Year 10

Year 10

A decade.

WOW.

As I look back on this year and the years before, it seems like we have been together a lifetime. A decade can really feel that way.

This year alone has felt like a lifetime for sure. As with many years, we experienced every part of our wedding vows: for better or worse, in sickness and in health…

George finished kindergarten and started sports, Daphne has really blossomed in gymnastics, and Walter is well figuring out how to be. Our family feels complete with these three, and it has been a joy to watch them together this year. Walter being born is definitely on the highlight reel!

Tom finally found a police department that fits him and his career goals. It was a long road here, and looking back to this time last summer we weren’t sure if he would ever get there. But he is happy to be in a place that is community action based and respects the work that each other do. It doesn’t hurt that he works where we live either!

My job has been a whirlwind of transitions over the last year. The pandemic in higher ed was interesting to say the least. I not only learned how to teach a class remotely, I also found this extra flexibility with working from home while pregnant and then post-partum. I had to navigate managing an office and learning a new team of my peers as there was constant leadership changes around us. Through all of it, I really feel like I am coming into my own as a leader on campus, and I am excited with what my team is doing, but also the college as well.

It still seems like a fresh wound, but losing Grace and Crosby is notably one of the worst experiences we have had as a couple. We both are still trying to muddy through the feelings we have as we settle into a no-dog household. There are so many things that were just natural around our house that now seems odd that they are gone. Walking this together though has made it a little less crippling.

As I reflect though on the last ten years, I would say that this is the most settled we have ever felt. Over our time together, there seemed to be always these things that we were waiting or hoping for. We have always been trying to direct our lives in a certain way, and this is what they call the good ol’ days I would imagine. We have everything that we hoped for, maybe not exactly how we planned out, but we are finally in a rhythm that makes sense and fits us.

So Tom and I thought we would think back on our marriage and share some thoughts on making it to this milestone.

Biggest surprise since we’ve been married:

Hands down, finding out we were pregnant with George was the biggest surprise of our marriage, and our lives honestly. To go from having conversations about infertility and trying for a while to grow our family, to all of a sudden see a baby on ultrasound monitor was wild. If you haven’t heard this story, I promise it is worth the read!

Hardest lesson learned:

There is a lot to unpack here from the last ten years.

The life that we thought were the right things just weren’t, and some were actually pretty devastating for us. Both of us had severe disappointments with our career paths, and at those low moments we thought we would never be happy in a work place setting. We also had talked a long time about only having two kids and that was our vision at the beginning of our marriage, but here we are loving on Walter. God is in control, and we have had to pray on believing this many times over.

We have also had to learn a lot about figuring out what we need to worry about and figuring out what it means to create our own family unit. Combining two different people to create this new thing came with it’s own struggles. We had to learn a lot about when to prioritize our own needs and then our family needs and how that all can be a mess to mix together.

With that, what has been difficult as you become these life partners is not only dealing with your own life grief and disappointment, but then having to manage this other person, and then our kids emotions as well. Both of us had a pretty rocky moment in our jobs that really shook us to our core, and to have to watch that unfold while being helpless to fix it is really gut-wrenching. We had to learn a lot about just being there for each other. But our individual problems do become each others problems, and there is extreme weight in that because you aren’t just managing your own feelings anymore. It is hard lesson to learn when it is ok to be selfish but when do you have to not be. There is some beauty in this for sure, which is why marriage is great, but it is shocking at times how your feelings unfold together.

Favorite thing to do together:

We love to just jump in the car and go to random places to “window” shop. Personally, I love when plant shopping is involved. It’s nice for us to just get away from the house and talk and move through stores leisurely.

We also love binge-watching shows. Becoming one with the couch while playing rummy and eating snacks while watching the Office is one of the most stress-relieving things.

Obviously, we really live on the edge…

What is something we haven’t figure out yet:

While we have been married for 10 years, and together for 14, we still haven’t completely figured out our communication styles. Both of us are stubborn and like to be on the “right” side, so we can fight pretty hard. Tom also said that he doesn’t always know what he wants so how am I supposed to figure that out, but then the expectation is there to hear each other out. I also have a really hard time apologizing to him, which is not helpful ever. We have also grown and changed over our time together, so sometimes we think we have each other figured out but something is different that we have to make new adjustments to. But on the plus side, our arguments are usually pretty quick and move it out of our systems, so I guess we are a work in progress!

