Friday, February 26, 2016

Stitch Fix: February 2016

Today's blog post brought to you by overlapping naps for the baby AND toddler! I got to try my clothes on, take awkward photos using the camera timer, and start typing a post to review my Fix. Amazing!

I feel like this was probably my best Fix yet! Though I only plan on keeping one item, my stylist (Shelby) got the closest to my actual style that Stitch Fix has come so far. Since I still have some credit from referrals, I scheduled another Fix to come soon and requested some brighter colors for spring. 

Here's a photo of the style card and note from my stylist, in case you are curious. :)

The item I plan to keep is the navy blue tie-back knit top, shown below. I wasn't that enthused when I pulled it out of the box, because I already own a lot of navy clothing. Once I tried it on, however, I realized it was super cute!! The fit is really flattering and the tie-back gives a little bit of flair to an otherwise understated shirt. I also like that the material is soft, and that it's made in the USA. 

This striped shirt was a near miss. The feel and fit are really good. I like that I can pull it up easily for breastfeeding, and it's really soft. The length is very flattering, too. Plus, stripes! BUT, the colors just aren't great for me, especially the light pink that's lining the collar closest to my face. Like I said, really good in theory. But I'm sending it back.

If I didn't spend my days wrangling little kids (and carrying their stuff all over creation), I might have kept this clutch. The colors are really fun and it has a lot of inner compartments. Since I do spend my days wrangling little kids, though, it's not worth keeping. I don't use the reversible tote bag that I got from Stitch Fix last spring nearly as much as I'd hoped, so I can't justify keeping another cute bag at this stage in my life.

Something I seriously considered keeping was this navy blazer. I asked for a blazer in this Fix, and the one they sent was very soft and had a cute flowy part in the back, which I loved! However, the material pulled at the front when buttoned, and was a bit short on my long torso. 

The worst item in this Fix, which I couldn't even fit over my baby-birthing hips, was this pair of pants. My stylist specifically mentioned them, and apologized that she couldn't meet my request for a pair of white skinny jeans. This pair of pants was her alternative, but I wasn't impressed at all. Couldn't even get them on, plus they look old-fashioned and frumpy to me. 

Still on the fence about Stitch Fix? I think spring is the perfect time to give it a try. If you are concerned about not liking anything in the Fix, send me an email. I can connect you to a Facebook group where people sell stuff they don't plan to keep, in hopes of not losing their $20 styling fee.

Like I said before, this was definitely my best Fix... I've gotten five over the last 18 months and they seem to be closer to my actual style and preferences each time. If you're ready to take the plunge, please use my referral link, and let me know how you like your items!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The tale of a house: kitchen!!

Our new kitchen was the room we got ready most quickly. 

There were a lot of things to be done, but the kitchen took priority because it needed to be complete before we could move in. I can sleep in chaos, but can't feed a family of four in chaos very easily. :)

SO! Once Joel and his dad sanded down the cabinets, and the new flooring, counter top, sink, tile back splash, dishwasher, and stove were put in by our contractors, Joel and my mom got the cabinets painted a lovely bright white. (Benjamin Moore "White Dove")

I wanted the shelves on this wall to stay open, since our FiestaWare dishes are so lovely. (Plus, open shelving makes unloading the dishwasher a breeze!) 

The fridge came with the house, but we purchased a new oven and a new dishwasher. I'm really happy that they are white, because having so much white in the room makes it really bright and lovely, even on the dark, dreary winter days.

While I was visiting my parents earlier this month, Joel and two of our neighbors painted the walls the same light gray as the rest of the main living space. (Benjamin Moore "Barren Plain")

Two things we added for convenience and comfort were a hanging pot rack and this kitchen cart from IKEA. We don't have many cabinets in our kitchen, and the counter space is somewhat limited, so we needed something extra to help in that department. I loved having a pot rack in our old kitchen-- it saves SO much storage space and I like to be able to grab the pots quickly as I cook.

This kitchen cart has met our storage needs perfectly-- we use it as a coffee station (the box underneath the coffee maker stores all our K-cups) and Charlotte's glasses and snack cups are stacked there for her to reach easily.

We don't have plans to cover the windows, since the light in the afternoon is beautiful (we can see the sky turning all kinds of blues and pinks and purples as the sun goes down)!! I think for the time being, we can stick a fork in this room-- it's done!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Chats with Charlotte 3

"Dinner time!!!"

"Any some." (As in, "Any some tea, Momma?", or "Any some milk, Dad?")

"Work, 'puter, Dad."

