Meet the Sullivans: January 2016

January 28, 2016


Hello friends! Here we are again, back to Friday! The weeks go by so quickly these days, but I'm not complaining. We actually had some sunshine this week but it's going to be a rainy week. 

Here's my five!

1. Owen has been asking for about a month if we could buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch from Costco, and every time he asks I say no. Don't get me wrong, I love that cereal, it was my favorite as a kid, but it has SO much sugar and I just can't have a lifetime supply hanging around the kitchen. Well, we finally let him buy a small box at Safeway, and he's not the only one enjoying it. wink wink wink

2. We had this Italian Wedding Soup for dinner last night and we all loved it! Super simple and delicous!

3. Last night I went to Pre-K Night at Owen's school to hear the Pre-K teachers talk about how they'll be preparing the children for kindergarten. I spent the entire evening wondering where the last 4 years have gone. I mean, I just gave birth to him, right?

4. Have you been watching Mercy Street? When I find a spare 10 minutes I watch a bit of it. I actually have to watch it is about four parts, but it's really really good.

5. Luke gave me 6 straight hours on Wednesday and Thursday nights and it was glorious! Now this is a trend I would love to see continue!

Happy Friday!

Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife.

January 26, 2016

Owen's 4th Birthday Party

We celebrated Owen's 4th birthday last weekend with a party at his martial arts school! Owen loves Taekwondo and his wonderful teachers, so we thought it would be a great place to celebrate with a bunch of his little friends. 

We also knew that it would be a pretty easy party for us to coordinate since having it outside our home meant there would be little prep, set up or clean up for us to do for the party -- a major bonus when you're running on little sleep and have a 7 week old baby to care for too. 

Owen always looks forward to birthday parties, especially his own, so this year I let him make most of the party planning decisions, including picking the decorations, the cake and the party favors. I thought that would be a fun thing for him since he's so into being a big kid these days!

A couple weeks before the party he and I went on a little "date" together to pick the decorations and cake. He picked a chocolate cupcake cake, fun little toys for the goody bags, and lots of blue and green decorations. I loved that he found a bag of little ninjas and thought to add them to his cake as a decoration.

The party started with 45 minutes on the mat with the teachers, who lead the kids through a warm up and stretching exercises before having them do various obstacles courses, drills and kicks. All the kids had a BLAST running around with each other and I think a few of them might even want to sign up for Taekwondo now. I know Owen felt special getting to show his friends all his moves and getting to help lead the group for each activity. He even got to break another board with a big giant kick!

At the end of the lesson each child got to take home a white "ninja" headband to wear!

For food we kept it easy and kid friendly with a variety of pizzas, Chinese chicken salad, veggies and strawberries -- all food that our four year-old loves to eat!

We bought the cake at Safeway and we were really happy with the way it turned out. Cupcake cakes are the best of both worlds in my opinion because you get the look of a cake and the ease of cupcakes all in one! Can you see the ninjas smushed into the cake? Owen insisted on placing them himself.

And of course, the icing on the cake was that Owen got to cut his cake with a real Samurai sword! I think all the parents were terrified and the kids were all in awe! Don't worry though, his teacher had a tight grip on that sword.

Oh, and Luke was there too! He pretty much slept through the entire party, only waking up once to take a quick look around before dozing off again in his grandma B's arms.

This was probably Owen's favorite birthday party yet, and we feel so fortunate that so many of our friends and family members were able to join us to celebrate!

January 21, 2016

Friday Five!

Hello Friday! I am so thrilled the weekend is upon us! Here's my five...

O N E We celebrated Owen's 4th birthday on Monday and it was a super fun day! We made the day all about Owen and the things he LOVES, so we started the day with balloons, donuts and gifts! Then later in the morning we headed out to his favorite play place and followed it up with a trip to his favorite place to eat, Five Guys! We spent the afternoon playing with his new toys, and for dinner I made salmon, his new favorite food. It was a great day for our sweet boy and I'm so glad Keith was off work, and that we could all enjoy the day together.

