31 May 2016

A Few Quick Takes

1. Matt and I have been watching a tv show in Netflix, and last Friday evening, we stayed up way late and totally binged. Matt was sick with our gluttony and confessed that he was tv-ed out, so I proposed a Netflix/tv fast for the rest of the holiday weekend. We abided by the plan through til Monday night and opted to read books instead.

It was glorious.

I am back on track to finish 24 books this year - shooting for two books per month - and I got caught up on my past National Geographics. It was nice and peaceful and I felt calmer and more focused. I fantasized about our house being an electronic-free oasis where we can raise our kids without fear that they're accessing morally questionable material. I had visions of only using the Internet at the library and never watching television. It's not going to happen, and in the fresh air of the day, I'm not even sure I want it to. We need to teach our kids discipline and staying true to their morals, not shelter them so they never learn to protect themselves. But it was nice for a weekend, so I realized it's probably more reasonable to take regular fasts from electronics instead.

2. I'm a big fan of year-round school, and for public-schooled, 5-year-old Abigail, right now that looks like religious ed for preschoolers over the summer.

I chose this curriculum because it promised lots of singing and crafts, offered a lot of alternatives that I might need to make things more accessible for a special needs child (marshmallows instead of beads), and uses the ABCs to introduce Catholic teaching and Abigail already knows and loves her ABCs. It arrived today and I'm impressed with what I see. I plan to start "doing school" two days per week while Theodore is taking his morning nap. I'll include Eleanor as best as I can, she's a pretty smart cookie and will probably learn quite a bit. We'll start in two weeks, when public school lets out.

3. Abigail will also be starting back up with equine therapy one day per week come June. Gross motor is the weakest category for her and horseback riding is a great way to build up the core.

Abigail in 2015
Abigail never forgot a number of commands, including, "Trot, Trot" followed by a tongue click. She also remembers the little song I would sing when we were getting ready to ride and that we took a windy rural road to get there. She's going to love being back and it's going to be a struggle keeping Eleanor from throwing a tantrum because she can't ride too.

4. I started working on a daily schedule for the summer, including daily Mass once a week, and a women's Bible study and once-a-week Zumba class for me. I want chore time, outdoor time, story time, and prayer time everyday, and I'm even allotting "movie time" once a week during Theodore's afternoon nap so that I can either play catch up or work on bigger projects. I am trying hard to keep the schedule fairly loose though, because I've been having a hard time staying on track since we bought a house.

We got a kiddie pool a week or two ago and so far, it is a huge hit. Roxy is obsessed with water and loves being splashed, so it's pretty much a match made in heaven.

5. It turns out we have a ton of mosquitoes in our little city backyard and poor Eleanor has a huge reaction to the itchy bugs. She was bitten right between the eyes and her right eye swelled up quite large. The next day, she tripped and fell in the kitchen and split her lip open, which then also swelled. Between the eye and the lip, she looked like she'd been in a fight, so I started calling her Fight Club. I teased her, "Do you wear your sparkly shoes to fight club?" "Do you take your kitty or horse stuffed animal to fight club?"

6. Theodore is now six months old. He is still a fun, lazy, chill kind of guy. He's so lazy, in fact, that he can only roll over from his back to his stomach and he can't sit by himself yet. He can sorta scoot backward when he's on his stomach, but only in the same way that grass grows: so slowly that you can see it if you stare at him the whole time.

I am not worried in the least, because my mommy gut says that everything is fine. My mommy gut also insists that he's not ready for solids yet, so I'm still the sole nourisher of his 20 pounds worth of hunky man-ness. I feel like I could eat pounds of meat at every meal. He wakes up once per night to nurse, I sleep wonderfully in bed while he sleeps next to me in his bassinet, and I am still certain that babies are the greatest thing on earth.

7. I reopened my Etsy Shop. I sell hair clippies now. 3 clips for $8 and $1 shipping. So you get three clips for less than $10.

I bought some like these from a friend-of-a-friend and while I loved them, they were outrageously expensive. I wanted more colors and styles, so I bought supplies to make them myself and had so much leftover that I decided to make up a few trios and sell them.

I also have special Avengers and Frozen clips.

