JUST TIRED.

When you become new parents, you enter into a new level of tiredness. Before you have children, you are accustomed to awaking only at your own needs; you sleep until 8am if you’d like, then spend two hours enjoying your coffee while you catch up on celebrity gossip and work the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. You take naps – half an hour, two hours, six hours, any length you choose – on the weekends at any time. If it’s your prerogative to spend seven hours on Saturday reading, you are free to do so. You are rested and refreshed more often than not, and if you’re feeling tired, you can generally do something about it.

But when you become a parent for the first time, you come to terms with the fact that your sleep is no longer your sleep. In the very early months, you exist in a world of naps, and not actual “sleep.”  Life is lived three hours at a time.  As babies grow older, they eventually find their routine, and you do get more consistent(ish) sleep…but it’s never guaranteed. Additionally, you will find that no matter how old your children get, your sleep will never be the same as it was before you became a parent, because now you’ve been given the gift of super sonic hearing. Every little noise, while not always requiring your attention, will surely awaken you.

Then you have your second child. You are so adjusted to the new normal, that you really don’t feel too tired (probably because it’s no longer the “new” normal – it’s just regular normal with a dark roast extra bold kicker at 5am). In fact, you remark at how easy it is to just add a second child to the mix. You wonder why you didn’t do this sooner (although if we had done it any sooner, we would have just had twins…)

And then it happens: THE FOUR MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION.  HISS BOO HISSSSSS.

Newborns sleep a lot. Like, A LOT. Naps all day, and all night. Lots of sleep is to be had. They awaken to eat, burp, poop, take a bath, roll around and look at the ceiling fan and whatever else you’re jingling in their faces, and by then they’re tired again and off to nap.

But infants are a different story. You know your newborn has become an infant when they reach the first sleep regression. This is when babies begin experiencing REM sleep. They are such deep, sound sleepers when they’re newborns because they don’t know how to sleep any other way except deeply. Their worlds are rocked when REM enters the picture, because now they experience light sleep. So light, they wake up thinking, “WHAT THE HELL? WHERE AM I? IS IT TIME TO PLAY? AM I SUPPOSED TO EAT? WHY IS IT SO DARK?”

Friends, we are in the thick of the four month sleep regression, and while I thought my mind and body was well-adjusted to having two children, my children would like to remind me of otherwise.  And isn’t that the thing about these beautiful, spirited, loving little creatures?  Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, BOOM: sleep regression, teeth, bad dreams, toilet learning, refusal to sleep in pajamas with sleeves.  If being kept on your toes was an Olympic sport, parents would win all the gold medals forever and always.

But let’s talk about being T-I-R-E-D (something else in which I’d win all the gold medals)

Example of the current level of exhaustion:

Three nights ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by my oldest cat, Pookie, in the early stages of hacking up a hairball in our bed. Instead of helping him down, getting a paper towel in front of him and cleaning it up when it finally dislodged itself, I just shoved him off the bed with my foot and rolled over, praying that he didn’t cough anything up in bed. I didn’t even bother checking; I just went back to sleep.

Two nights ago, I noticed he had, in fact, coughed up a hairball in our bed. But I noticed it was on Evan’s side of the bed, so I went to sleep.  LOVE YOU HONEY XOXOXOX.

Last night, I noticed the hairball was still in bed, and it was now floating freely as Pookie had spotted it and subsequently began batting it around like a toy. But it was a small hairball, really…no bigger than a dime, and so I rolled over and went to sleep. Exhaustion level classified as: “It’s just a small hairball.”

Other examples:

One morning this week, I made coffee with no coffee – just water. I did not notice until I had actually poured it into my coffee mug.

I called Miles by Grant’s name and vice versa at least once a day. I may have called Grant by Frankie’s name. Frankie is another one of our cats. He and Grant bear no striking resemblance.

I read 50 pages in my current book. I know this, because I dog-eared where I finished reading. When I opened the book the following evening, I remembered nothing I had read, and had to re-read those 50 pages. Does sleep reading exist? If so, I’m doing it.

For dinner one night this week, Miles enjoyed two bananas, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, raisins and an ice cream cone. But he’s always been on the skinnier side, so this seemed like a good idea to me.

The most telling sign of exhaustion: I FELL ASLEEP BEFORE FINISHING A GLASS OF WINE. It’s also worth noting that it was the first glass of wine I’ve had in three weeks.

So, yes, it’s always possible to grow more tired. We eagerly await the day that Grant will officially sleep completely through the night, and not wake up at 2am to eat. Then 2:30am to play. Then 3:30am to burp. Then 4:00am to tell me he’s awake. Then 5:00am because ISN’T THIS WHEN WE NORMALLY GET UP ANYWAY, MOM?!

