Pursuing meaning

I had this great conversation with my brother Devin, a month or so ago. We talked about having kids, and how that has changed our lives. He shared that his colleagues in his psychology program have asked him, why he and his wife chose to have a child when the research shows that having children decreases happiness. He responded that what he is pursuing is not happiness, but meaning. And he assured them that very few parents would say their life has less meaning since having kids. The distinction hit me as profound. Perhaps even more so since reading the book Devin gave me for my birthday “The Happiness Trap.” The book too, a sort of acceptance commitment therapy manual, suggests that our pursuit of happiness is based on the pursuit of a feeling that is, by nature, transient; and the hope for its permanent dwelling within us is unrealistic. The author, Russ Harris, suggests that only when we accept the changing landscape of our emotions can we dwell in a state of meaning which is actually the “happiness” that we desire. I have been a happiness seeker my whole life. And I’ve long held the belief that “If you’re not happy, you’re not doing it right.” Well, mothering has challenged that statement and in so doing, shook me to the core at times. Am I failing at this mothering thing, if I’m not always happy? What do I need to do to get rid of these feelings of frustration, fatigue, and even hatred? Flipping my pursuit to meaning instead of happiness has had, might I say, a life changing, hopefully, or at least year- changing effect. I dislike disciplining my children, but I find meaning in teaching them, and seeing them gain empathy. I hate seeing my children be mean to each other, but I appreciate the opportunity it has given me to hone my skills of patience, empathy, and forgiveness. My life is less happy-go-lucky than it once was, but it is full of so much more meaning.

Scotland’s Preschool Graduation- and questions about raising excellent kids.

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Second year down, who knows how many more to go!

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Ava, Noah, Jane, Scotland, Cole, Daniel (and Hazel)

We wrapped up Scotland’s second year of preschool at the end of May. Our final class included a talent show and graduation ceremony. When I asked Scotland what he wanted to do for the talent show he quickly replied “Moves!” And moves he did. He adorned himself in his self-created dress ups, and chose to perform to music from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” his latest obsession. (He’s listened to the audiobook of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” around ten times.) When it was his turn to perform he walked out with confidence, a wide smile on his face. He danced around the stage, doing warrior moves, clearly imagining himself dressed like King Peter from the movie. It made me happy to see him so confident in his creativity.

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I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but one of my goals as a parent is to do everything I can to assure my children feels safe and confident in smiling. I’ll never forget watching a primary program and noting that the majority of the kids were trying so hard not to smile. Only a few smiled confidently- as I looked at their parents they had wide grins spread across their faces too- and were the type to wave from the audience at their child. My hope is that as I model smiling, and create an atmosphere of support and joy, I can prevent the trend towards forced seriousness.
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The first boy to perform was Noah, one of Scotland’s best friends. You’ll likely remember that hey did Tae Kwon Do together. Noah demonstrated his tae kwon do walking motions, and hand motions will skill and precision. I was impressed. Again I wondered if we should have let Scotland quit at the end of March. I composed several posts about this decision in my head, but they never made it to the keyboard. But it was a hard choice and I want to explore my feelings more here.

Scotland started Taekwondo, excited, enthusiastic, focused and determined. He went twice a week from September through March. But around December his enthusiasm started to wane. Noting his stress his instructors moved him to an easier class. (A joke of a class where they ran around kicking balloons.) Disappointed in the quality of instruction, I asked that he be moved into a more challenging class. He was, and the teachers were strict with him, often calling him out in class for loosing focus, or not following instructions properly. One a few occasions their public rebuke brought him to tears (though both times he wiped them away with a hard face, while continuing his hand motions- determined not to let anyone see.) The first time this happened my eyes moistened and I wanted to run out on the floor and hug him, and tell him it was okay, he was doing great. At the same time I was proud of him for taking it, and moving on, for continuing with the class and trying hard. Used to abundant praise, Scotland took the high standards and intermittent rebukes hard. Slowly his enthusiasm waned and his desire to attend flickered out. He threw a fit every time I told him it was time to get ready for Taekwondo, and towards the end, he looked miserable all through class. With a baby due any day, and our contract at an end, after a much deliberation between Tom and I we decided to stop taking. The decision was really hard on me. When should you make your child tough it out? When should you force them to learn the hard way, that sometimes things aren’t fun, but you do them anyway. Looking back I realize that Scotland was getting a lot of pressure from both me and his instructors. Perhaps if I’d let them be the hard-nosed ones, while I was the encouraging supportive one, he would have enjoyed it more. Wanting him to progress I would give him suggestions and voice observations on the drive home. I encouraged him to practice in between lessons, but he didn’t want to hear it from me.

