George Turns Seven

Lucky seven.

I was processing George growing another year older, and I think with every age, there is a different kind of weight to it.

But with seven, it’s like all that was of being little is gone. We have truly entered the big kid years.

George had so many pivotal moments this last year, most notably starting school and becoming a big brother again.

It was so fun, and emotional, to see George becoming a person away from our family unit. He now has a whole life that we are on the periphery of. He has relationships and experiences that we are not instigating, which is hard to let go of, but magical at the same time.

Seeing George this last year has highlighted his strengths, but also reminded me that I have no idea what I am doing as a parent still.

He is a full throttle kind of dude. When he zones in on something, he is all in. He has unwavering commitment to people and ideas. When George is determined to do something, we best be getting out of his way. It has been a challenge to parent him at times to understand where is the line to give him the freedom to be his own boss, but also letting him know when there are limitations. We don’t need to supervise him as much, but he still does need guidance because he is seven. There is definitely a balance that we are working through to expose him to new ideas and tap into his natural curiosity. I want him to have that kind of passion in his life. I want him be able to dedicate himself fully to projects and relationships, but I also want him to do it strategically and in a healthy way.

We have entered a new phase where he questions logic on everything, and the little kid magic is starting to disappear. It was quite the difference watching him react to Disney versus his sister. He wanted to break down the logistics of how rides work, who was behind the costume, and let everyone know that it wasn’t real. We are entering into more intense conversations of real world things especially as he engages with people more outside of our family. It is exciting to see him develop his world-view but also a part of me is sad the days of Christmas Tree Truck guy is gone.

He still loves to play though, his stories and worlds have just evolved. I love watching him create these different scenes and act out his characters. He is so good with details and setting up entire landscapes. If you were to come into our house, his room is constantly a construction zone due to Lego City government and trying to navigate the dinosaurs that have escaped Camp Cretaceous. Our living room is actually a war zone with hundreds of Army men, or squadrons in his terms, that are ready to get on the helicopters he strategically has in safe zones. The sun room is the new wild west with an elaborate train system getting people to and fro. On the driveway, he has his “mud creek” construction team who is always changing the layouts of piping and blocks to help with the rain fall. My new favorite is playing Harry Potter with him where we basically play an elaborate hide and seek game around the yard screaming spells at each other.

George is incredibly smart. He takes in information like a sponge. He loves to give you random facts about things, and he always has something to say about every subject. ALWAYS something to say and a story to tell.

On the flip side though, he is one of those people that if he does not care about the topic, he is not going to put his energy into it. For example, he says he hates reading and writing. However, he loves to make signs for the various worlds he has created with toys, and cataloging his finds in his notebook. But, because he has chosen the topic, he perfects the writing. We have had to navigate some pieces here since at school you don’t always get to choose the topic or activity or timing. So we are constantly trying to be creative on how to refocus his energy and tailor it to him, but also work within other’s expectations.

If he does focus and put his energy towards something, watch out. I truly believe that he is the type of person who is going to invent some thing some day or cure cancer because he doesn’t think in conventional methods. His mind is always going trying to see beyond the simple and dissect things. That’s why it is so hard with academics. I want him to do well and succeed, but at the same time his intelligence cannot be harnessed in the same way that I defined academic success. It’s definitely a humble reminder especially since my job is student success on the college level.

I am in awe of his confidence and passion. While it is sad to leave the littleness behind, I am excited to see what the new year brings and see where his interests continue to take shape.

If you will excuse me, this newly seven year old wants to make a tornado in our kitchen.

Walter-8 Months

Walter-8 Months

Weight:  He is 17 lbs.

Health: No big health concerns, but this month he has been a little fussier than my even keel baby normally is. I think there are a couple more teeth coming in.

Diet: I have made it another full month of exclusively breastfeeding him! My supply is going down when I am pumping, so I am not sure if it also going down when I am at home. The last couple weeks have been extremely difficult for us in this arena. He is only wanting to feed for 5-10 minutes for each feeding, and a lot of that he spends crying or biting me. I have had to add additional feedings throughout the day, and he is often waking up in the middle of the night. I just am not sure what is happening as I didn’t have this occur with either other kid. They were both on formula at this point. I am worried that he isn’t getting enough. But he is growing so I guess there is that. He just seems easily distracted or impatient with me. Walt feeds 5-7 times a day, and on average it adds up to 2 hours of nursing. He was going around 4 hours between feedings during the day, and then this week is about every 2-3 hours. My app says that we have had 159 feedings over this last month, and spent 2 days nursing him. I have also pumped 17 times over the month. We continued with solids this month, but we haven’t been pushing it too much since he still doesn’t seem too interested. He does really like strawberries, peaches, and green beans. We added sweet potato fries, yogurt, and applesauce this month.