While admiring my face in the mirror today, I noticed some nice, summery blond streaks in my hair. Upon closer inspection, I found they were actually gray, but they’re scattered enough so that from far away, they give the illusion of blond.

Gray is the new blond anyway, you know.

Most frequently used image on this blog, BTW.

Most frequently used image on this blog, BTW.

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Life Lessons from City Dog and Country Frog

In our house, reading is a big deal. We visit the library once a week, and it’s not unusual for us to have 25 books checked out at one time (20 of which will of course belong to Miles). My absolute favorite part of the day is our story time together; after Miles is in his PJs, we snuggle up just the two of us and read half a dozen or so books of his choosing. Story time lasts 30-45 minutes, and even then, time seems to pass with lightning speed. I am beyond happy and proud to see that Miles has an inherent love of reading, just as I do.

Because we are such avid readers, we have a well-established list of favorite children’s authors and books (Pete the Cat, all day). We do pick up new things from the library every week, and I pre-read them all before we decide to take them home – not only to ensure they are age appropriate, but also to see that they are challenging and encourage Miles to think creatively and ask questions (also: not lame). We checked out a book about Dumpy the Dump Truck once, in which the school bus broke down and in all her infinite wisdom, the schoolteacher thought it would be a good idea for all the kids to be taken home in the back of a dump truck. But don’t worry; Dumpy’s owner convinced her it would be perfectly safe because they would only drive 10mph, and avoid potholes. This is on our “never again” list, and it’s exactly why pre-reading is crucial.

When it comes to our favorite authors, however, I never feel a need to pre-read as we are familiar with their writing style and content of the stories. So when Miles picked up “City Dog, Country Frog” by Mo Willems, I dropped it in our bag without a second thought. Who doesn’t love Mo?

We've  never met a Pigeon we didn't like.

We’ve never met a Pigeon we didn’t like.

The book is truly a beautiful story, about the different seasons of life and the changes we experience, the valleys and the peaks. It’s told through the actual seasons of the year: City Dog meets Country Frog in the spring, and they learn frog games. In the summer, they learn dog games.

dog-meet-frog

Sweetest thing ever, right?

Then fall rolls around and all of a sudden Country Frog is “tired” and wants to play “remembering games.” Uh-oh. Cue the tears…

Adults, hear me now: the best time to find out that one of the main characters in your child’s book will die is not while you are reading it to your child for the first time.

I muddled through fall, as both dog and frog remembered the joys of spring and summer. I sniffled a bit, but did a superb job of hiding this from Miles. Toddlers have no acquaintance with death; this is not a concept my son will learn about now, and if I can help it, not for quite a while.

Me: *sniffle sniffle* I am a very tired frog. Let’s play remembering games. Country Frog and City Dog remembered jumping, splashing and croaking in spring…they remembered chasing, fetching and barking in summer. And that was fall. *sniffle sniffle* And then came winter…

And here came the tears. Because City Dog goes to their usual meeting spot and he waits – but Country Frog is nowhere to be found. So City Dog waits and waits and waits; all alone, in the cold snow, with big, blank wintery pages of no text and an incredibly sad face.

Me: *sniffle snort gurgle snot* But Country Frog did not come…and that was winter.

(Dear Mo Willems: THANK YOU FOR THE WARNING.)

Miles: Mama! Are you sad?

Me: A little bit, because City Dog is sad. You see it’s very cold outside, and frogs do not enjoy the cold, so Country Frog did not come to play with him.

Miles: Mama, will you be okay? I will give you a hug!

Me: *sniffle snot snort gurgle sniffle honk boohoohooohooooooo* Thank you, baby. I love you.

And then – THEN – spring arrives again, and very sad City Dog meets very happy Country Chipmunk. And all is right in the world. And I cried even more.

Miles: Mama, are you sad AGAIN?

Me: Yes, baby…sometimes when things make me very happy, I will have tears of joy. Mamas are really silly sometimes.

Miles: Mama, you are silly all the time. (then he gave me a hug and a kiss and he honked my nose – affection and comfort from a toddler at its finest)

Truthfully, the book is wonderful because it speaks the same message to both children and adults, but just at a deeper level for those of us who understand that Country Frog has gone on to the great Froggie Beyond. We do have different seasons in life, and nothing teaches you that in a greater fashion than becoming a parent.