T W O Luke is full of all the smiles and coos this week! It's like all of a sudden he's come to life and wants to be heard. We're all soaking in the sweetness, and everyone loves being the recipient of his smiles. 

T H R E E My favorite thing to do when I'm up with Luke in the middle of the night is scroll through Pinterest. I'm on the hunt for an easy no-candy Valentine idea for Owen to give his classmates this year. Last year I rounded up some cute non-candy ideas, and we ended up giving his little buddies bubbles with a little "You BLOW me away, Valentine" tag attached (<-- you can print the free printable I made!). Have you seen any other cute ideas I should consider?

F O U R We skipped having newborn photos taken of Luke and I was kind of regretting it, so I've been looking for opportunities to take as many good photos of him as I can myself. Problem is it's pretty dark in the winter and our house doesn't get too much natural light. Meg shared that she uses a reflector to help bounce the light in her shot, so I went and ordered this one and I'm thrilled! It really helped with the little photo shoot I did with the boys yesterday! I'm excited to see how else it can help with my photos. 

F I V E I've been buying so much kid stuff lately, but I actually bought myself something last week! I've been wanting the Lulu Lemon Vinyasa scarf forver and I finally just bought one! It seemed like whever I decided to get one they wouldn't have the color I wanted. I went with a black and gray style. What I love most about this scarf, besides the fact that I can wear it with my sweats, is that there are SO many ways to wear it.

That's all for now! Have a lovely weekend!

Linking up with all the Friday link ups...

Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife.

January 14, 2016

Friday Five

Hey there, friends! I have been trying to make this post happen for over a week. I started writing it last Thursday, but never managed to complete it. But hey, I'm here today and that's what matters!

O N E We've successfully taken the boys to church two weeks in a row! The first time I spent half of mass out in the vestibule, but last week the four of us managed to stay in the pew for the entire Mass. Things were going so well that we even stopped at Whole Foods afterward for a few things. Granted, I had to hold Luke through all of Mass and the grocery store, but it still feels SO good to be out doing "normal" things together again!

T W O Having two children is absolutely bananas. I know it will get easier -- that's why people continue to have more children, right? I feel like I'm always trying to get something done, or take care of someone or clean something up. Most of the time my mind is in a million places at once, and I feel like I'm busy all day but get almost nothing done. It is really frustrating for me. I love crossing things off my to do list, but these days I'm barely even able to find a minute to write one!

So, this year I've decided to try my best to let go of my to-do list and just enjoy my family more. I feel stressed when the house is a mess or I don't have dinner planned, but I feel even worse when I lose my patience with Owen or Keith because I've put too much on my plate. I read and shared this article, Put it down, yesterday and it puts these thoughts and feelings together so perfectly. Read it!

T H R E E Keith got an early Christmas gift from work! After 5 1/2 years he has finally been moved to a Monday through Friday schedule! No more Saturdays in the hospital!! He has been asking for this change since the day he was hired, so it has been a long time coming. We are so thrilled to finally have a normal weekend together as a family. Don't get me wrong, the Mondays off were nice when we wanted to go somewhere that's usually busy on the weekends like to zoo, but it also meant Keith was never around to go to birthday parties with us and that if we wanted to see friends it had to be on Sunday. We're looking forward to going to the Farmer's Market more and finally taking advantage of all the three days weekends we've been missing out on for years!

It's all roses, except the only downside, which is that he was going to work for me on Mondays in Owen's classroom and now I will have to do it and bring Luke with me. It's going to be a huge challenge with nursing and soothing and diaper changes. Other moms in our class did it last year with their little babies and it seems to work well for them, so I hope I can juggle it. Wish me luck!

