Back to the grind

I know I’m not alone in saying this, but summer has flown by way too quickly! Sure, we have a slightly shorter summer than most, but even then, I feel like June was just here a minute ago. And now I am getting ready to send my first-born back to school in just shy of 12 hours from now.

It was a jam-packed summer to be sure. Two out-of-town trips, three camping trips, tee-ball, swimming, skating, playing with friends, way too many late nights to count. Who knew going back to school could feel like a break??

It’s been a little strange these past few weeks, ahead of Connor starting 1st grade. And by strange, I mean, there has been absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about it. This time last year, I was having panic attacks about sending my little man off into the world. Starting Kindergarten is just such a big freaking deal, that 1st grade has felt completely anti-climactic. School supplies? Got em, piece of cake. School clothes? Most still fits from the Spring, easy peasy. Sending your offspring out into the world without you? Been there, done that.

But then this all of course leads to the inevitable moment of fear: “Why am I not panicking? What am I forgetting to worry about? There must be SOMETHING I’ve overlooked!” So maybe not completely anti-climactic, but close enough.

Everything really is set and ready to go. Clothing is laid out, backpack is ready, alarm clocks are set. We had our night before school starts pep talks, and even read the sweetest book, a gift from the sweetest Kindergarten teacher Connor ever could have asked for. So we are ready.

Except I know that tomorrow, after all is said and done, and we’ve hugged and said our goodbyes, there will likely be a tear or two in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. I am going to miss that kid! No matter how excited I am to watch him grow up and go off and do new things, I am always gonna miss my baby. Such is life, I guess.

And I know it’s going to get worse. Four weeks and counting until I have to survive the preschool sendoff, times 2. At least they won’t be gone full-time, yet….

Coffee, take it or leave it….

For those of you who know me well, I have always been a big fan of coffee. Okay, that is putting it mildly. Coffee addict might be more appropriate. After years of being up half the night with children for one reason or another, I got to a point where I needed to drink coffee all day long just to survive. Not exactly healthy.

Lately I have been working hard to cut back on my coffee consumption. Sure there are some studies that say a cup a day is actually good for you, and that is okay. But since I couldn’t drink my coffee without adding cream and sugar (read tons of empty calories), maybe what I was doing wasn’t so good for me after all. I didn’t want all that extra sugar in my diet. And I tried all the different artificial sweeteners, at least the ones I trusted to not be completely dangerous, and they weren’t cutting it. I needed to do something totally different.

One day I decided to cut the sugar out completely and just use creamer. And I found it wasn’t so bad! I worked on that a little bit, and then a little while later I did something totally crazy, I tried to drink my coffee black. And it wasn’t bad!!!! This was an incredible first for me, I never thought I could tolerate black coffee. But it turns out I can. So what changed? My taste buds. I have had many people tell me that by taking Juice Plus+ over time, my cravings and taste buds would change, in favor of healthier options. And I am now a firm believer because a once-sugar-sweetness-laden beverage no longer appeals to me like it used to.

Once I realized I wasn’t so dependent on my typical go-to beverage, I started making one other change. Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee (black or otherwise) first thing in the morning, I reached for a glass of plain old water. I now drink water first thing in the morning. And at some point during the morning I might pour myself about a half cup of black coffee to sip, but I typically don’t even finish it. I am almost completely off of coffee, and it is amazing!!!! I found that I feel more awake and refreshed after that glass of water than I ever did on coffee, which is surprising considering what caffeine is supposed to do for you. But my body’s needs are changing, and water truly is the best thing for me now. I always knew it, but maybe I am finally practicing what I preached to myself.

coffeeNow this all being said, I decided to have an experimental “treat” today. I poured myself a full cup of coffee and added my old cream and sugar to it. I thought it might be a nice treat, and I honestly wanted to see what would happen. The verdict? Eh, I could take it or leave it. Seriously! It didn’t taste bad, but it also didn’t taste as good as I remembered. And it certainly didn’t taste worth all the extra calories. So maybe I will finish this cup slowly throughout the day, maybe I won’t. But it feels amazing to know that I won’t need to.

