Monday, November 28, 2011

Picture Me {Im}perfectly: Confessions of a Mom in Survival Mode

As we settle into this life as a family of four, with each passing day, things feel easier. Like we are slowly, slowly finding our new normal. My friends with multiple kids all tell me that there's a turning point at 6 weeks (tomorrow), then at 8 weeks, and again around 3 months, where things just keep getting easier and life feels simpler. I already feel like B and I are getting the whole tag-team parenting thing down a little better (we joked that now its one-on-one defense; we each have a kid all the time. Friday, I had brunch with friends, so I said, "I'll take one, and the other gets a date with you." I have a feeling THIS is how we'll make many, many things in our lives work in the coming months (years?) as we settle into this new chapter).

But, even though things are starting to feel simpler, I do (at times) (okay, often) feel like I'm operating in survival mode. The kind of survival mode where I find myself stuffing my face at 9 pm, completely ravished, wondering WHY I'm so hungry and then realize how little I've eaten all day. The days are just busy. I remember this same thing from when we first brought Sammie B home from the hospital, and I expected it, but still . . .

There are other things I'm noticing. Signs of (or results of) this "survival" mode, so I thought I'd share a few confessions with you:

- Sam is the pickiest eater. Ever. And she has a wheat allergy, so we have her on a gluten-free diet. The two (picky + gluten-free) means that she has very few foods that she'll actually eat. We tried early on to get her to expand her tastes, but lately, I'm picking my battles. So, the rotation between macaroni and cheese (RICE pasta), chicken nuggets, fish sticks and hot dogs will continue, and I will not feel guilt. She DOES eat fruits and veggies on occasion, just in small amounts. She's picky, and a totally hit or miss eater. Some nights she eats a ton, some nights it is a fight to get her to take two bites. And frankly, I'm not above bribing her for those two bites with a dessert (which she never turns down). Nor am I ashamed that dessert occasionally just becomes dinner. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- Sam will eat with a fork and spoon at school and with her nanny. Not with me. I try. She just hands me the spoon/fork and says "mama!" Some days I push, some days I don't. Some days I take her up on the invitation to feed her. But then I feel guilty, like I SHOULD be pushing her in that area of independence. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- I worry about potty training Sam. I worry a lot. With her low-tone, we have no idea whether she gets that "got to go" feeling. We know that she cognitively "gets" the idea. We talk about it with her, and just before Mia was born, the signs were there that she was ready to train. Now that Mia has come, she absolutely REFUSES to sit on a potty, and I've decided now is not the time to push. I worry. She's three. When I change her diapers now, I think about how big she looks and I feel like I'm somehow failing by NOT yet having her trained. But still, I'm PICKING MY BATTLES.

- The same is true with television. I've always tried to limit Sam's television. I always always feel like we "should" be "working" with Sam. Doing PT homework. She LOVES to watch Dora, and I've always tried to limit it. Until I realized how much she's learned from that show. She knows how to count in Spanish. She has started being able to do simple subtraction problems . . . Sammie B is a sponge. So, I've decided to give myself permission to let her watch it a little more. Like the rest of us, Sammie B NEEDS downtime. She can't be "working" all the time. And, with our new addition to the family and my new responsibilities, I too need some time that I know Sammie B is just entertained and happy and content. So, if we sit on the bed together and watch a few Dora shows while I feed Mia, I will not feel guilty. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- It's not just true with TV/Dora. I always feel this sense of "I should be working with Sam" and I HATE that. She could sit at her little table or cube chair/desk ALL day and play with play-dough or learn (she loves going through flashcards, loves ABC games, is starting to like other games, etc.). And, I KNOW that's great for her, and I enjoy it more than anything, but there's still that tugging "I should put her leg braces on her and do some PT homework." On the other hand, learning, and doing the table-top activities is her strength and she ENJOYS it, and I feel like we spend so much time at PT, etc. "working" on her weak areas, that when we are home, just us, I WANT to give her time to be doing what she's amazing at AND what she enjoys. It's a delicate balance and one that knaws at me all the time. I try to give myself permission to JUST be "mama" and not therapist, but then . . . there's guilt. That nagging guilt.

