Easter Minis!

Yesterday was Easter Mini Session day! After a day-before forecast of 80% chance of rain, the day ended up being perfectly overcast (a photographer’s dream!). With the help of some friends, we came up with this sweet shabby chic theme and the set turned out even better than I had imagined.   I’ve got to thank Trader Joe’s for the perfect tulips, Hobby Lobby for the perfect Easter eggs and God for the perfect weather!

And like the icing on the cake, I got to photograph some of the cutest kiddos ever! Easter Minis were a success! When do I get to do this again??

DSC_1315DSC_1175DSC_1179DSC_1182DSC_2143DSC_2074DSC_2192DSC_2007DSC_1833DSC_1949DSC_1241DSC_1309DSC_1205DSC_3324

Getting back to normal

Dare I say it… but things are getting back to normal: Berkley finally likes people who aren’t named mommy, I get a few hours of “adult” time each evening, and [knock on wood] I’m even getting to sleep through the night again – well, sometimes.

Yep, I’m getting the hang of this mommy-of-three thing. I’m feeling like myself again. A better version of myself, actually. Excuse me while I start reciting clichés, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s true. I’m proof. In the last year, I’ve had to grow and pick up a few more life skills – how to control less, how to stress less and how to enjoy the little moments more. I’m Type A and so this was hard. Real hard. But I’m trying.

I’ve learned with three kids there’s not a lot that I really have control over. For the planner in me, this is terrifying. But I live in a world where there is 3 times the chance that some part of my “plan” is going to get uprooted. And there are 3 tiny humans with little to no self control who have their own agendas at work. With them there are two outcomes: behind door #1 there’s “I get what I want when I want it how it want it precisely” and behind door #2 is “tell me no and I will go batshitcrazy on you”. What I want is behind door #3 where “the children obey, don’t ask why and don’t throw themselves violently on the floor”. I hear one day we may get there, but honey, we ain’t there yet. So my point – I’ve learned to surrender to the fact I can’t plan for everything and the kids don’t give a crap about my plans anyways.

Stressing less means that when my kids do go batshitcrazy, I don’t care. Kick your legs like a maniac, go on. Throw your sippy cup across the room. I don’t care. Scream your head off in the grocery store – you’re still not getting that candy bar. And I don’t care what people think of my parenting either. See, I used to think there were some parents who had it all figured out. I thought that those “lucky” ones had cracked the code and were raising consistently obedient children that didn’t throw fits or talk back or require bed-sharing for 11 months. It’s a lie. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. The third child has taught me that 50% of this parenting thing is a crap shoot. So am I apathetic? No. But do I stress about the fact that my child just screamed in public that I’m the poopiest mommy ever? Nope. And he still isn’t getting that candy bar.

Looking back, I don’t think I took enough time with my boys just enjoying them. I was wound up too tight. I couldn’t wait for them to start eating solids or sitting up or crawling or walking. I did a lot of time thinking about their next milestone and not enough cherishing their “now”. But with Berkley it’s been different. Perhaps it’s because she’s our last. Perhaps I’m smarter and know that she’s easier now than she will be at three. Whatever the reason, I have just cherished her little moments. And I’ve been being intentional about doing it with my boys now too. I’ve learned time goes by so fast and they’re not little forever.

For me, normal means I can exhale. It means I can enjoy our life. It means I’ve got energy to spare for my marriage and myself.  I’ve only gotten back to “normal” by surrendering, by reflecting on the craziness of the past year+ and by learning from my mistakes and doing better. Yes, my life is loud and chaotic, but there’s also a calm to it.  It’s contentment knowing that our family is complete. And it’s peace in knowing that God made me the mommy of these precious children.

DSC_0531DSC_9968

DSC_0568

 

 

Dealing with Our Food Allergies

A few weeks ago we received some test results that indicated Beckett, our almost three year old, has food allergies. This wasn’t the first time he had been tested – the first two times showed a mild allergy to milk and moderate allergy to eggs, and at the recommendation of our doctor, we limited his exposure but went on eating food like normal. But then a few months ago, his eczema started to get out of control. We tried changing detergents, soaps and lotions. We tried creams and oils, and while these things helped a little, the poor guy was just miserable. He wasn’t sleeping well, he was itching like crazy. At one point he asked for some scissors to cut his leg off it itched so bad. Heart. Breaking.