"Asher, okay. Okay, Asher." (said very quietly to Asher when he is screaming his head off, usually with the same intonation I use when trying to comfort him with the exact same words)

"Bear. Back. One Minute. Stay here, Bear."

"Pray, Mom! Pray Oma. Oma sick."

"Use paint! Use dot markers! Use coloring book!"

"Hello!! Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Nate. How are you, good!" (Said into the DVD player remote which she thinks looks like a phone!) 

"Go this way. Go that way."

"What going on, Papa Bear? Papa Bear sick. Not feeling well. Go home, take a rest." (When reading a Berenstein Bears book about them going out to eat; Papa Bear eats three desserts... Oops)

"Bye, Mom. Going Fred Meyer, get food. Love you, Mom. Big hug!" 

And my personal favorite, as we pass Wendy's on a family drive: 
"Get French fries, Mom!" 
I laugh, and Joel turns to me: "busted!" 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I wish someone had told me: postpartum depression and anxiety

Today's guest post written by my friend & fellow blogger Megan Sortore. We went to college together and are currently raising toddlers alongside our new babes whose due dates were within a week of each other. Amazingly, her little girl arrived five weeks early so she's got Asher beat by about a month ;). Meg's sharing about a delicate topic, which I feel is incredibly important to bring out into the open: postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
Kelly and I had our first babies around the same time so it was great to be able to exchange thoughts and text each other things like “my kid is doing this/that, is that normal?!” It was comforting to have a friend walking the same path and figuring things out just like I was (and am). Maybe thatʼs what this series means to me. “I Wish Someone Had Told Me...” means “I have no idea if this is normal”, which can sometimes feel extremely isolating.

My big “I Wish Someone Had Told Me” egg is the olʼ postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety. I do believe that PPD is becoming slightly less taboo and most women are told to watch out for it after having their babies. But postpartum depression/anxiety is a monster with many ugly heads. I didnʼt even realize I had PPD until a few months ago because I GOOGLED IT, which, as Iʼm sure you would guess, isnʼt the best way to find out that you have something! I didnʼt think I had PPD because I didnʼt have the typical PPD symptoms: I didnʼt have hypomania or dysthymia. I felt bonded to my baby and I didnʼt feel overwhelmed about all the stereotypical hard stuff us moms are warned about when pregnant (sleepless nights, breastfeeding troubles, etc). But I was experiencing some other symptoms. Symptoms I never heard anyone talk about.

Here are just a few of the things I Wish Someone Had Told Me...

I Wish Someone Had Told Me that after I had my baby I might be so utterly depressed about the WORLD that I would feel guilty for bringing a baby into it. Having a baby has made me acutely aware of my pessimistic worldview. After having my first child I started noticing the barbarity of the world like never before. I am constantly fearful that something tragic might strike the thing I hold closest to my heart and care about more than anything; my child. If you have time, this article so eloquently describes what Iʼm trying to say. Hereʼs a short excerpt: “Two of parental loveʼs major active ingredients are fear and guilt. Fear of the vast and bewildering spectrum of terrible things that might befall the object of that love, and guilt that you might not have done enough to prevent them.”

I wish someone had told me that becoming a parent might make me feel so much sadness for the pathetic reality of our existence that I might feel my heart literally breaking with sorrow. Unlike the author of the article quoted above, I have a more hopeful thought than just not reconciling the strangeness of pessimism and parenting. My hope is that Godʼs plan for creating humanity in the first place will be worth all of this pain. That, in a nutshell, is Christianity. The world is crap but Jesus said “I know itʼs crap but just wait because Iʼm going to redeem the crap and right now you canʼt possibly understand how but I promise it will all be worth it!” So I hold onto that. When Iʼm ready to throw in the towel and give into my pessimism, I hold onto the fact that Jesus gets it. He FELT it. He asks me to just hold on and keep the faith, and then try to help others do the same.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me that I might be totally fine (joyful even) during the day but at night I might suffer from panic attacks. After the babies are in bed and things slow down for the night I might not be able to stop my mind from playing out horrific scenarios of my children being in pain. That I will lay in bed and plan out what I would say at their funerals because I just know something bad is going to happen. I just know it in my heart and bones. I wish someone had told me that anxiety twists your intuition until youʼve convinced yourself something bad will happen itʼs just a matter of what and when.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me that I might incessantly worry about my kids for quite possibly the rest of my life . The worry (anxiety) of are they getting enough to eat, are they sleeping enough, what if they catch this, what if they catch that, what if they fall and have to get stitches, what if a bully picks on them, what if theyʼll just never go pee in the friggin toilet ever (currently an issue for us over here), what if Iʼm not doing this right,
what if, what if, what if. Itʼs exhausting. PPD/A is exhausting. If youʼre experiencing such anxiety talk to your doctor, your partner, your friends, your parents; all of the above!

