After spending much of August huddled around the air conditioning vents, we got a little relief this weekend. Low 80's and breezy. It was amazing. We spent a few hours at our favorite park. We couldn't waste the weather, since it could easily be back in the hundreds next week.
Emma spent most of her park time on top of the climbing rock. Sometimes big sisters need a little solitude.
Ethan is clutching his chest because he has just failed at keeping up with Esther...
...who never stopped running the entire time we were there.
Elijah stayed in the shade.
But he found something to keep himself occupied, too!
Can you believe he is 5 months old already!
So thankful for sunshine and cool breezes.
Well, I got through it again, even though I didn't think it was possible. The hardest day of the year for me as a mother is the day before the first day of school. I spend the day double checking school supplies, packing bags, planning lunches, kicking myself for forgetting to buy water or juice boxes of any kind, admiring my children's faces, marveling at how big they're getting, and grabbing them for a hug every time they walk past me. And crying. There is always crying.
But by the time the big day actually arrives, there is so much hustle and bustle, I don't have time to tear up. We got dressed, checked bags again, made lunches, ate breakfast, made lunches, and were out on the lawn for pictures before 7:30. We grabbed last year's picture for the annual frame-within-a-frame shot.
This part always takes a while, because my kids are chronic weird-face-makers whenever they look into camera lens. For example:
I have half a mind to hang this one on his wall all year. It cracks me up. I'll send these to Walgreens and have them printed and hanging in their rooms when they get home from school today.
Of course, the little guys had to get into the picture-taking too.
Oh my gosh. Ethan's face! I'm going to look at this all day long to cheer me up.
We packed up and drove the half mile to school, or at least we tried to. We only got half way there, because every other parent wanted to walk in with every other kid, so we parked at the end of the street and hoofed it the rest of the way, loaded down with six bags of supplies. By the time we got to the front steps, they were saying things like, I'm so tired! and Why does school have to be so hard?! I'm sure the 80% humidity didn't help! But everything got better once we made it to Ethan's class. He has the same beloved teacher that Emma had for first grade, so it was a happy reunion. I can't wait to catch up with her.
He found a seat next to some friends from last year.
(See the bag that Emma is holding in the background above? That's one of the tote bags I made for their teachers. I'm going to put up a tutorial for ya later this week!)
Finally we made our way to Emma's class. I'd never met her teacher before, but I knew that many of Emma's friends from previous years were going to be in her class. Turns out, her teacher is darling. And she seemed to be really excited to meet the kids and the parents. I made sure to give Emma a big sloppy kiss while her friends were watching, and I told her please don't cry, but if you get too scared or sad without me, just call and I'll come pick you up.
She said, "I don't think that will be necessary." Hmph.
So, with seven hours of waiting ahead of us, Esther and I are trying not to look at the clock too much. We are cleaning, working on projects, and watching videos, but really we are just counting down the minutes until carpool time.
And in case you're feeling sentimental, too:First Day of School 2012
Did your kids go back to school yet? I think we're pretty late this year compared to everyone else. If you took first day pics, link them to the comments! I'd love to see them!
Be sure to check back in later this week for the back-to-school tote tutorial!
It occured to me, as I've been working on projects and pictures for the "boys room" that I've never really taken the time to describe how our life has changed, now that baby Eli, our littlest boy, is a part of our family. Why is that? Well, it has taken me some time to wrap my mind around all that has happened since this little guy was born.
A Trying Pregnancy
Let's back up a bit, even before that happy day in April. I have always had difficult pregnancies, and this was no exception. In fact, this was the most trying, painful pregnancy of all. One reason was, that when you factor in the miscarriage from last summer, by the time April came around, I had been pregnant for a solid year--and I still didn't have a baby to show for it. What I did have was an exhausted body, an weary spirit, and the feeling like it was never going to end. I talked about what God showed me about my pride through that hardship in this post.
At 30 weeks I started having false labor pains. These weren't the gradual, tingly practice contractions, but the full on cramping of early labor. This went on for more than six weeks. When I was 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I went into labor. I was so happy! We headed up to the hospital, eager to meet our little troublemaker, only to be told that I wasn't in labor at all. It's one thing to go in for a false alarm with your first baby, but this was my fourth time! I was humiliated and so disappointed. I begged them to keep me there and wait it out, but since we were still one day earlier than full term (37 weeks), I had to go home. I think we were home for two hours before I stopped sobbing. Again, it seemed the Lord had a lesson about pride for me to learn. I wish I could just learn it already!
