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 done...like 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!).