So apparently today is National Redhead day. Here’s two of my favorite red heads — my son Owen and nephew Charlie!
It’s hard to believe, but my baby boy is already 1.
It seems like just yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital in the tiniest little giraffe-print outfit, loving every minute of the experience and wondering just what in the heck we were going to do with two kids.
Now, I look up from my easy chair to see Owen flailing his way across the living room in that way that newly-walking toddlers have, hellbent on destruction — gotta knock all the DVDs off the shelf, then dig in the recycling bin, then a leisurely stop at the kitchen cabinets because that shaker of cinnamon isn’t just going to spread itself all over the floor on its own, mom.
And guess what, a year later Michael and I still wonder — at least several times a week — what the heck we are going to do with two kids.
Owen has always been a happy soul. There was nary a cry for the first several months, or at least that is how I remember it. I’m sure there was fussing here or there, but when I think back to those first few months with Miles, who’s temperament is much different from his baby brother’s, I know just how easy I have had it this go-round. The nights were sleepless — aren’t they always — but the middle of the night nursing and snuggle sessions were filled with giggles instead of cries. That was quite a relief — since his older brother Miles posed more difficulties in that area as a baby.
Looking back I wonder if the difference was in the babies, or instead in the mama who was much more relaxed and confident the second time around.
Baby O, as we often refer to him, and I have spent thousands of hours over the past year in my dad’s old green chair I inherited. That’s my “nursing” chair. While I struggled with breast-feeding Miles, Owen and I have had a healthy breast-feeding relationship since Day 1 that is still going strong. And as any breast-feeding mom will tell you, that stuff can cure all the world’s ills. And I have loved every minute of it.
Well, maybe not so much all the biting, but other than that it’s been an amazing experience.
The interesting thing about raising babies is not how much work it is — the lack of sleep, the constant messiness or any of that stuff. Instead, it is how quickly you integrate all of those things into your daily life. It becomes the norm.
What once seemed like a huge mess on the living room floor now gets a weak shrug: “Meh, I’ll pick it up tomorrow, maybe.”
When in reality tomorrow will be gymnastics or we’ll decide to spend the evening at the park or going to cMoe — there’s always something and it is most assuredly more fun and valuable than a tidy floor.
There was a time when five hours of sleep would’ve left me staggering through the day, ordering the bucket-sized iced coffee (with sugar-free vanilla flavoring) just to keep my eyes open until lunch time. Now, five hours of sleep is practically a dream come true.
None of these are complaints, of course — it just goes to show you how your priorities, and life, change.
All of those long nights, messy floors and bite marks are completely worth it when I see that beautiful little face each morning, smiling that cute gaptoothed smile of his, wrapping his arms around me and delicately placing his head on my shoulder when I lift him out of the crib. I am reminded, once again, that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do with my life. This little boy — along with his big brother — has made me the happiest mom in the world.
Happy birthday, Owen.
A couple of times a week I throw myself a parade in my own head, seriously. It’s not that I don’t get praise from my husband or other friends and family, but life is so challenging that sometimes I feel like I’ve earned it — that little brain parade.
Being a working mom is not easy. I’m blessed beyond measure that I have a supportive husband who will pick up nearly any of the traditional “mom” pieces that are dropped in the wake of my insane overscheduled life. But even with that, it can be rough.
So when I’m able to work a nine-hour day, come home, nurse my son and get a meal — from scratch mind you — on the table for my family of four before 6:30 p.m., I think I’ve earned a parade!
I know, I know — it’s not very realistic for me to expect the marching band to be on standby for when I pull one of those stellar, magical, all the pieces fell into place nights off. Instead of expecting tractors, waving fair queens and a steady drum beat in my living room, I envision them in my head. I see the flags spinning in the air, the tinsel hanging from the float dragging on the concrete and the candy flying through the air.
“Momma, what’s wrong?” Miles asks as we are sitting at the dinner table, and I’m zoned out for my brief parade bliss.
“Oh, nothing honey,” I say while helping Owen grasp another handful of the avocado he’s eating, or more realistically smearing all over every surface within reach. “I’m just thinking about something.”
I smile as the horses trot by (the unofficial end to every parade, because, well you know why.)
Another recent parade happened when I took both boys to church — by MYSELF — last week. I have this mom of two thing down pat when I’m in my own territory — I’m a pro on my own turf. But every time I go anywhere, even just the grocery store, with both of them by myself, I feel like I’ve earned a parade. Running into the gas station to grab a Diet Coke with both in tow — that’s just a little mini parade, probably just a few kids on bikes.
