Adjusting to Life With a Toddler and a Newborn

While pulling into the parking lot of the pediatrician’s office today I began to strategize. Find a spot close to the entrance, Okay, grab the diaper bag, then take the baby out first since he is in the carrier, then grab Claire and hold on to her squirmy little wrist and when it comes time to open the door to the building? Well…lets just cross that bridge when we get to it!

Adjusting to life with a newborn is a feat in and of itself, and when we threw a toddler into the mix things quickly got complex. Here are a few reasons why.

Naps- 10 minutes after the toddler falls asleep, the baby cries, waking the toddler. So I sit on the floor of the nursery next to her small bed nursing one while patting the back of the other. 40 minutes (if I’m lucky!) later I slink out of the bedroom and carefully close the door only for the squeak of the hinge to wake the newborn, then, repeat.

Too Much Love- If Billy is napping, Claire wants to wake him up to play. She gives his cheek a gingerly pat and says “wake up baby!”. Her love for him is sometimes too strong! She wants to kiss him and hug him and grab his face. We’ve had some fingernail scratches and many reminders to be gentle.

Playtime- My newborn is limited in what he can do physically and my toddler needs me to protect her from herself! One is fragile and still being coddled at the breast in the shade while the other wants to climb, run, jump and play in the sunshine! I’m tethered to one, and chasing the other.

20180707_181148(1)

 

Tandem Nursing- I thought I made it to easy street only nursing Claire for 5 minutes at nap time and bedtime She was practically weaned! Then the new baby was born and we reversed right back to…difficult street. I don’t know at what time it is that you are reading this but I can bet that it is time to nurse at our house! Baby boy feeds round the clock which makes my toddler interested when she normally wouldn’t be.

I only ever nurse them one at a time and she gets jealous when I tell her no. I am trying to nurse her as little as possible, the goal being to completely wean. Often she cries and I distract her with a snack or ship her off with another family member to do something else. Most of the time it works, other times it doesn’t. Still, I’m beginning to learn how to balance the physical needs of the baby and the emotional needs of my toddler.

Mommy, Mommy!- Both kids still require a lot of my attention and with dad back at work I find myself outnumbered. One is crying in my arms while one is clinging to my leg, or Billy is spitting up while Claire squeezes her juice onto the floor! I try to prioritize by need and not want which means asking a lot of patience from a naturally impatient 2 year old. Claire is used to having all of the focus on her and is still getting used to sharing the spotlight.

Having two babies of different stages and needs can be pretty chaotic at times. Two car seats, a double stroller, another set of those annoying onesie snaps, twice the crying, twice the diapers, twice the coffee! But at the end of the day its worth it because we all get to share twice the love.

What was your greatest challenge when you brought home a new baby? Comment below!

❤ Cait

How I Prepared My Kids for a New Baby (& Family Update)

Hello Friends,

After a short and much needed hiatus I am finally beginning to feel like myself again and this includes getting back to blogging! Here’s a little update on what has been happening the last couple of months.

On May 31st 2018 our youngest daughter turned 2!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Five days later on June 5th 2018 we welcomed a healthy baby boy!

Yay! Our family is complete!

IMG_1210

But going from a family of 4 to a family of 5 is a huge change! Here are some ways that I prepared my kids to welcome the new baby. I hope that you can use some of these ideas if you are adding another monkey to your zoo soon as well (& if so, Congrats!).

For My Toddler:

No Stork Talk-

When I found out I was expecting again I wondered how much of it my toddler would understand. Pregnancy is mind blowing even to those of us who experience it! Nevertheless, I spoke to her about my pregnancy (in an age appropriate way of course) as if she could understand. We told her excitedly that there was a baby in Mama’s belly that would part of our family soon. Even if they don’t grasp the concept of gestation completely they may pick up on more than you think! I’ve learned not to underestimate the comprehension and emotional intelligence our little ones can have.

Songs and Stories-

Songs and stories are a fun way to introduce the concept of a new baby. Reading books and listening to songs with baby themes is a great way for kids to learn through a comfortable medium. Here’s a song that my daughter really liked: Song (via YouTube)

Promote them to “Big”-

I made sure to pump our daughter up for her brand new role as “big sister”. We reminded her often of her upcoming ‘promotion’ and told her what to expect by telling her how much fun she would have playing with her new sibling. We also bought “Big Sister” shirts for the girls to wear to the hospital. A special outfit highlighted how special of a day it was.

