Moms Make it Work: Jenny | SAHM to Three, One with Special Needs

Today on the Moms Make it Work series we have Jenny, who was nominated to post by one of my readers/internet friends named Lisa. Lisa emailed me asking if I'd contact Jenny to post, and she said, 'I thought the perspective of a young stay at home mom, now also learning to balance being an advocate for her special needs child, would be a great addition to your series.' And I said, 'HECK YES,' because this is not the first time someone has mentioned moms with kids who have special needs as a 'must find' for our series. Little did I know that Jenny would agree to post her story and that her outlook on parenting and life in general would touch me so much. I first read her post on my phone, after she emailed it to me, and immediately felt inspired. I know you will, too, and I'm so glad Jenny shared this post with us!


Our story:

Chris and I got married on June 18, 2005.  Can't believe how fast 9 years can fly by!  We started "trying" to have a baby after about 1 year of marriage, however we weren't making it our life's work at that point.  Then because of some issues, my doctor suggested using Clomid to help us along.  We still were not in a die hard mode, but doctor at the time was a little pushy and this is the start of why I left that doctor.  Bottom line was I was on Clomid for about 9 months, with no doctor that I later switched to, and am still with, told me he would never have a patient use that for more than 3 months!  Anyway, after we had been trying for a while, we did find a fertility doctor and started IUI's, we did two of those horrible things and I was a rabid monster!  Both were unsuccessful, but I was insane from the hormones and we needed to take a month off.  So we did, and then tried one more time knowing if it didn't work we were going to have to decide if we wanted to do In Vitro.  Well, after the 3rd, when I went to have the US to see if we were ready for insemination, the doctor said the hormones weren't doing their job and the only way I would get pregnant was by In Vitro.  Overwhelming information!  This was right before Christmas.  So we decided to wait, we had a couple trips coming up (one to Disney World:)  and we would decide after that.  So we went on with our lives, smiling to everyone, but crying at home every time I heard of someone else becoming pregnant.  Then I went for my annual on March 5, 2009 and they asked the same question they always ask, "when was your last period?"  I stopped for a minute and said, "I think it was the end of January."  They looked at me like I was crazy, but I was so irregular that I didn't think anything of it.  My doc wanted me to take a test just to check, and so I did and after the exam I was in his office discussing other possibilities that we could check (there wasn't much we hadn't checked at that point) when his nurse walked in with this grin I will never forget and told me I was pregnant!  I could not believe it!!!!! We were pregnant and all on our own.  I cried so hard, I must have looked mad, it was uncontrollable elation, but it was an absolute ugly cry:)  I rushed home to tell my husband, who just happened to stay late at work planning our next trip to DC (which we never went on:), but when he finally got home it was the best moment ever!  He was confused, as he always is when I tell him I'm pregnant:), but we were just so happy!  It was also my dad's birthday, so it was great surprising my dad and my mom that same day:)  We then told the rest of our immediate family, and after the 12 week mark shared it with the world!  We had Ava on October 27, 2009.  She was perfect!

After Ava turned 1, we decided to try for baby #2, but figured it would probably take a long time...wrong!  We got pregnant immediately with our Jovi!  She is our firecracker!  And since she has been in the womb she has had attitude:)  At 20 weeks we were told she may have Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 21, because they thought they saw a choroid plexus cyst on her brain, they thought her kidney's weren't functioning right, and maybe some thickness to her neck.  So after a week of being terrified and crying a lot we went to the Perinatologist and had a 2 hour US where they told us our baby was perfect, and nothing was wrong...thanks a lot original US and Nurse Practitioner who will remain nameless, but I will NEVER see again!  Then at about week 28 they thought I was going into pre-term labor.  I had to stay overnight in the hospital and be monitored.  Guess what...nothing!  She had to be induced on July 27, 2011.  She came into this world screaming and they said "wow! she is loud!"  She still is:)  And we love everything about our sassy Jo-Jo! 

