What a difference a year makes

One year ago today we found out Charlie was on his way!

It’s hard to imagine our little family without him, but here’s a shot from that night out celebrating our little secret.

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And here’s today. All four Allards have a NASTY cough but that won’t stop Charlie from smiling.

Amazing how much life can change in so little time!

Posted in Uncategorized

Our Two Week ~$7K Kitchen Remodel

As I mentioned in our catch-up list, we renovated our kitchen this summer in about 2 weeks for about $7K ( I originally said 6, I was forgetting the sink my mental math, oops). It was extra extra of me.

If moving 10 days before your baby is born twice isn’t insane enough, on baby #2 we also decided to tackle an overhaul of our kitchen in a 2-3 week window before we had a little get together to introduce Charlie to friends and family. Nothing like piling on the pressure to ensure sh*t gets done!

When we bought our house, it was clear that it needed some serious updating. It had been immaculately maintained and did a good job of meeting our must-haves (4+ bedrooms, 2.5+ baths, nice backyard, play space, semi-open concept, decent master suite) but it was very dated in terms of decor and the kitchen was lacking in both form and function.

We knew the kitchen would need to be renovated, but we didn’t plan to tackle it right away. We thought we’d need to save up both money and energy. But then we just went ahead and did it anyway. Why? Because in a surge of postpartum hormones I flipped out about it. It’s not flattering, but it is true.

Months of uncertainty and a difficult pregnancy meant that I had no ability to nest. And we house-hunted in a terrible seller’s market, so this house was FULL of compromises for me. It’s a nice house but far more suburban and cookie-cutter than I’d ever expected to purchase.  My first house hunt had been focused all on character, and while my old house had issues it was LONG on character and charm. This house was seriously lacking in the character department and once we’d stripped out all the 90s florals, no where was the lack of character more apparent than in the kitchen

We had planned to invite people over to celebrate Charlie’s arrival, and the thought of bringing people into that kitchen was just killing me. I knew we couldn’t tackle everything I wanted to do, but I took an inventory of the must-dos and hatched a plan. Then I calmly presented it to Aaron. Or I cried about how my ugly house was killing my soul… You decide. Either way in a fit of mercy, he agreed.

So the kitchen… it had:

  • 80/90s heavy grain oak cabinetry
  • scalloped, squatty upper cabinets
  • an island too small to be functional
  • a general lack of storage
  • an electric range
  • mismatched appliances
  • a gross old fridge
  • florescent tube box lights
  • some of the ugliest laminate counter tops I’ve ever seen
  • and it stopped several feet short to leave room for a breakfast table we didn’t need

On the plus side, it has:

  • nice neutral porcelain tile (that admittedly wouldn’t be my first choice but is very high quality and quite functional) so we didn’t need to undertake the expense or effort of new flooring
  • a lack of sofits, so we didn’t need to do demo to install full height cabinets
  • lower cabinets with a classic raised-panel door made of solid wood which we would spruce and keep
  • the too small island cabinet was floating, so we were able to reuse it by moving to the adjacent wall of cabinets to extend the kitchen space

Here are before shots I took while house-hunting:

We were/are contemplating a large addition to the house in the 3-5 year time frame if we stay put, and if we do it, it’ll change the floor plan and expand the kitchen. With this in mind, we didn’t want to invest a lot of money in materials that would be ripped out if we want to add on.  And since we’d recently had baby and bought a new house in a seller’s market, we weren’t necessarily in a financial position for a super splurgey kitchen reno anyway. So we moved forward on a plan for a relatively quick, relatively inexpensive (in terms of kitchen remodel average costs, not actual dollars) kitchen reno. We decided to splurge on the items that would work in this kitchen and/or a future expanded kitchen and save anywhere else we could.

Our projects and costs:

  1. Swap out florescent light boxes for new pendant lanterns ($275)
  2.  Remove original Upper Cabinets (these are going eventually be hung in our garage for workshop cabinets) and replace with pre-assembled 42″ cabinets with a door panel to match lowers (~$1200)
  3. Install original mini-island as a contiguous lower cabinet
  4. Build a new island out of two stock lower cabinets and trim out (~$500)
  5. Remove ugly laminate counter tops and replace with butcher block stained with Walnut danish oil  (~$650)
  6. Retrofit existing sink cabinet to accommodate fancy farmhouse sink and install new brass faucet (~$900)
  7. Paint all lower cabinets navy to update dated orangey oak finish (~$100)
  8. Install new brass pulls to all cabinets (~$185)
  9. Install Subway Tile back-splash (~$150)
  10. Trade out mismatched appliances for matching stainless steel appliances and have gas line run to stove (~$3000)
  11. Install crown molding on upper cabinets (~$300)

The Durings:

Now tbh, I say it was a two week kitchen reno, but that’s not the whole story. We got 90+% of the way done in our two week window, and then let the last 10% languish for the rest of the summer still undone. We need some tips on getting those clean-up, finish type tasks over the line. Any ideas?

Anyway, here’s the good stuff – the afters!

Posted in Home Sweet Home, Recipes for Success Tagged with: , ,

Traveling #withababy and/or Toddler

Showing baby Magnus Daddy's law school

Showing baby Magnus Daddy’s law school

Airplane babywearing!

Airplane babywearing!

Travel meltdowns happen

Travel meltdowns happen

We travel a fair bit as a family. Magnus took his first flight at 6 weeks old and in his 27 months he’s been to Florida (every couple of months), Ohio (every couple of months) , New York, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, England, France, Italy, Germany and Ireland. Charlie at 4 months has only been to Ohio and Florida so far, but he’s a natural traveler with his easy-going temperament. I even took both boys on one airplane leg by myself. On the whole, travel with small children is very do-able. And when they’re under 2 domestic air travel on the lap adult is free and internationally you only have to pay their taxes and fees, so enjoy that while you can!

