Community of grieving sisters

Awhile ago I initiated a Facebook support group for grieving parents who lost babies to SIDS. I did this largely for selfish reasons: I wanted to surround myself with more people who “get it.” But I knew I wasn’t alone in my desire for connection and support. At first the group was a little slow in forming and openning up. People would post and others wouldn’t respond…or days and days would go by without any posts. It felt really vulnerable and scary when I didn’t know if the group was going to be meaningful for anyone. But then it just took off!  It’s been cool to watch these amazing women connect and share their vulnerabilities, anger, pain, frustration, sadness, happiness, confusion, doubt, search for meaning, celebrations, etc. I’ve been shocked at how many women we keep adding to this group as well! The title of the group is Utah SIDS Parents but we have members in different states as well. We’ve become a family in many ways, relying on each other, supporting each other, offering opinions, etc. There are weeks that pass when I forget to check the Facebook group feed and when I get back on, I see I’ve missed tons of posts and responses! The group has taken on a life of its own and is really self-sustaining as a source of support for almost 20 women! (contact me if you have experienced sudden loss of an infant to either SIDS or another cause if you want to be added to this awesome group of women).

Recently, one of the SIDS moms from the support group, and a friend, Heidi Hamilton, initiated a get together in Salt Lake City this weekend. She organized a play date with kids during the day and another group member, Julie Warnke, made reservations for quiet room at a fancy restaurant for just us moms that evening. Two members drove from out of state just to attend this SIDS momma get-together (one from Colorado and one from Idaho)!

I was a little nervous to meet some of these ladies in person. We are so intimate with each other on-line but it’s weird we’ve never seen each other face-t0-face! But my fears were quickly allayed minutes after getting to the splashpad with my girls. We all spent a couple hours at the splashpad and the kids all played while we talked.

IMG_5041 IMG_5040Then we went home to shower and change and five of us SIDS moms met again for dinner at the New Yorker in SLC. We ate a three course meal and talked for four hours.

IMG_5046We cried, we laughed, we shared photos and videos of our babies. We talked, and talked, and talked, about our pain, anger, sadness, confusion, hope, families, and anything else related to our grief experience. Even though I’m two years into the grief journey, this was a very needed and very therapeutic night for me. Close family and friends are vital sources of support in this grief process, especially as they knew and loved Charlie too. But it’s also so wonderful to have this community of grieving sisters and know we journey together!

 

Live courageously and make a difference

That is my six word personal mission statement. It’s not one I often share outloud because it’s well…personal. But it’s true for me. I hold the values of living courageously and making a difference as top in my life. My mission statement pre-Charlie was: Have adventures and make a difference. I still value adventures but I believe living courageously covers adventures and so much more. Since losing Charlie, doing most things in my life require courage (having another baby, faith in God, commuting 2 hours for work, letting Cami sleep on her tummy, sending Hailee to school, etc). Those seem like everyday things, but to someone who has lost, like we have, those things are hard! As I continue to heal, I am also pushing myself to do more and more courageous things outside my comfort zone.  For example, I accepted to give a 45 minutes talk at the end of this month in front of my whole ward (minus the kids in primary and their teachers) on a topic that feels incredibly vulnerable: faith and doubt!

Regarding my desire to make a difference, this has been a personal value that burns within me. While I believe this is a GOOD desire, I feel slightly embarrassed to admit it as perhaps it sounds a bit narcissistic? Narcissistic or not, it’s something I really want to do. Something I want to do on both small and large scales. This desire to make a difference informed my choice to become a psychologist. It’s also part of why I love teaching (in all capacities from the young women at church, to college students at BYU). It’s part of why I have children. The thing that isn’t clear for me in my life yet is quite HOW I want to focus my energies in this arena. I want to make a difference in my children’s lives, in my client’s lives, in my students lives…but I also feel I have some calling. It’s a weird nagging feeling I’ve felt since I was a teenager. And I don’t yet know what that calling is. But I believe as I continue to do courageous things, eventually my calling will make itself known to me?

Sharing these thoughts all feel vulnerable, like writing in my journal. But I am writing this post because an incredible opportunity presented itself to me this week where I was able to feel I achieved BOTH pieces of my mission statement in one evening.

