Baby #3: 34 weeks

First time I'm late with a weekly post for the third baby? Not too shabby! I have a good excuse anyway. We had a big weekend with visitors, then the day after they left (Monday), our seventh anniversary happened on the same day I technically hit 34 weeks (Tuesday). My mom and Memaw also arrived that night for visitors round two. And then CC's second birthday came on Wednesday and we are planning her big party for this upcoming weekend.  I figured all of the big occasions in the past week warrants a later than usual weekly pregnancy post. So many fun things happening right now. I love summer!

5.27.14: Thirty Four Weeks

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Geesh, only six more weeks to go? Definitely feeling like I'm nearing the end of pregnancy---and feeling all of the nostalgia and exhaustion that goes along with it.

We had a super active and amazing weekend last weekend with Erin visiting us (post to follow someday, mark my words, but until then you should follow that link on her name for her recap--it's the best!) and I was pleasantly surprised with how much energy I had for jam-packed days and warmer weather. Don't get me wrong: I was wiped out every night and especially after our first round of visitors left, but I felt like I could hang with many of the walking activities, playgrounds, and very little 'down time'. I did have timeable, crampy contractions in the middle of last week which totally freaked me out. But luckily nothing like that since because it's way too early for that nonsense! I have regular Braxton Hicks contractions with almost any physical activity, especially bending down or carrying a child. Fine by me as long as they aren't crampy and regularly spaced!

I also lost my voice and apparently have a little bit of laryngitis or something---really annoying, since I am not 'sick' but cannot speak above a whisper. Maybe I just talked too much over the weekend?

I'm counting down the days until I'm done working for maternity leave. Fifteen more work days, in case you were wondering. Yesssssss. Feeling like flip flopping my roles at home and at work, along with being pregnant and the summer weather finally arriving is a LOT to deal with. But still, time is flying by and I'll often find myself in denial that I'm *this* close to having our baby!

(From last weekend, with my 'pregnant with our third baby' friends. Both of these lovely ladies were almost 26 weeks here and I was almost 34 weeks. I say this every time I post one of these pictures but it's so fun to share our pregnancies together)

The top of my belly is hurting lately, as if it's just stretching and changing by the minute. But overall I still feel fairly 'small' compared to a lot of other 34 week-ers out there, and yet really 'big' compared to my past 34 week self. It's just so round and compact---still getting a lot of shocked comments that I'm due so soon, but I truly don't even remember them specifically anymore.

I do love my belly though and (don't hate me) still love pregnancy as a whole. It's just so freaking awesome, such a miracle, so WEIRD to think about growing a tiny human inside of my own body right now. The anticipation of meeting him is almost killing me. I.Cannot.Wait.

(yes, I had this picture in our anniversary post, but I like it enough to post twice)

He's still a big mover in there and I can tell where his hard little butt is most of the time (right side) and lots of pointy limbs are sticking out at me through the day. I am officially at the 'must rub my belly at all times' stage just because it's so wild to feel this child.

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At 34 weeks with Truman: I was starting to get a little nervous about labor and delivery, and didn't know that the next day after that post, I would spike my blood pressure and the drama would begin with Pre-E. Awww, poor Julia of the past. That really did suck! Obviously, it all worked out just fine but it was pretty scary for the last 4 weeks (!!) until Truman was born at 38 weeks (!!). Woah. That's crazy to consider.

At 34 weeks with Cecelia: I was feeling a little anxious just because of my first pregnancy issues at this point, but was still loving pregnancy overall. I wasn't feeling all that hungry and I guess I'm really not this time, either. I'm thirsty as can be with temperatures finally getting into the 70s consistently but food isn't as much fun as it used to be. The horror. Loving all fruit and definitely obsessed with my flavored/carbonated waters (ie basically diet soda but without the caffeine). I had one that was a pear/peach flavor and about died from how yummy it tasted. Must get more asap.

Belly comparison time! Very pointy third time around, I guess.

Also: I really miss beer right now, mostly because I love carbonation bubbles when pregnant. I honestly haven't missed alcohol in many, many weeks. But hot weather and a cold wheat beer? Sigh. Soon!!