When you have children, you enter into many seasons all at once in those first few years. You are in a season of joy and thankfulness, with the blessing of these tiny, tiny people who love you truly and unconditionally with every ounce of themselves. You are in a season of overwhelming love, as you feel your heart explode each time you sit back and take in what is now your life. You are also in a season of challenges, as you learn how to parent; how to take care of these tiny people, how to ease their pain, how to calm their fears, and how to not pull out your hair when you see all of the produce in your refrigerator has tiny, toddler bites taken out of it (side note: this is when we make vegetable soup). Life will be so much fun that you could write your own Dr. Seuss dictionary of new words that still couldn’t fully express the fun and love and joy you feel inside.

And that will be summer.

Your life outside of your children enters a new season as well. You will find friends and family with whom you are instantly closer, a bond that is renewed and strengthened. And you will find friends and family who disappear – sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently. You will adapt to this season of newness and change as well, in all its bittersweet moments.

And that will be spring.

You will settle in to the “new normal” of naps and early bedtimes, family-friendly dinners, ice cream parties on Saturday afternoons, finger paint and crayons everywhere. You will feel at ease; you will feel peace, you will recognize the pleasure of an unhurried existence during these young years.

And that will be fall.

Sometimes, things will throw you for a loop. A child will have croup, and you’ll spend the entire night rocking your baby under a humidifier, praying for healing, knowing that you would give anything to take the sickness away. A bully at school will come into the picture, and you’ll have a conversation about being brave, doing what is right, and loving people even when they are difficult, because we could all use a little extra caring at times. You will enter seasons of tough questions from young, inquiring minds. You will learn to navigate these as well as a Sherpa on Mt. Everest (and you will still pray for NO AVALANCHES, PLEASE).

And that will be winter.

I know my seasons seem out of order; the reality is that these seasons occur at any time, of their own accord, and sometimes coinciding with one another. The point is this: they are brief (sometimes only in retrospect, but trust me, the brevity is there) and we arrive at the next season sometimes with a smile, and sometimes with a frown, but always with a love and determination to carry on.

What was winter for City Dog quickly turned into a new spring with Country Chipmunk. My son learned that sometimes friends will move away, transfer schools, or start attending a different church, but that there will always be a new friend right around the corner. And I learned that things can be tough, they can be really difficult and sad and trying and dirty and messy, but soon, spring will arrive.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

Thank you, Mo.

four-seasons

The World on Your Shoulders

It’s nearing 8:30p in our house, signaling the beginning of “Adult Time.” The kids are in bed, sleeping soundly. The chores of the day are (somewhat) finished. The pets have been fed, and are now lounging lazily about the house. In another half hour, my TV will be filled with zombies and my glass with Shiraz. It’s a beautiful Sunday night.

Tonight, like most nights, we started our bath and bedtime routing around 7:30p. I bathe Grant while Evan bathes Miles; I sing Grant to sleep, then I read Miles his 487 library books and we snuggle, and it’s lights out. The routine rarely changes; but tonight, while the routine remained the same, something in me changed.

As I sang, I gave Grant his last bottle of the day (ha – until 2am, anyway). He dozed off, and I put him over my shoulder, trying with futility to draw out one last burp. But, once sleeping, Grant is content to do nothing else. And so I sat, and I rocked in the still, quiet nursery, with Grant on my shoulder. It was then that I felt it.

I noticed the weight. His weight. The weight of my child on my shoulder. The familiar old adage of, “Carrying the weight on his shoulders…” referencing Atlas, crossed my mind.

So this is what it feels like.

My child, my world, on my shoulder. I sat and felt his body rise and fall with each breath. I listened closely to his baby noises of sleep: the grunts, snuffles and sighs. I felt his small hands perched on my chest and arm, holding on to his mama. I smelled his head, and that sweet, baby scent filled my lungs. In the still, quiet nursery, I felt my heart near to bursting with the overwhelming love that I carry for this tiny, tiny person.

Yes, this is what it feels like.

In those moments I could remember, experience and foresee a lifetime of worlds on my shoulder. It doesn’t seem so long ago that it was Miles perched on my shoulder, sighing a sleepy breath into my neck, drifting off into dreams. I can still feel the warmth of his precious body, although it’s been months since he has fallen asleep on mama. For you see, my baby is a big boy now…and it happened in the blink of an eye.

Although it was only minutes, it felt like hours, Grant snuggled up to me. But soon enough, Miles was ready for his PJs and story time and just like that, Grant was slipped into his safe, warm crib, and I was off to mama my first baby.

