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I had a moment last week where I totally broke down. After a day of irritability to the extreme — everyone and everything was making me cranky — I lay in my bed and sobbed until the tears ran dry. There really was no one reason for it; more of an accumulation of things from of a really hard, really long month. I just felt done.

Immediately after returning to school after winter break, Owen came down with a horrible cough. He would be unable to catch his breath and as a result, he would throw up. In the kitchen, on the couch, in his bed. It lasted a week, and despite my best efforts to sanitize every thing he touched/looked at, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down. Without getting TOO whiny about it, my cold turned into a sinus infection that completely and totally put me out of commission. I’m not exaggerating when I say I would rather give birth than have a sinus infection. Especially when you can’t take any good drugs. At the height of it, I parented from the couch, moving only to put on another movie for the boys or go in search of some snacks for them. They ate pancakes for dinner twice in a row because the thought of getting up to make an actual meal was exhausting. Despite all the help he gave when he could, Michael had to work. No way around it. So it was just me and the kids and oh yeah, a polar vortex that kept us housebound and closed school more times than I could count. To say we were going stir crazy was an understatement. Ryan came down with his own version of the cold sometime in the middle of this. I’m really, truly done with kid snot. Really.

In total, at least one of us — mostly me — were sick for an entire month. It wasn’t until last week when I was finally able to take a strong breath, smell things and taste my food. It took a toll on us. As a mother, I felt like a failure. I was tired, grumpy, yelling. We did nothing fun. The boys fought and wrestled and yelled. Ryan climbed things and threw cars at his brother. Owen was defiant and pushed boundaries and yelled no all day long.

For a month, all I felt was guilt. I felt guilty when I sighed with relief after dropping Owen off at school, guilt for looking forward to nap time and bedtime like it was Christmas day. Guilt over the amount of television they were watching. (SO MUCH TV.) I felt guilty for not even smiling when Michael came in the door because I was just too burnt out. I was stretched thin and began to panic. If I feel this way now, how am I going to feel come June? Another baby, another little person with needs. That straw broke the camel’s back, and the tears came.

I woke up the following morning feeling better. Nothing was resolved, but it felt like a new day. A day where I could make a change. Now that I was healthy, it was time to work on my behavior and how I was relating to and dealing with the kids. The yelling, it needs to change. Look, I’m not naive. Sometimes I’m going to yell. Sometimes it will be warranted and hello, it’s part of life. But I don’t have to yell as much as I have been.

In my quest to Do Better, I stumbled across this post and it stopped me in my tracks. If you have a three-year old, you should look at that. Especially a three-and-a-half-year old. The behaviors listed are Owen to a tee right now, and made me feel SO much better. It’s not just him. It’s not just me. We’re all dealing with a crazy child at this age. Some of the less desirable traits (and don’t get me wrong, there’s some awesome stuff going on with him too. But, that’s now what this post is about. Ha!) that stood out to me were:

Three and a Half Years:

“Turbulent, troubled period of disequilibrium, the simples event or occasion can elicit total rebellion

New- found verbal ability “I’ll cut you in pieces!” and lots of whining

May refuse to do things a lot, or howl and scream, or say a lot of “I can’t” I won’t” kinds of things

Demanding, bossy, turbulent, troubled but mainly due to emotional insecurity

Mother-child relationship difficult but may also cling to mother

May refuse to take part in daily routine – may do better with almost anyone than Mother”

Oh yeah. That’s Owen right now. Throw in an equally strong willed 19-month old who is in a whiny stage, and you have a recipe for a crazy mother.

The follow-up piece to that post discussed dealing with those behaviors, and a big part of it was about how the parent handles it. I read this passage, teared up (of course), and the light bulb was turned on.

Which, of course, does not always mean that your child will “behave”.  Many attached parents feel like failures when their children hit three or so, as the child’s sense of self and an increased need for boundaries start to come out. As a parent, you cannot count it as a “good day” if your child doesn’t cry or melt-down or not have a temper tantrum… You can count it as a “good day” if you were calm, if you helped to de-escalate the situation, if you held it together. And even then, please be easy with yourself!  Living with small children can be challenging!  This is about the path your child is taking as he or she grows and becomes their own person, this is not about you versus them. – The Parenting Passageway 

So that’s where I stand today. I am determined to be a better mom. My poor little first pancake, Owen. I’m sorry I have to make the mistakes on you, buddy. You are blazing the parenting trail for me. Every day with you is something new and I want you to know I’m trying my best. Together we will make it through this crazy year — and all the crazy years that are to come. I love you, kiddo. So very much.

