Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflection of 2014

I think it is safe to say that upon reflecting our year in 2014, it has been a really big year for us, and 2014 will be bookmarked as one of the best years for Russ Family. It has been a whirlwind ride consisting of so many life-changing events. 2015 might pale in comparison to this year, but we will see what 2015 will bring for us, right? 

For the first two months in 2014, we dealt with a lot of polar vortexes, and we were getting sick of winter. January-February, and sometime March tend to drag on, and make Wisconsin winters seem so, so long. We kept ourselves occupied by visiting our friends, family, and supporting Stu through his graduate school semester. 

March rolled around with no sight of spring coming anytime soon. Ordinarily, this would have put us in the doldrums, or a cabin fever, pining for spring weather to arrive already. However, in early March, I had gotten a very exciting news, and it was going to change our family dynamics once again. 

I had just learned that I was pregnant with Frankie! Thrilled, I informed Stu that we were going to be parents once again, and that Frankie was estimated to be due in late November. It was a blessing to get pregnant when we did, because of the craziness that ensured shortly after. If we had gotten pregnant earlier, then it would have thrown a wrench in the chaos, and made it even crazier. So, it was truly a perfect timing that we got pregnant when we did.

In may, Stu graduated from Marian College with an administration degree. He had been looking for a job for awhile, even before he graduated, and landed a few job interviews. While the interviews went very well, and Stu felt confident with his interviews; he often came in as a second choice, and did not get a job with the places he had his interviews at. I was pretty sure that we were going to stay another year in Ripon, which I had not minded, because I loved living in Ripon. However, at the same time, I understood that we really need a new opportunity to support our growing family, and for Stu to climb up the ladder in his career. Then Stu had informed me that he had a job interview with Shawano High School. I was excited about this possibility, because it meant moving closer to Green Bay.

While Stu was in graduate school, we talked about what we had hoped to see happen from Stu's job search. It was our ideal plan in a perfect world scenario to move back to Green Bay. We had a lot of friends in the area, and my OB-GYN doctor was located there. I wanted to give birth at the same hospital where Forrest was born, and had hoped for a natural birth. If we moved closer to Green Bay, then my hope to have a natural birth was more likely going to happen.

At the same time, we also liked the idea of staying in Ripon area, and to raise our kids there. Ripon was our second choice after Green Bay area. Even though we wanted to return to Green Bay, the idea of leaving Ripon was also really sad, because I had come to really love the place. After all, it was where Stu, and I met, and fell in love. That place had a lot of special meaning for us.

In early June, while we were waiting on the word from Stu's job interview with Shawano High School; Stu, and I left Forrest, for the first time since he was born, for a long weekend to attend one of my best friends' wedding, and it was a wonderful time! My favorite part of their wedding was when Monis sang a beautiful song to Teri. Tears were definitely shed at this amazing heartfelt surprise he did for Teri during the vows. I was able to catch up with our "Three Musketeers" best friends, spend time with them, and enjoy our friendships for old time sake. It was a beautiful wedding, and I felt honored to stand up for Teri, and Monis. And the best part was that, later in the year in the fall, I learned that Monis, and Teri were expecting their first baby (and I'm guessing the baby is a girl)!

In late June, we got the news we were waiting for! Stu got a job through Shawano High school! We were thrilled! On the other hand, I was a bit daunted by the idea of moving, because as much as I hate to admit this, I was slow to accept new changes. We also learned that Stu was starting his new job on July 1st, and we just found out that he got the job a week before! Fortunately, Spencer, and Wally (Stu's brother, and fiancee) lived in the same town, so Stu was able to crash with them until we found a place to move in. It meant our summer was going to be a bit hectic with packing, commuting, and finding a new house to move in.

Stu came home to us on Friday afternoon/evening, and stayed with us until Sunday evening. Before Stu left every Sunday evening, he always made sure he helped me out by bathing Forrest, and putting him down to bed. He wanted to make it easier for me, and to savor every moment with Forrest. During the week, I had to be a single mama to a very active toddler. I definitely gained a lot of respect for single parents after this experience (not that I never had any before--it was just that I had no idea until then how hard it was to be a single parent).

