Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy 1 Josie!

Dear Josie,

Today you are 1.
You are my angel baby, don't you know?
One year ago you terrified me. You were tiny and hooked up to tubes and you didn't open your eyes for three days. One day I pushed back your eyelids just to make sure you had eyes. Sometimes I wasn't allowed to hold you and that was so so hard. Just to look at  you all peaceful and still and not even be able to rock you or feed you. I just wanted to wrap you up and snuggle you like I had my other babies.

I worried about you. Prayed harder than I've ever prayed. And when the day came that I had to leave you there I'd never felt so much pain. I never wanted anything more than to just bring you home.

I prayed you would come home for Christmas. And you did. Earlier even. My heart hurt just thinking about all the other babies still there who wouldn't come home yet and some who would never make it home. I felt so lucky to have you that I barely put you down.

You opened my eyes little girl--and my heart. You--the absolutely beautiful baby girl who came into our little family of four a bit unexpectedly happened to be exactly what we needed. You and your sweet smile and silly little giggle have brought so much happiness and you've taught us more about life and love than you can imagine.

Thank you my precious little surprise for making life a whole lot sweeter.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our little Romeo

My little Johnny was born a lover.
As a newborn he was the best snuggler--always nuzzling into the crook of my neck. As an older baby and toddler he loved to take my face in his hands and give me a big smack on the lips. And as soon as he could talk, it was "I wuv you Mommy."

He was just always the sweetest--wanting to hold my hand or be carried or climb up on my lap for a book. He was compassionate and empathetic---worrying if someone was sick, making his mommy and daddy breakfast and sometimes giving his prizes from preschool to his big sister.

This big loving personality has also made my Johnny quite the Romeo with the girls. When we were in Chicago he claimed he was in love with our next door neighbor Sammie--an adorable brown-haired tom boy who loved Batman just as much as Johnny. They were pretty much inseparable. That was his girlfriend for a long time, and when we moved to Georgia, he often sent her love letters.

Though he still has a little flame burning for Sammie, he informed me the other day that he has two girlfriends. One, whom had a birthday the next day, who he just had to buy a present for that very day. So, we went to the Dollar Store, he picked out a "Barbie" and dug $2 out of his wallet.

When we came home, he hurriedly wrapped it in pink paper and topped it with a bow and a little note. Hope our Johnny always stays so sweet, and doesn't get his heart broken too many times.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Miss Trouble

I will preface this post by saying I'm 37 and Scott is almost 40. We're officially 10 years older than when when Julie was Josie's age.

So, there's a possibility that Scott and I are just infinitely more tired and old this time around. We also have three kids, not just one, so we are busier and more distracted.

These could all be used as Josie's defense.

BUT....our baby has become a bit of a troublemaker. A happy and adorable troublemaker, but a little Miss Trouble, nonetheless. I know. I know. Once babies start moving, they are just curious and looking to explore the world. But, it really feels like she's looking for she's seeking out that one thing she's not allowed to have.

Here's the evidence:

Exhibit A:  Mommy is doing dishes. I was playing with toys, but I decided the bag of recyclables is so much more fun. Fresca anyone??

Exhibit B:

Mommy is going to the bathroom, two feet away. I was playing nicely with my bath toys, but I decided to open the cabinet and find these Q-tips. Yum.

Exhibit C: Mommy is busy cooking dinner. I don't think she'd mind if I emptied every drawer . Pans and chips are harmless right? Plus, this is just really funny. 

Exhibit D: Oh, hi Mom. I thought I'd try some of this Halloween candy you're all talking about. 

Exhibit E: What? You thought I was downstairs with you while you got out the fall decorations? Sorry. I needed to get something upstairs.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Slow it Down

When the older kids were babies, the days seemed to slowly chug along. There was breakfast and nap time and play time, and then finally dinner and bed. Oh, how I eagerly anticipated bedtime! But, as every older, more experienced mom knows, the days eventually speed by so fast you can't seem to catch your breath.

I'm not even talking about the "I can't believe I have a 10 year old" phenomenon. I just literally mean the days fly there's not enough time ever to just sit and talk or read a magazine or play a board game. Mostly, it's because our kids, especially Julie, have become involved in so many activities. There's of course the nightly homework, and Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, basketball and Science Team. And then there's karate. I feel like our second home is the karate studio--we are there that much. Five days a week we're there for some reason...whether it's regular class, Julie's leadership class, sparring sessions or demo team practices.

I love that Julie and Johnny found something they enjoy, and something they're pretty good at, but sometimes I just feel like it's too much. Like I just want to all snuggle in a bed one afternoon and watch a movie, or just play outside until dark, or have a picnic at the park. We still do all of those things, but not nearly as much as we used to. Because we're running..constantly running.

A few months ago at church our pastor talked about the danger of constantly being busy. Like you make yourself busy to justify your self worth or your family's worth. So many of us fill our lives with events and activities just to feel like we're doing something worthwhile. I know I do.

It's nearly impossible for me to sit still. Scott complains that I never just sit and watch a movie or a TV show. I constantly have to be doing something--washing dishes, sweeping the floor, doing laundry, playing on Facebook. I can never just be. I think the busyness of our lives just compounds my inability to just relax and live in the moment.

