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a weekend to remember.

I really don’t know the last time that I had so much fun over a three-day weekend. I’ve experienced a lot of things, but the three-day ride of just pure joy from this past weekend would be hard to match for me.

As you may know, Lionel turned three. When Sara brought up the idea of an overnight stay in Omaha before hosting his party on Sunday, I was up for it. I had some expectations from the trip, but I was really unsure ultimately how it would turn out.

Heading into the weekend, Sara had to call her first audible. The weather was not looking good for Saturday, which was the day that we had planned to go to the famous Henry Doorly Zoo, so we decided to book it down to Omaha in the AM to hit the zoo on Friday to catch the good weather.

20150608171937-9fbe18ce-meMama started the gift opening a tad early to keep this almost three-year-old excited through the drive…but Lionel loved his magnetic construction site book!

The drive down went pretty smoothly. We had to stop once for a diaper change, and I’m not used to that, really, since we haven’t traveled too far with the kiddos in the past, but I got over it quickly {I’m of the mind that we’ve gotta go go go go go ;)}.

We got to the zoo, and the weather was gorgeous. Lionel’s excitement was high, and thankfully Quincy was a very willing and happy participant.

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We started off our day by petting a starfish…

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Woah…

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I need to be closer to the fish!

We visited the aquarium just after lunch on Friday, and it was not busy at all. This made the experience ten times cooler, as we had a clear view of all of the marine life, and we didn’t feel the need to rush through it.

We saw many animals, but we missed the elephants {the zoo is currently expanding the exhibit, so the elephants were off-site}. Lionel didn’t mind, though, since we got to do this:

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Riding the Skyfari with Daddy = love.

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Eating ice cream = love.

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Riding the zoo train with Mama = love.

Riding the Skyfari was a cool experience. Selfishly, I’d love to try and take him skiing this winter, and he showed himself ready for a ski-lift without any fear or hesitation. He had quite a bit of fun! It could be different with snow, but I’m encouraged. He obviously doesn’t have his mother’s fear of heights!

At some point, we got ice cream to help us all to cool down on the warm day, and later, our boy finally got to ride the train with Mama. They had loads of fun!

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Lionel’s petting a snake!

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A tree swing in the jungle = cool!

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Hi, Quincy!

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All smiles!

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Lionel loved to brush the goat in the Petting Zoo!

We spent almost five hours at the Omaha Zoo before things started to wind down. We made it to everything but the Desert Dome (Mama can’t handle the creepy crawlies there!). It was a ton of fun. But, it was time to find our hotel, find dinner, and get onto the rest of the weekend.

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Lionel runs the bases!

As we were leaving the zoo, we noticed that inside the zoo’s newly-expanded parking lot {part of which used to house Rosenblatt Stadium}, there is now a tiny memorial infield dedicated to the stadium of yore. We had to see if Lionel had any energy left. He ran the bases a few dozen times – OVERJOYED – before reluctantly returning with me to the car.

The night ended with a nice dinner and the opening of his second present, a Playmobil sports set that features a hockey get-up, among other sports gear. Lionel spent a good portion of the downtime of the weekend playing hockey with these guys, which was very cool.

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Good morning + happy birthday!

The next morning, we woke up to some donuts, and we stuck candles in Lionel’s to have our own private family rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” to kick off Saturday. It was a riot. Lionel opened another present {a firehouse version of the Imaginetics books}, and then we changed into swimming gear to head to the Coco Key water park, which was located inside our hotel in Omaha.

Unfortunately, given the large number of pools and water slides, water was all over the place, so there’s not many pictures. But, we snagged a couple…

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Daddy + Quincy-Bug!

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Swimming Lionel!

Throughout the day, Lionel transitioned from the kiddie pool, to the deeper pool, to the slides in short time. By the end of the day, he was traversing the entire park and going down the water slides in rapid fashion. We soaked in the pool for almost five hours before deciding to wrap things up and go home.

The drive home was pretty painless, as both boys were tuckered out, and while they didn’t exactly nap, they didn’t put up much of a fight about the drive, either. Mommy and Daddy got home and unloaded the car and did some clean-up, but were pooped and we all kind of crashed and went to bed rather early.

