Monday, December 5, 2011

To Grandma's house, we go.

I remember when I was a little girl, I used to brag about my grandparents' house, describing it as a "big, red mansion", claiming it had to be "at least 5 stories high". In all reality, it is far from being a 5-story mansion, sitting at only 2 stories and a basement. But in my mind, it was a huge palace that everyone should have been jealous of. My grandparents, who have lived there for many decades, have recently moved out. As they prepare to sell it and move onto better things to suit their lives, I've been reflecting on all of the memories I hold for the big red house on Pendleton Street, and I find myself thinking of new ones I'd since forgotten.

When I think of my childhood, I remember most holidays, most family gatherings, most celebrations all being celebrated at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I think of all of the cousins I have, gathering together to play endless hours of games like Hide-and-Go Seek, Sardines, or our own made up game of Jeopardy inside, or heading out to the vast parking area to play Mother, May I?, or Red Light/Green Light. I think about how we used to all gather on the kind-of-red-kind-of-orange carpeted staircase and play Rock School, coming up with sometimes serious and sometimes silly questions to ask each other. I remember being so excited to hear that my big cousins from New Jersey would be coming down for the holiday. In my little girl mind, they were the coolest cousins of all, because they lived so far away. I knew that when those three cousins came, we would, undoubtedly, get to play "500", a game played with a football, which I, being probably only 5 or 6 years old, was horrible at. But still, I was a part of the group, which included the big cousins, the little cousins, and the in-between cousins. I remember my parents telling us at the end of a long holiday that it was time to go, and we'd all beg our parents for just a little more time. I think most get-togethers usually finished out with a game of Charades, which seemed to get sillier and sillier as the years went on. I remember playing "Stores" with my brother and my cousin, each designating ourselves as "grocery store owner" or "zookeeper", and we'd pass hours "shopping" at each others' stores in the playroom. There was a vent that connected the play room to the formal living room, and I remember sending each other out on covert missions to sneak into the living room, so that we could talk to each other through the vents. I remember dinner time at the kids' table, while the parents all sat at the adult table in the formal dining room. I remember the silly jokes passed across the table and how we were never without laughter during dinner. I remember special days when we'd somehow all end up at Grandma's for one reason or another, and we'd all be so excited to walk next door to Pete's restaurant and order hotdogs for everyone to eat at lunchtime. I remember little legs sticking to the green and blue vinyl couch that has decorated the living room since long before I was born. I remember the cozy little closet with the cozy little door that you almost had to duck to enter, filled with all kinds of treasures and trinkets from holiday decorations to beautiful glassware. I remember hiding out in the office upstairs, spying on neighbors or passersby with my cousins, dramatically jumping below the window sill the moment we thought we might have been spotted from the outside. I remember flashlight tag in the upstairs bedrooms and the rug burns we'd get on knees from chasing each other around. I remember family photos of all of my aunts and uncles, and my own mother, a glimpse into their lives before parenthood. I remember laying on the canopy bed in the guest room, thinking to myself that one day, when I was a big girl with my own house, I was going to have a bed

I think I could wander Grandma and Grandpa's house for hours and never really discover all of the neat little hiding spots that are surely hiding themselves. In all of the many hundreds of games of Hide-and-Go-Seek that have certainly been played within those walls, there are still probably places I could find today that were never discovered in all of those years of games.

While it is sad to think that when I drive past that house in the future, it won't be my family's anymore, I am truly excited for the new home that my Grandma and Grandpa have moved to. I feel so lucky that when I do drive past the "big, red mansion", I'll always have all of those little memories and more that I could go on for ages about, and that my childhood was influenced so much by a home with so much character inside.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

End of the rope.

Oh hello, breaking point. Today, I reached you. My patience has steadily decreased as my frustrations have steadily increased over the past several weeks. With Jesse's work schedule requiring him to be gone 2 weeks, back again for 2, gone for a few days, back and then gone again for 2 weeks over the past several months, it has left me frazzled and lost. Just as we get into a routine, he goes or comes, and it's out the window once more. Today, he is gone all day preparing vehicles and gear to leave once again, tomorrow, for the field for an undetermined amount of time. It could be short, it might be long. We never really know until he says "hey, I'm on the way home!" I really don't know how the Army manages to keep anything straight with a schedule that plans itself day by day, hour by hour.

