Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{merry everything} from the carlsons

Chances are we haven't spoken with you in a while.  Return phone calls have been slow; emails neglected.  See that little man sleeping in the santa hat?  We blame him.  And the new home is a little at fault as well.  

Our move (five blocks from our first home) was greatly needed and has opened up a new world of possibilities.  Previously,each day ended promptly at 7pm since Chase was in bed and his room had a partial wall.  Lights were dim, movement was limited.  People were allowed in only if they did not laugh.  Or speak.

Now we shut the door to the kids' rooms and behave with reckless abandon.  Our new life is filled with lights on full blast, a TV which can now use volume, and speaking to one another above hushed tones.  

With the not-so-great real estate market, our decision to keep our previous home has added "landlords" to our growing list of responsibilities.  This new role would be going swimmingly, if not for the major antifreeze flood in our unit.  The resulting damage to the wood floors, closets, walls, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom was massive; leaving our tenants homeless for a month.  Pretty sure they won't be renewing the lease.  Just. pure. joy.

On a happier note, Kevin was promoted at work!  However, he was disappointed to learn waving around his new title doesn't allow for "opting out" of diaper changes at home.

Tracy spent a majority of the year pregnant, then the remainder of the year partying it up with the new night owl in our lives.  Thankfully, with age comes wisdom and Kiefer has (temporarily) hung up his party hat to sleep well at night.  With him clocking 8-10 hours a night, my restless nights are instead the result of returning to work.  

Chase continues to entertain us on a daily basis (click here for examples).  We could go into more detail, but he already has a whole blog devoted to him.  No need to inflate an already healthy ego.  

Outside of smiling and laughing, Kiefer's family contributions have been minimal.  We will most likely have more on him in 2013. 

All the best to you and yours this holiday season!

Love, The Carlsons

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Signs You Have a Toddler - Part I

Are you often singing a tune you wish you didn't know?  Perhaps someone is trying to convince you nap time is over (when it definitely is not)?  These are a few indicators you may have a toddler in your home. 

Below are 4 of the top 8 signs our house is occupied by a toddler:

(1) There is an upbeat, but irritating song in your head.
Half the time it takes me until noon to even realize a toddler tune has been buzzing around in my head and to those nearby all morning.  Then reality sets in: this song won't stop reminding me of the joys of new foods (Try it!  You'll like it!) until a new, equally positive and repetitive song replaces it.  It's a never-ending cycle.  

Somehow an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song snuck into our home and now those squeaky verses about hoola-hoops are horrifyingly playing over and over in my head.  If you see me staring blankly ahead while at a busy crosswalk, I am most likely weighing the pros and cons of throwing myself into the oncoming traffic to make the voices stop.

(2) You lose arguments. Even when you win.

Chase: Mom!  Mom!  A PS truck! 
Me: Great job seeing the UPS truck!
Chase: No Mom.  PS Truck.  No UPS.

This conversation took place on auto-loop for about 5 minutes before I just let him have the victory.  Honestly.  I'm arguing with a 2 year old.  They don't fight fair.  They don't even know the rules.  

We also have a daily discussion on eating candy for breakfast.  Every.  Morning.  While I never cave, his determination is steadfast.  I am sure as he thinks it's only a matter of time before he breaks me as he tilts his head to the side, slightly raises his eyebrows, and uses his sweetest voice with arms out-stretched: Candy?

The weirdest arguments to date are over songs...sung correctly.  Example:  

All:  A B C D...
Chase: (interrupting angrily) No mom.  Like this: A B C D...
Which, as seen above, is exactly what we all just sang.  
We start again:  A B C D...
Chase:  NO MOM. Like this: A B C D... 

At this point, I just stop singing because (based on history) I will never get it correct.

(3) Story time is apparently judged like American Idol
Against my wishes, a new tradition at Chase's bedtime is to tell him a story.  What a cute idea, right?  Well, the receiver of the stories tends to be a bit critical and while my husband is a master story teller (and coincidentally an amazing liar), I am not.  Growing up on a farm gives Kevin all sorts of made-for-small-boys stories involving cows, chickens and scooters.  

