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.

Walter-5 Months

Walter-5 Months

Weight:  He finally seems to be filling out and getting those baby rolls. I admittedly forgot to weigh him, and he is already down for the night. Whoops. My guess is he is around 15 lbs.

Health: I think he may have allergies like the rest of us. He has had a runny nose and a little cough the last couple weeks. Other than that he is doing so well.

Diet: As I reflect on my breastfeeding experiences, this has been the best feeding journey I have had between the three. While it was rocky for a while there in the beginning, now it is just smooth sailing. I don’t feel like I am fretting about it as much as I did with the other two. He is growing, and I am not feeling like I am bending over backwards to make that happen. We still have all of our freezer stash untouched as well, so I feel good about that and the possibility that we will not need formula as quickly as we did with the others. Walt feeds 6 or 7 times a day, and on average it adds up to 2.5 hours of nursing. He is going 3-4 hours between feedings during the day. My app says that we have had 175 feedings over this last month, and spent 3 days feeding him. I have also pumped 12 times over the month, and I am pumping just enough on the days I am at work for the next time. We have not started the solids yet. He still is a little too bobbleheady for me to feel like he is ready, even though our pediatrician did give us the “all clear.” We’ll just continue with only breastmilk for probably the next month.

Clothes: He is in 3 month clothes and size 2 diaper. I have to say it has been fun getting out the clothes that his older siblings have worn and jumping back to their baby times. I also love babies in rompers and seeing the baby thighs.

Sleeping:  This kid is a dream baby with 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 at 10pm for a feeding, and then he goes right back down. I get him up at 5:15am. I am not changing the overnight piece for another little bit. He has either woken up around that 10pm time or he has started waking me up around 4:30/5, so I do not think I could skip that 10pm feeding. And honestly this isn’t a big deal since I am usually still up at that time. 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. We may stop that soon so we can use the pack and play when we are all outside to give him a little freedom without us holding on to him. I would say that 9/10 times, we are able to put him down awake, and he falls asleep within 5 minutes. We are still using the magic merlin suit, but I think this may be the last month for it.

Likes:  His favorite person is Daphne. He is always scanning the room looking for her, and he laughs so hard at her. He has this one teether that he loves more than any others. It is like a tiny barbell that he can hold on to really well with a bunch of knobs on the ends. He likes VocabuLarry. He also love his activity play yard. He moves all around it and likes kicking all the toys around. He will only snuggle with my mom.

Dislikes:  He still isn’t so happy about baths. He does not like being held laying down. If you cradle him, he will wriggle around to get in a more seated/upright position.

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. I think the most common are Wally Bear and Waltie.

Milestones: He has rolled from front to back twice. He seems to be like, “I did this thing so the pediatrician won’t worry but now I am content never rolling again.” He does get to his side from his back, but he doesn’t completely roll over. He will completely turn himself around in circles on the mat. We also put him in the activity jumper for the first time this week.

Quirks:  He is still pretty stoic. It is like he is trying to take in everything before he thoughtfully makes a reaction. He definitely has a fear of missing out. Lately when we have been doing stuff throughout the day, he does his best to stay awake to watch everything.

We parents are:  hanging in there. Tom has been on the midnight shift this past month, so we have all been just kind of existing. It has been tricky to get the quality time as a family since we are trying to just make it through this month. I am excited though for the upcoming month with the potential for more time outside and our garden. Today also ends the spring semester at my institution, so I feel like summer is here which makes me happy. I also have been reflecting a lot lately with the end of the term how far things have come in the last year. It was about this time last year that I found out I was pregnant with Wally bear, and then to do all that we have done during a pandemic….what a time!

Big kids are:  really great siblings in their own ways. It is hard to believe that George is in his last month of kindergarten. He is also having a ball with soccer, even though he is such a space cadet about it. Daphne does things on her own schedule, which is a blessing and a curse all together. She is just the best big sister. She loves making up stories and songs for Wally, and she lives for his reaction. She is a performer for sure!

Grace is: just living her best life. It has been really interesting watching her transition back to being an only dog again. She seems to be a little more frantic and actually gets up during the day to check on all the people and things. We think it is like she realizes she was taking a backseat to being a dog when Crosby was around. He was such an alpha, she didn’t really need to do anything. She has definitely filled in barking at all the things and being more present. She still is fairly lazy, but she doesn’t just lay around the couch for most of the day anymore. It’s a happy thing and sad all at the same time.

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

Thank you for being the calm in the craziness of our lives. I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store for you Wally!

Walter-4 Months

Weight:  He is feeling a little heftier these days. He is exactly 13 pounds. We have almost doubled his birth weight.

Health: We are no longer giving him medicine for his acid reflux. Some days he is doing well being off; other days he still spits up a lot. I do notice that it typically happens more in the morning than other times of the day, so I am not sure if it is related to me being more full in the mornings and the flow is higher.