Some people think we are insane. Maybe we are a little bit? In some ways it would be easier to just stay home, or to leave the kids behind with sitters and travel as a couple more and wait until our children are older and blah blah blah.  But the thing is that unfortunately, like so many things in life, the best way to learn to be a good traveler is to practice. We want good travelers. And since we want also flexible, resilient, curious children, and travel is a great opportunity to practice those skills ,we are  working on practicing those skills from the earliest ages. I think my kids will benefit from experiencing new and different things, from connecting with friends and family who live far away, and from seeing their parents prioritize parental fun too. Also there is so very much world to see and so many of the people we love are far flung, so I don’t really want Aaron and I to press pause on doing the things we love and want just because travel with kids requires more planning.

Cheesing like a wild man in a Hampton Inn in Virginia

Cheesing like a wild man in a Hampton Inn in Virginia

Cruising around the Magic Kingdom, about to fall asleep

Cruising around the Magic Kingdom, about to fall asleep

Getting some kicks out on the floor of the ATL airport during a flight delay

Getting some kicks out on the floor of the ATL airport during a flight delay

But it does tend to require a little bit more planning and can go a lot smoother if you are prepared. So here are a few tips and tricks that have helped us to enjoy travel with our little ones:

General Tips & Tricks for Travel with Baby

  • Have reasonable expectations – you move slower with babies and toddler and that’s okay. It’s a different travel experience, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great
  • Think about nap times and sleep schedules when planning your day
    • We aren’t rigid about a set schedule, but it helps to think through where you’re going to be and what you’re going to be doing during a normal nap or bedtime. If your baby is like Charlie is and Magnus was, as long as you have a baby carrier and/or a stroller with full recline you’re probably good to go. Now that Magnus is older, he has a harder time getting a good nap just anywhere. Still, it’s nice to plan a block of time in the day that’s back in your room or somewhere calm and quiet. But we go with the flow, if he misses a nap or gets off schedule, we just adjust our expectations and try to help meet his needs the best we can understanding that we might have a few more meltdowns if he’s overtired.
  • Talk to your child about where you are going and what you are doing.
    • Children as young as six months start to understand you when you are talking and even before that, they love the eye contact and attention and I believe it helps babies integrate into their families. There’s also a direct link between how many words a baby hears each day and his or her language skills. One study found that babies whose parents spoke to them a lot scored higher on standardized tests when they reached age 3 than children whose parents weren’t as verbal. Also imagine someone just kept moving you through space and into strange settings without explanation, wouldn’t it be unsettling?
  • Wear your baby – It makes everything easier because baby likes cuddles and you like having use of your hands. We love our Ergo and get a ton of use out of it especially while traveling.
  • Use your stroller as a luggage cart
  • Pick seats and board strategically, many airlines will let you early board for free to prevent the slowdown during regular boarding. This can be a great option, but it means more plane time. The other option is to board as late as possible to minimize plane time. Pros and Cons to each approach, also consider if you want seats near the front for easier, faster exits or near the bathrooms
  • Screenshot airline and TSA baby policies – Unfortunately in my experience you can’t rely on them to know or apply their own polices so I always have a copy ready in case someone tries to make me throw away my baby food or pay for a check-free piece of baby gear
  • Nurse (or bottle feed) on take-off and landing
  • Pack only 1-2 days of essentials with you, if it’s a longer trip. You can either send supplies ahead or stock up on arrival
    • When we go to my parent’s Florida cottage we have an amazon delivery of diapers and other necessities waiting for us on arrival and many hotels will also accept deliveries
  • Make sure to give baby floor time, no one likes to be cooped up all day, even your littlest ones can benefit from the ability to stretch out on the floor and be free for a bit
  • Consider larger known hotel chains – we like Hilton, we know what to expect, they have global customer service to solve problems and they’ll always provide a pack n play (but not always  a proper play yard sheet)
    • Another approach I’ve seen lauded by those who travel with babes, is to book Air B&B’s that are family focused and can result in having to bring less gear
  • Be prepared to diaper change in strange places, this is especially true in Europe where few places have public restrooms let alone changing facilites
  • Make sure to have passports/birth certificates and insurance information available
  • Invest in packing cubes and spread your families cubes around in your bags if you have multiples (a lifesaver in the event of lost luggage)
    • I’ll do another post soon about packing cubes and how we use them
  • Plan for the climate on both sides when packing
  • Google Family-friendly or baby-friendly restaurants in the city you are visiting
    • – We’ll take our kids almost anywhere, but sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere you know has highchairs and good changing facilities and doesn’t mind chaos
  • Find the baby friendly places
    • Domestically, if you’re out and about and need a nice place to nurse or do some baby care- pop into a Nordstrom, Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby. They all have nice “Mother’s Rooms”. I’m shameless at this point and will feed my baby whenever and wherever he needs to be fed, but sometimes it’s nice to have a calm comfortable room where no one is leering or giving you side-eye
  • Pack as lightly as you think you can tolerate for yourself and partner since you’re going to also be carrying another person and all of his stuff
  • Practice with your gear, if you buy new stuff for a trip make sure you know how to use it, trust me you don’t want to be learning how to fold or unfold your stroller with a airplane line of people cuing behind you
  • Expect some adjustment struggles on both sides. If your sleep trained baby or toddler is used to sleeping solo in a crib or room and then gets to share a room or bed with you for a few nights, you might have to recommit to solo sleeping when you get home

