Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life with Four

By Kelly

"So how's it going with four?"

It's a question I get a lot these days, especially from people I know. (Strangers just stop and stare when I'm out with the whole family.) The question can be tinged with curiosity or fear or even incredulity that I survive daily life with four little people.

The answer, I'm happy to report, is that life is good. Four doesn't seem to be much different than three. The biggest adjustment has been introducing an infant into the mix again. Figuring out how to nurse a newborn while getting two children ready for school and keeping a toddler out of trouble – it's like Iron Chef: Mommy Edition. ("Today, the special ingredient is toddler drool! Go!")

My Mom, herself a mother of four, used to tell people that the biggest adjustment is going from two kids to three. "Once you are outnumbered, it doesn't matter anymore," I would hear her say. “After three, you could have ten without batting an eye.”

I have to say: I agree.

I'm sure you've seen the bumper stickers about going from man-to-man to zone defense when you have baby #3. And it's true. Two kids with two parents means most issues can be dealt with in a timely manner. Once the kids outnumber the parents, it's a whole new ballgame. (What do you call four on two? Or even four on one, for those times my husband is traveling? I think that's called a coup.)

That doesn't make it bad. It just means expectations might have to change. Chaos is now a reality. Order and definite naptimes are not.

But love and joy and the wonder of childhood will overflow like the Diaper Genie.

Life is a series of trade-offs.

So for me, four is good. Four is so very good.

How about you? When did you feel the biggest transition in your family – when you added that first baby, when you went from one to two, or when you shifted to zone defense?

Kelly writes about her life as a Mom of four at her personal blog Love Well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When Mom Gets Tired

By Kelly

Do you remember the post I wrote a few months ago about being tired?

It contained a priceless bit of wisdom from my Mom that says, in a nutshell, when our kids are acting out, consider first that their behavior may stem from the fact that they are tired.

Turns out, the same is true of Moms.

Lately, I feel thin. I feel worn, impatient, shallow, like I have no resources upon which to call. My well is dry. And it’s not just when my husband travels and I’m forced into single parenthood. It’s a weariness that has settled into my soul.

I pondered this last night, as I lay in my daughter’s bed. I was replaying the previous 90 minutes in my mind, and I was shamefaced at my hurried tone and impatient edge. “They are only kids, Kelly,” I chided my inner self. “Why are you so cranky lately?”

And then it hit me – I must be tired.

The recognition poured over me like a flood. The last 12 months have been exhausting. They involved (in no particular order) gestating a human, giving birth to a sweet baby boy, nursing said sweet baby boy, attempting to keep a toddler out of trouble (attempting being the key word), parenting a first grader and fourth grader who are at delightful and intensive stages, supporting my husband as he quit one job and started another (that may necessitate a move for our family next year), and OH YES, writing a blog.

I’m exhausted just writing that. No really. I am.

Plus, I realized this summer took more out of me than I first realized. Making sure the three older kids enjoyed the summer while I balanced the needs of a newborn – well, that was a tightrope walk, my friends. It took a lot of emotional, mental and physical energy.

I am tired.

So maybe I’ll cut myself some slack and go to bed early. I don’t like being tired.

Life is too short.

Kelly blogs at Love Well. When she's not too tired.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


By Kelly

Association is a powerful thing.

This time last September, I was eight weeks pregnant. And I was sick. Oh so very sick. I lived in a film of nausea. I functioned – as a Mom to three, I didn’t have a choice. But I was miserable every minute of every day.

Normally, I love fall. In the Upper Midwest, it’s a season of glory. The scarlet-hued trees, the clear blue skies, the crisp clean air. It’s perfection.

But this year, when the top of the maple trees started to burn with orange, I didn’t feel happy. I felt sick. And when the geese started to honk and fly overhead, I craved some toast. And the thought of spending another Saturday on the soccer field made me want to crawl into my bed and not come out until Christmas.

I assure you, I’m definitely not pregnant right now. What gives?


To this day, I get queasy when I hear the theme music for the Higglytown Heros, because clips of the show were peppered throughout the Playhouse Disney schedule in winter 2003, when I was pregnant with Connor (and toddler Natalie watched a lot of TV while I laid on the couch). I vividly remember the Thanksgiving Day when I found out I was pregnant with Natalie. I felt like I was living in a Tim Burton movie. Even during Teyla’s pregnancy, which was the easiest first trimester of the four, I was disgusted by the heady smell of the lilacs blooming around the house.

Thus, I know – this too shall pass. Next September, my gag reflex won’t be triggered by thoughts of bonfires and hot chocolate. I won’t feel the need to lie down when I see the leaves change.

