Homebound

This winter hasn’t been as cold or as treacherous as predicted (yet,) but we still haven’t left the house much in the past week. There have been regularly scheduled doctors appointments and grocery runs, but my babies are California girls at heart, and don’t like to be out in the cold long.

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Most days have been spent either baking, or watching movies (some times both,) and I have been surprisingly thankful. Usually this season really gets me down. I feel hopelessly homesick, trapped, and isolated. This year I am busy trying to keep an almost 1 year old away from the stairs, while wrestling a 2 year old to try and use the potty. I just haven’t had enough time to really dwell on the weather.

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Another factor, I think, is that I have more friends than I’ve ever had. Not that I am “Mrs. Popular” or anything, but since I have become more active and social with my local community of moms I find myself being invited to more play dates, mom nights, and runs to the gym. That is perhaps the single most important part of my mood being boosted, as it’s the one thing I have been missing for the past 5 years: a community of other moms who genuinely care about me.

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The next few months are pretty exciting for us! We have a couple birthdays including Cora’s famous 1st birthday…. and we are planning some weekends away with family to make sure we stay out of our winter-time-funk.

What have you been up to, lovely readers? What cheers you up when it’s cold and bleak?

How We Keep Our House Clean

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Ok, so our house isn’t always “clean,” but I was told once that your house should never be more than 15 minutes away from being able to host company. I like this tip because it allows for a little bit of manageable clutter.

Have a designated play area. We have a long, skinny living room, and I knew the moment we bought the house that I would be breaking up the room into 3 distinct sections, with the intent of having a chic place for my kids to play without having a full-on play room. This is the section where our teepee is and a few, select toys. Some times toys end up in the kitchen or on the couch, but the majority of them stay in the play area, which makes clean up a lot quicker and easier. Also, the way we have positions our couches to create distinctive “areas” helps to hide the appearance of all the kids’ toys if they do happen to be left out by the time guests arrive.

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Toy rotation. There is simply no reason your child needs every single toy they’ve ever been given at their disposal. This is why I hate play rooms. Too many toys are overwhelming, difficult to contain, and impossible to clean up. Every few months I break up the kids’ toys into 4 categories: toys that we keep downstairs, toys that belong in our room, toys that will go into the basement for awhile, and toys we no long play with. Anything that is loud or extra stimulating we keep downstairs, that way if one kid is napping while the other is awake, the toys won’t disturb the other’s sleep. The quieter toys go upstairs for quiet time or bed time snuggles. It is important to me that we only have the same amount of toys as we do storage space. Granted, our toy cart appears to be overflowing some times, but I don’t want their to be multiples piles of stuff cluttering the space. During each season, we sort through the toys that don’t get played with and donate them. Whatever is left gets put in the basement until the next season, where we will switch out the basement toys with whatever toys are upstairs. This keeps their toys in better shape longer (since they aren’t being played with EVERY day), prevents clutter, and keeps old toys feeling fresh, new, and nostalgic.

Keep adult clutter in check. We pretty much have to do this anyway if J and I don’t want our own stuff being handled by tots. Plus, Cora is notorious for putting everything in her mouth (surprisingly not a problem we ever had with Sophie). Not only is it a matter of safety for us to keep our own clutter in check, but it also helps with appearances. There are some things I just don’t want in my bedroom: stationary, extra phone charger, meditation books, etc. I have my own chic little box to put things in that I keep downstairs, so that these things are still easily accessible without being a hazard. I got J a vintage looking chest to keep his coupons and stationary in too. They look decorative while also being functional, and containing clutter.

Another tip I think is helpful… I like having neutral colored containers, even for the kids’ toys. As you know, children’s toys are typically brightly colored eye-sores, so having neutral bins to put them in helps the space to feel more soothing and like a shared place for all members of the family, rather than a daycare center. We have purple and turquoise bins in the babies rooms, but downstairs I prefer a more consistent look when it comes to storage.

What do you do to contain daily messes and keep your house looking sharp?

Postpartum Depression

I have debated on whether or not I publicly wanted to declare that I am suffering with postpartum depression, and have since decided that it would be more therapeutic and healing for me to write about it, then to put effort into concealing it.

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I have been on a long and exhausting journey, and I wish I could say I have reached my destination but the reality is, I am still on the road to recovery. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable writing about my experience from start to finish, but today I wanted to reveal my very first encounter with a psychiatrist when I first started treatment. This doctor was horrible, and I’m not just saying that because I am “ill” or because she told me things I didn’t want to hear; I’m saying that because she had no clue about postpartum depression and was less than qualified to do her job. To any woman who has attempted to get care and been treated this way, I am sorry. I am sorry that our system failed  you. I am sorry that you may have even given up seeking treatment because of a bad experience. I am sorry that mental health care professionals carry stigmas against their own patients. I know; I experienced it.

