7.28.2014

Dear Porter

7.28.14

I'm leaking milk onto my clothes, which don't fit quite right. Laundry seems to have exploded more than ever before and I'm scrubbing various stains out of many of my ill-fitting outfits more than I remember before. Sometimes, if it's been a few hours since I've nursed you, just thinking about your little face will make me let down. These boobs are not my own right now but I know they are your source of growth and nourishment, so I'll do my best to own them.

Each night when the sun sets, I feel a bit of panic hit me right behind my tired eyes. What if you never fall asleep? What if you wake up and stay awake for hours on end? Why does everything seem worse when it's dark outside? 

But part of me cherishes those middle-of-the-night nursing sessions. You and I awake together while the other three of them sleep soundly. You and I nursing, changing your diaper, rocking, burping....the newborn nighttime routine that I've done so many times before, but each night is different. I'll sleepily type a few notes on my phone about what time it is, and how many hours you just slept so that these nights aren't one giant blur. The nights have been going well so far in your two weeks of life even though they are certainly different and more tiring than with you on the inside.

During those quiet nursing sessions, I'll kiss your forehead a million times, drink in your scent, listen to your own unique grunts and sighs and baby sounds that will surely change over the weeks progress. Feeling you cuddle into me as you eat, the weight of you in my arms, the routine of it all...they are some of the sweetest moments I've known. 

I can see why moms never want to stop having babies. I can tell that it's going to be hard to admit to myself that you are my last newborn, so I choose to ignore the finality of that concept and embrace my sweet Porter right now. You are our third baby but I can assure you that bringing you into our family was every bit as special as the first and second times around. In fact, there might be something even sweeter with you, Porter. Maybe it's because of the added perspective you bring. Maybe it's because I feel more laid back and able to soak it all in as the hard stuff fades away a little more easily. Maybe it's because you seem to be very chill and content. But I can honestly say I'm enjoying your first few weeks more than I thought I would, and more than I was able to do with your siblings. 

I know time is a tricky thing for us moms. It goes unbearably fast and yet sometimes we want time to speed up even more, while we look to the fun milestones ahead. But right now, at seventeen days old, you are awesome. You can't do a whole lot just yet but I'm fine with the sleeping, nursing, pooping, and occasional fussing. Because oh, that newborn helplessness gets me every time. What a life, little dude. What a precious little life you have.

Just wanted to write you a few words as I have the chance. You're the best.

Mommy

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Moms Make it Work: Mara | Work at Home, Solo Parenting, Military Mom

Today on the Moms Make it Work series, we have Mara, who is a blog reader that contacted me offering up her story. Mara works remotely from home, has two little girls, and is a solo parent for this entire year as her husband is deployed with the Navy. An entire year, you guys. Reading Mara's post made me smile because she truly makes it work: she is organized, she is focused, and she seems like a lot of fun as a mom. What a fun combination! I really enjoyed Mara's post and am sure you will, too. Enjoy!

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Hello Julia's readers! I am so excited about being included here. I blog at casah.blogspot.com but life is so crazy that a picture and a short paragraph are all I usually have time for. It's nice to write a real post, though I will not tell you how many days it took to write this.

My name is Mara, and I have two lovely girls: Ellie (4) and Penny (1). Above is a recent staged picture, but this is probably closer to how we really look (I certainly feel this blurry in real life, but it might just be the wine).




I am a work-at-home mom, currently solo-parenting my two little ladies while my husband is on a fancy international business trip...just kidding, he's on a long deployment with the U.S. Navy.

Let me say from the outset that I certainly don't intend to represent the experience of all military spouses. I am the first to admit that many other people have it harder, do it longer, and do it better (with cleaner houses). If you are lucky enough to also know one of these people, please give them a hug and a high five, because they are awesome! (Single moms, you're also first-class in my book. You should have a permanent discount on chocolate and wine.)

On the other hand, I hear friends talk about how hard it is when their spouse is away for a week, and they say things like "I just can't do it for more than a week." You can, and you would if you had to do it.

What is your background story? 

When I was in high school, I started seeing this handsome guy that I'd met at my summer job at the grocery store. He mentioned he was headed off to the Naval Academy and I was planning to go not there so I thought the relationship would probably be short-lived. I was wrong. Like most teenagers, we broke up and got back together, but in 2007, he got down on one knee on a mountain top and asked me to marry him. I said yes, got on the Navy roller coaster and never looked back.