F O U R I'm on Snapchat! For the longest time I didn't understand it and thought it was mainly used by high school kids, but then some fellow blogging friends started talking about it and I had to check it out. My niece (hey, Nat!) showed me how to use it and now I'm totally loving it. One of my SILs is on it, most of my nieces and nephews, and so many friends! Are you on Snapchat? My username is colleenpsulliv

F I V E This was my second week home week at home with both boys, and it's going pretty well. There have been some ups and downs, and some stressful moments, but with each day I think we're getting a better hang of it all. One of the things I've been doing to make our days go a little smoother is making Owen a little snack box in the refrigerator full of healthy snacks he can go grab himself. It seems like whenever he wants a snack I also happen to be feeding Luke, changing a diaper or have just sat down. It's nice to be able to tell him to go grab something knowing it will be something I picked for him, but that he also gets to make a choice. I've also been filling sippy cups of milk and water bottles in the morning for the same reason.

What are your weekend plans? We'll be celebrating my grandpa's 90th birthday with family on Sunday and Owen's 4th birthday on Monday! And I'm hoping to squeeze in a pedicure somewhere in there too! I hope you have a lovely weekend!

Linking up with all the Friday link ups...

Oh Hey Friday with September Farm and The Farmer's Wife.

Announcing Luke!

There is no better piece of mail to receive than a birth announcement! Am I right? I love receiving them in the mail from friends and family, and took great pride in choosing and sending them for our two sweet boys.

I know a lot of people already know all about Luke because I've shared all about him already on social media, but there is still something so special about a good old fashioned announcement! I like to think it's more substantial because people will hopefully put it up on their refrigerator or glance at it for more than a second like they do on Instagram, Facebook and all that.

Now that I have finally addressed and mailed them off I am thrilled to share them with you!

As for choosing the announcement... I was pretty torn about how I wanted to pull of Luke's announcement. I decided against doing professional newborn photos, and tried do take some myself, which didn't turn out as I had hoped. I had taken some pretty cute photos (all on my phone!) in the first few weeks of his life, so I decided to use them instead. And poor Luke, a true second child, did not get to have his own shining moment on his own card, and had to share it with his brother and mom and dad.

Anyway, I love that I was able to find a card at Minted that satisfied all my needs. It's a New Year card, but also a birth announcement, and it could accommodate the number of pictures I wanted to use. Isn't it nice when things work out just the way you'd hoped for them to?

So, welcome to the world, Luke! We love you SO very much and we're SO very proud to announce your birth! 

January 12, 2016

The Second Time Around (Guest Post)

Hello lovely "Meet the Sullivans" friends, fans and readers! My name is Sara and I'm an attorney, blogger and the mom of two wild children (Mac is 3.5 years old and Mim is 1.5 years old). I live in St. Louis and blog over at Running form the Law. I'm thrilled to be here guest posting for Colleen today while she's being SuperMom and adjusting to life as the mom of two. I remember just how crazy and hard those first few months of adjusting to our new addition were and I'm sending all kinds of good vibes for restful nights and easy days. Today, I'd love to share a post that I wrote about 6 months into being a mom of 2. It's kind of a side-by-side comparison of how different (or similar) pregnancy, recovery and the postpartum adjustment period were for my two kids. I find this stuff really fascinating, so I hope you do too! And because it's been a year since I published this, I've included some updates on how things are now that we've been a family of four for a year and half. I hope you enjoy! 

Just for reference:
#1 Mac (boy) - born May 2012 (photos on the left)
#2 Mim (girl) - born July 2014 (photos on the right)

My pregnancy with Mac was a dream the first two trimesters.  Other than being tired and having a few food aversions, I had the easiest first trimester in the history of pregnancies.  The second trimester was even more glorious...I ate whatever I wanted (obscene amounts of Chipotle), got lots of pampering and loved watching my belly get big.  The only problems came in the third trimester, when the swelling started and all the weight started taking its toll on me.  On my due date with Mac I'd gained nearly 60 pounds (lots of water weight) and I was pretty miserable.  I couldn't get comfortable to sleep, I had horrible acid reflux and heartburn, my ankles were as big as my calves and it was just difficult to get around.  I also carried Mac really high and felt like he lived in my ribcage, which was incredibly painful.

