Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas BEFORE I had 3 kids 3 and under and AFTER

Christmas Before I had 3 kids 3 and under vs. After I had 3 kids 3 and under
(Note: I speak for only myself on these issues.)

Before: As I sit in this circle around the tree for present time with so much family, I love that we are all dressed up in our Christmas best and enjoying the magic of the season with such class. One question dances in my mind: Do these new jeans make my thighs look fat?

After: As I sit in this circle around the tree for present time with so much family, I love that they all stayed in their pajamas too so that I wouldn't feel like an outcast. One question dances in my mind: Which seat should I take that will flash the least amount of people when my 2 year old decides to once again play peek-a-boo with my nursing cover?

Before: Well, it's getting late so we should probably be getting home. It was so fun to have a competitive game night combined with such awesome food!

After: It's getting late? You want us to go home? But our kids FINALLY fell asleep ten minutes ago in your guest bedroom. We can now start the party! 

Before: We should decorate our Christmas tree to the nines and post pictures all over facebook so that everyone can admire our artistic decorating style! Yay for new ornaments!

After: Last year we had to take a trip to the emergency room when CH swallowed part of a broken glass ornament. The thought of sweeping up all those pine needles every day and then cleaning up all the decorations in just a few weeks not to mention the STOP CLIMBING THE TREE toddler dance is exhausting to this mommy with a newborn who is already overwhelmed. Will Christmas trees still be a thing next year?

Before: I LOVE Christmas shopping! Going out to lunch, hitting the sales, enjoying the Christmas decorations in the stores. If it snows while I'm out even better! YAY for holiday spirit !!!

After: Getting dressed? Taking all three kids out in the holiday madness? Dealing with the snow and three tiny sets of snow gear to leave the house? Juggling nursing and two toddlers and the shopping bags while actually remembering my purse? Oh hello, online shopping. Let's be friends.

Before: Presents??? For ME? I LOVE PRESENTS!

After: Instead of getting me any presents this year, could everyone please just take a turn chasing my children when they leave the present opening room for the bazillionth time so that I can just sit here, put my feet up, and breathe. Best. Present. Ever.  (I'm a lucky girl- I got both this year)

Before: I'm SO TIRED from staying up super late last night watching that awesome Christmas movie with hubs. No chance for a nap today. Boo. Life is hard.

After: Awesome Christmas movie! Well, the first ten minutes was awesome. That's when I fell asleep. Did I say "fell asleep"? I meant passed out on the couch on top of a pile of clean laundry while wearing two day old spit up crusted clothes and drooling onto the remote. Tired- new definition.

Before: New Year's Party? OF COURSE! Let's bring in the new year with a bang!

After: The only way I will be up at midnight is if it lines up with the baby's feeding.

Before: Christmas desserts!!! LOVE THEM! But let's keep track of the calories here. Small slices, only one piece of candy, and even if I "cheat" on my nonexistent diet- I will for sure make a big show of pretending that it is still firmly in place.

After: This peanut butter ball will fuel me through the next half an hour. Don't care who sees me inhale it. And since bedtime is still five hours away- that requires at least 10 peanut butter balls just to get started here. Gotta shovel in while I have empty arms for the next thirty seconds at which point the baby will no doubt sense that I'm having too much fun and wake up to eat yet again.                                                                                                                     

Before: Christmas socks, fun ugly Christmas sweaters, Christmas jewelry- I LOVE to wear little touches of Christmas spirit.

After: Oh look- one of the clean socks that I'm wearing today has a reindeer on it. This time it's actually in season! The other sock? a pink and black plaid. I'll just keep everyone to my left today.

Before: Gingerbread house decorating party! Love it! MUST make house from scratch! Must decorate with girlfriends! MUST have huge candy selection to decorate houses with Pinterest flair!

After: Oh look- I just ate a gingerbread cookie. Someone must have put it into the peanut butter ball container by mistake.

Before: I can't wait to have kids at Christmas time! They'll come running into the living room to see what Santa brought them! They'll help me make cookies. We'll have a family Christmas feast! They'll give me long hugs in front of the crackling fire while we all sip steaming hot chocolate. They'll shop for presents for each other. We'll go skiing together as a family!

