Q is for Quiet Time

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.
 

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When my first babies were little I could get so resentful of the hours spent up in the middle of the night. I would count the minutes, wondering how much longer until I could crawl back in bed and get some sleep.

Now, I relish those sweet moments in the middle of the night.

There’s nothing to steal either of our attention away from the other.

There’s nothing to listen to except her sweet coos.

There’s nothing else I “should” be doing, so I am fully present with her. I just sit there, drinking in every expression and every tiny, jerky movement. I watch in awe as she wobbles her little head, and, finally, with immense effort, manages to hold it up straight and still.

She opens and closes her tiny fists. Sometimes she catches my finger. She might as well reach in and grab my heart because it has the same effect.

I still don’t particularly enjoy being sleep deprived, but I love those quiet moments in the middle of the night.

Quiet moments with a baby are my favorite.

 

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J is for Juggling

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

busy momAdding a new baby to the mix shakes things up. Changes your routine. Makes everything different. This is exactly as it should be as you learn how to be a family with your newest little member.  I recently found this awesome analogy written by a woman who just had her third child.

“Adding a new baby to your family is a bit like adding a ball of fire to your juggling routine. The norm is thrown off balance, management of the unknown ball of fire becomes a big priority, and you find yourself living in chaos as you try to not drop all the balls at once into a fiery heap. Eventually the fire fades, the balls equal out, and a new normal takes over.

Having done this adding game three times in the past four years, I find that even though the initial addition is always difficult to juggle no matter how many times I’ve done it before, the new normal resumes more quickly each time. For that I am thankful.” [Read the rest here.]

I can’t think of a more perfect description.

I definitely feel like I’m juggling these days. But, this time around, my ball of fire isn’t my newborn, it’s my school work.

As I desperately try to wrap up these last two month of graduate school, it really feels like it might all come crashing down and engulf everything in flames at any given moment.

My sweet husband keeps patiently reminding me that the end is just around the corner. Intellectually, I know he’s right, but it still seems so far away.

I’ve ordered my cap and gown, my graduation invitations have arrived, and we’re starting to work on party details. But, somehow, graduation seems farther away then ever. How is that possible?

G is for Grateful

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

My family of 7 can be a lot of work. Some days I find myself so completely drained and exhausted that I can’t quite remember what it feels like to just be me. (That usually means my priorities are some how out of whack and that I’m not taking care of myself, but sometimes it takes me a few days or weeks to figure that out.)

Other days, my heart is so full and overflowing that I don’t have the words to adequately express the joy that my family brings me.

Today was a lot more like the former.

Caring for a newborn is exhausting. Because I nurse my baby and I co-sleep, I literally (Yes, literally.) have someone on my person about 23.5 hours a day. I’m not complaining about this; I’m just stating the facts. The truth is I wouldn’t trade either of those for a little more time to myself. This very needy newborn period is short-lived and well worth it in the long run. But that doesn’t change the fact that it takes a huge toll on me. If I’m not careful to take care of myself, it can easily become overwhelming.

Christmas Morning fun 2013. We're our own party.

Christmas Morning fun 2013. We’re our own party.

One of the things I like to do when my attitude is getting out of whack is list out the reasons I’m grateful for my big family. The list of reasons varies from time to time and isn’t in any particular order, other than the order things pop in my head.

Today I’m going to share one such list with you.

I am grateful for my big family because…

  1. My kids always have someone to play with.
  2. And they have someone else to play with when the first playmate makes them mad.
  3. There’s always someone to curl up and snuggle with.
  4. Life is never dull.
  5. There’s a chorus of people who are excited to see you if you’ve been away briefly.
  6. We all learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is priceless. Every child has their own perspective and observations. I get to see the world through all of their eyes.
  8. When I’ve got my hands full, there is always someone nearby who is willing to help.
  9. There’s always enough people to play games. Board games. Card games. Duck, duck, goose. We’ve got the players!
  10. Dinner time conversations are amazing! Sometimes they’re hysterical. Sometimes they’re surprisingly insightful. You never know what might pop out of the kids’ mouths to the captive audience at the dinner table.
  11. And you never know how the next kid might run with or twist whatever was just said.
  12. We have tons of inside jokes.
  13. We have many natural opportunities to learn basic skills like sharing, taking turns, expressing frustration appropriately, etc.
  14. And we all provide each other with plenty of opportunities to serve someone besides yourself.
  15. All of our little athletes have an automatic cheering section at their games.
  16. Kids come up with really creative solutions to problems. We get creative solutions from all of them, so we usually get a solution we can work with.
  17. We get a lot of tax deductions.
  18. Christmas Morning fun 2013. We're our own party.

