Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baby Sister

I was 6. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I was wearing a black leotard, pink tights, a shimmery tutu, and dainty ballet slippers.

“She’s here,” my Grandpa told me upon picking me up from ballet that day. “Your baby sister is here. And she’s perfect.”

I didn’t know the weight those words held until years later, when I would find out that my baby sister had been expected to be born with significant medical and developmental complications.  

I can only imagine that this was breath-takingly terrifying for my momma, who already had three little ones and had lost another baby to miscarriage. Now don’t get me wrong: My momma, she would have loved her littlest one no matter the outcome, because that’s all my momma knows how to do--love with her whole heart. But I cannot begin to imagine the relief, the joy, the celebration she felt upon meeting her youngest child and seeing that she was absolutely perfect, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. 

Since the day my baby sister was born, her three older siblings have loved her fiercely. We have done our best to guide, protect, support, and lead her, especially since most of her childhood was spent without a dad. We three oldest siblings may have battled our way through childhood, but we always tried to shield our baby sister from any hardship (or sibling wars) that came our way while attempting to serve as role models to her in any way we could. 

But you know what? Things are different now. 

I look up to my baby sister these days. 

She is the definition of independence, choosing not to follow the same high school cheerleading nor collegiate dance paths as her older sisters. She purposely chose not to attend the same college as her three older siblings (choosing the rival university instead) and opted against going the same sorority route her big sisters chose, electing instead to create her own life outside of the shadows of her older siblings. Yes, she is an independent soul, with a mind of her own, and I love that about her. 

My baby sister is as smart as they come, too. We older sibs often joke that she is the smartest of the bunch, although, like me, common sense may not always be her strong suit. Still, though, she is as hard of a worker as she is brilliant, which is a deadly combination. And it goes without saying that she is simply beautiful, a beauty that is matched only by that of her heart. 

My favorite thing about my baby sister, though, is the way she loves with everything she’s got. She is as loyal as they come when it comes to friendships, significant others, and family relationships. 


And y’all? You should see her as an aunt. She loves my babies, and my sweet niece, more than life. She aches when she is away from them and spends EVERY.SINGLE.SECOND. she has with them whenever we get together, getting up early to play with them, long before anyone else is awake, and staying by their sides until they finally close their tired eyes at the end of the day.

With my sweet baby boy

With my precious baby girl

I am so, so proud to be her big sister and to call her one of my very best friends. 

Now, I just cannot wait for the day when I get to hear, “She’s here. And she’s perfect,” and know that my baby sister, the one I always tried to protect, now gets to protect her very own baby girl. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adios Atlanta

Y'all. We're officially moving!!! Yippee! It took exactly 5 days from the time our house was listed until we were officially "under contract." Wowzer. To say this is about to be an overwhelming, chaotic, amazing, bittersweet, whirlwind time is an understatement. Now, everyone please say some prayers, cross fingers and toes, throw some salt over your shoulder, and wish on a four leaf clover that (1) everything goes as planned with the sale of our house, and (2) we find some place to live, preferably our dream home (no pressure right?), when we visit our soon-to-be new destination this weekend. 

That's right. We have one weekend to find a home that hopefully has all of the following:
  • Southern-style architecture (think rocking-chair-worthy front porch)
  • A large, flat yard--did I mention our little buddy loves sports more than anything? A great yard is a MUST
  • A very family friendly neighborhood. One with lots of families with young kids who are big advocates of sidewalk strollin', bug catchin', hide-and-seek playin', outdoor campin', and bike ridin'
  • An open floor plan with at least four bedrooms and a playroom
  • Most importantly, access to the best of the best public schools 
Oh, and did I mention we are going to have to be out of our current house by Labor Day, since the closing is scheduled for that weekend? Yee-ikes. 

