Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Workin' Hard for the Money

After I came back from maternity leave, I got a huge promotion at work.  It's a very big deal.  It's a promotion that I'm excited for and scared of and means a ton more exposure, more responsibility, more everything.  I even get a reserved parking spot.  I guess I must be in the big leagues now!

I've been back at work for 11 weeks now.  Around this same time frame with Barrett, I wrote about how difficult it was to be a working mom.   And it was.  But gradually, we found our way.  It became easier once Barrett became older, we developed a routine and found a new normal.  I think that's the biggest piece of advice I give to new working moms - you will find a new normal.  No, our normal couldn't be working as late as we needed to, eating cereal for dinner in front of the tv, relaxing all night and spending our weekends doing whatever we wanted - or doing nothing at all.  We definitely had to adjust our expectations and be a lot more flexible for his needs and accept that our old normal couldn't work anymore.  Oh, and a lot less sleep.

It's been a lot easier to come back to work this time around.  I think emotionally I was in a much better place this time.  I truly do appreciate the balance that work provides to me.  I am a person of routine and I found it really tough to have a routine when I was home with the kids all the time.  The positives of being a working mom are:

- I appreciate my time with the kids so much and am a much more patient mom when I am with them.

- I am glad I can contribute to our family financially.  We have growing retirement and college savings accounts so I know the sacrifices I'm making now will benefit us greatly later on.  Even if daycare eats a huge chunk! 

-I like that we don't have to live our lives watching every penny and stressing about spending.  We still do live rather frugally for the most part and don't spend a lot, but it's nice to know that we can enjoy our hobbies without worrying about every cent.

-The kids have a wonderful support system outside of their parents who give them love and attention.  Barrett has a great time at daycare and a ton of friends and learns new things constantly.  He comes home with new words and songs, talking about his friends and I love that he has this little life!

- It's also nice to have a life of my own - go to the bathroom without company, wear high heels, and not have spit up on my shoulder for a few hours a day.

But there's always a feeling of conflict that never goes away..

I wish there were more hours in the day, so I could still work but have more time with the kids.  More hours to hold them, more hours to read stories, more hours to play.  Because it's sooo difficult to try to get time in with them during the week.  I don't get home until after 6 and then it's a rush of dinner, feedings, baths and bedtime.  We definitely don't get enough quality time in and that makes me sad.

When I drop Audrey off in the morning and give her final hugs before handing her off to her teacher, my arms feel alarmingly empty.  I look back at her through the glass of the door and see her inside in someone else's arms and I long to run back in and grab her.  I don't know if that feeling will go away for a long time.  I still get that sometimes with Barrett (other mornings I dream of running him down the hall and throwing him at the teacher and making my escape - such is life with a 2 year old).

I don't know what the point of this post is - that it's bittersweet to be a mom who works?  That I'm excited and scared to take on additional responsibilities at work while still having two little ones at home?  That I miss my kids so much my heart hurts but that I really like the business cards with my new title on them? 
These are the little faces I miss every day!

Monday, May 14, 2012

5 Little Monkeys

After 3 photo-less posts in a row, it's long past time for me to write about our wonderful visit with my sister and her family 2 weeks ago!

As usual for their visits, it was rainy and overcast on Saturday.  That meant no outdoor activities, but we'd already talked about going to the local children's museum, so that was okay.

In the past, Barrett hasn't given much attention to Caroline, his cousin 8 weeks younger, but has wanted to shadow the "big" boys.  This time though, he and Caroline were inseparable.  We even overheard someone talking about the twins.   I guess being the same size, fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes does make them look quite like twins.

We bought train tickets from Jack.

Grant liked looking at the books

I know this is out of focus but was just too cute not to share.

Audrey slept in the ergo most of the time.  Have I mentioned lately what an awesome baby she is???

We made our way back to the house for lunch and naps (including me, it was glorious) and awoke in time to head to dinner at the same train restaurant that we'd eaten at last time.  

watching for the train

excited to see the train pull up and insisting that his trains be set on the track also

Barrett was also happy to have some friends to play with his train table with him.  When a room full of little boys is quiet and tear-free for 30 minutes straight, you know it was a good present. 