Once I diagnosed myself with PPD I went to the doctor and unloaded all of this on her in one big long breath. She said “I think if youʼre not feeling at least some of this when youʼre a new parent than you arenʼt awake.” (yes, my doctor is awesome). So in other words...This. Is. Normal.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me that having a baby might cause a somewhat-mid-life crisis. I donʼt know if itʼs the having of the children or the getting older but some real existential shit has been hitting the fan for me in the last two years. Iʼm guessing itʼs probably a little bit of both, but I think having a child is playing the bigger role. Becoming a parent has spurred me into Part II of my life. Itʼs caused me to question foundational pillars of my faith and, frighteningly at first, let some of them go. Itʼs put me on an exciting journey of enlightenment. I feel like Odysseus trying to find the way back to Ithaca! Luckily, there is some amazing literature out there to help with the existential crises that might accompany parenthood. Hurray! Iʼve recently read some great works that have lifted me out of my philosophical fog. In the interest of keeping this post on point, I will restrain from listing all the great books/podcasts/articles but let me know if you need some suggestions because I will ecstatically bombard you with my recommendations.

These are just a few of the experiences I was not prepared for when becoming a mother. I realize these are some pretty negative waves and I am (at least I hope I am) in the minority with my despondency. I recently talked to my mom about all of this and she told me she didnʼt feel remotely this down and out when she had me or my brothers, which is good or else there might not be as many of us!

So those of you who are pregnant... Iʼd imagine that this might have freaked you out just a tad. But if anything stays with you let it be this: while I was unprepared for the depth and severity of these feelings, I am very grateful for them. As I said before, itʼs because of all of this that I feel my eyes have been opened! An enlightening is happening! Theyʼve given me a new, profound understanding for the relationship between God (parent) and Jesus (Son). Theyʼve given me empathy. Theyʼve set my feet on a path that would not have been found otherwise.

And to those of you that might have just had a kid or have had one for a while and are feeling all the feelings...I hope this makes you feel less alone, more normal and above all hopeful.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I wish someone had told me: Two Under Two

Last January, when we found out baby 2 was on the way, Joel and I had a bit of nervousness alongside our great joy. We knew our kiddos would be less than two years apart (twenty months and one day, to be precise), and we couldn't fathom the craziness that would come with having Charlotte be so very young when her new sibling arrived.

I didn't get too much advice on the subject of having two kids under the age of two, though I did read this great blog post by a mother I follow online. Looking back now, I see that there's no way anyone could have prepared me for the challenges of those early days. I wouldn't have believed how hard it was, if someone had let me watch a feature film foreshadowing the beginning of our second baby's life. But if I'm writing a blog post on the subject (which I clearly am...), here are a few things I wish someone had told me.

I wish someone had told me... how much I would miss my husband. With just one kid, we were parenting together, side by side, taking turns with bedtime, giving baths together, he playing games while I finished dinner. Once Asher arrived, it was all hands on deck, all the time, and usually in separate locations. I nursed the baby. He changed the toddler's diaper. I put Asher to bed, while he entertained Charlotte, then put her to bed since I was nursing again (or still) by that point. I made dinner with Asher asleep in the Ergo while he took Charlotte for a run to let her out of the house for the first time all day. It was exhausting for everyone, and with a baby eating around the clock, we didn't really have a single second for just the two of us. Plus, I was totally zonked by the time both kids were in bed, and had little energy for watching a movie or hanging around to chat.

I wish someone had told me... how much the change in routine would affect my toddler. Ugh, Charlotte's behavior the first few weeks of Asher's life was so difficult! Due to unlucky timing, she got a new baby brother on the same day she got two extra house guests. We'd hoped my friend Melissa would arrive with her daughter a couple days before Asher was born, so she could be present at his birth. He didn't wait for her, though, and she flew in just 9 hours after he arrived! Charlotte had a really, really, really hard time sharing her mom and dad with a new baby, and also really struggled to share her house and life with another toddler. Obviously there's no way to predict when babies will arrive, but if I'm ever in a similar situation, I would probably just ask my mom to come and not have any other friends or relatives amidst the chaos.

