Sunday, December 28, 2014

Where Have All The Babies Gone?

This is a question I have been turning over and over in my head for the past week or so. You see within the past 3 months we are not only a diaper free house, but now a crib free one as well. The little stinker learned to escape his crib and since we have tile floor we didn't want to risk a middle of the night ER run if his climbing skills failed him. If someone who didn't know us walked in our house they would find no trace of a baby living here only 2 young children. I know what you are thinking, "but Julie your youngest is almost 2. There hasn't been a baby for a while now". Logically I know this, but in my heart I still have a baby. I still refer to him as "the baby". As in "Eric, is that the baby crying or Claire"? Poor kid will be 15 and I'll still be referring to him as "the baby". I'm finding this new "baby free" zone a strange one to be in. For 5.5 years now all I've thought about is babies. The year we spent trying to conceive Claire, the following year with a new baby. The next year loosing a baby and deciding to keep trying for number 2. Then getting pregnant with Luke and nursing him for 13 months. Gradually all year (and I can literally say all year since he was born on New Years Eve) we have been purging the house of the baby stuff. Every item I've sold or given away Eric has jumped for joy. He loves that the kids are getting older because that means he gets to play and do stuff he enjoys with them. The final and probably most defining baby items, diapers and crib are now gone. I've gone back and forth and will probably always go back and forth wanting a 3rd child. Eric on the other hand is completely content with 2 and wants no part of repeating the process over. Don't get me wrong I am very content with the 2 I have and truly am happy not having anymore, but should God open that door again I would gladly welcome it. The more time that has gone on the freedom I have realized in no longer having all that baby stuff. Missing a nap isn't a big deal and my day doesn't have to revolve around their sleeping schedule (although i treasure the little bit of peace during those sacred times they both nap and both nap at the same time.

First night Asleep in his "big boy bed"

In just a few short days (or hours depending on how many interruptions I get while trying to write this post) I will have a 2 year old! My kids will be 2 AND 4!!
When I had a newborn and a 2 year old. Sweetest moment of my life 

 I remember when I was a new mom and talked to mom whose kids weren't babies I looked in awe of how together they seemed and  how much knowledge they had to impart. Now that I'm that mom who has kids that aren't babies I realize most days are about just surviving even still. Things don't necessarily get easier they are just a different kind of hard. Some people, like my husband, prefer the walking, talking kind of hard that comes with kids and some prefer the  "can't tell me what's wrong, but don't have to chase you down" kind of hard. I fall somewhere in the middle.

Luke's "birth day".

Everyday is a new adventure and for some reason this past month's adventures have revolved around hair. I don't even have to come up with teaching topics. These little ones provide plenty of "subjects" to discuss. First it was Luke deciding to empty an entire jar of blue hair gel on himself and the sink and the bathroom. Eric had "done" his hair big boy style for church and he decided one afternoon he wanted to rock the big boy look. 

Let me say that much hair gel takes 3 shampoos to get the sticky out and I learned globs of hair gel don't juSt dissolve and go down the drain. Eric wasn't too happy when he get home to learn not only he was out of hair gel, but also had to do a little plumbing job. Just when I thought our hair learning lessons had ended my sassy girl decided to whack some hair off herself. You see I've prided myself in the fact that Claire has never given herself a haircut. We literally have weekly conversations about cutting her hair and other peoples hair and the appropriate people to do so. Especially since they have spent the last few weeks working on scissor skills at school. She repeats back to me who is allowed to come near her with scissors and who isn't. A reminded that just when you say "my child will never do that" they do it and knock you right back down to earth.


Of course 5 days before Christmas the day I'm packing for us to leave town is the perfect time to experiment with hairstyles. She is still rocking the very asymmetrical hair until we visit the hair dresser next week. I've really really tried to watch my reaction to the new "do". I got to the bottom of why she did it (she was mad at me for telling her she needed to go play and quit interrupting me while I was speaking to another adult in the house). Her punishment was no braided hair for the whole week (she wants her hair in a side braid like Elsa daily). I however don't want her to think her worth or how others see her is based on her appearance. We now laugh about it (and she really knows what she did was wrong) and try not to discuss it. If she wants her hair a certain way I remind her it's now more difficult to do with uneven hair and she says "I'm sorry I cut my hair"every time. The first few mornings she would wake up and say "my hair grew"! I would gently remind her it's not an overnight thing, but that it WILL eventually grow back out. Good lesson on things that are permanent and that aren't. 

