New Normal

It’s been almost two weeks since we brought Maren home and we are all in major adjustment mode!  It’s going well, all in all.  She is sleeping four to six hours in a stretch at night, is gaining weight like a champ, only cries when hungry, and is so mellow and so sweet.  So far, she’s my little dream baby.  We already had to put away her newborn sleepers and get out the next size.  I’ll be anxious to see what she weighs tomorrow.

I have had a lot of people asking about how Si is adapting to being a big brother.  We came home from the hospital to a kid who is about 90% happy and loving and about 10% hideous with kicking, hitting, flopping on the floor in fits, and even biting which were never in the cards before.  None of the nasty behavior is happening in correlation to the baby, as far as I can tell.  It’s very random and usually just frustration about things like not being able to stay outside for 12 hours at a time or not wanting to close the door to let M sleep in peace.  He also stopped sleeping after five awesome months of 12-14 hour nights of uninterrupted sleep.  I’ll be honest–I cried about all of it.

Part of it is his age (I recognize these 18 month tactics) and part of it is bad timing for bringing home a new sibling.  We’re getting back to normal, but it’s a process that can be frustrating for the grown ups and for him as well and we are by no means functioning without hiccups at this point.  It’s getting better by the day and I have a feeling getting back into a routine with just me and the babies will be the best thing at this point.

For the most part, we have a kid who looooves his sister and will ask to “hold” or rub her hair or give her really slobbery kisses.  He plays peek a boo with her and helps change diapers and runs to find her when she makes a peep.  We had to steer away from patting the baby, which we had practiced, since his pats tend to be a little too enthusiastic.  The sleeping is getting a little better, but not back to normal yet.  He stirs in the early morning and remembers she’s here and can’t go back to sleep, so a lot of our mornings have been starting before six instead of at eight or nine.  Ouch!  It would be fine if his bedtime was also moving earlier, but it so isn’t.

We’re being flexible and trying to settle into a new normal.  Tim’s back to work tomorrow and I have Maren’s two week well baby check in the morning to which I will take both kiddos.  It will be the first solo outing with both of them.  I feel like life will become much easier as the summer goes on and Si understands a little more about staying on sidewalks, holding hands, climbing into his own car seat, and other big boy things that are just around the corner.  Right now it really still feels like I have two very dependent creatures and I think even waiting just a few more months before having another baby might have been a good choice.  You know what they say about hindsight.  : )

All in all, life is hectic, the house is messy, and we are all in good spirits and feeling ready to tackle a fun summer with two littles.  I am feeling better physically speaking and my baby weight is falling off much faster this time.  It’s awesome!  I only have ten pounds left of baby weight, and then about ten more to get back to feeling fit.  Tim and I are doing a much better job escaping for a few minutes when the grandparents are here this time around with a newborn.  It’s nice to feel like we have our mojo back a few weeks in instead of nine months in like last time. We’re tired, but we are doing just fine.  We haven’t even resorted to caffeine yet!

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one/eighteen

Today we have a one week old and an eighteen month old.  Tim and I are both feeling amazed and a little mystified about how we got here in a few short, swift years.

Get a load of these two.  Can you feel the love?  Pretty sure this is the most fun Tim and I have ever had in a ten minute window.  There were games of curtain peek-a-boo, multiple baby hugs and smooches, “rub rub rub”-ing of her hair, honking of her nose (oops), and just general adoration on Si’s part.

SO. CUTE.

 

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Note to grandparents: The files are enormous, so you can click on a picture to make it bigger, then right click to save/print.

Maren’s Birth Story

If you’re not one for birth stories, feel free to steer clear of this post.

On Tuesday morning, we welcomed baby Maren into our lives and graduated to full-on family of four status.  This means I had two babies at 38 weeks, 2 days gestation and both on Tuesdays.  What are the odds?

I went into labor at about midnight with both kiddos.  Sadly, I had slept about a half hour before contractions started with Maren.  When I went into labor with Silas, I was in denial most of the day since I figured I’d go past my due date for my first babe, and contractions began at 30 minutes apart, so it was a gradual process.  Si’s labor was manageable and mild compared to Maren’s speedy and seriously intense one!