When we got engaged, I was working for a government agency in DC, and was very fortunate to transfer to an office close to my fiance in Washington state, 3000 miles away. I worked happily through our first year of marriage, even working an extra 20 hours a week for a non-profit during his first deployment.

When he returned, we decided to start a family and welcomed our first daughter in 2010. When she was 3 months old, we moved back across the country to Maryland and I luckily transferred my job again, joining the world of working mothers.

In 2013, we completed our family with the arrival of our second daughter. I initially went back to work again, but when our youngest was 5 months old, we moved to Virginia. I wasn't able ttransfer my job this time, but I was very very lucky to be hired by a contractor a few months later. (My current employer allows me to work remotely from my home which I surprisingly love.)



Of course, that's just the nutshell version. Since we got engaged, we've lived in five different homes, he's deployed, we've completed two Master's programs (mine and his), we've had two children, and we completely renovated a home.  It has been crazy, wonderful, lonely, and lovely, but I still would say "Yes!" if he asked me to marry him today.

I'm hesitant to say where he is, what he's doing, or how long he will be gone this time. (I take his security and our security very seriously.) But, to give you some context, in the time he has been gone so far, the baby has grown three inches and learned to walk, and our big girl has grown two inches and played her first season of soccer.



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

I have a few degrees, and a cool-sounding job, but at its most basic level, I need an outlet for my analytic side, and it's even better when someone offers to pay me for it. (When I'm not working I tend to overwork things in our personal lives...as in pie charts in our household budget, and to-do lists a mile long.) More than anything else, having an outlet for this part of my personality boosts my self-confidence and that boosts my parenting confidence. This is why I have endeavored to work even though it can be extraordinarily difficult to work as a military spouse. (I always bring my military spouse status up in job interviews, because otherwise it looks like I'm just a flake who changes jobs every couple of years.)



The Navy lifestyle has allowed me to experience many different combinations of working and parenting. When Ellie was a baby and toddler, I worked in an office and she went to a daycare center. When we moved to Virginia, both girls were home with me for a few months, and when I started working from home, Ellie went to preschool, and Penny stayed home with me (and a nanny). Now, both girls go to daycare/preschool and I stay home alone to work.

I enjoy our current setup. I don't think I could work in an office and parent the girls alone without feeling really disorganized and unprepared at home. As it is, I get a nice break from parenting duty during the day, and I'm able to enjoy work, recharge, and prepare for the time I'm on parenting duty again.

What are the best parts of your situations? 

I love working at home. Because my commute is just to daycare and back, I feel that I have a lot more time with my kids than other working parents get.


Being at home enables me to complete a large number of chores that would otherwise take time away from my children. I often do laundry or dishes throughout the day, and I can usually mow the lawn, vacuum the house, empty the dishwasher, or clean the bathroom on my 30 minute lunch. (I usually knock out the loudest chores then, saving quiet tasks for after bedtime.) I also love the freedom to blast music, open the windows, and wear jeans and T-shirts. I don't have to take time off to wait for a repairman or delivery, and I take a lot less sick leave.

When I'm done for the day, I can also take a few minutes to prepare for the evening. Sometimes this involves throwing library books or swimsuits into the car, but I mostly use the time to prep dinner. These little steps make me feel more organized and relaxed when I return home with my girls.

As for the other part of my life, there are some fun things about being the only adult at home. I drink a lot of pink wine, watch a lot of girly TV and movies, and I don't have to compromise about the thermostat, the music in the car, or what we're having for dinner.







What are the challenges?
Well, when working from home, I miss small talk and I miss subtle body language that doesn't translate over the phone. But, most of my challenges relate to parenting on my own.

Without the ability to divide and conquer, the simplest tasks, like getting dinner on the table, suddenly become a marathon of shopping, cooking, entertaining, negotiating, food-shoveling, child-cleaning, and dish-cleaning. I do my best, but sometimes the recipe is a flop, someone refuses to eat, or I yell and scream like a crazy person, and its hard to pep-talk myself into doing it again the next day.

Its hard to admit that I am one person, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I simply can't do everything I want to do. Sometimes I have to do less (bringing something store bought even though I really wanted to make the fun recipe I saw on Pinterest) and sometimes I have to do more (singing one more lullaby because "Daddy would...," even though I just want to go downstairs and eat ice cream in front of the TV).