No major waves of dread or fear about labor itself yet and honestly, I'm mostly just excited to have this baby here with us. I hope we make it to the hospital on time and I hope I get an amazing epidural and all goes well, obviously. But when I think about his birthday, I get butterflies in my stomach and figure that I'll remember the mind-numbing pain soon enough. It will suck but it will be so freaking awesome, at the same time.

I try not to think about how much of an adjustment it will be to have three children but this is something weighing heavily on my mind lately. Whenever I feel super tired and lack patience with my two current kids, I wonder, 'Am I really cut out for three? Will we all go bat sh** crazy with the addition of one more?' Basically, I'm trying to think positively and also enjoy the calm before the storm. I have no real expectations going into this big transition: no clue if I will get a good baby or a tough one. I don't pretend to know what it's like to have three kids and am not saying it will be easy AT ALL. It will probably be extremely overwhelming for a bit, just like it's been for the other two kids in our lives. But, if I've learned anything, I know that kids grow up and change SO QUICKLY that it's not worth stressing out about all of the potential stumbling blocks having a third baby just yet.  It will be hard, yes. It was hard before and life is sometimes hard now (although getting easier and more settled each month as the kids get bigger). It will be a 'different' hard and all of that. So I will enjoy having 'just' two little hooligans to run me ragged and will embrace the chaos the best I can once mister man adds to it all. Because honestly, excitement is the biggest emotion I'm feeling right now. Not fear.

So there you have it: ramblings about how I'm feeling good and mostly just excited to move forward into the next six weeks and beyond. I'm tired and happy and there have been so many fun occasions in the last week. 

Happy Second Birthday, Cecelia!

Oh, my sweet girl. Today you are TWO years old! It truly seems like you've been two forever now and honestly you act like you are about fifteen sometimes. But still, today is your big day and I am so excited to celebrate knowing Cecelia for two whole years.


You are staying home from Lori's today with your brother, since GoGo and Memaw are here to spoil the heck out of you two. We might get wild and get some chocolate custard later, as is our birthday tradition with you kids, but I know you are still too young to really 'get' the concept of your birthday. In the past few weeks you will say, 'CC one,' and when I ask how old you will be on your birthday you quickly tell me, 'Two' and try to hold up the right amount of fingers (failing miserably). Ah, my girl. Soon enough you will realize that birthdays are important enough to span an entire week of celebrations! Your party is this weekend and although I have done nothing Pinterest-worthy like last year, it's going to be a fun time with good friends, family and food. Which is all we need anyway.

So what are you up to at the ripe old age of two?

This is going to be my last monthly letter to you, which is both appreciated and makes me kind of sad. So I will do my best to capture the essence of sweet CC in a post all about YOU.

You are currently obsessed with mallard ducks, fishies, chapstick, the Frozen soundtrack (specifically the first song dubbed 'Wa Wa Cuts'), and pretending to bake us cakes and mix us juice whenever you see fit. We have a lot of conversations about where the duckies are right now (since we occasionally see them in the nearby creek) and how they 'Lookie Me'. They look at you, and it makes you laugh. You also recapped a recent zoo trip by listing off all of the animals we saw and 'dey lookie me'. Yes, you certainly love animals and the great outdoors right now. Plus all of the chapstick in the world would not be enough for you and I have probably heard the 'Frozen Hearts' song nearly 1 million times by now. Thank you for the many (empty) cups of juice and HOT cake that you make us. Such a little caregiver already.

You also love pockets, shoving random toys into said pockets, and you are in heaven at a playground. You haven't met a slide you didn't love and you're already climbing up some of the more risky step-stools and difficult stairs that your brother didn't even attempt until age 3. Also: sandboxes are your bliss. You like to make cakes and juice in there, too;)

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Every color you see is 'pink' to you, and when we ask you where you got a certain toy or outfit you always tell us 'GoGo.' Interesting. You are sleeping really well lately---you will request to take your nap around 11:30 or so and usually that lasts for about 2-3 hours. You're still loving your big girl bed in your shared bedroom and we will allow the pacifier in bed only. You'll go down for the night without much fuss around 7:30-8 and almost always sleep all night until 6:30am. You like to wake up slowly by playing in your bed, reading books, and sucking your pacifier alone for a bit. You'll tell me when you are ready to get down from your bed and I don't think you've ever climbed down without warning us first.

