Month

September 2016

Re-Puzzling

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-23-53-pmAdding another human to a family is like blowing up a five thousand piece puzzle that had already been put together and reassembling it all over again (but with new, extra pieces).

We start with the basics. Find our four corners. For us, that means holding on to each other. The house may be a disaster, we may not have accomplished a single thing, but everyone in our little circle is being fiercely loved. And sometimes that’s enough.

Then we sort out our edge pieces. Sleeping. Doing laundry. Dishes. Showering. Cooking a meal. (Okay, maybe cooking is a stretch. 😉 KIDDING.)

Getting kids to school on time. Reading every night before bed. Making doctor appointments.

The pieces come back together slowly. We are unlearning and relearning how to do everything. I’m trying to wrap my head around how to get a kid ready and to school in the morning while still feeding a toddler, all with a newborn attached to me. (To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to feed a toddler with a newborn attached to me.) And we are still trying to figure out a bedtime routine where everyone gets the end-of-the-day attention they need. The picture is the same but the pieces are different. Many days, it’s a win simply because everyone brushed their teeth.

Only after you find your corners and reconstruct your edges can you start to fill in the big picture details. Playdates. Trips to the park. Reading a book for fun. Coffee with a friend.

Writing on a blog.

Confession time: We don’t have all our edges in place. The house is bordering on being a disaster and I haven’t actually cooked a meal yet. The oldest two are both on antibiotics because why wouldn’t they get sick the MINUTE we bring a newborn home. Sick kids mean more attention, more medicine schedules to remember, more disinfecting and quarantine-ing, less sleep. It’s like working on the puzzle in the dark for a little while.

So what am I doing hanging out in blog land when I don’t have my edges together?

Who knows. I guess I got a little impatient.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s something beautiful about starting from the beginning and re-puzzling our world. I know that there is magic in these moments that feel like chaos, where we are stripped down to the bare basics. I’m not trying to skip this part, even when it feels hard.

But sometimes I just need a reminder that I’m not just building a frame, I’m building a masterpiece. And I need that little rush that comes from seeing a little piece of the bigger picture fall into place.

Translation: I miss writing. In this stage, it won’t often make the cut when it comes to the list of things I can accomplish in the day. That won’t always be true. But for now, it is. And that’s okay.

Because some day all of the pieces will fall back into place. And writing will be one of those pieces in a rich and beautiful picture.

And then one day we will tear the puzzle apart again.

One Week

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-09-09-pm

One week ago today I had a doctor’s appointment. I was 37 weeks and 2 days along, and still had 15 days until my scheduled c-section.

As usual, my appointment meant a biophysical profile on baby to monitor growth and make sure she wasn’t showing any signs of outgrowing the placenta due to her single umbilical artery. The week before, everything had looked good.

This time, things looked different.

I don’t understand the numbers of what they measure, but when the ultrasound tech sent them to the perinatal specialist, his response was, “Time to deliver.”

That, in combination with my unusually high blood pressure reading, meant a big change of plans. And just like that, delivery was scheduled for the following morning at 7 a.m. Ready or not, we would meet this little baby in less than 24 hours.

I cried. (I like plans and I don’t particularly like it when they change suddenly.) I called my mom and my husband so they would know to make arrangements at work. I went home and packed a suitcase for my girls to stay at grandma’s house. I cried when I stood in their room and realized they wouldn’t come home again until everything was different. I cried because I love our life and change is scary. I cried because I was supposed to have two more weeks to savor these final moments of pregnancy.

I cried because 37 weeks is good but it’s still early. She deserved those two weeks to grow and prepare. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she stayed in. I cried because I was scared she wouldn’t be okay if she came out.

I stopped in my hurried packing to look out the window to the back yard. The flower bed below the window was in need of pruning. We had almost mowed it down in preparation for fall, but we hadn’t gotten to it yet. Big sedum bushes were toppling over, heavy with sun-faded blooms.

