Thursday, July 25, 2013

Four Months Old: the amazingness of Cassandra

Cassandra turned Four Months Old on Monday. I can't even believe how fast it's gone already. These second babies grow so much faster than their predecessor siblings do!

Here are her stats:
Weight: 17.5 pounds
Height: 24 inches

I make big healthy babies lol - she is 90th percentile for weight and 70th percentile for height. Gooooo Cassie!

I remember with Henry, every day was steeped in the newness of it all. It was both wondrous and terrifying. Amazing and challenging. This time around it's much easier for me to go with the flow, to know that things are okay, to just let things happen.

It's all this whirlwind experience of amazingness. Even the crazy parts. Even the first six weeks of having two children which, in retrospect, were really, really tough because the adjustment of a new family dynamic was huge. But the baby stuff is just so great. I literally try to soak her in as much as I can: her fat little thighs, her wonderful cheeks, the way she smiles, how she laughs, how she likes being held up in the air over my head, the way she's a master at rolling onto her tummy nearly the second you put her down. My gosh, she's amazing.

She grabs her feet, she sucks on her fingers. She talks to her toys and roars like a dinosaur at them. She loves being naked and loves looking in mirrors. And oh, how she smiles. My gosh, it is heartmelting.

She is this happy little burst of sunshine in our home. Ryan, Henry and I tend to be a bit broody and pensive and she is this little explosion of lightness and joy. She brings such a breath of relief to our lives. We ALL adore her. Henry kisses her and sings to her and tells her that he loves her. Ryan basically walks in the door with his arms out to hold her. I think the best part of my day is getting her when she wakes up because she greets me with nonstop smiles for about five minutes straight. She is just such an absolute gorgeous, wonderful joy.

And don't get me wrong, Henry is a joy too. But this post isn't about all the wonderfulness of Henry so I'll just leave it at that :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Sand" a recipe for playing ;)

it's been hot as everyone knows. And, well, unfortunately our backyard is a breeding ground for mosquitos so we can't get out there to play as much as I'd like us to.

So I've been coming up with fun creative inside things for us to do. And recently a big hit around here has been "sand" (I think this is also known as moonsand to some people). It's really, really ridiculously easy to make this:

Oil (any kind works: olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, canola oil, you get the idea)

that's it.

I just eyeball it: I pour a bunch of flour into a dishpan and then add oil in and stir until it gets an almost grainy texture. This stuff is great, it can hold a shape loosely for a bit and it's fun to squeeze in your hands but it's still loose and light. Henry loves driving his cars in it and I always put his construction vehicles in the dishpan so they can dig and load up their trunks or whatever with it. it's great and usually provides quite a bit of entertainment.

And today I used coconut oil in my sand so my house smells divine lol.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stitch Fix! AKA Help Me Style Gods!

I know a lot of my friends and readers are moms and other ladies with busy schedules so I wanted to tell you about this cool service I signed up for: it's called Stitch Fix and it seems like the greatest idea ever.

You've all heard of those services that send you boxes of various things in the mail every month. This is like that only it's with fashion. And it's personalized to you!

I am not being sponsored for this post, I'm just super excited about it and wanted to write it on my own :)

With Stitch Fix, the way I understand it is that you get a stylist and after you complete this pretty thorough style-profile they pick items that they think you might like, send them to you and then you get to keep what you want and send the rest back! SO COOL.

My first fix is supposed to come on Friday so I'll do a review ASAP.

In the meantime if this idea appeals to you and you wanna sign up, click this link and I'll get a credit once your first fix ships ;)

Woo hoo! Yay to having a fashion sense again. At least, hopefully lol

original link:
(lol this is what came up when i googled how to be stylish (the mere fact that i googled that shows i need massive amounts of help)

the unscheduled schedule

I realized recently that I have this need to constantly be On The Go. Every day me and the kids have some kind of activity. It keeps my sanity (or so I think) and it gets the kids out of the house.

