Big day!

Wow. Ellen has had a huge day. It warrants a second post.

Not only did she have her checkup, complete with shots, she also…

  1. Sized up in her clothes. She hasn’t hit the weight for the new clothes (supposedly 3-4 lbs away??), but her big thighs and long torso that she inherited from mama mean that she needs bigger clothes anyway!
  2. She put herself to sleep in her crib at bedtime.
  3. She stopped napping in her swing at daycare and put herself to sleep in the pack and play there too.

12 month checkup

We had Ellen’s 12 month checkup today, and it went great! Ellen’s growth has slowed down to a more normal pace, and she’s now at the 92nd percentile for weight and 69th percentile for height. Doctor said she’s perfect!

The only negative thing, physically, is that Ellen’s iron levels are a bit low. Nothing concerning, but they’ll want to check her again at her 15 month appointment and we’re supposed to try to feed her more iron rich foods in the meantime. Not a problem!

Ellen got three shots, and kicked so hard during one of them that she escaped our grasp and the needle came out, squirting the vaccine everywhere. Yikes! The medical assistant cussed and then said she didn’t know many 12 month olds who were that strong. So… cool? I guess? Girl power?

We also met with the behavioral therapist during the checkup, and I’m so glad we did. We got some really useful, easy things to try that might help us ease through this phase a little faster and a little less painfully.

  1. Get Ellen a “lovey” that she can bond to for comfort so she isn’t so reliant on me for comfort.
  2. Play games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek and slowly increase the time I’m “hiding” or even just in another room. This should be a fun way to teach her that it isn’t traumatizing when I leave, and that I always come back.
  3. Have Kyle do some of the normal day-to-day stuff with me there too. Me being there is apparently the key. So she’ll feel comfortable that I’m there, but she gets used to being comforted or having comforting acts performed by someone else. Eventually, I’ll be able to leave. We hope…

We’ve already ordered two identical purple stuffed hippos. I hear it is good to have a duplicate lovey, just in case one gets damaged or dirty or lost. And as soon as they arrive, we’re supposed to do everything with it. It especially has to be there when comforting acts are being performed so she begins to associate it with comfort.

The rest of it we can start right away too. I feel really hopeful for some relief in the next few weeks after these techniques have started to work their magic. They’re all so simple, but it really helped to have an expert list them out. It’s very “step by step”, which computes with my brain well.

The therapist said we should expect Ellen to be emotional while she adjusts and learns. That’s going to be the hardest part, being patient. It is so easy to just default back to our old ways where I’m everything for Ellen because that makes the screaming stop right away. But we’re playing the long game now.

Wish us luck!

Kids eating

Two major updates about the kiddos and their eating:

  1. I haven’t breastfed Ellen since Saturday morning (over 2 days ago). We went out Saturday evening and I didn’t feel like pumping when we got back… so I just figured I might as well stop completely. So far, only some minor discomfort starting this afternoon. And Ellen hasn’t really complained, other than trying to pull on my shirt once.
  2. Lewis has been eating a lot more, both in quantity and in frequency. After beginning the melatonin before bed, he has been better behaved and a much more willing eater. Bedtime now takes about 30-45 mins instead of 2-3 hours. It looks like the lack of sleep was impacting everything in his life! Go figure. 🙂

Ellen’s Party

Ellen’s birthday party was yesterday, and it was great!

Cake made by my brother’s girlfriend

We kept the guest list minimal – just family and one friend(‘s family) that feels like family – to keep all of us from feeling too overwhelmed. I’m so, so glad we did, because Ellen was totally overwhelmed anyway! Her normal clingy tendencies were magnified by a million, and she clung to me the entire time.

Me = exhausted. Ellen = doesn’t care! Ha!

So, I threw a party one-handed. But other than that small glitch, it was perfect. Exactly what I had envisioned. Just family drinking wine, kids running around playing, Kyle BBQ-ing, people enjoying our new deck… it was wonderful. Mayhem, absolutely. But wonderful.

Oh, did I mention Kyle finished our deck in time for the party? I wish I could squeal in writing, because that’s all I can think to do to express how giddy having this deck makes me.

I can’t remember how much of this process was documented here. So I’ll do a brief summary – We hired Kyle’s employer to convert the window in our kitchen-dining space into a slider door with access to the backyard. Previously, access to the backyard was through the backdoor, down the stairs and then through the fence. And once you were there, it was just weeds/grass. It was a weird setup, and we can’t figure out why they didn’t put in direct access + a deck from the start!

After the construction team was done with their part (about 4-5 full days of work), Kyle took over. He did some of the finish work inside (paint, patching nail holes, etc), and then he got to work on building the deck from the materials his company had had delivered. It took him several weeks, but Kyle worked away diligently and built us a beautiful deck, literally all on his own, with the exception of two screws that Lewis helped drive.