It was equally hard on both Stu, and I. For Stu, commuting, living away from his family, sleeping on his brother's sofa in the living room, and finding a perfect house for us placed a lot of stress on Stu's shoulders. For me, a lot of packing, cleaning, and tending to Forrest while pregnant was difficult. I did not sleep well at night without Stu with us at home. Thankfully, my mom stepped in as much as she could to help with packing, and kept us a company. For that, I was grateful to her.

Forrest also went through a change over the summer. I had hoped to start weaning Forrest off his Nuk after we had moved into a new house. However, Forrest started chewing through his Nuk pacifiers. I made a bold decision not to purchase any new Nuk. Once Forrest chewed through his last Nuk, then he was done. I figured it was not going to happen after we moved. How wrong was I! One night, I discovered that Forrest did chew through his last Nuk. Frozen in the indecisiveness, I debated running to Walgreen's, and decided against it. I told Forrest that he was becoming to be a big boy, and no longer needed his pacifier. I prepared for a long night ahead of me. To my great surprise, after 2 hours of fussing, Forrest fell asleep, and slept through the night with no problem! The next day, Forrest inquired for his Nuk at his nap, and I gave him an answer that he was not getting one. He napped just fine. That night, he did not even bother asking for his Nuk! Mission accomplished for this such a big boy!

We continued to look for rental homes. It was becoming more stressful, because every house we looked at, there was something wrong with the house, the rent was too high for a shoddy place, the size was not right for our growing family, and there was always something that we did not like. It was when we decided to look into buying a home. We spent about 2 weeks looking at homes, and did find one potential home that we liked. However, we got cold feet, and did not quite want to make a huge commitment. Our reasoning was that we did not know the area very well, and we were not sure how long we planned on living in Shawano. We did not have a long-term plan, and retracted our decision to purchase a home. We were back to square one. The deadline loomed over our heads. We had to be out of our old home by August, and Stu wanted us to be settled in before school year began.

In the midst of house search, and packing; we took a hiatus from both for a long week to attend my brother, Alex's, and his wife, Alex's wedding. Yes, my brother, and his wife shared the same first name! I had a wonderful time, and it was a beautiful wedding. I loved the food, music, and company. The decor was beautiful. It was also bittersweet to see my first brother to get married, because I had a lot of nogalistic memories from our childhoods. Nonetheless, I had a blast spending time with my brothers, and sister, along with the rest of family. On the same weekend, I also helped Sam, who was a maid of honor for my sister, to host a bridal shower for Lauren! She got a lot of lovely things, and was showered with a lot of love by everybody who attended her shower.

By early August, we still had not found a house to move in, and the crunch time was on. However, first, it was time to participate in Lauren's, and Joey's wedding! It was a beautiful late summer wedding, and as tired as I was, I had a great time dancing, and eating. Lauren and Joey had their wedding at a rustic center with old building in middle of a beautiful garden. It was just a perfect fit for them to have a cozy, almost fairy-like wedding. We really enjoyed ourselves, even though Forrest was not wild about his duty as a ring-bearer!

Then, Stu found a house for us, and asked me to join him to see the place. The house did not have much to look at on the outside, and I was a bit apprehensive with what I was going to find inside. To my great surprise, I immediately fell in love with our home as we walked through the home. It taught me not to judge anything by its cover!

We met with our landlords. Initially, they were trying to sell their home, and the market was not doing so well. They were suggested by a Realtor to rent, but our landlords didn't quite want to make a plunge, due to horror stories with awful tenants not taking care of the home. At our meeting, we all clicked so well. Our landlords felt so comfortable with renting the house to us, and even informed us that if we decided down the road, then they were willing to sell the house to us! We sat down, and agreed on a date for us to move in, and start paying monthly rent. It meant a crunch time for me to get our house in Ripon cleaned up, and our things to be packed up to go! We were also relieved, because we had to be out of our old house by end of August for the new tenants to move in. Whew! It was when I got a lot of kindness in return from strangers, and friends to get boxes for our things to be packed up in.

