Saturday, February 1, 2014

On the other side

When I was four months pregnant with Anara, we left Finley with my parents for four days and flew to Savannah, Ga.
Lounging. Looking at art. You can only kind of
do this with a toddler. And it's not relaxing.

It was a planned getaway to remember what life was like without children. To enjoy each other, and to hold on to that feeling in the midst of the frustrations that would inevitably come with having two little ones.

Baby-free.

We had a great time. At first, it was exhilarating not being with a toddler.

I could sit in a plane seat and read.
I could eat whenever I wanted, and not stand up a million times to refill this or clean up that.
I could stand in line for 45 minutes and it was relaxing.
I could sleep all night with no screams in the night waking me up.

It was incredible.

But at day three, something happened. I realized that I wasn't just getting a glimpse of what life was like before children, but what life would be like when they were grown up.

And there was something bittersweet about that. It will be on the other side.

I wonder if I'll still wake up early and in the middle of the night because my body will cling to the memories of caring for my babies?

And speaking of being on the other side, we're through our second major virus of the month. The doctor diagnosed Anara with RSV. Since the symptoms were nearly identical to what both kids had at Christmas, I wonder if it was the same thing?

Whatever it was, four weeks of illness in a month and a half was hell.

I love this picture. I'm comforting Finley at Christmas dinner.
He had a fever and was getting so sick. 
Week two of illness in January; Anara with RSV.
Carrying, bouncing, shushing, nursing, crying.

More of the same when daddy got home.
My mother came up and helped me this week, thank god. I really don't know how I could've gotten through the week otherwise. I mean, I know how I could have -- with a lot of tears. Finley's tears. Anara's tears. And my own. But thankfully, I had help.

Canvas painting while someone else held the baby.

I hope I remember this season in my life and its struggles. I hope I am never flippant or disregard the difficulties of other young parents of a toddler and infant. It is no joke in terms of difficulty. I've been unemployed for nearly three years, but I've never worked harder.

All better. 
I think on the other side, it will have been worth it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting through the sick of it.

We can't seem to shake the nasty winter bugs this season.
Morning green smoothie, for me and the bug and the hub.
Maybe this will help? I suppose it can't hurt, right?
Finley spent a full two week (over Christmas and New Year's) very ill. His fever kept spiking even after a week of catching whatever it was that he had. We pulled our first all-nighter with him, and it was at my in-laws' place, with all four of us in the same room. It was a looooong night. Good thing Lois Kaufmann makes the best chicken-quinoa soup on Earth!

Finley got better. Anara got better. I got better. And despite spending our second consecutive New Year's Day in Urgent Care, we were beginning to look on the bright side.

Then Finley got sick again.
Coloring, stamping, drawing light bulbs, blowing noses.
Fever, congestion, screaming all night.

Having a sick infant and a sick toddler is pretty much the hardest thing ever. I remember before children/time when I would get sick, I really felt sorry for myself.

Ha. Lying on the couch all by yourself, sick, seems a bit like a holiday now. But there are blessings in being home sick with two sick kids. Children are resilient. They smile. They play. They have a great time, and I can help them forget that they are sick. That's a kind of accomplishment I never dreamed I would feel so proud of.
Stacking, climbing, watching...
jumping
I am thankful…

that winter will not last forever.
taking a laundry basket ride
that I have (mostly) healthy children.

that we get to spend these precious, sick days together.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A bread a week

Since we moved to Michigan, I've been baking bread.

Baking bread in jammies with Finley (when he was a baby).
Not making it a few times, but making it every single week. I've skipped here and there, but for the most part, it's been consistent.

In Korea, I couldn't find good yogurt in a large enough size, so I always made my own. I used to incubate my tub of yogurt all night on the radiant-floor heat in my apartment. In the morning we would wake up to a dish of yogurt thick as cream, and we'd scarf it down all week.

I got in the habit of doing that sort of food preparation there, and I simply exchanged the product I work with here. My recipes vary, but I always have bread.

Fancy challah.

More fancy challah (I was on a kick with this for a few weeks.
It made some astonishingly good French toast.

Basic whole wheat dough for grilled pizza in the
summer and pizza-stone oven pizza in the winter.
Long-rise, no knead bread in the Dutch oven. With this recipe.

 I also make a basic sandwich recipe using this recipe with half whole wheat, coconut oil or olive oil as the fat, and half the sugar. It always turns out really well. I've tried it with almond milk instead of cow's milk, but the texture isn't as rich.

I order a 25 lb. bag of organic flour from our food co-op for $18 and it lasts a few months. Compared to $7-a-loaf artisanal breads, I know I've saved a great deal on baking instead of buying (though I love to buy it now and then, too!)

Ironically, I've felt better lately when I have less bread and more protein. I can't give up the bread completely, though. It's Finley's favorite food, as well as our lunch staple, and it's so good. I guess I'll have to cut back on eating half a loaf in one sitting.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lights!

So, as warm weather has fled and the fans have been put away, Finley has retired his fan obsession, and taken up a new one: lights!

Incandescent light bulbs, CFLs, fluorescents, Christmas lights, glow sticks, LEDs, neon lights, halogens, plasma bulbs -- he knows them all!
Finley's glow stick from the MSU homecoming parade.

Inspecting Christmas lights with some former students' son
at the MSU English Language Center end-of-semester party.

Finley LOVES Christmas lights!

Finley lighting up a burned-out CFL bulb using the plasma
bulb night light his Aunt Megan and Uncle Mike gave him.

Finley, comparing and contrasting the watt usage of an
incandescent light bulb versus an LED light bulb
at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum

Trying to determine what kind of bulb it is.  He concluded it
was an incandescent bulb because he found a filament. 

