Life Lately, Vol. 2

Hi. It's quiet around here, no? I suppose that is completely expected during this head-spinning-adjustment of being a working mom to three. But blog, I just can't quit you and feel the need to bookmark life's happenings lately. It's like I can hear these days whoosh past me in a giant blur of highs and lows and emotions. This whoosh always makes me want to stop, breathe, and type it all out a bit--even if blogs are 'out' and I've barely made time to read one myself. I still feel pulled to make the time for these updates. Not 'find' the time but make it. Right?

Things are good, kids are good, Nate is good, work is good, life is good. It's just a freaking roller coaster and that feeling of being TOTALLY FRAZZLED is currently a 7 out of a possible 10. Yes, I'm plastering a number to make my overwhelmed-ness objective. You'd expect this of me, I hope. Yesterday I was rocking a 2/10 with self-professed frazzlement because it was a great day at home, kick-butt productivity with my To Do list, especially happy children, and extra fun times as a mom were had. I mean, Porter laughed for the first time and I almost died from the cute and almost cried from how amazing that sound was to my ears. Emotions. Not short on those around here lately. Also, Truman took a nap on the couch after his first field trip at school, and I cannot remember the last time he napped. Not only that, but he happened to snooze at the exact same time as his younger siblings. Triple nap for the win, because that hour in itself was enough to stamp yesterday as a major success.

Seriously? We made these kids? How are we so lucky? Triple smiles. OMG.
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Also, if baby flannel is wrong then I don't want to be right.
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So anyway, today is less of a 'I can conquer the world as a mom' feeling and more of a 'holy man, I cannot possibly stretch myself any thinner. Gumby doesn't have anything on me.' And stuff. Defeated mommy rears her ugly head.

Sleep (or lack thereof) and also Nursing (or lack thereof) are the main sources of my 'on the brink of disaster' feelings. Let's discuss. SLEEP: The other night, I decided to try a dream feed for Porter with a big bottle of milk right before I went to bed. I mean, waking up 3+ times per night is becoming torture, although not a shock seeing as how I just really don't breed good sleepers. The first night it worked great, as he made it from bedtime at 7:30 (nursing down), bottle at 10:30, and then didn't peep until 2:45am when I nursed him (and again at 5:00). Two wake ups = good night by my standards. And a 7 hour stretch is ideal.

Last night I gave him the bottle at bedtime because he was NOT having the boob, so then I pumped and went to bed without a dream feed. He woke at 11:30, just an hour after I laid my bagged eyes to rest. I nursed him then and also every 1.5 hours there after (ugggggghhhhh) until he fa-REAKED at 4 am and I gave him a bottle. I slept on the couch from 5-6:30 because Nate was snoring and it was just a rough night of (pathetic) sleep. And then it was a work day and pretending to be professional running on a few hours of very broken sleep is a game I will surely lose soon.

Little sleep and dwindling nursing are a potent combination, guys. A combination that can send me straight to the depths of 'what am I doing wrong? You must hate me, children.' Followed up by 'whatever, I'm just rolling with it. Look at me being all zen and non-control-y.' Because Porter is seriously the best thing ever, and I refuse to let this nursing drama/lack of sleep tarnish my time with this quickly growing babe. MY LAST BABE. Sob.

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(how can anything in life be bad when he is so cute?)
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We are doing bottles during the day to solidify a routine of sorts and take some of the weight of the unknown off my shoulders. I pump when I can, even on days at home, and usually end up a cow hooked up to my udder sucker 3-4 times every day. It feels like 40 times per day, for real, because every time I'm pumping I have three children that need all of my arms plus an additional appendage I have yet to grow. It's a lot but whatever, I can be stubborn enough to do it. Plus, I gave Porter his first formula bottle at home yesterday, although I'm still *mostly* keeping up with his intake pumping. The world did not end. Go figure.