After: Holding screaming baby, surveying the mess made by the toddlers, realizing we have no ingredients for cookies because I have yet to brave a grocery store trip with all three kids....very few decorations, NO fire because of toddler burning risk, spilled hot chocolate all over the dining room floor, no energy to do the 2 hour prep time for 10 minutes of toddler skiing.....time to go spend Christmas at the grandparent's house.

Before: Christmas breakfast, Christmas dinner and presents- there's an awkward, slightly boring period of time between the two that we're never quite sure what to do....

After: Christmas breakfast, Christmas dinner and presents- there's an awesome, magical block of three hours in between in which all the children are sleeping. Adult conversation. Hot beverages. Games. A break. Best part of the day.

(What can I say...Motherhood has just made me into a party animal)

Before: a lot of outward things in place- Christmasy speaking...but something was missing...

After: Party time includes a warm infant sleeping peacefully on my chest, present time is all about the joy on the toddlers faces, each day ends with three bedrooms full of snoring, happy children....chaos reigns...but I know we are building blocks for future Christmases in which the love and joy will continually grow. Life is currently a mess- but something feels complete. We are a family, and life has never been sweeter.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Not A Real Christmas Card

If I were to send out a Christmas letter this year, it would look something like this:

Dear Friends and Family,

This year, the Aaron Smith family has been quite busy.

They took many exotic vacations:
They achieved great things:
They accomplished extreme weight loss plans:
They hired an elite housekeeping service to keep their house pristine at all times:
They won prestigious awards:
They obtained supernatural powers:
They singlehandedly kept an entire coffee factory in business:
They assumed role of lawmaker:
They created and took on a new charity:
And just generally enjoyed a year full of chaos, love, and family growth:
So from this new family of 5, they would like to say:

Aaron, Deanna, Addison, Carter, and Eli

p.s. in retrospect, it's probably a good thing that I'm waiting for a less chaotic time to sum up our life via  a real Christmas letter...and a time in which I've had more sleep... -d

p.s.s. it took me a ridiculously long time to finish this short blog post. I had to repost the diaper picture with the diaper count up a few hundred from the time I started to the time I finished...

p.s.s.s. not complaining...just sayin'...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cookie Crumbs

I had spent all day making those cookies.

Not that they were super fancy cookies- or even highly demanding in regards to skill level.  Delicious- yes. Fancy- no. A chocolate chip oatmeal recipe that I have been making for a year now- always a favorite- always slightly underdone so that there is a tinge of brown on the top but gooey in the middle- these cookies are a family favorite and would be the perfect thing for us to take to our Christmas party that night.

So why did it take me all day to make simple cookies?

I prayed for a cuddly baby. I got one. What I didn't realize was that the super cuddly babies- MUST be cuddled every second of every day or else screaming ensues. Balancing this with the trouble seeking tots has made for some interesting days.

Yesterday, I strapped up Eli in the Moby and juggled Addison and Carter's schedule while keeping up with the laundry, picking up the house, and making the cookies. I had bragged to Aaron just the other day that I felt like we were finally sort of adjusting to the 3 (ha). And I managed to get my list done- each pan baked about an hour or two apart as I had time to go back and measure out more cookies.

By the end of the day the house wasn't perfect, but it was improved from earlier in the day. The laundry was mostly put away (this includes washing ALL of Addison's clothes as she pulled them out of her dresser during naptime, took off her diaper, and-ahem- relieved herself all over her room.), a bag of perfectly made cookies was waiting on the counter to take to our party, and I served up the extremely nutritious dinner of Little Caesar's pizza for my little family.


I ended up wearing Eli most of the day. This is quite the workout, but it let me keep going and keep him happy at the same time. The tots did get to sample the cookies- after lunch and then once in the afternoon. I felt that I was far from stingy with the delicious cookies.

But apparently it wasn't enough. Right when I was feeding Eli one last time before Papa arrived to watch the kids during the party- right when the kids were just about ready to go to bed- right before we were about to grab that bag of cookies that I spent all day making and walk out the door- Addison decided to trample the bag of cookies. To crumbs.