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When I lost my job in public relations it felt awful. I left a job and people I loved in the not-for-profit world for one in consumer electronics because I thought it would advance me in my career. It was close to home and paid much more than I was making, and so, after much back and forth, I took it.

The problem was, I wasn’t very good at the new job. The passion I held for the museum I left could not be replicated in the consumer world. I felt timid and confused and spent a better part of a year hoping to not be put on the spot, afraid it would reveal the truth.

Despite all that, getting fired was terrible. Although a part of me felt relief that I could just go, I still felt awful about my performance. It wasn’t the right job for me, but it was still my job. I should have worked harder. Done better.

My current gig is one I am passionate about. Being a mother brings me both joy and a sense of accomplishment. I’m good at this job, most of the time.

Lately, though, I feel like I’m slipping into the failing zone, and while no one can hand me a pink slip, I’m still aware I need to do better.

Two and a half is a challenging age. Owen argues with me, is defiant and fresh. He refuses to nap, pushes boundaries and tells me “no” all day long. At 6 months, Ryan is a happy little thing, until he’s not. Lately I spend my days more frustrated than happy. I feel burdened and unappreciated by my two small people. I am grumpy and annoyed easily and on top of that, I yell.

I could hear myself yelling more than I should, but when Owen called me out on it, I knew it had to stop. After getting out of bed AGAIN to go potty (he knows he can get out of bed for that), I snapped that it was ENOUGH.

“Why are you yelling at me, Mommy?” He asked.

“I’m not, bud,” I said, backtracking.

“Well, you were…”

Ouch.

I’m afraid that I’m so caught up in the endless minutiae of the every day, that I am missing the good stuff. I don’t want to miss a funny quote or a big cheesy grin because I’m mad that I tripped over a stray toy for the 10th time. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a grumpy mommy who yelled over nothing. I want my words and tone to mean something.

I don’t like the mother I’ve been lately, but unlike my previous job, I’m going to do something about it. I need to take a deep breath, calm my blood pressure and start a new. One day my house will stay clean and no one will be fighting me over a nap, but that also means my babies will have left the nest. I need to focus more on the now and appreciate this time while they are still little.

And so, I have an opportunity to change the way things are. This time I can, I WILL, do better.

At least you can have an occasional drink at this job.

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(He’s laughing at me. I lose.)

Every night before I go to bed, I check in on my babies. Owen is usually sprawled out on his back at some interesting angle, blanket askew, his “Mommy shirt”, an old t-shirt of mine he made his blankie, draped across him. I gently tuck him back in, occasionally removing his wedged feet from between the bed slats, brush his hair off his forehead, kiss him gently and tip toe out.

Next is the baby. I turn the light on in my bedroom across the hall so I will have just enough light to see him, but not enough for him to wake. He looks like the world’s sweetest little starfish zipped into his blanket. Ryan will have rotated to his right — he always does — and will have pressed his face against the one bumper I have in there. The one bumper I put back in because he kept waking himself up trying to snuggle himself into the crib rails. I have stopped stressing about him sleeping like that now, but I always pause just long enough to see the rise and fall of his chest.

It occurs to me that my children will never know I do these things. They might remember the story hours I took them to, the outings at the playground. They might one day remind me of the pictures we drew together or the songs we danced around the living room to. They will know I parented them all day every day, but the memories of the night will be mine alone.

At night I am transported both back in time, and towards the future. Ryan’s dewy skin and sleepy suckling are all baby, and Owen’s rosy cheeks remind me of when he was tiny. The other night, though, before my eyes adjusted to the dark, I caught a glimpse of who my little boy will become. In the dark, Owen’s sleeping profile was so strikingly similar to his father’s, I actually gasped.

Babies don’t keep, but these nights will. In my mind. In my heart. In the dark.

 

I have a tendency to fall off the face of the blogging earth when I have a baby. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that when I have down time, I tend to use it in other ways. Like sleeping. Or eating cookie dough straight from the fridge.

But here we are, six plus weeks into life with two children, and I figure it’s about time I document some of it; if not for you, than for me, because oh Ryan, I’m sorry, but what they say is true about second kids. I haven’t even purchased a baby book to document your first spit up, or the first time you said “Ah-glurg”, or all those countless little things that no one really cares about. (I’m lying, Ryan! I totally cared the first time you said “Ah-glurg!” You are a genius!)