Favorite thing about the other person:

Tom said that I am patient and very forgiving, and that he is still 100% twitterpated. I love Tom’s commitment to things. When he goes in on something, he goes in 1000%. And his level of loyalty is unmatched.

Advice for other couples:

I don’t think that any relationship is the same, nor would I ever say that we have it all figured out. Like I said we still struggle with communication a lot of the times, but we try every day to do better. We do have a couple nuggets of advice though.

We believe that you should be such an advocate for your marriage. There should be no question that this is your priority. It requires both of us to be all in and be the ones rooting for each other. We have to be pursing each other every day.

In order to do that though, we know that we have to take the time to be right with ourselves. Both of us have gone to counseling so we can be the best version of ourselves for each other and our family. This may take a lot of work but as the saying goes you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. With this takes recognition and support from your partner to do this work and find ways to support this individual growth. We have taken a lot of pride in making space for our self care and finding the right careers so we can be happy in all spaces.

Finally, and certainly not least, sleep in the same bed but have separate comforters. Sleep is so important, but we have different needs when it comes to our comfort and one of us is a burrito roller in blankets (me), so we learned early on that separate blankets made everything more enjoyable. Hands down, relationship saving advice.

It’s hard to believe at times that we met as 22 year olds at an amusement park. It feels like we have had so many lives together: grad school, living in Iowa, deployment and Fort Campbell, moving to our home state, and welcoming three babies into the world…

Here we are 10 years into marriage with this most amazing life. So here’s to many more decades together!

Not Just a Dog

I didn’t know I would be back in this place so soon. Honestly, I hadn’t really left the grief state yet for Crosby, but yesterday we said goodbye suddenly to our Gracie girl.

I am devastated. She wasn’t just a dog to me. She was my constant, my rock, my comforter. She has been my saving Grace for almost 10 years.

We got Grace just a few months after we got married in 2011. She was our first baby. Tom and I had never had a dog that wasn’t really our parents’ pet. She would have been 11 in December, and our 10 year adoption anniversary would have been in October. She joined us as a newly married couple, and she has been with us for every change since.

Through Army basic training and a deployment.

Through 4 homes, 3 moves, and 3 states.

Through many career changes.

Through our transition to parenthood three times over.

Through road trips, to backyard BBQs, to holidays, to just ordinary days.

Through all the little moments that made up our life over the last decade.

I remember the excitement of bringing her home after we rescued her from the shelter. When I close my eyes, I can still relive the feelings and the nervous chatter we had with her in the car ride home for the first time. We lived in a residence hall at Iowa State at the time. And she really was the best campus dog we could have asked for. She loved the students and they loved her back. She became a mascot of sorts and gave me an access point to build even deeper connections with my students. Some of my fondest memories of our girl were in that little one bedroom apartment on campus.

She was my companion while Tom went to basic training and went through his deployment. She was such a great distraction in those lonely times. She gave me something to smile about and something to be responsible for when I came home without Tom there. She was my everything. There were many days I am not sure I would have made it through without her.

She was such a diva too. She did what she wanted, and we all just lived in her world. She was always lounging, and couldn’t be bothered by most things. She was like a person at times with how she sat, and I swear she gave you hugs.

She did not like to go outside unless it was snowing. She would angry pee on the rug by the front door when it was any type of weather outside. Like how dare I ask her to go outside when it is raining! However, this girl was obsessed with snow. It was like candy coming down from the sky for her.

I will always remember how she greeted people. She would turn her body into a “U” shape and prance around like that.

She thought she was a lap dog, and she would wriggle her way to nestle into you. She loved to snuggle with us in our bed and bury herself in the blankets.

There are just countless memories that I am looking back on. She was my person in dog form. She was our home. I am just sitting here in shock trying to come up with words to give an adequate tribute to everything that she was to our family. I am lost and truly gutted.

With Crosby, we had time to prepare for the lasts with his cancer diagnosis. This time with Grace it was sudden. We knew her time was coming obviously as she was nearly 11 years old which is a substantial life for a boxer. But we didn’t get to ready ourselves enough for the lasts. I am so grateful that I was working from home and Tom was off yesterday because otherwise I would not have been able to hold her as she took her last breath. It was so fast. I just happened to be upstairs with Wally’s afternoon feeding to watch her have a seizure. As we sped to the vet’s, she died in the back of the truck. Unfortunately she had a tumor in her belly that was unseen that had ruptured. There was literally nothing we could do.

