Monday, April 29, 2013

The Last Week

I don't know if I was just lazy last week, or too invested in other projects, or what, but it's taken me an entire week to get these pictures off my camera and post them here.  Suffice it to say that evenings are crazy these days, and I'm already short on sleep so I'm always hesitant to jump into a new project later in the evening once my arms are empty and the boys are asleep.  It's been a struggle to stay awake long enough to get things done and it's hard to sacrifice any more time in the evening after not seeing the kids all day.  That is my biggest challenge now that I'm back to work.  Anyway, as a result of trying to get some other projects done (like, say, way-overdue thank you notes, birth announcements and baptism invites), it took me a week to do this...
 
Two weekends ago we were actually pretty busy.  Craig was in Buffalo/Canada for various lacrosse activities, so it was just me and the boys.  My parents came into town to see us, with the added incentive of sitting in a suite for the Amerks' last regular season game.  We hadn't been to an Amerks game all year and Jacob, of course, had been wanting to go.  So, no time like the present!  Fortunately Craig got us tickets and we had some comfortable accommodations in a suite.  We had a very nice time.  This is how Carter spent his night...

And Jacob hung out with Grandpa...

We had a really good time and still managed to get home at a reasonable time.  The Amerks won to get themselves into the playoffs, and even better, the Knighthawks won their road game to get into the playoffs.  It was a good night.

The next morning we had a birthday party for Jacob's friend at Chuck E. Cheese.   

Craig was still in Buffalo so I had to get the boys up and ready myself.  I put Carter into the Baby Bjorn and played pack mule while Jacob ran from game to game.  Craig showed up right around pizza time, and then he took over game duty while I chatted with one of the moms (the mom of Jacob's soccer buddy, who I hadn't seen since the last night of soccer, the day before Carter was born).  As usual, Jacob had a blast playing games.  He played a lot of the baseball and football games, as well as some skee-ball and air hockey.  He also liked riding in this big safari jeep that raised way up, and spent a good amount of time in the crawling/climbing apparatus with his friends. 
Playing air hockey against Daddy!
The one thing I insisted is that we all sit in the crazy picture creator thing.  It takes a picture and "draws" it.  It only costs one token and I figured it might be a fun opportunity to get a picture of all of us together.  Well, I think the result is pretty priceless.  Carter looks a little dazed, but the rest of us where laughing because it was so hard to get us all in the picture.  Nice memory, though!

I spent most of the rest of the weekend trying to get a good picture of Carter.  He is so cute, but I don't feel like photos do him justice!  However, I think these capture his essence pretty well...

This may be one of my favorites, but for some reason I cannot get Blogger to put it in here rotated.  Sorry, you'll just have to tilt your head...
Carter has been smiling up a storm at times.  It's still not particularly cause-and-effect, but he does it a lot.  Once in a while he'll do it directly in response to something, but most of the time it's random and directed at my forehead or something.  But the past couple nights we've played a little game with his pacifier where I give it to him and take it back.  Ok, it's probably a bit of a tease, but he thinks it's funny so we'll just go with it.  Regardless, here's a cute picture of him smiling.  I can't wait to see more of these!

Back to my busy week now...notes to write and laundry to fold!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Smiles

I wish I had some fantastic smiley photos to accompany this post, but I'm still working on getting some good ones.  Carter is dishing them out right and left these days, but apparently just not when I have a camera.  And when he's in a good mood, the last thing I want to do is disrupt it by jumping up to get the camera.  It's been fun to see all of his smiles and hear his happy noises, though.  I can't get enough!

The reason for this post is because I had this funny little realization the other day.  Suddenly it occurred to me why parents always like to see their baby smile.  I mean, smiles are cute, but I realized why the arrival of the smile era is such a monumental milestone--it's because it's the first moment when you know that your baby is happy.  And what does every parent want more than anything else?  For their child to be happy. 

When your baby is born, you spend all of your time making sure their needs are met.  You feed them, change them, and cuddle them, all in an effort to make sure they're comfortable.  You don't get much in return, but for some reason it can still be one of the most rewarding things ever.  But amidst all that, I don't know if "happy" is an adjective most parents would use to describe their newborn.  Sweet, content, cute, good...perhaps.  But happy?  That descriptor doesn't come around until later, after the smiles begin.  That is the point at which you know that your baby is happy, really and truly happy.  It can be short-lived, of course, but every little smile is confirmation that you're doing something right.  It's a good feeling to have a happy child, and after a couple months of wondering if your baby is feeling good at any given moment, that confirmation is so nice to have.  It's the first real emotional connection you can have to your child, and that's why it's such an exhilarating experience. 

Not to mention that it gives you something to do.  A while back I talked about not knowing what to do with Carter sometimes, and while I'm still working on it, the arrival of smiles means we have something to aim for.  It's still not easy to get one, but I can play with him in hopes he'll kick one out and confirm that yes, we are having fun.  And it will only get better from here.  I can't wait!

Sorry, I know this isn't much of a post, but I wanted to write this up before I forgot!  I have a couple things to share from last weekend, but I haven't gotten around to pulling the pics off the camera yet.  Soon, I promise.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Breastfeeding: The Rest of the Story

I've been done breastfeeding for a little over three weeks now.  I must say, it's been different than I envisioned.  In a good way, I guess, but different.  We've spent a lot of time and energy trying to find the large cans of formula in the store, and it hurt a little bit to charge $143 worth on my credit card to buy a four-pack online, but Carter is certainly a happier baby because of it.  That fact, above all else, is what is important, so it's hard to argue anything else.

Part of me certainly misses the bonding of breastfeeding, and the satisfaction of being the one to fully sustain human life.  There was always something magical about watching a baby, even an older baby, latch on and go from fussy or wild to totally peaceful.  I loved the excited look on Jacob's face when it was time to eat, and I liked knowing I was giving him the best possible thing I could.  I miss the extra calorie burn, too!

But you know, I don't think I miss it as much as I thought I would.  I miss the idea of it, but in practical terms I think the way things are now is much easier.  I don't think I would have thought that last time, but right now I feel like this fits our lifestyle a little better.  With Jacob I hardly left the house for the first couple months of his life.  This time we were out and about very early because of Jacob's goings-on.  Breastfeeding, though handy, can be a little awkward in public.  I always knew I could do it, but in the end, if the timing was close I'd rather race home with a screaming baby than do it in public.  Part of it was general comfort for the baby and me--finding a good spot with enough space that was slightly private--and the rest was my concern over potentially flashing someone (be it boobs or a belly fat roll) or making someone else uncomfortable.  Not that I exactly cared about those people, but I wanted to at least look like I cared, you know?  Now I just pull out a bottle and get to it, not having to worry as much if Jacob needs something or the baby's squirmy.  I just put the bottle down and do what I have to do. 

In addition, I think using formula gave us a little more flexibility, time-wise.  Before, Carter was eating every two hours all day, and sometimes more in the evening, followed by every three hours at night.  I'm sure some of the shift had to do with age, as well, but once he went on formula, we were able to eek out more three or four hour gaps during the day (though he's usually got a two-hour one in the evening), and now he's sleeping through the night--a good eight-hour stretch.  It's miraculous compared to the endless hours spent on the couch initially.  And for the reasons above, having that flexibility is hugely helpful. 

One of my big fears about bottlefeeding was the stress of putting together bottles in the middle of the night with a screaming baby.  A little planning has helped that immensely.  One good thing is that the type of formula we use is not supposed to be heated.  So, room temperature is the best we can do.  I have a giant Brita tank that we got when we got married, I think, that we hadn't used for anything except parties once we moved into this house, since our refrigerator has a water dispenser.  That tank now sits out on the counter with room temperature water.  Every night before bed, I fill a bottle to the right amount, and fill our sectioned formula container with the right amount of powder (it's got three sections to pre-portion formula for being out on the go), and leave it all in Carter's room.  The second I walk in his room at feeding time, I pop open the bottle, dump the formula in, and shake it up.  The bottles I use mix it up better than the drop-ins I send to daycare that need the help of a battery-operated mixer and a baby spoon to break up the lumps, so for the most part mixing isn't a big deal.  I can be sitting down and feeding him within a minute of walking in.  Half the time it took me that long to get in position and comfortable enough to breastfeed, so shockingly, that's far less of an issue than I would have thought.

