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The night before was a late one, up until 11 with a sick Wild Man. Then again from 2am-4am for the same reason.

And this morning, before my eyes have opened for the day my Quiet One is asking me what I want for breakfast then hanging a sign on my bedroom door instructing me NOT to come out, before relaying my requests to my Right Hand Gal. Half an hour later the Quiet One is back, hanging a new sign instructing me TO come out.

I walk into a dining room that has been adorned with streamers and a Happy Birthday sign, a balloon, 3 gifts and a plate of breakfast. All 4 of mine are sitting at the table, breakfast bowls in front of them, smiles on their faces, Happy Birthday on their lips. They talk excitedly, show me each of the decorations and gift bags and the balloon. We eat and chat and soon I realize that the Baby needs her diaper changed and that half of the cereal they have poured for themselves is scattered across the table and all over the dining room floor. Oh well.

We move to the living room where I change the Baby’s diaper and listen to the oldest 3 argue about who’s gift will be opened first and who’s gift will be opened last. I listen for awhile and sigh and debate how much to lecture on this morning and then we decide I will eeny meeny miny moe it and that takes care of that.

The gifts are precious and priceless and nearly bring tears. A movie from my oldest, chocolate from my wildest, money from his piggy bank from my quietest. The baby didn’t get me a gift but she did scribble a bit on a piece of paper that her sister then signed and wrapped to give to me.

We read library books on the couch. We make it through half a book, with Wild Man talking all the while and the Baby hamming it up in my lap. My Right Hand Gal reads the second half. We finish that one but decide to wait to start another.

A dance party follows, as well as a bit of fighting when Wild Man changes the song before my Quiet One is ready for the song to be changed. Our party breaks up and my Quiet One remarks, “That was a really short birthday…”

They run and chase and wrestle and holler while I get dressed and pour my coffee and try to read 1 page of the book I am in the middle of. But the volume continues to increase so I lay down my book, put my ice coffee in the fridge and tell them all it is time to go outside.

The older 2 ride bikes, the younger 2 ride in the stroller and I walk up and down our street, up and down, up and down. The Baby falls asleep. Wild Man whines. My audio book plays through its last chapter.

Under the carport where I can see her, the Baby sleeps as I make lunch and the older 3 play. But she doesn’t sleep long so her brothers entertain her while my Right Hand Gal helps me get lunch on the table. Veggie burgers and homemade hummus and carrots and green grapes. We chomp and chew, lunch is oh so good. We play lunch games (games with no pieces) and talk about the plan for the rest of our day.

Chores are tackled, another diaper changed, much more whining and many more tears come from the semi-sick Wild Man. Then it is rest time for all.

The older 2 take the youngest to “space” and close the door. I read to Wild Man, sing 9 songs, smother him in kisses, remind him to hug his mama, and hope, as I walk out the door, that it will be as easy as that. Today it is.

I sneak out to the backyard to complete my 100 burpees, ask my oldest to give me just 5 more minutes when she wanders outside, with the Baby on her hip, before I have gotten to 50, then head back inside, burpees accomplished, sweat pouring, legs and arms shaking.

I clean the kitchen, guide the older 2 through the last of their chores and take the Baby to her room to nurse and nap. She nurses. She does not nap.

We eat popcorn in space and watch Planes. The Baby plays on the floor. Wild Man sleeps. The clock hits 4. It is time to shower and shave and spend more than my usual minute on my appearance. Tonight is a birthday date with my hubby.

Wild Man wakes up. He and the Baby sit on the floor of the bathroom playing with cars and Legos. The Baby forgets I am there until she pulls up on the tub and peeks her head around the curtain. Then she is suddenly desperate for me to hold her. Wild Man has barely stopped fussing since the moment he woke up. I call for my older 2 and ask that they intervene. My oldest takes the Baby. My Quiet One tells Wild Man to come play in space. My girls stay quiet. My boys are fighting within minutes. Sigh…

I dress. Make-up and mousse and a bracelet. Sandals with a bit of a heel. The wild one keeps crying, nose running, hair as wild as he. The baby is tired. The older 2 help. I settle the Baby in her crib, close her door and my hubby is beside me. Relief.

“This day, babe. Oh this day! So sweet and so crazy.” I say. He asks me what I want to do. “Lay down.” I reply, as I finish getting ready to go.

