Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Parenting with compassion

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?  When you see your little bundle of joy for the first time, all kinds of dreams and hopes take hold.  Dreams of what your child will become, and visions of the wonderful parent you will be.  And most of us turn out to be pretty okay parents with pretty okay kids.  I consider myself to be a responsible, loving parent, and I think I have great kids.  But my early vision of parenthood is so incredibly different from the reality of parenthood.  It's been different at every age and stage.  Today I'm mainly talking about parenting Nolan.

Nolan is 9 1/2 years old, and is going into fourth grade.  Some days he acts like a very young child.  Other days he acts almost like a preteen.  I think this age is now termed "tween" (although he's still a bit young for that category).  As a parent, this age is tough because he's got one foot still in young childhood....and the other foot is moving on to bigger and better things.  It's a real balancing act - giving him more independence for some things, and still offering lots of support for other things. It can be very difficult for me as a parent.  However, I also realize this age can be very difficult for Nolan as well.  That is where the compassion enters the picture. 

I hate arguing.  I also hate whining.  I have found that when I try to protect Nolan from all bad decisions, lots of arguing and whining happens.  He thinks he is right, I think I am right.  I get mad, he gets mad, and we usually end up having the same conversation over and over until I explode and start yelling.  The yelling makes him cry....I regret losing control of my temper.....it's not a great situation.  So I've started to let him fall more and more.  Perfect example:

I bought Nolan some new Adidas sandals yesterday.  I wanted him to use them for walking back and forth to the pool to prevent grass clippings from invading the pool...and just to have some sandals to wear outside.  He loves the sandals....a little too much.  This morning we were getting ready to take our daily, two-mile walk.  He asked if he could wear his sandals.  Well, I knew that would be a bad decision.  We walk at a fast pace, and two miles is a pretty long distance.  I knew they wouldn't stay on his feet well, and that it would be a disaster.  So I told him it wasn't a good idea, and that he should wear his regular athletic shoes.  I told him the sandals will not be comfortable.  He insisted - he'll love wearing them, they will be perfect.  So I said okay - but no complaining when they don't work out.  And we are taking the full two mile walk no matter what.  He assured me there would be no problems. 

The first few minutes of the walk went well.  He was keeping up with me and not complaining.  Then I noticed he started to lag behind and drag his feet.  I took a deep breath - I need to stay calm.  In my head I was thinking, I told you so!  WHY DID YOU WEAR THE DAMN SANDALS?!  Breathe.  Prepare for the complaining.  Stay calm. 

He started to lag further and further behind.  Breathe.  I stopped, turned around, and told him to keep up with me.  A look of misery had taken over his face.  Major dragging of his feet.  Possible limping.  Not a good sign, since we're only about a 1/2 mile into our 2 mile walk.  Frustration started to bubble within me.  Our daily walk is my peaceful timeNow I'm going to have to listen to his whining the rest of the way.  My walk is going to be ruined!  Breathe.  I calmly asked him how his sandals were working out.  He mumbled, "Not too good.  I think you were right, this was a bad decision."  I said well, I guess you'll know for next time.  Then I continued to walk. 

When we reached the cemetery, which is the halfway point, I offered to let him sit in the grass and have a drink while I walked the cemetery loop.  He said he wanted to sit at Adam's grave site, so he did while I walked the loop.  As I walked the loop, many things went through my head.  I was dreading the mile home, since I was sure it was going to be full of whining and complaining.  I was mad he didn't take my original advice.  I was generally frustrated.

Then I looked over at him, sitting by Adam's grave.  I felt compassion for him at that moment.  First, because he is so sweet about his little brother Adam.  But also because I remember being a kid.  Being excited about something new and wanting to wear it everywhere/tote it everywhere.  He knew he screwed up.  He was miserable....the flip flops kept falling off his feet.  It was hot.  A mile to a child seems like an eternity.  He didn't need a lecture from me....he didn't need anything but a hug and some compassion.  I called him over.  He walked over with his head hanging down, dragging his feet.  Probably expecting a lecture.  Instead, I gave him a hug, and said - it's hard to be a kid sometimes, isn't it?  He started sobbing.  Yes!  It's really hard.  I should have listened to you.  I will never wear these again on our walk.  More sobbing.

My anger melted away.  He had gotten the message loud and clear, and now I wanted to help make the last mile a little more tolerable for us both.  So our plan was that he could walk in his socks for a half mile, but once we reached our road the sandals had to go back on (because our road has gravel, unlike the smooth road we were currently on).  He didn't whine on the way home, and I got my relaxing walk.  We shared some good conversation and he told me I will never wear these again on a walk!  I know that if I would have not been compassionate, that last mile would have gone so differently, and not in a good way.

I don't regret letting him fall today.  If I would have forbidden him to wear the sandals, then every morning when we went to leave for our walk I would have to have the same conversation with him.  He had to see for himself.  I'd like to think he now sees that I actually know a few more things than he does....but I'm smart enough to know that this scene will play out many, many times in the future. It will be different situations...but the same concept.  Sometimes you have to let your kids fall.  The time to make mistakes is when they are young, as the consequences are usually pretty small.  If you prevent them from making mistakes by controlling every little thing....then they never learn.  And will probably make those mistakes when they are on their own for the first time....and we all know the stakes are much higher at that point.

