Friday, August 17, 2018

I am a Woman Facepalming

I pride myself on being pretty on top of things: I'm obsessive, a worrier, a planner, and a control freak.  I work very hard at remembering like everything all the time.  This is a perfect cocktail. #MyCrazy

To be honest, I rarely forget things, miss things, show up without things, or do anything without being as prepared as one, who is all those things above, might be.  You should see me (or Josh, frankly) plan trips.  It's kinda a freak show of Excel spread sheets, research, top ten sightseeing books, and notes and plans written down and placed in a manilla folder we carry everywhere.  

I say all of this not to embarrass myself, although I'm sure I have a bit, but so that you can understand how active my brain must be.  It is full all the time- full to the freaking rim.

I hate it, HATE it when I forget things or don't know things I should know.

#MyCrazy is my greatest strength and my Achilles heel.

However, these last several months, I am a different human. 

  Related image 

This emoji runs supreme with me.  It has become more useful and more descriptive than any of the others.  It encompasses exactly who I am. I didn't know what it was called so I looked it up.  It's official name is "Woman Facepalming."  It is she... and she is me.  

You guys!  I am a fuzzy-brained mess.  I know pregnancy brain is a real thing but what about after-pregnancy brain?! I am having all kinds of trouble getting my sharpness back. 

I'm forgetful, I can't keep numbers straight, I lose things, show up without things, leave things all kinds of places, and I need things repeated to me because they have left my cloudy brain quickly.  I need refreshers on conversations and decisions that were made from those conversations.  I'm just a mess.  This makes me feel out of control and out of sorts and I am hating it royally.   

I go back to work in a few days and I'm kinda terrified.  I have to be with it, sharp, focused- almost sixty eleven and twelve year olds are counting on me to help them get smarter!  That responsibility feels a little heavier this year.  Oh crap. 

It always takes a bit to bounce back after babies are born, but this is getting a bit ridiculous. 

Does this fuzzy-ness feel different this time because I'm older? More sleep deprived? Or because having a fourth child just tilted my brain over its capacity?  What is the deal? 

Deep down I fear- what if this is my new normal?! How will I mange? 

Then, a part of me is also reassured because I'm worried enough and obsessing enough about my fuzzy brain to complete this entire blog post about it... maybe I'm not so far gone after all ;) 

Only time will tell...send good vibes... and sticky notes- I have a feeling I'm going to need a lot of them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I'M AN AUTHOR (Sort of) and Other Things I Want to be When I Grow Up

My teaching partner, Katie and I, talk a lot to our sixth graders about what they want to be when they grow up and also what WE want to be when WE grow up ;).

While learning about a man who discovered a pre-clovis spearhead that could completely change the story of who our Native Americans are and where they came from, I screamed out, "I SO want to be an archeologist when I grow up!"

When watching a documentary, Guns, Germs, and Steel, on the history of power and white privilege in our world, I throw my hands in the air and yell, "Dr. Dimond!  He traveled all over the world and made his life's work trying to figure out why some groups have power and others don't?!  THAT'S what I want be when I grow up!"

On the completion of the novel A Long Walk to Water, we find out that one of the main characters is real and has devoted his life to bringing water access to his home country of South Sudan.  I slam my hands on the desk and declare, "Now I've changed my mind!  Working for a global non-profit that helps people get clean water is what I want to be when I grow up!"

After seeing images of Machu Picchu and Chichen Itza and how perfectly persevered those ancient ruins are, we discuss the many humans who restore these structures.  I run up to the screen, point at the farm terraces and announce, will full conviction of course, "No, no no!  THIS!  THIS is what I want to do when I grow up!  Send me to Peru and let me fix these masterpieces!"

And, almost weekly, while reading books and talking about books incessantly, I throw in, "Yep, I'm going to be an author when I grow up!"

In the beginning of the year, my students would react by telling me I was already a grown up and already doing something- "You're a teacher! Isn't that what you wanted to be when you grew up?!"

I laugh and respond with, "Of course!  But I'd like to think I've still got some growing to do and some difference to make."

By the middle of the year, having Mrs. Hundt get all dramatic, yet again, about something she'd like to be when she grows up turns into a time when these tweens will shake their head and roll their eyes with a little smile signaling that you're being a weirdo, yet again, but that they dig it.