A small preface: It is a goal of mine to become a proficient public speaker. I know most people avoid public speaking wherever possible but I actually really enjoy it. Enjoy it in the way of adrenaline, vulnerability, nausea, and a test of my competency and if I something worthwhile to share. As another aside, I am connected with the Aspiring Mormon Women Community, which is a community of women trying to support, edify, and mentor LDS women, of all ages, pursuing higher education and careers. I am connected 1. because it’s a community I value and want to support as helping women pursue their dreams is a passion of mine and 2. I am good friends with the co-founder. :) As part of my association with this community, I have written a few blog posts for them. Late last year I wrote this blog post where I shared a resolution to “say yes” to any public speaking opportunity sent my way as a means of progressing in my goal of becoming a proficient and influential public speaker.

This last Thursday I had a ticket to the Aspiring Mormon Women Night Out where I was excited to listen to a prolific public speaker and be inspired (as well as pick up public speaking tips). A little after noon the day of the event, my good friend Dianne (the co-founder of AMW) called me in desperation. She told me the keynote speaker cancelled due to illness and they were in dire need of someone to fill her slot. I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the invitation but I accepted to fill in. I then had just over 6 hours to come up with something meaningful to share to approximately 80 women who had paid $20 a ticket to hear someone else!

IMG_5039This felt like the epitome of living courageously. As I spoke to this gathering of women on relinquishing beliefs about how they feel they should be, embracing and loving who they are, and more meaningfully pursuing their values, the audience was very engaged, receptive, and enthusiastic. Despite my lack of ability to really prepare for this event, I felt I delivered a meaningful message that many women later told me they loved and needed to hear. That night I was truly happy, feeling that I “lived courageously and made a difference.”

Our rainbow turns 1!

IMG_4986The irony here is I waited with baited breath for a WHOLE year for Cami to reach this milestone…and here I am finally writing about it three weeks later. Please don’t take my tardiness as indication for lack of enthusiasm. In fact, just the opposite! We are THRILLED Cami has turned 1!!! In some ways this year FLEW by (I can’t believe she is ONE!), and in other ways, it was the longest year of my life praying every day that Cami would live past the SIDS risk. And SHE HAS! At least I think so. I asked my pediatrician if 1 year olds really DON’T die of SIDS and what he told me was, “Statistics were always on your side; even though I know it doesn’t feel like that in your home. But now, where Cami is, statistics are really really one your side. Take the monitor off of her!” So that was pretty reassuring…but not really an answer. I wanted a resounding, “No, babies over 1 do NOT die of SIDS.” But regardless, our anxiety has decreased substantially since Cami has turned one. I feel like I’m finally getting permission to enjoy her! And ENJOY my life! Once a week, we are being brave and leaving Cami with a young baby sitter, who Cami LOVES, so Chad and I can go on long-overdue date nights.

We are also going to be REALLY brave and leave both Cami AND Hailee for 6 days next week while Chad and I go to Banff, Canada to celebrate our 12th anniversary! We are simultaneously nervous and excited. It’s going to be really good for us. And the girls. Baba (my ma-in-law) is coming to take care of them.

In service of this anticipated absence, we are officially, FINALLY fully transitioning Cami to her crib! No more sleeping with us! Last Wednesday night we started letting her cry it out. It hasn’t been easy but I DO think she is transitioning. For four nights now she has slept in her crib until after 6am! And we are sticking to our guns! But in service of total honesty, each night has involved me climbing into the crib with her to snuggle her back to sleep and I “come to” two hours later with aching hips and a kinked neck from accidentally falling asleep with her. My crib excursions are coming to an end SOON as I can’t handle the poor quality sleep I get in that shared 2 feet by 3.5 feet cage! I think ultimately this will be a great transition for everyone. We will ALL start getting better sleep as soon as crying-it-out turns to sleep-all-night-uninterrupted. Sometimes, in Cami’s stubborness to sleep, she falls asleep sitting up!

IMG_4924The little sinker will sleep for a long time in this position! One of the last nights she slept for two hours sitting up! When we go to push her over so she’s lying down, there’s an over 50% chance she’ll wake up and the fight will continue again. Finally, with regard to Cami’s sleep, we aren’t quite brave enough to take the Snuza monitor off yet. We’ll pass that bridge sometime after our anniversary trip and we get used to Cami sleeping all night, in her crib.

Besides transitioning to her crib, Cami has also transitioned 100% to cows milk. I was sad to wean her and actually tried to procrastinate that end, but she lost interest and as a result, my body responded in kind. I am grateful I did get to nurse her the first year of her life! It was an experience I didn’t get to have with Hailee or Charlie. I already really miss that intimacy with her but on another level it’s nice to have full ownership of my body again.

All these transitions feel like Cami is officially leaving “babyhood” and moving onto the “toddler” years. I don’t know how you define that transition so I just go off that little cartoon walking baby figure labeled Toddler on the Yogurt melts bag I feed Cami, haha.