A big challenge as a parent is to keep calm, even when you want to completely blow up.  Of course sometimes I don't react with compassion.  I snap, yell, lecture, etc.  But I am really working on responding with gentle kindness and compassion.  I found a wonderful daily devotional for Catholic mothers.  There is a short quote from a saint, bible verse, and suggested action for each day.  The book was written by two women - one has eight children, and the other has nine children.  I think they know a thing or two about the challenges of motherhood!  I've found that by starting my day with such positive messages, it really sets a great tone for the day.  Some days go better than others, but at least I'm working at it.  Maybe by the time Nolan is a teenager I'll be better equipped to deal with all the stress that accompanies that life stage.  A girl can hope, right?!  <3                     

    

   

Monday, June 27, 2011

Water = Fun

Our backyard is turning into a water wonderland these days.  We decided to stick our pinkie toes into the "backyard pool" arena.  I say our pinkie toes, because we are starting very small.  We bought a 12' x 30" portable pool for our backyard.  We've thought about getting one for a few summers, but we always decided against it, assuming it would be a waste of money.  We didn't want to deal with cleaning the pool, the ring of dead grass that would persist long after the pool was taken down in the fall, we weren't sure if anyone would really use the pool, etc. 

I'm not sure exactly what pushed us to change our minds this year....I think mostly it was the fact that we were going to buy Luke a baby pool, and then decided it would be more fun to get something big enough for all of us to hang out in together.  The one we got was inexpensive and big enough for us all, so we decided to give it a try.  Mark and Nolan set it up yesterday, and I have to say, it's pretty cool!  Nolan is in love with the pool - he has spent hours in it already.  It's still too cold for Luke....but I think after a few more days the water will warm up enough for him.  I bought Nolan a couple of rafts, noodles, and water toys.  We bought Luke a floating ring to sit in - hopefully he'll like it.  Mark and I took turns this evening playing in the pool with Nolan - we all had a blast!  I think that no matter how old you are, water is fun.  The evenings are the time of day that Luke tends to be fussy...so we're hoping to spend the evenings in the pool to keep him occupied.  It will be really good for him to get used to being in the water.

If this pool experiment goes well, we may upgrade to a bigger, deeper pool in future summers.  One step at a time.  We're following a 4-step chemical system plan....it doesn't seem too difficult, but we're only two days in.  Stay tuned ;)

In closing, here are a few pictures....

Nolan relaxing on his raft.


Luke is completely entertained by Nolan playing in the pool - he'll sit and watch for a long time.



Luke so happy to see his big brother up close!

  


Smiley boy, waiting for his meal :)


Unsure about his first bite of green beans.  He did well...ate several spoonfuls!





 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cloth diapering: Mostly good......but not all good

I remember during my pregnancy, I got many looks of shock and horror when I said I was planning to use cloth diapers.  At the time, it was a decision based mostly on cost containment.  The thought of buying all those disposable diapers for twins made us cringe.  I was excited to save money, and hopeful that choosing cloth wouldn't end up sending me over the edge :-O

I did a lot of research about different types of diaper systems (there are so many to choose from it almost makes your head spin!), detergents to use, methods of washing, etc.  Since I was already going to be washing diapers, I decided to also use cloth wipes.  It didn't make sense to have a laundry pail for diapers and a trash pail for disposable wipes.  I was prepared and ready to go!  I had my special detergent, my cute cloth diapers, cloth wipes, wipes warmer, wipes solution, laundry pail, and laundry bags for home and travel.  It was a lot of money to spend upfront, but we were sure it was going to save us lots of money in the long run. 

Now that we are six months in to cloth diapering, here is an update:

*Using cloth wipes is the best decision we made.  If you are going to use cloth diapers, cloth wipes cause little to no extra work.  I love how soft they are on Luke's bum, and how clean they get him during diaper changes.  I keep them in a wipes warmer with a water/wipes solution.  I rarely battle diaper rash anymore, which I credit partly to his wipes working so well.

*Mountain Green Baby Free & Clear is my favorite detergent for diapers.  It does an amazing job.  I realized how great it is after trying Rockin' Green detergent.  After using Rockin' Green a few times in a row, his diapers smelled HORRIBLE.  It was disgusting.  I switched back to Mountain Green and the problem was solved.  I will never stray again!

*Best Bottoms diapers continue to do an awesome job.  I rarely have leaks.  I use a doubler at nighttime, and that usually holds for close to 11-12 hours.  They seem to be top quality, as his covers/inserts are not showing any wear yet.  The stay-dry inserts keep Luke feeling dry even when he's soaked.  As I mentioned before, I rarely battle diaper rash, and I mostly credit BB diapers for that.  They are truly a wonderful  diaper system.

*Admittedly, saving the environment was not our reason for choosing cloth.  However, I will say that I do feel pretty good about reusing diapers when I think about all the trash disposables cause.  Also, I love the fact that I am not putting chemicals directly against Luke's delicate baby skin.   

