Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Honest Story about Feeding Babies

10 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, I used to throw out the question to veteran moms I knew: "Are you breastfeeding?" "Did you breastfeed?" It was purely out of innocent curiosity; I had no agenda. I did not yet know about mommy wars or that lactivism was a thing. I noticed the way my sister's eyes seemed to skip guiltily away as she explained that she'd pumped for her preemie for a few weeks, but then her supply had dried up. I didn't think much about it at the time. In the coming months and years, I would learn to tread more carefully when bringing up the subject of breastfeeding, because as I was to learn it is a hot button topic. There are so many emotions, so much angst, so much guilt. There are people defending their right to breastfeed, people defending their right not to. I was blissfully unaware of all that, but soon I would find out, there is a "right" and "wrong" way to do everything when it comes to babies.

My husband and I were so excited to become parents. I wanted us to take all the classes together, to be as prepared as we could possibly be. In addition to childbirth and newborn care, we took the breastfeeding class. Walking into that classroom at about 8 months along, my intention was to try breastfeeding and see how it goes; and hopefully get some useful advice from this class. Then that instructor in her no nonsense way completely indoctrinated Tim and me into all the ways that breastfeeding was superior to formula. It was natural; it was readily available and and the right temperature; it was free; it strengthened the baby's immunity; it's good for my postpartum recovery and health. Nutritionally, she presented the choice between breastmilk and formula as the choice between wholesome home cooked meals versus McDonald's all the time (maybe an exaggeration). It left us wondering why anyone would decide not to breastfeed. My attitude changed from 'I'll try' to 'do or die', and Tim was fully in support. I didn't know it at the time, but it was going to take exactly that level of gritty determination to get me through those rocky weeks ahead. If I had set out to try, I would not have succeeded.

Delaney arrived over two weeks ahead of her due date after an uncomplicated 11-hour labor, weighing seven pounds eight ounces. We had an undisturbed hour of skin-to-skin immediately afterward, that the breastfeeding and childbirth instructors had said was critical to establishing breastfeeding. She was reluctant to latch at first, drowsy from the Nubain. Once I did succeed in getting her latched on and taking her first meal of colustrum, my feeling of victory was short-lived as she nodded off soon after. During that session, as he would with many more to follow, Tim had looked on trying to be helpful. "Is she latched on? Is she getting anything? Is she done?" I had no idea because I didn't know how this was supposed to feel.
Days passed in a blur. I was sore, so sore -- both from the third degree tear I'd sustained during the birth as well as from the initial nipple pain would be par for the course the first days of breastfeeding each of my kids. For being the natural way of feeding a baby, breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. It was so much work with a baby who seemed not want to be bothered with it most of the time. (I would learn later that this was probably the result of my taking Tylenol with codeine which is now a big no-no when you're breastfeeding and should have been then too.) She would wake up from her long slumbers hungry, then hangry -- arms and legs pumping furiously as I tried coaxing her onto the breast. Finally she would give in, nurse for a few minutes and pass right back out. I would feel sweet relief and get a short break before it was time to start the process all over again. I did not feel like myself. I was tearful a lot. After several sleepless days and nights I found myself feeling desperately tired and looking for a lifeline. All I needed was for Tim to feed her a bottle and let me sleep for a few hours. The formula samples were in the kitchen just in case. Tim, wishing to do whatever it was I needed him to do at that moment, saw the unspoken request on my weary face. He said to me gently, "I could give her a bottle, but do you really want to start down that slippery slope?" We had learned in breastfeeding class that giving a baby anything besides the breast would undermine my supply and the nursing relationship. I sighed. Darn Tim for making me think about what it is I really want! I knew the answer to that: no to even one bottle of formula. I forged on.

At one of those first pediatrician appointments when her bilirubin levels were checked and she was weighed and measured, I mentioned to the doctor what a difficult time I was having getting her to nurse. He asked me if I'd been supplementing with formula. When I said I hadn't, he told me, "Well, whatever you're doing, it's working because she's gaining." He suggested that I look into getting a lactation consultant if I still felt I needed help, but his parting words were, "Keep up the good work." I would learn that most pediatricians know very little about breastfeeding, but that the numbers on the scale tell them everything they need to know. I was considerably relieved to know that Delaney was thriving even if I felt like a mess. I had a glimmer of hope. It might not be pretty but it's working.

