Monday, March 2, 2015

Milestone: First Smiles

They're big.  They're beautiful.  They're finally here!

Baby's first smiles:

This picture really doesn't do them justice.  But you know how hard it is to get a baby to smile at a boring, electronic devise.  I had to use a little bit of misdirection to catch even this shy beauty.  

He started busting them out just yesterday.  At least, those were the first real smiles that I saw.  Soren was raving about smiles on Saturday but I refuse to believe that Leif smiled first for Soren.  Soren does nothing for that baby!  I slave over him!  Sigh ... I guess babies have no concept of fairness.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

More than Just Making It

Goals for Soren:
* keep up with Ambleside Online reading schedule for homeschool
* finish the container story for main lessons before moving to Illinois
* learn to resolve disputes with Carl

Goals for Carl:
* no hitting or kicking other kids during Yard Time
* obey "The Lego Rules" during Quiet Time
* don't keep brothers awake when they want to sleep

Goals for Sven:
* no shrieking!
* Table Time at 8:30 am
* stay on the rug during Rug Time

Goals for Leif:
* be put down for naps awake
* eat no more frequently than every 3 hours at night
* be delightful

Goals for Carolyn:
* pray and read the scriptures in the morning
* eat breakfast and lunch
* drink water, not Coke

Goals for Mom:
* supervise Carl constantly and enforce rules of polite interaction with other kids
* don't say "I don't care" when Soren tattles
* stay awake when feeding/soothing Leif at night

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Surrounded by Love

One of my greatest worries about having four children was that I would not be able to welcome and love my new baby as well as I had the others.  Now that he is here, I feel that he is perhaps the most welcomed and best loved of all my sons.  More on that in a moment.

I struggled to bond with Leif in utero, in part because pregnancy was old hat to me and in part because life was busy with too many other things.  The new miracle growing inside of me was the most normal thing about my life.  There were a few good moments that helped me prepare mentally: doing guided meditations during Christmas vacation, my blessingway on January 6th, and a really good conversation I had with Scott about my hopes and worries.  But mostly, my mind was elsewhere.

And then there was the birth.  I should have known that it would be a totally unique experience and that it would prepare me for this totally unique child.

Needless to say, I'm crazy about the little guy.

Scott has also really taken to the baby with a tenderness that surprised me.  He confided in me that he worried about bonding with yet another son but that his worries were unfounded.  He didn't really say anything more than that but I can see the unspoken part in the way he talks to and holds our newest family member: he loved him from the start.  He can often be found on the couch, with little Leif snuggled in the crook of his arm, both of them calm and happy.  He is also the preferred soother; Leif would rather suck on Scott's finger than on my breast when he is upset!  (This is probably because he was born with a upper lip tie and found nursing to be stressful at the start.  Well, that and because Scott was always so quick to volunteer.)

But in addition to having two parents who adore him, Leif also has three brothers that dote on him as well.  Carl, especially, loves to spend time with Leif.  Whenever he has a spare moment, Carl asks to hold the baby.  And he will just sit and cuddle him without getting bored.  Sometimes he does "This Little Piggy" with the tiny baby toes.  Sometimes he lets Leif suck on his pinkie.  He keeps trying to find something that I will let him feed to the baby; perhaps he is disappointed that I am the only one capable of doing that?  He has also frequently requested that I teach him to change diapers because he wants so desperately to be involved in baby care.  He doesn't get how to fold the cloth yet but I'm sure he'll figure it out (and then decide that diapering isn't all it's cracked up to be.)

Sven is super cute with Leif.  At first, he was a little over-eager to point out his facial features.  ("That's a eye!")  But now, whenever he sees the baby, Sven will come and put a gentle hand on his head and ask in a quiet, sing-song voice, "How you doing, Leif?"  He also makes sure that Leif gets his blankie whenever he finds it lying around the house.  In the mornings, when he first wakes up, Sven comes to find Leif and I where we are nursing on the couch, then snuggles with us.  I worried that Sven would feel threatened by our new addition but he seems to have taken it in stride.  When he asks me to carry him and I tell him I can't because I am carrying Leif, he doesn't fuss but will just walk and hold my hand.  (This is in contrast to the way he behaves when I tell him I can't carry him because I am cooking dinner.  Then he has a little tizzy fit.)  Sometimes he even comments in his charming little voice, "Oh, Leif!"  But it sounds more like "Oh, Weef!"