Avery has been the kind of baby since he was born that loves to be swaddled. Without a tight and secure swaddle, he refuses to eat or sleep. So long as he was swaddled, he was pretty much good to go. Until recently. At nearly 6 months, I've been hoping he would get past his swaddling days. Oh, and he has. But not completely. He is now at the point where he refuses to nurse or sleep without being swaddled, but as soon as he is swaddled, he fights and screams until he can get both of his arms out. I've tried a loose swaddle, a tight swaddle, double swaddling blankets, one arm out, both arms out, different kinds of swaddling blankets. No go. He doesn't want to be swaddled. Hooray! But he somehow hasn't made the connection that you can't be swaddled to eat at the same time as not being swaddled. Ya hear me? He normally naps about 2 hours after waking in the morning for at least an hour. The nap that normally happens about 9:30-10am, didn't happen until just now, at 3pm. He spent the morning, arching his back, crying, and refusing to nurse because I refused to swaddle him. I finally texted Jesse, in tears, begging him to please get away from work for a minute, just to call me and talk me out of my hysteria. He suggested a bath, so I pulled Cori from the nap that she was supposed to be taking, but was instead screaming and crying about, from her room and turned on Sesame Street, so that I could take a bath with Avery. He was totally chill in the tub, loving it. Now, he's asleep. It wasn't quite that simple, but I won't go into the nitty, gritty details that I'm probably too embarrassed to claim. The point is - he's sleeping.

Cori? Nope, I put her back down for a nap in her room, like always. She's currently drumming on her bed and playing with a DVD. But at least she's quiet, so hey, that's not a battle I'm willing to fight right now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Overwhelming guilt.

I always wondered what events in my life would be the ones that taught me the greatest lessons. Who would be my greatest teachers? Today, I learned a valuable lesson about appreciation. The lesson was bestowed upon me by my children, both under two years old. It was one of those non-stop-suck-the-patience-right-outta-ya days. My littlest, the 2 month old, somehow came to the conclusion that today was a great stay-awake-from-dusk-til-dawn-and-mama-you-better-not-put-me-down kind of day. Not behavior suitable for a mama of two under two. My oldest, the almost-2 year old, decided that she just wanted it to be a mama-and-me-forget-about-the-baby kind of day. You can see where I ran into some problems. I was okay for most of the day, running a few quick errands, you know, the PX, the post office, yadda yadda. Things got done. It wasn't until around 5 o'clock when that seemingly overflowing pot of patience just disappeared right out from under me. The tipping point was when I laid the baby down to, oh – I don't know, stretch, breathe, think – for just one short little second. The moment my hands stopped touching his squishy little body, the exaggerated infant squeals rolled from his pudgy little lips, a noise I pretty much had grown used to after a day like today. Meanwhile, this was the moment when the almost-2 year old decided she was "hunggee, hunggee". Well, Mama can't fix the almost-2 year old dinner when the infant squeals are sounding throughout the house, so the toddler banshee screams begin. At this point, I've got squeals and banshee screams of various octaves, rattling my brain. "Cori, you have GOT to wait. *banshee screams infant squeals* Avery, would you just shut your mouth?" Did I seriously just tell my 2 month old to shut his mouth? Why yes, yes, I did. Cue worst-mama-ever-in-the-wide-wide-world guilt. What kind of a parent tells their child – an infant, no less – to shut their mouth? As if he's going to think to himself "well, alright, since you put it that way". It was my breaking point of the day, the week, the year? Written out, it probably doesn't accurately portray how I felt in the moment, but it was awful. My children are clearly upset about a variety of things, and instead of the levelheaded, let-me-see-what-I-can-do-for-you parent, they get crazy-hair-googly-eyes-shut-your-mouth mama with the pot of patience that has left the building. For the rest of the evening, I got to face my guilty feelings about the many millions of ways I could have handled that situation better. While they were just telling me they need something the best way they knew how, they were also teaching me that lesson of appreciation. What if they weren't here to give me the crazy hair and the googly eyes? Wouldn't I take those banshee squeals every day of the week over the mere thought of them not being around for with all the noise and the mess and the gimme-gimme-gimme attention that I have never truly appreciated? I'm not saying I've never appreciated my children, not at all. I appreciate them every single day when I wake up each morning and go to bed each night. But this is like a whole new level of appreciation. Who cares if the toddler is screaming right into my ear drum or that she just won't grasp the lesson of "let's not hit Mama on the head anymore with the plastic pot of rubber peas"? At least I've been given this opportunity to teach them the things in life they need to learn. I feel silly and dramatic even typing this out, but it really was a reality check kind of lesson for me today. It's not about the perfectly behaved children or the house with the vacuum lines in the carpet and the windows shimmering without a hint of smudgy fingerprints. Life's greatest lessons seem to come to me when I feel like I just can't handle it for one more second.

I grow tired of the looks I get from people that seem to be saying, with an air of pity, of course, "oh, a stay at home mom, how quaint to be able to play house all day long". Staying at home with the kids doesn't enable me to cook a four course meal in my pearls and hand-sewn apron, while the children play Checkers quietly in their bedroom. I don't get to vacuum in high heels (although that might be kind of fun) or greet my husband with the day's newspaper and a calming foot rub. Most days, we stay in PJs until noon, forget to brush our teeth until well after lunch, and have a hard time remembering what day of the week it even happens to be. So you'd imagine my surprise when my own two-under-two taught me a lesson that I just can't stop thinking about. I guess they decided today was a great day for learning. My life's greatest teachers are, without a doubt, my children. Who would have thought?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Clearing my head.

I've been needing to find the time to update for days, even weeks, now, but just haven't been able to find those few extra minutes to do it. This week is full of a lot of different emotions, and I'm feeling really frazzled by all of them.

