Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Santa Baby

This Santa suit was among the hand-me-downs that my SIL Lora gave me. I dressed Mack in it a couple of days ago and just wanted to gobble him up he was so cute!

And my personal favorite: (click to enlarge)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mommy's Secret Weapon

'Tis the season for the sickies.

We had a rough few nights with Mack this week. For the first time he was totally inconsolable, thrashing around, just miserable, and not even the boobies would settle him down. He was snotty, pulling at his ears, and drooling up a storm. After a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics for an ear infection he is doing better. He is cutting a tooth, thus the drooling, and some kids get ear infections when they teeth. I had to google that because it seemed an odd connection, but I guess teething causes lots of extra saliva and mucus which can clog the eustachian tubes.

Since the sickies are a part of life in the winter, I thought I'd share my weapon of choice with you:

For older kids you can always dope them up with Zyrtec or Triaminic or Delsym, but for babies there's not much they can take medicine wise. My pediatrician recommends lots of saline nasal spray for infants and kids who don't know how to blow yet. I've found it to be much more effective than a booger sucker because it softens the snot and helps it flow out more easily.

I recommend just getting generic saline spray, not the kind specifically marketed for children, because the nozzle is wide and rounded so it doesn't poke their tender little nostrils. After squirting the magic juice up a little nose, all you have to do is wipe a few times and the kiddo will either sputter and blow the boogers out or the snot will be soft enough that they can snort it back in and clear their sinuses. Whenever Mack has a cold, I always squirt him up before he goes to sleep and he's able to breathe a lot better and stay asleep longer than if I use a booger sucker.

Sick, but oh so cute in his little santa suit! Next up on the blog: a collection of photos of Mack playing Santa Baby.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Feeling Sentimental

One of my favorite times of day lately is when I nurse Mack before his morning nap. I love closing the bedroom door and having some quiet time with my baby. I love sitting on my freshly made bed, light coming in through the window, and holding my sweet, warm boy in my arms. The end of his babyhood is rapidly approaching and I'm finding myself in a constant state of sentimentality and mild panic at the thought that this part of his life, and this tender time for us together, will soon come to a close.

Maybe that's why I nursed Amelia for so long. If I was nursing her, she was still my little baby and I could still hold her close to me and give her something no one else could. I'm definitely one of those women who really loves babies. Even with the sleep deprivation, I find so much satisfaction in feeling that little body next to mine. I love to feel Mack tug on my shirt or stroke my skin while he eats. I love to watch his beautiful face while he sleeps. I love to listen to him sigh and coo (although those days are mostly over.) I love the feeling of his limp body curling over my shoulder or resting in the crook of my elbow.

I've been indulging in some naps with Mack the past week or so. Instead of putting him in his crib or laying him beside me on the bed so I can sleep myself, I've layed him on my chest, tummy to tummy, and basked in the quiet feeling of his chest rising and falling against mine. As I listen to his breathing and feel his heart beat against mine, I am reminded that we once were one and I want to hold him forever.

I'm certain there is one more baby in our family, but even as I think of that, I get sad because I still want Mack to be the baby. I don't want his time to be over. And then I think about what this will be like when Baby #4 is about to become a toddler. I can't keep having babies just because I like babies. I have to continue being a good and attentive mother to my big kids, too. I've been in a pretty good place emotionally for the past couple of months, not too stressed out and coping with being a stay-at-home mom pretty well, but I've had times in the past and I'm sure I will continue to have times in the future where my depression gets the upper hand and I'll feel completely overwhelmed and wonder why in the world I had so many kids. But trying to imagine the feeling of knowing that I will never have another baby fills me with great anxiety and sadness.

It sounds like I'm baby hungry, but that's not it. I'm just hungry for my Mack to stay a baby awhile longer. And I'm hungry not to have this part of my life be over. How does a woman cope with saying goodbye to her childbearing self?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Wyoming fairy tale

Here's what I ate for breakfast the morning after Halloween:

I'm drooling on my keyboard, how about you?

The Halloween sugar cookie project lasted about three days. It's a lot of work to roll out, cut and bake a double batch of sugar cookies, then mix, color, and bag multiple colors of homemade buttercream frosting (plus clean up the whole messy ordeal.) By the time I finally had the frosting ready to decorate the cookies, Lily had totally lost interest and Amelia only stuck around to decorate two or three cookies. I ended up doing most of them myself, but to be honest, it was nice to decorate in peace.