Going into the grocery store to get milk and eggs, that parade is a little bigger because I probably had to wrestle away a loaf of bread from the baby at least a few times and keep Miles from dropping the eggs as he “helped me” put the items on the conveyor belt. The store to get chicken feed, that’s a little more challenging because we are now balancing the baby, a 50-plus pound bag of food and a little boy who wants nothing more than to touch ALL of the baby chicks in the store. I do have the added bonus of the popcorn bribery there, though.
But taking both boys to church, alone, that’s right up there with the Rose Bowl Parade, it’s not quite Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; but it’s still quite the feat — at least it is in my head.
At church you have to employ a whole new set of mom skills because quiet is of the essence. And quiet for an energetic nearly 4-year-old and almost 8-month-old is not always the easiest of tasks. Most Sundays we have a man-on-man defense approach, but sometimes the assigned player (one of our children) changes. So this two-on-one stuff was tricky. You know what though, I did it. There were zero outbursts, just a few non-whispering moments, some redecorating of the pew and a few little excited baby shouts. I didn’t get any cross looks from the pastor or fellow congregants. So on my drive home from church — yep, you guessed it — I was envisioning a big old parade, thrown just in my honor.
I’m sure many of you are reading this thinking, “Hurmph, parade for taking two kids to church? I’ve brought my quintuplets and pet lion to the pope’s inauguration. And that was just another Tuesday!”
My response, “You are amazing!” But you know what, I also think you are amazing if you are a mom of one and you take your kid to church and he screams his fool head off. Because I’ve been there (not at church, thankfully, but at plenty of grocery stores!)
Being a mom (and dad!) is hard work. Being a parent while working, staying at home or as an astronaut — all of it is a great accomplishment.
So I say we all deserve parades. If we are doing our best to keep our kids healthy, happy and safe, we should be dusting off the baton and whistle and should start leading some parades.
There’s a saying in my family, if it happens more than once it is a tradition.
Well folks, we have an Easter tradition. Michael and I had just moved into our new home just before Easter last year and had my mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephew over for a meal and an egg hunt in the back yard. We did the same thing this year.
A tradition was born.
There’s nothing fancy or extra special about it, but maybe that is what makes it special. It was a quiet (well can anything be quiet with a 6 month old, 2 year old and 3 year old… NO) low-key day but so much fun.
Miles, 3, and Charlie, 2, boys played and hunted eggs in the back yard while my mom snuggled Owen, 6 months. Sarah and I “hid” eggs throughout the yard as Michael grilled and Chris, Sarah’s husband, helped wrangle the kiddos.
This year we added some chickens and a new baby to the mix but it was pretty similar to last year’s celebration.
I loved it!
And Easter Sunday we followed a tradition too. Last year we attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church with my sister and her in-laws. Michael and I and the boys started regularly attending the church a few months ago and returned again this Easter Sunday, this time feeling a little less like strangers. It was a nice service and Miles, shockingly, was able to stay quiet throughout the more than hour long service.
I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to create and make memories and form our own traditions with my own little family and my extended family.
Hope Easter was a great one for you too!
So the chicken dreams have become a reality.
I think Michael is calling them his chicken nightmares, but that’s another blog post altogether.
Miles and I headed over to Rural King to pick out some chicks. I’d gone myself a few weekends ago and checked out the cute, tiny chicks there. And then went last week twice — once with Miles and once with my chicken guru/awesome friend Stephanie. The chicks then were still on the little side but looking much less fragile.
With Stephanie by my side last week — Owen sleeping snugly against my chest, oblivious to the monumental chicken lesson going on around him — I loaded up my cart with all the chick necessities. I grabbed pine shavings for bedding, chick feed, heat lamp and bulb, a chick feeder and water dish and a few other miscellaneous items. Stephanie loaded me down not only with supplies, but chicken knowledge.
I’ve done my fair share of chicken research (too much my husband says) but nothing compares to firsthand experience from my own personal chicken virtuoso. Stephanie said she’s excited to have her own personal chicken apprentice. We are going to establish our own chicken journeyman certification through this whole process.
So two weekends ago was filled with all the technical stuff — supplies and knowledge. When Saturday finally rolled around I was ready to get my hands on some chicks!
So back to heading over to Rural King … the selection of breeds was a little lighter than I’d hoped but there were plenty of chicks there ready to find a good home. And instead of being tiny, cute, itty-bitty chicks they were more like toddler chicks. Don’t get me wrong, they were still awfully adorable. A bit of me was a little sad but then I remembered just how fragile Stephanie had described the newborn chicks and the extra tedious (and sometimes icky) tasks that goes along with them. So I celebrated my decision to wait until the chicks were about four weeks old to pick them up. My biggest disappointment was kind of a trivial one — I really wanted the Ameraucana breed chicks because their eggs are a neat blue/green hue.