Two days after the false alarm, I finally went into working labor. I was embarrassed to even call my doctor again so soon, for fear of being wrong again. But it was the real thing! We got settled in, had the epidural, and took a nap. I could go on and on about our decision to use medication during birth. And if you ever want me to explain the whole story, I'd be happy to. But the short end of it is, I've done natural childbirth. It was beautiful and empowering, and I'm over it. Once that sweet sweet anesthesia was running through my body, I was pain free for the first time in an entire year.
Elijah's actual birth went smoothly and he was a beautiful 8lbs 4oz. It wasn't until we were up in our room that things started getting tricky.
All night long I struggled to get Eli to nurse. The nurses came in during the night and asked how it was going. I told them that I was concerned that he hadn't nursed yet, and they assured me that the first 24 hours are tiring for babies, and many just don't try to eat until after that. Ok.
But after 24 hours, I was still struggling. They had me hand expressing, pumping, and eventually bottle feeding formula, and I was having a hard time getting anything down him at all. They had me write down how much I was feeding him. I couldn't measure in ounces or even milliliters. I was counting drops. As in, 1am: 10 drops, 3am: 5 drops... Once I got him to take 5 mL, and I felt like I'd scaled a mountain! I knew that something wasn't right, but they kept telling me that he'd get the hang of it.
At the same time, Eli's jaundice level started to climb. By the time we should have been able to leave, his levels were still rising. We had to stay another night. It seemed weird to me that no one was concerned that he had not figured out how to suck. He couldn't nurse at all, and it took 20-30 minutes to feed him 5 mL through a bottle. He was moving his mouth and making swallowing sounds, but every time I held up the bottle to check how much he'd gotten, the liquid was almost at the same level as before.
I Can't Do This
Finally, on the fourth day of our stay, I got him to drink about 10 mL, only to have him spit it all up immediately. I was beside myself. It was time to make the nurses understand that something was wrong. I felt like I was starving my baby, and no one was helping me. On the verge of hysteria, I called in the nurse and begged her to hear me. My newborn was 3 days old and hadn't eaten yet! They called someone up from NICU, and she went to work figuring out what was going on. Within minutes, she assessed that he was holding his tongue way back in his mouth, so a bottle was the only way to go until he corrected that. Also, he was having a hard time supporting his chin enough to swallow. She held one finger gently under his chin for support, lifted the bottle to his lips, and he drank 30 mL of formula within 60 seconds. I could not believe it. I looked into her eyes, with tears running down my face and thanked her. I'd been so close to panic.
She said, "I don't blame you for being upset. You feel like this should be easy, since you've done it 3 times before. Everything should have gone smoothly." Her words were a bandage to my heart. And as I type this I wonder, was this another step in my lesson about pride? All it took was to ask for help. Why did it take me 3 days to do it?
With my new chin-supporting maneuver, I was able to feed Elijah steadily for the rest of the day. I couldn't nurse him, but who cares! He wasn't starving anymore! We still had to stay one more day to monitor his jaundice and put him on light therapy, so they wheeled in the big-mama Medela pump so I could stop giving him so much formula.
That thing was amazing! I pumped through the night, throughout the day, between meals, and even once while I had company! Soon he was completely off of formula, his light therapy was complete, and we were on our way home.
Since I'd left the big pump behind at the hospital, I had to figure out how to feed Eli from this moment forward. I had some formula, but since I was producing plenty of milk, I thought it would be better to pump. Donnie got on Craig's List that very day and found a fancy Medela portable in perfect condition for only $40. We packed up the whole family and went to get it.
For the next six weeks, Elijah thrived on milk that I pumped for him, plus an occasional supplemented bottle of formula. If you have ever had to pump for any length of time, you know that it is a labor of love. It is the worst of both worlds--none of the bonding of nursing, with none of the convenience of formula. Each feeding takes at least twice as long. Feed the baby, get him happy, then hook up to the pump. Then store the milk, wash the old bottle, wash the pump parts. It seemed all I was doing was pumping or bottling. At first, at the advice of the lactation consultant, I tried to nurse him before each feeding. That was a nightmare. He wasn't the least bit interested, and it was upsetting to both of us. After that, I only tried to get him to nurse if his hunger got ahead of my pumping schedule. But all that did was make him hungrier...and angrier! I had all but stopped trying, when I got the idea to pull the bottle out of his mouth mid-feeding, and try to get him to latch on to me after he'd gotten good suction on the bottle. It worked. He latched for the first time in his life at 7 weeks old.