But, I'm making it my new mission to take a little time each week to just be with Scott, be with the kids, be with myself. Just enjoy those moments, even when we aren't doing anything...especially when we aren't doing anything. That might mean missing a karate session or two but I think it's important. I don't think being busy is the answer to happiness. Busy is what makes life fly by...and who wants that?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Our baby model

I swear I won't become one of those moms from "Toddlers and Tiaras," but I am a tad obsessed with sharing pictures of baby Josie. I'm sure it's because she's our last baby and she's just so darn smiley and cute that I can't resist.

I constantly take pictures of her and sometimes enter her in little contests--Baby Gap, Gerber, Parenting....  She even  made the top 50 for Atlanta Parent Magazine's cover contest. Of course Scott and I thought she should have won the whole thing, but that's just us!

Most recently I sent her photo to a local baby talent scout. A neighbor, who did the same for her kids, suggested I do it. So, Josie's first modeling session for a toy company was last week, and it was so much fun. She giggled and smiled and played with the toys. I have no idea whether her photos will make the cut for the toy packaging, but I absolutely loved all the behind-the-scenes stuff. And Josie didn't complain a bit. It was like a little playdate for her because there were three other babies at the shoot.

I know it's a tad silly and a bit vain, but for now it's fun, and we get paid! Here's Josie on the set with the director. This might be our one and only photo shoot, but it was a fun experience, and a great addition to the baby book (which I haven't made  much progress on, but that's for another blog).

Monday, October 19, 2015

Living far away isn't easy.

For most of my life I lived less than an hour from my parents. I chose a college 45 minutes away from home just in case I wanted to see them on a weekend, and a few times I even drove home for a midweek meal...just a little pick-me-up I guess.

When Julie was a baby we moved three hours from my hometown of Baltimore--but our new town just so happened to be an hour from my Grandma's house--where my parents decided to retire. So, for the next seven years my parents were an hour away. We were together for all the family birthdays and holidays, and they came for some of the kids' soccer games and performances. We went there for dinner or just because. And it was easy for them to watch the kids if Scott and I went on little getaways.

Three years ago that all changed. We moved to Chicago and then to Georgia, and since then, our lives have changed. No longer can my parents drive over for a dinner or special event. Instead of impromptu visits, our trips are planned months in advance. And instead of quick dinners or an overnight, our visits are much longer---two, three, four weeks at a time.

Friends or neighbors are sometimes shocked or amazed when I tell them how long my parents visit. But these long visits are our new way of life and they are special to us. They can no longer be there for every little milestone or event, but in a way, they see  more of our everyday lives during these long visits. They get to know our routines and schedules. They know what the kids love to eat, how to help with homework and their favorite activities. In those visits, they live our lives with us, and experience our little milestones. This time Julie turned 10. Johnny lost his first tooth and Josie started to walk along furniture. We visited an apple orchard, explored the zoo and history museum and toured a nearby plantation. They volunteered in the school, watched the kids perform at karate class, played games and read books.

It's not easy living so far away, so during these visits we make memories together.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Not already....

I have a 10-year-old. Technically she's a tween, I guess. So, I'm not sure why I was so shocked when her pediatrician well visit  revolved around puberty talk. The doctor, who is pretty amazing, but also very candid and matter-of-fact, asked Julie questions that made me blush. Julie just giggled. I looked at the wall and  quietly wished for the conversation to be over.

I'm terrible at this. I'm not even sure my kids know the actual words for their private parts. When they were little they just referred to them as "front hiney" and "back hiney." I didn't correct them.

I know. I'm awful.

I just can't bring myself to broach the subject...especially now that Julie's 10. My parents never had a conversation with me. Ever.  I have no idea what age I was, but I once stumbled upon a book about sexual education. My dad was a teacher, and I guess at some point, he used the cartoon-illustrated book to teach the lessons. I remember thinking, at the time, that the book was gross, but also a bit funny.

Not sure how much I learned from that book, but that was my only lesson at home, until the subject came up at school.

I don't really want to leave Julie in the dark like that. I do want to talk to her and let her know she can talk to  me, but I feel sick every time I think about the topic. I just can't believe it's that time. How did this happen? Like I really have to talk about all this now? Already? It doesn't seem possible or fair that my little girl who is still very much a naive little girl has to grow up. I don't even think she wants to.

The doctor suggested I buy Julie the American Girl book "Taking Care of You." It's all about health and your body and changes that might occur. Unfortunately I accidentally bought the second version for older girls which includes way too much information. I was planning on buying the younger version and saving that one for later. But the other night I found Julie reading the book--which she quickly shoved in her desk as I walked into the room.
"You don't have to be embarrassed," I told her. "We can read the book together, but I have to get you the first version before you read this one."

Maybe that was the beginning of our conversation?? I'm so not looking forward to explaining all of this, but it has to happen, and I figure if we can talk about all this now, maybe she'll be open and honest later on. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday to my not-so-little Girl

Dear Julie,

Today you are 10.

I'm not sure how to write your birthday note this year without starting with an apology.

So here it goes.

I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Because I did.

Once upon a time you were a strong-willed toddler and then you were a stubborn preschooler and finally my emotional and moody grade-schooler.

I wondered about you. Why were you sometimes so difficult?  Would you be ok? Was I doing something wrong?
You were my first, and I wanted you to be happy and healthy and well-adjusted and polite and perfect. I wanted you to fit my little mold. And when you didn't, I assumed something wasn't right.