The two breeds that they had pullets (female chicks) in were Silver Wyandotte and Light Brahmas. Miles and I scoped out the bins walking around a few times. He excitedly dipped his hand inside causing the sea of chicks to run in the opposite direction. I found a chick box and started selecting our future little chickies.
My process was, as should be expected from me, a little different. I didn’t just grab the first three from each bin that I could then called it a day. I wanted Miles to be able to select a few.
“That one,” he excitedly said. “That one with the speckle, right there. That one, that one!”
So of course, I HAD to get THAT one. My hands darted up and down the metal tub trying to grasp what must have been the fastest, sneakiest of the bunch. Each requested chicken was more elusive than the last.
After he’d selected four, I wiped the sweat from my brow and decided that last two I would pick out. I overheard two employees talking about needing to separate a few chicks because some had gotten picked on. AWWW! So of course I mosey over there eavesdropping and then just butt right on in.
“Which two are the most picked on?” I asked, tears almost welling in my silly eyes. “Let me rescue them!”
They, of course, laughed at me causing my little monkey-see, monkey-do little guy laugh hysterically.
“Mama, you are SO silly!” he cried, practically rolling on the floor.
Kid, it wasn’t that funny.
Anyway, the high school kid employees go to great lengths (seriously, one of them even stepped in the bin to track down this poor, feather missing chick) to procure the bullied chicks for me.
I had my six chicks, a 3-year-old and said 3-year-old’s stuffed owl that he INSISTED come into the store with us. And no cart. Yep, you read that correctly. It’s like I’m a glutton for punishment.
So as I surmise the situation — three little cartons of live chicks, a squirmy kid who does not want to leave the chicken area of the store and a stuffed animal that said kid will now no longer have anything to do with — I start to come up with the most plausible out, bribery.
“Hey Miles, if we go home we can get a special treat!”
“What treat? Nevermind, I don’t want a treat. I want to stay here! I want to be with the chickens and the bunnies. I want to stay ALL DAY LONG!”
“When we get home we have our own chickens that we can play with.”
“But mom, there’s lots of chickens right here!”
Desperate I look around.
The yellow, painted chicken tracks leading from the front door back to the chicks catch my eye. Yes.
“Miles, let’s follow the duck path!”
We miraculously make it to the car with six still-alive chicks and get everything back in the house and set up. Miles names two chicks — Mocalotive and Choo Choo; Michael begrudgingly threw two literary chicken names in the mix — Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little; and I used girl names that I loved when we were having babies — Olive and Stella.
The little chicks seem pretty happy. Right now they are cozy in an oversized tote in our basement complete with a red heat-bulb keeping them toast. Michael put together the coop Sunday afternoon as Miles played and Owen cooed in the sun.
So far all is good on the Doyle farm. I’ll update you when the chicks have made their way outside.
In one breath I can say, “Eight weeks isn’t enough time!” and “Oh my goodness I was so ready to come back.”
I returned to work exactly 56 days after giving birth to my newest joy and blessing and the little creature that ensures I get no more than three hours of sleep every day — Owen Michael. I loved my time home with Owen and older son Miles when he wasn’t at school.
Those eight weeks were an amazing opportunity to bond with my new son and also to help Miles adjust to a different home dynamic. It was also a chance to see a whole lot more of my husband and to get our money’s worth from our Netflix account (I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many television series I consumed during those sleepless, long nights.)
I had all these grand plans of the things I’d accomplish over maternity leave both in the way of tasks that had been put off and Pinterest-worthy activities we’d do as a family.
Wah-wah. (That’s the game show “you didn’t get it right” sound effect.)
Not much got accomplished beyond snuggling. I am nursing Owen so those first few weeks it felt like I didn’t really move much from the little nest I’d created for myself. I was grateful to have Michael there to refill my beverage and bring me snacks when I was tethered down by a baby who was hungry, needed comfort or had fallen asleep and looked too darn comfortable to move.
Miles was always able to find his spot on my lap too so I would still be able to snuggle him while nursing Owen. Those quiet moments with both of my babies snuggled peacefully and closely to my chest were magical. That’s when I said — eight weeks isn’t enough time! I can’t go back to work. How can I leave this tiny baby and little boy who need their mama? How will I be able to focus on my work when all I can think of is Owen’s pursed little lips and shiny eyes? It’s not enough time!
And in a lot of ways it wasn’t.