- During the week that Sammie B was so sick with the flu, I gave up on breastfeeding Mia. I just felt like both of my girls NEEDED me all at the same time, non-stop and it was too much. My head was spinning and my heart felt torn all.the.time. I just needed to be interchangeable with B for SOMETHING. So, I made what was probably a rash decision and said, "I can't do this anymore," and stopped. I'm pumping so Mia is still getting the benefits of breast milk but I feel guilty. I wanted it to work out this time, but I just could I worry I gave up too easily, but I know this is another one of those times I have to let myself off the hook. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- I miss work. A lot. I'm jealous that B gets to get up and go to work everyday. I'm certain that I wouldn't feel this way so soon into maternity leave had I not been out on bed rest beforehand, but I just feel like I've been out of the game for so long, and I'm longing for it. I even thought about going back early, but I KNOW that I'll never get this time back, so I won't. But the fact that I've THOUGHT about going back early has made me feel guilty. Again, gotta LET MYSELF OFF THE HOOK, right? Let myself miss it, enjoy my time home, and know that work will be there in February.

- Mia is a "needs to be held" kind of girl. I can usually get about 15 minutes out of her in the swing, 10 in the bouncy chair . . . and then she cries. I feel like I sat on the couch for four straight months of maternity leave with Sam and just held her, just because I wanted to, but I'm struggling this time. I feel like I have so much to do, and sitting still for long is NOT who I am. So, I'm struggling to just sit and hold her and enjoy her itsy-bitsy'ness. I think because I feel so torn all day . . . between being needed by both girls (and simultaneously wanting to be with both of them) and having a million other things to do, finding time to just sit and "bond" with Miss Mia is harder. Because of this, I'm actually enjoying my time with her at night . . . when again, she DEMANDS to be held. But then, the rest of the world (including Sammie B) is sleeping, the house is dark, and I can just SIT and hold her (and doze myself). That said, I was DETERMINED NOT to co-sleep with this baby (even though ironically, this time around, B wanted it -- he was such a hold out on that with Sammie B, but then ultimately fell in love with having her in our bed and said to me while I was pregnant, "we get to sleep with another baby!" to which I replied, "NO WAY!"). This time, it was ME that said its not what I wanted. I didn't want to have to go through that transitioning OUT of our bed period and I felt like it would be really hard for Sammie B to understand why EVERYONE but her in her little family was sleeping in one bed. So, I resisted . . . yet we find ourselves many nights with a Mia Monster in our bed, or a Mia Monster on my chest sitting in the rocking chair. Truthfully, its still not what I want, but I am treasuring the snuggly time with Mia when the house is quiet, and I'm just too darn tired myself to put her down and spend so long soothing her over and over as she wakes up and wants to be held. . . . so there you have it. I'm going to discuss her gruntiness and gassiness and general displeasure with being ANYWHERE but on our chests with her pediatrician at her two-month appointment, and hope that from there we can work on the sleeping thing, but for now, I'm just giving myself permission to enjoy the nighttime snuggles. PICKING MY BATTLES.

- Bedtime with Sammie B used to be difficult. After we finally transitioned her out of our bed, there was a period where one of us had to lay with her to get her to sleep. Sometimes, that meant laying with her for over an hour . . . but then, we finally got her to just go to sleep on her own and bedtime is (generally) easy-peasy. PJs, teeth brushed, two stories, pick animals to sleep with, turn on the stars for her ceiling, kisses and we walk out (and then I get to watch her on the monitor!). Lately, she's requesting some pretty funny stuff to sleep with . . . a bottle (like one of Mia's), spoons, etc. And, again, this is a place where I'm PICKING MY BATTLES. Last night she went to sleep with two spoons, tonight it is a soup ladle. I thought as I walked out, "is that weird? should I not let her have those in bed? IS SHE GOING TO POKE HER EYE OUT?" Then, I listened (and watched) her on the monitor and heard her say . . . . "TWO SSSSSSS-ppooons!" with utter glee as she held them up in bed. We've worked on that "ssss" sound for a long time. So, I say, enjoy your SSSSSpooons, my sweet girl and sleep tight!

By choosing to pick my battles, and focus on the joy of each day, I'm certain my days (and my girls' days) are better for it, but that guilt of "am I slacking? do I need to push more?" is always there. I always wonder if I'm failing at this parenting thing. I always feel imperfect. I know that I have to constantly forgive myself for what I perceive as tiny failures . . . feeling like I haven't spent enough time with Sammie B because Mia has needed me (and vice versa), feeling like I "should" be working on x, y or z with Sammie B instead of snuggling and watching Dora, etc. But, I am NOT superwoman. That said, somehow things DO end up getting done, and our days are never short on love, so perhaps I'm doing alright after all.

