The Holiday Express

I’m a borderline crazy Christmas person. Having kids creates a new level of magic in that you are responsible for creating it and in return receive the pleasure of watching it all unfold.

This year we finally made it onto the historic 1880 Train‘s Holiday Express. The ride was out of Hill City, about halfway to Keystone you arrive at “The North Pole” and pick up Santa. On the way there they pass out delicious hot chocolate and sugar cookies. I was shocked at how good they were. After Santa boards the train he comes around and talks to each child while handing out silver sleigh bells. The cost isn’t cheap but for under $100 for our family it was a special and you can’t put a price on memories.

Notes/Tips:

  • You can bring food/drinks onto the train, we went on the 4:15 so I knew my boys would need more then a sugar cookie so I brought snacks in containers.
  • The trains are mildly heated, meaning on a cold night you’ll be comfortable but with your coat left on. Remember you don’t get on the train without waiting in line outside and it’s in Hill City which is probably a few degrees cooler than Rapid.
  • The speaker system on the train is awful and with so many kids you are unlikely to hear what they are saying, therefor you’ll want to read (or watch) The Polar Express before your ride.
  • While it’s a great ride for all ages, our 3 year old loved it the most so I’d say if you only plan on going once, wait for that 3-4 age range. Our 5 year old, who loves trains, had fun but was a little unimpressed afterwards.
  • If your family has a busy schedule or you feel particular about the times book your tickets early, as in November or the first week of December.
  • Take the train during the summer as well, it’s a great experience.IMG_0341.JPG.jpegimg_0334-jpgimg_0086
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Parenting and Presidents

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To all my friends using their children as tools of guilt and shame the outcome of this election: stop. Stop the “how will I explain this man to my kids.” Your kids are hardly influenced by what our president elect says but they do hear what you say, what the television is saying and they are listening to those evening conversations between adults. We set the tone for how our children interpret the world and the adult issues happening now.

I am a child of 1986 (barely a millennial) and I don’t remember either the Reagan or Bush presidencies however I do remember President Clinton. I remember him lying to us on TV and admitting that he lied. I remember learning about the Lewinski dress, not fully understanding the meaning behind a stain or what exactly happened besides the fact that he lied to everyone and we couldn’t stop talking or thinking about it. I remember the news, the scandal then the middle east and I remember learning about impeachment before it was taught in social studies.

The news is still good, because despite his remarks and mistakes I know that what he did was wrong both in action and intention and I am not a worse person for having him as a president. I have no strong feelings towards him at all.

Our president should not be the ideal that we hold ourselves to. The president isn’t even a daily discussion in our house but Jesus is. Jesus is the standard we hold ourselves and our children to, He is what we strive to model our actions and thoughts to and when my children face difficulties in life I want them to look to Jesus not “What would POTUS do?”
Presidents come and go they are mere men that will make multitudes of mistakes just like the rest of us. If the president becomes an idol over Jesus, no matter how great he or she may be, then something is wrong.

I’ve been absorbing myself in the Netflix series The Crown. In The Crown, Queen Elizabeth contemplates her role in governing and returns to the standard set in the British constitution: that there is the dignified and the efficient. The efficient is there to govern the people but the dignified is what the people uphold themselves to, an ideal. Our government, the elected body is there to be the efficient, let them pass laws and govern our country as we see fit and it is up to us to be the dignified, let us be the ones to uphold our moral code and show our kids what it takes to be a decent human being.

 

What Village

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Lately I’ve been dealing with real “why can’t I have that” jealousy. Not over materialistic items much to my surprise (I grew out of *most* of that years ago) but jealous of time and circumstance. And there is nothing I can do to change it or go about getting it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “it takes a village” when if comes to raising children. What happens if you don’t have a village though? What if it’s just you and your husband treading water, syncing schedules and adapting as life comes at you with little outside help or influence?

Here’s what I’m talking about: Young families with close help. Families with young children that have aunts/uncles/grandparents close by and willing to help. We have a handful of friends that get days/a night/a weekend kid free while we pay babysitters for even 3 hours to ourselves.

