Day 21: The Farm on a Friday Night

“Feels like the Farm up in here, Dad,” I smile. My heart is exploding with joy. 

“I was just thinking Grandma Mary Jean would be so proud,” he replies before needing to turn away for a brief moment. 

Gram passed a little over 5 years ago. Prior to that, Friday night was always poppin’ at my Gram’s. Literally. Since I was about 15, everyone went to MJ’s on Friday. My dad, being the second oldest of eight kids, lived within about a 30 minute radius of most of his siblings, and the Farm was smack dab in the middle of most of them. 

My sisters and I are the oldest with about a 10 year gap between the rest of the 24 cousins. Most of which gathered with their parents at Gram’s house on Friday night- about 30 people. Of course when I was fifteen that was mostly a house full of babies. However, as time went on, it got a little louder and a little more rowdy. Even in my college years I would stop by the Farm before going out on the town with my friends. It was a lively place full of the best memories, good food, and great company. 

And then, last weekend, my parents’ home felt a little like the Farm. One toddler and 4 babies being snuggled up by aunts, grandparents, and great grandparents. Daddies out on the driveway relaxing and socializing. Pizza, apps, and treats shared, all of which were provided by my parents. There were about 17 of us in total.  I loved every minute of it, and I know my dad especially did too. I even spotted him recording the event on his phone to send to all his brothers. My Grandmother would be  so proud.

Cheers to Friday nights with the ones we love the most.

Day 20: Why?

Conversation with my 2 year old after we passed a school bus while driving to daycare.

Charlie: School bus!

Me: Here comes another one!

Charlie: More school buses!

Me: Bye, school bus!

Charlie: Where’d it go? 

Me: It had to go pick up more kids for school.

Charlie:Why?

Me: Because kids need to get a ride to school.

Charlie:Why?

Me:Because the need to go to school to learn.

Charlie: Why?

Me: Because school helps kids learn new things.

Charlie: Why?

Me: I don’t know, Babe.

Charlie: Why?

Me: ( I give up) Why?

I love this stage that Charlie is in! So observant and curious. Everything is always “why?” Eventually, I am out of reasons, and I close out over conversation with the same word that kept the conversation going.

Day 19: The Challenge

Lately, I have had little self-control when it comes to indulging in treats, and I’ve also become increasingly lazy. Okay, lazy may be a little too harsh of a word considering a have a new babe at home that is keeping me pretty busy. Between winter, COVID, pregnancy, and a newborn, I’ve been a little less active and consumed a few too many sweets. I can’t seem to find the balance, to just have one. Instead, I have 5-6 of something. Cookies… Cake… Donuts. Okay, so I haven’t eaten 5-6 donuts in one day, but I have eaten 3…. in one day… on multiple occasions! In reality, my discipline slipped well before COVID and winter. It slipped after the birth of my 1st son. Prior to that I had rarely touched dairy, gluten, and/or any other treats – and I was much more active. I stay away from dairy and gluten because it doesn’t agree with my stomach. And, when I am off of them, I have clearer skin, less bloating, less fatigue, and less brain fog. As I adjusted to life as a mom, making time for physical activity was moved to the wayside.  A newborn eating/sleep schedule, limited sunlight, and cold temps aren’t helping these issues.. That’s for sure.

If you read my previous post, you may know Charlie and I operate on a pretty strict budget. We each give ourselves very little entertainment money to do with as we please for the month. The rest of our money goes towards savings and/or other financial goals. Enter: The Challenge.

 “Babe, we’ve gotta get back on track,” I needed a teammate in my quest. “I want us to be models for our boys to eat healthy, especially when it comes to snacking.” Charlie, my husband, has heard this speech before. He is reluctant, but recognizes its value. “I was thinking we could make a little challenge out of it.” Charlie loves a competition. “What if we could incentivize it by earning a little extra money for our monthly entertainment fund?” He’s listening now.

We decide if we eat clean for the day, we get to put an extra $5 into our individual entertainment envelopes.  If we do cheat, we have to give $5 from our own envelope to the other person. We get an additional $5 if we get a workout in on that day, too. We put $300 in the “Challenge” envelope. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if one person starts slipping, the other is likely to profit even more. Another big incentive to get on track from the jump and stay that way.  Moreover, with the cold winter finally fading and longer days of sunshine, physical activity will be a warm welcome!

I get it. I’m sure it sounds silly to reward ourselves with our own money, but that’s just how strict we are on our budget. This challenge offsets our typical monthly budget and savings goals, but the reset is worth it. I already plan to treat myself to a manicure/pedicure, probably a new pair of joggers, and go out to dinner with my girlfriends! These items on my want list serve as additional motivators.  

We started a few days into the month of March. As of today, we are 11 days into the challenge. Charlie and I have both steered clear of gluten, dairy, and sugary sweets. I feel less bloated and less mentally foggy. I feel more in control of my eating choices. I’ve worked out more days than not. After not working out for about a year, I’m proud of that. All in all, I’d say our silly challenge has proven to be beneficial.

Next question, will it stick?

Day 18: Ballin’ on a Budget

We started out on our journey about three years ago. We set out to crush our student loan debt. Going from making minimum payments to throwing as much money as we possibly could at it.

I created a Sheet to start tracking our spending. Once we saw trends, we created our first official budget. It was tough in the beginning. Friends and co-workers inviting me to lunch or dinner… “Brought my lunch again,” I’d say shrugging my shoulders. My mom and sisters would go shopping. I’d tag along go, but I would just be there to support their spending- haha!… I was okay with it. Most times I was proud of my decisions. But sometimes, I desperately wanted to go out to eat and/or go on an all-out shopping spree. 

Since starting the journey, we’ve had two kids, purchased our first home, and purchased another vehicle. Between babies, a home mortgage, and the student loan payments, it’s like we have three mortgage payments. Yuck!

My dad worked in the mortgage business his entire career. “Fifteen year loan, Britt. And put down at least 10%.” Being one of eight children raised on a farm, my dad knows how to handle money because they barely had any. They had to spend wisely and only on necessities. We were raised on those values. Growing up, I didn’t always like it. We rarely went out to eat- only for special occasions and limited shopping excursions.  Only when I compared myself to other families did I really notice or care- family friends eating out more, shopping at Justice Limited 2, getting manicures and pedicures or their eyebrows waxed routinely. All in all, we had a nice balance, and I can truly appreciate it now. Then, in college and throughout most of my 20’s I disregarded much of the financial values my dad had taught me. Finally, by the time I was 28, Charlie and I were ready to get serious about our expenses and financial future; he had a similar upbringing as well. We were both on board to cut back on unnecessary spending.

We purchased a larger vehicle to accommodate our growing family this past summer, and we paid the last of it off as we rang in the new year. Happy 2021 to us!

Finally, the last big push. Charlie and I huddled together around my laptop. Click. Last week, we paid off the last chunk of our student loans. 

Throughout the last three years, I grew to enjoy crunching the numbers and taking a big whack at the student loans. I became proud of our progress and eventually felt content with spending less- almost a sense of joy, too. I developed a positive mindset towards our limited spending and enjoyed finding creative ways to treat ourselves. I called our clever ways of having fun on a budget  “ballin’ on a budget!” We figured out inexpensive ways to still have fun, indulged a little, and celebrated small financial victories.

The journey was tough, but it was worth it. 

Day 17: Toddler Talk

The many (and very common) phrases of my two year old son.

  • I need help, Mama.
  • Tractor ride. (Asking Grandpa to take him for a ride on the mower- of course when blade is off)
  • This one.
  • School buses. More school buses! One more school bus! (On our drive to daycare)
  • Mama’s turn. Charlie’s turn!
  • Mama crying. (I cried a lot when Ollie was first born… hormones, right?!?)
  • I take it.
  • Kinda cute. (Talking about Ollie or his beloved stuffed animals)
  • One more?
  • Mama, do it.
  • What happened?
  • What happening over there?
  • What going on over there? (So nosey and curious)
  • Play Monna song! (Charlie talking to the Alexa to play the Moana soundtrack)
  • Bless you, Ollie.
  • Excuse me. (He is terribly polite!)
  • I want one. (Any time he hears the crinkle of a wrapper, thinking it must be a treat.)
  • More please?
  • Spit up again. Need a new bib. (Referring to Ollie. He spits up. A lot.)
  • Where go? (Loves to hide things under his shirt to mimic Daddy’s magic tricks)
  • Daddy, where are you? (Playing hide and seek with Daddy)
  • Big one! (Building tall towers with his blocks.) 
  • By sheep. See later. I come back. (Saying goodbye to his lovey in the car this morning before drop-off at daycare)

I love actually knowing what he is saying, that he can successfully communicate with me. There are plenty of other little phrases he’s currently saying, and I have no idea what he means. Sometimes I try to play along and guess. Other times, I just say, “Sorry, sugar, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

Day 16: Parties at 2am

It’s dark and quiet. I hear him start to stir. I peek at him with one eye open. I shut my eyes. Maybe he’s just adjusting and will stay asleep. I know very well that this isn’t the case, but hey, a mama can dream! I always think illogically at 2am. 10 years ago I also used to think illogically at 2am, too. However, now, for a much different reason- sleep deprivation.

If you’ve ever been a parent of a newborn- you are familiar with my recent style of parties at two am.  But this night was different. Special. Magical.

I am sleeping on the couch at my parent’s house. Ollie is in a co-sleeper on the floor beside me. My toddler and husband are upstairs in a bedroom- no point in having all of us in the same room. We don’t need two babes up at 2am… Until I actually hear him begin to fuss, I close my eyes for a little longer. Then I hear footsteps and another fussy baby. It’s my twin sister with her newborn trudging down the steps.  She makes her way to the microwave to heat up a mug of water to warm Henry’s bottle. Brookie is exclusively pumping. Not by choice. She had intentions to breastfeed, but things didn’t quite go her way. She has no idea how insanely proud I am of her and her selflessness to continue to pump. (I have tears in my eyes just writing this).

We both settle in as our babes begin to feed. We speak softly- about life, our superstar husbands, our many blessings, as well as the many challenges. 

Another door opens. A cheery, yet sleepy-eyed, man pops his head out. It’s my grandpa, who’s been sleeping in the room next to us. “Do I hear some babies out here? Yeah!” he cheers.  “Sorry we woke you, Grandpa,” I reply back. “Oh, it’s alright honey,” he smiles back and finds himself a seat in the living room. He’s tickled. Overjoyed. A giddy old man at 2 in the morning. We continue to chat about all the many blessings our family has received during the season of COVID. 

Henry’s burp cloth slides off the chair. As Brooke leans to look for it, my grandpa quickly interjects, “Need me to get something for ya, honey?” I smile. You don’t know my grandpa. He is a loving, joyous, and generous man. However, typically he acts a little helpless. Any more coffee over there? Do you have any ice? Do you have a fork?  (The coffee pot has been in the same place for 20+ years, along with the location of the freezer and the silverware drawer.) Don’t get me wrong- I love to serve my grandparents! He just typically doesn’t offer the helping hand to others for tasks like these or do simple things like this for himself. For this reason, the simple act of offering to get the burp cloth for Brooke touches my heart. 

Soon after, more footsteps. This time, someone coming up the steps from downstairs, my mom. Whenever my grandparents are in town, my parents sleep in the basement and let my grandparents sleep in their room so that they don’t have any stairs to climb. “Is there a party going on up here?” My mom is just as tickled as my grandpa. Brooke and I both apologize if we are the culprits of their disturbed slumber. Of course, my mom and grandpa could both care less. They are happy to be a part of the 2 am party. 

Gramps eventually makes his way back to bed. Brooke, my mom, and I are still visiting. Henry is done eating so my mom is holding him while Brookie pumps. (Like I said- wonder woman). Ollie is still nursing and sleeping. Just cuddled up and cozy.

I hear another door. This one is expected. We’ve been waiting for her. My older sister, Bailey, who also had a baby. Maeve is only a month old. Bailey makes her way down the steps from her room to join our now 3am party. I really could go back to bed now. Ollie is done eating, but the party’s just warming up. We are all here. My mom with her three grown daughters and their newborns babies. Its the best 2am party I’ve ever had.

Left to right: Bailey and Maeve, Brooke and Henry, Ollie and me.
Note- picture not taken at 2am! lol

Day 15: Young at Heart

My son, Charlie, truly is the light of so many of my family members’ lives. For the longest time, about two years, he was the only grandchild/great grandchild. He is everyone’s joy.  

Here is my 2 year old son playing with my grandpa- his great grandpa. This 83 year old man is sitting on the floor like he is not 83 years old. He laughs and plays and makes Charlie giggle. I loved witnessing this. Need I write anything more? This moment captured on camera says it all. I’ll cherish it forever.

Day 14: Mathematical Minds

One of my favorite subjects to teach is math. I just love hearing each student’s processing.  