Sounds like a fairy tale, huh?  Well, recently the petals have fallen off the cloth diapering rose.  Before I continue, if you do not want to hear about poo, you need to stop reading at this point.  Seriously, you have been warned.

Luke's poo habits have evolved since birth.  He was exclusively breastfed until we introduced cereal.  That translated into liquid poo in every diaper.  Diapers were tossed into my handy-dandy diaper pail, which were then tossed directly into the machine for washing every few days.  A couple of rinse cycles and a hot wash, and viola.....fresh, clean diapers emerged.  Super easy.

Well, the party is over.  Now that Luke eats rice cereal along with breast milk, he doesn't poo in every diaper.  When this transition started, I was loving life.  It was great - he'd only have maybe one messy diaper a day, and it was still liquid and machine washable.  Then he started going once every other day.  The "once every other day" more than made up for all the poo free diapers I had changed for two days.  Still machine washable, but needed machine washing ASAP.  Not the kind of diaper you wanted to leave waiting around for wash day.  Then he started going once every 3 to 4 days, and let's just say, these bad boys are not the machine washable variety.  It's one thing to change a gross diaper, but it's another thing to have to "deal" with that diaper.  Not fun.   

The bottom line is, I need to get a diaper sprayer installed immediately.  Apparently, diaper sprayers attach to your toilet somehow, and you just spray the gross diapers down over the toilet bowl before you put them in your pail.  I think I can handle that better than the method I've been having to endure.  I won't go into details, but you can use your imagination.  I am hopeful that my love of cloth diapering will return once I have a diaper sprayer.  I'll continue using them no matter what.....we've invested too much $$ to stop now.

Hopefully I haven't scared anyone away from cloth diapers.  This is just an honest update about our experience with cloth diapers. 

I'll end with a tale from the changing table (again, graphic...don't read if you have a weak stomach). 

I would say I change Luke's diaper 6-7 times during an average day.  Each diaper change probably only takes 2-3 minutes.  So at the very most, I'm spending 21 minutes at the changing table each day.  Luke takes a poo every 3-4 days.  Within the last two weeks, he has decided to take his poo during a diaper change....on two different occasions!  What are the chances of that?!  It's horrible!  It's like the changing table is a poo cue for him or something!  Then there is Mark, who hasn't had to change a poo diaper since Luke's habits transitioned from daily to every few days, because Luke never does it when he's home.  I think it's a conspiracy.....  :)

That's all for now.  I promise the next post won't be gross <3                     

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A good appointment

Luke and Nolan had well checks today.  Thankfully, both boys are healthy and doing well! 

Nolan started off his life as a big boy, and he has stayed that way.  He's measuring in the 90th percentile for height, and 95th percentile for weight.  Wow!  His doctor said that he's on track to be around 6' 1" as an adult.  He liked the sound of that, and is looking forward to the day he's taller than me :-)

Luke started off his life tiny and classified as a "preemie", but did not stay that way for long.  We were shocked to hear that he's now measuring in the 90th percentile for height, and 85th percentile for weight.  His growth continues to jump up percentiles each time we go to the doctor.  It will be interesting to see where it levels off....we thought it had started to level off, but I guess not!  He got three shots....which was possibly more traumatic for me than it was for him!  I have always hated vaccination days with Nolan and Luke.  I know they need to get them, but I wish they didn't have to hurt.  Luke is struggling a bit with this round.  He's very fussy and even had a little diarrhea :(

Lots of changes are ahead for Luke's eating.  His doctor advised us to start giving him water in a sippy cup (6 oz. a day), and to introduce fruits and vegetables.  She said we can introduce them in combination with each other, but I'm not going to follow that advice.  With Nolan I was told to introduce one vegetable at a time, waiting three days before trying the next one.  The reason for that was so we knew what he was allergic to if he had a reaction.  Also, Nolan's doctor had said that if we introduce fruits first he will never want to eat vegetables.  Following those tips worked well with Nolan, so I'm going to stick to what I did with him.  We'll probably start vegetables next week! 

I left the appointment feeling so thankful that both boys are healthy.  After all we went thru with Adam, I know how much of a blessing it is to have healthy children.  I will never take good health for granted again, that is for sure.  <3


This is one of my all time favorite pictures.  While I was pregnant, Nolan wanted to learn all he could about babies.  And he really listened to what I told him.  This is evidenced by the fact that when he first met Luke, he rushed in the room, and whipped off his shirt.  We were wondering what was happening....he said he wanted to have skin-to-skin contact with Luke so they could bond!  LOL!!!!!  Also, he had watched the "Happiest Baby on the Block" video with us.  In that video, the doctor talked about how "shushing" babies helps calm them down.  That is exactly what Nolan is doing in this picture.  I just love it.....so sweet.  He takes his role of big brother VERY seriously.  Luke is pretty lucky to have such a wonderful brother!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We've got a 6 month old!

Mr. Luke is celebrating his half birthday today, along with the first day of summer :D  Mark and I congratulated each other for "surviving" the first six months with Luke.  We decided we deserved a dinner out tonight to celebrate.  Red Lobster....yum!  And Luke's present to us was being a perfect little angel during the entire meal.  The ride home was another story....but at least we had a peaceful meal.  I even got to eat my meal while it was still hot :)

We shared many laughs this morning when we were thinking about "then" vs. "now".  I've always read that the first year gets easier every 3 months.  I would agree with that line of thinking.  I remember Luke turning a corner at 3 months, and within the last week, we've seen some significant development happen again.