But I get really stressed out on the days where I don't have anything scheduled. I look at the kids and I think, "okay, now what?" because filling the space of 11 hours of time is daunting when it is just you and two small people who need you for basically everything. I think that's why I always get us out and about. There is time to devote in the process of going somewhere: I prepare food and feed children before leaving, I shower, I clean the kids, I dress them, I dress myself, I pack a lunch, pack the diaper bag, load us all up in the car, drive to our destination. All of these activities make the day go faster and they give us all a break and a change of scenery.

But I am pretty exhausted and pretty burned out at the moment from always being on the go. And as my bout with Heat Exhaustion last week taught me: I don't really know how to take it easy.

So this week I didn't make any effort to make any plans. We have one scheduled class on Friday, we have standing playdates with a few people throughout the week but the Universe has made it unclear whether those will even happen or not (my Tuesday playdate has already rescheduled for a possible Thursday, my typical Thursday playdate has had sick kids for the past two weeks, so who knows where that stands) and Ryan and I have our eye on a big prize so we are trying to save money which means I really don't have many errands to run at all.

And I guess I'm trying to embrace this downtime as a chance to learn to be at home with the kids again. Henry has all these toys and I always have all of these craft projects that I think it's important for us to just stay home once in a while. It's already at the point where every day around 10:30 Henry starts demanding to know where we're going and what we're doing that day. I want him to be comfortable being home AND going out. And I want to be comfortable doing that too.

So here we are, home...for now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My bout with Heat Exhaustion

We are having a heatwave right now in my area (okay, who isn't having a heat wave right now in this hemisphere?). It is beyond intense out there. It literally is like you can feel the heat with your hands while you push your way through the atmosphere outside.

In short: this was a bad week for our air conditioner to break. Which of course, it did last Sunday.

As Henry put it: "Our air conditioning has rain in it!"

We have an older home which unfortunately doesn't have central air. We've got an AC unit in the wall of our living room and that's the one that "had rain in it" and the "rain" started leaking down our wall and all over our couch last weekend. And then the unit just stopped working entirely. Right before this massive heat wave was headed our way.

After some drama (and about $500) we were able to get the air conditioner replaced on Tuesday which was an absolute blessing. However Sunday, Monday and most of Tuesday were brutal to get through. We had air on Wednesday but we had a lot of errands to do that day and spent most of the day out of the house.

Thursday came and it was the hottest day of the heat wave - temperatures soared up to 97 degrees which isn't really THAT high however the heat index was off the chart and the humidity was like something I have never experienced before which is saying a lot. We had errands to run again and I thought it would be good for us to be in retail stores anyway because while our wall unit was working okay enough to take the edge off, it was still averaging 82 degrees in our house and seriously, that's intense.

We went to three stores yesterday. And in a typical move, I forgot to bring water for myself. I brought water for Henry, I nursed Cassandra several times while we were out but I forgot about me. I had a big iced coffee with me but that was it. (note: coffee is a baaaad idea in these situations, coffee dehydrates you. I didn't remember this while I was toting it around with me)

By the time we got to Barnes and Noble so Henry could play at the train table, I had started shaking. I thought it was just because of all the nursing and my blood sugar dropping. I bought us some lunch and juice and ushered us towards home. But it didn't get better. I started feeling weaker and weaker, exhausted and dizzy. I worried I was going to faint or black out (which has happened to me once before so I recognized the warning signs). I got us home, put Cassie down for her nap and set up Henry with Daniel Tiger while I took a cool shower. My eyes were having trouble focusing, I was disorientated and confused. I started having trouble reaching the ends of my sentences. This is when I knew something was really wrong and I started talking to Ryan and asking for help. Then the nausea hit. I was so nauseous I took a zofran left over from my pregnancy. We weren't sure what to do so eventually I called my mom and she came up and sat with me and forced me to hydrate while we waited a while to see how things were.

Luckily I slowly improved. I drank a ton of water, I sat, I tried to stay cool. I tried to rest.

I probably should have gone to the doctor but I am stubborn and that is a bad thing. If this happens ever again I will probably go.

I had all the symptoms of heat exhaustion and I'm lucky it didn't progress worse than it did. I think I caught it in time and rested and hydrated enough to head it off. But it easily could have been really bad and that's scary.