After Crosby died, I remember telling Tom that Crosby went first to prepare us for Grace leaving. I knew this tragedy would be a hard hit to us. I was naive to think how excruciating it would actually be. I think Grace knew her time was coming too, and like the Queen that she was, she wanted to go out on her own terms. I think she also wanted to have us to herself for a little while like it was in the beginning. But even going through the emotional toil with Crosby just a couple months ago could not have prepared me this roller coaster of emotions.

We should have known with going through this recently with Crosby, but what you don’t realize hurts more than not knowing they are the lasts, is experiencing the firsts without them. It’s very surreal right now, and there have already been moments in the last 24 hours that I have caught myself calling out her name, looking for her sprawled out on the couch as I walk by, or hearing phantom doggy steps. Having to wake up today without hearing her stretch and yawn in her chair was gut-wrenching.

There is sadness and an emptiness in my bones that is indescribable, but I also am feeling this immense amount of guilt. Guilt that she had been hurting for a while, and we just didn’t know. Guilt that we didn’t ask for more tests on her after Crosby died. Guilt that our kids didn’t get more time. Guilt that there was possibly more that we could do. Guilt over being helpless. Guilt that we didn’t live it up with her these last few days and let her have more table scraps.

Grace was just the best. She just always knew what you needed. She even knew that she was ours before we did.

I know deep down that she had the best life, and that while we had her for the last decade she made our lives exponentially better. And for that I can only say thank you to the best dog I have ever had.

But this hurts. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

Walter-6 Months

Walter-6 Months

Holy moly a half of a year with the chillest baby on the block!

Weight:  Welp…here I am again typing this out after Wally is asleep for the night. And I forgot to weigh him again. Did I contemplate waking him up so I could have his weight? Yes I did, but then I had better judgement.

Health: No health concerns this month. However, his two bottom teeth are starting to pop up. So while, there aren’t fevers or known ear infections yet, he has been a little crankier and a lot more slobbery this month.

Diet: Still going strong with breastfeeding! This last week, I did have to start getting into our freezer stash because pumping as usual starts to wane at about 4-5 months for me. I am shocked that I have made it this long without dipping into that extra supply to get through our days. I still don’t think we will need to supplement formula for awhile, but as I go back to campus more days a week in the upcoming months, I know that freezer stash is going to go down more quickly. I have however made a promise to myself that I am not going to pump extra this time around. It nearly killed my sanity with George, and I was always exhausted with Daphne because I was always trying to add more pumps to an already long day. I know it is not needed, and I don’t need that guilt put on myself. So my resolve is to only pump when I am at work on campus, and we’ll just see how long that takes us! Walt feeds 5 to 6 times a day, and on average it adds up to 2.5 hours of nursing. He is going around 4 hours between feedings during the day. My app says that we have had 168 feedings over this last month, and spent 3 days feeding him. I have also pumped 12 times over the month. We did start with solids just this weekend. We are choosing the baby led weaning way which means it can be a slow start as they get use to all the stimulation of it. We have only tried avocados, and he was really indifferent so far. Next up is sweet potatoes and black beans!

Clothes: He is in 3 month clothes and size 2 diaper. Although it is on my to-do list to change him up to 3-6 month clothes this week.

Sleeping:  We really lucked out with this kid and sleep. For the most part anytime we lay him down, he will eventually go to sleep. He goes to bed around 8pm. Then I wake him up around 10:30 pm for a feeding, and then he goes right back down. During the week, I get him up at 5:15am. On the weekends, we sleep in until 6:30-7:30 am. I am not changing the overnight piece still for awhile. I haven’t tried it in a few weeks to see if we could stretch. I am honestly too worried about my supply dipping. By cutting out a feeding at night, in theory it would really only save me a half hour in the morning since we stay up that late anyway. He typically takes two naps during the day, but they aren’t usually very long. He is still sleeping in a pack and play in our room overnight. I would say that 9/10 times, we are able to put him down awake, and he falls asleep within 5 minutes. We transitioned to the zipadee zip suit for sleeping, and he seems to love it. He has started rolling to his side in his crib, which is terrifying to me. He also has gotten his legs stuck in the crib bars a few times as he rolls around more. I don’t remember the big kids moving around as much as Wally does.