But, there were also days or moments when I was hunkered down in that little nursing nest when it didn’t feel like a cozy, comfortable retreat to snuggle and nourish my baby. Instead it felt like a prison. I wanted out of the house. I wanted to shower on a daily basis. I wanted to not have a baby attached to me 24/7. I wanted to be able to eat a meal while it was still hot. I wanted to be able to sleep more than the hour here or there between nursing, pumping and laundry. I missed my work and my co-workers.
Those are the moments when I would scream (in my own head of course), “I’m ready to go back!”
And of course when my maternity leave finally started to wind down I was feeling less and less ready. A lot of that stemmed from guilt — I was leaving my tiny, helpless baby in the care of someone other than me, really for the first time. Anxiety peaked the night before as I ran over the list of “how-tos” with my husband — who I know is more than capable. I’m lucky he is able to be the caregiver.
An additional factor is that just days after I return I’ll be taking over as the features editor as my editor, Linda Negro, and fellow reporter Roger McBain are both retiring. While out on maternity leave I interviewed candidates to find a replacement for Roger and I thought about (and if I’m honest fretted a little) about how things would work. So in addition to some guilt with my return, I’m facing a little doubt and fears of inadequacy.
The day finally arrived; I came to work. I just cried a little in the parking lot. I have an amazing group of friends and co-workers who surprised me with treats and gifts to distract from the stress of the day, and I kept busy and accomplished a lot. And while things were going well at the office, poor little Owen (and his daddy) were struggling at home. Owen refused to take a bottle. He’d taken about three up to that point so he was far from an expert but at least he knew what he was doing. But he flat out refused. He was hungry. Hungry babies scream.
So much of that first day Michael had a screaming, starving baby, and I worried from work. That night, Owen nursed for about four hours.
Day 2 I got a desperate text message from Michael: “This is not working. The longer I try the more upset he gets and the more frustrated I get. It’s not doing anybody any good. You might need to come home and feed him. I can’t do anything for him.”
That message broke my heart for both Owen and Michael. I hated the notion that my husband felt helpless to soothe and comfort our son, and I was devastated that my son was hungry and couldn’t stop crying.
My first instinct was to run home and nurse him. But I knew it wasn’t the solution. So we waited it out.
I called the pediatrician, the hospital’s lactation services, my mom and my friends. They all agreed that he would eat when he was hungry enough and that it was worse for us than him.
By 4 p.m. Michael texted a picture of a smiling, happy baby.
“I think we have a breakthrough — empty bottle, happy baby!”
Happy and relieved mommy too!
So, is eight weeks enough? For this mom it might have been. I’m so happy to be back especially with the challenges and changes ahead. I’m not going to lie though, it certainly doesn’t come without sacrifice. But, I’m treasuring my time outside of home grateful that I’m able to support my family and my sanity.
Last week, I wrote a story about a very nice man, Larry “Ox” Townsend, from Henderson, who has recovered from a stroke he had earlier this year. It got me thinking about a few things, mostly that I need to start taking better care of myself.
I’m 35, staring down the barrel of 40, and some days I feel like I’m 80. Too much bad food, not enough exercise, poor sleep habits, too much stress – all those risk factors that I am sure affect a whole lot of us.
As Mr. Townsend told me his story, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
The main thing is food. I like food. I really like meat, and salty things, and spicy things and cheesy things and fried things. And sugary drinks. Pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to stay away from.
Of course, as I type this blog, there’s a commercial on the radio for Subway’s new pastrami melt sandwich. See, I love pastrami. I am kind of obsessed with it, actually.
I haven’t even really started the “health kick” and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be an uphill battle.
It’s not like I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone on diets before, dropped 20 or 25 pounds and thought, “Hey this is not hard at all.”
But I’ve never really stuck with it. That’s the hard part. You start to think you have control, and hey, I lost all that weight. I can eat that whole pizza, just this one time. But then one time becomes twice, then three times, then before you know it you’re supporting the Tri-State pizza industry all by yourself and back to your old weight.
I know what you’re thinking. “Hey this guy is talking about starting a diet with Thanksgiving coming up, good luck with all that.” And you’re probably right.
But I think if I start slow, cutting down on the soft drinks …
(Down south we call them “cokes” regardless of whether it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or whatever, but that’s another blog entry for another time)
… I think I can build up to a better overall plan. Cutting out a few things at a time, instead of just dropping everything at once and expecting a miracle.
With two little kids around, I need to do a better job this time. I’m not committing myself to a “full body transformation” or anything crazy. I won’t be doing P90’s or crossfit or any of that stuff right now. I just want to start eating a little better.
Now if they’ll just stop running that darn Subway commercial…
One week. I’ve got one week to go. At the time of this writing, this time next week I should be holding my healthy, baby boy in my arms.