Diet: Breastfeeding is going really well. I have no thoughts around needing to supplementing at this point, which feels really good. Walt feeds 6 or 7 times a day, and on average it adds up to 2.5 hours of nursing. He is going about 3 hours between feedings during the day. My app says that we have had 190 feedings over this last month, and spent 3 days feeding him. In addition to that I have pumped 12 times. I only go into the office one day a week, and it is so nice not to have to pump every day. It is doing so much for our breastfeeding journey to be the one to actually feed him 24/7 6 days out of the week. Looking back at both of the bigs’ journeys, I am in a much better position this time around. I was already supplementing with formula with George at this point. And with Daph, I had to pump extra times each night to make enough for her. I truly think a big reason why it’s not even on my radar to need to do either is that I am nursing him most days completely. I am truly thankful to be working from home this much to allow for this. I am not a good pumper, so it has been nice to need to do that very minimally.

Clothes: He is solidly in 0-3 month clothes, but I would assume we would move up to 3 months before his next update. He is still in size 1 diapers.

Sleeping:  He is so go with the flow with his sleep, which has been a godsend since our schedule never seems to be the same from day to day. We started putting him down for the night around 8pm. Then I wake him up at 10pm for a feeding, and then he goes right back down. He typically doesn’t wake up until I get him up at 5:15am, and often times sleeps until 7 on the weekends. I had been thinking of knocking out that 10pm feeding to just let him completely sleep through the night. But the couple days I have thought to test it out he has woken up by 11 acting hungry, so we’ll keep with this schedule for awhile. He typically takes two naps during the day, and he is taking those in his crib fully now. He is still sleeping in a pack and play in our room overnight. I am thinking we will keep him in this for awhile now so when we go on vacation this summer he will be used to a pack and play and it wont be a complete mess to his sleep. I would say that 9/10 times, we are able to put him down awake, and he falls asleep within 5 minutes. Oh and we are doing the magic merlin suit for the day naps, and a swaddle with both arms completely wrapped overnight. I do think we will have to stop with the swaddle here soon because I think we are close to rolling.

Likes:  His favorite place is upright with his face to our ears. We have this little vibrating bouncy seat that he loves to get crazy in. He seems like the best listener and loves to hear all of us tell him stories. He also love playing peek-a-boo, however it looks like it startles him at first then he just laughs and laughs.

Dislikes:  He despises baths. Honestly it is really the only time he cries.

Nicknames: Walt, Wally, Wally Bear, Butters, Sweet Bean, and Stinkerdoodle. Daphne still has her own names that all include Baby in the title: Waltie baby, Cutie baby, Sweetie baby, Baby guy, and Baby Walter.

Milestones: We put him in the bumbo for the first time this last week. He is doing so well with his neck control. I think we are soooo close to him rolling over from front to back. He did start laughing this last month, and my oh my does it warm the soul. He had his first road trip yesterday to the zoo in St. Louis.

Quirks:  He has started chewing/sucking on his thumb. The drool is coming in as well. Whenever a camera comes out, he deadpans it. He can be laughing so hard, and then I try to document it, and he almost immediately goes stone face on me. I have to work really hard to get these smiles on camera.

We parents are:  drained. This has been a pretty heavy month. I can hardly believe all that has happened in the last 30 days…I had all four of my wisdom teeth taken out at the beginning of the month, which I am still recovering from 4 weeks later. I do not recommend this while breastfeeding, but it was a must for my own dental health. For me it was worse than when I had knee surgery. Then, I went back to work full time. It’s mostly been good and a fairly easy transition. I am more tired, and there is always work to do. I feel like I am processing things much better now, and able to ward off most of my negative feelings. It is also an exciting time at work with a few things that have been added to my plate and the new teams that I getting to be a part of, so that definitely adds to the mix of making it worthwhile to leave me kids every day. I have been keeping up with working out 5 days of the week, which is so helpful for me not only physically but really mentally as well. Then there was Crosby. Losing Crosby was and is really hard on us emotionally, and we are still dealing with the aftermath of that. Tom has been crushing it at work, but it also comes with using a lot of his energy physically and mentally. We are also prepping ourselves to get our gardens ready and making plans to really use our outside space the best we can.

Big kids are:  doing pretty well. Daphne got into our district’s preschool program for next year, so we are really excited for her. Daph and George will be at the same school for the next couple years which is great! George started soccer, and we’ll see how it goes. It is entertaining for us all at least. They have been great with Walt, and they both have their ways of showing him love. George does it in quiet small ways like stroking his face to help calm him or helping shine a light for him when we are in a dark space. Daphne however is loud and aggressive with her love towards Walt. She is always telling him how much she loves him and that he is her friend. She always wants to be next to him, and has become the alarm whenever anything is awry as far as Walt is concerned. She also announces to anyone who meets Walt who he belongs to (her).