I know it's very "mom like" to forget about yourself and neglect your needs (hello hydrating while nursing!) but that's not smart, it's not safe, and it's not a good example for those very kids who you are prioritizing. I got lucky this time but I learned to knock it off a bit with all the rushing and hustling around and to realize that I'm a priority too.

I'm still exhausted today and feel like I got hit by a truck a bit but I'm not worried about my own safety (and therefore the safety of my babies) anymore and that's important.

But the point here is: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES. Whether it's heat, cold, whatever, you have to be safe and take care of yourself. This weather is intense right now and since Global Climate Change is upon us in a big way i have a feeling that the summers are just going to trend in this direction more and more in the future so seriously, do it. Heat exhaustion is a cumulative thing - I spent several days over heated, under hydrated and doing way too much for the circumstances. It all built up and nearly caused me to black out and put myself and my kids in jeopardy. And that's not okay.

Stay cool out there, guys. Both literally and figuratively. lol

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

cool "recipe": Baked Hardboiled Eggs

I thought I'd pop on by and share a cool "recipe" (you'll understand the quotes in a second) that Ryan and I just found.

Ryan likes to eat hardboiled eggs. They're quick and easy and I think secretly he finds it fun to peel the shells off of them (well, at least that's my favorite part of hardboiled eggs anyway!). Hardboiled eggs are healthy and a great quick breakfast or lunch addition....when they're ready.

But it's a big pain to hard boil an egg. At least for us. It takes forever for that giant pot of water to boil (we like to do them in batches so they're prepared and ready) and then you wait and wait for the eggs to be done.

But over the weekend Ryan announced that he'd found a new recipe for making "hardboiled" eggs: you bake them in the oven! When I heard that I was excited to try it too! And it was really successful so of course I wanted to come here and share it here with you:

Baked 'Hardboiled' Eggs

1. Position oven racks in the center of the oven.

2. Place the eggs directly on the rack.

3. Place a baking sheet on the bottom of the oven (this is in case an egg breaks).

4. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

5. When the eggs are done, submerge the eggs in an ice bath in a large bowl of water.

Some recipes say "peel immediately" but I think that's only if you're intending to use them immediately.

An alternative to putting the eggs directly on your oven rack is to place the eggs in muffin tins instead. We actually did both and found both were very effective so it's really just personal preference. It was somewhat more difficult to grab the hot eggs out of the muffin tins but it did somehow feel more "civilized" to cook them in the tins, lol.

Alton Brown says that when you bake an egg instead of boil it, it has a far creamer texture so that's a bonus as well (and since Alton Brown said it I now firmly believe that this is the superior way to cook hardboiled eggs lol (I love him just a little bit)).

So be off with you, go bake some eggs in your oven and marvel all of your friends and family!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Set Yourself Up For Success Sunday!

Recently I've been doing this new thing, and I don't even know where it came from so let's just attribute it to Divine Inspiration or The Powers of the Universal Campaign for Good or something else similarly optimistic and positive that implies that the world conspires in our favor. Recently I've been saying this mantra in my head: I want to set myself up for success.

I know it might sound very new-agey of me but let's face it: I am pretty new agey so that's just fine.

What do I mean about setting myself up for success? For me it means making my environment easier on myself. It means asking myself what my goals are and then literally setting up my surroundings so it's easier for me to make the choices that align with those goals.

So for example: if someone wants to lose weight, a way they can set themselves up for success is to only stock their house with healthy foods. No secret stashes of trigger items or "cheat" foods. Another way is to change their driving route to work so they can avoid Starbucks or McDonalds or the Donut place or whatever triggers them into eating foods (or drinking drinks) that don't support weight loss. They can pack a gym bag and put it in their car every evening so they have it ready to use after work each day. They can make their own healthy lunch and bring that with them to work so they're less likely to go out to eat, etc.. You see where I'm going with this.

Set yourself up for success: make your physical reality support the goals in your mental reality.

For me personally this has manifested as getting my house organized.

