When the Office is the Nursery

Working from home sounds like a sweet set-up. You can live in pajama pants! It's okay if you didn't shower! Your hours are whatever you make them (for the most part.)

But when instead of an administrative assistant, you have a fussy 3-month-old seated next to you, managing a work-from-home schedule gets tricky.

I am very blessed that I can perform the majority of my job from home. I am not complaining by any means- but simply confessing that this gig is much trickier than I thought it would be.

For example: I thought because the baby naps for 4-5 hours a day, that equaled 4-5 hours of quiet work time. I didn't account for Ezra being a Velcro baby. He will startle and wake at a pin drop in a crib, but sleep all day if being held. Here is how I end up working most days:

Does this mean my Moby wrap is a tax-deductible office expense?

Working mom guilt is also present even if I'm home. Ezra loves his play mat, so I will lay him down there when I need to type or make a phone call. I am literally three feet from him, but still feel guilty that I'm not actively playing with him. 

I keep telling myself a schedule will emerge and we will find our groove. But in reality, his moods are as unpredictable as Kentucky weather. We have days where he is content to play and nap alone and I can knock out a whole to-do list. Other days, he is stuck to me like glue and I try to manage business from my cell phone while making futile attempts to calm him.

As I write this, he is balanced belly down across my thighs while my laptop teeters perilously on my knees. Next, I am going to copy edit some pages by reading them out loud to him, which we will count as "story time." 

Working from home is a dance where the steps are always changing. It can be hard to keep up. But I sure have a gosh-darn cute partner.


Kind Words from Strangers

The bathroom can be a very social place for women. We tend to travel to restrooms in groups, and it's not unusual to strike up a conversation over hand-washing. 

This past weekend I attended a dear friend's wedding. During the reception, I needed to pump breastmilk for my son. I had no desire to walk in the cold to a dark parking garage and pump in my car, so I set up in a bathroom stall and went to work.

Once I felt I was drained, I took my pump parts to the sink to clean up. A lady washing her hands gave me a friendly smile and asked, "How old is your baby?"

We briefly chit-chatted about our children and she ended the conversation by saying, "Good for you. It is really great you're doing that here."

That woman had no idea how much I needed to hear that.

I'd been depressed over my lack of cute "easy nursing" clothes as I got ready for the wedding. I was feeling guilty about leaving my son with my parents for the evening. I hated pumping in a bathroom stall, where I was trying to relax for a let-down but was distracted by the sounds of urination two feet away. 

Kind words from a stranger changed my whole attitude. "Yeah," I thought. "This is really great. My outfit is just fine. I am enjoying an evening of grown-up conversation with friends. I may be in a bathroom stall, but at least I am physically able to produce milk for my baby."

So thank you, bathroom stranger. There is never a wrong time to offer a fellow mom words of encouragement.

Clearly, he is eating well.


Closing Chapter Four

It is exactly one week until CeCe's 5th birthday. As much as I pretend that time is not passing so quickly, birthdays just keep popping up to rub it in my face. My husband and I realized the other day that very little "baby" is left in our first baby.

In preparation of the big "5", I looked back over photos from this year. This is just a bit of CeCe's highlight reel from year 4.

Here is where we left off, at CeCe's Rainbow Dash party for her fourth birthday:

This summer we learned to swim!

We took a trip to the zoo.

We had our last first day of preschool. Next August- the big K!

We joined a soccer team. Go Wombats!

We learned that magic markers make AMAZING eye shadow.

We welcomed a baby brother to the family!

We found out we were pregnant shortly after CeCe's 4th birthday. I think this motivated us to make her last year as an only child a great one. She accomplished so much over the last 12 months, and it's bittersweet to say farewell to this year of her life.

You've come a long way, baby! Here's to a spectacular 5th year!


Big Things Abound

Last weekend was a big one for the kids. Like, a Facebook post you would have to click "more" to read if I had tried to share it all.

So instead I will recap here:

First, CeCe had her last soccer games of the season. It was a double header, for a team of 4- and 5-year olds. You can imagine how closely they were paying attention by halftime of the second game.

It was 50 degrees, so CeCe insisted on wearing her new hat and mittens. At least the giant pink pom-pom made her easy to spot on the field. She had a great kick during the first game and a look on her face that one mom described as "Look! I'm soccer-ing!"

The soccer game was followed by CeCe's first haircut. Yes, her FIRST haircut. She will be 5 years old in three weeks, and this was the first time scissors ever touched those precious locks. But the bed-head snarls, tangles and rat's nests had gotten out of hand. Here is her "Before and After" shot.

Next, Ezra decided he was tired of all this dang tummy time I put him through. So at 9 weeks old, he did this:

After Ezra's feat of strength, it was time to get dressed for trick-or-treat. CeCe chose to be Snow White this year, with her little brother as her dwarf. Pretty much every idea she had consisted of "I can be ______, and Ezra can be my ______". Little brothers make fabulous Halloween accessories.  