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I remember walking into her office, alone, afraid, and completely vulnerable. Her space was the epitome of a psyche ward: cold pale tile floors, white walls with various dents and scratches, and bright fluorescent lights that occasionally flickered.  As I explained my symptoms she interrupted me and in a very brash tone assumed “This is your first baby, huh?” I remember being taken aback that I would A) be interrupted just as I am bearing my soul and B) to have an assumption made about me by some one who had only known me for a total of 3 grand minutes. “No,” I replied, “This is my second child, which is why I didn’t expect–” Interrupting again, she just couldn’t hold back her surprise at being so painfully wrong. “Second child? That is very unusual. Are you sure you weren’t depressed with your first? It isn’t common to have depression with your second child and not your first.” And that’s when it hit me, I wasn’t going to receive a fair assessment and this doctor was going to do every thing possible, even imagine a history of depression in me, in order to make my illness fit her perception of what Postpartum Depression looks like.

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When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she ended our appointment by asking me, “Do you want to have any more children?” I told her, “Yes, my husband and I would like to have a large family some day.” With a cold, domineering expression she said, “You may want to reconsider. I would probably stop having children in your situation.”

In a society where it is a CARDINAL SIN to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body, an incompetent doctor who had assessed me for only 20 minutes decided I should never procreate ever again. This was my first experience receiving psychiatric care for my postpartum depression. Perhaps to some it sounds dramatic, but I am completely serious when I say that the care I received was criminal. It amplified my symptoms of feeling like a failure, feeling guilty, feeling crazy

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I have since found a therapist who specializes in Postpartum Depression, who cried when I told her of this account. She is the one who made me feel human again. She is the one who gave me hope that I could get better and go on to be an amazing, wonderful, loving mother [to even MORE children, if I wish!]

If you are struggling with this horrible, awful illness I want you to know 3 things: You are not alone, it is NOT your fault, and with the appropriate care you can get better. For great resources and tools to help you find a specialist, visit http://www.postpartum.net/

Fall Bucket List

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Now, before all you summer-lovers jump on my back like, “IT’S NOT FALL YET!” Trust me, I know. I am no lover of fall. Did you know…. after fall comes WINTER? Yeah, you don’t have to convince me that summer is the beast season, I know. So why create a fall bucket list? Simply for the reason that I have to psyche myself up for fall. Now That I have lived in Ohio for roughly 7 falls, I’ve come up with a few favorite things to do here that I can’t necessarily do in California.

Here is the list:

  1. Apple picking – it’s just not the same in the golden State!
  2. watching the leaves change color – palm trees have no changing color
  3. bonfire on a chilly night
  4. drink seasonal spirits (spiked cider, pumpkin ale, etc.)
  5. photoshoot at the pumpkin patch with the kids
  6. put up seasonal decor
  7. go to a fall festival
  8. toast pumpkin seeds
  9. go on a hayride! (so many more local farms here!)
  10. curl up under blankets and watch a movie with hot cocoa
  11. make pumpkin bread
  12. jump on crunchy leaves
  13. get a fall themed mani/pedi (I like dark red)
  14. get out your football fan gear! People are more serious about their football out here.
  15. EAT CANDY

Ok, so that last one every one can do regardless of state or season… but its so much more fun when they come in festive little fun-sized packages!

Hope this helps you look forward to fall, even if you’re a summer-lover like me

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How to Handle a Choking Emergency

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As I’ve said countless times before, I am apart of several online mommy groups via Facebook. The other morning, I woke up to a very disturbing post from a fellow mama. It read: “I lost my 19 month old son tonight. He choked on a single peanut that he grabbed. We went to a satellite children’s and were airlifted to Denver children’s. My sweet boy sustained injury too much for his little body. Please cherish your babies. I’d never give up my blessed 19 months. He was wonderful. I hope I can find solace and what serenity.”

This hit me HARD. You may remember some of my previous posts from when Sophie was young, that we started solids with her through Baby Led Weaning. It is so fun to watch them eat table foods, but you have to be prepared for the inevitable choking that comes with learning how to eat food. When I was younger, I was certified by the Red Cross in child/infant CPR and Heimlich maneuvers, so I have some of that knowledge tucked away… but I also frequently watched YouTube videos on how to help a choking baby.