"What's been the hardest thing about being a mom so far?" my brother-in-law asked me one day soon after that while at a family gathering. Without hesitation I answered, "Breastfeeding!" With a shrug, he bowed out of the conversation and his wife said, not unkindly, "You know, you don't have to breastfeed." What? No cheering me on in my noble endeavor? No 'hang in there, it gets better'? It came as a surprise to learn that not everyone around me saw breastfeeding as a must; certainly not worth any amount of suffering on the mom's part.
Through sheer stubbornness, I finally wore Delaney down and made a happy nursling out of her. The two of us were a happy and inseparable pair, just the way we were meant to be. I felt such tender love and pride as I looked down at her in my arms in our glider rocker. I gave it my all and for my reward I enjoyed many easy and blissful months of breastfeeding until I got pregnant with her sister, my supply started to dwindle and it seemed like a good time to take a break before I had another newborn.

It had taken no less than my all -- days and nights and weeks devoted exclusively to learning the natural way to feed a baby. I am ashamed to say I secretly believed that women who hadn't succeeded at breastfeeding had just not tried as hard as me. The ones who didn't try at all just didn't care enough about giving their baby the best, or just didn't know any better. But life is the best teacher, and I would yet learn not to see it in such black and white terms.

We all hear "breast is best", but our society is still hostile to nursing moms in so many ways. We still hear all the time about mothers who nurse in public being asked to cover up or leave even as no one bats an eye at the amount of cleavage on TV or magazine covers. One of my other sisters, once she returned to work as a nurse after having her baby, had to find a comfy janitor's closet to pump in. At a hospital. There are many women who don't have the luxury of days and nights and weeks devoted exclusively to getting to know their babies and establishing the breastfeeding relationship, maybe because of their other children or because of their jobs. Many don't make it through the first couple weeks because adequate resources are often not available to a woman once she and the baby are home from the hospital. I remember a young Navy wife who used to live next door, who called a lactation consultant asking for help with nursing her days-old baby, and got just one piece of advice in lieu of a house call and hands-on help: "Take a warm bath with her." She'd had a c-section and really, that was the best the lactation consultant good do for her?

I am of course still an enthusiastic believer in all the benefits of breastfeeding, and I'll encourage and support other moms in any way I can; but along the way I have come to understand that the question of breast versus formula is more complicated than it seemed at first. There are those who, for reasons I can't relate to, make a different choice than me and that's OK too. No one should ever be made to feel guilty or like a failure for not breastfeeding.

I am profoundly grateful to have made it work for me. I am 17 months into nursing my fourth baby and am happy to say that the last three times were much easier to begin with than with the first, albeit still painful in the beginning. Now that this last one's a toddler we have begun the natural, gradual decline of weaning as he becomes a champion eater at the table, but I expect we'll continue on a few more months until we're ready to be done.

When I was trying to figure it all out with my first baby, I remember how much I was encouraged by hearing or reading about the struggles and successes of other moms trying to figure out how best to feed their babies. Whether it was my own mom relating her memories, or listening to the stories of others in my new mom's group, or reading a blog, I was uplifted knowing I was not alone. The Honest Company has a series called Honest Feeding Stories in its Honestly blog, some of which I have enjoyed reading since they reached out to me asking me to contribute. I was happy to since this is one of my favorite writing topics of all time.

10 years have mellowed me out from the zealous new mom determined to everything the "right" way when it came to babies, who was painfully insecure at the idea of failing in any aspect and judgmental about the choices of others. I've been humbled by the many ways I've messed up and I know I'll continue to be. The right way to feed a child, just like the right way to get them to sleep, get them to do their homework, stop fighting, is to do the best you can and do it with love. I've got an almost-10-year-old, 8-year-old, 5-year-old, a 17-month-old, and about a thousand more gray hairs. If my brother-in-law were to ask me today what the hardest part about being a mom is, he'd get a much different answer. Feeding a baby is only the beginning.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Joey: 17 Months

The biggest change between 16 and 17 months for Joey, and really the only major change, is that he's either saying or attempting to say several words. He says one word at a time, and every time we hear him say something new we make a big deal out of it. The best was when we were in the carpool line at Annie and Timmy's school, the teacher opened the door for them to get in, and he called out "Annie!" clear as a bell. He also says "nana" (banana), ow, uh-oh, car, eat, and I think "aney" was an attempt at Delaney. He signs "more" and "all done."
I think he understands most of what we say to him, and today when I asked him to put Timmy's cleats back in the cubby, he did so.