Speaking of food. Cami is still such an eater! Sometimes it seems like her appetite is insatiable and she likes to double fist food!

IMG_4980We feed her whenever she’s hungry but despite her awesome appetite, she is still quite petite, weighing in at 18.41 lbs (11%). She has hit a growth spurt though, growing to 27.95 inches (up to 16% from the 3% last time she was measured). Her head continues on a very steady 51% curve. Because Cami eats so well, we aren’t worried about her size the way we constantly agonized over Hailee’s small size, adding avocado to everything she ate in an effort to help her gain weight and grow. Cami is petite and perfect and developing great!

Cami is super independent and is getting a grasp of when she is doing something naughty, or has something she knows she shouldn’t have, because she will run away from us and swat our arms away in desperate attempts to keep her treasured (most likely choking hazard) objects. She has also learned how to open cupboards and more than once has walked around gleefully brandishing bottles of dish soap or floor cleaner (poison alert!). Grateful for child-safety lock lids but am definitely going to buy cupboard locks ASAP.

She continues to be a very happy baby who loves snuggling and dancing (shaking her head from side to side with some cute, uncoordinated body jerks). She is Hailee-re-incarnate and tries to climb up on, and stand on anything she possibly can. She smiles so big when she accomplishes these death-defying feats and throws big fits whenever we grab her off those conquered mountains. Hailee continues to be her best friend and Cami follows her everywhere. I absolutely love watching their sister love and the way Hailee can make Cami giggle like no one else. Cami is also the best little greeter when we get home from work. She’s just as happy and enthusiastic to see us as any puppy would be. She immediately waddles over for a hug with a huge grin on her face. Selfishly, her unconditional love and positive regard is super therapeutic!

For Cami’s birthday party, we had a small BBQ get together. The only thing I really anticipated and planned for this party, was her birthday cake; which I knew was going to be rainbow  themed:

IMG_4891And besides how pretty this cake was, it tasted delicious too! IMG_4962 IMG_4963 IMG_4949It was perfect to have family and a couple close friends here for the celebration. I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to be able to celebrate another child’s birthday and watch them grow to meet an important milestone! We are grateful every day for our rainbow and the love she brings into our home! Wow, what a year! Here’s hoping to many more years to come with our girls!

 

 

 

 

 

Good

capitola27Last month we took our first real vacation with Cami. We went to Capitola, California where my in-laws own a wonderful beach house.

IMG_4703Capitola has always been a part of our relationship and over the decade+ of our marriage, we have made many many memories there. Memories that even include our little Mister Mister as I brought him here when he was just a couple months old! Traveling, as you know, has been so scary for us since having Cami. But after our first successful trip to AZ during Easter, we felt brave enough to conquer a longer, more legitimate vacation!

Anxiety was our companion the first couple days of the trip, but as we settled in and began to enjoy time together as a family, the anxiety dissipated (not completely but mostly) and we were both able to have a really amazing time with our little girls!

IMG_4765This trip was perfect in so many ways. It was beautiful, sunny, and warm. It was the perfect kid vacation where Hailee had all the sun, sand, water, and cousin time she could ask for. Hailee and Cami’s delight at everything during this vacation was very infectious!

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IMG_4686We were also surrounded by family and friends, but also got the perfect amount of “us” time. And perhaps most important, because Capitola is so familiar, it was comfortable and relaxing.

IMG_4747I felt happy on this trip. I had great conversations with Chad, my family, and my good friend Robin. We played hard but also took it easy. We ran almost every day along the ocean walk and ate good food. We took naps. We read books. I chased endless waves with Hailee. And we had each other.

It was during this vacation that I experienced a very important revelation for my life. One evening at the beach, the sun was going down and Hailee was screaming chasing the waves, and Cami was waddling across the sand picking up objects with intense curiosity and joy, and our bellies were full of ice-cream, and I felt the familiar sea breeze in my hair and the sun on my face and, together, Chad and I were watching our little girls play when it HIT me: MY LIFE IS GOOD.

Yes, the revelation was that simple, but it felt very profound to me!

I don’t expect I will ever feel my life is right, since something so important is missing from it: my son. BUT, the life I have now is GOOD. It is NOT easy. I still grieve Charlie and worry every day I’ll lose one of my girls. But I find JOY in my life. I can feel genuine, authentic, happiness! I feel blessed!

It was a Kodak family moment, if ever there was one. My heart felt so happy, light, and content. I hope I can remember this revelation through the mundane and tough times as they are sure to come.