Scotland signed up for Taekwondo hoping to learn ninja moves, and at first he loved it. He learned to kick, block, punch. But as soon as class consisted mostly of set steps and sequenced moves, he lost interest. He’s very free spirited, and prefers creativity and self expression. In class his moves would lack strength and energy, but when he came home and did his self-created “Utah Taekwondo” his moves were impressive- sharp, strong, and exact. Sometimes I could praise his improvement at home, and pump him up enough for him to demonstrate the same skill in class. As a result, on a few occasions he received open and abundant praise. Even being asked on two occasion to demonstrate for the entire class. He loved “sparring,” but he hated the repetition of the same steps over and over. Obviously memorizing those sequences would have been very good for him. And the process of learning technique before performance is common to most activities. (I think of the percentage of time spent at the barre in my years of ballet.) But I had to wonder how that same technique could have been taught to Scotland, in a way that he would have been receptive to. Then I wonder: is it better to mold instruction to the student, or require the student to conform to the style of the teacher? Is it worth it to force a child to continue with something they hate, or find a way to teach the child the same lessons in a way they enjoy? How much does a child really learn when they are being forced? But some children

This leads me to the other dilemma that has been plaguing my mind of late: whether to send Scotland to a public kindergarten, or homeschool him. The question arose when I learned that half-day kindergarten isn’t available in our district. I hate the idea of sending my five-year-old to school for essentially seven hours a day, with transportation. Not only do I dislike the thought of Scotland being gone that long, but I also hate that that would mean that Anders would be without his best friend for the same amount of time. Then if he does extra curricular activities, that is more time apart. The thought makes my heart sick. Yes, my boys have their fights, and there are days when the thought of separating them permanently seems brilliant. (They are such gems on their own.) But for every one period of strife there are three moments of beautiful kinship and joyful play. Hearing them belly laughing and squealing with delight together is enough to “fill my glass” for a day. I can’t help but worry how their relationship will change if Scotland is gone most of the time. And then to think of all that Scotland will miss in Chiara’s development.

From time to time I let my imagination run wild with the potential of homeschool, and it’s grand. I love the idea of each boy taking their backpack full of magnifying glasses, binoculars, sketch pads and field guides for a day of learning and exploration on the beach, or in the forest. I can imagine days spend creating maps, planning out treasure hunts and setting them up for each other. I want the joy and memories that would accompany this sort of learning environment. I love the idea of child-led projects, of Scotland meeting with people in the community to explore his interests. The potential is great. But I worry, would I really do those things? or would the daily minutiae of caring for three children and a home, win out, and would home-school become mundane workbooks, and a harried mother-son relationship. Would I seek out the sort of diverse and dynamic community I want my children to be raised in, or would our homeschooling be insular and isolating.Would the demands and time needed to homeschool being a boon to Anders and Chiara? Providing them with expanded exposure and experiences, or would it leave them on the sidelines? Realistically it would probably be some of all of these.

Then there’s the weighing of benefits. Do I do the most good with my time by creating learning and bonding experiences for my children, or helping in my community, expanding my vocal studio, or serving at church?

I could go on with these questions all day. One day I’ll be super excited about homeschooling, then the next day I’ll start to feel really anxious about it. So the next day I’ll decide I’m going to send him to public school and just pull him whenever I want. I’ll feel really at peace with that for a few days, but then I’ll start entertaining ideas about homeschooling and I’ll decide to do that again. . . and the cycle continues.

In keeping my options open I’m on the “list” for five different schools! I guess you could call me indecisive. It’s hard! Not only am I making decisions that affect my life, but the life of my children! Whew.

In the end it comes down to this: I want my children to be excellent, joyful, happy, hard-working, curious, creative, kind, faithful and close. I’m just not sure how to accomplish that!

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New Goal: Make more music with my kids!

A friend just shared this article on facebook and I wanted to share it here. We read to our boys twice a day. But while we certainly make music, this article made me want to increase the amount of playful music making in our home. Tom and I are both musicians, we love music. The classical music station is always playing in my car, and we often put music on while we make dinner. Scotland sings made up songs all day long. But I rarely make music- despite being a professionally trained musician. I was intrigued by the emphasis on creative, informal music making. As well as the need for parental interaction. I always feel affirmed as a mother when I read studies, like this, that indicate that mothering can’t be outsourced.

Here’s the section from the article that particularly spoke to me:

“The true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.

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Parents are increasingly enrolling very young children in specialist music classes – undoubtedly a positive development. Reading, however, is rarely “outsourced” in this way, and this study suggests that parents should feel encouraged and empowered in tapping their own inner musician before looking outside the home.