{To be fair I do have help and I do have family help, just not close by and not the kind that says “oh let us take the boys for you guys.” Also to be fair I would never expect them to do that- this isn’t about them this is about my jealousy haha. me.me.me.}

Since the night we became parents 5 1/2 years ago Chad and I have spent 1 night kid free. That night wasn’t even up to us exactly, it was not a date night or a vacation, it was for a marriage retreat and some wonderful friends offered to keep our then 2 crazy boys.

Let that in. 5 years, 8 months and 15 days with only 1 night without kids. It wasn’t even 24 hours alone.

And this is our life situation. This is how our life turned out, we chose (kinda) to be parents, we chose to have a second baby and when we were planning our vacation from the first two the third baby decided to get in the way. I have literally not missed a single day of my kids life.

So what’s my point?

For those that do have the parents that say they will watch your kids Tuesday mornings so you can schedule a dental appointment without holding a 6 month old in your lap, or they will take your kids for the nigh/weekend/week/month so you can have a date night or quiet house: do not take them for granted. Treat them nicely, be grateful, even if they let your kid eat an entire loaf of bread and don’t poop for a week.

And as for me, I struggle with the jealousy but not the situation. I am beyond grateful that I have a husband that I can still rely on when the kids become too much. Even if we don’t get serious alone time I am not alone. I’m thankful for my kids and that I do get to spend so much time with them. I’m thankful for my independence that I can be a successful mother and wife and not wanting to rely on others. I am thankful for those that do help, family, friends and babysitters. I’m thankful for the finances to be able to pay a babysitter! And I’m thankful for a husband I actually want to spend time with and enjoy talking to.

Sometimes I even enjoy taking them all to the store at once, they are annoying but cute.

To our mothers, who are both coming over tomorrow (I’ll buy more wine but the floors might not get scrubbed): I wouldn’t change you. Thanks for all the help that you do offer, we appreciate it every minute. This wasn’t about you at all, I promise.

To my sons and their future spouses: I fear I may be the overbearing/smothering type when you have children. Please forgive me. Also if you have more than 3 kids you might be on your own.

Baby stuff

This little 6 month old baby used the couch and pulled up to standing tonight, he did it to get to me and squealed so loudly! I scooped him up right away, it’s too soon for standing. 

Denver Mini Vacation

Sometime in June I started to feel the itch to get out. I’d been in SD too long and needed a trip, even a little mini trip to ease my soul. My first proposal was to Chad “lets go to Denver, take the kids to the zoo, do some shopping” but the mere thought of that stressed Chad out. I understand, we have 3 kids now, but any short lived stress seemed worth the experience to me. Chad was out but I wasn’t. I’d driven with 2 kids alone and figured 3 wouldn’t be much different, maybe some new challenges but nothing I couldn’t handle. Though, it did sound lonely just me and 3 kids so I thought it best and I mean BEST to invite my sister. It worked out even better than I imagined because she deals with my kids amazingly well, helping a ton, plus who wouldn’t want to go shopping with their sister? Just like old times in AZ only adding in 3 crazy boys.

I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. There was some stress involved but the memories that are taken away from trips like these make a life. Harper still tells people about going to Denver and both boys now jump in any elevator they get into, high speed or not.

 

My First Day as a School Parent

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I just dropped Harper off at school. Didn’t cry a single tear, not even almost. My heart swelled with love and pride for my kind-hearted boy.

As soon as we walked onto the playground Harper put his backpack down next to a tree and said “it’s okay mom, you can go now, I’m okay by myself.” I laughed and told him to go play, I wanted to stay a little. I watched him swing, going high without a push, I watched him yell and wave at the kids he knew and I knew he was more then ready to be there.