I think the first year of life is the most amazing year.  Newborns basically eat, pee/poo, and sleep.  And scream and spit up.  At six months Luke can roll over, smile, laugh, babble, sit-up, hold toys, support his own weight on his legs, pick things up, etc.  It's pretty cool.  In six more months, he'll be a regular little walking/talking (babbling) person! 

While we enjoyed those early months, I think we both are grateful for the improvements that have happened since birth.  We no longer have to listen to his screams during diaper changes and baths (we felt like those episodes would never end!!). 


Instead, he babbles and smiles on his changing table (most of the time), and loves his baths. 



We no longer have to formulate a war plan to shield Luke from wind (he would scream and act as if he could not breathe when wind hit his face).  Now he loves the wind, and it even seems to keep him calm.  I can go grocery shopping with Luke in tow without any issues.  Feeding Luke is quick, easy, and painless.  He still likes the Moby/Ergo carrier, but I don't have to use them on a constant, daily basis.  I get 40 minutes of peaceful tranquility each day when I take my walk with Luke in his stroller.  We both look forward to that time - if I don't take a walk for some reason, he seems to be fussier that day.  We finally are done with the swaddle!  I was getting worried that I would be swaddling him in kindergarten ;)  He notices his environment so much now, and is very entertained by our dog, cat, and his big brother.  He also has started to show a lot of interest in toys.  He has become much more social - sometimes my face hurts at the end of the day from smiling so much.  When I look at him, he gives me a big beautiful smile....so of course I return the smile....and then he smiles again....I smile again....you get the picture.  But all of these are good changes!! 

Here is a recap of the first 6 months!

Luke - birth day!!

Adam - birth day!!

Baptism - two angry babies :-O

A special goodbye between brothers.... 

One month old

Two months old

Three months old

4 months old.  Mom, can we get this show on the road?  Stop taking pictures, feed me, and let me go to bed.

5 months old

Six months old

Chillin' in pack 'n play

We are excited to see what the second half of Luke's first year holds.  I hope I can write about his improved sleep habits in six months!  Most nights he does a pretty good job....sleeps in his crib most of the night, wakes to nurse, goes back to sleep with us.  Not tonight.  It is 10pm.  Mark and I are in bed, with our little bundle of joy between us.  He is flashing his beautiful, dimpled smile at us, and babbling non-stop.  It's hard to be frustrated with him when he's so darn cute.  We made the grand mistake of taking him out for the evening.  We knew it was risky....being out and about in the evening seems to lead to bedtime disaster.  But it's impossible to be home every single evening.  Plus we keep hoping that someday it won't disrupt bedtime, so we periodically venture out to see what happens.  He briefly fell asleep on the way to the restaurant, which gave him a second wind.  We tried putting him to bed in his crib.  That resulted in wild screaming, crying, choking, etc.  It could be a long night.  *sigh*  This too, shall pass...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Today is a very special day for Mark.  It is his first Father's Day!  I tend to think the first of anything is extra special.  I wanted the day to be absolutely perfect for him.  It's his day, so I asked him what his dream Father's Day would be.  He said he just wanted to hang out with Luke and I.  And no diaper changing.  And be able to sleep in.  :)  So we've done just that.  I made him a pancake breakfast, we took a family walk to the cemetery to visit Adam, we hung out at home, did some errands, and now we're all resting in bed.  I'm making a pork tenderloin for dinner, and hopefully Luke will go to bed easily tonight so Mark and I can have a relaxing evening together.  All in all, a great day. 

When Mark and I got engaged, we knew we wanted a big family.  We envisioned lots of kids in our future, and we thought it would be an easily attainable dream.  As it turned out, it wasn't so easy.  Basically nothing about conception, pregnancy, and birth was easy for us.  Then we lost Adam.  It's been an extremely tough road.  So I am thrilled to be able to celebrate fatherhood with Mark today.

Mark entered fatherhood knowing very little about babies.  He was eager to learn all he could, and has been a very hands on father since day one.  I remember him intently listening to the lactation consultant at the hospital when she showed us a better way to hold the bottle for Luke.  He learned how to operate Adam's special bottle, and would patiently work with Adam during feedings.  He took meticulous notes about Adam's medications when we came home, and completely managed his medications.  He cuddled Adam in our bed at night when that was the only thing that comforted Adam.  He deeply loved Adam, and I will never forget the look on his face when he  had to say goodbye to his son.  He was my biggest cheerleader when I started breastfeeding Luke.  When I encountered problems and needed to see a lactation consultant, he came with me to the appointment and did all he could to support/encourage me.  He works tirelessly 6 days a week (at least) to give us a good life, and so that I can stay home to raise our children.  No matter how tiring or stressful his day has been, he has a smile on his face when he walks through the door at the end of the day.  He somehow finds the energy to play with Luke in the evenings....especially when I'm in desperate need of a break.  He loves Nolan and treats him as if he is his own.  He is a true partner in parenting.  We are walking this road together.  We have had the best of times, and we have had the worst of times as parents.  I know many adventures are ahead of us.  We hope and pray there are more children in our future.  No matter what happens, anyone who can call Mark their papa, husband, or step-dad is pretty darn lucky.  Mark, you rock.  And you are loved <3

Birth day!