I thought I would be addicted to coffee for the rest of my life, and that was a scary feeling. Now I know that I do have the power to make healthier options, and I will continue to do so, one simple change at a time.

Growing Pains

I think it is fair to say that not many of us particularly like change… and that certainly stands true for young children. Big changes are on the horizon for my first-born son, and to say that both Connor and I are a bit preoccupied by that fact, would be an understatement.

The time has come to select a Kindergarten for Connor, who will be going to school full-time, beginning in the fall. I am not ready for my baby boy to be gone all day, I am having a hard time mentally adjusting to this. Yes, having him in preschool three days a week has helped, but at only a few hours a day, it barely feels like a fair comparison. And I think Connor senses the impending change too. His way of dealing with it has been to revert to behaviors similar to his brothers. He stopped wanting to dress himself, stopped wanting to feed himself, didn’t even want to go to the bathroom by himself. Meanwhile, in my mind I feel that the more independent I can help my boy to be, the easier the adjustment will be when it comes time to leave Mommy for the day.

So I have been working feverishly to correct this behavior, in the most positive and fun ways I can come up with. For example, Connor and I now run a race every morning: can he get himself dressed completely before I get his brothers dressed? It has worked well, he is now undressing and dressing himself without any help other than me picking out his clothes for him. Progress!! I have learned that the best way to help him right now is to make “growing up” fun, even if us “grown ups” know all too well that it isn’t always fun and games…

Then there is the really big dilemma, where to send Connor to school??? We live in an underperforming school district, with the option to place our children in a slightly-better performing school district nearby. We also have the option to select any school in either of the districts, provided space is available and we can transport to and from school ourselves. Decisions, decisions, where to even start????

I have scoured standardized test results, I have talked to other parents, I have looked at attendance and other available statistics, and I’m still not 100-percent certain of what the right decision is. I will be applying to a couple of charter schools this week, but should they fall through, I don’t know what our next plan should be. Do we stay in the district that we vote for and pay taxes for, even though the schools are all really struggling? Or do we move to the other district, where the schools are just slightly better?

I’m leaning towards moving to the other district. Which means whatever we do, I will be driving Connor to school next year. And of course, the prospect of taking my children to school for the next 12 years or so, brings with it additional challenges. And this is why I will continue working harder than ever to grow my little spare-time business into a full-time career. So that I can have the flexibility to get my kids to the best schools possible. Because whatever we choose, it all comes down to them and doing what’s best for them. Always.

Milestones, transitions and a small serving of chaos on the side

The past few months have been full of changes, both personal and professional. In order to fill you in on it all, I would have to write a novel. And let’s face it, there isn’t time for that. So instead, I would like to focus on the biggest change of all. My sweet young man has just about completed his first month of preschool!

While we did a homeschool preschool program last year, and are continuing that program this year, Connor now also attends a formal preschool three mornings a week. It is an enormous transition, not only for him, but for his brothers and me as well. Connor does not remember his days of daycare, he was too young. His memory only includes life at home with Mommy and the babies. So this has been a very big change.

So far, he is doing phenomenally. There were no tears the first day, not even the slightest apprehension. He has warmed up to his teachers, is getting to know his classmates, follows instructions beautifully, and is adjusting well. We wanted to place him in preschool outside of the home so that he could adjust to that kind of environment and having a teacher other than me, in order to prepare him for Kindergarten. And it seems to be working. Already I notice that my once unbelievable shy boy is becoming more confident around adults he does not know well. He even struck up a conversation with my dental hygienist the other day, leaving me speechless!

Benjamin and Alexander are adjusting fairly well to the change too. At first I could tell they missed their big brother (aka the ring leader) and felt a little left behind. But they now understand that preschool will be there for them as well, once they are a little older. And until then, Connor is not gone forever, he comes back everyday after a few short hours, ready to play and fight and be big brother again.