Not even two weeks later; it was time to move into our new house, and unpack everything. It was a lot of work. Our family came together to help us move in, which was pretty awesome, and Forrest had a blast playing with his cousins. We worried a bit that Forrest might regress a bit with being in a new house. Fortunately, we only had one tough night with Forrest not wanting to sleep in his new bedroom, and after that, he took to the new environment with no problem! On the other hand, our pets; they took a while to adjust, and become comfortable with our new home.

In early September while the weather was still warm, and nice, we celebrated a birthday party for Forrest's 2nd birthday bash! I tried my hand at making an Elmo cake, and it turned out better than I thought it would. Forrest liked the taste of the cake more than the appearance of the cake itself, ha. We found a really nice pumpkin patch that sold pumpkins for good price! I was able to gather eight little pumpkins to be pureed, and made into pies, or any recipes that called for pumpkin puree!

Forrest also had his allergy tests done with Dr. Warpinski to find the numbers for his allergies to both dairy, and peanuts. We learned that Forrest had outgrown several of very mild allergies, which was great, and made us happy! We were explained by Dr. W that the milk allergy may be outgrown by the time Forrest started elementary school, which was the best case scenario, and the worst case scenario was Forrest not outgrowing his dairy allergy. The number for peanut allergy came back quite high, which was not surprising at all, and it was something that we already prepared for. I felt better knowing how severe his allergies were. We made an appointment for the following year to retest Forrest for tree nuts, and milk allergies.

October rolled around. With the weather finally becoming cooler, we harvested our tomatoes, and we got about good twenty pounds of tomatoes out of our garden! Matter of fact, we had so much that we had to give a lot away to our neighbors, family, and friends. Dad taught me how to juice tomatoes, and gave me an awesome starter kit for canning for the next summer. I was so thrilled to receive this amazing gift, and knew it was going to be put to a good use in 2015!

Stu, and I celebrated our 10th anniversary as a couple! We went out for our traditional date at Red Lobster for pre-baby celebration. With my pregnancy, I had a lot of craving for sea food, and I was quite glad to be able to enjoy a feast of seafood. Nom Nom.

Stu, Forrest, and I dressed up for Halloween. We had a great time passing out safe candies along with non-treats to the trick-n-treaters. Our outfits were such a hit, especiallly the duo costume that Stu, and Forrest wore (Trailer Park Boys; Bubbles, and Corky). Forrest enjoyed seeing all kids dressed up, and often wanted to help pass out the treats. We were asked by few people about Teal Project (allergy free treats). It was so successful that I decided to maintain Teal Project for Halloweens yet to come! 

Finally, Jellybean's birth date month arrived! Since we kept our baby's gender a surprise from everybody else, including ourselves; I dubbed the baby as Jellybean, because we announced our pregnancy around Easter. The nickname stuck ever since.

I had spent the last two months trying to turn Jellybean into a correct position for giving birth, because he was a breech baby, and I tried variety of methods. I stressed a lot, because my platelet level was erratic. It went to being really low, to being normal, then back to low. I held hope to have a natural birth, and tried to accept that it may not be in the cards for us. We had a few ultrasounds to determine the position of where Jellybean was in, and to check on the fluid level. Finally, we were given a green light in mid-November to have a natural birth! I was ecstatic! Suddenly, we were hit by an AWFUL stomach virus, and it was not fun at all. As result after we recovered from it, I got a burst of crazy energy to clean, clean, and clean. People told me that it meant Jellybean was going to be born soon. I shrugged it off, because I was so convinced I was having a December baby based on the fact that Forrest didn't come early when I was pregnant with him. I figured Jellybean was not going to be early, or on time either.

On one snowy evening, about a week early, Jellybean decided it was time to come into the world, and I had a natural birth that I wanted. As soon as Jellybean was delivered, we saw that he was a boy, and Frankie was born on the 24th at 10:25 pm! We became a family of four that night. In the coming weeks, we adjusted to a new family dynamics, and Forrest loved his new role as a big brother. Forrest had his crib converted into a toddler bed, and did so amazing. It was clear that he was more than ready for this change. We also purchased him a chair booster, and had him hand down his space saver high chair for Frankie to have. Forrest loved being a big boy, and a big brother to Frankie.

While we were not quite complete as a family, we were very content with being a family of four for the time being, and started to enjoy being parents of two boys.