On Sunday, we woke up and began prepping the house for the party. Things were about to get real. We had no idea how many people were coming, but as soon as four o’clock rolled around, we found out how much everyone loves our Lionel. Cars started pulling up and parking, and people came into our home one after another to wish Lionel a happy birthday and celebrate with him.

In addition to great family and friends of ours, ALL of Lionel’s friends and one of his teachers from school came to his party, which delighted him, of course! Lionel was so good through the whole thing. He shared his toys, gave hugs and kisses, said many a “Thank you!” and had a smile glued to his face the entire time.

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Welcome to Lionel’s hockey party!

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Daddy had to get some baseball in…

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Quincy-Bug with Great Grandma Helen

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Q with Great Aunt Sharon, Great Aunt Judy + cousin Harper

Food was served, and then, a special guest arrived…STOMP from the Sioux Falls Stampede, our local professional hockey team!

Lionel’s no stranger to Stampede games, and when it was known that Stomp was available to come to the party, Grandpa Joe pulled a few strings to get the special guest to the show. Stomp posed for pictures, gave hugs to the willing kids, and played hockey with everyone.

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“Hi Stomp!” – Lionel

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Let’s score some goals!

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Defense!

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Everyone’s playing!

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Thank you, Stomp! A family photo.

We followed up hockey with cake and presents. Of course, a hockey party needs a hockey cake, and Lionel kept up the awesome vibe by hugging and often kissing everyone while thanking each person for the gifts that he received.

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“Happy birthday to you!”

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“Thank you!”

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Gift Excitement!

After the gift opening, the party started to disperse. Lionel played with almost all of his toys for some time the rest of the night. The energy of the day was long-lasting and incredibly positive.

I am still riding the high of how awesome the entire weekend was. Sara did an amazing job planning the entire trip and the entire party. I did my part here and there, but she truly shined as a mother who knew how to go the extra mile for her son. Friends and family showed up to make a special day even better. Quincy was better than you can logically expect from a six month old who is forced out of his routine.

It was just an awesome time. Wow!

three {a letter to Lionel}.


dear Lionel Conner,

oh, sweet boy – how do i find the words to describe how much joy you bring to our family? from your sweet voice insisting that Mama wake up each morning because “it’s the sun’s turn” to your kiss-zzrbit-kiss on my cheek each night, you have weaseled your way into my heart and made yourself a cozy permanent home there, one that, i am sure, is decked out with cars and hockey gear aplenty and music from “Frozen” piped in on continuous repeat.

what’s been special about being your Mama this past year has been watching you discover more about the world around you, now that you actually have the vocabulary to talk about what you’re noticing.

“the wind blew over the garbage can, Mama?” you asked me the other day. “will the garbage man come and pick it up?”

“hello!” you exclaim to every cashier, waiter, banker and grandma that you see. you’re always so friendly and polite to others, especially when they bring your food at a restaurant {“chicken nuggets and French fries, please!”} or scan your $0.97 cent new Matchbox car at “the Target.”

“Mama, i make you lunch,” you say to me daily as you clang play pots and pans together and sprinkle play soup with play salt and pepper, just like you watch your Daddy do when he cooks for us.

“i right here, Quincy,” you say to your baby brother when he cries out. “Lionel right here.” watching you sssh and comfort and embrace your baby brother like a pro, like you have watched your Mama and Daddy do many, many times, is but one example of your big, wide-open heart which blesses us each and every day, Lionel.

i can’t wait to see what adventures you have in store for us in your third year of life, sweet L. happiest of birthdays to you, big boy!

xoxo,

Mama

recent happenings {our summer kickoff}.

uffda, sorry for that unintentional blog break! we’ve been having a lot of good times around here, the boys and i, as we officially kicked off our start to summer in mid-May, and blogging has sort of slid off my radar – my apologies!

a few recent happenings to share:

no. 1: someone named Quincy is sitting up…AND sleeping through the night {well, he was, until…}…getting his first tooth! we first felt it popping its way through on June 1 {it’s on the bottom, on his right side}, and after a few nights of nursing through the night like he hadn’t eaten in DAYS, we weren’t too surprised to find it there. my boy, the comfort nurser extraordinaire! but, who can be upset with this cutie? :)

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he’s also had his first tastes of baby food, and while we all gambled that our boy would LOVE all things food, he’s actually been quite slow to the food game! he has no tolerance for baby cereal, thank-you-very-much, but he’s warming up nicely to sweet potatoes and is a voracious muncher of banana-flavored puffs, just like his older brother. it’s obvious that he has NO IDEA of all of the goodness that will come his way in the future {ahem, pizza is a revelation that he won’t know of for some time, but oh my, will his mind be blown!}.