* For the story behind "Picture Me {Im}Perfectly" posts, click on the picture above.

My Daughters

Three years ago, Sammie B entered our world and we were never the same.

Samantha Abigail, October 2008

And now, Mia makes four.

Mia Ryan, October 2011

Can you tell the difference? Something tells me 20 years from now, I won't be able to. In person, they actually look different but the pictures are uncanny.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


All my favorite bloggers have done "thankful" posts this year, and I of course, don't want to be left out ;) Truthfully, these posts are hard for me. I'm always a person that can think of what "more" I want. It's easy to focus on where we want to go, and forget to just appreciate the right now. The "minute simple moments" as my dear friend H says. And, the truth is, we have so very many "minute simple moments" to be thankful for. I've actually been giving this post tons of thought, and kept a list of my "thankful" thoughts over the past few days since I haven't had a moment to sit and write, and am just now sitting down to type while Mia is (hopefully) good for a three-hour stretch of sleep. I feel as if I'm racing against the clock (Mia's clock) with a lot to say, so it may be a little disjointed, but here goes . . .

I looked back at my Thanksgiving post last year and marveled at what a different place we are in this year. Last year, I didn't even have a "thankful" post. The truth was, last year, at this time, we were one week away from our trip to the Johns Hopkins Hypotonia Center, and I was terrified. Terrified they'd find "something" and pull the rug out from under my feet. I was (and still am) finding my way in this world of special needs mothering, but I feel like this year, I'm just in a better place. It is hard to describe, but I've just gotten better at living in the 'now,' and saving tomorrow's worries for tomorrow . . . I know that will be a lifelong struggle for me, but I'm just thankful that I'm headed in the direction of gratitude for the "minute simple moments" of today!

I am so very, very thankful for the little family that I get to share my life with. For B, who is my best friend. We have our ups and downs, to be sure, but there's no one else I'd rather be on this crazy journey with. He is an amazing dada to our girls -- lately, he's done a lot more with Sammie B than normal (as I've been caring for Mia) and watching their relationship grow and evolve has just melted me. I can hear them on the monitor in the mornings when he goes to get her, and I lay there and listen and just melt. Their shared giggles, hugs, love. This morning, B got up with Sam and let me sleep with Mia until after ten, and when I came downstairs, I found them so content in the living room floor, laughing and playing together. Sweetness.

And for magical Sammie B, who has taught me more in these three years than I learned in my first thirty. For little Mia, whose just joined our little world and already won our hearts over.

I'm thankful for this blog - my outlet, my therapy, my escape. My place to work through my thoughts and struggles and feelings on this journey as a mama to a special needs little girl. And, because that's really what this blog is mostly about ("My Sammie B") much of my "thankful" thoughts will focus on that magical little girl.

Ellen, over at Love that Max, posted a great list of her "thankful thoughts" for her own special man, Max. One of her points particularly resonated with me:

"Thank you for redefining my idea of 'achievement.' It's not just about reaching the end goal; it is each and every little score along the way."

I am thankful to my own little magical girl for teaching ME to re-think what "achievement" (and hard work and perseverance and a whole lot of other great qualities) really means. The thing is, if I look at where we were last year gross-motor wise, we haven't met any huge milestones. Still not walking independently, still no four-point crawling. It's easy to think of those end goals and feel like there IS no progress, but the truth is . . . achievement isn't just about those goals, "it is each and every score along the way." Cruising. Taking steps in her walker in PT and at school. Taking more functional assisted steps. There truly is progress and "achievement" in Sammie B's every day. And, I'm thankful for her for teaching me not to take anything for granted. I think about the things that she CAN do now that felt like they might never happen (like getting herself from lying to sit) and I NOTICE when she does it every.single.time. When B and I are together and she pulls herself to standing on her toy horse or gets from lying to sitting, we always steal a glance at each other over her head. Just a quick recognition, a shared moment, of the realization that "she can do that!" Each of Sammie B's "inchstones" feels like a hard-fought victory (and is the result of so, so much work on her part), and that makes it all the more amazing to witness.