He's trying to figure out how everything works, including the front and back storm doors, so we have to be more careful not to let him escape. He can't turn knobs yet, so that's a good thing. He's getting good with going up and down stairs. He watches us closely and copies everything we do. This morning I saw him waving my curling wand around his head with one hand, while wearing the heat protectant glove on the other.
He toddles around really well, and he only has one speed. It cracks me up to watch him being chased around and I can tell by the look on his face he's sprinting, but his legs are not going any faster.

I gave him the WORST mom haircut of all time. I feel so bad for him. I've been trying to let it grow into a mop like the one Timmy had when he was around the same age, but the front parts were getting into his eyes. I've taken him to professionals to get his hair cut -- once to my hairdresser and once to someone at Great Clips. I was not entirely satisfied with the job that either one of them did, and for a minimum of 15 bucks, I really need to be happy with the result. But no matter how hard I tried to communicate that I wanted the hair shorter but I didn't want to see the line, I want it to look all blended and natural -- I'd come away with him looking a little like Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber. They tried to blend it but I could still see the line. I wanted it to look like wispy baby hair and I don't want to see a perfectly straight line of hair in the front. It should look like this:
Timmy at about 18 months
I thought to myself, why pay someone to do a mediocre job of cutting his hair, when I can do a mediocre (or worse) job for free? So I took matters into my own hands, and I used a technique I think my mom told me about, which was to twist a lock of hair around and then snip it. Which I did so very gingerly, just the tiniest snips at a time. My big mistake was that first I swept the hair over the way I normally like it, before twisting and cutting sections. I should have just pulled it straight out in front. I messed up one side of it big time; the other side is not so bad. 
I texted Tim lots of tear-faced emojis, telling him maybe it was time to just use the clippers and give him Timmy's cut. He said he didn't feel ready to do that, and I really don't feel ready for him to do that either. It's just wow. So bad. Tim offered to even it up by cutting the other side shorter, but I said no, he should at least have one good side. I know it will grow back soon enough, but the timing was just so unfortunate with Annie's First Communion a few days away and Grace's wedding the week after. So many photos are being taken of him in nice clothes with that stupid hair. So sorry, Bub!

He always wakes up crying. I seem to remember at least one of my other toddlers babbling happily to himself/herself after waking up in the morning or from a nap, while I waited for them to start making noises indicating that they wanted to be gotten. Not this one. He whines and cries. After I get him out of bed in the morning he's fairly cheerful, but after his afternoon nap .. ugh. Such a grouch the rest of the afternoon. Very clingy and no fun at all.
He is all the way done with his morning nap, and if I'm lucky in the afternoon he sleeps 1.5 hours, but often more like an hour and 15 minutes. I'd like to start getting a solid two hours in the afternoon. How do I do that? He goes to bed at 7 and almost always gets up at 6, even on the weekends. He still sometimes cries between 11 and 12 and needs me to go in there and reassure him. 

He's wearing size 12-18 month clothes and size 4 diapers.

He is a lovable little rascal and he's Mama's buddy, I tell him all the time.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Disney

Last week Tim took the Big 3 on a trip to Disney as a surprise for their birthdays which take place in late spring and summer. (We took a video of them receiving the surprise a couple nights before, but our kids do not react to surprises; any footage we have of them receiving a surprise is laughably anticlimactic.) They made the six-hour drive on Easter Sunday morning and spent the rest of that day at Hollywood Studios where they met up with Tim's sister Kathy, her husband Brett and their girls, Sofia and Natalie. They spent the second day at Magic Kingdom, and then half of Tuesday at Epcot before driving home.

When they got home at 8:30 on Tuesday night, they came through the garage door into the kitchen, all of them talking at once about how much fun they'd had, and telling me stories.

Delaney: I had a mental breakdown my first day there.
Me: What?
Delaney: I lost my Magic Band right before I got on the Tower of Terror.
Tim: We were only three minutes into our first day. I was like, "Nooooooo!" So I asked the elevator conductor guy if, once the ride was over, we could go back and look for it. He asked, "Is it blue? Someone just turned this in!"

There were more magic band troubles, apparently. At one point when Tim wasn't around to see, Delaney's Magic Band snagged on a fence as she was turning around, and it fell on the wrong side of the fence. Someone had had to lift her over it so she could retrieve it. It's not clear who that someone was.

Another time Timmy was having some kind of fit, "pulling a Timmy" as Tim put it. The band fell on the ground somehow and Timmy, with a scowl, kicked it toward a body of water. (I could picture this happening as clearly as if I'd been there myself. That face, that body language, that temper of his.. Timmy, our sanguine child, is often the most joyful and affectionate; but he's got a red hot temper.) His cousin Sofia dove on top of it and saved it from going into the water. Thankfully, I'm told there were only a few short episodes of Timmy's dark moods. It was a vast improvement from the time we took him when he was only 3. I said never again Disney for a kid 3 or under, and I meant it! Tim tells me that Kathy commented more than once about how good Timmy's behavior was and what a happy demeanor he had.