That brings me to the biggest challenge: I feel a lot of pressure to provide two parents worth of love and attention to two little girls, while also trying to document everything for my husband so that he's not out of the loop. I do separate bedtimes for the girls (the older one gets extra TV time while I put the little one to bed). Even though it would be so much easier to get them ready together, I know they both need and deserve a little bit of alone time with me each day.  I send pictures, videos, emails, and care packages to my man, but there's still no substitute for that moment when your child does something ridiculous and you get to smile and roll your eyes with him.





How do meals work in your family? 
When you're cooking for kids it is easy to pick meals that will get less resistance from them and neglect your own cravings and nutrition. I try to plan a week of meals at once, and balance meals for them (pizza, pasta) and meals for me (curry, zucchini). Sometimes I am informed that "Dinner is disgusting!" but that's fine. We also go grocery shopping on Friday night because the grocery store is empty and I like to start the weekend with a full refrigerator and a plan.




How do you keep your house clean?

My house is not clean, or not as clean as I wish it was. (You are pretty much always going to find dishes in the sink and socks on the floor if you surprise me.) In order to keep the house clean enough, I clean or do other chores every day at lunch and after bedtime I try to multitask as many tasks as I can. I clean the bathroom while the kids are in the tub. I sort laundry when I'm on hold. I fold laundry while I watch TV. For the others, I try to make them fun. I listen to podcasts while I clean the kitchen; I blast embarrassing 90's music while I mop the floor. A little fun definitely makes this Sisyphean task a little easier.


Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
No. I always hated studying at home in high school and college. I never expected I would enjoy working from home. I also thought I would never have to change a flat tire, kill a spider, or mow the lawn after I got married and I do a healthy amount of all three of those things.




But I also thought I'd reach the old-married-lady stage of love and marriage by now, and I still feel the butterflies for him that I felt when I was 17. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

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?

I couldn't tell you what lies ahead for us. Much to Ellie's consternation, I couldn't even tell you what state we'll live in when she goes to Kindergarten. Sometimes I fantasize about settling down in a house and a job and actually expecting to stay there. On the other hand, the Navy has brought many wonderful people into our lives and allowed me to experience many different places; I would be a little sad to return to a fully civilian lifestyle.


How do you handle mommy guilt?
Its hard to accept that I miss things, that they are growing and developing when they are away from me. I guess my strategy for handling the guilt is simply to make my time with them count! I try to put away the phone and the computer when we're together and really be present. We plan fun activities and I try to document their lives weekly on my blog and in our yearly photobooks. I want them to look back on their childhoods and remember not how often their parents were away, but how good it was when we were together.

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?
Gosh, this feels like offering marathon advice when I just completed a 5K, but I think you shouldn't worry too much about what other people think of your choices. Are you raising happy, kind, healthy kids? Are you happy and healthy? Then I'm sure you are making the right choice.


Thanks Julia!

{Thank you, Mara! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}







  

7.25.2014

Porter: Two Weeks

Another week down with our baby boy! Overall theme of this week: figuring out a new normal with three kids, coming down off the highest of highs after birth, but still enjoying this transition as much as possible.

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Nicknames: P-man, Porter-Port, Mister P, and I hate to even admit this one but it seems to be rolling off my tongue more and more these days....Porter-Poo. Truman even calls him that sometimes. Very manly, obviously.

Sleep: I considered skipping this weekly post just because last night was epically horrible in the sleep department. Like, the worst night he's had since his first horrible night at home. But whatever, I will mention last night and then focus on the other BETTER nights of last week to convince myself that last night was the fluke and he actually is a decent sleeper.

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Last night he slept for a measly little 2 hour stretch, then 1 hour, and then he was awake for nearly THREE HOURS. Awful. He's had a few other nights in the past week when he refused to fall back to sleep after nursing but they've been rare, and usually he will throw me a bone and sleep for at least 3-4 hours at a time minimum. Not so much last night. He wasn't hysterical or anything but just would not settle down to sleep: lots of grunting, fidgeting, fussing around every time I placed him in the swing. I think he just wanted to party all night long after taking a few gigantic afternoon naps yesterday but I also kept wondering if he was just working on a poop, needed to be swaddled tighter, was super hungry despite nursing non-stop, uncomfortable in the swing, etc etc. So annoying to brainstorm ideas on how to 'fix' bad sleep when it's probably nothing fixable anyway. I cried the ugly cry at 4:30 am because I was just so freaking exhausted and didn't want to expend any more brain power on the situation. Low moment for sure and one of those nights when it seems like morning will never come and I will never sleep again. Here's hoping tonight is better. I already feel more stable mentally and can still see the light: I realize broken sleep is a temporary thing and we'll find our routine eventually. Would just really like these bad nights to be few and far between if possible!