MY LIFE IS GOOD! And I am grateful for it!

IMG_4761A special Thanks for my SIL Elizabeth for taking some amazing beach photos of us! I treasure these family photos! She truly captured some Kodak moments!

Running

Awhile ago I mentioned my New Year’s resolution was to have a year of Wellness. I am struggling with this goal in some ways and progressing toward this goal in other ways. One way that has been pretty consistent for me is running. Historically I hate running. Like really hate running. I didn’t run, like at all, until about four years ago. And even then, thirty minutes of running was about my limit. However, after losing Charlie and running the 10k for Grief a couple months later, I knew I wanted to run it again this year. It seemed like a good goal, especially after a year of hardly working out, growing a baby in my belly. So I got new running shoes and started running in March. It was painful at first and I am grateful for empowering music to inspire my feet to move. To further inspire me through the boring, painful monotony I consider running to be, I started signing up for races. Starting in March I’ve run a lot of 5ks this season because I find the energy of races to be intoxicating and fun!

IMG_4263 IMG_4290 IMG_4441 IMG_4510 IMG_4373As a result of all the running I’ve been doing, I have gotten to a place where I can run farther and faster than I ever have! And it feels really good! 5ks used to be so difficult for me! Now they are pretty easy. In fact, when I go running by myself I run a minimum of four miles, and if I have time, I try to push for more. I can even say I have begun to find running intrinsically enjoyable!

My goal for running this year was the 10k for Charlie.

IMG_4579 IMG_4577 IMG_4572Memorial Day, with dear loved ones, I accomplished this goal! This was a very special climax to my running endeavors.

But after finishing the race for Charlie, I had the thought…now what?

And then an opportunity arose to join a team from my work (called the Pink Freud-hehe) to run the Ragnar Wasatch Back race. Chad has run this race multiple times and always talked about how much fun it is. I decided this year I would run it!

IMG_4787So this last weekend I hopped in a van with a couple of my colleagues and their friends and together we spent the next 35 hours leap frogging across 200 miles from Ogden to Park City. I have never run so much, or so far in my life! And on so little sleep! I ran 14 miles over the course of 24 hours!

My first leg was easy: 2.6 miles with few hills. I ran that leg at an 8:40 pace and felt pretty proud of that. My next leg was 6 miles and I got to run it in the middle of the night! I literally picked up the baton (snap bracelet) from my teammate at about midnight and loped off into the darkness.

I’ve never run in the middle of the night. AND IT WAS AWESOME! It was pretty cold and I could see my breath as I ran. I could also see SOO many stars!!! Being that far away from any major city, the sky was just littered with stars! I had to resist the urge to stop and just stare up at them. Beyond the headlights on passing Ragnar vans and the bouncing headlamps from fellow runners, it was just me and nature. I felt so empowered that leg of the race. I felt so grateful for my body and for that moment to be with the stars, the cold air, the mountains, and my pumping heart. As I was running, I also felt this very subtle but perceptible change around me; where I suddenly didn’t feel alone. My mind lept to “Charlie!” and I actually looked around to see if I could see him. The feeling was so subtle I can convince myself I made it up…but I still felt it and I’d like to believe for part of my midnight jaunt, my baby boy was with me.

I ran those six miles faster than any 10k or even 5k I’ve ever run. I ran it at a 8:14 pace, finishing in under 50 minutes. I felt amazing and on such a high when I passed off the slap bracelet!

IMG_4794My high simmered down quite a bit as the night wore on. Sleep wasn’t an option until 7:30 am where I collapsed on the field of a middle school for a two-hour snooze.

IMG_4796My final leg of the relay was a 5.5 mile jaunt. I broke my two-year-no-caffiene streak and had a coke before my run. I figured there was no way I could run after already running 9 miles and surviving on two hours of sleep! As I ran, my energy felt fine and I had the goal of running at a 9:30 pace…but without my consent, my body started rebelling against me. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t run any faster than a light jog as both my IT bands flared on me and when I pushed myself my legs threatened to buckle underneath me. But I finished my legs and we finished the race!

IMG_4799I realized Ragnar pushed my body to its limits and it was an empowering experience! However, I was a bit disappointed at my body’s refusal to obey my commands that last leg of the race. So I feel motivated to train even more. But now what do I do?

Maybe a half marathon in September? We’ll see. I want to spend more time this summer hiking than pounding pavement. And it’s also always been a bucket-list item to do a triatholon…Oh decisions, decisions!

