free time

I was asked to complete a bio about myself for our hospital’s web site this week. Easy enough. Started writing my education and nursing experience down in third person. Enter, new paragraph, she’s married, lives here, has a son, a dog, and a cat. In her free time she enjoys running,

And then I was literally stumped. Could I acceptably admit that I like to take naps in my free time?

I have been so immersed in my education and career and childbearing and rearing that I have completely lost tract of what I like to do. My “free time” is fairly limited. I do laundry. Decorate for the holidays. Try to run a few miles, if only for my thighs’ (and husband’s) sake.  Try to text my friends and keep up with birthday cards. Sit on the couch and zone out at the TV.

I thought, before having Jackson, that I would be a do-it-all-and-make-it-look-good mom. I sense that most of us have the same idea. But after he was born, life was about staying above water and not dropping every ball I was juggling onto the floor. It was so much more than I had anticipated, in both beautiful and overwhelming ways. I hadn’t read a good book since I was 30-something weeks pregnant. Or used my sewing machine. I was busy.

Then I graduated, and I just wanted to sit down and not do stuff for a little while. I was tired. I was trying to figure out a new normal. I thought eventually I would come back. The normal old ambitious me.

BUT, as I sat at my desk and stared at the comma and blinking cursor after the word running, I realized a few things. First of all, I don’t give my self very much time, but I think that’s the nature of the beast of having young children, as they are little time monopolizers. Next, I realized that I didn’t know much about what makes me happy anymore. I’ve been so focused on future goals that I lost track of present day life. And now that I have some time to think about the present, I am tired. But it is still important that I hold some semblance of an identity. And lastly, I needed to accept that I will never again resemble old Amanda, whoever she was. I can enjoy the same things. I can go for runs, and go to movies, and enjoy a good book – but I cannot do them without the consideration of my family. They get dibs on my time and energy.

However, I did read a book this week. I curled up under the lamp light and laughed out loud at the story after Jackson was tucked in bed. It felt so accomplishing. I think I’ll do it again. And at least add reading to my bio without feeling like a fraud.

updates

Do you know those days when you have so, so much to do, but you are so, so lazy… so instead you watch DVR’d 19 Kids and Counting while your son destroys the living room?? Yeah, those days. I’m not getting much accomplished today, and that’s okay, unless you’re my pile of laundry. Sorry, laundry.

My friend’s daughter is having another scan this week to see if the tumor is spread beyond the one place by her spine. If not, they are going to watch and wait – so no chemo and surgery for now. This is great news, BUT they were told last week that the tumor, which was probably there since birth and had shrunk some already, has caused atrophy to the spinal cord that is mostly likely permanent. So, similar to a spinal injury, her sweet little girl may never have complete control over her legs, and in turn, may never walk unassisted, maybe not at all. I like to believe that at 10 months, one cannot be counted out of anything in life, and maybe there will be a way. I hope so. Time will tell. But for now, we are all praying for a clear scan to avoid any invasive and dangerous treatments.

Otherwise, it’s status quo around here. We’re getting a groove. We’re doing a little meal planning. We’re getting excited to go home for Thanksgiving. I’m starting to think about turning 30 next month… but not really bothered by it. I’m starting to organize Christmas in my mind. I’m trying to start budgeting, like, for real. Again. Bahahaha.

And, we had our first real, professional family pics taken… this is the only one I have for now, but I thought it was pretty cute 🙂

family picture

11 months

Right after Jackson was born I, on a daily basis, tried to not have a breakdown. It wasn’t because having a newborn is hard, although having a newborn is very hard. It wasn’t because I was venturing into my last year of my doctoral degree, which is also quite hard. It was a culmination of the two. Every day of Jackson’s life has been measured by my school progress, just as equally, every check mark in my higher nursing education for the last 20 months has been marked by Jackson’s existence. My first day of clinicals was a Tuesday, and just 2 days before, on a Sunday afternoon, I found out I was pregnant. At 38 weeks along I learned how to apply casts on my classmates, but had to miss the morning of class that day to have a fetal echo done to check on my sweet boy’s heart. On the day he was born, I was supposed to be in class, but instead I was having the most life-changing day 400 miles away. When he was a week old, I became so, so sick, and I had him there with me, in class. There are few memories of school that don’t involve Jackson at some level, and few times Jackson’s life schedule didn’t depend on mommy’s school commitments. I remember thinking, “when I graduate in August, he’ll be almost a year old, he’ll be almost walking.”  It was the warm fuzzy thought that got me through. I told myself I could do it, I would be okay. After he was born, I would repeat, “just 11 more months,” “just 8 more,” “just 3.” It was all about getting to August. Last October, November, January… well, August seemed so far away.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t far away anymore.