My last post where I felt like I was really getting my footing was followed by a week or so of realizing that clearly, I had not. Michael was working a lot and I was home alone and Ryan was growth-spurting and yeah, it wasn’t great. I emailed a friend and told her that sometimes I felt like I was really failing at this two kid thing. Sure, they were both alive and fed and generally clean, but I found myself yelling more, playing less and mostly going through the daily motions of survival. It wasn’t a great stretch, but I finally swallowed my pride and allowed people to help me. (I’m not sure why that was so difficult — perhaps a feeling of I should be able to do it all myself? Who knows…) Michael’s mom and grandmother would pop in and I can’t remember a time I felt more happy to see my in-laws. They played with Owen while I vacuumed, held Ryan while I showered and provided me with adult conversation that I so desperately needed. It wasn’t much, but it was a lot.

And then, just as quickly as the clouds rolled in, they parted, and we’ve been grooving again. You know, until the next storm. At least I will be able to suck it up and ask for some help next time!

Ryan is amazing. One day he took a four hour nap and I swear, he woke up bigger not fitting in any of his clothes. He has started to smile and coo at his play mat and for the last few nights has been starting the night with a 6.5 hour stretch, which I can only hope will continue to get longer. Owen is Super Brother, loving on his baby from the moment he wakes up. He has tested his boundaries a bit (asking if he could push his dump truck into Ryan. No, you may not.), and has had a few regressions when it comes to going to bed and using the potty. (He was kind of interested in it before, now he requests the changing table and a diaper. I get it.) Overall, though, he has transitioned into his big brother roll really well.

As for me, I’m getting there. I’m still not showered as often as I’d like to be and while 30 pounds has fallen off on it’s own, there’s about 12 to go that I know are going to stick around until I start moving. I’m uncomfortable in my flabby post-pregnancy skin right now, anxiously waiting to fit into my pants or wear a shirt that doesn’t blouse out from the waist. I have been pushing the double stroller all over the neighborhood, and while pushing 40 pounds of kids, the stroller and the infant seat up hill certainly works up a sweat, it’s time to bite the bullet and make a date with the 30 Day Shred.

As I’m writing this, Ryan is napping in the crib, Owen is playing at my feet and I’m drinking a chai in the quiet of my dining room. No one is screaming or spitting up or demanding graham crackers. So far, today is a win.

I know not every day will be, but I’m pretty confident in the end, we will have more wins than fails. (I hope.)

Anna Sawin Photography

- My baby turns two years old tomorrow. I’m kind of blown away by this. I can’t believe I will be posting the first quarterly letter of his second year wishing him the happiest of birthdays, because it’s hard to believe that just two years ago today I went into labor with him. Be prepared for some sap tomorrow.

- Last year we did the big first birthday party, but this year will be low-key with just a family dinner with the in-laws, cake and presents. We will probably do a second cake when the baby comes and my family is in town too. Owen is getting his first bike and helmet — both red (his choice!) — which will, I’m sure, provide hours of entertainment for him, and heart palpitations for his mother.

- In preparation, I’ve pinned about half a dozen cake recipes, so I just have to decide which one to make today. Yum!

- I’m 37 weeks pregnant now, officially full term and ready for this kid to come out. I’m not uncomfortable, I’m just impatient. I really want to meet him! The only two days I’d like to avoid is tomorrow (it would be nice for the kids to have their own birthdays, even if they are close together), and the fourth of July. Being a holiday baby myself (New Years Eve), I know how annoying sharing your birthday with the entire country can be when you’re a kid. Other than that, he can come. I have a feeling he’s not going to make an appearance until at LEAST the 39th week, but I’m willing him out all the same.

I’ve had three real contractions the past few days that were uncomfortable and familiar enough for me pause and think, “now???”, but obviously, they didn’t mean anything. Saturday I was in the mood to clean…and clean, and clean, and clean. Somewhere around 9:30 p.m. while steam mopping my kitchen and planning on tackling the bathrooms next, it hit me that this was exactly what happened the night I went into labor with Owen. I had two schools of thought: one…baby time!, followed by two…wishful thinking slash nesting to the extreme. Guess it was number two.

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Not out, still in.

My appointment on Friday confirmed dilation has started — like, barely — but all that means is hey, guess what? You’re going to have a baby at some point. Duh. I know, I know. Babies come when they want to come. I was just hoping that him being my second would mean he’d come out a little sooner, that’s all.