I get triggered and cranky when there are Things I Need To Do and I can't get them done. So, when the kitchen is a mess, or there are dishes in the sink, or laundry not put away, or toys strewn across the whole house and I am in the middle of actually parenting/playing with my children, I find that my head isn't in being with my children and instead I'm focusing on all that Stuff I Have To Do and then I get annoyed because I just wanna go get it done already. I try to listen to that cutsey poem that's out there on pintrest telling you that it's okay if your house is a mess because babies are only babies for a little while but, well, I just can't handle it.  So I set myself up for success so that I am able to be in the moment more with my kids. So i can be happier and more present and not stressed out and doing dishes.

Back when I only had one kid, I had way more time throughout the day to throw a load of dishes into the sink or fold a load of laundry and (ugh, worst part) put it all away where it goes. Now I don't have that chance because the second Henry is occupied, Cassandra needs me or vice versa. And since naps don't happen anymore either, I don't have that chunk of space to get stuff done.

And it's funny because when I had all that time before, I totally took it for granted. I was way more okay with dishes being in my sink and my floor needing to be vacuumed because I knew I could get to it. Now I have no clue when my next chance will be. Whoever said that you literally lose your last slices of free time when you have the second kid was exactly correct.

So I've been Setting Myself Up For Success. And what does that look like for me?

Well, every evening I clean. Every, single one. I clean and sweep and swiffer the kitchen. I wipe down everything.

I pick up. All of the toys. All of them.

I put away blankets, play mats, boppys, laundry baskets. I sweep the foyer.

I try to set out my teacup so my husband can just start the keurig for me in the morning. On really good days I mentally plan for what I'm going to wear the next day.

Maybe all of these things are normal to you guys reading this but they never were to me. I was raised with much more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality that embraced "whatever may come". And while I'm really good at rolling with the punches as a result, I find that I really would prefer to have some semblance of order to my life at least on a base level because life with a baby and a toddler is way hectic enough on it's own that I really don't wanna be speed cleaning the dishes in order to just fill up the brita filter.

So every night I try to set myself up for success for the next day. And the same is true of Sunday.

Sundays I use as a springboard for the whole week. It's Set Myself Up For Success Sunday.

Sunday is when I grocery shop, it's when I clean the bathrooms, it's when I do all the laundry. Sunday is when I definitely make sure I vacuum (I vacuum every other day anyway though). Sunday I clean out the fridge, I clean the sink, I take rogue toys from the livingroom down into the playroom (during the week I just put them away in the livingroom toy boxes). I re-set the house so that on Monday, everything is fresh and new and ready.

All of this work really takes up a TON of my time and energy. I don't sit and watch TV much. I don't really get to read or catch up on blogs or twitter or whatever. But a result of this is that I feel much more centered in the land of chaos that is my life right now.

Having two kids in a house is like living in the center of a tornado. I've been trying to figure out how to ground myself during that tornado and making sure I am organized to the best of my capability is the way I have found to do that. So Setting Myself Up For Success is how I've come to do this.

Now don't get me wrong, we still have more belongings than space in our house so when/if you were to ever come over you would never think "wow her house is clean". I literally laugh at the thought of anyone seeing my house and thinking that LOL. Even when I Set Myself Up For Success there are still toys EVERYWHERE. Even right now there are currently piles of laundry everywhere too, there is just STUFF full to bursting here. But the upside is that I know what it all is. I know it has all recently been wiped down and sanitized. I know where things are in this chaos and I know how to function within it and that's really important. And while I really am working on getting us to a more minimalist lifestyle I know that that takes time and that babies come with a lot of big giant plastic furniture items and those things take up real estate in your house. It's all good, it's all fine.

I just wanted to share because this Setting Myself Up For Success thing has been really helpful to me. I've felt like I am somehow in control of this crazy, wild life I'm living nowadays. And that's saying something lol

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Why I Abolished Nap Time

I've done something that might at first seem kind of crazy.

I've abolished nap time.

Not for Cassandra, obviously, but for Henry.

See, Henry has always been the World's Worst Sleeper. As a baby he literally would not nap unless it was ON my body and it took until he was nearly two and a half (after a TON of dedicated work on Ryan's part) to get him to fall asleep by himself at night. He's just a tough cookie when it comes to sleep.