Baby Adam



Adam and Luke


Growing Luke!


First trip to the park


Sweet Papa and Luke


Mark's birthday


Mark's first Father's Day!


Riding on Papa's shoulders


                    

Thursday, June 16, 2011

SERENITY NOW!

If you've ever watched Seinfeld, you've probably seen the "Serenity Now" episode.  It was one of my favorites.....when Frank Costanza was advised to think "serenity now" whenever he became stressed, in hopes that it would help him stay calm and serene.  Instead, he would scream "SERENITY NOW".  It was pretty funny.  Sometimes when I feel like life is crazy, busy, stressful, etc., I think about that phrase and it makes me laugh.  Which relieves stress and helps me feel more serene :)  I think mommas all over the world have times when they wish they could command - serenity NOW!

Our week hasn't been terrible or anything - just busy.  Now that I have a "baby on board", a busy week generally makes me feel stressed.  I think there are many pros to having a 9 year age gap between my children (sibling rivalry doesn't exist, Nolan is a HUGE help, Luke is entertained by Nolan, Nolan is self-sufficient, etc..).  Probably the biggest con to that large age gap is the fact that they are in different stages of life.  Nolan is involved with sports and other activities that require shuttling here, there, and everywhere.  And the timing is not always a great fit with Luke's schedule.  Couple that with living far away from everything....which means we usually don't have time to go home and come back....it's tough.  Let's just say Luke and I have spent lots of quality time together sitting in our van :) 

Considering all the places I dragged Luke to this week.....and all the naps he missed because of being carted around....I can't complain.  I am, however, looking forward to getting back into our typical routine.  Luke needs his naps, and I found this week that so do I!  Since he doesn't sleep continuously thru the night, I need some time to rest during the day.  Otherwise, the interrupted sleep catches up with me and I feel exhausted by the time late afternoon hits.  Luckily, the next 6 weeks or so should be "organized activity" free.  I love that we will not be ruled by any kind of sports schedule for awhile.  We can do what we want, when we want!

A couple updates:

The Moo Town Cafe is a huge success so far (it's only been a week).  I love not having to be the food police.  It seems to help keep us all on track.  I'm notorious for not thawing the meat needed for dinner in time, so writing the menu out in the morning helps me with that issue.  So far, so good.

Jazzy is doing so much better.  We no longer let her "graze" all day on her food.  We set the bowl out in the morning while we eat breakfast, then it goes up, and comes back down while we eat dinner.  This has helped with her issue of dragging food all over our house.  Also, she is not allowed on our new furniture.  She had never been on that particular furniture, so it's been easy to enforce.  She lays nicely on her blanket, which is now on the floor.  Just those two small changes have made an enormous difference.  I no longer feel rage towards her :)  Luke is obsessed with Jazzy.  He laughs out loud at her - just the sight of her makes him smile/laugh.  She can't restrain herself from licking him...and he now anticipates her licks.  When he sees her coming, he starts smiling and squinting/blinking his eyes (which is what he does when she licks his face).  I moved her food/water bowl close to where Luke's playset is in our kitchen.  He is completely fascinated by her eating.  It keeps him entertained while we cook/eat breakfast, which is great!  I'm so glad we didn't give Jazzy away.  She really is a sweet dog and we love her.



Taking a shower/getting ready for the day has become a complete nightmare lately.  Mr. Luke has decided that he doesn't enjoy that time of day.  It's always been somewhat of a tense time, but he's taken it to a whole new level.  He does what we have termed his "non-breathing cry".  Complete hysterics.  It can be quite stressful.  The other day I resorted to putting him in his Ergo carrier while I put on my make-up.  That was fun.....  It was the more appealing option to me at the time.  A happy boy = a happy momma.



No matter how crazy the Lukester acts, my heart melts as soon as he does this:



That dimpled smile, and his slobbery kisses get me every time <3

Finally....remember the post about ticks?  Well, it's taken me this long to stop having moments where I felt like bugs were crawling on me.  I really hate bugs.  This evening, Mark was giving me a back rub.  All of a sudden he stopped rubbing my back.  Somehow I just knew.....oh yes, there was a TICK on my back!!!  It was attached!  Eeeeewwwww!  WHAT is it with these ticks?!  Does my blood smell extra good or something?!  So now I'm back to square one with the creepy feeling that bugs are on me.  *sigh*....