And each of the blooms was covered in monarch butterflies. I mean, completed loaded with them. There were probably fifty butterflies in the small patch beneath the window alone.

Butterflies are a symbol of transitions. Of transformations. The entire life cycle of a butterfly, from egg to adult is 30 days. Can you imagine your whole life changing like that, to the point where you are unrecognizable at the end of the transition? Here’s what I read about butterfly symbolism:

“Herein lies the deepest symbolic lesson of the butterfly. She asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the chances of her environment and her body.

This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. Here the butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature – she asks us to recognize the same.”

In other words, there was my sign that all was as it should be.

The next morning we arrived at the hospital at 5 a.m. At 6:52 they wheeled me back to the operating room, and at 7:13 a.m., three minutes before sunrise, Lennon Kate was born.

She weighed a whopping 5 lbs 8 oz and was 18 inches long. She came out screaming (just like her sister) and sporting a full head of dark hair (not at all like her sisters). It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows my first two daughters that this girl has fire in her. She will hold her own in this lively group just fine.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-08-59-pm

She was (and is) perfect. And for me, it was my smoothest c-section yet. Even now, a week later, I’m not having any pain and am moving around just fine, though still being cautious. I never even picked up my prescription for pain medicine.

In many ways, it was a perfect experience. However, on Monday, the day we were supposed to be heading home, we had the car loaded and were waiting for final approval from the pediatrician to be released when we got word that her bilirubin levels were high. Not uncommon for a baby born at 37 weeks. But it meant a night in the NICU under the bili lights.

Let me tell you: I had no concept at all of how hard it is to have a baby in the NICU until I was there. And keep in mind–I was there with an otherwise healthy baby with a simple complication that had a relatively easy solution. But still. Watching your tiny newborn be poked and hooked up to monitors and put inside a box with no clothes on except a diaper and a large eye mask for twelve hours while all you can do is stand there and hold her tiny hand through a hole in the box SUCKS. It is one of the single most emotionally exhausting experiences of my entire life.

img_5307My husband and I took shifts standing by her side for the whole night. Because every instinct in my body was to stay with this tiny human that was now ours to love and care for, regardless of how amazing the nurses were. I’ve never been so happy to see 6 a.m. in my life.

And with the morning labs came good news. Her levels were low enough to go home!

But now her platelet count was done.

WHAT?

Everything else had been fine for her entire stay. How could this be happening now? But it was. And it meant we weren’t leaving.

The pediatrician would normally have kept us another night and rechecked levels in 24 hours. But by then I was desperate. I wanted to be home with my other kids. My mama instinct was telling me that there was nothing to worry about–that this was a fluke. (That doesn’t happen very often–normally I err on the side of worrying.) And I didn’t know if I could handle another night in that room. She saw my desperation and agreed to recheck levels later that afternoon.

So we spent the rest of the day waiting. It was better because at least I could snuggle my baby, who was officially free of the light box. But worry over what the numbers might bring that afternoon left a shadow on the day.screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-08-20-pm

Another blood draw. And then a blood redraw because of “clumping” in the sample. And finally the news. Her platelets were back up in the normal range. After five days in the hospital, we were going home.

That was two days ago. We’ve spent two days at home resting and reconnecting with our other littles and adjusting to life as outnumbered parents.

And let me tell you–I love this life.

One week ago, nine months ago, I was terrified to let go of the life we had. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.

Bring Your Own Hula Hoop

fullsizerender-9

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this weekend. It was a beautiful evening at a beautiful winery with live music and good food and family.

Ironically, my favorite part of the whole evening was a woman I never even met.

When the live music kicked in, a pile of brightly decorated hula hoops appeared near the stage, as did a middle-aged woman in a colorful skirt. She gracefully began hula hooping to the music.

To be honest? At first I thought it was a little weird. It’s not very often you see a grown woman hula hooping in the middle of a dance floor in a winery. (Although I haven’t spent much time in wineries in the last 9 months so what do I know.)

