Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Penny Jane: Two and a Half





Our little goose, you are two and a half today.  You might not remember this, but I took you out for photos last night and you walked around the entire neighborhood without being carried or riding in a stroller.  You are so big and independent now that sometimes I forget you are still just a child. 

It's amazing how we could love you so much and be so enamored with watching you grow.  You blow my mind sometimes with how your brain works and how much you are absorbing everything that goes on around you.  I have to strategically stay one-step-ahead of you with my own thoughts and planning or you would run circles around any attempt to shape you and channel your energy.  

I'd be withholding information if I didn't mention that these last six months of parenting you have been full of the challenges and all the very tests of patience that come with having a two-year-old.  You are strong, opinionated, and very very smart.   These are character traits that, in a toddler, can make a mama very very tired; but will make you a wonderful woman someday.  Your blue eyes can light up the room and the gap between your front teeth is ever endearing.  You are tall and narrow for your age.  You can almost dress yourself.  You can completely undress yourself.   




Here, I'd just like to make a note of my favorite little things that I never ever want to forget about who you are at this precious age.

Ok, so, here we go...

Proper use of: "Actually, Also, Exactly, Because, Already, Of course, Probably, But, Sorry, Wonderful."

Wanting the "whole fang" or "a lot" of something.

Never Ever.

"It's OK though."

"I don't finks go." ('I don't think so' means 'I don't know')

"Tada!!  

"I can? Oh thank you!

Knock Knock Jokes and "just makin' jokes"

Earning 5 cents commission for feeding the dogs by yourself, which takes you about five minutes to do instead of thirty-seconds like it takes me or daddy.

Hugging \ Almost smothering your baby sister with love.

Your "guys" - the family that lives in your dollhouse, who you constantly sneak into your bed with you at night even though you aren't supposed to have any plastic toys with you when you sleep.

How your teacher at church told us that you sorted all the crayons, extracting all the pink and purple ones.

Saying "my" in place of "I"... Example: "My like pink strawberry ice keem."

Opening and closing doors for other people.

How you pretend with your toys using the highest, most squeaky voice possible.

Reading reciting books.

Your sweet little stutter, which started to develop right when baby sister was born.  We hope you know that it's ok that it takes you a long time to say things, and that your speech and language development is going to be just fine.

How you has a way of discreetly finding other people's purses or bags and rummaging through them to determine if there is anything in there that you want, such as fruit snacks or makeup or anything that might in any way resemble a wrapped present.

"Tan I do such and such"

Totoro and Ponyo and other Japanese animated Disney movies.

Dancing with your head, and swinging your arms like you're running.

Where the Wild Things Are, and roaring your terrible roars, rolling your terrible eyes, et. al.

"May I please be excused."

Feeding us food from our plates and then telling us "Good Job" for eating our dinners.

Hide and Seek, wherein you tell us where to hide, then count to ten with your eyes open, and say

"Ready or not, here my come!" -- or, if we're It, you'll tell us where you're going to hide or say "I'm in here!" where we start looking.

Pronouncing "sp" as "f" to make words like fecial, ficy, foon, fill, and playing "I Fy".

Your polka-dotted high-tops and Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.

Your soft, fine toddler mullet and the fierce resistance I've met on my journey to try to brush and comb your hair on a regular basis.   How you still hate having your hair washed but are finally getting it that if you just look up to the ceiling, the water won't get in your eyes.

Minnie Mouse, Small Minnie Mouse, Giant Minnie Mouse, Cinderella Doll, Cinderella Soft Doll, Brown Bear, White Bear, Pink Bear, Elmo.... and all the other soft things you like to sleep with.



Penny Jane, we love you so much. Happy half-birthday love. 


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Friday, January 23, 2015

Life Hacks

This week, two life hacks we've got in place:

The backwards 'blanket sleeper', for the two-and-a-half year old who can't resist taking off all her clothes during her sleep, sometimes resulting in more-than-gross findings all over the bed when she wakes up.



And the cold spoon, for the teething four-month-old whose four-month-old blog post I've failed to write because we've been so awesomely busy.   Eating ice cream with a teether in your lap? Get yourself two spoons, give one to baby, and keep trading so hers is always cold. Wiping the ice cream off the spoons before she puts them in her mouth, obviously. Expect drool.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Post: Which Transition is the Hardest?