Toddler Specific Tips & Tricks

  • Download a few episodes of their favorite show (for Magnus this would be Daniel Tiger or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) onto your phone, even if you have a tablet for their use
  • Remember that tickers provide endless entertainment – We really like the Usborn sticker books and my bff happens to sell them if you want the hook up
  • Consider a snack tackle box, you really can’t pack too many snacks
  • Plan for finger puppets or other small pretend play – think what can be done on an airplane tray table
  • Find somewhere to run and play ASAP
    • any airports have play areas, so do most Chic-Fil-as and don’t forget public parks, before and after sitting still for hours your little one needs to PLAY
  • Protect little ears, We have these kiddo-friendly earphones
  • Consider leaving your big fancy stroller at home and taking a travel stroller.
    • We have a Recaro easylife, which we enjoyed all over Europe. We liked it so much that we stopped using our bigger stroller entirely and used this one all the time. It’s incredibly lightweight and can be folded with one hand. However since we bought ours they’ve been discontinued and this very similar one came on the market, and it looks even better because it comes with a travel backpack and has more accessories available
  • Give your toddler opportunities to chart his/her own course.
    • Travel constrains a lot of our choices. We have to be somewhere at X time, we don’t have all of our usual stuff, we are locked into specific plans. If you don’t intentionally make space for your child to choose things, they can end up being frog-marched through a trip. This is bad for your child’s general development, and your travel experience. You’ll have to draw a hard line on seat belts, and flight times, but letting your kid pick which book to read or which of an approved offering of snacks to enjoy or which sticker page to play with helps your child so that she will feel some sense of control, which contributes to healthy personality development by building up a sense of autonomy.
  • Start practicing important skills before a big trip
    • So this mostly applies if you’re considering extended travel time (we took a European vacation with Magnus at 16 months)– practice safe behavior in public places like staying together in stores, holding hands in parking lots, and working against the toddler tendency to bolt off at the first-chance. At least for Magnus, repetition is the key to new skill-building, so we try to avoid putting expectations on him in a crunch-time situation unless he has had a chance to practice the skill before.

Things to add to your Diaper Bag

  • Infant Tylenol & thermometer  – or risk trying to find a pharmacy open in the middle of the night in a strange location
  • Baby finger nail clippers & file –
    • I just got this set and it’s a game changer in reducing fear of clipping and you’d be surprised how handy these can be not just for stabby little baby nails but also cutting plastic tags, etc in a pinch
  • 2 more backup outfits that your usual stock – we like sleepers for babies who don’t walk because it’s all one piece and no hunting around for
  • Backup Wubbanubs in individual ziploc bags – Wubbanubs are life and you need extras for when you kid invariably drops one on a filthy airport bathroom floor
  • Snacks or baby food if baby is on solids
  • Manual breast pump, I have this one since it’s interchangeable with our bottles – even if you’re traveling with your real pump, keep this one in your diaper bag just in case you get stuck
  • Disposable diaper bags – these things will contain a mess in the event of a poopmergency
  • A blanket if you don’t usually stock them – we like the Aden + Anias muslin blankets because they are large and lightweight so good for a nursing cover, swaddle, car seat drape, impromptu play mat, etc
  • A weather-appropriate baby hat
  • A shirt that Mom Dad or alternate caregiver could wear in a pinch – I’d recommend a nice black v-neck that could look good on a variety of sizes and shapes, so that if your kid barfs or pees all over one of you, you have something easily accessible
Seeing the sights in Rome, impressed with Gelato.

Seeing the sights in Rome, impressed with Gelato.

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Checking out a London pub

Checking out a London pub

Enjoying pretzels at the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich

Enjoying pretzels at the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich

What travel tips do you have for enjoying trips with your littles? Share in the comments!

Checking out the total eclipse from an airplane windo

Checking out the total eclipse from an airplane windo

Flying solo with 2 boys!

Flying solo with 2 boys!

Posted in Family Style, Recipes for Success Tagged with: ,

Charlie @ 4 Months

You blink, and all the sudden your helpless tiny squishy newborn is a person.

Charlie turned 4 months old on Monday and I think we’d all agree that he’s only getting cuter and more fun with each passing day. He’s the happiest baby I’ve ever been around and generally incredibly easy to please.

In the last month Charlie had his first cold, went to his first IU tailgate,  he met his cousin Sofia, he went to his first Renaissance festival, took his first trip to IKEA, had his first day of daycare and has become super talkative.

He loves to coo and squeal, especially at his dad and Grandpa, he always wants to stand up and will turn on his high beam smile if you make eye contact with him.

Charlie4months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just in case you want to see how quickly he’s growing, here are his other monthly shots.
Charlie3months

Charlie2month
charlie1month
CharlieNewborn

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Milkin’ It

It’s great that our culture has become more supportive of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has a LOT of benefits. And I’m going to spend the majority of the rest of this post whining about how hard I’m working to protecting breast milk as my baby’s exclusive food source for as long as I can, so I’m up on the good milk. But before I start whining I have to say right up front, I don’t condone the cultish devotion to “Breast is Best” that gets crammed down the throats of too many moms. It’s excessive and to the point that children have actually died and moms have committed suicide in the most extreme cases and so vastly many more have had their physical and emotional well-being jeopardized by guilt and fear and shame surrounding the use of formula. Formula is a miracle. It saves babies lives and can help moderate or ameliorate a whole host of other bad outcomes. I will not be party to a culture that shames parents for feeding their babies. Breast milk, formula, a mix, it’s all part of a larger tool kit.   Most of the studies that the Breastfeeding Mafia cite to shame moms into exclusive breastfeeding can’t even demonstrate correlation let alone causation once you control for things like income, health, and education level of the mother. So let’s just calm down a little bit and let individuals weigh the pros and cons and come to the right choice for their families shall we?