Clothes: He is still in size 3-6 month in clothes and size 3 in diapers.

Sleeping:  He is still fairly good about going to sleep when we put him down in the crib. We normally get him down around 8:30pm. As I mentioned, he is waking up in the middle of the night lately. Most of the time I will do a quick nursing session, and he will go back to sleep. During the week, I get him up at 5:15am to do the first feeding, and then he goes back to sleep. On the weekends, we sleep in until about 7am. He typically takes two naps during the day, but they aren’t usually very long. He is still sleeping in the zipadeezip, and this kid cruises around in his sleep. He started consistently rolling to sleep on his stomach. He often rolls to the edge of the crib and gets him self stuck between the bars. It is terrifying.

Likes:  Daphne and Tom are his favorite people, and they can always get smiles out of him. He only cuddles with my mom. He loves blankets, and he is always trying to bunch them in his fists. He is putting everything in his mouth, so it has been helpful to have the pacy around. He really loves my watch and putting it in the relax mode.

Dislikes:  He really hates the prep time it takes me to get him set up for feedings. He screams at me for the few minutes it takes me to get unwrapped or switch sides. When he is having a non-chill moment, he does not like for you to be sitting. We should not relax to calm down!

Nicknames: Walt, Wally, Wally Bear, Wally Olly, Waller, Wallace, Butters, Sweet Bean, Stinkerdoodle, Waltie baby, Cutie baby, Sweetie baby, Baby guy, and Baby Walter. I think the most common are Wally, Wally Bear and Waltie. Apparently we really like nicknames.

Milestones: I think we are so close to crawling. He did a full plank today. He props his arms up, but hasn’t quite figured out how to get his legs up just yet. He does scoot himself backwards everywhere. He has started grabbing at books and becoming more invested as we read to him. He did have a lot of firsts this past month with our vacation. He did so great on the planes. Most of the time I would nurse him, and he would just pass out. He was not a fan of the beach though. With all of our adventures though, he was so good just chilling in the stroller as we carted him around the Orlando area for a week.

Quirks: He only rolls from his back to his stomach. I could not even tell you the last time I saw him go from stomach to back. Wally is unaffected by fireworks. This face is also a constant where he looks like he is sucking in his bottom lip.

We parents are:  doing alright. It was a weird month with our 4th of July party and vacation. I feel like we just got back to our routine this past week. I will say that it was our best 4th ever, and Tom really out did himself with our firework display. The vacation was a blast, and I am so glad we were able to create some memories like that for the kiddos. Work has picked up with back to school prep activities for me so I feel like my brain is constantly on the go. I also have been in the office quite a bit but never on the same days each week, so I never really know what day it is.

Big kids are:  doing pretty good. They loved our Florida trip, and they still talk about it daily. George had summer school this month, which was fun to see him find a groove again with his new class. He also did a state soccer tournament this month, which was an adventure. We concluded our first t-ball season, and quite possibly our last. It is very clear that he is not going to be a baseball star, but he sure did have fun building mounds in the gravel dust! Daphne is Wally’s biggest fan, and she is the Wally whisperer if he is having a bad moment. They are both obsessed with each other. It will be fun to see them continue to bond. It is hard to believe that this is her last month before school starts for her. We have been watching the Olympics, and that has been fun watching gymnastics with her and seeing her recognize things from her class.

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

I spend a lot of my time just staring at him. He is just the most precious little guy!

Walter-7 Months

Walter-7 Months

Weight:  He is 18 lbs. He is definitely my biggest baby!

Health: He is having a little rough patch with these bottom two teeth coming up. No known ear infections, but he just seems restless and uncomfortable more.