I wish someone had told me... that I should do my absolute best to help my baby take a bottle consistently from an early age. In the beginning, it was too much for me to navigate keeping Charlotte occupied while I pumped AND fed Asher a bottle, and by the time Joel came home from work the house was so chaotic that feeding Asher a bottle got lost in the craziness. Since we weren't consistently offering it, Asher now has no interest in anything other than getting his milk straight from the source, and that limits the time that I can be away to run errands, go out on dates, etc.

I wish someone had told me... how my heart would break into a million pieces the first time my children met. Joel brought Charlotte into our room when she woke up (after Asher had been born at 1am). I will never forget her little voice when Joel asked if she knew who was in momma's arms.... "Asher!!!"

I wish someone had told me... how quickly and beautifully my little girl would become a brave, independent, hilarious big girl, once she had a new baby at home. Charlotte can do so much by herself these days, and is a very attentive, kind, and thoughtful sister. I'm really proud of her and feel very grateful that she has the gift of a sibling so close to her age.

I wish someone had told me... how fun it is to watch the love these two have for each other. Asher cannot get enough of Charlotte. He stares at her constantly, and cranes his neck all the way around so he can get a better view. They've started to play a little bit together, and she will pass him a ball and say, "Catch it Asher. Pass to me, Asher!" SWOON.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Raising Twins: I wish someone had told me

“Fighting Fears With a Baby in Each Arm”

When I think of our first weeks with twins, one person always comes to mind: Kenny G.  Our Thanksgiving preemies and NICU graduates had to be woken up to be fed every three hours.  So when it’s Christmas time, what better way to smoothly wake you and your spouse in the middle of the night than with some soothing, holiday jazz!  Except it often worked too well, and we would either sleep through the alarm for 45 minutes, or we would argue at 3:10 in the morning in a half-asleep stupor: “I just heard this song like two minutes ago.  It CANNOT be time to feed them again!”  Oh, but it was, my sleepy former self.  It was . . .

No doubt, caring for two babies (or more!) at once can force a mom to forfeit some of the “ideal” baby experiences such as natural delivery and nursing.  And oh yes, twins can be exhausting.  One has to look no further than our history with Kenny G or our family’s December and January 2010-11 photo albums, to confirm the exhausting part.

(And there’s a lot more of those sleeping beauties (pint size and full) when you look through our photo archives.)

Before our adventure with our fraternal twin boys began, there was no question from anyone that we were going to be a teensy weensy bit tired.  But we also were given unwanted negative thoughts and fears before our boys arrived, ironically coming from people who neither had twins nor were a twin.  These were the people warning us how much our lives would alter, telling us we wouldn’t get out by ourselves for a long time, making frightening faces, and begging us to hire a night nurse (On a Christian teacher’s salary?!  In fact, I did have a night nurse.  His name was Ben, and I shared a bed with him.  Nice arrangement, huh?)  

Cutest night nurse EVER.

Instead, my biggest cheerleaders were the people in my life who had twins.  And no, their tales of twindom were not all sunshine and lollipops.  But their tales were also not littered with words like “hellish.”  When I talked to them, I didn’t leave scared but instead encouraged. 
With both the rally of the cheerleaders and the pessimistic roar of others, we lived to tell of pushing through the twenty diaper changes a day, the round-the-clock pumping, and the plethora of bottles that needed cleaning.  But by month three, I was charged and ready to start proving the pessimists wrong.  We accepted offers from people to babysit, and we went out on dates.  I lugged both babies along to Target, to coffee shops, to the grocery store, and to restaurants.  And when the pediatrician told me I would need help bringing both babies to the doctor’s by myself, I proceeded to prove her wrong too.  

So a quandary arises for me when asked, “What do you wish someone had told you before you had twins?”  Do I wish that I hadn’t been told all the potential negative aspects of caring for twins?  Or was it that negativity that drove my intensely competitive side?   My side that hates losing in tennis, in Parcheesi, in anything for that matter.  Which might be why when I was pregnant with our third child and everyone said, “Having a single baby will be a cakewalk after twins!” I never bothered to rally my competitive spirit.  After our third child’s birth, I found myself treading water for two years wondering when the cakewalk would start.  And still I wait.

Yes, twins are hard (as is adding any additional baby to a family), but not beyond reason.  And for some it may be harder than for others.  Job situations, other siblings, the temperaments of the babies, and life’s logistics all play a part in the challenges of raising two babies at once.  Please, ask advice from families with twins.  But also don’t forget that although your situations have great similarities, your experiences will never be entirely the same. 