So here's some nice pictures of him playing in the snow, right?  Well...read on.
He spent about an hour, not making snowballs, but making
snow bulbs, carrying them into the garage and "shattering"
them on the floor.  But "It's OK, daddy.  I'll sweep it up."

I insisted on making a snow man before
agreeing to make him a big incandescent
light bulb!

We then transformed the incandescent
lightbulb into a CFL bulb.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Giving thanks for cousins

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday with Austin's folks in Indiana, and we were lucky enough to have our Kansas relatives join us.  

Finley was old enough to play with his cousins (in as much as two year olds play with others) and Anara was old enough to be smitten with her four-year-old cousin.
I love this series of photos of him.



One brave Nana cooking with two 2.5 year olds and one 4 year old
Anara's love, her cousin Madeleine
My cousin Maggie gifted me with two boxes of adorable baby clothes.
I might have packed five pairs of shoes for my 3 month old.
Nightly Moby wrap/football-watching/putting-baby-to-sleep sesh. 
Head up at 3.5 months.

Rocking a widow's peak and a Thanksgiving dress.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Life with Two


Holding one. 

Biking with the other. 

I have two kids now, but I don't really have them to myself, all day long, until Austin goes back to work next month.  I've done two hours here, four hours there, and it's been fine, so I'm slowly growing more relaxed with the idea.

So far I really like having two kids.

When I had Finley I remember thinking that it would be absolutely impossible to have two children -- the sheer amount of work that one required was straight up shocking.  I had a lot of anxiety with Finley, though.  He was my first baby, and I'm a bit of a worry-wart, as much as I dislike that personality trait.  I had a rough delivery experience and it was followed by an international move, house hunting, car hunting, and staying with relatives for two months.  It was an enormous amount of change, and I calculated that we packed and moved ELEVEN times before Finley turned four months.  Eleven different places we stayed with him, including in another country.  And I never once slept more than a three-hour stretch.

All of that combined with a touch of postpartum depression meant that sometimes life with "just" one baby often felt overwhelming. Sometimes...

I was crippled thinking about him getting a cold.

I worried that I could never get him to sleep and panicked that something was wrong when he actually did sleep.

I was petrified of a whole 9-, 10-, 11-hour vista of a day with just me and the baby, all alone.

I think these are all pretty much normal first-time parenting worries, and my situation exacerbated them.
My first Mother's Day with Finley.

Comparatively, this time around feels like a breeze.

At the pool with Anara, feeling carefree.
In the first week, I had some typical postpartum anxiety signs -- I had no appetite whatsoever and I was really worried about Anara catching a cold (Finley came down with one when she was just four days old).  I felt like I couldn't possibly take care of two babies at once.  I pulled a muscle in my hip and I felt like I would never feel like myself again physically.

But that was all in the first 10 days, and I didn't feel like that all of the time; it was just some of the time.

Things have only gotten better since then.

If the baby cries, I know it will stop.
If she's got gas, I know it will get better.
If I'm sleep deprived, I know it won't last forever.

In fact, it will go so quickly.
Finley as a baby...
...and two years later.

Instead of worrying my way through the first few weeks and months, I'm trying to linger and savor how sweet a baby Anara is because I know it will pass before I blink an eye.

Anara in the same bouncy chair.

I look at Finley and how much he's changed in just two years, and I know that Anara will grow so quickly.
My "baby" Finley with Anara.

It makes even the midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 7 a.m. wake-up calls bittersweet because I know that the season of my life as a mother of a newborn is nearly over. And it will likely be my last time ever with a newborn.

The first time Finley held Anara.  He
requested to hold her.
Life is so quick!

I'm cherishing these first days with my family of four.




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Paternal Leave (+ DIY Poject)

Out for a (short) walk around
the Flowerpot neighborhood.
Let me tell you about how thankful I am for working at an institution that offers paternal leave.  In this country -- which shockingly does not even legally mandate maternal leave, let alone paternal leave -- I know I am very fortunate that MSU has given me 6 weeks of paid leave, thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act.  

Being able to spend so much time with Anara, Finley, and Victoria in these first weeks of major change has been absolutely amazing, and necessary. Victoria has needed time to heal, more from a pulled gluteus maximus muscle pull than from the delivery itself.  (Yes, in her words, she "broke her ass.")  Finley has also needed some time to adjust to having a little sister, and that requires parental patience.  And patience isn't always easy to come by when a newborn keeps you up much of the night.  

Thankfully, with two of us here at home, we've been able to keep ahead of the diapers and laundry, the tantrums and regressions. 

Finley and I have even had time to do a fun house project: building some nice pantry shelves in the basement.

Unfortunately, I failed to take a true "BEFORE" picture of the rickety black wall-mounted shelves that we've been using since we moved in, but here is a picture of the empty space after I tore them out.

First, I let Finley do some painting.

which he LOVED.

Then I touched up a few spots that he'd missed.

Next, it was time to measure, cut the 2x2s, and...

start framing in the shelves.

Painting the frames.

We had to tear out some other shelves in the basement when we added the bathroom last year (which we never blogged about, sadly), so every inch of the wood used for these shelves was reused and had been sitting in our basement anyway.  



Finished!
Finley is inspecting the pencil sharpener and...

...his great-grandpa Kobie's "secret drawer."   Victoria's grandpa built this
little drawer under his dining room chair, and in it he had kept his flavored
pipe tobacco.  You can still catch a whiff of the flavored aroma in the wood
after all of these years, and there are still keys to his workshop in there, too.
Grandpa Kobie passed away more than a decade ago, but this is a great memory of him!