In the same week Jackson turns 11 months old, I will graduate. For the first time, the measuring stick of Jackson’s life will no longer be my education. Those two things had become so intertwined. Like church and state; completely different entities, and yet, nearly impossible to separate cleanly. And, like I promised myself, my 11 month old is nearing the walking milestone, cruising everywhere and standing solo some. It is surreal.

He is amazing and funny and so very busy. He picks up on so much. He’s high-fivin’, clapping his hands, shaking his head no, being soooo-big, and waving bub-bye. He’s playing catch and throwing a ball and driving his toy truck on the carpet like it’s meant to be played with… not just chewing on it. He can get into his little rocking chair, turn around, sit down, and then get himself back out. It just amazes me.

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He’s not really ahead on his milestones, not behind, just average. His top front teeth are FINALLY cutting through – I was afraid we’d need to invest in dentures by kindergarten. He’ll attempt to eat anything we hand him and may decide the dog should eat it instead, but also still loves his nursing time with momma. He babbles about momma and dadda a lot, but also directs those titles at us appropriately at times and imitates the sounds we make. And he’s turning into a daddy’s boy just a little bit more every day – Jesse is thrilled! And I am too, because we can share in the neediness that is a nearly one year old who can crawl over to you and try to pull your pants off begging for attention.

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I am so excited for our little future, for our little family. I am excited to take my boards and pass them and move from that season of life. And, while it will also mean that our baby is a year old and no longer the tiny, cute, sleep-less, barfing bundle he was, his birthday represents so much more that 12 months of his life. It represents survival and success and strength.

11 months, so crazy…

this is a sneak peek at jackmack's first birthday photo shoot pics

this is a sneak peek at jackmack’s first birthday photo shoot pics

this is a sneak peek at jackmack's first birthday photo shoot pics

this is a sneak peek at jackmack’s first birthday photo shoot pics

reminiscing

Yesterday Jackson and I spread out the quilt and watched Jesse play softball.

That’s a lie… we spread out the blanket, Jesse played softball, I barely saw any of the game, as Jackson attempted to escape the quit, eat every rock, twig, or piece of grass in a 4 foot area past the blanket, all the while screaming and crying if you tried to save his life by stealing away the rocks on their way into his mouth. And we sweltered in the sun.

I couldn’t help but to reminisce about a year ago, sitting on the same quilt in the same warm sun, rotund with pregnancy, watching my husband play ball. I was so happy and excited and absolutely naive about what the hell having a baby is all about. I felt adorable and was happy to answer every inquiry about gender and due dates and such.  I was so in love with the kicks and jabs and rolls of the little boy growing inside of me. I was in control of my life (maybe not my bladder, but I digress). When I was tired, I could nap. When I was busy, I could focus. When someone wanted to go shopping, by all means, let’s go!

awe, pregnancy is so peaceful...

awe, pregnancy is so peaceful…

And yesterday was one of those, “so this is parenthood” moments. I love my son more than anything ever in the whole wide world, but man, he was easier to take care of in-utero. I miss being pregnant so much. It was wonderful and special. I hurried it along too fast, though. I had my eyes on the prize at the end of the race. I should have savored it more.