Likes:  He is still obsessed with Daphne. He loves to chew on cloth and his little wobbly toy. He loves to be rubbed like a dog on his belly and under his chin. He likes his activity jumper. He kicks his little legs around like crazy on that thing. He likes VocabuLARRY. He also loves Tom. They have little chats right before we all go to bed, and Tom gets the biggest smile out of him. To be fair, Wally gets the biggest smile out of Tom too.

Dislikes:  He has started getting really impatient with me when I am feeding him. It is really the only time he cries for the most part because I am too slow for his liking.

Nicknames: Walt, Wally, Wally Bear, Wally Olly, Butters, Sweet Bean, and Stinkerdoodle. We also have adopted most of Daphne’s nicknames: Waltie baby, Cutie baby, Sweetie baby, Baby guy, and Baby Walter. This last week she started calling him Wallace out of no where. I think the most common are Wally, Wally Bear and Waltie. We also really love to sing Wally Olly to same tune of “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion. Tom has created a whole remix to that song for Wally.

Milestones: He rolls in all directions now. However, he seems to hardly ever do front to back, but he can do it. He is starting to sit up better and better. He is starting to grab for things and is more intentional reaching and touching things. He is putting a lot more weight on his legs and likes to be helped standing.

Quirks:  When we put him to bed at 10:30 in the pack and play, he starts acting like he is paddling. He just throws his legs up and down as hard as he can and then laughs and coos until he falls asleep. It’s a little terrifying because he is so loud and then all of a sudden he’s not. (My anxiety is on a roller coaster when he is sleeping.) When he is changing his diaper he likes to pump out glute bridges, so it is super fun trying to do that task.

We parents are:  living the dream. I will say that work has been incredibly challenging this past month due to various projects ramping up and many extra hours trying to make it all work. I am also super thankful for the opportunity to work from home when I do. And I really do love my job, and the people I work with make it all worth it. I also had some good interactions with students in the past couple weeks that have been a great reminder of why we do what we do. Tom is loving work, and it is so great to see him so happy and with people that value him. We also have been putting in extra effort to get our yard looking better. Tom has taken down half our fence and been clearing out some overgrown areas to make our yard seem twice as big. We also have been getting our veggie garden in tip top shape, so we are excited to see what comes to fruition in the upcoming weeks. It is very rewarding to grow our own food.

Big kids are:  being as crazy as usual. School just ended for George, and I am excited for summer to start so we can just be outside as much as possible. I love seeing them play outside and create new worlds when they explore our yard. We have really expanded their play area this year with removing the fence, so it will be fun to see them engage in new spaces. They both still love Wally and are very excited to watch him start eating things. They think the mess is super hilarious. Daphne is very protective of him, and she loves to tell strangers that he came from my belly. She also sings the sweetest made up songs to him. George loves to try to dance with him.

Grace is: being her sassy self. Some days she acts like the 10 year old dog she is, and then other days she bounds around like a puppy again. She is also very excited that Wally is starting foods at the table. With all the seats full, I am sure she just sees more opportunity to have a buffet on the floor.

In case you are curious, here is George at six months and Daphne at six months.

It’s hard to believe that he has been here for half of a year.

You still seemed like a dream a year ago. And here we are Wally bear!

And on to the next…

And just like that, George is done with kindergarten.

There is a weirdness that is settling in from today. It’s like I know that we are done with kindergarten for George, but at the same time it doesn’t seem real that he is old enough to be a FIRST grader.

To think back to August and all of the unknowns of the year, it is hard to compile all the thoughts and feelings that we have gone through during this year.

George’s kindergarten experience will be so different than his siblings thanks to all that was 2020.

He had to wear masks. At the beginning of the year, I thought this would be our biggest hurdle, but he often choose to wear it away from school. The last couple weeks our county lifted those restrictions, and he still choose to wear it at times.

The parties, assemblies, field trips, and programs all looked different than “normal” or were non-existent.

There were several weeks of virtual school thrown in during the year. In the midst of these weeks, I honestly didn’t think either of us would survive.

Learning in some areas came really easy to George, and other areas we had to work as a team to identify new approaches. He started to see the school speech pathologist to help learn specific social skills. This kid just loves to talk and doesn’t always see the cues that he should stop.