That said, breastfeeding exclusively is the right (albeit it incredibly hard) choice for me and my baby… at least right now. Given my history of steroid-induced gestational diabetes and some of our other particular health situations, I’m firmly committed to extending breastfeeding for as long as we can make it work for specific medical risk mitigation.

But man, the hardest part of my work/life imbalance is pumping. It’s even harder than being away from the boys that I love for hours and hours. Pumping sucks for me.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I know that.  I have a great job with incredible flexibility. I got paid maternity leave (12 weeks including the two of my vacation that I used to get there). My office building has dedicated pumping rooms, many of which are equipped with hospital grade pumps. I have a great boss who is supportive of family life and an awesome team that will step up and in for each other to meet needs. I am paid well, so my family can afford the healthcare and childcare and extras that make 2 parents working 4 jobs and having two kids possible. So yeah, I’m very lucky. And even with all that it’s HARD.

My job is meeting driven. It’s not uncommon for me to be in back to back meetings my whole work day, or mega meetings that last 4 hours or 9 hours or whatever. Every day I have to aggressively manage my pumping schedule. It can be different for every woman, but I’ve found that to keep my supply high enough and avoid engorgement I have to hit a sweet spot where I pump every 2-3 hours. So that means I need to pump or feed 3 times during my workday. 3x a day I am having to excuse myself from meetings, or call into meetings that I am down the hall from, or I am having to turn down team lunches, or minimize travel commitments, or apologize because I can’t stay after hours yet again.  And again, because I’m lucky my coworkers are understanding and generally supportive. But I feel like an asshole. I feel so guilty for disrupting the flow of a discussion because I have to go because my breasts are going to explode. I feel like I’m always the one having to ask for the time, and it makes me worry that they’ll start to think I’m not working as hard, or worry I’m not a team player, or that I’m not on my game, so I put extra pressure on myself to shine anywhere else I can. I feel worse if I can’t make a pumping session work and I worry that missing this one is going to be the one that tanks my supply, and too add insult to injury it’s physically painful, and embarrassing when it causes leaking.

I FIGHT to protect those 30 minute blocks so I can pump between meetings on good days and in the all day meetings it means I’m pumping instead of getting a water, or pumping instead of going to the bathroom, sometimes it means I’m pumping instead of eating lunch because the 15 minute breaks that are enough for everyone aren’t even half the time I need.  And remember those dedicated pumping rooms? They are nearly impossible to come by because most of the women who use them need them at roughly the same times. There are 4 in my building, but they aren’t reservable and you don’t know if one is open unless you physically check it. At least 3 sessions a week, I have to try all four before I can find an open one, that alone takes about 12 minutes. And they all have hard chairs, and some are toilet-less stalls inside women’s bathrooms that smell and sound like bathrooms, and they aren’t not well climate controlled, etc. So I hate them, but even though I hate them I’m still so grateful they exist.

And those hospital grade pumps? Amazing! They speed things up and are far less annoying than my individual pump, but they aren’t in every room so I have to carry my pump around just in case. Which means to almost every meeting I have to haul my work bag with laptop, my pump, and my cooler (because I don’t have access to a fridge). And because I often have to carry them around all day, I constantly get asked if I’m leaving. No, I’m not leaving I’m just a bag lady who may or may not be dripping breast milk all through the building.

And for this first month back, I’ve been even luckier. Because if my schedule allows, my sweet parents will pick me up at work and bring me to my baby at lunch so I can nurse instead of pumping and then they drop me back off  and make sure I get food to cram into my mouth while I rush back out the door to make it to a 1pm meeting. I get that time with Charlie which is amazing, but logistically a nightmare. Even though I love seeing him I wouldn’t put myself through it if nursing weren’t so much more efficient for my supply. And with my folks going back to Florida, I’ll be having to figure out how to manage that. Do I try to feed Charlie in my car outside his daycare at lunch? Do I rely just on the pump and hope my supply can stay up if I add an extra session back in the middle of the night? I’m already eating into the precious I sleep desperately need need to wake my beautifully sleeping child 1-2x per night to nurse. No easy answers.

I’m really struggling to stay upbeat about it. It is a constant source of stress that drains my energy. And if it sucks this much for me and I know how lucky I am, how are the less lucky and unlucky people swinging it? Do they even have choices?

If you’ll forgive a bad pun, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. For the time being, I’m choosing to keep fighting for breastfeeding, and I’m grateful to have the choice even if I need to complain a little bit about it sometimes.

