fathers day; Dear Charlie

I wish I had all the moments bottled up. They’d fill the mason jars, overflow the cups, it’d be the moment when the bath runs too high and Nolie starts giggling and Ev stands tall and the water just barely drips over the edge and all of a sudden it’s an overflow of love/holdme/read another book/can you build that papa/I’m your baby/toss me up high/draw another picture with me? and those looks you give. The exchange between all of those sparkly artist eyes, the ones you all share.

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The look of concentration Nolie has, ear protection on, while she builds a fairy world in the scrap wood box below you as you craft art for our home.

The tiny voice saying her known words, “Ebby Papas Baby. Ebby Lobah you.” that she’s felt since the start and can now put to voice.

It would be canisters full, memory cards overloaded, words piled on top of each other in the tiniest scrawl I could fit on a card, that would start to scratch the surface of those moments.

You are a super dad. A super husband. And a constant source of hand squeezes, kisses, encouragement, and growth. You see where we fall short and work to build up. You look at our girls as precious, important, and people in their own right. You don’t steam roll, take over, covet control, or put your foot down. You give empathy, words, affection, read books and care about learning what we can change and do better.

My hope was to be with a man who was always growing. Someone who knew that they knew nothing, who didn’t take the roll of Dad lightly. You study it. You pray over it. You talk and talk and talk with me through the ideas and ideals. You put effort and time, care and thought, and so much love into being a Dad.

When we first found out I was pregnant with Nolie. And I sat there on the big green ottoman, knees to my chest holding that test. And you ate peanut butter cup after peanut butter cup after peanut butter cup and I shook and shook and said “I think I should just call my Mom. I really need to just call my Mom.” and you looked at me, with steady eyes and said. “Autumn. I am so excited, this is good!”

You were right. You were so right. This is good. This is past good, out of the park, beyond my wildest dreams, the best adventure. Thank you. Endlessly, over the top, don’t have the space or words in the world to put it together, Thank You.

You blow me away my Love.

Happiest Fathers Day Charlie, your title of Best is shared with only one other man, my Dad. And I don’t have to tell you what a high honor that is.

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hands in deep.

I have my fingers dipping into so many little pots, stirring and tasting and trying, but not quite seeing the ends yet.

It’s a phase of calm and consistent. Eating well even if my jeans stay tight, of running the miles even if they feel hard each time, of talking her off the ledge and using calm words and decibel even with my crazy rises and bubbles up into what could be explosive. I am in a space of meal planning, the same simple meals, to save the pennies. To paint the same colors and love them each time I stroke them on. It’s feel like a hard space, waiting. The in between. The “results” and “behaved” are far off, or maybe right there, but I can’t tell because it’s all around a bend.

All I can do is remember two things; I am worth moving, eating, loving well. No matter what. No matter what the ‘results’ look like. And no matter how long any of it takes to achieve.

And, two, the girls are worth my calm-loving-empathetic and listening response. Every.Single.Time. No matter if it’s the hundredth time Ever has hit Nolie, or the thousandth time Nolie has deemed a trinket “too special to share! NO EVER! NO!!!”, no matter if I didn’t sleep the night before, or if we are out of coffee. No matter what. They are worth that. And hand in hand, they are worth apologizing too. Even if they don’t apologize back. They are worth the fresh starts, the clean slates, the ‘no keeping of accounts’. They are  girls who pour grace out on me when I fail, and model to me all the love I want to give right back.

This is a good space, a good season, a waiting and calm and consistent space.

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My little mirror.

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I keep waiting for her to be quiet and not need me, long enough to write about how incredible she is. Long enough to put down into words how amazing it is to see the cogs turn, the words come, the abilities pour out, and her growing go faster-faster-faster till it’s spinning so fast we both fall down. But that moment isn’t coming, and we have both just fallen down, hard.

I remember  Nolie crying for no reason that I could discern, yelling loudly and sadly in words I couldn’t understand, but I was there. I could get down on her level, talk to he and give her huge feelings words, I could hold her all day long, and nurse her for hours. When she was having a day that developmentally spun too fast we would slow the world in the rocking chair and nurse all day while I watched old movies and cried about how hard it was.