Then there is me. I think the adjustment has been hardest on me. It has been hard to give up three mornings a week with my Connor. I miss him. But I know this is a natural progression, and I try to remind myself it is only a few hours until he is back within snuggling distance again. And it is nice to get a little one-on-two time with Ben and Alex. We have found ways to keep ourselves busy and engaged, whether it is playing quietly at home, visiting with friends, running errands, whatever. I enjoy getting some time to spend with just them, just as I have always enjoyed the times that Connor and I take off and do something on the weekends, just the two of us.

When I first put this whole plan together in my head, I told myself that I would take advantage of Connor’s preschool time to start going to the gym and having a little “me” time. But I’m starting to rethink that plan. There is a great daycare that I can place Ben and Alex in while I work out…. but I just don’t really want to. I don’t want to be away from them, I don’t enjoy my time to myself when I’m thinking about them and what they are doing, how they are doing, are they missing me, etc… I know it is healthy to have “me” time, but thanks to some other big changes, I am already getting more of that than I have in the past (more on that in a future post). My mornings working out don’t feel like “me” time, they feel lonely. So I don’t think I will be going to the gym much more. I think it is back to workout DVDs and exercising on the XBOX for me. That way I can do my exercising in the company of my favorite people.

I have to admit, I am also still struggling a bit to get used to the new schedule. I find that almost funny, seeing as how I am the complete Type-A, OCD, scheduler, planner person…. I thought our days were pretty regimented. Now they are even more so. I’m still trying to get everything worked in and everything done, hence not even posting a blog this entire month. The boys continue to come first, but with me seemingly having fewer hours in the day somehow, everything else is taking a back seat. For example, the load of laundry I ran on Monday is still sitting in the dryer, waiting to be folded, two days later. I will be addressing that as soon as I publish. It is easy to let the feelings of being overwhelmed creep into the back of my head, but I am trying hard to fight them. I know this will get easier as we continue to work out the kinks in our new daily routine. And until then, I will continue to just focus on my priorities, all three of them. And if the laundry has to sit…. so be it.

I’m not ready…

Tonight was parent orientation for Connor’s preschool, which starts a week from today. It wasn’t anything big. They just gave us a rundown of the activities, took questions, showed off the classrooms, let us make a little first-day gift for our kids… no big deal, right?

So why did I shed a few tears as I drove back home? Because, while it may only be three hours a day for three days a week, this is a huge step! My little baby boy is going off to school all by himself. He is growing up so fast, and I am excited to watch him grow but darn it this is a bittersweet new journey.

I have been so unbelievably blessed to be home with my children these past two years. I still remember the day I had to take a tiny 10-week-old Connor and drop him off at daycare. I remember handing him over to his teacher and practically running out the door before anyone could see me cry. Every day that I went to work, I left a piece of my heart behind, and it was so hard. And it never really got any easier. Not until the day I made the decision to not go back to work after Ben and Alex were born. At that moment, the guilt finally slipped away because I knew I wouldn’t have to miss out on any of my babies, anymore.

So okay, I guess I still suffer from some separation anxiety. It’s not that I worry he won’t be in a great place, he will. It’s not that I worry that he can’t function without me, he can. It’s just so hard to have that piece of my heart somewhere else, not beside me.

I tell everyone that the reason we put Connor into preschool is to help ease him into the transition of being in a structured classroom setting, away from me and his brothers, to help prepare him for Kindergarten next year, and beyond. And that is true. But maybe I did this a little for me too, to prepare me for the transition. Because I know that for all the anxiety I am feeling right now, it will be exponentially worse this time next year.

Deep breaths, it is going to be okay. This is a part of life. They grow up. They do new things. Embrace and celebrate the change, do not fear it…. yup, going to have to repeat all of this to myself quite a bit for the next few weeks.

Cutting the cable…

When we first moved into our house, the only reliable Internet service around was Comcast. We were running a business from home, so fast and reliable Internet was a must. And we threw in cable TV too, just because. Our monthly bill was… well, pretty high.