You are still a decent eater but you definitely have your picky days. Usually you just want to eat off my plate instead of your own but no matter what, you hate sitting down at the table for longer than about 5 minutes. Too much playing to be done!


Maybe it's because I'm quite pregnant these days but it seems like you want to be held a lot more. By mommy only, and almost always when I'm in the kitchen trying to throw together some semblance of a meal. You also demand to be carried up and down our stairs all of a sudden and immediately upon arriving at Lori's after a work day, you want 'uppie' into my arms. Although I do love cuddling my non-cuddly girl it's getting a little ridiculous, CC.

Don't get me wrong, though---you are NOT a little baby anymore. In fact, you want to do nearly everything on your own. 'CC do it,' is a favorite phrase and that spans the tasks of getting yourself into and out of your car seat, getting yourself dressed and undressed, and picking out your own clothes. You aren't always successful with these feats and get very VERY frustrated when I try to help or when you relent and ask for it. That struggle to be independent while still needing me very much is a tough one for you to handle sometimes, Cecelia.


I think you will be our strong-willed, spunky child. I'm not going to say that your twos will be 'terrible' but you sure are spirited and I love a girl that knows what she wants. If we make it out of age two alive, I'm hoping we can enjoy a few low-key years together before your teenage girl drama begins. Be kind to us, sweet girl. We are learning as we go with you!

You are long and lean: you're wearing 2T clothes and size 5.5 shoes, but we will get your official stats once you have your two year doctor's appointment. I think you have really thinned out and shot straight up over the past few months. You're legs seem incredibly long now that you are wearing shorts again. Your hair is still red but it's lightening up and your eyes are the most beautiful blue I've ever seen.

We love you so much, Cecelia. Words just cannot express. Thank you for being you!


Your Two Year Slideshow;)

Cecelia is TWO! from Julia H. on Vimeo.


Seven years married to this man. Together for nearly twelve.

It's cliche to say, but I love him more today than I did when we were two clueless college kids. I remember the 'world stopping' feeling when I'd spot Nate across campus. I remember those butterflies that would rise up into my throat when he'd email/call/talk to me. He was something different, and I probably knew he was The One from early on. Oh, how I loved that college frat boy and he fell hard for this sorority girl, too.

If you would have told me back then that I'd marry Nate, move to Wisconsin with him, start this new life together, and that I'd have three of his children I don't think I would have been surprised. But there would have been no way for my 21 year old self to fully comprehend what this life with him would entail.

It's so much better than I could have predicted. It's harder, more challenging and more chaotic than I dreamed. But it's full of such joy, gratitude, and laughter---how can you possibly tell a 21 year old girl that it really does get better each year? How can you tell her that the dreamy frat boy turns out to be the most amazing man, husband, and father that she will know? That it will be quite the ride but worth every bump?

Our wedding day was hands-down one of the happiest of our lives. But it was only the beginning of our happiest days. There have been plenty of ugly moments thrown into the past seven years but today, on our anniversary, I can't stop smiling thinking about the good ones.

(our wedding invitation, framed and on my night stand)
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To my husband, on our seventh anniversary: I love you. Thank you for balancing my crazy side and supporting my strengths. Thank you for making me a mother to these children that are our world. Someday we will have time for Julia and Nate again, without the demands of little kids on top of our marriage. But until then, just know that I can't imagine doing this with anyone else. We are quite the team. Here's to the next seven.

Wedding Day: 2007


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First Anniversary: 2008 (San Diego trip)



Second Anniversary: 2009 (Chicago Trip)
nate threw down gang signs

soaking it all in

Yours truly

Third Anniversary: 2010 (New baby! No trip!)



Fourth Anniversary: 2011 (Chicago Trip)



Fifth Anniversary: 2012 (Last day of being pregnant with Cecelia!, dinner and dessert...then labor)


Sixth Anniversary: 2013 (dinner and drinks, a family of four)

Seventh Anniversary: 2014 (place holder pictures until we can go out to dinner together later this week. Memorial Day Weekend fun at Lake Michigan (another post to come)!)