But Ever is a new breed. She wants to nurse, but can’t stop watching Nolie-playing-running-working to do it. So instead she latches on and cuddles in and then scratches and kicks and kneads my boobs while simultainiously trying to stand and run and nurse… “gymnursics” would be the understatement of the century. It feels like we are off; two cogs on, what is supposed to be, one wheel, that just keep grinding and sparking.

I am lucky in my disposition that none of this makes me mad at her. But mad at myself. Frustrated at my inability to take a deep breath and just.keep.loving.  I have read enough, experienced enough, and researched thoroughly enough to know deeply that none of this is her manipulating-doing “bad things”- or being “naughty” all of this is …. normal. All of this is developmentally dead on, learning her world, her boundaries, what works and what doesn’t, what cause and effect is, what happens when things fall down, what happens when you throw, what happens to others when you ________ . I know. Empathy is starting here. And it needs to start here with me, not with the 1.5 year old.

But it’s so hard. So, so, so damn hard. I want to cry and yell and just say “GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK, LIFE!” Today I cried to Charlie… “I just want to drive to a job, leave the girls with someone I trust as much as you trust me, and just do some busy work. Wear dress pants. Eat the the snacks left by whoever was an over zealous baker the night before. And drink some frilly latte with my comrades while we gossip about the annoying memos.” {And, for the record, this was weird and I *never* want that.} These days feel so long, till there over.

I am on a hair trigger fueled by little sleep, little space to myself, stress over things that are small, (Birthday parties, business information, mama drama, vacation planning, the daily things that aren’t bad at all. The things I know I would ache to ‘deal with’ if anything ever really went wrong.) and the weight of two… the weight of two little girls, the weight of four ears that hear it all and cry when I say “no” to harshly (because it’s scary! and I am so much bigger than them!), and forgive me so so easily it breaks my heart for my mean’ness even more.

And maybe that’s the crux. When I am laying in bed with Ever, attempting to nurse her down for nap for the third time, and she is clawing at me and leaving deep marks, and I am laying her down again-again-again and she is crying so hard she chokes and I am at the end of it and I then she pinches me hard (in frustration and lack of words) and then I say, again, “I can just hold you.” and she sobs her sadness, finally, into my arms and her eyes close with hard and tight as she finally latches on and falls asleep, and I can remember that this was not that bad. And I can leave the room and have to face the apologies of all the hours before this; “I am so sorry I said a mean word (Stupid), I am so sorry I spoke too harshly at the park when it was time to leave. I was feeling frustrated and upset.” and instead of being met with my feelings, at the same confessions that come from a sweet and small 3 year old voice, I am met with “it’s okay Mama. It’s hard being a baby. It’s hard being a Mama. Lets cuddle up.” and I can feel it. That despite my lame and anger, my huge-huge-huge disproportionate feelings when they are being two of the punkiest punks I have ever seen… what they soak up is the forgiveness, what Nolie is learning and growing (and AMAZING AT) is the empathy. She is quick to forgive, and a portion of that is because she has the most open heart I’ve ever seen, but a portion of that is modeling… is what she’s seen. Is a quickly erased slate.

We will weather this stage. And the hard failures I have, the endless apologies on my lips, the sleepiness and lack of words, the anger and frustration, the nap battling, and so much ‘mama mama neeeed’ing will come to an end. And at the end of that phase is this new one, one I am blessed to be standing in with my older girl, the one where empathy isn’t just a glint in their eye as they share a loved toy with a crying friend, but empathy is words upon words of balm to a soul of any age.

I’ll admit that 18mo is not my favorite. But it is a harshly accurate mirror. And here I stand, often wordless at my girl and in need of extra love despite not knowing how to ask for it. But I can see what stands on the other side, and I am not quite wishing this away, but am endlessly excited to see what fruit grows out of Ever and I during this spark and fire filled time.

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Tandem Nursing; Then (then) and now. {Happy Breastfeeding Awareness Week!}

The girls are so different. Fire and Water, spunk and calm. But when they nurse they entwine fingers, share milky smiles, and Nolie rubs Ever’s back in a way that makes my heart soar. They are two sides of the same coin and share these round doe eyes that give me that look. The one that every Mama knows, the eyes that are so safe and filled, that look that makes my heart slow, my milk pour, and remind me that when I am holding and nourishing these two… everything is right in this world.