Back to the doctor we went, but this time we requested they test him for a gluten allergy on top of the others, and sure enough, it was positive. Non-celiac gluten intolerance to be exact – in the moderate to high range. And the milk and egg allergies were still there too. Combine that with the fact that Brogan, our almost five year old has a tree nut allergy… oh, and Berkley is also getting eczema, and seems to be reacting to the dairy in my diet – and it’s A LOT. Holy allergies, Batman.

Initially, I was in shock. What would we eat? We decided that in addition to cutting out gluten, we’d be more strict on limiting his diary and egg too. Anything to get his eczema under control.  But all I could think about were the foods that he loved. All the treats I loved to cook. All the things he could’t eat. How hard birthday parties and eating out would be. I was sad for him. Sad to think about telling him no more cheese sticks or goldfish or ice cream or yogurt or cupcakes with buttercream frosting. But on the other hand I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe we had figured out what his eczema trigger was and we could stop it.

The more I thought about it, the better my outlook became. It was a challenge, for sure, but I’ve always liked a challenge. I stopped thinking about what he couldn’t have and focused on what he could – he can eat fruit and veggies and meat… he can eat rice and potatoes and oats. That covers a lot, actually. So then I started thinking about meals. What would be our go-to for breakfast – for snacks – for lunch – for dinner? And then I went into planning mode and was on a mission. I was determined to make home-cooked allergy-free meals that didn’t taste like we (or he) was missing out on anything. And so that’s what I’ve been doing. So far, so good. I’ve tried a lot of new recipes, and many that I’ll continue to make.

I’m happy to report that it’s been working. His eczema is MUCH better. He’s still got a few spots in the notorious problem areas (knees, elbows, armpits) that he won’t stop messing with, but his eczema no longer covers his entire body. He’s no longer waking up three times a night scratching himself (no, now he’s waking up three times a night for no good reason – ha!). So far, all the sacrifice has been worth it.

I know we’re not the only family living a restricted diet, and so I’m hoping that through this I can help others with meal ideas and recipes. Dinner on it’s own is hard to pull off every night – add a bunch of things you can’t eat and it’s much harder.  So I plan to start sharing my successes. That is, if Berkley ever goes to sleep early enough for me to have 30 minutes to myself in the evenings to blog. One day… I hope.

DSC_1000

Back to Work

My first week back to work is behind me. It was a good week. Sunday night was hard as I was faced with the reality that I’d be leaving my sweet baby girl, who had not been away from me for more than just a few hours. I worried about how she’d feel and how well she’d eat (she’s been exclusively breastfed for the past few weeks and had a hard time with a bottle the last time she was given one). I knew I would miss her and the boys and all of our extra quality time. I knew my boys would miss me being home in the mornings and picking them up from school. I’d miss all the craziness and just being with them. But I also knew I’d be leaving them in good hands, and that for our family it’s the right thing to do, and so I decided to be at peace with it. And I was, and come Monday morning, there were no tears, just smiles.

DSC_0863

DSC_0906

Working for me is both a necessity and a choice – at this point in our lives, I am needed to help support our family, but even if I wasn’t, I think I would still work. But there is a lot of judgement and guilt wrapped up in that truth. Just the other day I called our pediatrician to setup an appointment for Berkley’s 2 month checkup (and shots). As I was talking to the receptionist about the time that would be best, I began thinking out loud… “I work and so late afternoon would be best…” The lady replied, “You work?” Initially I thought she was inquiring what me working had to do with the time choice so I felt the need to elaborate. “I work and since she’s having shots, I want to make sure I’m home with her afterwards in case she doesn’t feel well.” To which she replied, “No, I just noticed that you have three really little ones.” The judgement in her tone was apparent. It sort of kicked me in the gut. I searched for a quick light-hearted response, but I was offended. I’m sure people think it all the time, but she said it and I heard it and it stung a little bit.