So, I'm thankful for Sammie B has taught me about achievement, about appreciating every little "score" along the way to each goal, to dream big even in the face of uncertainty and challenge. Valuable lessons from a most magical child.

I am also so very, very grateful for every word that comes out of my Sammie B's mouth. When I looked at last years posts in November, I think she had said about 10 words. Now, her number of words is age-appropriate. Speaking in sentences and more than one-two word utterances is still hard for her, and her articulation is not perfect (and so unfamiliar listeners may not always know what she's saying) but our girl talks. She tells us so very, very much. And again, when she does, B and I have those stolen glances of "did you hear that?" Like tonight, after we gave the girls their baths, we asked Sammie B if she wanted to go into her room or wait for Baby Mia to be done with her bath, and she said, "wait for Baby Mia to be done with her bath." B and I both told her "good talking!," stole a glance at each other, and beamed. See? There were times when combining that many words felt far away. But here we are. Dream big despite challenges.

Some of our friends on this special needs journey have children who haven't yet found their voices, and I know that has been a struggle for the parents. And that too, has taught me (or reminded me) to not lose sight of the "cans" in face of the "can'ts" and to really, truly appreciate every word that comes from our girl. And, I do. I totally do. I learn not just from Sammie B, but from the other amazing little kiddos (and parents) we've met along our way. And for those lessons, and those friendships, I am thankful.

I am so very, very grateful for Sammie B's loving personality. Her constant "thank yous" (when I cover her with a blanket, when I give her a glass of water, the other day after we finished lunch at a restaurant, etc). She is love. Pure and simple. And while we've had our struggles transitioning to a family of four, and Sammie B may have had some moments of jealousy, her adoration for her little sister shows. She's gotten upset when she and I have left the house without her sister, she's called for "baby Mia" when she wakes up in the morning, she loves her. On Thanksgiving Day, Mia was laying on the couch crying and our sweet Sammie B slid down off her spot on the couch, held onto the couch for support, and took four very wobbly, timid cruising steps over to her sister and reached for Mia's bottle to give her. 100% magic and amazing. That is achievement. At its best.

And, I can only imagine that as our little Mia grows and becomes more aware of her world, her adoration for Sammie B will match Sammie's of her.

This life has ups and downs. This life (and ours) has challenges. But at the end of each day, there's no where I'd rather be than in my little home with my little family. With my husband and our two girls. With toys and traces of pink (little pink socks, shoes, you name it) strewn about. Sharing in the "minute simple moments" as we find our way as a family of four with whatever circumstances life throws at us.

And finally, I'm thankful that we have an amazing support network of friends and family. For the two sets of grandparents, who love and adore our girls, and who learn from sweet Sammie B just as we are. Who love her just as she is, and who celebrate her achievements just as we do. I'm thankful for those friends along this journey who we've never even met in real life. For everyone that follows this blog, the moms from my web group, people who have never laid eyes on us in person, yet cheer our girl on non-stop. For all of my girl's fans (and we know there are many!). For your support and for all of the "cheering" you do, thank you.

To my little girl in lavender glasses, who wins the hearts of all she meets, and who is teaching her parents, grandparents, friends, family and others valuable lessons along the way, thank-you. My magical, sweet, amazing, wonderful Sammie B.

Friday, November 18, 2011

One Month of Mia

Mia Monster,

You are one month old today. It sounds a little trite, but my how time flies. As I sit to write this letter to you (as I've done many times for your sister and will do many more for both of you, on birthdays, special occasions, milestones, and sometimes, "just because") I feel like I should be able to tell you something about who you are right now. But, the truth is, we are just figuring each other out - you and me. I'm slowly learning what your cries mean and what soothes and comforts you, and you are learning to trust the world through your dada and me.

We've had a sort of insane few weeks, with your sister catching the flu, and I can say this -- you were a trooper. We were in and out of the pediatrician's office, in and out of the car, and you were passed back and forth between your dada and me and our nanny, and you handled it all like a champ. As long as we keep your belly full, you are a happy, content, snuggly little girl.

I promise to work on the whole taking pictures thing. I'm pretty sure every second child ever born has complained that their parents took so many more pictures of their first-born, and already, your dad and I are guilty of this. But, my sweet Mia, you are in good company amongst your dad and I - both also second children. And, now, I understand why my own mother has so many more pictures of my older brother! When the parent:child ratio in the house goes from 2:1 to 1:1, there's little time to run for the camera!