I created a special blog readers only coupon code for you guys! Type in "JourneyNarrative" at check out to get $1 off your order, good until July 1, 2016. $1 off is like getting free shipping or getting 12.5% off, however you want to think of it. They were just a fun little project that I love using on my girls.

21 May 2016


I am SO sorry for the silence! We (all five of us) have been sick with a nasty cough. That combined with regular daily life, and, well, hence the silence. Anyway, I received a super flattering comment on my last post from a reader that I've been dying to respond to! She said she loves my level-headed approach to momhood and she wants my advice. Super complimentary! Thank you! She had a few questions in particular that were a lot of fun to write about. The theme of today's post are all the preparations that surround a family of three becoming a family of four, so I spent lots of time reminiscing about when Eleanor was born and going through pictures.

Preparing a toddler for a new baby
I'm starting here because I think this is the easiest one. I did nothing to prepare Abigail when I brought Eleanor home! (I did nothing for the girls when Theodore came home either, because that strategy worked just fine the first time around.) In my experience, toddlers love babies and are more than happy to shower a new little infant with love. Sharing the normal new-baby preparations were enough to get my kids ready each time. As I set up the crib/bassinet/pack n' play, I told Abigail, then Abigail and Eleanor, "This is where the baby will sleep!" When I washed, folded, and put away the baby clothes, would hold up my favorite outfits, "Isn't this super cute?! The baby will wear this!" When I would buckle them in the car, I'd point to the empty space in the backseat, "Pretty soon there is going to be a baby here!" My best advice here is just that whenever you feel excited? Tell your toddler!

Abigail helping me sort through things a few weeks before Eleanor was born.

A friend of mine lets her kids pick out a gift for the baby and I think it's a super cute idea. Mine were not old/mature enough to understand a concept like that, but if your toddler is, I think it'd have benefits. Then you could remind them, "Look, the baby is wearing the jammies you got her! She loves them!"

Freezer meal recipes
I would recommend a three-prong approach when it comes to postpartum food:

The first step is to get a meal train! Ask your mom, sister-in-law, or friend to set one up for you - they are very easy and totally free. I used MealTrain.com when I set one up for my sister-in-law and would totally recommend it. Heck, I'll set one up for you! If you have a lot of family or friends who live far away, see if any nearby restaurants have e-gift cards that you can buy and send online. That's what I did with my pizza-loving sister-in-law. Her favorite place (Papa Johns) is right on her husband's way home from work and they have e-gift cards, so I included a link to them in the "comments" section of the meal train. The last part of my meal train recommendations: make sure the coordinator includes the two cardinal rules! Here is the verbiage I used: "Lastly, please remember the two rules of meal trains: #1 Make yourself scarce. This is the part where you drop off a delicious meal, tell [your name here] how radiant she looks, and hit the road. The part where you snuggle the baby and ask to hear the birth story comes later this summer. #2 Use disposable cookware. Don't hand over dinner in anything that [your name] will have to wash and return to you."

This way you get fresh, hot meals delivered right to you, and oftentimes, people throw in dessert, soda or juice, and a gift.

Second, the freezer meals. When I had Theodore, I bought a few disposable pans at the grocery store and cooked up some meals, wrote the cooking instructions on the lids, then tossed them in the freezer. I made these meals:
-Wild rice and beef casserole
-Turkey pot pie
-Shepherd's pie (I used a recipe from my cookbook, but this Martha Stewart one is very similar.)
Lasagna, mostaccioli, and taco casserole would also be delicious. Anything you would make for someone else having a baby you could make and freeze for yourself.

The third prong is the slow cooker prong. If you don't have a slow cooker, buy one. They are very inexpensive and you are about to have two kids - you will get so much use out of it! This is the exact one I have and it works great! You can buy a slow cooker cookbook or find recipes online. Then I used a tip I learned at a friend's Pampered Chef party: put all the ingredients in a gallon-sized zip lock bag, write the instructions on the side in a Sharpie, and toss it in the freezer. Then you can just dump the bag into the slow cooker and turn it on. You can Google "slow cooker freezer meals" and prep whatever sounds tasty. I think meatballs, taco soup, and chili all come out well. Slow cooker pot roast is really good too, but I've never done it freezer-style.

I plan a slow cooker meal once a week and I'm going to up it to two. Days when there is a doctor's appointment, laundry day, Sundays when you'd rather be doing family things are all good days to use the slow cooker when you have two kids.