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in other news, our boy L is also in love with swimming, and thanks to eight weeks of swimming lessons and his Puddle Jumper, he’s become quite a little fish! also, Q is a BIG fan of the water and experienced his first dip in the pool at the end of May.

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look at all of my boys – what a blessed lady i am!

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in other news, one Lionel Conner is using the big boy potty like a CHAMP – he’s been impressing us so much lately! we’re not quite there yet, but we’ve had many, many successes and only a few accidents since launching our latest foray into the world of the big-boy potty at the end of May.

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other than those big milestones, it’s been a lot of this around here:

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we’re also gearing up for one special boy’s third birthday this weekend – check back tomorrow for a letter to our nearly-three-year-old Lionel. #slowdowntime

how are you celebrating summer?

what do YOU think of in the morning? {a mother’s response}

there’s an episode of One Tree Hill that popped into my brain as i was driving to work today. i’m a devoted fan of this show, so it was no surprise to me that a specific episode crossed my mind, but what delighted me was the reasoning behind why i found myself smiling as i remembered it.

this episode {from season five, called “What Do You Go Home To?”} opens with a glimpse into the bedrooms of all of the show’s major characters. as each character awakens, their voice speaks a single word or thought, presumably the first thing on their minds as soon as their eyes open.

the one that hit me the most? nathan and haley’s. as both of their eyes open, they speak the name of their child: Jamie.

* *

as my eyes open each morning and i greet the sunshine with {admittedly} hesitant, why-can’t-i-sleep-in-later groans, my mind immediately flashes two names across my cerebellum:

Lionel. Quincy.

these names appear simultaneously, of course; as all mothers know, there is no ultimate favorite child in the world of mothering {but there certainly are days where one child is favored more, simply because they are better behaved that day, or in that particular moment}.

it didn’t surprise me one bit that my brain, my heart, turned to my beautiful boys as soon as my eyes opened this morning.

of course i thought of them this morning, i said to myself. i think of them every morning.

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i think of Lionel’s sweet insistence last night that he sleep “in Mama’s bed” instead of his own.

i think of his arms – the same arms that show off his “big-boy muscles” to me as he swats golf balls to and fro in our basement – wrapping tightly around my neck, my belly, my back as he snuggles in close. he’s always been my cuddly one.

i think of his fingers pull, pull, pulling on my hair as he tries to surrender to slumber, an act of comfort that he’s made his own since our eyes first met on that morning in June, nearly three years ago.

i think of his stubborn statement the day before that he “doesn’t like Elsa,” an out-of-character admittance that, i’m convinced, was the result of a teasing session from a boy or two at school. step back, Mama Bear, i told myself. boys can like Frozen, tooi told my sweet boy.

i think of his approaching birthday – the big, how-is-this-possible THIRD birthday on the horizon – and my heart aches when i think of all of the time that has passed, and how it has evaporated all too quickly. have most of our days together been good days? i ask myself. does he feel loved? does he feel abandoned, now that his little brother is around? all of my fears before welcoming Quincy into our lives resurface in that moment, and i work hard – each day, each minute – to convince myself that giving him a sibling – giving him Quincy – is a gift, and that any future children that join our family will be blessings in his life as well.

of course, while these thoughts are running marathons in my brain, ruminations on my other son, my sweet baby Quincy, take their turn in the relay race as well.

i think of Quincy’s chubby, dimpled elbows, and how i need to spend more time kissing that fleshy chub before his arms, like his brother’s, boast “big-boy muscles,” too.

i think of his eyes, the ones that i pray so fervently to stay green, like his Daddy’s.

i think of the way that he smiles with his entire body when he sees my face, and the way that he wrenches his little self this way and that to follow me as i move about a room.

i think of his stubborn insistence that he’s just fine to sleep on his own now, Mom, which he tells me through his exasperated cries as i try to hold him close. in the darkest part of the night, he awakens and eagerly nurses, and then just as eagerly demands to be swaddled back up tightly and placed back in the Moses basket that flanks our bed. he shifts and shuffles his way into a comfortable position, and as his eyes close, i lie awake in awe that i, famous for my reliance and need for others, am the mother to a very independent child.

i think of his refusal to feed from a bottle yesterday at daycare, preferring instead to nurse while snuggled closely in the arms of his Mama. perhaps he’s not so independent after all.

