Thursday, December 5, 2013

Grutz says, "When the sh!t hits the fan, er, rather the floor." or "St. Nicholas comes tonight! But be wary of Krampus!!!"

Little room for deviation.

Into our technically third week of Dad Duty pt. II, and things are going very, very well.  The kids and I have a pretty good routine so far.  Chores get finished, naps are fulfilled, bellies are amply filled, and much time is spent playing, goofing, and baby-talk.  Bowels are evacuated (usually in tandem by the the kids) and they are painstakingly cleaned (by me).  Usually dinner is more or less ready by the time Mommy gets home and all is hunky-dory.  Get to listen to great music or great radio.  Heck, I even send in emails that get on the air on  the fine Talk of Iowa on IPR.  Yeah, I'm "Nick from Chicago".  I post blogs.  Make lists of thing I need to do, lists of things I'd like to do.  All is pretty darn good.

BUT, when life adds a little spice to the routine, well, things can get dicey.  Case in point, our fearless (some may say fear inducing) dog, Arnie, has got a bug or something.  Let's just say rugs have been cleaned, floors scrubbed.  I'm sure he'll be heading to the vet, at some point.  But with his "Oh my I really have to get out or I'm going to use the floor again!" to my "How the hell do you dry a wet 8x10 rug when it won't stop raining and a wicked cold front is coming?" and everything in between, it has been a stretch to maintain a sense of positivity.  (For the rug it takes fans.  And rigging it in such a way your almost-two-year-old won't hurt himself.  And he does try.  Tenacious that one is.)  Now, normally, this incident would not be much of an issue, but with kids, things can become very difficult, very quickly.  Like logarithmically difficult.  There is no more "drop whatever it is you're doing and address this issue", rather it is evolved into "I HAVE to do this now, but A, B, and C have to take place first, and hope that the little ones are in a good mood."  Quick, slip on your shoes and coat is not a reality when a sleeping baby is strapped to your abdomen.  And we don't have a yard so I can't just let him out.  Fortunately, up until today the weather has been wet, but balmy.  And Nolan is very, very compliant.

But this is an example of life, right?  This is what happens and it is all about developing new skills and outlook.  Carleen had a rough day the other day when 12 additional students joined her class for the day due to an absent teacher.  Challenging, I've been there.  So it comes from all fronts.  But you get through it and, usually, you come out the other side better suited to handle the next crisis.  And there will be more crises.  Luckily, I have Carleen to be there at the the end of the day, so we can look into each othes' tired eyes and I mutter something like, "Jeez, I can't remember when I showered last.  I love you." and it makes things better, maybe just a bit, but better non-the-less.

As I walked Arnie this morning I was feeling bad for myself and I stopped and said, aloud ('cos I'm crazy), "You've been through worse."  And I have.  And it turned out all right.  And I smiled.  Life is good.  My boy won't stop yapping and my daughter won't stop giggling.  What's better than playing peek-a-boo with your daughter?  Nothing.  Except watching your son play peek-a-boo with your daughter.

And St. Nicholas comes tonight!!!

Growing up you would put your shoes out on the 5th and if you've been good you'd find the next morning an orange and a candy cane in your shoes, gifts from St. Nicholas.  If you've been naughty you'd get coal, and if coal wasn't readily available, you would get gravel and stcks in your shoes, which did happen to me ONCE.  St. Nicholas would even leave candy canes on our desks at school, too!!  We are excitedly anticipating a visit tonight!!!! Hope you've all been good!

A number years ago, my Dad told me about Krampus.  Krampus (and his other incarnations) trace back thousands of years to pagan times of central Europe.  He's devil-like entity who punishes naughty kids. He usually joins St. Nicholas, dishing out the fear, while St. Nicholas gives the cheer.  A fine coupling of christian with pagan ritual.  He's quite a big deal in Europe and he's more common in the US.  I definitely believe Krampus should have a more prominent role today.  Best get moving on making a costume and mask now so it'll be ready in few years.  MWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  A little fright does a body good.  Here are some photos of Krampus:
Old school St. Nicholas and Krampus.

Present day Krampus in Austria.  (Photo:Kerstin Joensson)
Here's an article and video from 2011 from NPR.  Check it out.  And I hope you've been good this year, if only not keep Krampus at bay........

Monday, November 25, 2013

Grutz says, "On the whole, I'd rather be sleeping." or "Kids change fast."