The most important piece to remember is that at the end of the day, even with the good, bad, and ugly advice, there are two little people with a beautiful link to the other.  And you get to be witness to that every single day.  Yes, with the birth of our twins my house became messier, my laundry higher, my to-do list longer, and my hair grayer.  But the silliness, the ever constant wrestling matches, and the intense bond between my two bald babies turned rambunctious five year olds, reminds me why we ditched our dreams of smooth jazz and instead embraced a life with a whole lot more rock ‘n’ roll. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

"I wish someone had told me": new blog series

As a new mom, I received a whole lotta advice--- some good, some bad, some just all around silly. :) Fortunately, I have some awesome friends and family who helped prepare me for parenthood and gave wanted and supportive input. In many ways, I felt equipped and ready for the challenges of growing, birthing, and raising babies.

But then there were things that left me completely dumbfounded. 

I would think, "Why didn't someone warn me?" Or "How come they didn't tell me about this?!" 

I bet it's safe to say some of you felt (or feel?!) the same... 

So, I'm starting a new blog series, with 3-5 posts in mind already. I've been in touch with some guest bloggers, who I think will really hit it out of the park with their topic choice and writing style. I hope you love their posts! 

If you are interested in writing a guest post, please get in touch. If there's a topic you don't want to write about, but would like to see covered in this series, leave a comment below. 

Coming soon: the first post, Lindsay's experience with twins!! 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Home Depot: our indoor playground

The other day I was whining to Joel that these super rainy days are so frustrating with two little kids... Asher only stays awake for 1.5-2 hours at a time... The playgrounds are soaking wet, and it's too chilly to keep a toddler in damp clothing... Charlotte has SO much energy and is dying to play outside, but I often have to say "no." ... The indoor play places (mall and children's museum) are at least 20 minutes away, which only leaves 30ish minutes for playing before Asher needs to nap again... If Asher naps in the Ergo he doesn't get the same quality of sleep and our evenings are stressful...

(It was a pity party, and it wasn't pretty.)

But then my brilliant husband gave a somewhat hilarious suggestion: take the kids to Home Depot.

At first I laughed. But then he continued:

"Yeah. Take back the light bulbs that don't fit and then just let Charlotte run around. The aisles are wide, it's not crowded during the day. It's super close so you can get there and back between naps. You don't have to buy anything."

Like I said- brilliant.

Asher was wide awake. Charlotte got to choose which way to walk. The employees had a burst of life, seeing Charlotte's enthusiastic energy. Other customers watched me with envy, wishing they had two adorable babies hanging out with them!

Our spirits were revived and both kids took great naps after their outing to the "playground" ;)

Asher: four months old

Growth/development: Our big boy weighs 16 pounds, 2 ounces!! (That's exactly a pound bigger than Charlotte was at four months!!) He's about 27 inches long and that puts him in the 95th percentile for height (of course!). He wears six month clothing, but the pajamas in that size are already getting too short. His diapers are size 2, but I think he'll be ready for size 3 soon. 

This was a big month for Asher's development. He has started "talking," making cooing noises and screaming/squealing. He is very interactive, and loves to have someone smiling at him and making faces. He will happily engage anyone who's willing to play. He can roll over from his tummy to his back- he doesn't do it often, but I have found him playing in his crib, kicking his feet up and looking at his hands. Speaking of his hands, this month Asher became good friends with them :) He can wave them around, grab them, put them in his mouth, and use them to hold toys for a few seconds at a time.

Schedule/sleep: Asher sleeps about 12.5 hours at night, usually waking twice to nurse. He sleeps for 6-8 hours straight after being put to bed, and then after the first wake up, he sleeps in stretches of 3-4 hours. He takes three naps; the first two are almost always 1-2 hours. The third nap of the day is often too short, which means he is tired and fussy during dinner. This month he's gone to bed before 7 pm most nights, simply because his last nap ended too early for him to be able to stay awake until seven. We're still figuring out how to make that happen less frequently; seven is an ideal bedtime, but any earlier makes Joel's transition to home and the dinner hour a bit stressful.

As long as he isn't hungry or overtired, Asher almost always puts himself to sleep (on his tummy) in his travel crib. He doesn't need to be nursed or rocked to sleep, thanks to a little bit of sleep training we did early in January. He usually wakes up content and happy, cooing to himself or his stuffed monkey as he looks around his room.

Asher likes: his hands! He also likes: Charlotte, talking to his dad, nursing, going for stroller rides, being worn facing outward in the ring sling, playing on his tummy, and looking around curiously.

Asher doesn't like: when we try to get him to drink breast milk from a bottle, riding in the car seat when he's tired, playing alone for too long.

Baby boy, we love you so much. We are so proud of the way you are growing and we love to see you smile.