Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas in Ohio Part 3

It feels a little silly, doing the Christmas blog post in three installments, but I found it to be easier and a lot more enjoyable than one or two really long, rambling picture-heavy posts.

I woke up at around 8 when Mom came to the door and said that it sounded like the kids really wanted to be up.  I said, "Uh, well, Tim will take care of them," or something like that.  Then I thought he must be keeping them penned up until I came downstairs so he'd be sure that I'd gotten enough sleep.  Very nice of him.  Now I was wide awake, and excited for the kids to open their presents.
This year the girls sent lists to Santa that included things like a doll high chair, stroller, and crib.  (Along with a whole host of other random things like a "family of snakes" -- I think all of their inspiration came from a single catalog that was lost soon after.)  The dolls had me scratching my head since those girls haven't ever shown much interest in dolls.  But if they were going to go with a doll theme this Christmas, that was A-okay with me.  As a little girl I loved my dolls and playing pretend more than just about anything.  I was VERY excited about dolls and doll stuff for my girls.  One of the first things the girls opened was a set of coordinated Dollie & Me pajamas.  Then they each opened their very own American Doll Bitty Baby.  They seemed pleased, and they didn't wonder why Santa hadn't brought the crib, stroller, and whatever else they'd asked for (we knew that there would also be some things waiting under the tree at home).  They're good kids and they know that a wish list is just that -- a list of things they wish for but may or may not get.  They also got some other toys and books and stuffed animals.  I think Timmy's favorite present was his fire truck with lights and sounds. 
After opening presents, Mom made us all breakfast and then we spent the whole first half of that day just lazing around and letting the kids play with their new toys.  I put Annie and Timmy down for an early nap because early that afternoon we would go to my dad's brother Paul's house for an extended family Christmas celebration.  While they were sleeping, Grace brought my parents' dog Georgie over so that Delaney could give her a Christmas present that Tim had taken her out to buy with her own money.  It was a tennis ball.  Delaney was crazy about Georgie, but the day we arrived, Mom had Grace take her home with her for the next few days.  Annie was petrified of her.  She is a ferocious-looking little beast, isn't she?
After Annie and Timmy got up we got ready and headed out to my aunt and uncle's house.  We hadn't seen many of the relatives on my dad's side in a long while, so we spent the first several minutes meeting and greeting, and even introducing the kids to some of them.  After pointing out the kids to my uncle Mark and telling him their names and ages, he said, "Is that all?"  I laughed, "Yeah, that's all.  Isn't that enough?"  He deadpanned, "Not in this family."  Touche, Uncle Mark.
Grandma and I
Pictures, pictures, and more pictures.
I wanted to get a picture of Tim and me and the kids too, but Timmy started to flip out and I didn't want to force it.  Oh well.
Anna must kiss her 1000 times a day.
Sophie and Damien
Siblings Mark, Paul, Linda and my dad
After a couple hours, we, along with my siblings and parents, made our way back to Mom and Dad's.  Scotty and little Scotty came over (the girls were a little under the weather that day).  I started to feel a little sad again, knowing that would be the last I'd see of them for awhile.
Finally a picture of all the siblings
And Delaney with one of her favorite Santa presents, Chesty Jr
After they'd all left except Grace, and we'd gotten the kids to bed, we watched It's a Wonderful Life.  I'd been wanting Tim to see it for years, but had never been able to catch it on TV.  I felt like I was seeing it for the first time, noticing so many things I'd missed all the other times.  I love that movie.  

We left the next morning around 7:30, then came back 15 minutes later for my sunglasses, then left again.  Tim drove the first half of the trip, and I took the wheel somewhere in the mountains in West Virginia so he could have a nap.  We had just topped off the gas tank and coaxed two scared little girls into using the bathrooms in a cruddy gas station bathroom with REALLY loud hand dryers.  I was annoyed by how much time we had spent there and I wanted to see how far we could go without stopping again.  The answer: all the way home.  Nobody needed the bathroom, we had plenty of gas, and I was eager to make up for the lost time spent backtracking to pick up my sunglasses.  Also, this was easy driving.  The only part that was a little unnerving was keeping up with the flow of traffic that was going 75 up and down winding mountain roads.  Other than that it was easy-peasy.  At last we were on that last long stretch of highway before home, and Tim was telling me how he wanted me to position the car in the driveway.