Super pregnant for two out of seven anniversaries--not too bad.

Picture by Truman, taken yesterday.
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Happy Anniversary, Nate;) Lucky number seven, baby.

Moms Make it Work: Gia | Full Time Working, Single Mom

Today we have Gia posting as our first single mom of the series (not our last!), and she works full time and is a mom to sweet Logan. Gia emailed me when I was considering stopping the series for awhile, but I knew I couldn't let her story pass us by. I said I'd love to have her post her perspective, which is obviously very different than most of the other posts where moms rave about their husbands being the biggest reason they make it work. Even when Nate is just gone for a long weekend, or a works a few extra hours during the week, I often think, 'How in the world do single moms do this?' I really enjoyed peeking into Gia's life and am so glad she emailed me! Enjoy!

Hello readers!  I am Gia and am so excited to be contributing to Julia’s awesome series!  I (randomly) blog at A Life in Progress and Instagram much more regularly at giadelvec.  I am a single mommy to Logan, my 3 and a half year old fabulous little boy, and work full time as a high school English teacher.  

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

The only thing I have ever wanted to do was become an English teacher.  I had some amazing teachers in high school that truly influenced my life and I wanted to do everything in my power to do the same for young adults.  I went to Bowling Green State University for my first two years, realized I really wasn’t cut out for being two hours away from home, so transferred to Baldwin-Wallace College after my sophomore year.  Through hard work, I was out in four years and hired immediately upon graduation into the same district that I graduated from and also did my student teaching (our district is huge and has three high schools).  I was also hired halfway through my first year teaching as the drama director for our building; essentially, everything I ever wanted to do with my career was coming to fruition.  Shortly after, I began working towards my master’s degree in Educational Leadership.  I stepped down as director but not after directing twelve truly awesome plays and musicals.

My ex-husband and I met on in December, 2005.  I moved in six months later and in the summer of 2007, we became engaged and began planning our wedding for February of 2008.  We got married, bought a house, gained custody of his two girls from his previous marriage and after a year of trying and struggling with PCOS, I got pregnant.  Logan was born on December 7, 2010 and completed our little family.


Last summer, very unexpectedly, my marriage ended.  My ex-husband approached me asking for a divorce, stating that he was no longer in love with me and no amount of counseling was going to help us.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure what happened.  We agree that we may have been doomed from the start and attempted to shoehorn ourselves into one another’s lives.  We are very different people and in this case, being so opposite did not help us; it hindered us and we just...fell apart.  

Logan and I moved in with my parents at the end of June.  I filed for a dissolution and my ex and I had a very amicable split.  We sold our house and he moved into an apartment near his oldest daughter’s high school.  Our dissolution was final in the middle of August (yes, it was SUPER QUICK) and I was able to begin the school year using my maiden name, which was very important to me.  I needed to have my own identity and going back to my maiden name signified that.  

What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?

As a teacher, I truly have the best of both worlds.  I have weekends and vacations off, and Logan and I are home no later than 4:30 on a normal day.  Although it TOTALLY SUCKS sometimes to say, “Hi, I am a 33 year old divorced single mom and I live with MY PARENTS,” my mom and dad have been nothing but amazing.  Logan is at a fantastic day care (I chose to not move his day care after we moved in with my mom and dad so as to not disrupt his life any further) and it is so beneficial to be living with my parents who are always willing to help out if they are able.  And selfishly, since I am starting life over again, it allows me to have a bit of a life; I can put him to bed and then I am able to go out sometimes.  It is because of this that I get a bit of alone time, am able to go to the store by myself in the evenings or I can spend some evening hours at the gym; a big investment I am making this spring is in a personal trainer.  My brother is getting married in the fall and I need to look smokin’ hot in my dress, lol.   I am playing softball again in the summer and I am really looking forward to getting back in the game.    As a single mom, if I wasn’t living with Mom and Dad, I wouldn’t have these options.


The challenges?  Being a 33-year old single mom living with her parents :)  

Really, a major challenge is the sometimes overwhelming amount of essays to grade since I teach Advanced Placement Language and Composition.  It is hard to complete that in the afternoons or evenings when Logan is still awake.  Especially these days, since he seems to be a total Stage 5 Clinger.  I have to really manage my time, hence my color-coded and ridiculously detailed and huge planner.  