Anyone have any boxes?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Working Mama Woes

Being a full-time working momma means…

  • Getting up at least two hours before it's time to leave to ensure that my children are up, fed, cleaned, and clothed, with fresh breath to boot. Oh, and me too. 
  • Packing the 867 things needed for the day, including but not limited to: an insulated lunchbox containing prepared breastmilk bottles, communication sheets for my daughter’s teachers, my breast pump and all parts needed to pump throughout the day, a freezer bag for the pumped milk, my children’s bookbags, my purse/diaper bag, and various odds and ends, such as extra clothes for the kiddos, snacks for me, solids for my daughter, my son’s nap blanket, etc. 
  • Dropping off my kids at “school,” which involves getting both of them in and out of carseats, keeping an eye on my toddler while navigating the parking lot with my baby in her heavier-by-the-minute carseat (and, more often than not, breaking a sweat before we even enter the building), getting each child in his/her respective classroom with all their belongings in their cubbies, checking in with two sets of teachers, and so on. Whew! 
  • Feeling like I have run a marathon by the time I actually get to work. What? The work day is just starting? Oh man.
  • Putting in 150% while working full-time in a busy children’s hospital so that I can ensure I do not have to bring work home with me. This often means going non-stop from the time I walk through my office door until the time I leave and also managing to fit in 20-minute pumping sessions every 3 hours. 
  • Spending a good 30 minutes simply picking my children up from school, thanks to needing to gather their belongings, check in with their teachers, and…oh yeah, collect each of them. By this time of the day, I am too tired to lug the carseat around, which means bringing the stroller into the school so that I can push my daughter around while trying to track down my son, who can often be found running around outside with his friends at the opposite end of the building.
  • Arriving home and bringing in the 867 things I took with me that morning, assuming I managed not to misplace anything along the way. Oh, and quickly getting my kids inside and out of the cuh-razy summer heat that envelopes the South this time of year. 
  • Starting on my mile-long to-do list to prepare for the following day. I won’t bore you with the details but will tell you it involves preparing the next day’s bottles with the milk I pumped, selecting outfits for myself and my little ones, gathering all breast pump parts, and so on. Trust me.  It takes a long time. This also means I often do not change out of my work clothes until after both kids are in bed at 8:00 pm. 
  • Soaking up every.single.second. with my babies from the minute we get home until the minute their heads hit the pillow. This means trying to split the little time we have together each day equally between the two of them, so that neither feels slighted. This is hard. This means momma guilt when I feel like my time is unequally shared. Nonetheless, we do lots of science experimenting, imaginary playing, sports-engaging, block-building, book-reading, and memory-making in the weeknight hours we share. 
  • Trying to figure out dinner plans since, more often than not, at 5:30 pm we typically have NO IDEA what we will be eating that night. I despise cooking. Maybe, in part, because it takes time away from my children-and no, I don’t find it fun to get them involved in meal preparation when I can’t stand that activity myself. Blech. 
  • Attempting to squeeze in both “me” time and “hub” time after the kiddos go to bed. This means trying to do any or all of the following between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 pm: catching up with my hub; going for a run; drinking an adult beverage or two; checking off all the “to-do’s” from my laminated list for the following day; straightening up our "for sale" house so that it is ready for showing; doing dishes, laundry, and other household chores; showering; writing blog posts; watching DVRed shows; and so on. 
  • Finally passing out way later than I had originally intended, knowing that I will wash, rinse, and repeat the following day, assuming it’s a work day.
Y’all? This is exhausting. This is especially exhausting when my hub has to travel for work, and I am left to go it alone. Yee-ikes.

Much more importantly though, I am just not getting in enough time with my babies during these precious young years, which are apparently going by at warp-speed, because didn’t I just give birth to my nearly 3-year-old son yesterday? 

While I certainly have a very rewarding professional career ahead of me, I feel an innate, heart-wrenching pull toward my little ones during this amazing, ever-evolving time in their lives. 

What’s more, I read a quote recently that really struck a chord with me: You can do anything but you can’t do everything. I couldn’t agree more. I cannot be the kind of wife and momma I want to be while also doing my best to excel as a full-time pediatric neuropsychologist. 

This is why, while I will still be Doc Momma, I am going to be a stay-at-home momma for a period of time after we move before eventually becoming part-time Doc Momma. 

I couldn't be happier.

Cheers to more time with my family. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Do You Do Again?