"I'm glad you brought that up because I would have forgotten and just driven it into the garage."  We had a rooftop carrier.  Tim turned to me and said, "Do not park in the garage.  Do NOT park in the garage."  I said, "You'll have to remind me again."  "Do not park in the garage."   Then the kids took up the chant:  "Do not park in the garage!  Do not park in the garage!"  They did this for the next seven minutes, all the way home.  And I did not park in the garage.  I wonder how many people have forgotten about their rooftop carriers and just driven into the garage?  It would be easy to do if you're a person accustomed to parking in the garage.  We got home at 7, so it took 11 hours from the time I got my sunglasses.  Not bad.

Inside the house, a big surprise waited.  Santa had left some presents here too, and there were lots of gifts from family in Massachusetts.  We have some lucky kids!  We Skyped with Tim's parents so they could see them opening everything up.  It was another flurry of wrapping paper, and then pajamas, prayers and bedtime for the kiddos.  Tim and I unloaded and unpacked as much as we could before we too fell into bed exhausted.  

That's it.  Another wonderful Christmas in the books.  And a new year right around the corner.  I can't wait to see what it holds for us.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas in Ohio Part 2

On Christmas Eve we went to Mass at 3:30.  Another thing I miss about Cincinnati is that there's a Mass starting every half hour somewhere.  So many options!  Where we live, we get three lousy choices every week and we have to make the best of it.  The church we went to was close enough to hit a rock with from my parents' house, and we left at a little after 3.  Even still we had a hard time finding parking, and we stood in the back.  But that was OK because we had left Timmy with Mom and Dad.

After that we collected Timmy and went to Scotty and Faith's house for the family Christmas Eve celebration.  Faith led the kids in a game of Christmas carol charades (which Delaney was very good at despite never having played charades before), we had a delicious turkey dinner, and exchanged presents.
At some point we rounded up all the kids, put them on the couch, and took a series of spectacularly awful pictures of them.  We had to do it.  It's not often we get all the cousins together.  Every photo was so bad that it was hard to decide which ones to use for this post.  I thought about making a collage, but then they would all be smaller and it would be harder to see some of the facial expressions.  So I had to narrow it down to the best (worst?) three.  Almostt all the kids age 4 and over were smiling.  That's something.
Left to right: A very ticked off Scotty III (3), Aspen (8), Delaney (6), Jaden (5 - until the 26th!), Annie (4), Damien (15 mos), Timmy III (2), Rosemary (9 mos), John Paul (2), Roman (7), Miles (7)
Dad fake crying at John Paul -- love it!
A few hours later, we put some very excited and tired kids to bed.  They all went to sleep downstairs with Tim, and I enjoyed a very quiet night of sleep in the girls' room alone.  The reason for this was, after a couple nights of sleeping in the same room with Timmy, I found out he is a very loud sleeper.  He sighs, he moans, he mumbles, he whimpers.  One morning at 5:30, he yodeled.  Another morning, he cried, "Daddy, don't eat my trucks!"  I needed a break and a decent night's sleep -- this was on the 23rd, I believe.  So I took Delaney's bed upstairs and she went downstairs and slept on the air mattress.  Annie was a quiet sleeper, as quiet as a mouse.  But I guess she thought she was missing out on some fun downstairs with her dad and brother and sister.  So, after final preparations for Christmas morning, I had the upstairs room all to myself and I enjoyed a very restful night of sleep unbroken by the many mouth noises of Timmy.
Delaney reading the last story in the Advent story book

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas in Ohio Part 1

The girls are sitting at the kitchen table happily playing the games they got for Christmas, and Tim took Timmy to some stores in Morehead City.  It would be the perfect time to put some laundry away and try to organize the playroom.  But of course I'll do none of that.  Instead, I will update the blog with our Christmas in Cincinnati.