Oh the many many lessons they and I both learn on sometimes an hourly basis!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A New Purse (aka no more diapers)!

get a new PURSE! Not a diaper bag, not a purse that is big enough for diapers and wipes, but an actual purse and I don't have to think about all the crap I will have to carry. Well let's face it as a mom there is a certain amount of crap you seem to always get stuck carrying, but my littlest one is officially potty trained! Whew! Potty training has been my least favorite thing about being a parent and I've been fortunate that both my kids have potty trained young and fairly easily, but I never have to do it again! That's not to say we don't have accidents occasionally, but they are few and far enough between that I am officially declaring the Westerman house a diaper free zone (well at least during the day time, night time is 50/50). 

I've gotten a few side eyes and questions potty training before 2, especially since my kids are late talkers and verbal communication is limited, but I firmly believe that before 2 or shortly thereafter is the window of opportunity. The longer you wait the more resistance I think you get since they really start digging their heels in on everything and the word "no" becomes their favorite. I highly highly recommend reading " Oh Crap Potty Training" prior to starting. I didn't read anything when potty training Claire and just winged it. Claire potty trained at 15/16 months and was relatively easy, but I was a stressed out mess. Partially because it was my first and partially because I thought even one accident meant she wasn't really trained. I stressed is both out worrying all the time. Like even the first 3 days my goal was all hits and no misses. Very unrealistic. Oh Crap Potty Training made me realize to embrace accidents (at least in the beginning) that they are learning tools! It also helped me realize wearing a diaper is the single most consistent thing they have known since birth. Suddenly changing that is a complete shock to them. Also expecting them to one day wake up and decide they will use the potty will never happen. Using the potty is a social skill that we have to teach them. The author firmly believes the window of opportunity is 20-30 months and that you can't scar them for life by forcing them to use the potty (something. I've always thought sounded silly). She does explain where that notion came from however. Potty training is the one big area we as parents don't "want to force them" and make sure they are "ready". What other area in parenting do we dance around an issue. We don't wait until they are "ready" to wear shoes. You want to go outside you out on shoes. Simple as that. Same with potty training. The author does explain there are certain cues your child gives that let you know they are at the stage where potty training comes easiest though. Not every sign of "readiness" has to be met, but you know your child best. Again, I haven't read much in the way if parenting over the past 4 years, but this has been probably the most useful thing I have read. It's an ebook and you get access to the reader Facebook page which let's you participate in discussion with other moms. If you are interested here is the link (I don't get anything for recommending it I just recommend it that much).

Let me just say potty training a boy has been a very different experience. I have never laughed so much in my life. They are very proud of all the being a boy entails. He recently learned to pee standing up and it's now the coolest thing to him. You just have to watch out because his aim sucks and he likes to strip in public places. Last week he mooned Claire's entire tumbling class and then mooned half of Marshall's. I cannot keep clothes on the kid now. Our first few days potty training were naked boy days and he has embraced the nudist lifestyle wholeheartedly. Poop training was interesting too. He actually caught in fairly quickly, but his execution stunk for a while. He actually self initiated poop before pee and tried to take himself. Let's just say he wasn't very good at getting his clothes off in time yet and getting the poop in the potty. He knew where it was supposed to go, but couldn't quite get it in. I found him trying to clean his mess one day

Little boy undies are so stinkin cute though! We started going naked, then commando and then in training underwear and finally to the cutest boxer briefs I have ever seen! 

Now of course all he pants fall off with no diaper to hold them up, but at least we are getting additional use out of them.  

Potty training has also put a major kink in his sleeping though. He is waking up screaming 2 hours earlier than normal (half the time is diaper is dry and several nights he has woken me up at 3:00 am to go potty) I am happy and all about that, but man I miss my sleep. His naps have gone to crap too and a 2-3 hour nap is 45min to an hour now. About the 5 week mark he is finally settling back down a little and sleeping better, but it still isn't what it was. Potty training is a huge mental leap for them I've come to learn and apparently sleep disruptions are normal. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Claire gets her ears pierced, at a tattoo parlor

Ok so I know you must be thinking "they took her where"? Yes, I know it is a bit unconventional and we will get to the why's in a second. First let me tell you the story of Claire choosing to get her ears pierced.