I’ve been down this road before (the pregnancy one) and that old cliché about every pregnancy being different is oh so true, at least for this momma.
And any platitudes about pregnancy being a miracle or beautiful or joyful, pshaw! It’s painful, messy, a little gross and exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong, I am SO grateful that I’m able to become pregnant and sustain a pregnancy when there are so many people (close friends and family even) who haven’t been so lucky. But with all that being said, I can still be grateful and feel blessed but also annoyed and disgusted with it at the same time, right?
My mom, super human in a million ways, talks about how she LOVED being pregnant (even pregnant with twins!) She said she never felt as special as she did when she was pregnant with my sister and me. She was fawned on by strangers and just always felt that “special glow.”
I can easily say neither of those things are true for me. I’m a week from giving birth, and I finally feel (well I have the last two to three weeks) that a stranger could safely assume I’m pregnant, not just overweight. But, shy of a few teachers at my son’s school telling me they didn’t think I should go down the slide at Goebel’s Farm in my “condition,” I’ve not had anyone try to pat my belly or fawn over my glowing state. Maybe I’m not glowing after all.
I certainly don’t feel glowy. I’m certainly “shining” (or sweating profusely, however you want to word it.) Between the “sexy” thigh-high compression hose, my work’s disdain for an adequate cooling system and the furnace that is currently residing deep within my core (aka the baby) I am always hot (and typically sweating.)
So I’m crossing “glowing” off my list of pregnancy benefits.
Glorious hair and nails, this has got to be a myth. I remember being told that the prenatal vitamins would give you amazing nails and hair. Nope. Cross that one off!
Gorgeous baby bump — eh, not so much. I would classify what I’m rocking to be more of a baby lump. Seriously, I just look extra lumpy. I was wearing my regular, pre-pregnancy jeans until three weeks ago. There’s been no weekly belly pics; I won’t be posting any cool belly progression videos.
And I just haven’t felt good. When I was pregnant with Miles I was moderately uncomfortable, you know the way that anyone would feel when they are growing another human inside them. This time though by around three months pregnant my sciatica was so annoyed with this baby that it felt like someone was continually jabbing me with a knife in my lower back. So I started receiving chiropractic care (amazing results, by the way) that only added to the list of doctor’s appointments a 33-year-old pregnant woman with a pacemaker has to go to.
There was also the heartburn, OH THE HEARTBURN! Today for lunch I had a salad and plain boneless, skinless chicken breast. SALAD and CHICKEN people, who does that cause a fire of a thousand horses (or whatever that phrase is) to come trampling up my esophagus and into my throat?
I’ve worn a path between my desk and the bathroom for the frequent potty breaks that pregnancy demands. Between the gallons of water they recommend you drink to stay healthy and the tiny human dancing or doing a handstand on your bladder it almost feels as if moving into the bathroom would be the saner idea. Because this nice little waddle that my split pelvis (at least that’s what it feels like some days) makes between here and there is not all that attractive or efficient.
And then on a more serious note this pregnancy has been complete with its fair share of “scares.” I had what doctors called a subchorionic hemorrhage early on (I referred to it as that petrifying bleeding that had me convinced that something was terribly wrong). And then when I was about 7 months pregnant my body was possessed by poison ivy and ended up in the hospital for three days after passing out cold in the middle of a parking lot from a terrible reaction from the immune response to the poison ivy and the medication they gave me to treat it. And just about a month ago I had another health scare that sent me back to the hospital.
Needless to say, I haven’t felt all warm and snugly with this whole pregnancy thing. I’ve been anxious, uncomfortable, exhausted and downright annoyed at times. And I’m not even going to get into all the icky stuff that pregnancy brings. You have either been there and are shaking your head like, “she’s right,” or you can go ask your own mother, the mother of your children or another friend who has gone through this “miracle” of pregnancy.
When people talk about the joys of pregnancy they don’t talk about that stuff. They don’t mention days like my Sunday. I had been up until 1:30 a.m. “nesting” and my kiddo woke up at 4:45 a.m. with the lightning and thunderstorm and had and refused to go back to bed meaning his momma was wide-awake too. I was unbelievably tired, sore and downright unpleasant. And by around 8 a.m. Miles was also pretty darn cranky as he too was exhausted but wouldn’t slow down. I had tears of joy when my sister said she was going to drop by for a bit. I think she intended to be there for 15 or so minutes but ended up staying closer to four hours sensing my “on the edge” feeling.
That picture, the pregnant mom on the verge (or in the throes) of tears isn’t what people see when they think about pregnancy.
What do you see? How was pregnancy for you?