go the **** to sleep

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How did I not know about this giraffe sooner?? We haven’t ever been successful with a formal sleep training program and “cry it out” has never worked for our kiddos – they just escalate and get even more hysterical.

Henry was a not-so-great sleeper until somewhere around 11ish months and then it just clicked. He’s been an amazing sleeper ever since and he regularly goes down with a routine that’s less than 5 minutes long and stays asleep for 11-12 hours. So, with Graham, I committed myself to the idea that it would just click at some point as we got closer to his first birthday. Fast forward 15 months and he was still waking in the middle of the night and never able to get himself back down. Every. Single. Night. That was until about 6 weeks ago when this little magic giraffe arrived. I randomly snagged it during an Amazon haul and OMG. Game changer!!!

You squeeze his belly and he plays classical music for about 20 minutes with a soft glow that lasts about 5 minutes. {I definitely haven’t timed it, so these are just estimates.} It has made going to bed for both naps and night time a breeze, and when he wakes in the middle of the night, he’ll give the giraffe a nudge to start the music and soothe himself back to sleep! {Full disclosure: he still needs a snuggle to get back down every so often, but this is a MAJOR improvement.} Another big change is that he is not consistently waking every night, anymore – he’s staying down for 12 hours more often than not. It might be that it just started to click around the same time we got the giraffe, but the giraffe could also deserve the credit!

I’ve read several sleep books and articles and I know that you’re not supposed to give babies a “sleep crutch.” HOWEVER, when you’re in the trenches of exhaustion and on the brink of insanity, it’s easy to gloss over what you’re supposed to do in lieu of finding something that just works.

What works for us is this formula: binky, blankie, white noise machine on the ocean setting and the giraffe, making sure that we get him down pretty early (6/6:30) so he doesn’t get overtired. And hallelujah, we are now slightly more rested!

Wishing everyone a well-rested weekend!!

xoxo

when are you going to try for a girl??

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My little men.

Thank you for your interest, clerk at the grocery store/lady behind me in line at Target/valet attendant/schmoozer at an event/friend, but why is this still a question people ask?? I am a #boymom and for some reason, the most common question launched my direction is if I want a girl or when are we going to try for a girl. I don’t even know where to begin with this. One of my friends and fellow boy mom, told me about an acquaintance who asked, “What? You didn’t want a girl?” To which, she responded, “Oh! I didn’t know you could choose!” Brilliant.

When I was pregnant with my second baby boy, I just looooooved the people who responded to the news in disappointment. I mean, I was still pregnant and there was a clear pattern of audible let down from would-be-well-wishers. 

IF my husband and I decide to have another baby it would be only because we want a bigger family and not because we are holding out hope for a girl. My last pregnancy was a bit rough, complete with 12 weeks of bed rest. As much as we would love to have a big chaotic family buzzing around the house and though we have envisioned having three children for years, I don’t know if I’m ready to sign up for another tricky pregnancy again. Pregnancy issues aside, the years of the littles are tough and we are in the thick of it. We’re finally starting to feel slightly less sleep deprived and that we have a good system going, but some days we still feel like we’re barely treading water. If we were to add another baby to the mix, would we be ready? So, if we do go down the road of trying to have a third, it will be a well thought out decision and NOT a whim for the possibility of having a girl. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always dreamed about being a mom. I even made a book of my future family, by cutting out pictures from catalogs and then writing a story of my life as an adult. {I would have a daughter named Stephani – HELLO 90’s! – and then I’d get divorced and remarried and have twins, Molly and Peter. AHMAZING!} Truth be told, I have always pictured having a daughter. I grew up with just one sister, my cousins are mostly girls and my mom is one of four sisters – women rule the roost in our family, so I hadn’t ever pictured not having a daughter. But, my motherhood reality is that I have two sons; two loving, snuggly, funny, happy, healthy BOYS and my heart is full.