As Dan and I are immersed in the joys and challenges of transitioning from one child to two, I often marvel at mamas with more kids than me.  We've always talked about having a "big family" -- but right now we canNOT imagine adding ANOTHER baby in the mix, or TWO other babies in the mix. The thought of it makes me almost pass out.   

I asked new blogger Christen Spratt, mother of four, to chime in on her experience transitioning after the birth of each new child in her family.   

You can follow Christen and the Spratt Pack at christenspratt.com.   

-Julie


The Spratt Family.

Which Transition is the Hardest?

As a mother to of a big family people tend to ask me a lot questions like… 
You know how this keeps happening, right? 
Are they all yours? 
Are you done now?


A more reasonable question I am frequently asked is in regard to which transition (number of children) was the most difficult.  

Honestly, the question itself just makes me giggle a little bit. Uhhhh, they are all insanely hard! I mean, seriously, you are officially responsible for another human being; one of God’s perfect creations. That seems like a heavy burden in and of itself.


But the question makes me giggle for another reason… It’s like the asker wants a one size fits all answer.  They want to know when to brace themselves for the worst and whether or not the worst is over. Well, the reality is… the season of your life in which each of those babies is born has a huge affect on the transition. Other factors of a smooth transition would be the temperament of the child, gap between sibling(s), your support system, whether or not you work, etc.


Here is a summary of my experience with the life change that comes with each new baby. (it should quickly become apparent as to why I find it comical when people ask me the “transition” question)


Baby #1 – I was a young single mom, scared out of my ever-loving mind trying to balance school, work, and motherhood all while living under my parents' roof. However, like most first time mommas I did a ton of reading and thought I had my baby raising plan all figured out. In reality, I was faking it and had to do a lot of trial and error.


Baby #2 – I had just married the man of my dreams and we wanted to add to the family right away. (seemed like a great idea at the time) Oh man! Newlyweds having babies is a sight for sore eyes. We were still learning how to coexist when all of a sudden, we had yet another roommate who we were trying to co-parent. This child just happened to be difficult from the moment of conception and is still our most challenging of the brood.


Baby #3 – I was much more comfortable and relaxed in my parenting than I had been previously. This was a very well planned pregnancy, meaning intentional spacing/season of life. We thought we had prepared for everything. However, there were a few elements we hadn’t taken into consideration. There was school and practice for the oldest, #2 had turned on us (the difficult child had become nearly impossible), and we could no longer divide and conquer. We were outnumbered. Dun, dun, dun.


Baby #4 – I once read a quote that said having 4 kids is like you are drowning and then someone throws you a baby. That is a pretty accurate statement. I was still nursing when we decided to go for #4 so we thought it would take a while to get pregnant. Not the case. 16 months later our little girl arrived on the scene. Oh, did I mention that at 6 months pregnant we decided to move out of state? Yep, we did. When we brought her home I felt like my house had been infested with children. They were EV.ERY.WHERE, like black ants on a sticky kitchen countertop.


Unfortunately, my sweet friend, there is not a simple answer. As you can see with our crazy life and story…there was not one specific transition that was easier or harder than the other. It was all so very circumstantial. You will be scared and you will feel overwhelmed. The business of making babies and surviving it all is hard.


That said, there are two things I know you can count on for sure… First, the more kids you have the less you worry about things like perfectionism, volunteering for everything, and keeping up a perfect fa├žade for all to admire. It’s sort of freeing, actually.   

Second, you can also count on having exponentially more laundry, love, hugs, kisses, snuggles, and poop in your life.


So, brace yourself. The transitions are rough and often messy.


And to answer the original set of questions…

You know how this keeps happening, right? 
Yep! Got that one all figured out and we practice regularly.

Are they all yours
No, I think its fun to drag extra whiny/snotty, toddlers around the grocery store. OF COURSE THEY ARE ALL MINE! (And that is not an appropriate question, you grumpy old man)

Are you done now? 
Absolutely!! Our quiver and car are full.

If your readers would like to read more about our mess you can follow along at christenspratt.com. Thanks for letting me share.




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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Always Kiss Me Goodnight


We've all seen this catchphrase on placards or in framed fancy cursive or vinyl lettering a la Pinterest. It goes on the wall or on a nightstand in the master bedroom, a popular wedding gift, an oft-used saying. I tend not to like 'quotes as art' anyway, but this one in particular always seemed cheesy to me, especially when we first got married.

But I had never really thought about what it meant.  Have you?