It is cliché and far too simple to say that having children changes you. You are forever physically and mentally altered. Your life can never be put back to the way it was. It is now what it will be. We’ve created something, someone, who wasn’t there before. I don’t mean to sound sad saying this, but yesterday I missed the easiness of pregnancy that has been replaced by a small blue-eyed, two-toothed, terroristic tornado who doesn’t allow for a moment of relaxation. I pined a little for the calm that was our lives a year ago – we were happy, anticipating a child, still in a blissful fog of ignorance.

busy boy

busy boy

And it gets so much worse, you say. They get bigger, busier, and smarter. They require less sleep and more food. And, my husband and I want more of them. I want more pregnancies, more jabs, kicks, and rolls. There will never be a peaceful pregnancy such as the first one. All subsequent children will be gestated in chaos. God help us. God help them. But… it won’t be worse. It will be better, so much better.

I wouldn’t change it or trade it. It is our life, and I do love it. I just should have slept more when I had the chance.

 

 

the future

 

We moved to our current location in western South Dakota in May of 2012. Since that time I made 37 round trips (800miles each time) back to the east side of the state to complete my doctorate of nursing practice and family nurse practitioner degree. I drove in 100+ degree heat without an AC. I got the AC fixed. I drove, stopping every hour for a pee break and to prevent blood clots, while pregnant. I drove, white-knuckled, in really crappy snow/ice with a baby sleeping in the back seat. I drove through hours of crying, because what else was I supposed to do? I’ve spent many many nights sleeping in a bed that wasn’t my own, and for the last year, bringing a baby along for the ride every singe time but once. I’ve breastfed all over this state.

watching my baby grow from the drivers seat

watching my baby grow from the drivers seat

I owe my friend Karen SO MUCH (I’m still planning on paying you back!), because she’s shared her home with me to stay there when I needed to be at class and because she lovingly watched my colicky baby while I was in class. And, she brought me a life-saving care package when I was in the hospital, nearly septic, after Jackson was born.

love ya Karen!

love ya Karen!

I owe Angie, Nathel, Mindy, Karen, Darcie, Kassie, Jessie and so many others for participating in countless hours of cell phone conversation while I drove.  You’re welcome Verizon… however I will be reducing my minutes package very soon. You gals are my best friends, and you’ve seen me through so much.

he had lots of screen time with mom

he had lots of screen time with mom

I owe my family, Jesse’s family, and our extra family, because they have all taken turns helping with Jackson, whether for a day, a week, or over-night while I was suffering from a migraine. They’ve all given in some capacity to help me/us get to this point… money, time, help, food… we wouldn’t have survived without them.

I owe my husband, who has seen me through these most intense years of my life. He watched me, especially since moving, be at my lowest lows and my most enlightening highs. He’s loved me through ugly, cranky, sad, tired, and stressed. He’s taken his turn taking the baby so I could finish yet another assignment. He’s checked the oil, checked the tires, filled the gas tank and sent me down the interstate with his baby boy in tow, trusting me with his world. Trusting me to come home safely every time.

I don’t know how to repay any of them adequately… except to go out and be the best NP I can (and answering all of their random health questions). I want to make them all proud.

I laughed out loud a LOT at this ad in my NP magazine. Bahahaha!

I laughed out loud a LOT at this ad in my NP magazine. Bahahaha!

I will soon be signing a contract at the local clinic that is affiliated with the hospital where I currently work. I was terribly disappointed to decline my dream job that was offered to me last month back on the east side of the state, but unfortunately there were no transfer options for Jesse, and we made a choice to stay because it truly is best for our little family at this point. And, I am simply grateful to have such wonderful options to choose from, as not everyone is so lucky. I will start in the clinic October 1st in a family practice role… I am excited and nervous. I want to be great at my job, but I know that the next couple years will be a process of learning that is even more intense than school, because the patients are real and the decisions ride on my shoulders. It is an awesome responsibility.

lookin' all professional

lookin’ all professional

I haven’t fully realized the immense change that is about to be my life, our lives. I haven’t soaked in the fact that there is no “back to school” for me, EVER AGAIN, but instead the loans will come due. I haven’t absorbed the fact that I will no longer have RN hours, but instead will be able to count on Christmas and Easter being family time. These things will become real. We’ll settle into our new routine. Our life will continue to morph into whatever God has planned. So, with a happy heart, I look to the future!

supporting the momma alma mater

supporting the momma alma mater

breastfeeding & pumping & being a working mother

My goal when Jackson was born was to breastfeed him for one year. I didn’t really know what I was asking of myself, my emotions and my body, when I set that goal. I was lucky. First of all, I had helped so, so many women start breastfeeding when I worked L&D, so I understood the basics and knew the tips and tricks for starter success. Secondly, I was anatomically set up for breastfeeding success – not too big, not too little. And lastly, I made plenty of milk.