I honestly think that several of my family members and closest friends still have no idea what I, a pediatric neuropsychologist, do for a living. You neither? Let me break it down for you…

A conversation with a stranger (or close family member. You know. Whomever):

You were in school for how long???: I finally finished my formal education at the ripe 'ol age of 30. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in sociology (Side note: What does anyone ever do professionally with a sociology degree besides teach sociology?). I have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. As part of earning my doctorate, I had to complete a pre-doctoral internship for one year and did so after matching at the University of Minnesota Medical School. After earning my Doctorate of Psychology (yahoo!), my training and education weren't over yet. To actually be eligible to be licensed to practice, I had to complete a post-doctoral fellowship. Because I wanted to specialize in pediatric neuropsychology, this would require a 2-year fellowship (rather than the 1-year fellowship required in every other field of psychology). I completed my fellowship in 2010 (after postponing it thanks to my own unexpected maternity leave) and have been a licensed, practicing pediatric neuropsychologist since that time.

That’s great and all but I still have no idea what a pediatric neuropsychologist does: I primarily conduct neuropsychological evaluations with pediatric patients who have neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, and many, many other conditions that affect their brain and thus their cognition and behavior. 

Ummm...Okay. So what do you actually do? Let’s say a child has a brain tumor in the left frontal lobe (i.e., left frontal region of the brain). My job is to first meet with the child's parents to gather information about their concerns related to the child's daily functioning. Next, I spend a full day conducting a battery of tests with the child to evaluate her intelligence, academic skills, language, visual/motor ability, memory, attention, emotional, behavioral, and social functioning, and higher-order executive skills, such as planning, organizing, and problem-solving. Based on the results from the testing, I am able to identify the child’s neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses. I must then explain how her profile is linked to the underlying neurological condition (e.g., how particular neurocognitive weaknesses that emerged during testing are associated with the tumor in the left frontal lobe) and make appropriate diagnoses, such as ADHD, learning disorders, etc. Most importantly, I ultimately make recommendations to help the child receive the services and accommodations she needs in her school and home environments. I write up all of this information into a comprehensive report, which is usually somewhere around 10-12 pages, single-spaced, and then meet with the parents to review the test findings, discuss recommendations, and provide a copy of the report. In addition, I also have a number of other job responsibilities, such as conducting research and training graduate students who are pursuing their own degrees in neuropsychology, but I won’t bore you with those details (because I'm certain you're not bored already). 

So, that's my job in a nut shell. 
I’m sure you are all completely enthralled by this post. Oh well. At least we got that out of the way.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bringing Home Baby

There are approximately 1,001 books about pregnancy, mainly about what is going on with your mind and body and your baby’s mind and body throughout those glorious 10 months of pregnancy. I can tell you that I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. I do enjoy feeling each kick, punch, and flip, but the rest of it is for the birds. But I digress. 

Then there are all the “how to have a baby” classes. The hospital tours. The breast-feeding courses. The registering. The showers. The nursery prep. The nesting. The ever-expanding belly. The waiting. The waiting. The waiting.


Despite all the preparation that goes into actually safely carrying and delivering a baby, there is very little offered on what to expect, what to actually do, after your baby has safely made his debut. Oh sure, there are the What to Expect the First Year-type books and the Baby Wise-esque books. But come on. Let’s be real. There is nothing out there on the million ways you, and your life, are about to change.

Some things to know for all you expectant mommas out there:

First, the good news:

Cliché, yes. But oh so true: You are about to experience a love like no other. An instantaneous, overwhelming, can’t live without you, breath-taking, my life truly has meaning, kind of love. In that moment, that single moment, when you hear your sweet baby’s first cry, your life is forever changed, in the best possible way you could ever begin to imagine. Every morning (or middle of the night) when I would wake up after my son was born, it felt like Christmas morning. Times 1,000. He’s mine! I get to see him every day! How blessed I am that I get to be his momma for the rest of my life! Such a dream come true. 

And for all you mommas-to-be the second time around, don’t you worry. I loved my daughter every bit as much as my son the very instant she was born. I just couldn’t believe I had been going along about my merry way, each day, living my life without her. “Oh there you are,” I said shortly after she arrived. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for you.” I can honestly say that I do not now, nor have I ever, loved either one of my children more than the other. I love them differently, equally, immensely, indescribably, and it truly is an all-consuming love.