Acknowledge Baby’s Personhood-

Show your little one that the new baby is a part of the family by treating them as such even before they’re born. Include the baby as part of your conversations during your daily routine, “The baby likes these waffles, do you?”. Refer to the baby in your tummy often while doing everyday activities, “Baby loves being outside with us in the fresh air!” I encouraged my toddler to kiss and hug and talk to my growing tummy. She learned to pat it and call it baby, and would even play peek-a-boo using my shirt!:)

At Christmastime I hung a tiny stocking for the baby on the mantle with the rest of the family’s (did this with each of my kids). Recognizing personhood of the baby in the pregnancy helps to establish affection early. I truly feel it is so important and helps prepare everyone (including yourself) for the reality to come.

-Hello Dolly

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Children learn so much through play and incorporating a baby doll is a great way to teach kids how babies should be treated. I enjoyed quality time with my kiddo while modeling appropriate behavior. We giggled as we pretended to feed, change, and dress the doll. I made sure to praise her for being nice to the doll and being a great helper!

-Hi Baby!

When you see a baby at the mall or grocery store, point them out! Remind your child that your’s is in your tummy. I liked to say hello to the baby and their caregiver and comment on the cuteness. She so enjoyed greeting all of the babies we saw and eventually she was the one pointing them to me!

Now-

Now that the baby is here she is adapting so well. She loves baby dolls even more now and seeing her mimicking my motherhood is super adorable. Once she met the baby in my arms she never again refered to the baby as being in my stomach. It seems she made the connection of them being one in the same right away (see what I mean about not underestimating?)

There are still jealous times sharing mom but she is loving her brother! She enjoys giving hugs and kisses and is naturally maternal. She fusses over him when he cries, patting him and cooing “It’s okay baby.” in her tiny little voice. I also noticed that she treats other kids that are younger than her more gently and much in the same way she now treats her brother. She’s learning so much from him already!

20180613_201514

 

For My Preteen:

20180617_121127.jpg

My oldest daughter is middle school aged and a seasoned big sister. She understands much more about whats going on than my toddler but I still prepared her by involving her in some baby prep and giving her a few reminders.

What do You Think?-

Invite older kid’s suggestions about things like names and room decor. Kids are creative, you never know what cool ideas they could come up with! For us brainstorming names was a fun way to build some anticipation and involve her in an important aspect of having a new baby.

News Flash-

At 11 you sometimes forget that the world doesn’t revolve around you! I made sure to remind her that things would be different for a while. No friends at the house and not as many activities in the weeks that followed baby’s homecoming. The postpartum period should be about bonding as a family.

Mom Needs Rest-

Families are great for the support we can give to eachother and older kids are a seriously valuable asset! Before my due date I gave my daughter a heads up about increased responsibility around the house. Since I couldn’t do as much during my c-section recovery, her completing her chores and helping with her sister became even more important! She is old enough to complete household tasks of significance and while she is too young to babysit on her own, she is more than capable of playing with our toddler or reading her a book to keep her occupied if Mom’s tied up.

You’re A Role Model-

I reminded her that these kids will look up to her for more reasons than just their height difference! They will be influenced greatly by her example. She’s my right hand gal and so important to our family!

Now-

The babies keep us busy but I make it a point not to put parenting my older one on autopilot. One on one time and activities for older kids only help her not to feel swept aside. She loves her little brother too! She likes to hold him and give him silly nick names.

20180612_185457.jpg

As for Mom and Dad? We’re adjusting to more laundry, diapers, feedings, and less sleep than we remember from the last baby! I was lucky to have my husband take time off of work to be home with me for a while. We feel so blessed and cant wait to see how our children’s relationships continue to grow throughout the years.

How did you prepare your family for a new baby? If you have any tips or fun ideas please share in the comments below!

❤ Cait

Read more about Adjusting to Life with a Toddler and a Newborn here!

Faith Like a Child

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven -Matthew 18:1-4

Oh, to have faith and trust in the Lord like my child trusts in me. When my 1 year old stumbles and falls she doesn’t hesitate to get up and run to me.

When she is weary she seeks me for comfort, knowing I will take her into my arms to rock her to sleep.

When she looks up at me, her stubby hand out and says “Cracker?” she doesn’t doubt that I will feed her.

She doesn’t question where it will come from but instead waits expectantly, her doe eyes fixed on me in joyful anticipation.