I have written about it my nursing relationship(s) here and there { tandem nursing FAQnursing a two year old, and our (baby) breast feeding success story from when Nolie was a wee one), and it really blows my mind that we are *still* nursing. My feelings about breastfeeding Nolie have ebbed and flowed, and I should post an update about what self-weaning looks like and nursing a preschooler(!), and maybe during this month of awareness I will get to it! But for now, I am reveling in how much I am enjoying this phase. Honoring where we are at in this dance, and feeling so much pride and praise for what nursing gives me and my daughters in our every day life.

 

 

971921_10100584073783510_1725406942_nI can hardly believe I have been tandem nursing these girls for 15mo. I can say, (hope!) for anyone who is looking at the tandem nursing journey or thinking about embarking on it. It gets better and easier every day! And the benefits have far outweighed the struggles for our little family.

August is World Breastfeeding Awareness month and I plan to participate fully! Check out  my facebook page for lots of pictures of our nursing adventures and looking back on how the relationships have evolved. There are lots of encouraging stories, incredible photos, and really incredible information about nursing floating around facebook and instagram right now (check out the hashtag #normalizenursing #tandemnursing #extendedbreastfeeding ) and be inspired! Happy Nursing!

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skin to skin

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The need for skin to skin is stressed in those early months. Kangaroo care, skin to skin to help establish healthy breast feeding, to bond with baby, to help Dad bond with baby, and on and on. But then? Those babies grow up and into independent toddlers. “I do it myself!” is a commonly heard first phrase from a two year old. The need for distance and autonomy grows and that skin to skin priority wanes. And for some kiddos, that is just what they need, but not my sweet Noele.

I read about Love Language when we were doing our premarital counseling. Charlie’s love language is touch, mine is words of affirmation/time spent (talking)- I’m a talker. But I am not touchy by nature, and it is easy for me to feel touched out just by all the nursing/baby wearing that I do. But Nolie suffers because of this. She needs touch, needs skin to skin, and needs that affirmation. To feel full she needs a lot of touch. One of the best things we have found for her is baths together. I take baths often and once the water is cooled enough she joins me, cuddles up, nurses, tells me all about her day, and always (without fail) asks me to tell her about when she was born and when Ever was born. It is incredible and such a reset button for us.

Last night everyone was crumbling. Nolie was really on edge and losing it over every little thing, Evie was tired and sad if she wasn’t being held, and Charlie and I were both exhausted from a super busy weekend. So we decided to go for it and the three girls all hoped in our (tiny) bath. It was giggling, splashing, cuddling, story telling, shrieking, and all things good. We all got out clean and filled with a renewed appreciation and love.

Finding ways to meet Nolie’s needs, put her needs (and Evie’s) on the front flame and realizing just how important those needs are and feel for her. Ever isn’t nearly as touchy and is more verbal/chatty and love to be talked to/laughed with. Getting to know my girls, their needs, and how to meet them will be a lifelong endeavor I am sure. But today? It was as blissful and easy as taking a warm bath with them and laughing hard and cuddling long.

**also, I hesitated about posting these photos but after talking to a group of other women who parent similarly to me, this was a pretty universal experience. And I want that to be known, and encouraged, bathing with our kids is awesome/bonding/normal and incredible!

sleep.

Ever only naps in a carrier. I was to be upset about this. Annoyed. Frustrated. Clinging to some ‘self soothing’ myth, “she will never sleep” story, sleep training article. I spent a month frustrated that I was never alone. Mad that my baby wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on me. Blaming myself, Charlie, my ‘bad sleepers’, all of it. And then I decided to throw that out. To choose gratitude.

I sing and dance. I crank the music loud. I color and read books. I walk to the park and push Nolie on the swing. I get out! I go to the museum. The frozen yogurt shop. The grocery store. Epic long 3 year old centric playdates. I chat with Nolie and hear her stories with my attention only on her and not focused on keeping her ‘shushed’ or silent.  All this? because I babywear.

