Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bittersweetness

When I was 9 years old, I experienced a fate that no child should ever have to endure, one that would change the course of my life. The unexpected and tragic loss of a parent.

I have absolutely no doubt that it was this circumstance that ultimately lead me to pursue a career in which I could help children and adolescents on a daily basis. It took a long time, many, many years of dedicated studying, and sacrifice on both my and my hub's part, but I finally achieved my goal in 2008. I obtained my doctorate in child clinical psychology. 

Throughout my training and professional career, I have worked with hundreds of children, some with very complicated medical histories; some who have experienced unspeakable tragedies; all whom were in need of help in one way or another. And I feel blessed to say that I have been lucky enough to help these children in some form or fashion through therapy and assessment. I have smiled with families, cried with families, and become connected to so many. It has been an extremely rewarding career. One I feel that I was destined to pursue.

And yet. 

Tomorrow, I will close that chapter of my life...at least for awhile.

Tomorrow, I will say good-bye to people that I have studied under, trained with, learned from, collaborated with, taught to, consulted with, and experienced life with. I will close the door to my office one last time, knowing that I have gained a lifetime of experience in the 8 years that I have been affiliated there and remembering each of the life-changing memories I hold so dear.

I will be sad to say good-bye to the colleagues and staff members with whom I work, each of whom I am lucky enough to call my friend. While packing away the hundreds of books and journal articles that have decorated the shelves in my personal office, I will also be packing away the precious moments of my life I have spent within those hospital walls. 

Yes, it will be bittersweet. In large part bitter.

But even moreso, sweet. 

Because after tomorrow, I will be a stay-at-home momma. 

Honestly? It is a role I never thought I wanted. I always envisioned myself as a full-time working momma, probably because I always wanted to avoid the position my own momma was suddenly thrust  into after being a stay-at-home momma for over 10 years. She was a momma who unexpectedly had to return to the workforce in order to support her four young children. She continues to work in that same job today.

As an adult, I assured myself I would work full-time, even after having children, so I would never be put in that position. And I have been a full-time working momma for almost 3 years now, ever since my sweet Banks was born.

But things are different now. Maybe it's because my little buddy is growing at lightning speed and I don't want to miss so much of the next 3 years of his life. Maybe it's because the birth of my daughter has reiterated that these young years are fleeting, precious, priceless. My heart aches more than it ever has before when I am away from them, and I think of little else besides them all day. Throw a traveling husband into the mix and things get really, really tough

All that to say, a new dream is coming true for me tomorrow.


 

This dream would not be possible without my hub and his willingness and ability to take on the full financial burden of our family. I will be grateful for his sacrifices for the rest of my life. 


So, bittersweet? Yes. But as I said, much, much sweeter than bitter.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bringing Home Baby...#2

When I was pregnant with Baby #2, I worried. Not so much about having a newborn in the house again but about what the adjustment would be like for Baby #1. You see, my son was the center of my universe. At 5:27 pm on September 29th, 2009, my world no longer centered around me. It revolved around him. And now, things were going to change. Because on May 6th, 2011, I found out I was pregnant with Baby #2. This meant that my universe would now center around two little miracles, instead of one. Thus, the worrying began.

My hub and I worked very hard in the months leading up to our daughter's birth, and in the days that followed, to prepare our son for the big changes that were a-comin'. 

Our last photo as a family of 3

A few pointers from an experienced admittedly still learning-by-the-minute Momma of two:

Before Baby #2 arrives
*Make it a very big (and exciting!) deal to be a big brother/sister! Make it  a very big (and exciting!) deal that your firstborn gets a new room and bed! No more nursery! It's big boy/girl room time. Yahoo!

*Let your firstborn help with getting things ready so he/she feels involved. My son helped Daddy paint the nursery. He brought out his own set of tools when Daddy was hanging shelves. He did his own art projects alongside Momma while I was crafting away with nursery projects.Fun and productive at the same time. Let the multi-multi-tasking begin!

*Buy an “I’m Going to be a Big Brother/Sister” book. Read it each night and talk about the new baby that’s coming. Talk about the things that your firstborn is able to do because he/she is a big boy/girl that babies can’t do (e.g., “You get to eat snacks, like icecream, and play with really fun toys! Babies don’t get to do those things yet. They're too little.”).