Overall, it has been a really exciting, and big year. I am not sure how 2015 will top 2014, and I have a feeling that 2015 may be a bit slow compared to this year. However, it is okay, because I think we need a break from chaos to enjoy we reaped from 2014. I look forward to watching Frankie grow by doing monthly post updates on him, to get Forrest ready for potty training so he can get enrolled in 3K in the fall if we decide to do that, work on becoming healthier, start saving up for a van (yep, it's that time), start saving up for a house (maybe this one we are living in, we shall see, won't we), introducing new ideas for my blog (thinking about bringing back 7 on 7 photos for every month), and creating new memories in 2015!

Have a very safe New Year's Celebration tonight, and a happy 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FDR is 1 Month Old!

Dear Frankie,

You are a MONTH old today. A lot has happened in a month. It is hard to believe that you came into the world just a few weeks ago. Mama has discovered that, like with Forrest, it is an odd combination of joy, and sadness that you are growing so fast already.

You have been steadily gaining weight. At birth, you weighed 7 pounds even, and went down to 6 pounds, and 9 ounces. Nursing was a struggle for both of us in the beginning. Fortunately, it was not Mama's first rodeo with nursing, and she was as determined with you as she was with Forrest to make it work. Mama met with a wonderful lactation specialist, and gained tips how to keep you awake, to stay latched on, and to encourage you to eat. With many thanks to Pam, Mama was able to make it work with you, and you gained weight like a champ. You went up to 6 pounds, and 13 ounces!

You are definitely littler than Forrest as a newborn. Matter of fact, you are taking on after Mama for skin tone color, hair color, and size. However, Mama, and Daddy have noticed that you have inherited Daddy's long fingers, leggy legs, and possibly eye color! Your true eye color will be permanent when you are a bit older, seeing that many newborns are born with blue eyes, unless if they are already born with brown eyes. Then babies with brown eyes already have permanent eye color. It is what happened with Forrest.

At your 2 weeks check up, you had returned to your birth weight, and went up to 7 pounds, and 2 ounces. According to WHO chart, that put you in 9 percent of your peers, which meant you were pretty a small guy, and had a bit of growing to do yet! Your height put you in slightly bigger than average. Like Forrest, you were pretty tall for a newborn, measuring at 20 and half inches for 2 weeks old baby. Your head was measured to be at 35 CM, and that put you in 23% of your peer. Because of that, you were considered to be a petite guy.

Due to you being a breech from week 18 to week 37, just 2 weeks before you were born, an ultrasound was ordered for your 6 weeks wellness check to observe your hips, and to to rule out hip dysplasia. Dr. Karbon felt that your hips was in a good shape based off your physical exam, however, she wanted to be through with an ultrasound. Your left foot had finally relaxed, yet your right foot had not relaxed. As result, your foot also needed to be looked at by an orthopedic specialist to determine what has to be done.

Aside from this, you were given a clean bill of good health!

Oddly enough, Mama is not feeling sleep deprived with you as she did with Forrest. You are a wonderful sleeper, and gets up between 3 to 4 times in the night to nurse. It allows Mama to sleep longer stretches between the nursing sessions. You love to sleep quite a lot. Just like in the womb, you are most awake in the late evenings, and stay awake for 2-3 hours at time. You are not easily affected by coffee, which makes Mama very happy, because drinking coffee is what helps her get through days, especially the tough ones. However, you are sensitive to certain food in the breast milk. Both spicy, and high acidity in food causes you to projectile vomit. To avoid that from happening, Mama has drastically reduced both in her diet, and it appears to have helped you to keep milk inside your belly.

You've recently developed a baby acne. It is quite normal for some babies to have acne. The cause is usually the estrogen hormone found in the mother's breast milk. The acne should vanish by the third month.

You have an amazing head control right from birth. You are able to hold up your head for a few seconds time. It is quite amazing. With your doctor's permission, you have already been doing brief stints of supervised tummy time. Turkey enjoys watching you lay on your belly, and lays down nose to nose with you. She watches you quite diligently.