As with most aspects of parenting (in my personal non-scientific experience), there is no substitute for a parent’s personal involvement, even if it involves long-forgotten modes of behaviour such as taking simple pleasure in making sounds.

Being playful with sound is something we’re all born with – indeed, toddlers are humanity’s greatest virtuosos in that regard – yet too many are silenced over the years by the “better seen than heard” brigade.

It’s no accident that we talk about “playing” a musical instrument; a turn of phrase that too easily becomes sadly ironic if formal music lesson structures calcify into strictures.”

Chiara Jade Foutz: a birth story

Birth is a sacred time. I believe it should be hallowed, reverenced, prepared for. As I alluded to in this post, I spent the weeks leading up to Chiara’s birth preparing emotionally and spiritually. I wasn’t surprised when my due date came and went, and had a feeling that she would be born on Tuesday. I told my midwife this at my appointment the Thursday before and she exclaimed “Alright! That’s my day! Let’s do it!” and we gave each other a high 10.  When my water broke around 9:00PM on Monday April 4th, I was excited our baby was coming! As is procedure I called the midwives to let them know, they suggested I come in, but as I wasn’t having any contractions I suggested I wait and hour and let things start happening. Tom and I busied ourselves gathering our stuff. (Tom was SO excited!) An hour and a half later I checked back to inform them that I was still not contracting. We agreed that I’d come in, and just make sure the baby was doing okay. Caroline Hulet came over to sleep with the boys, and we headed to Northwest Hospital. Fetal monitoring showed that the baby was doing great, but the light meconium staining in the amniotic fluid resulted in our having to spend the night at the hospital. The midwife was sure that things would get moving soon and that the need for inducing or augmenting labor wouldn’t be necessary. Though she informed us that if I didn’t go into labor on my own, they would start me on pitocin in the morning. I spent a long sleepless night anxiously wishing my body into labor. I had heard that pitocin contractions were so much more painful than natural contractions and that you just didn’t get induced without an epidural because the pain was so much more intense. I worried about my hopes for an unmedicated birth. Determined to get things moving Tom and I set off to walk the halls of the hospital the next morning. (One administrator who saw us on our rounds later told me, she originally saw me from the back and thought I was a visitor, and then when she saw I was pregnant got concerned I was trying to run away!) Our speed walks were unsuccessful so around 8:00AM they started the pitocin. They fed it in super slowly (too gradually it turns out due to a miscommunication) so I didn’t start to experience painful contractions until around 12:30. We filled the morning, chatting, walking the halls, and generally trying to pass time. My mom arrived around 10:00. (Caroline took the boys to her house in the morning, and then my Dad and Dantz picked them up around 10:00 and cared for them the rest of the day.) The waiting game was hard on me. I was genuinely eager for hard contractions! (I also had a headache from uncomfortable hospital pillows and sleepless night.)

Due to the pitocin, the baby had to be constantly monitored, which meant that every 15 minutes the two nurses (Becky and Maggie) had to adjust the bands to get them to pick up baby’s heartbeat. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t sit still didn’t help! I kept hoping that walking the halls would speed things up. Finally, around 2:15 active labor started. I was so relieved, this is what I had prepared for!  This time around the birthing ball was my best friend, with my arms resting on the end of the bed I circled on the ball while Tom rubbed my lower back. Together we worked our way through the contractions. It was very much a united front, Tom was there rubbing my back, massaging my neck, and lending support through all two hours of active labor. Because of the need for monitoring the jets on the jacuzzi weren’t an option this time- which was too bad, since I had really appreciated that approach with Anders.  I got up and walked from time to time but the contractions hurt so much more when I was standing that while it felt like it lent more “progress” it didn’t feel worth it. Not to mention laboring in the hall, with so many people looking on, was awkward.  I feel the need to be very focused when I’m in active labor. Breathing and relaxing through the contractions is what allows me to cope/relax into the contraction. And having so many people in the room through the entirety of the labor wasn’t ideal. But with my eyes closed and music playing I was able to focus inward, and be one with the baby and Tom.

I was very aware of transition, and fortunately, because I identified it, was able to encourage myself through it, saying “I got this, I got this, I got this.” But I found myself suddenly annoyed by the two nurses who were never more than five feet away, watching and adjusting the fetal monitors. I suddenly couldn’t stand how strongly they smelled of purel, nor did I care for Toms un-showered un-deodorized state. I grew annoyed that things were taking so long.