Chase caught on quickly that story time isn't my forte.  Try as I might, most stories illicit the reaction of My no like that story mom with him offering me the chance to tell a new one.  Most likely hoping the next one will be better.  It will not.  One night it was apparently so bad, he asked "Where's Daddy?" 

(4) You say weird things
The statements of "because I'm the mom, that's why" and the like aren't ideal, but saying them is not weird (or surprising).  Instead, it's phrases like the below which continue to throw me off.  Never did I expect such sentences to come from my lips:
  • I will dunk you through the basketball hoop one more time, then we have to get ready for bed
  • Please don't fist-bump your brother while he's sleeping
  • That's not 'penis' butter, you mean 'peanut' butter (I'm not kidding)
The other four Toddler signs to follow in the coming weeks....

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho, It's Back to Work I Go

A small view into our morning walks to school....

It's officially been 12 weeks and it's back to the workforce I go....with mixed emotions. 

After getting into a routine of having two babes, Chase (the oldest) and I were able to create a new relaxed morning routine in order to spend some extended time together.  With no need to arrive at school by a certain time, we packed up the littlest family member in the car seat and meandered our time away.  

There was extra time spent getting ready for school, petting the piggy (yes, there is a pig in our park), and cheering on the construction & landscape workers along our route.  Stopping to hop on tree roots and spontaneously dance on the sidewalk was no problem.  

And while the beginning of my time with Kiefer was inexplicably hard (see What Not to Say for proof), the past few weeks have brought smiles and coos unlike I have ever seen.  Even Chase is entertained and has full blown "conversations" with his Lil' Bro.

Besides spending time with the kids, my maternity leave gave me the ability (and stress) to settle into our new home.  However, this "settling" takes some extra cash as we re-modeled, re-painted, and re-decorated.  

It is safe to say my husband is glad to have my attention focused back at work with less time to spend money on our house. 

While the return to work creates a more hectic morning routine and less time to fix up the home, I look forward to it for a myriad of reasons.  I won't bore you with all of them, but the short and sweet of it is I actually love my job.  Being back with my clients, bringing vision to reality, and the fast-pace of it all is exciting.   

Additionally, as I folded the last of our laundry and put away the last dish, I can't ignore another big milestone of our new normal.  With my return to work, the household duties are shared!!  As a non-lover of laundry and dishes, this will not only ease my load, but make me an all-around happier person.  

However, there is no denying the most exciting change.  There is pure bliss in relinquishing my reign as the solo night-time pal of Kiefer's each (long) night.  After 3 months of not sleeping, I look forward to getting a luxurious 6 or 7 hours of sleep tonight.  And every other night.

And with that, I bid you good night -- someone (this girl!) needs to figure out how to work the alarm clock again ~

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Not to Say

As I amble into Target  -- newborn in tow -- with my hair askew and an un-showered appearance, a person (or 10) undoubtedly stops me to say sweetly "Look at the new baby!  Don't you wish they could stay like this forever?"

Though I smile politely at this stranger's notion of perma-infants, in my mind I have landed an upper-cut-jab-combo squarely on the unsuspecting shopper.   

To be clear: this stranger wants to freeze my son at an age where sleeping one to two hours is considered an amazingly long time?  Where his all too frequent diaper changes are  filled with piercing screams as if an appendage is being removed?  Where he sleeps like an angel in my arms, only to wake with a jolt the moment his head hits the crib mattress? 

No thank you.

I understand their heart is in the right place.  A sleeping infant with its cute button nose and little baby coos is undeniably wonderful.  Seeing such a teeny human is a bit surreal.  They are so new, so innocent.  

Unfortunately, with the onlooker focusing so much on the baby, my current state of Crazy goes unnoticed.  Surely a glance in my direction would alert the person I am most likely unstable.  