After over a year of struggling to get and stay pregnant, learning that my first baby was a boy was neither here nor there. We were just thrilled to have a healthy pregnancy. Following a miscarriage, we had that same feeling of gratitude when we found out that there was another healthy baby boy on the way. This time there was also a sense of understanding that we are officially a boy family and I am a boy mom. There has definitely been a process of letting go of the idea of having a frizzy-haired mini-me, running across a ballet studio, but in no way have I ever felt disappointment. Sure, it would be great to have the experience raising “one of each” but at the end of the day, for us, that’s not a reason to have more kids. Even if we do try for another, who’s to say it wouldn’t be a third boy? If a third baby happens, I can guarantee you that it would be because we want another child. 

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Frizzy-haired me, running across a ballet studio; circa mid-80’s.

So, back to the question at hand: how are these types of inquiries and comments still a thing? Don’t we all know better? Maybe that boy mom isn’t pining for a daughter and she is just happy to be a mom, period. But maybe she is still holding out hope for a daughter and your comment is salt in the wound because it’s not something she can control. Or perhaps that mama has lost a daughter. I just recently learned that a family we know with three boys, actually had a girl first who passed away as a baby. At the very least, the “you need to try for a girl!” comments are silly and uninformed. At their worst, they are hurtful.

Some days our family feels complete and perfect just the way it is. Some days we daydream about having another little one. {Usually those are the days when the kiddos are remarkably well-behaved and we are well-rested!} When thinking about my dreams for our family, I think about the closing scene in the tv show, Parenthood. Zeek and Camille take a step back, looking at their four grown children and grandchildren, all interacting with each other, in a sea of voices and commotion and they say to each other, “We did good.” I want that. So whether the “we did good” feeling comes from having two boys or a bigger family, it certainly isn’t continent upon having a daughter. I just want a family full of love and I feel beyond thankful to have two little boys that fill my heart with joy. 

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I couldn’t ask for more.

essentials for the kiddo commuting circus

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Our last city outing with the kiddos at Christmas. Santa and Zoo Lights!

I love living out on the furthest edge of the burbs. I love the stars, open spaces, the quiet, the deer in our yard and the homey vibe. Being out here makes my small town heart happy and it’s definitely where my country boy hubby and I feel the most centered. But, after living in Chicago for more than 10 years, I became a bit of a city girl and still work in the city twice a week.

We’ve been bringing both boys into the city since they were tiny because we don’t want it to feel like a novelty for them. It can be intense, but sometimes it’s a necessity thanks to our ever-changing schedule and hodgepodge childcare situation. We are super lucky to have someone who is more of an “auntie” than a babysitter, who will open her apartment to hang with our boys while I’m in meetings. After I’m done with work, I scoop them up and we have family time before heading home. {Bonus: we avoid rush hour!}

This week, the boys are going into the city with me for the first time since December. I’m feeling a little anxious because it’s been a while, so it got me thinking about all of the things I need to pack. I’ve tried to whittle down all of the items so that there’s the least amount of schlepping possible. We used to bring 837 bags: kiddo bag, diaper bag, cooler for food and milk, my handbag, my computer bag and my breast pump bag. I’ve been able to eliminate the pump bag and diaper bag and by upgrading to a larger kiddo bag, I can fit everything we need in there. It’s still a bit of a circus though!

Thus, I present our Essentials for the Kiddo Commuting Circus!

 

commuting must haves

1 – The stroller is key. We need something that holds both kiddos side by side, because our 4-year-old is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, so the tandem strollers don’t work for him. We also wanted a stroller that collapses easily and has a small footprint when it’s folded for easy travel. We landed on the City Mini GT, by Baby Jogger. {On sale now!} I love how it goes through doorways easily and has a great turning radius. The only down side is that the pocket under the seats isn’t as large and easily accessible as I am used to with our UppaBaby Vista. We still use our Vista a lot, as a single stroller with the PiggyBack attachment but the City Mini GT is better longer hauls or if we want to make sure that both boys are strapped in.

2 – Lovies. Our boys have both grown quite attached to very specific Aden + Anais swaddle blankets. The Silky Soft Swaddles are dreamy to snuggle with, so I don’t blame them for having a preference! They both have the regular Aden + Anais blankets, but they have a clear preference and have been known to completely freak out if they are in the laundry.