(New bottle and pumping gear to make it more fun and less awful. Retail therapy DOES help, my friends)
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Wait. Are you counting the 'firsts' in this post so far? First triple nap, first laugh, first formula bottle I've ever mixed. Big timers! {Pausing to re-fill my wine glass here}

I'm like an exclusive pumper who still nurses before bed (most of the time), during the middle of the night (begrudgingly), and first thing in the morning. The LC had the fab idea of making 'pajama time' nursing time, since he does nurse the best when sleepy. But otherwise, it's his beloved bottle. And this set up is really working well for us since we both seem to crave routine and less wavering about whether or not to attempt nursing and have him freak. I honestly do feel at peace with nursing him just at night and doing bottles otherwise. It doesn't have to be all or none and hopefully he WILL continue to nurse a bit for me but if not, I just want him fed and happy. And to have no regrets but that may be asking too much from this crazy time of life. I want our breastfeeding journey to be a positive one and somehow end on a high note, without either of us crying. Crystal ball anyone?

Other updates not related to the boob or zzzzzzs: Cecelia seems to be leveling out her intense emotional peaks and valleys. She still neeeeeeeds me quite often but she is also showing signs of becoming a comedienne and has us rolling on the floor in laughter. She's just a goober and might be growing up a bit, which is alright if it means she's not trying to kill us with her meltdowns. Love my entertaining girl so much. Even when she is the queen of pout.

(This was during her re-telling of her day at Lori's, when she was only allowed one cup of juice. Was very distraught, obviously).
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New sweater leggings on her rival my love for Porter in flannel, FYI.
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Germ sharing...
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(I'm not sure…)
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(little princess balancing on daddy's hands)
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Truman is also rocking school's face off. We had our first parent teacher conference weeks ago and it was a pride-filled meeting while we discussed our rule-following, people-pleasing first born. The teacher said he is a joy to have in class and he's her big helper, her example of good behavior, and her great listener. I mean, come on----can parents bust open from being proud?

(his teacher emailed me this picture of Truman and his 'mat man.' Talk about pride---look at his face!)
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(napping mid-cookie takes talent)
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Work days are actually falling into more of a routine and are less jarring to the delicate balance of life with three kids. It's a given that work day mornings are n-u-t-s and work day evenings are r-i-d-i-c because we are all exhausted and ready for bed by 6pm. But it's getting better. And work itself is still enjoyable and rewarding and a place where I can actually be on top of my organizational game a bit. Nothing like bossing around helping my patients to make me feel like I'm making a difference in the the lives of others.

It's especially nice to hear positive affirmations that I'm doing a good job with my PT role, because the mom role is severely under appreciated as we all know. It's not like my children look me in my eyes and thank me for wiping their butts, making them food they will likely refuse to eat anyway, helping them sort out their feelings, exposing them to super-fun activities with friends, etc. Now more than ever, being a mom feels especially thankless but it feels like the best job in the world, too. Such a paradox and worth it, times a million. I think having three children and working outside of the home three days per week has simply amplified my over thinking about both roles.

What else? Nate will be traveling all weekend and into next week, but my mom and Memaw will be coming for a visit. PERFEC TIMING, ladies. ;) Seriously cannot wait. The kids, and especially that little Porter P, are changing at record speeds so the monthly visits from The Ladies are a must.

OH, and remember Henry? He was once the sole focus of blog fodder and of our lives. The old mutt turned nine last weekend. We still love him lots even when he's acting a fool (like the rest of our crew).
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To end this randomness, I will summarize in saying this: I'm stretched thin but I'm soaking in the beauty in being so incredibly needed by various aspects of my life. We are juggling. We are surviving and even enjoying the chaos in the process. I'm a giant cliche right now but I truly would not trade this time in my life for another….unless it somehow included more sleep and less of the 7/10 frazzlement rating I feel buzzing behind my eyes. Or maybe that's just my beloved coffee with the buzz. Either way, I'll take it!

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Moms Make it Work: Katie | Full Time Working Mom in Alaska

Today on the Moms Make it Work series we have Katie, a full time Special Education elementary school teacher. She and her family moved to Alaska from San Diego, and Katie transitioned from being a SAHM to a full-time working mom as well. I really love this series for so many reasons, but Katie's post really highlighted how situations can change and 'making it work' will look different over the years. I enjoyed this post so much and hope you do, too!


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Before I introduce myself, I want you to imagine that it's currently about 40 degrees outside, and that you're starting to get nervous that it may snow soon. There! Now we're on the same page.. have I made you want to move to Alaska yet? My name is Katie and I have been married for 10 years - half of them spent in San Diego and half spent in Alaska. I have three kids, ages 8, 7, and 5, all of whom will be in elementary school this year (yay!), and I am fortunate enough to work at a job I love right there at my kids' school. In my spare time, I've blogged for several years over at Simply Clean Living about organization, parenting, detangling doll hair, and the like. As fitness and the outdoors have become more a part of my life lately, I have recently started a new blog called Run Wild In Alaska, where I blog about what I'm training for and how I'm fitting it in with our busy schedule, along with the activities we do with our kids in beautiful Alaska to keep them healthy and moving. Many gratuitous pictures of gorgeous Alaskan scenery are involved. Come on over to the blogs and say hello!