Maren was a totally different pregnancy and delivery.  I felt amazing my entire pregnancy until I fell at 32 weeks.  After the fall, I fought off several bouts of contractions and was on take-it-easy duty until we got to early term.  Come to find out, the first part of my labor was really stretched out over the course of six weeks with her, which was both unnerving and kind of nice.

I felt like I had cried wolf so many times thinking I was in legit labor that I hesitated to call the midwife at one a.m. on a Tuesday morning boasting 3 minute apart contractions for fear it was round 72 of false labor.  It wasn’t.  We headed in to the hospital at three after more than 2 hours of regular contractions.  My Mom and Tim were with me, which was exactly how I wanted it to be.

Once we got to the hospital, I had intended to labor in the birthing tub but instead had to hang out on the monitor with an oxygen mask for 2 hours for the sake of baby’s heart rate.  It was a little discouraging, but she perked up eventually and I got off the monitor in time to start in with really intense contractions.

By six in the morning, I was really ready to be done after wrestling back labor and being up all night.  I mean OUCH.  I felt really in control my first labor, but this one nearly got the better of me by the end (although Tim still says I was a rock star).  Props to my labor support duo.  I really don’t know how people do without it.

At eight o’five in the morning, she came into the world making a bit of a fuss and looking plump and perfect.  I was really proud to get to the end this time just because I was so worn out, and I was equally proud that she looked so healthy!  I gained the exact same amount of weight with both pregnancies, but what a difference this time with no morning sickness.  Two whole pounds bigger than Si was!

Recovery wise, I am very head-to-toe sore and tired this time.  I basically had two all nighters in a row (one in labor and one where she cluster fed on the hour for most of the night at the hospital) so these last few days have been very laid back.  We’ve had a lot of company and Tim has been on his A game with feeding and care of a tired mama and rambunctious toddler.  He’s been so supportive and helpful in making sure I actually lie down when I have the opportunity while he has been on total Silas duty.

So far, Maren is a super nurser (albeit shortlived–she gets soooo sleepy about five gulps after she was ravenous just moments before), sleeps a handful of hours at a time at night, cluster feeds at about 11pm (oh boy!), smiles a ton in her sleep, and is totally content to just sit and observe.  She only cries when she’s hungry or to protest a diaper change now and then.  No jaundice and already past her discharge weight!  Healthy little bella baby.  We are loving how hearty she is already.

We’re still sort of boycotting phones/emails/facebook at this point, but we hope to be back in the communication game once the week starts and the company slows.


For those of you who wanted to skip the story and get to the pictures, here they are.  She has changed so much in the last few days already.  Those cheeks!!

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 She looks a little like mama, but the consensus is she looks very much like her Uncle Logie’s baby pictures.  My Grandma Susie, Maren’s middle namesake, is the one holding Logan.

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She’s Here…

We are downright giddy to introduce

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Because I know people will ask after the last round of unconventional baby naming, the GB babies have names steeped in meaning, namesakes and family.  We still get comments about how long Si’s name is, but we wanted our kids to have names that are chock full of built-in support and meaning.

We knew we wanted a Mary derivative for the first name to honor not only both of our moms who are named Mary, but also grandma and 2 great grandmas named Mary, as well as 5 Maes, 2 Maries, Marguerite, Moira, Maggie, Mayme, and Mamie.  I think there are even more, but needless to say this baby has a long lineage of amazing, independent Schleeter and Voss women who will guide her on her path.  We tossed around a few names on this list from Nameberry.com, but Tim fell in love with Maren early on and it ended up being our first choice.

Susannah is a namesake name after my Grandma Susie who passed away when I was 17. I have always wanted to incorporate her name into a daughter’s name, so I’m happy I got a little girl upon whom to bestow it!  I didn’t have the foresight to consider that Si’s name started with S as well, so we didn’t want use it as a first name, but I can only hope she ends up with a smidge of Grandma’s wisdom, dry sense of humor, and ability to find the bottom line of what’s important.  I wouldn’t argue if Maren ended up with her beautiful olive skin, either.