Matt wants me to mention that he found the most difficult part of transitioning from one kid to two is the disruption in the routine. You're all established now with the morning routine and the naptime and the bedtime routine. I don't know how much space is between your kids, but Abigail turned 3 eight days after Eleanor was born. We had three long years to establish our way of doing things. Then when an adorable little newborn comes along with no schedule or predictability, it'll shake up your house. Just expecting things to be a bit crazy those first few weeks, maybe months, makes it easier to handle.

I think having a double stroller and an Ergo makes navigating life with two young kids so much easier. The double stroller lets you go to doctors' appointments or stores or out for walks. Kids move directly from car seat to stroller. The less freedom small children have in public, the less stress you'll have, especially at all those doctors' appointments in the first two months.

 July 2014 - I was two months postpartum and I felt like a skinny bad ass.

Then there's the Ergo. Any carrier that allows you to carry a newborn (if you get an Ergo, be sure to get a newborn insert) and to carry a baby on your back will work. A friend of mine swears by her Kozy, and there are a few other options out there. I've started buying my carriers from CarryMeAway.com - be sure to check out the Promotions Page under the Sales tab, I got a rearview mirror with my ring sling that I use constantly. I wore Eleanor almost every single day from when she could hold her head up until I got pregnant with Theodore. I started wearing Theodore after Matt went back to work (about two weeks) and I wear him about 4 days a week now. When you can wear the baby on your back, your arms are free to cook dinner, do dishes, do laundry, change you toddler's diaper, keep an eye on her at the park, etc. This is especially helpful if you have a very clingy, fussy baby who DOES NOT like to nap alone, which was totally Eleanor. Plus if you're working outside of the home, wearing your baby will let you bond and get crap done during precious evening hours.

Finally, make a basket of special toys. Buy a few new toys, books, box of fruit snacks, and put them in a basket that the toddler only gets when you need a few bleepity bleeping minutes! This basket will let you shower while the baby naps and nurse the baby in peace. The basket goes back up to the highest shelf when you are back so the fun-ness of it doesn't wear off. This is really just a trick when going from one to two kids. Once you have Baby #3, Kids #1 & 2 can entertain one another while you pee.

Dividing attention
Having a carrier is a good strategy, you can just strap one on and then focus on the other one and both kids will feel like they have you. I find that most of the time, whatever you are doing with one kid, you can do with two, especially when there's a toddler involved and distractions are the best way to resolve dilemmas. You can redirect the toddler meltdowns by reading a book to two kids, snuggling up in bed for a mid-afternoon movie with two kids, stashing everyone in their cribs/pack n plays and hiding in the bathroom with a pan of brownies from two kids.

I find that I'm usually trying to divide my attention between the kids and what I want to do. Whether it's doing the dishes or blogging or making a phone call (or playing this ridiculously addicting game on my cell phone that I just discovered) or making dinner, it's exactly the moment when Mommy needs a few minutes that everyone needs Mommy. Once the baby is about six months or so, having a schedule can reduce the stress quite a bit. Note for a few days when your kids seem to be the neediest and never try to get something done during this time frame. For me, that time has always come between the afternoon nap and dinnertime. Also note when your kids are happiest to play independently and plan to get as much done then as you can.

In fact, writing that just now made me realize that I've been slacking in the mornings and trying to make up for it in the afternoon and that's why the past two weeks have sucked twice as much as it normally does when the whole family is sick. Theodore goes down around 9am for a nap and the girls head downstairs or to Eleanor's room to play and I'm lazing on the couch playing that addicting game or surfing the web. Then after Abigail gets home from school and Eleanor wakes up, I'm like, "Crap! An hour and a half until I need to start dinner and I need to do the dishes, get the diapers in the wash, bring the trash cans back in, and figure out where in the heck Abigail put that cup of milk because I don't want to let that sit for a few days."