He’s going to do great and have a blast being in school, he has always thrived in groups. I, unlike many moms facing kindergarten for the first time, was ready for him to take this huge step, my biggest issue is understanding how is it possible that I am old enough to have a kid in school? I feel like I just graduated and was married last year, now I have 3 kids and one is old enough to be away from me all day? It’s mind boggling and at the same time a reminder of how exciting life is, cliche but also how quickly it goes. I remember when he was a baby I’d think about this day and consider that I’d be fairly young, as I was only 24 (6 days from 25) when he was born, thinking I might be one of the younger moms. However now that that day has arrived (probably due to having 3 kids and being a parent for 5 years now) I don’t feel young, I feel thrusted into middle age by the 3 that proceeds the zero as well as the fact that I have a kid in school.

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Walking home, alone, I wasn’t sad. I wondered how we got to this place- How was I old enough to have a kid in school?! I mentally tried to recall everything I’d put in his backpack, did he have his snack, the party money, all his school supplies- what did I forget? Am I trustworthy enough to be a parent of a school aged kid? I now have to be responsible for making sure he does his homework, wakes up early enough and eats enough even when I’m not around. And now all this stuff matters and truly affects the outcome of his future! I feel like I just got past the fear of SIDS with him and now I’m suddenly worried about creating good homework habits.

One thing I realized about myself as mother today, I am a mama bird. I’m not a tiger-mom, helicopter-mom, mama bear, dragon-mom or any of those slightly terrifying parenting pictures. I love my kids, I keep them safe and close but when they are ready to fly I push them out and watch them fail or soar. And it’s at that point that I find the most enjoyment, watching them grow and become people, individuals outside of us.

 

 

Iver’s Birthday

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried writing this, I’ve tried to shorten it, I’ve reread paragraphs, wondered what part I forgot, wondered if it was too much. Having a baby is such a unique experience that I get carried away in the details and the thoughts. Without writing a memoir this post will still be long and it may have what some would consider graphic detail but it is story that I want to hold in my memory forever

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On Monday, March 28th I went to bed earlier because I was tired after a long day with my family including a doctors visit earlier (the first one this pregnancy that Chad came with me) and instead of falling asleep I watched the entire new season of Girls. At one point, slightly after midnight, I noticed I was having mild, non painful contractions but because they did not hurt at all I brushed them off. I tried timing but I was terrible at it, I could tell when they started but forgot to stop the timer when the contraction waned. They weren’t close together and started getting further apart so I turned the tv off and tried to sleep. I had 3 more contractions in the next half hour, not a big deal but they made me wonder “is this it?” Around 1:30 Chad came to bed and Harper woke up begging to cuddle, I took it all as a sign to get up and get into the bath. I knew a bath would relax me enough to sleep or would help hint if I was actually starting labor.

Once in the bath, they came quicker and much more uncomfortable, not uncomfortable in a way that made me squirm but like a hug that was just a tad too tight so that I couldn’t breath comfortably. I had no convincing signs of labor yet: my water had not broken, no mucus loss or sickness of any sort. Without any proof of labor I was constantly second guessing what was happening and while doubting the reality I was in I decided to go with the “better safe than sorry” mantra and woke Chad and my mom up at 2:30.

Chad and I packed quietly and headed to the hospital. He drove at least 5 mph under the speed limit despite the lack of traffic, or really any vehicle on the road. My mind tried to justify why you would drive slowly when your wife was uncomfortable but couldn’t come up with much. I mentioned that while they might just send me home when we get there it was perfectly fine to drive a little faster. He kindly, almost timidly admitted that with the time he was worried about drunk drivers as well as getting pulled over by cops patrolling for drunks- I informed him it was  monday night. By now my contractions were every 3-5 minutes and I had to focus to breath through them, luckily the drive, while slow-paced, was still relatively short with hardly any bumps or red lights.

We parked outside the hospital, I waited for my contraction to pass and walked in. We checked in at the ED triage where I gave them my information while squatting on the ground silent and breathing through another contraction. It took forever but eventually the nurses came from labor and delivery and took me back to triage, an intimating room that was thankfully empty of other laboring women.

In the labor triage room they had me change, took my weight and vitals and eventually checked my cervix, moment of truth: I was at 5cm. I heard the two nurses discussing my situation saying that a doctor would probably not send me home being at 5 (I had been checked at my appointment earlier that morning and was only 2.5) even though active labor is now considered to be at 6cm and they were confident that I would be staying. I texted my friend Kim (at exactly 3:27am) who was coming to take birth photos that we would be staying, it was the real deal.