The dogs are: As I mentioned, we are still in a daze from Crosby’s passing a week ago. There are moments where it just doesn’t seem real yet. The kids mention missing him almost every day. George’s teacher went above and beyond and got the kids a framed picture of our family with Crosby to put next to their beds. He was such a big part of our days that they just feel a little empty. Grace is moving along in her charmed life now as an only dog. We are able to give her a little more freedom out of the yard because she wasn’t our runner, so she is loving that. It still makes me so sad that Walt won’t have any memories of our Crosby.

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

Walt you are the perfect puzzle piece to our family. You are the chill to every one else’s crazy. Thank you for these past 4 months of loving on you!

Tiny Tragedy

Tiny Tragedy

When you have a dog you are inviting a tiny tragedy into your life.

What I am feeling right now is not what I would define as tiny, but it is definitely a tragedy.

Today we had to say goodbye to our Crosby.

I have experienced grief before.

Grief with the loss of family.

Grief with the loss of friends.

I have even grieved the loss of pets before.

But grief over losing our first dog as adults is un-explainable.

I feel immense guilt pulling me in both directions. One that we didn’t see his suffering sooner, but then feeling remorse that we couldn’t do something to help him live longer or that we made the call to soon.

I mean how do I reconcile that we made an appointment for our dog’s death? This is a different kind of pain when you are the one making the decision. And then having to sit there watching him take his last breaths.

When we found out in January that he had cancer, I think I was in complete denial about the diagnosis and the caution from the vet that he only has 8-12 weeks left. Tom and I both made references how great we would make his last summer. Well here we are exactly 2 months later, now without him.

We got Crosby at a time when our marriage was still fresh, and it was the first time we were living together after Tom’s deployment. 2013 seems like a life time ago. So he has been with us as we have taken many steps as a family with different moves, careers, and expanding our family.

He really was the best dog who has been a constant for us in the great times and worst times.

I am fairly certain he knew before I did when I was pregnant with each kid. He was so cuddly and over protective during all of my pregnancies. I will probably remember this the most behind how patient he was once the kids were out and wreaking havoc in his life.

Crosby loved to chase all the things: cats, squirrels, turtles, chickens, tractors, neighborhood runners, leaves….you name it Crosby was not having it near our yard. He would just run with complete abandon.

He would even bark at things just because Grace was barking without even seeing what they were trying to ward off.

He loved to dig holes EVERY.WHERE. Then he would lay in his creation like he just made himself a king-sized bed.

He loved running into pools of water.

I will remember the first year we had him, he used to basically drag me around on our walks around Ft. Campbell.

I will remember that he did poop tornadoes.

I remember how he use to sprawl out wherever he slept. He hardly ever would cuddle with us, but he would cuddle with Grace.

I will remember that when both George and Daphne transitioned to big kid beds, we would often find Crosby at the end of the bed watching over them in those first few months out of the crib.

I am utterly heartbroken that we will not get to watch the kids grow up more with him. I am grief stricken that Walter and most likely Daphne will not have any memories of him.

This is hard y’all. He truly was the perfect dog for our family. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore with getting this chunk of love. He was such a happy chill dog who loved and protected us fiercely at the same time.

You always know that this day will come, but having to make the call this week to actually send him over the rainbow bridge is one of the hardest things I have had to do.

But watching him struggle to do basic functions, I know that he was just holding on until we were ready. Honestly, as weird as it sounds, when I watched him try for 10 minutes to do one of his poop tornadoes, it hit me so hard that this was the right call.

Although I would argue that you never are truly ready, it was time none the less.

Tom and I are a mess as this is a first for us both. It is a level of sadness and emptiness I cannot describe. Walking back into our home without him is truly awful.

The kids are truly the sweetest little beings. They threw him a party last night. They decorated the house and made him presents and a bone cake to send him off to heaven in style. George also wants a “cardboard” statue of him to keep forever. Daphne did cry when we left with him this morning, which was utterly devastating.

Grace keeps wondering around like she is searching for him. And she has been barking double in his absence today. Only time will tell if her separation anxiety will return.

I know that this week will haunt me for a long time, if not for the rest of my life. Watching him decline so quickly made me feel helpless. And then to lay next to him as he took his last breaths was very harrowing.

However, this is how I want to remember him. So I just need to play this on repeat, and I pray that we were able to recreate heaven on Earth for him.

Crobby Dobby, Crobbers, Crozie…

Crosby, there was so much love for you, but you gave us so much more.

See you on the other side buddy.

My New Self

On the eve of returning to work full time, I have so many thoughts. This maternity leave has been hard and amazing, but it really put a light on some areas in my own identity that I needed to work through.