Yet, immediately after mentioning my exhaustion, a typical response is either:  "Don't babies sleep all the time?"  or "Aren't babies easy and portable at this stage?"  Both implying I should be inexplicably happy at this opportunity to snuggle day in and day out with this perfect being.

To such well-intentioned commentators (both present and future), let me offer a bit of advice.  While the short answer is Yes, infants sleep a lot and are incredibly portable, please don't assume it is handy for the caretaker.   To paint a clearer picture, a sample timeline is below:
Last night my infant slept for two hours, twice in a row!  I felt good; confident.  However, excitement quickly dwindled as the next 4 hours were fraught with his favorite game of "Fall-Asleep-Until-Placed-in-the-Crib. Repeat".  
My hours logged sleeping = 4  
When my son is awake during the day, time is consumed with feeding, burping, changing, interacting, and soothing.  This means once he lays down there is little chance to sleep in order to tackle the exciting tasks of laundry, dishes, errands, eating, pumping, bottle preparation, personal time, and working out.  
My hours logged sleeping = 0 
To achieve a gift of 1 or 2 hours, the non essentials of working out and personal time have fallen casualty
What to Say:
After ogling a newborn, take stock in the parent holding the child before uttering a word.  If the woman looks radiant, say anything you want.  She has a perfect child and a blessed life*.  And most likely a team of nannies.  

However, if they have a disheveled appearance and dark circles under their eyes (essentially ready for a role on The Walking Dead), refrain from implying the person should remain in this state forever.  Instead, try reassuring the overwhelmed parent how each month gets better and better; the witching hour will fade away; and/or the baby will not always need you over and over in the middle of the night.  Bonus points if you offer any sort of sympathy.  Or money.  I always respond well to cash.  

Fortunately, this is my second take with a newborn, so I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I will come out on the other side and I will, indeed, see sleep again.  But while I am in the midst of it, please handle me with care and please please please do not suggest a lifetime sentence of infancy.    
*NOTE: I am not speaking for all mothers of newborns.  I am speaking only for me and potentially other overwhelmed, sleep-deprived moms trying to remain sane while their sense of "self" is on hold to care for an infant 24/7.  I know several moms who truly love the infant stage.  They also look radiant every day with no sign of spit up on their shirt.  I in no way understand these people (robots?) and they are not the ones referenced in this post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kiefer Maddox Carlson

This is my first attempt to post-date and add in something after the fact.  Here's to hoping it works as I would like to have the ability to refer to this as the year's go on, instead of being lost in the archives of my email.

We are proud to announce the (early) arrival of our son:  Kiefer Maddox Carlson

While they say never to compare siblings, let's ignore this for a moment:
Chase: 10 days late (9/9/10)
Kiefer: 10 days early (9/11/12)

Chase: 9.5 pounds, approximately the size of two Kiefers.
Kiefer: 5.5 pounds, the smallest kid on his hospital block 

Chase: Bald at Birth.  Still looks relatively bald at 2
Kiefer: Full head of jet black hair.

Chase: Big appetite.  Wouldn't stop feeding
Kiefer: Would rather be sleeping at all times

Chase: Parents well prepped for the hospital.  Lists made, lists adhered to.  Calm, collected
Kiefer: Parents behaved as though this was their first time.  Mom made it to the hospital carrying a phone, phone charger, and required paperwork.  Calm, not collected.

Needless to say, we are two days in and these boys have made it abundantly clear they are their own people.   

Hospital highlight:  Watching the brothers meet face by face.  
Chase was so excited to meet Kiefer, he pushed past his mother to find the baby.  Chase couldn't take his eyes off of him and moments after getting his new sibling placed in his lap [with major supervision from all those nearby], Chase leaned in to hug Kiefer and wouldn't let him go.  

We feel very blessed with this completed family of four and can't wait to see the adventures which await us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Every Day is Independence Day

3 photos on the left: July 4, 2011 | Photo on far right: July 4, 2012
In my ideal world, efficiency is key.  With the need to accomplish so much in a day, I walk quickly, email succinctly, and stay focused.  Sometimes a phone call with a friend resembles more of a speed date than the casual catch up we both desire. 