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

Did I expect to be a single mom?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.    But it was NEVER my intention to stay at home.  I love my job and what I do and my students too much.  It is fulfilling and I am proud of what I have accomplished.


Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

Of course it isn’t!  But, nothing comes at a finger-snap and I am working hard to start life new with my best guy.  I just bought a new car and have paid off all of my credit card debt, so I can now start saving for a house for us.

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?

Nope. I love my job.  I firmly believe that being a working mom makes me a better mom.  I cherish the time i spend with my boy, but I am not built to be a SAHM.

Tips on how you make your situation work for you:

I am no longer afraid to ask for help.  Like I mentioned, my mom and dad are so awesome and are more than willing to help when they can.

Also...I have to take time for me.  Logan is with his dad every-other weekend, and I use every second of those weekends to recoup.  It gets tough because Logan is in such a clingy phase.  I do 99% of the baths and bedtimes; my mom will put him to bed if I have something a bit earlier to go to and sometimes offers to give a bath because I admittedly hate bathtime, lol.  I do every drop-off and pick up to day care; it is always Mommy.  So I need to take time for me, which in turn saves my sanity, which in turn helps me be a better mom.

Plus, my ex and I have a very good relationship.  We communicate very well when it comes to Logan and he follows my lead for things like discipline and when we were potty training.  There is no drama between us, which is so nice.


How do you handle mommy guilt?

I will be honest.  I very rarely have mommy guilt.  There are mornings when the little dude is so snuggly and tells me he wants to stay in bed, and at 6 AM, it is so hard to not want to crawl in and snuggle with him.  But I just keep pushing through, waiting for our next day off 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?

Follow your heart.  Talk to your spouse.  You will find the answer.  And IGNORE THE MOMMY WARS.


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??

I do most of the cooking during the week.  Mom and I sit down every Saturday or Sunday and go through our freezer and fridge and discuss what we have and what we want.  I primarily plan the weekday meals since I am the first one home.  

As for shopping, I have a membership to a local CSA (more on that here) so most of my meals are planned around what is in our bag.  I purchase all of Logan’s snacks and breakfast/lunch items for the week and weekends, as well as whatever I need for lunch.  My mom usually purchases everything else on the list we generate.  

I will say that my parents never used to menu plan until I moved in. I kind of forced them into it and now we work as a team.

{Thank you so much, Gia! Find all of the posts for the MMIW series here}

Moms Make it Work: Valarie | Mom to Ten Kids, Grandma, Wisdom Past the Little Kid Years

I try hard not to have 'favorites' when it comes to the Moms Make it Work series. But I'm not going to lie when I say that today's poster ranks up there pretty high when it comes to hitting me hard in the (pregnant) gut with wisdom. It's lengthy and it jumps around to different subjects and I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

When I first put out the 'casting call' for mothers of older children, and mothers with large families I had no idea that Alicia would refer me to her mother-in-law, Valarie. And oh, what a gem we have for you readers today! Val has a blog called Well, Yeah. She has TEN children. She is a grandmother and her youngest child is nine, so she fits the bill for both 'big family' and 'past the little kid years.' She is a homeschooling, home-birthing, breastfeeding mom with an amazing outlook on motherhood. Mostly I love it when moms with older kids tell me it DOES get easier, and when they remind me to soak in the little babies as much as possible. I worry that Val has just sparked my 'thinking about four kids' fever a little too heartily but I'm going to ignore that part of my gut-punch and stick to the other take home points;) Hi, Nate.

Val emailed me about writing for the series after Alicia mentioned it to her, and instantly I knew I wanted her to post for us. Here is what she said in her first email to me:

"I would like to participate in the way that as mothers we all feel like we’re starting over from scratch, and really we’re not.   Raising a family is a universal human experience that we all share, and the rules are always changing, but babies and little kids do not change.