It occurred to me the other night as I lay wide awake nursing my baby in the dark, that Dan and I hadn't kissed each other goodnight that night, or on many of the several nights preceding.  

It wasn't that we were particularly fighting [though we do a healthy amount of that], or that we were avoiding one another, it was just that we didn't kiss goodnight. Or maybe even say goodnight.  We just talked about the plans for the next day over toothpaste and face wash, each checked our phones one more time, and then went to bed.  

How easy in this season of life, with a baby in the bed, a toddler down the hall, and a to-do list a mile long, how easy it is to ho-hum our marriages and just make it through the day.  Like business partners in a tough economy.  I went back and read my other post on 'Marriage After Baby' from when we had just had Penny, and oh man, it feels so. much. harder. with two kids than it was back then.

People say about having four kids "imagine you are drowning, and someone hands you a baby."  Well, we only have two kids, and sometimes we even feel like we are drowning a little bit.  I'm told this is normal.   Furthermore, I could make an elaborate list of all the reasons that marriage and especially intimacy can take a hit after having a baby, but all of you reading this have either been there or will be there and learn for yourselves when the time comes.  

I realized as I lie there awake that I wished I was cuddling my snoring husband instead of my squirmy baby [probably a sign that it's coming time for sleep training] and that I wished we had kissed goodnight, though I wouldn't dare wake him up to do so.  

Always kiss me goodnight means always check in with me and remind me that we're in this together.  It means always remind me that you love me even when life feels ho-hum.  It means even when there's no time or whatever for "other-stuff" I still always want to be kissed.   Something I couldn't have understood until this season of our life.

I think I'm going to buy a cheesy little sign to put in our bedroom.

***

If your marriage needs a lift and you live in the Gilbert (Arizona) area, will you consider signing up for this 14-week program at Sun Valley Community Chuch?   Dan and I did this Re|Engage marriage enrichment program last semester and are doing it again starting later this month.  It begins January 26th and registration is going on now.  Please ask me if you want to know more about what it's like or our experience with it.



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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lazy Breastfeeding


Josie girl got hungry during our recent family photo session, so, I sat down in the field we were in, and nursed her.  My co-shooter grabbed this image, which I love so much because: 1. my makeup looks fantastic, and 2. more importantly, I think it depicts exactly how breastfeeding is supposed to feel.  Natural.  Comfortable.  Intimate.  Close.  Sweet.  Simple.

I'm not sure if I would have been able to pull this off when my first baby was not yet three months old.  My mommy-brain might deceive me, but if I recall correctly, with baby number one, nursing in public (or anywhere) was a calculated ritual, with timers and props and measurements and a whole ordeal -- at least when baby Penny was this young, I may have eased up a bit as she got older.

I suppose you could call me a seasoned breastfeeder now with over two years of experience (twenty months with Penelope, and now four months with Josephine).  Here's how we do it now:

When I'm at home, I breastfeed almost exclusively laying down on the bed.  I find the side-lying position to be the most comfortable, and if you haven't tried it I think you should!  If you've got a newborn and side-lying isn't working for you, try it again in a month or two.  Comfort is key.  Laying down is comfortable.  Also, for those of you with only one baby, please take advantage of the fact that you can fall asleep nursing your baby and take a nap with them and not have to worry about the toddler in the other room.  And while you're napping, dream of me carefully rolling off the bed so as not to make a sound and wake up my baby but then tripping on a toy as I leave the room to turn off the princess movie that's been babysitting my two-year-old while I nursed.  No don't dream of that.  Just enjoy your nap.

When I'm out in public I am relaxed about how I sit, how I cover up and what I use to wipe up dribble.  I'll breastfeed in the front seat, in the back seat, in no seat at all.  In a booth, on a bench, leaning against a wall. With a blanket or a pillow or a scarf or a hand or a strategically placed toy.  Something I wish I had realized two years ago is that nipples are small and it doesn't take a 4x4' blanket to cover them.  All you really have to do if other people are around is create a "blind spot" so they can't see the nipple area and you are golden.  I hardly ever use my actual "nursing cover" anymore unless I'm in close proximity to a man who is not my husband (sorry ladies, I don't cover up for you).  If I'm relaxed, the milk flows better; if milk flows better, feedings are quicker and baby is happier.

We aren't on a strict schedule.  She wants to eat, she eats.  It's liberating.  I realize that this is not so feasible for pumping moms who are working outside the home, and if that's you, I COMMEND YOU  and keep at it!  If you stay home, RELAX on the scheduling mama. As long as baby is thriving, you're doing it right. 