And while this fast pace gets me through the work day, my child's desire for independence throws speed & efficiency out the window the minute I arrive home.  Some examples:
Taking out the trash: 2 minutes
Taking out the trash with our child carrying an item: 10 minutes
Walking down the stairs: 1 minute 
Chase maneuvering from the 2nd to 1st floor: 5 minutes 
Carrying Chase to the park: 1 minute
Chase transporting himself to the sandbox: 15 minutes (this feels generous)
You get the idea.  I won't even allow myself to figure out the lost hours spent watching him struggle with gravity and slippery pasta during dinner.

If I were to assign a word to describe Chase, it would be Dawdle. 

A rational person would conclude from the above to stop letting our child navigate his own way through activities in order to salvage some time and sanity.  And while I joined this battle cry before having Chase, my heart has changed. 

While it would truly save (much more) time, I love watching our son help and showcase his independence.  These are life lessons I hope carry over into other aspects of life (as in  learn-how-to-do-your-own-laundry types of lessons).  And frankly, it is hilarious watching a toddler carry an enormous empty box to the recycling bin with his little head peering over the top.  

NO Mama.  NO Daddy.  

These demands are increasingly stated (accompanied with swatting away our hands) as Chase wields his independence to do things on his own.  While we carve out time or discretely assist his process, we draw the line at some ridiculous requests.  Specifically his desires involving sharp instruments and limited finger dexterity: trimming his own fingernails or cutting his own food.  Not happening buddy.

While I work to revise my attitude and adjust, the hardest part is realizing I can't fit it all in.  Sometimes a personal phone call falls by the wayside or a thank you note is never written, as I am too "busy" waiting for Chase to step down the last stair in order to provide a standing ovation and perform a dance for his accomplishment.

Who knows, maybe in a few years his current fascination with the trash will turn into an activity he enjoys while Mom and Dad relax on the couch.  Or the least he can do is begin  picking up the pace when walking.  

One can dream on this (and every) Independence Day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Silver Lining of Pregnancy

With a plethora of books on pregnancy (a quick search shows over 28,000 options), the last thing you need is more information on pending changes to your body and emotions.  Instead, I'd like to dwell on the Silver Lining to my pregnancy of water retention and indigestion:

Body Changes
Obviously the midsection is stretched beyond recognition.  And it seems my hips view this as a competition and relentlessly keep pace with my belly.  However, the side benefits of a larger chest and thicker hair aren't too shabby.  I love transitioning from flat-chested to exclaiming:  I probably shouldn't wear this any longer with all this cleavage!  When in fact, I will wear it more often.  And having my hairstylist no longer elicit sighs or looks of pity during my visit helps me forget the thin, fine locks which will return in a few short months.

Stretchy Clothes
Aside from being insanely thankful to Fashion for the return of leggings in 2005 (thanks Wikipedia), pregnant people have a range of dresses, skirts, and pants to create the mirage of normal clothing with a comfortable fit around expanding waistline. And if that's not enough, a large rubber band (official term is belly band) can extend the life of regular pants, allowing me to avoid the burden of zipping or buttoning these clothes.

As an added bonus, maternity wear fits no matter how much I eat.  Time and again this theory has been tested.  I almost feel sorry for non-pregnant people over the holidays/large meals.  Uncomfortable?  Need to pop open a button?  Not a problem here.  I may start a side business of renting maternity clothes to  let them enjoy the comfort as well.

Seat Availability
Around 5 months in, I am not concerned about standing on the bus.  If all seats are taken, I pick out the most able bodied person, amble over (adding a little extra waddle to the walk) and strategically locate my belly near their face.  This works about 95% of the time.  The other 5%, a nearby rider jostles someone to relinquish their seat or gives up their own, sneering at those still seated.  I graciously thank them, give the "thank-goodness-for-people-like-you" smile and enjoy the commute with a large weight off my feet.