Last Thoughts
Congratulations!!! A very wise friend of mine is always saying, "The love in your home multiplies as your hearts expand" (*Cough* TB, I'm talking about you. *Cough*) and it is SO TRUE. Two kids doesn't double your love, it, like, quintuples it, or something. It goes up a ton. You get to see your toddler in a whole new light - a doting sibling - and you'll get to watch your baby fall in love with your toddler. Kids love babies. They love to kiss them and bring them toys and make them laugh. And babies love big kids. I very often just prop the baby up with the bigger kid(s) (Eleanor with Abigail, then Theodore with the girls) when the baby is fussy but isn't hungry or wet and I don't want to wear a carrier. The best, best, best thing you can ever do for your kids' future is to give them siblings and nurture their relationship. God willing, your kids will outlive you and money is easily lost. But a sibling? A brother or sister with an eternal soul? They can wrap their arms around each other and laugh and cry onto one another's shoulders and love each other's kids long after you are gone.

I am so proud of you for being open to having another baby and for doing your darnedest to give your little family everything you can, even before they are all in your arms.

06 May 2016

Nursing Theodore

I've never had such strong opinions about an election or a political topic before now. I just want to sit here and rage type about all the political things that are driving me crazy! Trump and the transgender bathroom issue has me totally fired up. Matt and I But this is not the appropriate venue, so instead of "rage against the machine" Jacqueline, you get nursing Jacqueline.

Nursing Jacqueline is doing really well. Theodore is significantly easier than Eleanor. I put together a little list to compare the two:

Theodore: one minor bought; Eleanor: three rounds of infection, one of which was bad enough to get me admitted to the hospital

Plugged ducts
Theodore: it happened a few times, but nursing in different positions cleared it up within one day; Eleanor: a daily occurrence for months on end and was very difficult to clear up

Theodore: wakes once or twice to nurse, then happily goes back to sleep in his bassinet/rock n sleeper; Eleanor: insisted on nursing constantly throughout the night and would not sleep unless in my bed and nursing

Frequency and duration
Theodore: eats quickly and efficiently, emptying both sides and only nursing a few times throughout the day; Eleanor: nursed for long stretches of time very often throughout the day, usually only nursed one side at a time


Falling asleep
Theodore: does not like to nurse to sleep, has a hard time being rocked to sleep by me, much prefers Daddy to "walk him down." Only likes to sleep in his bassinet, car seat, or carrier. Hates sleeping in people's arms and will only do it when desperate; Eleanor: would always conk out while nursing and sleep anywhere. Loved sleeping in people's arms or in the carrier.

Theodore: doesn't really like nursing covers, gets distracted easily by his sisters; Eleanor: never minded covers and didn't care about the surrounding world when she was eating.

I feel like I have a different body! (Or, more accurately, different boobs. Sorry, Dad.) Nursing Theodore is easier in the sense that I don't get plugged ducts and mastitis nearly as much, and also because he nurses less throughout the night. But it's more difficult in that I can't just nurse him to quiet him when we're at church or something.

I have always wanted to be brave enough to nurse without a cover though, using the "under a t-shirt, over a tank top" method. I never was with Eleanor, but I have with Theodore! The first time I did it, I was tucked in a corner booth at a restaurant and no one knew what was going on. But the second time was at the Detroit Institute of Art. I figured if there was ever a place that the human form would be appreciated in all its glory, it would be an art museum. I found a room of religious art, you know, Mary snuggling with Jesus type stuff, and made myself comfortable on a bench. I was still under a shirt, so it was pretty conservative, but it was more obvious what I was doing. One employee did mention to me that they offered a nursing room on the main floor, but didn't seem rude or push it. Museum patrons either smile at me or politely avoided making eye contact. No one was rude!

Anyway, the natives are getting restless and the dryer is done, so I need to abandon this rather "mundane" breastfeeding post. Coming up next week: Eleanor's second birthday! Yay, Eleanor!

02 May 2016

The Things Bouncing Around My Head

A few months ago, I tried to write a post about the differences in parenting Abigail vs. Eleanor in an easier/harder way. But as I was brainstorming with paper and pencil, I just confused myself. "Well, Abigail's easier to take out in public. No, actually Abigail is only easier at church, Eleanor is way easier everywhere else. Okay, new topic. Eleanor is better at following directions. Except Abigail is better at helping clean up her toys. No, sometimes when she's feeling oppositional, it's easier to get Eleanor to help." I found that there were no rules of thumb, it's like they take turns being the easy one of the day. Or they are both the difficult one. Even Eleanor, in a lesson learned directly from Abigail, will sometimes bolt at the store or in a parking lot. So the post was scrapped and I forgot about it.