Okay, here’s a good example.  When my oldest kids were born we started cereal at two weeks, fruit at four, meat, blah, blah. It was a full schedule of poking baby food into tiny mouths and scraping it off their chins.   Then a few years later it was the popular theory that babies didn’t need any food at all until five months.  Why five months?  I don’t know.    Later on I had a kid who wouldn’t eat anything even at a year old.  He’d roll his eyes and throw the food to the dog and hold out until the meal was over and I’d take him to bed and nurse him.  ( He’s 6’5”  graduating the university next week.)

Then my great-grandma told me that the first food they fed their babies was graham crackers soaked in milk, at about nine months.  (Breastfed, no options in 1920.)    All at once a light went on over my head: ding-ding-ding.  It doesn’t matter that much.  Just so the baby gets fed somehow, that is the main thing."
Um, yes. I wanted to hear more and truly, the last four paragraphs of her post are THE.BEST. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did!


The Moms Make It Work series asks the big question:  How do you make it work?

We just do—Moms do, parents do.  We apply trial and error, flounder around with our priorities, and we make it up as we go, and that’s how it is for pretty much everyone.  And it’s always evolving.  What works for a while then doesn’t work, so we begin again with a new plan.

I’m a mom in my early fifties now, a mom of ten.  These days I really have six adults and four children: The oldest is 34 and the youngest is 9.

I refer to that littlest one as the maraschino cherry on top of a giant sundae of family.  She was born after our 25th anniversary and I’m glad I didn’t know ahead of time about these littlest kids.  I don’t think I could have stood the waiting.   How do you wait 23 years, 25 years for a child?   



People all the time have observed my life and asked me, “How do you do it??”

I’d be so baffled. “Same way you’d do it.  I don’t have a special way.”

Truth is it wasn’t until we didn’t have babies anymore, and our toddlers turned to little kids that my life became amazingly EASY.   All at once the question made sense.  How did I do all that?  I just did.  I was too busy doing it to ponder on anything. 

Then I wondered at what all the rest of them did with their time anyway, the big slackers.

They’d also ask me if the kids were planned.

(Yeah, I know.   How rude.)

I wasn’t a jerk.  I’d tell them, “Nobody has ten kids by accident.”

I do love babies, love how life with a baby is living in synchrony, sleeping together, waking up together, the weight of them in the sling, the smell of their breath, bathing them, dressing them, carrying them around.   And I love having a baby in the house—the way they make things funny and sweet, and how much the other kids are soaking them up too—the aggravation and work, and also having them to share the goofy parts with and watching the relationships between them grow.


James, Jay, Maria, Kari, Tim cropped

Jay offering Maria jpg

This question always comes up: How did we afford them?    Their dad has a good job and we also watched our money.  Our oldest son complained when he was big about how now we were more prosperous and bought Oreos and he’d had to endure the chocolate chip bars his dad made every night.    I can’t tell you how that made me laugh—stories from his tough childhood, how he had to endure Dad’s baking constantly.   There were plenty of complaints he could have made against us, preoccupied and stupid as we were, but THAT?

This is to inform you that no matter how hard you try, they will complain anyway.  Do your best, but just know that.

Here’s a little known big family truth—the kids are a lot of help.    You don’t see it when you have a trio of preschoolers.  They can’t help. They’re crazy little twerps, prone to arguing over trivia and making huge messes.   Their demands are random and somewhat bizarre. 

BUT soon they are a bit bigger.   A ten year old is hardly any work at all, and is really good company.

So by the time our fourth child was born, the oldest two were eight and seven.  They could answer the phone, get the mail, investigate what the others were doing and report back, help pick up toys, amuse the baby  while they watched TV and I made supper.

The hardest of all is having a bunch of littles, with no middles or big kids to help.    Those extra hands are amazing and they are what make a big family possible—everyone who can pitching in.   

But there are some people who think this is bad.  I’m not sure why exactly because life is all about trade-offs no matter what anyone chooses, but there’s the idea out there that the MOM should do everything and the kids should not have to do anything for each other because of some abstract idea about something that is meaningful in some way to someone.

Interesting.  I don’t get it, obviously.    There was a day a friend with one child was at our house for lunch.   During the meal, Kirsten wanted to leave for a minute, and she prefaced her leaving with the announcement, “Listen to me:   This is my food, and I’m coming back.   Don’t touch it. I still want it.  I’m not done.”   Then she ran off.