We walked down the hall to a delivery room and they put me on the monitors as per their regulations. The lab guy came in and the nurses put him in his place about drawing from me (I had complained that they tried to draw while I was in the worst part of labor). I had to be on the monitors a little over the required 20 minutes because baby wasn’t giving them the readings they wanted (he was resting) but as soon as they were off I hightailed it to the shower knowing the relief that was brought by standing and the endless hot water.

I have no recollection of what Chad was doing at this point, I remember him checking up on me, seeing if I needed anything, making sure I was safe- but there was so little to actually DO besides breath and wait and mop up the water on the floor. I was waiting for the next contraction, waiting for the break between them, waiting to have a baby.

I stood in the shower and let the water hit my low back, positioning my hips so that the hot water rolled down my belly. I would wiggle, I’d tense but when swaying back and forth, my body bent forward I felt the rhythm, the pace that we both needed, our white space to work in.

As soon as each wave would start I attempted to try the various techniques I’d learned:

Hypnosis: “turning off my switch” and allowing my body to completely relax and my mind to empty. Didn’t work. My muscles were completely relaxed and it only made me feel pain in my abdomen that much stronger.

Visualization: as a contraction started I’d imagine either what my body was doing in the sensations. Also didn’t work. It brought all my attention to the area of pain again. I could visualize what it was doing but my brain became focused on the pain and how it was working. Basically I noticed how bad it fucking hurt.

What did work? Focusing on the water hitting me and breathing. Controlling my breath gave me an outlet for the pain and took away *some* of the awareness of my pain and let me get more into my head. When I focused on my breath I became very inward, quiet and intense for those moments so that when it started to pass I could be normal, I could enjoy my break and interact with Chad and my nurses. I learned the count to the peak of discomfort, it came fast and left slowly so I tried to match my breath to it, breathing in quickly and exhaling slowly.

Between each contraction I would think “that wasn’t too bad”and I’d immediately dread the next one as it came. Then it became unbearable, I wanted a break and concluded that I deserved one. I called to Chad and told him he needed to call the nurse because I wanted an epidural. I was confidant in this decision, I know the bliss of an epidural as I know the beauty of medication free birth but started to bargain anyway “if I’m not at 7cm I want an epidural, if I’m further I’ll be okay” then after another contraction “I mean, 8cm not 7.” Chad gave me a funny look, he might have said something along the lines of sticking to that 7cm, luckily the nurse that was training for L&D showed up. She told me they would want to check me first. I agreed, knowing they would and started to grab a couple of towels for the mad dash to the bed.

I made it to the bed just as a contraction started, which really means I was perched on the bed like a terrified 3-legged cat. Three-legged because my left leg didn’t make it up and was stuck on the ground as I arched my back up and took my forehead down to the bed. Chad asked what I wanted and I told him to push against the back of my pelvis. I was pushing against Chads hands as hard as he pushed into my low back, maybe harder because I actually had the thought that I shouldn’t push so hard against him or he might stop (he wouldn’t, labor makes you think weird things). The nurse watched me breathing through the contraction and offered some sort affirmations in how great I was doing and a something about how calm I was and I informed her that I wasn’t moving so she would need to check me from behind if she wanted to check at all, this is what I call labor bluntness, not always the most polite.  She walked out of my vision as I waited for the moment of truth, 6cm, 7cm….