When Jesse enlisted in 2007, we both knew the very reality of him going to Iraq or Afghanistan and how quickly it could be. Instead, he was sent to South Korea, where he spent 2.5 years, most of which was very happily spent with us together as a family. When he received orders back to America in the late spring of 2010, we immediately contacted his gaining unit to find out the deployment schedule. Much to our dismay, but not really our surprise, we learned that his gaining unit in Fort Polk had a scheduled year-long deployment to Iraq beginning in January of 2011. We prepared ourselves mentally for the deployment, and began to sort through the various emotions that come with that kind of news. When we arrived at Fort Polk and he began inprocessing in September 2010, his orders still stated that he would be going to the deploying unit… until a few days later, when they suddenly switched him out to another unit. This unit, his current unit, had just gotten back from Iraq in May 2010, and had no future deployments on the calendar at this point in time. We were elated, absolutely thrilled with the news. I knew that while he was so obviously happy that he would get to spend yet another guaranteed year with his daughter (and little did we know, our son!), he was also dealing with the soldier side of his emotions. At this point, he'd been in 3 years and had yet to see any of the action for which he joined. I can't fully understand those emotions, and I don't think anyone could until they were in the situation, which so few people ever actually are. He knew it was his duty to go, but how could he say he was unhappy about spending even more uninterrupted time with his family? We dealt with the feelings, and moved on. Just a few months later, in January 2011, just days after coming back to Fort Polk from Christmas vacation in South Carolina, he was propositioned to volunteer for a year-long deployment to Afghanistan with one of the brother companies in the brigade. While my immediate reaction was, "are you freaking kidding me? There's no way I'm going to encourage that", we went on to discuss it in depth, and given the timing, we agreed that it would be a good, sound move for our family. He volunteered along with many of his buddies, and we began preparing ourselves yet again. As the days and weeks went by, his buddies slowly drained out of his own company into the deploying company, but still Jesse sat there, waiting and waiting to move to the new unit. Weeks went by, and he was the only guy left that had volunteered that was still just waiting. He questioned his NCOs about it, to which they replied, "give it time, you'll go, it just takes time to get everyone there." The waiting continued. The real emotional rollercoaster started when one day they would tell him they were full of his rank and wouldn't need him anymore, to literally the very next day, being told that he was "absolutely going" since he hadn't deployed yet. The flip flopping happened for weeks, day after day. When we hadn't heard anything about it for a few weeks, he questioned his superiors again, when they told him that he could switch to the deploying unit in as little as 12 hours with absolutely no warning, and that he wouldn't be clear until they actually left for Afghanistan in August. That meant, we had to mentally prepare ourselves for something that could very well happen, just as likely as it wasn't going to happen, for the next 4 months, after we'd already been in limbo for the past 4 months.

As August grew closer, I began to breathe a little easier, while still not allowing my guard to be let down. It is August 10th, and the company has left for deployment. My husband sits safely beside me, without talks of a deployment in his future at all. It's certainly a mixture of emotions, most of which are overshadowed by my absolute thankfulness that he is here, not there. I've been up and down, and cried so many tears, and let me feelings get the best of me too much over the last 8 months, as we sat in limbo, having no idea what the next year held for us. Why is that I don't feel like I can breathe any easier at all?

My brother, the one who used to attend and help coordinate anti-war rallies, is deploying to Afghanistan very soon, dangerously soon. Of my three siblings, he is by far the one I am closest to. We grew up together, much more than I grew up with the other two siblings because we are much closer in age. We fight like cats and dogs, still name call even as adults, but he can make me laugh almost as fast as my own husband. He's one of my very best friends. I'm having a hard time dealing with his leaving, as is the rest of my family. It's hard in any case, no doubt, but no one in our family ever suspected he would be one to join the Army. I can't really imagine what my mom and dad are going through this weekend, as they work through their very own set of emotions, which are completely foreign to me. Sending your brother, or even your own husband, off to war is one thing, but your child? I can't even think about the possibility because it hurts too much. Of my parents' four children, two have gotten uncomfortably close to enlisting themselves, while the third actually went the whole nine yards and sits now, waiting to enter that war-torn country, as his company's medic. I only hope the next year flies quickly and safely for him. It helps knowing that he seems entirely pumped to go on this adventure, and I think he will have one of the most powerful experiences in his lifetime.

As Jesse grows very closely to the 12 month mark until he ETSes (ends his service) from the military, we have begun to weigh all of our options a little heavier, and look at the various possibilities with a much stronger eye. While our families lecture us on how dumb it is to leave the Army now, and how awful the economy is, we try to reassure ourselves and block out the negativity. Unfortunately, after months and years of hearing the same old drivel, they've appeared to have invaded our own thought processes. We are confident that we would be able to find some kind of work once he gets out, but I can't shake the terrifying thought of the health insurance battle I know that we will face. We still have a considerable amount of debt, including our car, and that's keeping us from running full speed ahead into the civilian world. Fortunately, a large chunk of that will be gone by the time his ETS actually comes, but not enough to really put my mind at ease. We're both working toward our degrees, albeit at a snail's pace, and neither will likely be done by that point.