Snuggled up to Miles, reading our books, he sighed next to me on the pillow. We’d had a very busy and very fun day at church, and with our friends and family. Lots of running and playing and yelling and kicking the soccer ball into our goal. You know, big kid stuff. I could see the joyful exhaustion on Miles’ face as he climbed into bed. And now, sighing next to me, I could feel his sleepy body against mine. As we started the fourth book, he rested his head on my shoulder, and just like that it was there again: the world. My world.

These very young years truly do slip by in an instant. Life marches on, and days can be busy and hectic. But I have learned that no matter the day, I must must must stop and savor every single moment.

Earlier this week, we’d had a run of early evening rainstorms. Grant was already asleep, and Evan was giving Miles his bath while I stood at the sink, washing our dinner dishes. The teeniest, tiniest of frogs jumped onto the outside of the kitchen window. As soon as I noticed the frog, all I could think of was how much Miles would love to see this. And without a second thought, I went into the bathroom and scooped him up in a towel, mid-bath, so he could see this tiny wonder on our window. We stood at the kitchen sink, just the three of us, and Miles stared in pure fascination. We talked about where the frog might live, what his little frog house could look like, what he may have eaten for dinner, all while the shampoo bubbles dripped onto my kitchen floor. The floor, the dishes, those things didn’t matter in that moment; what I cared most about was watching my son discover this tiny frog, and it was worth every single second.

When I’m rocking Grant in the wee, small hours of the morning, I know how brief this time is. I know that soon he’ll be rolling over, crawling, walking, running, and talking up a storm. In those middle-of-the-night times, I may be tired, but I am so incredibly thankful for the joy and privilege to be mama to these two boys, and to sit there with my tiniest one, perched on my shoulder.

Each age brings new adventures and discoveries; each age is incredibly fun, and challenging, all at the same time. As Miles has grown older, I’ve said, “18 months is my favorite age…” then “two years old is my favorite age…” followed by “2 ½ is my favorite age!” You get the idea. I have realized they are all my favorite because we are so fully in the moment at each age, we unquestionably experience them as the best possible age, ever. A head on my shoulder from a sleeping infant, or during story time with my toddler, will turn into a head on my shoulder during a dance at his wedding. As much as I beg time to just slow down, I also remind myself that my boys will be just that – my boys – forever. We will have our “world on my shoulder” moments at every age. And while the thought of these young days passing does make me sad, I am filled with excitement and encouragement for what our future holds, too.

To know the weight of this love for my boys, my world, is unexplainable. There is no other love like it, although it does give me the tiniest of hints as to how God loves us. He does a pretty good job of carrying us on His shoulder, too.

The boys will get bigger, yet my shoulder still carries them – my world – on it.  Always.

HE’S HERE!

You may have noticed my absence over the past few weeks.  This was primarily brought on by the family circus of life and the importance of eating burritos.  Well, after 487 weeks of life as a toddler-chasing preg…HE’S HERE!

Grant Charles arrived on Friday, May 1st at 10:20p – literally HOURS before Princess Charlotte (beat THAT, Royal Family of Windsor).  We are in love with every squishy, squirmy ounce of our new kiddo.

I know I faux-complained about how totally over being preg I had become.  Grant was apparently eavesdropping on these conversations; when he decided it was time to show up, he did it in a big damn hurry (which is totally unusual for our punctually challenged family).

Our due date was April 30th.  I saw my midwife on the 29th, and knew she would be going on vacation out of state from the 30th through May 4th.  She didn’t believe we’d go into labor on our due date, and her advice for over the weekend was to cross my legs and make it to my appointment on Cinco de Baby, if I wanted her to deliver.  Of course I would have loved for her to deliver, but the reality is that at 40 weeks pregnant, you really don’t care if it’s the hospital’s cafeteria lady birthing your baby, you just want that kid OUT.

I went to work on May 1st (TGIF – also my last day before officially beginning maternity leave on Monday).  I was concerned that this kid would show up very, very late, as our original due date was May 7th.  But I also knew I was ready to be home preparing mentally and physically, and that a day or two of extra rest by myself would be pretty awesome.

When I left the office at 5p, I noticed my back was hurting worse than usual.  Not bad, just more uncomfortable, and I attributed it to chasing Hurricane Miles around the library the previous afternoon.  I picked Miles up from school, we loaded up and headed home.  On the drive, I noticed the back pain was coming more in waves, and not a consistent, lingering pain, so at the first red light we caught I called my husband and told him to pack up and head home, that something could be happening.  It probably wasn’t, but just to be safe, since he was working about 60 miles south of home on Friday.