“You’re complete.” The other nurse started prepping and they mentioned getting the on-call OB soon. I informed them that soon wasn’t enough because my last baby was pretty fast at this point and sure enough, the next contraction showed some proof that he was well on his way out and my water broke though it was hardly a trickle. Seconds later the OB walked in and started opening up a huge plastic sheet on the floor in front of me. Oddly concerned with the mess that labor can cause I asked her if I could just stand over that plastic. She kindly suggested that I stay on the bed, even standing (as I half was), because it’s a softer surface if a baby were to fall out. Made me smile that I was so concerned about making a mess I forgot concern over dropping my baby on a hard floor. I let the contractions do the work of pushing for me but didn’t feel the relief I knew possible at this point, I was attempting to let my body go through the process it was designed for and wanted to slow down the process in order to let my contractions do most of the pushing work as well as to prevent any tearing. Relaxed as I was about letting my body work at this point I hated the position I was in, feeling no relief, but did not know what to do or how to fix it.  The OB suggested I lay on my side, that sounded good like a great idea but I needed to be told what to do. I didn’t know how to move and needed to be told which side to lay on. I demanded to be directed and followed the direction given, going from lost to safe in a single movement I laid on my right side.

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Once on my side pushing commenced with one strong push, I consider this my first actual push because before there was no active muscle engagement, I simply relaxed my body in order for it to open and direct the baby. The OB mildly informed me that baby was not reacting well to the contractions (they where holding monitors on my belly in order to get a heartbeat reading) she insisted that I needed to get the baby out fast, as quickly as possible. Calmly I waited for the next contraction, when it started I pushed, and pushed and pushed. I felt the head come out, I took a breath and relaxed for a moment but held onto the push, it felt like I was done, my work was finished but someone reminded me I still had shoulders (and the rest of the baby) to get out so I kept pushing without waiting for the next contraction, this is the first time I made a noise, half moan half ahh, grabbing everything in me to birth this boy. The shoulders, I still shudder, there was some sort of horrifying pop that happens when you hastily have to push the thickest part of a baby out. Every time I tried to sleep the following 48 hours I relived this terrifying pop. I don’t think it was audible to anyone but I definitely felt it. Only 2 minutes of pushing and 1 hour from being admitted Iver was here, born at 4:28am on March 29, 2016.

I saw my purple slimy baby, the doctor made sure I saw his face as the nurses grabbed blankets for us. He rested and squirmed and cried out on my belly. I lifted him up slightly over and over just to look at his face. He was so warm against me, dry but sticky and incredibly soft. He smelled metallic, not like blood but like new, clean earth. His dark hair was matted against his head, wet, not long, but a nice covering and longer at the top of his crown his perfect little mouth, cleft chin and dark grey eyes looking for me. My mind immediately chose the name Iver, though for the next day I would question it and attempt to mentally chose Leif. His hands where (and are) huge but the fingernails not too long. He kicked a little and each time he yelled out I would wonder if I should attempt to feed him only to pick him up and stare at his little face.

032916_0042_BWI tried to pull him up past my belly in order to try to feed him but the doctor told me not too, his umbilical cord was too short and he was as far as he could go. She also told me that he had the chord around his neck hence the quick delivery. So I watched his eyes, his hands pawing, felt him, smelled him.

While they cleaned me up and packed me up we sat and oohed over Iver. He latched well, nursed quickly then fell asleep. He peed across my stomach and I requested new blankets. Kim showed up, disappointed that she missed it but still willing to be a support. Chad took a nap. The nurse came to check on my bleeding every 15 minutes, I informed her that I felt like I was gushing blood, it wasn’t stopping. Sure enough, I had filled the bed with blood. She called in the head nurse who quickly started me up on pitocen to help my uterus contract back down, it worked perfectly. 032916_0016

032916_0021032916_0029032916_0017Eventually the nursery came in and took his stats, amazed at his size, what a long baby, why big hands, so alert, sweet little face. They diapered him and gave him back to me then they swiftly kicked me out of the room and escorted me upstairs (it was a very busy time in our hospitals labor and delivery). As we walked through the hall and past the nurses station I hear whispering, specifically one person say “was that her? the one?” I tried so hard to listen but I figured it was maybe slight thankfulness, easy in easy out-patient, and the fact that I was so quiet for a natural birth (one of my goals with this birth was to be more internal and I absolutely succeeded with that). I guess I won’t know why they pointed or whispered but it didn’t matter, because I had a sweet baby boy in the bassinet as I hunched down the hallway.

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[photos by: Heritage Photography]