Annie: The third time I went on the Tower of Terror, I was sitting next to Auntie Kathy and I knew what was going to happen, so I buried my face in her arm and cried. (Tim says they actually only went on it twice.)

Timmy was scared of all fast and twisty rides, as you can clearly see in a couple of the pictures below. His favorite rides were Soarin' and a race car ride (not Test Track). He had mixed feelings about Tower of Terror, and even though I've never been on it myself I think I can understand that. Tim says he liked talking about it but he didn't like being on it.

Delaney liked everything.

Tim had a great time for the most part, except for those few times that come up inevitably, when it's impossible to meet everyone's expectations (i.e., "Daddy, can we go on Soarin' now?" "No, the line is an hour-and-a-half long, and we have to meet Auntie Kathy and Uncle Brett and see what our first Fast Pass is for.") At times it was an exercise in learning patience. Speaking of Kathy and Brett, another thing that made it easy for Tim to have fun was being able to just show up without doing any of the planning because the two of them are Disney aficionodos. When you're only going to be at Disney for a short few days, the planning is really essential.

Something that drove him crazy was seeing how much food our kids wasted at the restaurants. He might have overeaten at times just so he didn't have to see it all go to waste.

Kathy texted me a lot of great pictures throughout their stay, and I loved seeing those happy faces.
I'm so happy for Tim and the kids that they were able to take this opportunity to go to Disney and spend time with some of our Massachusetts family for a few days. What a great memory for them all and a perfect 'experience' birthday gift for Delaney, Annie and Timmy.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Joey: 16 Months

Our Joe is exploding with personality, and he has so much to say to us all the time. He mostly communicates in grunts, chirps, and lots of pointing. We've taught him to sign a little, and he's made up his own sign which means "gimme." He holds up his little chicken wing and then extends his arm out and back in repeatedly, in the direction of whatever it is he wants. The only words he's spoken clearly are "Hi," "Bye," "Ma," and "Da." He likes animal sounds too. The cow goes "ooooh" and dog goes "Woo! Woo!"
He does not like being left behind. One day as Tim was preparing to take Timmy to practice, Joe realized that he was meant to stay with me, and did not like that one bit. He put up such a stink about it, whining and clinging to his father, that we decided he could go after all. He looked over Tim's shoulder at me as he was carried out the door, with a big smile and wave. The morning his dad and siblings were rushing around getting ready to head out the door to go to Disney, he cried as if his little heart would break. One day, buddy, you'll get to go too!
He's still not a reliably good sleeper. He'll do really well for many days in a row, and then he'll be back to needing to be settled at some point in the middle of the night. He still has a penchant for waking up a half hour too early in the morning too. Last night he slept from 7 until almost 7, and I didn't hear a peep from him all night. Why can't he do that all the time?

While my mom was visiting we took him to the beach for the first time since he was an infant. He did not like it at first. He was really uncomfortable with his toes in the sand and wanted nothing to do with the water. He mostly clung to one of us and fussed. Then all of a sudden, about an hour into it, it was like a switch flipped. He was like, "I like the beach! Sand is fun! Water is fun!" There were lots of shallow little tide pools for him to play in and it was just perfect. What a relief it was for me because his mood kind of sets the tone for me whether I like it or not.
I thought he'd need time to warm up to Mom when she first got here, but he took to her right away. You always know he's made a friend when he starts handing his things to a person. He was happy to have another face around and someone else to love on him and play with him.

We're still phasing out the morning nap. He'll take it sometimes if it's quiet at home. I now nurse him three times a day: first thing in the morning, right before the afternoon nap, and right before bed. I love our routine and our nursing/snuggling time. Ever since I showed him a few weeks ago that he could 'listen to the ocean' in a seashell on top of the wardrobe, that's now part of our naptime/bedtime ritual. He points to it as soon as we walk into the room and I let him listen in each ear. As he listens he grins as though he were hearing a juicy little secret. How funny. This summer I'm packing that shell in my suitcase.
Joey is a big eater now, and he uses the 'gimme' sign a lot at the table. He gets super cranky if it's close to a mealtime and he's hungry. He is very impatient and demanding if there's a food he likes and I'm not giving it to him fast enough. The problem is, if I give it all to him at once, he will shove it all into his mouth at once, and that makes me nervous. But he's really at a point where he could use his own plate at meals. I keep treats and junk to a minimum, and boy does he love those. He is really greedy and can never have enough. I had to put away Tim's little old Easter basket that was full of candy. Out of sight and out of mind.

