Monday, December 22, 2014

The Cheermeister Who Stole Christmas

Just before Thanksgiving, something in my brain snapped and I was determined to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. I don't know what exactly cued this Christmas Crazy in me. It could have been the fact that it's been two years since we've been able to bring out our Christmas decorations (we've been moving the last two Christmas seasons), or that it was Maverik's first Christmas, or our first Christmas in our first home, or that the twins' are old enough now to participate in the merriment. Whatever it was, THIS YEAR (I decided), would be perfect and darling and permanently determine all of our family Christmas traditions for the rest of eternity. There would be crafts! And baked goods! And Christmas-themed activities! Santa pictures! Christmas lights! Christmas movies! Advent Calendars! Homemade hot chocolate!

I got the idea (albeit a less psychotic version) from a blog post my friend Jo wrote called Finding Christmas. Her plan was to avoid some of the material focus of Christmas and the ensuing let-down after all the presents were opened, by planning something fun and Christmasy for every day in December leading up to Christmas (an advent of sorts). This way, her family could enjoy Christmas longer, without it being all about the gifts. I loved this. We've always tried to keep the material side of Christmas to a minimum, but I loved Jo's idea of filling the space leftover from removing consumerism with fun memories and loving actions. Somehow though, I hijacked Jo's perfectly charming idea and went way, way overboard.

My downfall was two-fold.

1) I am an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. Which means I over-plan, over-schedule, and over-commit, completely forgetting that activity and being with people sometimes just plain wears me out and I need some secluded time alone (preferable with a good book) to recharge. Really, an uninterrupted potty break would suffice some days. (What can I say? I have two toddlers and going to the bathroom uninterrupted now constitutes as leisure time.)

2) Then, when the wiped-out-from-mothering and/or over-scheduling side of me would become a bit lackadaisical about my list of daily Christmas activities, the over-achieving, perfectionist side of me would start to twitch. Like a Yuletide dictator, I would force myself to play catch up and shove three-to-four activities into one afternoon. As you might imagine, this did not usher in the holiday cheer.

While operating under the duress of these personality "quirks", I tried to figure out what our family's Christmas traditions should be. Clearly this meant I needed to try and do every single blessed one of them. All in the same year. With twin toddlers, a five-month-old, and a new (but old and in need of some love) house.

Good plan, Jen.

There were some really good memories made in the process (despite my tomfoolery). And there were other days that my cheermeister attempts resulted in tantrums and timeouts for the twins and a new set of frown lines for me. I'd start out the day with the cheery aspirations of Mrs. Claus and finish the flurry of festivities feeling like my heart was two sizes too small.

Like when I wanted to bake sugar cookies with the twins. I pictured a Norman Rockwell-eque scene where we would create memories and bond through an over indulgence of Christmas music and cookie dough.

It started out like this:
(because obviously one needs protective goggles when baking)

This adorable moment lasted all of two-and-one-forth minutes. Turns out that expectations minus reality, times three-year-old twins, divided by one unusually fussy baby, equals a stressed out Mama who just about HAD IT with this "best Christmas ever" nonsense. I finally sent the twins outside to run off some energy and finished the darn cookies by myself.

As I mentioned, not all my attempts have been fraught with stress. One of the traditions that everyone actually enjoyed was making Christmas gifts for the homeless. This is something I did once when I was single, but it was even more fun as a family. It created great opportunities to talk with the twins about giving, abundance, and loving others as we made cards and filled gift bags with goodies. THIS was the kind of Christmas magic I had pictured.

It should come as no surprise that we felt the heart of the season most when our attitude turned towards serving others. It also helped that I didn't try to do the shopping, card making, packing, and delivering of the bags all in one day. The project lasted almost two weeks, which ended up giving us extra opportunities for teachable moments with the twins.

Okay fine. I also felt the magic whenever we went to view Christmas lights. And anytime I heard Michael Bublé sing Jingle Bells. Because honestly, how could you not?

Now, I've got less than seventy-two hours until Christmas Day. Instead of trying to figure out which holiday traditions I'll squeeze into the last glimmers of the Christmas season, I think I'll just sit back and enjoy the sparkle of Christmas lights reflected in my sons' eyes. I'll sing along to the carols on the radio and cuddle up on the couch when one of the twins ask me for the fifteenth bazillion time to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I'll remember that this is meant to be a season of joy and giving and love and grace (extra thankful for that last one this year). And those things are hard to find amidst the over-scheduled hustle bustle of stress and busyness.