While I was busy worrying how to fix you--- you were busy growing and maturing into this absolutely amazing 10 year-old. 

Somehow, without me realizing, you have become your own person. You could care less if that pleases anyone else but you have become exactly who you want to be.

And let me tell you. That person is absolutely beautiful.

You're fierce and fearless and reach for things that seem out-of-reach. You're a sweet and loving mini mommy to your baby sister. I see pure love when you make Josie giggle or sing her a silly little song. 

You claim your little brother annoys you, but I see the way you look out for him, and how you so want to be his teacher. 

I notice your love for God when you scour the Bible for your favorite verse, or ask us questions about life and tell us how you want to help people.

Even though you've grown so much, you're still my little girl with big dreams--the one who thinks pretty much anything is possible.

You're a chef, a scientist, a warrior, a caregiver, a writer and someone I feel so blessed to know. I'm sorry for ever doubting you--for ever thinking for a second that you would grow to be someone that's anything other than truly fantastic. 

You are such an incredible person and I feel lucky to be your mom for a decade! 

Happy birthday to my one-of-a-kind 10 year old.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In the Middle

He was my buddy. My baby. Every morning, since he started sleeping in a big boy bed at 2, he crept into our room, snuggled under the covers and told me he loved me. He wrote me love letters and drew me pictures. He held my hand and let me hug and kiss him whenever and wherever I wanted.

He was my happy, silly, easygoing little guy.

But, something's happened. Something's different.
Over the past six months or so my little boy isn't so happy anymore and he isn't so easygoing. He's more likely to wear a pout  than a smile. There's the not listening, not sharing and misbehaving and even telling a lie. And then there's the meltdowns and tears...lots and lots of tears over just about everything. His sister calls him a crybaby and yesterday his best friend said "I never knew a 6 year old to cry so much."

I just want to pick him up, hug him and say "Just tell me why you're so sad."

The thing is I don't think he knows.

Of course it's probably because he's not the baby anymore. He's stuck in the middle and not sure what to do. As frustrating as it is for us as parents, I feel bad for him. While Julie embraced her little sister with open arms, and became a mother figure. Johnny wasn't sure where he fit in. He's stuck in the middle between Julie--the all star student and karate champ and Josie--his adorable, can-do-know-wrong baby sister. He doesn't quite have a "thing"yet, though we know one day he'll shine.

I feel so sad that we're going through this rough patch with the kid we was always so happy and kind and easy. But we will help him find his way. We love him, stuck in the middle and all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A sad, but necessary Goodbye

This was two years ago---the day we brought home Chico--our lovable little pug mix. It took quite a bit of convincing for me to agree to becoming a dog owner. I didn't grow up with dogs, so I didn't know if I was up to the task of taking care of and training a puppy. But, knowing how much the kids wanted a dog, and seeing them interact with their Aunt Kelly's dogs, I thought a puppy would be a great addition to our family.

And he was. He was lovable, snuggly and playful. Chico tolerated the kids' antics much more than other dogs would have. He didn't  seem to mind the noise and the wrestling and the hugging and smooshing. Julie and Johnny seemed to have poor Chico in a constant snuggle or stranglehold. They just couldn't get enough of him.
And of course he taught them responsibility. Johnny filled  his bowls every day with food and water, and Julie walked him whenever he rang his little potty bell.

While there was so much good about having our little friend, he became more than we could handle. After moving to Georgia and having our third baby Josie, Chico seemed restless. We aren't sure whether it was the stress of moving and having a baby in the house, or whether we weren't giving him the attention he needed because of the baby. But, he began constantly running away. Every day. Sometimes a couple times a day. Not only would he run away, but he wouldn't return and he wouldn't come when we called. Instead of running up to us, he darted away as soon as he spotted us.

So, we'd spend hours looking for him. It was exhausting and frustrating and upsetting for the kids. The day we knew he couldn't be ours anymore was a day I'll always remember.
I was upstairs feeding Josie. Johnny ran up the stairs, breathless. "Mommy. Chico ran away and Julie went to look for him."

This wasn't alarming at first, but when I went outside, I didn't see Chico or Julie. I spent the next 20 minutes canvassing the neighborhood with Josie and Johnny trying to find Julie. At this point, I was cursing the darn dog and I really didn't care if I ever saw him again. I just wanted to find my daughter. To say I was panicked, was an understatement.

Finally, she showed up without the dog, and told us she had followed Chico into the woods near our house where there is a creek, a steep drop and all kinds of critters, including snakes.

We eventually did find Chico after searching for another hour, but I knew that he couldn't live with us anymore. Scott and I decided that we would either give him back to Kelly or find someone local to take him. At this point it was too dangerous for the kids and the dog to keep him.
The very next day, Chico ran away again. This time no one chased him. We knew he wouldn't come to us. It was a terrible feeling, but we had given up on him.

Later that day, a man called and said he found him on the road, and saw him almost get hit twice by cars. He and his wife lived right across the street from our neighborhood. Two months prior, their 14-year-old dog had died and they had been wanting a dog. They said they fell in love with Chico and that if we ever had thoughts of giving him up, they would love to have him.

This felt it was meant to be.