And Soren.  He loves Leif in his own (less hands-on) way.  He tells everyone about his new baby and his Viking namesake.  He was happy to here that I intend for him to share a room with Leif in the new house.  Soren is also very willing to help by bringing things (like blankets, diapers, and clothes) and taking things (like soiled blankets, diapers, and clothes).  And sometimes, he even wants to hold him.

And so, I don't worry anymore that Leif will feel unloved.  He is surrounded by love.  Surely he can feel it.  There are five people in this house that love and care for him.  In addition, he has dozens of extended family members that rush to hold and ogle him whenever they get the chance.  And he even has a cat that tolerates him!  What baby could be more blessed?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sven Speaks

SVEN:  I want more water.

ME:  OK.  [I get him some water.] 

SVEN:  There.

ME:  The polite thing to say is "thank you".

SVEN:  You're welcome, Mommy.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Birth Announcement

Leif Solomon Duede
January 10, 2015 at 10:00 pm
6 pounds, 1 ounce and 19 inches

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Christmas 2014

This Christmas found me eight months pregnant and closing fast on my due date.  And with the break in normal activities afforded by our vacation in Illinois, I finally found time to prepare for my fourth son's impending birth.  It seemed like an appropriate focus for my own inner work during the season.  After all, Christmas is about the birth of a very special child.

In my pondering, Mary's story became a potent allegory for my own situation.  Although she was unique among women, we have much in common.  The baby she carried was the Son of God, Himself a diety, with a sacred mission to perform.  The baby I carry is also a son of God with divine potential, one who has also been sent to earth with a purpose.  Is it sacrilege to compare my experience with that of the virgin Mary?  To feel like the birth of my son will, in some lesser way, grant our family the gift of "god with us"?  

I am sure that, like me, Mary anticipated the good work her son would do as he grew.  She probably also dreaded the pains of life that he would suffer.  But unlike me, her joy and sorrow is shared with all creation.  The child she bore was the one and only Savior of mankind: the way, the truth, and the life.  God's great plan of happiness depended entirely upon the man her little baby would become.  His birth into this mortal life prepared the way for my birth into eternal life.  Mine and my sons'.

So there was a fulfilling parallel in my life to the holiday this year.  As we celebrated God's gift of His Only Begotten Son, I also anticipated God's gift of another son for me.  

Here are some of the things we did to commemorate the season:

1. We made the long car drive to Illinois to be with Scott's family.  Before going, Scot fasted and we both prayed that we would not have our baby while there.  Although I was feeling an affinity to Jesus's mother, I didn't want to give birth far from help and home.  

2. I made Christmas cookies to take with us on the trip.  Every time we had to get back in the car after a stop, I would give the kids a cookie.  I was hoping to create a positive association with getting back in the car and I think it worked.  However, it was also frequently very messy.

3. The Duedes bought and decorated an enormous and beautiful fir tree.  It was the first thing we saw when we came in the door to their house early morning on the 21st of December.  It was quite the upgrade from our pitiful 2 foot fiber optic tree (with busted fiber optics) which we had left at home on top of the piano.  The lights and the wonderful scent really put us in the Christmas spirit. 

4. The day that we got in was also the Winter Solstice.  Scott and I started some great traditions last year for the solstice but we didn't get to do any of them this year.  I did want to do something, though.  So we drove around in the dark night and looked at Christmas lights.  There was one really cool house that had a radio station timed to a light show on their front lawn.  

5. Being with family was really nice.  Scott's parents were excited to see the boys.  Audrey spent a lot of time reading with them and teaching the older ones to play Candy Crush and Snood.  The boys (especially Carl) really enjoyed their cousin Maddy, who is finally old enough to play with.  And everyone was glad to see Mother and Father Duede (along with their customary box of delicious goodies); they arrived on Christmas Eve and stayed for three days.