The direct access to our backyard + the deck/table/BBQ setup has improved the function of our home 10 times over. Best $5k we’ve ever spent. Kyle worked so hard on it, and it paid off! I want to use it every single day!

All-in-all, Kyle and I are completely exhausted, but totally happy. The house is still a mess, but it was worth it because it felt so good to celebrate our sweet girl with our wonderful families. And the exhaustion and the mess are temporary – we’ll get to enjoy the deck and the memories from the party forever.

12 months/1 year

Look at my toddler. Waaaaaah!!! She’s not a baby anymore! I can’t believe how grown up and perfect my sweet girl is. She’s just a wonder!

It’s Ellen’s birthday today, and I’m feeling so many things. I am trying hard to focus on the joy and excitement of Ellen’s first birthday, but it is clouded by a lot of sadness.

Ellen is, in all likelihood, our last baby. And the arrival of her birthday is a reminder that there are so many “last firsts” already behind us. I’ll never get to feel my baby’s first kick or hear my baby’s first cry again. I’ll never get to experience first smiles, first laughs, first words, first rolling over, first sitting up…

Granted, I’ll also never have to deal with swaddles, and newborn sleep, and projectile newborn poops, and spitting up… So there’s always a silver lining!

Anyway, I’ve spent the last 2 days crying my eyes out. I’ve relived the memories of her due date through the day we met her. All the pain, all the joy, all the fear, all the excitement and anticipation… it’s like I was really transported back and I was there all over again.

But enough… I’ll probably cry more today and on Sunday when we have her party, but I don’t need to dwell on that in this post anymore. You get the point! Let’s look at Ellen and all her wonderful accomplishments!

Ellen’s vocabulary is growing constantly. She can say mama, dada, book, woohoo, whoa, uh-oh, duck, bottle, milk, cat, meow.. and today I thought I heard her say “Leah” when she was asking for the daycare teacher to pick her up. I’ll admit that only a mother’s ear would understand some of those words. But they totally count!

Ellen has begun standing unsupported, and is now making efforts to take her first step. She falls instantly every time she lifts a foot, but she is thrilled with herself and does not let the falling stop her from trying again.

As a matter of fact, Ellen will stand up over and over, giggling and shrieking with delight, as long as someone is watching and cheering her on. She’s a total ham, and loves the attention and the spotlight.

Her need for attention has escalated into desperate, unmanageable separation anxiety. She’s had some issues with it for a long time, but it has gotten out of control lately. Recent developments have included me having to abandon a night out with friends shortly after leaving home because of Ellen’s shenanigans, as well as her demanding to be held all day at daycare to the point where the teacher couldn’t do anything with the other kids. Ellen got one of the teachers, and the other 10 kids got the remaining teacher. The teacher’s muscles are literally sore today after Ellen pulled that particular shenanigan yesterday.

Definition of separation anxiety shenanigans: refusal to eat or sleep, and screaming endlessly (literally hours), sometimes so hard she vomits.

Ellen’s dramatics have led us to contact the behavioral health team at the pediatrician’s office. We will be meeting with them next week in conjunction with her 12 month checkup. We are hoping to get some coping strategies from them – either to help her cope, or to help us cope (or both!). Lewis was never this extreme with his separation anxiety. So we’re out of our depth and definitely need some help.

Other than that (major) hiccup, things are so, so good. As long as I’m home (ugh… the pressure!) everyone is happy! Ellen sleeps very well at night, usually 10-12 hours straight. Sometimes one wakeup. She has 5 teeth, working on a 6th. And her favorite foods are cheese, strawberries and pasta. She loves cow milk (I let her try a little bit before her birthday.. heh… don’t tell anyone!), and she’s adjusted to formula at naptimes really well. We are still breastfeeding when she wakes up and before bed, so we officially made it to a year! Hooray!

My body is making progress towards normal. Despite dropping to minimal breastfeeding, the scale has continued to inch down. I have been extra conscious of what I’ve been putting in my body and adjusting my eating to accommodate for fewer breastfeeding calories. I remember gaining weight back after stopping breastfeeding Lewis, and I don’t need to do that again this time!

As a result, I’ve been feeling pretty good physically. I can see a difference in my face shape and in the mama-pooch where my big old babies lived. I know I’ll never look exactly the same as I did before babies again, but I feel so optimistic that I’ll soon be able to recognize myself in the mirror and feel comfortable in my skin.

Life is pretty great, overall. We’re so proud of Ellen and the goofy, fun-filled, wonderful little person she is. She challenges us, she makes us feel every emotion under the sun, but her existence makes our lives better.

I can’t wait to update about her checkup next week, and about her party on Sunday. Happy birthday, Ellen! We love you!


I’ve been experiencing an odd phenomenon lately. The past week or so, I feel like I’ve been walking around in a haze.