We drove up on Friday the 20th.  It took about 12 hours to drive the 631 miles, as we expected.  Tim packed food to eat in the car, and we never stopped to eat -- just for gas or the bathroom.  Chippy the Elf rode on the rearview mirror and kept an eye on Tim the whole way.  The kids ate their snacks and watched their movies. We had a perfect day for traveling.  It was sunny and in the 50s the whole way.  I loved seeing the mountains again.  I only drove for about an hour myself, and the rest of the time I either stared out the window or read my book.  I got so impatient to get to my mom and dad's house toward the end.  I was on pins and needles as we made the last 10 turns of the drive.  I wasn't too familiar with the area they live in now, and I kept saying, "How many more turns?"  I cheered when I saw a brew-thru and said, "I'm home!"  Tim laughed at me.
We stayed with my parents this time in their new house, which has a lot more space for guests than their old one.  They have a big finished basement with a full bathroom and that's where we put the air mattress for Tim and me and the pack 'n play for Timmy.  The girls slept in a bonus room at the top of the house.  Mom had it decorated so cute and Christmas-y.  I wish I'd taken pictures.  They also have this non-carpeted play area by the stairs that was probably Timmy's favorite spot in the house.
I loved staying at Mom and Dad's because now we didn't have to spend so much of our time either coming or going from a hotel.  The last time we went to Cincinnati, in February 2012, we stayed in a hotel downtown.  We had to get up, get ourselves moving (which can be a slow process), and then call on the phone and be like, 'See you at 9' or whatever.  It would be a 10- or 15- minute drive to see anybody or do anything, and parking was a pain at the hotel.  Now we just woke up and we were there, and someone was always coming over.  It was fun.  I don't know if Tim was quite as comfortable as I was with staying there, but if he wasn't he was a good sport.  
We were celebrating everybody's birthday, just because.  Left to right: Anna, her son John Paul (2), Timmy, Tim, Anna's other son Miles (7)
Tim with Annie and Sophie's 15-month-old son Damien, a happy little fellow who walks like a penguin and has a smile for everybody
On Sunday we went to noon Mass at St. Rose.  Immediately after Mass was Rosemary's (Anna and Robert's youngest) baptism, and the blessing of Anna and Robert's marriage.  Tim and I had the honor of being Rosemary's godparents as well as witnesses for the marriage.  
Big day!
You can't see in the picture, but I took one of Rosemary's outstretched hands.  She gripped my fingers with her own and I could see her trying to pull herself up.  She stared right at me with a look that said, "Are you going to help me up or what?" 
Tim and I with our godchild, Rosemary Cozette
Left to right: My sisters Sophie, Anna and Grace; my sister-in-law Faith, me and Mom
When we weren't visiting with family we took the opportunity to do a lot of shopping in places we don't get to see where we live.  I'd never thought of Cincinnati as a big city growing up, but now I was continually in awe of the variety of restaurants and stores there are.  And other things to do, although we just stuck to shopping.  One morning we took the kids to Jungle Jim's, which is kind of a crazy grocery store that none of us has ever been to before.  They have a huge selection of candy bugs (actual insects in lollipops and chocolates!) that we all had fun perusing.  We took a ton of pictures while people walked by and gave us weird looks.  
An employee was taking a smoke break near this ape, but got uncomfortable and went away when I made the kids stand there for pictures.
Tim and I spent almost a whole day out shopping by ourselves, and then went out for sushi alone.  That was a nice time, except when, in the course of talking about how hard it is to live so far away from my family, I started to cry.  I was not a fun date.  Then I said how ironic it is to be so sad about all the time we're apart, while we are here visiting.  After all, I don't spend the many months between visits in tears.  It's just bittersweet, seeing how the kids bond with their grandparents as if they'd never been away.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Our Advent so far

We typically decorate for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving because that's when Tim has a break and can help me with it.  Otherwise, I would have definitely been on my own had it happened at any other point in the week.  It was a brutal week at work for Tim, and therefore extra grueling for me at home.  To make matters worse I had to keep Delaney home from school Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for viral pinkeye (which she still has, but she NEEDS to go back to school on Monday).  There was a lot of extra arguing and "mama, mama" going on, with having all three kids home every day, except for the three hours of school for Annie on Friday.  We didn't get to go do any of the things we had planned that would have broken up our days, since I had to keep Delaney away from the other kids.    I thought the days would never end and I lost my patience many a time.  I started to feel like I was back in deployment mode, just getting by.  And have I mentioned that Timmy is at the peak of Terrible Twos right now?  He is a terror, and he's been needing extra firm discipline, the kind that dads are especially good at.  I don't realize how much easier my life is when Tim gets home in the evening until he doesn't.  This coming week, Tim tells me, will not be any better work-wise.  More 14 + hour days for him, as he gets his battalion ready for a big inspection coming up.  We need a vacation!