The association doesn’t last long.


But this?

This lasts forever.

Which is why my strongest association with pregnancy is joy.

Kelly chronicled her final pregnancy here at 5 Minutes for Parenting. You can find her personal ramblings on her blog Love Well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breastfeeding 101

By Kelly

I was in the zone this morning.

Reading blogs and perusing my local newspaper online, I happened to look down at my four-month-old baby, happily nursing himself to sleep for his morning nap.

And I got such a big burst of joy, I thought my heart would explode.

I love breastfeeding. I love the closeness, the ease, the sweetness, the simplicity. It amazes me that my body can nourish my child. It makes me worship, to be honest.

But I’ll also be honest and say: It isn’t always this perfect.

Kieran is my fourth baby. I’ve nursed all of my children until they were at least one year old. The girls breastfed until they were almost two. (Which means I’ve been pregnant or nursing almost continuously since the year 2000. Good golly, Miss Molly. No wonder this body is tired.)

I feel like I’ve learned a lot along the way about breastfeeding. Permit me today to share a few of my hard-won lessons.

nursingphoto by Stephanie Precourt

Breastfeeding hurts at the beginning.

This is probably the most controversial point I have to make, because many lactation consultants insist breastfeeding should not hurt if it's done correctly.

I beg to differ.

Maybe it’s because my babies have vigorous sucking reflexes. Maybe it’s my genetic make-up. Maybe I’m just a freak. All I know is, the first few weeks of breastfeeding are about as painful as giving birth itself. This is due to the presence of large, open sores that develop about day three and don’t heal until about week three. I get these despite the baby having a perfect latch. (Trust me on this one. I had two lactation consultants and three nurses check Kieran’s latch in May before we left the hospital, and I still had scabs in places where the son don’t shine.)

My best tip for this is to get some gel pads from the hospital – the kind often used on burn victims. They are blissfully cool on traumatized, and they will help your skin heal without scabbing (much). Lanolin and expressed breastmilk are also wonderful healing agents.

It does get better.

If you can persevere through those first few weeks of torture, you will get a gold medal and a million dollars.

Well, not really. But it will get better. Your toes won’t curl each time the baby latches on, you won’t break out in a cold sweat for the first 90 seconds of each nursing session. Somewhere along the way, it will become natural and easy and ohmyword I really love this.

Watch for lumps that are tender to the touch.

This seems obvious, but the first few weeks and months of breastfeeding can be so hectic, I think it's good to state the obvious: If you feel a sore lump in one of your breasts, get thee to the shower and run some warm water on it while doing a gentle massage. And then nurse that baby as often as you can from the affected side.

The goal is to avoid the nemesis of breastfeeding mothers everywhere, the Mastitis Monster. I’ve had mastitis twice, and it is horrible. I shook so violently because of the fever, I was afraid newborn Teyla was going to have shaken baby syndrome. Twenty-four hours of antibiotics later, I was fine. But it was a miserable few days. Don’t mess around with a sore lump.

Letdown hurts.

At least for me.


Invest in a good nursing bra.

I wish someone had told me this years ago. I don’t normally spend a lot of money on underwear because, well, it’s underwear. But a nursing bra isn’t just underwear. It’s your companion, your advisor, your support. Wearing a bra that fits well and is easy to manage is a boon to you and your hungry baby.

Besides, you’re not really saving money if you have to buy six nursing bras over the course of a year because they are so cheap they trash easily. Trust me. I know.

Nursing pads can save you a lot of embarrassment.

Maybe it’s just because I have a bovine gene, but I do not leave the house without a nursing pad the first few months after having a baby. They are important if you want to avoid obvious golf-ball sized wet marks on your chest.

In fact, you might want to wear a pair of nursing pads anytime you’ll be away from your baby for a while. I will never forget a Sunday when my oldest was about 10 months old. We went to church and Sunday school and then my Mom’s for dinner in a whirlwind. It was a great lunch; a fellow teacher at the high school where I worked (a single male, it should be noted) was joining us that day, and he regaled us with stories for hours. It wasn’t until he got up to leave and I heard Natalie getting up from her nap that I realized the front of my (silk) shirt was dripping – literally – with milk.

I am Mommy. Hear me moo.

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it work.

I love breastfeeding. But I have many friends – many – who have tried and tried and sacrificed and prayed and tried to breastfeed their babies. And for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. Maybe their milk supply is too low. Maybe the baby is always fussy and takes forever to nurse. Maybe they get repeated infections.