Is reenlistment really an option at this point? Did I really just admit that to someone other than myself and Jesse? The thought makes my queasy. Jesse has been in four years now, all without a deployment, and if he gets out, he would be "safe". Granted, he would still have 3 years of Inactive Ready Reserves, where he could technically deploy at any time, but the likelihood of that is fairly small. The puzzle pieces of getting out aren't coming together quite as perfectly as they were at one time, and I don't quite know what I need to make them fit together again. He won't know what his reenlistment options even are until at least October 1st, but I'm hoping for one of two things. I hope that either the options they present are completely not worth reenlisting, making the choice to get out as easy as it was a few months ago. Or if that doesn't happen, I hope he is presented with something that is super wonderfully "where do I sign?"awesome which would make the decision to stay in quite a bit easier. I don't know want his options to be middle-of-the-road, good or bad. One way or the other, something black and white. We need this decision to be as easy as it can be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Early morning.

It's the early mornings like right now that I really enjoy in my day. The house is silent, save for the humming of the air conditioning and fans throughout the house. Cori and Avery are sleeping so quietly and peacefully, and Jesse is at his early morning PT session. I am free to do whatever it I want, whether it's lounging in bed for an extra couple of hours, spending some time on the computer without little hands grabbing or tap-tap-tap-ing on the keyboard, or I can decide that maybe I'd like to get started on my daily cleaning a little early. Whatever I decide, it's one of the only decisions I make throughout my day that is completely of my own preference. It's a nice feeling.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"More. More. MORE!"

My days are a constant stream of doing, listening, talking, cleaning. Never ending. Avery's awake, gotta feed him, he's asleep, dishes need to be done, Cori's hungry, gotta feed her, she doesn't want to feed herself, I have to feed her, Avery's fussing again, time for diaper changes, Cori wants to show me something, Avery needs to eat again, Cori wants me to put Avery down and crawl into my lap. Can't put Avery down, Avery's hungry, house needs to be cleaned, Cori's hungry again. Gotta clean when both kids are occupied. House is finally clean, kids are asleep, I can finally sit down. I find the couch, there's a food spill I somehow missed. Gotta get up and clean it up. It's clean and I can finally relax. Avery's hungry.

Like I said, never ending. Most days, I don't feel like I'm really cut out for this stay at home mom thing. They deserve a parent at home until they can go to school. I can't wait until Jesse and I can split that duty, and split the task of working outside of the home too. 13 months at best, 15 months at worst.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No pain, no gain.

Jesse has been selected for several things over the last couple of months that are really great for his Army career. I say career lightly because, as we all know, once October 30, 2012 rolls around, he rolls out to inactive ready reserves and the door will close on his Army career as we know it. Anyway, last month, after getting off of paternity leave, he was informed that he and six other guys had been chosen to be a part of the "hot squad" for the next year in their DCRF mission. Basically, it just means that some of the best guys in the company were chosen to all come together and essentially be the brigade sergeant major's entourage whenever they deploy somewhere stateside. Their mission is just that if there is ever a national disaster, they would deploy to that location and help out for as many weeks or months as needed. It was a huge honor to be chosen to be a part of the "hot squad" because it looks really good to all of the higher ups, especially when it comes to promotion time.

Well, a couple of weeks pass, and one of the staff sergeants in Jesse's company called him and asked him if he was interested in being on the Warfighter team. Rather than me try to explain it, I'll just copy and paste what the team is from the website: "The warfighter competition will test the abilities of military police Soldiers in a variety of military occupational skill-specific tasks, as well as mental and physical fitness over a four-day period". Anyway, this is a HUGE honor, as you have to be extremely physically and mentally fit to even try out, much less be asked to be on the team without volunteering! So, Jesse did the mandatory try out and officially made the team the following morning. Since then, he and the four other guys on the team have been HARDCORE training every single day. His entire job each day is training for this competition in September. That means, PT starts at 5-5:30 with some extensive ruck march each morning, followed by PT at the gym, then lunch, and the rest of the afternoon is spent in the gym again, working hardcore to get in better shape for the competition. I honestly don't know how he's keeping his eyes open at this point, much less continuing to work out at the extensive rate he's required to.

This morning, he did a ruck march that was 6 hours long. Six hours, six! I can't even imagine. He had awful blisters that popped up the day before yesterday, and when I mean awful, I mean d.i.s.g.u.s.t.i.n.g. Blisters that literally cover his entire foot. So that was two days ago, and after today's six hour cross country ruck, he basically has blisters on top of blisters. In fact, he even has a blister on each of his hips that are about 1.5-2 inches in diameter where his rucksack rubbed. Not to get so graphic, but I'm just trying to get the extent of this training across. It's hardcore stuff. So, tomorrow we're off to get some brand new boots for him to hopefully prevent his feet from dying anymore than they have. Although tomorrow is Saturday, he still has to train, but hopefully only for a half day or so.

