Today I Am Numb

Today I am numb.
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He’s still here. He’s at hospice for now, a peaceful, beautiful place with gardens and the koi pond above. On Wednesday, when he went in, we didn’t think that he would come home. He’s made an astounding turn around.
Death is a roller coaster.
I’m nursing a sleepy baby, a little girl falling asleep right now and I have no energy to do anything. My house is in disarray because this week was crazy. And our new bed, mattress, and bedding arrived this week and is currently hanging out in our living room until we have the time to deal with it. The community market starts in about half an hour and we need to buy food and milk. Yet even putting in a load of laundry seems like so much work right now. I just want to sit here in my bed all day. Being positive, being strong, it’s all taking its toll on me now. But I need to keep going for my family.

It seems cruel to admit, but we are ready for this journey to be over. He’s sick. He’s weak. He’s in pain. He’s suffering.
And we are suffering by watching.
This is a horrible disease.

On Tuesday night he told my mom that “they” won’t let him go yet. Things like that really make me think about death and dying. Does he have something more to do or learn before he can move on? Why did he get so close to death, only to bounce back? Is life more of a journey, planned more than we think? Are there expectations to fulfill while we are here? I believe that something happens when we die besides a hole in the ground. But I do not know and I cannot comprehend what that is. My earthly mind is too small and inexperienced to understand.

If you aren’t following me on Instagram, I’ve been documenting these days there. I’ve wanted to remember everything and have been trying to capture it through my phone. It’s this urge that I’ve had so I am going with it because whatever helps right now.

Summer Colds Are No Fun

Poor Ramona has her first cold. John and I have it too. Somehow, Joey has avoided it. I am guessing I couldn’t fight it due to lack of sleep lately.

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Today I worked from home because she couldn’t go to daycare and I couldn’t breathe. I signed off early after a coughing fit that almost made me sick. Babywearing got us through the day.

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I tried to read my training out loud to her. She clearly didn’t care about money laundering.

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I’m grateful to have wonderful bosses.
I’m also exhausted and am hoping that she won’t wake up when I put her down in a minute.
Really I just made this post to waste time and spam you with my baby. And complain about summer colds because, seriously, I miss breathing.

Final Days

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My step-dad’s days with us are coming to an undeniable end. He’s rapidly declined the past few weeks. His pants don’t stay up. He’s a different man now. We’ve had longer than we thought.
I’ve been here before.
This past week, things have become difficult to deny. After I picked Ramona up from daycare on Monday, we stopped by my mom’s for a bit. She hadn’t slept the past few nights. His breathing would slow and pause as he slept. I took the next two days off from work and took the kids over for the day on Tuesday. That’s them, camped out on the floor there together. On Wednesday, they stayed home with John and I went to my mom’s to help her with some stuff. The confusion began on Sunday as he asked about turkey dinners that weren’t there. Bit by bit, the end of life signs have continued to show themselves, blue fingertips as his circulation slows, restlessness last night. We are in the final days. I cannot deny it. They are more stretched out than with Dad, or maybe I’m older and more aware.
Cancer looks like such a godawful way to go.
We will miss him. I don’t know what to expect with Joey. I really have no clue. I’ve let him make the decision to be around or not and explained things and kept him aware. It may be arguable, but it’s what feels right with him right now. Another time, another person, another child, I might feel differently. Joey has thick skin and I’m confident in my decision. And my lap and arms are at least figuratively always open if things get to be a lot. His life, his world, it all must feel so turned upside down right now. He’s a child of routine. A baby and a dying grandpa are certainly disrupting. We will emerge and eventually develop new ones.
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Time Wasting Tuesdays #2

Ah Tuesday, you’re really just a less awful Monday. You’re still close to the beginning of the week and you’re sitting there between Monday and hump day and since those camel commercials, people have started hating on hump day a bit more. The weekend still llooks so far away from here. Fortunately, I have this nice little round up to get you through Monday’s annoying sister.

By now, women everywhere are wishing that they were the one carrying Ryan Gosling’s baby. I giggled at Feminist Ryan Gosling’s Baby. There are so many gems, but “hey girl, I recognize the loaded historical symbolism of yellow wallpaper but I like your parents’ gender-neutral decorating,” ranks pretty up there. I’m not completely obsessed with the man, but if he started babywearing, well, I might develop a strong new crush.