Ever sleeps on my back for at least two naps a day, often three. On the weekends Charlie cuddles her up and naps her. When my parents baby-sit she cozy’s up and rests her little ear next to my Mom’s heart and sleeps on. She isn’t an encumbrance, she is a cozy little heater on my back who is used to my voice/beat/cadence of movement. And? when she wakes? she is On.The.Go.

She plays independently. Sits in the the girls room and sorts through all the toys/blocks/trinkets. She and Nolie wrestle and crawl-chase around the house. She sits in her highchair and powers through meals bigger than her sister. She hoots and hollars and cruises around the house with a constant chant of “mama! papa! Nol-ni!!!” and laughter. So much laughter. She is so fast growing and going that I want these cuddle filled naps to never end. Or, maybe not end for a very very long time.

I can be frustrated with her sleep habits or? I can be overjoyed that during the day we aren’t tied to nap time. We aren’t mute and quiet (in our tiny home). We aren’t sedentary in the least (we are dancing! bouncing! movin’!) and we have a rested and happy baby no matter where we travel.

Praise God that he gave me this baby second. That I have shed the need for her to be “normal” (and, that isn’t out there, I promise) and nap in the “right” place, at the “right” time. Praise God for my little back napper.

She was sick yesterday and we hung around home in jammies all day. Here are naps 1-2-3. I feel pretty incredible that at 10mo old she naps three times a day and gets all that touch and cuddle in while I meet my other sweet girls needs, clean the kitchen, write on my blog, have alone time, chat on the phone, and live a little life outside of our four walls too.

Huzzah for baby wearing!

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forward trajectory.

Just as I get started writing each evening the baby wakes up. and then wakes again. and another time too.

As soon as I sit down for a sip of hot coffee there is a puddle of spilled milk to attend to.

Once the floor is swept the baby pushes the cheerios off the tray and the toddler reaches for the flour off the counter… and… smash.

Just as I think we are all ready to go; Diapers- check, fed- check, ergo- check, change of undies- check. It hits her, This is the WRONG jacket, Mama! and… back to the drawing board we go. This time thirty minutes late instead of fifteen.

It is in each of those moments that I have to make a choice: be overwhelmed or be moving forward (however slowly I move).

If you were to drop by my home you would likely find it cluttered. Toys and crumbs littering the ground, laundry unfolded on the couch, piles of outgrown clothes thrown at the end of the bed, and glitter- so much glitter. But you would also find this: spot on girls. Little ladies who are wide eyed at all things Christmas.  A toddler mystified by my abilities to “cut a snowflake from a nothing” and who turns nearly everything she can into sprinkles (candy canes, pinto beans, rice, sand, etc.) for decorating. A baby who grins at her sister, wrestles/crawls and rumpuses with the best of them. A toddler who is stretching my patience and forcing my growth in all the ways I need it most. And a baby who is changing everything I thought I knew about babies.

Sometimes if you were to drop in you would see me choose overwhelmed. Calling Charlie for reassurance, praying out loud for patience and breath, crying hard and answering Nolie’s questions about “how’s mama feeling?”. But, more often now than before, you might see me choose forward. Choose to say yes to nearly everything I can, no matter the mess or time. Choosing to slow down and give up and in- to abandon the cleaning in favor of playing, to forgo the phone call in favor of crafting, to lavish attention and touch on a toddler who thrives when given the time.

We have hit this season hard. Being three years old is intense. Gently, lovingly, mothering a three year old is almost as intense. But instead of starting each day believing I will be overwhelmed, I am picking one fun activity and calling it good if we get through the day and are still laughing and loving. The house can go, the crafts be half done, the cookies filled with an egg-shell or two, but if at the end we are still loving; I am calling it a win.

A couple of days ago things were rough. Nolie and I were seeming to work in opposition. The more I said no, the more she pushed; And the more she pushed, the more I wanted to say no. Everything felt like it was so big and unending (I imagine we were both feeling quite the same way)… I was holding onto the end of my very frayed rope and I yelled “I am just so frustrated!”  (I don’t yell often and it yielded an immediate halt in Nolie). She looked up and said, “you probably need to talk to God, Mama.” and she was so very right. And after that I needed to apologize to her, again and again each day it seems.