So why is it that I want to work? I’ve asked myself this question many times. I’ve felt selfish and guilty about it. The truth is that I’m not sure I have a really good answer. Nothing when you say it out loud seems a good enough excuse to not spend every possible moment with your children. But, whether it’s a good reason or not, I think it’s because I work best when my plate is really full. I need a lot of balls in the air. I function at my highest potential when things (to outsiders) seem to be busy beyond belief. In college, I earned my best grades when I had 2 jobs and 18 credit hours – straight A’s. At work, when I’ve got the most projects and biggest workload is when I find myself most efficient and productive. At home when I’ve got a to-do list a mile long I become energized and accomplished. And so when I look at my life and my different roles – wife, mother, employee, friend, home-cook/blogger/photographer, having all of those hats just feels right. I feel challenged and fulfilled in trying to be the best I can in each of them – and in that, I feel I am living as my best possible self. I really do. At this point in my life, I feel like being all of these things doesn’t take away from each role, but adds to them. Plainly put, I feel like I am a better mom to my kids because I work. This doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I spent more time with them or that there aren’t days I wish I didn’t have to go to work – I do. But I keep focused on the big picture and what I know about myself… and I know my decision to work is the best one for us.

Part of what makes it possible to be at peace with working is knowing my kids are well cared for in my absence. And they always have been. For years they were lovingly looked after by a lady named Elaine, who was tragically killed in a car accident last summer. Then we had Katie and Sarah who loved my boys and had so much fun with them too. We’re now so fortunate to have Blake’s cousin Jessica for the next few months, and we could not be happier!  We weren’t sure what our plan for childcare would be when I went back to work until just a few weeks ago. I had decided this time around I wasn’t going to stress about it – and instead I prayed. It’s amazing how God always has a plan and sometimes in letting go of the worry and trusting Him, some of the greatest things happen. Jessica seemed to have a had a good week with them all – only a few time-outs, and Berkley took her bottles well. She even ventured out of the house to an indoor playground with all three on Friday – hats off sister!  Oh, and my dishwasher was unloaded each day, which is like the best present you can give a gal – so thank you, thank you, Jess.

So what’s the first week really been like? Well first off, I’m tired. No other way to put it. Berkley was sleeping better, but not great. And even if she was sleeping great, waking up at 4:30am just sucks. I’m happy to report, however, that as I type this on a Saturday morning, I’m feeling refreshed because she slept for 6 hours straight last night! Fingers crossed that this one-day trend continues!

When I arrived at work Monday morning I was surprised by a decorated office complete with streamers, balloons and roses. I work with the greatest group of people who are not only my co-workers but my friends and they always make the hard times easier. I got to eat lunch (with adults) from some of my favorite spots – welcome back Chipotle Friday, oh how I missed you!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I also got to pee by myself all week! It’s the little things, people. I’m fortunate enough to have a locking, private office, so pumping was made pretty easy too.

photo

So yes, it’s been a good week. I’m looking forward to figuring out what our new normal is and then thriving in it. No doubt there will be bumps along the way, but I love my life and my sweet family and trust that things are as they should be. No worry here – just faith.

And Berkley Makes Three

I’m 5 weeks into mom-of-three-kids status – whew. Between Christmas and house guests and the standard newborn fatigue, I’m finally able to share the latest edition to our family – meet Miss Berkley Elaine.

DSC_0128

Berkley is healthy and happy (she just started to smile!). She is already growing so fast –  it seems like overnight she has outgrown her newborn clothes and she’s changing every single day.

It’s amazing how the amount of love you feel as a mother just multiplies when you have another little one. It brings back memories of my boys when they were born, but just as with each of them, there is something new and special about the bond I feel with this sweet girl. I cannot get enough of her – she’s so small and soft and smells so yummy that sometimes all I want to do is hold her and just breath her in – simply put, I adore her.