His parents have come to take care of our 4, while my hubby takes care of me. Hugs and thank yous and the door closes, we drive away.

He surprises me with Fidos and my parents, my grandmother and my siblings. Gifts, flowers, a book and a photo album filled with old snapshots. All of my favorite things. We share a meal with my family for my birthday. The sweet tradition has carried on. Chicken and eggplant and sweet potato and spinach. Every bite is savored. So is the cinnamon latte that follows. The drive home is peaceful.

I come home to nurse the Baby to sleep. Read books to my Quiet One and listen to his thoughts. Right Hand Gal learns division with her daddy.

The house is quiet. All 4 of my babes are asleep. My hubby is near me.

Days are long and sweet. I am loved. Life is good.

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Just when I think I’ve got this whole motherhood thing figured out (which usually lasts about four point three seconds), one of my three throws another curve ball. This time it was my oldest.

For the majority of her seven years of life, my oldest has been my easiest- compliant, mature, helpful, gentle, trustworthy. She is big sister to two brothers (ages four and one) and exhibits first born qualities through out the day, every day. She is my helper, my sidekick, my shadow. So when, on a now forgotten date, some weeks ago, she began exhibiting behaviors I had never seen in her before, I quickly became more than a little perplexed.

Dark was her mood for many of those days, and not in the way of a young child, not in the way of her brothers when they pout or whine or lash out. This was different. This was new. -Honestly, she reminded me of my darkest days as a teenager, days when I was sullen and brooding and weepy with no idea why or what in the world to do about it. (“Can a seven year old be hormonal??” I kept thinking. “Surely not!”)- Many tears were shed over those few weeks (most of them hers, a couple mine), as I wondered what was happening to my girl and what was I, her mama, going to do about it? But it wasn’t until last week that I became alarmed when she not once, but twice within a few days time, was physically unkind to her brother.

Now I realize that in many households this is normal- siblings fight, siblings hit and push or worse- and would not necessarily be cause for alarm. But this has never been the case in our home. (ok, I take that back, my one year old hits when he is mad -or frustrated or whatever it is that one year olds get- and that was probably the case when my other two were that age as well.) But now, and for as long as I can remember, Meadow and Granite do not and have not been siblings that physically fight. So last week when one argument with Granite led to her angrily pushing him off the bed with her foot and another involved her hitting his leg in response to something he said, I knew something just wasn’t right. (Both times I happened to walk in the room right as she did it, allowing me to observe and understand in a way I could not have had I only learned about it through Granite telling on her. I think that was a God thing.)

So last Thursday night (after the morning that Meadow hit Granite’s leg, her second “offense”) we were in the car on the way home, Meadow and Granite bickering in the very back seat of the van, Chaz and I talking quietly in the front as I tried not to overreact to the bickering, and Canyon observing it all from his carseat in the middle, when I brought up the hitting incident and expressed my concerns about what was going on with Meadow. I had mentioned her behavior several times prior but not with as much emphasis or concern. “I don’t know what to do with her. I don’t understand where this behavior is coming from.” were some of my words to my husband. And it was right around that time that the bickering in the backseat escalated (once again, as had happened so many times that week, thanks to Meadow) to the point that Meadow was told by her father not to speak again until we got home (about five minutes away).

“You guys go on inside. I’m going to stay in the car and talk to Meadow.” were Chaz’s words to me as we pulled into our driveway. I gathered the boys and their bags, headed inside and began getting them both ready for bed, all the while thinking about my girl and wondering what was being said in the van sitting under our carport.

About fifteen minutes later father and daughter entered our back door and Meadow quickly, quietly headed to her room to get ready for bed, Granite following her close behind. I greeted them both from the couch then watched Meadow walk away, noting that I would talk with her after talking to my hubby. Standing, with Canyon on my hip, I asked my hubby how the talk went, what was said, what was her response to him. Almost immediately his eyes filled with tears. Alarmed and surprised I waited for him to speak. He recounted their conversation, speaking the words that brought his tears-

“A few minutes into the conversation it dawned on me to ask, ‘Has someone  been treating you that way?’ (referencing her hitting and pushing her brother), to which she immediately answered, ‘Yes, Amaya next door hits and pushes me sometimes and she yells at me.'”

At that point he paused, giving me a chance to gently ask, “Why the tears?”

