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Photo of the day… Smile!

Back to School Flashback

This summer my mom delivered two gigantic Rubbermaid containers filled with assignments, art projects, and other school memorabilia from grades kindergarten through 12.  I now know where those tests, assignments, and paintings went when they left the refrigerator.  Definitely not to the trash in our household.  As we celebrate the first day of school here in Wisconsin, I thought I would share a few of the treasures I found.  But more importantly, I want to encourage and maybe inspire any parents out there to keep a few Rubbermaid containers for your children.  Going through the stacks was like unlocking a treasure chest of memories.  Priceless.

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Runners of the World… UNITE!

I’ve mentioned a few times in recent weeks that I haven’t been able to run much since Alex was born. This is probably why when I do get out I feel like skipping and leaping in addition to running. It also might be the reason why I have noticed that there are A LOT of crabby runners out on the sidewalks early in the morning. I find myself bounding down the streets and smiling, head nodding, waving, and “helloing” to the runners I pass and in return I get… Nothing. In fact, it’s more common for a fellow runner to look down or away when I smile and say “hi” than it is for them to return the gesture.

Yesterday I tried an experiment and made sure I acknowledged everyone I passed. I had more luck with the dog walkers than my fellow running comrades. I was reminded of when Dave and I bought our road bikes and went out for our first ride. It was like we entered a special road biking club. Every road biker going the opposite direction gave us a little head nod and finger flick wave. When we got home I can remember Dave saying, “Did you see that? We are one of them now.” Runners, we need a club too! I’ve also thought about one very early morning, 5am or earlier, a few years ago when a man running the opposite direction as me put up his hand and we high fived as we passed. It made my day. Without saying anything he said, “You are awesome!” I’ve never had the guts to try to pass on this gesture, but I might start.

So, to all the road warriors out there, stop taking yourself so seriously and smile a little. I know running isn’t always easy, but you are using more muscles when you frown than if you would smile. Save the extra muscle exertion and put on a happy face. We are all in it together.

Momcation

You’ve likely heard of a “staycation” but I’m guessing a “Momcation” is not a standard word in your vocabulary. A Momcation is the time a mother spends away from her children in order to relax and revive. In this new mom’s case I’m classifying it as the four hours I had out of the house this week where I brushed my teeth, put on real pants (the kind without an elastic waistband, and, wait for it… put on a bra. I hopped into my station wagon and wandered the aisles of Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Babies R Us. All sans baby.

The fun started at Bed Bath and Beyond, picked up a rice cooker with a timer so we can come home to complete meals and not need to cook at night. Then Buy Buy Baby for some baby proofing gear that will become all too necessary in a few months. Babies R Us was the next stop, this was a bust but I did manage to pick up Alex two swimsuits on ridiculous sale for her to wear at swim class this winter and next summer. Headed to the photo store to print a few pictures. Then Momcation went into high gear as I headed to Target. One hour and a new toilet brush, welcome mat, and box of Dots later this Momcation was complete. All that was left was the drive home, while eating my box of Dots, and enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. Yes, my life really is that glamorous.

Moms of the world, what do I need to include in my next Momcation to make it even more wonderful? Time is at a premium. I think friends and chocolate should be included in my next break.

Our Reading Rainbow

Books, books everywhere!

My mom retired in 2009 after 21 years as a teacher.  She spent the last 19 years as a reading specialist and then 5th grade reading teacher.  It’s no wonder she’s accumulated such an amazing book collection.  Last weekend the treasure was passed on to my brother and I so that we can share it with our children and instill a love of reading in them as well.

Even before this family treasure was passed down Alex had started herself a pretty good library.  Many individuals gifted us books even before she was born.  I love the gift of books.  Both these from my mom and the ones we received as baby gifts.  A number of people passed on books they had loved reading with their children or that they had loved as kids.  These are my favorites.  Receiving a book as a gift is like being given the gift of time with your children.  Looks like our family has been given countless hours of time together already.

What is/was your favorite children’s book? Dave loved “Danny and the Dinosaur.”  I truthfully can’t remember a favorite from my childhood but my favorite right now is “The Giving Tree.”  I definitely remember my favorites from my tween years:  The Babysitters Club series, Ramona Quimby series, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.  How about you?  Any books you think are mandatory for our collection?

Breakthroughs Abound!

Last week was a BIG week in our household. It was as if Alex turned three months old and decided that some major changes were in order. That whole fourth trimester thing is no joke.