Joey tests me often. He’s exhausting and I love him to pieces. I also need every suggestion and reminder how to keep calm that’s available some days.

I may present myself as organized at times, but I’m really, really not. I am messy but organized, in that when things are in chaos, I am better able to find them. Seriously. But I am trying so hard to be more organized. Manic Pixie Dream Mama has some excellent tips in a nice, long list that you can read while pretending that you’re accomplishing something because hey, you’re learning how to do it. It’s like she read my mind that she doesn’t know exists and timed it so well to go with my own organizing.

So much yes here. I always feel the need to clean my plate completely off.

The concept of microparks is so awesome. These parking spots turned gardens look like such a neat spot to just sit for a minute.

I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of turning basic sandals into something much nicer. These tassel sandals look like a great place to start.

I get really easily distracted. This list may just help.

The First Week Back to Work

So I have three days down now at work. First of all, I can safely make the announcement now. I have been promoted within my team! My focus is now more on projects and that is awesome. I am so grateful to work for a department with excellent women (and men!) who did not see me having a baby as a sign that I do not take my career seriously. I do, obviously, but I hear so many stories of women being told just that or more or less that when they have a baby, no matter how they feel about their job. So a giant thank you to all of them.

On Wednesday and Thursday, John jumped into full-time parenthood with Joey and Ramona home with just him. I had a nice supply of milk in the refrigerator, a supply of clean diapers, and more milk in the freezer. He quickly learned that being a stay-at-home parent is a whole lot of work and much harder than he ever expected. I came home on Thursday, the day that she clearly started her three month growth spurt and saw a pile of breakfast bar wrappers on the bookshelf in the bedroom. It was pretty much all that he had managed to eat all day. So the housework has been a bit neglected the second half of the week since Ramona and I just want to snuggle and nurse after work and he’s too busy holding her and then is exhausted after work. But we’ll all find our groove. I’m getting there. I’ve managed dishes and laundry and some quick picking up so far.

On Friday she went to daycare for the first time. I only called twice, but may have cried a bit while walking out of there that morning. The day went really well, actually. She ate a ton, but wasn’t angry all day. I think that transitioning at home, with daddy, helped a lot.

Pumping once before work and three times during work has definitely made breastfeeding even more special. I am always so happy to get home and hold her and nurse her.

This morning we went to the post office and the farmer’s market. We hung out at my mom’s for a bit. I haven’t accomplished anything more than just yet and that’s alright. The housework can wait. My days of baby snuggles won’t last forever. Right now she’s in the mei tai and asleep on me and we are both as happy as can be.

And I didn’t change or anything until after holding this baby for almost two hours after getting home my first day. IMG_0146

Three Fantastic Months

Here it is. The morning that has been looming ahead for the past three months. I’m off to work in a bit. I don’t want to focus on that. Three months ago today, I was on this computer, working, before I went to my last prenatal appointment, meaning today is also Ramona’s three month birthday!

Ramona,

You will never know the joy that you have brought into our lives. We spent so long waiting for you and then, one day, you came. I stared at you with amazement, in awe of how you were just inside of my body that morning and there you were, with us, earthside. You were absolutely perfect. And now, here you are, three months old. That’s one fourth of the way to a year already. These months have been amazing. I feel so lucky to have been with you for all of this time, watching you grow and change.

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The world is filled with such wonder to you and you don’t want to miss a thing. We generally have to work to get you to take a nap. It’s as though you are already afraid of what might happen while you drift off for a little while. Your favorite way to nap is in the wrap. You’re starting to recognize it too. The other day you were getting sleep so I went to wrap you. You watched as I pulled it around my body, getting ready to put you in. But I realize that I probably wanted to change your diaper first. You were so angry about that diaper change. You’re never angry about changes. You’re all smiles and coos, with a side of giggles. You calmed as I picked you up and put you in the wrap, as though you knew all along what you wanted. I love that you love being so close to me.

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I swear that you are starting to teeth already. You’re a drooly mess so often and have started to dive-bomb my knuckle for something to shove into your mouth. When we hold you, our arms and shoulders are covered in drool every single time. It’s okay though because who could be angry at this face?

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The noises that you make are just wonderful. And you laugh so hard at your big brother. The two of you were being so silly in the backseat the other day, it completely melted my heart. You are constantly expanding upon your own vocal range, besides giggles. I swear that you change physically as well, even on a weekly basis. These two photos were taken only a week apart. (In the crib that you don’t sleep in just yet.)