I'm sure she was just trying to open the bag and get another cookie. But she didn't open the bag. She stepped all over it- delicate, perfectly baked cookies crumbling from party-ready into despair.

I don't know what it is exactly, but something about having to work SO hard to achieve simple things around your crew of 3, 3 and under makes destruction of these simple achievements absolutely earth shattering. Add in lack of sleep, physical exhaustion from hauling around a big baby all day, emotional exhaustion from endlessly spinning the same wheels over and over again for the past weeks- and that is what it looks like when you are pushed right over an edge.

It's a slow cracking that begins with "WHY DID I EVER HAVE CHILDREN" to a silent fuming about the extreme unfairness of life as you shuffle off to your Christmas party with a small plate with the few saved cookies that your husband put together while sending "will she make it?" anxious glances your way.

Cookies. Cookies that you spent all day making.

Instagram friends suggested taking the crumbs and making an ice cream topping. This sounded like a more personalized version of taking lemons and making lemonade. It sounded definitely delicious- but didn't take the sting out of my expectations for my cookies being literally trampled underneath well-intentioned feet.

In that moment it all just seemed too much. Overwhelming. Never-ending. Suffocating.

Three kids three and under (with the oldest having special needs) is no joke. It is not easy. It is a constant balancing between insanity and exhaustion. There are amazing moments when I look around and am overcome with happiness and the abundance of our blessings. And then there are moments when I just want to go hide behind the couch and wait for an invisible nanny to come take over.

Yesterday while looking at the cookie crumbs, glaring at my daughter, and contemplating that the sum total of my day was now completely destroyed, undone, made a mockery- in that instance it didn't seem worth it.

We arrived at the party and I told my story once- tearfully. Much more than that and I would have broken down completely. WHAT A HORRIBLE DAY MY COOKIES WERE DESTROYED- this story was a humdinger.

And then I was settled onto a soft couch with tangy punch and talking to a super nice lady who had given me the absolute softest baby blanket at my shower a couple of weeks ago. She was talking about her daughter who had infant twins who was 1. breastfeeding/pumping for them 2. working full time 3. juggling 3 older kids as well. I got even more exhausted just listening to that. Also, I wanted to build a shrine to her right then and there.

The conversation then moved to her baby that she lost many years ago to SIDs. I had mentioned how I was extra sensitive to Eli being exposed to germs because of my sister losing her newborn- and the discussion that evolved from there was quite the wake up call to my horrible day. After a few minutes I felt chastised that an hour before my world had completely crumbled (ha) because of a batch of cookies gone wrong. Really?

As her story unfolded, I looked over at my peacefully sleeping newborn in his Christmas jammies and said silent prayers of thankfulness that he was still breathing. I remembered afresh the horror that my sister experienced when her one week old unexpected passed away. I saw the pain in this kind lady's face as she talked about a baby that she lost decades ago.


I needed it right then.

I needed to remember that no matter how awful the day- there is room for thankfulness. No matter how desolate my schedule has become- it is that way because my day is so full of little lives that have been entrusted to me. Vibrant little lives that are precious and irreplaceable.

Even when they destroy cookies.

Because it turns out that those cookie crumbs DO make an amazing ice cream topping (also, breakfast "granola" to accompany my coffee)  (-:

Today Addison is at school. Carter is watching Cars. Eli is actually peacefully sitting in his bouncy seat for a few minutes. I am ignoring housework for a few hours, putting my feet up, and doing something that I have missed these past weeks- writing and taking a minute to reflect.

Sanity to insanity is a slippery slope, but sometimes the slide down and the climb back up comes all in a day's work. And the one provides the contrast necessary for the other.

Thankfulness. 1 plus 1 plus 1. That's a lot to be thankful for.

It's a new day. I don't think I'll make any cookies today. But I do have a baby who needs cuddling, a little girl who needs to be picked up from school, and a little boy who from the smell of it just created a cesspool in his diaper.

Job security.

I've got it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

He's A Bomb

Adjusting to life with a newborn is like adjusting to life carrying around a little bomb.

A cute, well-dressed, soft-skinned, lovable little bomb. But a bomb nonetheless.