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Proof! Empty bottles can happen.

First, the bottle battle has ended. Alex has realized that taking a bottle is in her best interest. I left the house but am told not a single tear was shed. However, Alex has discovered her voice and scolded my mom the entire time. The report was that the baby equivalent of four letter words were being thrown around. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a bribe was involved. When Alex turns four I’m probably going to find out that Grandma promised Alex a pony in order to get her to drink a bottle.

Even Dave gave Alex a bottle while I went for a run. Which leads me to my next breakthrough. I actually passed another runner on Saturday! This is a very big deal for me. Pre-baby my favorite thing to do on a run was to spot other runners in the distance and chase them down and pass them, especially male runners. I logged my first post-baby chase and catch on Saturday. Yes, I do realize this may sound a little strange, even creepy to you, but I love it. One January I chased a group of three male runners for four miles until I passed them at the top of a hill. I realize that the other runners have no idea that we are racing so they can’t fully compete. Only once did I have a man realize that I was in all-out race mode. He sure gave me a run for my money!

I’m also pretty sure I broke a six minute mile on Saturday, breakthrough number three. After two calls from Dave telling me that Alex wouldn’t stop screaming I was in the sprint of my life to get home. I bet people thought I was being chased.

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There is a smiling, content baby in this picture.

Next breakthrough, a car ride to remember. Alex HATES riding in the car. She screams until she chokes herself, it’s traumatic for all of us. So we just stay home. In fact, I can count on one hand (maybe 1.5) the number of times I’ve left the house since May for a reason other than a doctor appointment. I know what you are likely thinking, “A baby that doesn’t like the car? Impossible!” It’s true. I had to buy a mirror to make sure Alex was still breathing she screams so hard. Well, on Friday we had a quiet ride. I put a toy in her lap (my standard procedure) and she actually played with it. Now, this was only a ten minute ride and on the way back she was back to screaming, but I now have hope. I can see a small dot of light at the end of this tunnel.

And the final breakthrough was mine. I decided to enjoy every last cuddly minute of my maternity leave and not dwell on the fact that it’s ending. I’m enjoying every minute of every snuggle, even the ones that last from midnight until 3am and then resume again at 5am. It’s made a huge difference. I’ll be as ready as I can be to head back to work. The hardest, most amazing, challenging, rewarding, special summer of my life is coming to a close. But only the season is ending, the rest I get to continue to enjoy.

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Now I Know My ABC’s

When we bought our house almost every wall was painted bright white.  I got out my paintbrush and in no time added some color. Ultimately that resulted in five blue rooms, two tan, one light yellow, and one light green.  I actually had the forethought to paint our guest room light green assuming that someday we would expand our family and I wanted a nice gender neutral palette so I wasn’t painting a room halfway through a pregnancy.

This worked out pretty well.  Since we didn’t find out pre-birth that Alex was a girl the room was left pretty stark until just recently.  Etsy fixed that for Alex.  One of my new hobbies is browsing Etsy.  I picked this hobby up in the middle of the night.  It’s great, there is always something new to look at, unlike Facebook and email (there is surprisingly little new on those sites between 10pm and 7am).  This is how I finally found the thing to decorate Alex’s room with.

TaDaaa!  (This photo from my phone doesn’t do it justice.)

Stunning!

Stunning!

This jumbo alphabet is from janeymacpress.  It was quite the project and a team effort.

This is when you fully realize what it means to have ordered the "jumbo" alphabet

This is when you fully realize what it means to have ordered the “jumbo” alphabet

The first stage of installation involves hanging all the letters, without sticking them to the wall; in the presumed locations you want them.  I would sit in the rocking chair feeding Alex and Dave would hang the letters.  Just imagine hours of this fun…

Dave:  “What’s next?”

Becca:  “What letters do we have that are yellow and small?”

Dave:  “M and V.”

Becca:  “Ok, take the M and put it on the far right, above the F.  A little to the left, down, more to the left, your other left.  Take the right side of the M and move it down, a little more.  Good.”

Five minutes later.

Becca:  “I changed my mind. Let’s replace the W with the M.”