    Christmas Morning fun 2013. We’re our own party.

    We’re the life of the party. Every extended family function gets kicked up a notch when we arrive with our family.

  19.  There’s always something to celebrate. (Baptismal anniversaries and birthdays) x 7 = lots of parties
  20.  When we work together, we can get the whole house cleaned in an hour.
  21.  Seeing my older kids with my babies is such a phenomenal gift. I can’t explain what it’s like to see the big ones care for and find joy in the littles. They truly delight in one another. It’s beautiful.
  22.  Some women never get flowers. I get weed bouquets nearly every day.
  23. There’s always a reason to laugh.
  24.  Imaginary games get really amazing with multiple imaginations at work.
  25.  Little voices singing little songs always make me smile.

25 is a nice number, so I’ll stop there. But just remember…

There’s nothing that can change your attitude quite like a little gratitude!

C is for Co-Sleeping

Every day for the month of April, I’m blogging about Adjusting to Life with Baby Number 5Click here to see all the posts in this series.

2014-03-27 17.38.13Co-sleeping is one of my very favorite things about having a baby in the house. I know that for whatever reason(s) it’s a controversial topic in this country. But I can’t understand why. Not after researching the practice globally, nor after experiencing it myself.

In my experience, everyone within earshot is happier and sleeps better when mommy and baby stay together all night. And it makes nighttime feeding super easy.

But I didn’t write this post to debate, persuade or educate. I just wrote it to say that I love snuggling with my little ones. From the first nap we take in the hospital until many months later when my husband starts “hinting” that it’s time to move baby to her own bed, I just love those sweet night time (and nap time!) snuggles.

We tried to force our first baby to sleep alone in his big, cold, lonely crib. It was what you were “supposed” to do. So I did it. Or at least I attempted it. But it wasn’t long before he ended up in bed with me. And it wasn’t much longer after that when I quit trying to put him in his crib at all. Back then, I didn’t even know “co-sleeping” was a thing. I just knew it felt right. So that’s what I’ve done with every baby since. And, like I said, I love it.

2014-03-12 10.13.26Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but we don’t have the sleep troubles with our little ones that we often hear our friends and siblings complain about. Our babies sleep soundly and often start sleeping through the night fairly quickly. I can’t help but believe it’s because they have felt safe and cozy and warm tucked in next to mama. And we’ve never had any issues transitioning them to their own beds. By the time we do that, they’re sleeping well and the move is easy. I know that’s just my experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Looking down at that sweet face.

Seeing those little twitches that turn into smiles.

Being able to feel her breathing in my sleep.

Co-sleeping provides a peace and a joy that nothing else can offer. Both for her and for me.

B is for Bath Time

This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. To see all the posts in the series, click here

 

That's my mom bathing baby number 2 for me. I probably begged her to. But, judging by this picture, it seems I may have come by my poor baby-bathing skills honestly. ;)

That’s my mom bathing baby number 2 for me. I probably begged her to. But, judging by this picture, it seems I may have come by my poor baby-bathing skills honestly. ;)

Because I have 5 kids you might think that I must be an expert at all things baby. However, if you were to think that, you’d be wrong.

I’ve learned a lot in my 8 short years of parenting. There are some things that used to feel very foreign but have now become second nature to me. Despite that, there’s still a lot that I don’t do well and some things that still terrify me. One of those things is clipping tiny little finger nails. That job has been permanently assigned to my sweet husband because I simply can’t do it. Another is bath time, which, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to pass off to my husband.

Newborns are just so small and fragile and wiggly. Getting them wet on top of all that just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Not to mention, it is virtually impossible to keep them warm enough while they’re all wet.  They almost always end up crying, and, sometimes, so do I.

It all turned out well in the end. It usually does, I guess.

It all turned out well in the end. It usually does, I guess.