I still want to create fun traditions and memories for our little family (and with our extended family), but maybe not quite so many of them all at the same time. Here's hoping that I can remember all of this next year. ;-)

*If you're curious what kinds of goodies our Christmas gift bags included: socks, water bottles, pretzels, mixed nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, candy canes, and a hand-made card. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Maverik's Birth Story {Part Two}

Okay let's see, where were we? Oh, yes - in full-blown labor and on the way to the hospital.... (find part one here)

• • •

We made it to the hospital at 11:40pm, and started attempting to fill out aaaaaaaaallll the required paper work. By this point, I could barely talk between contractions, let alone write anything,  so the registration staff moved me straight to triage. Still trying to complete paperwork (Devin was filling it in now), while at the same time getting hooked up for the standard twenty minute monitoring of the baby's heartbeat, our midwife on call, Laura, arrived. She checked my progress and I was 100% effaced and 9 cm dilated.

"Well," I laughed/gasped between contractions, "guess it's a good thing we came when we did."

The midwife told the triage team to grab my still-unfinished paperwork and move me to delivery. At some point I mentioned wanting to use the labor tub (since it had helped so much with my pain during the twins' birth). Laura assured me that the likelihood of the tub getting set up before I delivered was slim-to-none.

We got to the delivery room, but protocol must be followed - I still had paperwork and a twenty-minute monitoring to finish. The nurses filled out the paperwork, for which Devin gave them the answers. When necessary, I nodded or grunted to assert that the information being scribbled onto my registration forms was correct. The monitoring belt was on me, but I didn't really care and still moved around how I needed to, sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning into Devin with my arms around his neck. After my birth experience with the twins, I was confident and ready to stand up for myself and what I needed to do to get this baby out. Screw the paperwork and monitor. (Really though - thanks to the nurses for filling it out and to Laura for putting the pressure on them to finish up the monitoring as fast a possible.)

Once the busy work was done, it was time to get down to the real business at hand. I needed to use the bathroom, and while there, felt the urge to push. I remember thinking, "Dang it, I don't want to have this kid over a toilet." I made it back to the bed however, and after trying a couple different positions, found that it was most comfortable and productive to be on my hands and knees (with the back of the bed tilted up). This way, I could rest on the pile of pillows on the bed in-between contractions, and push myself up with my arms and bear down when it was time to push.

I was very vocal and remember having this half out-loud mental arguments with myself.

Out-loud voice: "I'm too tired. I can't do this."

Inside-my-head voice: Oh stop it. This is happening and you are going to do it. You've done it before with twins, you can do it again with one

Out-loud voice: "I can't. I can't do it."

Inside-my-head voice: Oh! This is good. You really don't think you can do it, that means you're going through Transition. That means you're almost done!

Out-loud voice: "Ow. Ow. Ow. Arg! This hurts."

Inside-my-head voice: Hey! That's good. It's the "ring of fire" - push through it, it means he's crowning!

I know Devin was there whispering encouragement to me and rubbing my back, and Laura was quietly offering direction to myself and the nursing team, but what I really remember vividly was me mentally reprimanding and prodding myself on. It was kind of a cool experience being confident and aware enough to know exactly what I needed to do. It made the pushing phase so much faster and productive. I could tell exactly when the baby's head was crowning, how much harder I needed to push to get his head delivered, and when I needed to push out his shoulders. (Which was the complete opposite of the twins' birth. I was so stressed and distracted then by all that was going on, I had to have the midwife tell me when I was contracting so I could push.)

At 1:08am, just under one hour and twenty minutes after walking though the doors of the hospital, Maverik James slid out and landed on the bed between my knees. Laura told me, "Look down - there's your baby!" I sat back, saw my little boy, and just started laughing with joy. "He's so cute!" I said as I scooped up his warm, slick body and soaked up the sight of him. He was such a beautiful newborn, I could hardly believe it.

After a moment, I shifted around in bed and held my new little guy skin to skin. He was so warm and soft and it felt so sweet to have him lying on my chest. The nursing staff and Laura were especially wonderful during this time. They kept the lights low, talked in whispers, and gave us a full hour of peace to just enjoy the newest member of our little family. There was very little medical interference during this time. At some point, I delivered the afterbirth and Devin cut Maverik's cord, but otherwise, I just got to hold and snuggle my boy while Devin sat with us in the bed. It was such a sweet, calming time.

Once we'd had our time together, Maverik was weighed and measured: 8 pounds, 1 ounce and 20.5 inches. 

I was so pleased with my birth experience with Maverik. Supportive staff, a lovely midwife, no meds, no IV, freedom to move around how I needed, and the knowledge and confidence to have a smooth labor which I felt in control of.  I never once felt panicked (which was a big deal for me after my experience with the twins' birth). It was hard and painful and exhausting, but also wonderful and empowering. Plus, I got an adorable kid out of the deal (who six months later is proving to be the most mellow, sweet, content baby I've ever known).