This week was the first week that you and I spent the days just the two of us. We actually did a lot together this week, you and me. We had lunch with friends, a pedicure (which you kindly slept through while I held you!), went into my office for you to meet everyone, bought groceries, had your one-month check-up . . . a busy week indeed. You love being in the Ergo carrier on my chest, and I love having you there. By the time we got home each day, when your dad would get home and I'd pass you off to him while I got dinner ready for your big sister and spent some one-on-one time with her, you were exhausted. You've spent your days out and about with me, your evenings sleeping on your dada's shoulder, and your nights alternating between your co-sleeper and mama and dada's bed. (We gotta work on that, sister! More time in co-sleeper please!)

You are both sweetness and fury. Sweet cuddles, sweet loves. But if you wake up hungry? My oh my girl. You have a temper. When you are hungry, or have to burp, you wake up SCREAMING. Like the "I haven't ever eaten in my life and why won't you feed me" kind of screams, and your ENTIRE body turns pink with anger. As heartbreaking as those little screams are, your dada and I cannot help but giggle at your temper. That, my dear, is how you've gotten your nickname - Mia Monster.

We love you dearly my girl. This first month has been a whirlwind, and we are so, so glad you are here. I know we'll just keep figuring each other out, and I can't wait to watch you reveal who you are.

You are beautiful. We love you.


** Pictures from our newborn photo shoot with Maggie Keegan Gross Photography when Mia was just one week old.

My Little Family

After Mia's newborn shoot, we did a mini-family shoot with our photographer (and my friend, Maggie Keegan Gross).

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the results. Seriously. We went to our viewing appointment hoping to buy a FEW prints but not to spend too much money. That was a big fat fail. We LOVED the pictures so much, we blew the budget, but we know we will treasure the pictures FOREVER.

(Butterfly kisses and a tender dada/Sammie moment!)

(She's a tiny bundle of sweetness, isn't she?)

(This one on the left? best picture EVER. We ordered a huge one for our wall. That picture just captures the giggles that IS our Sammie B and the silliness that her dada brings out in her!).

Maggie really truly managed to just capture the magic that is my little family. The magic that is Sammie B, the sweetness of both of the girls, and the love that is our family just oozes from these pictures (at least I see it!). Sammie B totally hammed it up for Maggie (and smiled some . . . at the promise of a surprise after the shoot) and the pictures of Sam's silly faces make my heart happy.

Love. Love. Love. Thank you, Maggie, for capturing my sweet family!

P.S. The day of the shoot, I realized I might have been crazy to book a family shoot one week post-baby, but I managed to find a dress that fit and we pulled it together, don't you think?

P.P.S. Other reasons to love Maggie (besides that she's a talented photographer)? She's signed up to be a photographer for the Inspiration Through Art Littlest Hero's Project!!! AND, as a little girl, Maggie wore leg braces, just like Sammie B. For ALL these reasons, we'll keep going back to Maggie, again and again, to capture our little family in pictures. You should too!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


As I sat in the pediatrician's office today with Miss Mia, waiting for her one-month check-up, and got these pictures of Sammie B with a text that said, "100% by herself!," my heart felt like it would just burst with happiness.

My Sammie B, I wish you didn't have to work so hard for these milestones. But you do. And you amaze, inspire, and teach me Have I ever told you you are magic? You are.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brain Dump/Catch Up/Transitioning to a Family of Four

I've operated on very little sleep before. I've pulled all-nighters in trial offices, changed into a suit, and gone straight to court for trial. But, I've never been as tired as I am right now. I've had a draft post going for a few days now, but no time to finish it (while I HAVE had computer time, it has been with a baby in my arms, and I just didn't think I could manage a one-handed blog post). But, tonight, I'm determined to just finish and hit "publish." The result will likely be a bit of a brain dump, but hopefully coherent nonetheless. It'll also likely be long since there's been so much going on (hello, new baby!) so I totally understand if the only people that read it are those that are related to us ;o) I will try to sprinkle in some pictures with my incoherent ramblings. (Of course, we haven't taken many pictures -- and I feel TERRIBLE for my Mia, and now totally 100% understand why my mom has 8 million baby pictures of my older brother and so few of me . . . there's NO TIME for snapping pictures when you are playing one-on-one defense!).