The last weekend of October was quite eventful for us. Let's see what good things November has in store!

Growing Like a Weed

The little man is two months old already, and I'm in awe of how much he has grown. At his last check-up he weighed in at more than 14 pounds! While he is still my squishy little baby boy, it seems like he has learned so many new skills in just 8 weeks. For example:

Check out this neck control! Such strength, such might.
He can also release gas like a grown man. As I type, I can hear the bassinet vibrating with his farts. His burps sound like he's trying to win a contest.

Smiling and jabbering are my favorites of his new activities. He smiles in response to mirrors, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and his sister. 

We are working to discover a new routine that adapts with his changing abilities. Every day it seems like he can do something else. I'm enjoying the non-mobile time for now, since he will likely be rolling, scooting and crawling before I know it and I'll have to baby-proof the house again. And I didn't exactly enjoy having a lock on the toilet seat.


The Baby Watcher

The best piece of advice I received during this pregnancy was to make CeCe feel like a big helper. I wasn’t sure how much a 4-year-old could actually help, but Ezra is almost 7 weeks old now and his big sis has become a master at many new tasks.

I try not to overwhelm CeCe with requests, because we don’t want her to resent her brother or feel like Cinderella. But there are plenty of small chores an older child can do to feel helpful. And some of them are even fun for her!

Ways a Big Sibling Can Help with a New Baby:
  • Pick out the baby’s clothes. CeCe loves picking out her own outfits, so this task is exciting for her. I tell her what outfits are weather appropriate for the day and then let her choose. She can also put on his socks and help snap his buttons.
  • Go Grab a “_______”. If you need a diaper, a clean pacifier, or a burp cloth, the older child can be the runner. I tell CeCe I will time her and she races off to grab what I need. She’s always trying to beat her record time.
  • Play Teacher. While I cook dinner, I ask CeCe to teach the baby something. She can read him a book, sing a song, or hold up some of her artwork and describe it to him.
  • Be a Role Model. We would have assigned certain chores regardless of a new baby, like putting away toys or setting the dinner table. But with a baby in the house, we remind CeCe that she sets the example for her little brother. He is always watching her so it’s important to follow the rules.
  • Snuggle with Mom. If your child likes to play independently, that is fantastic. If they need more attention, then use feeding time to cash in on that. While Ezra is nursing, I ask CeCe to snuggle up with us. She can pick out a show to watch, a book to read or just talk to me about her day.

CeCe reads to her little brother while Mom is cooking.

We have days when CeCe doesn’t want to be a helper, but most of the time she loves being the “Baby Watcher.” What ways do you involve an older sibling with a new baby?

Ezra's Birth Story

August 24, 2015 was the day we welcomed our sweet son to the world.

Although this was our second time around, his birth was so very different from that of our daughter 4 1/2 years ago.

I woke at 4 a.m. on that Monday morning with very strong, but irregular, contractions. At 6 a.m. I told my husband to go on to work after dropping our daughter off at school. After all, labor with her lasted for 14 hours. No reason to spend all day waiting at the hospital.

But at 8 a.m. he called my cell phone to ask if I was sure I didn't want to go to the hospital. I responded in something akin to a wild animal noise as I was getting through vicious contractions that had suddenly jumped to 3-4 minutes apart.

We sped to the midwife's office, where she confirmed I was already 7 centimeters dilated. We crossed the street to the hospital and I immediately asked for an epidural. It took over an hour to get one, as the nurse who went to page the anesthesiologist was unexpectedly pulled in to a delivery before she could order my pain relief. (I know how hard those nurses work- no hard feelings.)

Instead of teeth-gritting and high-pitched screams, I focused on three L's: Limp, Loose and Low. I found a comfortable position and made it through each contraction while keeping my muscles as limp and loose as I could, letting my head droop and humming or moaning in low tones (sounding like a cross between a cow mooing and a monk chanting.)

In addition to my wonderful husband, one of my best friends also acted as a birth partner. Aunt Meg met us at the hospital and brought with her a yoga ball I never had the chance to use and a sense of calm.

Having two people to share these moments was a huge relief. I had one person to hold my hands if the other needed to use the restroom, or one to rub my back while the other went to grab me some water. I was never left without support for even a second.

Once the anesthesiologist placed my epidural, the nurse went to check my dilation and realized the water sac was protruding from my body- the baby's head was so low he was pushing it out. In other words, I was totally ready to push and the epidural had just barely numbed my lower body.

Two quick bouts of pushing later, I reached out and grabbed my screaming, slimy, beautiful boy at 11:59 a.m. He laid skin-to-skin on my chest, and then on my husband's (who also stripped off his shirt for Kangaroo Care, which made my heart burst with admiration.)