Right now in my life, I feel a lot of gratitude for my body and where it is taking me this year! It is so rewarding to push myself and see progress. It has not only been rewarding, but also so helpful as I’ve navigated painful emotions of anxiety, depression, and grief. I am a believer in exercise and respecting my body! And I am grateful for the awesome memories I’ve been able to create so far as a result of this endevour! I am glad I chose Wellness as a goal to progress toward this year.

 

Hailee turns 5!

Spoiler alert: I acknowledge that this post is likely only going to be interesting to me and close family as it will contain excessive detail and shameless bragging about Hailee! There are monthly updates on Cami and Hailee gets little airtime by comparison. As a consequence, this is a long post!

capitola20My firstborn is 5! Am I old enough to have a 5 year old?! Crazy! Hailee is so excited to be 5. On the day of her birthday party she walked into our bedroom very early and said, “Dad, I feel  five! I am taller! I feel as tall as Bergen!”

At five, Hailee knows how to ingratiate herself to others. For example, she will say at least once a day, if not more, “Mom, you’re the best mom I have.” Or “Mom, you’re the best mom I know.” She frequently tells people who much she loves them and calls them her favorite-this, or favorite-that and has gotten good at thanking people. “Mom, thank you for making me healthy food.” “Dad thank you for snuggling me.” etc. Or with her birthday presents; whatever it is she pulls out of the package she exclaims, “I always wanted this!Thank you!” It’s very sweet and funny.

IMG_4826Hailee also knows how to manipulate. If I discipline her she cries and says, “You are going to give me away and I’ll never see you again!” Of course, I then have to reassure her that no matter how upset I am at something she does, I will never give her away. Chad has found a clever way to effectively combat this manipulative trend. He will respond to Hailee’s statement above by saying, “You want me to give you away?” Immediately Hailee will recant and say, “No!” If she says, “You don’t want me to be your kid anymore!” Chad will say, “You don’t want to be our kid anymore?” This takes all the energy out of her tantrum really quickly and suddenly she’s the one reassuring us she wants to stay with us, opposed to us reassuring her.

Hailee is really a good girl. She is super loving and social and busy. She is good at making friends wherever she goes. I would definitely describe her as an extrovert.

Hailee has begun to grasp humor and her favorite jokes are “knock knock” jokes. The best part about these jokes is that they don’t make any sense! For example, she’ll say, “Knock knock.” Me,”Who’s there.” Hailee,”Shoe” Me,”Shoe who?” Hailee, “Shoe head!” and then she will uproariously giggle at her own cleverness. I can’t help but giggle with her. Each knock knock joke is a rendition of two objects combined like Shoe head, car nose, flower face etc.

capitola31At this point in her life Hailee is into building couch-cushion-forts (daily-sigh), coloring cards and writing notes for us to find under our pillows, reading books, dancing, snuggling, swimming (always swimming), gymnastics, building towers out of magnetic blocks, and anything active. When she isn’t moving, she asks to “watch a little kid movie” and her favorites include episodes of Paw Patrol, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Peg + Cat. For reasons I don’t fully understand, she also loves when Chad puts on 20-year-old episodes of the Magic Schoolbus (Thanks to streaming Netflix). Hailee’s favorite colors are still pink and purple. Her favorite place to eat is Noodles and Co. where she devours their buttered noodles and a “rice Christmas” (rice krispy) treat.

Hailee’s drawings have progressed from bubble-headed stick figures to other characters and objects; unicorns and rainbows making frequent appearances. She writes her name perfectly and can write anything we tell her if we spell it out for her. She is excited to learn to read and is beginning to sound out words. She is also thrilled with her new whistling skill and is excited to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike this year.

IMG_4654At five years old Hailee, as her doctor described, is “definitely not the biggest kid on the bus.” She continues to be small but is growing steadily along her own growth chart. She weighs 33.5 pounds and is almost 40 inches tall (39.8). I keep thinking she’ll have a growth spurt like her friends, especially since Hailee has become such a good eater in the last few months…but no growth spurt yet.

I was grateful that after Hailee’s two best friends both had Frozen birthday parties, with appearances by both Princess Elsa and Princess Anna, Hailee got over her Frozen obsession and agreed to do a different kind of party. Because Hailee’s favorite thing to do is swim, we decided to have a swimming party! I immediately built up enthusiasm around this idea. After having a party at our house last year that required some last minute mental/emotional/physical gymnastics because her waterslide party got rained out, I wanted a “destination” birthday that required less planning and less clean up! We rented the party room at our local rec center pool, invited some friends and cousins, and that was that! The perfect party!