While was heartbreaking, especially for the kids, to give up our dog, we knew this wasn't the right fit for Chico. I really think a dog must run away for a reason. Maybe he wasn't happy or he was restless or he just needed room to roam. Regardless, giving him away to the couple across the street with the huge fenced back yard made sense to us. Now we visit Chico every once and a while and we keep in touch with his new owners, who have fallen in love with the silly pup. They put him in a little training school and walk him on the trails twice a day. He's allowed free run of the backyard and he snuggles between them in bed.

We failed as dog owners, but at least our dog's in the right place.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Look Back and A Look Ahead

This. This is the moment that got me.

My baby sister, holding hands with Mom and Dad, walking down the aisle.
Tears. I just couldn't help it.

I'm completely happy for her. And she's more than ready. She's 32 for God's sake, so it's about time.

I think I kind of get how it must feel for a parent to watch their kid get married. I mean it's time and you're so happy they found that special person in life. And of course you wouldn't want them to be single forever.

But, it's over. It's all over. That little life we had as a family of four so so many years ago--it's over. Technically it's been over for a while now since I've been married for almost 12 years and have three kids.

There's, however, just something about watching your baby sister walk down the aisle that brings it all back.  All those summer days spent playing on the camper loft. Listening to oldies. Noshing on Nacho Cheese Combos. It was always just the four of us--Dad, Mom, me, Kelly. Of course we'd visit family or they'd visit us, and we had our friends. But, we were never quite as happy as when it was just us four. Those were special days.

It's humbling to look back on those days and realize how quickly it all goes. All those birthdays and Christmases and family reunions and the time I broke the kitchen sink and ruined mom's birthday and when our first pet rabbit died three days after he came home from the carnival and when Kelly would scarf down a dozen deviled eggs every Easter and the trip to Ocean City when Dad hurled my pet hermit crab out of the camper after it pinched my hand.

It all seems a lifetime ago. Our silly sayings. Our inside jokes. Our traditions and rituals.

Our memories. They will always be our memories. Just ours. Just us four. And those are days and months and years I will never ever forget.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hello again!

I guess you can say I took a summer hiatus from blogging. While writing is therapeutic for me, a little break was much-needed. With three kids home all summer, I was determined to be more present and not distracted by freelancing deadlines or documenting our summer adventures.

Though we didn't take any big vacations, this summer was definitely eventful---visits from grandparents, a couples trip to San Diego, saying goodbye to our dog (that's for another post) and celebrating my sister's wedding (again a full post is coming), were among the summer highlights.

And of course there were the little moments---spending hours in our swimming pool next door, late night campfires, building sand castles at our local beach, tubing on the lake, meeting new neighbors, visiting plantations, panning for gold at a nearby mine and tasting hundreds of exotic sodas at the Coca Cola Museum.

It was technically our second summer in Georgia, but it was the first summer the Peach State felt like home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A mom's always a mom.

"I was up worrying about you all night." My mom texted me that the other day.
I literally caught pneumonia--probably from all my sleepless nights up with Josie. I felt awful and was having some trouble breathing. But, I really didn't think it was that big of a deal.

My mom didn't see it that way.
And it got me thinking. Mothering never really ends does it?

It doesn't end after your babies start sleeping through the night or after your toddlers stop throwing tantrums. Once your big kids do their homework and chores without asking or when they're off at  college taking care of themselves. It doesn't even end when your kids become parents themselves.

Moms are always moms.
The worrying never ceases and the longing to nurture and help and guide is ever present.

I was reminded of this overwhelmingly when Josie was born and spent time in the NICU. While I was utterly consumed with my newborn and praying for her to get well. My mom and Scott's mom were taking care of us and worrying incessantly about us. They cleaned, cooked, cared for the older kids and worried how we were doing. They asked for prayers from family and friends and lit candles at church. They mothered us.

It was a time of complete reliance on our moms to help us and for that we'll be forever grateful.

Though we don't need our moms every day or as much as we used to, they're a constant presence. And there's comfort knowing they're always there.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Happy 6 to my buddy


Dear Johnny,

Today you are 6.
Five was a rough year wasn’t it bud?
It started off pretty awesome. You had plenty of friends and you were excited to start kindergarten. You made it halfway across the monkey bars and  you swam by yourself in the deep end. You even started to ride a two wheeler.

Then your whole world changed.

We moved again. This time was even harder because we loved our neighborhood and our friends and our cozy little town on the lake. You were just old enough to have best buddies and a “real” girlfriend who just so happened to live  next door.

And as if you didn’t have enough turmoil in your life we had a new baby. You were so sweet and excited---kissing my belly and writing letters to your new baby sister. But you’d never been a big brother before so you didn’t quite understand how much things would change.
You didn’t know that you couldn’t always sneak in bed next to me in the early morning or that Daddy and I wouldn’t be quite as amused by your loud silly songs when baby Josie was sleeping. Or that carrying you upstairs to bed at night wouldn’t happen quite as often.

All of the sudden you were big. And while that can be wonderful, I do know that it just might have broken your little heart. I’m so sorry for that.

Even though I suspect you might be hurting inside you are still full of so much love. There are stacks of love notes to me from you sitting on the kitchen table. I can’t bear to just throw them all away. And the bracelets and necklaces you make me daily are tucked safely in my dresser drawer.

Because, life might be different now, but you’ll always be my only little boy and my special buddy. Six will be better. I promise.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


"Mommy....are you the leprechaun? Did you do all that leprechaun stuff?" Johnny asked me yesterday---pointing to the plates of shamrock cookies and gold coins. "The kids on the bus said that there are no such things as leprechauns and that you probably did all that stuff."