Of course, with all the joy comes some challenges too. My boys are dealing with a month’s worth of a lot of house guests, a holiday break from school, Christmas and the biggest change of all – a little sister. While the last few weeks have not been without meltdowns and behavioral issues, it has really gone better than I expected.  And while it’s an adjustment, they boys really, really love their sister. And they tell me this often.

DSC_0492

IMG_5772

Handling the three kiddos has been interesting. When it’s just me, it’s pure survival mode. Her basic needs come first (eating), and I do the best I can with the rest. I’m nursing and so I feel like 50% of my time is glued to the couch feeding the baby, and so this leaves lots of time for the boys to run a muck… destroying their room…

IMG_5687

painting the back deck…

IMG_5724

…arguing and biting and hitting and kicking each other. Trying to enforce good behavior when I’m immobile is tough, and so I’ve had to use the “I’m calling your dad!!!!” card that I swore I would never use. But it works, and as I stated previously – survival mode.

But when Blake is home our “zone defense” strategy is that Blake deals with the boys, and I take care of Berkley. And this is working great. I find myself very frustrated that the boys don’t listen well, but all the crying and fussiness and sleepless nights with my little princess do not phase me at all. I think it’s because I know this stage won’t last long and so I’m savoring every bit of it. Blake is just the opposite – he has so much patience with the boys and can deal with all the shenanigans, but I’m afraid too much screaming baby may make him crazy. So we divide and conquer and it has been working for us. Thank God.

I’m at the point now where I’m trying to find out what our new normal is. I’m trying to keep myself sane with daily showers and keeping at least one room in my house tidy. So far so good. I’m still cooking most nights, and some how or another, the kids are getting regularly bathed as well. Aside from the daily pickup from preschool, I’m not venturing out much with all three of them by myself. For starters, Berkley screams in the car. Secondly, I’m not that brave… or crazy. One day (soon – hopefully), when I’m certain the boys will hold my hand when I ask them to and I’m fairly confident they won’t run off, we’ll start leaving the house. But until then, homebodies we’ll be – and I’m totally cool with that.

The greatest thing about adding this little one is the overwhelming fulfillment and completeness that I feel. Before I ever got pregnant with her, I knew I was meant to have her. For a while, Blake only wanted two kids.  At one point when I was worried he would never change his mind I actually grieved this child that did not even exist. But I prayed about it and one day Blake did change his mind. And now here we are with this precious gift and I am overflowing with joy that my little family is complete. And it is complete… and we’ve taken permanent measures to ensure that we’re done. And we’re done.

I’m hoping that once she establishes a more normal bedtime routine that I can get back into the blogging mode. I’ve got recipes and crazy adventures in parenting to share but not the free time to do it. I naively thought that I’d be blogging all the time while on maternity leave – not! I barely have time to go to the bathroom. I’ve been working on this post for 3 weeks! Every time I go back to it I have to change the opening sentence LOL. But I’ll get there. It’s my “me time” and my outlet, so if I don’t make it a priority one day soon, I may go batty.

So until then I’ll leave you with some more pictures of my sweet girl. Hope to chat with you all again soon!

DSC_0324

DSC_0259

DSC_0720

DSC_0646

DSC_0958

 

 

 

5 weeks to go…

I suppose there’s been a countdown clock going for a while, but today I hear it ticking pretty loudly. 5 weeks to go… 35 days… 16 more work days in my office… holy cow.  It’s like you spend your whole pregnancy thinking this is taking forever – and then all the sudden it’s almost over and the overwhelming feeling of all that’s left to do engulfs you. I’m there.

As I write this I’m hanging out in a hospital waiting room as my husband is in surgery to repair a hernia (a new occupational hazard, I suppose). And so hopefully our household has no need for heavy lifting for a while… yeah, there’s that.

Sometimes life is so busy that you don’t take the time to sit back and think about the enormity of certain situations or bask in the joy of others. And so while I can get caught up in the fact that the nursery’s not finished and all the Christmas shopping I’ve got to do… and ponder how in the heck I’ll be able to wrap presents on the floor in my current state of largeness… what I forget to focus on is how my whole life is about to change in 5 short weeks. In 5 weeks, I’ll have a daughter, Blake will get his daddy’s little girl and Brogan and Beckett will have a little sister. We’ll go back through sleep deprivation, our schedule will get thrown out the window and we’ll be switching from man to man coverage to zone (as my aunt who has three kids pointed out to me this weekend). But all those things will pale in comparison to the amount love and contentment we’ll feel knowing our family is complete. It’s pretty overwhelming when I really think about it.