 

Posted in Family Style Tagged with:

While we were out…

So in the 17 months since I last managed to update this blog a lot of life has happened:

  • We celebrated our second wedding Anniversary
  • We went to Vegas for a bachelor party and our first getaway since becoming parents
  • We celebrated the wedding of a couple of our besties where I (Mary) served as Best Man
  • Magnus turned one and we threw an epic Circus Birthday
  • I had a chemical pregnancy or very early miscarriage or whatever uncomfortable terminology you prefer
  • We went to Florida and Disneyworld for my 32nd birthday
  • We went back to Florida sans Magnus to celebrate another bestie wedding that Aaron officiated
  • Magnus learned to walk
  • We went to Virginia and Aaron served as best man for his best friend’s wedding
  • I got Lyme Disease
  • Aaron completed his first half-marathon
  • I had sinus surgery
  • I got pregnant
  • Aaron took a new job prosecuting in Southern Indiana
  • I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum
  • We spent two weeks traveling Europe as a family
  • Aaron got accepted to the Air Force JAG core
  • We found out we were having another boy!
  • My parents accepted an offer to sell their house (which was our current home)
  • We threw our annual Fondue February party
  • I got a promotion at work
  • I officiated a wedding of some very dear friends
  • I got put on house arrest by my OB to try to manage my severe Asthma and couldn’t leave the house for 3 months
  • Aaron turned 30
  • The Air Force medical clearance process took an unreasonable 5 months and kept us in super limbo
  • I got steroid-induced Gestational Diabetes
  • We turned down the Air Force
  • We celebrated our third Wedding Anniversary
  • We bought new house
  • We moved in to a lovely house that was very much a shrine to 1996 when I was 35 weeks pregnant
  • We rushed to move and unpack essentials before Charlie arrived
  • I had an emergency-ish C-section at 37 weeks
  • Charlie was born (yeah, that’s sorta the same thing as above, but I deserve a line item here and so does he)
  • We did a whole lot of home projects
  • Magnus turned 2
  • We renovated our kitchen in 2.5 weeks for ~$6K
  • We threw a party to celebrate our new house and new baby
  • We went to Florida
  • I went back to work
  • More home projects
  • etc

It’s been a whirlwind. And yes, too many of those were medical issues for me. Luckily I’m doing SO MUCH better now and Charlie has made our little family so much happier. While things are plenty busy around here with 2 kids and 4 jobs etc,  I’ve majorly missed making this time to share over here, so I’m giving it another try. Here we go!

We’ll share some posts in the coming weeks catching up on the past and then turn and eye to some present projects and future plans, because things are still non-stop over here.

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Posted in Family Style

A Birth Story: Magnus Leo Allard

Happy Mother’s Day! Seems like a good day to share the story of how I became a mama to one perfect little ball of mischief and love.

Magnus was due July 24th. It’s completely silly, but in my heart, I really wanted him to hold out for his due date because it would make his astrological sign match his middle name, Leo, and I thought that would be cute. But that wasn’t to be.

My pregnancy was pretty healthy, at least for someone with a history of severe asthma, but an infection in late May triggered some pre-term labor contractions in my third trimester. My doctor recommended I take it VERY easy, and would put me on modified bed rest when they cranked back up at various points through the rest of my pregnancy. I mostly listened. But I’d also agreed to do set dressing for our local theater group’s production of Willy Wonka so late in June I put in a couple of long days with too much time bending over and crawling around on my knees arranging a river of chocolate and securing giant lollipops to a bridge, by the end of the second day I did not feel right. I tried over the next week to be really, really gentle with myself but I’m not sure I ever felt great pregnant after that. I didn’t immediately suspect anything because who expects to feel great when 36 weeks pregnant? Also, I was kinda busy trying to organize a move.

Yeah you heard me, we were moving in the ninth month of my pregnancy. After a previously failed attempt at a sale and purchase the year before we thought we’d stay put going into the pregnancy. But then we got robbed, which lead to quotes for major remodeling, and eventually lead to the decision to try selling again. This time, we found a buyer and we were closing 9 days before Magnus was due. Because of our crazy timeline, we decided to move our bedroom early so that if he happened to make an early debut we would have a port in the storm. Thank God for that.

So that first week of July a lot of my mental energy was spent trying to orchestrate a move where I couldn’t really move anything. We’d planned to spend a big part of the holiday (July 4th) weekend packing and moving things, but by Thursday afternoon on what I didn’t know them would be my last day of work I felt awful and actually had to go home a little early. I took a nap and woke up with a swollen face, crazy headache and a racing heart. I remember from my prenatal reading that headaches could be a symptom of blood-pressure issues so I borrowed my dad’s at-home blood pressure cuff and took a reading.  It was high. Not like go straight to the ER high, but higher than I’d ever seen for me. Since it was after hours on a holiday week, rather than my doctor, I called the birthing center. They told me to take tylenol, drink lots of water, lay on my side, and take my pressure again in an hour. If it didn’t go down, they wanted me to come in. But it went down, so Friday morning, Aaron and our friends went ahead with our moving plans as scheduled.  But by that evening, it was back up even higher and it wasn’t as responsive to rest. They ordered me in and I spent the next few days playing preeclampsia and c-section chicken. (Side note: even though I only met some of the criteria for preclampisa when I first went in, I was POSITIVE something was up and I’m glad I listened to my body and my intuition and went back after being released or else things would have gotten much worse out of the watchful eyes of the doctors and nurses who took care of us).

I hadn’t slept a full night since around the 20 week mark of my pregnancy (which incidentally may have been the cause or earliest indicator of my pre-e according to some journal articles I read) so Sunday night, which was unbeknownst to me at the time, my last childless night,  the doctor on-call, ordered me to stay and loaded me up with sleeping pills. I thought I wouldn’t sleep in the hospital bed, especially since we’d decided it was best for Aaron to go home, but I got a glorious full night of sleep for the first and last time in months.

We were excited for my doctor to see me Monday morning, as he’d be back in after the holiday and finally get some answers on what was going on and how much longer pregnancy would continue. I got up early to shower, shave my legs, and color my hair in the hospital bathroom. Yes, I know, it was a little insane. But I was already overdue for a root touch-up and didn’t want all my new baby and mama photos ruined for me by only seeing my grays and I rightly predicted it might be a fair bit before I’d be able to do those things again.  Freshly cleaned and colored, we waited all morning for the doctor.