This bomb only wants 4 things:
1. To be held
2. To be fed
3. To be changed
4. To sleep

Now read in such an innocent order, I'm sure you're thinking "awwww how cute! That isn't that bad."

Keep in mind that all of those numbers have limitless subcategories with such things as
1. To be held
 -for burping purposes
 -for cuddling purposes
 -for a softer place to violently spit up
 -for warmth
 -for gloating over the toddlers purposes
 -for protection from the toddler purposes
 -for head strokes and kisses
 -for a comfier position to pass a lot of gas
 -for a place to chill out while your siblings get blamed for your gas
 -for keeping a panicked look on mom's face when you know she needs to be doing ten million other things like washing a clean sleeper for you to sleep in that night
....and on and on the list could go

And there's no giving up and handing this baby back to the mother when the crying just won't stop because you can't figure out exactly what the baby wants. YOU are the mother and the problem solving stops with YOU. The responsibility involved in this is daunting.

Those of you who are adjusting to life with a newborn right now or have gone through this in the recent past- you know that this cute little bomb who loves to cuddle can be quite explosive and demanding in nature.

If any of those 4 things (with limitless sub categories) are denied him in the split second that HE decides that HE needs them: BOOOOOM! Screaming, crying, sounds that break the hardest of hearts- this baby knows how to get things done. Fast.

The key is to juggle through these 4 to figure out which one is the one needed (or if anything is really needed at all)- keeping in mind that you are juggling explosives.

Since this is my 3rd baby- you might think that I have this down pat.

No. No. I don't. Because the truth is- each of these adorable little bombs are wired completely differently. And even the same bomb will change wiring overnight and the tricks that worked the day before all of a sudden are useless when you most need to keep the explosives calm until you can get to a contained environment.

Not to mention- it's hard to give the baby 100% attention when the two tots still need so much attention themselves. "No, PUT DOWN THAT KNIFE. You can have juice LATER. Do you want to rot out all your teeth? SHARE. Who put this roll of toilet paper in the bath? Is this pee on the floor or did you spill some water? WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR DIAPER? No- all that laundry on the couch is CLEAN! Please stop spreading it all around the house to cover your newly made piles of crumbs. Where did you get those crackers anyway? CHOCOLATE CHIPS!!! OK, who broke the lock on the pantry?????" and on and on. It's amazing the masterful parenting that can go on from the rocker while holding a newborn and tracking tots all around the house by noise alone. (ha)

This bomb doesn't care about your other children's schedules and needs- in fact the more disruptive to these carefully taught schedules- the happier it seems to make the gas driven bomb. The bomb doesn't care about your need to leave the house. The bomb pretends not to notice that you're supposed to be putting big bro in a timeout right then. The bomb doesn't come with a countdown device to let you know exactly when you will be needed for cleanup duty. Explosions just happen. Frequently and with reckless abandon.

For me- the hardest part about leaving the house with a new baby who hasn't been around long enough to truly figure out is not knowing when these explosions will occur. I hold my breath through the grocery checkout line. I sit on pins and needles through my church's preschool mom breakfast knowing that he will sleep until the moment I load him back up in the car to get Addison from school- THEN he will explode into indignant shrieks- when I have no time to stop and feed/change/hold him. I wonder at what awkward moments I will have to whip out a boob in hopes to keep the explosive tantrum as short as possible. And- he will be an angel at Grandma's house when there are extra hands to hold him, but the minute we get home and I need to set him down just for a minute- THAT WILL NOT DO AT ALL- and I sit with my delicately wired explosive device- held prisoner while the toddlers do the work of an actual bomb around my house.

So little baby bomb.

We are adjusting. We are taking it one day at a time. But if you see me out in public and I have a bit of a shell shocked look on my face? No doubt I am coming off one explosion and preparing for the next.