IMG_4721 IMG_4800 IMG_4591Hailee’s friends came and swam to their hearts’ content and then we had pizza, salad, fruit, lemonade, and cake! Hailee was very happy!

I am loving this age for Hailee! She is loving, fun, independent, a little sassy and feisty at times, but a good minder and listener, and so enthusiastic for life! She loves learning and new adventures. The light continues to sparkle from her eyes! I’m so grateful to be Hailee’s mom and have the privilege of raising her these last five years!

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Clap Clap! 11 Months!

capitola17Our wobbly walker has quickly become a confident strider! She is even attempting to run…especially when she wants to go somewhere she knows we don’t want her to go! Running quickly results in tumbling down but I am confident that soon this little girl is going to be running circles around us! Literally.

Other talents include clapping! And waving. And her favorite is picking things up and showing them off to us, in a “Ta Da! Look what I have!” fashion.

capitola21Cami has also decided she doesn’t like her baby food anymore and nearly always insists on human food. This makes feeding her more tricky but luckily this girl is anything but picky! I have only found one food she doesn’t love, and when I say “doesn’t love” I mean, she’ll still eat it…just not really enjoy it the way she wolfes down everything else. Sadly the food she doesn’t love is avocados…but we’ll see if I can convince her otherwise!

Cami is almost completely weaned. I feed her now twice a day (sometimes three) and even then, those feedings are short. It makes me really sad to stop nursing her. But she’s ready. She is so wiggly and my milk just can’t keep up with her anymore. So instead of fighting it, I am letting “nature take its course” and allow my baby to grow up. :(

This month we braved another trip together as a family. This time to California where we stayed at the Packard beach house in Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. Cami was happy all week long! She loved the sand! She loved the wind and sun. She loved the feel of ocean waves crashing over her feet. She loved all the ice-cream her Dadda fed her. She loved having her family around her 24/7. She especially loved sleeping with her parents (who due to trauma reminders, refused to have her sleep in a pack-and-play).

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capitola6Now at home, each night we say we are going to let Cami cry it out and not bring her into bed with us…but each night we fail. I swear tonight’s the night though!

Life with our 11 month old rainbow is good. Each day we get closer to 12 months and past the SIDS risk! I am looking forward to a full night’s sleep one day, hopefully not too-distant future. In the meantime I sure love all the snuggles I get each day and night!

Double digits!

IMG_4484Again, a belated update but as I’ve explained in my posts, I’ve been in the parenting trenches! Right now Cami is actually asleep in her crib…alone…and has been asleep for almost two hours! That is a serious occasion! First nap of that length on her own…ever! So I’m taking advantage of the downtime. After sorting and folding laundry as well as putting away clothes she has outgrown, I realized I have a FREE MOMENT! Why not blog? :)

Cami at 10 months is so much fun and also a handful. For some reason, I find the fact that she has entered the double digits to be very reassuring and I am allowing myself to start day dreaming about celebrating her first birthday and beyond!

She is growing and developing like crazy! This weekend she took her first steps! It’s only a few days away before she will be walking all over the place!

IMG_4625And this little spit fire is trouble! Talk about scanning the room for choking hazards and picking my battles about what she sticks in her mouth versus what I take away.

IMG_4623 IMG_4688She has also learned to navigate the stairs (gasp!) so one of my agenda items today is to get safety gates!

IMG_4509Besides being everywhere and into everything, this little one is feisty and very needy for her Momma. She is usually fine unless she sees me and then it’s Momma or Bust. We believe the culprit are the sharp new top teeth breaking through her tender gums. Poor thing. Sometimes her neediness overwhelms me and other times I love cuddling her and knowing I can calm her down.

When she is not needy for me, she loves following her sister everywhere. Just this morning they played for an hour in Hailee’s home-made fort. Hailee can make Cami smile and giggle like no one else!

Cami has expanded her culinary tastes and prefers what is on our plates to her baby food. She has got the pincher grasp down so anything those two fingers can grab, they will! She really enjoys eating and it’s fun to give her new foods.

Other skills include the new ability to wave! Also I swear she is saying “Momma.” It sounds like, “MMMMomma.” But she says it when she wants me and I really try to reinforce her for it by immediately responding! Even if it’s 1am.

Speaking of ungodly hours…I am seeing many of those these days. Cami was the one who decided she was done with her bouncer and just shortly after turning 10 months she outright refused to sleep in it anymore.

So into the crib she went where she luxuriates in stretching and sleeping on her tummy! Gah! My personal work has been to be OK with that. After a few nights of trying to roll her onto her back to Cami’s adamant protests, I realized this is a battle I need to concede. You’d think with that concession, Cami would peacefully return to sleeping through the night. Oh NO. Cami is very convinced she wants to take up residence snuggled between Chad and I. This results in many nights feeling like we have a newborn.