The first three months of Jackson’s life I was tremendously busy with school, but was on maternity leave from work, and a significant amount of my pumping went into the freezer, because I was able to feed him at my lunch breaks when he was at home with the nanny. When I went back to working 12 hour shifts at the hospital and Jackson went to daycare, I had to learn a good pumping system. I’d pump right before I left for work, and twice during each shift. Some days it was easy to slip away from the activity of the hospital floor to pump, other times it took a little more planning and sometimes I just had to say things had to wait, because pumping was really important. Like most pumping mothers of today, I spent my pumping time catching up on FB, blog reading, and making phone calls home to check on my baby. I also tried to eat a snack every time I pumped, making the most of my time. I’d pump about 10 minutes, which really isn’t a significant amount of time, but it was enough time to pump more than enough for Jackson to eat. While pumping gets old quickly, it has been worth all of the headache. It really has.

Now, Jackson is 10 months old (let’s be real, almost 11 months old 😦 ) and my body is no longer over producing. I’m making just enough to send to daycare the next day. When this first started to happen, I began to panic, even though I find it nice to not be freezing milk constantly. I have a stash in the freezer, too, should I start to not keep up, but I think I’ll make it through the next 2 months. Then I get to start the process of weaning, which will probably be equally hard on both Jackson and I. Jackson still nurses 3 times in 24 hours directly from the boob during those day when I have to work – evening, mid-night, and morning, and gets 2 bottles at daycare. Once he’s a year old I’ll keep that up until I dry up, but I will not keep pumping. Will not. I’m proud of myself for providing this for Jackson for a year, even when I couldn’t always be physically present. It’s been one hell of a committment. And, it’s been worth it.

The days I stay home with Jackson and I don’t have to pump are awesome (like today!!). It’s just us, and I love it. Women who are afforded this luxury full-time are lucky, and I am jealous. I am excited to move on with my career and the next steps that are in my path… but I also wish that we could afford to have me stay home. I wish I didn’t miss those little moments and was afforded the ability to fix every problem throughout the day. However, this is the life I knew I’d have. These are the sacrifices I knew I’d have to make. And I’m really excited to be a nurse practitioner!

I have made a decision and accepted one of the positions I wrote about, and I will fill you all in soon. I am officially done with all of my graduate school commitments. ALL OF THEM. I just have to attend my hooding ceremony in August. And take boards. My life has made some of the most dramatic changes I’ve ever encountered in the last 12 months. It has been amazing, exhausting, and crazy.

I now hope to have a smidgen more time to blog, and I hope to provide an interesting and somewhat original insight into working motherhood. And make some mommies out there feel okay that their child watches Frozen at least once per day, eats Gerber graduates snacks instead of organic, and has more toys than he knows what to do with… but is SO, SO loved.

a trusting and grateful heart

I spent most of last week sitting in a hotel about 200 miles away from my baby and 600 miles away from my hubby… for a NP board review. I needed to be there, to focus, and give my self the best chance I can to pass my boards ASAP after graduation. But, besides the 2 nights I was hospitalized when Jackson was a week old and one other random night when I left the baby with Jesse while I went to class alone, this is the only time I have been away from Jackson overnight – and this is the first time he was separated from both his mommy and daddy overnight.  I think this was a big deal.

Jackson stayed partially with my brother and his wife (who also happens to be one of my best friends) and partially with my parents. These guys only live about 7 miles away from each other, but I know it was still a headache for them to haul his stuff from one place to the other. How do you pack for a 8 month old when you know you won’t be there and neither of the places he will be staying have children??? You pack everything. There was even a rubber duck in his suitcase. My Tahoe looked like a BabysRUs. I just wanted to make sure they had any thing they might need. Baby thermometer. Tylenol/Motrin. Socks. Hats. Sunscreen. Pack’n’Play. Jogger. Portable high chair. Jumper. Baby bathtub. Bottle warmer. Sound machine. Toys, toys, toys. Baby food. And plenty of frozen milk. In fact, I brough almost my whole stash – and everything they didn’t use was donated before I went back home…  which was about 800 ounces!