She never questions if I love her, she just runs to me, climbing me like a tree to wrap her little arms around my neck and kiss my cheek.

She doesn’t question if she’s safe because she knows I faithfully care for her each day. She doesn’t wonder if I will be with her because I watch over her, constant as the sky.

She can’t speak to me with eloquence but, I know she adores me with barely a word.

And all I am is an imperfect mother how much more than does our perfect Father in Heaven deserve our trust and confidence in him?

Ordinary Days, Extraordinary Love

Ah, Love!

What comes to mind when you hear the word? Is it canoodling in the candle light? A kid-free five-course meal? Long walks on the beach? Champagne and bubble baths? All the mushy clichés of Valentine’s Day?

Though these things are undoubtedly delightful, in marriage love goes deeper than roses and chocolate. When you build and share a life together it is less often ideal than it is real and love is found in the ordinary days and simple moments.

Love is found in small gestures. It’s holding hands in church, arms wrapping around me from behind when I’m busy in the kitchen, a knowing smile across the room, and meeting for lunch amidst a busy day.

Love is found in trust. Never fearing that the hand I hold would strike me in anger or reach out to another for affection, but instead guide me in love, brush away my tears, and gently cradle our newborn’s fuzzy heads.

Love is found in our weakness. It’s talking me down when I panic, convincing him we’ll make it through when finances get tight, him reassuring me if I’m down, and me rubbing his back after a hard day’s work.

Love is found in the trenches of parenthood. It’s tag-teaming dirty diapers, picking up where one left off during an exasperating lecture, throwing our hands up and laughing (instead of losing it) when the kids won’t listen, the dog is barking and the house is a mess.

Love is found in our frustration. It’s kissing each other good night even if we had a bad day, choosing to speak calmly when we might want to shout, serving each other when we’d rather not, and talking it out when we’d rather walk away.

Love is found in our friendship. It’s poking fun at each others small quirks, laughing until our sides ache, saving stories from the day to tell each other later, and feeling the years dissolve when the connection sparks like its still new.

Love is found in our comfort. It’s telling me I’m beautiful in my sweatpants and bun, cuddling in front of our favorite TV show, unashamedly sharing junk food and limbs draped lazily over one another in slumber.

Love is found in our memories. It’s the old inside jokes that still crack us up, the same Christmas ornaments on the tree each year, the milestones we’ve reached together, and the many obstacles we’ve overcome.

Love is found in our futures. It’s the way he looks at our children, when he lets me know that they look up to me, knowing that through all of life’s changes our devotion will remain, and knowing that no matter how old I get he’ll always be two years older!

True love’s path ouside of the pages of a romance novel usually isn’t packed full of breath taking moments and grand gestures but rather punctuated by them. Proposals, weddings, babies, and anniversaries; the rarity is what makes them so special. Yet, the routine can still hold such beauty to enjoy so long as we don’t overlook it!

So, if your Valentine’s Day looks less like a room full of flowers and balloons and more like grabbing takeout so no one has to cook, don’t be upset! Smile at each other between bites and play footsie in your fuzzy socks. Seriously, who needs a 3ft teddy bear anyway? Your ordinary love is extraordinary simply because it is yours!

❤ Cait

Taking Advice

Just look at these precious children! The other day I had a small break down just thinking about bringing another person into existence and all that it entails. It is up to me to teach, guide, and protect them in a world full of danger, heartbreak, and harsh realities.

I just want to do the best that I can for them and although I’ve been a mother for years at times I still struggle with my confidence.

When I had my oldest daughter I was only 18 and I dealt with a lot of judgement because of that. People looked down their noses at me and doubted my ability to parent well due to my age.

I tried my best to turn that negativity into motivation. Even though writing has always been my passion, I felt I needed to pursue a more serious career (in a way to show people that I could be serious) and start making more money for myself ASAP.

I got myself through Medical Assistant school and kept that career until just a couple of years ago when I left work to stay home with my youngest. I enjoyed helping people and had a strong interest in medicine but I put my true passions on hold because of what other people might have thought.

As much as I tried to spin the judgement and shame and use it to my advantage I was still young and insecure and let it get to me. I became so defensive.

I didn’t want to hear the advice of other people and older mothers because I took it as them doubting my abilities. Even if it was coming from a loving place the advice felt hurtful and backhanded. I took it as an insult.