Besides all of the aforementioned things I'd like to be when I grow up, you can add meteorologist, lactation consultant, an employee of World Vision, social studies curriculum writer, a music selector for TV shows, a travel agent, and a professional picture book reader/recommender (that last one might not be a job, but if it is one, I'd be sensational at it I think).

I clearly need to get busy!

I am, however, honored to say that recently I've made some steps to one of these jobs...

As of a couple of weeks ago, my teaching partner and I have been featured in a BOOK!  OUR story, OUR words, have been published in a real book that people can buy!  I can't even believe it!  I'm an author!!!!!!!! (Sort of)

Way back in February, I received a blog from a fellow educator I follow on Twitter, A.J. Juliani.  AJ is an innovator and was a source of information for me as my teaching partner and I learned about beginning genius hour in our classroom. He blogged that he was writing a book to help teachers try Project-Based Learning in their classrooms.  He was hoping to elicit teacher voice and stories of PBL work.  I clicked on a link and began to fill out a Google Doc about the work we've done in our outdoor classroom not really thinking it would go anywhere.  We do PBL work and we love it, why not tell our story and see, I thought. 
Our Outdoor Classroom- one product of our Project/Problem-Based Learning work


Within a couple of weeks, AJ emailed me to tell me he wanted our story, OUR STORY in his book!  WHAT!?!  And, after writing more details, and some back and forth with edits and revisions, our work was published!  Check out the book here!

Getting this book in the mail and turning to page 115 to see our names in print was a rush I cannot describe.  Sitting it among other informational books that have changed my teaching, changed my parenting, changed me as a human being.  It is completely surreal.


Even better than that, I showed it to my boys and Nolan jumped into my arms for an enormous hug.  His pride and excitement for me made me absolutely burst. After all, being a mom when I grew up was and has always been my #1 thing I wanted to be when I grew up.  

I hope that my continued zest for knowledge and aspirations to continue pursuing the things I want to be when I grow up will help me be seen as a role model to my kids at home and kids at school.  I am curious.  I am passionate.  I am a life-long learner in every sense of the word.  Just because I'm almost 35 doesn't mean I've figured everything out- doesn't mean I'm done trying new things, exploring new interests.  Even when your job and life are busy and challenging, and rigorous and fulfilling, there is always more to learn, always more passions to explore.  Who knows what I will be when I grow up, but I'd like to think that I've made some baby steps to get 'author' checked off my list.  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Balance Bikes for the Win!

Last year for Nolan, Judah, and Carter's birthdays, we got them balance bikes.  Up until that point, my kids only experience riding things with wheels were big wheel bikes, a train you scoot on, and a hand-me-down bike with training wheels from our neighbor.  The training wheel bike was just starting to get some serious attention when spring broke last year.  Before that, the boys hadn't been terribly into riding bikes and would much rather dig, dump, and draw while outside than anything else.  Josh and I thought getting them bikes for their birthdays, which are in the first week of May, would be an awesome gift so I started doing what I always do before buying things for my boys- I researched.  

I am kind of an obsessive researcher of things, which started when I was putting together our baby registry for Nolan and Judah.  I had no idea what I should ask for as a new mom so I read, and read, and read. While it drives Josh crazy because it seriously takes me hours of learning before making a decision on what to buy, the advantages are that my kids, for the most part, have age-appropriate, educational, safe, well made things that last.  Researching also helps me make decisions when there are SO MANY CHOICES for the same item.

So the quest for the perfect bike began...

I read, and read, and read about what was age appropriate for four year olds and two year olds, I looked at pictures, watched videos, skimmed countless reviews from parents, and tried to read up on how to make the transition to a big two-wheel bike.  Learning how to ride a bike is a huge milestone moment after all.

Through my research, I stumbled upon balance bikes.  Balance bikes are these tiny little bikes with no pedals and no brakes that you scoot on and can put your feet up to "balance."  I couldn't search bikes without seeing these with sensational almost five star reviews.  I was intrigued so I read more...

The premise behind them is that the most difficult part of learning how to ride a bike is the balancing.  If you introduce that balancing skill earlier on and on a bike that is closer to the ground, kids will master that skill more safely and with more confidence.  Then, the goal is that kids have an easier and quicker transition to a bigger bicycle.

You remember being a kid and having your mom or dad take their hand off your bike for the first time with no training wheels and if you were like me, you probably did some serious wobbling trying to keep that bike level and steady.  Or some serious falling down.  Often times that steadying takes a long time to master with a lot of fear attached because big kid bikes are big and tall off the ground.