My mouth dropped. "Now. Why would I do a thing like that?" I said, barely able to look my 5-year-old son in the eye.

After 9 1/2 years as a mom, this is the first time I have been accused of being one of the magical creatures that visits our house. And I was busted by my kindergartener. What the heck?

Our innocent, naïve and gullible Julie simply responded "Johnny. The kids that said that aren't Irish. Of course you don't have a leprechaun if you're not Irish."  Leave it to the big sister to save the day.

That was enough for Johnny, but it got me thinking how close we are to the lid being blown off all this stuff. In a couple weeks we'll be making the obligatory visit to the Easter Bunny, who is so fake to the point of being creepy. I mean---a 6-foot-tall bunny with vented eye and mouth holes?? Come on. There's no way 9-year-old Julie can possibly keep believing that tale this year.

But, who knows. We are in so deep with all of this, that if one thing doesn't exist, it all crumbles. Easter Bunny, leprechaun, the Elf, tooth fairy, Christmas Angel and of course Santa---it's done once the cover is blown on one.

I'm not sure why I care so much about their belief in these fantasy characters, but I do. I try so hard to preserve their faith in these much so that the kids almost develop personal relationships with them. That probably sounds deranged and maybe it's even cruel because one day they'll figure out it's all a sham.

But, I hope when they do discover the truth that they know we did it out of complete love for them. That we just enjoyed so much making every little holiday and milestone magical. That we wanted them to dream and imagine and believe in the impossible. That we wanted them to be kids for as long as possible.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Baring it all (under the cover of course)

This was my view yesterday afternoon. It might not look like much, but to me this was a wonderful site and a major accomplishment.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I was sitting on a park bench while Scott played with Julie and Johnny. And I was nursing my baby Josie.

As unfathomable as this might sound coming from a mom of almost a decade---this was the first time I had EVER nursed in public. Of course I had my cute little nursing cover hiding any skin and the park bench was out of the way a bit. But, this was huge for me.

I've always been completely self-conscious about nursing in public. Let's be honest. I'm completely self-conscious about a lot of things. I was born worrying about what other people think of me. So, to feed my baby from my boobs in public was terrifying. Add in the fact that I haven't always been a great breast-feeder. With the other two, I just couldn't seem to get it right. They weren't comfortable. I was miserable. Many feedings ended with a screaming, frustrated baby and a sweaty, defeated me. Not something I really want strangers witnessing or commenting on, so I kept those sessions behind closed doors.

I finally feel a little confident that I might be getting it right this time around. So, I decided I would do it. I would feed Josie in public whenever she's hungry. She ate. I enjoyed the beautiful weather while the other kids played. No one pointed at me and glared at me or scowled or whispered mean things.

It was quite peaceful and pretty enjoyable.

Friday, March 13, 2015

No more babies. It's official.

There's something about having a baby that makes me want a baby.

Maybe it's sleep-starved insanity or mommy hormones or my infatuation with newborns but each time I have a baby I can't bear to think of never having another.

With Julie, we knew we'd have one more, so I probably rushed the baby stage a bit. She was our first and I was anxious to see her learn new things and sleep through the night and become more independent.

. When Johnny was born, however, we were pretty sure he was our last. I rocked that little boy and cuddled him nonstop. I would stare at him for hours in the middle of the night, stroking his soft skin and holding his little hands. I cherished my time with my littlest baby.

But he wasn't our last. We were meant to have another...our little Josie...who is definitely our last. Scott is turning 40 in November and I'll be 37 in June, so we decided to make it official. No more babies for us. After the C-section, my tubes were removed.

That wasn't an easy least for me anyway. While Scott was adamant that we couldn't afford or handle any more children. I wasn't so sure we were done. Of course, at times, two kids seemed like more than enough for us. And I was completely content with our little family, but the finality of tube tying was depressing. Maybe it wasn't necessarily because I wanted more kids, but just the reality that this special time in our lives with little kids is nearing an end. It goes by too fast and maybe I want 10 kids so that I can hold onto that a little longer.

I, of course, came to my 36-year-old senses and agreed to have my tubes removed.

Then came Josie.

Beautiful, sweet Josie who scared me to death by staying in the NICU for a week. We brought her home and I couldn't imagine life without her. I loved her so much, just like her brother and sister and I felt completely thankful that she was here.

I can't get enough of my precious little Josie. I snuggle and sing to her, and in the early morning hours, I stare at her, feeling so lucky, but also so completely sad that I can't just freeze time. And then I think about never ever doing this again.

It's all so fleeting...the time with our babies, so, as an older and wiser mom this third time around, I'm cherishing every little moment and not rushing it one bit.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Three months down

This sweet little girl just turned 3 months. She's smiling and rolling over (belly to back) and sucking on her hands and (sort of) interacts with all of us. But, the biggest milestone this month is a Mommy milestone.

I officially breastfed her longer than Julie. Three months might not sound like a long time, but for me it's a big accomplishment. Breastfeeding just doesn't come easily to me. I am just not that great at it. With Julie I stopped right around 10 weeks. I had to go back to work, and I had been supplementing with formula anyway since she always seemed hungry. I just felt like I was forever feeding her and that I wasn't making enough milk. She was my first and I felt terrible that I had to stop, but I did.