I feel… tired? I think? My body feels heavy and things don’t feel real. It is sort of a detached lack of energy, where I feel like I’m witnessing my life from the outside, and I have to force myself back into my body to participate.

I have anxiety for unpredictable events, not feeling equipped to adapt in the moment while I’m this hazy. Big outings or activities feel like climbing Mt. Everest, but even basic things like cooking dinner, doing dishes, or climbing the stairs to change a diaper make me feel totally pooped. The anticipation of the work is just as exhausting as the actual carrying-out of the duties.

I just want someone else to step in and do it all for a minute so I can… sit.

This feeling has made me feel less capable as a mother, and less comfortable being on my own with the kids. Not because I feel they are in any danger in my care, but because I have to work so much harder to stay on top of things while I’m in this fog.

I do it, but it is often the bare minimum, and it tires me out a little more than usual. I want to give my life (and my kids/husband!) more than the bare minimum, and not being able to feels pretty rotten.

It’s an unpleasant feeling, being somewhat detached from my life. It feels like symptoms of burnout, and I’ve gone into a kind of self-preservation mode.

I think an honest break would do the trick, but lately, even my “breaks” have felt taxing because of Ellen’s separation anxiety. It’s not that I haven’t gotten away (I have! Lots!), it’s that the anxiety button is constantly in the “on” position because I have so much going on in general. But specifically, I know that Ellen is in misery when I’m not there.

The breaks almost make me feel worse. The combined pressure of the never-ending to-do list and being Ellen’s everything is so heavy. I need the time away to get my mind right, but all the time away I’ve been getting has been guilt-ridden and excruciating. The breaks haven’t had the desired effect.

I don’t feel depressed. Not even sad, really. Just… foggy. Burnt out. Exhausted.

Maybe Ellen will get over her separation issues soon so one of my should-be-rejuvenating breaks will actually help me reset my mind and clear the haze.

Until then? I will keep it up. Because that’s what you do when the tiny people depend on you.

Bye, pump!

I’m done! Done pumping!

Last week, I cut the morning pump/feeding. Ellen still got breastmilk bottles at daycare and a bottle of formula at home prior to her morning nap, but my boobs were not directly involved anymore.

Cutting that out went great, no discomfort.

Over the weekend, I cut the feeding prior to afternoon nap, too. Again, Ellen got a bottle of formula. I hadn’t planned to cut that feeding yet, necessarily, but when it came time to put Ellen down for her nap, I just didn’t want to.

It was as simple as that. I was starting down the barrel of nap time, and I didn’t want to lift my shirt. For some reason, that idea seemed more exhausting to me than mixing/heating up a bottle. So I just didn’t do it.

Again, no discomfort. And Ellen didn’t care at all.

The only difference I’ve noticed from her with the reduction of direct breastfeeding to is that she is more clingy during the day. She doesn’t seem to mind that her food source has changed, but she does seem to miss the physical contact.

It is very sweet. If I sit on the floor, she’ll just crawl over to me, sprawl across my legs, and just lay there while I rub her back. Then she’ll get up, climb into my lap, and pull herself up so she can hug my neck. I welcome the extra snuggles, since I’ll miss that part of breastfeeding, too.

The AM wakeup and PM bedtime feedings will probably disappear soon, too. I still only do one breast at a time, resulting in each breast only being emptied once per day. That’s not a lot of stimulation, so I imagine they’ll dry up pretty quickly.

I have also added sudafed to my morning supplement/vitamin cocktail for the next few days, since that has a reputation for drying up milk.

I’m just done. I’m so happy that my body cooperated to produce milk for Ellen as long as I wanted it to, but I feel absolutely no obligation to continue now that I’m emotionally finished.

This is what that mythical “you’ll know when you’re done” feeling feels like. It is an indescribable, undeniable, guilt-free end of an era.

However long the AM and PM feedings remain, I am so happy to be free of my pump. I will not miss it. Go me! Go my body!

Little Lewis

It’s time for a long overdue update about Lewis!

Our sweet little dude has been mostly trucking along with his 3-year-old ‘tude in tow. He’s a volatile, unpredictable, pretty awesome little guy. Most of the time, we’re enjoying the heck out of him. But there are a lot of moments where we…. um… don’t enjoy him. At all.

The screaming/tantrums over every single thing, the defiance, and the hours-long bedtimes are just the pits. And on top of those things, Lewis has been having a hard time with his appetite and his energy levels lately.

That last issue actually brought us to the doctor last week. He’s been so fatigued that he wouldn’t even participate in things that he loves. He will decline going to the park, riding his bike, doing puzzles, playing soccer, etc., saying he is “too tired” and needs to lay down. This is concerning behavior for a 3-year-old, and we weren’t sure if there was a physical explanation (like low iron, something I’ve suffered from in the past), or if he just needed to quit his bedtime shenanigans and get some rest.