It is a bit of a pain to travel, however.  Whereas before I just needed me and maybe the Boppy pillow, now I need a full set of bottles, a supply of formula, liners if I'm using certain bottles, and ideally my brush and drying rack.  That is a lot to cart anywhere, and given that our formula is expensive and somewhat hard to find at times, it involves some planning ahead.  Even going out involves making sure I have a bottle or two filled with water, and the formula portioned out.  Unlike with breastfeeding, there's no backup plan.  And the likelihood of finding the formula we'd need if we ran out (and finding it with the best value pricing) is less than it would be with more mainstream formula.  I'm also not a fan of the constant bottle washing, but I'd be doing some of that anyway, and adding breast pump parts into the mix, which are an even bigger pain. 

I think the biggest surprises for me are that I don't feel any less bonded to Carter without it, and that even though I'm probably spending a similar amount of time feeding him (admittedly, some bottle feedings are quite a bit shorter), I feel less encumbered by the process.  It's almost like I used to take it personally if they didn't eat, or if the feeding wasn't comfortable.  Perhaps I resented it a bit because it was always my job to feed the baby if he was crying.  I don't know.  Whatever the emotions were, I must have suppressed them enough last time that I really took the experience as a positive.  Still, now that I'm not doing it this time, I just feel like I have a renewed energy for feedings.  Maybe it's the knowledge that I can pass it off if necessary.  Maybe it's less pressure because I don't have to pump all day at work to make enough for tomorrow.  Maybe it's because I'm not pumping, so I really do get a break from all things baby while I'm at work.  It's nice not to be working against the ticking time bomb that was my chest when it would tell me, in no uncertain terms, when it was time to eat.  It's been a relief to have my chest back down to size, and not have to plan my schedule around it at all times. 

Whatever the reason, it feels a lot different this time around, and it's not nearly as sad as I thought.  I'm very much at peace with the decision.  Perhaps the fact that I'm less physically invested in Carter means that it's easier to be more emotionally invested because there's plenty of energy left to give.  Breastfeeding isn't the most comfortable thing, and it's hard sometimes to deal with change, discomfort, exhaustion, and anxiety, all at the same time.  But it was worth every bit last time, and I'm grateful for the six weeks I had this time.  I'd be fine giving up the good stuff if it meant I could still be breastfeeding, since it would be the best thing for him.  I did it last time, I could have done it this time, and if we somehow end up doing this again, I'll give it a shot that time, too.  I think every mom owes it to her child to give it a shot.  But mom's sanity is important, too, and the dairy-free diet put me over my breaking point.  It might be something else for another mom, but that was it for me this time.  I wouldn't have appreciated the experience within that reality this time, so I'm happy with where we are right now.  I have a happy, smiley baby who brings me such joy, and I can't argue with that.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

News & Notes: The Delayed Spring Edition

After a few days this week in the 70s, we're back to crappy weather for the weekend.  It's been windy pretty much since Carter was born--seriously, I think we've probably had at least one wind advisory every single week since--and we get a bonus of low 40s and rain for today.  Ewww.  So much for getting out and jogging or taking the baby for a walk.  One of these months...

Let's see, what else is up?

Carter's been doing some hardcore smiling for a week or so now.  He really got going last weekend.  He's still a little stingy with them, and you can't always get one when you want it, but when he does them it's incredibly cute.  Sometimes he gets on these major kicks where he'll be throwing out smile after smile, along with a series of adorable baby noises.  One of these days I have to get it on video.  He's been charming the daycare ladies with them, and I've been trying to squeeze out a few during the limited time I have with him.

He's still got the diaper rash from hell, but I think we're finally gaining on it.  I have never seen anything like it.  He's got these little dots inside the crack, and then bigger sores on the outside.  They're bright red and they often bleed.  They're just so raw.  It's hard to make any progress because he pees and poops constantly.  He's been on anti-fungal ointment and hydrocortisone cream for a couple weeks now.  It hadn't been getting any better, but this morning it looked slightly better, so I'm hoping we're on the way down now.  We're supposed to use the ointment four times per day, the hydrocortisone twice, and use diaper rash cream as much as possible.  I was realizing, however, that all of that stuff was making it pretty moist in there still.  So, now I use baby powder when I apply the ointment or cream, and diaper rash cream the rest of the time.  I never used baby powder the first time around, but this time I definitely see it serving a purpose.  Every baby is different, I guess.  He's gotten better about screaming during diaper changes, but who can blame him when he does?

The big news of the week is that we seem to be much closer to consistently getting some sleep.  A couple nights this week he went from about 9:30pm to 5:30am.  The bad news of that is the 5:30am wakeup call, since I don't get to go back to bed after that because of how the timing works out.  The good news is that it affords me one solid chunk of sleep instead of two small ones.  It would be great if I could actually get myself to bed on time, though.  I have too much to do in the evenings and end up being up too late to really take full advantage of the sleep.  The last couple nights he's gone from about 10pm to 6:30am, which was even better.  When we came downstairs to eat Friday morning, we turned on the TV to the news that one of the Boston Marathon suspects had been killed and the other was on the loose.  That was quite a shock.  And by that evening, we watched as they captured the other guy.  Amazing.  Of course, in order to get that much sleep from him, it involves some hardcore cluster feeding in the evenings.  He'll down one five ounce bottle somewhere between 4pm and 6pm, a four-ouncer around 7-7:30, and another five-ouncer around 9:30.  That is a lot for that small stomach!  But hey, whatever works.   

Have I mentioned that Carter has a giant birthmark on his back?  Shortly after he was born I noticed a slight skin discoloration, where it was just off of the rest of his skin tone.  By the time he was a week old, it had turned red, and within a month or so it was raised.  It's supposedly a pretty standard birthmark, which will probably continue to be red and raised at least for the next six months or so, and then slowly start to fade away.  It should eventually fade completely, which blows my mind, because it's pretty intense right now.  Fortunately it doesn't bother him at all.  From what I read he was more at risk for this because he came early, but who knows.  I think I had a very small one of those on my chest when I was little, and it faded away by the time I was probably in elementary school.  Here's a picture I took a while back...

As for me...well, things are going okay.  I'm a little frustrated at the moment because I'm still up about 5-7 pounds and have leveled off.  The fact that I'm no longer breastfeeding makes it harder than ever to lose that weight, and my inconsistent workouts aren't helping matters.  Craig's busy with work, the weather has not been cooperative, and this week we had to go to the funeral home for a friend's mom on the night I would have probably gone out for a run.  My class once a week is great, but those runs are what will make a major difference.  And right now it's just not happening.  I've picked up some bad snacking habits over the past 10 months or so, and I'm slowly trying to wean myself off of that.  It's not easy, though.  My stomach is so flabby and my hips are still a little bigger than would be ideal.  Pants are a bit of a challenge right now and shirts are very hit-or-miss.  I can't suck my stomach in as well as I'd like, and most of my pants are just a little tight, which leaves me with major muffin top issues.  I'm just dying to get back in shape so my clothes fit me again.  I'm a little worried that the hips are more of a structural issue than a fat issue (meaning, that they spread), which would be bad because that will make it hard to ever fit in my pants again.  I know my body has every right to change after pregnancy, and I don't need it to be perfect, but I'd like to fit in my clothes again so I don't have to worry about buying a new wardrobe.  As for the rest of my body, it's still trying to get itself worked out a bit.  Birth control has not yet regulated my cycle, for example.  That is beyond frustrating.  But thankfully, the one thing that is back to normal is my chest.  That has been nice, aside from the fact that the big chest probably distracted everyone from my stomach (or at least balanced it all out).  I know that my body went through a lot with this pregnancy and I shouldn't beat myself up two months out, but still...I'm ready for everything to be as close to back to normal as possible. 

It's been a busy first half of the weekend already, and we have more fun to come tomorrow.  But for tonight, it is long past my bedtime.  Ugh, why am I so compelled to write!?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Time

When I took Carter's two-month picture the other day, I was shocked at how much different he looked from his one month shot.  I figured he would look different, but I guess I didn't expect how much different.  He looked bigger, stronger, and more aware.  And while I knew that he had definitely grown and has been looking around a lot for the last few weeks, seeing the pictures was still shocking to me.  Sometimes he still seems so little, but when I compare him to what I recall of the tiny baby he was when he was born, it's obvious that he's so much bigger.  I wish we could capture sensory feelings like we can take photographs, because I'd love to be able to know exactly how it felt holding a newborn Carter compared to the one we have now.  I can think I remember, but with the seamless transition from one day to the next, it's so hard to know for sure when things started to change.