He is very curious, always climbing, always getting into things, and always in my hair if I'm trying to get anything done. But when he's awake and not in my hair, look out -- he's getting into some kind of trouble then.
He makes me laugh, especially when he gives me glimpses into his little world and the way he sees things. There's a particularly ferocious toy dinosaur that Timmy has. I believe it's an apatosaurus, but it looks like a meat-eater with that snarl and bared teeth. It growls and makes a stomp-stomp noise when you push a button. That dinosaur, until a couple months ago, lived in Timmy's toy box. I moved it to the top shelf of his closet because Joey was terrified of it and Timmy never played with it anyway. Today Joey and I were in there and I was curious to see if he was still scared of it. I took it down off the shelf and said, "Do you want to play with him?" Joey's eyes got big and he shook his head no a few times and whimpered. "OK, I'll put him away," I said. Joey watched nervously as I put him back on the shelf and closed the door. He stared at the closed closet door and made little worried sounds for a few more seconds. He didn't even like knowing it was in there. It's so funny how scared he is of that thing. I guess I should get rid of it since Timmy doesn't notice it's been put up anyway.

Yesterday I watched him follow a squirrel around, barking at it like a dog. He must be taking his cues from the neighbors' pets.
One more little story and then I'm done: I took Joey with me to Confession a couple weeks ago. It was face-to-face, the priest and I sitting across from each other and Joey on my lap. As I was talking with my hand resting on Joey's belly/chest, I realized something felt strange. I reached down his shirt and pulled out a toy truck, which he took from me and handed to Father. I went on and then felt something else. I reached in his shirt again and pulled out our cable remote which he then took from me and handed to Father who was probably beginning to wonder what else I was going to produce from inside Joey's shirt. I was cracking up. He is always losing that cable remote somewhere and Tim gets so irritated. I searched all over for it today and found it inside some reusable shopping bags in the laundry room.

He is just an incredible little person who gives me so many reasons to smile and laugh, and we all just love him to pieces.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Visit from Grandy

My mom came down from Cincinnati for a few days so she could see us in our habitat here before we move away. We showed her a couple of the modest attractions our area has to offer, but mostly we hung around here playing games and taking walks. The kids weren't on spring break yet, but they had Friday off, which was the day she got here.

The kids couldn't wait to play games with her. That's their favorite activity that doesn't involve a screen. Grandy loves games too, so they were in luck. She wasn't shy about Sorrying some grandkids either. She also introduced the girls (and re-introduced me) to Spit, and that was lots of fun. There were a lot of laughs at that kitchen table.
My plan had been for all of us to go to the beach on Saturday, but Friday and Saturday were the chilliest days we've had in awhile. Instead we decied to go to the farmers' market in the morning, and then downtown for dinner later. As we were leaving the farmers' market, Mom realized that she didn't have her glasses, so she got back out to look and soon Tim followed. They came back empty-handed after awhile and that was disappointing. We left to go drop off our BOB stroller to a friend who was borrowing it and at some point Mom mentioned to me without Tim hearing, that those glasses were $300. She didn't even seem upset about it. I think she was trying not to be. When Tim and I got out of the car to knock at the friend's door I said to him with a grimace, "She says those glasses are $300." His eyes widened and I'm pretty sure he was thinking, 'No $300 glasses are getting lost today.' On the way back home he pulled into the parking lot of the farmers' market again. After looking through the pictures on my camera, he figured out they'd gotten lost at the playground. We all got out to look this time. I prayed to St. Anthony and walked with my head down, eyes combing the ground which was full of wood shavings and leaves. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack! After maybe 10 or 15 minutes had passed, Tim found it. I couldn't believe it, and I asked him where. He said they were on top of a fence post. Somebody had picked them up and left them there. I was so relieved and happy, but not as much as Mom. She remarked that she hadn't wanted to inconvenience us, but she'd have spent all day out there looking if she could have. I believe it too. I remember the time back when I was a kid, we were driving through the mountains on our way to the beach and Mom and Dad backtracked some 70 miles to a McDonald's to search for a missing retainer. In the dumpster. They found it too, tucked inside a ketchup cup.
Mom was completely in love with the huge trees in our neighborhood and all the Spanish moss. I agree they're beautiful, and I will miss looking at them.
This entire week was meant to be the kids' spring break, but after the hurricane, Monday and Tuesday became makeup days. The kids went to school Monday, and that night I had a decision to make. Tuesday was Mom's last day here, and the weather was supposed to be beautiful. I really wanted us all to go to the beach. I'd been hankering after a beach trip all spring long and I'd really, really wanted to go while Mom was here. It wouldn't have been a tough call if not for the days they'll already be missing, with the surprise Disney trip and Grace's wedding. But in the end, after weighing a day of school against a day of making memories with Grandy, there was no question. YOLO.
Mom told me on the phone the day after she left how much she'd enjoyed the one-on-one time with us. One-on-one time, especially with grandkids, can be hard to come by even with the ones she lives close to and sees all the time. It was such a gift to us as well. Delaney really enjoys Grandy humor, and I wish I could share an example, but it's 'you had to be there' kind of stuff.