* *

what do YOU think of first thing in the morning? {admittedly, my second thought, after dwelling for few moments on the wonders that are my sons, is COFFEE.}

life as a breastfeeding, pumping, working mama {one month in}.

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this week marks week no. 4 of my return to work after welcoming sweet Q into our lives in November, so i wanted to share a bit of a status report.

specifically, i want to spend time updating you all on a few things, including:

  • how i’m emotionally coping with my return to work;
  • how Q {and L, too!} have weathered full-time daycare;
  • and how pumping breastmilk + breastfeeding is working out for Q and i.

this is a doozy of a long post, so grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat!

emotionally, my return has been relatively wrinkle-free. my supervisor has been a complete dream, in that he’s provided a space in which i’m able to pump breastmilk multiple times each day {more on this in a bit}. my colleagues have been wonderfully supportive of my need to slip in and out of the “lactation lounge,” which is located in a separate room in the midst of a communal space of cubicles, at various times throughout the day to pump. lastly, my students have been, by and large, welcoming and accommodating as i learn their names {a task which feels so peculiar, given that we are already past the halfway point of our semester} and as i get my “sea legs” back as an instructor of English and communications.

personally, i worked hard to prepare myself for the emotional gamut of feelings as related to experiencing time away from Q. in the weeks prior to my return, i soaked up moment after moment with Q; we snuggled, we napped, we nursed, and i gave thanks to God each and every day for the time {nearly 16 weeks!} that i was able to spend at home with him. i also became obsessed with making morning and evening to-do lists, crafting a game plan to clean and sanitize my breastpump parts after each of my middle-of-the-day pumping sessions at work, and executing seemingly endless edits to my hourly work schedule and to Quincy’s nursing schedule. in short, i was obsessively, absolutely, totally FREAKING ready for my return to work logistically. and, apart from a few hiccups, which come naturally {and often} with a baby and a toddler in tow, things have gone quite smoothly.

what’s also wonderful: Q has adjusted quickly to daycare. he took to the bottle without much fuss {apart from a bit of an adjustment during his first feeding session on his first official day}, and continues to be a champion eater, both while he’s at daycare and when he’s at home – he’s even increased the amount that he eats at daycare from three to four ounces of breastmilk per feeding! by his third day at daycare, he was napping well {and napping anywhere, from swaddled in a crib to snuggled up in a blanket in a bouncy seat}. he enjoys being around the other babies in his “classroom,” and thanks to having an older brother who makes noise constantly, he doesn’t seem to have any trouble sleeping with other babies and children around.

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L is also enjoying being back at school full-time. as a reminder, we continued to send him to school two days per week while i was on maternity leave, so that he could continue to progress and learn, and to continue building relationships with his teachers and his friends. plus, his days at school allowed me time to soak up Q a bit more, which was perhaps the most unexpected blessing of it all! now that he’s back at school every day, his vocabulary is continuing to blossom at record speed, and he’s demonstrating more and more that he’s ready for potty-training, a task that we plan to jumpstart over the long Easter weekend. he’s used the potty with much success as of late, so we’re hopeful that we can work on these skills over our four-day weekend and then send him to school next week in “big-boy pants” {Pull-Ups}. it’s our goal to have him reliably potty-trained by mid-to-late summer, so that he’s ready to go to five-day-per-week preschool in undies in the fall.

finally, i wanted to share a bit about my adjustment to pumping breastmilk at work. like i said above, my supervisor and colleagues have been amazingly supportive of my role as a working, breastfeeding mama. overall, i couldn’t be happier with what it means to be a working mama, both in terms of pumping breastmilk and in terms of continuing my nursing relationship with Q when we’re together.