My pregnancy with Mim was the complete opposite. I don't know if it was because I was having a girl, or because I already had a toddler in nursery school, but I had a horrible first trimester - sick all the time from pregnancy, stomach flu, head colds, sinus infections, etc. The first four months of pregnancy completely kicked my ass and I've never been so tired in my life - growing one tiny human and chasing another one around.  But by 19 weeks, I finally started to feel better and it continued the rest of my pregnancy.  I loved pregnancy even more the second time around, maybe because I knew it was probably my last time to experience this.  I didn't gain anywhere close to the same amount of weight the second time (only about 25 pounds) and had little to no swelling at all.  I carried her very low, which was hard on my bladder, but so much more comfortable than with Mac.  My cravings were only for lemonade this time (no chicken tacos) and my food aversions were intense and still haven't completely gone away (I still am put off by salmon).  While I was mentally "done" with pregnancy at the end, I was getting around pretty well and proud of my body for handling everything the third trimester like a champ.

On my due date with Mac, I went to the doctor and was 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced.  Two days later, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday feeling off.  I thought I peed the bed, but really my water was close to breaking and I was leaking amniotic fluid, however I told Ryan I was fine and to go ahead and play golf that day. While he was in the shower I started having some mild menstrual-type cramps, which I didn't realize were actually contractions until they were so strong I nearly ripped the sink out of the bathroom countertop (can you tell I was in denial?). By 8:00 a.m. my contractions were coming pretty fast and furious and we were on our way to the hospital.  My water broke as they got me into my hospital bed and I immediately ordered the epidural.  I labored (and slept) until about 8:30 p.m. when I stopped progressing at 8 cm (because the baby had turned) and spiked a fever.  We made the call to have surgery and Mac was born by emergency c-section at 10:10 p.m. (after 17 hours of labor).  He was 2 days late and was 7 pounds, 14 oz and 22.5 inches long.

With Mim, I really wanted to try to avoid having another c-section.  My OB was more than willing to let me try to labor on my own and go for a VBAC, so long as she came anytime before my due date. At that point, with a prior c-section, we'd have to repeat (since I couldn't be induced).  We went ahead and scheduled a c-section the week before our due date (at just over 39 weeks) and prayed that she'd come on her own prior to that.  At 35 weeks Mim was measuring in the 75th percentile and I was nearly 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced.  I figured we'd be having her any day at that point, but that's exactly where I stayed for the next month.  Zero progress (she actually regressed).  We had Mim by scheduled c-section at 9:39 a.m.  She was one week early and was 7 pounds, 11 oz and 21 inches long.

Recovery with Mac was horrendous.  Having gone through both labor and major surgery, I was a mess. My body was so beat up and I felt like I'd been run over by a truck for weeks.  My incision was painful and while I had doctor's orders not to go up and down the stairs (which didn't bother me), getting in and out of bed to wake up with the baby many many times a night was absolutely excruciating.  I could barely sleep because my stomach hurt so badly.  It took weeks for the swelling to go down and for me to lose the water weight, which finally gave me some relief from heartburn.  I felt (and looked) like I was still pregnant months after giving birth.

Recovery with Mim was (once again) completely the opposite.  I was on my feet and walking the hospital halls the day after my c-section.  Since surgery was scheduled, I went into it well-rested and without having to go through the trauma of labor.  I felt pretty good by the time we left the hospital and didn't take a single painkiller past the one week point.  Getting in and out of bed was still the hardest and most painful activity I did, but that didn't last long.  I didn't really worry about the stairs this time and really just tried to listen to my body and take it easy when I felt like I needed to, as opposed to following doctor's orders to the tee.  The hardest part of recovery this time was not being able to pick up Mac or carry him anywhere.  He was very jealous of me holding the baby, but not him and it was emotionally very hard to deal with that.

You might remember my struggles with breastfeeding Mac (which you can read all about here).  Not being able to breastfeed and dealing with the emotions and guilt was probably the hardest part of having a new baby for me.  I was so incredibly hard on myself and undoubtedly made everything much more difficult than it needed to be.  Mac was a terribly difficult baby to feed, even by bottle, and I forced the issue way longer than necessary because I wanted it to work out so badly.  Finally, after weeks of nearly nonstop crying (by me) and visits with multiple lactation consultants, I realized that breastfeeding was just not in the cards for us and he was just going to have to be ok with breastmilk from a bottle.  I exclusively pumped for over five months (built up a big supply) and when Mac was seven months old, finished out our freezer supply then switched him to formula.  We all survived and were happier for it.

