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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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painting the back deck…

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…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!

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Winning the New Mommy Game

I’ll never forget in the first days after bringing Brogan home from the hospital, wondering how you manage to do anything other than care for your baby.  And secondarily, how in the world does anyone ever do this with two?!? It was completely overwhelming; my entire day was wholly consumed with this new little being. I found it hard to do anything for myself – eat, pee, shower, you know, the basics.  But eventually I was able to care for myself again.  As time went on, I’d get in the groove feeling in control, routine down pat, and then guess what? The damn routine would change. But I found that each time, no matter what the change, I was able to roll with the new stage. I slowly gained confidence.  And what was in the beginning incomprehensible – going back to work, actually cooking a home-cooked meal (while home alone with a little one), keeping my house clean – gradually became something I could do. (Well, except keep the house clean, who am I kidding?)

And then Beckett came along and my frame of reference was totally different.  Compared to my very active two-year-old, here was this newborn who actually stayed where you put him! How easy! But it wasn’t all that easy, because now there were two and I was recovering from a c-section. I needed a lot of help and I was fortunate to get it. But then one day, I had both boys all by myself all day, and a funny thing happened – we managed!  I was able to feed them both, feed myself, no one was injured and my sanity remained intact – win.  It was affirmation that whatever was thrown at me, I could handle it. I don’t always handle it with grace, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t all have to be perfect, and sometimes the kids are just gonna eat goldfish off the floor. No biggie.

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Yes, now we’re in a place where I feel really in control. Sure there are days when they push me to my limits, and I know I’ve not seen all they have in store for me, but whatever the future holds, I’ve learned that I’ve got this.  If the new mom I was in Brogan’s first week could see me now, she’d be impressed. At that point I didn’t understand how some moms did it all (or anything, for that matter). I never would have thought being a working mom would fit me so well; that I would actually cook dinner almost every night; that I’d be writing a blog. But here I am doing this mommy thing and loving it.

I write this because I know there are many new mommy’s out there in those first couple of weeks feeling like the task at hand is daunting.  It is, but you can do it.  You’ll amaze yourself with all you are capable of; how much you can actually handle. I’m not going to tell you not worry about everything with your first, because you will. At least in the beginning. But I will tell you that it doesn’t stay completely overwhelming forever. Normalcy will return.  And when it does, you’ll forget all about those first couple of weeks and be insane enough to want to do it all over again. But you should. You can totally do it.

Bringing Home a Little Brother

When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I immediately started thinking about how it would impact my first.  Little did he know that his whole world was going to be changing.  I worried mostly about how he’d react without all the attention.  With my world so full of him, I wondered how two would fit and where the sacrifices would be made.  So my husband and I tried to be very deliberate about the choices we made when it came to introducing Beckett into our home.

The first thing we had to tackle was the new nursery – Beckett was going to use the same crib and furniture as Brogan (which Brogan was currently using).  We worried about Brogan feeling like the new baby was taking his “stuff” (especially the crib) so we opted to move him into a toddler bed at 20 months (4 months before Beckett’s arrival). The hope was that those 4 months would be enough time to unattach him from his crib.  It was – Brogan never once referred to the crib has “his”.  He was proud of his new big boy bed, and was also excited about Beckett’s new room.

We decided to make Brogan a book that would explain the transition.  We knew there were books out there, but we wanted one that he could identify with, that spelled out exactly what was going to happen to him and that showed pictures of people he knew.  I made it in Word, used clipart and pictures of his family, and even bound it with my binding machine at work.  It went through his new role of big brother, that mommy and daddy were going to the hospital to have his brother, that his Gigi was coming to stay with him while mommy and daddy were in the hospital, and what it would be like with a new baby in the house (crying, mommy holding him a lot, things he could help with).  We emphasized what Brogan was getting out of the deal – a new brother and a best friend.  We really wanted their relationship to get off on the right foot!

When we got home from the hospital with Beckett, Blake took Brogan out to buy Beckett a gift.  We let him pick it out – anything (within reason) that he wanted his brother to have.  We also gave Brogan a gift from Beckett.  Brogan was so proud to have given his brother a present (I think this was more impactful than the gift Beckett got him!) It was really neat watching him puff up with pride showing off the present that he got his new brother!

Welcoming Beckett into the family was a much smoother transition that we had anticipated.  When Brogan was jealous, it was only short-lived and didn’t seem to temper his feelings toward his brother.  Who knows if anything we did in preparation worked, if it was just Brogan’s nature, or if we simply got lucky, but I’m proud to say that they seem to actually like each other!  Brogan has a pretty big personality and is always seeking the limelight.  We worried about this need to be noticed, but didn’t consider that in the end, he would make sure he was noticed!  So if too much attention was paid to the baby, Brogan would pick up his guitar and sing a song, problem solved!

While I’m not so naïve to think they will always get along, I’m praying that this liking each other thing will last at least a little while longer.

The other day in the car…

Brogan: Mommy, I don’t love you anymore.  I don’t love you, or daddy or Beckett. I just love myself.

[silence as I was thinking through how to respond – not the first time I had heard this one]

Brogan: Mommy, I changed my mind, I only love myself and Beckett.

Brogan holding Beckett