Just because I was young didn’t mean I didn’t love my daughter! It didn’t mean I couldn’t care for her well! She was all I had at a certain point and my world revolved around her. Just like older mothers everything I did was for her and about her and because of her.

When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I had people giving me advice who didn’t realize that I had a daughter older than their own children.

Honestly it had been 9 years since I had an infant so of course I could have taken some advice from people who went through that stage with their children more recently! But I was still so damaged from all the scrutiny I dealt with in the past. Stubbornly, I didn’t want to hear what anyone had to say.

As I continue to grow into myself over the years I have become much more confident. I started to realize that myself and the people around me know the truth about what kind of mother I am. Knowing that allows me to care a lot less about what other people may think. I don’t need another’s approval to feel validated.

My defenses have completely dropped. I know that just because someone is older or younger it doesn’t necessarily make them better or worse equipped to be a parent.

I’m now able to take advice from others joyfully knowing that no matter how long someone’s been a parent or how many children they have we all can learn something from each other. Someone else’s motherhood doesn’t take away from my own! It only adds another perspective in our shared experience.

As women we should encourage and lift each other up! This womanhood and parenting stuff is really difficult as is so we don’t need to add any more stress by comparing ourselves! We all have something to learn from each other and at the end of the day we can all use more support!

Did you ever take well meaning advice the wrong way? How did you deal with it?

❤ Cait

Hope the Dog

This is the story of Hope….the dog! My whole adult life I wanted a dog but I refused to get one. I was always working like crazy and didn’t think it would be fair to get a dog just to keep it locked up for 12 hours a day. When I became pregnant with my youngest I got a new job that was 3 days a week. Even though I was still busy and heavily pregnant, I knew that it was finally the right time to adopt a long-awaited companion!

My husband was on board so we started looking. One of my friends from school who I follow on Facebook owns a doggy daycare and is an amazing person who rescues and fosters pups in need. I saw my future fur-baby’s face on her page and fell in love instantly! Her name was Hope which was funny to me because it was a name that my older daughter kept suggesting for our little one. I took it as a sign and set up an appointment to meet her.

When we came to her house Hope was so sweet and timid. She was still shaken from her neglectful start in life. She came from Georgia. Apparently her owner was murdered and the people close to them didn’t know what to do with the two dogs who were left behind so they made the unfortunate decision to abandon them in the woods. Hope and her “sister” Faith were picked up and taken to a kill shelter. My friend saw them online and decided to save them in the nick of time. She paid for them to be fed and vaccinated, medicated and boarded. The before picture of my baby was so sad to see. You could count her ribs, she was infested with worms, she was suffering cellulitis, and the pain in her innocent eyes was palpable.

We made an agreement, paid the adoption fee, and readied our home for our new family member. The poor baby was skiddish for a while. She was scared to go in the car because she didn’t know if it meant her whole life would be turned upside down yet again. I felt proud that we could give her a safe and loving forever home but, I didn’t realize just how much she would give back to us.

My pregnancy was really rough. I had morning sickness and undiagnosed anemia the entire time. The hallmarks of that pregnancy were nausea and isolation. Barely able to get out of bed, my world became very small and lonely. Once Hope was home we spent so much time just snuggling and building that bond of love and trust and comfort. She forced me to get up, get some fresh air and sunlight, and take her out, she was there to keep me company when I felt so alone. She would crawl up and snuggle in deeper when I cried. She would put her snout on my belly in a sign of love, protection and solidarity. She showed me so much love and compassion, more than anyone could have shown me with words.

When I told people that I was getting a puppy right before I was ready to have a baby they thought I was crazy! And it really was like having two babies at once. Sometimes I feel like puppies are harder, because at least babies sleep most of the time at first! But, we have absolutely no regrets! We don’t remember what life was like before her, she is such a part of our family and of each of us. We know she came at exactly the right time and like most things involving love, what we received was more than we ever could have given and we can’t imagine our family without Hope.

Do you have a pet adoption story? In what ways do they add to your life?

❤ Cait

A Letter to my Daughter on Her 10th Birthday (October, 2016)

Dear Autumn,

I can’t believe its been 10 whole years since you entered this world! When you did you brightened the lives of everyone around you. At home it was “The Autumn Show” every day. You were an extraordinarily gorgeous and happy baby. Everything about you was unique and beautiful and we couldn’t wait to see what you’d do next!