I read review after review of people just obsessed with these little bikes and story after story of easy transitions onto bigger bikes.  I watched videos and couldn't believe how young these kids were zooming around on these bikes (as young as 18 months).   I also read a lot of articles on the subject.  Apparently the training wheels vs. balance bike is quite a great debate.  Here are a few:

Why Balance Bikes Should be the First Bike for Your Toddler 
The Best Age to Start Your Toddler on a Balance Bike is Sooner Than you Think
Bye Bye Training Wheels. Hello Balance Bikes

Even though Nolan and Judah, who were turning four, were on the older side for these bikes, I decided we should give them a try!

Now onto the difficult decision of which balance bike to buy.  Again, I went back to researching.  I knew I wanted a bike that had a place to put feet so boys could easily balance on their bikes when they felt comfortable.  I also didn't want to spend a million dollars.  Balance bikes can be found for as little as $20 or $30, but many of them are, in my opinion, pricey going well into the $100s.  If I bought three of these bikes at like $120 dollars each and they were a total flop, I was going to be super annoyed.  So I tried to find a bike that was more in the middle price range while also getting stellar reviews.

These are the bikes we went with...


We got two of these Critical Cycle Balance Bikes

And one of these kaZAM Balance Bikes 

Josh and I put them together one night after everyone went to bed and then crossed our fingers.  We knew Carter would love the bike since he was turning two and this really was his first experience, but we were a bit worried Nolan and Judah would think these bikes were too small and too cumbersome to have to scoot around in.   

Thankfully, they were all super pumped to get them for their birthdays, however riding them, at first, was a bit of a challenge.  Carter tipped over a lot as he was getting used to scooting and steering and Nolan and Judah didn't want to put in the effort to really get moving fast and showed more preference to riding their big wheels where they could pedal to get going.  Eventually, though, all three of my boys were seriously ZOOMING in these bikes.  It was shocking to see how fast Carter could get going at two years old.  We spent all summer and fall scooting and balancing all over the neighborhood.  They were in love and so was I.
Carter at two years old read to zoom. 

This summer, our neighbor, who's almost four, was seen riding around with no training wheels around our cul-da-sac.  Having someone younger be so good on a big bike made Nolan and Judah decide they were ready to try to ride a bigger bike with no training wheels.  What a big moment for any parent!  Josh and I were both anxious to see what the process would be like.  They were phenomenal balancers, but would that really translate well onto a big bike?!  

So, a few days ago, we took training wheels off of a neighbor's old bike, sat Judah on it, and he just took off.  It was that simple.  No fear, no falling, no wobbling- just riding.  Both Josh and my faces were in complete shock.  After letting Judah ride around for a bit, his smile beaming, we got Nolan up there to see what he could do.  Again, Nolan just took off riding.  It was seriously incredible.  It was so surprising that I didn't even get a video or picture of their initial take off; it just happened too quickly!  Carter, at three years old, won't be far behind I think!  
Nolan and Judah on bikes and Carter on his balance bike
These balance bikes were an awesome choice for us and I would highly, highly recommend them!  In the great debate of training wheels vs. balance bikes, balance bikes won for us in a landslide ;). 

Seeing my kids so empowered to ride independently is a pretty cool thing and how easy the transition has been is phenomenal for this worrier!     

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

PRESTON HURON: Month 2

Preston's second month seems like a big one!  I think part of this reason is that we've finally gotten into our groove, our new normal.  The first month, the month of May, had a lot of visitors, the busyness of the end of the school year for our older sons, and the addition of Josh being home a lot more as he took time off of work.

This second month has been mostly me and the four kids at home all day together.  That adjustment, while busy and difficult at times, has been a lot more seamless than #mycrazy had ever let it be in my head when I was anxious about it.  I think we get out a little less and watch a little more TV than I would like, but we are making this four-kids-five-and-under thing work!