For several weeks we have been asking Claire what she wants for her birthday. Her 4th birthday is next month. At first we got "my cinderella party". After a few times of explaining she got to still have her party we just wanted to know what present she might want she finally understood what we were asking. Randomly one day after we had been out running errands she comes to me and says "mommy, I want my ears pierced for my birthday". This surprised me a bit because it isn't something we have discussed much. When she was a baby Eric and I discussed piercing her ears then or waiting until she was older. Eric really wanted to wait until she was older and could make the decision for herself. I was indifferent at the time, but ended up being really glad we decided to wait. My parents waited until I was old enough to ask and they felt I was responsible enough to take care of them, I got them for my 10th birthday. When she asked about getting them for her birthday I initially assumed that tomorrow she would be asking for something else and didn't think much of it. Well, a few days went on and she consistently said "I want my ears pierced for my birthday". I finally said "talk to your Daddy, it's up to him if he thinks you are old enough". Eric and I discussed it and surprisingly he said he was ok with it. You see this is a big time Daddy's little girl and I truly expected him to say no to anyone putting a hole in his daughters body. The biggest thing we both wanted was her to fully understand as best she could at least at almost 4 what all was entailed. She understood some of it as she had witnessed her friend get hers done several months prior. I really thought she might be traumatized from that as her little friend screamed quite a bit through the procedure. Kids are resilient though and after a few weeks went by she quit talking about it being scary. 

On to the whys of why we took her where we did. As with anything I am a researcher. I know what you are thinking, "seriously researching ear piercing". Yes I know I am crazy. Initially my research was to find a recommended place locally of where to take her. In my search I came accross this article
I was intrigued and did some additional research into the subject and was sold that we would be finding a reputable professional piercer to pierce my (almost) 4 year old ears. Another article I read
I also found some good YouTube videos showing young girls close in age to Claire getting their ears done using a needle. Claire was super intrigued and watched videos over and over. I really wanted her to understand the whole process the best she could to hopefully eliminate any crying and having to hold her down. I made sure she understood that she had to sit really still and if she cried after the first one I had no problem leaving her looking like a pirate with one earring in. She said she would sit still and not cry. We didn't tell her it wouldn't hurt. We said it was similar to a shot and would feel like a small pinch (she didn't cry last fall when she got her flu shot so I was optimistic). Eric and I both discovered that for a few weeks we had both been going around randomly pinching her ears so she would understand. What great parents we are pinching our daughter' sears.

At first I naively thought all I had to do was find a reputable place and voila we would show up when we were ready. I researched places and read reviews. Claire then dropped the bomb that she HAD to have a girl pierce her ears. Uh oh, more research to see which place had a female piercer and what hours they worked and who was willing to pierce someone that young. I called 2 shops that had a female piercer and both told me 7 was the youngest they would pierce someone. Bummer. Did some more research and found a reputable shop that even advertised something along the lines of "mom approved". Their shop pictures where clean and wouldn't leave either if us scared or seeing images we shouldn't. Bingo they have pierced as young as 3 months. Only problem, male piercer. Talked to Claire again and she initially said she would wait until she was 7 and could have a girl do it. She then started asking for a picture of the guy and he was a little intimidating to look at I will admit. Huge gauge earrings, random facial piercings, lots of tattoos. We had a great talk of people's differences and how we don't judge others just because they look different. Up until today we had fully planned on making the 45 minute drive to this shop. I know swimming isn't recommended with new piercings so I knew we needed to wait until pool season was over or almost over. I also knew I wanted to get it done before she starts school on Tuesday to hopefully have some of the soreness out. Yesterday we spent most of the day at the pool and even packed our lunch to stay and play. Even though we didn't have specific plans of taking her tonight something told me this would be our last big swim of the summer. I knew we had a busy weekend ahead of us and Friday evening would be our only chance before school started. Claire has been hounding us to take her everyday so when I mentioned it to her she perked up. Eric got home and by that time driving 45 minutes wasn't feasible with dinner, bath, and bedtime. On a whim I called one more local (as in 5 minutes down the road) shop to see if they would pierce someone her age. They said yes and even made sure I was aware they did not use a traditional piercing gun. Only problem is the female piercer was off all weekend. Claire had a choice to make. Do it now or wait for the girl. She said for several hours she wanted to wait for the girl. Then suddenly out of no where she announced "I do my ears tonight". I know my daughter well enough that when she decides she is ready for something she is ready and it's time to do it. We drove down to the shop and the guy had just started in a tattoo so it would be about an hour. Claire picked her earrings out (rainbow sparkle of course) and we went and ate her favorite Mexican food complete with ice cream. When we came back we got to meet the piercer. A clean cut young guy with nothing scary just a few arm tattoos (which Claire commented on when we left "Mommy he had drawings on his arms"). His personality was a little lacking, but he was kind and polite. Claire started to minorly freak out when I sat her on the table ( very similar to a doctors office). The guy told me I could sit next to her or even sit her in my lap if I wanted. Instantly Claire calmed down and on we went. My baby girl rocked it! Not even a flinch. The needle was actually really cool and was hollow so the stud actually slid down the needle so it went in the hole without ever having to touch her ear with hands.  She is so proud of her earrings and kept running to the mirror to check them out. She told me when it was over "mommy, I sat really still and did a good job". She celebrated with a sucker from the place when we left. 