All of this work better pay off in some sweet promotion points. He's hearing that he'll get all kinds of awards (= promotion points!) and hopefully they'll throw a couple of 3 or 4 day weekends his way. He's not doing it for the rewards and recognition, but that doesn't mean I can't silently hope and pray for them in his place. ;)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life with two.

Chances are, I won't be seen around these parts too often for awhile. Life with two is... exhausting. Wonderful. Silly. A blessing. Frustrating. So worth it. I wondered my entire pregnancy, and even before how I would manage to love Avery like I love Cori. She's my whole entire world. My heart aches at the thought of her being hurt or even sad. I couldn't figure out whether I would be able to have that kind of feeling for a little boy, or even another little girl. Needless to say, I worried. I guess, to be honest, I still don't feel like I have quite the connection with little Avery that I have with Cori, but it's getting there. He is pretty perfect. I think I would classify him as a "tougher" baby than Cori was, but in all reality, I think that's because all of my attention can't go to his wants and needs like they could when Cori was a little newbie baby. In a lot of ways, he's an easier baby than she was though. Like for example, how I put him to bed in his crib at 7:30pm when Cori went to bed, and he's still sleeping peacefully an hour and a half later. Yeah, I definitely never got that with newborn Cori. I'm sure he'll wake soon and it'll be time for another session of breastfeeding, but then I'll be able to cuddle up closely with him nestled under my arm and fall fast asleep for the night.

Sometimes I feel like I'm "cheating" on Cori with Avery. As though I shouldn't be able to have tender, private moments with Avery because those moments should be spent with Cori instead. I don't know why I feel that way, but I imagine it's probably just my mindset switching from mother of one to mother of two.

I do love being a mother of two, and I am so delighted that I have both a little girl and my little guy. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect little family. I know that everybody says that, and I'm sure everybody speaks the truth for their own situation because I know, in my own, it's certainly true. It's definitely true that the cards I was dealt have been some pretty lovely ones.

Our days are pretty simple if you're looking from the outside in. Wake up, diaper changes, breakfast, clean house, diaper changes, silly time with the kiddies, diaper changes, Daddy's home for lunch, nap time, more cleaning house, diaper changes, play time, Daddy's home, Red Sox game, dinner, bath time, bed time for the kids, clean from dinner, relax, sleep, rinse, repeat. Oh, and don't forget to sprinkle in all of the breastfeeding sessions throughout. Sounds simple, but from the inside, the days are exhausting.

We have only about 13 months until the Army is in our past, and we're both working hard to ensure a solid future after the military. It's going to be tough, but it'll happen, one way or another. One thing is certain about that whole scenario, and that is how truly, unbelievably excited we are about the next chapter our family is taking in that direction, post-Army.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Introducing Avery William

Avery William was born on June 13, 2011 at 9:16am CST. He was born at 8 lbs, 7 oz and is 21.3 inches long. He is healthy, happy, and thriving!!

Here’s my birth story for anyone interested:

Last week, I started doing all of the little tips and tricks to help induce labor, like lots of walking, eating fresh pineapple, red raspberry leaf tea, lots of spicy food with oregano, red pepper, and basil, evening primrose oil, and sex. Of course everyone said I wouldn’t go into labor if I wasn’t ready, which is of course true, but it was fun trying everything anyway! :)

Thursday morning, I had my 39 week appointment, where I was checked for progress and was determined to be a “loose 1cm-easily stretched to 2cm” dilated and 50% effaced. My nurse practitioner stripped my membranes and said that stripping membranes led to actual labor in about, ohhh, 5% of cases. I wasn’t overly optimistic, but was excited to see if it would work anyway.

Friday afternoon around 2pm, I started noticing that my stomach was tightening and hardening all over for about a minute each time, consistently 10 minutes apart. I got a little excited, but I was having zero pain, so I didn’t really think much of it. The 10 minutes apart, 1 minute long tightening happened all afternoon and evening. Around 11pm, I realized I hadn’t felt the baby move much, if at all, so my husband and I decided it would be a good idea to head into labor and delivery just to give us peace of mind that all was okay. When the nurse checked me for dilation, I was a “tight 3” and still about 50% effaced at -2 station. She hooked me up to the monitors and after lots of ice cold water, I started feeling lots of wiggling and moving around from the baby. We were very relieved, and were released pretty quickly after that to head home.

The tightening lasted all weekend long, varying anywhere from 10 minutes to 4 minutes apart, but more usually with no pain, except a little discomfort. Sunday morning, while cleaning the kitchen, I got nauseous all of the sudden. I figured it was because I hadn’t had breakfast, so I fixed some cereal. I couldn’t even bring the cereal to my mouth because I felt so nauseous. My husband had me go lay down, but as soon as my head hit the pillow, I got that “here it comes, I’m definitely going to throw up” feeling and ran to the bathroom. Sure enough, I vomited 6 or 7 times and continued to dry heave. After a minute or so, I was 100% fine and had no more nausea whatsoever. It was extremely out of the blue.