What We Learned About Preston:
Even though Preston has had to be very flexible and accommodating of his three older brothers and their activities, needs, and schedules, he is very much his own person.  When I am just feeling like I can predict when he might have blocks of time where he is sleeping or awake, he will turn that completely upside-down as if to remind us that he is here and he is trying to run the show.  He usually will wake up and be hungry enough to eat almost right away.  Then he'll have about an hour or hour and a half of an awake block and then will take a nap.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  I'll get comfortable with that and then he'll take a really long (or really short) nap and throw off his day.  Or, he'll decide he wants to sleep right after he eats and then want to have a long awake period after.  Or, he'll want to sleep a ton during the day and will have a random night where he is up and wanting to hang out.  My body has had a hard time keeping up with him because he has no patterns.  It's been a nightmare for my boobs! 
Sleeping angel <3
This month he's become so much more interactive and definitely enjoys what a large audience he has.  As much as Josh or I or grandparents freak when we get that huge smile or see him bat at toys in his little jungle play mat, Nolan, Judah, and Carter are just as obsessed.  They go crazy when Preston smiles at them or looks right at them or holds their finger or touches their face, etc.  They, especially Carter, announce any interactions to the whole world- "THE BABY GRABBED MY HAND!!" or "THE BABY IS LOOKING AT ME!!"  If he's tired of me oooooing and ahhhhing at him, he needs to look no farther then next to me to be able to put on a show for someone else.  
Smiling at somebody :)

When I'm holding Preston, it is a guarantee that at least one other person is all up in my grill trying to get Little P to interact with them too.  Most of the time, I have three people climbing all over me to get a look at Preston.
He's not sure how he feels about his brothers being all over him all the time. 

Preston can't even snuggle without someone else being right there!
We've spent a lot of time outside this summer (my goal every day is to ware the three big boys completely out) and Preston is not sure how he feels about it.  He loves looking at the outside from the inside of the house.  He'll stare so intently at the leaves blowing in the wind or gaze out a window for long periods and be perfectly happy.  Once you actually take him out there, however, you can tell he loves it, but also is still VERY sensitive to the bright light of the outside.  He spends most of his time with his eyes closed and will twitch and react very strongly to any sunlight on his face even for one second.  It's humorous to watch.  
"Watching" his brother swim.
    

Some Firsts:
Rolling over 
Cooing
First time taking all four kids by myself to playground
First time taking all four kids to a store
First family vacation (trip to cottage)
First time going out to a restaurant with all six of us
First time putting feet in Lake Huron

The cottage with all my boys


We went in pubic, all of us, and we survived!
Preston Huron touching Lake Huron!!

What I've Learned About Being a Mom:
I think the theme of momming with four kids is grace. I can go to bed every night knowing I am doing the best that I can.  While that is a good feeling, it also means that often I am fighting feelings of my best not being good enough.  Parents feel that way a lot- being totally spent physically, emotionally, mentally but still feeling like they fall short.  

I am trying grant myself grace, which is so hard for me to do because I have put myself at the bottom of the totem pole- also a thing so many parents do.  

So....

 I'm trying to give myself grace when I put on makeup maybe once a week (I have a nice summer glow so who needs that anyway?!).  

I'm trying to grant myself grace when I put on workout clothes hoping to take a really good walk (which has been mostly the only exercise I'm doing- working out consistently has not fully made it back into my priorities) and then the day is over and I realize I never took that walk. 

I'm really finding grace when the reality that I may wore maternity pants for a very long time sinks in (I'm trying to think of it like I'm really giving them a last hoorah since I will never be pregnant again).  

Most surprising this time is finding grace deep within when I feel overwhelmed at anything "extra." Right now, working out is extra, reading books is extra, doing any things for the upcoming school year is extra, taking care of my aging cat is extra, staying caught up on my work email is extra, even blogging feels like extra.  Some of these things are my most favorite things to do and jamming them in feels next to impossible right this minute.  (I have a two month old baby and three more kids, that's okay right?!) 

Look at al those parenthesis as I rationalize my decisions to myself.  That's where my grace comes in I guess.  

I am motivated and empowered with difficult things- they fuel me... bring it on.  So I chip away, little by little and celebrate small victories when I can.   Completing this, even though Preston is now two and a half months old will be a victory.  I have finished two books lately and I am so proud of that.  I have gone to two spinning classes, and wahooo!  

I know I'll get there- feeling a little more on top of it.  But that's what grace is all about isn't it- respect and acceptance and patience. 

Meanwhile, as I'm working on digging deep to find grace for me, I'm trying to give it out regularly to my children and Josh.  We are all trying really hard.    

I'm also trying enjoy small things- this is the longest summer I will have all my kids at home. I've been off on maturity leave since the end of April, so my summer started nice and early and boys have been done with school since the end of May.  I'm trying to look and savor a lot of moments- running around in the sprinklers in underwear, all four boys laying in the play gym, morning walks at the cottage, sunsets, messy and sticky popsicle faces, swimming without swimmies, first T-ball games, evening walks and bike rides as a family, and Preston smiles as he takes in this big beautiful world.  