I mentioned that Sammie B had the flu last week. It was AWFUL. She was actually sick for two weeks. She was out of school for a week, went back for two days, and then, the flu hit. She's generally such a healthy kid. I can count the number of times she's had colds on one hand, so this was sort of new territory to us. We've done specialists and seen our share of "ologists," but seeing her just plain SICK was new territory, and I hated every second of it. She got quite the high fever and was so very, very tired and just inconsolable. Refusing food, crying if we tried to wake her, pushing us away when we gave her medicine. Wanting to just lay on my chest and sleep and cry and whine. Heartbreaking. B and I were so worried that we had her sleep in our bed for several nights (that's right - four of us, one bed - very little sleeping for THREE straight nights), and during the days, her nanny and I just took turns laying with her while the other had Mia. It may sound silly, but she was SO not herself and so so sad, that I kept worrying that it was something bigger. I think part of the problem of being entrenched in this special needs world is that we know too much. We know kids whose simple fevers and simple flu have been much more. I hate that. I hate that my mind goes to dark places, I hate that it was all so scary. (And, I thank my stars for my mom, who patiently sat on the phone and let me cry and let me be scared and just supported and encouraged me like only a mother can).
But for us, this was JUST THE FLU, and we are so, so glad. After two days of not a single smile or laugh, Sammie B popped her head up Friday morning (in our bed) while I was getting dressed, and looked at me, and said, "boobies!" and giggled. We knew then that our girl was on the mend. She kept recuperating over the weekend - we took things slow and had a games/movie day in bed Saturday, but by Sunday night, she was HERSELF. Her magical little, giggly, amazing little self. And, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My sad sick girl:

The return of her smile:

So, that was that. The flu. It sucked.

What else in our world?

Well, here's the good stuff. In no particular order . . .

- Sam is still madly in love with her "Baby Mia." She wants to hold her all the time, which of course, is not practical. We try to find a good balance of letting her tickle Mia's feet, rub her head, etc. without always giving in and putting Mia on Sam's lap, since Sam's commitment to helping support Mia's head is spotty at best ;o)

- After Sam was feeling better we took her to the Disney Store to pick out a new stuffed animal (she picked Simba). On her own, she insisted we get Mia an animal too, and she picked Donald Duck for Mia. We are thrilled that Sam is so very in love with her sister, but of course, this transition period HAS brought its challenges (more on those in a second).

- So that we can close Sammie B's bedroom door at night (in hopes that Mia Monster doesn't wake her when she SCREAMS in the middle of the night) we bought one of those cameras/video monitors to have in Sam's room. Sam's had a rough time with bedtime lately (and even woke up crying for me a lot in the night right after I got home from the hospital, which is so out of her norm) so I told her about the camera. I showed it to her and showed her the monitor and explained that I could watch her sleep so that I'd know she was okay. That night, I put her to bed, and walked out and went to my room to feed Mia, and I looked over at the monitor, and saw my little Sammie B flashing that camera the best smiles ever. I thought "is she posing for the camera?" HILARIOUS. The next night, we had the same conversation about the camera and me checking on her during the night. That night, the little stinker looked right at the camera, smiled and said, "CHEESE!"

- The girls had their first bath together, which was comical at best. Sam enjoyed it immensely. She kept looking at Mia and just screaming with delight. But, Mia screamed with pure fury, and I had a hard time holding onto the slippery, angry little Mia Monster, so it might be the last bath together until Mia's a little bigger. But, still, a moment to remember.

- B's parents (aka Nana and Papa) came for a visit which was fantastic. B's mom stayed up with Mia until midnightish most nights and then brought her to me to feed her, so I got to go to bed early and get some sleep. Sam totally totally enjoyed her time with her grandparents too (even if she was unfortunately sick for part of it) so it was just a great visit. Caring for two small children is much easier with four adults than two (though B and I are managing to tag team it fairly effectively on our own too!). My mom comes next week, and I'm super excited to have her here (and to eat her Thanksgiving food!). I'm eager for Sammie B to get more special time with her Gigi, and for Gigi to take over some Mia duties so I can devote some special one-on-one time to Sammie B (and maybe get through the pile of mail that's accumulated since B's parents left!) Living far from our families is not easy, so we try to cherish the visits!