A similar tactic makes long bathroom lines vanish.  Waddle up (remember to amp it up a bit) and say to someone in line: "crazy how many of these lines you see while pregnant [friendly laugh here]!  Boom. Instantly moved to the front of the line.  Hasn't failed me yet.

Conversation Starter
If you enjoy conversing with acquaintances and strangers about your pregnancy, their pregnancy, or their friend's/sister's/cousin's/child's pregnancy - You are in luck!  These conversations take place everywhere -- at anytime -- and are typically laced with something along the lines of "You look amazing!" whether it is true or not.  Though be cautioned you may need to sidestep stories of traumatic births and unsolicited advice: Should you be eating/drinking that?  Pregnant people shouldn't wear [insert clothing item I am actually wearing at the time].  This is when I have a sudden, urgent need to use the restroom.  No one questions this as I politely remove myself from the annoyance.

Immediate Forgiveness
My favorite silver lining is the forgiveness received for whatever nonsense comes out of my mouth.  Do I seem a bit moody and impatient?  Have a hair trigger temper? Seem to cry at the most mundane, inexplicable moments? While these emotions are present when not pregnant, the minute I am carrying a child, I lean heavily on the apology: So sorry about the [inappropriate outburst and/or teary awkwardness], but I am a hormonal, pregnant mess".

And you must forgive me.
Sure there are the undeniable (and many times unmentionable) pains and issues associated with pregnancy, but remembering the perks above help get me through.  So I hope you too can embrace the benefits along the way and remember: always work the waddle.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Good Day

Sometimes I have a terrible day and pray when I greet Chase at daycare that

1) he is happy to see me
2) he decides not to throw a temper tantrum the rest of the evening (which is a tougher wish more and more)

Very rarely are both goals met.  Number two is usually the culprit.

Today I was worn down mentally and physically.  Feeling beat up.  All I wanted was to dwell on & pity myself.

As I walked into school, I prayed my 1 & 2.  And today he knocked both out of the park.  When he saw me, he cracked a big smile, opened his arms wide and cried out "DADA!"

Okay, obviously we need to work on that.

Regardless, he was excited to see me (or Dad's stand-in anyway).

I wanted to be alone to sulk, but Chase knew better.  We met a lovely new friend on the bus, watched some middle-school kids play basketball, and waved to numerous strangers as we jogged the last block home.  He minded all directions, ate his full meal, and went to bed like a dream.  I almost don't believe it.

My little guy reminded me to see the silver lining.  Not by looking for a great or amazing sign, but by seeing the Amazing and Great in the everyday.

Something as simple as the excitement on his face while he watches a bouncing ball or the smile of a stranger when Chase says High-Low (hello) in his tiny toddler voice.  Sometimes that little guy can really turn my day around.

Thanks to Chase, it was indeed a good day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Baby Two is on the Way!

Does Chase's shirt make me
look pregnant?
With the announcement of Baby Two being due, I can guess the two main responses:

(1)  Uh, come again?
Yep.  I strongly touted "No Kids. Ever." early in marriage.  Then begrudgingly changed my tune to One and Done when pregnant with the birth of Chase.  So I understand the head scratching.  The new (and final) mantra is Two and We're Through.

(2) Who cares.
Beyond grandparents, not many get excited when hearing another baby is on the way.  You aren't excited to learn -- let alone remember -- another name.

So while you may not care (and probably stopped reading long ago), it is surprising how much thought goes into deciding to have a second.  On one hand, there is the advantage of knowing what to expect.  On the other hand, there is the disadvantage of knowing what to expect. 

So we are preparing for our new roles as "referee" (Chase! Stop poking the Baby.  CHASE. No hitting...) as it was determined the pros outweighed the cons of financial burden, overwhelming exhaustion, and constant worrying.  And don't try consoling us with the "second-baby-isn't-much-more-expensive" argument.  Our new home search says baby 2 is definitely upping overall expenses.