At one point, when my wrist was cramping up, I thought, "This is dumb. Why am I doing this if the girls don't even care?" But then I look at the above picture of sweet, sugary goodness and I have my answer. Amelia just looked at the picture of the cookie tray and said, "I want some of those cookies!" We may have some more pumpkin and leaf sugar cookies in our future!

Amelia is a complete fanatic for anything pink, so this was her favorite cookie.

Lily preferred to just decorate her fingers and lick off the pure sugar delight.

Mack was totally grubbin' on the plain sugar cookies and left a nice mess on the floor.

Now, on to the costumes. I was on the ball this year and ordered costumes from Amazon early in September. The only problem with that was trying to keep them in good shape for the next six weeks! Amelia wore her Cinderella dress almost daily, but she was restricted to wearing it only in the house and had to take it off whenever she ate.

Luckily she was still enamored with her "Cinda-yeh-yuh dess" by the time Halloween arrived. It was a great improvement over last year when she wouldn't even wear her costume. She was super excited to wear makeup and she even let me do her hair.

Lily chose out a Spanish dancer costume, but if you asked her what she was, she declared that she was a Spanish Princess.
She was in love with the makeup, too, and the ringlets in her hair. When I look at this picture, I'm afraid of what my future holds as the mother of a beautiful teenage girl!

Now, what princess tale is complete without a dragon? Becca loaned me this costume for Mack and when I stood him up in the wood pile I totally squealed with delight at how cute he was!

The two princesses declared that Mack was a "good" dragon who protected them and chased all the bad guys away.

He even had a forked tongue. The fairy tale was complete in the Wyoming wood shed castle.

The girls' favorite babysitter, Ana Cook, helped them carve their pumpkins the night before Halloween while Dan and I were out for our date. The small pumpkin and the chubby kitty pumpkin both came from Grammie's garden.

We got lucky again this year with no snow and warmer than freezing temperatures, so sweatshirts were sufficient for trick-or-treating. Dan and I took turns taking the girls out and enjoyed picking out all the nut and peanut butter candy bars from Lily's bucket and hogging them to ourselves.

Y'know, while you're in the moment of trying to make things festive and memorable for your kids, it seems like a big hassle. But in looking back, you realize it's worth it and there is more to mothering than just doing dishes and folding laundry. We really are the driving force behind how they will look back on their childhood.

Here's wishing you a happy holiday season. Forget the shopping and parties and Santa expectations and just make fun memories spending time with your family.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wood Stove Perk #17

The perfect place to warm your tootsies on a cold morning.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Here comes Trouble!

Mack started crawling at 8 months, on September 11. Within about 4 or 5 days he was trying to pull himself up on the kitchen foot stool and other short things. He mastered that in about a week, then moved on to pulling himself up on taller things like the couch, the computer desk and the fire gate. He started cruising along the furniture this week. He is now 10 months old and has figured out how to open the kitchen cabinets.

Wait for it...wait for it...

"Mama, those pans attacked me!"

I guess it's time to install the safety latches before he discovers he can get into the cleaning supplies.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You know you're a Redneck when...

You have a picture of yourself posing with antlers and your friends call you Elmer Fudd.

You own an article of bright orange clothing and there's a chopping block outside your back door.

We've been in Wyoming for over a year now, so I think it's safe to say we've been initiated. But now Dan is officially a true Wyoming Man. He has been on many elk hunts with Brian in years past, but this year was the first time he had his own hunting license. He shot his first elk (a 5 point) on opening day, October 15th. I don't really get the whole hunting thing, I guess it's the thrill of the pursuit or whatever, but I do know it's male bonding at its finest. Processing your kill is expensive and we don't really have anywhere to store a bunch of elk meat, so Dan did what Brian does most years. They both gave their meat to a family in Afton whose children all have cystic fibrosis. Deer and elk meat is really high in protein, and a high calorie, high protein diet is really important for people with cystic fibrosis.