I’ve tried every method I can imagine. I’ve bathed them in the sink. In a variety of those plastic infant tubs. On infant shaped sponges in the bathtub. I’ve laid them on a towel on the counter and given them a sponge bath of sorts.

It’s all to no avail.

I simply do not feel confident bathing newborns.

I don’t think raising 100 kids would be able to change that.

 

SST # 6: Looking for our New Groove

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330Our sweet Sophia has been here for 3.5 weeks now. She is so perfectly amazing! But having a new person in the house, especially a demanding newborn type that doesn’t sleep very much, throws everything off. I like to imagine that my household normally runs like a well oiled machine. (I have a very active imagination.) But, thanks to our sweet little one, everything that used to run so “smoothly” has gone up in smoke. I don’t say that with any resentment or ill-feelings. Everything is exactly as it should be. Our life as a family of 6 no longer exists, so it only makes sense that there will be an adjustment period while we learn how to function as a family of seven. Before long, everything will be running along “smoothly” again. In the meantime it’s up-and-down and trial-and-error until we figure this thing out. This week I caught a few glimpses of our new life as a family of 7 falling into place. Those glimpses are my small successes of the week.

1. Date night with my hubby! Yes, it’s true! Our sitter was already in the habit of coming over on Monday nights for our childbirth class, so we decided to keep the routine going. We’re planning to have her over every other week for a real date night. I’m so excited! We spent our night out hitting up Costco for food for Soph’s baptism reception and then had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Bonefish Grill. Bonus points because Josh won a gift card for Bonefish at work. I think we spent around $20 for a fantastic evening. And Sophie was so good! I carried her in my fabulous Gemini baby carrier and she barely made a peep. Extra bonus points because I got to enjoy sweet snuggles and baby bonding simultaneously with my date night.

2. I got up with the kids. Since I’m awake quite a bit during the night with the babe, I’ve been sleeping in most mornings. But, one day this week, I was up with the kids at 6 AM. It made for a super smooth-sailing day and got me super excited about failing back into a routine. Granted, it only happened one day, but, like I said, these are just glimpses of what life will be like when we find our new groove.

2014-03-26 12.57.213. Andy learned to change a diaper! My sweet 8-year-old asked if he could learn to change diapers. At first I said no. He asked a few more times, and I finally decided that I need to take help where I can get it. So I taught him. And he did great! I’ve only let him change the 16-month-old. And only wet diapers, not dirty. But he is so proud of himself. And I’m very grateful for the help!

4. I ran an errand BY MYSELF with all the kiddos. I had to go turn in some paperwork at the church and return a casserole dish to one of the guys who works there, so I loaded up all the kiddos and we went. This is a really big deal for me. It usually takes nothing short of an act of God to get me out of the house for the first time when we add a new family member. Not knowing how to juggle them all in public really overwhelms me. But I did it! Well…sort of. We only went up to the Church, which isn’t exactly “public.” (Everyone who’s there during the day knows me.) And it’s only 5 minutes from my house. And only Ben, Sophie, and I got out of the car. And it was a quick errand, so there wasn’t much time for anyone to melt down or anything. But, hey, I put them all in the car and went somewhere BY MYSELF and that counts for something.

So there you have it. My small successes for the week. What are yours? Share them over at CatholicMom.com!

SST # 5: Thank You, Grazie, Merci BEAUCOUP!!

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330On March 1 we welcomed our precious daughter into the world. It goes without saying that it was an incredibly joyous day and the days since have been full of moments of perfect beauty. There’s something about looking into the face of a newborn, especially one sleeping on your chest, happily drunk from having consumed her fill of milk…I don’t know the words for it. It’s almost as if you catch a glimpse of eternity. She embodies peace and happiness. Total dependency, yet complete autonomy. Immortality encapsulated in a fragile human body. All of time and the meaning of existence shines forth from that innocent little person. It’s incredible!

Because of the gift of new life in our house, I feel like every moment is a great big success. Granted, some moments are sleep deprived and some moments are a juggling act as I adjust to being a mommy of 5, but, overall, holding that precious gift that we named Sophie eclipses any of the struggles that come with being a new parent. Since I’m floating on cloud nine, I thought I’d dedicate this entry to all the people for whom I’m incredibly grateful. I won’t be detailing any of my own small successes, rather I want to thank and acknowledge all the people who have been such a gift as we have transitioned into life as a family of 7. (Brace yourself, this entry is a little long.)