3 – Baby G loves his WubbaNubs. These are great because he can find it easily on his own at night or in his car seat. Can’t leave home without them.

4 – This wet bag was an impulse purchase, but it’s gotten a lot of mileage. It’s great for dirty clothes, especially if they’ve been spilled on, so it keeps the mess contained. It’s also a good size, so our city sitter can throw some diapers and wipes into it for outings without lugging an entire diaper bag around. I love things that can pull double duty!

5 – I love this little bento box! It’s great to pack snacks or lunch for the kiddos. I do usually send something else in addition to this, like a sandwich or something, but this is a concise way to pack small bites.

6 – We have tried a million sippy cups in our 3 years living in sippy cup land and these are the two clear favorites. We have several Nalgene water bottles for the 4-year-old and the 1-year-old will graduate to one shortly. In the meantime, we’ve found that this Avent penguin sippy is the easiest for him to hold onto but also doesn’t spill. He has one sippy that looks cool, but it’s essentially a milk paint brush. Awesome.

7 – While big brother isn’t interested in pouches anymore, they are a daily staple for little brother. Even more so when we’re on the go! We love Ella’s Kitchen.

8 – While we try to keep it simple with the big gear, we always miss it when we forget to bring our lobster claw phil&teds seat. We thought we’d use this more for restaurants, but it’s most helpful when we go to other people’s houses, because usually high chairs are not as readily accessible.

9 – A great bag to tote all of this stuff is an absolute must. I love these bags from Lands End. I’ll be stuffing this bag with all of the above plus these odds and ends…

  • Winter outdoor accessories to bundle up on walks.
  • A change of clothes for each, just in case.
  • A pair of pajamas for each, so we can get them bed-time ready before the drive home. {If you’re looking for a fun, family bonding activity, try changing two wiggly kids into their pj’s after dinner, in your car. Favorite.}
  • Enough diapers and then some.
  • Wipes, Aquaphor, Etc.
  • Food for lunch and snack, plus extra snacks for the car to keep the peace.
  • Little people utensils along with the sippy cups.
  • A bottle of wine for mommy, to help recover from the whole process. {If you don’t know me, this one is obviously a joke, although not my worst idea! I mean, the hubs will be driving home!}

xoxo

the things we don’t talk about: miscarriage & fertility

So much for my plan to write about my new favorite eye cream today. Apparently, I am getting super personal this week, but I promise to lighten it up next time!!

A dear friend of mine is currently in the middle of a heartbreak – she just had a miscarriage a few days ago. I was talking to her about grieving this loss and I said something like, “You don’t realize how common it is, until you mention your own loss and then the flood gates open with stories of other women who have miscarried.”

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I’m not sure why it’s such a taboo subject, but there seems to be a certain code of silence that comes with miscarriage. I’ve mentioned my experiences, in passing, a few times and the people I’m talking to usually seem shocked that I’m acknowledging it. When you’re in the thick of that loss, it can be extremely lonely and feeling like you must be shrouded in secrecy only amplifies that loneliness. For people like my friend, I am opening up about my experience with pregnancy loss and fertility because it doesn’t have to be such a lonesome and quiet road.

Before we had kids, we struggled with fertility issues for over a year and part of that struggle included several very very early losses. That whole experience was difficult because it was easy to blame myself and pick apart things that I might have done to contribute to our challenges. {If only I hadn’t walked so much…} I understood intellectually that it wasn’t my “fault” and that I couldn’t have changed the outcome through anything that I did or didn’t do, but I still felt responsible somehow. I finally accepted that it wasn’t anything I had done and in my case, it was a physical condition that required surgery. Also, it’s funny how everyone around you seems to be getting pregnant and staying pregnant when you desperately want to be.