I'll admit I ended up be the nervous one. Not because of the procedure, but because this to me is such a big girl step. My baby is turning 4! I can't even call her a toddler anymore. She is a big girl that I am so proud of. Makes me sad how quickly time has flown by. She is beautiful inside and out and loves to laugh. We have the best time together. She loves to shop and shoe shopping is her favorite. I know this is the first of many "big girl" experiences, but this momma is a little sad that her baby is growing up. 

Here is the link to her video of getting her ears pierced. You can see what a big girl she was. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Stay At Home Mom Myth

A Ahh I've been a blog slacker. Truth be told I've had lots of things to write about, but not enough time in the day to write them down. If only I had something that could pull all the thoughts out of my head for me. On the days where I have had some magical downtime I've been too tired to even move much less form a comprehensive sentence. It has been a good busy though. Summer brings more activities. We spend a lot of time at the pool. The kids are entertained, sun is good for everyone's mood, and as a bonus my house stays clean since we are outside. We have had VBS, summer movie clubhouse, swim lessons, summer day camps and cheer/tumble class. The kids have been lucky to spend time with grandparents swimming, making ice cream, discovering unknown bugs, cows, horses, goats, and their personal favorite, donkeys. Most days I can't figure out why I am so tired and then I realize somehow it's already 5:00 and it's time to start dinner preparation. 


Climbing the rock wall at summer sports camp

Finding things at home to get in to

Swimming at Mimi's

Learning to cook with Neah
Teaching Neah had to kick back and relax

Swinging with Pawpaw
4th of July in the country

I'll never forget when I was working and even before I became pregnant with Claire I would often run errands on my lunch. I would go to the grocery store or the post office or wherever and inevitably I would see a mom with preschool age kids. The mom would be in her gym clothes and I would think to myself how lucky she was to have a husband who made a gazillion dollars a year and she got to go to the gym and fly around all day with her kids without a care in the world. The other day I was out with the kids running my 15th errand of the day, in my gym clothes with my preschool age kids. The kids were being typical kids and I'm telling the oldest one "no" for the 12th time that she can't have whatever thing has caught her eye and trying to keep one hand on the youngest who in a Houdini like way has learned to escape the shopping cart no matter how tightly I buckle him in. All the while fumbling to see if my coupon matches whatever item I'm needing to buy. As I am driving home exhausted and really wishing lunch would make itself it dawns on me that those who saw us out and about who don't know me may have that same vision I had of stay at home moms just 4 short years ago. Yes, I know I am fortunate to be able to stay home with my kids, but my husband doesn't make a gazillion dollars a year (hence the coupon). We cut corners, we have gone through the budget a hundred times chipping away unnecessary expenses. We say "no" to certain events and outings because at that time in the month the money just isn't there. Before we do any outing we check for coupons or groupons to see if we can find a better deal. We rarely eat out and when we do refer back to the coupons I mentioned above. It is by the grace of God that we are able to survive and live comfortably on one income. We don't drive new cars (mine is 8.5 years old). Eric's is new only because the company gave it to him. I wear my contacts a little longer than I should to help stretch the box. When Eric was working at a store he packed his lunch (not always happily), but he never went hungry. I shop eBay and consignment sales for most of the kids clothes and when I do buy new it's usually because I find it on severe clearance. Not luxuriously, but God always provides. In fact over the past almost 4 years that we have lived on one income it has been amazing to see how God has made bills get paid that on paper should have never been able to be paid. So if you ever ask us to come do something and we politely decline please don't take it personally. Most likely it is because we didn't budget that outing. 