On the other hand, he was recognized for his caring spirit and the way that he shows joy to others. He is such a light, even if his talking can be distracting at times. It was always great to hear the ways that he was filling others’ cups up throughout the year.

He learned a love for drawing, and even though he says he hates to write, we have books and books of hand crafted signs, doodles and charts to prove otherwise.

We saw his interests change due to peer influence, so we welcomed Minecraft and Pokemon into our lives. He also continuously was inviting his class to our house and planning sleepovers without cluing us in. (Mind you these never did happen, he is just the friend who likes to corral other friends for a good time.)

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s crazy to think still that we have a school-aged kid, but here we are celebrating our first year through.

I am so proud of George. He was able to adapt to being new at school, to the constant changing atmosphere, and also to becoming a big brother again through all of it. He is such a smart kid, and I loved seeing him make connections with his teacher and friends. And on to the next we go!

Daphne Turns FOUR

I always dreamed of being a mom, but I especially dreamed of having a daughter. Well, she is the challenge I never knew that I needed.

Looking back at my post from her last birthday, it is hard to believe how much she has grown in the last year. She is still as fierce and independent as she was a year ago, but she is a different child at the same time.

She is like a mirror to all of my insecurities and flaws. I see pieces of me in her, and I am determined to do right by her because of my own past. She is humbling to me in every way. I love my boys, but there is something about this little girl that makes me different.

She is already stronger than I ever was, and I hope that we never squash that fiery spirit. She always is very adamant about her feelings and feels them to their fullest. She is opinionated and strong-willed. I know that we are fostering someone who is not going to back down from making her voice heard. She is brave and fearless now, and I hope that we can continue to nurture that for years to come.

I mean, someone who can pull off wearing jammies days on end has earned some respect.

She is my sour patch kid though. She knows what she wants, and she will put her foot down and try to wear you down. This does come with its challenges, but I have to applaud her level of commitment.

I do believe that some type of entertainment is in her future. She loves to sing, dance, tell stories, and put on comedy routines for anyone who will pay attention. She lives to make other people smile by her performances. I want to just bottle her singing up forever.

And, while she is independent, she is still our little girl. She is an expert in procrastinating bedtime and finds any and all excuses to come talk with Tom and I after lights are off. Then in the middle of the night, she crawls into our bed so she doesn’t have to sleep alone-most of the time I don’t even realize she is there until I wake up in the morning to see that she sneaked in. She has a neighborhood of stuffies that keep her company at all times. She has a descriptive name for all her bunnies: green bunny, scraggly bunny, clean bunny, mommy bunny, baby bunny, snuggly bunny, swaddle bunny…So many bunny stuffies.

She loves all things princess, purple and pink, dinosaurs, and unicorns. She loves to create with tiny things like miniature tea sets for Calico Critters, Legos, and her fairy garden. She hates to be wet but will spend hours at a water table and playing in our mud creek. She has been planning a “flower festival” for the better part of a year with the planning committee ever changing directions. She loves to be outside, but she hates when I make the family go to the trail. She loves to bake, but only chooses to eat butter bread, fish sticks, and fruit. She fights me going to gymnastics, but she has the biggest smile while doing beam and loves to show off her bear crawl.

The brain on this child is also astounding. She is insanely smart, and I am constantly amazed at her vocabulary. It is astonishing that we had her assessed for a verbal delay 2 years ago. I cannot wait to see what she does at school next year. She loves to read and learn, and she will spend hours with art and craft projects. She will sit still just meticulously drawing “maps” of our house and city. It makes me wonder if she will be a city planner or architect some day.

My favorite thing to have come out of this last year is watching her become a big sister. She is by far the best sister one could ever ask for. She is always helpful and caring with all things Wally. I am loving watching her mature through their relationship. She takes care of him and spends a good deal of her day making sure he knows how much he is loved. To say she is obsessed with her new best friend would be an understatement. My heart swells just watching them interact and play together.

This girl is going to turn this world upside down some day. She sure changed mine the day that she was born. It was love at first sight. I am glad to have a front row seat to see all that she can do and see who she becomes. Forever her cheerleader I will be. I am overwhelmed when I look at her and see all the possibilities for her and the world around her. I adore her with all that I am. A smile is imprinted on my heart because of our Daphie Girl.