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Sophie. 1 day old.

1. My husband, my fabulous labor & delivery nurse, Wendi & Kevin O’Brien, the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, and St. Colette. Sophie’s birth day was simply beautiful thanks to this incredible team of people. After 5 deliveries, 2 of which were all natural, I feel like I have some good notes for comparison about what to expect on “D-Day.” This was, without a doubt, my best delivery ever, despite it being my second longest. Wendi and Kevin are great instructors and prepared me, and, most importantly, my husband well for the big day. Despite this being baby number 5, there is a lot to learn if you want to have a successful peaceful natural birth, especially in a hospital setting. I keep meaning to write a whole post about all the reasons why I am in love with Dr. Bradley and so very grateful for his books and our fabulous instructors, but today is not that day. Suffice it to say, I am so very grateful for them! My L&D nurse, who was also incredible in so many ways and so very supportive of our desire to birth naturally, said that she had never witnessed a natural birth go as smoothly as mine  in her 19 years of delivering babies. That is completely thanks to the Bradley Method and my husband’s fidelity to assuming his role as coach. He did a phenomenal job, and I truly could not have gotten through without him! My husband is THE reason that I was calm, cool, and collected throughout my entire labor, but especially during the hours we spent laboring at the hospital.

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Josh and Soph, 2 hours old

Above all, I have to credit St. Colette, my sweet daughter’s patroness (Colette is her middle name) and the patroness of expectant mommies. After our last less-than-stellar birth experience, I was quite nervous about this one. I spent a lot of time begging her to help me out on D-DAY. And she did. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I fully credit her with our awesome nurse (Who was called in on her day off because L&D was swamped. And who sacrificed her daughter’s volleyball game to answer that call and come in to work. And who was weirdly connected to us in a strange 6 degrees of separation type way.) and with the fact that we got THE LAST L&D room (had we arrived any later, we would have been laboring and delivering in a busy triage room) and with the fact that a new mommy room just happened to open up for us, despite the fact that we weren’t supposed to get one because they were all full. Thank you, St. Colette, for interceding on my behalf!           

2. My husband. (yes, I already thanked him, but this is for a different reason.) Josh works for an incredible company. One of their many benefits is that fathers get a two week paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a new baby. This leave is granted ON TOP of any existing vacation. While I think our growing family may make them question this lovely policy, we are so grateful it exists. Josh was home with me for the last two weeks and he did a stellar job keeping the house running. I was blown away! He even kept up with the kids’ school work, so we weren’t behind at all when he went back to work. He cooked and cleaned and cared for all 4 of the other kiddos. All I had to do those first two weeks was sleep, eat, and snuggle my sweet Sophie. It was amazing!

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One of the beautiful meals we received.

3. Kate and all the people who signed up on the Care Calendar. My sweet friend Kate made a Care Calendar  for people to sign up to bring us meals. It started on Tuesday when Josh went back to work and is still filling up with our incredibly generous friends and acquaintances from Church and our homeschooling coop. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am not to have to worry about dinner. These first few days alone with the kiddos have been challenging, so it is such a gift to just have to open the door and say thank you before having a beautiful, home-cooked meal on the table. And let me tell you, these women can cook. Everything has been so delicious! On top of being generous enough to make us dinner, these women have even been kind enough to adhere to our new dietary standards. These women have their own large families and struggles and pregnancies and whatever else to deal with, yet they took the time from their hectic lives to make us dinner. I am so grateful to them all for their incredible generosity!

Kate also took my older boys to coop last week which was a gift for them, Josh, and me. They were bummed about the prospect of missing coop, but, thanks to her, they didn’t have to. Josh had been wrangling the four older kiddos by himself for several days at that point, so I’m sure he was grateful to have his duties cut in half. And I was super grateful for how quite the house was while they were gone. Thanks again to my dear friend! You are such an amazing gift!

So that’s it for me. I’d apologize for this post being so long, except for even this doesn’t fully express my gratitude to these individuals. What about you? What are your successes this week? Link up over at Catholicmom.com