I pump when I can.  I keep a frozen inventory that would feed Josie for about a day and a half should something ever happen to me. It also comes in handy to have a stash for photo shoots and date nights.  Other than that I'm lucky I don't have to worry about pumping all the time. [You might recall I pumped for Penelope for 12 months when I was working in a corporate environment.]  I also stopped pumping and dumping if i have a drink or two of the adult variety. New research is saying it's not necessary. 

Perhaps "Lazy" isn't the right word, because of its slovenly connotation.  But think of it as in "Lazy River" or "Lazy Saturday" -- not "Lazy Slob".... ok now I'm getting caught up in semantics...

Happy Breastfeeding!!


You can read all my other breast-feeding related posts here.



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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Thirty (a list revisited).

'insert cheezy caption to accompany headshot here'

And there it went.  

 Last year at the turn of a decade, I made a list of 30 measurable goals and wishes for my 30th year of life.  Here's a followup, and some other notable things about last year.

(in no particular order)

1. Go on one trip with just my husband
Check.  San Francisco.  It was amaze-balls.

2. Try five new recipes (not all dessert)
Check.  Not all were good, but five was an attainable goal in this category.  Of note, this taco seasoning and meat loaf.  Yes, meat loaf, the most basic meal of all time. 

3. Do at least three projects I pin on Pinterest (photography and cooking not withstanding)
Fail.  But I did make some super cool geography canvases for my sister and sister-in-law for Christmas.



4. Update Penny's baby book
Fail.  And Josie doesn't have one either.  Boo, bad Mommy.

5. Finish Penny's nursery 
Check.  And it's Josie's nursery now! 

6. Visit my sister in Tucson at least three times
Epic Fail.  Sorry Leslie.  

7. Grow something in my backyard and not have it die
Fail.  Unless you count dog poop and mud.  Dan and Penny did, however, plant some flowers in the pots on our front porch, and they have sustained life quite well.  But I had nothing to do with it.

8. Paint my own nails before any formal events
I did once.

9. Take Penny to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale
Check.  Photos here.

10. Clean out my closet (again)
Check.  But it's due for a refresh.

11. Find a pair of dressy shoes that I really love AND are comfortable enough that my feet and back don't ache the day after I wear them
Nope, and I'm giving up on this forever.

12. Give more money to charity than any previous year Dan and I have been filing jointly
Check, although not by much and I'd like to do more next year.

13. Read the bible with Dan every day 
Fail.  We only made it through March on our One-Year Bible journey.  But I did lay my eyes on Scripture more last year than any year before, so I guess that's a step in the right direction.

14. Host one party or event for someone else at my house (wherein no one is selling anything)
I did host a Pampered Chef party, but someone was selling something so I guess it doesn't count.

15. a. Have another baby / get pregnant again (a hope, not a goal) or 15. b. lose the baby weight from the last one.
Heyo!  Wehadababyitsagirl!  When I wrote this goal list, I didn't know I was pregnant (and I had forgotten that we had "tried" that month), but when I posted the list later on my actual birthday, I did know I was pregnant... is that cheating?  And as for the second part... gonna give myself some grace on this one.

16. Serve twenty new clients in my photography business
Gah. I am so overwhelmed with how blessed I have been in my business.  I have currently served almost 80 individual clients.  And counting.

17. Launch a new photography website 

18. Go to a museum in Arizona
Pretty sure between morning sickness and pregnancy and having a new baby I totally forgot this one. But Penny did make it to the zoo a few times.

19. See six movies in the theater
Mmmmmmm.... Big Hero 6 is the only one I can remember but I'm sure we saw at least one more.  I feel like we watched a lot of movies at home though, so I'm not completely out of the cinematic loop (see what I did there?)

20. Play the piano at one event or function
Does playing "Let it Go" for the bible study kids count?  how 'bout Christmas Carols?

21. Go to the dentist
Fail.

22. Go to the eye doctor
'Nother fail.

23. Catch up on all of my pre-paid sessions at Massage Envy 
Triple fail.  Prenatal massages are depressing, and it's hard to find the time to go now with two kids.  Some day...

24. Help my parents move to Gilbert (a wish, not a goal)
We have a house picked out for them and everything, but we're still working on the convincing! ;)

25. Earn enough $$ taking pictures to cover half of my front-end investment in photography- and computer-equipment
Check.  More on that in a few months.