I sent Dan with the point and shoot camera to snap a few pictures of the hunt, but it was so cold that the battery wouldn't operate. I had to settle for a picture of Dan and his rack in our back yard. I think it's better that way- I didn't have to look at the glassed over eyes of a dead elk with his bloody tongue hanging out to the side.

I think we're gonna be on Jeff Foxworthy's Christmas card list this year.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I'll do anything for a picture

You ever notice how much less neurotic you become the more kids you have? I remember when Lily was a baby her Nana was visiting and we went out for breakfast. We were having pancakes and Nana let Lily taste some syrup and I was secretly freaking out, "She can't have sugar! She's too little!" Well, here we are at baby number 3 and I'm all about letting him not only have one lick, but several, of a sucker just so I can make a cute video.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today, squeeze someone you love

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in the United States. I'd like to take some time to reflect on loss and love.

As reluctant as I was to join Facebook last year, it has really turned out to be a wonderful tool for renewing and deepening friendships. In August I "friended" Amy Whitney, a bride whose wedding I photographed in Oakland, CA in 2007. The last time I saw Amy she and I were both pregnant (me with Mack) and due about the same time. Whenever I find a new friend on Facebook, I usually go straight to the photos first. Amy's small profile photo showed her and her baby girl and I was excited to see all the pictures of her daughter Alexis Lynne. I was confused when I saw the first image, thinking perhaps I had clicked on the wrong album. It was a picture of a cemetery plot. I clicked over to the next picture, and I knew right away that Alexis Lynne was stillborn.

Memories came rushing back of a summer night when Lily was 5 months old. My sister-in-law Lora had just given birth to her first child, Hope Lynn. Hope was perfect, with wispy brown hair, eyes like her sister Rachel, delicate fingers and rosy red lips. But instead of tears of joy, my eyes were filled with tears of anguish as I photographed my brother Don and his wife mourning the loss of their first child. Hope died from a cord injury, just one day before she was scheduled to be born. Here is an excerpt from my journal on Aug. 17, 2002:

Those were the hardest pictures I've ever taken... It was hard to keep
focusing and taking pictures through my tears, but I was so glad I could be
there to take those pictures for them. They are the most sad and beautiful and
sacred photographs... I am so honored that Don and Lora trusted me enough to be
there and record such a private moment. I didn't get to hold Hope that night, I
just kissed her head and stroked her hair. But in the morning I held her before
the man from the mortuary came to pick her up. Oh, how I love her! She is
perfect and she is an individual and I'm so glad I got the chance to hold her
and love her and grieve her loss... I think I will always remember the anguish and poignancy of Don carrying the beautiful tiny white casket with his baby daughter to the grave site.
Amy, amid her grief, has used her experience to become a voice for mothers suffering from infant loss. She and her husband Zach were fortunate to have the services of a photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep at the hospital after Alexis was born. Amy is a digital scrapbooker and has designed a beautiful album of Alexis, detailing all the events of the pregnancy, birth, and memorial service. I think it has been tremendously healing for Amy to make Alexis's scrapbook. One of the amazing gifts that the people at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep give to the parents is a memorial video of the photographs taken of their child. You can see Alexis Lynne's video on Amy's blog here. But be warned, you WILL cry.

The knowledge of Amy and Zach's loss came at time when I really needed to be reminded of my blessings. I was feeling numb from my responsibilities as a mother and struggling with my emotional attachment to my children. After reading Amy's blog, watching the video, and pondering the loss that I know nothing of, I crept into my childrens' rooms and wept as I watched each of them sleep. Amy was an instrument in God's hand in opening my eyes to the blessings before me.

When things get tough, I remember Amy, and so many others that I love (Becky, Lori, Becca, Samantha, Lora, Victoria, my Gram, my cousin Jen...) who would give anything to trade my trivial stress to have the privilege of holding their infant in their arms. Our children are our greatest blessings, and while God will restore all to those who are faithful, we must always remember to love the ones we have, while we have them.

Tonight, if you are so inclined, gather your loved ones around you at 7:00pm and light a candle in remembrance of all those who have lost a child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Then go and squeeze someone you love.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking House

800 square feet is not a lot of space for a family of five. It's wasn't too bad this summer because we spent a lot of time outside and Dan took the wood stove and hearth out in May, which seemed to double our living space.