And in all this time I've never been able to get him to fall asleep for naps on his own. Never. Not ever. Never.

I've always had to lay with him in his bed until he would fall asleep and then I could either sneak out or else I would just give in and fall asleep too (the latter happening more often when I was pregnant).

Since Cassandra has been born this situation has been even more difficult. Most days I could bring her in and she and I would lay with Henry until he fell asleep. But then he became more and more and more obstinate and belligerent about naptime. He would thrash, he would kick, he would scream, yell, hit. He just put up a literal fight.

I would look at the clock and say to myself, "okay in 30 minutes he will be asleep". And then I'd just wait it out. And usually that would be the case.

...until recently.

Recently he has gotten some kind of burst of stubbornness and he just fights and fights and fights it. And oftentimes Cassandra will have fallen asleep and all of his thrashing and freaking out will start to wake her up.

And that's where I get mad.

In fact, this whole situation was making me mad. He would kick me and a burst of anger would erupt immediately. He would scream (literally, a scream) and so would I. I was just furious.

The reason for my anger? This was the only break I was going to get all day and here it was - a HUGE fight for me to get it. Every. Single. Day. and that made me mad. Super, super mad.

I found myself both dreading and wishing for naptime. I just wanted him to lay down and go the EFF to sleep so I could be left alone with a cup of green tea for a little while. I just wanted the chance to sit and BREATHE alone for a bit. I just NEEDED a break.

But the more he fought me on it, the more I fought back. The more explosive it all became.

And then I found myself ugly yelling at him one day. I literally was yelling, "GO TO SLEEP" to a little child. Have you ever had someone command you to sleep? I haven't but I can't assume that it's productive or effective.

And so I just....gave up.

I decided that it wasn't worth it. This whole battle just wasn't worth it. Even on the days when I "won" and he went to sleep I ended up feeling awful because I was so hostile about it, because it had been yet another stressful fight. Every single day was fraught with warfare, each afternoon a battle in this overall war about nap time. And we all know no one wins in war.

So I decided: no more nap time. No more. It isn't worth the argumentation and the anger. It isn't worth the fight.

And before you suggest that I put him in his room alone and "sleep train" him to nap by himself I will just put out a blanket invitation to anyone who would like to come over and do this for me. Because I have tried EVERY SINGLE METHOD on this child and nothing has worked. Some people are high needs in certain areas - Henry's is and always has been sleep. I invite anyone to come by and fix this for me but I am surely a skeptic.

No nap has meant a few things: it's meant that we no longer are arguing. I hardly ever even get mad at him anymore. Sure, he gets reprimanded for things several times a day but that's all just parenting related - no longer based in my emotions. And that's how parenting is technically "supposed" to be; you're never supposed to be punishing out of your own anger. Punishment is intended to be a tool to help cultivate learning, it is certainly not supposed to be an extension of rage.

So first, no nap has meant that there's been a significant drop in the conflict in our house. And that's been HUGE and wonderful in terms of quality of life for both Henry and myself.

It's also meant some other things:

Henry is tired.

I'm not sure if he's technically ready to drop a nap. I know he was getting there because otherwise he wouldn't have the energy to fight me so hard on it. I know some days are way worse than others. But yes, he's tired. He's tired and he's super cranky and on the brink of meltdown by about 6:45 every evening. This is okay though - bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:00 so we're okay.

And the last thing it means?

TV is on more often.

Since having Cassie, I've tried to cut back on the television watching in our house to no more than half an hour per day. That was going fine when I was still waging war against nap time. However now that Henry isn't napping, I've upped TV time to about an hour - sometimes an hour and a half if I really need it. This is because I realized that I wasn't super furious about him not sleeping - I was furious because I wasn't getting a break. And, well, the only way I can get a break around here without hearing 900 sentences per hour begin with "Mommy?" is if I put on Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. I don't even feel bad about this. Why? Because I'd rather my kid learn to count to 13 than be yelled at for 45 minutes straight, that's why. And sadly those were the choices.