But it didn’t take long before my six year old picked up on the invitation and joined her, hula hooping to the music. Pretty soon their was a mini hula hooping party on the dance floor. The crowd cheered and my six year old beamed. It was pretty fun to watch.

My daughter hula hooped for the rest of the evening. We had to tear her away to have dinner and cake, which she scarfed down in order to return to her spinning. At one point she had four (or maybe even five) hula hoops going. She was in heaven, oblivious to everything else (except maybe the crowd who applauded her and the band 😉 ).

As it turns out, the woman in the skirt decorates hula hoops and brings them with her. And then gives them away.

Maybe it’s my hormones or maybe it’s watching the sheer joy on my child’s face, but either way, I think that’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

It’s such a simple thing. And yet, it moved our evening from being beautiful to being magical.

We don’t have to make grand gestures or sweeping influences to change the world. We just have to find what we love and share it. 

When it was time to go, we had one exhausted little hula hooper. I reclined her chair in the van just a little so she could rest on the way home (which was the second most magical part of her evening 🙂 ), and watched in the rearview mirror as she moved her new hula hoop up so she could rest a hand on it as we drove.

“Will there be more days like this?” she asked.

Yes, baby. I hope you have a lifetime full of days like this.

Play From a Parent Perspective

img_5100

Last month my parenting book of the month was a book about play. I picked it thinking it would focus on children and play. However, it turned out that the book addressed the impact of play throughout the human life span.

Play, as it turns out, is more than a simple action. It’s an attitude toward life. An attitude that physically changes our brain. An attitude that can lead us to be more resilient. That can help us lead more authentic and fulfilling lives. That can help us create deeper and more fulfilling relationships.

And one of the best ways we can support our children in developing their skill at playing into a lifelong attitude is by modeling it.

So how do we do that?

Mostly, according to the book, it’s about keeping a sense of perspective. For example, grades. Grades, especially in high school when they can affect college scholarships, are important. But they are not ALL IMPORTANT in the scheme of things, you know?

I was ready to learn how to support play for my children. But what does a “play” attitude toward life look like for myself?

Good question. I suppose it means not worrying so much about a little extra mess when the six year old wants to help me cook brownies. Saying yes when she wants to dye her peanut butter with food coloring while packing her lunch. Taking a deep breath when the girls are giggling in bed instead of going right to sleep.

I suppose it means not worrying so much about the toddler hating the doctor’s office. And the high chair. And strangers. Because she’s one, and the chances are she will grow up to be a perfectly pleasant human being.

I suppose it means keeping this whole parenting gig in general in perspective. Remembering what matters and letting go of what doesn’t. Keeping it in perspective. Laughing,

And not only does a play attitude apply to my parenting, but also to my life. I write this blog because I enjoy it. I don’t take it too seriously or put too much pressure on myself to get it exactly right. The same is true of housework, of cooking, of getting involved in a new school group or volunteering in the community.

The idea is that developing this attitude as a parent not only models a more resilient approach to life for my children, but it also opens up the opportunity for me to model passion for them. So that they don’t simply learn the value of perseverance and hard work, but rather they also learn to use those skills to pursue what they love.

“People always say that you can reach the top by ‘keeping your nose to the grindstone’, but as sports performance specialist Chuck Hogan observes, this is not true. People reach the highest level of a discipline because they are driven by love, by fun, by play. ‘The greatest performers performs as they do, and do so with such grace, because they love what they are doing,’ Hogan observes. ‘It is not work. It’s play.’”

 The bottom line? Play can be the key to opening our minds, living more fulfilling lives, being more deeply engaged parents and humans, and teaching our children to do the same. And it’s all driven by authenticity and love, rather than “should’s” and “should nots”.

Do I know exactly how to do this? Nope. Maybe that’s part of the fun.