After my blood began to cool and we fell back into activities I sat at the table with a big mug of tea. I am far from perfect, and I have big emotions that Nolie is very privy to, but I am doing this well. Her reaction to my freakout wasn’t fear, wasn’t anger, wasn’t to run away… it was to call out for help. Even if I am failing on the house front, the organizational front, and the getting dressed every day front, I am doing something right. And thank God for my tiny little sponge for being a reflection of that good even in the toughest moments.

 

Thankful.

This has been a really rough season and a particularly hard week. Each day it looks a little darker. But once I retreat into that hole-of-dark I stop looking for the light. And there is a lot of light.

Today Nolie (wholly unprompted) apologized to her friend, he apologized to her and they hugged and played so well and with so much love. And it felt like All The Work that seems too unending and unrewarding… it was worth that moment. All the talking it thorough, letting her direct herself, explaining how I feel and giving her the responsibility and the time to come to her own feelings without prompting, it felt so worth that moment. That was light.

Ever holding hands with her baby friend. That was light.

Food on my front porch more times than I can count from friends who know, get it, and have been there. That was light.

Charlie holding me, answering his phone always, taking time off for sick kids, hearing me- really hearing me. That is light.

A God who lets stuff get hard but never forgets, never turns away and is here and in this moment and all the dark ones too. He is light.

 

bruised- The Mama Support Network

The Mamas got me through one of the hardest times I have had. With advice, support and emails with ideas and experience.

I am a part of a big Mom support network on Facebook. The group is full of women I would call my tribe. I know I can put the call out and get advice, help, commiseration, meals, support, hand me downs, a reality check and lots of strong opinions.

There is the safety of editing and being able to see your words in black and white before you hit enter- with that, typically, comes a more thoughtful response. But with that also comes anonymity. . . supposed anonymity. There is space between you and the person you are talking to, safety in a screen between you, and a whole lot more bravado in an online presence than an in-life one. And sometimes, that means we get hurt. I know this is a pretty big problem in the blogging world too. I have been lucky enough to only have had a handful of mean comments thrown my way, and I typically can get them deleted before they hardly hit the screen. But on Facebook it isn’t quite as simple.

Lately the words have been hitting me harder. I am not only a member of this group, I am one of the two creators of it. The group was born out of a genuine want and need for support- tangible real support from women in our town. But as it grows so does this group’s ability, knowledge and scope. This group is close to my heart and, maybe embarrassingly, really important to me. I am dedicated to not deleting content that I don’t want there if the sole reason is that I don’t agree with it. The point is for Moms, in any parenting style, to find informed support and ideas, tangible help and, often times, light hearted photos-memes-inspiration, etc.

This is a group that can DO stuff. Like, provide gifts for 25 families. Bring a huge group of PP Moms together to spread body love. Cover Moms in meals, clothes and childcare. This group does good.

But it also can be really hard to be a member when 1200 women means 1200 opinions. And it means, for me, moderating all those opinions. And, I fail often. I lean one way (duh) and it’s hard to remain impartial. I am also a really sensitive person and peoples words about how they feel about this group hit me hard “I only use it to find clients” or “I wouldn’t post there because I am scared of the responses” or ” I left it long ago because there is no support” . . . they are all valid feelings, have lots of truth to them, and are personal opinions (shared with the collective Facebook). And all of them have bruised me.

I know this group offers support. I know that Moms of every parenting variety have found it there. From Babywise or Weissbluth to Sears and Cohen there have been  Moms getting love, support, and answers. Even if it means wading through a debate. And I don’t think debate is wholly evil or that we should all just ‘leave well enough alone’ in parenting. I want people to challenge my choices, I want to defend them and learn more- I know I don’t make the best choices 100% of the time and I need that debate in order to be a better Mom. And to be a Mom who is willing to change. I think the biggest lesson I have learned in the past three years is that if I think I know it all and don’t need to change, I am doing my girls a disservice. I can always be doing better and I need the love, encouragement, gentle suggestions and accountability to make that happen.