*Never blame your belly or the baby for your inability to do things with your firstborn (e.g., rather than saying, “I cannot pick you up because the baby is big now," try something like, “Mommy can’t pick you up right now, but I can hold your hand.”)

*Spend lots and lots and lots of one-on-one time with your firstborn, especially in the beginning and middle of your pregnancy. As you reach the pregnancy finish line (yahoo!), allow Daddy to take on more of the parenting role while you relax a little. This will allow (1) you to rest up your big ol’ pregnant self (which will be MUCH needed--pregnancy is a lot harder with a toddler running around!), (2) Daddy to realize just how much he is going to have to take on once baby comes (e.g., doing the entire nighttime routine with your firstborn, alone, many a night), and (3) your firstborn to get used to you not always being able to be there, even when he/she is asking for you. This is really hard, especially when the world has been orbiting around him/her since birth. But very necessary.

*Just before the baby’s due date, have your firstborn buy a gift for the baby. Talk about what a sweet big brother/sister he/she is and how much the new baby will love the present.

*Have a gift ready for your firstborn, from the baby, and bring it with you to the hospital. As soon as your firstborn meets the baby, let him/her know that the baby got him/her a present.


When you are in the hospital:
*Make sure that whoever is caring for your firstborn while you are in the hospital has lots of fun things planned! You want your firstborn to associate his/her sibling’s birth with fun and happy memories; so, leave money, directions, and phone numbers for kid friendly adventures (e.g., zoo; aquarium; kids museum; etc.). Even though Momma and Daddy will be gone for a few days, that doesn't mean your firstborn can't have fun!

*At the same time, have the caregivers try to keep as much of your firstborn's routine as consistent as possible (i.e., same bedtime and naptime schedule). His/her whole world has just been turned upside down. Having consistency wherever life allows is key. 

*Let your firstborn visit each day, but no more than 45 minutes or so per day. It may be a little scary for him/her to see you in the hospital room, in a hospital bed, and unable to scoop him/her up as you usually do. Reassure him/her that everything is okay and stay upbeat and happy the whole time he/she is there, focusing on him/her and not the baby.


*If possible, let Daddy go home and help put your firstborn to bed each night that you are in the hospital. This will make both Daddy and your firstborn feel better (reunited and it feels so good...) and allow you some one-on-one time with your newest addition to the family.

Bringing home baby...#2
*When you bring the baby home, make sure you spend the first few days lavishing your firstborn with lots of attention. Your inclination will be to focus on the baby, but you don't want your firstborn to resent his/her new sibling. If both kids are upset, sometimes tend to your firstborn first, saying something to the new baby like, “I know you’re sad, but you are going to have to hold on for a minute so I can give your big brother/sister a hug.” Other times, do the opposite.

My babies and me, first day at home

*Expect some temporary behavioral changes in your firstborn. For some, this means (more) tantrums. For others, this means (more) clinginess. Again, your firstborn's world has been rocked. Young children communicate through their actions, not their words, so try to clue in on what his/her behavior is saying. And know this is normal. And know this will not last forever.

*Let your firstborn be "Momma's Little Helper" whenever possible. This may mean putting soiled diapers in the diaper genie, bringing you burp cloths, patting the baby's back during burping, or singing to the baby when he/she is upset. Make a BIG deal out of the fact that your firstborn is such an awesome helper! Praise and compliments go a long way.

*Enjoy life as a family of 4 and remember that everyone, Momma, Daddy, firstborn, and baby, all need time to adjust to this new life. True story: For several weeks after my daughter was born, my son started waking up for the day at 4:30 am. This was tough, especially since my hub and I had often been up with our newborn for much of the night and many-a-time had just laid our heads on our thank-the-Good-Lord-for-these-amazingly-comfortable pillows when our son would come be-bopping into our room. Luckily, it was a phase. Luckily, we managed it. Luckily, we survived (albeit with the help of lots of caffeine, daytime naps, and patience). 

Our first photo as a family of 4

Adjustment? Yes. For everyone. But trust me. When Baby #2 arrives, you won't know what you ever did without him/her.