Because Cami sleeps in our bedroom, we aren’t good at letting her “cry it out” as she will stand there and scream at us as if saying, “I can see you! You aren’t fooling me! I know you can hear me!” And then her cries turn to desperation and sadness and inside I feel my heart break for her so I go to comfort her.

Comforting her involves crawling into her crib to snuggle her back to sleep. About 63% of the time I accidentally fall asleep with her and wake up kinked and sore about an hour later. At that time I very carefully crawl out of her crib and hold my breath, praying she’ll stay asleep. 95% of the time, within 5 minutes (just enough time to enter a light doze with the promise of deeper sleep) Cami wakes up, immediately realizes I’m gone and the crying resumes.

If I’m too tired, I concede the war and bring her into bed with me. Now I know what you are thinking. TRUST ME, I think it each time I allow her into bed with me. Co-sleeping is the most dangerous way for babies to sleep and results in the most sleep-related infant deaths. But simultaneously I’m SO tired and I know if I just let her win, we will both be asleep within a few minutes!

However, because I’m crazy anxious, if Cami ends up in our bed (which is most nights) I don’t sleep well. I cradle her in my arms just so in a way that it is impossible for her to roll over without waking me up. This works quite well except that a couple hours later my arm is killing me. At which point I will move her to a spot between Chad and I and try to move the pillows and blankets as far away from her as possible. I will then also position myself just so where my arm is touching her torso so that if she rolls, I will wake up. This system works but results in my own serious sleep deprivation=emotional bordering on dysfunctional Anna.

And this system isn’t foolproof. With how sleep deprived I am, there are nights I have jolted awake or Chad has waken me and we’ve noticed that Cami’s face has been almost face down either in my pillow or on our soft pillow top bed.

So we really need to bite the bullet and be more consistent about her sleep training! I need to not interpret her cries as believing she feels rejected and allow her to figure out how to self-sooth and sleep alone! In her crib! All night! I also need to be OK with my own feelings of missing her on the nights she sleeps alone in her crib.

Maybe writing this and publishing this will hold me more accountable to these goals and starting tonight we’ll keep her in her crib! And maybe her nap this morning is indicative of her own ability and readiness for this transition as well!

Cami’s babyness is quickly melting away and while I’m excited for her to turn 1, for obvious reasons, I have really loved all the baby phases we have passed so far!

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The graduate

When did my baby girl turn into a full-blown-kid? All her babyness is completely gone, replaced by skinny, strong limbs and sassy attitude.

IMG_4521This year Hailee has grown in so many ways! Her learning, comprehension, retention, and application of new concepts has taken off! I love that she still says “lasterday” instead of “yesterday” because this is one of the last grammatically incorrect things she says, and when she loses this word it’ll feel like the baby-to-kid transition is complete.

Ever have a moment in parenthood when you think to yourself, “That kid’s parent really needs to make a tough decision” and then you realize, “Crap! I’M THAT PARENT!” That has been our experience in deciding whether or not to send Hailee to Kindergarten next year.

Hailee has a summer birthday and was the youngest and smallest in her preschool class. While the academic-achievement gap shrinks with age, right now there seems to be a big difference between kids who turned five last fall and Hailee, who turns five next month. For a lot of the year Hailee struggled to learn her letters, sounds, and numbers. I was really worried she was behind academically. I started renting Leap Frog movies from the library and enrolled Hailee in an after-school reading class. This seemed to really help and Hailee is now academically at a point I feel she will probably be fine in kindergarten.

But then, instead of could she do kindergarten, we wrestled with should we put her in kindergarten? I, myself, was held back before starting kindergarten. They said I couldn’t sit still and wasn’t emotionally ready (whatever!). I wasn’t even young for my grade, as my birthday is in February. So going through elementary school I was over a year older than many of my classmates. And you know what? That was great! I attribute being held back to my academic confidence. As a consequence I always excelled in school and had great confidence in my abilities. I also had confidence in making friends and beating all those boys on the soccer field! I ended up skipping a grade when I was 11 as I was getting bored in school and I remember the transition was decently smooth. Anyway, given my own experience, I am not hesitant to hold Hailee back. I honestly don’t see many negatives with doing so.

Hailee’s academic confidence is extremely important to us. We want her to love school and learning. My fear is if we put her in kindergarten before she is ready, she will feel insecure and begin to dislike school. However, in a parent-teacher conference, Hailee’s preschool teacher reassured us that Hailee is “definitely” ready for Kindergarten.