Sunday, July 15, 2018

What the World Cup Has Brought My Family

I LOVE the World Cup... so does Josh.

When both the United States AND Italy did not get in, I was distraught, sad, angry even.  I vowed I wouldn't watch and wouldn't care.  I was robbed of my favorite teams so, in return, I would boycott the World Cup- take THAT, world!

My reaction, clearly, was irrational and selfish.  One of the most special parts about this particular World Cup was that Nolan and Judah were old enough to get into it too.  Josh and I watched four years ago cheering as we had two one year olds at home.  We kept talking about how fun it would be, next time, to watch with them.  I needed to let my frustration of not having either of "my" teams in the competition go so I could enjoy with my family.  
Nolan and Judah, 2014, 14 months old with their USA pride for the World Cup

So, a month ago, we welcomed the World Cup 2018 into our home.  As an always-in-training global citizen, I knew this tournament would be more than a bunch of soccer games to my family- it would be an entry point to open up a dialogue about other countries, which is one of my most favorite things to talk to my boys about. 

Many of my sixth graders enter my classroom thinking Mexico is a state.  This misconception isn't even their fault- it's a place where our education system is failing our children.  The recent focus on math and literacy skills, while INCREDIBLY vital and important, don't get me wrong, has robbed our kids of having consistent social studies and science curriculum in many elementary schools.  The sciences are where kids build up their schema about the world that help them be better comprehenders of knowledge. Not to mention the empathy and compassion when learning about the environment, plants, animals, and other people and cultures in our world.  When you hardly have social studies time for the first four or five years of your schooling, no wonder you have no global context as an eleven-year-old in my classroom.  As a parent, I do NOT want that for my boys and have vowed for them to have some good global knowledge entering school.  This is why the placemats at our kitchen table are a political map of the world.  My boys may have no idea how to tie their shoes or zip their coats all the way entering kindergarten, but they will know there has been a famine going on in Eastern Africa, a recent volcanic eruption in Guatemala, and where lots of countries are on the map!  It's all about priorities ;)


PS- here's a link to the placemats we have

Anyway, I had NO idea how much the World Cup would enrich my house... no idea.  

Yes, my boys were very curious about the rules of soccer- wanting to know about off sides and what a yellow card was... why some games went into a shoot out and others were declared a tie.  Yes, they were curious to know where countries were on the map and were so surprised to see a lot of our world represented in this tournament.  They too were sad not to see the United States and wondered if Canada had ever been to the World Cup.  These were things I had hoped would be a part of our experience watching this tournament.
Judah glued to the TV cheering for Mexico! 
Also, while watching, Nolan started to be extremely curious about the countries' flags- the colors, the patterns, etc.  This led to an entirely different wealth of knowledge to enter my home.  At first, Nolan just wanted to try and draw some of the flags he was seeing.  It started with Russia. Since they were hosting the World Cup, they became one of his favorite teams to root for.  Once he had drawn the Russian flag, he wanted to make sure to draw the US flag, Canada's flag, and an MSU flag just to make sure he was representing his own allegiances.  We looked pictures of those up on Google so that he could copy.  After he showed more interest wanting to draw other countries' flags, we decided to hit up the library to check out several books about flags.  
The first flag creation- who knew it would lead to many many more! 
Two examples of books we checked out from the library.
Many,  many other flags have since been made- countries in the World Cup and countries not in it.  That alone, the drawing of the flags, would've been enough of an enrichment from the World Cup, but it didn't stop there.  After, there were all kinds of questions about why flags are the way they are.  Why do some flags looks so similar (Like the United States, Liberia, and Malaysia?  Why do flags have the colors they do?  Who gets to pick what a flag looks like?  
Several flags created- Brazil, Panama, Great Britain, Japan, Argentina, etc, etc.
So, we started to read the flag books, not just look at the pictures.  We, all of us, have learned so much- pages and pages talking about the history of countries- wars they fought, when they earned independence from their colonizer, how their flag was adopted and when.  How so many flags with black in them symbolize their rich African history or, for places like Jamaica, of Africans forced to come there to be part of a slave trade and trying to honor that story on their flag.  We learned that many flags with red symbolize blood shed in a war for independence- of brave citizens fighting to be free.  There's blues paying homage to beautiful water access within counties, yellow or white often symbolizing sandy beaches or sunshine, and green to highlight fertile soil or rich vegetation.  You can imagine how these stories have unlocked a wealth of additional questions and discussion opportunities for my boys.  While issues of power, colonization, inequity, natural resources, war, and race are big big themes my boys don't grasp a lot of yet, this tournament, these flags, have helped open the door to their minds and their hearts about places and people around the world.  I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to learn.  I'm also grateful to Nolan who motivated our whole family to learn and participate- he totally sold this flag passion to all of us.  His excitement and zest for knowledge was contagious to where we all have been obsessed with flags right along side him. 
Nolan with the Colombian flag.
To think, I was going to boycott the World Cup this year.  What a terrible mistake that would've been!! 