Now for the harder-to-hear bits: 

Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. Your sole job on this earth is now to make sure your child is alive. Other important jobs are to ensure your child is: 1. Eating. 2. Sleeping 3. Growing. 4. Hitting developmental milestones. 5. Attaching to you. 6. Learning. 7. Socializing. 8. Making life-long family memories. 9. Not becoming a sociopath. In no particular order.

I’ll say it again: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It is an extremely difficult realization to come to to know that your baby’s survival solely depends on you. There is very little in the way of “me” time in the beginning. Especially if you breastfeed. Exhibit A: Initially, your baby needs to eat every 2 to 3 hours. This is not 3 hours from the end of one breastfeeding session to the start of the next session. This is 3 hours from the start of one breastfeeding session to the start of the next. This time discrepancy makes a huge difference, especially since your newborn will likely nurse for about 0.2 seconds before falling asleep. At which point, you must wake him up. This is hard to do given that all your sweet little babe wants to do is sleep, sleep, sleep. So, you will strip him down, make up songs to sing loudly to arouse him (I have two particular, original faves I’d be happy to share), run a cold wash cloth over his skin to make him mad (and thus, awake), blow in his face, etc. Oh great! It worked! He’s awake! Let the nursing session recommence. For 0.2 seconds. Then, he will fall asleep again. Then, you will start this whole process again. Thus, after a 45-minute nursing session, you now have 2 hours and 15 minutes max to do anything else in the world besides nurse your child. Throw growth spurts in the mix and that 2 hours and 15 minutes is cut in half. 

Again I say: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. Yes, you hear about sleep deprivation. It is harder than you can imagine. Sure, you will share some very sweet moments in the middle of the night when it’s just you and your tiny little one. But there will be other extremely frustrating, I-want-to-slowly-pull-every-hair-out-of-my-head moments when your child will be screaming, absolutely inconsolable, at 3:00 am for reasons you cannot explain. Of course, you try feeding him, rocking him, singing to him, changing his diaper, wrapping him in a blanket, unwrapping him from the blanket, turning on the dryer for some white noise, turning off the dryer because he clearly hates white noise, swaddling him, shhh-ing him, swaying him, side-laying him, and all the other 5 S’s (Stop reading now. Go rent The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Watch it. Make your husband watch it. You’ll thank me later). This is when it’s time for you to hand him over to his daddy and collapse in a heap on your bed (until the next nursing session, that is). 

Want to venture outside the house? Yep, I’ll say it again: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It is impossible to go on spontaneous outings when you have a newborn, heck, child of any age, for that matter. A quick trip to the grocery store to get out of the house (and yes, this will become a luxury)? No problem. Let me just grab my 800-pound diaper bag, equipped with diapers, wipes, changing pad, burp cloths, a change of clothes (blow out in Aisle 2 anyone?), pacifier, toys, a nasal aspirator, first aid kit (because what if a can of diced peaches falls from the shelf, manages to open itself, lands on my baby’s arm, and slices it right open?!? I’ll be happy I have my Neosporin!), wallet, keys, and lip gloss (never mind that you are in pajama pants and a stained tee. With flip flops. And greasy hair. And no make-up. In January). Oh shoot. I forgot the grocery list. Oh well.  I’ll just roam around the grocery store for awhile because my baby has fallen asleep and I will not risk waking him and thus ending this moment of peace. 

Yes: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. It changes your relationships. Some for the better: My hub and I are rock solid. We have each other’s back. We are doing this parenting thing together. That is not to say we don’t have our fair share of disagreements (the most famous of which involved me nearly burning our house down after leaving a pizza box on the stove and accidentally turned it on while trying to get my inconsolable son to PLEASE.STOP.CRYING. in the middle of the night. It was my hub’s shift yet he was sleeping soundly in our Good God, I-never-knew-our-mattress-was-this-comfortable bed. I was tired. I was cranky. I was careless. Pizza box went up in flames. So did my night.). Other relationships may seem not to exist for awhile: Those friends you used to talk to, gossip with, vent to all the time? They will take a backseat for awhile while you try to figure out how to keep your child alive, yourself sane, and your house from burning to the ground. If they are real friends, they will be around long after your baby has arrived. If they are momma friends, they will totally understand your absence and no explanation will be needed. 

