  And I couldn't ask for an easier baby in Anna.  But really, I recognize that I couldn't do any of it without faith that God is on my side.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

Today's blessing was the chance to get a pedicure with Ella's little friend's mom.  It was my "thank you" for bringing Ella into school so often while I was on maternity leave, but it was also a great chance or get out of the house and have some "grown-up" time with a woman who is becoming a great friend.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Mommy, You Want to be Lonely?"

I sat on our bathroom floor, crying. 

I had just hugged Ella and sent her back to the kitchen to help my husband.  She turned back to me before she left the room, puzzled, and asked, "Mommy, you want to be lonely?". 

Yes, sweet child, I do.  At least at that moment, I did.

After a pretty good first week back, my second week sucked.  It started with a tickle in my throat on Friday morning.  By Friday afternoon, when Ella asked for a drink from my water bottle, I refused, because I was feeling congested and didn't want to share germs with her.  Sharing a car with her must have been enough, because it came on her really strong.  By that evening, I was feeling hot, and her voice was raspy.  By Saturday morning, I was googling "croup" and pulling out the humidifier.

She napped on the couch for four hours.  I wish that I could have done the same, but there was laundry to be done and dishes to clean.  I felt miserable, but my husband really wanted me to go to the football game with him that evening.  Since my mom was here to watch the girls, I felt like I had to take the chance to spend some quality time with him.  In retrospect, I probably should have gone straight to bed instead.  At least it was a good game.

We skipped church on Sunday.  I felt well enough to go get groceries.  Ella had one more scary moment when we had to talk her through a coughing episode, and then slept for three more hours.  I prepared my lunches and clothes for the week, determined to not let the cold hold me back from balancing a career and a sick child.

By Monday morning, I had no voice, but since my mom could stay home with Ella, I took some Dayquil and headed into town with a friend so that my mom could drive in to pick me up when it was time for me to bring her to the airport.  I somehow made it through the day, but was strongly considering stopping by one of those "minute clinic" sorts of places on the way home--except, my mom loaded Ella into the car without any shoes.  I opted instead to run by our house, grab some shoes for her, and head to our nearest Walgreens to buy myself some meds and another humidifier.

I got home, nursed Anna, and left my husband with two crying girls and ran to the closest health clinic.  The Family Nurse Practitioner ran a strep test--I whispered jokingly, and yet honestly, that it was as nerve-wracking to wait for those results as it was to wait for a home pregnancy test.  I was, and continue to be, worried about getting poor Anna, now 10 weeks, as sick as Ella and me.  It was negative, to my relief.  But the only diagnosis he could give me was "Viral Laryngitis"--nothing really to do other than wait it out.  He was, however, kind enough to give me a couple free masks so that I could at least nurse Anna without coughing all over her.  (It's the little things in life, right?)

I sent my supervisor a text saying I wouldn't be in on Tuesday.  I just couldn't do it.

By Wednesday, Ella was feeling better.  She still had a little cough, but what kid doesn't have a cough as we head into Fall?  I, however, had quite the cough. 

And sore throat.

And congestion.

And now, runny nose.

The top of my mouth is cut up from sucking on throat lozenges, so I switched to the sides of my cheeks, which now feel raw.  My nose is completely scratched up from wiping and blowing (note to self--bring in soft tissues so I no longer need to use the rough ones at work).  I smell like vapor rub.  I'm having an out-of-body experience between the meds and the congestion.  The only benefit to all of this is that I'm coughing so much that my post-baby belly muscles are starting to tighten up again, just the tiniest bit.

I've been pretty miserable, but made it in to work the rest of the week.  You know it's bad when you start figuring that your 10-week old will probably be safer at a new daycare than she would be at home with me and my germs.  Praise the Lord, she has remained healthy so far.  I pray (and please join me) that she continues to stay healthy, because this is one nasty virus.

My husband has been sleeping on the couch all week.  I don't blame him.  I miss him, but I don't blame him one bit.  Friday night, I told him that he was on baby-duty, and I took a dose of NyQuil the moment that Anna popped off the boob.  The commercials lie--I didn't sleep through the night like a baby...but I did get a little more rest than the previous nights (and some funky dreams). 

I think--I hope, I pray--that I'm on the mend.  My throat no longer burns--it only feels like I have a lump stuck in there now.  My nose is running--although it hurts to blow and wipe, I'm hopeful that the drainage is a good sign that this dang virus is finally leaving my system.  Now if only I could get rid of this cough and congestion.

My blessing, amid all this sickness, is the reminder that I'm usually pretty healthy.  Granted, I feel so miserable now that it's hard to remember what it feels like to be "normal" again, but I need to remind myself that the last time that I was this sick was probably when I went back to work after Ella was born.  For the most part, I'm usually pretty healthy, and for that, I'm extremely grateful.  I just hope that I can beat this virus once and for all, and I pray that Anna is spared. 

So Far, So Good

(This post has been sitting in draft form for more than a week now...but I figured I'd still share it to help myself remember that my first week back was indeed good...even if the second week was not).

Well, I haven't had the chance to workout like I said I might because Anna slept until 5:00, my normal wake-up time, the rest of the week!  God is so good in giving us an easy baby!

I was welcomed back to my office with open arms and plenty to do.  The week has flown by as we transition from one busy period into a new one.  I didn't even post any regular appointments and yet still had plenty to do...which also means that I didn't have much time to miss my baby.  Sure, I miss her, but I have enough on my mind and on my plate to not ache for her.