- I think the solution to any sleep issues Owen encounters is to write about them on the internet, because after I do that they tend to resolve themselves a bit. After realizing that the sound of shutting the door was what was upsetting him and causing him to climb out of bed, I started leaving the door open a bit until about 20 minutes after he falls asleep. Success! No more opening the door. He just sleeps.

The main issue is that with the freedom to get out of bed comes the new routine of him waking so freaking early (see last post), and no. That needs to stop. I ordered a special toddler alarm clock that looks like a little alien and rather than making noise, lights up when it’s time to start your day. We’re on day two of using it and while it hasn’t been an overnight success, I can already see progress and he’s definitely excited about using it. I will do a full review of it in a week or so in case any of you are also bleary-eyed and so NOT bushy-tailed while your toddler drives trucks over your face at 5 a.m. and are looking for a solution.

- Owen is trying to climb into the baby swing so I should probably go stop that. Behold my (very near) future.

When you walk into our house you have to go up a short flight up stairs to go into our main living space. We have a gate at the top. A gate that is always closed and the dangers of an open gate have been drilled into Owen’s head, so much so that if it’s even a little ajar, he will walk away from it as far as he can while saying, “no, no, no.”

You know where this is going, right?

Two days ago we had his new bedroom furniture delivered, so we took the gate down to make more room. And…we got lazy, I guess, and complacent in the idea that Owen knew not to go near the stairs so it was fine for a day.

Yesterday afternoon I was finishing up some stuff in the kitchen while Owen road around the house on his little John Deer tractor. I could hear him going up and down the hallway and around the living room. I was listening, but I wasn’t really paying attention. All of the sudden I heard the sound of wheels speeding down the stairs. It happened so quickly, and as soon as my brain registered what I was hearing I started to run the 10 or so feet to the top of the stairs.

I was too late. I made it just in time to hear his first scream and when I came around the corner he was lying on his back on the bottom (tile!) landing, the wheels of his little tractor spinning next to him. As I flew down the stairs a million thoughts were racing through my head (Broken bones! Head injury!), but when I reached him the only thing I could see was red.

There was so.much.blood. I scooped him up and while he howled and buried his head into me, I tried to decipher where it was all coming from. With all that screaming it wasn’t hard to figure out that it was his mouth. The entire thing was filled with dark red, his teeth hidden beneath a pool of it and it ran down his chin and down my shirt. I ran into the bathroom, wet a washcloth and tried to wipe as much away as I could, all the while comforting him and trying to stay calm for him.

My brain was not calm. My baby was hurt, there was blood everywhere and it just kept coming.

I managed to get him to stick out his tongue and do a quick sweep of his teeth, and discovered that he had bit into both his top and bottom lips, but I didn’t know how badly. I grabbed my phone and called Michael, who thankfully picked up and said he would come right home. I couldn’t decide if I needed to take Owen to the hospital or not. He was still sobbing and the blood was still flowing. I just couldn’t tell how bad the injury was. And I started to cry. Luckily, being away from the mess and having a straight head, Michael texted me right then and suggested I call our pediatrician first before heading the ER. I did, and they told me to bring him in.

I grabbed a bag of ice and tried to get him to hold it to his mouth (ha) as I gathered up our things. In my rush, I didn’t even put shoes on the poor kid, although I did at least remember to throw them in my bag. As I peeled out of the garage, I put on a brave face and waved at the neighbors who were talking next to the basketball hoop on our street. (We think this may actually be why he fell down the stairs — I think he was driving by the top when he noticed them playing ball through the screen door and leaned forward to get a better view.)

It was only then I noticed my entire shirt was soaked with blood and it was streaked across my cheek. I probably looked like a pregnant serial killer.

The ride was less than 10 minutes, but it felt endless. The bleeding had slowed, but he still looked like a vampire after a good meal. I tried to make him feel better by telling him that our doctor would make it better soon and Daddy was going to meet us there. He had stopped screaming, but the whimpering was just as sad.He also kept repeating, “I know…I know….” in a sad little voice. I must have been saying that to him as I tried to calm him before, “I know, baby, it hurts. I know.”

I bustled him into the waiting room at the pediatrician’s and as soon as he saw the plethora of trucks and trains to play with, he was off and happy as a clam. Of course. When Michael walked in a few minutes later, had he not seen me covered in blood, I’m not sure he would have believed anything had really happened.