Of course, all of this made me panic a little bit that he's growing up so fast and before I know it he's not going to be my little baby anymore.  I know we have a long way to go, really, but I do know that it is all going to fly by.  It already is.  And since Carter is probably my last one, every little step we leave behind is going to be gone for good.  There's so much happy and sad tied into that--for example, being relieved that those first horrible days of healing from delivery and breastfeeding engorgement are gone, but sad that we'll never meet another child for the very first time.  Part of me is so ready to leave so many of the baby things behind--I won't miss washing bottles or changing diapers--but there's definitely a sweetness and innocence that comes with a new baby that I've longed for since half of my interactions with Jacob became some sort of discipline/teachable moment/shouting match.  I look forward to getting more sleep, but there's a certain charm to the night feedings (when you're not staring down a day of work, in particular) when it's just you cuddling your tiny baby. 

The other day a co-worker and I somehow got on the topic of yard work.  I mentioned that our old house had a ridiculous amount of trees that dumped leaves into our yard, and used the pictures I shared in this post as evidence.  I love those pictures and obviously know very well what they look like, but seeing them for the first time in a while really struck me.  Just look at Jacob.  He was just over 16 months old at the time, just starting to walk regularly.  He still only had a few teeth, and he was SO blond!  It's him, of course, but he was such a different little boy compared to the 42-pound, very tall child that we see today.  And it absolutely blows my mind that we've gone from that to this.  In some cases it feels like the blink of an eye, but in others I know all of the blood, sweat, and tears we've put into the 3-1/2 years since so I'm well aware of how long the journey's been.  But just seeing that face...man, it's amazing.  Ironically, the picture of Jacob sleeping at the beginning of the post looks exactly like how he looks when he's sleeping now.  I don't think that's just my mom mind saying that--I really think that with a little more hair and a little less pudge, his face looks identical now.  Funny how that works.

All this to say that it's really struck me now how time passes and how precious each moment is.  That's probably partly why it's been harder to be done with maternity leave this time around.  I "get it" now--I understand how fleeting it all is.  Now that we have another child, the experiences we've had with Jacob have given me great perspective on the adventure that lies ahead.  I'm not saying I'll do it any better, but I definitely want to.  I feel like with Jacob the tendency was to just take things as they came.  It was hard to picture the future, aside from hoping for a time without sleepless nights or battles over dinner.  But it seems like we had no way of imagining what it would really be like.  But now that we've seen how Jacob has grown and changed over the years, it makes me excited to see Carter do the same thing.  While Jacob's future is still something we can barely conceive of, after having gone through the baby stages with him, it gives me a better idea of the good and bad we can anticipate for Carter.  It gets me excited to do the good stuff again, and at least attempt to maneuver through the bad stuff better than we did last time.  Now that we know how a baby can grow into a kid with a personality, it's exciting to see where that goes.  Now that we see how much different Jacob looks now than when he was Carter's age, it's exciting to see how Carter will grow and change.  I look forward to when they're older and can interact, but I think I'm a little more cautious this time to not wish my way through this stage because it goes so fast and is extra special. 

Admittedly, this week has given me pause because of all the tragedies that have taken place.  Between the Boston Marathon bombing and the fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, it's clearer than ever how things can change in an instant. My car accident in November was a good reminder, and the Newtown shootings in December certainly drove the point home, but these events just emphasized it even more.  It's scary that something as simple as driving to work, sending your kid to school, going to a sporting event, or just sitting in your living room can turn into something life-changing in an instant.  I'm practically paralyzed in fear and sadness if I ever let myself think deeply enough about what it would be like to be in the shoes of any of the people impacted by any of these tragedies.  One second you're living a normal life, and the next it's anything but.  With that in mind it makes me feel so blessed for the good life we have, and I pray we never have one of those life-changing moments where it all falls to pieces.  I know that if it happens we'll just have to put our trust in God, but you only get one life and it would really stink to have one event ruin everything.  In light of these events, however, I will sure hold my kids a little tighter and savor every moment I can with them.  These moments of babyhood and childhood are fleeting enough, let alone having something cut them shorter. 

Anyway, I've just been extra conscious lately of how quickly time flies and how special this time is.  Despite the challenges, it's worth every second to see my boys grow up and become real people.  I love them so much and feel so lucky to be their mom. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

One Week In...and Two Months!

A week ago today we started our new normal, with me back to work and both kids in daycare.  I figured I should probably report on how things are going now that we've been back to "normal" for a week.  Overall I'd rate us as "Fair". 

Carter is doing very well.  He is adored by everyone there and aside from peeing on people while on the changing table and nearly spitting up all over the assistant director, things have been pretty uneventful.  They all remark what a good baby he is.  He sleeps well and eats well, and doesn't seem phased by the changes in the least.  He's actually napped really well in his crib there, which is great.  Hopefully the fact that the TV was on about 99% of the time we were home for his first seven weeks has given him the ability to sleep through ridiculous amounts of noise.  The women love snuggling him, since I think he's the youngest baby there by a little over a month.  Jacob has ventured down to see him a few times, too.  No idea what he does when he's there, but it's nice he's trying.

We're all still struggling with his diaper rash from hell, but I think it's getting better.  At least, some of the bad spots seem to be smaller.  We're tackling it with anti-fungal ointment, hydrocortisone cream, and lots of diaper rash cream.  It's not so much an overall redness as it is these raw red patches.  Sometimes those patches bleed, too.  We're all doing what we can to keep him dry and protected.  I bought some different diapers over the weekend since I know that can sometimes make a difference (I'd been wanting to try them out anyway--I'd rather be using Luvs since they're way cheaper and Jacob did well with them, but wanted to try a small pack before buying the massive box at BJ's that's nearly half the price of the Pampers, but has even more diapers).  At this point I'll try anything.  So, it's been a joint effort on that front. 

The women there enjoy his little outfits each day--a combination of new stuff and hand-me-downs--and it's been fun for me to have a little more variety than the sleepers he sported for most of my maternity leave.  Most of the 0-3 month stuff is fitting him pretty well now--definitely in length, at least--but waists and pant legs are still a little big at times.  It's also been fun digging into Jacob's old clothes and reliving the moments that I remember him wearing them.  It appears that Carter will fit into Jacob's stuff on the opposite end of the season that Jacob wore them for.  So, for example, right now Carter can fit into some of the stuff that Jacob wore in the fall, when he was about 3-6 months old.  It's a little big on Carter now but was probably starting to get small on Jacob when he wore a lot of it.  Conversely, the stuff that was large on Jacob when he was only a couple months old will probably fit Carter pretty well for most of the summer and start to get small near the end as he approaches six months.  They should match up relatively well for the 6-9 month period as that's almost all winter in both cases.  I sorted four bins a couple weeks ago to make sure all of the month groupings were together, since I usually just packed them away as I noticed Jacob outgrew them, which varied by brand and season.  I'm good through about 18 months now!

The morning rush has been an adjustment for me, but so far it hasn't been bad.  This morning was a little tough since Craig was still on the road and I had an 8:30 dentist appointment to get to.  I was only a couple minutes late, which wasn't bad considering Jacob was his usual pokey self and I had a little incident while preparing bottles that took a couple extra minutes to deal with.  I could do bottles in the evening since they keep for a full day, but given that there's a "safe" lifespan at all, I feel like it's better to do them in the morning so there's less chance of any issues.  It's a bit of a pain, but it's been manageable.  I sent three five-ounce bottles this morning instead of four four-ounce ones (he never got to the fourth last week at all, and seemed a little extra hungry after some feedings this weekend).  I ended up buying two extra bottles this weekend (very cheap!) to give me a little leeway for washing, since I was using pretty much every bottle we had in a 24-hour cycle.  The ones I got (made by Similac, the formula company) seem to mix better than the drop-ins we've always used.  I'd rather keep the new ones at home since I can mix them up quicker, but the drop-ins are nice for daycare since the gross part can be tossed.