Whatever it is, I get it. I know they’ve tried. It’s OK. I don’t want them to beat themselves up for making a decision that is best for them and their baby.

Yet they still feel judged and guilty because they didn’t breastfeed their children.

Here’s where I say: That is crazy. Yes, breast is best. But we need to give our fellow Moms some grace here, especially if nursing is (mostly) easy for us. We are not all the same. Show compassion. Extend grace.

Enjoy your baby.

These days of nursing are quickly over, even if you practice extended breastfeeding. Having to stop multiple times each day to nurse a little one can be frustrating or tedious or even boring.

But it isn’t, really. It’s a chance to snuggle and savor that tiny person who just entered your life, to look into their eyes and see eternity. It is special and oh so sweet. Savor every second that you can.

OK fellow breastfeeding Moms. Chime in. What breastfeeding lessons can you pass on? Here's your chance to share your wisdom.

Kelly blogs and nurses -- often, at the same time -- at Love Well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They Call Me Mommy -- Most Of The Time

By Kelly

I will never forget the first time it happened.

It was around 7:00 PM on a sunny summer evening. I asked Natalie, then two years old, to call her Daddy inside for dinner. She went to the window, looked out toward the lake and yelled, “Coh-ee! Dinner ready!”

It was as startling as it was funny. Up to that point, she had never called us anything but Mommy and Daddy. We didn’t even know she knew our real names.

But in hindsight, it made sense. Natalie had listened to us call each other Kelly and Corey. She called her baby brother Connor. Why not venture into the adult world of names and call Daddy what everyone else called him?

I was reminded of that episode last week when my current two-year-old, Teyla, started to issue requests to “Keddy.” I took me a few minutes to figure out what she was saying (I have an infant; that’s my excuse), but when I did, I laughed and said, “I’m not Kelly. I’m Mommy.”

“No,” she furrowed her tiny eyebrows at me, hands on her hips. “You Keddy.”

Since then, it’s become a daily routine. She calls me Mommy or Momma most of the time. Then, suddenly, she whips out the new skills and says, “I Te-ya. You Keddy.”

“Kelly is my name,” I counter, “but you call me Mommy.”

“No Mommy. Keddy.” She says firmly and walks away.

It’s an odd thing, now that I think about it. Only parents and grandparents are offered these tender titles that bespeak their life role. We don’t call our siblings Brother and Sister (unless we want to annoy them), and no one outside of rural Kentucky says Cousin John or Cousin Julie.

I don’t care if my kids occasionally call me Kelly (or Keddy), because I know it’s just their way of reaffirming their place in the world.

As long as they always go back to calling me Mommy. Because as much as I like the name Kelly, the title of Mommy is sweeter still.

Mommy, er, Kelly blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Civilize the Savages

By Kelly

My two-year-old was eating a bag of snack mix this morning, courtesy of her Daddy’s flight home from Chicago last night. At one point, I turned around and saw a small, wet pile of something on the floor.

“What is that Teyla?” I said, pointing to the quarter-sized mess.

“Gross!” she said, wrinkling her nose.

I guess she doesn’t appreciate honey sesame sticks.

But instead of politely spitting out "the gross" into a garbage can after it offended her taste buds, she spit it onto the carpet, as if she was a cowboy on the range.

Only this range has wall-to-wall carpeting, which now sports a brown stain of gross near my bed.

It was a reminder to me that parenting is many things – but one of its most basic tenants is to civilize the savages.

We teach our children to say  “Please” and “Thank you.” (And in some parts of the country “Yes Ma’am” and “No sir.”) We explain why we wash our hands before we eat, how to sneeze into a Kleenex or bent arm, why it’s not polite to keep slurping on a straw that is bereft of refreshment.

When our children are young, it’s one of the more tedious parts of parenting. “Say excuse me when you do that.” “Aren’t you forgetting the magic word?” “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you.”

But at the heart of it, we aren’t just teaching behavior. We’re teaching consideration.

Emily Post has said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

That is why I helped Teyla get a paper towel this morning and clean up the “gross” and then deposit it in the waste basket. Not just because I don’t want piles of half-eaten sesame sticks on my carpet. Because I want her to realize her own desires need to be seen in light of others.

And by the time I finished this article? She had sorted the sesame sticks from the snack mix bag and set the remainder in a gentle pile on my floor.

There. Much better. We're on our way.

Kelly's six-year-old son happened on the pile five minutes later and ate everything, right off the floor. We work on him next. Read about Kelly's continuing manner adventures at her personal blog, Love Well.