My mom brought her in to let me nurse her at lunch on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and then stayed home for the last two days.  Anna has been wonderful for her, playing independently and sleeping soundly for extended periods of time.  She has done just fine with the bottle, and I've been doing just fine with my milk supply.  With Ella, I struggled to keep my supply up, and was typically pumping twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.  I'm blessed to have my own office and would respond to emails or work on projects while I was hooked up to the pump.  But I was actually pumping more than she was eating these first days back, so I've allowed myself to cut back.  And since I started pumping so much earlier this time around, I have a freezer full of milk.  So I think that I'll be able to get by with pumping just once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and feed her during my lunch breaks most days.

When Ella started sleeping through the night (at closer to four months), I started setting an alarm so that I could pump in the middle of the night to keep up both my internal and external supply.  This time around, I feel like I have plenty of milk, so I'm allowing myself to sleep--and it's been glorious.  I am still a little bit nervous that my supply will drop--perhaps even drastically--if I cut back too much, but I hope that I'll be able to recognize any changes and adjust accordingly.

My mom leaves Monday.  The girls both had doctors appointments scheduled for that day, and I wanted my mom to be able to help out a bit with them, but they were rescheduled for Thursday.  So Tuesday will be Anna's first day at daycare. 

My blessing is having my mom here to help.  She and I may not always see eye-to-eye all the time, but ultimately, she is a wonderful grandma, and has a lot of knowledge on child development (which is sometimes both a blessing and a curse).  But I love her, and I know that she loves me and my girls. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Perhaps I Should Work Out Tomorrow

Anna has been sleeping until 4:00 am the last couple of nights--which is absolutely wonderful, right?!  Except, today is my first day back at work and my alarm was set for 5:00 am.  So here I am, thinking I as going to be totally rushed this morning, and instead, the baby is fed, I've showered and eaten a quiet breakfast, and now I'm just waiting for Ella to wake up in about forty-five minutes.  Perhaps I should try to work out tomorrow.

I should work out, not just to pass the time in a healthy way--but also because nothing fits!  I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute yesterday afternoon to try on my work clothes, and had the following results:

# of pants that absolutely do not fit:  14
# of pants that barely button:  7 (including one that needs to go to the dry cleaner)
# of pants that flatter:  0

Eek!  I admit it was a bit of a shock.  When I sent a text with those results to my amazing colleague, she was kind to point out that I'm heading back to work four weeks earlier than I did with Ella.  I know that I have lost some of the baby weight, but I still have a long way to go.  Aside from a couple of easy runs here and there, I had been relying on Anna to help me with my "breastfeeding diet" (which really is synonymous with "eat whatever I want and let the baby suck it right out of me") the way that Ella did, but I have yet to reap the same rewards this time around.  Like I said, perhaps I should try to work out tomorrow (or perhaps I should just face the reality that I'll need some bigger pants and do some online shopping instead). 

I'm as prepped as I think I can be for the week.  My mom is here to help us transition back into a new routine, and to give Anna one more week at home before going to daycare.  She'll bring Anna in for me to feed her at lunch today, so I look forward to seeing both of them.  I ran into a cross-campus colleague at the grocery store yesterday.  She had her second child a month or so before Anna was born, and has been back to work for about a month now.  She warned me that it was harder than she thought.  Even now, as I write that, I can feel tears forming.  I know I'll be okay--I know Anna and Ella and my husband will be okay too.  We've been here before.

Today's blessing is having my husband offer to get up to help me out this morning.  He has the day off, and I know that he loves to sleep.  But climbing into bed last night, he offered to get up and help us out the door.  Like I said, he loves to sleep, so this is a really big thing for him to make such an offer.  It looks like I'll have plenty of time, but I do appreciate the thought. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Time

Today is my last day of maternity leave.  Technically, tomorrow is my last day, but since Ella's school is closed for solar panel installation, today is essentially my last day at home with Anna.  And silly me--I waited until the last day to make an appointment to get my oil changed, and I'm now kicking myself, wishing that I could spend this last day completely locked away at home with my baby.

I'm feeling a little teary today.  I know that it's time.  I know that she is a wonderfully easy baby and will do just fine with my mom next week and then at daycare after that.  I know that I'm valued and appreciated at work by my students, colleagues, and supervisors.  I know that I would probably start going a little crazy here shortly if I spent too much time at home.  I know that it's time, but it's still a little sad to think that I will no longer get these days alone with just her.

Sure, I have the weekends to which to look forward, but it's just not the same.  Ella and my husband want--and deserve--my attention as well.  I realized last night, as I nursed Anna around 2:00 in the morning, that our middle-of-the-night feedings will soon be our only "alone" time together.  And soon, those will end too.  While I'm anxious for her to start sleeping through the night, I'm also going to mourn that one-on-one cuddle time in the dark quiet.

I love being a mom, but I also feel that I am called to do the work that I do.  I'm proud to have a career.  It's nothing glamorous, but I know that I'm effective and make a difference for my students.  I want my girls to be proud of me--I love how Ella smiles sweetly when she tells people that I work at the University.  I could have lengthened my leave out longer, but when it comes down to it, I know that it's time.  And really, I would have these mixed emotions about going back even if it were six months from now.

So today, I'm going to snuggle with my baby (when she wakes up).  I'm going to take pictures so that I can bring them in to work with me and remember her at this stage, when it was just me and her at home...and then marvel at how she grows and develops each day when we're apart.

My blessing is that my mom is coming to spend that first week with us to help us with the transition when I go back to work.  This way, I can get back into a routine of bringing Ella in to school and the going to work, while she helps Anna get into a routine of drinking regularly from a bottle and napping more regularly in her crib than on my chest (though I did spend considerably less time curled up on the couch with her than I did with Ella).  I really think that this will be good for all of us to help us ease into what it means to be a working mom with two kids.