If you know some one with babies, if you ever babysit, if you ever go to family gatherings where there are babies, if you are a grandparent or older sibling… it never hurts to brush up on these skills. Cora turns 6 months in a couple weeks, and that is exactly when we will begin solids with her. This was a heartbreaking wake up call both to baby proof and brush up on those life saving skills. There are multiple videos I like, but I’ll share my favorite for now:

THIS video is very straight forward, short, and can easily be shared with others. If you want real life examples, you can search YouTube for “baby led weaning gag reflex [or”choking”]” where parents show you how to handle a child who is not yet choking, but maybe has some food stuck in their mouth. The more familiar you are with a baby and their gag reflex, the more you will be able to remain calm and help that child whether it turns into choking or not. Try not to panic! It is some what normal for children to put things in their mouths and gag. The important thing is that you have the clarity of mind to help them.

It can be hard to balance letting your child learn and explore on their own and being a helicopter parent. I say, let them explore, but have the necessary skills in your arsenal for when things take a wrong turn. Let them explore while still keeping an eye on what exactly they are getting into (like the box of wipes versus a jar of marbles). I know it will be harder for me, having a toddler, as some of Sophie’s toys are smaller choking hazards for her infant sister. You can try to be proactive, but let’s be honest: accidents happen. Don’t stress, just be prepared.

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Breastfeeding Awareness Week

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I think I may have just missed the window for Breastfeeding Awareness week [blame the mommy brain] but I want to share this post with you anyway. As many of you know, I breastfed Sophie for 18 months, until I got pregnant with Cora. For some reason, nursing wasn’t that beautiful, bonding experience for me, but I knew it was what was best for my child’s health and so I stuck with it. Then comes Cora… Just when I thought I couldn’t dislike nursing more than I already did, I have a baby who doesn’t like it. Seconds after giving birth, I was able to nurse her and she latched on right away. All the nurses were so proud of us for the next few days, cheering me on in my nursing ability with my baby, cheering on Cora for having a good latch. Once we got home though, Cora would thrash her head, begin to fuss if the milk didn’t let down immediately, and overall made breastfeeding a very unpleasant experience for everyone. Fast forward to her being 3 months old and I become sick and have to be in the hospital for several days. Due to circumstances beyond my control, they don’t let me see or feed Cora for the first few days, and then once I finally do get to feed her, our nursing relationship is completely obliterated by nipple confusion and a low supply of milk.

It was so hard for me to surrender my nursing relationship with Cora. My readers may remember me posting often about how we had a hard time bonding in the beginning, and it felt like this obstacle further separated us. The truth is, she was happier to have the ease of a bottle, and I was happy not to have to wrestle her at feedings any more. What I am thankful for is this: we tried. We desperately tried to breastfeed for almost 4 months. I run into people in my town with 1-4 day old babies who are bottle fed, and these mothers freely admit that they just didn’t want to be inconvenienced by breastfeeding. I get it, I totally do. After being hospitalized, I didn’t want to be inconvenience by a lactation consultant working for weeks to correct my daughter’s nipple confusion. I didn’t want to take supplements and be a slave to my pump just trying to boost my supply. But I do think it is worth it for all women to try. [Disclaimer: I get that some times there are outside factors some women cannot control, that prevent them from breastfeed. This is not a message for you, mamas.]

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It seems unfair that we have to suffer 9 months of pregnancy, suffer through labor, and then suffer indefinitely until we learn how to nurse our babies [hello, cracked nipples!] and that is why I LOVE this image of Mary. It is called “Our Lady of Le Leche” and she is a beautiful reminder of what a gift it is to breastfeed. God endowed only women with the ability to nourish their children like this. Jesus Christ himself depended on Mary to feed and care for him with her body. I wish it was some thing I had learned about sooner, but now that I have discovered this beautiful image I wanted to share it with you all for Breastfeeding Awareness week. If you just google this title of Mary, you will find lots of prayers and meditations on Jesus’ and Mary’s relationship, motherhood, and more specifically how to nurse! I highly recommend it for any Christian mommy.

To all the mommy’s like myself, who couldn’t keep up with breastfeeding, don’t beat yourself up! You gave your child a beautiful gift for as long as you possibly could manage. And to all the nursing mamas out there, we salute you! It is so typical of our society to surrender what is best for a child in the name of convenience. I get that nursing isn’t easy, but you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby and we applaud you for it.

 

Happy Breastfeeding, mamas!