We named him Ezra Michael. He was 8 pounds, 20.5 inches of pure joy. His big sister adores him as much as we do. The past six weeks have been sleepless for me, but I can't imagine life without both my babies now.


The Adventures of Batmom and Batgirl

A few weeks ago we encountered a situation that will unfortunately be a regular part of my daughter's life- "girls can't play superheroes." The stereotypes begin early. And it's not something this DC-lover stands for.

CeCe felt left out on the playground when the boys were playing Hulk Smash and Spiderman and she tried to join in. Her gender apparently precluded her from portraying a superhero since we all know how strict the rules of MAKE BELIEVE are.

She came home from school that day and asked if we could watch a movie about a female superhero. After Netflix let me down, I started scouring the Internet and stumbled across this book:

If you have a daughter, whether she gives a hoot about superheroes or not, buy this book. We read it last night at bedtime and instead of a second book, CeCe asked me to just read this one again. And again.

This awesome board book explains why each of these female superheroes is cool and special. It describes their superpowers and how they all have unique skills- like Batgirl loves computer programming, and Mera is especially brave for traveling to new places.

When it was time to turn off the lights, CeCe asked if she could bring the book for class Share Day next week. She also asked if she could take the book on the playground with her so that "I can show 'Johnny' all the superheroes I could be."

Well Little 'Johnny', I hope you are ready for some fierce competition in the world of superheroes. Because my little girl has a few new role models to choose from, and they're all pretty bad-ass.

Like Bat-Mother, like Bat-Daughter


Watching My Bump

The Bump Watch was a tradition I missed out on with my first pregnancy. I don't know if I was too overwhelmed to think about it, or I just don't take many selfies in general. But I have very few photos of my pregnant self, and even fewer where I am showcasing my belly.

I've witnessed many friends document the slow growth of their bellies with weekly Facebook photos, complete with calendar stickers or a blackboard backdrop. Pinterest has turned The Bump Watch into an art.

As I hit the halfway mark in my second pregnancy, I've tried to be better about preserving the memories of my bump. Most are quick selfies taken in my bedroom and sent to my mom, and even then I have no consistency with them.

This weekend, I had an epiphany about my belly pictures. I was standing in the bathroom at my parents house and feeling the baby dance around my stomach. This baby is a flipper and a kicker, and the movements still take me by surprise. Coworkers think I've developed a tic since I will suddenly jerk or twitch my body when I feel a swift kick from within.

But when I was standing at the bathroom sink, taking in the movements from my little gymnast, I realized I wanted to preserve that exact moment. I wanted to remember the simple sensation of standing still and taking every tiny blow my unborn baby was giving me.

So with damp hair, still in my pajamas, I took a bump photo. I know that just from looking at it, no one else will know how active the baby was being right then. But I bet I will remember, and I'll be reminded of how much I appreciated life in that exact moment.

To me, that's what The Bump Watch should be about.
20 weeks down, 20 to go!

Kitchen Disasters & Cooking Together

Last night we attended a parent meeting at my daughter's school where we discussed healthy lifestyles for families. While I was once again reminded that we watch way too much TV in our house, I also learned that:
A) The food pyramid is different now. Did you know that? 
B) You should let your children help you shop for and cook meals.

I was lucky to grow up in a family where I saw my mother and grandmothers cook constantly. I still remember my first "Better Homes & Garden Junior Cook Book" and the Potato-Chip Crusted Chicken I made all on my own.

I've been letting CeCe cook with me in various ways since she was about 2. Here are my tips for getting your kids involved in their food prep.

1) Shopping can be an adventure. We started by making out a shopping list using pictures, and got CeCe her own cart. We treated grocery shopping like a scavenger hunt, which you can read about here.

2) Baking incorporates many skills. Talk about math as your child uses measuring spoons and cups. Let them work those motor skills by stirring and pouring. Cookie cutters are a great way to talk about shapes. Plus you get cookies out of it, so why not?

CeCe and her great-grandmother prepare cookies.

3) Let them be in charge of something. In an effort to encourage fresh veggies, CeCe is the Official Salad Maker. We give her lettuce to tear and various chopped veggies to distribute as she pleases. This gives her a sense of control over her choices and pride in the dish she prepared all by herself.
Official Salad Maker, reporting for duty.
4) Buy some aprons. It may seem silly since they won't at all prevent a mess on your child's clothes, but having a special apron for cooking with mom or dad can make Kitchen Duty feel a privilege and not a chore.

5) Don't expect miracles with food aversions. I know CeCe will still gag over broccoli and kale. But that doesn't mean I eliminate them from our lives. Even if she won't eat it, I still get her to help prepare it with the long-term goal of maybe, just maybe, one day she will give it a try.
CeCe does not love eating asparagus, but she loves snapping the woody ends off.

We have our fair share of pizza nights in this house, but we try our best to make healthy choices. Do you have any tips to add about cooking with little ones?