And yes, the twins heartily approved of their new baby brother.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Maverik's' Birth Story {Part 1}

Since this little guy...
... is now this little guy...

...I figured it was high time I write down his birth story before my mommy-brain fizzles it out of oblivion. I had a few people ask me to post the story on the blog - so here we go!

This summer, after moving back from Colorado, we were finally at a point where we could move out of my (ever so gracious) in-law's house and buy our own place (yay for steady income!!) I was very pregnant when we started house-hunting, which definitely put us in a time-crunch. Fortunately, we had an awesome realtor (Kirk Erickson) who was so incredibly helpful and pretty much at our beck-and-call. We knew next-to-nothing about buying a house and he made the stressful process of finding and buying a home quite fun. (Seriously, look him up if you're need to buy/sell a house anywhere in Phoenix. He's the best. #BaconRealtor)

Fun Fact: Kirk and his wife bought their first house when she was heavy with child, so I think he was extra sympathetic to our delicate deadline. When I say "heavy with child", I literally mean her water broke during their final walk through. I doubt Kirk wanted to have a repeat of that scenario). 

My desperate plea for help via facebook
The week before my due date, we did our final walk through (waddle through for me), signed a mountain of paper work, and got the keys to our house. Keys in hand, we made a mad dash to move the bulk of our belongings into our new place before our littlest man made his big debut. We had some amazing people come to our aid last minute and get the job done.

During our long day of moving, I tried as best I could to stay off my feet, but I failed pretty miserably at that attempt. I didn't lift any boxes, but I was constantly directing where things went, driving around town buying last-minute necessities (like toilet paper and hand soap... and Craigs List finds...), and bringing pizzas, root beer floats, and donuts to our wonderful moving crew (we treat you right when you drop everything on a Saturday to help us move). Throughout the day, I was having some mild Braxton Hicks contractions, but I'd sit down momentarily, drink some water, and they would stop.

Around 5:00pm, we were done moving our stuff into the house and I stopped by Subway to get some sandwiches for the family members who were convening back at my in-law's house for dinner and a swim. The Braxton Hicks were coming regularly now (about ten minutes apart), but I chose to ignore them, because dang gone it, I had things to do and family to hang out with! Plus, I was alone with my little sister and didn't want to alarm her precious twelve-year-old self. I just needed some down time with food and water and then the contractions would stop. Yeah... that's it.

Well...  three hours, lots of food, water, and a trying-to-relax swim later, the contractions were still coming and getting stronger.

Planting myself firmly in denial, I told Devin that I needed to go to bed so that I didn't go into labor while all the family was there. We played the "so tired from the move" card and went to bed. While everyone else hung out down stairs at my in-laws, I lay upstairs trying to convince myself that if I could just go to sleep, the labor would stop. "I am too tried to be in labor," I told Devin matter-of-factly. "This is not happening tonight!"

I tried to sleep, Devin tried to help me relax, but nothing doing. Around 9:30pm (the family had left by now and my in-laws were in bed), I tearfully admitted that this was happening tonight and I suppose we'd better finish packing our hospital bags. Between increasingly intense contractions, I gathered my things, and hobbled my way downstairs (with Devin's help). We called the midwife to see how soon we should get ourselves to the hospital. The conversation went something like this:

Midwife: How far apart are her contractions?

Devin: About four minutes.

Midwife: And this is her second pregnancy?

Devin: Yes.

Midwife: Is she in a lot of pain?

Devin: Well... she's sitting on the kitchen floor moaning right now, so... yes.

Midwife: Okay... how far are you from the hospital?

Devin: About twenty minutes.

Midwife. Um. Yeah - you need to get in the car right now. I'll meet you there.

It took us an additional twenty minutes to get the car loaded, wake up my mother-in-law and put her in charge of the twins, and get my definitely-in-labor self settled in the car. It takes a while to walk to a car when you're having contractions every two minutes and there is a small person trying to exit your body.

That drive to the hospital was a little suspenseful. Thankfully, there was no traffic, but my contractions were close and intense, and I wasn't entirely confident that I wouldn't be having this child in on the side of the highway.

Whelp! That seems like a good place to take a break from our story. More tomorrow!
(I know - it's horrible of me to leave you hanging. But it would be more horrible of me to make you read 1900+ words about my birth experience all in one day. Spoiler Alert: I don't have the baby on the side of the highway... disappointing, I know. Sorry.)