Close Enough to Kiss

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Miss Cora has been teething a lot lately. At times she is inconsolable, but the one thing that has seemed to help is wearing her. Luckily for the both of us, I just got a brand new ring sling!

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`The fabric rests on one shoulder and is threaded through a set of rings. It gives you the feel of a wrap, without all the hassle of wrapping if you need to keep putting baby down and up again. Since Cora has been so finicky, the ring sling has been great for holding her, then setting her in the swing, then holding her again, and putting her back in her exersaucer. The poor girl doesn’t know what she wants, except to have her gums stop hurting.

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My in-laws took both girls for us this weekend though, so J and I could bond and catch up on some sleep. It was a restful weekend [for once] and I am so thankful we have so many people in our lives willing to help us.

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The Role of Grandparents

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Grandparents are super special, super important members of the family unit. It takes some figuring out, as you yourself are trying to learn and develop your own parenting style while also trying to take pointers from your own parents and then juggling in laws on the side. If you’re lucky like me, then you have grandparents who want to and enjoy being very hands on. For me, this set of grandparents happens to be my in laws. If we were on the other side of the country, it would probably be my parents, as geography would have it. Some couples live far away from both sets of grandparents, which is tough, but this post is for those of us who have grandparents in our child’s day to day lives.

Now, why does that matter? My kids will spend a lot of time with my in laws. Sophie has already had numerous sleepovers with them, and even when we’re in California, we stay with my parents, giving her 24/7 access to gramma and grandpa’s love and spoils. So, how do you keep a child from being spoiled, when they’re spoiled with the attention of doting grandparents? What is the role of the grandparents who see your kid on a weekly or even daily basis?

It seems like a simple question, but it’s one I really wrestled with at first. I mean, I was spoiled by my grandparents, and they hardly [if ever] disciplined me. Then again, I didn’t see them as often, nor were they “go-to” babysitters or in any other role that may have required them to actually help raise me instead of just dote on me. So what does this mean? Am I to instruct my in laws on how to discipline my child? That’s awkward.

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No, instead I’ve decided that a balance is best. The grandparents’ role is not to be a disciplinary, they have already traveled that road once. The grandparents’ role is to correct. What’s the difference? Discipline requires some sort of action: a spank, a time out, a punishment. Correction demands that the bad behavior be acknowledged, and that good behavior is instead encouraged. If you think this is “too soft” of an approach, let me tell you I have witnessed Sophie take the things her GG says under advisement, when normally it would take a punishment from a parent to get the same reaction. There is a certain amount of respect and fear of disappointing the beloved grandparents that fuels my child to listen to a correction from them. With me, Sophie will risk my disappointment and a punishment to get what she wants [which some psychologists contribute to the child knowing that they are unconditionally loved by the parent, and know also that the disappointment is only temporary]. Additionally, when we do indulge in rare visits to see my parents in California, we want them to have fun spoiling our kids. The last thing I’d want to do is taint an opportunity for my kids to have fun with my parents by having my parents punish my kids. Even if they are genuinely naughty, a grandparent can encourage better behavior with their grandchild, and then continue doing whatever fun activity they were doing. If a problem persists, then you as the parent can step in, or take some thing away from them as punishment later.

So, do I cringe when I see my child throw a toy inside her GG’s house? Yes. Do I want to take disciplinary action right then and there? Totally. When I see my child fussing, do I some times wish my in laws would just put her in time out already? Some times! But I know that when GG, Pap, Grandma or Grandpa gently remind my child that she shouldn’t act a certain way, that wisdom is being imparted on my child by her elders and it is an appropriate way for a grandparent to be involved of the shaping of my child’s temperament, while also still getting to be the fun-loving grandparents they’ve always wanted to be.

Our Last Date

The week Sophie was born, I have a very distinct memory of Justin and I going to see whatever X Men movie was out at the time. Despite my love of Hugh Jackman, I wasn’t eager to go being a few days over my due date, but my mom convinced me saying that the time of “just the two of us” was limited, and I should take advantage of the “extra” time I was given, being past due. Its a find memory that J and I recalled frequently during tough times during our first year with Sophie.

At 38 weeks, J lured me up to Pittsburgh to go to The Cheesecake Factory, with coupons for 2 free slices of cheesecake. There was no blizzard like we’ve had the past week, the sun was shining, and it felt so nice to get out of the house.

Now, I recommend a small date or even full on “babymoon” vacations to other women I know who are pregnant. The third trimester is tough, and little outings like this help the end to be a little more bearable! My mom comes in this weekend and I can’t wait to see her. It will be nice to have the extra help and maybe get to sneak in another date before baby arrives.