During that year of struggle, the hubs and I had a fun way of taking our minds off of it: following each realization that a baby was not on the way, we would pull ourselves up and make a night of it. We’d do all the things we knew we wouldn’t be doing once we were parents, which usually involved our favorite sushi restaurant, a bottle of wine, then bar hopping our way back to our apartment! It dulled the disappointment by sheer distraction. Traveling was a great way for us to reconnect and to help keep ourselves from being consumed by the desire to have a baby. Without consciously taking the time to have fun and step outside of the fertility bubble, I don’t think we would have maintained our sanity.

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We made sure to keep having fun together through it all.

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Travels kept us feeling like a team and feeling connected. Being connected kept us hopeful.

When Henry was about 14 months old, the pregnancy symptoms were intense and recognizable almost immediately, even though we weren’t trying. At 7 weeks, I noticed the beginning stages of miscarriage. I was in complete denial at that point – googling everything that could possibly indicate that it was just normal first trimester stuff. A few days later, it became obvious that it wasn’t normal and that I had lost the pregnancy. We left directly from the doctor’s office to be with my family, 4 hours away, for my grandmother’s funeral. Even though I was surrounded by family and love, I still felt lonely – like it was something that only I could understand.

I felt guilty because I had been shocked and maybe a little less than excited when I saw the positive pregnancy test. As though my mixed emotions had caused the miscarriage. In those few weeks, I had gone from shocked and scared to excited and fully envisioning our growing family. Even though I was only pregnant for a short time, I still felt connected and bonded, so I had to grieve that loss. I had to give myself the space to be sad. I think that is key – to give yourself permission to grieve, because it is a loss. It’s a loss of possibilities and hope.

I eventually regained my focus by fixing my gaze on my blessings; a wonderful husband, a healthy one-year-old and all of the possibilities for the future. I regained my sense of hope. I also did A WHOLE LOT of snuggling with my little guy, which I’m sure helped the process! We decided not to try for another baby for a while and exactly a year after my miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant with Graham. Those feelings of loss are still seared in the back of my mind and probably won’t ever go away, but I have two crazy kiddos now, so I don’t go there that often. Even when I do, there is a sense of lightness attached to those feelings now, because I’m at peace. I’m at peace because it’s just another part of our family’s journey that brought us to where we are now.

After I told my friend about my experience the other day, she said she just wanted to give me a hug, even though she knew that everything eventually turned out well. I said the following to her: “Everything will turn out well for you too and you won’t be able to imagine your life any differently. You’ll probably also be having a similar conversation with a different friend who is grieving a miscarriage and you’ll be the one telling her that it’s all going to be okay.” xoxo

UPDATE: Here are a few resources that helped through my journey.

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility – I have the 10th anniversary edition, but I’m assuming the just released 20th anniversary edition is even better. I still use this as a resource. {Why didn’t they teach us all of this information in health class?!?}
  • Fully Fertile – For those of you who have an inner hippie, like me.
  • Pulling Down the Moon – This is a space that promotes a holistic approach to health and fertility. Their resources are really supportive and if you’re local to Chicago or DC, you can make an appointment for fertility or prenatal massage, take a fertility specific yoga class or get acupuncture, which is what I did. I cannot recommend them enough. Side note, the above book Fully Fertile was written by the founders of Pulling Down the Moon.

 

boundaries

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At least this time I waited until baby G was 3 weeks old before I opened up my computer. Small victories?

I’ve gotten better, but my career has dictated much of my personal life over the years – missed weddings of friends or baby showers are just the obvious markers. I’m talking about feeling anxious throughout any kind of downtime. “What emails am I missing right now??” A few years ago, I totally snapped at my mom when she had my phone and accidentally opened my email app. I had changed my email to push notifications, so that it would only notify me of new emails if I opened the app. That was one of the ways I was trying to better manage that downtime anxiety, by not seeing a little red number yelling at me unless I was ready to respond. I went OFF on her and it was totally unreasonable. {Sorry Mom.}

I think being in the wedding industry, there is this really fuzzy line about personal time, because we are so used to meeting or talking to our clients on the weekends or evenings. I’m sure there is this vibe throughout other fields, as well, as I’ve heard similar stories from friends. It’s like there’s this guilt associated with taking time for ourselves.