With Johnny I was determined to do better. I read books, asked for help from the lactation consultants, and all seemed OK. But he was losing weight. The pediatrician told me to start giving formula. (Pumping  for 30 minutes literally netted me an ounce or two at best.) Once he started drinking from the bottle, he wanted nothing to do with my poor performing breasts. (Scott once joked that my big boobs are just for show. haha.) I kept trying with Johnny because I was so determined to continue, but he drank less and less breast milk and more and more formula. A little before 6 months, he was completely done.

I felt like a failure and I had no idea what I did wrong. It doesn't help that there's so much pressure to breastfeed and as a mom, you feel awful if it doesn't work out. And there's just not that much help---at least not in the little Pennsylvania town where I was living at the time.

Before Josie was born, I decided I was going to try  my best, but I would also give myself a break if it didn't go as planned. When Josie was in the NICU I was almost certain breastfeeding wasn't in our future. I wasn't allowed to see and hold her until 12 hours after she was born. Those are the most critical hours when moms are supposed to bond with their babies and naturally feed them. She and I didn't get that. For the first three days of her life she was fed through a feeding tube. I wasn't even allowed to feed her at all--breast or bottle. On the fourth day they let her drink a bottle of formula. I had not yet pumped enough to make a full bottle. (Once I pumped enough, they began using breast milk.) I was certain that fate had been determined and we would have to start stocking up on formula.

But I met with the most amazing lactation consultant. Once the NICU nurses finally let me try to breastfeed Josie, the lactation consultant stayed with me and tried to help. The first attempt was kind of a bust. Josie latched on for a second, but wouldn't wake up at all no matter how hard we tried. And she was so fragile that I didn't want to upset her. The next time we met was a little better. The consultant encouraged me and talked sweetly to Josie as she pet her head. She positioned her just right and gave me some tips I had never thought about. We met again right before Josie was discharged and it went pretty well---though I was still nervous. (The doctors also wanted Josie to drink three to four bottles a day  for two weeks to make sure she was gaining weight. I admit that I didn't completely follow this advice.)

While we've had some difficult moments and times I almost just wanted to give up---we made it three months. In the grand timeline of life, it's just a speck. But, it's a huge milestone for us. While I once dubbed myself "the world's worst breastfeeder," I feel like I want to help other moms know that they can do it too if they want. And, also, that if it doesn't work out, it's OK. We all love our babies and try to do the best we can.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Play ball. Or not...

It's Game 1 of  Johnny's soccer season.
It's a sunny spring afternoon. Kids are excited. Expectations are high. Adrenaline is rushing.

And there's 5-year-old Johnny. He's skipping (yes literally skipping) on the other side of the field. He's talking to himself and counting something on his fingers. His teammates whiz by. The ball zooms passed Johnny almost touching his feet. Does he kick it? Does he rush over? No. He reaches down to pick up an errant bunch of pine needles that are so interestingly irresistible that he has to stuff them in his pocket.


This should be no surprise. This is the life of sports with the MacKaben kids.
I hoped and prayed that our little darlings would be blessed with their father's athletic abilities. (We will save my sad sports saga for another blog.)

Though I admit Julie really blossomed in basketball this year, there have been quite a few busts when it comes to playing sports. One of my favorites is Julie age 7 running away from the soccer ball screaming and crying (real tears): "Nooooo! I don't want to get a goal!" Or Julie age 5 standing perfectly still during a dance recital. While all the other little dancers flitted around the stage, Julie stood motionless staring at her little ballet slippers.

Another goodie is Johnny age 4 playing basketball and "flying" around the court like Batman-arms stretched out and bumping into players saying "Boom. Pow. Gotcha."  Or in Little League (age 5)--laying sprawled out in the outfield staring at the clouds or the sun or something imaginary. (Who knows.)

Hustle and motivation don't come easily to our kids---at least when it comes to sports. They'll write you a story or make a craft project in a jiffy or invent a new useful product you can't live without, but sports, for some reason, aren't high priority to them.

It wasn't too long ago that this all used to really frustrate Scott and me. Why can't they just try their best out there? Why don't they put in some effort? How can we help them improve?

Then we came to the realization that who the heck cares? We just let it go.
While we want them to be active and healthy and learn to play on a team, does it really matter whether they're scoring goals or picking up dandelions in the outfield? They're great students. They're nice kids. They're imaginative and creative and they enjoy doing lots of things.

Some day they might find their "sport". Or maybe not.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grasping at strings

Anyone who has more than one kid understands that the microscopic lens you focused on your first kid doesn't quite carry over to the second, third, etc. kids. With Julie, I lovingly filled out her baby book---documenting every tiny milestone, illness and funny story. I knew the exact day she smiled, rolled over, crawled, talked and walked and I scoured baby books to make sure she met every milestone on time. At her one-year checkup I remember the doctor asking how many words she spoke. I smiled proudly and said "77 words." Smirking, the doctor responded somewhat amused:"OK....and is she walking yet?"

Welcome to the world of a third child where there's no time to be obsessed, stressed or worried, and mommy instinct tells me everything is going to be OK.

Here's an excerpt from Josie's 2-month checkup:

Nurse: "So, any concerns?"
Me: "Nope."

Nurse: "OK. Let's go over a list of milestones. Can Josie track objects."

Me: Blank stare. (Thinking...Crap! I forgot about that.)  "I really don't know."