i do want to say this, though: please know that i realize {and that i give thanks to God each night} for all of which i’m about to share. as a faculty member at my institution, i have privileged access to excellent care for my children. not only is the daycare center only available for use by employees and students at the college at which i teach and its surrounding school district, the center is located right on the campus on which i teach. Jord and i feel remarkably grateful for our children’s teachers and the daycare facility itself.

here’s what my work days look like, in general:

  • arrive at daycare with the children 30 minutes before i need to be in my office. at this time, i drop of L {typically without much fuss or objection from him, although sometimes he needs a little more time to adjust to the day}.
  • after i drop off L in his classroom, Q and i enter his “classroom,” and i nurse him at daycare before heading into my office.
  • after some office time, i teach one class that’s 75 minutes in length. this is where my schedule varies: two days per week {Mondays and Wednesdays}, i take my lunch break and pump breastmilk {and eat, of course}. but the other three days {Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays}, i spend my entire lunch break hour with Q, which allows me to nurse Q onsite {and eat, of course}. i’m sure that i don’t have to tell you how wonderful this is, but i did want to mention that i think this is what has helped me to have absolutely no problems whatsoever with milk supply. and yes, i realize how fortunate i am to have a robust supply; trust me, i don’t take it for granted!
  • after my lunch break and/or my time with Q, i teach another class that’s also 75 minutes in length. then, during my office time at the end of every day, i pump breastmilk again.
  • as my work day comes to a close, i return to daycare to pick up my children. i tend to pick up Q first most days, unless L sees me and excitedly runs up to greet me :) i often nurse Q at daycare before driving the boys and i home, to ensure that sweet Q doesn’t have an “i’m hungry!” meltdown on our 20-minute commute home.
  • on the days on which i don’t spend my lunch time with Q {Mondays and Wednesdays}, Q has two bottle feedings at daycare. on the other days {Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays}, Q only has one bottle feeding.
  • on Mondays, i teach a night class that’s three hours in length. this means that on top of the two bottle feedings that Q receives at daycare, he also has another small {i.e. 1-2 ounces} helping of breastmilk from Daddy while i’m teaching. this dinner-time feeding has actually been our only difficulty in adjusting to my return to work; Q doesn’t like to take a bottle from his Daddy for some reason, which is maddening for all of us {and for Q himself, as he lets us all know through his angry cries and his voracious appetite when i return home on Monday nights}. we’re still working through he’s refusing the bottle from Daddy and what we can do about it; our current thought is that he likens home with nursing right from the breast, so we’re exploring ideas of Daddy taking the boys to the park {or elsewhere} and feeding Q outside of our home to see if that helps.
  • when Q and i are together {in the evenings and on the weekends}, i nurse from the breast exclusively. in other words, we don’t give him bottles unless he’s at daycare or is with another caregiver {if we’re on a date, for instance}. this helps Q and i to remain closely bonded, and i’m sure it helps to keep up my supply as well.

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i’m also incredibly pleased with my breastpump; it’s a workhorse! it is comfortable to use and comes with everything that i need {and more} to pump discreetly at work. i have this one, and it was partially covered by my insurance {i think that we paid $45 out-of-pocket for the pump, which is amazing, since it retails for $270!}. i had my doctor write me a prescription, and Jord picked it up from a medical supply store near the hospital after Q was born.

we’ve tried new baby bottles with Q as well. with L, we used these Avent bottles whenever we needed to leave a bottle with a caregiver {which was rare; as a reminder, i nursed L for fifteen months, and i was home with him for fourteen of those months and then nursed only at night for the final month, when i started my teaching job}. but with Q going to daycare so much earlier in his life, i wanted to try Tommee Tippee bottles for Q, since they mimic the shape and the feel of the breast more. we’ve been very pleased with them so far! we have this set {which we used when Q was little and was feeding more frequently and drinking smaller amounts each time} and this set, which we use exclusively now and LOVE.

i’ll post another update shortly, including what we pack in Q’s diaper bag for daycare each day {i searched and searched for helpful “what to bring to daycare” lists in preparation for my return to work, so it’s only fair that i share my own!} and what Jord and i do each morning and each evening to help the morning rush to work and school flow a bit easier. stay tuned!