Something else I used to wonder was "what in the world do Moms who stay home do ALL day"?! Please don't laugh at me. I mean I knew they cared for their kids and I knew they took care of housework, but I can clean an entire house in 2 hours a week. Kids require a certain amount of care, but surely there are breaks of nothingness. The Mom in me laughs at my childless self. I will never forget planning for my maternity leave with Claire (maternity leave has now lasted almost 4 years ha). One thing I did was call my TV provider at the time and see if they were running any free channel promotions to help entertain me with all the free time I was about to acquire staying home with a new baby. Score! They would give me free premium movie channels for 3 months! I bragged to me coworkers when I hung up the phone (It is important to note all the coworkers near me were guys or childless) that I had 3 months of free movie channels and it was perfect because I was taking 3 months off and since I was going to have so much free time this would help me from being bored. They all nodded their head in eager agreement. I remember when those 3 months were up I had to call and cancel to keep from being charged the next month (sneaky TV people) and I felt so gyped. I literally had not watched one movie. As Moms quickly learn there is no such thing as down time. A task that should only take 30 minutes to complete can somehow take all day (or longer). That load of laundry ends up being rewashed because it never made it to the dryer and is now sour. Or a miracle occurs and you are so proud of yourself because you not only got the floors clean but also the laundry done. Only to discover that while you were finishing the laundry those clean floors are no longer clean and the little people and the dog came back in the house have tracked in half the back yard. Then hubby comes home and wonders what you did all day because the house looks like a tornado happened, but you are too exhausted to care. For example the other morning Claire was at camp and I was home for a short while with only one child. My mind was spinning on the way home with all the things I was going to accomplish since I only had one tiny human to attend to. Things started off well. I got a load of laundry folded and another started and cleaned the master bathroom. Luke was wondering around playing with various toys and occasionally checking to see what I was up to. I had moved on to clean the guest bathroom and as I finished and was celebrating that the bathrooms were cleaned I discovered why my son was so quiet for the past 5 minutes. To clean toilets I use a Clorox wand and those refill pads. I had thrown away the one I used to clean the master bathroom only to discover my 18 month old had pulled it out and was recleaning my toilet. If that wasn't bad enough he was squeezing the suds out of the pad and rubbing them on his head in between "scrubbing" the toilet. 

Off to the bathtub he went. This wasn't a time where a simple wipe down would even help. Well, if cleaning the floor and the baby wasn't enough the dog, who has congestive heart failure and in his host of meds takes a diuretic that happens to make him pee all the time had an accident. Off to clean the floor for the millionth time. 

This last week was another doozy. One morning all I did literally all I did was clean up one mess after the other. I would get Claire settled and Luke would be in the dog bowl throwing food everywhere. Notice his spoon as evidence he had been there and car laying not far behind. 
That mess was cleaned and the dog had another accident. While cleaning up that accident Claire helped herself to something and accidentally knocked over a glass and broke it. By lunch time this is how we all felt.

My point is that over the past 4 years I have learned some days keeping everyone alive is an accomplishment and others you can celebrate that you accomplished a full load of laundry, but at the end of it all I don't regret I may not keep the house as perfect as Eric would like. I don't regret reading one more story or holding the baby a little more than I should. Their childhood is so short. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Nursing Journey Summary

I've been working on this post for a while now. How do I adequately sum up something that means so much to me? Plus I kept getting all misty eyed looking at old pictures of my sweet, full, and happy babies. 

Just saying that word "summary" makes me feel a little sad. I know I've said in the beginning when I planned on nursing Claire I tried to be as passive about it as possible in case it didn't work out. In reality deep down I was actually really looking forward to it once she was born. Every picture in my head I was nursing my baby. Even picturing it made my heart swell with love for my child I had yet to meet. I was terrified I wasn't going to be successful. Every well check with Claire up until about 6 months (when we introduced solids) I was convinced they were going to tell me I would need to supplement. 