Nurse: "Does Josie grasp at a string when held above her head?"

Me: Blank stare. (Thinking...Who the heck holds a string over a baby's head? Did I do that nonsense with Julie?) "Sorry. I have no idea."

Nurse: "Does Josie recognize familiar faces?"

Me: Blank stare.(What the heck kind of question is that?)  "I really don't know. I'm sorry. This is my third. I guess I haven't been paying attention."

Talk about feeling like a slacker mom. It's not that I love my beautiful baby Josie any less than her sister and brother. She's the sweetest baby ever and I love cuddling, snuggling and reading and singing to her.. It's just I don't have that one-on-one focus on her that I did with Julie. Who knows how that might affect how she grows up and develops. But, I think she's absolutely perfect whether she can grasp a string or not.

How could I not be in love with this pretty little girl?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What do you get when you have a tween, a kindergartener and a baby?

It's strange being thrown into babyhood again, while also parenting an (almost) tween. I'm changing diapers and breastfeeding while dealing with the puberty and mood swings. Add in the antics of an active little kindergartener who wants a little more of mommy's attention, and our household has become quite an interesting place.

It wasn't until two years ago or so that I realized that parenting  a baby is nothing compared to parenting a big kid. Yes. You get more sleep and the tantrums are fewer. But, when you're a parent of a grade schooler, you're in the big leagues now. You're worried about so much more than how long they're sleeping and whether they're eating enough. It's real. And everything matters.

Having our baby Josie has made me realize that parenting a baby is not as hard as I believed back in the early days with Julie. When Julie was fussy or cranky or wouldn't sleep or eat, it was a huge insurmountable problem to me. How can I fix this? What am I doing wrong? Should I let her cry? Am I holding her too much? Am I not holding her enough? What if she misses a nap?  I would constantly fret I wasn't getting it right, and I was constantly searching for answers.

With Josie, of course, I'm trying to make sure she's happy and healthy. But, it's completely OK if she has a rough day or if I have a rough day for that matter. She's just a baby trying to figure out the world.

Parenting a 9-year-old however is  much trickier. In our eyes, Julie is still our innocent, naïve little girl--who just recently figured out the meaning of "ass." Up until a few months ago, she truly believed mascots were real. The secret was out when she saw a cheetah mascot remove its furry head during the school fun fair. She's a bit immature for her age, but she's beginning to figure things out, and question things, and understand adult topics. She wonders when she'll have armpit hair, and she writes about kids "dating" in her diary. She wants to be included in our big adult world, but she still wants to stay little. She told me so.

These years are so strange and tough. I know it. I went through it. You're stuck between little kid life and big kid life, and you're  not sure where you fit in. You long to stay in the comfortable world of little kids, but you know too much and you can't go back. And you, admittedly a bit curious about the real adult world.

Having Josie has been such a blessing for Julie. In two months, she has grown up beyond belief, and I think she feels a sense of purpose. And maybe she's ready to move on and grow up.

Meanwhile, I'm here to help her navigate the scary world and answer all her questions and help her figure out who she is. All while rocking her baby sister and playing with her little brother.

It's a crazy life, but it's a good one.

Monday, February 9, 2015

There are more important things than sleep. It's true!

Sleep was the most important thing to me when Julie was a baby. I was obsessed with it. By 2 months old, Julie was on a strict nap schedule and was sleeping 10 hours at night. I don't think she ever missed a nap in the first two years.

This meant a couple things:
1. I was basically housebound for four hours a day while she napped.
2. Naps took priority over everything else.
3. I would get super pissed if someone messed with my baby's schedule.
4. Baby Julie would get super pissed if anyone messed with her schedule.

Never would I think of missing a nap to do something fun. And I cringed when family members or friends wanted to rock her to sleep or hold her during a nap. That messes with sleep!! She needs her sleep!!

Of course parents learn as they go. The first child is an experiment, or so the cliché goes. You adjust your styles and beliefs, and try new things or get rid of ideas that didn't work the first time around.
With Johnny, I was a bit more relaxed. I wasn't so sleep-crazed, and of course he didn't sleep as well. He wanted to be rocked and held and he hated when the lights were out. So, I rocked him with the lights on full-force, as he gazed at the fans and the lights until he fell asleep. It took a good six months before he was sleeping through the night.

And then there's Josie. Our baby. If she so much as whimpers there are four people rushing to her aid. I'm not quite sure "cry it out" will ever happen with our Josie. She loves to be held and there are usually four sets of hands ready and willing to hold her. She doesn't cry too much, and I'm sure that's because there's always someone there to help her.

Recently, however, I've been trying to get her to sleep in her crib a little better for nap time. The other day I swaddled her up tightly, popped a pacifier in her mouth, sung to her and rocked her a bit. She seemed drowsy and ready. And I put her down almost asleep.

A few minutes later she began to whimper, and I thought, I would try and let her fuss a bit to figure it out. But, two little cries later, I heard singing over the monitor.

And there was the best thing in the world. Julie holding and rocking her baby sister and singing "Twinkle Twinkle."

Does that mess with our baby's sleep? Maybe.

But, I wouldn't give up a moment like that for any amount of sleep.

Third time around and it's just all about the love.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weekend Getaway: Chattanooga

One benefit to moving so much is we've really been able to explore different areas of the country. Living in Georgia, there are so many fun and interesting destinations that aren't too far away.