Oh, and when all else fails, don't be scared to consume a glass of wine, or two, at the end of a particularly challenging day. Or every day. You know. Whatever it takes.



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Instagrammin'

Did you know that life doesn't stop when you're moving?

It doesn't.

For me, this means continuing to work my full-time job (5 more days!), spending as much time as I can with my babies, celebrating momentous occasions with friends and family, and, oh yeah, attempting to pack up 10 years worth of stuff for our little family of four (12 more days!).

All that to say, today's post will be heavy on pictures and light on words.

And I call it...Instagrammin'.

Outside of keeping up with the latest comings and goings of friends and family on Facebook and pinning left and right on Pinterest, Instagram is my other obsession.  

So, I present to you, snapshots of my life from this summer. Instagram style.

Ducks from a little boy's perspective

 
Bald Beach Baby

 
View on a nightly run

Breakfast date

 
Partners in crime 

 
Rural South Carolina

Beach Babes

Smitten

 
Best.Hiding.Spot.Ever.
 
That face. Those eyes.

 
Giddy up

 
Vacation memories

 
Droolin' over those Keds
 
Makes my heart smile

 Bouncin' 'round the summer

Off we go...

 Lashes for days

 Sunset soaring

Sweet Southern lady

 The new Friday night happy hour

 
Fearless

 
Swinging smiles

 Drowning in boxes

 And speaking of boxes, back to work I go...


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Down and Dirty Details

Male readers? Are you out there? If so, this is your precautionary warning. You are welcome to skip this blog post. Down and dirty momma details follow...

Okay all you mommas-to-be. Here they are. The down and dirty details that no one ever really talks about. Out loud.

What do we hear about after a new, fresher-than-clean-laundry, sweeter-than-sunshine, bundle of pure joy is born? How life has now truly begun. How the world now has real meaning. How love's true definition is now clear. And all of that is truer than true. 

But.

Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the aftermath of giving birth? Well, I am here to bust that conversation wide open. Starting with:

1. Remember that scene from "Tommy Boy" where Chris Farley puts on David Spade's sports coat and joyfully sings out, "Fat guy in a little coat?", and then the coat rips? Well, a few days after giving birth, when your milk comes in, your breasts will feel similar to that poor sports coat. We are talking boulders, ladies, that cause an avalanche of pain. Actually, more like a volcano of pain given that you will be leaking "lava" (aka milk) for weeks and weeks. Go buy breast pads. Wear them daily. Go buy breast shells. Put them in your bra over night. Otherwise, you will awaken to a smoldering "lava" drenched shirt. 

Exhibit A. And B.

2. I had every hope and intention of delivering my first baby the "good old-fashioned way" (and no, I will not type that woman's anatomy word for fear some perv with too much time on his hands will google that woman's anatomy word and be lead here. Although my frequent mention of the word "breast" above may have already landed him here. I digress). Yes, although, like most mommas-to-be, I had dreamed about delivering my first baby the "good old-fashioned way," my 9-pound 15-ounce son and apparently too-small pelvis did not get the memo. Despite a full day of labor. Consequently, my son was delivered via cesarean section as was my daughter (via planned, repeat c-section). The good news? I did not have to experience any of the unfortunate feminine "consequences" that many mommas endure who deliver the "good old-fashioned way." The bad news? I had to undergo major surgery. Twice. For any mommas who end up with c-sections, know that you will experience pain for several weeks following the procedure (Duh. You just had major surgery). Use your painkillers as much as you need them but don't over do it. I think the recovery is easier the quicker you can get off of them. Also, don't be surprised when your incision site is completely numb for awhile and also really tender months and months later. It is bizarre. But normal. Oh, and know that, should you elect to go the c-section route the second time around, the recovery is much better. After all, you will not have gone through an entire day of labor and then had major surgery. A win-win for all. 