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You have also decided that maybe swaddling isn’t quite for you now. (And this is where you actually sleep, in the co-sleeper, right next to me.)

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Baby girl, I cannot wait to be home tonight, snuggling you again. I’ll miss you incredibly all day long.

Love,

Mama

Slow Down and Savor Moments

As I’ve talked about before, I spent several years raising Joey, working full-time, and going to school full-time. I thrive on busy. Give me more to juggle and I am happier. Fill-up my calendar and lengthen my to do list and I’m a happy girl. But now this baby is here. And she won’t be a baby forever. And I want to savor this. I want to savor every moment with my family.

Like others, I am questioning this emphasis on busy. Sure, I’ll be happily busy while at work. But why do I need to continue this when I get home? Shouldn’t I be available for my family instead of running around and doing this and that? Shouldn’t weekend be for fun and not scrubbing floors? I cannot create the magical world for my children if I am too busy trying to make the house look magazine shoot ready (Hint: I never succeed and it never will be. Someone races through and undoes everything that I just did whenever I get remotely close.), rather than a magical home. Obviously, I’d rather sit and sew or read a book than dust the house. I don’t want to miss out on moments like this.

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And all of this comes back to my getting rid of things. The fewer possessions that we have, the fewer things we need to pick-up, dust, and just generally take care of. This is particularly true when you live with a house full of people who are incapable of seeing things that have fallen on the floor, like I do. (I love them. But I do swear that they can’t see things on the floor.) I started the Minimalist Game this month. You can watch my progress on Instagram. I’m not posting daily but instead grouping items together, so don’t think that I quit if you don’t see me post for a few days. John is trying to get rid of an item per day. He tends to be worse than I am about getting rid of things.

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Ramona isn’t so sure of this whole getting rid of stuff thing.

And, as if getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff isn’t enough of a challenge for my packrat self, I am trying to put that phone down more. My phone is wonderful for pictures, certainly. But pictures don’t replace memories. I won’t turn this into another breastfeeding post, but I am thankful for breastfeeding because it does stop and force me to sit down. And while I do bring my phone around the house with me, I also often spend plenty of time just watching Ramona too.

Do you want to give my attempt at a minimalist, love-filled, slower life a shot? Follow my Pinterest board for some ideas and inspiration.

Siblings and the Meaning of Family

IMG_0130I grew up with a large family. There were five kids in the house that I grew-up in, my dad’s, one boy and four girls. Every other weekend and half of every vacation, my brother and I would go to our mom’s house, where my step-sister was often visiting her dad. I was the oldest in both houses. There was also a decent age gap between my three sisters and I, so I babysat plenty. It was for free, of course. It’s the privilege of being the oldest and a right of passage for many kids. I fought with my siblings, naturally. I fought with my brother more than any of them. I stayed up far too late giggling at nonsense with my step-sister. I sat for many family photographs that would drag on longer than normal because, well, five kids. I shared bedrooms and fought some more.

When my dad’s cancer came back that final time in 2005 my baby sister was only 12. I turned 22 while he was in the hospital. I had just moved back to the area. I chauffeured my sisters home from sports practice, to the movies, to friend’s, and threatened to kick them and their friends out of my red ’91 Cavalier if one of them said “chillaxin’” one more time. I tried to help provide some sense of normalcy. And through it all, our bond became closer. They know how corny Dad’s sense of humor was. They know the casualness that came when mentioning where he had travelled that week, if we could recall. (He was gone constantly for work.) They remember the time that he went to the same city often enough for the jokes to come in about a second family. They recall that laugh, the twinkle in his eye, and everything else that I can remember about him too. Having them to reminisce with makes him not being here easier. I can’t imagine what it’s like for an only child to go through the early loss of a parent.

I’m so happy to have given my children each other. Joey is a very contrary child. He also loves to say things to get a reaction. Seriously, he is going to end up spending his time trolling online one day, in spite of my best efforts to curb him of his habits. He likes to tell us that he doesn’t like the baby or that she isn’t cute. But his concern suggests otherwise. The instant that she cries, he shhhhs quietly to her. I took him home from my mom’s house, just four blocks away from mine, to change his clothes one day. I left the baby with her for the ten minutes that it took for us to drive home, wait for him to find clothes, change into them, and drive back. The entire way home he worried what would happen if she cried or got hungry. I reassured him that she is perfectly capable of taking care of babies and that Ramona had just eaten. Another time I forgot to take off her headband when we got in the car. He yelled “stop the car!” Her headband had fallen into her eyes. Adorable and sweet. I can already see the love that she is developing for her big brother. We were in the car last week and my mother-in-law was in the back with the kids. Ramona wouldn’t look at her. Instead she was smiling and laughing and sticking out her tongue, trying so hard to get Joey’s attention while he stared out the window. She just wanted him and was pulling out every trick that she knew.