Stop

FullSizeRender (8)

I started listening to the audiobook “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” by Dr. Laura Markham. I’m barely through the introduction and it’s already making me think.

In the introduction, there’s a brief story about a parent teaching his young son how to mow the lawn. The child accidentally mows through a flower bed. As the father begins to lose his temper, the mother interjects and reminds him, “We are raising children, not flowers.”

I thought it was a beautiful reminder about remembering what matters. Especially since it’s something I’m constantly trying to do better at as a parent.

This weekend, nesting has finally hit. Which is great because it’s a long weekend, so the husband is around to help with kids, thus giving me a slightly higher chance of actual productivity. However, it’s also important to point out that I’m three weeks away from having a baby. My physical capabilities at this point don’t exactly match my ambitions.

I spent the morning cooking freezer meals (a.k.a. making a huge mess in my kitchen) and then attempting to clean up, all the while being distracted by cupboards that needed reorganizing, etc. My parents were coming over for lunch so I was trying to get the kitchen into a somewhat less chaotic state when I turned around and saw a trail of small ribbon scraps in the doorway leading into the living room.

I followed the trail of scraps to find my six year old mid-scatter. There were notes taped on the front door and a trail leading from the front door to the kitchen.

My first reaction? “Oh hell no.”

To my credit, I didn’t say that out loud. It came out more like, “Ohhhhhh…. I am not excited about this.”

And then I stopped.

It was ribbon scraps. She was decorating for grandma and grandpa to come. What was the big deal?

So I sat down on the step and took a deep breath and said, “Ok. You know how mommy’s been working on stuff all morning and how she’s trying to get the house cleaned up? Sometimes when I’m tired from cleaning and I see you making a new mess, my first reaction is to feel frustrated. But I don’t want to be like that. I think it’s very sweet and creative of you to decorate for grandma and grandpa. Can we make the deal that it will be up to you to clean up your decorations?”

Of course, she was fine with that. And she was thrilled to see their reaction to the decorations. And she cleaned up her ribbon pieces when all was said and done.

A clean house is nice. But it’s not what matters most.

Family Game Night

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 8.47.55 PM

It was a long week for this crew. The final weeks of pregnancy are no joke. The kids both battled some sleep disruption that had us all up earlier than usual more than once. By Friday evening, the six year old was showing obvious signs of wear and tear: dragging her feet to go to school all week, crying at the drop of a hat, etc.

So when the girl wanted to do a movie night, a pretty common occurrence around here on weekends, I said no.

Don’t get me wrong. A movie night would have been wonderfully easy. But it hasn’t escaped my attention that screen time doesn’t do much to help the frazzled feelings of a first grader.

So I turned down the idea of movie night. And when the tears started well up, in a stroke of parenting genius (or insanity), I suggested a family game night.

That did the trick.

We put on pajamas and put the toddler to bed. The girl headed downstairs to prepare for game night while I wrapped up a few things. By the time I got down to the family room, she had an elaborate setup including pillows, a balloon, a blanket, gemstone cards, and some spools of ribbon.

“I invented a new game!” she announced.

I’m going to be very honest with you all here. My first reaction was not excitement. You see, the girl has always been very creative. However, invented games often tend to be complex with very fluid rules that can be difficult to keep up with. In the final hour before bedtime on Friday, I wasn’t sure I had the energy.

But I sucked it up and pretended to be excited.

And you know what? It turned out to be great.

The game she made up was actually pretty simple and organized. She got to cut pieces of ribbon, which for some reason she always loves doing. She got to have us follow her creative lead and honor her ideas.

AND we practiced counting and adding. We practiced reading gemstone names and talked about the different kinds of rocks. We refreshed our “safe scissor etiquette” lesson. We practiced taking turns and being flexible.

All those learning opportunities from one game invented by a six year old. I love these parenting moments when I find the energy to follow her creativity and it leads somewhere better than I ever could have.

I’m glad I sucked it up and said yes.