So because she is “definitely” ready for kindergarten and has mastered all the pre-k skills they “require,” we are inclined to go ahead and enroll her next year. Hailee is so excited about this, especially as she will be with her two best friends: Grace and Bergen. These three have been inseparable since before they could speak words. And while I know they probably won’t be besties their whole lives, I imagine they will be close for many years to come and I want Hailee to keep making memories with them.

IMG_4603But then I think about Hailee’s sister and wanting them to share some school memories as well. As it stands, they won’t be in middle school or high school together because they are four years apart. But if we held Hailee back then they’d overlap in high school for a year. There is something valuable about that too, I believe. (Sigh, remember when our kids were exactly two and a half years apart, just like we planned? and it was perfect and we wouldn’t be making this decision? Ah, well, it is what it is).

Agh, making decisions as a parent is HARD!!!  Up until now parenting has required helping Hailee to develop physically, emotionally and socially. Parenting has involved lots of hugs, creating happy memories, instilling good values, and shooting for at least one serving of vegetables a day! Now I feel like we are making decisions that will affect the rest of her life!

To keep myself from freaking out, I am trying to put this in perspective. It’s JUST kindergarten. We’ll give kindergarten a shot and if Hailee struggles, we’ll re-evaluate at the end of the school year. Ah, ok, emotional crisis averted.

And it’s so great to see Hailee’s confidence as she has passed the first big academic milestone of her life: preschool graduation!

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The trenches of parenthood

IMG_4449I feel like my car is a metaphor for my life. I’m not referring to the make or model of my car, but rather what you see when you (attempt to) sit in the passenger seat. I won’t take a photo because that’s embarrassing, but just imagine the car strewn with empty snack bags, baby food pouches, preschool drawings, notices of events, mail I haven’t bothered to sort through yet, overdue library books and dvds, McDonalds happy meal toys, a melted red crayon right on the driver side chair, crumbs stuck in every crevice, lose change, three or four (mostly) pairs of Hailee’s shoes, re-usable grocery bags, sticky baby toys and binky’s to throw at a fussy Cami, a window covered in Olaf stickers from the movie Frozen, and the list goes on.

This metaphor also explains why I’ve neglected this blog lately. I am barely surviving each day. I don’t feel like I get ANY time to just sit and breathe, let alone open my computer to type and reflect.

I’d simply say LIFE is what is going on. It’s not good or bad, or actually, maybe it’s a bit of both. It’s full of stress and tears as well as happy and let-me-grab-my-camera moments. If I had to choose one word to describe life right now though, it is HARD.

It’s hard being a parent of young kids! I feel like I’m just getting to really experience life with multiple kids. Our time with Charlie felt like a teaser, a taste of parenthood with more than one child. And of course reflecting on those four months I see every moment through romanticized, rose-colored glasses. Now that Cami has lived over twice Charlie’s life span, we seem to be getting more experience with the work multiple children require.

No one really prepares you for the depth of energy, patience, resiliency, emotional reserves, sacrifice, and moment-t0-moment navigation that parenthood requires! It’s not just a Hallmark card wellspring of joy or the calm, serene, cute moments the Cheerio commercials depict. Or the sweet moment I caught on camera of Hailee and Cami looking through a book together, posted at the top of this entry. Right now I am typing on my bed while Cami is standing in her crib screaming at me to come get her. She has just thrown her binky five feet away and I know the cries are only going to escalate. Sigh…

Ok back. I won’t even talk about in this entry how all the horrible sleep  habits we created in Cami are now biting us in the butt. Sigh…she’s crying again.

The stress is compounded with Chad’s work schedule where he has been traveling every week since I can’t even remember when. I have also added a day of work to my schedule, now working two full days at BYU. This has been great for me emotionally but also adds stress trying to prioritize and navigate the other days of the week.

Our days are full of preschool, gymnastics, swim lessons, unsuccessful naps for Cami, teething, cooking, squeezing in 20 minutes to exercise, later bedtimes as Hailee protests “The sun is still up! It’s not night yet!” grocery shopping, playdates, evening walks, emptying the dishwasher, bathtime, library trips, folding laundry, watering tomato plants, snuggle time, fort building, sleep overs in my bed when Chad is out of town, etc.

IMG_4477These are the days where I feel out of breath but I know I will one day reflect and wish desperately for another day just like the ones I’m living now. Knowing this helps me when the exhaustion sets in and snuggle a fussy Cami back to sleep…again.

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