After our first experience, I went into breastfeeding Mim with very mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I so badly wanted it to work out.  I wanted the experience that everyone raved about.  I wanted that bond.  I wanted it so so much.  But on the other hand, I knew that it wasn't the end of the world if it didn't work out and we'd be fine.  I knew that I had to be more relaxed this time around.  I knew that once again pumping was an option to get breastmilk.  And once again, I knew that if we had to go to formula, that would be fine too.  Needless to say, I was so pleasantly surprised when Mim came out a champion nurser.  She latched on immediately and was great.  My milk came in on day 3 (lots of it) and we rocked nursing for 9 weeks.  Then all of a sudden, she was done...absolutely finished and refused to nurse at all.  I saw a lactation consultant and we tried everything to get her to come around, but she's strong-willed and decided she was finished.  I'm not sure if it was due to over-supply or what, but nothing (nipple shields, different positions, etc.) seemed to help So, we moved on...reluctantly.  I am still pumping and she's still 100% breastmilk, but always from a bottle.  And again, I have mixed emotions about it.  One the one hand, I'm happy that she's getting breastmilk and proud of myself for moving on and just sucking it up and doing what I think is best for her.  But on the other hand, I'm mourning.  I didn't get the experience that I wanted (or not for long enough) and I'm disappointed.  I was actually even angry with her for a while and very hurt because I felt like she was rejecting me, but that seems ridiculous now to even think about.  Hormones will make you think crazy things.  We're fine.  Pumping sucks (literally).  It's painful and horribly time-consuming and I don't plan to keep it up forever, but for now we're trying to make it work.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it this time.  I'm going to do what works for us until it doesn't and then we'll make a change.  And we'll all be just fine.

UPDATE: I stopped pumping in March (made it 8 months - woo hoo!) and haven't looked back. It feels great to have my body back and my time back. Mim was exclusively on breastmilk through April and we switched her to formula in May. She stopped taking bottles in August and it's all a distant memory by now! 

Postpartum Emotions
As you probably inferred from what I've already said, my emotions were out of control after having Mac.  From dealing with the pain of recovery, the lack of sleep, the newness of having a baby, the shock of no longer feeling human, the inability to get anything done, the guilt associated with not breastfeeding and the sense of completely losing yourself, I was a wreck.  I cried all the time.  I had many many breakdowns.  I felt sick to my stomach every time he cried (which was a lot) because I was so scared.  The love I felt for him was so intense I didn't know if I could handle it.  I couldn't stop thinking about horrible things happening to him and I was a nervous wreck about how I was going to ever keep him safe for the rest of his life.  It all felt so overwhelming.  I didn't know what to expect or how long it would last or if things would ever get better.  It was all so new and so raw and so scary.  It took months before I felt like things were starting to get back to normal.  It took a year before I felt like myself again.

Just like with everything else, the second time around was so different.  After I had Mim, I was crazy madly in love, but not crazy.  I don't know whether it was the placental encapsulation pills, the fact that I knew what I was doing this time or the easy delivery, but it was a night and day difference.  I did cry the first night we brought her home as I was putting her in her bassinet because I was overwhelmed with love and terrified of how I would ever be able to keep her safe, but otherwise, this ride has been pretty tame compared to the emotional roller coaster I went on with Mac.

Body Image
After all the weight I'd gained with Mac, it took me a long time to feel good about my body again. Despite pumping for 5 months, I didn't lose hardly any weight breastfeeding.  Maybe that works for some women, but definitely not me.  I kept hearing "9 months on, 9 months off," so when the 9 month mark came around and I still hadn't lost the weight, I was surprised.  A year postpartum I was still 20+ pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight and realized that it wasn't just going to magically come off without a lot of work on my part.  When I went back on the fertility meds (for PCOS, which help me with regulating blood sugar levels) my weight finally started moving in the right direction.  I was within about 5 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight when I got pregnant with Mim (18 months later).