26. Buy one additional L-glass lens (photogrageeks you know what I'm talking about)
Yes! Love love love my EF 24-70mm 2.8L II, and Santa just brought me the EF 100mm 2.8L Macro which I am super stoked about.

27. Take the dogs on at least two walks per week
While they did not get two walks every week, I would say they averaged two walks per week due to a phase where I was walking them almost every day for about a month, sometimes multiple times a day.  So I'm calling this one a win.

28. One date-night per month
I think we pulled this one off, if you don't count the month before and after Josie was born.

29. Make homemade ice cream twice in the summer
Fail.  But maybe I'll make some this winter.  I mean, it's never too cold to eat ice cream.

30. Read one book, the whole thing.
Embarassingly, no.  Guess it's true that I'm just not a reader.


A few things I didn't blog about during age 30:  

Washing sippy cups was a huge part of my life.  So was going to the bathroom with the door open.  Also of note, [Dan might disagree but] I think thirty was the year I grew up and accepted the fate that I don't get to sleep in as late as I want anymore.

Dan and I participated in a 14-week Marriage Ministry at our church called Re|Engage, and it was wonderful for us.  If you are looking to refresh, revamp or recover your marriage, I highly recommend it.  Ask me.

I mentioned in the birth blog post that I delivered Josephine by VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean, kind of a big deal), but I never shared my thoughts on the fact that I ended up going for the epidural during labor.  I wanted to write a whole post about it, but never got around to it.  In short, I think women who make it all the way through birth completely unmedicated are rock stars, but I have no regrets about my decision to have Dr. M. the anesthesiologist make me up the perfect cocktail and shoot it into my spine when I was pre-transition and exhausted and only five centimeters when I felt like I should have been nine from all the work I had been doing.  I won't ever encourage women to go in and just "skip" the hard part and get their epidural right away, but I also don't think there's any shame in making that call like I did.   Next time around I'll have the goal again to go all-natural, because every pregnancy and every birth is different from the others.

I didn't write about the sudden and tragic death of the lead singer of my band because it was just. too. hard.  I still can't listen to certain songs on the radio without bursting into tears.  I miss you, Michael.

This summer my mom's side of the family had a ginormous family reunion in San Diego, at which I met a handful of her half-siblings and their children for the first time.  Around this time, Dan got really into using Ancestry.com to fill in all the blanks on our family trees.  Between Dan's and my dad's efforts, we've got documented lineage tracing our families all the way back to the 900's.

We celebrated my father-in-law's 70th birthday in December.  I took pictures and it brought me so much joy, especially because this meant meeting his 90-year-old mother, who surprised him by coming out to Arizona from California.  A 90-year-old mother surprising her 70-year-old son, how cool is that???  Pictures here.

Today on my 31st birthday, I find myself feeling pretty young, actually.  Scatterbrained, silly and sleepy.  Happy.  My biggest challenges and stresses these days involve parenting a toddler with a strong will, and also keeping up with her bright sharp mind and wanting to raise her well; and balancing running a small business all on my own and wanting to offer great customer service to my clients without compromising important family things, finding enough hours in the day to do the things I have to do and try to squeeze in some things I want to do.  My biggest joys these days are in conversations with my husband, watching our daughters grow, soaking up the blessings of our beautiful neighborhood and community with our families so close by, feeling content in the church community we've joined, and feeling fulfilled by getting to wear another hat on my photography adventures.

Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes today!   I'm officially "in my thirties."


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Thursday, January 1, 2015

The New Year

My feeds and inbox have been bombarded with summaries and last-minute deals and 2014 favs and resolutions and pictures of champagne and dress-up and parties.

We spent this New Years holiday a little differently than many I've seen in the fancy photos.  With some relaxation and recovery from a chaotic December, and some added chaos with a sick and teething toddler refusing to sleep, this trip to the cabin has been one to remember.  



Josie's first snow, actually the most beautiful snow I've ever seen.  Penny's first ear infection and first time sledding with her cousins.  Our first, er third, New Years Eve where we went to bed before midnight.  (And we are ok with that). 

I think of all the memories I've made at this house on this specific holiday.  New Years past of large crowds and loud music and beer pong and snowboarding the next day.  Then last New Years when we quietly found out I was pregnant with Josephine. 


So much to think about I've been too tired and too overwhelmed to write.  December really took it outta me. 



Looking forward to what God has in store for us in 2015.  
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