Poor buddy ended up having to get a blood draw after the doctor’s visit escalated from a quick consult/finger prick to check iron levels to a full-blown blood panel. The doctor was immediately more concerned about what might be going on due to Lewis’ fatigue combined with his weight loss.

Dammit, he’s losing weight again. The doc said that combo could be an indication of some more serious explanations, and that it was best to test for those serious things and rule them out instead of just assuming it’s lifestyle/behavioral. Fine. Ok. Makes sense.

The blood draw was terrible. Lewis was amazing and stayed super still, but he screamed bloody murder (pun intended), and I felt horrible. Although it was a little funny that what he screamed was, “IT HURTS! I NEED A BANDAID! I NEED A BANDAID!” Such a 3-year-old kid’s response… something hurts, get a bandaid and it will be fine.

BUT! The blood panel results were good. Low vitamin D levels, which are not an explanation for his issues, but good to know. We’re going to put him on a multivitamin with the recommended 600 IU’s of D3. Problem solved.

The downside to a good blood panel is that without the physical explanation for his symptoms, we’re down to lifestyle/behavioral explanations. AKA we’re back to trying to force Lewis to eat and sleep.

Sigh… we all know how well that has been going. If we knew how to get him to eat and sleep, we wouldn’t be in this boat in the first place!

The doctor did have a serious talk with Lewis about eating, and I think he understood. For example, I asked him what he wanted to do the other evening, and he said, “Here’s my plan. We’ll go home, we’ll play, and then I’ll eat a looooooootttttt of dinner, and then we’ll play again. Is that a good plan?”

In that scenario, he did not, of course, eat a lot of dinner. But he did remember that the doctor wanted him to, so that’s a start. We’re using that, and I think we’re getting a few more bites in him by reminding him what the doctor said. Time will tell if it makes an impact on the scale…

As for sleep, I ordered him some kids’ melatonin. It’s really low dose, but he’s old enough to take it, and I think getting him to sleep faster in the evenings will really make a difference in how he feels during the day. Crossing fingers that works!

That’s it. Sweet Lewis, always challenging us! Gotta love him!

Sweet memories

Today I went to a monthly meetup with some friends. It happens every month from 3-6 PM on a Sunday. This means that I leave during nap time and come home before bedtime.

Normally, lately, Ellen screams the entire time I am gone. Actually… correction, I don’t even have to leave the house for this to happen. She loses it even if I just leave the room for 2 minutes. Or turn my back on her. Or if she turns her back on me… you get it. Maintain constant, connected sightlines, or there will be screaming.

But today’s excursion was a vast improvement because

  1. Ellen only screamed part of the time
  2. Lewis didn’t scream (he usually feeds off Ellen’s drama)
  3. Kyle got Ellen to eat some dinner (she’s normally screaming too hard to eat)

Best part though? Hands down: coming home.

When I walked through the door, Ellen stopped what she was doing and started crawling as fast as she could towards me, giggling uncontrollably and babbling on about something that sounded like a baby’s version of, “hey mom! Guess what I did while you were gone!”

And then I scooped her up and she wouldn’t let me put her down. She just kept babbling on and on, catching me up on the afternoon.

Later, Lewis lost his mind over something stupid (3 year olds… sigh), and he came to sit on my lap for comfort. Ellen was already there and was NOT interested in sharing me. So she literally pushed Lewis off my lap while yelling at him, as if to say, “oh hell no, brother. Mom is mine. I MISSED HER.”


Also, I love my friends and they’re the best. Whenever I see them, I can’t wait to get away, have a break, and catch up. But no matter how amazing they are, I love even more that my favorite part is coming home.

“food” for thought

I read something interesting about breastfeeding today. From my understanding, it comes from comedienne Ali Wong, who has a lot of spot-on things to say about early motherhood.

Being seen as a food source is a quick way to feel like your existence matters, but at the same time an easy way to feel like that’s all you’re good for.

This isn’t how I feel anymore, now that Ellen and I have made it nearly a year, she eats solid foods, and we have a much more give-and-take relationship. But in the early days of give, give, give, when my babies were demanding lumps, seemingly always attached at the breast? Yea, that quote pretty much sums it up.

Reading that quote took me back to when I felt so overwhelmingly important to my brand new babies, but got nothing in return from them. Once they started smiling, it felt a little better. Babbling, a little better still. Grabbing/touching, even better. Laughing, more improvement. Eating solids, sitting up, crawling, cruising, first words… each milestone, each step towards independence, the feeling faded and I felt like my children saw me as more than a set of boobs.

But wow, that short quote… it captures the feeling of early motherhood perfectly.

I’m glad I was taken back to that memory, so I can appreciate where I am today with my kids. I miss the early days frequently, but I also love each new stage. What a journey!