It's a little more of a task to get both kids checked in and dropped off in the morning, and I always have to take two trips to the car to pack us up, but so far we're getting through without any crazy late mornings.  Saying goodbyes is always tough, but I know the drill and I'm used to it.  Emotionally it's tough at times, and finishing maternity leave was tougher this time, even if dropping Carter off was actually easier.  That time was precious, both because I could spend it with my baby and because it afforded me the ability to accomplish other things around the house.

Now, my big challenge is the evenings.  Getting in time with both kids, cooking dinner, feeding Carter, washing dishes, washing bottles, preparing for the next day, and getting in a little time for myself (like this blog--it is therapeutic!) is hard.  That's not even getting in laundry or the long list of things I should be doing, like thank you notes, Christening invitations, and birth announcements, which are all horribly overdue.  I wanted to try to do them all at once since they've gone this long and stamps aren't cheap these days, but getting time to get on our computer that has the programs that I need has not been easy.  Carter's baby book is still sitting untouched.  I would love to go on a date with Craig to go see "42".  The house is a bit of a disaster, with piles of stuff everywhere and the Easter decorations half taken down but not replaced.  With all of that going on, sleep suffers, and I need that too.  If I'm this bad one week in, I wonder how it will be as time goes on.

Anyway, today Carter turned two months old!  The first month went so quick and this last one went a little slower.  I think that's because of all we went through with breastfeeding and formula...it was just more mentally draining, while the first month was physically draining but mercifully exhausting enough that it's one big blur.  It's going quite fast, though!  Here is Carter's second month picture.  I can't believe how much he's changed since last month!

He sat up so much better, his head looks giant, and he's definitely got his baby pudge now, at least in his face.  He's so much more aware, too!  I just wish I could have gotten him to smile, since he's doing a lot more of that these days...
Just one more thought for today...Earlier today two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon.  Currently they're saying three people are dead and over 100 are injured.  One of the dead is an eight-year-old boy.  My heart breaks for everyone involved, from the families of the dead, to the injured, to the spectators, runners, and everyone else.  The injuries are terrible.  The fact that a child was killed and more were injured just makes me sick.  As someone who pretends to be a runner (haha), that someone would use this great event that promotes health and strength as their place to hurt people just angers me so much.  These people were at this event for fun--after intense training to run it, or just being there to support everyone--and they end up dead or injured.  Horrific.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of world we brought our two kids into.  I worry for their futures.  By the time they're older, will anywhere be safe?  We can't live in fear, but you can't help but wonder what this world is coming to.  I'm so sad for everyone involved and pray that we're never touched closely by an incident like this.  There are too many these days, and there's no reason it couldn't happen to us.  But I pray it doesn't, and I pray for those to whom it already did.  Horrible.  Simply horrible.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Excuses, Excuses...

Jacob has a trifecta of issues that make it very difficult to parent him.  He has an overactive imagination, he is highly distractible, and he has excuses for everything.  The three issues work together to make him a force to be reckoned with, every time. 

It starts with him getting an idea in his head and buying into it 110%.  If he's playing sports, he thinks it's a real game and he's a real athlete.  If he's playing Legos, he needs a full story complete with every little detailed prop.  If he wants to dress up like something, he goes overboard and wants to make sure it is as authentic as possible.  He takes things so seriously.  He's mad at me every time I kibosh the idea of him getting new cleats for tee-ball this summer.  He's already got the cheap, general sports ones we got him for soccer, but he insists those are not real baseball cleats.  Hello, you're not even five!  He's been obsessed with Native Americans for a while now, thanks in part to their presence at Knighthawks games and one of his favorite movies, "Crooked Arrows", about a modern day Native American high school lacrosse team.  He told me today that he wants to be a Native American when he grows up.  Obviously that is not happening, and no matter how I tried to explain to him that a) you have to be born as one, you can't just become one; b) dressing up and painting your face does not make you a real one, even if the clothes are the real thing; and c) he is blond and will never look like one; he insisted. 

Second, he gets distracted so easily.  I know that all kids do, but part of me is starting to worry it's something he truly can't help.  We can tell him to do the same thing 10 times in a row, and he still won't do it--not because he's purposely ignoring us--but because he can't multitask.  As he's putting on his pajamas, for example, he will get distracted by anything that's in his room.  Even if we're standing there and saying it repeatedly, he will ask a hundred questions in between and he cannot put on his pajamas at the same time.  If he's in the living room and needs to go upstairs, he gets distracted by the TV, by playing on the stairs, by ten more questions.  It's amazing.  And frustrating.  While I know some of it is stalling, I think a lot of it is genuine distraction in his brain--needing to have all his questions answered, needing to know every last detail, and needing things to be just so.

Finally, the excuses.  Oh, good Lord, the excuses.  He's got one for everything.  For problem #1 above, he's got a reason why he needs all of those things to be a certain way.  He needs baseball cleats so he doesn't get hurt.  He needs this Lego set because his guys don't have anywhere to sleep.  He needs to make his hair long, black, and in a mohawk because he needs to look like a real Native American.  If he gets in trouble at daycare, inevitably it started with someone else or his teachers said it was okay.  Tonight I made him a dinner he usually loves (English muffin pizzas), but he insisted he doesn't like them and he refused to eat them.  First he didn't give any reason, but then he said his belly hurt.  Then he said he needed healthier food so he can grow.  Then the crust was bad for his throat.  I told him if he felt sick and if he wasn't going to eat dinner, he had to go straight to bed (to be fair, bedtime wasn't that far off anyway).  But then he didn't want to go to bed because he didn't feel well and needed to go to the doctor.  I couldn't win, I guess!  Finally I demanded he go upstairs and sit in the bathroom.  I had him get into his pajamas and offered to make one piece of toast for his dinner.  DONE.   Before bed (when he was suddenly feeling much better, by the way), I told him that I would call the doctor tomorrow, but I asked him what he'd tell the doctor was wrong.  He didn't have much to say, and kept smiling like he thought he was pulling one over on me.  Well, I may just send him anyway, because he's been complaining enough about belly aches, headaches, and leg pains lately that it wouldn't hurt to double check.  We've explained Peter and the Wolf to him, but it's hard to know whether or not he's telling the truth or buys into his own random excuses.  He's also had a cough and stuffy nose for weeks, so who knows if something isn't just hanging out and making him a little extra miserable? 

I've said for years that he's determined.  Once he gets down a path that he wants to go on, it is very hard to get him off of it.  So if it involves numerous distractions, excuses, and random details to make everything exactly how he wants it, so be it.  Of course, it makes it very hard for us.  He's only four and is in no position to make those sorts of demands.  He truly thinks he needs certain things, and yes, sometimes Craig wants to move heaven and earth to make it happen, but it's not always practical or possible.  It's such a challenge to deal with a child who is so dialed in to what he thinks his reality should be. When he loosens up and lets that stuff go, he can be absolutely delightful to hang out with--funny, smart beyond his years, ridiculously adorable, very talented--but when he's fixated, it is exhaustingly repetitive and constantly argumentative. 

I wish I had a happy ending to this post, that we somehow figured out a way to work with this type of mindset, but we don't.  I won't lie--sometimes we're not on the same page dealing with this stuff, which makes things even harder.  I want to keep him rooted in practical reality, but like I said, often Craig wants to indulge as many of these desires as he realistically can.  We're working on that ourselves, but as of yet, neither of us has discovered a good way to manage these issues.  I know Craig thinks he's doing his best to be a good dad, and I think I'm doing my best to be a good mom...but neither option seems to be the key to having a tolerable child.  So, in the meantime we'll go on explaining his random stories to people and try to help him keep in mind reality vs. pretend.  Let's hope one of these days he gets our logic and this gets easier...at least before his brother starts picking up the same bad habit! :(

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Moose Valuable Player

Craig and I have always been moose people.  He gave me a stuffed one when I got my wisdom teeth out (he drove all the way to N.T. to give it to me...awwwww!), and that was the first in a long line of stuffed moose that have come into our home.  We got a few from the store Harry & David; a few more from Craig's road trips to Canada, Minnesota, and Colorado; more from our time at the Amerks, whose mascot is a moose; and many more.  When Jacob arrived, it provided an extra opportunity to stock our house with moose, and he's amassed quite a collection in his own right.