USUALLY he sleeps like a boss at night, mostly waking up only twice around midnight and 3 am. Last week he boasted a few 5 hour stretches and commonly gave us 4-4.5 hour stretches. Sometimes 3 hours but hardly ever less than that. He will USUALLY fall back to sleep after nursing with just a few grunts here and there. Still sleeping in the MamaRoo 100% of the time that he isn't sleeping while being held. The swing is a freaking godsend and worth it's weight in gold around here. I'm back to our bedroom instead of sleeping in the family room with him but I swear, he really does sleep better on the main level versus our room. No idea why that is but may consider sleeping on the couch one night with Porter in the swing again---just to see if it's more restful for us all.

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Daytime naps are all over the place but he will almost always sleep for a solid 2-3 hours in the morning, then will be awake for about 30 minutes or an hour, then naps on and off for the rest of the day. You just never know with this little two weeker!

Nursing: My buddy loves to nurse and since I'm feeding him on demand, sometimes he will eat almost every hour and other times he can go 3-4 hours as my boobs almost explode. It's usually both sides and he seems pretty efficient, only needing maybe 5-10 minutes each. He does this really cute thing when he's full and doesn't really want the MILK but still tries to latch on and suck anyway: he will snort around and halfway latch then pull off and get kind of mad that he even attempted to nurse. Because he's not hungry but wants to give it a try, I guess. I'm learning that when he does the weird half-latch-snort thing he just needs the pacifier for soothing and he'll be back for actual milk when he is ready.

Sometimes I think my letdown is too forceful for Porter as he will cough, pull off, and promptly get sprayed in the face by my big dog right side. I don't like listening to him frantically gulp while he tries to keep up with the milk but it's not every session and he doesn't seem to mind too much. He has had a few large spit up episodes but maybe only 3 times total. I haven't weighed him but I'm assuming he's gaining weight right on track and all is well with nursing. His size newborn diapers and also his NB clothes seem to be really tight already, and even fatty Truman wore NB clothes for about 3-4 weeks before upsizing to 0-3 months. I put Porter in a 0-3 onesie the other day and it fit surprisingly well, and a 3 month Carter's sleeper also fit just fine. Waaaaah, my baby is growing up! We are onto size 1 diapers, now as well. I guess it makes sense because he is likely over 9 pounds already being my biggest baby...but still! It feels nice to feed on demand and I'm not tracking how often we nurse during the day since it seems to be working itself out nicely without much of a plan/schedule. Definitely more relaxed about everything this third time around.

In his first 3 month romper.
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I started pumping this week but only every-other-day so far, getting about 4 oz in 5 minutes right after feeding him. I just can't get myself geared up to truly begin this pumping journey although I know I want a hefty freezer stash by the end of my maternity leave. For both Truman and Cecelia I think I had 200-250oz stored up and those stashes were HUGE for me at the end of the year when I could stop pumping and just give the stored milk we had saved. I'll figure out the routine of pumping and nursing on maternity leave soon enough but I find myself a lot more laid back about it. If Porter is my first baby to need formula supplementation then so be it. I will not kill myself over the pump this time around, so help me God! Right now we are rocking the nursing relationship and hopefully that continues well beyond my return to work, hopefully making it to a year of nursing with him like I've done with the other babes. I sure do loooooove nursing this baby and wish I never had to pump!

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Personality/Temperament: Porter is one chill little dude. When he is awake he likes to look around quietly and seems content to be left alone. On my first 12.5 hour day of parenting three kids alone (Wednesday), Porter even laid on a blanket in the playroom and watched Truman and CC while I made dinner in peace. WHAT? I know. That day was ridiculously long and exhausting but really all three kids treated me kindly and my beer tasted a little bit like heaven that night.