There was a point when it was clear that enough was enough, even though it had been way past that point for a long time. I just was too scared to change. It was the birth of my first baby that did it for me. My water broke at home (5.5 weeks early) and I sat at my computer for an hour to get my ducks in a row before driving myself (!?!) from the suburbs to the city, to the hospital where I planned to deliver. Once I got my epidural, I sent emails from my phone. A few days later, I said yes to the client who wanted to have a conference call 5 days after I gave birth, for an event that was 4 months away. I brought my laptop to the NICU every day. And that’s how I started motherhood.

I was a disaster and I had trouble finding myself in this new role and just felt like I was disappointing everyone, mostly myself. I struggled with this for the better part of 2 years. I knew I needed to make major change in the way that I stayed connected and SET BOUNDARIES. I got better at setting those limits as time went by, but it took a drastic move and complete change in the way that I approach communicating, to really break the routine. I’ve recently noticed myself slipping back into old habits. Not nearly as extreme, but it’s a slippery slope. I need to pump the breaks.

The other day, I answered a business call at 8:40am, while I was in the preschool drop off line. I knew I shouldn’t answer it, that I should be present in the mom zone, but I did it anyway. So, I’m back to setting boundaries. I don’t think it needs to be this crazy complicated formula or rigid structure of ‘only between the hours of 9 and 5’ or ‘never between the hours of 5 and 8’ but that it can be broad strokes. What do I want to achieve? What are my priorities?

Family Time is Family Time. No Exceptions. I need to be present with my boys. This time is fleeting and that email can wait until after they’ve gone to bed and I can return that phone call when I have child care tomorrow.

Hubby Time is Hubby Time. No Exceptions. There’s definitely a difference between family time and hubby time. Most of the time, we are parents and housemates, because there are just a lot of unglamorous logistics that come with this life. But, when we’ve carved out time for just the two of us, it needs to be just that. Maintaining our relationship is so important and it can’t take a back seat.

MAKING TIME for Hubby & Wifey Time. It’s not as easy as it used to be for us, when we’d both work late into the evening and then rendezvous at a new restaurant for a 9pm dinner and bottle of wine. This kind of thing needs to be in the calendar now or it won’t ever happen! We shoot for once a month, but sometimes that’s a lofty goal. We need to work this.

Be efficient when I’m working. We are way more productive when we can just focus and I need to work on not getting carried away. Working with people that I really enjoy can be so wonderful and it can also lead to less than productive days. I need to get my shit done and then I can socialize. Put that in the “needs improvement” category.

Stop with the guilt. This is a hard one. It’s okay to set boundaries and to not feel bad about it when it comes to implementing them. We need to give ourselves a break from the constant nagging guilt and feelings of inadequacy. We’re just doing the best we can and setting limits to make sure that we are present and not losing our minds is more than okay, it’s essential. Stressing about it isn’t fair to ourselves or our kiddos… or the loved ones that we might lose our cool with.

I can’t remember where I read this, but it was something to the effect of ‘working mothers feel like they need to work as though they don’t have children and parent as though they don’t have a job.’ I like to think of myself as an expert multi-tasker, but I can’t be everywhere and everything at once and I need to be okay with that.

reflections, lessons & appreciation

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NYE Essentials: party hats and noisemakers (including one rather cute noisemaker)

Tonight is New Years Eve and I love this holiday even more, now that I have a legit excuse to stay in my sweatpants and watch the ball drop with a glass of wine on my couch. We’re having friends over with their 3 kiddos, plus our 2 boys, brings us to 5 kids, age 6 and under. So let’s be honest, this party will probably end around 9pm and I’ll be in bed asleep on the couch well before midnight. As I’m setting out the party hats, bubbly, noise makers and glitter (not sure what I’m going to do with the glitter just yet, but glitter is always a good idea, right?), I can’t help but reflect on where we were last year at this time. The very important lesson I learned is that as parents, it is on us to advocate for our children.