I was delighted to discover during his first fall and winter that kids' clothing companies like to put moose on clothing during that time of year.  I delighted in finding moose clothes on sale and stocking his wardrobe with them.  One of my favorites was an outfit sporting a moose with a football that said, "Moose Valuable Player".  Moose AND sports?  What could be better for our child?!

At some point shortly thereafter I was shopping the clearance rack at Babies 'R' Us and found the same shirt (minus the matching pants) in a 48 months size.  And yes, that size seemed weird to me too.  Anyway, I couldn't resist, so I bought it.  At the time I never really pictured what Jacob would be like at four, and it turns out that he was much too cool for a baby blue shirt featuring a cartoonish moose.  At one point I hoped it might make for a cute big brother-little brother shot, but then the age difference seemed to make that impossible.  So, it's hung in the closet for months collecting dust.  

Yesterday Carter put on the original outfit.  Jacob was a little older when he wore it.  My favorite pictures of him in it were taken just before he turned three months old.  Carter turns two months on Monday (eight weeks as of last night!), but he's just starting to fit into it.  I was actually afraid he'd never wear it, because it was one of the outfits with the worst yellow staining when I pulled out the baby clothes, and it was actually one of the ones that didn't totally come clean, but it got very close.  There's still a little discoloration near the neck, but you'd never know unless you studied it.  So, that makes it a perfect daycare outfit.  "Adorable but imperfect" is good for a place with many potential hours for stains to set!  

Last night when it was just the boys and me at home, I got the bright idea to bring out the big shirt and make a photo op.  So...first, here's Jacob's before and after...


And here's Carter...

And here are the boys together...as close as I will get to a big brother-little brother shoot.  The shirt is getting very small on Jacob now...

And because we're all wondering...here's the comparison of baby Jacob and Carter...

It's a little hard to compare them exactly, since Carter is a month younger here (and a significant month at that...he's going to lose a lot of his newborn-ness in the next month.  He's lost so much already!).  Jacob was a little more aware of the camera, and the coloring and angle are a little different.  I feel like there is some sort of similarity between them, and yet I don't think they look that much alike.  I just can't pinpoint where the similarities and differences really are, beyond Carter's darker coloring.  I just looked at pictures of the two of them from the same age, and it's still hard to tell.  I have to keep in mind that Jacob was born a week and a half later than Carter was, so he probably will look like a littler baby for a while.  I'm definitely experiencing that now, since the pictures I was looking at of Jacob were full of some of his first great smiles, whereas Carter is just starting to do real ones, and most of the time they're not in response to anything specific.  I did get a good one last night that seemed to be in direct response to something I did, but at this point the odds of me getting one on camera are about nil.  By this time with Jacob it was a little easier, and I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with their different ages based on their gestational age at birth.  Give Carter another week and a half and we should be getting somewhere :)

Anyway, I was so happy I got to do this mini-shoot.  Perhaps I'll have to do it again next month so I have three month shots of both boys.  But for now, this was really fun to see!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Pacifier

I have never been a fan of the pacifier.  In fact, when I walked into the special care nursery the day Jacob was born and saw one in his little bassinet, I was slightly distressed.  How dare they use one of those without my permission?  I had visions of the agony of getting him to give up the habit a couple years down the road.  After my initial rage, sensibility prevailed and of course I realized that with all those other babies in the room, they might need a tool to keep mine quiet when he was freaking out.  After all, it took me a while to get down to the nursery to feed him and how awful it would be to have him crying that whole time. 

We took that one home and had a couple others sitting around the house for a while, but all told, I think Jacob only used one a handful of times.  I just never wanted to get him hooked, and he never really took to it anyway.  Problem solved.  And you know, I thanked my lucky stars for that.  I mean, sure, it would have been nice to have a mute button for him once in a while, but a short term screaming baby scared me a heck of a lot less than the drawn-out, angst-filled process of getting a too-old child to give up something they were dependent on.  I'd heard too many horror stories and seen far too many three-year-olds running around with pacifiers in their mouths for no apparent reason to think that giving one up would be easy.  I didn't want that to be us.

In the five years between babies, I've gotten more into reading blogs and I've gained a lot of knowledge on the subject.  I've seen a lot of stories about the paci-fairy that takes pacifiers in the night and leaves presents.  I've seen people talk about attaching them to a balloon to float off to heaven.  I've seen where people leave them for Santa or the Easter bunny.  And in most cases, parents deal with a couple nights of screaming kids and then all is right with the world again.  Not fun, but  doable.  And, to be fair, it beats the thought of having to break a kid of a finger-sucking habit. You can take away a pacifier, but you can't take away fingers.  I sucked two fingers when I was a kid, and I still vaguely remember having to break the habit, courtesy of some nasty tasting stuff my parents put on my fingers.  Annoying, for sure, but I'm obviously glad they did it and I came out unscathed.

Interestingly, in the last few months we've noticed that Jacob has picked up a nasty habit of sticking his fingers in his mouth.  I don't think he's sucking or chewing, but he's constantly got one or two in there.  I think it's a nervous habit (particularly when he's upset or knows he's in trouble (even if knowing he's in trouble isn't upsetting to him), though we do catch him doing it at non-nervous moments, too, so maybe it's just becoming a general habit.  We're constantly reminding him, as nicely as we can, to get his fingers out of his mouth.  We remind him that when his fingers are in there, he's taking in germs.  And, appropriately, he's spent most of the winter with a cold.  Yippee.  It's gotten bad enough that I'm considering getting some of the nasty tasting stuff, though I haven't been able to figure out what you're supposed to use or where to get it, and most of the time I'm at the store with one or both kids so I don't want to take the time to browse.  Perhaps a question for the pediatrician next time we're there.  I feel bad about the whole thing, because I worry we've somehow created a nervous kid and that we're going to scar him by constantly bugging him about the habit.  It's for his own good, but at this point we're not sure what to do with it.  Will he outgrow it?  Maybe.  But he wouldn't be the first kid to take some sort of weird habit to school with him.  It's not super noticeable, I suppose, but it definitely bugs us now.

When Carter arrived, I wasn't sure what our pacifier philosophy would be.  Another thing I've learned in between the two kids is that sucking is a soothing mechanism for babies.  I suppose maybe I knew that before, but perhaps I didn't really understand the true biological impact.  When we were at the hospital this time, there weren't any pacifiers in sight.  I'm wondering if that's because I was breastfeeding, because I saw an article talking about how some hospitals took out pacifiers in an attempt to encourage breastfeeding (though ironically, breastfeeding rates went down!).  In retrospect, a pacifier might have helped me that night when I was alone and couldn't stay awake to feed Carter for the umpteenth time.  I just never thought to ask for one.  When we first got home I wasn't that eager to pull them out.  But one night I got them out when Carter was crying and for whatever reason I couldn't get him to stop.  Maybe he was acting hungry yet again, or maybe I had to do something else and couldn't pick him up.  Either way, I tried it.  He didn't love it at first, but at some point he sort of picked up on it. 

As time has gone on, we've used them more than I expected.  He gets fussy in the evenings, and in the old days I'd just have whipped out a boob and let him go, but the formula costs too much to do a "just in case" bottle that he may not finish.  So, instead I give him a pacifier and hope that helps him out for a bit.  I figure it'll either calm him down for real, or satisfy him long enough to get through what I have to before I can attend to him further.  When you've got another kid or a dinner to get on the table (or get into your stomach), it's definitely helpful.  He spits it out a lot, but readily accepts it again most of the time, so it tends to be less low-maintenance than one would hope, but it's better than screaming!  We didn't need it as much when there was just one baby and our lives were a little more flexible, but things are different now.  And I think that Carter just likes to suck.  I read somewhere that reflux can be soothed by it, so maybe that's where it all started.  It definitely seems to have a calming effect on him.  And not for nothing, but sometimes he gets the most exaggerated suck going and he totally reminds me of Maggie Simpson!

