lion man

I am not sure what Henry’s first Halloween will look like exactly. Since it falls on a Friday, David and I will both have to work during the day.  Once we get home, it might be either too late or too cold to take the lion man out. Of course, if these two concerns do not present themselves, then we are aiming to taking the little lion out on the town (for at least a few minutes) to “trick or treat.” It will be funny bringing him by our neighbors homes or bringing him over to close friend’s. If nothing else, he will don his little costume and we will observe the holiday through photographs! I am sure Henry is psyched about it!

Regardless of how we celebrate on October 31, Henry was able to spend a little afternoon with his friends recently at a pumpkin festival in costume!  It was adorable seeing his little buds dressed as a strawberry, cow, and astronaut. And, of course I loved seeing their parents as well. It is nice being a part of a little group of moms to share stories, insights, goofy moments, and, most importantly, to watch our babies grow up, thrive, and begin to reach out and “play” with one another. It is such a fun part of mommy-hood. To me, this was our Halloween celebration!

dogs & babies

It has been said that a dog is man’s best friend, and “a dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” In our house, this is incredibly true. Since welcoming Henry into our lives, we have not been the best puppy parents. Henry’s needs have constantly come before our own and before our pups. He has laid a fog over our eyes in which we see only his little self and his little needs. And despite this negligence, Buster and Bella have been unflappable in their love for their less then mindful pack leaders. They continue to be love and loyalty personified.

In the middle of night when Henry chirps and squawks, the dogs cock their heads to the sound, confirm that the little man is being addressed by one of the humans, and return to slumber as best as they can. Just like the humans, they have not had one restful night since July. Yet, they remain ever present. They come to bed each night and brace for the restlessness. They warm the bed on chilly nights and occasionally lick an exposed leg or hand to remind us that they are there and there they shall remain. In the wee hours of the night, when I am awake with my little owl, I know I am not alone since their half-watchful eyes and their always ready to secure selves remain close by.

When I am frustrated that they are crowding the bed while I try to nurse Henry, a short “move, move, move” and Bella lumbers over to the end of the bed in order to make space for this unapologetic newcomer and her sometimes distraught and disheveled adult human . During the day when we aren’t always able to take them for walks, they head out back and make do with the yard. They romp about and play with each and return to the house and maintain their quiet, watchful place. When Henry is on the floor flaunting an interesting toy, they don’t rush ahead for it, they lay beside him, sometimes steal of lick of his little hand or of his toy.  But, they know these are not their toys and instead wait for this little human to grow up into the boy who will chase them about the house. As a result of their condition, the dogs play a long waiting game. They wait for David and I to pet, cuddle, and play with them, they wait outside a lot longer these days while we wrangle the little man inside, they wait and wait for Henry to grow up.  They are truly beautiful, wonderful, amazing pups. They have proven that despite their world being turned upside down by this pint size new ruler of the home, that they are calm, loving, patient little beasts.

favorite things: right now

Since gaining more adequate head control, Henry has really become a little person. Obviously, he was a little person without head control, but now he is SO much more interactive and playful. As a result of this, “play time” is no longer me sitting in front of him and showing him things while he stares through the items. Now he reaches out and grabs for stuff, puts everything in his mouth, laughs, squeals, and bats at things. With this new skill set, we opened up some of the boxes we had stored away as “toys for later.” One of our newest favorite things is the door frame jumper. When I was little, my mom said my Jolly Jumper was my absolute favorite toy. I would sit in it for hours hopping and bopping about. My mom could move it from room to room and my favorite place to bounce was near the kitchen so I could watch my family prepare a meal while I did my “exercise.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can buy the original Jolly Jumper any more. Canada seems to own the market on the super cool original harness.  We had to settle then for an imitation version, but it will do. We set Henry up near the kitchen and while he was skeptical at first, he batted his feet about on the floor and was able to stare the pups straight in the eye from the comfort of his harness. I can see Henry really enjoying this odd device in the upcoming days.

Similarly, he has been enjoying his stationary bouncer. He goes in here everyday for about 10-15 minutes and just plays and plays and plays. He knocks the little vegetables off their posts and turns the pages of the sensory book. If you take him out sooner than he wants, he fusses until you realize, “Oh hey, I think he wants to go back into that bouncy thing!”

And, where would a new mom be without her diaper bag. We went with the skip hop duo and didn’t really know if we would end up liking it or not. When you are new to this whole parenting business it is really hard to know what you need and what is just excess. Thankfully, the bag we selected worked out. It is small enough that when I carry it around I don’t feel like I am carrying around Henry’s nursery but big enough to actually store diapers, cream, wipes, changing pad, 2 blankets, change of clothes, 2 hats, socks, a monkey mat, a mommy hook, pacifier, emergency bottle, Sophia, and also my personal items as well. While I am not sure what we will need as Henry gets older and his needs advance, I am happy that this bag is working out for us right now (and fingers crossed will continue to work out). Lastly, let’s talk about the Merlin Magic SleepSuit, otherwise known as MY FAVORITE ITEM YET! Henry was struggling with being un-swaddled and rolling over all in one night. Sleep was hit or miss and by the end of two weeks David and I were reeling from exhaustion. We checked out some blogs, talked with our pediatrician, and also met with our mommy friends. With these powers combined we chose to start a gentle sleep training program and included using this sleep suit. We followed our usual sleep routine: bath, books, snuggles, pjs, nurse, pacifier, and bed (this time with the suit on). We were prepared to let him cry for one minute then go in and comfort and repeat this process up to 5 times.  But, once in the suit there was no need for a second of crying. Henry passed out in his comfy suit and slept a 5 hours shift followed by a 4 hours shift!! YAY Merlin Magic Suit!!! Best purchase ever as it bought us the more precious gift of all: Sleep!

chopped salad

This past long weekend was refreshing. Something about having that extra day turns a regular weekend into a vacation! David and I enjoyed a mostly quiet time at home. We both took off Friday to take Henry to his pediatrician in order to discuss strategies around sleep and sleep routines. Our little man is consistently inconsistent which makes sleep a question mark in our house. Our meeting on Friday was not earth shattering in the information she presented but it did confirm some “best practices” we were beginning to implement. So we will have to give you an update on Henry’s sleep in the days and weeks to come. Fingers crossed this little man breaks through his sleep wall.