My Hospital Bag

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Since this is baby #2 for me, I was a little wiser when it came to packing my hospital bag. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely had everything I needed the first time around, but I wayy over packed for my 48 hour stay and wanted to make sure I only brought the basics this time around. So, here’s what I have for baby and I:

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New Mama:
New PJ’s To me, it is an added bonus to open up the suitcase after having just given birth, and having some nice new, cozy PJ’s to throw on. They don’t have to be a splurge, in fact, I recommend you just get some from Walmart, because they will probably end up with some form of bodily fluid on them.
Indulgent soap My first shower after giving birth was a very special time for me. A time for me to be alone, process what I had just done, and make myself presentable to meet my baby. Maybe other people don’t think of the first shower as being special, but I’m a ritualistic person… and just like showering before my wedding was  important, this shower felt equally as important. I buy myself a bar of really high quality, nice smelling soap that I have packed away in my bag, only to be used postpartum.
toiletries (deodorant, tinted lip balm, moisturizer, tiny eyeliner pencil, tooth brush) You don’t have to bring your whole makeup bag, but I liked having just a couple things to throw on while people were visiting throughout the day. I kept it simple though, with eyeliner and tinted lip balm, so that I could easily wipe it off if it became uncomfortable.
nursing pads My milk didn’t come in until I was already home, but they are still handy to have just in case, and they don’t take up any room.
slipper socks Some say hospitals are chilly so socks are handy to have anyway, but you’ll also be a little fragile after giving birth, so having little gripper socks with you gives some added stability.
nursing tanks I didn’t really think this through with baby #1. I ended up wearing my nightgown and hospital gown for a lot of my stay because those were the only things I could easily nurse in. This time I packed 2 nursing tank tops and a nursing shirt.
robe Like I said, some times you’re not as “presentable” as you’d hope when visitors come by. A robe is handy for wrapping yourself up when you’re too tired to get dressed, or if you want to walk down the hall to get ice.
pillow from home All the nurses made fun of me and called me “the pillow queen” because I insisted on having my memory foam pillow from home, as well as a hospital pillow behind my back and under my feet. Laugh all you want, but those beds are not comfortable for even the most well-rested and non-injured of people. I was exhausted and dealing with stitches on my underside, so I think I’m entitled to however many pillows I want! Of course, this isn’t some thing that fits into your suitcase, so either remember it at the last minute, or have some one run home to get it for you on their way to the hospital.
optional things… some hospitals offer these items to you which is why I didn’t pack them: nipple cream, postpartum pads, extra large undies, diapers and wipes for baby

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For baby:
nursing pillow My nursing pillow actually did fit nicely into our suitcase (I packed a small, carry-on sized suitcase). Like I said above, it can be hard to get comfortable. It’s nice to have the nursing pillow as an option.
bamboo swaddling blanket I was skeptical about [what seemed like] this trend. But my aunt got me a set for Christmas, and after 1 wash, these are honestly the softest blankets ever. Also, they have some stretch to them, which is great when you’re first learning how to swaddle.
special hospital cap For baby #1, I wanted her to have the classic, blue and pink striped cap from the hospital, but this time around I couldn’t deny getting a cute pink cap with a bow for our second little girl.
take home outfit It will be the dead of winter when I give birth to this baby, so whatever little onesie they give you at the hospital won’t be enough for baby to ride home in. I packed a short sleeved onesie to be layered with a fleece bodysuit.
nightgown My mother got me the cutest nightgown for baby with pink princess crowns on it. These nightgowns make night time diaper changes a breeze, as you’re not trying to fumble around with snaps like you would with a onesie.
burp cloths The hospital usually has some, but I packed extra just in case we soil all the hospital provided ones.
carseat This is obviously a must for bringing baby home. Since it will be winter still, I got a cozy car seat cover to go in the carseat, as well as a fleece cover to go over top.

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For Dad:
loose change For the vending machine. Who knows what time of night I’ll go into labor. It may be awhile before he has the opportunity to eat real food.
-a pen It may seem silly, but there is a lot of paperwork to fill out while you’re in the hospital!
power bank You may forget your charger on your way out the door, but if you have a fully charged power bank packed in your bag, you can charge on the go!
tooth brush, lounge pants, PJ pants, and a change of boxers Really, this trip is all about mom and making her as comfortable as possible. Dad just gets a little space in the suitcase for basics. If he needs some thing else, he can run home when he has a good opportunity, or have some one else bring him what he needs later.