The plan at this point is to use them only when necessary.  I don't want to use it any other time than when he's in immediate need of calming.  And once he's calm, it's gone.  And once he hits six months or so, I think they'll be totally gone.  I hope, anyway.  My goal is to minimize use enough that he doesn't get dependent, and to never have him sitting around playing contentedly with one in his mouth.  Because if he's content, he doesn't need it.  But in the meantime, I've made peace with using one now and then to calm down a little boy who sometimes seems to need it.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that he got some fun ones from my friend Heather...soccer balls for now, and basketballs when he's a little bigger...
Consider this one of the very few times you will ever see a picture of one in his mouth...and this was pretty much just for show.  He was a little fussy, but obviously I was available to pick him up right after I took this picture.  Once he's smiling regularly, I don't want to risk one of those smiles hiding behind one of these!
Just seeing the picture above definitely confirms I'd rather see his entire face, but again, perhaps it's better than a lot of screaming.  I'm just happy I've made peace with it and have a solid philosophy about its use.  I don't want to mindlessly stick one in his mouth and start relying on them too much, but I can appreciate that each child is different and perhaps Carter needs one now and then.  And that's okay.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Things I Haven't Figured Out Yet

We're nearly two months into this baby thing again, and there are a handful of things I have yet to figure out:

1) How we can put a man on the moon but can't create formula powder that won't clump when added to water.  Those clumps, mind you, are industrial strength, so perhaps they should be used as some sort of industrial adhesive. Smushing blobs with a baby spoon is not how I want to spend five minutes of my morning.  On a related note, I find it very frustrating that this special formula is so much more expensive.  It can't cost THAT much more to make and I think it's crappy to penalize people who can't help the fact that their kid can't handle the regular stuff.  I know everyone's out to make a buck, but it seems so unfair.  I felt the same way during the dairy-free week about all those specialty foods.  Why do they have to cost so much more when many people have no choice but to use them?  It just adds insult to injury.  Oh, and one more thing...Why is it so hard to find the formula we need?  We found it in a couple places in the smaller can, but the big can is MIA at both Walmart and Target. I ordered four online last night, but we're probably going to need some before those arrive.  Annoying, mostly because you can't use coupons when you're ordering online.  Grrrr.

2) When my body is going to be itself again.  I know that I have to get back in the gym in order to get back into all of my old clothes, but there are still a couple other things that aren't quite back to normal.  Last Tuesday I woke up and felt nearly normal for the first time in months.  My chest had finally started to chill out and not have engorgement issues, and I was able to wear a normal bra for the first time.  My little chest is back, but I am still having odd sensations periodically, and I can't figure out if the "insides" are still adjusting, or if the skin is still a bit sensitive after all that trauma and the sensations I'm feeling are caused by rubbing against the bra fabric.  It could be both.  I'll miss the cleavage, but I'm much happier with how things fit otherwise.  Still, it would be nice to feel entirely like myself again.  And this belly can get out of here ASAP.

3) What Jacob really thinks of his little brother.  He seems completely uninterested at home, but whenever people ask him about being a big brother he acts like he's into it.  Daycare people have even used the term "excited" at times.  He's actually gone down to visit Carter in his new room at daycare this week.  I told him that his brother might like to hear his voice.  Who knows if that did it or if he's just been encouraged by everyone there to do it and felt he couldn't say no.  I know his bigger beef is with us most of the time (or rather, me), but it's hard to tell what's running through that head of his.

4) How to calm Carter.  I haven't stumbled upon a secret weapon for rocking him to sleep or calming his crying.  When he's hungry or getting his diaper changed, he's inconsolable.  Even daycare was shocked by the diaper thing!  But there hasn't been some sort of position or rocking technique that seems to work for him.  Thankfully I haven't had to do much middle-of-the-night rocking yet, as he usually goes down content, if not asleep, but I know those days are probably coming.  But as of yet, I haven't found his sweet spot that calms him down immediately.  Darn.

5) What to do with him when he's awake.  When he's awake and content, I could just stare at him for hours.  He's got these gorgeous eyes and kissable cheeks, and sometimes he makes the most amazing noises.  I talk to him, kiss him, and let him grab my fingers, but he's still not responding too much so a lot of it feels...I don't know, forced?  Wasted?  I know that ultimately it's good for him to hear me talk, and I suppose the kisses, hugs, and other touches let him know he's loved...but sometimes I wonder if he's sitting there thinking, "Geez, could she just leave me alone?"  A couple times I've brought out soft rattles or an O-Ball (a hollow, holey ball toy) to see if he could grip them or respond to the rattle noises, but it didn't really seem to work.  He doesn't respond directly to smiles or tickles yet, either.  So, in the end I'm sitting there talking to myself and wondering if I'm bothering him more than anything.  But if I don't do those things, I feel like I'm ignoring him.  If I pick him up and cuddle him or put him in his swing or seat, I feel like that will make him go to sleep and I don't always want that to be how I "deal" with him.  At least when he's eating we have a real activity!  Suffice it to say I'm eager to get into the phase of grasping at toys and smiling at stimuli.  That makes entertaining him much easier! 

6) Where Carter's coloring came from.  Right after he was born, I asked where the Italian kid came from.  His hair was dark and his body was full of hair.  I know that babies have hair in utero, so I suppose it wasn't entirely a surprise, but I think the dark color of it surprised me.  He had hair on his forehead, sideburns, shoulders, back, legs, and even the back of his ears.  I fully expected it all to fall out within a few weeks (since he was early and babies generally lose that hair (lanugo) around the time they're born), but from what I can tell, most of it is still there.  Jacob's hair was lighter, and Craig and I both had lighter hair as kids, so I fully expected another fair child.  And not only did Carter have dark hair, but his skin was a bit darker.  Not that he looks like another race or anything, but he definitely seems a little more "tan" than we'd have expected from two pasty parents.  All I can figure is that the little patch of genes from my mom's side of the family (still fair skinned in general, but they tan well) somehow made its way out.  Beyond that I have no idea.  Many people have mentioned it and I'm at a loss.  I'll be really interested to see what happens as time goes by.

7) Whether or not Carter looks like Jacob, or either of us.  Initially I didn't think they looked anything alike.  I knew what Jacob looked like when he was born and didn't feel like Carter looked anything like that.  The coloring may have been part of that, but even still...he looked different.  I decided at that time that he looked more like Craig, since I didn't see any resemblance to what I looked like as a baby.  Perhaps I thought that about Jacob, too, but he certainly evolved to look a lot like me.  I'm less convinced Carter will.  In the meantime I spend a lot of time comparing pictures of Jacob when he was Carter's age to what Carter looks like now, and it's hard to tell.  Sometimes I see faces that look similar, but other pictures don't look alike at all.  It's hard to know what's genetics and what's just the baby phase. 

I'm sure there are more things, but these are the big ones that float through my mind most frequently.  Parenthood is full of little mysteries...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 1, Round 2

Today was my first day back to work in seven weeks.  It's one week shy of a full two months away.  In some ways it sounds like a long time--when I left it was the middle of winter and now it's spring (technically, anyway).  I was away for nearly 1/6 of the year.  But knowing that my Canadian counterparts get a full year off, the two months seems pretty paltry in comparison.  Still, I know that my absence was felt greatly, and while I know they're happy to have me back, things have already been a little too crazy for them to have a chance to express it!  I wasn't even here for three hours when the first day-long, miserably tedious, darn-near-impossible project came across my desk.  And I pretty much had no right to complain because they've had rather hellish weeks while I was gone.  Welcome back, eh?

The experience of coming back has been very different this time around, even though a lot of the scenarios surrounding it have been similar.  I guess the easiest way to describe it is that last time I was happy to get back to being "me", whereas this time it feels like I was far more at home in the mom role and this work thing is infringing on that.  I guess it makes sense, though.  Last time, prior to giving birth, working was my main identity.  So it makes sense that I'd feel like getting back to work would help me feel like myself again.  This time, while I still worked, I was already also a mom.  And perhaps having Carter tipped the scales a bit to where I felt even more like a mom, and work should clearly be secondary.  Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way in reality, and that's where the mom guilt starts to creep in.  Instinctively I feel like I should be with him, and work is getting in the way of that.  Perhaps I'm simply more aware this time of how hard the balance is, and I knew that the moment my maternity leave ended, my relationship with Carter would never be the same.  I have been with him nearly 24/7 for the last seven weeks, and I'm the one expert on everything having to do with him.  Now I'll be missing more than a third of his day and most of his waking hours.  In addition, in the little time I do have in the evenings, I'll be splitting time between two kids, in addition to dinner, bottlewashing, laundry, and oh yeah, Craig, too.  Don't even get me started on the guilt I'm already feeling about being gone part of the next two evenings for a workout and taxes.  Both are sorely needed, but it will be hard to spend even more time away. 