“It’s just so pitiful. She’s never been treated that way by anyone. And you know it’s been on her mind by how quickly she answered me. Just picturing her dealing with that and thinking about that…” he kind of trailed off at that point, tears still filling his eyes.

We talked for a minute more before the older two ran back into the room, then decided to continue the conversation later, after all the loud short people were in bed. I hugged my husband fiercely, so very grateful for his care and concern for our daughter and our family, and kissed him goodbye as he headed back out the door to return to work for several more hours.

And for the rest of that night and for the past week since, Meadow has been back to her usual self- chipper, talkative, helpful, occasionally emotional, sometimes selfish, silly, gentle and kind. Her mood has been joyful, her aura light, her energy pure. Our home has returned to its usual state- quiet and peaceful, full of chatter and laughter, with a bit of arguing and bickering mixed in.

And all this week I have asked myself: How could one conversation with her daddy release my girl from the torment that was causing such ugly behavior, such emotion, such a dark mood for so much of those three weeks?

This is what I have come up with, these are the lessons I have learned (or relearned maybe?) from the kid next door:

1) Learn to ask good questions. I think sometimes our children/the people around us are hurting or thinking/feeling things that they need to express and just don’t know how to without a little prompting. Learn to ask good questions. And lots of them.

2) Don’t always take a child’s/person’s behavior at face value. Children/people are selfish creatures and much of their ugly behavior stems from this. But other times they are only reacting out of the hurt that they are experiencing or feeling. Don’t assume their bad behavior is just them being “bad”. It could be from them feeling hurt.

3) Don’t be naive and assume that the children your children are playing with are going to treat them with respect and kindness. Be observant. Be vigilant. Be appropriately protective, especially until your children are old enough to protect themselves.

4) And lastly: There is power in the spoken word. I have learned (relearned) this for myself recently as I have fought some ugly demons (another post for another time) and watched the stronghold that these demons have had on my heart loosen each time I confess/express/speak them to a friend or family member. I saw that same power the night Chaz talked with Meadow. So speak, my friends, speak! Find someone you trust, someone who loves you and speak your truth, speak your struggle, speak your demons. Find the faith, the humility, the guts, and speak! And if you have no one, no one in your life to listen with compassion, please, please message me. I know an incredible counselor and would love to pass along his number. I am also a willing listener myself. Speak what weighs on your heart and watch as the load begins to lighten.

I hurt when my children hurt. I so much want to protect them, protect myself, avoid any and all hurt as well as I possibly can. But I am also learning that life’s hurts usually lead to life’s greatest lessons. And that that is one small/huge piece in our story of redemption. So I  am also grateful. Grateful and learning and hurting and laughing. Thanks for reading, friends. Let me know if you need me.

Sincerely Yours,

~Echo~

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Knowing that the best way to get anything done around here is to do it with Meadow and Granite on my team, I sat them both down last week and pointed out that we really need to figure out a schedule that will help us do what we need to do each day. We talked about how life has been a little crazy since Canyon was born, how mama has been very tired and distracted, how the house has been pretty messy and the laundry stacked to the ceiling in the laundry room (I am barely exaggerating) and how a schedule could help get us back on track and make our needed tasks more manageable. So with a pen and paper in hand, I posed the question, “What should go on our schedule each day?” and then listened as they each gave me their suggestions, before adding my own ideas to the list. What ensued is a classic example of the contrast between my two oldest children, and so indicative of their personalities. There is never a dull moment in this house.

Now I just need to work on converting these lists into an actual schedule. In the meantime, I feel compelled to share…

 

As stated at our dining room table:

Meadow’s List:

school

straighten house

pump (Obviously, this one will be on mama’s schedule, not hers. But I love that she thought to list it!)

take care of Baby Canyon

spend time with our family

eat dinner/eat healthy

baths

exercise to make our bodies healthy

wash hands

compost

get dressed

 

Granite’s List:

pumpkin

king (He may not have completely understood the assignment…)

look at the stars until they are all gone

games

after drinks (???)

healthy

twinkle think…just like in Abby’s flying fairy school.

Me: Huh?

MG: It’s from Elmo.

Me: Oh.

G: I don’t like twinkle think.

MG: I do.

G: I don’t. Are we done?

Me: Can you think of anything else?

G: Done. Now let’s play the thankful game.