While in transition, I switched to a deep child’s poise on the bed after learning that I was only measuring at a 6. (This was probably around 3:50)  As I lay there in child’s poise, my face resting in the pillow, Tom continually rubbing my back, I realized that I was controlling and preventing the tail end of the contraction from running the full length of my body. As soon as I relaxed into the final part of the contraction, it started running to the very depth of my pelvis and I went from a 6 to complete in 15 minutes. (Which meant the neo-natalogist wasn’t present, as they had hoped.)

I feel the take home lesson from labor this time, was trusting my body’s timing. I was so sick of waiting that I really wanted to push things along and my midwife said several times, “There is no need to rush.” Interestingly, it was my own involvement that resulted in the slowing of labor- even though I felt more control- I was in my own way. My body knows how to labor and I had to trust my maternal instincts and not my logical brain.

I needed someone to coach me through the breathing in the final stages but nobody did. I lost my focus, whimpering at the intense pain of the ring of fire and tissue ripping. I started hyperventilating which caused my arms to go numb. I was in an awkward position for the pushing stage, I didn’t feel very set up or supported like I had with Anders when Mary gave me detailed instruction. I suppose it’s because Michelle knew it wasn’t going to take long. I held Tom’s hand on the left and my Mom’s on the right  I gave two or three good pushes and then Michelle had me continue to push between contractions (because Chiara’s heart rate dropped to 50) and with that and two more pushes she was out! Around the third push I reached down and felt the top third of her head. This brought me such intense joy and I couldn’t help exclaim “My baby! Oh, My baby!” After the fourth push I felt Chiara kick inside of me- and I laughed as I said “She just kicked!” One more push and she was out and on my chest.  I can’t express the intense joy I felt. My eyes brimmed with tears and my lips spread wide in a smile as I held my sweet tiny little girl. I couldn’t get over how small she seemed, how beautiful she was, how much love I felt for her.

After Chiara was born she stayed skin to skin on my chest for over an hour. The nurses suctioned her, wiped her up, and checked her out without removing her. (Chiara immediately worked her way to my breast and started nursing)  Tom stayed at my shoulder, his arms encircling us. I felt such a strong bond between us this time. We were truly in it together.  I sensed more joy and confidence from Tom, more assurance and peace that “I had this.” He knew what to do, or what to ask if he didn’t.  Despite the flurry of activity from the nurses and midwife after the birth, it felt like it was just the three of us Tom, Chiara and I- wrapped in this warm light of love and unity.

Tom left to get Scotland and Anders (and my Dad and Dantzel) around 5:00. The boys were so excited to see and hold Chiara and were so sweet in the hospital. They enjoyed the celebratory meal of pizza and pop that Grandpa brought. We had bought each a small present (a foam sword and shield to “protect their sister.”) And when asked if he was ready for his present Scotland said “Baby’s the present!” When they were getting ready to go Anders asked “Baby come?” They enjoyed sitting on the bed with me and pushing all the buttons, laughing hysterically as the bed moved in all different directions.

Tom gave Chiara her first bath that evening around 10:00. (New research suggests you wait at least six hours.) I spent the night with Chiara sleeping on my chest- in complete bliss. Finally, my baby had arrived!

Now in pictures:

Brothers/ Grandparents visit:

First Bath:

Morning After:

Heading home:

It’s crazy to think that more than a week has passed since this sweet girl entered our lives. We fall in love with her a little more everyday. She loves to be cuddled close- preferring as much body contact as possible. She’ll often nuzzle her way under my chin, so I can feel her little breath on my neck as she sleeps. She’s a great nurser- patiently working with me to get a good latch. She sleeps well during the day- in the Ergo, swing, or Daddy’s lap. She isn’t keen on sleeping on her back, and so we’ve taken to letting her sleep on our chests in the rocking chair, or in the swing at night. She’s easily soothed, and, so far, seems unperturbed by the loudness and craziness around her. She likes to be wrapped tight, and enjoys her pacifier. For the first few days she mostly opened just the left eye, and even still she’s slow to open her right eye. The boys love to hold her, and are always excited when I invite them to help with her in some way. Despite being an average sized baby, we all still can’t get over how tiny she is (compared with Anders). She has long thin fingers and long thin feet. We adore her!

Full term- full of joy

My due date was four days ago. I was two days late with Scotland and nine days late with Anders, so I expected it this time around. Especially since I’ve been measuring small.  I can genuinely say I haven’t felt any frustration. I believe in letting babies come when they’re ready. So despite the many queries, I don’t plan on inducing. I’m grateful for midwives that feel similarly. I’m also grateful that I’m blessed with healthy and strong pregnancies that, while including their measure of pain and discomfort, are very manageable. In preparing for childbirth this week I’ve been reading “The Gift of Giving Life.” It’s a compilation of essays by LDS women about various aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve appreciated their sacred, optimistic approach and found great peace and comfort in their view points.