Annie says her favorite part about Grandy's visit was when we went to the beach, and ordered pizza for dinner, and had Italian ice afterward. I think Annie's best memories all revolve around food.  

It wasn't too hard to drop her off at the airport on Wednesday, knowing we'll be seeing her next month in Cincinnati and the month after in Topsail, NC!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lately..

..I have been researching my ancestors.

As a gift for our 10th anniversary, Tim surprised me a six-month membership to ancestry.com! I guess he could tell how intrigued I was whenever I would see the commercials. I jumped right into building my family tree, and it is the biggest time suck ever. I am never going to get anything done around here ever again because I am so fascinated by all the little bits and pieces I'm learning about my ancestors. Here's an example: In 1882 Bernard and Julia Berning had a little girl named Margaret, and four years later, a baby boy named August. Both of those children died a year a year after that. (A five-year-old and a baby both lost the same year -- unimaginable.) Two years after that they had Julia, my great-grandmother (mother's mother's mother) and she lived to be in her 90s. She was a survivor. I have to get one of my aunts to fill me in completely on the details of this story (which did not come courtesy of ancestry, btw) but when she was a little girl she followed her younger sister (Mary, who would only live to be 9) into the street and got hit by a trolley. She lost an arm, and grew up to be first a typist using one of those old typrewriters that you definitely could really use two hands for; then a wife and mother of six kids. She raised six children with only one arm. She changed cloth diapers that required pins, with one arm. But back to her mother, Julia the elder. She gave birth to 10 children altogether, and five did not make it to the age of 10. It made me so sad to think of her burying all those babies, and I wish I knew how they all died. The first one was born while she when she was 25 and the last baby who was lost after a year, was born when she was 42. I was surprised to note a few ancestors on both sides of my tree who've had babies well into their 40s and it's serving as kind of a heads-up for me. It's not that I thought nobody had babies in their 40s; I just didn't think the chances of it were all that great.
My great-grandmother Julia with her first three kids. My grandmother (my mom's mom Miriam) is the one holding the doll.
I'm in danger of neglecting the living people in my life in favor of all the deceased, but it is such a fun diversion. The kids want me to do the DNA test too, and I'm thinking about it, but really, even just going a couple hundred years back in time, I already know the answer. I'm a little bit of everything, but mostly Irish and German, and (this last one is new to me) French. I'm trying to build Tim's tree too, but on that side the dead aren't giving up their secrets easily. I haven't gotten far, but I've traced his mom's side to Italy, and his dad's side to Russia and Nova Scotia, and I know further back will take me to Ireland as well.

The frustrating thing about this ancestry business is that the little bit I learn from public records makes me wish I knew so much more.
***
..I've been filling up the calendar.

We've got some exciting things coming up! My mom is visiting for a few days next month right before Easter. Tim's parents are visiting Mother's Day weekend for Annie's First Communion. My sister Grace and her fiance Joey are getting married on May 19. This is a recent development and I waited with bated breath those few days she spent trying to get a date locked down. I kept telling her not to try to schedule it around us but when it turned out we'd be able to go, I was like woo-hoo! Dresses and shoes are already on order for the bride and sister bridesmaids! Then in mid- June, we'll see her, my parents and a couple of my other siblings and their families at our beach vacation in Topsail, NC. The end of June and July will be consumed with moving stuff. The Big 3 will be in Massachusetts with their grandparents while we take care of that and while Tim goes on more work trips (boo to work trips as we're organizing and moving all our stuff overseas). Then we will get out of here ourselves and join them. Tim's sister Karen and her fiance Matt will be tying the knot August 5! A few days after that we fly to Seattle, and from there to Japan.