After a few hours, I was getting impatient and hungry! I was about to send out a search party for an OB for a cheeseburger, when in walked two nurses to prep me for the C-section I didn’t know for sure that I was having! Apparently my doctor had reviewed my stats and made the call first thing in the morning that my baby needed to be delivered that day as I officially met all the diagnostic criteria for preeclampsia and it seemed to be getting worse rather quickly, but the message didn’t get delivered.  He came in a little bit later and did another pelvic exam to double-check that I still wasn’t well positioned to be induced since my cervix was still unfavorable,  my baby’s head was measuring very big (42 weeks at 36 weeks), and my pelvic inlet had been charitably described as “not-impressive.” We agreed the C-section was the right call. My surgery was set for 1:00pm.

With a couple of hours before go time, I sent Aaron home to have lunch and finish a small electrical project he’d been working on for our new bedroom. Yes, the day of our first child’s birth I had my husband switching out light sockets. But they were loose, and loose sockets are a fire hazard and I worried if they weren’t done pre-baby it would be months!

As I waited for Aaron to get back and surgery drew nearer, my fears emerged. I’d spent that whole weekend sure something was wrong and insisting my baby needed to be out to be safe, but once I knew for sure it was happening that afternoon, I felt a little bit terrified. All of the sudden I was changing into a hospital gown and wiping down with weird sterilizing cloths. I wanted time to slow down.

Aaron donned his gear and walked me down the hallway to the operating room holding my hand. I remember uttering silent prayers for the safe entrance of my little baby boy. I found myself whispering to him in those last minutes in my belly how much I loved him, how excited I was to meet him and how honored I was to be his mom. Telling him he was exactly what the world needed and that we were ready for him.

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Aaron was positively radiating joy and excitement. I’d seen his little kid on Christmas morning face before, in fact it was this capacity for wonder that made me fall in love with him, but on that day it was all the more. I thought in that moment with him that it was the most I’d ever loved anyone. They weren’t going to let Aaron stay with me while they administered the spinal block so he went back to wait and I entered the operating room.

waitingformags The hospital staff was gathered around to introduce themselves to me and the room glowed with bright white-blue light. It felt incredibly surreal. One of the nurses made conversation with me as I squatted over the table and the anesthesiologist prepped me. She had the kindest smile and bright blue eyes and as I chatted with her and told her our baby name and what I knew of our boy so far, she made me feel so safe. Her kindness was an incredible blessing. Getting the block was uncomfortable, but unremarkable. I remember getting help moving from the squat up on the table, to down flat on table as I was quickly losing feeling in my legs. Several people remarked at how calm I seemed as I was cracking jokes about Magnus’s head size and preeclampsia sparing my lady parts. I told them I knew I was in good hands and I wasn’t afraid.

Then I lost feeling in the lower half of my body. Which really isn’t a great way to describe it, because I didn’t lose all feeling, just normal feeling, what it actually felt like is that half of me was suddenly 4x heavier and my butt and legs were full of that pins and needles you feel when your foot falls asleep. I desperately wanted to move them, but I couldn’t and it freaked me out a little. I was complaining about it when I broke out in a terrible sweat and a rush of extreme nausea hit so violent I was certain I was going to pass out and/or vomit. The anesthesiologist added something to my dosing for that, and the wave of awful crashed right as Aaron was ushered in. I was so relieved he was there. He took my hand and as the worst of the nausea faded, I complained about how funny my ass felt.

My doctor came in and the surgical field was set. He asked if we were ready to meet our baby. We were! I felt the pressure and tugging I knew to expect from reading c-section stories all weekend just in case. The doctor asked Aaron if he felt up to taking a look. Aaron being 6’4 and not at all squeamish, stood up and easily peered over the blind. I remember feeling left out, so I asked Aaron to tell me if he could see Magnus. Before he could answer, the doctor asked if me if I wanted to hear about him or see him for myself? Of course, I wanted to see this tiny little person I was already in love with, so he lifted him up over the field.

It was only for a second, but I remember thinking he didn’t look like I expected. As I did, some of the goo that he was covered with dripped off of him and landed right on my mouth! Talk about baptism by fire! Less than a minute into motherhood and already the gross had started. I couldn’t even wipe it off. My arms were still strapped down, and I couldn’t speak because what was on my mouth would fall into my mouth. No one noticed as they whisked the baby over to examine him. Aaron went with him, like we’d planned, and anyone not attending to the baby was busy helping the doctor close me up, all except for the anesthesiologist. Mercifully, after what felt like a lifetime but was probably less than 30 seconds, he noticed and wiped me off.

I heard Magnus wail and my heart sang. I called over inquiring about his Apgar score. My doctor, who knew me too well, laughed and told me when they cry like that you don’t have to worry about the number (it was 8). They finished closing me up, unhooked and unstrapped me

Aaron had Magnus swaddled and cradled in his arms when they brought him over to me. He looked red and swollen and totally adorable. I asked for him immediately. Looking back and forth between his face and Aaron’s and realizing that no matter what else happened, we were finally the family we were always meant to be. My heart had burst wide open. I got to hold him as they wheeled us back to my room, beaming and crying the whole way at the sheer magic of this little creature we’d brought into the world. As we passed our families waiting in the lobby, the feeling got even stronger. Just minutes old and already so loved. He was here!

Magnus Leo Allard was born at 37 weeks and 3 days on July 6th, 2016 at 1:50pm. He was 8lbs 8oz, 20.5 inches long with a head full of hair that no one had expected.