Jane!  I’m sure most people don’t have to speculate long to realize this is literary.  Jane Austen has long been a written haven for me with her strong but humble heroines who, like all of us, jump to hasty conclusions about people and regret things they say or do only to learn something profound about themselves in the end.  Pride and Prejudice is the epitome of a bildungsroman if you ask me.  Silas has Thoreau in his name, and we hope both of our babes can find direction, reassurance and peace about who they are in their literary namesakes as we did.  As an added bonus, little bella has a great aunt and a really rockin’ cousin with this shared middle name.  I originally voted for Elizabeth here, but Tim nixed it as a mouthful.  I dejectedly agreed.  It’s on hold if we decide to have two more babes later.

Our kids are both Ballard by last name.  I’ve had people ask why we didn’t hyphenate their last names instead of giving the littles a second middle name.  I hyphenated my name because I wanted to keep my name and identity as it has always been, but I also wanted to share my children’s names, so I added Ballard after we married.  I didn’t ask Tim to change his name, he didn’t ask me to change my name.  When it came to naming our kids, we considered using Garner as a second middle name both times and decided to use literary names instead with the hope that they will feel a connection to something that can provide them with some enlightenment along the way when life gets messy as it always does.

Welcome to our family, baby Maren!

Nursery Per Deux

We are going to brave a shared nursery for the babes.  Our third (and legit master) bedroom is downstairs, so we are going to keep the littles in the same room and stay right next door for the foreseeable future.  That way we get to keep our functioning office and spare room while eliminating a year’s worth of braving 16 steep stairs to nurse at night.

Right now the walls are Benjamin Moore’s Kendall Charcoal, which jives nicely with the warm wood floors and white trim.  We have some painting to do by way of closet doors (currently terra cotta which is actually growing on us).  Palette wise, we went with red and mint with smidges of yellow to keep it happy.

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I found one of the Ikea Hensvik cribs from our registry, a quality crib mattress, and Land of Nod bedding secondhand for the same price I got from selling Si’s old crib.  The older Hensvik cribs actually have closed ends, which I prefer.  Silas is in the closed end crib since he will be the nosier of the two babies for quite some time.  We got the second crib assembled this weekend and suddenly everything seems so real…

This is as ready as the nursery gets for second baby arrival!  Minimal fuss, lots of things we were already using for Silas with a few new things thrown in.  I’m loving the sweet vintage floral crib sheet and the DIY mobile, which was a bunch of wallet-sized images gathered from Pinterest in reds, pinks, and mints hung on the original Kikkerland photo mobile from Amazon.  I have debated swapping the photos out for poppy blooms, so that might happen later.

So we’re playing the waiting game until this little bella baby makes her grand entrance.  Stay tuned.

May Goals: Have a Baby and Be Present

In keeping with our overall approach to 2014, we have a few goals for the month of May.  Our goals for April were achieved since they were to not have a baby and to stock our freezer for post baby time.  Aside from the fact that we ate all the muffins already, we did it!  Onto May…

First Goal:  Have a baby!

I’ve been oscillating back and forth between fearful tears and total excitement about expanding our brood so very soon.  Hello, hormones!  More than anything else, I’m grateful that we made it to 37 weeks after the 32 week tumble on the stairs.  It has been a strange month since I fell, which has been scattered with lots of contractions and weird laborish feelings and limited lifting or activity.  It definitely took a toll on our home life to change up our routines and minimize the risk of having an early arrival.  Happy we are all safe and well.

We are breathing much easier now that we’re early term, especially because Si came on his own right at 38 weeks, which is a good sign for lung development with this babe as well.  We may have a baby this week.  Excuse me while I wipe the sweat from my palms.  I’ve been taking this article from a type A mama with nine kids under consideration.  Any other tips for postpartum with a toddler?  I’m all ears.  It’s all been done before, and we will all survive.  I know this.