I was feeling rather grumpy a few weeks ago, I was experiencing a lot of pelvic pain, and was getting frustrated with how it was limiting my activity level. I allowed my own discomfort to seep into my interactions with the boys and I let things go sour for a little while, until I got tired of myself and decided it was time to take a different approach. No body likes a negative Nelly. I determined to spend more time in prayerful contemplation, and to find some literature to help me garner greater optimism in my situation. It’s worked marvels. Instead of grouching about my inability to do some things, I’ve savored the opportunity to do other things like reading and playing the piano. Instead of pushing the boys and trying to keep things uber productive, I’ve slowed down and done more with them. I’ve taken time to linger at the playground, or take a picnic. (The gorgeous weather has been a HUGE boon!)  Their behavior has improved significantly, there’s been more love in our home, and we’re all a LOT happier. I’ve gone from dreading and stressing about the delivery to looking forward to it. I’m not sure I look it, but I feel “the glow.”

This all goes to show the power of spirituality. I’m reading a book called “The Spiritual Child.” It’s a fascinating book! It discusses the scientific research behind spirituality and its merits. I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to those who aren’t religious, and who are unsure of how to approach spirituality in their children. I credit this book also for helping me flip my perspective- at least in my interactions with the boys. I can be a pretty high-strung, intense Mom. And my tendency is to run a tight ship- whether my boys like it or not! But this book really emphasizes the importance of focusing on more than academic and intellectual pursuits. It’s helped me re-analyze where I should be placing my emphasis as a mother and helped me decide that teaching collaboration, friendship, kindness, service, anger management, joyful living, and spirituality is more important than time management, reading, taekwondo, cleanliness, or organization. And interestingly as I’ve given greater emphasis to things like kindness and service some of the other things that I used to harp on have become less of an issue- like messy eating, or defiant behavior. I believe strongly that example is the greatest teacher. (Though I think about it more than I do it!) As I’ve tried to set an example of helping and service these past weeks, we’ve done chores together– instead of me doing one thing and they doing another. I’ve sought to be playful and collaborative about it, and then been surprised as they continued to help as we moved from one chore to the next to the next. (While normally I’d be happy if they completed one chore.) We’ve spent more time reading the Friend, singing primary songs, and memorizing scriptures. I’ve been more vigilant with FHE lessons. And, as promised, the spirit has increased in our home. The boys have been less contentious, and I haven’t been stressed out and annoyed by the time Tom gets home.

I’ve relied on the empowering nature of the Atonement. Each morning I’ve prayed for the power to use a soft answer, to feel greater love and understanding, to be more patient and creative, and each night I’ve marveled at how God blessed me with each of those things. God is real. He has such a desire to uplift us and bless us, to help us become our best selves, but we must ask!

I know that the next six months are going to seriously test my grit. For a while I feared it. I thought: If I’m struggling to be level headed and patience with my boys while sleeping eight hours a night, how on earth am I going to survive when I’m sleep deprived? And then I turned to my Savior, and the last few weeks have been, beautiful. I feel hope that with complete reliance on Him these next six months need not just be endured but enjoyed. Of course, I’ll have to do things His way. But having reaped the blessings of doing just that these past weeks, I’m looking forward to it!

Happy Easter

We had a beautiful Easter- spread over a few days. We dyed eggs Friday night for “Family Fun” we hid two sets of plastic eggs inside on Sunday and then hid our boiled eggs outside on Monday (Since Sunday was rainy and cold, and Monday was beautiful.) We had our spiritual lesson on Monday for Family Home Evening, as Sunday was taken up with church and dinner with the Vogel’s. I managed to get one quite snap shot on Easter when the rain broke for 15 minutes before church. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of our family: Anders looking sweet, Scotland being silly, me smiling though clearly stressed out, and Tom trying to keep the peace. I’m not sure why Easter Sundays are always so stressful for me. I’m afraid the attempt to get two wiggly high energy boys to church without dirtying their clean pressed shirts, or rumbling their brushed hair is an overachievement. But I keep trying, unsuccessfully- adding a family picture to the equation was the sinker this year. Thanks to the classical radio station for calming my nerves before Sacrament meeting.

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IMG_4968The boys had so much fun with all the egg hunts. They loved hiding the eggs for each other, and for us. Anders ran around the yard enthusiastically, exclaiming whenever he found an egg. And Scotland was determined to find the “hard” ones we had hid for him.