Last weekend we headed to Chattanooga, Tennessee to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. (Read my last blog for more birthday details.)

From our town of Alpharetta, Georgia, Chattanooga is about two hours (a little more with Friday traffic.) Because my dad loves Civil War history, this was the perfect trip for him. It's the spot of one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, and also the downslide of the rebels' fight.

History buffs will love Chattanooga with the battlefields, museums, electronic display of battles and re-enactments on Lookout Mountain in the summer, but there's so much more to the historic city. With a  small town feel, downtown Chattanooga is pretty walkable. And the downtown has plenty to offer---from the Tennessee Aquarium and Children's Museum to the Riverwalk along the Tennessee River. There are a bevvy of great restaurants too. Sugar's Barbecue was pretty awesome with its homemade sauces and grilled okra. Try Milk and Honey for some amazing gelato. And Urban Stack serves up some mean organic burgers. Best turkey burger I've ever eaten. Seriously!

Outdoor enthusiasts will love to hike around Rock City and explore the cave at Ruby Falls--home to the largest underwater waterfall.

Chattanooga is a little southern gem and worth the trip.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Happy 70th Daddy

Birthdays were always a big deal growing up.
My sister and I would start celebrating a week or two before our big day, and then our actual parties were pretty cool. I remember clowns and magicians, a trip to an amusement park, skating parties and swimming. Birthdays were special.

Except for our dad's. He isn't too fond of birthdays because he just hates the thought of getting older. So, we never made a big to-do of Dad's birthdays. Double chocolate cake and some presents and that's it.

Last Friday he turned 70.
You have to make a big deal of 70, right?

Kelly and I wanted to throw him a big party or take him on a special trip. But, this year's completely crazy with her wedding and our little Josie being born. Not to mention that we all live so far away.

So, we didn't make any big birthday plans.

But, mom and dad stayed with us from Christmas until last weekend, so we decided to take him on a little trip to Chattanooga...about 2 hours away from Atlanta.

It wasn't fancy or filled with tons of activities, but it was perfect for us. He loves Civil War history so we explored the Chattanooga battlefields and ate some great burgers and barbeque. There were little bundt cakes and plenty of homemade presents.

We hope we made Dad feel special because he's pretty special to us.

And one of these days we'll go all out for his big day.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mini Mommy

Julie was 3 1/2 when Johnny was born. She was completely in love with her new baby brother. She was also extremely jealous. I'm not even sure she knew it, but she just didn't know how to deal with the new addition to our family. The spring and summer after Johnny was born were pretty miserable for Julie. She seemed sad and angry. Even though she loved holding her baby brother, she was pretty unhappy.
Having Josie as a baby sister has been a completely different experience. In a way, Julie has morphed into a little mommy. She loves rocking and cuddling with Josie and she doesn't mind changing diapers. She is the one who wants to calm Josie when she cries and she gets upset if she can't hold her or carry her.

This is how Julie and Josie spend a most of our weekends.

Not only as Julie been amazing with her baby sister, but she has also become more responsible in other ways. She follows directions, walks the dog and cleans up without being asked, doesn't talk back and hasn't had a single meltdown since her sister came home from the hospital. She's just a happier girl.

She's completely smitten with her new sister and life is good.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bed buddy

I swore I would never do it.
But this is how I spend most of my nights now.

I know the dangers of co-sleeping and I definitely don't want to share our bed with munchkins forever. But I just can't help it with this little girl.

Maybe it's because she spent a week in the NICU and I feel bad for her or maybe it's because she's my last baby. I just don't mind cuddling her all night.

Today she's six weeks old. Some nights she spends in her bassinette but most nights she's in my arms or right by my side. And I secretly love it. I don't mind feeding her in the middle of the night or rocking her to sleep.
She's warm and snuggly. And there's nothing more beautiful than a peacefully sleeping baby.

This is just the thing that I was so against with Julie and Johnny. I never let them sleep in our bed...maybe a few times when they were sick. That's it. I just never wanted to start the habit.

With this one, I know she's our last. Never again will I be able to snuggle my little newborn and comfort them to sleep. No more middle of the night feedings or swaddling or rocking and swaying.

This is it. This is my last shot.
So, I'm going all in.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Family of 5---we're doing it!

Dare I say that life with three kids isn't so hard? (I'm sure this blog will be a jinx.)
I know we're only one month into our new life as a family of five but this three-kid thing isn't as difficult as we thought. And it's not as crazy, hectic or stressful as people warned us about.

Maybe Scott and I are still running on adrenaline or maybe we're just completely smitten with our new baby girl Josie, but seriously this life is do-able and actually enjoyable.
I'm thinking maybe we timed this third kid thing just right. Julie is 9.  Johnny is 5. There's been minimal jealousy or acting out and both older kids are dying to help with the baby. They fetch diapers and pacifiers. They feed bottles and rock her. They sing and read books to their sister. They clamor over being the first to hold her and run to her at her first whine or cry.
Baby Josie has got it made. And, honestly so do we. (For now at least.)

Part of this whole thing is probably the fascination with a new baby--kind of like a new toy or puppy. She's completely adorable and sweet and easy to love. Maybe having three kids will sink in once she's moving around and throwing tantrums, or when the novelty of having a baby sister wanes.

Right now life is pretty sweet. I think I'll just take it all in and enjoy.