Second Goal:  Be Present!

You may be thinking “you don’t need any other goals the month you welcome your second child in under a year and a half, you nutso mama lady”.  And you’d be right.  Except this next goal that I discovered first thing Saturday morning really made me feel inspired and capable of handling everything coming our way this next month or so.

What was this inspiring thing, you ask?  An article called Finding Balance in Motherhood.  I’ve read so many blogs and snippets on how to balance it all, how to get everyone in the family the majority of what they need without losing one’s mind, how to be a “good” mama and wife and person in general.  I’m a sucker for any article that promises enlightenment on how to balance all the wobbly, misshapen rocks that make up our lives.  It was of absolute surprise to me to find this one and to realize it’s the winner.  It’s the best advice I’ve ever read for doing it all because it’s doable.

She says:

“When we push for balance, we strive for an unattainable goal.

We push and push ourselves towards something that will always be out of reach.

So, we fail.

We end up feeling guilty for not doing enough, for not BEING enough. We feel guilty that we can’t play with our kids more, or we can’t finish our to do list, or we can’t be the spouse or friend that we want to be.

We fail.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of looking for balance.  I’m tired of failing.  I just want to LIVE and BE HAPPY.

So how do we do this?

Be present.

When we are with our kids, we stop and focus on them.

When we are working, we stop and focus on work.

When we are with our spouse, we stop and focus on us.

When we are with our friends, we stop and focus on friendship.

We stop.  We focus.  We be present.

We can be awesome at doing it all….just not all at the same time.

Ok, so this lady has got it.  It’s so easy to not show up wherever we are.  SO. EASY.  By committing to being present this month, I will be present to little baby and bond with her in the early days and weeks that are so short, swift and sleepless.  I will be present to Silas while we adapt to different and rarer windows of time together that are just ours. I will be present to Tim in the few tiny 15 minute conversation intervals that happen every few days in between grad school, nights away, work, and parenthood of a curious toddler.  I will be present to myself because what I need most sometimes (and have the hardest time creating) is just a little silence.

I really think this second goal is going to make the impending transitions much smoother.  I know it will be a developing skill to turn off the parts of our brains that insist we worry, organize or attend to things that are not critical.   But I think it’s vital to feeling connected and happy where we are and I feel great about it for the becoming-a-family-of-four phase.

Anybody else want to jump on the monthly goal bandwagon?  What are you focusing on?

Eats

So, I was a cooking machine in April.  After the early baby scare, I went into hardcore nesting mode which extended to the deep freezer.  Here’s what I whipped up:

Red Lentil Soup with Mint x2

Banana Espresso Muffins x2

Espresso Banana Muffins

Creamy Chicken and Quinoa Broccoli Casserole x2

Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole - real food meets comfort food. From scratch, quick and easy, 350 calories. | pinchofyum.com

Chicken Tamale Pie –Didn’t happen, but I have the stuff for it!

Chicken Tamale Pie

Steel Cut Oat Pucks x4

I have made the oats before and the lentil soup is a favorite of ours (sans the mint if you’re freezing it for later, we say).  The chicken quinoa broccoli dish was delicious but more high maintenance than I am used to, which was fine since we got several meals out of it, but I won’t make it on an average night.  I am a fan of half hour meals, tops, which usually happens thanks to habits like roasting a chicken at the beginning of the week or grilling some meat to use later when we’re short on time.

Let’s be brutally honest and say that this pregnancy has been a very hungry one for me.  Sadly (for Tim), it has been daytime hunger, not dinner time hunger.  There have been many, many nights that he asks what we are having for dinner and I literally have deer-in-headlights face because I didn’t consider that we all should be eating within the hour if there’s any hope of a normal bedtime routine for Boo.  Also, we already ate all of the muffins, so we’ll have to make some more breakfast food for postpartum.  I should get on that this week.  I intended to make Kait’s granola bars as well, but it never happened.