5. For FHE before Christmas, I showed the kids a video on youtube about birth.  I thought it might give them some context as they thought about the birth of the Savior as well as about the birth of their new brother.  This particular video was recommended to me by a friend who is also expecting.  Her kids, apparently, got really into it.  However, it didn't seem to make much of an impression on mine.  

6. Father Duede brought a gingerbread house kit for the great-grandkids.  Scott was the only one patient enough to assemble it (even I was too hasty) but once he was done, the kids enjoyed decorating it.  And then eating the decorations.

7. Christmas Eve, Scott read the Christmas story.  The boys got to hold pieces of Nan's teddy bear nativity and put them up on display when their piece entered the story.  Sven was frighteningly over-enthusiastic but all the pieces survived our reading.  

8.  Christmas morning was fun.  The tiny lego kits I put in Soren and Carl's stockings were a big hit.  There were probably half a dozen gifts per kid under the tree as well.  I was worried that there was nothing really exciting but the kids were plenty excited anyways.  Soren made a big deal about the book I got him (Our Island Story, something we've been reading on the kindle in homeschool).  Sven was thrilled about the stuffed elephant Nan had found.  And Carl liked best the money from Mother and Father Duede; he got on amazon right away and ordered a great big lego set that would arrive the day we got home.

9. The only Christmas cooking I did was to make my mom's cheesy potatoes to go with the delicious ham Father Duede brought.  I had intended to make our traditional Christmas Eve soup but we ordered pizza on Christmas Eve instead.  The ham and potatoes on Christmas Day, though, felt plenty festive.

10. After all the major festivities were over, I just enjoyed relaxing at the Duedes' home for a week.  I napped every day and did lots of guided meditation in preparation for my upcoming birthing.  Audrey pampered me with some great essential oil foot and leg rubs to help with my pregnancy-induced restless leg syndrome.  It was wonderful to take a break from my normally hectic life and turn my attention inward.

11. The boys started to get antsy the last couple of days of vacation; in the end we were all glad to get home.  We got back January 2nd and finished out Christmastide on our own terms.  For the last FHE of the season, we talked about the gifts of the magi and prepared our own gifts for Jesus by making goals for the new year.  Then, on epiphany, we had a king cake (mine didn't rise in time so I bought a round spice cake at the grocery store).  I pressed the plastic baby into the bottom for someone to find; it ended up in Soren's piece.  He got to be king for the day, much to Carl's chagrin.

12. We had left the presents from my parents at home rather than take them with us on our drive to Freeport.  So we opened those on Epiphany, too.  There were legos for Carl, a microscope for Soren, and Sven got his very own stuffed rabbit.  These gifts were all very enthusiastically received.  

13. In accordance with my own musings this season, Christmastide ended with a Blessingway for me, hosted by my friend Megan.  Several of my girl friends got together to lend me emotional support in preparation for the birth.  I felt very loved by and connected to these women.  My favorite part was the fear release, when each of us shared a fear then threw a pinch of herbs into a fire, symbolically letting them go.  My other favorite part was the Viking ribbon Megan made for me to remind me of the strength I would receive from friends on earth and ancestors in heaven.  The night of the Blessingway, my baby shifted from posterior to anterior position and Scott picked out a name for him.  Christmas is over and I feel ready for my own baby's birth.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Potty Training: One Month Out

I just wanted to make a quick update about potty training: we are still doing it!

I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle potty training on our long car trip to Illinois and during our stay with my in-laws.  But Sven obviously wanted to keep at it.  Even though I put him in a diaper for the trip, he kept it dry and used the big toilets at every rest stop we made.  I really wasn't expecting that but it gave me the confidence to keep working on it during our vacation.

He did have quite a few accidents while at me in-laws house, and he really has no idea how to take care of #2.  He also had a couple of days of telling me he wanted to pee every 5 minutes and then not actually needing to go.

So this is where things stand, now that we are home: If i take Sven to the bathroom every hour or so, he does a pretty good job staying dry.  He will usually have an accident a day, though, and he still needs to wear a diaper for naps.  I feel that I can trust him to stay dry in public, although he really struggles in nursery (probably because I'm not there).

I'm happy enough with where we are, although we will see how much regression we face in the coming weeks.  We do have a new baby coming ...