As busy as we're going to be, in no time at all we'll be moving away. And I'm not ready for that, not at all.
***
..I've been doing a lot of driving.

The kids' schools are a half hour away, and most of the time they take the bus to and from, 45 minutes each way (yikes). This semester Delaney is doing two clubs after school, art and sign language. On those days I have to leave at 2 to pick up Annie and Timmy at 2:30, then drive to Delaney's school and wait there until she's done. On Mondays we wait 45 minutes, on Wednesdays an hour and 10 minutes. Annie just started gymnastics a few weeks ago, and the place I take her is right down the road from their school. That's on Tuesday evenings. Yesterday I drove Delaney and a couple of neighbor kids to their school dance that started at 4. Delaney got off the bus at 3:15, changed into a dress and we left at 3:30. I am really, really, really hoping and praying that in Okinawa we can live close to school and to other things. I always have this feeling of dread anytime I know there's something else going on at school, or something else they want to do, and I know how much more driving there's going to be. At the same time I want my kids to be joiners and doers, and I want them to have opportunities to find things they enjoy, develop their talents and make friends. In the case of Annie especially, in the past it's been a real puzzle to figure out what she likes, and she loves going to gymnastics. She can't seem to stop cartwheeling and climbing and hanging from things like a monkey every chance she gets.
This was taken just before heading out for the dance. Delaney was so cute and excited, and I was so happy later when she told me how much fun she'd had.
At least Timmy's tee ball (sorry Tim, baseball) is on base about two minutes away. That's 6:15 to 7:15 Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would definitely not be a happy camper having to drive a half hour home at 7:15 on a school night! 
***
...I've been running.
Tim has been training me hard and not to brag, but I finished first in my age group (35-39) in a 5K. My prize was a ride home. (Tim had warned me if I didn't beat my age group I would have to walk home.) I didn't do quite as well as hoped to (my time was 23:53, and I would have liked closer to 23), but the thing was I had belly issues that entire day. I managed to 'mind over matter' it for the race, but I do wonder how I might have done if that hadn't been a factor. Tim let me use his Garmin(?) watch and it was a good thing I did because there were a couple times I thought I was going fast enough and the watch let me know I needed to pick up the pace.
When I think of where I started a couple months ago, with just trying to get down to eight-minute miles, I'm pretty pleased.

***
.. I've been sneaking in some reading here and there. 

I'm working my way through The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis as part of a little reading group with my mom and sisters. We do three chapters a week, and the chapters are short and easy to digest. Lewis' writing is so clever and funny, and I keep nodding along because I see myself in all the insights into human nature and descriptions of ways the devil tempts people.

I devoured The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy within the span of a short few days. I read it on my phone every chance I got, and I was actually happy to be the one taking Annie to gymnastics because I knew it was an opportunity to sit in a waiting room and read for an hour without having anything better to do. Maybe it was because I was starting to feel wistful about having to move away, but I was curious to read literature by a local author. Once in awhile I find a book that just grabs me from page one and won't let me go until the end, and that's what kind of book this is. The writing is beautiful, the fictional town he describes is pretty obviously the one we live in and that's a fun connection; but it's the story and the characters that are so compelling. It's about some kids (now grownups) who grew up in pretty much the most dysfunctional family ever. Lots of bad stuff happened. But there are hilarious stories woven in too, and lots of breaks from the heavier parts. I'll have to check out some of his other books. I hope they're all just as good.

***

.. I've lost control of my house.

And I know that I'm in big part to blame. Just see above for all the ways I mismanage my time. But now Joey whose sole aim in life is to dismantle, destroy, and unravel, has outsmarted the cabinet locks. Now I can't keep anything put away. Right now on my high kitchen counter is a bag. Inside the bag are the contents of one of the cabinets of the desk. I have to reorganize it all and find a new home for all of it. On another counter are two stacks of serving bowls. I was so unnerved by the sound of them all clanking together as Joey pulled them from the cabinet earlier today, that I hurriedly piled them up there. Then I found myself wondering, Why do we have so many bowls? Do we really need all these bowls? What if I just got rid of them all?

We do not have enough high places to put things. I am drowning in the mess. I had to go to the commissary this morning, and I tried not to look around as I headed out the door. It actually hurts me to leave things all in disarray. I won't even go to bed at night until the kitchen is clean, counters wiped down and dishes are either hand-washed or in the dishwasher. I can't get to the bigger items of cleaning that are desperately needed in this house; I am too busy cleaning up the same little messes again and again. And now with my cabinets no longer safely closed, it's like playing whackamole. 