The friend said, “Ohhh.  Ohh, that is so sad.”

(She actually blurted that out.)

I said, “Sad? It’s not sad at all. SHE is SMART.”

Case in point:   A lot is perception.

I bottle fed the oldest two, but nursed the rest.   It was pretty much continuous nursing from 1984 until about 2006.     I lived life with a baby tucked in my shirt, in the baby sling, on my hip.  ( You get used to it to the point you’re doing the side to side swoop with a bag of groceries if you’re forced to hold one.)   Plus I wasn’t working—I was home, and this was my job, keeping care.

Here’s another thing about why it was important for me to nurse those babies.   In a big family there’s always a lot to do, and it’d be just so easy to pass the baby and a bottle off to some older kid.   But because of nursing, I had to do it, so those babies got the undivided mom time they deserved—the cuddle connection was easily accomplished together.   

This is something the big girls have talked and laughed about too, big family stuff I probably will be slammed for:   When I was getting the baby to bed,  I’d turn the three year old over to the other kids at bedtime.  (Their dad was usually working in the office.)   If they’d fake they were going to sleep until the little one was asleep, they could stay up.


(Yep.  I recommend it, actually.   There comes the give and take—you do this and I will do that.  The motivation provided by Skittles can save a shit ton of yelling and whining.  Present it as a business arrangement.)

One night James was overtired and tucked in bed, prayers and kisses.   Little Jay did the fake going to sleep thing, but almost beat me down the stairs.  I said, “He’s asleep already?”

“Oh yeah. He always goes right to sleep when he’s depressed.”

Okay, he wasn’t depressed.  He was overwrought because he was little and tired.

Heidi and Kirsten had the same deal with Little Jay a few years before—get him to sleep and you can stay up as long as you want.

Well, their curtain rods were bent and he’d puked up a nickel and the stories went on and on.  I was annoyed about the curtain rods and a bit freaked out about the nickel,   “Yeah, I can’t believe you would blame a BABY!”

It actually was the baby, doing flips and skin-the-cats on the curtain rods. I’m sorry girls, and I know you didn’t feed him a nickel. That was all him.

And then there’s the homeschooling.   Our oldest child was dyslexic and that’s a whole huge story in itself.  If you really care to know about it, there’s a section in my blog specifically called homeschool.   The short version is the system was taking him down, his confidence most of all.   It’s tough to be little and dyslexic in school.  We tried very hard to make it work, and it didn’t.  In desperation, we decided we couldn’t possibly do worse by him.  

So we took him out, and his brother too for simplicity, and our entire family’s life took off in a different direction than we ever expected, and I love it so much.   We didn’t fit in with other homeschoolers, not religious enough mostly, and second not interested in the Young Genius crowd, and it seemed to always be one or the other with the homeschool parents.    But we figured out how to be us, and how little formal education kids actually need during childhood.     David Guterson referred to it as “a self formed in solitude.”   There’s not much solitude around here, but I know what he meant—the freedom to be yourself and figure out your own rhythm and style.   The kids had the childhood to do that, and I do also think that this is part of why we and they are so close.

Julia and Little Jay



Here’s what I did not know while I went around with a baby tucked under my chin and a house full of rowdy goofballs:  They were going to grow up to be the dearest friends I’d ever have.  So while you’re planning your family, take a look out—way out past daycare hassle and sippy cups with curdled milk under the bed.   Look out past the music lessons and Little League.    What do you want your life to look like twenty-five years from now?  Specifically who do  you want in it?   You may not want ten people.   But maybe you DO.    I’m telling you the work was all worth it.

We did not set out to have ten children.    It is a wildly extravagant thing to have done, in every way.     First we had two.  We were students, so with two brothers a year apart, we took a break for a few years.   Then we had two more, two little girls, and it was five and a half years before we had the fifth one.   It was a hard transition going back to a baby again, and he was such a little dictator we called him Napoleon behind his back and agreed he needed a sibling his own age. (Maria was his beautiful, curly haired equalizer.)   But then we had a few more just because we were having fun.  Homeschool had become fun.  Homebirth is fun.   Life had become so far out of mainstream and we didn’t even know it, and really did not care.