What am I doing up at this hour?
My wife needs to sleeps.  So does Frances, so I'm wearing her in the moby typing away.  The floor in the kitchen is quite cold but it's not worth the trouble to disturb Baby Fig at the present moment.  So 3 whole days alone with the kids!!  As I posted earlier, when it's bad, wow!  Take your most stressful work related event and add your kids screaming to it.  But as bad as it seems, it is ever so brief and rather infrequent, like 5-10 minutes a day.  On the whole, I'd say things are going great!

We cook and clean.  Play games and sleep.  Nolan is turning into a sweet and smart little man.  And he's one hell of a singer.  Frances definitely turned the corner.  Literally waiting until the last moment to take a bottle, but she takes it now like a fiend!  And she's a baby now, no longer an infant.  She coos and giggles, smiles and blows bubbles.  She's really good for me, she only gets stinky when she's hungry or tired, piece of cake, right?  I think she takes it easy on me because I don't make mommy milk.  I can see her little mind working away, "No point being fussy with Dad, he doesn't have boobs."

I really enjoy being home with the kids.  We're getting into our routines and Nolan usually stays off the counters and only chases Arnie occasionally.  And it must be said that Arnie is very, very, very tolerant (in his own, Arnie-way) with Nolan.  It's pretty cold here, so I have yet to venture out with the 2+dog, but it's going to happen.

Ok, it's almost 1.  I have to be up in 4.75 hours to walk the dog.  Oh and Nolans up!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Grutz says, "Well, um, here's the new reality now. Whew." or "Kicking ass and taking names?"

Day 2 of Carleen's abandons family return to work.

It hasn't been this bad.  Well, not the entire time.
The good.
Frances is taking a bottle.  Sleeps for spells.  Nolan is great.  Getting a considerable amount of work done around the house, more than I anticipated.  Meals made.  Hell, I'm brining a chicken at the moment for dinner tonight. Hell yes I had dinner made and the laundry and the kids were fed, happy, and healthy!  BAM!  

And he kids are beautiful. 

The bad.
See photo above.  When the poop hits the fan, it is intense.  Like a perfect storm, a gut-wrenching, oh-my-god-how-did-Grandma-Barb-do-this type of storm.  Crying kids hurt the heart.  Screaming baby has poop streaming out her diaper, son is crying for Mom while systematically and dangerously pulling heavy non-fiction books off a shelf above his head (something very new) and something's burning on the stove, couch spontaneously combusts into flame, dog starts speaking in tongues, toilet explodes.  At times, very critical times it seems, Nolan is NOT great.  A understandable thing in lieu of the current state of things. Yesterday, our first day sans Mom, I'd say there was about a combined 45-60 minutes of chaos.  What's that Arnie?  Oh, yes, rough!  But it passes and things work out.  I wanted to congratulate myself as Carleen got home (from her own tough job) for a pretty successful day (IMO), but then a little voice in my head said, "This is what's supposed to happen now, the new norm.  Nothing special here big guy.  This is how it is now.  No big deal."  Oh, right.

The ugly.
Me.  Lack of sleep.  Time spent with wife.  Arnie's lack of walks.  I've had tougher jobs in the past, I just can't recall any at the moment.  Bitch, bitch, bitch.....

In conclusion...
Like any new change, it takes time to get into the swing of things.  I can't expect things to be hunky-dory right off the bat.  But it is going much, much better than I thought (at least for 1.5 days!).  We'll manage.  We have to.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I'm going back to work on Wednesday. Nothing feels good right now.  Leaving Frances feels viscerally wrong. The idea of it hurts.  Momma instinct or evolution or survival, I am twisting up inside. I've made commitments to my job, people are counting on me, other peoples children will be affected if I don't go back. That sinks in and I want to follow through on my commitments. Ironically, money is the last thing on my mind.  How does anyone do this? She can't be the first cranky baby who refuses a bottle. Part of me wonders if it's physiological, and on some level I'm wondering if she's refusing it because she needs me, like really needs me for comfort and survival. She was induced (albeit acupuncture) to be born, she didn't entirely come on her own, and part of me is thinking that she wasn't ready, and isn't ready to face some things here on the outside.  She's always needed to be held close, and to this day she sleeps best on my chest.   I don't know, thoughts rolling around in my head, especially after reading about birth trauma (  We've also been working with a cranial sacral therapist who says sometimes we have to process things that happen, to unwind in order for everything to work right.  She's coming back tomorrow.