Eek .. the woes of Rachael. Alright, off to see if I can get something done with what remains of his nap. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joey: 15 Months

Someone said to me recently that her teenage son had said to her, "You know that baby who sits in front of us at Mass? I can't believe how much bigger and older he looks every time we see him. How can he change that fast?" She replied, "That's what they do."
A couple weeks ago when  it seemed as though Joey had given up that morning nap for good, I decided at Tim's suggestion to avail myself of hourly daycare on base once or twice a week just to have some time to myself in the mornings. Registering him there necessitated a trip to the doctor to have a form filled out. I thought we were right between the 12 and 15 month checkups but we were closer to the 15-month than I realized, and he treated it as a regular checkup instead of just filling out the form based on his last visit like I thought he would. Joey was weighed and measured, and I was pleased to hear the doctor say that he had grown a remarkable inch and a half in height (he added that three inches over the course of a year is considered acceptable) and had gained at least a pound. I might have been tempted to think there'd been a little error on the part of the people measuring him, but I had been noticing how much better his 12-18 month clothes were fitting, and how he'd been filling out his footie pajamas. I actually thought I'd been shrinking his clothes, but this is great news! It felt like getting an 'A' this time. I had the exact numbers jotted down on scrap paper which has since disappeared, so I'll have to get them next time I go to the naval hospital.
We did the hourly care a couple times after that and it went well enough, but in the last week or so his nighttime sleep has taken a turn for the worse again so he's been needing a morning nap. He's napping right now as a matter of fact and that is the one good thing I get out of this. I'm thinking maybe teething is to blame. Every time I look in his mouth I see glimpses of all the teeth he's getting and all the ones he's just gotten. He won't let me look and feel for more than a split second or two, but it's so many teeth and swollen gums. It's like he's getting all the remaining teeth at once. I'm like OK, let's just get this over with then! It's torture. I give him a dose of ibuprofen before bed. He wakes me up anywhere from one to three to maybe even five or six times a night. I go in there, cover him up, tell him to go back to sleep and leave. Then at 5:30 this morning he woke up and would not go back to sleep, so he's already adjusted to daylight savings time. I am so, so tired. Fatigue is my constant companion. I am such a wimp when I'm not getting adequate sleep. Then I torment myself by looking at Facebook and seeing all the fun things people are doing on the weekends while I'm just enjoying not getting up at 6 and not schlepping the kids around to and from various things. Weekends are about what I'm not doing. It's been a challenging time for me, that's for sure, and I gave up complaining for Lent but I'm being sorely tested. He's been taking great naps, though, and I am grateful for that.
I remember Tim saying to me when he was a few months old and just coming out of that colicky phase, "You've loved him into submission." Well, that battle is ongoing but I have plenty of help around here. His dad and siblings love on him every chance they get and it's easy because he's so cute and because he pays back the love when he's not being an ornery little booger. He gives out his adorable open mouth kisses, hugs and high-fives on request. He plays 'ring around the rosy' with us and laughs when we all fall down and he doesn't. He loves when Annie holds him and I pursue him and she trots him away just out of my reach again and again. I love to see him bouncing on her hip and squealing in delight as they go around the corner.

He folds his little hands at dinnertime when we sit down to say grace and it melts my heart. He loves the playground behind our house and can climb up and go down the tall twisty slide backwards on his own. He can also go down steps backward, but wants to try walking down them (which he can't and that's scary). If I chase him, he can't run so he staggers like a drunk and then lies down and waits for me to get him. He loves to dance and his favorite song is "Cake by the Ocean", which Annie plays on my phone for him. Then I want to take a video but I can't because it's playing on my phone, so I go to get my camera but the moment passes.. :( I'm making it my mission to get that video now that I think of it. I'm always going to want to look back at that sweet baby dancing to his favorite song.
He's getting to have a temper when things don't go his way. He screeches, falls to the floor, hits the floor with his hands, and puts on quite a performance. He has zero ability to entertain himself and will not play with any of his toys. What he wants is to empty out the top desk drawer that has all our staples, paperclips and that kind of thing. Otherwise he wants me to carry him around on my hip all afternoon. He never wakes up from a nap happy.

He's been eating really well, and I guess that would account for the growth spurt. Lately he's been loving strawberries. He gobbles them up as quickly as he can. He likes most things, but not breakfast foods. He doesn't care for eggs, cereal, pancakes, toast, any of it. He's a funny little man.