I think my eagerness to get back last time also had to do with the fact that Jacob wasn't the best napper and I was nursing around the clock.  I was exhausted.  I'm still the main feeder, but perhaps the nursing thing was a little more draining (more on that in another post).  And since the formula change, Carter has generally been a happier baby, with a couple exceptions, so my days have not always been a constant string of neediness.  I think I've probably taken more care to take care of myself, as well, and to be more aware of when I need a break.  I haven't needed a lot, but I think the mere fact that I'm less nervous about going out of the house helped me feel far less isolated this time around.  So where last time being able to go to the office offered a bit of a break from being all baby all the time, this time around I'm just sadder about leaving him behind and worried about losing the flexibility I had to get things done around the house.

Despite being sadder, the actual drop-off was probably far less traumatic this time around.  I was a little sad but didn't cry.  I know he's in good hands.  While I don't know the infant teachers well, I get a good vibe from them and trust everyone else there that I do know.  It's definitely a different drop-off experience from Jacob, since I pretty much just hang up his coat and bag and give him a hug.  I have to bring Carter's bottles, give the time of his last change and feeding, and just make sure he's got all he needs for the day.  I have never had to do that at this daycare, since Jacob was already 18 months when we started there, and it's just a different setup than the place he was at as an infant.  It's like starting all over.  Maybe this is just the second-time-around parent in me, too, but Carter didn't seem quite as tiny and helpless as I feel like Jacob did when I handed him over.  Maybe it's what I was talking about a couple weeks ago, about Carter having to mature earlier because of giving up nursing so early.  Not sure what it is, but for some reason it felt different.

Getting up this morning was a challenge, but it went fine.  I didn't get to bed until around 11:30 last night because I was trying to get everything ready for this morning.  Carter woke up around 3am and I was back to bed maybe 45 minutes later.  My alarm was set for 6am.  I snoozed for a bit, but finally got myself up and showered just before Carter woke up at 6:45.  I fed him, dealt with a blowout poop near the end of his feeding, got flashed a big smile when he was on the changing table, and then put him in the swing so I could get ready and get Jacob up and running.  I had to get all of his bottles together, pack my lunch, and load up the car.  I snuggled him while I talked to the teachers, and finally kissed him goodbye before heading off to give Jacob one last hug.  I got a good report during my lunchtime call, and work kept me plenty busy the rest of the day, though I thought about Carter often.  He ended up having a great day overall, though he went through a lot of clothes!  He seemed happy to see me, though, if he can seem happy without clear smiles.

Interestingly, out of curiosity I pulled up my blog post from Jacob's first day of daycare, and there were some bizarre similarities.  Jacob was apparently on the same type of schedule that Carter is now.  He fell asleep around 9:30 and woke up at 3:45, which is within a half hour or so of what Carter has been doing lately.  That made me hopeful that Carter might follow in Jacob's sleeping-through-the-night-at-10-weeks footsteps!  Fingers crossed.  The other bizarre similarity is that Jacob had a blowout during his feeding that morning, too!  Carter's only done that during feedings a couple times, and never during his morning feeding, so the fact that it happened this morning was surprising.  But to read that Jacob did it on his first day of daycare, too...well, that was sort of freaky.  In contrast, though, Carter is already a formula and bottlefeeding champ after a couple solid weeks of practice (his morning feedings went very well), whereas Jacob had a hard time on his first day. 

I will say that it's been a bit of a relief to not have to lug my breast pump with me or take time to pump during the day.  The flip side of that, of course, is that I cringed as I had to scoop eight scoops of formula into bottles this morning, making a cavernous hole in our big can.  It's no worse than doing it one at a time all day, but doing it all at once just looks scary.  I will say that I also appreciated being able to sit at my desk without sciatica pain or having to take half a dozen trips to the bathroom.  I like coming home craving time with Carter, as opposed to being frustrated by his neediness.  It's not all bad, but I'm not gonna lie...I truly appreciated this maternity leave far more than my last one, and getting back in the groove today was not quite as rewarding as last time.  We'll get through, but it's not going to be easy.  It's hard to spend all day craving the sight of your sweet baby's chubby cheeks, but snuggling up to a computer screen full of numbers instead.

I'm just relieved the day went well, and by all accounts we're still in one piece.  I still have some laundry to fold and I'm doing my best to finish up little tasks here and there, but all things considered, not bad.  Too bad I have to do it for four more days before I get a break!  And now, for your viewing pleasure, a few pictures I captured tonight showing off a few of Carter's many looks...

He looks concerned..."Mommy, what are you doing?"


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Conquering Saturday

One of my goals for maternity leave was to take a shower every day.  I know that doesn't sound like much--and really, I don't think it is--but based on what I see on "A Baby Story" sometimes, apparently for a lot of people that is an accomplishment.  And up until yesterday, I think I had done it.  But then yesterday morning hit, and it was all down the tubes...but fortunately, not all was lost.  We ended up having quite a day, and truly, the shower would have been the least of my accomplishments.

I think I mentioned the other day that Carter has diaper rash.  It's been around for a little over a week.  It even bled a couple times, but no matter what I do to it, it doesn't seem to want to go away.  It only seemed to be getting worse, and I was starting to worry that it was a yeast infection-based one, because everything I was reading said that they don't go away with traditional treatment.  It looked different than I recall, too, so I was concerned.  I called the doctor around 10am, and they asked if we could come in right away.  Well, I hadn't showered or dressed yet, and Jacob was still in his pajamas, too.  So, no shower could be had.  We rushed around to get ready, and off we went.  The doctor prescribed hydrocortisone to help it heal, and an anti-fungal cream in case it was yeast-based.  She didn't think it really was, but she saw spots that looked like they might be the start of it.  She said just one bad diaper can kick it off, and once that happens it's often a losing battle.  She recommended to let it air out (which, I'm not sure how to do if I don't want things sprayed in poop), and the pharmacist (who's actually a friend of mine from way back) suggested giving up wipes and using a washcloth instead.  Ewww.  We'll see about those suggestions.  But in the meantime I'm using the anti-fungal stuff (the hydrocortisone wasn't in stock so we'll get that Monday) and I got the name-brand diaper rash cream because, despite having the same active ingredients, the store brand stuff seemed watery.  We'll see.

After that, we came home for lunch.  Jacob expressed a desire to play Play-doh, but I had suggested a trip to the zoo since it was sunny and close to 50 degrees.  Well, it turned out that Carter had to eat anyway, so I pulled out the Play-doh stuff and let Jacob go to it while I fed Carter and finished packing up for the zoo.  I decided in the middle of it all that I might as well pack for the full day so we didn't have to come all the way home before the Knighthawks game, which was tentatively on the schedule if Jacob behaved.  It was a lot to plan for, potentially three bottles and lots of diapers and backup clothes, along with the usual load of stuff Jacob takes to lacrosse games--his stick, ball, and jersey--but I managed to do it without forgetting anything.

We headed out around 2pm and I decided on the way to use a free car wash I had, since my car was filthy and it was one of the first nice days I could use it.  Well, the line was crazy long so I decided against it to save time and we moved along to the zoo, which was also packed.  However, the zoo manages crowds pretty well, so everything was fine.  We walked around with a sleeping Carter in the stroller and checked out the animals, which were all pretty active.  The orangutans were using sticks to eat their snack (which is an enrichment activity the zookeepers do with them), the spider monkeys were chasing each other all over the place, and even the rhinos were playing with their "toys".  The otters, who we almost never see, were out and active.  We saw both polar bears (which, again, almost never happens), and the baboons were playing hide-and-seek.  Even some of the less active animals were sitting in good spots for viewing.  We even caught a glimpse of the golden lion tamarin baby.  It was born in March and was so tiny!  When we finished, I decided that I might as well feed Carter in the monkey house so we had something to watch while I did it.  Jacob still got a little bored, but it was better than nothing.  I also changed his diaper in the middle of the monkey house.  There wasn't a close bathroom, and since it already smelled like poop in there anyway...why not?  Jacob was pretty great during the whole trip, and I even let him go into the top of the double decker bus observation deck alone, since the stroller couldn't go up there.  When he's being good, he can be such a big boy!