By 5:30p we were home, and I decided maybe I should time these pains, just for fun (HA).  You know, just in case they were contractions.  They totally weren’t, but just in case.  I started my contraction counting app, set Miles up with some crayons, paper and an episode of Thomas the Train, and I headed to the kitchen to start his dinner (side note: Friday night has been burrito night in our house throughout this pregnancy, so I was really really looking forward to a burrito).  I tapped my phone at what I presumed to be the beginning and end of each pain.

“That’s funny,” I thought to myself, “these are coming about three minutes apart, and lasting 45 seconds.”

I continued cooking macaroni and cheese.

By 6:15p the pain was just a little, teeny bit worse.  Evan was almost home.  I sent a text to my best friend and just gave a heads up that maybe I was having contractions.  Maybe.  Nothing to worry about, but just pack a bag.  By 6:45p I decided it probably would be best if we went to the hospital, just so they could tell me it was pre-labor, nothing to be worried about, and that I’d probably have the baby over the weekend.  I sent another text and asked my best friend to head to our house.  Evan and I sat down for dinner with Miles.  We talked about his day, and I breathed through the pain, which was still no big deal.

We did our normal bath, bed, jammies and story routine with Miles.  I explained that we would be going to the doctor to see about the baby, and that maybe we wouldn’t be home in the morning, but that Aunt Ashley would be here.  In typical Miles fashion, he was totally cool with this and ready for us to hit the road so he could hang out with his much cooler aunt.

I finished packing our bags just in case.  We loaded up and drove the five minutes to the hospital, and checked in at the reception desk.  By 8:45p, we were in the maternity wing’s triage room, waiting on an OB nurse to come and tell us that we weren’t really in labor.

Just after 9p, a nurse showed up.  She checked my vitals, started a monitor for the contractions (by now I had relented and acknowledged these really could be contractions).  Yes, we were probably in labor.  The OB on call would confirm.  A few minutes later, the very nice OB who was on call came to check me.  “Oh, you’re at 5cm, we should get you to a room.”

Excuse me…I’m at what?!

See, with Miles, my water did break, but the contractions never really started and I never really dilated, so they put me on Pitocin to get the show on the road.  I remembered those contractions, the ones that made me yell like a hyena for two hours before it was even time to deliver.  And those were the contractions I’d waited on.  That, and my water breaking.  Neither of those had happened.

After eighteen attempts to put in an IV port (exaggeration – it only took the poor nurse seven tries) I was ready to head to my suite.  The contractions were definitely stronger, but not scream-inducing.  The OB nurse asked if I could walk, and naturally I looked at her like she had three heads.  No, there’s no flipping way I can walk right now.

At 10p, we were in the room.  The OB confirmed I was now at 9cm.  The baby would be here “soon.”  She broke my water; 20 minutes and nine pushes later, and he was here, with squishy pink cheeks and a big, healthy cry.  He was immediately given to me for kangaroo care, while the OB cleaned up the crime scene and the nurses tried not to slip and fall in the flood from my water breaking (I did tell them they were giving me a complex).

Like with Miles, we planned a drug-free birth.  Good for us, because had we decided to have an epidural, there would have been no time.  In fact, had I waited just a few more minutes (like I’d planned) we would have just popped the kid out in the backseat (my husband was very ready to MacGuyver this baby, if necessary).  The OB’s instructions to me were very clear, should we decide to have more kiddos in the future: “If you think you feel something, head to the hospital, or next time you really will deliver in a parking lot.”  Duly noted.

Once the clean up crew was done, we were left alone for the golden hour.  There’s no feeling in the world like that of snuggling this tiny little miracle; it makes all the labor of, well, labor, completely and utterly worth it.  You know how moms tell you that you’ll totally forget the pain?  Yes, you absolutely do (until you get out of bed the first time).

Around midnight the nurses came back to weigh, measure and swaddle Grant.  We were told the local pizza place would deliver to the hospital, and they were open until 1am.  I instructed my husband to order something enormously supreme, because I was STARVING.  Half an hour later we were enjoying pizza and snuggling with our newborn.  Second-time parents are good at multi-tasking like that.

Miles came to visit early the next morning, and immediately asked “Where’s my baby Grant?!” upon entering the room.  He’s been in love with his baby brother from that very moment, and while we know this could and likely will change many times over the course of growing up, for now we are very, very blessed to see this instant bond in all its sweet glory.

So we’re back in the swing of things.  More nonsense to come, as we talk about our first week at home, our first few outings as a family of four, and things toddlers do in the presence of newborns.  For new, enjoy these:

Sleepy smiles.

Sleepy smiles.

All my boys.

All my boys.

CUTEST.

CUTEST.

Bonus: BEER. Yay!

Bonus: BEER. Yay!