Thank you, World Cup 2018, for all that you've brought into my family.  We'll see you in 2022- can't wait! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

8 Weeks In: What is life like with four kids?!

Bringing Preston home from the hospital was exciting and so scary!  What in the WORLD was it going to be like to have four kids, four boys, all five and under, at home together all summer long?!

I wasn't sure what the dynamic was going to be between each child and Preston and how my relationships with my boys were going to shift and change now that I was going to have a new baby attached to me.  

Thankfully, Josh took off a couple of weeks so that we could adjust, initially, as a full family of six.  Having both parents around allowed for sneaking in cat naps here and there, being able to spend one-on-one time with each boy or pairing off into some smaller groups, and it helped people get the attention that they needed and deserved.  

As Josh eased back into work I will admit I was terrified- Preston was eating around the clock, and the three bigger boys were in preschool and sports.  How would I ever manage?  

Just like with any new experience, you figure it out and so did we.  

For the most part, things have been really smooth, surprisingly smooth honestly. We've continued about our daily life with the addition of a very cute and very flexible little guy who we all love doting over.  

Mealtimes and bedtimes, especially, have proven to be a bit tricky as all four boys need a lot during those times.  I'm certain if someone video-taped me on any given day at lunchtime, for example, you would get quite a show.  You'd see me, essentially darting from place to place doing circles around my house at lightning speed.  

Here is a real life scenario at lunch the other day- someone wanted a second helping of something, while at the same time someone else had spilled their milk, while at the same time someone was on the toilet needing to be wiped, while at the same time Preston was nursing, while at the same time Prim, our cat, was meowing because she wanted her lunch too, of course.  How do I meet these needs and wants simultaneously?  Like how?  Seriously.
I have gotten a bit overwhelmed in these moments, (I'd love to know someone who wouldn't- please teach me your ways) and that's when the darting begins- back and forth putting out these little fires, one at a time, until everyone is satisfied again.  Then I sigh, wipe the sweat off my forehead (or the tears from my eyes) and I feel like the biggest superwoman that's ever existed.  These moments, as I'm certain you can tell, have a manic quality about them- very low lows and very high highs.   

The other thing I've noticed, as we've adjusted to a family of six, is how each of my older sons has taken on his own special and unique little part of helping out with Baby Preston...

Nolan- He is my numbers guy.  When I am sleep deprived, I am a complete moron when it comes to numbers so Nolan has really stepped up to fill in my inadequacies there.  He stays right up on how long it's been since Preston has ate, how long his naps are, how many minutes he nursed on each side, etc.  He is constantly talking to me about this data and can do all the math.  This has helped Preston stay full and rested and given me one less thing to occupy my VERY FULL brain.  Nolan also loves to help me burp Preston and gets very proud if one of his pats yields a burp.       

Judah- He is the fetcher for anything Preston might need.  If we are out of diapers on the main floor, Judah is sprinting up stairs to grab more.  If Preston spits up, Judah rushes to his aid burp cloth in hand.  If I need my Boppie to feed Preston, I'll blink and Judah will have it in front of me ready to go.  He has made sure Preston never goes without what he needs.  He calls Preston HIS baby and is usually the first one to ask to hold him too.  

Carter- Even though this guy has had the hardest time adjusting to Preston (he loved being the baby in the family), he has never ever taken that out on his new baby brother.  Carter has needed the most extra attention and, as such, has given Josh and I a run for our money. He decided not to nap when Preston first came home and was just incorrigible in the evening.  He was also doing some serious acting out like walking right out the front door or throwing some next-level tantrums. But thankfully, Carter has given Preston nothing but unconditional love.  