When I was a girl I went to nursing school and then never worked much as a nurse.  It has never really felt like me.   In my thirties I went to college for a bachelor’s degree in finance of all things,  with a minor in ethics.   When my baby was four, I started selling real estate, which I enjoy, and it’s also flexible hours, work from home mostly, but also unpredictable income, capricious clients.  

I have felt lucky to be able to provide care to my grandbabies when their parents were at work because I know how impossible childcare always seemed to me.  Expensive.  Scary.  Imposing.      Well, I cost nothing, and am not scary, and I don’t feel imposed upon.    I enjoy their craziness, and feel proud of the contribution to everyone’s peace of mind and well being.    Nobody has a bad day at Grandma’s.     I know kids are squirrels and grow in different ways, and sharing is hard, and working out conflicts is a complicated skill set that even adults struggle with sometimes.  There are ice cream treats in my freezer, and the love is forever.

One of the questions Julia specifically asked was what to expect as the kids move on into their own lives and do the struggles and bad parts fade away and the good parts remain?

Kids do separate in late teens and early adulthood, and it’s confusing for them too.  Sometimes they fight a lot because it’s way easier to leave feeling angry than it is feeling wistful.  Others withdraw more quietly, but they all need the space to do it.

And yes, with teenagers I use guilt to my advantage because how else are you going to influence a teenager?    When they genuinely feel bad that you’re upset?  This is a good thing—they may not do what you hope they would, but they have heard.   We have no nefarious intention toward them, no hidden agenda, and they know it.  Our intentions are all about their protection, safety, and well being.  That they may have a different version of this than we do—possibly.  We can talk about it.   We haven’t had any troublemakers and honestly even when they pushed the boundaries they stopped far short of self-destructive behavior.

What I wish for them is that they be independent in adulthood and have sustaining relationships with family and friends.  The forms that could take are infinite.  So far, so good.

And remembering the good parts vs. the bad parts?  The big picture is splendidly good, so yeah, the cream rises.

But the kids love to bring up and laugh at me about the times I was Mommie Dearest, my channeling Joan Crawford, having an adult tantrum, throwing shoes in the stairway at midnight, the time I cracked  wooden spoon against the cupboard in some kind of fury and it shattered, the workbook I tried to rip in half in a  moment of pure outrage.   (The little turds LIED and I found out.)

The million-zillion times I was appropriate, and civilized and kind?   Nah, forgotten.   I have taken the point of view that I’m glad my asinine moments do stand out—that they were so far off the norm that they’re memorable.  Regrettable and embarrassing yes, and there are a few times when I truly was an ass and wish with my whole heart I could have a do-over, but it doesn’t work that way.     Some saint said, “When you know better, then you do better.”

It doesn’t fix anything, but it’s helpful to hear that—hopeful that we can grow into kinder selves.

I’m going to close here with the last part of an article I wrote when Tim was a baby.

“...Of course going from childless to caring for a baby is a shock, but they are taking themselves way too seriously. Their baby will be a baby only a single brief wonderful year, and then they will have a toddler. Soon after that they’ll have a little child, and then soon a bigger kid.

I understand right now they are reeling under the responsibility and time issues a baby creates, but if they think they are the first people to go through new parenthood—wrong.  They are not. It's just life. My first child overwhelmed me too, and then the second one was still hard work, though not twice as much work as one. By the time we had that third baby though, I just enjoyed her—knowing that everything with a little child is a temporary situation.
I think if you want them, you should have babies and kiss them all the time. Wrap them in blankies and carry them around. Laugh a lot, sleep together when it suits you, and ignore dust and crumbs as much as possible. Go to Little League games and scream, "Good hit!" and "Run! Run!" Rent them instruments and cover your ears while they practice.  Buy them pets, take them swimming, and read magazines at the park while they play so you don't have to watch them dangling upside down.

Soon enough you'll be clutching the dashboard while they lurch around learning to drive your car, moving their stuff into the dorms at college, and dancing at their weddings, reminiscing about where the time went. I speak from experience here. Fear not any chaos. Love rules.”  

{Tear. Thank you, Val! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}
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