I prepared the “Easter Bag” activity from the Friend, for FHE. It involved a collection of items that symbolized different events in the last week of the Savior’s life. We then read the scriptures and the boys found the item mentioned. I’m still surprised at how well my boys understand the scriptures. Anders excitedly picked up the little plastic cup when I read “Let this cup pass from me.” As is the norm their was a good measure of silliness, but I hope that the boys felt some of the spirit that I felt. Especially as I read the passage of Christ appearing to Mary before he ascended to the Father. The emotion captured there is stirring. I felt a measure of the joy Mary must have felt at seeing her Lord alive, and was glad to be able to bear testimony to the boys of the living Christ.

I’m so grateful for sacred holidays for bringing these discussions to the forefront. I’m grateful for a church that nurtures spirituality in my boys. There are few things that I love more than hearing them sing primary songs as they play- often filling in lyrics or making up melodies where their memories fail them. I’m grateful for how their testimonies strengthen mine. Mostly, I’m grateful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for filling my heart with joy, my mind with truth, and my soul with peace.

Reflections on the third pregnancy

I kept a consistent pictorial record of my first pregnancy. (here, here, here) My second pregnancy though less thoroughly documented also featured several posts, though less directly related to my pregnancy. This time around I’ve posted far less on every subject, so following suit, my pregnancy has hardly been noted, except for this one post. I can’t sleep so I figure 4:00AM is a wonderful time to document a few things.

I’m in no means an old Mom, so perhaps it’s just the result of it being my third pregnancy but I’ve had a lot more pain this time around. As a result I’ve had to significantly decrease my level of activity the last few months. Which has been really difficult for me. Especially with spring bursting out, I have such an itch to head out on a long run, or at least a spritely walk. From time to time I’ll throw caution to the wind and head out regardless, only to suffer the consequences the rest of the day or week. I’m pretty sure I have PSD, which essentially means that the hormone relaxin has over loosened my pelvis making it abundantly obvious that my pelvic cradle is made up of not one but two bones. Asymmetrical movements like stepping into a car, or climbing onto bed are painful, and even when walking I can feel the two sections of my pelvis separating and connecting. Sitting for long aggravates it, and by the end of the day I’m all too happy to settle into my “throne,” as Tom calls my leather reclining rocking chair.

It’s definitely been harder to be pregnant and have a two year old, as opposed to a three year old. Anders still insists that he is a “baby” and he loves to be held. I love to hold him, but any more I have to curl him up above my belly which is pretty ridiculous considering his size and weight. Cuddling when rotund as I, is awkward and Anders often gets frustrated by his lack of options. There is still a lot of picking up and carrying necessary with a two year old, which at this stage of pregnancy is trying.

Last pregnancy i had terrible cholestasis at this point. Knock on wood, but it hasn’t been as bad this time around. It’s often what keeps me up on nights like tonight when Tom comes to bed super late, and wakes me- my itchy feet and hands often make it hard to fall back asleep, but it hasn’t kept me from falling asleep as much as it did last pregnancy.

I’ve been measuring small this pregnancy, which was NOT the case last time. I’ve had a couple of extra ultrasounds as a result, and everything looks fine, it just looks like our little lady probably won’t be over 10 pounds like her brother. Thank goodness!

One of the sweetest parts of this pregnancy has been the boys’ reaction to it. We talk about “baby” daily, and it’s clear that Scotland, especially, has considered himself as having a sister for several months, and often introduces her as such when we talk to people. Feeling her move always makes him giggle, and he’ll just pat my belly to give her love, or put his little face down and talk to her from time to time. I’ve been working on the nursery in my spare time the past few months, and last week Scotland said upon going to bed “Mom will you work on baby’s room? Because I’m so excited for baby!” He likes to go in there and check on my progress and talk about how he’s going to care for baby. We talk with the boys often about their upcoming responsibilities as big brothers. Scotland likes to recite all the ways he’s going to help. I’m a little nervous that he’s going to be disappointed, when she actually arrives, that many of the things he’d hoped to help with, he won’t be able to, at least for the first couple of months. (He’ll say things like, Let’s leave this step stool here so I can get baby out of her crib!) He coos at each new girly gift that we receive. And when I told him that baby is due in just two weeks, and could come any day, his eyes lit up then grew worried, as he said he hoped she didn’t come for two weeks because he still needed to “sew her bows.”

Anders is less aware but he still talks about baby, especially when Scotland is doing so. He’s spent more time carry for our lone baby doll, and even took her wrapped up in a blanket with a bow and pacifier to Taekwondo the other day. As I mentioned, if you ask him if he’s a big boy or a baby, he’ll exclaim that he’s a baby. I’m curious how he’s going to take the new addition.