Since Preston cannot talk, Cater has taken on the job of being Preston's mouth or blow horn to be precise.  If Preston cries, I can count on Carter yelling "THE BABY IS CRYING!" within five seconds.  If Preston smiles, there is Carter: "PRESTON IS SMILING AT ME!"  If Preston gets up from sleeping, Carter is screaming, "THE BABY IS AWAKE!"  When I'm changing Preston's diaper, Carter is right there: "PRESTON POOPED!"  Besides being Preston's mouth piece, Carter also needs to be as close to the new baby as physically possible.  It's very cute and sweet, but he can definitely get a bit too close sometimes ;). He always wants to see the baby, kiss the baby, touch the baby, hug the baby.  

Although not every moment has been easy these last eight weeks, I am overjoyed with the way we have adjusted to a family of six.  If you can get past the complete chaos that happens a few times a day, you will see three big brothers who have loved and accepted their new sibling instantly.  Nolan, Judah, and Carter would do anything for Preston to make sure he is happy, healthy, safe, and loved.  You will also see a baby who sleeps through an extreme amount of noise and movement, who accepts people being in his personal space constantly, and is flexible and pretty darn patient to accommodate three siblings who have needs too. I really can't ask for more than that from any of them.  Preston is really lucky to have his big brothers and they are equally really lucky to have him.  
   

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Preston Huron: Month 1

Our littlest guy is a month old!  It's so strange, having babies at literally the same time of year because it feels a little like ground hogs day in those first few months.  The things you miss on maternity leave are the same, the weather is the same, the clothes are the same (especially when you only pop out boys), the daylight hours are the same.  Time still flies though holy cow!

What We Learned About Preston:
In utero, Preston had the hiccups all the time, enjoyed being awake at 3:00am, and had a consistent steady heartbeat that barely fluxiated. In fact, for several weeks in a row... like maybe even almost two months, his heart rate was 154 every time it got checked.  My mom said maybe this baby would be laid back and calm.  So far (knock on wood), she's been pretty spot on.  Preston's outside-the-womb behavior has been fairly similar- he gets the hiccups all the time, did, at first, VERY much love being awake at 3:00am, and has been pretty calm and laid back so far. 

When we first brought Preston home from the hospital, he seemed to be one of those newborns that had his days and nights confused.  He would sleep so so much during the day and sleep in his bassinet regardless of the circus going on around him (aka three older brothers living their life), but at night, when everyone else was sleeping and quiet, he refused to sleep.  It brought an exhaustion that I may have never seen in my life.  Josh and were maybe sleeping an hour or two.  Preston refused to sleep in his bassinet, he would only sleep when held so that left Josh and me awake... a lot.  Then of course the rest of our brood would be up and ready to go by 6:30am.  I can't even describe how tired I was.  I handle lack of sleep well, like very well, but this was on another level.  I remember rocking him in the middle of the night one night, laying him in his bassinet, climbing into bed and falling instantly asleep only to be woken up about ten minutes later by him screaming.  I cried and cried and cried.  We could not live like this- being up all day with three kids and being up all night with one kid.  

I begged my pediatrician for solutions only to find there were none.  It wasn't as if you could "teach" a newborn day and night like you can someone who's a little older.  Preston isn't going to care if the blinds are open or closed or the lights are on or off.  Newborns were newborns and they would figure it out- probably in a week or two, she said.  Maybe a month.  AH!

Thankfully, this sleepless period was short lived.  He is now getting up to nurse when he's hungry at night and going back to sleep fairly quickly.  HALLELUJAH!  Having a few more hours of rest has made an incredible difference.  

Preston soothes quickly when upset and as long as he is fed, dry, and warm, he's pretty much set.  

Right before being a month old, he began giving us some seriously precious awake smiles.  He smiles the most at this brothers.  They just have to show their face near him and he is all grins.  I, on the other hand, have to work a little harder for it :).

Some firsts:
- Going to church as a family of six- Preston slept through the whole thing thank goodness!
- Preston has went to more than one pool party, a preschool graduation, and the Michigan Mile at Lansing Lugnuts
- 5-14-18~ first awake smile- it was at Nolan
- 5-25-18~ first smile at Mommy
-5-31-18~ first cute baby coo

What I've Learned About Being a Mom:
It's funny, when I first started blogging about Nolan and Judah when they were newborns, I put the subheading in of what I was learning about being a mom.  It was my first time being a mom so everything was new, everything I was doing was a learning experience.  I don't know that I would've guessed that I'd be here, on my fourth child, still using this subheading.  I should've known better.  When it comes to mothering individual, unique, special humans, there is ALWAYS something to learn.  The month we've had with Preston is no exception.  