Transitions can be hard. But we are surviving even though we are a schedule driven family thrown completely off our normal schedule. Surviving one day of explosive adventure at a time. It's a good thing that this lil' ol' bomb is so cute. And cuddly. And lovable. It makes this whole 2-3 kids transition thing totally worth it.

p.s. giant shout out to my awesome husband who has been SO patient and amazingly helpful through all of this so far. I really don't know how we would be doing this without him!

p.s.s. I am super thankful for my baby. I promise. Just in that awkward sleepless stage where half the day I'm trying to remember what my name is while the other half I try to figure out why I put the milk away under the counter instead of in the fridge. How does my brain get back on track? By writing about my baby like he's a bomb...of course...

p.s.s.s. If you are flying with a new baby soon- while the explosive nature comparison still holds on those confined airplane spaces- I don't suggest mentioning the "b" word out loud. Never a good idea.

Oh yes- he can also be a froggy. This is a super versatile baby.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Week Number One

I have thought a lot about what it means to be a family this week as our family of four has expanded to make five- the struggles of new parenthood vs what our lives will look like in five, ten, twenty years after having put in these sacrifices now.

I have pondered what it means to be a mother as I have become a new mother again. The tiny diapers, nursing woes, recovery from childbirth, snuggles with a soft infant, kisses on deliciously chubby cheeks, the littlest of fingers that grip mine, sleepless nights- all just a short phase that begins a lifetime of nurturing. Already my pregnancy complaints have faded into distant memory. As I hold tight the warm bundle of goodness that is my baby, the morning sickness, low energy, aches and pains, labor- none of that matters in the least compared to the gift I have been given.

I have thought a lot about love as my heart has grown to include a third child in the midst of stretching some more around a child with special needs who struggles with transitions. Sickness, clumsiness around a new baby, refusal to obey, unwillingness to adjust when things aren't normal, crying for no reason, extra communication frustrations- I think all transitions are ten times harder when you include a child with special needs. New baby? Difficult when your almost four year old adjusts more poorly than your two year old.
I have prioritized my usual daily rituals behind the importance of holding and loving on my baby. Experience has taught me that these days with the tiny human being fly quickly by until that innocent body of sweetness has stretched into a stubborn toddler that needs constant teaching. Oh how sweet are those little red lips that don't sass back at me yet.
I have questioned our sanity at having three kids so close in age- especially with the oldest one having the special needs that she does. The questioning was called into account when my entire support system (my husband) was struck down with strep the day after we got home from the hospital. Jumping into parenting solo so early in the game was not in my plan. Baptism by fire. Also- baptism by insanity. And dirty diapers. Juggling a sick Addison away from a very needy newborn while talking an adventurous two year old off the ledge he wanted to practice jumping from and washing all the laundry/bedding that had come in contact with my husband and somehow putting food in all those tiny mouths all while recovering from giving birth days before? I think I blacked out a little there.

I have given thanks more than once for the miracle that is our children's lives. I don't deserve the three perfect children I have been given. And yet here I am. A mother. A nurturer. A homemaker. A woman whose (currently messy) nest is overflowing with beautiful children. (Of course I'm not biased at all.) I never dreamed that my life would look quite like this. And yet now I can't imagine it any other way. This is not an easy road. But the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. Totally worth the bumps along the way.

I have bowed down and worshipped the one currency that truly makes the world go round- sleep. Coming off an exhausting pregnancy, it is nice to have an infant that seems to not hate sleep (like CH did), but this stage still is exhausting and tests every last bit of endurance that I have. It is nice to have my husband back to health and being such a big help now. (Also- my friends who came over after a few days of my descent into insanity and folded my laundry, washed down the kitchen counters, and took the adventurous two year old out for adventures so that he would stop creating them in dangerous places around here- BIG help. Sending Addison and Aaron to the grandparents for a few days also was huge- getting the sickness away from our sweet new boy.)

What am I trying to say? We are one week into this three kid thing. Easy? Not so much. Rewarding? Yes. I already can't imagine our lives without sweet Eli.
Here's to week number two. In the future we will refer to it as- yet another week that slid by in a sleepless haze of baby snuggles and neglected housework. Also- a week of happiness midst the crazy. Because a baby this sweet deserves to let his world stop and focus on him for a bit as he acclimates to the family he was sent to.

Speaking of sleep- I have three peacefully snoring children filling our bedrooms. That's my bedtime cue. 9pm? Don't even care. Until later....