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, na├»ve 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?