Below are some FAQ for your reference:
  • Due Date? September 20 (they will be about 2 years apart)
  • Gender?  In a few months we will know whether Mom is outnumbered and in need of a "ladies den" -- a nice room with bottomless martinis and a TV incapable of broadcasting sports or playing video games.
  • Preference?  Now I kinda want another boy to secure my ladies den.... 
  • Name?  One is heavily favored, but not to be shared until it's inked on the birth certificate.  If pressed, we will probably say the baby will be named after you.  However, I can guarantee this is not true.
  • How are you feeling? Exhausted.  Creating a human is much harder when there is another one running around.  I never feel caught up on sleep.  Like before, Kevin feels great except for the extra burden of picking up my slack. 
  • Need help? Any advice on the transition is MUCH appreciated!  Would prefer these kids like each other.  Or if you are low on advice, we will happily accept cash instead.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let's Be Honest...

Let's be honest, parenting is hard.

Stay at Home. Career. Unless you are a deadbeat, parenting is tough.

Moms and dads who gush about every moment with their kids being "a blessing and joy" are experiencing a heavy case of selective memory.  This (popular) parenting outlook neglects to mention how gut-wretchingly hard it can be. 

To be clear: I love my child fiercely and unconditionally.  But the intense love of my child does not equate to skipping through each day filled with only giggles and hugs.  

There are moments or days I am completely defeated.  Many times I don't meet the mark of Perfect Parent.  Some Mother of the Year examples are below:
  1. My son has eaten cheese puffs for dinner. Pickles were the "vegetable."
  2. The Five Second Rule is typically extended an extra 10-15. Starting when I see it.
  3. Some days I am happier to see 7:00 pm (bedtime) than 7:00 am (awake time).
  4. Sometimes I go to the bathroom, even when I don't need to. There is a door. With a lock.
  5. The 15-20 minutes Chase happily spends reorganizing the refrigerator is worth the increase of our electricity bills and inability to find produce.
  6. It is easier to wear shoes in the house than spend 95% of my time cleaning the floor.
  7. If a nap is refused, I may lift the "no TV" ban to catch up on a show and fit in a break.
  8. I have claimed Chase pooped on the ride to daycare, knowing full well it happened before we left the house. (Oh no! I think Chase just pooped!)
In the beginning, my goal was to manage the perfect balance of time with child, husband, and friends.  My outfits would be wonderfully accessorized and my body tight.  Our home would be so spotless, people would question whether a child actually lived there. 

Needless to say, this craziness only led to feelings of exhaustion, insecurity, and failure.  Parenting is hard enough with out the extra pressures.  I won't bore you with all my toils (why are toys impossible to wrangle out of packaging?!), but two areas where I struggle most are the guilt of constant decision making and unsolicited input from others.  

Decisions commenced immediately after our child entered the world: bottle or breast?  Ferber or Weissbluth?  And with the never-ending decisions, there comes an overwhelming array of choices.  So I fervently study the options and make a decision.  

Then seconds later I waiver: Will he be unloved at Daycare? Spoiled with a Nanny? Should I ignore the tantrum? Comfort him throughout?  

The self-doubt never seems to end. 

Luckily, if I don't beat myself up enough over my own decisions, some seem to wait in the wings to help out.  Between the competition on developmental milestones and constant scrutiny of other parents, we rarely give each other a break.  For example, the most enraging "advice" I have received was: You can't be both a good parent and a good employee. 

That moment of anger forced me to evaluate why I became so upset and how to best maintain sanity moving forward. 

My main lesson learned is raising a child isn't black and white.  It's mostly gray.  We all choose different methods and timing which work for our family.  This realization helps me learn from others without comparing or judging.  

Another key takeaway for me is: a refreshed and relaxed Mom is a better Mom.  After spending time away, I am patient, enthusiastic, and just in general better to be around.  So I no longer feel guilty for taking time away from my son (and/or husband) in order to recharge. 

So while parenting is hard, I love my (whole) family and continue to treasure the blessings and joys we experience together along the way. 
Irrational Unhappy Moments: With Santa, At the Botanic Gardens, With Mom, and Valentines Day