I'll take any thoughts anyone has about bottle feeding, (or cup or syringe), and how to deal with mommy guilt too.  

3 months old and very alert!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Memo to my future self: slow it down

November 1. 
Memo to my future self: stop trying to do things!  Everyone says it's supposed to be easy to travel and eat out and generally do lots of things with babies because newborns just sleep and eat. Do I need my memory jogged? Did Nolan do that? Does anyone's baby really do that?  I keep trying to be that mom/family.  And every time we attempt it we come home feeling particularly guilty, like we've put our baby through something awful for our benefit alone, exhausted, and in need of takeout and a beer.  It might be that Frances is a "high needs baby" or that she is just a baby and needs to have he needs met, and crying is how she communicates.   

November 7.

Fast forward a week or so, and I'm sitting and letting my girl snooze on me, in the way she does all night long. She sleeps so well on my chest, and I'm happy to keep her head and my heart together, regulating her breathing and tuning my response. 


 She loves cozying right up in the crook of my arm, she's warm and I can hear her breaths deepen and lengthen. 

My boys are at storytime at the library, and while I'd love to be there with Nolan on my lap, I can imagine his bright eyes listening to the reader, I'm here holding my girl, thinking about how fast time passes.  I go back to work in a few weeks, with dread and anticipation simultaneously. And when I do, these snuggles will be fleeting. Not over, but I can't remember the last time my busy toddler napped on my chest.  They grow up fast.  They are small for such a short time. I'm going to soak up and remember these next few weeks.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Waddle like a raptor

So Nolan's been going to a little Monday afternoon music class and the leader, Mr. Tim, does this song that has a line in it, "waddle like a raptor." It's a catchy tune and it's been in my head for a few days, just that line. 4am nursing mind thinks it would be funny to google image search "waddle like a raptor," so I did.  Amazing results.

waddle like a raptor

Watch it and do the dance.  Seriously. 

Since the last post, we smile, regurally.

We try on Halloween costumes courtesy of our friends Nora and Levi.

We do art projects. 

After these pictures, it quickly became paint hands and make hand print time. 

We had dinner out at Uncommon Ground with Oma and Tom Tom. It was so so good, and our children were amazing. Read, Frances slept the whole time and Nolan sat in the high chair and enjoyed his fancy mac and cheese and our pumpkin ravioli. 

There were some snuggles.

 And flying!

We read books on the floor.

We posed for yet another picture.

Books are getting harder, more words!

3. Oh right side up now.
Oops, must have been an old book.

Boys on the couch.

True love
And gratitude .

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Learning curve

We are settling in at home after what was probably the most challenging car trip of our relationship so far.  I am relieved and happy to be on the ther side of it, I think I can speak for all of us in saying we all did our best.  Traveling with an 8 week old baby can be awesome or really freaking hard and for us it was the latter.  I am okay with saying that our beautiful girl who we love completely is a bit on the fussy baby side, and may have been going through a growth spurt, needing nursing almost every waking hour.  Nolan has been the biggest trooper and was an awesome car rider and big brother the whole time.  We were thoroughly impressed and if we could love him anymore we would.  Heard for the back seat more than once, "it's okay baby," and "baby bless you" when she sneezed or coughed or snorted.  And, "momma, hold de baby, baby crying lots!" On the way to Dubuque she cried for probably 2 1/2 hours.  I had myself convinced that I was a terrible person for putting my child through this and also that she was in pain. 

I'm not sure how to bridge these thoughts but this is what I'm thinking:

During this trip I witnessed myself becoming awake to the feelings of wanting only to care for my children, to make their lives rich, be the best for them.  Nolan's new self awareness and articulation and Frances' utter need and my dear husbands care and concern for me all came together and manifested in my waking mama bear.  It's been there all along, this I know.  Maybe because there are are two needing me, maybe it was the crying, but I felt a shift this trip, welcoming more love into my life. 

I learned home is priceless, and toddlers understand what that means.  On the first night away, Nolan asked over and over to go home, to his bed.

I learned that crying is impermanent and that sometimes it just means we all need sleep.

Also that a good coffee and a hug from your partner can make it bearable.

I learned that grown up humility and sharing makes you feel less alone. 

There's nothing like home after a difficult experience. 