Preston is my last baby.  This fact has made any difficult times so far much more bearable.  When we weren't sleeping, although I was exhausted, I was trying to remember it was my last time having a newborn.  I can handle it.  When he is cranky and needs to be held- no big deal! It's the last time a little baby is going to need me like that.  Because I am an emotional basketcase anyway, it's going to be rough going with him because in my brain I am always going to be thinking- this is it.  Even though it will certainly cause me more tears, I'm glad I know this is it.  I'm glad there is a finality here so I can soak it up and sob it up.  

Breastfeeding causes me EXTREME anxiety.  Even though I have successfully breastfed three babies for fifteen months each (two of them at the same time), it wasn't easy at first... at all.  Knowing how tricky it can be to figure out breastfeeding literally kept me up at night while I was pregnant with Preston.  I had many, many dreams about forgetting to feed a baby, leaving my pumping stuff while on a trip away from the baby, remembering how painful it can be, how heartbreaking it is to see your child lose weight even though you are working so hard to provide nourishment for them.  I was so worried what it would be like if Preston was not a natural breastfeeder.  THANKFULLY, this kid was a champ from not only day one, but like minute one. He was rooting and trying to suck when he was put on my chest in the OR during my C-Section.  I nursed him right in the operating room.  I have never been able to do that before.  Again, a HALLELUJAH is in order there.  I don't know if I could've done the no sleep thing AND had a bunch of breastfeeding problems at the same time.  

Speaking of anxiety, how about the worry associated with having four kids five and under at home all day?!  Oh sheesh.  I'm so grateful Josh took off a lot of time to stay home when we came home from the hospital.  This let naps happen for Mommy and Daddy, which are EVERYTHING and also helped with crowd control and being able to have two adults handle some difficult times of day.  Preston loves to eat when everyone else is eating and loves to go to bed (which is really more of a nap) when everyone else is going to bed too.  Trying to nurse a baby AND feed three kids lunch is a bit tricky.  When Josh went back to work, I was terrified.  How could I juggle all of this and not lose my freaking mind?  

I am happy to report that we are all surviving and getting used to our new normal.  Nolan, Judah, and Carter have been incredible helpers (more on how they've been handling a new baby in an upcoming blog) and Preston, because of his laid-back personality, has helped make challenging times a lot easier.  

The hardest part, I think, is trying to find moments of one-on-one time for everyone.  Each of my boys deserves my full attention several times throughout our day and that's not easy to do.  The biggest thing I've tried to do is listen.  So when Nolan wants to put on a concert, my eyes are on him. When Judah wants to tell me about a bug he caught, I am all in.  When Carter wants to go on a tangent about a road with balloons, playground equipment, and a church and is trying to get me to know where it is, I am focusing my brain on that.  I can't always find minutes to play with each of my children one-on-one right now, but I can be a good listener.  I can empathize with feelings, validate emotions, ask questions, make connections, and answer questions.  

I am also trying my hardest to play, really well, while Preston is sleeping.  Even though I am healing from major abdominal surgery, am exhausted, and have a million things to do always, I am playing baseball, building sandcastles, and facilitating art projects and building constructions.  Again, my kids deserve that.  Having a new baby at home when you have other children is really hard.  Having four kids is really, really hard, but my boys deserve whatever best version of me I can put out at the moment.

Being kind to myself has also been a challenge.  Above I mention being the best version of me that I can put out at the moment.  I say that because, right now, my best isn't my actual best if that makes sense.  I know being tired affects what I can handle, I know I am more impatient than I usually am, and I also know I am spending hours and hours a day feeding a baby.  All of those take away from me being my best self for my kids.  I do too much and spread myself too thin.  I get very down on myself if I feel like I'm dropping the ball.

I'm trying to handle all of that with grace- grace to Preston as he learns how to be a human outside my belly, grace to Nolan, Judah, and Carter who have had their world rocked with the addition of another brother, grace to Josh as he is exhausted and spread thin, too, and grace to myself.  All this adjustment takes time and it's going to be messy and tricky, but wonderful and magical too.  

We are so glad Preston is here- we all love and adore him and are having a wonderful time getting to know him.