I have had such an outpouring of love and support with this pregnancy. I’ve been astounded by the number of people who have brought by gifts, and offered to help in any way. Just yesterday our neighbor Barb brought over a gift for each of the boys and an outfit set for the baby. Another friend offered to grab me groceries if I ever need it. Every Sunday some new sister smiles as she hands me a gift bag. One of the things I love most about pregnancy is how it unifies us as women. I never feel more female than when I’m pregnant, and nursing. In preparation for the psychological aspect of child birth I recently read this article. It really resonated with me. For any of you who have followed this blog, this won’t come as a surprise to you. Anders birth story was a certain account of the power of women. It’s something I’m rather passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I do my fair share of complaining about pregnancy- especially at this stage, but I also really cherish those pre-sleep snuggles with my little one, when I’ll chase her limbs around my belly, and seek out her little back to rub. I’ve loved decorating her nursery, because it’s carved out time for me to think about her, dream about her, pray for her. A few weeks back I started to get waves of anxiety whenever I thought about my approaching status as Mother of Three. How was I ever going to have enough love, patience, understanding, and creativity to lovingly and joyfully care for three children? It kept me up at night. But all it took was a slightly longer prayer session to be reminded of the source of all Goodness, and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Only He can gift me with charity, endurance, energy, and perspective beyond my own. I believe He wants me to enjoy this upcoming period of my life, despite the challenge of it. I’ve put my faith in Him that He will empower me to do so, despite the fatigue, pain, and hardship.

Ice cream

I think I might just go on an ice cream diet until the baby’s born. Molly Moon has a blood orange ginger beer sorbet that sounds to die for. (I’m so bummed I missed their meyer lemon seasonal flavor.) I keep having visions of the model train that runs around the Mitchell’s creamery in Cleveland- where I met my ice cream cravings when I was pregnant with Scotland. Menchies calls my name every time I drive by. My frugality stops me from acting on these urges. The off-brand containers will have to do instead. Because, let’s be real, I have a baby girl on the way. We all know that the desire to buy other things, has increased as well!

New Foutz Rule

One of the largest take home messages I got from the Positive Discipline philosophy was, if it only works for a week- “Great! It worked for a week!” So who knows the duration of this latest success, but I’m reveling in it as long as I can.

There was a long period where dinner time conversation became a string of “I don’t like that.” “Do I have to eat this?” “How many more bites” and “I do wannit.” As any mother knows by the time dinner rolls around, if a hot meal has been prepared and presented and then received in this ungrateful tone, it’s hard to handle.

I was particularly taken aback by it, because this sort of pickiness was new in our home, at least from Scotland. I wasn’t sure where the sudden change in taste buds were coming from. All I knew was, I didn’t like it.

I took to saying “You don’t have to like you, you just have to eat it.” Which of course didn’t come off very sympathetic and didn’t earn many followers. But I have an abhorrence for pickiness. I believe the world would be a better place if people just ate what they were served and were grateful for it- both in terms of food and life in general.

When considering the question “How do I want to raise my boys” it struck me that the best way to know how to raise my boys was to look at the world and say “What does the world need?” (I also think this is a beautiful way to choose a career.) The world needs more gentlemen, more who are grateful and appreciative, more optimism, more work ethic, more thrift. .. I could go on and on. But the one that struck a chord relating to this post was- the world needs fewer people who complain.

So a new Foutz rule was formed.

No complaining at the dinner table. You can think it, but you can’t say it. If you do, you are welcomed to your room for the rest of dinner.

I proposed the idea to Tom and he was on board and presented it to the boys that very night. (Thank goodness it came from him, and not me, he practically walks on water in the boys’ eyes.) We had a few warnings the first few nights, but now- all it takes is the start of a groan- the “eye” and they clam up. I was delighted. That’s all I hoped for, a shift from dinner time conversation being taken up by “If you take three more bites. . .” and turned to “How was your day?” But the most delightful side effect is that the boys are now eating and liking seemingly everything I make! My boys are now requesting seconds of spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette! They scarf down romaine lettuce, and have welcomed the recent addition of many more vegetable sides at our meals. It’s really quite miraculous. Cooking has become more enjoyable, I don’t dread dinner. And I’ve been throwing together a green salad almost every night- because it no longer feels like a waste.

I’m right peachy about it all. Here’s hoping it keeps up!