 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fun in the sun

The weather these past few days has been simply beautiful.  I love it!  Within the last few weeks, our water toys have begun to surface.  I think it started with the sprinkler, which led to the Slip 'n Slide, which led to our mega water park.  Before I get into all that, let me start with a quick public service announcement:

Do not waste your money on a Slip 'n Slide.  Modern day Slip 'n Slides are pieces of junk.  They have added too many bells and whistles.  They are not strong enough to withstand children repeatedly slamming onto them.  They will pop, which will render them useless.  Your children will cry and beg for another one.  You might think it was a fluke, and go purchase another one.  Let me assure you - it is not a fluke.  They are terrible.  We've tried the Banzai ones, and the Wham-O ones.  The Wham-O ones will last a bit longer than the Banzai ones, but none will make it thru an entire summer.  I purchased my last Slip 'n Slide yesterday.  It was on sale for $12, and only lasted for 10 minutes before it popped.  Never again!  As a side note, my parents still have the Slip 'n Slide that my brothers and I used religiously for years.  Nolan has even used it.  It was a simple piece of plastic with one tube along the side that sprayed water.  Durable and fun.  They don't make them like that anymore, unfortunately.

I think it was after a Slip 'n Slide blow-out last year when we made a huge water toy purchase.  I was pregnant at the time, and I stumbled across an amazing sale online at Wal-Mart.  We're talking a discount of $300 or more.  Free shipping.  It got rave reviews on every site I could find.  Thinking long term, we figured Nolan would get a few summers out of it, and then our little ones could enjoy several summers of fun as well.  So we bit the bullet and bought it.  I have zero regrets.  Nolan has a blast with it.  Luke loves to watch Nolan on it.  He will sit on my lap for up to an hour watching Nolan play.  Today I even took Luke in it!  It was so cool - his first time playing outside in water :D  He loved it!  We didn't go down any slides, just sat in the pool area and let him splash around a bit.  I don't think he would have loved it if the water had been cold, but it had warmed up in the sun for a few hours and was a nice temperature.  Here are some pictures of our backyard fun!

Wild Man Nolan loving the slide!



Luke enjoying the beautiful day, watching his brother!


Sweet big brother Nolan helping Luke in the pool area.


Nolan and Luke in the suits, ready for some water fun!


Long, lazy summer days rock.  Being outdoors wore us all out.  Luke is passed out and Nolan is resting.  I think I might take a little snooze as well.  Cheers to a great day <3

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Better put on my big girl panties

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and again and again):  Being a parent is not easy!  I'm not saying it should be easy, either.  I mean, what job is bigger than raising a human being from infancy to adulthood?  I can't think of one.

On most days, and in most situations, I would say I'm a confident person.  But we all have "one of those days" every now and then when we just aren't quite at the top of our game.  Lately when I've had an off day, it's usually because I feel sad about Adam.  I deal with my sadness by hugging my boys just a little tighter, and vowing to be the best parent I can be to them.  Taking good care of Nolan and Luke helps fill the void I have from Adam dying.  I put everything I have into lovingly caring for my family.  Bearing all of this in mind, one of the most hurtful things that can happen to me when I'm feeling a little off is to be criticized on my parenting.  It's not cool at all.  It rocks me to my core.  I start second guessing myself.  I cry.  I feel inadequate.  Then I get angry.  I vent to someone (or many someones).  And then I put on my big girl panties.  Got any other comments?  Bring it.    

Luckily my "off" days are just that - a day here and there.  With support from friends and family, I quickly recover and I move forward.  I'm not a perfect parent -- no one is.  Just like no one has perfect children.  I've made many mistakes as a parent, and I know I will continue to make mistakes.  It's okay.  Parenting is a game of trial and error.  No two kids are alike, and they do not come with an instructional manual.  So what is a momma to do?

Well, I don't really know for sure.

So I read parenting information from credible sources.  I gather information from our pediatrician.  I talk to friends and family to see what they tried with their children.  And most importantly:  I pray. I ask for guidance and patience.  I get to know my children, and I accept them for who they are/what they need.  I do what feels right in my heart.  I try to lead by example.  I love unconditionally.  I'm not afraid to be a parent (sorry Luke and Nolan, I will make you mad sometimes!).  I stand up for my children and I protect them, because if I don't, then who will?  I make mistakes.  My children are not perfect.

Criticize me if you must.  I can take it (usually).  I'm a pretty strong momma.  And I'm packin' big girl panties.  <3              

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Moo Town Cafe

One of my goals for the summer is to help Nolan eat healthier.  I have allowed him to fall into some bad eating habits over the years, and I see that it is catching up to him.  I feel really bad about it, actually.  I can't rewind time and have a re-do, so the next best thing is to make the needed changes now. 

Since I've been following the WW plan, I've completely changed the way our entire family eats.  I *try* to stay away from processed foods, and instead I usually cook our meals from scratch.  Now that I've gotten better at cooking, I'm also starting to home bake our snacks.  For one, the most expensive items on my grocery bill are pre-made snacks.  In addition to being expensive, pre-made snacks are typically unhealthy (the ones Nolan wants).  I've recently discovered some yummy and healthy recipes for banana-oatmeal muffins, pumpkin-oatmeal muffins, and cherry squares.  It's easy to make a batch, divide into portions, and refrigerate.  That takes care of snacks for the week.

Nolan's issue is that he would eat all day if left to his own devices.  The healthy snacks I make are only healthy if eaten in moderation.  With it being summer vacation, I was worried that snacking would get out of control with Nolan being home all day.  I hate feeling like I'm the "food police".  And so the Moo Town Cafe was born.