The final photos of the kids didn't turn out quite the way I'd expected.  The lack of sleep from the weekend caught up to a few of them.  Grant was not pleased about having to share Barrett's ride-on train so refused to participate.  Jack smiled patiently through the pictures.  But the little ones had a little mischief on their minds...

Barrett was already eying Caroline's (pink?) blanket.  She has a little game of snatching toys away and running away with them as fast as she can and Barrett had caught onto this game by the end of the weekend.   

Barrett has his prey in sight. 

The time was right, while Caroline was smiling sweetly for the camera...

 But he underestimated both her love for the blanket and her ferocity, with two older brothers.  She wrangled it back easily. He's not used to a sister putting up much of a fight when her toys are stolen.
 But the wheels were turning in Caroline's head now...

Aha!  Two can play that game and she snatches Jack's hat right off his head.  Barrett looks on enviously.  This girl is good.

And the best we could do for a family photo with the silly munchkins.

This Week's Meals

Monday - Italian Beef  One of our favorite meals.  I never had this until I moved to Chicago and never mad it until this past winter.  I wish I'd discovered how easy and delicious it was earlier!  I serve it on hoagie rolls with provolone cheese and sliced red peppers.  To be served with a fruit salad.

Tuesday - leftovers from Monday.  Although I think Tim mentioned he has a work dinner so it might just be me and Barrett that night, and he definitely won't eat this.

Wednesday - Garlic Chicken  I haven't made this before but with this few ingredients and being able to make it in the slow cooker, I'm already a fan.  To be served with a side of mashed potatoes (box - don't judge) and veggies.

Thursday - I think I may make some extra chicken on Wednesday to use in this sesame chicken recipe.  I found the recipe in my Southern Living a few years ago and we're big fans.  I can use leftover red pepper from Monday and green onions from my garden.

Friday - not sure, probably take out or I'll wing it

easy peasy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Potty in my crib, BYOU

Dare I say that it might be time to start pottytraining?  Will we soon be saying goodbye to wipes and diapers (and spending $40/box on size 4 diapers) and hello to little tiny underwear?

Barrett has shown some good enthusiasm over the last month for the potty seat.  He sits on it regularly at daycare and talks about it.  Last week he actually went at school - but then proceeded to freak out when his leg got wet.  So his teacher recommended that we just go ahead and put him in underwear and see what happens.

So this weekend I decided to go for it.

Times peed on the floor:  6.
Times peed in the toilet:  0

We're not off to a great start, as you can see.  But I'm very optimistic.  He got upset and let me know when he had an accident and was able to stop himself.  He was very excited to wear his underwear.  I made up a little song that we sing "No pee-pee in underwear, pee-pee in the potty, pee-pee in the potty!" (and repeat 20 times as enthusiastically as possible, complete with hand motions and smiles.  What has my life come to?)  And he looks awfully cute in his little tiny undies.  He even wanted to wear them for his nap on Sunday, so I let him keep them on and put a diaper over them.  I was dreading pulling them off when he woke up and was shocked to discover that following his 3.5 hour nap that they were still dry. Of course then I started to freak out that that meant maybe he wasn't hydrated enough - the worry of being a mom never stops I guess. 

So we'll see where this goes.  I'm definitely not forcing this issue or turning it into a battle.  I want to keep this a positive experience right now.  Maybe if we're still in this place in another month or two, I'll change my tune, but for now, I am just following his cues and encouraging without forcing and we'll see what happens! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Working Mom Meals

One of the absolute most challenging parts of my day is when I get home from work.  Not only do I have to make three trips in from the car to bring in 2 children, a pump, a laptop bag, a lunch bag, an insulated bag with bottles, a purse, and a cooler, in heels no less, but then it only gets crazier when I get inside.  That's when the real fun begins.


That dreaded word send chills up my spine.

It's a constant stress to figure out what to make for dinner and how to find the time to make it.  Basically, I have zero prep time. I don't get home until 6 at the absolute earliest and dinner needs to be on the table within 15 minutes or so.  Tim gets home after me most days since he commutes from downtown, so it's all on me to figure out what to make.  I try to do as much as I can the night before, but I hardly have the time or energy the previous night either.  Kids go to bed between 8-8:30 and I only have 30 minutes to wash dishes and bottles, make my lunch for the next day and prep bottles for tomorrow. 