Step One

Step One

It’s very important to have two people involved in this process. Not just because it makes installation so much easier, but also because it is imperative to have a second set of eyes on the wall to make sure you haven’t inadvertently spelled inappropriate words.  In fact, one night at 1 a.m. Dave came in to check on Alex and I and I said, “How do you spell turd?”  Dave, “T-E-R-D.”  (Dave did first have to ask me three times what I was asking him and then finally said, “Yep, that’s what I thought you were saying.”  I guess asking someone to spell turd isn’t standard middle of the night conversation.)   The jury is still out on the exact spelling of turd, but ironically we had Dave’s version spelled out in giant letters across the wall overtop Alex’s changing table.  I will also admit that in the completed installation a strong argument can be made that we now have the words “turd pie” spelled out.

TERD

TERD

We also somehow managed, completely by accident, to have the following letters left as the last ones to put up, “F,” “U,” “C,” “X,” “H,” “O,” and “V.”  That spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E in about 10 different combinations.

After all the letters are temporarily taped to the wall it’s time to stick them on semi-permanently (you can peel the letters off with just a little effort).  This is a surprisingly easy process. Peel off the back of the letter, align, stick, squeegee, peel off the front, squeegee again, and admire your work.  If we didn’t have a newborn we could have knocked this out in just a few hours.  With a newborn it required three weeks.

Here is how it evolved…

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I wanted something to add a big pop of color to Alex’s boring neutral walls.  I’d say, “Mission Accomplished!”

Thank You, Thank You

A few years back Hillary Clinton wrote a book called, “It Takes a Village [to Raise a Child].”  Today Alex turns three months old which marks the end of her fourth trimester and the end of the time that “experts” identify as the colicky months.  I’m pretty sure the entire village showed up to help us make it through these first three months.  There are a few people who deserve some public recognition though for going beyond what I could have imagined.

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First, my mom.  After our first week home with Alex, when Dave was about to go back to work and he was still working two jobs, I realized I couldn’t manage things on my own.  Mom to the rescue!  She came down weekly, not to take care of Alex, but to take care of me so I could be a good mom.  She always left our fridge stocked with healthy meals for the rest of the week and made sure I was eating during the long days and nights.  She’s the reason I got any sleep on some of the toughest days.  Like the time she came down and held Alex for four hours without a complaint, in our cold, dark, basement, standing and pacing around the dehumidifier (the only technique that would keep Alex from crying at that point) so that I could eat, shower, and sleep.  She would put her plans aside to come down and help, not with an agenda to just hold Alex during her happy times, but to help us survive.  I hope I can pay this forward to Alex someday.  Thank you Mom!

Next, thank you Kelly!  It’s been a sanity saver to go through this together and hear that what I’m experiencing is normal and to swap some hilarious texts at 3am.  Kelly turned us on to the Troublesome Tots website, which convinced us to buy our swing and gifted us hours of uninterrupted sleep.  And she sent us the creepy white noise CD that is Alex’s favorite sleep music.  Thank you, thank you.

Thank you Kerry, Jody, and Jennifer for bringing me lunch on days I might not have eaten it otherwise.  Never again will I visit a family with a newborn and not show up with a meal.  And thank you for sharing your mom wisdom or just saying things like, “My kids were like that,” to reinforce that what we were experiencing was normal.

Thank you to all the people who lent us baby gear but an extra special thank you to Lisa and Ted who were at our house in less than five minutes after my request went out with a bouncer and swing.  Also to Eric who picked up the Baby Bjorne bouncer in Pewaukee and rushed it to our house, with lunch.  This was the only piece of equipment that would keep Alex happy for a few minutes and would buy me enough time to shower.  Hallelujah!

Thank you Amanda P. for bringing Dave and I dinner and for passing on her daughter’s cold weather clothes to keep Alex warm at the beginning of this cold summer.

Doula Emili

Doula Emili

Thank you to our doula, Emili.  Not only did she help Dave and I survive a long labor, she didn’t forget about us afterward.  She visited us a few weeks in and generously offered her continuous help and support.

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And thank you to Aunt Amanda and Uncle Aaron, Alex’s godparents.  Amanda who came over and held Alex so we could spend the afternoon replacing our broken sink.  Aaron for grabbing the camera and taking the equivalent of professional pictures of Alex on her first day in the world.  Such special photos we will cherish forever.

The kindness and generosity of people over the last three months has taught me a lot.  I have so much respect and zero judgment for the moms of the world.  I’ll be generous with my time to new parents and always bring food.  And I will have complete empathy for parents who say they are sleep deprived and will actually understand what that means.

Thank you all.  I’m looking forward to paying it forward someday.  I finally get it.