3. We all know how refreshing it is when, in the dead of the summer heat, we dive into a crisp, clear, cool body of water and emerge from the water's embrace feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, reborn. Yeah. Now think of the night sweats you will experience for several weeks after giving birth as being the complete opposite of that. That's right. For weeks, our momma hormones are completely out of whack and in complete overdrive. One of the lovely results? Waking up soaked, absolutely drenched, in the middle of the night. So all that extra laundry you'll be doing is not just because of all the spit-up soaked clothes you'll be washing. There will be frequent loads of bed sheets that need to be sanitized. Gross. But true.



4. I think Mother Nature plays many a trick on us mommas when we are expecting. We get the glorious pregnant glow which is rivaled only by the long, lustrous locks we get to rock for those loooong 10 months of pregnancy. Nice, right? Until about 4 months after your sweet little bundle of joy arrives, at which point, your hair will begin falling out. And I'm not talkin' 10 or 12 strands in a hairbrush after a shower. I'm talking, full-on clumps of hair that will quickly clog your shower  drain and cover every.square.inch. of living space within a 5-mile radius. You think I'm exaggerating? I'm not. It is insane. And it continues for months and months and months. I am almost 8 months out from having my second babe and the extreme hair loss continues. Fingers crossed I don't develop any bald spots.

So long thick(er) hair

5. I pride myself on trying to be active, trying to be healthy, trying to maintain some level of fitness. This is why it has been hard for me after both pregnancies to deal with the inevitable "pudge" that will stick around for a few months. The days after your precious baby is born, it's all, "Oh joy! He's here! Nothing else matters in the whole world!" And then, you notice that your tummy doesn't immediately return to its pre-pregnancy flatness the second after your little one debuts. Actually, what the eff, it still looks like you're very pregnant (Here's lookin' at you, woman in Babies 'R Us, who sweetly asked me when I was due two weeks after my son was born. Pretty sure she never asked that question to any woman again. Ever.). Even as your belly begins to shrink (thanks to your uterus slowly shrinking back down to its normal size), your stomach is not the same. No matter how many crunches you did throughout pregnancy, your stomach, your skin, your muscles, well, they have been stretched. And they don't just immediately "bounce back." You will have some tummy jiggle for awhile. And even if you quickly lose the pregnancy weight, your good ol' skinny jeans may not fit for awhile, as things, including your now pudgy tummy, have shifted and changed shape. It will take some time. But. If you put in the time and effort, that jiggle won't stick around forever. Several months? Yes. Forever? No. Still, though, this can be a tough pill to swallow when you no longer have a little miracle inside you to explain the misshapen tummy.

Hello post-baby belly

6. There is one other post-baby dirty detail I was going to write about but my hub kindly requested insisted that I not. I'll just say take the laxatives the hospital gives you and leave it at that. If there is nothing else you take from this post, take my advice to take the laxatives. 'Nuff said. 

So there you have it. 

But you know what? I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's all worth it. Because those smiles, those giggles, those first steps, those "mamama's", well, they are what life is all about. And no down and dirty detail can take away from that.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Atlanta Home Tour: My Favorite Rooms

Before we pack our things and bid Atlanta adieu, I wanted to share some of the home we'll be leaving behind. This is a very, very special place to us. Both of our children had their first rooms in this home, which brings me to this post: I wanted to capture their rooms for my own (selfish) memories before we cross state lines for good. Although my firstborn was the original inhabitant of the nursery, he has since graduated to his own "big boy room." So, let's start there...

It took me months and months to decide on the theme for my little buddy’s big boy room. Finally, though, the concept began to take shape and I fell in love: an airplane room! Of course, I scoured Pinterest as well as various blogs for inspiration. I could not be happier with how it turned out: just enough detail without going over the top with d├ęcor. Now, for the goods:

I love my boy’s bedding. It is something we can use for years, with various wall colors, and it does not scream “baby boy.” The madras print is versatile and masculine. It is perfect for my little guy (and it is from Pottery Barn Kids in case you are interested--pretty sure they still have it).


My favorite part of the room: the high-flying planes that graze the open-air. These were finds from Hobby Lobby, and you would have thought I won the lottery when I spotted them that fateful day-they were the inspiration for the room.


This heart-felt piece holds a lot of meaning for my family. It is the purple heart that my hub’s great uncle was awarded as a result of his courageous efforts in the Korean War. He just so happens to be the namesake for my son’s middle name, and we are incredibly honored to be able to display this piece of memorabilia in our home.