At this point in my parenting journey, I've spent about half of it as a stay-at-home mom, and half of it working full-time as a teacher. Both before and after my transition back to work, I've spent lots of time thinking about and discussing motherhood, so I was excited to do that here as part of the Moms Make It Work series! 










What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?


I met and married my husband in San Diego, and we spent the first six years of our marriage there. Before we had kids, I was an elementary school Special Ed. teacher and my husband was a pastry chef. Then once I had my first baby, I stopped working to stay home with her. Being a stay-at-home mom was initially quite challenging for me, as I had given up a job I loved and felt good at to be at home all day with a creature who just screamed at me. I was grateful to be home with my baby, but it was uncomfortable to me to have absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was without a car, without a clue, and feeling like an outsider among more experienced moms.





But over the years, I found my rhythm, and with the addition of lots of playdates, Target trips, and Diet Cokes, managed to stay very content and satisfied at home with my kids. I found that I was a mom that needed to be out and around a lot, and as long as I kept busy with the kids, we were all a lot happier! One of my favorite things about this time in my life were the friends I made. I had so many great friends in my neighborhood who also stayed at home with their kids, and we would have never-ending playdates. A pool meet-up would turn into a playdate while the babies napped, which would turn into throwing something together for dinner, all the while sharing anything and everything about motherhood, marriage, and ourselves. It was a fun, fun time in my life, both personally and as a mother.





But fast forward a few years and a few babies, and our situation wasn't really working. My husband was leaving for work in the mornings right after breakfast and not getting home until after midnight, and I was going a little bit crazy parenting our three little kids by myself so much of the time. I was also getting my Master's during this time, adding to the craziness. When it became clear that his salary as a chef was not going to sustain us, and his schedule was making him miss way too many Christmas mornings, birthdays, Thanksgivings, etc., we decided some major changes needed to happen. He hated his career and was spending 60+ hours a week doing it, and I LOVED my (far less time-consuming) career, but I wasn't working. It made no sense. 





We decided to completely upend our lives and change EVERYTHING. My husband would go back to school. I would go back to work. And.... we would move from Southern California to Alaska. Luckily, our kids were little and resilient, and other than missing our family in the Lower 48, it was a fairly painless transition.





Now my husband is in his last year of nursing school, and I am happily back to work as a teacher. I am fortunate that my kids attend the school where I work, so I still get to see them a lot and be very involved in their daily lives. This year my youngest starts Kindergarten, so all three of them will be at school with me all day! I can't wait!

What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?
I feel very lucky to be in our situation right now. One of the best parts is, as I mentioned, having my kids at my school. I love popping in during the day to see what they are working on, and if I am having a really tough day, I can come and get a quick hug. I can be there (briefly) for their class parties and events, and I get to know the other kids they're hanging out with. I almost cried tears of gratitude when my oldest daughter's Kindergarten teacher sent her to my classroom instead of the nurse's office when she lost her first tooth.






Also? I LOVE living in Alaska. We get to be around extended family, and spend time in the most amazing place on Earth. We hike, we kayak, we ski, we ice skate, and just generally soak it all in. My kids are having the most amazing experiences that other people wait a whole lifetime to be able to do, and we're loving every minute of it.









The challenges?

Hmmmm... Alaska is so far away. So very, very far away. We miss our families and our friends, and of course, the sunshine.

But the main challenge in parenting for me at this moment is balance. For me, of course, between work, family time, and squeezing in exercising and hobbies. But even more, for my kids. I want them to have hobbies and stay active, but I don't want extracurricular activities to take over our lives. I want them to have time for homework, to do things as a family, to read books, to play electronics, to play outside, and to just PLAY. But it's hard to find a balance in all of that. I'm always wondering, "Are they doing too much? Not enough? Are we reading with them enough? Do they have enough unstructured time to just create and play?" It's hard to be a kid these days, and hard to raise one. There are a lot of expectations on how they should spend their time, and challenging to find a balance that feels right. I wish for more time for them in a week even more than I wish for more time for myself.





Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
I grew up expecting that I would go to college, get a degree, have some kids, stay home with them, and go back to work in some capacity once they were in school. So, although I went back to work about five years earlier than I would have expected, things have generally gone as planned. The one thing I did not anticipate being such a big part of our lives is fitness - it's something I never gave much thought to growing up, but really enjoy and prioritize now. Also, childhood obesity is a huge problem in Alaska, since it's challenging for kids to get out and play for so much of the year, so I have to put a lot more thought and effort into keeping my kids healthy as well.






Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
It'll be nice to be a two-income family for basically the first time in our marriage, but I really can't complain. Life's pretty good around these parts!


Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?
Teaching Special Ed. can be draining, and also pretty physically demanding. Sometime in the next five years I'd like to get my Librarian Certification, and eventually transition to being a school librarian. How awesome would that be - to help kids fall in love with reading all day? I also may try my hand at being a regular elementary school classroom teacher instead of teaching Special Ed., since I'm credentialed for that as well, but we'll see. For now, I'll stay where I am until I don't love it anymore, because I don't think it does kids any favors to have a teacher who is sick of it. But for now, I am beyond grateful to love what I do.





Tips on how you make your situation work for you:
*Lots of scheduling and calendaring. My husband and I share a Google Calendar, and we have a huge wall calendar, and we try to keep all of our events listed on both. It can be challenging to keep both parents on the same page as far as activities, so we find that we really need to communicate regularly on that. We always have a loose daily schedule as well. For instance, right now we do homework and playtime before dinner, then clean rooms, then have dinner, then after dinner is sports, electronics, and family time. Some days it doesn't look quite like that, but that's our general routine.



*Next tip - use lots of creativity with scheduling exercise! With the kids in school and sports, and myself working full-time, it can be really challenging to even work out a couple of times per week. Last year I very reluctantly made the switch to morning workouts, even though I am a total night person, and was shocked at how much I loved it. I have also done lap swimming during my kids swim lessons, run laps at the park during soccer practice, biked with them on a tandem trailer, gone on runs with them biking beside me, and more! I have had to really open my mind to when and how I can work out, but it's amazing the opportunities that appear when you think outside the box.



*One of my most helpful mental tricks I use is, when something seems like it just can't work, I ask myself, "Do other people make this work? If so, how?" That brings me from the mindset of, "I just can't do that" to, "I could do x, y, or z," and then I need to decide whether or not I'm willing to, which is a much more empowering mindset.



*Babysitting swap. On a fairly regular basis ever since I've had kids, I have exchanged babysitting on a weekly basis with 3-4 friends. When I was a stay-at-home mom, we did Monday mornings so that we would drop our kids off and have time to run errands, clean, nap, or whatever. Now that I'm working, we do Friday night swaps so that we can get a date night in. The kids love to have time with their friends, and hosting a bunch of goofballs every few weeks seems a small price to pay for free and worry-free date nights the rest of the month! This is one of the most important things we have done to keep our marriage healthy!


How do you handle mommy guilt?
Honestly, I don't deal much with mommy guilt. Every choice my husband and I have ever made for our family has been because it's best for our kids, and I just try to look on the bright side, and try to convey the positives about our situation to them when they are sad. Is it disappointing that Mommy can't go on field trips with you? Yes, but I work so we have enough that you can play hockey and buy Legos. You're sad that Mommy is leaving to go on a run? I know, but I want to have a healthy body and live a long time, and exercise helps with that. I'm in it for my kids, and they know that, so I don't let myself dwell too much on the negatives of our situation.




Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?

I guess my advice would be that both working and staying at home are really challenging and rewarding in their own ways. If your family doesn't have a choice, then just try to focus on the positives of your situation and not dwell on what you wish you were doing instead. If you do have a choice, just follow your heart. Your kids will be happy if you're happy.




How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??
*This is one thing that works really well for us. We sit down at the end of each month and make a meal plan for the following month. We found that weekly meal planning just got pushed aside too often. Each day of the week has a category, like International, or Kids' Favorites, and then we just fill in four meals for those categories (you can get more details on the blog). It's way less overwhelming than trying to think of enough meals for a whole month. We also have a list of meals that we go back to when we are having trouble thinking of enough to fill the calendar. Then once a week my husband checks out the meals for the upcoming week and grocery shops. Not all of our meals use fresh produce (we do a lot of frozen veggies), so if something comes up and we need to drop a meal, it's easy to rearrange and not waste anything.