With just weeks left to go, I also find myself feeling humbled by all of our blessings. Pregnancies don’t always go perfectly, and there are hundreds of far worse reasons I could be sitting in a hospital waiting for my husband to get out of surgery. But I’m thankful that we’ve had a healthy complication-free pregnancy, and that this is a simple outpatient procedure. I’m grateful that my boys are happy and healthy… and that we are surrounded by supportive friends and family who have already started to go out of their way to help us out. And so despite all of the chaos in our lives, the things that really matter are all good.

So I’ll keep reminding myself of these things over the next few weeks when I wonder how it is all going to get done… or when I complain about my lack of mobility or how uncomfortable it is to sleep. And regardless of how prepared we are, come December 17th (and hopefully not sooner!) we’ll get to meet Miss Berkley… and we are so, so excited!

DSC_0283

 

 

 

Managing the crazy

Sometimes I feel like being a mom is like running a factory. It takes strategy and efficiency and planning and meticulous execution to keep it all running on time. And by on time, I don’t really mean on time (because that rarely happens anymore), I really just mean running… barely. Oh yes, motherhood, one of my two full time jobs. Just because I’m not home with my kids during the day doesn’t mean I shirk any of the other mom responsibility. Nope. The daily housekeeping, laundry, dishes, meal planning, grocery shopping, hauling in and putting away all the purchased groceries (as I was reminded of this weekend when I brought home a huge haul from Costco and the hubs wasn’t home to help – holy freaking cow), packing lunches, sports, team mom duties, oh my gosh it goes on and on and on. And somehow all that “stuff” has to get squeezed into my nights and weekends. And throw into the mix that I’m 27 weeks pregnant, not sleeping well and beginning to waddle. However, I’m pretty certain that I should relish in the “easiness” (haha) of just 2 kids, because come 12 weeks from now, it’s really going to hit the fan… but back to the now.

So how does one keep the factory running? It’s a good question, and while I don’t think I’m coming anywhere close to Six Sigma certification, the place is running. I’m churning out clean (well most the time), loved, fed, clothed and healthy little boys into the world each day. But to say it is easy would be a lie. It takes hard work. It doesn’t allow for many “I just don’t feel like it days.” It means coming to “work” whether you feel like it or not, through sickness and fatigue and all out exhaustion. Because once you get the machine running, it takes effort every single day to keep it going. Sure, I could decide on any given Tuesday that I just don’t feel like loading and running the dishwasher. Which would be fine on Tuesday. But come Wednesday when there’s no room for the dinner dishes and I’ve got no clean sippy cups, Houston, we’ve got a problem. This means that at some point I’m going to either run the dishwasher twice in one day, hand wash the darn things or live with a continuous sink full of dirty dishes until the weekend. And it’s easy for husbands to forget this ripple effect. I can’t tell you how many times while complaining about the monotony of the nightly dishes that Blake tells me, “it’s okay to not do them every night.” And then I give him one of those wife stares… and he thinks I’m dramatic… and I think he’s delusional (and perhaps were both a little right).

There is no doubt more than one way to skin the proverbial cat when it comes to running a family. And while I don’t claim to be an expert (at all), I am sometimes asked, “how do you do it all?” And so here is my two cents on a practical approach to managing the crazy:

  1. First off, I don’t do it all. No one can. Some of the things I do may be more visible… because I blog about them, but it’s impossible to fit it all in. What I do is prioritize. I’ve thought about what’s important to me and my family and I make an effort to make those things happen. What causes you the most stress if it doesn’t get done? What can’t you live without? For me, eating home-cooked meals (even on practice nights) is really important.  So I plan my week’s meals on the weekend, go grocery shopping once (assuming everything on my list actually makes it in my cart, ha!), write the weekly menu on a board in the kitchen (to keep me honest and help me remember what I need to pull out of the freezer), sometimes make an extra meal on Sundays and go for the 20-minute options that I pre-prepped the night before on practice nights. It’s a lot of effort, but it’s important and so I make it happen.
  2. Figure out what’s not that important to you, and cut yourself some slack when those things don’t get done. Maybe it’s okay that the kids want to pick out their own (unmatching) outfits for school. Or that they leave the house with bed head. Or that the house isn’t picked up each night. Think about it, own it, don’t stress about it, and use the extra time to focus on what is important to you.
  3. Do things now. You’ll never think back and say, what a bummer that I already folded and put away the laundry! But it is highly likely that on a Sunday evening, when you opted to ignore the dryer buzzer (not once, but twice) and the clothes are cold and wrinkly that you think, why didn’t I take care of that earlier! This is a personal challenge of mine that I’ve been working on for the last 6 weeks. Let’s just say I’ve been successful 4 of those weeks, and the feeling of accomplishment was awesome. You’ve got to cut the procrastination, because in the end, it takes less time to handle things in the now than kicking the can down the road all week long and dealing with the side effects of the undone chores.
  4. Decide what days you want to tackle your chores, and then don’t worry about it on the other days.  For me, this means that I just do laundry on the weekends. Yes, there ends up being a lot of it come Saturday, but I’ve found that once you’re in the mode of doing it, it’s easier to keep it going… rather than trying to find the motivation every single day. Sure, sometimes I run a load during the week. But it’s just because I want to get ahead for the weekend, and I don’t feel a sense of obligation to do it. I’m sure the luxury of this choice will eventually be gone, but for now, I’ve made sure that we’re stocked with enough socks/underwear/practice attire for a full week and I just let it chill till the weekend. On weekdays, all I ask of myself is to cook dinner and do the dishes. If I’m feeling spunky, I pick up the house – sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. This is one of those lower priority things that I don’t stress about if it doesn’t get done (and so please don’t stop by unannounced during the week unless you don’t mind wading through the sea of toys and promise to check your judgement at the door!).
  5. I know planning is not everyone’s thing… but having a plan makes the crazy much easier to handle.  Whether it’s a meal plan, a grocery list, or a to-do list, a little forethought goes a long way. For me, planning out what I’m going to make for dinner each night is the only way I’m able to sustain cooking on a nighty basis. Before I wrote it all out, I’d forget to thaw meat from the freezer, I wasn’t efficient with my prep (if I need onions chopped tonight and tomorrow, might as well chop them all tonight!), I would grocery shop multiple times a week – mostly when I was hungry… and would wind up with a much larger grocery bill than necessary. All things that are frustrating and made weeknight cooking a much bigger chore than it needed to be.
  6. It’s really all a mindset.  I’m a firm believer in being intentional with your thoughts. I feel that if you spend all your energy saying you’re overwhelmed and out of control, you sort of make your own bed. It’s hard to not be those things when that’s what you tell yourself. However, if you focus on getting things in order and think I’ve got this, you probably will. Yes, there will be days where you feel overwhelmed, but it doesn’t mean you are overwhelmed. Make those feelings a blip on the radar of a life where you are in control. Yes, my boys get the best of me at times. Multiple times a week, as a mater of fact. But I don’t dwell on being overwhelmed – I make it a temporary feeling. I remind myself that my attitude on the situation is my reality and I choose not to live the life of someone who is a slave to their kids and their home. I take control. I figure one of these days my boys will behave and things will get easier and so I will keep my eye on that prize.

So now that I’ve got a system to help keep things running, I’m about to tip over the apple cart with a third child. I guess that’s just my MO – always chasing a challenge. I’m hopeful that even with the changes coming to our family, I’m able to find my sanity long enough to keep the factory running. Maybe not as smooth as it is now (haha) – simply running will be just fine. And because I know me, I will. Things will change, I will regroup and then get another plan in place. And then my kids will do everything in their power to throw me off my game, but I won’t let ’em! 😉

DSC_0016