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FAQs about Our Experiences thus far with Multi-generational Living

Q: Wait, You really moved in with your parents voluntarily? /Side-eye

A: Yes! While this decision certainly has financial upside, for us it was a choice and not out of grave necessity.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with family helping family when times get hard, but there are other valid (IMO) reasons for wanting to do this. I think the “modern” conception that we are supposed to go it alone from generation to generation is sad.  Family life is hard for almost everyone, even with unlimited financial resources there aren’t unlimited hours in a day and many hands make work light. Plus for us, we really weren’t sure where to go next, so it was a great opportunity to test out an idea we’ve been increasingly interested in.

Q: How are things going?

A: Things are going very well. Both families are cooking more meals at home, laughing more, and having more fun that we did when living separately. So far at least, the benefit seem to greatly outweigh any burdens.

Q: What did you do with all of your stuff?

A: We sold some (Craigslist, friends, etc), gave lots away, and crammed the rest into my parents house. There is a lot of our stuff along the sides of both garages, that is just waiting to be dealt with, but oh well!

Q: What did your parents do with their stuff?

A: They did an amazing job of clearing most of their stuff out of the main floor of the home by some things upstairs to fill vacant spaces, getting rid of LOTS of junk, giving some family treasures to extended family members, and moving some treasures down to their Florida cottage. I think it was hard on them at the time mostly because it happened on a very compressed schedule, but the hope is that it will eventually  make it much easier for them to move when they downsize.

Q: So are things totally crazy?

A: They were. Totally nuts. For at least a month. But little by little we all worked to get things put mostly back together. Between when Magnus was about 2 weeks old to about 6 weeks old I spent almost all of his nap times unpacking and finding homes for things. Aaron would spend a little time after work most nights moving heavy things into place, my dad made daily runs to donate stuff for weeks and weeks and my mom was a workhorse! She took the Florida Room which was sort of the holding space and totally impassable and in a few days of hard work had it looking like a usable room again. Okay so we still sometimes don’t know where a seldom used kitchen implement is, and I haven’t yet found the box that has the thank-you-notes-I-started-writing-in-the-spring-and-haven’t-finished-yet-cause-I’m-a-terrible person, by day to day we’re getting by comfortably.

Q: Do you miss your house?

A: Surprisingly, not really. I thought it would be harder for me cause I’m so into houses and stuff, and I poured myself into our old house, and because I am a homebody, but in actuality, I LOVE so much about our new living situation. I do miss entertaining which I could theoretically do more of, but I still don’t quite feel settled enough to throw a party or invite big groups of people in. But after four months, I feel more sure than ever that it was the exact right choice for us.

Q: What’s the best part of living in one house with your parents?

A: While the help we’ve received with the baby has been truly extraordinary, the BEST best part has come from being together. Watching my parents get to know their grandson, enjoying more family dinners, and having company during my maternity leave after Aaron had to go back to work, it’s been so wonderful. Call us crazy, but we really, really like to be together.

Q: So it isn’t free rent or babysitting or laundry or insert assumed or actual perk here?

A: Nope. Honestly. While I will never be able to properly express my gratitude to my parents for keeping Magnus this fall to ease my transition back to work before he starts daycare, and my mom has been a saint to help with (read, do almost all of) our laundry while I recovered after the birth,  and it’s amazing to get to save some money, the best part is actually in being together.

Aaron and I do sometimes worry about the benefits being too lopsided, so we’re constantly looking for ways to contribute more. We’ve gotten the family cooking more which is good for us all. We’ve taken over the utilities, and try to cover as many of the groceries, incidentals and maintenance costs as my parents will let us. I know Aaron and I are both looking forward to rolling up our sleeves more in the coming months to help my parents freshen the house for it’s eventual sale, but Aaron has already finished an unfinished storage closet that adds value for us now for storage and in the future for resale.

Q: How’s Aaron doing living with his in-laws?

A: I’ll try not to speak for him, but just on what I’ve observed, I think he’s pretty happy too. It was a little bit rough for everyone at the beginning when things were in chaos, but Aaron is unique in his ability to make things work. He did an excellent job balancing meeting his needs and establishing our (Aaron, Mary, Magnus) family’s rhythms all while folding himself in with my (my parents and their kids) family’s ways of living.

Q: Do you have any privacy?

A: Meh? Kinda? Mostly enough. Both Aaron and I, and my parents will each retreat into our respective bedrooms from time to time.  We’ve also each taken separate trips and evenings out, so it works out pretty well. I’d analogize it to most any roommate situation, except you have even less pressure to shield them from the ugly moments. And personally, the indignities of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, have dramatically decreased my need for privacy anyway.

Q: What’s the worst part?

A: Moving. Moving was the worst part, by a lot. It was not fun. It was very stressful and almost everyone was upset at some point in the process. But on any sort of ongoing basis, I’d say probably not having quite the right set-up rather than anything about actually living together.

Also my parent’s house wasn’t really designed for multi-gen living (or at least not our ideal of it) so we have a few storage and use issues from time to time. Sharing a kitchen is probably the hardest, but it helps that most home cooked meals are joint.

Q: How has your thinking for the next house you buy changed?

A: We will put a lot more value on a one story floorplan. Adding a baby to the family while living on the main floor of my parents house has let us realize how lovely it is to have basically everything we need on a single story. We also put even greater value on bathroom space, storage space, and kitchen design because we’re lacking enough of all in our current setup. We’re interested in multi-gen living in a future space also, so we keep our eyes out for suitable spaces.