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“so you’re going to leave me with her, eh??”

chillin' with uncle rob

chillin’ with uncle rob

grandpa's sidekick

grandpa’s sidekick

It was a little bit amazing to sleep at night, but I still woke up in the middle of the night and checked my phone just in case my sister in law or mom had called or messaged me with a question of concern… I’m too used to waking up and checking on him! It was a weird exercise of trust.  My family is absolutely capable of providing wonderful, loving care to my son, and I just had to trust them to do whatever they deemed necessary for Jackson. And I am so grateful. So grateful to have people who love me and my little family enough to swap around their schedules to spend the week with Jackson.

thank goodness for snapchat updates!

thank goodness for snapchat updates!

i'm fairly certain this is my dad's first "selfie" - he was so proud of being able nap with Jackson.

i’m fairly certain this is my dad’s first “selfie” – he was so proud of being able nap with Jackson.

HI

Hi Mom!

I missed him like crazy, but thankfully technology provided me (and his daddy) with lots of photographic updates – proof he was just fine. I was never really worried about his safety or their capability to take care of him, but I think it’s just a momma’s nature to worry no matter what. He was in the care of some of the people I trust the most in the world… and I know they understood how much trust it took to leave him for those 3 nights. Like I mentioned, my sister-in-law and brother don’t have children (yet 🙂 ), and I think this gave them a very real look at life with a baby. A real, live, feed me, change me, entertain me baby. And when Jackson was at my parents’ home, which is a farm, he was happiest outside with the animals and hubbub. All in all a good experience for the little guy! And I cannot say THANK YOU enough to my parents, my brother and his lovely little wifey!

feeding the bottle calf with grandpa.

feeding the bottle calf with grandpa.

And, also good for me to be home with my family for a little bit. This is my last trip home before graduation in August. I cannot believe how close I am to graduating, how close I am to attaining this goal for myself and for my family. That deserves its own post at another time, when I have enough time to process it more fully. Until then, once I make it through my project defense on June 24th, it is smooth sailing until boards. So, hard-core school work for the rest of the month. Almost there… I just can’t believe that I am done with my “Jackson and Mommy” trips. They have not always been easy, but they have been some of the most memorable bonding moments with my little boy, just us. It almost makes me sad when I think about the fact that that season of our lives is almost over.

so worn out after a great week with his family!

so worn out after a great week with his family!

This is one of two coolers of frozen milk I donated to the Iowa milk bank. In total it was 6 gallons of milk. This will be used in NICUs in the midwest. I was so happy to "share the wealth" :)

This is one of two coolers of frozen milk I donated to the Iowa milk bank. In total it was 6 gallons of milk. This will be used in NICUs in the midwest. I was so happy to “share the wealth” 🙂

 

 

7 months

7 months. wow. that’s crazy.

7 months.

7 months.

Jackson is a vocal, demanding, hilarious little boy.  The last month has been all about getting more mobile and eating more food. We’re getting closer to crawling, he uses his belly as a fulcrum to spin and get at stuff he wants. Or he rolls, but will only willingly roll to his left, so usually gets rolled at far as he can go, and cries because he’s “stuck” against a wall. Just in the last few days he briefly lifts his little butt up and pushes up with his arms at the same time, so it won’t be long and we’ll need the baby gates up… and to “baby proof.” ugh.

He loves food. I really can’t stress that enough.  And he’s a terribly messy eater. I let him play with the food and grab the spoon to “help,” so his messiness is probably my fault, but I figure it’s good for him. We do a few “solids” like bananas and green beans for him to feed himself, and I anticipate we’ll be increasing those quite a bit this month. He’s also tried the “puffs” – only a few, but I want him to get used to many textures so he’s not gaggy later.

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carrots!