Around 3am on Monday, June 13 (my due date!), I woke up having to pee. I used the bathroom and laid back down, only to get a stomachache and realize I needed to pee again almost immediately. I used the bathroom a second time and tried to lay back down. No luck, as I once again felt like I had to use the bathroom and still had a stomachache. Since I couldn’t lay down due to my stomachache, I decided to stay up and started realizing that my stomachache was coming and going at 8 minutes apart, then 7, then 6, and then 5 minutes apart. I tracked them for about 45 minutes, and then woke my husband up to have him help me track them. Since it wasn’t much pain other than a stomachache, I wasn’t all that hopeful, but wanted to track them anyway. After about 30 minutes of tracking them with my husband, I hopped in the shower to see if that would help them go away. They didn’t, so we decided that we should probably head into the hospital since they were now consistently about 4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute each time.

We got to labor and delivery about 5:15am. The nurse checked me and determined that I was 5cm dilated, 60% effaced, and the baby was at -2 station. She decided to keep us in L&D since I was past 4cm and actively contracting (though again, not all that painfully). We got into our labor, delivery, recovery, postpartum room very quickly, where they gave me a HepLock and hooked me up to the monitors to ensure everything was okay and track the contractions for a little while. I was dealing just fine until about 7am when they started getting a bit more painful and were about 3 minutes apart. I took the monitors off and my husband helped me sway back and forth through the pain. About 8am, my nurse decided to check me for progress since it had been about 3 hours since I had been checked at 5cm. She checked me and found that I was 8cm and 75% effaced, but the baby was still about -2 station. Things were getting quite a bit more painful at this point, but I was still dealing without any desire for pain meds. Around 8:30am, I told the nurse I was starting to feel the urge to push, so she decided to check me again. I was still 8cm, but she called the nurse in to break my water, and told me my labor would likely move very quickly once my water was broken. Around 8:40am, my water was broken and the pain definitely increased. At 9am, I told her I was really needing to push, so again, she checked me and found that I was fully dilated and effaced, and the baby was at -1 station. She told me to try not to push since I didn’t want to wear myself out too fast. On the very next contraction, my body totally took over and I yelled to her “my body is PUSHING for me”. She ran to the hall and called for the doctor, yelling “I need the doctor in here, she’s ready and pushing right now!” I won’t lie – I was in absolute hell. I have never experienced the pain I felt at that moment and the ONLY thing that provided relief was just bearing down with all my might. The doctor came in to find the baby’s head and neck already out, so she very quickly slipped on her gloves and proceeded to deliver the rest of the baby. At 9:16am on June 13th, our little man, Avery William, was born. :) They laid him on my chest, and it was most certainly love at first sight. I did tear a bit, so after a couple of minutes, they took him to the warming bed next to mine to begin his APGAR assessment, and begin to stitch me up. His first APGAR score was an 8 or 9, and his second was a full 10. He weighed a healthy 8 lbs, 7 oz, and is 21.3 inches long.

Despite the excruciating pain that came along with a natural, no meds at all, delivery, I could not be more proud of myself. The pain ended soon after delivery, and my recovery since has been phenomenal compared to my recovery with my first daughter, induced and with a partial epidural. My labor from first stomach pain to delivery was right at 6 hours long, compared to my 28 hours of labor with my daughter. My entire experience at Fort Polk’s military hospital, BJACH, was completely incredible, and I have nothing bad to say about it at all. I was worried that my plans for a natural delivery wouldn’t mesh with a typical hospital’s, but they were all so supportive throughout.

Avery is breastfeeding wonderfully, and he is a champion nurser. He lost only 8 oz overnight, which was only about 5% of his weight. We were both doing wonderfully health-wise, so we were released late this morning, a little over 24 hours after his birth. He mostly sleeps, but I’m sure that will wear off in a few days. :) Big sister, Cori, is totally mesmerized by him and when we ask, “where’s your brother?” or “where’s Avery?”, she no longer points at my stomach, but instead points right at him with a big smile on her face.

I am so, so thankful for my sister-in-law who was here to take care of our daughter throughout the experience. I am also so unbelievably grateful for my husband who was such a wonderful labor partner. I seriously don’t think I would have made it through my natural labor and delivery without his unending support.

I’m in awe that he came on my due date, as I’ve been expecting an at-least-a-week-overdue baby all along. Not only that, but he shares a birthday with my father, who I know is very excited for that little birthday gift. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Edging closer.