Q: How long do you intend to stay there?

A: ? We don’t really know. A year? Two? Ish? So far it’s going really well and we still aren’t quite sure what we want to come next. It depends on when my parents are ready to put their house on the market, what’s going on with our family’s work/life balance, and when the right thing comes along. We think we’d like to be moving in to a new place before Baby #2 would arrive, but we don’t plan to start trying until next summer so that gives us a pretty decent window. In some ways I wouldn’t be surprised to fall in love with a house and make a move relatively quickly, but we’re certainly in no rush and I think it’s more likely we’ll stay put through 2016.

 

Q: Would you recommend it?

A: Not to answer like a lawyer, but it depends. Are you super close your family? Is your spouse? Are most of the parties pretty flexible? If I’m honest, I’m probably the least flexible person in our arrangement. My parents and my husband have all given me incredible latitude here, and that’s probably a big part of why I’m happy with it. It means more compromise that I am used to, but not more than I can handle. It’s humbling to move into someone else’s space after controlling your own for several years, especially for someone like me who built up large parts of my identity around the home I created. It’s also incredibly rewarding. If you’re interested I’d recommend trying to go in with common and clear expectations.

Q: Are you glad you did it?

A: Yes! So many times over. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns but it is exactly what we needed. It has given us enormous support for this transition to parenthood and frees us up to take a good hard look at what the next, right, housing-fit is for our family. In the last few weeks my company announced large layoffs which will likely have a big impact on our local housing market. Had we waited until after the baby was born, our house might have been that much harder to sell. The relief that I feel knowing that we are free to make the choices that are best for our family is huge.

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Happy Halloween!

Hope your holiday is full of fun.

image Da do0! From Audrey, Seymour, Orin and Audrey 2

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5 weeks, 5 weddings #withababy

This fall we had a bounty of wedded bliss to celebrate between friends and family members. So much so that now if it’s Saturday and we’re not at a wedding or reception, the baby is probably very confused. In fact, after five weekends in a row of celebrating weddings, he probably thought that’s just what we do on Saturdays.

Magnus has been a real trooper about it. For the most part he’s charmed the pants off most of the wedding crowds while napping, smiling, and even hitting the dance floor. His behavior has been so angelic at these events that he has contributed to our delusion that ewe might actually know what we’re doing with this baby. It’s fun.  And since we’ve had so much practice of late, I thought I’d share what works for us in hitting the wedding circuit with a baby.

Here are my tips for taking infants to weddings:

  1. Arrive early to get a good seat near the back in case you need to make a speedy exit. Babies are wily little creatures.
  2. Have food ready and available. I was sure to breastfeed Magnus right before each ceremony, because a full Magnus is a happy Magnus, but even still we’d have a bottle prepped. And since quiet is called for during ceremonies, he got to eat at the first sign of wanting to instead of after taking the time to double-check all the cues. But it worked! No crying during wedding ceremonies from our little guy.
  3. Soak up the opportunities to dress your baby in ridiculous outfits. If there is ever a “good reason” to buy too many baby bow ties, surely this is it, or if you’re my particular brand of crazy, to plan color coordinated outfits for the whole family.
  4. Bring backup outfits. PLURAL. You never know for sure where a blowout will strike, but odds are it will happen in a public, formal setting, like say a rather loud emission as a bride made her way down the aisle. Ooops!
  5. Take as many pictures as you can. We did better at this at some events than others, but we’re learning the more pictures taken, the better the chances of something usable. But really, what’s the point of ridiculous baby ensembles if you don’t have photographic proof of them? And they really do grow up so fast!
  6. Accept help. Sleepy babies are heavy, pass them back and forth if need be between parents. Dead arm is no way to start your evening. Also there will be people at these events that want to help you. If you’re confident you aren’t risking crazy germ exposures, let them hold the baby while you dance with your partner. Let them hold the doors for you. Let them help you carry the extra plate back from the buffet. If you’re lucky enough to have baby’s grandparents in attendance, and they’re kind enough to take baby home early, say yes please and thank you!
  7. Know your limits and your baby’s. It’s okay not to stay until they kick you out, your friends will understand. Also know your limits on wedding boozing. 4am feeds with a hangover are a lot less fun for everyone. Also when baby is done, let him be done. It’s not the right time for a battle of wills, sure maybe you will eventually calm your tiny terrorist, but don’t be a hero. If baby gets too cranky, clear out, you can win that battle in the privacy of your car or hotel room.

After sharing this I realize, these are really my tips for going anywhere with a baby.

And for your viewing pleasure here are some pictures of our family at these blessed events:

Magnus waving a ribbon wand after Anna & Joey's gorgeous wedding!

Magnus waving a ribbon wand after Anna & Joey’s gorgeous wedding!

Mommy and Magnus shaking tail feathers on the dance floor at Alyssa & Matt's amazing wedding!

Mommy and Magnus shaking tail feathers on the dance floor at Alyssa & Matt’s amazing wedding!

Practicing being a very fancy baby

Practicing being a very fancy baby to celebrate Heidi and Barry

Someone signaling his approaching bedtime after partying hard in celebration of Katie and Brennan

Someone signaling his approaching bedtime after partying hard in celebration of Katie and Brennan

 

Family selfie at Megan and Daniel's glorious day!

Family selfie at Megan and Daniel’s glorious day!

I’m so looking forward to our last wedding celebration of the fall this coming weekend. We’ll be heading south for a family reception in Georgia for my lovely cousin and her new husband. I’m so excited to celebrate them, see my extended family and introduce them to our little guy!

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