He’s cut one tooth. I thought we might get kicked out of daycare over it… he cried for over 2 hours straight that day, I guess. I told her the next time she should please call me, as no one should be subjected to my son’s anger for that long, except his makers 🙂

He’s improving on the sleeping front. I can count on one waking per night (totally doable for me). Sometimes we’re up twice, but he’s not hungry the second time. And we’ve done a couple of 7-9 hour stretches, which was AWESOME, minus the exploding boobs thing.

the morning when he slept through the night for the first time... 3/25/14.

the morning when he slept through the night for the first time… 3/25/14.

He is a momma’s boy, no arguing that. Momma fixes almost everything. Momma sings the Bird Song every morning. She plays even when she can barely keep her eyes open. And momma has the jugs. I’ve been able to maintain breast-feeding, which is such a blessing.  I am beginning to resent that stupid breast pump, but it’s okay, because it’s for him. I also miss regular bras. Running anytime without pumping first. Sleeping in just a t-shirt. Sleeping without waking to an aching chest. But all so tolerable and worth it for Jackson.

daddy's hat

daddy’s hat

But also loves his dadda. When I can’t get him to sleep, 2 minutes of rocking with daddy and he’s out. Daddy is a great playtime buddy. Daddy pushes Jackson to advance in his skills, but has the most protective and watchful eyes over everything. He rescues Jackson from every single cat and dog hair going into his mouth 🙂 Jesse is the best partner in parenting I could have asked for. He helps in the mornings, packing the Tahoe with the 3-4 bags my life involves on a daily basis and keeping Jackson entertained while I pump. He has found a routine to rock through the 12-13 hour days while I work on the weekends. He sends me pictures throughout the day… but rarely needs or asks for my advice for anything.

Our life is oh so normal, but oh so busy. I am getting to the tail-end of my NP degree, which is exciting. Everything else is just maintaining until I finish that degree.  I don’t have lots of time to blog anymore, which is sad, and my blog reading time has basically been reduced to pumping time, but it is so fun to see the updates of the babies born around the same time as Jackson.  While we may all parent a little differently and make choices with different values in mind, thank you to all of you ladies who share your triumphs and struggles of being a mom and woman in this crazy world. I appreciate your experiences. And all of your babies (most of them girls) are adorable! Please keep updating!

And now for the picture overload…

loves being outside.

loves being outside.

fell asleep bouncing.

fell asleep bouncing.

beating on Mother Goose.

beating on Mother Goose.

chatting at us through the moniter in the mornings

chatting at us through the moniter in the mornings

 

best buds.

best buds.

 

loves.

loves.

my world.

my world. ❤

 

6 months

I’m not sure exactly how a half of a year has passed since my little boy’s birth, but I know it went fast.

Yesterday I took care of a newborn in the clinic who was bigger than Jackson at birth, and yet, I cannot for the life of me remember Jackson being that small.

Our life before Jackson? I remember it. I do. It was full of naps and movies and eating out. I haven’t had a full 8 hour night of sleep for 6 months. I’ve only had my eyebrows waxed 3 times. My hair cut once. And my toenails have been “nude” for forever. My life is no longer about me. My life is about him…

6 months

6 months

 

My life is about knowing when he last pooped.  Knowing that his favorite toy is a colorful squishy rattle ball thingie… for today.  Knowing the difference between a tired cry, a board cry, and a “I need my momma” cry. My life is about nighttime cuddles and spitup on my clothes. It’s about getting up early if I want a shower. Staying up late to pay bills, do homework, and load the dishwasher. My life is about depending on my husband and my family for help, because I can’t do it all, no matter how hard I pretend I can. But my life holds more love than ever.

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And Jackson? He’s about as normal as can be. He’s eating new foods. Still nursing. Putting everything in his mouth. Sitting up. Rolling all over. Not teething. Not crawling. He’s a momma’s boy. A social guy. A demanding spirit. He’s changed so much in the last month, developing his personality and fine tuning his motor skills.

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mr big stuff

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fishy in the tub.

My life is crazy right now. But I only have about 5 months left until graduation day. I wish I could post more often on my blog. Spend more time reading your blogs. Run more. Eat better, etc, etc. But the most important thing for me to do right now is spend time with the beautiful boy sitting on my lap, reaching for the keys as I type. And so I’m going to… love to ya’ll! – A.