Diet: This is the longest I have made it on the breastfeeding journey without using formula, so I am really proud of that. I have been on campus a lot more this month, so I have dipped into our freezer stash a lot since I am only making 10 oz on the days when I pump and he eats 15 oz. I have been contemplating pumping extra on the weekends to extend the time that we are exclusively using breastmilk, but then I saw my thoughts from last month about my promise to myself that I am not going to pump extra this time around. Remembering how it affected me with George and Daphne is a good reminder that 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 continue to just see how long that takes us! Walt feeds 5 times a day, and on average it adds up to 2 hours of nursing. He is going around 4 hours between feedings during the day. My app says that we have had 135 feedings over this last month, and spent 3 days nursing him. I have also pumped 33 times over the month, which is almost 3 times as much as last month. Can I say how much I hate pumping? I am really hoping that I will still be able to do a hybrid work situation come the fall because I honestly think it has done wonders for this journey and my mental health. So we’ll see what transpires as I have a new boss and the new school year begins. We did start with solids this month, and he just doesn’t seem interested. He tolerates the experience for a few minutes then just wants to be done. The only thing he seems excited about is strawberries. We have tried avocados, black beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, eggs, broccoli, and zucchini.

Clothes: He is size 3-6 month in clothes and size 3 in diapers. He is going to be swimming in his 4th of July stuff since it is all 6 or 9 month things…He seems like he is so big now though!

Sleeping:  Sleep has been a little trickier this month, and I think it has to do with his teeth. For the most part anytime we lay him down, he will eventually go to sleep. He goes to bed around 8pm. His pediatrician did recommend that we cut out the last feeding and see if he would seep through the night. i was really hesitant to do that, but she said the fact that I had to wake him up for that feeding meant that he may not need it and I may be interrupting good sleep instead. So we did cut that down, and for the most part he does sleep from 8pm until we get him up the next day. During the week, I get him up at 5:15am. On the weekends, we sleep in until about 8 am. The last week he has been waking up in the middle of the night some, but I think it is more of a comfort feed with his teeth more than him actually being hungry. He typically takes two naps during the day, but they aren’t usually very long. He is almost exclusively sleeping in his crib in his room now. I would say that 9/10 times, we are able to put him down awake, and he falls asleep within 5 minutes. He is still sleeping in the zipadeezip, and this kid cruises around in his sleep. He is all over that crib!

Likes:  Daphne and Tom are his favorite people. He still loves to be rubbed like a dog on his belly and under his chin. He chews on basically everything. He loves to be bounced up in the air or be lifted like an airplane. He started using a pacy this month. I think it has been helpful with the teething.

Dislikes:  He really hates the prep time it takes me to get him set up for feedings. He screams at me for the few minutes it takes me to get unwrapped or switch sides. Nursing on a plane next week should be a good time. He is not a fan of eating real food, which has been so different than the first two monster eaters. They would eat everything until they turned two, so maybe this means he won’t become a picky eater later on?

Nicknames: Walt, Wally, Wally Bear, Wally Olly, Butters, Sweet Bean, Stinkerdoodle, Waltie baby, Cutie baby, Sweetie baby, Baby guy, and Baby Walter. Tom has really gravitated to calling him Wallace with Daphne. I think the most common are Wally, Wally Bear and Waltie.

Milestones: He is sitting on his own. He went swimming for the first time. He just lays back in the floatie and lives his best life with us pushing him around.

Quirks:  He will let anyone hold him. He is 100% chill. This month has been a little tricky to nurse him because he thinks it is swimming practice and acts like he is trying to win a gold medal in the freestyle.

We parents are:  surviving. This was a hard month with losing Grace. Tom got to go to a really cool training for firearms instruction this month. He was living out his dream for sure, and it was such a full circle moment thinking back on this time last year. We celebrated our ten year anniversary without much hooplah because of kids and training, but it is still an amazing thing for us to have made it this far. There used to be down times at my job, but summer has proven to be busy as ever. Although we did get approval to hire another position in my office, so hopefully that has some trickle down affects with taking things off our plates because we have been operating as a four-person office even though it has been a year and a half with only three of us.

Big kids are:  living their summer lives. They both sleep in super late and stay in jammies pretty much all the time. George did go to VBS with his grandma for a week this month, and he seemed to have a really good time with that. We also started Tball, which is an experience for us all. Daphne is really becoming quite the entertainer. She loves to sing and dance, especially when Wally is her audience. She has to give him a kiss and hug a thousand times a day.

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

I cannot express how much joy he brings into our lives. Wally is just the bestest baby guy!

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.