The pandemic and having Walter made me do some self-reflection that I honestly have been avoiding. I have been moving through life just kind of in the zone long before the pandemic hit. I was just getting things done, but not really taking the time to enjoy it. I was anxiously awaiting the next thing or compiling the next to do list. I found myself resentful of others and then feeling guilty all the time.

In December, it kind of came to a head for me. Granted a lot of the emotional turmoil could be attributed to having a baby, but it was really a pivotal moment to realize I needed something. I wanted to be a different mom. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be anymore. I had let my anxiety overrun me.

I needed help, and I needed to put some time in to focus on my needs. So while I had this time at home, I knew that I needed to ask for help not only with the baby but how to navigate this transition so I could come out of this sacred time with a clear head and clear focus.

So in order to truly do the work, I started investing in both a therapist and a personal trainer. I needed to cry some things out and sweat out some other things. Both have been instrumental in my health journey post-partum.

I have not been in counseling since I was in grad school. And through my profession, I knew I needed help analyzing my anxiety and really talking through it instead of just pushing it aside to get everyone to the next thing. My perpetual to-do list was wreaking havoc on my ability to live in the moment. I had this need for perfection that drowned out any opportunity to be vulnerable even with those closest to me. My emotions were in control of my world view. I know I am an emotional person; this is nothing new. Most of the time I can keep them in check in public. But at home, I was losing it. I couldn’t enjoy my family because the only thing I could think about was the fear of not getting things done. I was nit-picky at anything and everything because of the chase to perfection. At home, I had a really hard time just appreciating what my family was doing because I was always on to the next thing. I had become so wound up trying to control it all that it was coming out in expectations I had on my family, which were often unrealistic. My anxiety manifested in all kinds of ways in unexpected situations. Some times it was in fear, some times it was in anger, and some times I just sulked around the house.

I didn’t want this anymore.

It was as though birthing Walter was also a rebirth for me. I wanted to do better, and so I needed some help processing it all. We only are given this one life, and I was just marking things off without really embracing anything. Working with my counselor has been really refreshing. I have been validated, but I have also been challenged. I won’t get into all the things since counseling is a personal journey, but I will say it has been helping me. Here is the thing, I still have a lot of baggage where my anxiety stems from. I still LOVE a to-do list. I still want things to go well. But I am learning more coping skills to keep the panic attacks and overthinking at bay. I am learning to look at the facts instead of imagining all the what-ifs of imperfection.

Often times as moms, we feel that we have to do it all and we often sacrifice our own mental health to take care of all the things. The mental load is taxing. My anxiety made me feel selfish in so many ways which is why I left it unaddressed for so long. Not being perfect really hindered me connecting with my kids because deep down I didn’t feel that I was good enough. Understanding that I wanted better for my kids and to actually enjoy my kids, I have to be a little selfish to take care of my own needs. Having Walter and this pandemic really helped me see that I couldn’t keep living this way for them, nor did I want to for me. I want to experience more in the moment. And while I do always have the to-do list looming over me, I can ask for help and communicate better to build a team around me. It’s also okay to be vulnerable and share how I am feeling even if it is not perfect. I also know that I am enough.

Honestly, what I was looking for was accountability. I needed someone to check in with every once in awhile to talk through my insecurities and walk me through how I can navigate my self talk when I start to spiral. I needed some one to tell me what to do in the gym so I could be stronger. I need the accountability to focus on my self growth so I can be a better wife, mother, friend and colleague.

Coming out of this maternity leave is bittersweet. I know that I will never have time like this at home again. I was able to spend weeks off at the holiday time with my family since I essentially didn’t come back to work after Thanksgiving. I have been able to see George off to school and most days pick him up from school, which is time I have really come to love. I have been able to see Daphne explore her world in a way that I wasn’t privy to before. Obviously spending time with Wally is a dream come true.

But honestly, I am most thankful that I found a new version of myself through this time at home.

I want to be mentally, emotional, and physically strong for the people around me. Having this space has helped me understand that I am not selfish for asking for balance or for help. It has taught me more about my priorities and how to focus on my family. I am learning more on how to vocalize those needs so I can be more available. I am coming back to work with a renewed sense of direction and passion for what I do. I am excited to come back to work for I know that it doesn’t have to be an either/or anymore. I can still crush it at work and crush it as a mom. I also am learning that crushing it in life doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect. It’s ok for me to ask for flexibility so I don’t have to sacrifice one identity over the other.

Nor do I have to sacrifice myself to make it all work.

So all in all, I am so grateful for Walter joining our lives because of the little person he is becoming and will be. He is everything I dreamed of. But I am so eternally grateful that I am becoming me too.

So cheers to the end of my maternity leave and all the emotions I am sure to have!