You were the sunshine in my days. I worked so hard and fought so hard to be the best mother I could for you. Your Step Father and I have dedicated our lives to providing for you and making you smile. You repay us daily with your love. We are so proud of who you are. You’re funny and sarcastic, sweet and tough, confident but humble, stubborn and kind. You are as colorful and bright as the season for which you are named. You are a daughter, the BEST big sister, an artist, a philanthropist, an author, an athlete, a friend.

And this is only the beginning. I know God has amazing plans for you. In the next 10 years of your life we will watch you grow into a young lady. We will watch as you take wing. But please remember no matter where life’s journey takes you there will always be a place in our hearts and home for you and you can always come back to it.
💗No matter how big you get, you will always fit perfectly in my arms.💗

Love Always,
Mom

The Highs & Lows of Pregnancy

This was written back in February and shared on my personal Facebook page. Our healthy, gorgeous baby girl was born May 31st, 2016.

So I try to keep a brave face but, I know you’ve all heard my complaints…This pregnancy hasn’t been all sunshine and daisy chains for me. My baby and myself are in perfect health but most of the time I have felt sick, exhausted and uncomfortable. Some days I don’t know how I’ll make it through the time I still have left. I never had that feel-good second trimester. Spending so much time in my bed (which I have dubbed my cave) can make me feel frustrated, isolated and lonely. And I don’t think I ever did get that glow! 😕

I get so excited when I can do things that make me feel normal. Even little things like a light walk, a lunch date, or a good hair day resemble my pre-pregnancy life and make all the difference to me! Even now as I look forward to my last trimester I have good and bad days but honestly, most are still pretty rough.

Despite these hurdles, the miracle of the life stirring within is never lost on me even for a moment. How awesome it is to anticipate the love my husband and I share personified in a cherished child. How my heart swells as he talks to her and melts when he says he hopes she looks like me. Seeing the way my daughter touches my belly adoringly and hearing the questions that bubble up in her inquisitive mind is so special. Even my cat purrs happily in my lap against the extra warmth of my body. This baby will be born into so much love and that alone is worth every difficult moment.

Even when it gets hard I remind myself to be present and enjoy this fleeting season of life instead of just wishing it away. I truly believe that pregnancy is designed like this for a reason. It prepares mothers to raise their children by offering experiences of sacrifice, joy, worry, and unconditional love from the moment of conception.

The opportunity to assist God in the creation of a new life and soul is truly humbling and such a gift. Pregnancy and motherhood is an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be able to continue. I feel like my dreams keep coming true and I know in my heart that the best is yet to come.

Have you experienced a particularly difficult time in pregnancy? Tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait

A year ago today…

2016-08-30_12-54-19-1

A year ago today a test confirmed what I already knew in my heart and tender tummy to be true, I was expecting a baby again after 9 years! In that moment so many thoughts and emotions swirled around me. I looked through happy tears at the blurry image of my proud husband’s face and he said, “We’re having a baby! There’s going to be a crib in here soon!” and I thought back to a daydream.

I was driving to pick up my eldest daughter after a particularly long and exhausting work day. At this time I was working full-time, taking classes at community college part-time  and planning my wedding (I tend to be anxious and not very organized sometimes!) and I was just stressed and exhausted with the go-go-go pace I had been keeping up for far too long. As I drove along my heart projected sweet visions on the walls of my mind..

Rocking my husband’s first child in the quiet morning light, breathing in that heady baby aroma, bird serenades carried in on the breeze of an open window, essential coffee smell mixing in from the kitchen. I snapped back to reality and immediately my attention was captured by a rainbow of color in the sky just ahead of me. Tucked among the usual white was a bright iridescent cloud! Rainbows have been significant to me in my spiritual life and it was as if God was reassuring me, reminding me that He knows the desires of my heart. That small passing brilliance, was to me the gentlest reminder to be patient and trust in His perfect timing.

After a wedding and one tough pregnancy the visions of my heart have come to fruition. Our baby daughter has changed our family for the better. Our hearts and arms are fuller because of her. Ten years with my first precious daughter went too quickly! I have learned that time can be hard on a mama’s heart. That knowing reminds me to savor each moment that much more. Even in the mess and stress, my mundane life is made magic in joy inexpressible and love unconditional.

When I mention the age difference between my girls sometimes people take on an exasperated tone and poke fun at me saying, “Wow! Starting all over again, huh?” and I say yes and my soul laughs as the smile in my heart blooms across my face.

Do any of you have a big age difference between your children? If so tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait