Monday, October 29, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: slow down

part four in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here, part two here and part three here.

this has been a lesson i've whole-heartedly engaged in over this past year.

slow down.

i'm going to be honest here. we lead a pretty slow life here. some would call it boring. heck, some days i would call it boring. we {the kids and i} don't often leave the house. we don't have preschool or kindergarten to go to. we don't do extracurricular activities and have struggled to find a church to belong to. there are no sidewalks here and walking along the road you're likely to get side-swiped by a taxi {public transit-type van} or a bodaboda {motorcycle}. there aren't public libraries or swimming pools here. we have nothing we're obligated to attend here and for awhile it felt wrong to be so unencumbered by programs or places. 
but then i thought about it for a moment and realized it was a gift. i will never have time like this again with my children. my children will never again be this age and giving me all of their time. every single minute of every single day is spent soaking up time with me. to some this might sound like a death sentence, but i've chosen to see it as a gift and a blessing. i always wanted to be a mom. i wanted to stay at home and raise my kids and right now? now i get to. 
it's amazing to me that noah is 5 and jude is 3 and blaise? he's 6 weeks old as of today! 

i've learned {and am continuing to learn} the beauty and value in slowing down. living in the moment. time goes by fast enough without me wishing for the next stage. how sad it would be for me to blink and realize that i'm 75 years old and i've spent my entire life wishing for time to go by faster so i can get to "insert a time in the future here". there is beauty in the here and now with my children. 

the long, lanky legs of my 5 year old, racing up and down our driveway. 
the hilarious "hey wait" that jude says every other sentence.
the sweet coos from blaise as he makes eye contact with me.

these are the moments that disappear before i can appreciate where i am if i'm always looking for what's coming up next.

i am tired and sleep deprived and sometimes short on patience, but this time is short and it will pass and i will have difficulty remembering the harder moments. all i will remember will be the sweet moments of sitting with jude on my lap at the table as we draw pictures together and giggle at the way jude calls a scarf a "scarft". the moments where noah throws his arm around jamie as they sit together on the couch. the moments of holding a sweetly sleeping baby who sighs and smiles in his sleep. these are the ones i want to remember and soak up.

so i am learning to slow down. in fact, this one lesson has been so incredibly valuable and precious to me that i already have small fears creeping in about returning to canada and the fast pace of life that i will encounter and undoubtedly struggle with. but that will be another lesson to be learned. all in good time, right?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

five years old

in five years you can get a university degree and start your first year of work.
in five years i started dating jamie, we got engaged and then got married.
in five years i gave birth to 3 children and am now a mommy to three handsome little boys.
one is not so little.

noah peter strickland was born five years ago today. it hasn't always been easy and most some days i feel like i'm not doing so great in this whole motherhood gig, but at the end of each day i still get hugs and kisses from my biggest boy.

my noah. he loves sweet treats and all things dairy {strawberry milk, strawberry yogurt, cheese, ice cream...}. he is extremely ticklish and loves to wrestle with daddy. he can write all his letters and he even wrote out a birthday card for me this year!
he has a helpful heart and is tender and sweet towards blaise. he is patient with jude {most of the time} and always eager to pretend that they are "super secret spies".

he's got a fiery temper and can slam a door louder than you'd think was possible and struggles not to get angry when he gets let down. {but who doesn't, i guess?}

he is shy at first and likes to observe new people, places and activities before participating and engaging with others. 
he loves playing on the iPad {angry birds!} and watching Tom & Jerry cartoons and has recognized the hilarity in slapstick humour. i love watching him laugh while watching cartoons.

he has a "thing" for hands and feet and will gladly hold your hand if you put it out for him to grab. i often find him playing with blaise's hands or feet and if he's sitting beside jude on the couch, i can almost guarantee that he is playing with jude's fingers or feet {ew!}.

he is five. i think every age must have its pros and cons. i have loved watching the growth in noah's comprehension, his writing and his drawings. i love that he plays with legos and builds boats and airplanes, houses and monsters. i love his imagination and his sensitive spirit. i love that he pays attention to rules and loves order and predictability {classic firstborn, methinks}.

noah, i've said it before and i'll say it again; you made me a mama. i love you and i'm thankful for you and i can't imagine our family without you.

mom {mama, mommy}

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: trust your instinct

part three in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here and part two here.

the panic and anxiety inside me was building up. i felt sweaty and a bit frantic. i ripped into the last few remaining presents with gusto while pasting an attempt at a calm smile on my face.

it's okay. he's fine. i'll go get him in just a second. i don't want to keep you all here any longer.

i could hear noah's cries start to get more and more frenzied and my heart beat just a little bit faster. my palms were sweaty. finally at their urging i got up from my present-opening and went and got my baby from the upstairs and after a quick feed and an attempt at calming both of us down, i came back out to the baby shower. my baby shower.
this was supposed to be happy and joyous and exciting. all these women were here to celebrate the birth of my first child. so then why did i feel like curling up in a ball and crying for hours?
after the last of the women left i did go back upstairs into my parents' bedroom and cry and cry.

so i had post partum depression after noah was born. the mad torrent of emotions and hormones swirling around inside of me combined with unrealistic expectations and a head full of knowledge of how things should be {plus the sleep deprivation of having a newborn} led to me feeling confused, desperate and unhappy.

i am a knowledge specialist by nature. that is to say, when i'm interested in something i will google the heck out of it, borrow books from friends, the library and ask anyone and everyone who will answer me on that subject. i did this when i was pregnant with noah. i read about pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting philosophies. i think there is a value to gaining insight and looking into things you're not sure about, but in this case i forgot one major part of parenting;

trust your instinct.

i forgot to trust my natural gut feeling as a new mother. i just read the books and thought everything would fall into place accordingly. so when things didn't turn out and i had a screaming baby and my hormones were screaming just as loudly i fell apart. 
after about 3 months of feeling antisocial and unhappy and constantly on edge and worrying about if the baby would start crying again, the clouds lifted and my hormones leveled out somewhat. i decided to implement a routine and things started to become more manageable.

but when noah turned 6 months, we were on a plane to tanzania, africa for two months. this was a huge step of faith for me, but it turned out to be one of the most valuable parenting experiences for me. internet wasn't readily available. i didn't have my friends with me to ask my questions. all i had was me. so i learned to trust my instinct. i learned not to be so rigid in my expectations. i learned the value in having a routine, but not being a schedule-nazi and that diverting from our usual routine every now and then wasn't the end of the world. 
i learned to trust that i was a good mother for noah and that i could trust my instinct to hold him or to let him cry, to keep him up or breastfeed him to sleep. 

noah on safari in tanzania

me on the carrick-a-rede rope bridge in northern ireland with noah. this thing freaked me out. 

as noah has grown and i've had two other babies since then, i've been a lot more easy-going {like i thought i would be from the very beginning!} and i've really learned to just go with the flow. i've listened to my gut on things like whether or not we needed to take noah to the hospital for a dislocated elbow {before we knew what it was, of course}. i've trusted my instinct on delaying potty training, giving up on cloth diapering and moving our family to uganda. 
there are countless stories from other moms who have regretted not trusting their instinct about different things concerning their child's development. there are also countless stories about moms who have trusted their instinct and pushed for answers and were right despite others telling them nothing was wrong. 

my approach now to things is to use a combination of books and resources {including friends and other people} but to think about how their advice/recommendation fits with my child, my children and/or my family. if it's not working for our family as a whole, it's likely not going to work or last for very long.

so if you're a new mom, don't forget to put that book down every now and then and trust what feels right for you and your family. you are the best mom for your child and whether you choose breast or bottle, CIO or co-sleeping, to wait it out with baby tylenol or a trip to the hospital, don't forget to trust your instinct. it's God-given and it's unique to you and your child. 

i think if i could go back and tell PPD vanessa anything, it would be this, from 2 timothy 1:7,

"for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

as someone who loves Jesus, i know that i have his spirit within me and i can trust that He is guiding me and will give me wisdom in all situations - including parenting!

*as a side note, if you are struggling with PPD, please talk to someone and get some help. it doesn't always clear on its own and feeling unhappy and depressed and desperate isn't normal. here are a few resources to get you started. Post-Partum Support International, PPD/PPA resources

Saturday, October 20, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: let go

part two in a five part series of things i've learned since becoming a mom 5 years ago.
you can read part one here.

parenting is a funny thing. often it's a balancing act between two things that seem to be at odds with one another.
hold on.

let go.

the boys select rocks to throw into the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain

we were sitting in the bus that was taking us back to our hotel in jinja after spending 2 hours cruising the nile. i watched noah as he sat across from me in his own seat. bumping and jostling about with no seat belt down the red dirt roads here in uganda. i never knew what it was to really worry until i had kids. in my head i pictured so many different scenarios in which he could get hurt. i had to bite my tongue so i wouldn't be a broken record,

hold on, buddy. 
please make sure you're being careful. 
sit properly in your seat so you don't get hurt, noah.

i didn't tell him to hold on. or be careful. i just watched him as he looked out the window and pointed out all the things he was seeing. i watched him as he eventually turned around in his seat and his head started to droop. i watched him as he fell asleep about 5 minutes from our hotel. so big. yet so little.

jude wanders off by himself on safari - classic jude

i'm learning to let go. i'm learning not to hold onto my children in fear, but to let go of them and help them develop at every stage they hit. to help them become independent young men who will one day make their own way in the world. i'm learning to teach as i live and let go of the need for perfection in day-to-day activities. to explain to noah what i'm doing as i mix the pancake batter. to let him dump in just a bit too much flour and struggle to stir the thick cookie dough together.

letting go of any hope of a well-cleaned car...

when we decided to come to uganda i had to let go of fears i didn't know i had. i had to let go of fears i was well aware that i had. i can't hold onto my children forever for fear that they will get hurt or experience pain or disappointment. it is in those trials that they develop strong character and become people who will go on to do great things. we are all shaped through pain and trials. if we try to protect our children from all pain and adversity we will end up shriveled and anxious from worry and our children will be coddled and unable to function in the world without us. and having {grown} children who are dependent of us is not the end goal of parenting.

so i let go and in turn help my children to work it out by themselves. not always jumping in to take over. not always nagging and reminding them to "be safe", "be careful", or "watch out". i help my boys to one day become men. i hold onto them, but not in fear. i let go of them in confidence and with encouragement that they can do it and if they fail, that's okay too. because you don't go far in life if you only stick to "safe".
it's not always easy for me to bite my tongue {and often times i don't} and i sometimes get caught up in my "worst case scenarios" in my head, but once again i am given this opportunity to trust God to help me to let go and trust Him with my littles, just as He has entrusted them to me.

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 things i've learned since becoming a mom: hold on

in honour of my oldest "baby" turning 5 next week {what?! how did that even happen?}, i was inspired to write about 5 things i've learned since becoming a mom.

hold on

i don't mean that we as parents should hold on in an unhealthy way. i mean hold onto those moments. those fleeting moments that may be your last with them because they've moved on to the next development. breathe in that newborn smell and close your eyes. soak it up. feel the softness of their skin, the pinkness of their feet. cherish the way your toddler wants you and only you for comfort. listen to the stories your 4 year old tells you with such imagination and attention to detail. one day they might not be as forthcoming with their thoughts and stories. hold onto those moments. hold their hands. they might not {and probably won't} want you to hold their hands forever.

blaise gets some "daddy time".

as a first time mom i was really just focusing on surviving those first few months. i had a mild case of post-partum depression and i was in a dark place. i was anxious and paranoid. it was difficult for me to hold onto those moments and yet somehow my memory of noah as a baby is far more vivid than of jude as a baby and probably than my memories of blaise as a baby will be. i'm not sure why that is {although it probably has something to do with not having two older boys to keep busy and take care of}, but i do know that i spent lots of time holding him, rocking him, crying while nursing in the middle of the night {again} and stressing over every little thing. he was my world and i focused nearly all my energies on "keeping him alive" and relishing in his every new development. this is why i smile when i see first time mom's post tons of pictures of their baby's first *insert any "first" that a baby can have* or a 10 minute video waiting for their baby to roll over. they are "holding on" to those moments and they want the world to know about this marvelous new development with "the cutest baby in the world". {because every parent thinks their child is the cutest.}

cuddles with a sick noah

as a third-time mom i am well aware of the fact that this time is precious and will fly by far more quickly than i am prepared for - and not just with blaise, but with my older two boys as well. i will not always have a three and {almost} five year old. jude will not always say "yup" in that quiet, cute way. noah will not always want or need me to read him stories. blaise is growing faster than i thought was possible.

more cuddles with a sick jude

yes, it's hard. yes, it sometimes sucks. yes, it's incredibly sanctifying to be a mother and a parent. there's nothing like a little mirror to show you all the ugliness you never knew you had in you.
God knows that i fail at this but regardless, it's something i've learned and continue to learn.
so hold onto your babies while they are still young. they will never want or need you like they have you now so hold onto it and remind yourself of this on the days when i don't remember what's really important at this stage, it's all-too-easy to get resentful for my lack of "me" time, or the way they always need me or want to tell me something or show me something and want me to play with them or read them a book. it's crazy how quickly i become self-centered when this time is so limited and my children are so precious. what is honestly more important that pouring into my children, spending time with them and teaching them? i can't think of a single thing.

and so in five years as a mama, i've learned the importance of holding on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1 month

dear blaise,

how is it that you are one month old already? you've changed so much already and i can't believe it.
you've always had a really strong neck from day 1 - holding your head up and looking around and everyone and everything.
you are clearly chunking up quite nicely - at 3 weeks and 3 days old you were already 11lbs 12oz - that's a weight gain of almost 3 lbs in 3 weeks! i've had to put away all the newborn clothes and the 0-3 month clothing just fits and the 3 month clothing is waiting for you...

you have started smiling.

correction; you have started smiling at me. you smiled within a day or two of being born, but now you are looking at me and smiling these HUGE open mouth smiles that just melt me - even after being up from 4am and wanting to eat every hour. goodness.
you love your brothers and are so tolerant of their hand touching and in-your-face talking and i just know that you are going to look up to them in every way. it's only a matter of time before they are making you smile and giggle in ways that mommy and daddy probably won't be able to.

you have settled into a pattern of having a fairly fussy period at some point in the day and then having longer stretches of naps/sleeping. and when you're fussy, you.are.fussy. kid, you've got a set of lungs that just won't quit and you know what you want. which is usually da milks. but it's okay. it's only for a short time and apparently it's helping me shed some of this baby weight.

i adore your head of spiky hair. it tickles my neck as i hold you close and breathe you in. so soft and sweet.

you are a little grunter. i'm not always sure what it means, but you grunt.

sometimes when i look at you i see your oldest brother, noah. sometimes i see jude. but most times i see you. you are your own person, kiddo and i'm so glad you've come into our family.

we took you on vacation this week to jinja and it wasn't the most relaxing for us all to be in the same room, but we survived and you were pretty good at just chilling in someone's arms while we at our meals.

right now you're still in your little sleeping "box" {it's kinda like a moses basket} in between mommy and daddy but i have a feeling we'll be moving you to the pack 'n play bassinet very soon. we want our bed back! but also you're getting too long and big for the box and will soon outgrow it.