For the next few days I nursed him a little more and a little more. I thought we were through it, but all of a sudden he quit again. Suddenly, he refused to nurse, and to add insult to failure, my milk supply had dwindled to almost nothing during his three days of inefficient suckling. I took one day to grieve. I let all of my anger, hurt, and bitterness spill out. Why did this have to be so hard? After a day of sobbing, sulking, and feeling like a failure, I knew I had a decision to make. I could go back to pumping or I could switch to formula for good. Nursing would probably never happen for us, and it was time to face that fact.
God Speaks through Pinterest
Somehow that night, I ended up on pinterest. I mean, as long as you're having a crappy day, you might as well find a way to suck up some of the time, right? My sister had just pinned a newly-written article by a woman who pumped exclusively for 14 months. It was full of tips and tricks, encouragement, and humor. It was what I needed to lift myself off the floor and carry on. I decided that night that if I could get my milk supply back up, I would pump for my baby through his entire first year, even if he never tried to nurse again.
I want to pause here and say that I do not think that God was telling me to pump by leading me to this article. I don't think that formula is wrong, or that pumping is the "right thing to do." But I still believe that He led me to it to remind me that He loves me, He knows my heart, He's taking care of my babies, and He wants His best for us. It was a deep desire of my heart to keep feeding my baby this way, and He chose to allow me to do it.
It's funny--before I found the article, I would sit down with the pump and grumble to myself. Why do I have to do this? or Why can't he just learn to nurse? But after I made the decision to stick with it, I never again let those bitter questions fill my heart. Instead it was, This isn't so bad! or I'm so glad I get to pump! or Eli's breath smells so much better now than when he was on formula! It's interesting how perspective changes.
I pumped around the clock again for weeks, increasing my supply, decreasing the amount of formula I was giving him. Some weeks I had enough to keep him satisfied, and other weeks I had to scoop out a lot of Similac. On the outside it wasn't much different than before, but inside everything had changed. If a bitter thought about pumping or bottling, or being awake insane hours of the night, crossed my mind, I turned it away immediately, until the temptation of self pity was all but gone. When I told friends what I was doing, most of them worried for me. It's so hard! I could never do that! I'd give up! And somehow I was able to admit that it was hard, but let the strength of the Lord carry me through the difficulty of it. This is the peace that passes understanding.
I don't know how to transition into the next phase of this story...because really it happened almost instantly. Three weeks ago I was explaining to yet another friend about the fact that Elijah doesn't nurse. I think I had to stop at home to pump before I could meet her out somewhere. She expressed concern, and I assured her that we were fine, blah, blah blah...
And then sometime within the next week, I tried to get him to nurse, just on a whim. He latched on. And he drank, and drank, and drank. He nursed efficiently for the first time in his life. And he was 14 weeks old. I didn't tell anyone but Donnie this time, because I couldn't stand to disappoint my friends if he quit again. But he didn't. And now here we are, more than two weeks later, and he is still nursing! This could only be God. I don't know why He chose to make it happen now, but I am praising His name every time I sit down to feed Elijah.
So, now you know quite a bit of what we've been dealing with, and what God has been teaching us--mostly me. Oh, how I hope I'm at least a tiny bit closer to learning my lesson on pride! This one has stung so much! But the closeness to God that comes through His gentle discipline is worth it.
I don't believe that Eli's inability to nurse was a punishment for my pride. Hard times happen to everyone. Nor do I think that Eli learning to nurse is a reward for anything. It's just a bonus, a love note. The reward is that when I chose to lean on Jesus, chose contentment, and let Him lead me through the trial of these many months, He revealed His joy to me. His joy does not rely on my circumstance, only the willingness of my heart to accept it.
If you have any questions about pumping or nursing, please feel free to ask in the comments below. I'd be happy to answer them! (Please be discreet in reference to body parts...I have a wide age range of readership!) For more personal questions, email me a lassothemoonshop (at) gmail (dot) com.
Every year, when the summer starts winding down, and Donnie is finally back in town for a few days, we take a quick trip to Galveston.
This is not an epic vacation--we'll wait until we have one or both of the babies out of diapers before we try that. But Galveston is relatively close (a 5-hr drive from Dallas), it has a beach, and we're familiar with it. It's far enough from home that we can actually unwind a little, and over the years we've figured out how to get the most fun for the least money.