 

And added later (after playing the thankful game):

Mama’s List:

feed Canyon/change diaper/playtime/nap

make/serve/eat/clean up from breakfast, lunch, dinner

shower, get dressed and ready for the day

morning chores (unload dishwasher, start laundry, make beds)

activities with G while MG does school (games, books, learning activities)

afternoon chores (fold and put away laundry, clean kitchen, straighten house)

take walk

nap/rest/quiet time

playtime/outside time

bedtime routine (baths, pjs, brush teeth, read books, pray, sing songs)

blog/write

run/workout

read Bible

time with hubby (after munchkins are in bed)

 

I think between Meadow and I (and Granite??) we remembered everything that needs to be on our daily list. There will also be days of grocery shopping, errand running, doctor and dentist appointments, play dates, and random projects, but if we can make a flexible schedule for the above to stick to on “normal” days, I’m convinced that order will return and chaos will no longer reign.

Now if I could just get a good night’s sleep, the fog might clear and doing all of this might actually sound possible! 😉

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Ok, we’ll go with the good.

We had our follow-up visit with Jane last Thursday. Good news is Canyon is continuing to gain at a normal rate now (up to 10 lbs 4oz as of Thursday! woohoo!), I am continuing to produce more and more milk (and Jane says it is high calorie, high fat milk, so that’s amazing), and my sweet boy is happy to take a bottle when I offer him one.

Bad news is- my baby boy can’t nurse. Or more specifically can’t nurse productively. Which means that as of right now it looks like we will be pumping and bottle feeding for the long haul.

We spent an hour and a half with Jane this time. And though Canyon’s suck had improved slightly from the first time she observed him, it has not improved nearly as much as she was hoping/expecting. Still he cannot create a strong enough suction to ingest the volume that he needs.

So at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon Jane gave us our final instructions and sent us on our way.

Instruction #1) Keep pumping. Pump 8 times a day until you are producing at least 24oz in 24 hours. At that point you’d be safe dropping to 6-7 times.

#2) Nurse. Nurse as long and as often as you like. Nurse for comfort. Nurse for connection. But follow with a bottle for nutrition.

#3) Continue his suck strengthening exercises at least 3 times a day and any time he nurses or takes a bottle.

#4) Consult with his pediatrician about seeing an Ear Nose and Throat specialist at Vanderbilt. (Unfortunately, Jane suspects that there may be a bigger issue than what she is able to diagnose and treat, that may be preventing him from sucking properly- an issue that could continue to affect him beyond just his nursing abilities.)

So I have been experiencing a gamut of emotions since Thursday’s conclusion.

On the one hand, I have so much to be thankful for. My boy is happy as a clam, sleeping like a champ (well, for a seven week old. don’t get too jealous), and he is growing and healthy and full of huge smiles for his mama. My body is able to produce the milk that he needs and he is happy to take that from a bottle. We have the means and the resources needed to diagnose our problem and search for/find our solution. And we are surrounded by an incredible support group of friends and family who have blessed us immeasurably since Canyon was born, making this crazy journey so much more manageable than it would be otherwise. And there is still hope that continuing to follow Jane’s advice as well as consulting with an ENT doctor could have my boy nursing properly at some point in the future.

But I am also so disappointed. Disappointed that Canyon and I are not able to share the sweet simplicity of a successful nursing relationship.

And overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because how do I keep doing all that I need to do on such precious little sleep and while hurting, still, every single day?

And jealous. Jealous of the women who’s pregnancy/birth/infancy stories sound so much easier and less complicated than mine.

And ashamed. Ashamed of feeling all of this in the first place. Ashamed of how much I am struggling when I am so very blessed. Ashamed at how much I suck at the whole pregnancy/birth/infancy phase of life.

And then I remember my friend Jennifer who lost her baby girl just 3 weeks after I got to bring my baby home. And I think that I really don’t have anything to complain about at all.