Chris and I learned pretty quickly in our marriage not to plan for things, we use the old saying "if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."  But we were sure we wanted another baby.  We were just positive we would have 3 girls, and even though most people thought we were just trying for that boy, we really just wanted our 3rd baby!  I hated puking for 17-20 weeks (and I did, with each one, not nausea, but straight puking multiple times a day for 17-20 weeks!!!) but I loved being pregnant and feeling the baby kicking, and all that stuff.  So we had a busy year coming up in 2013.  We had a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and were rounding out the year of 2012.  We had decided to build a new house out in O'Fallon, we had decided I was going to take some time off of work (I was a teacher), my husband ended up switching his job to a new company, and so we figured why not add to the crazy of 2013:)  So around December 2012 we started trying for baby #3.  We were unsuccessful for a month, and then month #2 bam!  pregnant again!  We were excited, but almost immediately we had an issue.  I started bleeding and it was a Sunday (of course), I called the exchange and the doc didn't seem to worried.  He said to come into the office in the morning, which I did and everything was fine.  Besides that, easy sailing through that pregnancy (besides the 17 weeks of puking, but by baby #3 I was used to it).  We found out at 20 weeks we were having a boy and that everything looked great.  At 30 weeks we had a 3D US and although he kept hiding we eventually got a good shot of his chubby cheeks and sweet face.  So when October 23, 2013 came and I just knew I was having our baby boy that day, we had no reason to believe anything was wrong, or that this delivery would be any different than our other 2 easy deliveries (I had Ava in a 4 hour delivery, and Jovi was induced but still only took 6 hours).  So I got to the hospital at 5pm and Pierce Wayne was born at 8:23pm.  He won!  Fastest and easiest delivery...and then our world was rocked!  During delivery they said the Umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but they weren't worried, got it unwound from him and he was pink...then he turned blue.  I didn't really see it, I think I was in la-la land.  But they took him to the table and were giving him Oxygen, he was breathing, but just needed some assistance with his O2 levels.  They got it under control and weighed him and then brought him to me.  Apparently at some point my doctor and one of the nurses left the room...again, I didn't notice it.  When they handed him to me, I said "he looks just like Jovi!"  Then I looked up...

My bed was surrounded by my delivery nurse (who I swear was sent to me from God!), my doctor, and my husband and a NICU nurse.  I really thought they were going to tell me he wouldn't make it.  Even though he was perfect and in my arms.  The NICU nurse said "we think he has Down syndrome."  My immediate reaction was "PUT HIM BACK!"  Isn't that crazy!?!  I really wanted to travel back in time, to when my son was in my tummy and I didn't have to deal with whatever the heck was going on in this moment.  It was so quiet.  I just remember it being so quiet!  Then they started talking about how adults with Down syndrome can lead independent lives, and blah blah blah.  I felt like I was just hit by a truck.  I still didn't see it!  Finally they left the room!  They had to take Pierce to the special care nursery to keep him on Oxygen, so Chris and I just had a moment.  Then they took me down to see him and I still couldn't see it! 

So he had to stay in the hospital for a week.  We were there with him for 3 nights...then leaving the hospital without your baby is the worst!  But I was back and forth between home and the hospital a lot since I was nursing.  Then on Sunday October 27 (Ava's 4th birthday) we got confirmation that he had Trisomy 21.  This form of Down syndrome is just is not genetic.  It is nothing we did, it is just how Pierce was made.  The hardest part was we had a NICU doctor tell us that she didn't think he had the markers.  Imagine hearing that and trying not to hang your hopes on it, and then getting the results that he indeed had Down syndrome.  At the time I was crying so hard that I looked like I had been punched in the face.  I loved him so much, but I was so scared as to what his life and our life would be like from that point on.  How did I tell everyone?  What did I need to do?  Luckily I had amazing support in our family and close friends and our Special Care Nursery nurses (and don't forget about my delivery nurse, who still keeps in contact with us and even came to Pierce's baptism!).  I learned a lot in a week.  And the most important thing I learned is that Pierce is not different than any other baby.  He needed love, to be nursed, and to sleep:)  And he was a pro at all of those:)  When we brought him home he was already sleeping 4 hour stretches through the night and eating every 3 hours during the day!!!!!  That only got better, and now as a 7 month old he sleeps 10 hours at night, a 45 min morning nap, and a 2 1/2 hour afternoon nap!  Eat your hearts out:)  In Pierce's short 7 months here he has touched more lives than I can count.  He is such a blessing and his smile is infectious.  My daughters are in love with him and Ava already says "I will always protect you, Pierce!"  Which melts my heart:)  We have a neighborhood full of kids who love him, and hug him and every milestone that Pierce hits, which so far have all been in the typical range (PS it is "typical" not "normal" I found that out in the first week too:).  My children mean the world to me and I would do anything for them.  I feel like I have learned some "secrets of life" from having Pierce that some people won't learn in their whole life.  I also am learning that being connected to someone who has Down syndrome puts you in this "club" of people that cannot stop telling me about the joys that I will have in my life because of Pierce, and how I can't even imagine that joy right now!  People stop me at grocery stores, church, playgrounds, everywhere!  I really feel like I am being approached about a secret club and although I still have days that I get scared, I know now that I cannot predict the future for any of my children.  There is no need to worry about it, just focus on this moment and what we have to accomplish today:) 