- One quick, cute Sammie B story. The other day when I put her down for a nap and covered her up, she said "Thank you mama." I said, "did you thank me for covering you?" and she said, "yeah." The sweetest. And that night, when I washed her hair in the bathtub, she thanked me again. Melt.

Okay, so those are some of the highlights of the good and the funny. I'm leaving a ton out, because certainly, every day has had some magic, share-worthy moments, but those are a few of my favorites.

But, as I mentioned, some of this transition stuff IS HARD. It's also probably just unfortunate timing that our girl started a new preschool, got a new sister, and got the flu all in three weeks time . . . a lot of change and drama for a three-year-old little girl. So, Sammie B has not totally been herself, and it has been hard for me. I've felt guilty, like I turned my girl's world upside down. Worrying about how to help her in this transition has kept me up at night, and thinking of ways to help her understand that even though she now has to share mama with another little creature (not to mention a very demanding one!) she's still my Sammie B and there's only one of her. I'm going to try to explain some of the difficult parts of the transition, but the overall theme is that I feel pulled. Torn. I feel like I've turned my first-born's world upside down and I've (we've) struggled with how to best help HER through the transition from a family of three to one of four. She's been the center of our universe for so very long. And, I guess more than anything, I've struggled with how best to show her that she STILL is, even if another tiny(demanding) person is in our universe too. I just can't stop thinking about what a heavy little burden this transition is for a three-year old.

We are trying to emphasize that Sammie is our "big girl" and make that a positive thing (e.g., only big girls get chocolate milk - Sam's favorite thing, etc.) But, at the same time, I don't want to overdo the "big girl" talk to the point that she thinks, "I don't want to be a big girl, being a big girl sucks, and Mia doesn't have to be a big girl." Sam has been doing things to indicate she'd like to be a baby again too (wanting to sit in Mia's car seat, asking for bottles when we give Mia bottles, etc.). In most of those moments, my gut tells me just let her pretend, and don't make a big deal out of it, and it'll pass.

I think it has made things harder that I was HOME and on bed rest for so long before Mia came. Sam got used to seeing me all day and me being around, even if she was with her nanny or in and out for therapy appointments. She really did grow into quite the "mama's girl" during that time, which I love. But, part of me wonders if that's making this harder for her. Because there are times when she wants me and ONLY me, and no one else will do. She had a hard time with me being in the hospital, and woke up SOBBING for a couple of nights after I came home asking for me. Each time, it was while I was feeding Mia, so B went to her and ended up sleeping with her. But, she was crying and saying "NO dada! Mama!!" I could hear her while I was feeding Mia, and I laid in my own bed and cried and worried that I'd broken my first born's heart. But, that passed, and within a few nights of me being home, Sammie B was back to sleeping through the night. (And the positive spin on all of this is that Sammie B got some great dada-time during all this, and I love watching their relationship evolve. Once she got sick, all bets were sort of off though, I couldn't NOT be there for her during that . . . but we managed. Mia had some bottles so that I could focus on Sam, and we got through it. Now that everyone's healthy again, we are figuring it out as we go. I've decided to pump for Mia and bottle feed her breast milk for now -- a hard decision but the best one for us -- and that is making the 'tag-teaming' aspect of parenting two little ones a little more manageable for me and B, and allowing me some good quality time with Sammie B in the evenings after spending my days focusing on Mia).

I think the hardest thing we've been dealing with on the Sam-front is whining. A LOT of it. Which is NOT her norm. And, with all that's been going on, it is so hard to disentangle what's due to her not feeling 100% versus her just having a hard time dealing with all the changes in her life versus just normal three-year-old stuff. Again, we are trying to just talk our way through things with her, and talk about not whining (I told her that her whining made me feel crazy (it does!) and we decided the next day's rule would be "no whining" and then I asked her how I feel when she whines and she gave me the most mischievous smile EVER and said, "HAPPY!" STINKER.) The good news is, talking about things with Sam always seems to help. The next day, we "reviewed" our talk about whining a few times, but it was a better day.