The Moo Town Cafe is what we named our kitchen.  I bought a black dry erase board and neon dry erase board markers.  Mark mounted it on our pantry door in the kitchen.  Each day I will write the menu on the board - which will include all meals and snacks.  My hope is that the board will give structure to the day, and will stop Nolan from constantly snacking (and constantly asking me when it is time to eat the next meal, what we are having, etc.).  Nolan was only with us for dinner tonight, so I only wrote our dinner on the board.  Tomorrow will be the first day with all meals/snacks pre-planned.  Nolan loves all of this - he said his dream was to have a menu board at his house - LOL!  He even added "opening night" to the board since today was the first day it was installed and ready to go.  As an added bonus, I made "spaghetti tacos" for dinner, as seen on iCarly (a show he loves to watch).

Our menu board:


Nolan with his famous spaghetti tacos!


         
I am really hoping that these efforts teach Nolan how to eat healthy in a fun way.  I don't want him to feel deprived or that he's being punished.  We'll see how things go this next week!  Hopefully the Moo Town Cafe is successful <3

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A rockin' Tuesday

Today was awesome.  It started off with my weekly weigh-in for Weight Watchers.  It was just the morale boost I needed - down 4.4 lbs. in one week!  Holy cow!  I had pretty small losses the last two weeks, so I analyzed everything I had been doing.  I noticed that there are two options for nursing moms - exclusively nursing, or nursing along with supplemental formula/solid food.  We don't use any formula, but we do give Luke cereal every evening. I decided to choose the supplementing option and see what happens.  It lowered my daily point allowance, but did not impact my milk supply.  I have now lost a bit over 20 lbs.  I am very proud of myself!  Here is a picture of my face when I began the program on March 29th:


Twenty pounds lighter:


The weight loss is very noticeable in my face, and I've gone down two pants sizes (in some styles) :-D

The next awesome thing about today - our furniture was delivered and we love it!!!  It fits into our living room really well, we love how it looks, and it is soooo comfy.  We had a family pizza party/movie night tonight - I don't think I ever want to go to the theater to watch a movie again.  So much nicer to be in the comfort of our own home - and much cheaper!

So all in all, it was a good day.  I loved having everyone home together this evening.  Our summer break has really gotten off to a great start.  I hope it stays like this all summer <3

A few pictures....

Luke exploring grass for the first time (he pulled it out by the fistful, LOL!):


Brothers hanging out :)


Luke "waving"



Monday, June 6, 2011

It's summer vacation!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wooooooo-Hoooooooo!

Today was my first day with Nolan on summer vacation!  I was so excited to see him and get our summer started.  We kicked the day off with his first tennis lesson.  He did a great job!  I was very proud of him for a few reasons:

1.  He stepped out of his comfort zone to try tennis, and admitted he was nervous...but he went anyway.
2.  He was the oldest child at the lesson.  He gave me a "look" when he saw his fellow tennis students, but he kept a good attitude.
3.  He was very focused during the lesson, and did an amazing job! 

I think he's at a perfect age to learn tennis - he is old enough to pay attention and understand the instruction, and he has already developed good hand/eye coordination.  He said he loved it.....he mentioned being the oldest, but I assured him that the lessons are for children up to age 10, and that everyone has to start somewhere.  The other kids just happened to start their first lesson at a younger age.  No biggie!  I'm glad that he isn't letting the age gap thing ruin the lessons for him. 

Later this afternoon the three of us took a 2 mile walk, and then Luke and I watched Nolan play in the sprinkler.  It was fun!

It's really cool to watch Luke and Nolan together.  Nolan is very entertaining for Luke - he watches every move Nolan makes.  He laughs/smiles at Nolan a lot.  I wish Adam was here in the mix - three brothers would have had lots of fun together.....  On fun days like today, I like to think that Adam is with us in spirit, and that he feels our love.  Even though he is in heaven, he will always be a part of our family <3

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Country living

Three years ago, I could think of many words to describe myself.  "Country girl" was not one of them.  We lived a few miles from town growing up, and once I left home and went to college, I always lived in the city.  I could let my gas tank run to basically zero, because there was always a gas station a minute or two away.  I could go to the grocery store without a list, because if I forgot something, it only took me a couple of minutes to go back.  I can't say I particularly loved the traffic and noises that came along with city living, but it was what I was used to. 

Then I moved to the country.  What a change!  It was so quiet all the time.  There was no traffic.  It was a solid 15 minute drive to the closest town.  I learned very quickly to take a list to the store - it's not fun to put in a 40 minute round trip drive to go pick up one thing at the store.  I became much more aware of my gas gauge....because if I ran out of gas close to home, I was out of luck.  It definitely took some getting used to. 

I can now say that I have embraced country living 100%, and in fact I don't think I could ever go back to living in the city.  There is something almost therapeutic about living in the country.  When I walk outside, everything around me is peaceful.  I feel calm and rejuvenated.  I can think clearly.  Life feels like it moves at a slower pace.  It's pure awesomeness (which is not a word, but I think it should be a word!).  The biggest downfall to living in the country is the inconvenience of being so far from everything.  However, Mark pointed out recently that while it takes us a good 15 minutes to get into town, we at least get to continuously drive for 15 minutes.  It's a calm drive, and it's pretty.  In a city, sometimes it can take 15+ minutes to travel a few miles because of traffic.  That is a stressful and frustrating drive.  So in the end, it evens out a little.  I think I just might add "country girl" to the list of words I can use to describe myself.