Also, Pierce is 7 months old and sitting unassisted, eating anything we give him (except raspberries, "too tart mom!!!"), babbling, and smiling like crazy!!

Before I was a mom I was a teacher.  I taught for 9 years.  I taught 2nd and 3rd grade as a classroom teacher, and then I became a reading specialist.  I was at the elementary level for 2 years and then middle school reading for 1.  Now I stay home with my 3 children, and have days where I miss work, but would never want to miss the moments I get at home...even when my 4 year old and 2 year old are fighting like they are teenagers:)'s somewhat impressive, and somewhat scary as to what it may be like when they are teenagers:)  Best friends one minute, screaming the next:)  I hear this is how sisters that are really close in age deal with things:)

I love being home, and let me tell you.  I am so happy for my situations.  Now, because I have 3 children, can be thankful for the years that my husband and I dealt with infertility (which in our case was just impatience).  Even on a day where everything is going wrong and I feel like my head is going to fly off my head, I take a deep breath and remember that feeling of not having kids and wanting them so badly.  There are so many people out there dealing with true infertility and it is so insulting to them when mom's complain about anything that has to do with having kids.  I try to think of this even when it is just me at home.  I know I am beyond blessed, and even when times get tough I try and take a deep breath:)

In the next 5-10 years I "plan" (remember my thoughts on planning:), to stay home until all the kids are in school, as long as we can financially do that, and then I would like to return to teaching.  I have an ideal job for having children in school.  So I would like to take advantage of that (and maybe attempt to use my Bachelor or Master's degrees that I earned:).  However, I think my husband remembers the stress and exhaustion I felt as a teacher, even prior to having kids, and how I sometimes stretch myself too thin, and if it were up to him I think he would say he'd prefer for me to stay home or do something besides teaching:)

I think everyone has a unique situation, but for ours I think it helps me to somewhat have a schedule.  Not maybe as strict as I thought I would, but breakfast is never earlier than 8am (which helps with kids actually sleeping in:), lunch is at noon, nap at 1:30 (quiet time for my 4 year old), only watch TV for 20 min. in the morning, 20 min after nap and 30 min before bed.  Sometimes less, when they are sick more:).  We also have certain times for snacks, to avoid constant asking of snacks:) 

(Pierce visiting my Grandpa's grave, my mom's maiden name is Pierce)

As for "Mommy Guilt."  Our generation has this worst than any previous mommy's out there.  We have people constantly showing us what they did from Pinterest, or what all natural food they are eating, or how perfect their child is on Facebook.  But I try to always think of FB as a scrapbook for people, it's like someone showing you their child's baby book.  They aren't going to write a story about their child doing anything bad, they just want to remember the good!  Even knowing this, I still have moments where I wonder if I am doing enough for my kids.  Could I do more?  Are they doing everything they are supposed to at this age?  Will they love me:)?  Etc.  I think my favorite saying right now is "take a deep breath."  I say it to my kids a lot and I say it to myself daily:)  Bottom line is, we have to just do what is best for our family.  If that is a day of watching movies because you just can't bring yourself to do anything else, then do it.  If that means ordering out because you just don't feel like eating another crock-pot recipe, then do it!  We have to love ourselves and our children enough to know that we are doing what is right!  Easier said then done sometimes:)

(I also think it is important to carve out special time with individual kids, like a "mommy/ Ava date" or just taking the girls somewhere).