Forrest is enjoying you as his little brother. Forrest has been adjusting so well to having you in home. He has his moments of being a toddler, which is challenging, and testing boundaries, more rather than being envious of you. The only time Forrest has expressed his envy of you is when you are busy nursing, and Mama has to divide her attention from him to you. He dotes on you so much by kissing your head, and petting your silky hair. He claps his hands in excitement when he realizes that he is doing something wonderful with you. He has taken you out of your bassinet twice, much to Mama, and Daddy's dismay, and tries to so hard to be like them to carry you! Fortunately, you have not been harmed during the process. Thank goodness that babies are pretty resilient! Nonetheless, Mama, and Daddy have been reminding Forrest that he has to wait for either one of them for him to hold you.

More often than not, he is pretty content to sit next to Mama, and you while you are nursing. Once in while, Forrest likes to give his baby doll to Mama to be fed while you are nursing, and announces this: "baby eat, baby eat".

Mama, and Daddy are quite excited to watch you grow, develop a bond with Forrest, and become your own person.

We absolutely love you, little guy.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Two Weeks

Patooties Photography
 (the picture has been already copyrighted with the logo in upper right corner) 

Today marks two weeks since Frankie came into the world to be with us. I am still processing the fact that Frankie is already here! The weeks have gone by like a blur. I remember when Forrest first came home with us, the first  3 to 4 months of his life is just a blur, and I only remember the "snap shot" moments of that time period. I am sure it is what probably happens when I try look back at this time with Frankie as a newborn, and raising both of our young boys.

For my whole pregnancy, I worried that Forrest would end up struggling with accepting his new role as a big brother, because he was very adamant that he was the baby while Frankie was a "pig". Yes, Frankie was a pig for a longest time. Hey, it was how Forrest related to my strange growing bump, and us being in the dark about Frankie's gender probably made it a bit harder for Forrest to relate as well.

On the night when Frankie was born, I struggled with the idea of losing Forrest as my only baby, and it was hard on me emotionally. The guilt ate at me, Oh my gosh, I am doing this poor kid a disservice! The sadness enveloped me, Forrest isn't going to be my only baby anymore. Denial played a part in this as well, I don't think Jellybean will be here until early December, and this is probably a false labor...after all, I have no idea what natural labor feels like, and I feel pretty good. So this can't be labor. A fear gripped at me, I really want Jellybean, but am I ready to be a mom of two, and what have I gotten myself into?! I had a bit of worry if I would love Frankie as much as I love Forrest. 

I did cry on the way to the hospital. It was such a life-changing experience, and I was not the one to adapt so quickly to new things. Looking back, if I had only known, then I would have told myself not to worry so much. It really did work out for the best. Forrest did not feel singled out. He did not feel rejected. My relationship with Forrest did not change. Stu, and Forrest bonded more, which made Stu happy, and it made me happy to see their rapport become deeper. Forrest spent the whole time doting on Frankie. He took every chance to kiss Frankie, and to pet Frankie's head. Forrest liked letting me know when Frankie was making noise.

We did have some bumps with Forrest adjusting to our new roles in the home. It was more of a typical toddler thing, than it was about having a new sibling in the home. Forrest doesn't like time outs in his corner, and is learning how to apologize when he is in wrong. It is a bit of a learning curve. However, in a long run, it will pay off for Forrest.

Matter of fact, I felt that Forrest liked the fact that he was getting to be a big boy. Forrest had recently transitioned from his crib to a toddler bed! It was time. Forrest had no problem taking to his toddler bed, and loved having his new found freedom reign around the bedroom during his nap time. We also had Forrest pass down his high chair space saver down to Frankie, and received a big boy booster chair for the dining table! Forrest still needed a bit of growing up to go yet to be able to meet the table level at his chest. It did not seem to bother him though!

The next step was to transition Forrest out of diapers into big boy underwear after Christmas, most likely around New Year's. I figured that it would be a good idea to start encouraging Forrest to start using potty, and go from there, rather than pushing him into being toilet trained. Ideally, it would have been great if we could get Forrest potty trained by summer of '15 just a bit before his third birthday. Ugh, I don't want to think about Forrest turning 3 just quite yet. Anyway, it would be great if we can have Forrest out of diapers, especially with his eczema flaring up so bad from his skin not breathing well through diapers, and have his skin issues managed better by using underwear instead.