It was a year ago that I was at our pediatrician’s office for the 3rd time in as many days. Henry picked up a nasty cold, we believe, from one of the many kiddos at our big family Christmas gathering, and then passed that cold onto everyone in our house, including 5-week-old Graham. I did everything I could to keep them separated in hopes that baby G wouldn’t get sick, but it happened anyway and I was scared. His breathing was labored and he was super congested. Our pediatrician told us Henry and Graham both had really bad colds, so we just needed to let it run its course. I wanted to know what I should be looking for – specific symptoms or signs that would indicate the cold had turned into something more serious in this tiny newborn. Every time I called or brought G in, I was made to feel like I was this overreacting crazy parent who just needed to go home and calm down.

On January 2nd, I pushed my way into yet another appointment with our pediatrician and this time my fears were confirmed. We needed to go to the ER for testing. I asked if we could of to the hospital that was just 15 minutes further away, because they are better equipped to handle children, especially babies. Our doctor assured us that it would be fine and that he just needed to have a few tests done and it would be faster to have them processed in the ER than in his office.

My husband and I didn’t feel any sense of urgency. Just a few tests. But once we got to the ER, we realized that it was a much more serious situation. His pulse-ox was alarmingly low and he needed help fast. What happened next was serious of moments when we should have spoken up and advocated for our child. We should have said “No, this is not acceptable. Stop.” But neither of us did because we were out of our element and afraid. We were doing what we were told, by people who knew better.

The group of young nurses attempting to get an IV into a tiny baby was clearly some kind of practice session. I had to leave the room after they asked my husband to help hold him down. After 20 minutes of failed attempts, they finally called in a specialist, who got it in the first try. It was then confirmed that he needed to be admitted and this hospital didn’t feel like they could offer him the best care, so they were sending us to the hospital we wanted to go to in the first place. After several hours, our baby was being loaded onto an ambulance. The whole thing seemed wrong – they put a 5-week-old on an adult stretcher, with 5 point harness adapter for a toddler. His head was completely unstable and the straps of the harness were up around his neck. We gave some pushback, but we were told we had no choice. They did allow me to take baby blankets from our diaper bag and roll them up to secure all around his little body and head (and to use as a barrier between his neck and the strangulation hazard that they called a harness).

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Our ambulance experience

With the sirens in the background, the EMT proceeded to talk to me about the weather and the inconvenience of having to drive to his cousin’s wedding that weekend. I’m sorry – WHAT? Not a time for small talk. We arrived at the other hospital and the nurses in the PICU immediately asked questions about why this baby was transferred in such a manner and why he had adult leads (that left big welts) instead of the appropriate pediatric leads. The direct quote from the EMT to the nurse was, “Well, we weren’t really set up to handle a baby this small.” The nurse later explained to me that babies of G’s age are supposed to have a specialized team with specialized equipment for their ambulance transfers.

The next 5 days/4 nights at the hospital were grueling, but we have a perfectly healthy one year old today, so I can’t complain. I still feel angry about the whole experience, though. The hospital where G was admitted took absolutely excellent care of him, but I’m angry at myself for not insisting that we go there in the first place. I’m frustrated that my attempt to be a proactive parent was not met receptively by our pediatrician. I’m disappointed that the simple test for RSV wasn’t done on Henry, knowing that it was going around in our area, and then we would have known 5 days earlier what we were dealing with. I don’t doubt that we would have landed in the hospital regardless, but had I trusted my gut, getting there would likely have been a considerably less traumatic experience.

So, a year later I am beyond thankful that we have two healthy children and that all is well. However, that experience was nothing short of a nightmare at the time. Even if it means that you are labeled as an overbearing parent (I’m sure there is a red flag next to my name in the pediatrician’s system!), I strongly feel that we must value our intuition and be advocates for our children. Going into 2016, I look back on these lessons with a renewed sense of respect for my instincts and confidence that when faced with another such moment, I will speak up and not take a back seat when it comes to my children.

Cheers to health, happiness and love in spades in the New Year! xoxo