When we started looking at finances ahead of the arrival of Ben and Alex, we still were afraid to change our Internet to anybody else. We were more than happy to get rid of cable TV, except the crazy thing was, it was actually cheaper to keep the most basic of cable channels and get a deal by bundling two services. So we went that route. We lost all the good television channels, but at least our monthly bill had gone down a bit. And let’s face it, it’s not like we had that much time for watching TV anyway.

Well I recently sat down to review our budget, and while I will spare you the details, it was ugly. If you ever wonder whether annual raises really do keep up with inflation, I challenge you to compare spending over the last few years. The numbers will frighten you….

Okay, we needed some dramatic cuts to our spending, and fast. It was time to revisit with good old Comcast. I called and asked them what they could do for me. Then I went searching for alternatives. It turns out Century Link has been busy expanding in our area over the past few years. And while they cannot offer Internet speeds as fast as Comcast, we took a close look at our usage and found we didn’t need the faster speed. So after carefully comparing services and rates, we took the plunge and cut the cord, both figuratively and literally.

Best move ever.

Our upload speeds are a bit slower, but it’s nothing we can’t live with. We no longer have basic cable that can barely pass for cable. Instead, we have a nice little $10 digital antenna sitting on our entertainment center. Since we brought our monthly bill down from roughly $85 to $30, we decided it was worth the $8 a month to subscribe to Netflix, and now we have access to a ton of movies and television shows, which we can watch on the computer or our smartphones. In order to get Netflix on the TV, we bought a Roku streaming stick, which basically hooks the TV up to our Internet connection. After coupons, that was just $40 out of pocket. So if I break down the cost of the antenna and Roku over a one-year time frame, our monthly media costs have dropped to $43, half of what we were paying before.

If you feel like you are paying too much for services that aren’t worth it, I highly recommend you take a much closer look at your options. Do your research, ask your friends what they use, don’t be afraid to shop around. We are now saving ourselves about $500 a year by making this change… almost enough to pay for a year’s worth of diapers… almost.

 

The End of an Era…

The time has come, that I once wondered if it would ever come… the boys have weaned. It happened so gradually, I cannot say exactly when, though I know it was very shortly after their 2nd birthday. It started with them no longer asking to nurse after naps, then they didn’t ask at bedtime, and I didn’t offer. Finally they stopped asking first thing in the morning too. And suddenly we were done.

Randomly enough, days later, they started asking to nurse again. But by then I figured it was time to just be done with it, so I said no. And a part of me was so incredibly sad to do so. It has been quite a ride. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Connor, in October of 2009, my body has not been my own. I carried Connor, nursed him, weaned him when I was 10 weeks pregnant with the twins, carried them, nursed them until they turned 2. For the first time in 4.5 years, my body is my own once more. And it’s leaving me feeling rather hollow and empty inside.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the primary factor at play here is hormones. I have talked to many women who experience depression after weaning, thanks to all the crazy changes going on inside. I get that. I understand that I am, at least in part, a victim to that right now. That’s why I didn’t want to let the boys start nursing again. Why prolong this transition any longer than necessary? Particularly if it is affecting me in such a negative way? I’d much rather suffer now and get it over with, so I can return to my (semi) normal self. That’s what my boys need most.

I am very proud of what we accomplished. Breastfeeding is hard, so hard. I know this first-hand after I almost gave up on Connor. Heck, I did give up for a few months before returning to it, the best decision I could have possibly made. And then breastfeeding two babies at the same time? Unbelievably hard. But we did it. My goal was two years, and we made it! I have three healthy, beautiful boys who have all received the best gift I could possibly give them, and for that I am proud. I survived depression, relactation, bad latches, thrush, clogged ducts, excess lipase, colic and reflux caused by a cow’s milk allergy… and I didn’t give up. We did good.

I think the best thing I can do now, now that my breastfeeding days are over, is to take a little time to focus on me. That is really hard for me, the boys are my first and foremost priority always, so making time for me is not something I really do. But I think it is time, for my own mental and emotional wellbeing. I think taking some time for myself might just make me a better mother too.

 

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