On an unrelated note, Luke has picked "his song".  I think I have mentioned before that when Nolan was a baby, I used to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to him.  After awhile, that became a magical song.  If he was fussy and I couldn't physically console him for some reason (driving in the car, etc.), I could sing that song and he would immediately calm down.  Nolan told me that Luke could have "his song".  So I sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to Luke a lot.  He liked it, and sometimes it would calm him down right away, but it didn't have the same long-lasting magical effect.  I figured singing just wasn't going to cut it for Luke like it did for Nolan.  Then recently I sang the ABC song to Luke.  He looked at me all wide eyed, and became very calm.  I didn't think much of it.  Then I sang it again a few days later....same thing.  So I started singing it more and it is magical for him!  He can be freaking out completely, and if I sing the ABC's, he calms down and usually will even be smiling by the end.  It's crazy cool!  And I guess he'll be a pro at the alphabet at an early age ;)



       

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pictures

Okay, I had to share a few new pictures of my little guys.  I guess one isn't so little anymore - Nolan is officially a 4th grader now!  Wow!  I went to his school's prayer service yesterday, where our priest officially moved students up to the next grade.  So fun to watch him walk up to sit in the 4th grade pews.  Then the school had their year-end talent show.  Now that was funny to watch.  Nolan isn't a performance kind of kid.  It cracked me up to watch him because he appeared to be hiding behind the person in front of him, was always a beat or two behind with the motions, and he just looked generally embarrassed!  LOL  I got it all on video :)

Here is Nolan on his last day of 3rd grade!


Here is Luke with Nolan, celebrating his big brother's last day of school :)


I think babies look so cute in footie PJ's.  Couldn't resist snapping a picture of Luke before bedtime last night in his jammies!



Luke in his activity center.  He was all smiles!  I included Mocha in the picture - he has completely fallen in love with Luke.  Wherever Luke goes, Mocha goes.  We'll see how long that love affair lasts....once Luke can chase after Mocha and inevitably pulls Mocha's fur for the first time!



Finally, I have to congratulate Luke - the last two nights he has slept the entire night in his crib!  Last night I put him down around 8pm and he didn't wake until 6:30am!  Woo-Hoo!!!  <3  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's okay to suffer sometimes

I am starting to understand more and more that it's okay to suffer sometimes.  When I say "suffer", I'm using the term lightly.  Let me explain.

I'll start with our dog Jazzy.  I've mentioned Jazzy before - she is our boxer.  She is probably the sweetest dog I've ever known.  I don't think she has a mean bone in her body.  However, she does have some very annoying qualities.  She is very timid, which can create many problems.  She's too scared to walk down our basement stairs, she is too scared to take a walk with Luke and I because of his stroller, unexpected noises make her freak out, she hides behind me when someone new comes to our house, etc.  Also, when she eats, she takes a mouthful of food and then walks to wherever I am in the house, and proceeds to chew the food there.  Little pieces of dog food come out of her mouth, and she doesn't clean them up.  So by the end of a day, there are little junks of dog food everywhere.  Which means I have to vacuum constantly.  She also wants to be in the mix of whatever is going on.  She has walked on Luke, wants to lay on his blanket with him, takes his toys, wants to lick him constantly, etc.  It might not sound like much, but now that I have Luke to deal with, her "issues" drive me crazy.  So crazy that I decided she needed to go.  I contacted her breeder to see if she wanted Jazzy back, but I don't think it's going to work out for her to take her back.  While I was waiting for her response, I had some time to really think about Jazzy.  She has some very nice qualities - she doesn't bark, she is my loyal companion, she LOVES kids and is so tolerant of Nolan and Luke, she requires little to no grooming, she loves and is very nice to our cat, and really her biggest crime is loving us too much.  It would be very selfish of me to give her away.  I need to train her better so she behaves better.   

Weight loss.  I lost a pound this week, and I felt really angry when I saw the scale.  Even though I know I'm only supposed to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week, I wanted to see a bigger loss.  All that work:  Tracking every piece of food that goes into my mouth.  Having to formulate a well-calculated war plan any time I go out to eat.  Having to say no to yummy food many times.  Having to feel hungry sometimes.  Walking two miles day.  It's not fair!  Some people don't have to go thru all that to be thin.
   
Parenthood.  Enough said!  LOL

So yes, mild and occasional suffering is okay.  It's actually necessary sometimes.  When I have moments of suffering, I have to think big picture.  Jazzy is annoying sometimes, but overall she is a sweet, loving, and loyal pet.  Losing weight isn't easy, but if I want to live a long, healthy life, it's necessary.  Parenthood can be exhausting, but if I want my kids to grow up to be productive, happy people someday, then I've got to put the hard work in now.  It was Booker T. Washington who said, "Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."  A very true statement!  <3