I blogged long ago about our method of a loose weekly structure to our food.  That went out the window when we moved and has never resurrected itself.  It really made high quality nutrition effortless while keeping our budget on target.  I also find Sunday afternoon cooking to be really calming, creative time and I have missed it since I’ve fallen off the bandwagon with pregnancy cravings and aversions.

After our postpartum survival mode window, I’m hoping to get back to a weekly menu that looks something like this:

Monday-Soup

(some faves: zucchini basil, potato leek, roasted red pepper and tomato, black lentil, red lentil, minestrone)

Tuesday-Whole Wheat Pasta

(We choose it over Barilla Plus because it only has one ingredient instead of about twenty.  We love it with sundried tomato pesto, cannellini beans and artichokes, with lemon and basil butter sauce, with cigliene mozzarella and cherry tomatoes with fresh garlic, or with red wine and mushroom sauce to name a few)

Wednesday-Protein and Vegetables

(grilled or roasted veggies with our Sunday roasted chicken, marinated beef, or some other meat from the freezer, red lentil tacos loaded with fresh vegetables, some sort of bean salad with a green salad on the side)

Thursday-Leafy Greens and Protein

(We love nut-fruit-cheese combos with vinaigrette on salads, like walnuts, apples and bleu, or feta, sun dried tomatoes and pistachios or pine nuts, or goat, dried cherries and sunflower or pumpkin seeds.  Adding chicken breasts makes it feel like a meal, which is nice in the summer months.  We also love a salad I used to get in Rome that has white beans, tuna, thawed frozen corn, sun-dried tomatoes and feta.  We’re hoping to become more adventurous with our salads this summer thanks to the farmers market.)

Friday-Pizza (if Tim gets to pick), leftovers, or eat out

(We like making puff pastry pizzas and we also occasionally buy frozen pizzas if the mood/sale suits.  We also often use Friday night as our take out night for the week and that’s always a nice treat for us.  We tend to oscillate between Thai, Greek, Italian and Chinese.)

Saturday-Farmers Market inspired meal or gourmet sandwiches

(Using quality bread makes a huge difference and we frequently buy it marked down at PayLess or Kroger and stick it in the freezer.  Some faves:  Baguette with goat cheese, bacon and arugula, or garlic rubbed grilled sandwiches with roasted local vegetables like eggplant, squash or tomatoes with a high quality cheese, or whatever else we have in the fridge that seems like it would cooperate as a sandwich ingredient)

Sunday-Cook meat; soak beans; make bread if feeling extra adventurous  

(Sometimes none of these three happen.  If I can make at least one happen, the rest of the week is infinitely healthier and less stressful.  Sunday tends to be a day we clean out the fridge and freezer and use up anything that would otherwise get pitched.  It’s like a sick game that we love to play.  We very rarely throw any food away.  Like almost never.)

So there you have it.  The goal for post baby and full on farmers market mode in the GB casa.  Lofty goals, eh?

Food Rules (aka What We Eat)

So, lately I’ve had a few people say things along the lines of “I have no idea what you guys eat/don’t eat”.  As we strolled through the market this morning, I realized Tim and I have sort of evolved into a “real food” family that is low maintenance and flexible, which are musts if you’re feeding more than one person, in my book.

Over the years I have done carniverous low carb, vegan, vegetarian, high fiber/low fat, and other food lifestyle choices in the name of losing weight.  The only one that was in the name of true health and figuring out what foods my body liked/didn’t like was veganism, which was HARD but really revealing as far as feeling amazing, having energy, having glowy skin and eliminating aches and pains I didn’t even know I had.

As we all know, diets work while you stay on them.  But they aren’t forever, inevitably, and not only are the rebounding pounds hard on the body, they are also hard on the mind in this world in which we live.  As a very disciplined, absolutist sort of gal, I am impeccable with dieting.  This isn’t a pretty trait because pretty soon you end up spending all mental energy that could be used for progress and good on things like calories, grams and scale numbers.  I can get downright obsessive.  And I have in the past.