I don’t have any pretty way to wrap this up. I didn’t plan to write this post, or about this group, at all. But I have  been feeling pretty bruised by some of the talk about it. For all of its debate, opinion, and “judgement” I think it is pretty damn successful. And I needed to process this, get it out there and feel it. And writing it out is how I do it.

I will say this, if anyone on it is using it solely for clients, or feels like they can’t find any measure of support there (be that giving it or receiving it)- then click to leave the group. One of the most beautiful things about this Support Network is that is has born many, many branch groups. There is a place for everyone on this huge internet, find it and be kind in it.

 

tandem nursing – FAQ

I have been nursing both girls for over three months now. I really thought there would be more work to this, drama, strife, something. . . but this has been one of the best and easiest transitions in the dance of adding another child. Nolie nurses about three times a day, sometimes a little more and sometimes a little less. She loves to nurse at the same time as Ever and while that is logistically/ physically a little hard it is worth it because they love it so much. Nolie offers out her finger and Ever grasps on, they look at each other and Nolie does that nursing grin that breaks my heart. Tandem nursing is easily one of the best decisions I have made for my girls.

FAQ:

Do you have enough milk for both? Yes! I nursed both of them from the get go so my body produced enough for two kids right from the start.

Is Ever growing enough/getting enough and does she nurse first?  You know, the whole ‘when do I nurse who’ thing was really confusing and worrisome to me before we started but it has come really naturally. In the morning I don’t nurse Nolie till Ever is fully awake and done eating. She sleeps with us from about 2am on and nurses on and off till 7. But during the day I just kind of go with the flow. Sometimes Ever sleeps for a long time and instead of pumping off the engorgement I offer to nurse Nolie (and she VERY happily obliges) and other times I wait, like in the morning, for Ever to be totally full and done and then Nurse Nolie. But basically I have total faith in my bodies ability to produce enough milk to satisfy both of them and I don’t put too much thought or worry into it. As for Ever, she is growing like a weed and putting on weight just right and Nolie has gained three pounds since my milk came in! Hurray for going from skim to heavy whipping cream!

What about colostrum? Was there enough or did it ever come in? A lot of people have wondered if I ever had colostrum or if it was just constant milk since I nurse through my whole pregnancy. How it went for me. . . I had milk through my second trimester and then from about 25-30 weeks I was pretty much dry, then my colostrum came in and Nolie drank that. It continued to flow, stronger, once Ever arrived and when she was two days old my milk came back in. However, newborn milk and toddler milk are very, obviously, different and it came in hard and strong. Lots of milk just dripping out. In short, your body won’t create a certain amount of colostrum but rather creates it for a certain duration.

Pumping too? I am pumping here and there, I have donated about 60oz and have another 25 or so in the freezer to hand off. I have given to a couple of families but now have one family I will be donating to regularly. I don’t have over/under supply issues and pumping has taken some work and effort to figure out but I am finally getting the hang of it. Your body will produce what is demanded of it so it isn’t crazy to think of nursing two and pumping regularly.

Are you just nursing constantly?? No, not really. But both of my girls have/are frequent nursing babies. Nolie nursed all the time as a baby and Ever is following in her footsteps (or lip smacks). So adding in three (for Nolie) doesn’t feel like that much of an extra draw. In the early (first month) days I was nursing somewhere between 22-25 times a day and that was really crazy but it established a great supply and perfect latch. Now, at three months, I nurse about 12 times a day and that feels very manageable.

I don’t know how long we will tandem nurse for, I don’t intend to wean Nolie until she wants to be done but who knows how I will feel in another few months/year. I have no problem nursing an older toddler and am exceedingly grateful for all that nursing has done for my relationship with my girls and their relationship with each other. Nolie has surprised me time and time again with how willing to wait and share she is and how concerned she is that Ever get to nurse first. I think it has also helped improve her relationship with food because she is grasping that she gets to eat lots of fun foods that babies don’t and so she is actually less reliant on nursing than she was before Ever arrived. Overall, nothing but positives have come from our experience.

If you have any other questions about tandem nursing ask in the comments and I’ll answer them there! Happy World Breastfeeding Week!