Another new thing is that for the FIRST time EVER Sam is crying when her nanny comes to get her in the mornings for school. She's fine the second they are out the door, and fine at school, so we know its not a school thing - it seems to be a leaving me thing. And, when she and her nanny are home, she doesn't want to go play with her nanny but just wants to be with me, which is hard. We really, really, really have tried in all of this to keep Sam's routine as consistent as possible, but I realized that me being here makes it harder for Sam. The thing is -- I was here for months on bed rest, and Sam was fine playing with her nanny in another room while I worked from bed or rested, or coming and going with her nanny, but now . . . I think it is hard because I'm with Mia. She's jealous. So, this week, I've tried something new . . . I'm getting up and getting OUT with Mia so that Sam and her nanny can have the house to themselves for a good part of the day. So that Sam's routine is a little more "her normal" and less disrupted by the arrival of her sister. And, this too seems to be helping. It's nice to come home and get to hear about Sam's day and her be excited to see me, rather than feeling all day like she's heartbroken that I can't play with her because I'm feeding Mia. It's also just been good for me - I'm getting out and doing things and still getting to spend one-on-one time with our newest lady during the day, and then coming home to my Sammie B and hearing about her day, doing dinner as a family/baths, etc.

This is, indeed, a learning process. We are feeling our way through it. Sammie B has had a WHOLE lot of change, and she's a little clingier, and a little whinier than normal, but we are talking our way through it and loving her through it, and I know we'll all come out okay. I know we aren't the first to go through this. But, knowing that doesn't necessarily make the mama guilt go away. I've gotten fantastic advice from my friends with 2+ kids (like giving Sam ways to help, having special "mama and Sammie B time and communicating that to her, etc.) and we have been putting all that advice into action - I know none of that is going to make it easier for her overnight, but I think it IS helping her. And, now, we just keep on loving her like crazy (that's the easy part!!) and hope that as time passes, we all adjust to this new chapter.

Finally, I miss work. I really, really miss work. I've been gone a long time. I know its a good thing that I miss it. I really do. I also realize that for ALL the guilt I feel as a working mother, my children are no worse for the wear because of it. Sammie B has an amazing nanny that works with her, that does her therapies with her, that takes her to her therapy appointments, etc., and having THAT allows me to be "mama" a little more and therapist a little less. I'm looking forward to the rest of my maternity leave, but at the same time, I think I too am looking forward to getting back to work, and back to MY routine. And, I know that when I do, that separation from me isn't a detriment to my kiddos -- seeing my independent, brave Sammie B get a little clingier during my time home has shown me that the separation CAN be a healthy thing for them too.

I know I'm not being as articulate as I'd like to be, but I'm (1) tired (I mentioned that, right?) and (2) sitting next to a very cute little baby that may very well wake up SCREAMING as if she's never eaten in her life any second now, so I feel like I'm racing against the clock to get this typed and posted.

Life is good. Life is exhausting. We are transitioning. We will make it. For every hard moment, there have been many, many more joyful ones. B and I are figuring out this "parenting two" thing together, one moment at a time, and we are doing okay. Better than okay.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Best Friend

Last week was a tough week (more on that to come - Sammie B had a TERRIBLE case of the flu complete with a very high fever that really scared us!). And, it always seems to be during the toughest of times that I realize how very grateful I am to be married to B. I even told him so (which admittedly, I should do more often!). As I told him last week (through tears after TWO completely sleepless nights up watching a sickie Sammie B sleep and feeding little Mia -- who has an insatiable appetite): this journey is full of ups and downs and hills and valleys, but there's no one I'd rather walk this journey with. He is, no doubt, my best friend and the love of my life. I cannot imagine a better "dada" to our TWO girls. And today was his birthday. So, happy birthday to YOU, my B!

With the events of last week, his birthday sort of snuck up on me. (Good thing I'm on maternity leave and had the day to run errands!). So, this morning, I asked Sammie B, "what would you like me to buy for you to give Dada for his birthday today?" She promptly answered "strawberries." So, while she was at school, I ran and got strawberries, some birthday cards, and cupcakes (he's buying an I-Phone as his big birthday gift). And, when B got home, we had a quick birthday celebration before he had to run out to meeting.

The memories of this night will make me smile for a long time. Sam handed him her gift, then promptly took it back and started opening it herself. Once the strawberries were out, she handed him the package and said, "OPEN!" and then grabbed one and started eating. Who was this gift for?!!! Funnnnny lady!

Since this was also my first night solo with both kiddos, I let Sammie B have a cupcake and strawberries for dinner. There goes my mom of the year award ;o)

Mr. B, I'm so lucky to share these moments -- these magical, wonderful moments of giggles, smiles, and love -- with you and our girls. So, so lucky. I love you.
Happy birthday to you!