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So, long story short: Two weeks ago I visited A Mother’s Place with my youngest because he still (as of a 4 week old check-up) had not regained to his birth weight. While we were there we discovered that he has mouth issues that were causing milk supply issues, that were in turn causing weight gaining issues. My poor boy was hungry and I didn’t even know it! 😦

We spent 3 hours with Jane and came home overwhelmed (well I was, he probably wasn’t) but with a plan. This has become our routine since then:

5ish: nurse, both of us back to sleep

8ish: nurse, give 2oz bottle of my pumped milk, change diaper, “play”, nap (him, not me), take herbs and vitamins (me, not him), eat breakfast with older two, drink 20oz water, pump

11ish: nurse, give 2oz bottle, change diaper, “play”, nap (again him, not me), take herbs and vitamins, eat lunch with older two, drink 20oz water, pump

2ish: nurse, give 2oz bottle, change diaper, “play”, nap (him, and if I’m lucky, me)

5ish: nurse, give 2oz bottle, change diaper, “play”, nap (just him this time), take herbs and vitamins, eat dinner with older two and hubby, drink 20oz water, pump

8ish: nurse, give 2oz bottle, change diaper, “play”, in bed (just him, not me yet), take herbs, eat snack, drink 20oz water, pump

11ish: give 2-3oz bottle, in bed (us both this time. yay!)

Some days it seems to take all day just to do the things on this list. Other days I might fit in about 10 % of what’s on my other “to do” list like laundry, dishes, school with Meadow, making dinner, reminding Granite not to whine, errands, baths (or hygiene in general for that matter), answering the phone, replying to texts, etc., etc., etc……

Yes, I am overwhelmed. Yes, I am doing my best to extend grace to myself every day, sometimes many, many times a day. Yes, I am ready for a good night’s sleep, a day without physical pain/discomfort, enough strength and healing to be able to run and hike and workout and wrestle with my kids and make love with my husband. Yes, I am ready for “normal”.

But I am also savoring this short time I have to cuddle my youngest before he is too busy to be cuddled, to kiss his bald head before it is covered with hair, to enjoy his huge smiles while that is his only means of communicating how much he loves his mama, and to nurse my sweet baby while that is still his favorite way to be comforted.

Every day is a challenge for me right now. But it is also a miracle. And for that I am so very, very grateful.

His and Yours,

~Echo~

P.S. Canyon gained 1/2 a pound after one week of our new plan. His pediatrician said that is perfect, that was what she was hoping for. Thank you, Lord! And thank you friends and family for your prayers.

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Canyon and mamaHe is here, he is home, he is healthy. Thank you, God! And he is already one month old today. How can that be?? It has been a month of change and adjustment and emotion but my baby is here and I am grateful for his life every single day.

Our second son, Canyon Boaz Vetter, entered this world 5 days past his due date and after 15 hours of labor at 2:37pm on September 21st, weighing 9lbs 9oz and measuring 21 1/2 inches long. He joined 6 1/2 year old big sister Meadow Grace and 3 1/2 year old big brother Granite Isaiah and so far both have shown nothing but complete adoration for their baby brother. My mom told me that it is with baby #3 that you learn to really stop and savor the sweetness of those early moments. And she was right.

I have many stories I would like to tell (as much because I don’t want to forget them as anything) including a few from my pregnancy (still need to finish my 300 series, among others…), Canyon’s birth story, what I experienced while he was in the NICU and some of my thoughts and emotions and experiences from this past month of being a new mama of 3. But seeing as I have barely figured out how to even get all 4 of us dressed each day…well, you get the picture. 😉

Stay tuned, my friends. I do hope you will hear from me again soon!

His and Yours, ~Echo~

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Today I am glad that I…

got out of of bed at 6:15 a.m.

worked out with my Hubby.

texted with a close friend about how both of our days were going.

read a few chapters from James and 1st Peter in “The Message”.

got to hear Granite talk. (His vocabulary amazes me! So exciting.)

worked on a dinner calendar and sign up list for a friend who just had a baby.

read books to Meadow.

cleaned my kitchen.

ate a fairly healthy, balanced diet (no sweets today!) and drank lotsa water.

got to talk to my sweet Hubby who provides for our family so that I can stay home with our children.

played games with Meadow.

spent a few minutes working on my “Happiness Journal”.

 

And I am not so glad that I…

cannot escape this cold, dreary, awful weather.

got frustrated with Granite for fussing sooo much!

did not finish the laundry. Again. Sigh.

told Meadow “just five more minutes and I can play with you” about sixteen times in a row (probably fifteen times too many).

felt overwhelmed in the moments when two or three people were talking to me at the same time, needing my attention and/or my help.

spent too much time on Facebook. (Anyone else need to join Facebookaholics anonymous?)

had to listen to my son cry as I left his room at bedtime.

spent a little too much time in my head. I gotta get out of there more.

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