Our next stop was Walmart, though we had a detour along the way when a different car wash location was far less busy than the other one.  My car actually looks blue again!  We did a quick stop at Walmart to shop for a couple things, and the trip was almost a disaster because Jacob nodded off just as we were parking.  He whined his way through the store as a result, but luckily dinner perked him up.  We did our usual Taco Bell stop, then headed off to the Knighthawks game.

When we arrived, I quickly realized I forgot that the game time was changed to 6pm from the usual 7:30.  Oops.  So, we were an hour late.  That wasn't an entirely bad thing since Carter was with us, and we weren't planning on staying for the whole game anyway, so the early time meant we could stay until the end without completely blowing by bedtime.  We immediately checked out a table of wooden Native American lacrosse sticks that Jacob really wanted to see, then retreated to the media room downstairs in the arena where it would be quiet enough to feed Carter in peace.  It worked out well, thank goodness.  We then headed up to the sound booth to see a few friends and watch the game protected from too much extra noise.  Jacob likes sitting on one of the counter height chairs and is usually treated to a snack from the arena workers.  Carter slept soundly in the Baby Bjorn carrier for most of it.  Other than feeling a bit like a pack mule, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it went.  The Knighthawks won, too!  We got home around 9:30, within a reasonable bedtime window for Jacob and at the perfect time for Carter to eat before bed.

We crammed a lot into one day, but at the end of the day I felt like I had truly accomplished something impressive.  I spent about seven hours outside the house with two kids, one of which was an infant, and had no major issues.  We also managed the doctor's visit and some quality playtime before that, so all in all it was a great day.  It was probably luck more than anything, but it felt really good to accomplish nonetheless.

Here are a few pics from the zoo (and yes, I'm terrible about taking pictures with the kids.  Jacob is not much of a poser and Carter was hiding in the stroller keeping warm)...

Spider monkey hanging on the bars...their tails wrap around things and they can even hang from them!

Gotta love the polar bears.  Hard to tell from this picture, but this one is SO big.

The lions are so gorgeous, particularly the male.

If you can click on this pic to see it bigger, do it.  It's not easy to see, but the golden lion tamarin  baby is there above the parent's head.  The baby just sort of hangs out there a lot, i guess.  Keep in mind that the parent is maybe six inches tall, and the baby's head is probably about the size of a quarter.  Little!

I loved how this meerkat was just chillin' out up against the glass.   Nice.
Anyway, it was a nice day in the middle of a single parenting weekend.  Craig was gone today and while the boys weren't intolerable, let's just say I was high in demand.  Add into that the preparations for tomorrow and it was a bit of a tough day.  Not bad, just tough.  I'm sure I'll have all sorts of thoughts on tomorrow's return to the real world, so stay tuned for that...

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sleep and Schedules

One of the main questions I get these days is how Carter is sleeping.  My response: "About as good as can be expected.  Can't complain, for now." 

Now that we're heading toward having to be on a real schedule, it's been a bit of a relief to see that Carter has gotten himself on a bit of a schedule.  It's not perfect by any means, but it's enough to give the daycare folks a little something to go on and enough to know myself what to plan for.  Here's a rundown of our day:

- He'll usually wake up again somewhere between 7 and 8 (though a couple days this week it's been closer to 6am).  If it's early I try to swaddle him again and get him to sleep a little longer, but if it's on the later side we'll do the feeding on the couch and I'll grab some breakfast afterward.

- I'll put him in his swing so I can shower and get dressed, and he usually ends up taking a lengthy morning nap in there.  Maybe it's bad I let him sleep there, but the morning nap seems to be a good one for him.  I hate to wake him if I don't have to.

- He usually wakes up shortly before noon for his next feeding, which is followed by my lunch, but once in a while he'll sleep a little longer and I'll grab lunch first. 

- Often he'll take another nap in the afternoon, particularly if we're out and about.  If we're out in the world and moving, he's tucked blissfully into his car seat and rarely wakes up.  I'll often let him sleep in his car seat once we're home, too, because again, no reason to wake him.

- He'll usually eat around 4:30, then often we're off to pick up Jacob and back to get ready for dinner.  Usually he'll sit in the swing or his vibrating seat during dinner (particularly if his belly is bothering him, since the vibrations seem to help), and we can just sneak in dinner before he gets fussy and jumps into a couple close feedings, first around 7 and again at 9:30 or so.

- Near the end of the 9:30 feeding I change him and swaddle him so he's ready to fall asleep with the last bit of his bottle.  He's usually asleep by 10 or 10:30, but even if he doesn't fall asleep, usually I can put him down awake and he'll fall asleep on his own.  At that point I aim to go to bed.  Normally that happens by 11, even though I'd like it to be earlier.  That little bit of "me time" is too precious so I'm always trying to fit something in. 

- Most nights recently, he'll sleep until 2:30 or 3am.  That is one long stretch!  Two nights ago he woke up earlier, around 1:30.  Still, not bad since I can get a few hours in before having to be up for a bit.  Feedings take about 45 minutes, including a diaper change and some vertical time to minimize the risk of spitting up.  I usually kill some time with my iPod and don't have too much trouble falling back to sleep. 

This schedule can still vary a bit depending on how long a nap might last or growth spurts causing more frequent feeds, but that seems to be our general schedule.  The takeaways at this point are as follows:

- He usually seems to get in good morning and afternoon naps, which is what we should be aiming for since that's the daycare norm.

- He's getting in a good almost-six-hour span between feedings at night.  It's good to know he's capable of that, but it would be better to either shift it to 12-6 or get him to tack on a couple more hours.  Jacob slept through the night at 10 weeks, so I'm hopeful for that again.  I will be even more impatient now that I'm facing a long day of work on so little sleep!  I'll be up around 6am regardless, so if he could work within that framework, it would be great.

- He's sometimes stretching out day feedings to four hours (or more with a good nap).  That's a far cry from the two hours he was doing, so I don't know if we have age or formula to thank for that.  I'm sure the daycare folks will be relieved. 

I do worry a little bit about letting him sleep in the swing or his vibrating chair for too long, but I think that's more because some other people don't like it for their kids.  I get the importance of human contact, but at the same time, if he needs a nap and is fussy everywhere else, including my arms, then I'd rather do whatever it takes for him to be comfortable.  I think the vibrations of his chair make his belly feel better, and the motion of his swing knocks him out almost every time. 

I love when he has alert periods where he's content and curious.  He makes the best noises and his eyes are so eager and so pretty.  I wish he had more of those periods, but I think he's still a little uncomfortable at times.  I don't know if it's the belly thing, though that seems a little better, or if it's a nasty case of diaper rash he has, or if it's something else.  He generally cries for one of a few reasons--he's hungry, he's uncomfortable, or he's tired.  It's hard for me to know if a wet diaper is enough to make him cranky, but usually I give that a try.  He still spits up a bit, so I know sometimes his belly isn't perfect, but it's obvious he's better than he was. 

Anyway, today marks the end of my time off from work.  This was technically a week of vacation after my six weeks of leave, and Monday we'll be back to the grind.  I'm working on gathering up all of his stuff for daycare, and bracing myself for a hectic week next week trying to get used to our new normal.  I'll be sad to leave him, but I know he'll be well taken care of.  It's just going to be an adjustment to give up full control of him after seven weeks of near constant companionship.  It's hard enough figuring out a baby without missing nine hours of the day with him, so that's going to be challenging.  I'm definitely more bummed overall this time about going back.  Last time it was sad, but it was a bit of a relief, too.  This time I know how hard working motherhood is, and I know how fleeting this time is.  I hate to miss it.  I love my co-workers and like my job, so it'll be nice to have that element back in my life, but it comes at an expense.  I just have a greater appreciation of the experience this time around, so it's harder to know it's over.  The good news is that Carter will probably adjust fine.  Doing this transition at seven weeks is easier than doing it at seven months, and he'll never know anything different.  I wish it could be different, but this is our reality and it's not going to change any time soon.  We've gotten through it before and we will again.  Note to Carter: A little more sleep will make it that much easier.  Your cooperation would be appreciated...