The system we use these days is based on eating whole, real foods as often as possible.  We still occasionally order dessert, go to Steak and Shake if it sounds good, or splurge on a pretty coffee with sugar in it instead of maple syrup or honey like we’d have at home…  but when we grocery shop, we follow a few rules and know that our long term health is in good shape without having to deliberate over every bite that goes into our mouths.  For a girl like me, that frees up an enormous amount of mental energy to spend in other places.

Here are the basic rules:

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Pinterest is full of cool information diagrams like this one.  Bottom line: if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t buy it.  Aside from organic sandwich bread, we stick pretty closely to the five ingredient rule, or at least to recognizable ingredients.  It is much easier than you think once you spend a few shopping trips reading labels.  It ends up that we eat a lot more healthy food, but we also have regular splurges and don’t feel guilty about them (like Turkey Hill ice cream which has four or five ingredients if you get chocolate or vanilla).  Moderation for the win!

Designer Adam Wirdak created this flyer to send to Michelle Obama in the name of reforming the food stamp approach to health.  I know we aren’t the only ones who have a hard time with the amount of things that are “food stamp approved” and have no nutritional value whatsoever.  I’m all for providing resources for people who need them in civilized societies, but I’m also for ethical and nutritive food choices.  It’s really simple to eat better.

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If you want more information or more in depth reading on the food approach we have, there are a few choices.  Michael Pollan’s book is short, simple, and really approachable for making small or sweeping changes.  The blog www.100daysofrealfood.com is a wonderful resource that even has a series of mini pledges for changing diet.  Sometimes small changes are all we can handle, but don’t underestimate a series of small changes and the impact it has on long term health.  Be proud of small changes!

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Farmers Market and Four Years

It’s a super day for the GB family.  The sun is shining, the baby’s still cooking, we all slept in, and we are having a totally awesome Saturday.  Yes, I realize it’s only noon.

The farmers market opened today, which is always something we relish about the warm months.  It makes Springtime feel official and reminds us how beautiful food can be.  We like growing our own food and eating locally grown produce, and you just can’t compete with the gorgeous colors that appear at the booths all summer long.  Welcome back, farmers market season!  There are three tiny markets in Lafayette, which feels rather humdrum compared to our beloved, giant Bloomington farmers market, but it’s nice to have one here just the same.  We wrapped up the morning with a trip to Tapawingo Park which is on the river, but it was really too cold to enjoy it today.

Today is the mini marathon in Indy as well which means four years ago on this weekend I met Tim’s parents and we told both of our families we were getting married after dating for a month.  Yes, people thought we were crazy (and they were correct).  And yes, I’d do it all over again.  It’s so hard to believe the things we have done in the last few years (traveled to 2 countries, bought 2 houses, had nearly 2 kids).  I’m listening to Tim mow out back while Boo takes a nap and I wouldn’t change a thing.  I won’t say it’s been relaxing in the slightest, but there will be time for that later.

Marriage is so messy and evolutionary and fulfilling all at the same time.  If you haven’t read it, this article from Momastery about marriage is worth a look.  Tim and I (and friends) have had conversations about how no one knows what to expect from marriage, and also how people don’t talk about how hard it can be sometimes to grow together, side by side and soul beside soul.  I’ve decided people don’t know how to talk about it because it’s so darn hard to put into words.  Kudos to Momastery for getting so close to the heart of what it means to love someone beyond the fairy tale.    And it really is worth it in the end.

Oliver’s opening coaches pitch baseball game is happening right now!  Also, Logan decided to come visit for a few hours this afternoon, which is exciting for all of us but especially Tim.  It really is a fantastic Saturday.

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Could I be any more pregnant?  The answer is yes.  Yes, I could.  A few weeks more, hopefully, but we made it to 37 weeks which is (early) term!  It’s a big milestone and I’m grateful she’s cooked this long.  I have had spurts of serious, close together contractions for almost two weeks now, but still nothing that persists beyond a handful of hours.  It’s weird to constantly feel like I’m going to go into serious labor and then…not.  It feels so lame!  And my Mom is tired of me crying wolf, I’m pretty sure.  Keep growing, baby!