I have to admit: I love the lamp I (very easily!) made for this room. I wanted to pull in the airplane theme and did so with the help of an airplane punch, scrapbook paper, spray glue (used to adhere the airplanes to the underside of the lampshade, creating a shadow effect), and navy blue ribbon. Cheap but effective (two of my favorite things). And no this was not an original idea. Thank you, Pinterest.



I will take credit for the coming up with the idea of framing postcards of biplanes. An inexpensive but fun detail for the room.



I cannot take credit for the propeller clock, airplane wood art, or “F-L-Y” letters that hug the wall over my little guy's bed. These were also from Hobby Lobby, the greatest place on Earth (or is that Disney World?). 


So, there you have it. A few of my favorite details from my big boy's room. Here’s to dreams of flying high…


 

Next up, the nursery!

I cannot tell you how excited I was to find out I was pregnant with my second child. My son had been a surprise pregnancy; so, I got to avoid the months and months of trying to get pregnant and then being heart-broken each month after seeing a big fat NEGATIVE on the pregnancy test. With my daughter, my hub and I were trying to get pregnant and it was many months before I saw that beautiful word, PREGNANT, on the pregnancy test, at which point I immediately burst into tears and dropped to my knees, thanking God for the amazing blessing. 


Thanks to the Pinterest era, which continues to be rockin’ and rollin’, it was much easier to browse for nursery decoration ideas the second time around. Then, when we found out we were having a girl (a girl!), I quickly decided that I didn’t want the typical, pastel, ultra-feminine nursery. Sure, I still wanted girly flair (after all, "ruffle" is my middle name), but I wanted an edge to the room as well; so, I quickly decided on the color palette: pale pink and navy blue. I absolutely loved it! Still do! 

First, the bedding. I can’t take credit for making this (Doc Momma + sewing = disaster). Although I now have navy blue polka dot sheets from Pottery Barn Kids instead of the plain white crib sheet pictured here, the crib skirt and bumpers were custom made from an etsy seller. I am OBSESSED with ruffles and knew I absolutely had to have a ruffled crib skirt to "girl up" the masculine color. I wanted a patterned bumper and opted for damask, which would also give the navy blue bedding a more feminine feel. I also ordered a damask pillow to match the oh-my-Lawd-what-did-we-ever-do-without-the Best Chair chair.


The wreath. Again, I cannot take credit for creating this. It is someone else’s work (shout out to etsy), but I absolutely love it.


I did make the fabric hoops and embellished them with different details, which probably took all of 15 minutes total. I also came up with the idea of the ruffled “Little Sister” chalkboard--side note: I love the chalkboard trend plastered all over Pinterest these days. Don't you? 


 

Another of my favorite details: the homemade lampshade with rosettes. This was beyond easy, too. Ruffled ribbon + glue gun = easy new lampshade. And three cheers for Pinterest and it's bazillion rosette tutorials.


The fabric-covered birdhouse. I used the same fabrics I used to cover the back of the bookcase and covered the birdhouse in it. Gives another navy blue punch to the room. Oh, and the shadow box behind it now houses my little lady's pink and white coming-home-from-the-hospital outfit. Which is now too tiny to even imagine she was ever able to fit in it.



Perhaps my favorite thing I have ever made (again, idea adapted from Pinterest...shocker!) is the framed tree with lyrics from “Our song” (with “our” being mine and my daughter’s song): “Isn’t She Lovely?”. The hearts hanging from the tree have her monogram and date of birth. This was a labor of love and I adore it for all of the meaning behind it.


I’m sure pretty much everyone has seen the button initial canvas from Pinterest. Easy to do with a very cute result (oh, and those empty frames now house pictures of my girl with my hub and me from her newborn photo shoot). Seems like yesterday...

 
I also love the burlap and heart bunting that floats under the shelves. An extremely easy-to-make final touch to hang over the changing table.


So there you have it. Maybe my favorite room in our Atlanta home.


 

Just a few more weeks and I'll be attempting to recreate these rooms in our new home. However, I will never, ever forget the many wonderful memories that were made in these two rooms.