So we are a No Nap household and I guess for now it's working for us.

I don't love that it was at that point. I don't love that I couldn't keep my cool and find some ideal solution here. I don't love that it took three months of losing my temper for me to realize that this insanity wasn't worth it. I don't love that I need the TV on every day. But you know what? I do love Henry and I love him so much that I am not willing to yell at him and I am not willing to let myself off the hook for my own bad behavior. I love him enough to let him watch TV for an hour a day so I can give myself some semblance of sanity. It might not be ideal but it is what's working for us. And that's all we need right now: something that works.

What do you do that seems "crazy" to other parents but works for you? Share with me here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Status: Overwhelmed

I've reached the point: the point of being overwhelmed. It's a daily thing now and I wake up and sort of have to pep myself up for another day. At night I literally collapse into my bed and pass out where i fall into a dreamless sleep that leaves me with just enough energy to struggle through the middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings. In the morning I coax myself out of bed with the promise of sugar in my tea.

I am exhausted but not just physically, it's emotional exhaustion and mental exhaustion too. A three-for-one kind of exhaustion.  The baby is teething and changing up her napping skills (waking up easier, harder to fall asleep), Henry is his typical self (although he actually has been taking it easier on me since we got back from vacation) and he's two and a half in all of the two and a half glory.

Today the baby cried on our way to the book store, while at the book store (save for two or three minutes of me reading to her), while we selected a Potty Book for Henry (more on that later) and then in the car again until she passed out. There's nothing more stressful than being out in public with a toddler who could blow at any moment and a baby who has already lost it. Taking a toddler out in public is like taking a trip with an explosive. You have to handle it the right way and hope that nothing accidentally jostles it or else BOOM, you're all in trouble.

She fell asleep so I snuck us over to run more errands at Babies R Us but I wasn't quick enough and she woke up at the end, just in time to regale us with a scream fest for the 20 minute car ride home. Once we got here she was happy again after I stripped her of all of her clothes and laid her on her playmat. Mental note made: nudity solves problems. For some people.

But really, while all of this was happening, and during yesterday as I drove around for half an hour trying to get her to sleep because nothing else was working, I thought to myself: this is my job. And if this were a different kind of job, I would be updating my resume right about now and searching the job listings for something new.

But this isn't that kind of job, now is it? I mean sure, I could go back to work and make just enough money to keep my kids in daycare but what would that achieve? Nothing much. I would just miss out on raising my kids the way I want to.

And it reminded me of something that I used to know but I sorta forgot about: the fulfillment of our dreams doesn't always make us 100% happy.

That sounds pessimistic but it really isn't.

People in American culture are so fixated, so obsessed really, with being happy that they don't pay attention to a lot of other Important Stuff that's going on. People bail out of perfectly wonderful marriages because they might not be "happy" for a few months, or even for a year or two. So what? Happy is overrated.

Happy isn't really realistic all the time.

What you're looking for is fulfilled, or satisfied. You're looking to see if OVERALL your life is on the trajectory that you want it to be on. Because not all of the things you want to do in life are going to be happy, happy fun things.

Child rearing is the perfect example of this. I wanted to have children, so did Ryan. But has it been a happy experience the whole time? Heck no. Pregnancy is miserable, birth literally left me in therapy, raising the children has left me crying several dozen times. But that doesn't mean it isn't the best damn thing I've ever done. That doesn't mean I am not madly in love with my life. That doesn't mean that I haven't set onto the path of fulfillment of my life goals. This is exactly what I want, but I'm not happy all the time.

And that's OKAY.

I'm trying to realize that the culture is lying to us by telling us we're supposed to be cheek-achingly happy all the time. I'm trying to focus on the end-game here which is the fulfillment of my goal- raising children and staying relatively sane in the process. And I *seem* to be on track for that one.

I don't know if this is making any coherent sense but I'm just putting it out there: don't worry so much about being happy - just make sure you're on the path to fulfilling your ultimate goals and desires. The happiness comes to fill in the gaps when you're on the right path. And in the meantime, grit your teeth, put your head down and put some sugar in your tea. You can get through this, I know it.