Oh, and then Saturday finally came and the weather went from sunny and 70 to rainy and 40 during just the four hours Tim spent at work that morning.  Womp-womp-womp.
I decided to put together this post and talk about all the fun things we do while we're getting ready for Christmas.  We still have all those, even if everything else doesn't go as planned.  I have only to look at these pictures to remind myself that life is good.  We are so blessed.
We have the most perfect REAL Christmas tree this year.  It looks fake because there's not a branch out of place.  
I don't know why I didn't come across the 'star is born' back when I was shopping for Delaney's first Christmas ornament.  Now she wants a star too, and I think I just might get her one even though she has two first Christmas ornaments already.
Our Advent calendar and our boring elf Chippy who never does anything clever and mischievous.  But the kids love him so!
Our random Santa in the canoe, which I probably picked out when we were trying to decorate the condo in Massachusetts (and just throwing anything in a cart).  I've tried to get rid of him in the past, but I wouldn't dream of it now.  The kids couldn't wait for that silly Santa in a canoe to come out.
Grandy got them this book a few years ago, and we read it every night at bedtime throughout December.
A Hallmark recordable storybook that Grandma, Auntie Karen and cousin Juliana took turns reading this year.  But then!  A surprise at the end when Grandpa says, "Hello, everybody, it's Grandpa!" and reads the last page.  It's really cute and a favorite at naptime.  Timmy thinks it's hilarious when everybody calls out "Merry Christmas!" at the end.  We'll be missing our Massachusetts family this year.
Watching The Elf on the Shelf movie before bed one night, and eating fruit snacks in lieu of popcorn
This has nothing to do with Advent or Christmas, but what better cure is there for a rainy Saturday and a hard week than fresh highlights and a haircut?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reflections on breastfeeding

One last post on this subject and then I'll be done.  I just keep thinking about my whole breastfeeding story, and I'm still coming to terms with my decision to wean, and the unexpected impact it has had on me.

If I had known that I would mourn -- not just be sad for about 12 hours, but actually mourn -- I would have done things differently.  It's too late to change things now, but if I had to do it over, I would have dropped one session, then the other.  I thought it would confuse him, but I don't give him enough credit.  Since he still doesn't talk all that well, I make the mistake of assuming he doesn't understand either (honestly, I think that's becoming his secret weapon, acting like he 'doesn't know any better.').  But he's a smart enough kid to understand that he'd have no more milk at naptime, only at bedtime.  Then we could have gone on another few months, and I would have had the still painful, but maybe not as painful, decision to drop that feeding too.

This did not go as I planned.  For one thing, I really thought I didn't make milk anymore and that I was telling him the truth when I said it was all gone.  It came as a blow to realize that the milk was there, and he was just that efficient at getting it all out that I never felt I was making it.  Well, duh, that's breastfeeding 101, you say.  When a baby gets older -- a lot older -- they are more efficient at taking milk, your body is more efficient at making just what you need, and you stop feeling fullness or letdown, or any of the other sensations that helped you in the beginning to know things were going well.  But I really thought I'd dried up by now, and that the few swallows he did were swallowing his own spit.  Besides, he was getting too old, and I did not want to still be nursing him by his third birthday.  The thought of having no milk made it an easy decision.  The next day's realization that I still produced it brought a tidal wave of regret.

But it wasn't THAT much milk, and four days into this my body is getting the message and shutting down production.  Emotionally, I am doing much better too.  I'm starting to get over this.  I'm ready for the next chapter.

My mind keeps wanting to arrange my memories and thoughts and experiences related to breastfeeding into some kind of story with a beginning, middle and end.  I'll attempt to get it all out here.

I remember as a young girl watching my mom with my sister Grace.  I've already mentioned here before that she was Mom's most challenging baby.  I remember Mom sitting on the couch and saying, "I have no more to give this kid.  She's going to suck me dry!"  It sounded pretty miserable and not something I would look forward to, especially in the middle of the night.  That's why it came as a surprise to me that when I told her that I would bottle feed my babies to make sure that I could get the dad to help too (makes perfect sense, right?), I was met with her clear disapproval.  I don't know what I expected her to say -- "good for you"?  She told me something to the effect of nursing is actually a really good thing for both mom and baby, and I might change my mind one day and at least want to try it.  She had fed me formula before she had known better, and she'd been so glad that she'd nursed my siblings.