Claire 7 days old and milk drunk

Being a first time Mom I kept questioning if I was doing it "right". She was a slow gainer (a pukey reflux baby though), slept through the night (at least 6 hour stretches) and had the right amount of diaper "output". I still kept doubting myself. 

Claire! Look at those rolls!

Society or at least the PR for formula companies make us feel like every baby has to have formula. You hear the stories of babies not eating well in the hospital only to learn they were given a bottle without consent. It's no wonder they aren't anxious to nurse. Their tiny bellies are full! Formula companies have it made. They can advertise all day long about all the great stuff they put in their formula. You get handed samples at doctor appointments, samples show up in your mailbox, they seem to be everywhere. How do you advertise breastfeeding? Who makes money off of something your body produces for FREE?! Sure there is an occasional ad or billboard for it and the helpful "accessories" you can use, but in everyday life you rarely see it. 

Full, fed, and happy

Look at those cheekies!

My point isn't that formula is bad because it certainly isn't. Many wonderful moms choose to formula feed healthy kids and that's ok. My point is the seemingly lack of support a woman who wants to breastfeed often gets. I don't always think people mean to be unsupportive they are just uneducated. What people don't understand often scares them. In my own experience with Luke and his reflux well meaning people everywhere including those who support breastfeeding offered "advice". "Are you sure your milk just doesn't agree with his tummy"? "Maybe try some forumula and see how he is". "Formula helped mine sleep longer". "Are you sure all his screaming isn't because he is just not getting enough from you"? The list goes on and on.

Luke Full and happy just a few hours old

 Had this been my experience with Claire (she had reflux too, but not as severe) I might have caved and felt like I was failing her. Not because I was uneducated about breastfeeding and breastfeeding a reflux baby because I wasn't, but because I had not found my voice yet. 

Luke milk drunk

What I've discovered nursing 2 kids is often times a breastfeeding mother chooses not to chime in when others are discussing what their babies are eating or how long they are sleeping. Or when others talk about breastfeeding just wasn't for them. The Mommy wars have made breastfeeding Moms feel like they shouldn't say anything because they don't want to be misinterpreted as putting down someone who choose to formula feed. As a result Moms like myself often feel alone. I have had many days where I felt no one else near me could possibly understand how much this means to me and if I try and express it I worry that they will think I'm trying to be "better" than them which couldn't be farther from the truth. I have felt alone when I've gone to the car to feed my baby (because I refuse to nurse in a bathroom unless there is a seperate lounge) while everyone else is inside chatting and enjoying a meal. I've missed many conversations and laughs while I've shut the bedroom door while company was over to go feed my baby. In the early days with Claire I was terrified to nurse anywhere but at home. Even nursing in public with a cover deterred me from going places in the beginning. However the longer I nursed the braver I became. 

By the time Luke was a few months old if he was hungry I was going to feed him without feeling left out. I kept my cover in my diaper bag and used it most of the time, but he got so big and crazy it didn't always stay put. I nursed while at birthday parties, at the restaurant table, at the zoo, the mall, the park, if he was hungry I fed him without missing half the conversation.

I've also discovered having a supportive spouse is crucial. Eric could have cared less if I breastfed or formula fed, but he knew how important breastfeeding was to me so he whole heartedly supported my decision. When Claire was born and I was stressing over her weight gain he told me not to worry, that if I needed a lactation consultant we would hire one and reminded me I was the mommy and even if the doctor recommended I supplement (which she didn't) that didn't mean I had to. The one thing he wasn't fond of was nursing in public especially in the beginning. As time went on he quit fussing about nursing in public as long as I covered. To this day we still argue about the fact that he doesn't eat with something over his face so a baby shouldn't have to either. He does say other Moms nursing sans cover doesn't bother him just his own wife. Go figure.