Long story short, he’s fine. He split his top lip, bit into the bottom lip but not enough to cause major damage, and split that ridge of gum between his front two teeth, which was the source of most of the blood. According to his doctor, mouth wounds bleed A LOT, but usually heal up quickly and nicely. He has a bruise on his cheek and his lips are puffy, but that’s the worst of it. He gets to skip a day or two or tooth brushing and eat soft and cold things, like the Popsicle he had last night. Basically, any kid’s dream.

Today he’s in great spirits and actually looks pretty good, considering. I think we can even go to Target today without getting suspicious looks. (Negligent mother, aisle five.)

We are so lucky. This could have been a million times worse. But I can’t erase the vision of him lying there spewing blood, or the guilt that is nagging at the back of my mind.

The gate should have been there. I should have been paying more attention. This could have been prevented.

I guess it’s a lesson learned for all, one I hope to never repeat. And I KNOW this is just the beginning. There will be more injuries. Probably a broken bone, a trip to the ER, some stitches. He is a boy, after all, and we’re having another one.

But still. My heart. My baby.

Gah, parenthood.

There is no perfect way to parent. Sometimes I want to shout that from the rooftops. THERE IS NO PERFECT WAY TO PARENT! You just have to do your best, you know? And most likely, you’re going to screw up a few times. You’ll bump their head while putting them in the car seat, or not realize they’ve been sleeping in soaked jammies from a full diaper. You’ll mis-understand their cries as whining, when they’re really hungry and just wait until they get older and you have to teach them life lessons. Whoa boy, does that leave a ton of room to screw up, I’m sure.

But the thing is, you figure it out. And you become the best parent you can be. It’s probably not the same type of parent your parents were, but if you’re lucky and you had good ones like I do, you have some great examples to follow.

I’ve found that sometimes I have to defend my parenting choices to people. Giving reasons for why I’m feeding him (or NOT feeding him) certain foods, explaining my reasons for the way I deal with night wakings or why I put Elmo’s World on YouTube during a screaming fit on a three-hour car ride. Most of the time I respond in a light, laughing manner when questioned because, why argue? It’s not their kid. But other times I feel like I really have to stand up for my choices.

Case in point: extended breastfeeding. Owen will be 11 months old next weekend and he’s still nursing like a champ. I had hoped to nurse him to a year to give him as much nutritional and developmental benefits from it as I could, and it looks like we will meet this goal. He’s always been a big nurser, both for food and for comfort, and up until recently, I really saw no end in sight for our breastfeeding relationship. The kid likes the boob.

Over the last month or so, however, I’ve noticed him slowly decreasing his time nursing, and today we’ve arrived at about a four times a day schedule. He nurses first thing in the morning, before both naps and again before bed. Sometimes there’s one or more sessions thrown in during the day depending on what’s going on (maybe he falls during a standing attempt and needs comfort, or whatever), and if he wakes at night I nurse him back down. He always lets me know if he wants to by grabbing at my shirt,rubbing his head on my chest, or pointing at my breast and saying with a laugh and a smile, “AH!!”

For us, 4-5 times a day is a major decrease. But to others, apparently this is shocking. You wouldn’t believe how many people have expressed surprise…and then concern!…when I tell them that he’s still nursing that often. “Four times a day? That’s a lot for almost a year!”

Says who?

I’ve read a lot about breastfeeding past a year and the decision of whether to wean or not. I understand and agree with points on both sides of the fence. I’m not totally ready to wean. As a matter of fact, on Mother’s Day, he refused my breast and wanted to be rocked to sleep instead. It was a little step of independence that left me dripping tears onto the top of his head, but in the end, it was what he wanted and it worked just fine. Sometimes he still does that, and other times he still nurses.

While I’m not TOTALLY ready to wean, I’m getting there. He has teeth now that often pinch and leave indentations on my areola (OW). He gets distracted and pulls off to look around or play with things. It makes it difficult for others to put him down for naps because he is so accustomed to our routine. My period has also yet to return, and while I’m not anxiously awaiting its arrival, I’m slowly starting to get the itch for another baby and would like to have a few cycles under my belt before we go down that road so I see how my cycle acts post-baby.

I’m letting him lead the way, and kind of using a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” nursing tactic that is common for weaning. If he wants to, he can, always.

So that’s what we’re doing. And it works for us. It’s not weird, it’s not abnormal, it’s just fine. Maybe I should refer people to this post when they express shock and concern over my baby still nursing, hmm? I know there are years ahead of us where people will question our parenting and I should just prepare myself for it, even though I can’t see how it’s anyone else’s business but ours. But I will also be less quick to judge other parent’s choices, that’s for sure!

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