I cannot wait to watch the two of them grow-up together.

Three Months of Breastfeeding and Beyond

This is my last week of maternity leave. I return exactly one week from today. Fortunately, there has been one little thing sweetening up my return a bit. I’ll reveal soon, but cannot just yet.

I’ve truly valued the past 12 weeks with my daughter and the rest of my family. I am incredibly grateful to work for a company that provides 13 weeks of paid leave to mothers. This leave has allowed me a lot of time to bond, heal, and accomplish things that will make going back to work easier. And, perhaps one of the most important things, aside from bonding, is it has allowed breastfeeding to be established between us. I had little issue with her in the hospital. She latched on readily shortly after birth. The first night I had a blister that was rather painful, but after that, things have been pretty smooth sailing. I am relieved and overjoyed at that. I didn’t breastfeed Joey. I had no clue with to expect and was nervous.

In addition, Ramona has gained weight quite well. I have not needed to supplement, meaning she has entirely received my milk and only my milk during her short life so far. I’m incredibly proud of this. I’ve gone into this with no real goal other than, let’s do this until it doesn’t work for us. If it was two weeks, okay. If it’s six months, okay. If it’s 2 years, that’s okay too. Many moms don’t make it even this far. I have little question that this is in part due to the sad state of maternity leave in this country. Six weeks isn’t enough time for a lot of women to fully get a handle on the whole thing. Add in the fact that breastfed babies tend to hit a growth spurt around six weeks and you’re setting women up to fail. Growth spurts are tough. Early growth spurts while you are getting a handle of things are even tougher. Breastfed babies are generally not sleeping through the night at six weeks, though there are exceptions to every rule, so a sleepless, frustrated mama may grab for that formula that was so conveniently given to her by the formula companies.

And then there is pumping. It’s awkward and a pain. Parts must be cleaned and sterilized. And have you ever seen nipples in a breast pump? I never knew my poor body could do that before actually seeing it through the clear flanges! I pumped occasionally until this week. Now I’ve started to pump every morning. Ramona usually wakes up between 4:30 and 6:30 for a feeding and goes back to sleep. I feed her and about an hour later, I go pump to build up a bit of a stash and fill up a bottle for John to give to her later in the day. And then I have to pump later too to keep up my supply and avoid mastitis. It isn’t easy or ideal. I can’t imagine having to establish this routine awhile back ago while I was fumbling through the newborn days.

I have been working on plans for what I’ll do to keep things going while at work. I found a great Facebook group to offer support for working and pumping moms. I’ve also received advice and spoke to people. I have videos and pictures of Ramona on my phone to help trigger letdown. I’ve also found that pictures of other people breastfeeding can trigger my letdown at times too. More than once I’ve been browsing an Instagram hashtag and felt that tingle. I bought a nice, glass water bottle for myself and carry it everywhere. Staying hydrated is a key part of keeping a supply. I plan on blocking time out in my calendar just to go pump when I get to work. I can be a bit flexible, but can’t do hours of back-to-back meetings and calls when I need to go take care of business. Besides, that’s just asking for mastitis and sick days. I have lactation recipes on hand and fortunately love oatmeal anyways, if my supply drops at all. These cookies can be helpful, though there are other, better recipes out there with herbs. But these are a start. And I am all about an excuse to eat cookies. If I am having a bad day, I go to this post to encourage myself to see the benefits of I just make it to the next step. Also, the biggest weight loss benefits occur between three and six months, which I am pretty pumped, no pun intended, about. And, seriously, I am proud of the amount that I pump. I’ll announce it to my husband or anyone who will listen.

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And I’ll fully enjoy those moments of nursing, even the hottest, stickiest, beginning of a growth spurt, Joey is just out of school for the summer, realest moments of them. And it doesn’t get any more real than this.

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And that is the first breastfeeding selfie that I have ever publicly shared.

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