i had to re-introduce the swaddle and it did help you to sleep better as you had become a bit more spazzy with your arms. last night i even broke out the miracle blanket as you were cracking out of the receiving blanket i had swaddled you in.

blaise, you are adorable and i am so in love with you. you are surrounded by a family that loves you and is so happy you're here.
keep growing, little man!

love, mama

*see how blaise grows!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

photo dump thursday

my parents got into town on sunday night.
it's been lovely for all of us.
i've been recovering from a brutal head cold that my older two boys passed onto me {thankyouverymuch} in between breastfeeding {a lot! my little chunker now weighs 11lbs 13oz!} and making thanksgiving dinner {and now i've making pumpkin everything with all my leftover pumpkin puree!} and enjoying the company of my parents, my kids and jamie.

blogging is not a high priority at this point, but i've been taking some pictures so i don't forget everything in approximately 59 days.

milk drunk smiles

playing outside in the sandbox

gramma holding her youngest grandson

everyone's got their own entertainment

a sneak peek at a quick photo shoot i did with blaise and a vintage suitcase {thanks, kelly for the suitcase!}

Thursday, October 4, 2012

6 things i forgot about post-partum

1. post-partum hormones making me ridiculously hot and sweaty. all.the.time. so glad i didn't bring slippers or socks to the hospital. totally did not need them. i just get really hot. and sweaty. my go-to hairstyle for bed is pulling all my hair up on top of my head with a hair elastic so it's off my back and neck.

2. uterine cramping while breastfeeding. oh my word they really do get worse with each birth. the one thing i did wish i had in the hospital for the first night was tylenol and advil. it was like being in labour except it didn't end for a week or so.

3. engorgement. well, i didn't really forget but it's been awhile since i last breastfed. and nipple chafing/pain/cracking. ouch. and milk leakage. we're at 2 weeks and 2 days and it's finally getting better.

4. burping. i somehow forgot about burping a baby after they nurse. it's my least favourite thing to do in the middle of the night. now that the baby has a clean diaper and a full belly and is sleepy, why not whack the kid on the back to get an air bubble out? sigh. so counter-intuitive. also? am i the only weird person who burps every time i am burping the baby? yes? okay. moving on.

5. extreme soreness - specifically in my back. for the first few days, i'm all hunched over trying to get a baby to breastfeed and latch properly and carrying an infant uses muscles you didn't know {or at least, forgot} you had. luckily the intense muscle pain subsided after a few days. it's probably due to my muscles just getting used to my bad posture and other contributing factors. i'm sure my back is an absolute mess, though. oh where is my massage therapist brother-in-law when i really need him?

6. the sweet smell of new baby. my new baby. best.thing.ever.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


i have three boys! amazing.
we're still figuring out our routine but it's been nice to have jamie around and my parents arrive on sunday night.

noah is really into sonic the hedgehog racing on jamie's iPad and likes to make up stories about sonic. he also really enjoys listening to audiobooks during his quiet time. it's hilarious when he comes up to me and asks about different words or phrases that he's picked up on like, "mom? what does it mean to have a cheese that drags you around the house by your nose?" then it makes me wonder which story he got that from!

jude continues to make us laugh with his funny voices and hilarious antics. he insists on calling "Monopoly" "buh-mopowee" which i love. jamie wondered to me the other day, "i wonder what jude's voice really sounds like. he's either making up a funny voice or shouting Dora the Explorer style." it's so true.

and blaise is adorable. he's also started spitting up as the picture above shows. he spat up as i was walking him over to the blanket for this picture. oh well. c'est la vie. he's doing really well during the nighttime and last night he went almost 4 hours between feedings. pure bliss. he's conked out on my chest right now. he's a cuddler for sure. {and i love it.}

{and one more picture of blaise. cuz he's the new kid around here.}

linking up to steph who takes pictures of her 4  kids on the 4th of every month.
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