Tomorrow, I'll be full term and I. Am. Ready. I've realized today that there really is no comfortable way to use a lap top computer when you are 9 months pregnant. You can't set it on your lap because your gigantic belly is in the way. You can't lay back and rest it on your belly because that's just uncomfortable, and, let's face it, the baby is going to try to kick it off. It's a good thing we don't have to leave the house too much because one of the only things that even fits me at this point is Jesse's marshmallow PT pants from BCT. I tried putting on some of my workout pants the other day to lay around in, and, surprise surprise, they wouldn't move an inch over my hips. Needless to say, I am so ready to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes and stop feeling like a whale. :) Honestly, it is a little bittersweet since this is the last time I'll be pregnant. It's weird to think about, but I'm pretty confident two kids is all that Jesse and I will ever want. I'm excited to watch the scale drop back down so that I'm finally back into my weigh comfort zone. I hope that the weight will fall off as effortlessly as it did after I had Cori, but I don't know how realistic that really is. I somehow managed to lose 70 lbs by 6 months postpartum with Cori, which put me 20 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight. If I was able to do the same thing this time, I would be below my ideal weight by about 10 pounds. It's a nice thought, but I'm not getting my expectations too high. I hear the weight gets tougher to lose the more pregnancies you go through, so I'll just have to wait and see what my body decides to do.

37 weeks tomorrow. 37 weeks! That's a little hard to believe. :) Dearest Avery, if you want to wait for Aunt Stephanie to get here before you make your appearance, I totally understand. However, if you just really feel like coming out before then, I could totally get on board with that. Just make sure you're done cooking. :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Prepping for two.

In an hour and 45 minutes, I will be 36 weeks pregnant. Thirty. Six. Weeks. In roughly a month, we will welcome our little Avery William to the world and life as we know it right now will be no more. Cori will become a big sister, and life will certainly get quite a bit more hectic than it is right now. I'm trying to enjoy these last few "quiet" (ha!) weeks before I become a mama of two. I've been thinking about how simple and easy the moments are when I'm being handed cups and plates from the dishwasher by Cori. Little Avery is nestled safely inside, and I don't have to worry right now about whether he needs a diaper change, or whether it's time to nurse him yet again, or why he just won't stop crying. Cori gets my full attention, and I worry about the day when I won't be able to give that to her anymore.

I'm sure I can't be the only mother out there who worries about how I will divide my love and attention between two children instead of just one. I know the capability to evenly spread my love between children is there, but I just can't fathom it. I look at Cori and it almost hurts how much I love her. I can't imagine life without her, and I just can't begin to picture how it will feel to have that kind of love for another child soon. I love my little Avery now, but I don't know him. He has no personality now, and I don't know what he looks like. I don't know anything about him, so I can't really imagine what it will be like once he is born and I start to get acquainted with him. I know he will be perfect, but I wonder what will make him perfect.

To be honest, it's been tough for me throughout this pregnancy to get on board with the idea that Cori will have to share the spot for number one. I forget now what I thought motherhood would be like when I was pregnant the first time, and I know that sooner than later, I will forget what I imagine motherhood to two will be. I'm excited for it, no doubt, and as ready as I think that I can be, but I do worry that it will be a tough adjustment.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something to think about.

I realized when I woke up this morning that today would have been the day that I received my Bachelor's Degree from Coastal Carolina University had I continued there past my freshman year. I hadn't really thought about it at all, but when I logged onto Facebook and saw the various statuses from old college classmates about the day they'd been waiting and working so hard for, it hit me that it actually is May of 2011, the month I thought I'd be walking across that blessed stage. I'm not regretful, but it did give me a little something to think about.

I may not have that shiny piece of pretty paper with my Bachelor's degree stamped across it, but I do have a boatload of memories I never would have created had I stayed a full-time college student in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I wouldn't be married to my best friend, and I wouldn't wake up every morning to the cutest little toddler waving at me from her toddler bed into her video monitor that I roll over and look at the moment I open my eyes. I wouldn't be 9 months pregnant with my second child, and I wouldn't be living the life of an Army wife. I wouldn't have spent 2 years living in a foreign country, or seen the many unbelievable sights that I have seen, care of this crazy Army life.

Do I wish I was finishing the undergraduate chapter of my life today? Of course. But some things you just can't trade. I know I don't live the life that a lot of 21 year olds would be all that tempted to live at this age, but I love it. Despite the screaming toddler tantrums, the early morning wake up calls when you just wish you could have ten more minutes of sleep, the occasional marital spat, the financial troubles that come with being a full-blown grown up, and the days when I all want to do is throw my hands up to responsibility and crawl into the bed of my teenhood with the covers pulled over my head... despite all of that, I wouldn't trade it for anything. My husband is my rock, and my daughter is my sunshine. So maybe I did give up the plan that I was "supposed" to follow, but I sure did get a lot in exchange. I'll take my current 39 college credits and keep trudging along, 2 or 3 classes at a time, until I finish because, really, I'm living my best life. And for me, that's the best thing I can do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Since I've been super busy, I've decided it's not really all that important to do this 30 day challenge in exactly 30 days. Whenever I have a spare moment, I'll go ahead and mark the next one off my list, but I'm not going to feel absolutely compelled to do one a day. Then it's not fun. :) So, I'm kind of stuck on the next one anyway... my favorite pastime. I don't have just one, so I'll have to think for a bit before finding a picture to post.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Day Thirteen

Day 13 - A picture of your favorite band or artist.