Forrest is loving the fact that he is no longer a "baby", and is a big boy now. We reinforce constantly with him that he is doing so great as a big boy.

Frankie has been such an easy baby. He is so different than Forrest from when Forrest was a newborn. I can't help but constantly compare their experiences, and I have to remind myself that they are two different beings. While I do not expect them to be exactly carbon copy of each other, I still kind of expect to have similar experiences between those two.

I am rather surprised at how well I've been recovering physically from giving birth to Frankie. Within hours of giving birth, I am able to get up, and walk around with no problem. It is even better with postpartum bleeding this time around, despite one scary large sized clot (it is ONE of things that people DON'T TALK about postpartum recovery, and I wish they had so I would have been prepared about it instead of freaking out thinking I was dying), and the tear is healing up just fine. I won't be surprised if I get a clean bill of health from Dr. Mbah today.

I've been losing my pregnancy weight without much qualms, thanks to nursing. I still do not fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans, thanks to my hips, but that is okay! I will take Frankie over fitting into my jeans. I do see that I have to do a bit of work to tone up in order to get back in the shape this time around, however, I don't feel a pressing need to do it immediately. After all, my boys' needs come first, and I want to give myself time to bounce back without it impacting my milk supply. I will probably start focusing on my health, and toning up in the spring rather than now when my boys are still really small.

Hormonally, it is tougher this time around with Frankie than it is with Forrest. I do find myself getting overwhelmed by my anxiety. I have cried far more often than I care to let on. I am lucky to have such a supportive husband to quickly give me chocolate, word of support, a hug, and a kiss as needed. Stu has been taking care of Forrest while I focus on Frankie. He is very willing to take off from work as needed to help if I need it. Also, I find it very helpful to avoid people that are less than healthy to deal with. I have left several mommy groups on Facebook, reduced my time with toxic people, and surrounded myself around positive people. Also, being in cue with my body, and my emotions have helped. For instance, I often find that I am weepy when I am most tired, and I just end up going to bed early as soon as Frankie is down for bed.

Instead of getting very emotional about it, or rather after being emotional about a matter, I find humor in it, and laugh. Matter of fact, the other day, unrelated to going out with two boys, I forgot my poor hound dog outside for two hours in the cold!! Oh, I felt HORRIBLE for forgetting the poor thing in the cold, and definitely cried about it. However, I did find humor in it, and ended up laughing about it (after spoiling Turkey with bacon strips, and a very warm electric blanket for her to lay on--which I think she really did not mind about)!! Fortunately, Turkey has forgiven me as well.

Aside from being a hormonal mess once in every while, I am more relaxed with motherhood this time around, and I find that Frankie has brought a lot of harmony into my sense of being. With just Forrest, it is easier to micromanage everything, because he is the only child. With two kids, I can't do that. I don't have time for that! I have to trust that everything will be okay, and it usually does turn out just fine. I don't check on Forrest as frequently when he is sleeping, or follow up on him to make sure Stu took care of everything for him, and I most certainly don't constantly check on Frankie to make sure he is breathing. I trust my instinct, and listen to myself when I think something is up.

In home, things are adjusting wonderfully, and I am able to get my routine down in the morning without feeling like I have no handle on things. It's easy with two kids, and Stu getting ready for work. Going out, however, is a whole other ball game. The last two outings have been dismal, and chaotic. Not good at all. Not because my boys are the reason of dismal outings. My inexperience is the reason why. However, I am NOT deterred at all. Matter of fact, it has made me even MORE determined to go out again, again, and again, until I have it down to "T". It's the stubborn nature in me not to give up on myself, on my boys, and on the situation.

Once I get more experience, I should be able to handle outings much better, and be able to take my boys around without feeling like a chaotic mess. Of course, I laugh about it now, but in the moment, it is just AHH. Anyway, it also has definitely made me more softer toward parents of multiple kids! I look forward to warmer weather already so I can take my boys out for a walk, and enjoy the weather.

It is amazing how much my life has changed, as much as Stu's, in the past 2 weeks. Like I have mentioned in Frankie's birth story post, it has definitely been an adventure with two boys!