We spent a lot of time just being together as a family though and we even rekindled some of our favorite crafts and hobbies. I am currently working on a mustard yellow scarf for the winter and David in elbow deep in books about chess. When we weren’t playing with Henry, we were either crafting or cooking. It was a perfect way to spend these Fall days.  One of the recipes we tried for the first time was this chopped salad. It was  quick and easy and the prep time was practically non-existent. The flavors are super subtle but it was a light meal option for us on a day when we whipped up a significant brunch and crock pot beef stew for dinner!

 

Ingredients:

Roast chicken (we bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

5 strips of cooked bacon

1 head of romaine lettuce

1 tablespoon ground mustard

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese

Toss everything together and enjoy! (especially if your husband dons a sexy apron  while mixing this up =)

work & pump

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The first week of nursing Henry was hard. I was so stressed out about it that I would break out into a sweat.  There I was holding Henry, trying to establish a latch, sweating, and crying! It was an ugly and frustrating sight. Within 72 hours, I was convinced it was not going to work and that my little baby was belligerently opposed to the whole nursing experience as he thrashed about and beat his little tight fists against me. I had never felt so completely powerless and clueless. And, talk about feeling like a failure. While no one was judging me and no one was expecting me to nurse, the pressure to do it and do it perfectly felt real. In the end, the only thing that really mattered was getting food into the little guy. He needed his most basic need met either with a bottle or breast. It was hard to be patient with myself. I kept thinking this is supposed to be natural.  If so, why was I completely mystified by the whole process and feeling like a “bad” mom for not being able to do it. It took a LONG time until I felt “comfortable” breastfeeding and weeks before I would venture out around meal time with Henry. In some ways, it felt harder than labor because at least with the labor my body had no choice, I was just there for the ride. When it came to the breastfeeding, it somehow felt like I should be able to control this process more….

Despite these early challenges, we stuck with it!  Henry and I now have a beautiful and easy nursing relationship and I am so incredibly thankful for being in this spot right now. Of course, there are so many fears that nag at me though. My biggest being: will I be able to keep up with his growing appetite. I am starting to worry that Henry will out pace what I can pump for him at school. Obviously this stress is counter-productive to the whole “making milk” process but it is a real and present concern. At the hospital, the lactation consultants always seemed to encourage a relaxed approach to breast feeding: relax and the baby will latch, relax and you won’t overheat, relax and you will make milk. So I just need to heed their advice.

Now that I am back to work Henry takes about 18oz of milk from 7AM-4:30PM. This means I have a second job of pumping: Melissa Pumper Extraordinaire. After waking up and tackling the morning “routine” which isn’t quite routine at all, I drive frantically to school in order to get into work with enough time to pump before classes. Ideally this is by 7:30AM. Then it is back to the pumping room around 10AM, 11:40AM, and 3PM. It is a busy day of dressing and undressing as quickly as possible!  When I first started this whole pumping-at-work dance, I felt very clumsy. I always wore the wrong thing: dresses without  zippers up the back, pencil skirts, and  necklaces.  All of these items while fashionable slowed me down and assured me of more complicated dressing and undressing within my 10 minutes constraint. Then there was the issue of just knowing how to set up and take down the system. I realized shortly that since I am not currently sharing the pumping room with another teacher, I might as well just set-up shop and leave it until the end of the day. Then there was the issue of storage: Do I pump into multiple small bottles that fit into my carry tote or two big bottles that don’t fit into my carry tote but would keep me from screwing the pump tops on and off all day long? Lastly, there was the issue of learning my schedule. At home all day, Henry dictated the schedule and it was mindless.  Now, I have to juggle classes, student meetings, teacher meetings, special schedules, and fitting in the fastest lunches just to accommodate the pumping that needs to get done in order to ensure Henry’s food source for tomorrow.  This adds an intense amount of stress to the day. But sometimes, some days, I feel like I have it under control.

The hardest part about pumping at work isn’t the mechanics of it all. That is a learned skill that over time is becoming easier to manage. The challenge that I face each day is the isolation. Of course, I am lucky to have a clean and comfortable designated space for pumping, but it is isolating to go and use that space. And, so far as the temperatures have been cold most mornings but then the day heats up, the space has not had regular heat which also means it is a bit cold right now (although this will undoubtedly change once the heat is turned on more regularly to address the falling temperatures outside). But back to the isolation. Part of my job that I love is having the opportunity to spend time with my colleagues during the “down time” in the school schedule. They are a pretty dynamic group of men and women but my pumping schedule cuts into part and sometimes all of these “down times.” As a result, I feel at times outside of the community. Yes, this is temporary and yes I am doing the whole pump at work piece out of choice but it still is tough. While I am getting more and more accustomed to my daily schedule to accommodate the pumping that needs to be done, a part of me remains saddened by it. The consolation: (a) knowing Henry is having the best chance of being EBF  (exclusively breast feed) and (b) knowing that I am the fastest dresser this side of the Mississippi!