Definitely not my *favorite* band, but I do care a lot about their music and their meaning... Rise Against

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day Twelve

Day 12 - A picture of something you love

Hey, it may seem silly, but this pregnant lady has a mad craving for cereal at all hours of the day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day Eleven

Day 11 - A picture of something you hate.

That there are so many children in today's world growing up as products of war and genocide.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Day Ten

Day 10 - A picture of someone you see yourself marrying in the future.

A picture from before we were married =)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day Nine

Day 09 - A picture of the person who has gotten you through the most.

My incredible husband

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day Eight

Day 08 - A picture that makes you laugh.

Our family dog, Caroline, licking the glass door. LOL I love this picture.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day Seven

Day 07 - A picture that shows your true self.

One of my very closest friends from college, Tasha. We had some pretty fun and crazy times. I think this picture captures my craziness in a good way. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day Six

Day 06 - A picture of somewhere you've been.

Daegu, South Korea

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day Five

Day 05 - A picture of your favorite memory.

It's a tie between these two: (click to enlarge)

Our first time together as a family in America:

Jesse's homecoming from Korea after many, many months apart-

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day Four

Day 04 - A picture of your favorite night.

Late night drives through city lights

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day Three

Day 03 - A picture of the cast from your favorite show.

The King of Queens

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day Two

Day 02 - A picture of you and the person you have been closest with the longest.

My brother, Zeb, and me

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bound for Houston

Jesse and I were fortunate to get both our state and federal tax returns today. With those, we threw a huge chunk of money towards our debts, including both credit cards and student loans. It's a wonderful feeling to see those numbers dwindle, for sure. We're taking a trip to Houston tomorrow, and staying just one night. We plan on taking Cori to the Houston Zoo and possibly the Houston Aquarium. She has been so into learning and repeating animal sounds lately that I can only imagine how much she'll love seeing them up close and personal at the zoo. We also plan to get quite a bit of shopping for Avery taken care, hopefully including the Sit 'N Stand double stroller we want to buy and his car seat. Other than that, we'll probably buy an ungodly amount of adorable baby boy clothes. :)

Cori boycotted her nap all day yesterday, spending a total of 2.5 hours (broken up into small time segments, of course) playing in her crib. She slept well last night though, and I thought she was planning another boycott today, but she finally fell asleep just as I was about to go rescue her from bed. While she naps, I need to tidy up a few things around the house and straighten my hair, which I've been telling myself I was going to do for several days now. I'm really going to do it today, swear!

Day One

Day 01 - A picture of yourself with 10 facts.


1. I have been with my husband for six years, and we have been married for nearly three years.

2. I've wanted to be a mother ever since I could say 'baby'.

3. I graduated with honors in the top 10 of my graduating class in high school.

4. I still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up".

5. Watching the show, 'King of Queens', is bound to put me in a great mood.

6. My husband is truly my best friend. He makes the bad in me good, and the good in me great.

7. I look up to my mom more than anyone else. I look forward to the day when we live near her because she's my hero, and she's a great grandma to my daughter.

8. As much as I dislike being an Army wife, I'm so grateful for the stability it has provided my family, and the lessons this adventure has taught us.

9. I'm determined to get my Bachelor's (or higher) degree one day.

10. I am so much more than "just" a mama and a wife.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Changes on the Horizon

Sometimes I can't believe how quickly time is passing before my very eyes, but when I stop and think about the little moments, I realize why things change the way they do. My beautiful girl isn't a newborn anymore, but a running, laughing, trouble-making little toddler. And she's got a big role to fill soon too, as big sister to a little baby boy. Our son, Avery James, is due in June, and Cori is already acting out her role as big sister amazingly. She rubs my belly, and doesn't like to go to sleep at night before she can give her baby brother a big hug. It warms my heart, and I can only imagine the love (and jealousy!) she'll feel toward him when he makes his appearance.

We were told just after the New Year that Jesse would be deploying to Afghanistan in August, but he has yet to be moved to the deploying unit and we have no idea when or if he's even going. You'd think we'd be excited about his battalion's lack of timeliness in moving him, but it's hard to make any sort of plan for the future when you have no idea whether your husband will be here, there, or somewhere else for the next year. If he deploys, we originally had planned on moving back to Greenville, SC where we are from. There's not much here at Fort Polk, and since Jesse will be ETSing (getting out of the service) just a month or so after his return, it seemed silly to hold down a house in a place we wouldn't be much longer anyway. Upon further thinking, I decided that if we do move back home, it won't be until a few months after Jesse leaves. Cori will be just shy of her 2nd birthday, which means she will be fully aware that Daddy is gone. I can't imagine the kind of mental turmoil that will put a Daddy-attached toddler into, and I can only guess that moving into a brand new house in a brand new place would be even more stress on her little kid mind. While it might be easier for me to have my family around for help and moral support throughout a deployment, uprooting my two children and taking them somewhere new when they've never lived without Daddy doesn't seem like the best answer.

The best scenario would be that they decide not to deploy Jesse at all, but if it happens, we'll pull ourselves up and make the best of a not-so-great situation.