It makes me sad to knowing I'll never nurse a baby again. I feel blessed that I enjoyed it so much and liberated in a way knowing I don't have to count my hours when I'm away from the baby. I knew Luke's time was coming to an end for a while. Getting him to nurse was a challenge for several months. Knowing he needed milk until at least 12 months I fought with him to pay attention long enough to get in a quick nursing sessions. Like Claire it wasn't the before bed time session he held on to. He dropped that about 11 months old. It was his morning "coffee" as we called it that he was reluctant to give up. I loved it. We snuggled and slowly woke up together although the older he got the later he slept and we were often interrupted by the crazy 3 year old going "I'm hungry, get up Mommy, Uke full now"! We would both laugh at her and his morning nursing sessions got shorter and shorter as each morning she woke up with greater insistence we feed her which of course distracted him. I had a feeling when our last nursing might be. One Saturday morning i knew I was going to have to leave the house to run an errand before the kids would be up. That would be our test to see if he missed it or not. However, the night before he randomly woke up which he had not done in a good 2 months and out of habit and knowing a sure fire way to get him back to sleep I offered him to nurse. He accepted and instead of going back to sleep when he was done he looked up  and gave me one of his adorable million dollar smiles. He layed there grinning and I smiled back then he sat up and gave me the biggest sloppiest kiss on my mouth. I couldn't help but giggle and kiss him back. I knew then that no matter how heartbreaking it was to me to close our nursing relationship that my sweet boy was telling me thank you and that he would always need his Mommy's snuggles. I cried as I laid him back in his crib and knew then that that would be my last time nursing him and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to nurse my last baby for the last time. 

I truly love helping others in their nursing journeys. No matter how long or short it is. I would absolutely love to become a certified lactation consultant, but the clinical hours required are just not feasible for me to do if I want to be a stay at home mom. So I'm researching other ways to help others such as becoming a breastfeeding counselor. I don't want to do it for money, but because I'm passionate about helping others achieve what meant so much to me. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

More than "just" a dog

IThis past week has been a very rough week for our 4 legged fur baby. What we wrongly assumed would be a some what simple diabetes diagnoses for Cooper turned into so much more. I won't bore you with all the medical details of what happend, but will give a brief synopsis. Monday when I took Cooper to the vet bloodworks showed and ultrasound confirmed liver/gallbladder disease and failure. After lots of fluids and close monitoring (due to his congentital heart murmur) he got the clear to come home on a coctail of medicine with instructions to come back for a recheck in 3 weeks to determine if this was an actue infection or if he is in fact in liver failure. All was well Thursday evening and all day Friday. Friday evening he really seemed to have perked up and even got down on the floor and tried to play with Eric and the kids. That night we noticed his breathing was a little more shallow than normal, but nothing too concerning. Saturday morning the kids actually slept in a bit so we took advantage of the extra of the extra sleep too. After Claire got up I got in the shower and Eric went to fix Claire some breakfast and let Cooper out to potty like normal. All of a sudden Claire comes running into the bathroom saying "Cooper not feel good, Daddy need you now"! I got dressed and went to see what was the matter. His breathing was weird and he kept hacking like he was trying to catch his breath. You will need volume, but this video sort of describes how strange it was.

 I quickly called his vet who said they were booked for the day, but they would fit him in I may just have to wait. I started to argue with them that he needed to be seen NOW, but decided it wasn't worth the arument and his breathing should speak for itself. I was right and they immediately saw him. I will say the vet office we have been seeing has been fantastic about communicating all options to us. Never pressuring us and always running every cost by us first. When we first moved to the Houston area Cooper was just a puppy and I had to take him to a vet because he kept vomitting. Cooper's main vet is an awesome office back home who did (and still does) all his vaccinations, checkups, teeth cleaning, and anything that isnt urgent. The small town we come from everyone has full confidence in their vet and although animal care isn't cheap it is also still affordable and there aren't alot of "options". They treat the pet with the available equipment and medications they have and send you on your way I never knew any other way. Anyway back to when Cooper was a puppy and got sick I called the first vets office I had seen nearby. Long story short they are a chain vet (not that all chains are bad), but for a normally healthy puppy whose only symptom was vomitting the estimate to "cure" him was over $600! We didn't have that kind of money then. They didn't give me any other choice and basically made me feel like I was a terrible pet owner if I didn't do all the recommended testing. I left feeling helpless. That first experience has made us very leery of all vets in this area. Thankfully through some friends and the wonderful experience we have had at the vets office he has been going to through all this my faith is restored. I mean, you have to (or most have to) truly love animals to become a veterinarian. The hours are long, the pay isn't what you would expect, and the days are often filled with difficult patients, owners, and decisions. As the week progressed I began to feel sorry for the fantastic doctor Cooper was assigned to. She truly wanted him to get better and never recommended any testing that wasnt necessary or treatment that wouldn't help him, but before she could do anything she had to call one of us for cost approval. I understand why, but I still felt bad for her when I knew her heart was in the right place. I know I said I would keep the medical stuff short Saturday morning Cooper was in heart failure. The very thing that helped his liver (all the fluids) is quite likely what sent him into heart failure. We knew this was something we would have to face with his heart murmur, but never expected to when his 7th birthday is just right around the corner. The doctor explained our options of trying all we could or that we do nothing and it was his time to go. Obviously you know our decision was to try everything we could. I am glad we did as the echocardiogram showed his heart isn't all that bad and that with his breathing they expected it to be much worse. He is still a "ticking time bomb" as one doctor said, but hopefully with the right treatment and monitoring we can help him lead a longer life.