I feel weird about saying all these things without all the good things too, it was excellent seeing Nolan with his aunts and uncles and grandma and great grandma and cousins. Nick lights up around his family and in Iowa, that change in him is palpable, and I loved relaxing and being outside with my family.  It was a great visit, minus the driving. 

Sometimes I learn more from the hard stuff, that was definitely the case this time around.

*im writing this on my phone while nursing, I'll fix the pic formatting and add captions when I get to the computer!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

One month out

Ahh the weight and warmth of my snuggle bunny on my chest is magic.  I remember how fleeting this time is, I remember with Nolan being sad when he outgrew the sleeping on us phase.  "Enjoy the baby," a coworker closed an email with today,and  that's what I'm doing this morning. 

1 month old, our girl is doing great.  I'm going to take her for another weight check on Thursday, but so far things are feeling good. We are still having some nursing issues, which just may need time to resolve.  One of them being my massive milk supply due to my voracious toddler.  He has picked up any slack Frances may have had with nursing, and I have oversupply, which is giving her difficulty at some times during the day. 

Thursday update, Frances is doing great! She weighed in at 9 lbs. 9oz., which is about a pound greater than last week.  I feel so much relief! I can't say enough how beneficial seeing a Lactation consultant was.  I learned some great tips today on burping, positioning, and feel so much more confident. Awesome. I was feeling so good that Frances and I risked a trip to trader joes and were mostly successful, crying only at the end.  It honestly feels like a weight has been lifted, everything is as it should be. And I squeezed into some pre baby jeans, I am loving that familiar feeling: icing on the cake of today.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sleep is the thing

We've all been working on sleep these days. 
This is how our nights look.

Naps look like this!

And the rest of the day looks like this.

Frances is one month, yesterday. She's had quite the week. On Monday past I took her with me to a lactation consultant because I'd had some lingering concerns about her latch, spitting up, infrequent poops and fussiness.  The first thing the consultant noticed was a significant tongue tie, which is where the tongue is attached to the bottom of the mouth with a skin attachment called a frenulum. With a lot of tears from mom, she had her tie "revised" on Tuesday, and has been healing up quickly since.  Her spit up has decreased dramatically, she's pooping more, and much less fussy.  We are still working on the latch, which I've been assured will improve with time and strength.  She's doing great! 

Nolan is on the move.  It's raining in Chicago so instead of Nick and Nolan's daily trip to the park, right now I am listening to the sounds of water play in the tub, complete with food coloring and bubbles. Oh to be a toddler. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Three weeks in

Here we are at almost three weeks old, it's been a whirlwind time getting to know our girl and figuring out who we are as parents of two. What I've learned so far is that my capacity for love is vast, this new addition has made me so grateful for my little family of four, we feel complete in ways I never knew were wanting.  I am learning about the impermanence of all things children, what matters one moment will pass, and Nolan will wake from his nap and still love me even though I couldn't meet all of his needs earlier in the day. Nursing two babies is not easy.  It's been a steep learning curve for me, I am trying to listen to my limitations and meet somewhere in the middle with Nolan's needs. At the beginning he wanted to nurse all the time, now that I have milk again, he has been so interested. I quickly learned that his schedule of nursing didn't work for me because with an infant who's also on the boob every waking moment it seems, there was no time that I was not nursing. I had some first hand experience with feeling like a milk machine.  Now we are down to nursing in the morning, which is for my comfort as much as his, because Frances cannot possibly keep up with my supply overnight, and a few minutes after nap and before bed.   He still asks for "Na Na nursh?" all the time, but we talk it through and he seems ok.  It feels like all I do is nurse and all I talk about is babies.  

We did have a nice visit with my parents and Nolan got lots of special attention. Here are a few pics of the past week.

Our smush face snuggler.

Tom- Tom holding a quiet (rare moment) Frances. 

Towel tent with sawhorses! Oma and Noley even read books under.  He is definitely a little boy now, with boy needs for mischievery and adventure.  My heart swells for him all the time as I witness growing up!



These cheeks are filing out! 

I even had time to pick tomatoes make a few jars of freezer sauce. 

Baby Fig is all about hands and gestures.

And sleeping on my lap, if you squint you can see Arnie at my feet, his self assinged guard spot. 

And there she is wrapped up, only lasting a short bit, enough for me to hang a few pieces of laundry in the sun. 

! Apologies in advance for formatting funniness, I'm doing this on my phone and its weird!