After I had Ava I stayed home from work for 4 1/2 months with her, and I felt terribly guilty leaving her to go back to work, even if it was only for 10 weeks until summer break!  I had a close friend tell me it is not about the quantity of time you spend with your children but the quality.  I lived by that the whole time I was a working mother.  Honestly sometimes I think I was a better mommy when I worked, because when I was home my focus was 100% on the kids.  They have a hard time understanding that mommy does need to do a load of laundry here and there, and sometimes I have to cook dinner:).  Then there is the guilt of staying home.  "Am I doing what is right for my kids?"  "Will they not know how to socialize with other children?"  I still question this a year later after making the decision to stay home.  We make every effort to play with our neighborhood kids, Ava goes to preschool and takes dance, Jovi will take dance in the Fall, and we go to parks, the library, Target:) etc.  all the time.  Where they are social with adults and other children.  Again, just make it work for you!  Just know that if you have to work, or you decide to stay home that your children will be okay either way.  They will benefit from different things in different situations. 

For meals in my family, these are difficult.  Right now my girls live off of carrots, cucumbers, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple (this is a new one).  Half the time they eat lunch meat turkey because they just don't like meat.  My oldest likes grilled chicken, and now my 2 year old is loving green beans from Bandanas, very specific I know.  I basically cook for my husband and me and they eat fruits and veggies and some type of "kid food."  I know many people are against how I do things, but I don't want food or meal time to be a negative time.  It still is sometimes, but I don't want to fight over food.  We told my oldest daughter when she turns 5 she will have to start trying whatever mommy and daddy make, and she is actually excited about it:)  Like that will make her a big girl.  Let's hope it happens!

I try to only grocery shop every 2 weeks, but because my girls like fruit so much we usually have to do a fruit and milk stop in between.  I used to like grocery shopping, but I don't know where they expect me to put my groceries with 3 kids, who are so awesome at the store!  Seriously, one place that I usually get through without any arguments:)  I know I got lucky there.  I wish they made a cart that, not only had the 2 bonus seats up front, like Target, but also had an extra place for the car seat, since now we aren't supposed to put the car seats on top of the cart, where they latch on.  Sometimes it is just easiest to grocery shop in the evening after my husband is home from work, and usually it is just Jovi and me, she loves to grocery shop:)

(PS I think it is super important to have quality time with your spouse...although my husband probably would read this and say "whaaaaa???" as the above pic was the first time I had been away from my kids for more than one night.  But it is good for your kids and for your marriage.  And we definitely are lucky to have my parents on call for date nights frequently:). 

Finally, keeping my house clean??  That is not happening for the next 18-22 years:)  We live in our home and that is quite apparent by the toys and sometimes even a little dust, yikes!  Bottom line is, our house is "clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy."  My mom reminds me of that all the time when I am freaking out about how dirty my house is.  I will be honest...when I worked we had a cleaning lady, and it was glorious, but I can keep my house clean enough by cleaning during naptime.  I obviously have to vacuum when they are awake, but they play while I do that, and then I do the bathrooms/ dusting/ etc. while they nap/ have quiet time.  I am a pack rat and wish I could get rid of things easier, but I can't, so we have a lot of toy storage throughout our house.  Cubicles in the toy room and our upstairs family room.  Baskets in our sun room and on the end tables and couch table in our family room.  Basically, lots of baskets:)  Disguise the toy boxes:)  It helps to keep the clutter away!

Overall, I am very happy with my life.  As for the curve ball thrown at us when Pierce was born, we will take it one day at a time.  I am truly blessed with an amazing support system and faith in God, and I just know we will be okay!  So far he is kicking butt and,  most importantly, healthy!  He is a typical baby who just happens to have Down syndrome, and we will deal with whatever we have to deal with as it comes...just as every parent does with every child. 

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

Dear Porter


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.


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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!


Hello Julia's readers! I am so excited about being included here. I blog at 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 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}


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.


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.



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!


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.
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