I hope to make a regular post each week with my meal plan and recipes.  This will hopefully not only force me to meal plan each Sunday for the week, but then I can also share any quick and easy dinner ideas that I have for those of you in the same boat.  There's nothing better than sharing recipes, since I know so many of us have the same dinner stress. And I welcome any dinner ideas you have to share!

Here's this week's meal plan:

Sunday:  Tacos.  We can really only do these on the weekend because of the work of browning the beef and cutting the veggies.  And of course Barrett didn't eat anything except some cheese and taco shell.

Monday:  Chicken Chili.  This recipe is awesome.  Both Tim and I were skeptical of the combination the first time I made it, but it's become on of our favorite soups.  I made a huge batch of this right before I came back to work and froze.  Now I just have to thaw and heat on the stove, serve with bread and voila, dinner is served.  With the beans, chicken, and veggies, it's healthy too. 

Tuesday: Ham and Cheese Sandwiches.  Again, another freezer meal.  I made a batch of these with our extra Easter ham and froze.  I thawed overnight and will just need to pop into the oven after work for 15 minutes or so.  I will serve with a fruit salad on the side - which will probably be all that our picky Barrett will eat.

Wednesday:  Tim has an event after work, so I'll probably just feed Barrett a peanut butter sandwich or egg or something and eat a lean cuisine.

Thursday:  Crockpot Cranberry Pork Roast.  I made this once before and was very impressed so hopefully it'll be as good as I remember.  I have some Birds Eye steamfresh brown rice in the freezer I'll serve it over.

Friday:  Either leftovers from Thursday or take-out.

Reducing after-work stress + delicious dinners = a happier mom.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Audrey - Five months

Audrey -

This  month has been an explosion of growth, both mentally and physically.  You've always been a very alert and aware little thing but this month you are really interacting and developing.  Your first two little teeth popped through this past month.  I noticed you'd been chewing on everything you could get your little hands on and drooling even more than usual but thought it seemed way too early for teeth, but sure enough, there they were. You've also discovered your tongue and looove sticking it out and grabbing it.  I see you sucking on your bottom lip a lot.

You have chubby little rolls and plump where there were none before. I'll never get tired of kissing your little belly or thighs or neck.  You and I and your Daddy and daycare teacher worked so hard to put plump on that little body and it makes me so happy to see it.  You are eating very consistently now, which is a big relief.  You are eating around 6oz every 3 hours, although an ounce or so finds its way down your chin and into your bib and shirt.  I love the days when you're a little piggy and want to eat a lot, it makes me smile.  You don't have the same enthusiasm for eating that Barrett did, but you still tolerate it.  You are firmly in 3-6 months clothes and don't have much room in them left.  You flew through this size.  You are wearing size 1 diapers but we could probably switch you to size 2.

You are very much into your toys.  You love to bat and your toys and watch them.  I discovered that you love banging on the little piano and making music.  You have staring contests with your peacock and elephant.  Somehow they always win but you give them a good challenge.  Your new favorite toys though are the little toes on your feet!  You have discovered how much FUN it is to chew on your little feet.
Little pretzel!
You are a little nosy Nellie and into watching everybody and everything around you.  Sometimes you don't want to eat because you just want to look around.  Your eyes are constantly moving.  I think the person you like to watch the most is Barrett.  When he comes up and laughs at you, you just smile and giggle.  So cute to see!

You're very sensitive to noises and jump when you hear loud sounds.  And when you hear other babies cry, you get very upset.

I'm seeing a return to the wiggle worm that I knew when you were in my belly.  You've become squirmy and antsy lately and it makes me think of how much you used to twist and turn inside me. 

You sleep very well at night still.  Oftentimes you'll wake up around 4 or 5 and want to eat and other times you'll sleep all the way until morning.  Naps are still not great, you usually take around four 45 minute naps or so. 

I cannot imagine a better little daughter.  You bring me so much happiness.  You are such an easy little thing and I am so lucky to call myself your mother. Sometimes I look down at you and smile with the thought that I get to call you mine!