With a newborn Delaney, I got to find out firsthand the intricacies of the breastfeeding relationship:  the struggle to get her latched on and feeding in the first place, the pain of being engorged, sore nipples, and of course being on call at all hours of the day or night.  But I was so glad that I pushed through the hard times because once it started to work, it worked beautifully.  My body learned to anticipate her needs and make the right amount.  We started to depend on each other -- she being empty and needing to be full, me being full and needing to be empty.  Sometimes the co-dependency felt like a ball and chain, and I wondered if I'd ever just be "free" again, without needing to come back to her every couple of hours.  But with the exception of those times that I chafed at being bound to her, the days and nights took on a familiar and comforting rhythm.  I enjoyed the quiet and peace of sitting down to feed her every few hours.  Sometimes as we sat in her dim room and I held her in my arms, I thought to myself that I didn't want this ever to end.  This was perfection, and it seemed to me that it was the closest I could get to heaven on earth.  I patted myself on the back a thousand times for hanging in there in the beginning, and I became kind of a breastfeeding zealot.  Poor Tim felt kind of left out with the strong bond that we shared.  But months went by and Delaney started to expand her world beyond me, and I got back some of my freedom.  It happened before I knew it.  Nothing ever stayed the same for long.  One day Tim finally got to see his daughter smile and reach for him.  In the blink of an eye we were leaving her with her grandparents for the weekend.
Nom- nomming on baby cheeks with sleep training book facedown on the coffee table -- a good way to sum up life at that moment.
At 16 months, Delaney weaned with no fuss from either of us.  I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Annie by then.  I welcomed the short break between weaning one and starting again with another.  This second time around I fully embraced the whole experience, and was ready for the hard first few days.  On my first night in the hospital with Delaney, I had handed her to the nurses so they could feed her a bottle and give me four hours of sleep.  This first night with Annie: completely different story.  I kept her in bed with me, not minding at all when she nursed voraciously on one side, then the other all night long.  When the nurses saw my breastfeeding log the next morning where I had scrawled one entry -- 'continuous from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.' -- they were apologetic.  "You should have called us, we'd have been happy to help."  I cheerfully thanked them for their concern, but I knew that things were going exactly as they should.  My milk came in that very afternoon.  I nearly burst with my pride when my nine-pound Annie regained the few ounces she'd lost after birth, before we left the hospital.
Nursing Annie was bliss, but I weaned her without much ado at the age of 14 months.  That was a busy summer with moving and vacations.  My nursing style has always been (after the initial weeks when their hunger is constant) to do it in a quiet, dim room, preferably in a comfortable chair.  In fact I would venture to guess that 98% of breastfeeding for all of them has happened in the same glider rocker.  So with all that traveling it became inconvenient, and with all the distractions around, it was easy to keep missing sessions. By the time she weaned she was only nursing first thing in the morning.  One morning Tim got up with her and I decided that was the time, and I never offered again.  So that was easy.

My nursing relationship with Timmy followed the same pattern. In the beginning he needed me a lot, and I needed him a lot.  By this time I was a busy mom of three and no longer wasting my time worrying about when I would be "free" from the ball and chain that was nursing.  Being an inseparable pair was par for the course.  I understood by now that everything would change so quickly.  We kept evolving over time as his sisters and I had done.  When he was about 8 months old, I laid him down to sleep and didn't hear from him until the next morning.  I had nights off, woo-hoo!  Then he needed me still less.  I'd watch his dad bundle him into the car with his sisters, and wave goodbye and blow kisses, and not see them again until lunch.  These were just tiny incremental changes over many months.  What bound us together tightly in the beginning became looser and looser.  One morning this past spring when I went in to get him, I decided to skip that first feeding of the day and let him go straight to breakfast.  I changed his diaper and as soon as he was on his fat little feet he bounded out the door ready to greet the day.  I smiled.
Four days ago, I decided to make a change that was too much too soon -- for me.  But that little boy snoozing away in his crib?  Didn't even ask for milk before I laid him down.  He's fine.

I already feel so much better after seeing all these words on the screen that have been floating around in my head.  This blog is therapy sometimes.  I think I've been wanting to do a special breastfeeding post for a long time, but could never organize my thoughts enough to do it.  So here it is.

I don't know if I'll get another chance at this, but I'm starting to feel a little glimmer of hope that I will one day yet.  Weaning Timmy definitely had a hand in that.  Right now I'm in no hurry.  The glider rocker sits idly, but I am needed more than ever by my family, for so many things.  This is all just the beginning.  We'll see what God's plan for our future is, but right now my hands are full enough.