If you would have asked me a month ago if I would ever consider spending the amount of money we did the past week on a dog I probably would have told you "no way, it's just a dog". Well as it turns out our Cooper isn't just a dog to me. At the very thought of losing him I was a complete mess. Everyone knows going into owning a pet that humans live longer than animals and the loss of that pet is a sad thing they will one day have to deal with. I just couldn't say that at not even 7 years old it was ok to say goodbye. You see Cooper has been with us the majority of our marriage. He was our 1st anniversary gift to each other. He kept me company while Eric had to start his postion in Houston before I had found a job and could move yet. I was the one taking him out to pee all hours of the night, cleaning up the endless mess a puppy makes, and snuggling with him at night to get him to sleep. When we moved he was our best friend in a new city in which we knew no one. He eagerly greeted us each day that we came home hoping and praying we would adjust to the move soon. He was our first "baby". He snuggled next to me month after month that we failed to conceive a child. He never complained about the many tears I cried on his fur wondering if we would ever have a baby. He was my baby. He was the one who told Eric (by wearing a big brother tshirt) that I was pregnant with Claire. Then when we brought Claire home he didn't get mad. Instead he went into a deep depression for the first month. Almost a catatonic state. We laugh about it now, but back then we were truly worried about him. When Claire started eating at the table and crawling on the floor Cooper quickly fell in love with her. They became and still are best buddies. He was everywhere she was at and she the more she giggled at him the more he would show off. When Luke was born we worried about him becoming depressed again. Instead this time he didnt pay the new baby a whole lot of attention besides a quick sniff or kiss on the forehead when the baby was in reach. Within a few months it was obvious he cared about Luke too an Luke was almost a welcome relief from the crazy active toddler that was constantly chasing him around. He would lay on Luke when he was having floor time almost like he wanted to blend in with the toys.
Playing with baby sister

Loving on baby brother or hiding from sister
Sister made him the "baby"

I will be the first to admit that when the kids were born that he wasn't quite the "baby" anymore and more of "just the dog". His barking was suddenly more obnoxious. Me yelling at him not the wake the baby. His accidents were all the more frustrating, just another mess in the long line of messes I needed to clean up in the day. We bought a new couch and suddenly he wasn't allowed on it. Not to scratch the leather. He was assigned the loveseat in which we never sat on. Poor guy was used to snuggling next to us everynight. When I was pregnant with Luke and quite irritable from being hugely pregnant, not getting much sleep, and chasing around a 2 year old all day I made the decision it was time for him to sleep in his kennel at night and he got kicked out of our bed. Like all dogs do he went through a few days of adjusting to new rules, but quickly adapted and never complains. So, I get it, I do when others look at us in disbelief for giving up a room remodel to save "just the dog". I have given that look too and quietly shook my head saying I will never be that way. Truth is there is no way to describe the love you have for your 4 legged family members until their life hangs in the balance. How you will react or feel isn't something you can plan for. You cannot understand someone's grief over their pet until you yourself have experienced it.  Our mini Cooper is now resting on a blanket on that new couch snuggled next to me right where he should be.

Being taken care of by brother and sissy

Taking care of sissy while she is sick

When Cooper was a young baby (by the looks of it so were we)!