Becoming a momma for the first time is hard: Take the most worried you have ever felt in your entire life. Are you imaging that moment? Picture it vividly. Remember what it felt like. Now take that moment and multiple it by 1,000. Now take that moment and make it last for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a momma, you will worry. Is my baby still breathing? Is she getting enough milk? Is she growing? Am I causing life-long damage by letting her nap in her swing? Should I be holding her more? Am I holding her too much? Is that spit up or vomit? Why did no one tell me the world is encased in germs? Does she have on enough sunscreen? Is that a rash? Why didn’t she poop today? Did she poop too much today? And on. And on. And on. And this is within the first three days of life. My first-born is now almost 3, and I can safely assure you. The worrying? It never ends. 

It’s true: Becoming a momma for the first time is hard. But you know what? It is absolutely, completely, without a doubt, totally worth it. It’s why my hub and I proudly welcomed our second baby six months ago. And luckily, it is much easier the second time around. After all, after you’ve had one, you’re an old pro, right?!?

(Thank you to Jenny Lauren Photography for the beautiful pictures of my babies!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big News

Well, it's official.

After nine years in Atlanta, it's time for this branch of the Luton fam to pack up and move on. 

Atlanta has treated us well since 2003. My hub and I both went to graduate school here. We both landed our first "real" jobs here. We lived in our first apartment together here. We owned our first and second homes here. We had two children here. We made some great friendships here. We have countless "first" memories here. 

In our first home in Atlanta in 2004

A visit to Atlanta by some of my best friends from college
Outside our home, just hours before giving birth to Raleigh
The great snow storm of 2011 

We need more space since our little has family has grown. That meant a recent conversation about where we see ourselves over the next 10 to 15 years. Ultimately: We want to be closer to our parents, without actually living in either of the towns they live in (No offense Aiken-ites and Columbians-they are just not the places for us). We want to be closer to some of our best friends (here's lookin' at you, Peeles, and some of our awesome college peeps). We want to (still) be within easy driving distance to Clemson so that our children can grow up making plenty of Tigertastic memories. Most importantly, we want to be involved in a great public school system that is centered in a family-friendly town.

Logistically, we also need to be near an airport so my hub can continue to travel easily with his job. This has narrowed down the options to two places, although I will say we are leaning more heavily towards one than the other.

Now, we wait and see how long it takes for our house to sell. Speaking of, anyone want to buy a beautiful, one-story home with 3 bedrooms, 2 (newly renovated) bathrooms and a glorious yard in a great school district? Anyone? Anyone?

Lots of changes ahead for our little fam. Please cross your fingers and toes, say a little prayer, and stay tuned...


To know Raleigh is to know a little piece of heaven. She is truly the sweetest, happiest little lady I have ever been blessed enough to know. And she is mine. How in the world did I get so lucky?

One of the most inspirational moments of my life...
...becoming the momma to this little girl
My dainty little lady

Nine times out of ten, Raleigh has a smile on her face. She wakes up smiling. She goes to bed smiling. She smiles at family, at teachers, at friends, at strangers. I am pretty sure she was smiling in the womb. 
True story: Massive blowout moments after this picture.
Raleigh's giggles take my breath away. She loves to laugh, especially at her big brother, who she adores more than anyone on the planet (yes, even more than her momma). You should see the way she looks at him. Be still my heart…


Raleigh’s mellow, laidback, brighter-than-sunshine demeanor has made this second-time momma gig a little too easy. She is truly a Southern lady. She loves to cross her ankles when sitting, at the tender ol’ age of 6 1/2 months old, and she lights up any room she is in. 

I have been waiting my whole life for her, and I could not be prouder to be her momma. 

I don't know what I ever did without my precious Raleigh Jane. Without a doubt, I will live my life trying to be the kind of momma she deserves.