We are working on 3 digit addition and are adding up the ones. In the one’s place is 9 in the first number and 6 in the other number. 

“*Student*, tell me how you found the sum of 9 and 6,” I request.

“So I have 9 over here.” He holds up his left hand and waves it behind his head. “And I have 6 over here.” He holds up his right hand and waves it behind his head on the other side. “I move one from the 6 and give it to the 9 to make 10. Then I have five and I add that to 10 to get 15.” He continues to gesture with his hands.

Just THAT right there. I love it. It’s simple and sweet. I love being a teacher.

Day 13: Marriage and Babies

“Babe, we need a date night,” I pleaded to Charlie.

Marriage and babies are hard. It’s even trickier during a pandemic to find a safe someone that is willing to watch your precious babies. We are lucky to live near Charlie’s two oldest sisters. One of which is always willing to watch them when needed. However, we still never want to add exposure to her and/or to our boys. Regardless- we need a date night so here we are.

On Sunday night we make plans for the upcoming week. “Everything is set. Andrea is coming over on Friday night.” Charlie assures me. Date night! It’s only “five sleeps” away!

Tuesday morning rolls around. 3am text from our daycare provider: “Not feeling well. Nauseous and a fever. I’m so sorry but daycare will be closed until I know more.” 

Our daycare provider schedules a COVID test for Wednesday. Rapid results come back Thursday night as negative. Hurray! However, due to how she has been feeling, she doesn’t trust the rapid results and wants to wait for the non-rapid to come in. 

It’s Friday morning. “We can’t have Andrea watch the boys tonight, if we don’t have her results in. It wouldn’t be right if she tests positive and we end up exposing Andrea in the process,” I state. Charlie agrees and we wait it out until mid afternoon. No word yet from our daycare provider… Date night cancelled.

By Friday night, around 5 pm, we finally get work from our daycare provider. Her non-rapid results came back negative. We are so thankful she is safe and our toddler wasn’t exposed. 

TBD date night.

Day 12: Home

11.22.2020

Two days later I am discharged. It isn’t until they officially say I am discharged that I tear up, again. And, again, I’ve been delusional. Aside from everything Ollie’s NICU nurses have been saying -about him working on eating on his own, about being extra sleepy- I had hoped I would still be taking him home. That we would get discharged together.

We go to Ollie’s room. We tell him we will be back soon.   We won’t be gone long, but I don’t want to leave him. However, I am also ready for snuggles with my almost 2 year old. “I’ll be back soon,” I whisper into Ollie’s ear and kiss his cheek. 

Ugh. I hate it. This isn’t how it is supposed to be. Yet, I am thankful. I know he is okay. I know his only issue is having enough energy to feed on his own, to not be so sleepy. He’ll come home soon. The doc said most likely within 3-5 weeks.

The next 5 days we follow a similar routine. 

-Charlie and I head to the NICU once our toddler is in bed. 

-We stay with Ollie through two NG tube feedings

-Head home to get a little rest. 

-We wake up to greet our toddler and send him off to daycare 

-We shuffle back to the hospital to be with Ollie for the day. 

-Leave the NICU just in time to greet our son as he returns from daycare.

-We enjoy playtime and dinner together. 

-Repeat the process all over again, for the next five days.

On Thursday night, Nov 26, the team predicts Ollie will get to come home as early as Sunday!  I tear up. I am overcome with joy. “Bring the carseat in so that we can check that off his discharge list.” We leave Ollie that night, and I am excited. Once our toddler is in bed, we rush around the house checking off our final to-dos to be ready to bring our newest addition home. 

On Saturday, Nov 28, we got a nice surprise. I could feel it coming, or maybe I was just hopeful it would come. “Ollie can be discharged today. We just need to complete his car seat check.” I cry, again. Yes, yes, yes! Charlie and I head to the cafeteria to get something to eat while we wait for Ollie’s test to be complete. 

We return ready to buckle up our son. Small hiccup. Ollie didn’t pass his initial car seat test. Swaddles are placed behind his shoulders, and they repeat the hour and a half test. Charlie and I try to busy ourselves while we continue to wait.

We return and Ollie passed the second test. He is cleared to go. My parents have been staying at our house to take care of our toddler this week. We chose not to tell them we get to bring our special package home early. Instead, we just waltz through the door.

Ollie is home.

Charlie and Ollie meet for the first time!