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P loves to be worn in the Bjorn even more than the Moby. But his favorite is just being held by anyone at any time. My little cuddle bug;) His least favorite thing in life is the dreaded car seat. It's so horrifying to hear him scream until he nearly pukes that I have vowed to avoid the car seat over the next few days because I cannot handle the hysterics. All five of us went on a little shopping trip one evening and I wanted to die listening to Porter cry his face off the entire time. I physically cannot handle that type of crying, it makes me hot and sweaty and very anxious when it just won't stop and it sounds like he's being tortured. Luckily my mom is here for her SEVENTEEN DAY VISIT (!!!!!) and so she can stay back with Porter while I run the other kids around town if needed. Hoping the car seat hatred is a phase or at the very least, that he stops clawing his own face in defiance of being in the car. It's just dreadful and not worth it.

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Firsts: First bath at day 10--major success, he loved it and didn't even cry! His cord is still attached so we had to keep his tummy dry but I was shocked at how content he was in the water. Both of my other kids hated baths at this age. Maybe it's the 4Moms Infant Tub that did the trick?

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First long walk on day 13-- in the Bjorn while mommy pushed the big kids in the double BOB. Almost died hauling around 70+ pounds of kids along with the stroller but we made it to and from Starbucks in one piece. Totally worth it.

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First trip to the pool on day 9--no pictures from that excursion, but he did great in the Moby and barely made a peep. Definitely will not be taking all three kids to the pool without another adult, though. Way too overwhelming to consider the logistics at this point.

Hi, handsome!
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After the pool, Porter's first trip to YoMama to watch us eat frozen yogurt;) He was alright missing out on the yummy goodness. Definitely a 'Holy cow, we have three kids' moment!
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Comparisons: Here is a post from Truman's two week mark: apparently he had his first really horrible night of protesting sleep around this time, too. Hmmmmm. We were enjoying a few family walks, braved Target for the first time, and I was figuring out how to roll with the punches of having a newborn who was on his own schedule.

Cecelia's two week post reminded me that she haaaated her car seat around now, just like her baby brother. She also preferred to be held at all times (sounds familiar!), was just starting with her crazy projectile spit ups, her cord broke off on day 14, was sleeping 3-4 hour stretches at times, and didn't love her pacifier already. Oh, the foreshadowing for the bottle wars that would ensue with our girl.

All of my babies in their newborn glory.
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Sibling love: Truman and Cecelia are still blowing us away with their love for baby brother. They both ask where he is immediately upon waking for the day, request to hold him, give him kisses and hugs, and want to help with diaper changes and pacifier placement. Both T and C seem to be adjusting really well without major behavior issues. CC still needs mommy a LOT more now than she used to and sometimes Truman gets a little naughty with his sister but overall it's going well for the big kids. When Truman says, 'I love my Porter, I'm so glad he's out,' I sort of want to cry. Totally agree, Truman!!

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Things I never want to forget:

-His dramatic faces he'll make in his sleep. I love when he looks super scared, then he will grin, then he will gasp or sigh as if he's having a vivid dream that is both happy and sad. What on earth could you be scared of right now, Porter? Not getting the boob in the first five seconds of waking? God, I love milk drunk smiles so much. It's like a sneak peek to what his real smiles will be in a few more weeks.

-Seeing him root around in my general vicinity when he hears me talking. Like, 'Hey lady! I hear you. Feed me or I'll start sucking on my blanket/shirt/hand to show you I'm serious.'

He loves his family;)
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-The way Nate looks at Porter with sheer pride. And/or watching Nate hold this tiny little baby that is sure to grow just as big as his daddy someday. Mind-blowing.

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-Porter's smell. Cannot get enough of his baby head!

-Making eye contact with P even though I'm not sure he can really 'see' me yet. Everything is so big and stimulating and new to him in this big world---it's just crazy to think of all that he's taking in compared to being in the comforting, dark, relatively quiet womb.

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-His pouty, milk blistered lips when he's sleeping. Total perfection.

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-Just learning this baby and discovering what his cues mean. The weight of him in my arms. Getting into a new routine as a family of five and the newness of it all. Marveling that this child was inside of me two weeks ago----wondering how in the heck he fit in there!!??

What a difference a week makes! 40w2d and 1 week post partum.
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What a week! Still going really well over here but the reality checks of car seat hatred and a few really awful nights of sleeping have brought me down a few notches from the 'high on life' mentality of last week. And yet, still so freaking happy to have this boy with us.