How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?
Ohhhhh..... cleaning! The absolute bane of my existence! The irony that I began my Simply Clean Living blog primarily as a cleaning and organizing blog back in my SAHM days is both hilarious and sad to me now. THERE. IS. NO. GOOD. TIME. Saturday mornings make the most sense, but between trying to fit in exercise, all the kids' obligations, and trying to have some family time, I'm just not really willing to fill the morning with cleaning. For this school year, my husband and I are trying to have the kids clean their rooms every night before dinner, and then he and I are trying to put in 15-20 minutes of cleaning per day during the time the kids are getting ready for bed and reading books. We are modifying my 4-Week Cleaning Schedule and just trying to fit it in that way. We'll see how it goes. We calculated that even 15 minutes a day from both of us adds up to 2.5 hours of cleaning a week, which is way more than we get when we try to squeeze it all into a busy Saturday.

I do think it's important that the kids get used to doing chores as well, so that when I expect them to help as teenagers, it won't be a sudden and unpleasant surprise. For the kids we do what we call Job Jars, which are jars that have kid-level chores on them (one jar for upstairs and one jar for downstairs, rotate between the two). Whenever we do Job Jars, the kids pick three chores out of the jar and can choose one to put back. While this was excruciatingly painful at first, I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly they learned to do the jobs, and how independent they are now. Maybe someday my dream of having three live-in maids will be a reality... :)
































And that's life in our neck of the woods! Thanks so much for reading! I'd love to hear from other moms of school-aged children how you balance their time!

{Thanks, Katie! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


October in Bloom

We had an amazing summer here in Wisconsin but I think this Fall is taking the cake for the most glorious time of year. There is just something about the pops of autumn leaves and the brightest, warmest hues peppering our landscape with color that cannot be beat. The cooler temps, the smell of a pumpkin spice candle, football on the TV, soups and chills, BEER, boots, fleeces and vests, crunching leaves as we walk down our sidewalk….it's just such a great season. I love living in Milwaukee in the fall and am so grateful to reside in a climate with four seasons. Let's not discuss what follows Fall though, alright?

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Last year I took a bunch of pictures with Truman under our favorite tree in October. I've been going a little crazy snapping pictures of the leaves with my iPhone this year when we are out and about. But then Sunday was simply too perfect to ignore the pull of my real camera any longer. Nate was at a course all weekend and the kids and I didn't have plans. So I put Porter in the Ergo (where he took a fantastic nap), grabbed my camera, had Truman and Cecelia take their 'leaf collecting' bags, and we were off to have some fall fun. It was one of those moments in time when the sun is shining just right and the leaves seems to glow around us, illuminating the air like we were in some sort of dreamy bubble. Tru and CC had a ball throwing leaves at each other, jumping in a leaf pile we made over and over again, and playing Simon Says with me…all as I snapped away. Some of my favorite shots feel like photographs that I will seriously cherish forever because they capture T and C and this season so well.

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big time fave:
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another fave:
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and yet another fave:
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The weekend before this we did the Pumpkin Farm thing for our first real Fall activity this year. It was really chilly but the kids had a blast. My nice camera came out to play again. As did Cecelia's new adorable boots and vests for almost every member of the family (ahem, NATE!)

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I'll be the first to tell you that this season of our life is heavy and challenging and I feel like I'm struggling to keep my head above water. But when I step back and really look at October, taking a breath and remembering that every season seems short when it's gone, I realize that life may be crazy right now but I'm embracing the crazy. I might feel spread thin and a little frazzled, juggling needs of others along with my own. But the leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and that crisp fall smell is out there for us. Embrace the crazy. Soak in the season. It's sure to change before we remember to take a breath and life will feel more organized someday.

And then I'll spend too much time looking back on the pictures of this season, wondering how it could have seemed so wild when it was all so beautiful. I think my biggest goal for this Fall is granting myself some grace, cutting myself and everyone around me some slack, and riding the wave of change. Plus I want to really appreciate these pretty leaves before they blow away and the white stuff replaces them for months upon months upon months.

Thank goodness for Octobers.
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