This year was our shortest trip yet--just three days and two nights, so we didn't waste any time getting right to the fun stuff.
Our first stop was IHOP, because nothing says "vacation" like eating at a place we have 2 minutes from our house. For some reason though, as soon as we see the rolling waves of the Gulf of Mexico, we all get hungry for pancakes.
When it comes to hotels, we have learned that this is the place to splurge. We have stayed in the economy places, and cramped quarters make for long nights, grumpy kids, and tired parents. With a suite, Mom and Dad take one bed, Emma and Ethan share another, Elijah sleeps in his car seat, and Esther gets the pull-out couch to herself. Which is a necessity, because she sleeps like this:
Even if it means a shorter vacation, get the better room! This is a fact I have been denying for years, but I finally came around this year, much to Donnie's relief. He was right. We also appreciate a pool. I took the kids down the first night because we hadn't made it to the beach yet, and they were begging for water. Ethan forgot how to swim and tried to drown before he had been in the water two minutes. I had to wade in, fully dressed and save his life--after I determined that he wasn't messing with me and was actually finding it impossible to create any forward motion and get out of the deep end. I saved him, gave them 10 more minutes to "swim", and we went back up to watch TV.
Much of our vacation time as a young family is spent in the hotel room. And this is why we love to go to Galveston during Discovery Channel's shark week. (It's still shark week--only two more days!!) Watch a few hours of horrific shark encounters, then go to the beach and play in the waves in conditions that are eerily similar to the preferred hunting waters of the tiger shark... We have a slightly dark sense of humor as parents. It's rubbing off on our kids, and we're proud of that.
Before hitting the beach, we like to take the ferry to the mainland and buy a kite. There's a little kite shop over there with awesome prices, and lots of advice on which ones are best for families.
We took their advice and tried out a new pizza place while we were over there--Guideaux's Bayside Grille.
Very family friendly, with a laid-back atmosphere. The fried pickles are YUM!
(My husband is a hottie...)
We filled up on pizza and pickles. Everybody was on their best behavior as you can see. And Eli slept through the whole thing.
We took the ferry back, and we let the kids get out and walk around. This might as well be one of the attractions of the vacation, for all the fun the kids have. It's the best place to see dolphins, since they swim in pods of 3-4 all around the boat.
And when mom's not looking, it's the best place to get rid of your annoying little sister...
"Oh hi, mom...I was just...oh wow, did you notice this dangerous ledge here?...where did that come from!...I'm adorable."
Ethan, doing his best Kevin McCallister.
We stopped to get some bread for the gulls that chase touristy ferry riders. We like to see who can hold the bread up the longest without screaming in terror as twenty birds dive bomb our tender fingers. Emma is great at this game.
So is Donnie.
I am not. I freak out at the first moment I sense their furious flapping around my head and drop the bread with an embarrassing shriek. What is it about birds? Yeesh. I'll just hold the camera.
By the way, Eli slept through this, too.
We finally make it to the beach around 2 or 3pm. This gives us the entire early evening to play in the water, without constantly having to reapply sunscreen. Half of my kids have olive-toned skin that darkens to a smooth golden brown within minutes of hitting the beach. The other two are so light that they can only hope to go from a translucent white, to a more opaque (or dark) white after an entire summer of careful, lotion-slathered sun exposure. I can't take the chance of blistering my fair-skinned boys, so a late afternoon swim schedule is perfect.
We always go to a little beach on the eastern tip of the island. It is practically deserted, and we can park right out next to the water. This way we don't have to take 20 trips hauling all of our gear down the sea wall, like at the main beaches. Just leave it in the car until you need it. Heck, we left Eli in the car for the first hour, since he was sleeping through the whole thing.
We try to make friends with the locals if possible.
We thought he needed a fancy beach condo, so we hooked him up.
This is Elijah, sleeping through the whole thing.
I didn't know Donnie had taken this picture, but he happened to capture me and Emma right after one of the funniest moments I've experienced as a mother.
Emma and I have a girls-only tradition where we swim way out into the waves at the end of the day and swish our bathing suits around in the water to get out all the sand. It's a bonding thing, and it feels a little dangerous too. We love it. This time, as we were about to go back, a fish slithered against Emma's side, swam under her arm, and jumped into the air in front of her face. It was at least a foot long. She started screaming like she was sure she was going to be featured on next year's Shark Week. I thought she was going to bolt back to shore with me still holding on to her suit! I have never laughed so hard.
Later that night we learned on Discovery that jumping fish are a sign that there is a larger predator nearby.