All that glorious space to run around in, dance in, and learn to crawl in.

Alas, no more. Winter is eminent here in Wyoming, dropping below freezing during the night, so Dan hauled in the wood stove last Saturday.

Our living room is considerably smaller now and it seems even more crowded by the fact that everyone wants to hang out in here where it's warm.

I should've taken a picture, but believe me when I tell you that if someone is laying with one of the recliners out on the couch, there's barely enough room to squeeze through between the fire gate and the recliner legs.

Despite the whole shrinking living room thing, the wood stove does have its perks. It's super cozy to sit around the fire and read stories and Lily loves to get dressed in front of the fire before school. But best of all, we kicked off the cold season by making s'mores right in our own living room.

Amelia was hilarious because she never really wanted to eat a s'more or even a marshmallow, she just wanted to critique the way we were roasting. "No, too dawk (dark), Daddy." "I want dohden (golden) bown (brown)." "Ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah that's just right." (Thank you, Goldilocks!)

Dan and I agree that the $190.00 it cost to buy the fire gate last year was the best money we've ever spent. It gives us a lot of peace of mind and now it has the added perk of helping Mack practice standing up.

The one major drawback to the wood stove is the constant mess of wood chips on the floor. I sweep a couple times a day, but Mack still manages to find little goodies to nibble on.

What? A little roughage in your diet never hurt anyone!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Queen has spoken

Meet the Queen Vee:

Victoria Carlson, October 1995

Victoria Carlson and I have been friends since I was a 13-year-old wayward teen (is there a worse age in your entire existence than 13?) Hers is one of the few friendships that have endured into my adulthood. Her wisdom and example have always been an inspiration to me and her wacky sense of humor has always been right up my alley. I lived with Victoria and her husband Ken when I met Dan, and she was my escort when I received my endowment in the Washington D.C. Temple.

Over the years, The Queen has given me lots of sage advice. I wanted to share something powerful she taught me when we spoke just a couple of weeks ago. You know how I've always struggled with keeping my house clean? It has started to be a point of contention between Dan and I and it has long been a source of shame for me. I have read several things about getting organized and I've tried to implement the principles taught by The FlyLady a few different times. But every time I start to get on a roll with housekeeping, I burn out and fall back into my old, overwhelmed ways.

I was talking to Victoria about it and she said, "What it boils down to is taking pride in your work. Early on I had to decide that keeping house was my job. Ken went out and made the money and I stayed home. That was my job and I decided that I was going to do it to the best of my ability. It's a lot of work, it's still a lot of work even now that my kids are grown, but I do it everyday and I take pride in making my home beautiful."

For some reason, that really struck me. I have been spending a lot of emotional energy feeling like it's too much for one person to handle, that there are too many distractions with little kids to be able to keep up with the messes. I've been self-indulgent in taking too much "me" time, convincing myself I "deserve" a break. Well, after talking to Victoria, I started working harder everyday to get the house in order and keep it that way. I told myself that there were no breaks allowed until at least the beds were made, the dishes were done, and the laundry was started. I've been sticking to that everyday and also working on something additional each day, like sweeping and mopping or straightening the girls' room or going through outgrown clothes to put in storage.

Something has finally clicked for me. It doesn't matter what "system" you use to keep your house neat. You just have to decide it's important and take pride in a job well done. I was telling Lori about my conversation with the Queen and she asked, "So, is your house going to be clean all the time now?" Probably not all the time, but I've been able to sustain a level of housework to where I'm at least not embarrassed if someone stops by.

I am happier, Dan is happier, and amazingly, Lily has started making a little more of an effort to keep things picked up. It's time I finally set the example.

It's been nearly 5 years since I've seen the Queen.

Victoria Carlson, me, Samantha Carlson Lee (aka The Dragonfly) Leesburg, VA Dec. 2004

Tomorrow I will get to see Victoria, Ken, and all of their children as they celebrate the life of Victoria's brother Kirk Nelson who recently died from Mantle Cell Lymphoma. I am so excited to see them all, especially to meet their oldest daughter Melissa. The Carlsons are family and I can't wait to grab them all up in a huge bear hug.

Thank you, Queen Vee, for once again steering me in the right direction. I'll see you and all your beautiful buggies tomorrow!