As I mentioned, I didn't gain nearly as much weight during my pregnancy with Mim.  However, I did start out heavier this time around, which didn't help.  Two weeks postpartum and I was within 5 pounds of my second pre-pregnancy weight and I thought it was going to be easy-peasy to get there. However, breastfeeding/pumping has increased my appetite this time around WAY more than I expected and WAY more than I apparently need.  I'm FAMISHED all the time!  I cannot eat enough. By December, I was up another 8+ pounds and held onto that until I stopped pumping.  While pumping, I didn't have the time or energy to work out (plus, my boobs were so sensitive and hurt) and I didn't have much willpower to keep my sweet tooth in check.  I'm was not happy with the way I looked, but I'm giving myself a pass until I stop pumping. 

UPDATE: I stopped pumping in March and I started working out and eating much better in May. By October I'd lost nearly 20 pounds and was almost back to my pre-Mac-pregnancy weight. Since then I've gained a little back from the holidays and slacking, but I hope to get back there soon. It's taking much longer this time around. 

Returning to Work
With Mac, returning to work after a 12 week maternity leave was excruciating.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  Leaving a tiny 12 week-old baby that is your whole life in the hands of a near-stranger (at the time) was so incredibly scary.  I was terrified that something would happen to him.  What if he cries for hours and she doesn't know how to console him?  What if he doesn't remember me at the end of the day?  What if, what if, what if.  It was hard.  However, after a few weeks (days, even), it got easier.  It was nice feeling like myself again, being able to get things done, being around adults, using my education I worked so hard for, etc.  I liked my job and I wanted to be both a mom and a lawyer.

With Mim, returning to work after a 12 week maternity leave was even worse.  It was hard for entirely different reasons.  This time around I wasn't scare of the "what if's."  I knew our nanny could handle the crying, I trusted her to do the right thing, I wasn't as fearful for Mim's safety. But this time around I know how quickly the baby days go and I'm scared that I'm missing it all.  I know Mim won't forget me, but I know that soon I'll forget just how small she is right now and what holding your tiny baby feels like.  I know she won't remember that I'm not there, but I'll remember the hours spent away from her and I worry that I'm going to regret them.  I know the kids will appreciate all the trips we take and things we can afford since their mom works, but while they're little, I bet they'd rather just have their mom around more.  This is something I've been struggling a lot with lately and I don't have any answers right now.  It's been a over a month now and I don't feel like I'm adjusting as well as I'd hoped.  Fingers crossed things get better soon.

UPDATE: In March, I decided to ask my boss if I could do down to part-time at work so I could spend more time at home with the kids. I got approved to work 80% (which means I have one day a week off) and it's made a huge impact. I get more one-on-one time with the kids during the week, which also means I don't feel quite as guilty about taking some extra personal time for myself or date nights with my husband. I'm happier with my job and happier with my life in general. I can't beleive what a huge difference this has made. 

I don't think there's any possible way to ever put into words how much you can possibly love your children.  I love them so fiercely, so adamantly, so equally...but differently.  Mac is so wild and free and spirited - I love him wildly and loudly and as passionately as I possibly can.  Mim is such a sweet, gentle soul - I love her with more of a quiet intensity that I can't even describe.  With Mac, it took me some time to learn how to love him, since my adjustment period as a new mom was so emotional and hard. I loved him immensely years before the pregnancy test turned pink and the moment I laid eyes on him in the delivery room I was overcome with so much love I thought my heart might explode.  But your love for your second child goes deeper and is stronger than I ever thought possible. After our loss (in between the two), I was devastated and scared and fearful about our future. Mim snuck into our lives and hearts so unexpectedly and under the radar.  The amount of love I have for her completely took me by surprise and overwhelms me sometimes.  It was like one day my heart no longer felt like it was going to explode because it was now ten times the size it used to be.  She is my baby, my miracle, my tiny little angel.  And he is my wild child.  I love them both so much.

What were the biggest differences or similarities with your experiences?

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