On our way out of town the last day we stopped at my favorite spot on the island. Murdoch's. All it is, is a gift shop--I mean the sign says it all. But the air conditioning is BLASTING. Even though all the doors are open. And between the two halves of the shop is an open-air balcony, filled with rocking chairs. We buy ourselves some treats, claim a couple chairs on the balcony, and enjoy the ocean breeze. Ahh.
This is also where we try to get a couple family pics before we leave.
Eli actually woke up for this one.
And...he's asleep again.
Ah, there we all are, thanks to the photography skills of a kind stranger.
This is how we do Galveston on the cheap. I'm sure we could go to the theme parks, the museums, and the pleasure pier, drop a ton of cash, and not have as much fun as we do this way. It's all about enjoying our time together and getting some rest.
Now that we have been home a few days, and the heat wave has officially struck North Texas, we are all dreaming of when we'll be able to visit our favorite quick vacation spot again.
Here are some links to Galveston pics from other years:
In the last month, Donnie was out of town 24 days. TWENTY-FOUR DAYS. He's a youth pastor. It's summer. That's just how it goes.
Since this is my first summer with the little guy, I didn't expect to get much done during this month. We hunkered down in the air conditioned house, made a few trips to the library, and mostly just hibernated and waited it out. But no matter how hard I try to make our times without him uneventful, I always end up about a mile from Crazytown by the time he makes it back to us.
Here are a couple facebook status examples of what I mean:
At two months you are waking up and noticing the world around you. Through gurgles and coos you are starting to use your voice for more than just crying.
You wave your arms around, fingers opening and closing, and sometimes grasp a strand of hair!
You are focusing on high-contrast objects, like picture frames and ceiling fans. You seem to be friends with them, and sometimes even smile at them.
You are still an excellent sleeper, although I don't know how you sleep through all the noise your brother and sisters are making. Especially the light saber duels.
It's almost time for you to move out of your pack n play and into a crib of your own. I know Emma won't mind sharing her room with you, until you're big enough for the bunk beds.
So. Before I move on to fixing up the next room in the house, I'm going to make sure you have a little corner that's all your own. Maybe some new sheets on the bed, and something to look at while you're in there.
Because right now your crib looks like this.
Last week my sister needed to get out of the house, so I told her to come on over. But with six kids between us, things were going to get real crazy unless we found something for them to do outside. So we started with the sprinklers.
I made sure to keep the sprinklers far enough away from the slide that it didn't create a giant mud puddle at the bottom of it.
But they kept getting muddier and muddier anyway.
Those sneaky kids! They built their own water slide water works by filling up some watering cans and enlisting the little ones to pour them out on the slide as the bigger ones rocketed down it into the sloppy mud pit at the bottom.
I was excited about the display of teamwork and ingenuity, but I kept picturing their muddy feet clomping through my already-struggling carpet. I decided to replace the mud with something equally squishy, yet cleaner and better-smelling.
I really should keep that stuff in stock. There are so many uses for it!
And it smells so good!
This is not a barbasol-sponsored post, but if they were up for it...
We made a rule that they could only put shaving cream on themselves. That way we could avoid (in theory) stinging eyes and mouthfuls of the stuff.
It was just a theory.
The littlest, Maddie (20 months) could not get enough of the stuff. She just kept rubbing and rubbing it all over her head and neck.
It got to the point where my sister Abby and I were following them around with cameras, trying to keep the cameras still while we busted up laughing like little girls.
I still can't hold it together when I see these of Maddie:
Sprinklers and Shaving Cream = how to make a bunch of kids happy and cool for 2+ hours in the Texas summer heat.
Want to read how we made those puffy moon paintings last year? Find pictures and intructions here.
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There are only two options when it comes to surviving Texas summers. Stay inside, or stay wet. When you have 4 kids and live in a 1500 sq ft house, staying inside just might send Momma to crazytown. So get out there and turn on the hose!
After the sprinkler loses it's initial charm, it might take a little more creativity to encourage lots of outdoor time. The wagon didn't actually need scrubbing, but it's sure sparkling now!
This is actually not the first time we've used this trick. They were so little back then!
Soapy water and free time to play just never seem to lose their charm.
Once you're nice and damp, you can stay outside as long as you want.
Have some lunch on the back porch,
or read a book in the shade,
or enjoy baby snuggles on the picnic blanket.
I think that's our favorite.
Are you having a good summer so far? How are you surviving the heat?