 

The sweet things in life

My boys are really sweet. I often get overwhelmed by their aggressive behavior, insensitive interactions, and disrespect; but I find that when I dwell on the sweet things they do- those tender moments multiply. So, a list:

-Scotland is still leaving “stockings” for Tom by his bedside. Yesterday, his sock hung from his bedstand drawer and inside was our Happy Family Dad toy.

-I left two cookies from our last night “family night” treat for the boys, and told them they could eat them before breakfast while I did Yoga. Together they decided that they would each save a piece of their cookie for Dad.

-Often when going downstairs, Anders will stop at the top and say “Bye Mom,” and blow me a kiss.

-I’m very strict with treats. So when I loosen up and unexpectedly offer a cookie after lunch Scotland almost always gives me a kiss and hug.

– Anders has the best manners these days. He tilts his head when he says please, and says “Tank ew Momma” anytime I give him anything.

-Both boys go running when Tom gets home, exclaiming “Daddy!!!”

-The other night during movie night both boys joined me on the rocking chair. Reclined back enjoying “The Tale of Desperaux” I felt immensely happy. Two boys beside me, and a little gal kicking happily inside.

-Anders often struggles to wake up. From time to time I’ll go in and sit on the end of his bed, he’ll lay his head on my lap and slowly come to, as I rub his back.

-Scotland has learned that sleep is to be respected- thanks to many post call Dad days. The other morning Anders had woken up at 5:45 and gone back to bed with me, Scotland was up around 6:30, peeked in on us, and seeing us asleep closed the door so as not to disturb us with the light in the adjacent room- and then played quietly.

-When Anders will snuggle in close to me and say “Momma!” with a sigh, when he joins me after his ridiculously early wake ups.

-Anders has gotten into the habit of waking up with Tom at 5:45. (He now typically wakes me up before Tom’s alarm does.) They have developed this little ritual of Anders sitting on Tom’s lap and eating dry cheerios for a few minutes before Tom brings him back down to bed to finish the night off with me.

-One night when Anders was saying the prayer he said “tank dee for Momma!” probably ten times. His prayers are some of the highlights of my days. He often says: “Deer Hev Fathah. Dank dee for Momma. Dank dee for Daddy. Dank dee for Scots. Dank dee for food. Jesus Christ. Amen.” He can say them completely unassisted, and I’m always touched when he’ll add something Dank dee for cars, or books or something. Who gets to say the prayer has recently become a fight (flip flopping from the previous fight when nobody wanted to say the prayer. I guess I’ll call this an improvement? Here’s hoping we can get over the fighting now!)

-The other morning Anders and I were snuggling in bed. He was as content as could be until he heard his brother scampering around upstairs. He quickly stirred and said “Scots!” and slithering out of bed said “I go!”

-Often when Scotland or I will stub our toes, or say “Ouch!” Anders will come up and ask with a tilted head and sweet voice “You okay?” He’s even taken to giving Scotland hugs when he accidentally hurts him.

-Today I was watching a friends two sons. The younger is just one. Anders mothered him the entire time, showing him toys, taking him to the window to watch the cars- and pointing them out to him, and making sure he didn’t get into trouble.

-Scotland’s willingness to incorporated Anders in his play, and teach him various skills always touches me. He’s consistent with his Tae Kwon Do lessons. He’s always very encouraging. Squeaking “Good!” in a high pitched voice, when Anders follows orders. This evening as I was preparing dinner he came running into the kitchen: “Anders is going the potty.” He had helped Anders with his pants and diaper, and coached him, until Anders was able to release four small poops. After each one, Scotland washed out the potty and encouraged him to do more. I gave them each 4 mini marshmallows for their efforts. Satisfied they went back into the bathroom for more. I actually had to say “Okay, no more going potty. It’s time for dinner!” Both teacher and student were ecstatic with their progress.

-Scotland gets so excited when Anders says a new word. “Mom, did you know Anders can say egg?!”

-Anders is becoming quite the ham, and there is nothing he won’t do if it will make his brother belly laugh. They’ll get going and then anything becomes hilarious.

-I had a rough night a few days ago and wasn’t very patient with the boys. Anders came out of being put in his room, a few tears running down his face, and his head down. I apologized for being impatient and bent down to give him a love. He gave me a sweet, full hug and patted me on the back, total forgiveness in his eyes.

I try to savor all the times when either boy will just nuzzle their head into me while we’re reading stories, or randomly come up and hug my legs. I’m sure there will be a day when such open affection is rare. They crave affection. I’m always surprised with how delighted they are when I force tons of kisses and hugs on them. They’ll shout “No, Stop!” but their bright eyes and wide smiles makes it clear that they, like me, love to me shown they’re adored.