Mysteries of the Universe

I mentioned in a previous post that I have a lot of free time in the middle of the night when I am up with Alex. I would like to say that I am using that time for deep, meaningful reflection. Nope. I’m sleep deprived, not many meaningful thoughts are hanging around in my brain. Here are two things I’ve been considering recently.

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Why did purple get left out? All the other colors got invited to the party, except purple.

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Breastflow? How are we sure? Is there a group of grown adults at the Breastflow design lab doing a suck-to-suck comparison? And if so, what terrible thing did they do in their lives to deserve that task?

Deep thoughts, I know.

The XX Factor

During spring 2013 I had five close friends who were pregnant. Between March 1 and May 4, if you include Dave and I, there were five little girls and one little boy added.  Now that’s girl power!  My personal theory is that the hot spring/summer of 2012 killed off all the boy sperm.  Seriously, it’s a scientific fact that male sperm can’t take the heat (you know, the weaker of the two sexes), hence a lot more little ladies being born in March, April, and May than little boys.  We can debate this later.

What astonishes me is that within my group of best girlfriends (friends since kindergarten besties) we will be going six for six in girls over an 18  month period!  In fact, three of those little girls were born within four weeks of each other (no, we didn’t plan that).

May 4, April 20, April 9, 2013.

May 4, April 20, April 9, 2013.

That's one good lookin' group!

That’s one good lookin’ group!

There’s no guarantee that these little ladies will be as great of friends as the first generation.  But if friendship is hereditary they have a pretty good shot!

August 19th… Extra Hugs Appreciated

I return to work in exactly one month.  I’m so sad and completely terrified.

I really want to get back to work. I love my job; it fulfills me in an important way.  There is no question about whether or I not I will go back, but I am still very sad and scared for both Alex and I.  I know people say that moms cry harder than babies when they are dropped off at daycare. I really hope that is the case for us, but I’m doubtful in our situation.  There are two main reasons, the bottle and some intense mama’s girl behavior.

"Yuck!  No fake boobies for me!" Alexandra Grassl

“Yuck! No fake boobies for me!” Alexandra

First, the bottle. We have had three fluke occasions where Alex has taken a bottle.  Otherwise she flat out refuses. The plastic nipple just touching her lips can throw her into a complete frenzy.  If she’s the slightest bit hungry it is even worse.  I can’t help but worry about her crying and screaming because she won’t eat.  First screaming because she is hungry, then crying because she wants mommy and mommy isn’t coming.

"Mom, where you at?  This isn't funny."  Alexandra Grassl

“Mom, where you at? This isn’t funny.” Alexandra

Then there is the mommy’s girl factor.  Alex and I have been together 24/7 for almost three months.  We’ve had a total of about three hours apart and it is frighteningly apparent how much Alex loves her mommy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed to know how much she loves me, I love her even more.  My mind goes back to her first few weeks of life when I actually worried if she would love me.  During that time as a mom you are giving everything to your baby and getting zero feedback.  The ceiling is more interesting for them to stare at than your face and there is no such thing as a loving coo or squawk from their lips, just demanding screams.  That has all changed.  Alex now watches my every move, gives me huge smiles, and chats with me regularly.  She also cries for me constantly.  Not because she is hungry, because she just wants me.

Lately I’ve been trying to practice being away from Alex. Last week my mom and I practiced.  I stayed in a different part of the house while she put Alex down for a nap.  In the morning it worked beautifully.  In the afternoon Alex cried the slowest, most mournful cry I’ve ever heard.  She carried on until my mom passed her back to me.  She instantly stopped crying and in less than one minute she was asleep in my arms.

Alex and I repeat this same process multiple times per day between her dad and I as well. It’s always the same, Alex is fed and happy, I give her to Dave to put her to bed or a nap or even just to play, she cries her sad “mom cry” until he places her back in my arms.  At that instant she will stop crying and fall asleep.  The whole thing is completely upsetting for me.  It melts my heart that she loves me so much but then I am instantly consumed with my fears of what she will do when I’m not there, especially when I work late nights those first few weeks back.  It’s hard for me to handle the idea of her crying for me and me not responding to those cries.

I do find comfort in the fact that my mom will be watching her my first week back.  If Alex screams and cries it will be in the most loving of arms (in fact, if the two of them keep hanging out Alex’s first sentence will likely be, “Grandma loves you”).  I hope that eases the transition for both of us.

For now Alex and I will keep practicing, both with the bottle and separation.  If you happen to see me August 19th and I’m looking pretty ragged, hugs are welcome.

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