Until Saturday. We were at an outdoor mall and I left Abigail and Theodore with Matt and ran next door to Sephora (a makeup store) with Eleanor. As soon as we walked in the door, the sales girls started cooing. "She's soooo cute!" "Awww, she's carrying her little kitty stuffed animal!" "That's so adorable!" Now granted, Eleanor is really stinkin' adorable, especially on Saturday with her sparkly shoes and her pink vest with her little reddish brown curls and her kitty stuffed animal. Every time we crossed an aisle with a sales clerk, I could hear "awww" following us.

That has never happened to me when I go into a store with Abigail. We get double takes and stares. Sometimes we get flat-out ignored. Occasionally someone will come up close, get in Abigail's face, tell me in a thick voice that I find to be over-dramatic, "Your daughter is beautiful." Walking through a store with Abigail is a totally different experience than walking through a store with Eleanor.

It used to really bother me. Made me wanted punch the world's lights out or run away with my family to a remote cabin in the wilderness where we could hide from the world. But nowadays I don't really care. "What? The store clerks don't like my special needs daughter? Shocker, now get out of the way. I haven't been to a makeup store in about nine months and I need to get my favorite date-night lipstick and get back to my nursing baby before he looses it."

It turns out the secret to kid problems is to just have more kids. Is the cry it out method good or bad? Is sleeping with your baby dangerous? Cloth or disposable diapers? Who cares. I'm three kids deep and suddenly I'm all, "Abigail, we're all done outside. Get back in the house and I'll give you ice cream" because Theodore is awake and Eleanor needs a diaper change and I'm so not doing the count-to-five, timeout, actions=consequences thing right now.

I'm really surprised it doesn't bother me; I thought I would struggle forever. I'm totally the right type: I can hold grudges, it's hard for me to forgive, I'm judgmental, I don't get along with others very well. I keep questing it, like I'm pressing on an old scar: Does it hurt? Nope. Are you sure? Better try again.

In other kid-related-news-bouncing-around-my-head, I'm attempting to potty train Eleanor. Starting today. She's got all the readiness signs and I found a book at the library called Potty Training Girls the Easy Way so I figured I'll give it a go. I'm keeping my expectations very low and planning on having three in diapers for many moons to come. After all, Abigail is not even almost ready and Theodore is a baby, so what's one more in diapers? So far Eleanor is crazy excited about her new Frozen underwear and has been in and out of the bathroom practicing sitting on the potty all morning. In my wildest of dreams, Eleanor will succeed and watching Eleanor will encourage Abigail, and by sometime this summer, I'll only have one in diapers. That seems pretty impossible from where I am standing right now, so, like I said, I'm really just dinking around and expecting mass quantities of diapers for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, as Eleanor gets older, it really highlights for Matt and I how different Abigail is. For example, we got invited to a bbq bonfire later this month. If it was just Eleanor and Theodore, it'd be fine. Not the most kid-friendly event, but manageable. It'll be late, so I can bring a pack n play for Theodore. I can tell Eleanor that the fire is hot and she needs to stay by Mommy. She will because she takes that sort of thing very seriously. She normally goes to bed around 7:30/8pm, but she can stay up late and be just fine. She'll sleep in the next day, or maybe take a longer nap.

But Abigail? Now that's a different story. I definitely can't trust her near a fire. As sure as I'm sitting at this computer, she would try to touch the flames. She would also throw someone's favorite toy into the flames, and very likely her own. I would not trust anyone, not even Matt or myself to keep her under control every single second, so under no circumstances would I permit Abigail near an open fire unless she was physically strapped to Matt or I in a carrier or strapped into a stroller. But that stinks too because she doesn't want to be strapped down when her sister and friends are running around playing. She'll act out by yelling and whining and choking herself.

Abigail doesn't do well when she's tired, she goes nonverbal, she acts out, she's not nice to her peers. Nothing brings out Abigail's behavioral issues like when she's tired. We're totally used to this because this is our normal, but we're starting to understand why people always think we're being rude or overprotective when we leave parties before 7pm or have weird rules for Abigail.

What would normally be a simple question, "What to come to our bonfire?" requires a sit-down discussion between Matt and I. We thought everyone with young kids was like us, it's rather strange to us that they're not.